Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Personal Health Crisis - Government Fails To Act

I am one of a growing number of individuals with a serious health concern, one almost reaching the level of a crisis because my government refuses to take action. You see, I get serious allergic reactions when exposed to a certain pollutant which far too many of my fellow citizens seem to show little or no concern about the production of. These allergic reactions can lead to serious asthma attacks which can make breathing all but impossible for me. And where is my government on this? Nowhere to be seen. 

Oh they continue to make them more difficult to purchase; but the truth of the matter is that my government has made it abundantly clear that it will take little or no action to alleviate my suffering, afraid of the loss of revenue involved and a desire to appease those who feel the need for such purchases.  

Trapped in buildings both public and private which are permeated by this substance that is toxic to my system, I am left gasping for breath while my government, who tells me that they are so concerned about my health, treat this situation as nothing more than an opportunity to generate additional revenue through taxation with no real concern for the potentially fatal risks that I and others face. Impervious to my protestations, my fellow citizens not only choose to indulge in this disgusting purchase; but in fact seem to revel in the possession of such things, counting themselves better than we who reject this particular form of air pollution. 

Complaints of my suffering are met with a shrug, and the implication that this is my problem and really none of their concern Perhaps some day, some real attention will be directed to resolving this growing health crisis, and the purchase of these misbegotten things will in fact be banned once and for all as the health hazard that it is. Meanwhile I will soldier on bravely, inhaler clutched tightly in hand, my every next breath in constant jeopardy. For those of you who haven't already figured it out, I am speaking about ... CATS!  

This is nothing against cats, in spite of their unintentioned (at least as far as I know) attempts to end my existence. The point here is that isn't it amazing what some things can look like from a slightly different perspective?  

"The cat could very well be man's best friend, but would never stoop to admitting it."
- Doug Larson


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cutting To The Core

Some of you probably expected something thought provoking, well written, and exciting this weekend. Unfortunately, as I have done so many time before, I am disappointing you. This weekend needs to be devoted to some family business. So I thought it might be worthwhile to give you some foundation on how to view the nonsense that I write.

Those of you who have been reading these posts have by now probably figured out that my political philosophy is more conservative than not. (Those who have not been able to figure this out can feel free to make an appointment for a check up, your medication needs to be adjusted.) Being of a conservative view does not mean that I am a mean-spirited, cruel, and heartless bastard (Actually I am, but not because of my conservative philosophy). 

In fact, I am have been exploring some of the philosophy of the Libertarian Party recently, and I must tell you that I am impressed. I find that I may actually be more Libertarian than conservative in my core beliefs from these studies. While this school of thought resonates with me however; the term seems to have become equated with the concept of "nut bag fringe group", and I already have enough things placing me in such company, so I will stick with the conservative tag. I would therefore list the following as my core beliefs. Please feel free to use them as an excuse to pigeon-hole me, write me off, or simply as a source of reference when reading anything that I write
  • Government needs to have as little involvement or interference in the daily lives of its citizens as possible. If it is functioning to optimum form, it should be neither seen nor heard from.
  • Subsidizing farmers, auto companies, steel mills or any other business is just wrong. A free market economy will find ways to help the strong survive and allow the weak to fail of their own accord. Protection of businesses should be limited to keeping it a level playing field so that the free market can operate effectively.
  • Government regulations are no replacement for common sense or personal responsibility. They will only add to the confusion and eventually to a loss of freedom.
  • The government bureaucracies that create and enforce these regulations are the most dangerous people in this country and the most serious impediment to real progress in the lives of its citizens.
  • The Founding Fathers were very concerned with enumerating our rights in the "Bill of Rights". They felt that if they did, that some idiot in the future would attempt to limit those rights to only those listed. It turns out that they were right to be concerned and we need to be constantly vigilant to protect ourselves from such limits. So too, there is no need to add to them. We do not have the right to: a smoke free environment, freedom from trans fats, health care, or any of the other things that our current "nanny state" would like to protect us from.
  • Taxes are a necessary evil required by a government to provide for essential infrastructure (roads, sewers, etc.) and defense of the people governed. They are not methods of wealth redistribution or government sponsored freeloading.
  • People know what to do with their money better than governments do, so there is no need to give them money to create programs to take care of me. If I want insurance, I will buy it. If I want to invest, I will do it for myself.
I have been unable to track down the reference to this quote, but have been reliably informed that it is attributed properly, if not entirely accurately: 

"Those who are not liberals in their youth have no heart. Those who are not conservatives later in life have no brain." 
- Winston Churchill

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Right Tools

I once owned a house in the suburbs of Columbus which had a fireplace in the center of one wall in the family room, and for many years I knew that I wanted bookcases surrounding this fireplace. Thinking that I might have barely enough ability (and enough arrogance) to believe that could do it, I further conceived of building these bookcases myself. 

I quickly realized however that though I had a good circular saw, I would need a good router, a hand sander, and numerous wood clamps to see this done properly. Even though I had drawn up the plans and purchased the lumber required (and it was taking up all of the room in my garage), I refused to move forward on the project until I could get the proper tools. When I was finally able to do so, it became much easier to realize my vision, and through the use of those tools I had what I had wanted. 

This story comes back to mind now as we cycle through an election year that will see us participating in the voting process more than once. (Some of us outside of Ohio have already started in fact.) It strikes a chord in me as I am forced to wonder why we do not seem to take the time to find the right tools in one of the most important projects in which we participate, the governing of our country. 

Oh we spend a lot of time shopping for the tools (far too much in my opinion, but I have already spoken on that subject), but seem intent on choosing the wrong ones regardless of the effort expended. 

Some of them are the prettiest ones on the shelf, and though probably useless, we choose them on their looks alone. Some we choose because they are the newest and the latest gadgets, and promise not only to complete these tasks required, but to do the work better because they are different. Some catch our eye because they seem to have been around forever, and have some history of performing the task required. All of them without fail however, appear to be the most expensive available, are probably a waste of our time and money, and seem with any kind of careful examination to be the wrong tools for the project at hand. 

Perhaps it's that we don't understand the nature of the project that we are trying to complete, though everyone seems to have an idea of what good governing should be? Perhaps it's a lack of training in what to look for, though I hear few if any complaining that they don't understand the process and asking for help? Maybe shopping for them at the same two stores is just wrong, and we are afraid to admit that we don't know where to look for the right tools? After all, these weren't always the only stores around. Maybe we are all just sick of trying to pick out the right tools, are willing to push forward and get the project done in the best fashion that we can, and are equally willing to live with the imperfections that such a method means?

When all is said and done, it seems to me that we instead fall back on something else we used in the old days when a problem had to be solved and we didn't know what tools to use or have the right ones. We called it the "Polish Tool Kit" (no insult to people of that heritage intended). In it were: a pair of channel lock pliers (for those who don't know what these are, you will just have to look it up), a screwdriver, and a two pound sledge hammer. 

The idea was that all nuts and bolts could be handled with the pliers (though probably badly and usually doing some damage in the process), all the screws could be handled with the screwdriver (sometimes requiring the assistance of the hammer), and all problems that couldn't be solved with the first two tools could be beaten into an unrecognizable mess by the hammer. 

I fear that as this election year draws to a close, we will again have failed to achieve a successful solution to the project of government, a solution which can only be realized by the use of the proper tools. Unfortunately we will in spite of the time, money and effort spent, be left with another unrecognizable mess. 


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Road To Nowhere

My travels during the recent Holidays from Toledo to Kansas City placed me on I-70 for incredibly long stretches of time. While I am thrilled that the Interstate system in the US is able to aid us in our journeys from point A to point B in the shortest possible time, there are times when this drive can be about as exciting as watching grass grow. 

Now I have nothing against the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, as I was born in one of them and lived in another for years. That doesn't mean however that I am willing to spend what seemed to be an eternity crossing them. (By the way, for anyone who is into true self-mutilation, you should try the drive from Lubbock to Dallas. The drive is just about as long, and may be the only one in the country more boring. The land is so flat and featureless that there are times that you have to pray to whatever Deity you believe in to either take your life and end the mindless tedium of the drive, or at least provide you with a tree as scenery to break the monotony.)

Unfortunately, there are some days when I think that my entire journey through life is taking much the same path. I don't remember which turn I made that put me on the road that I am on today; but I can't say that I am entirely pleased with the scenery on the journey, or the fact that the destination and the purpose that were once so clear to me appear to be no longer known. Perhaps I simply fell asleep behind the wheel at some point and have awakened briefly now only to see Rod Serling waving at me from the roadside.

Don't get me wrong here, this is not a cry for sympathy for myself or anyone else finding themselves on such a journey. No, this is instead a warning. While there are many GPS systems today that can be used to guide us, step-by-step, from point A to B in our travels by car, there is no such system to help us on the journey we make of our lives. Use this if you will then, as a sign post on your journey of life. It may read "Winding Road Ahead", "Beware of Falling Rocks", or even "Dead End"; I'm not really even sure myself. It is however, a sign that points to a road ahead with many hazards. Take heed of the danger, keep your eyes on the road, and your hands on the wheel.

"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything." 
- Charles Kuralt

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Toledo - Semper Perfidious

For those of you never burdened with a Catholic education in the 70's, the phrase in the title stands for "always faithless", a takeoff on the Marines semper fidelis or always faithful motto. Of course this is not the truth about the way that the people Toledo feel about the Marine Corps, but it is certainly the impression that has managed to be created in the last couple of days. And the fun continues as more and more information comes out on the Mayor's eviction of the Marine Corps from their weekend training visit in downtown. (here's a link on the story for those of your who have missed it).

Personally, I would like to be able to just move on at this point, as people often do when confronted by embarrassing situations; but like Michael Corleone said, "every time I try to get out, they drag me back in". So, much as I would like to take a pass on this, I will weigh in briefly on the subject.  

As the son of a Marine who served honorably in World War II, I was offended at the treatment offered this unit out of Grand Rapids.

I do not question the Mayor's patriotism (though I probably could), only his intelligence. This was a dumb move, made worse every time that he tried to fix it.

This was never about safety, or scaring people, or lack of notice. This was about the Marines using a bunch of empty buildings in downtown Toledo that the city would prefer didn't get noticed. The Mayor knows that they are there and has no plan that can change it. He thinks that no one else has noticed however, and would rather that it didn't get around. 

Come on folks, we are talking about downtown Toledo here. You know the plywood window dressing capital of the Midwest. How many people are actually here on the weekend and would be inconvenienced, chased out, or scared off by the troop movements? 

The truth of the matter is that a smart city government could have used this to people downtown to "Support the Troops", bringing people and their wallets to an area that does not appear to be terribly frequented. 

The last that I heard, 6 Senators were trying to get $2.3 million in federal funding cut from Berkeley, CA for opposing a recruiting center. What repercussions can we now expect for Toledo, having committed this national faux paus? 

OK, so maybe I am just being cynical about the situation. Maybe we should take the Mayor at face value. If that's the case, how can the elected leader of a city be so clueless about the things going on in it? From how the bills get paid, to the losses at the Erie Street Market, to not knowing that the Marines (who had been coming for years) were coming again. 

This mayor seems unable to keep track of what is happening in Toledo. If he isn't a hot-tempered, self-centered, maniacal ego maniac, he's senile and an idiot. Either way, he deserves neither understanding nor support for this latest transgression.  

Well, I am posting a little early (or a little late actually, as I look at the clock this evening). For those of you interested (or simply jealous, it is a balmy 76 degrees here in Port of Spain, Trinidad as I finish writing this, with an expected high tomorrow of 85. I wanted to get something out during the week, even with the travel; and it has been strange and more than a little sad to see Toledo, Ohio in the news even here. I know that it's tough right now, but look at it this way, things don't smell as bad in the cold.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tax Preparation

In an attempt to get some part of my life in order before leaving the country next week, I went in to have my taxes done earlier this week. I won't mention any names, but part of theirs is simply letters. Now having provided back up documentation well in advance, allowing for prior review and/or request for additional documents, I expected that this would be a straight forward and relatively quick process. As is so often the case in life, I could not have been more wrong. What I got was a process more reminiscent of hemorrhoid surgery without an anesthetic by a person whose only excuse for not being able to complete my return was that they had taken the class to bring them up to date with current tax preparation procedures.

Now I am not a terribly patient individual, and lack of preparation and incompetence by people that I am paying for a service can increase the level of that frustration by a factor of ten. (Frustration, by the way, was once defined as the mind over-riding the body's desire to choke the living shit out of some asshole who desperately deserves it.) Somehow however, I managed to restrain myself long enough to grab my paperwork off of this worker's desk, cram those documents (along with my spasming hands) into my pockets, and exit the building as quickly as possible; all the while mumbling under my breath about taxes in general and position of tax preparers on the Evolutionary scale in particular.

This left me with a curious dilemma however, half of the day was now gone and my taxes were still incomplete. Believing however that self-reliance and personal responsibility are the foundations of this country, I decided to take on this seemingly overwhelming task myself. To make a long story short, using the web-site of the same company that I had abandoned, and untrained as either an accountant or a tax preparer, I was able to complete both my Federal and State returns in less than 90 minutes starting from scratch. As for the city taxes that Toledo demands of me, the level of technology that this self-proclaimed "city of the future" is capable of dealing with forced me to pull out my abacus and slide ruler in order to calculate my taxes. Filling out the form required chiseling it into stone tablets. (I swear I felt like the Flintstones.)

My personal goal of tax preparation has been accomplished, but I think that the experience is emblematic of some of the problems in this country. The issues of taxation in general and the IRS in particular is something that we better think about taking on soon. It has become a runaway train and we are all standing on the tracks in front of it. Equally of concern should be the level of incompetence that passes for ability, or even expertise in the country. We need to expect, and even demand that we receive proper return for value given. This is life, and you don't get rewarded just for showing up.


Friday, February 8, 2008

A Blade Editorial - Cash to Learn

I have been bugging the Blade lately with a lot of Letters to the Editor (some of which have actually been published). In order to give them a break, I have decided to take them to task this time on my home turf.  

The Blade printed an editorial today (2/08/08) entitled "Cash to Learn". In it, they proclaim whole-hearted support for program soon to start in Baltimore that will pay students who attend tutoring sessions and show progress in subjects up to $110 per student, per subject. This program, which is estimated to cost nearly $1 million, is part of a larger $6.3 million initiative in the Baltimore schools. 

They claim in this editorial that critics of the plan complain that these "bribes ... are unlikely to have any lasting effect on student behavior". They further claim that this is little different than parents rewarding their children's school performance. Well I disagree with both assertions. I am a critic of such a program, and I believe there is a difference.  

Here is my disagreement:  

First, once again we see government seeking to supplant the role of the parent in the upbringing of a child. Every education group agrees that parents are an important part of the education process, and in this program the parents are not only ignored, they are replaced. How can replacing parental support, guidance, and reward be good for the students in question?  

Second, I disagree that this will not have an effect on student behavior. I believe that such programs will only brainwash young minds that all things come from government. This program is nothing more than conditioning that all incentives and all rewards come from the government. This may be great for a government that seeks to control its citizens, but seems counter-productive to creating an enlightened, well-educated populace.  

Call me a cynic, but it appears that the City of Baltimore and the Toledo Blade are both encouraging the expansion of the "nanny state" and the suppression of the role of the family in the education of our children. I believe that this is wrong.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Presidential Candidates - Royalty (?)

I find myself offended by the current crop of presidential candidates referring to themselves in the royal plural. It doesn't matter which candidate or which party they belong to, they are all doing it. Now maybe this is simply a figure of speech; but if it is, it needs to change. In spite of the fact that all of them are running as individuals (well, almost all of them) this constant referring to themselves individually as "we" is just flat-out annoying.

This country was founded on the rejection of the concept of royalty. (Are you listening Kennedys?) When the title of monarch was offered to the first president, he turned it down resoundingly. Likewise, George Washington left office after one term, lest a precedent of apparent royalty be created in the office.

So my message to these candidates is to "STOP IT". Either refer to yourself in the first person singular, or gain enough weight to allow us some reason to question .

("We" will take on the concept of athletes referring to themselves in the third person another time.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Global Warming - It "Could" Happen

I was struck recently by the release of a scientific report that said that one of the effects of Global Warming "could" be a decrease in the number of hurricanes that hit the US. The reason that this information had such a profound effect on me was not that it might mean getting some good out of the doom and gloom preaching on global warming. It was instead curiosity, since Al Gore had told us in "An Inconvenient Truth" that global warming would increase the number and severity of hurricanes. It made me wonder how both could be true. After pondering this poser for some time, I realized that both statements only talked about what "could" happen and not the realities of what will happen in the future.
In a moment of sanity and clarity
(which seem to come about as often as the recent February 29th), I realized that if this were the case, then anyone can comment on the possibilities and anything is possible. With that in mind, I take up my trusty keyboard, place tongue firmly in cheek, and attempt to do so for the enlightenment and amusement of those who read this.
- If Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS would take off all of the talking head segments on their shows
(especially during election years) that try to interpret the news instead of just reporting it, the resultant reduction of carbon dioxide "could" begin to reverse the effects of global warming and save the planet. (As a side benefit, there would also be a savings to landfills passed on through a reduced use of duct tape to keep our heads from exploding.)

- If the Federal government mandated the use of anti-gas tablets for all US residents, the resultant decrease in methane emissions "could" seriously reduce our carbon footprint.

(You will please note that I said residents and not citizens. Without attempting to appear racist or get into side issue, some ethnic foods produce more gas than others. White Castles, unfortunately for me, would simply have to be banned as a bio-health hazard.)

- If Congress would limit the length of floor speeches to 90 seconds
(which is after all considered long enough for the answer to a question in a political debate), global warming in the US "could" be reduced significantly from a simple lowering in hot air production.
- If Al Gore and Michael Moore would make only one copy of the movies that they produce and just show them over and over again, we "could" significantly reduce the oil used in film, video tape, and plastic DVD disc production.
(Better still, they could either recycle their movies before showing them, or simply not make them in the first place.)

- If Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would adopt children in this country instead of flying half-way across the world to find their latest offspring, the resulting reduction in greenhouse gases "could" reduce the number and severity of typhoons in the Far East.

- If grocery stores would go back to the use of paper bags instead of the plastic, it "could" have a significant impact on the environment. Not only is paper a more renewable material than plastic, since it uses trees and not oil; but the process might encourage the planting of trees, one of the planets natural filters. Such new timber stands in the US "could" make the US self-sustaining in grocery bag production and might also help the planet recover from the the increases in carbon dioxide production and the decimation of the Amazon rain forest.

- If everyone would just drink tap beer, the world "could" significantly reduce the energy costs and environmental damage done by the manufacture and use of bottles and cans that would be otherwise used. (Personally, I suggest Guinness; but I'm just saying...)

- If everyone on the planet would just become Amish and go back to horse-drawn carriages, then the effect of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases "could" be reversed (in about a thousand years). Besides, I really like the hats.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fractured Fairy Tales - The Wizard of Oz

I would like to revisit the classic tale in the title of this posting, with a more modern twist, based on recent history. So with apologies to L. Frank Baum for butchering what was and is a wonderful series of 14 books (there's a lot more to this than the story told in the 1939 Victor Fleming film), here is my version of "The Wizard of Oz".

Dorothy finds herself terrified and in trouble. It seems as though she was innocently sitting in her home one day in Kansas, doing nothing more than minding her own business, when disaster struck. Now before I go on, I should tell you that the home Dorothy was in was a house purchased some time back. She got a really good price on this particular piece of property because it was in "Tornado Alley", a place where tornadoes often came. Now she couldn't really afford the house at the time, owning a home in tornado alley was a bit of a risk, and quite frankly it wasn't in very good shape; but it was such a great deal that she couldn't pass it up. Besides, Dorothy had always wanted a piece of the American dream that meant owning a home. You might even say that she felt that she had a "right" to it. So she went ahead and took the plunge regardless of the long term personal consequences. One day a tornado came along (which was no real surprise in Tornado Alley, of course) and lifted Dorothy's house right off of Kansas and sent it flying through the air. In no more than what seemed an instant, Dorothy was whisked away to a far away place known as Oz.

Now Oz was a great place to live. The climate was moderate, the land productive, and the people there were of reasonable temperament and good moral fiber (well, at least as good as they are anywhere). They didn't take too kindly to having a house dropped in the middle of their fair city however. (Then again, who does?) No, there are laws even in Oz, and one of them was that people couldn't just drop houses anywhere that they wanted. Regretfully, Dorothy was told that she was just going to have to move her house. 

Tearful and in pain, Dorothy explains to the local media covering the event that it is not her fault that her house fell here, that she has no idea how one would go about moving a house, and that moving a house probably costs a lot of money of which she has none considered local tender in Oz. (Of course actually she has no money good in any land, having spent all of it on the house in the first place, but that's beside the point.) She is merely a victim in this situation, and begs for help. The locals are sympathetic to her plight, but want the house moved never the less. A few of the more compassionate citizens realize however that everyone can be a victim sometimes. They understand her plight, and suggest to her that perhaps she should seek help from one of the three government agents in Oz. Since she feels are no other options (though she hasn't really looked for any), she decides that they are right and that as both a stranger and victim in this strange land, she deserves such help.

First she sees the Tin Man. Now the Tin Man has no heart. (We suspect that he is a closet conservative or perhaps even a whacko Libertarian, but he has neither confirmed or denied such leanings.) He tells her that there is really nothing that he or the government can or should do for her. They didn't cause the tornado, they don't own the land that the house has fallen on, and it isn't the government's responsibility to move houses or to help people who choose to drop in on Oz unannounced (see illegal immigration). He is very sorry, but he considers this a problem of personal responsibility. He would like her to take responsibility for her situation and leave the government out of it.

Next she goes to see the the Scarecrow. Now the Scarecrow has no brain. (I know, a bureaucrat with no brain, who would have believed it.) He tells her that he really doesn't know if the government can do anything for her. Quite frankly there are so many rules in government these days, that these rules are confusing and contradictory, and no one really understands them; least of all the government. He explains that making tough choices like this is ... well tough, and that he will neither support nor deny help to her at this time. He does say however, that he would be happy to initiate a government funded study to help determine why her house fell there, how it might be moved, and ultimately whose responsibility such a move might be. He smilingly says that he thinks that such a study might be able to be completed in as little as 18 months.

Deep in despair now over the inability of anyone to provide the help for her that Dorothy feels that she is owed, she goes to see the Cowardly Lion. Now the Cowardly Lion has no courage. He does however have a really big heart and a modicum of brains. (It has been said that the bureaucratic mentality is the one constant in the universe. I forget by whom.) He listens to Dorothy's story and breaks down into tears upon its completion. Overwhelmed with love and compassion for her and the desperate plight that she faces he promises Dorothy that he, as a representative of the government of Oz, will take care of everything and that she need not worry ever again. Putting the full force of the government bureaucracy to work, he sits down at his desk and draws up a mandate for immediate government funding for the moving of Dorothy's house to a more suitable location (of her choice of course), and while he's at it he has the entire home renovated. He knows and understands that Dorothy is a victim here (as only a government can understand), even if she did make some ill-conceived choices in her past, and even if she is not really a citizen of Oz. He knows that a caring, concerned, and compassionate government must take care of people in need (and sometimes even those not in need) regardless of the cost or the circumstances.

Dorothy is thrilled of course at having someone take over responsibility for her problem, and gladly accepts the assistance (after all, it doesn't cost her anything). She and the Cowardly Lion pick out a lovely site (which the government purchases, again at no charge to Dorothy), arranges for a contractor to move the house, and does a wonderful job in fixing up the place in the process. All of this is lauded in the local media, praising the compassion of the Cowardly Lion, and by silence, condemning the Scarecrow and Tin Man for their lack of support in this crisis. The people of Oz seem content as well. The problem of Dorothy's house is being addressed, and everyone gets to feel a little good about themselves for the government stepping in to save this poor girl. They don't know why they feel good, but they do; and that's enough.

Now just as Dorothy is about to move in to her now beautiful, relocated, and renovated house in a huge ceremony attended by the Cowardly Lion, the adoring media, and even some of the local populace; along comes a Wizard. The Wizard has nothing to do with the government, but he is a Wizard after all. So the media immediately swarm around him, explaining what's has happened and what's going on now, then ask him for his opinion on the whole thing. After assessing the situation for a just couple of minutes, he nods his head sagely (as all wizards do), then shakes it sadly.
"You'll be sorry," he says; and softly shambles away from the gathering, perhaps leaning on his walking stick a bit more heavily than he had before.


Well of course that can't be the end. (If it was it would be a pretty crappy ending, wouldn't it?) You see, it seems that the money that had been mandated by the Cowardly Lion for the Dorothy bail-out ended up causing a few problems for the government of Oz. Even government money after all, has to come from somewhere (usually it's citizens). But even government money isn't boundless, and in this case Oz was forced to issue a great number of bonds in order to pay for the unfunded mandates of the Cowardly Lion, so much so that the government soon found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. The Wicked Witch of the East, who had been waiting in the wings and had always wanted to take over things in Oz, saw this as the perfect opportunity to do so. She was able to move in and buy up all of the bonds, effectively putting her in control of the government. And the citizens of Oz who just wanted to get a small housing problem off of their back, ... well they lived in debt, fear, and misery for the rest of their days.



Any resemblance to political ideologies or parties, current or proposed government policies, or particular politicians is purely accidentally ... maybe.

Friday, February 1, 2008

That's Not Right #8 - Historical Comparison

Listening to the news these days is becoming a rather frustrating experience. It's not that the news is bad (which it is), or the amount of crap that seems to pass for news (and that's a lot), but instead about the way that news readers (I refuse to call them journalists except on an individual basis based on individual qualifications) use historical comparison to attempt to make a point.

I was truly amazed when some negative economic news was released this week, and said to be the worst since 2002. Wow! Who would have thought that we would have to go back as far as six years (really 5, since 2008 is so young) to find historical data that is worse. The same holds true far too often when we are discussing everything from how much snow or rain an area has received, how cold or hot a winter or summer has been, how large or small the unemployment numbers are, or how fast the US GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is growing.

Now the planet has been around for billions of years, civilization (at least as we know it) has been around for thousands of years, modern record keeping has been around for hundreds of years and the United States has been around for some 232 years. Is it possible that something should fall outside of the norms for some reasonable period of time before we get excited about it? Should bad news not be only the worst in the last decade before we start running around yelling, "The Sky is Falling"? Are the news weenies so desperate to find something to get excited about that they have to tell us that gas prices are the highest that they have been in six months in order to excite our interest?

Now there are a great many people who understand the perspectives of history far better than I do. (Hell, there are people who understand pretty much everything on the planet far better than I do.) It does not however, take an expert in comparative analysis or a historian to realize that the morons who read the news to us seem to have the historical perspective of a mosquito. In a time in which there are so many things out there that we should be afraid of, I often wish that they would not attempt to announce the end of the world every time that some screwball researcher or little known government agency releases a report showing a number that no one should care about anyway.

I'm just saying...