Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'm Tired

As those of you who read this blog regularly know, I normally reserve the weekend for postings of serious import. While I do not consider myself someone who should be taken too seriously and I certainly don't take myself seriously, I believe that each of us has an obligation to attempt to make the world a little bit better place to live in. These weekend postings are part of the way that I fulfill that obligation. There are times however when the aggressive ignorance and stupidity of my fellow man simply wears me out. Let me illustrate:

Locally In Toledo
The city of Toledo is trying to hamper businesses operating in the area of real estate, ambulance service, and convenience stores while touting itself as a business-friendly community. Having gotten off to this stellar start, the mayor then appears to be standing in the way of one of the few things in this area that offers the potential of increases in employment by refusing water to a development for over two years. He says that by extending a water line 40 yards, he would be giving away a city asset (even thought the water rates for such extensions usually end up at twice the standard city rate). Meanwhile, he rails against the Toledo Public Schools for taking the same stand regarding tax revenues that they would lose from an abatement he is asking for a pet project known as the the Marina District, a downtown riverfront development. He tells the TPS that they should give away the only dog they have in the fight (about $30 million in tax revenue) and let him pay what he wants (about $7.5 million). While these nonsensical events play themselves out, this same mayor just hired a new economic development director, at a salary of $90,000 per year. The problem is that the city council only allocated $75,000 for the position.

On a State Level
Our state government just confiscated the last of the tobacco settlement to use for an economic stimulus package. In the end, it appears that not one dollar of a settlement wrestled from the tobacco industry to use for the burden that long term medical care for smokers was going to impose on the state will actually do so. So much for the altruistic motives touted in this legal monstrosity. Meanwhile, the Ohio Attorney General (Marc Dann) just resigned for having gotten caught running his office like a frat party in "Animal House". It also appears that there are some questions over the use of some of his campaign money. (I am shocked!)

On the National Level
My God, where do I even start? The Democratic Party (You remember, the one who wanted every vote to count?) is meeting to decide how badly they will disenfranchise Florida and Michigan for not letting Iowa and New Hampshire vote first. Will history come to know this as the "Cutting In Line" decision?

Hilary Clinton is becoming more shrill every day while defending what I believe is actually her right to fight for the presidential nomination until the convention. While promising not to say that everyone is picking on a girl, she is anyway. The defense performed by her womanizing husband, railing against former friends and complaining about a media bias that he took advantage of for years, while playing the 2008 version of "Stand By Your (Wo)Man" would be funny if it weren't such a farce.

Barrack Obama hasn't fared much better, proving himself the most gaffe-ridden candidate since Dan Quayle. He has said that we should deal with Iraq by offering them the same thing that they turned down in 2006. He has confused whether it was his uncle (difficult, as his mother was an only child), or his great uncle (who was in the navy at the time) who freed Jews from concentration camps that were in fact freed by the Russian Red Army. Could this be a Freudian slip or just another blunder? He then said negotiating with Khrushchev in 1961 helped defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He topped it off with stating that he campaigned in 57 states (though campaigning in those extra 7 states could have caused a slip of the tongue from exhaustion). Columbia and Harvard must be grateful that his degrees were not in history or geography.

The Republicans haven't acquitted themselves much better. Not that John McCain actually appears to actually be a Republican, he seems more Republican-lite to me. His positions are so confusing to me now that I'm not even sure where he is on most things, but I do feel that he's wrong on at least half of them. As for the age question, it's become so ridiculous that I am waiting for him to do Jack Palance push ups on the campaign trail as proof of his abilities. He may in fact be a good and honorable man, but I believe that we need more than that in a president. We need someone who can steer the ship in the right direction, and I don't believe he's that guy.

So what does all of this have to do with my original premise of being tired? Well, doesn't all of what's listed above wear you out? Doesn't it make you want to pull the covers over your head a little longer to keep it all away just a little bit longer? It did me. Then my sense of the ridiculous took over, and I remembered the Madeleine Kahn song from "Blazing Saddles" appropriately titled "I'm Tired" and pictured at the top of this posting. It allowed me to crawl out from under the covers and face the world around me. I found the U Tube link to the song and decided that I would share my cure with you.

(By the way, I apologize for kinda throwing this one together at the last minute, but I'm tired.)

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nationalize Oil Companies?

Congress has been grilling the major oil companies in recent days, taking full advantage of our frustration over increasing gas prices to continue to demonize them. This lame attempt to gain political advantage in a awful situation is incredibly heinous, since it is government regulations that have prevented both new drilling and the building of new refineries in the US; both of which would aid the supply side of the equation. Such grandstanding by politicians was bound to backfire sooner or later. This appears to have happened. 

I never thought I would hear it admitted by a liberal politician but Maxine Waters, Democratic Senator from California, threatened John Hoffmeister, the president of Shell Oil with nationalizing oil companies in the US. In fact, she almost used the dreaded "S" word (socialize) as this Fox News coverage of the hearings illustrates. 

It has long been suspected that radical liberals, especially those in California, were attempting to turn the US into a government ruled by socialism in principle if not in fact. In this nonsensical diatribe, Sen. Waters finally confirms it for the microphones.  

As a side note here, at a time when this country is crying out for more oil and more refining capabilities, the talk of nationalizing their companies should certainly inspire American oil companies to make major capital investments in infrastructure and long-term speculative drilling.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

There Is No Safety In Numbers

Individually people are pretty friendly, decent, and fun to hang around with; but taken in groups of any significant size, they can be nasty, mean, vicious, and generally to be avoided at all costs. - me  

We have been told all of our lives that there is safety in numbers, but I have come to realize that this is anything but the case. When you look at the course of history, the one thing that you will find is that most of the atrocities committed by any animal, including man, have been done in groups of some size. For Example: - A single piranha can't do much damage, but get a school of them together and they can tear up a carcass in nothing flat.  

A Killer whale by itself can certainly kills its prey, but hunting as a pod they can take out an entire school of fish in next to no time.  

Wolves and hyenas both increase their chance for a kill when they hunt in packs.

And then of course, there is that most dangerous of animals, man: 

It takes at least a knot of people to do a lynching.

It takes an group of some significant size to have a riot.

It takes a large assemblage of people to make up an army, and use it to fight a battle or a war.

It takes a majority of an assortment of people to perform that most dangerous of functions, elect a politician.  

From the antics that college students commit during spring break to full scale nuclear war, most things that are really bad, really evil, or just really stupid seem to require a group of people of some significant size. Let's face it folks, when you guys accumulate in any real numbers, you have been known to be downright crazy!

 I have had a certain level of protection from such coordinated misbehavior. (of course I have always had the ability to act self-destructively and crazy without the aid of company). The truth of the matter is that I have always been rather uncomfortable in crowds (in spite of what might be assumed about me). I like people well enough, but over the years, a combination low self-esteem, abject cowardice, and Olympic clumsiness contribute to me not functioning well in such situations. I usually get nervous, talk too much and too loud, and manage to commit social suicide before the evening ends when attending social gatherings of any significant size. (Which I am sure answers a number of question for those of you who have known me for any length of time.)  

This misguided survival trait and my keen powers of observation provide me over time a unique perspective on society (especially in recent years, as my consumption of alcohol has plummeted), and it causes me to wonder if we aren't beginning to see the start of a new trend.

A large part of the generation that follows mine seems to be following a different path. Their ability to communicate through the newest technologies means that for them gathering in groups happens neither as often nor in as great a numbers in person. Gatherings for them occur now through group text messaging, on-line chat rooms, and Internet telephone emulators. These gatherings occur in the privacy of their homes rather than on street corners or in bars. 

Now even when the groups are relatively large, this lack of physical proximity tends to prevent the types of behavior that have traditionally turned deadly to both themselves and society. Perhaps this technology is actually a logical evolutionary step to help protect society, and the rest of the planet for that matter, from the "hazards of the herd" that we have suffered in our past. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are There Consequences For Lying?

How many times have you been reminded of the George H W Bush speech in which he said, "read my lips, no new taxes" over the years? Hasn't this often been pointed out as one of the key quotes that sent Mr. Bush to the showers, and ushered in the Clinton presidency?

Well the shoe may be on the other foot these days, whether the mainstream media chooses to talk about it or not. In an August, 2007 Town Hall meeting video, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (Dem., PA) admitted that the Democratic Party may have lied in telling the American public that a Democratic takeover of the house would get us out of Iraq. 

This video has since been released on UTube, and along with some additional information on the following posting. In it, Rep. Kanjorski is pretty candid about the Democratic party having "stretched the facts" in order to take over a majority of both House of Congress. This hasn't gotten a lot of traction in the mainstream media, and because of this, one has to wonder if it will have any impact. With another election less than 6 months away, one has to ask if similar consequences are in store for them during this next cycle.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

OK Wiseguy

OK Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time once again to touch on the subject of qualities that we should look for in a political candidate or office holder. I know that by now you are probably getting sick of thinking about this (and equally tired of me writing about it), but hey this stuff is important. 

Now you can call me silly, but I think that one of the self-evident qualities that a person who seeks or holds power is to be wise. I'm not talking about knowledge here, and maybe not even intelligence (though that would certainly be considered a refreshing plus). Smart people are still capable of doing dumb things. I'm talking about the ability to assimilate the available information and, as a representative of a constituency, make wise decisions. 

As always, I am going back to my handy reference guide, the online Merriam Webster dictionary. (Good thing that I am using the online version, as I might have otherwise worn the pages out on this thing.)  

Insolent, smart-alecky, or fresh Evidencing or hinting at the possession of inside information - Is it just me, or do you feel like this one is about smoke filled rooms and back alley deals. Quite frankly, I think many politicians possess inside information, and are both insolent and smart-alecky (which, by the way, is another one of those words that I never knew existed). Perhaps the power, or the seeking of it makes people that way.It be a fault in most professional politicians, but I think that we can agree that it is nothing to seek in one.

Skilled in magic or divination - This has come up before in our discussions and cannot be considered a good thing. I would rather choose someone not looking into a crystal ball or the cards for our future, and it seems like every time someone pulls a rabbit out of the hat, I have to pay to feed and shelter the poor little bunny for the rest of its days. No, political slight of hand is far too much a part of everyday politics and never bodes well for the voter.

Marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment -Oh yeah, now we're getting somewhere. There is little doubt that this is an essential quality in a candidate. Sure we need to agree that the understanding and discernment need to be about doing the job that they are seeking, and not simply being well versed in how to play the game to their own advantage; but that should be easy, right? As for the sound judgment part, I can't say that I am surprised that judgment is part of the discussion and expect it to come up again. Well this is progress. I think we can agree that we have something here that we can hang our hat on. This may not mean that we can actually find this quality in a candidate, but even knowing what to look for helps. Let's see where the next one takes us in a couple of weeks. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

That's Not Right #10 Gasoline Pricing & Taxes

There was some dust raised in the last couple of weeks over the idea of doing away with the Federal tax on gasoline for a couple of months to help the burden that increased prices had created. It appears that nothing is going to come of it however. Some of the states also chimed in briefly, probably only in the spirit of "me too" but not I fear, with any real seriousness. 

While I have seen no documentation to support this, my common sense tells me that people are now working to decrease the impact of these higher prices are having on their personal budgets by driving less than they used to and as little as they can get away with as gasoline prices continue to climb. I'm not an economist, but if my premise is correct and we are buying less gas, then the city, county, state, and federal governments are taking in less in the way of fuel tax revenue. 

Now if you hadn't realized this before, this is something that governments traditionally don't like to see happening. Governments, unlike individuals do not budget based on actual income, neither to they tighten their belts if income (revenue) decreases. They simply continue to spend money based on their estimated revenue and ignore the potential consequences.  

I'm not a prophet, but it doesn't take one to realize that we will soon be looking at a proposal to increase gasoline taxes in order to make up the revenue shortfall that the government will eventually discover. There will probably be an additional bit tagged on to help encourage us to use less gasoline, to reduce our carbon footprint and help the planet, and because this would be too good an opportunity to pass up (the fact that this will start the cycle again and threaten the revenue stream not withstanding).  

So let's sum up. High gas prices lead to less gas used and a proposal to do away with gasoline taxes temporarily. This in turn leads inevitably to an increase in gasoline taxes, which will lead in turn to even higher gas prices at the pumps. This may be some form of twisted government logic, but "that's not right".


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I See Smart People

For those of you who don't get out much, this title is a taken from a line in the movie "The Sixth Sense". In this movie, the young character played by Haley Joel Osment is being counseled because he says that he sees dead people. (I don't think that I will be giving away the ending if I tell you that he does.) 

While I am not quite that delusional, I have begun to think that I seeing people who aren't really there ... Smart People. I know, I know, how can this be? After all, I live in Toledo, Ohio. I work in an industry that is dying faster than Ali McGraw in "Love Story". I have so little outside social interaction that cloistered monks are beginning to feel sorry for me.  Nevertheless, I am beginning to see smart people out there and I am not sure if it frightens me or not.  

Don't get me wrong, there are not a lot of them out there yet (and none currently in government that I have discovered), but the numbers seem to be on the rise. Try as I might, I cannot account for this gradual increase in people whose relative intelligence exceeds their shoe size. I don't think that it's genetics. Quite frankly the world is such a sheltered place these days that the stupid are no longer killed off in process of natural selection. Quite the contrary, we often seem to be mired in the shallow end of the gene pool, doomed to have stupid people take over the planet. 

No, as the late Arthur C Clarke said, "It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value." I certainly don't think it's the education system. While I believe that teachers make an honest effort to educate the youth of America, I also believe that they are forced to spend much more of their time enforcing government guidelines, filling out government paperwork, and attempting to instill a sense of responsibility and discipline in a group of hooligans whose parents failed to do so. No, there is no time for them to attempt to make their charges any smarter. TV and the Movies certainly aren't contributing anything to the process. 

I know that there have always been a number of bad or just dumb movies in the past, but the medium has changed drastically in recent years. With all of the cable channels out there looking for anything to put on, movies or TV projects that would have gone into the scrap heap are now ending up on the air or released directly as DVDs. Network TV certainly does nothing to help, as most of its characters (especially the male ones) are people that should not be let out of doors without a leash and a keeper. 

As I have stated on more than one occasion, I can find no other reason for the successful careers of Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Wil Farrell. Government is certainly not putting intelligence at a premium either as a hiring requirement or as a member of the voting populace. We no longer ask for great leadership, great intelligence, or even great oratory to place a candidate in office. Once there, we likewise no longer expect promises to be kept or responsibility shown. 

No, I fear it is "bread and circuses" for as long as they can make it so. (For those of you as dumb as me, this refers to the Roman emperor's supplying food and entertainment to the governed in order to keep them distracted from the freedoms that they were losing and the sorry state that the empire was in. Then, like now, it appears to have mostly worked.) 

Why then, are these anomalies of intelligence beginning to become apparent. Perhaps the Internet is finally reaping a first harvest from all of the seeds planted. Maybe the increased access to all of the available facts and the divergent opinions about how to interpret them is having an effect. Perhaps the ability of like-minded individuals (even ones that I disagree with) to find each other and discuss issues is having an impact on raising the overall level of discussion. 

Perhaps the sheeple (as some of my esteemed colleagues choose to call them) are beginning to raise their heads from the trough long enough to look around them. As I said at the beginning of this piece; there are not a lot of them yet, but the numbers are growing (even in Toledo). With that growing number comes my fear, that a critical mass will be eventually reached and the world will be profoundly and forever changed. With that fear however comes a hope, that we will know what to do with such an unprecedented opportunity. 

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Give Me Liberty ... Or Give Me Something With a Pretty Bow

"Give me liberty or Give me death!"

My God, Patrick Henry must be rolling over in his grave!

We just recently passed the 233rd anniversary of the legendary speech that Mr. Henry gave in the Virginia House of Burgess on March 23, 1775. This passionate and persuasive rhetoric (something for which Mr. Henry was well known) convinced this Legislative House to send Virginia troops to the support of the Revolutionary War. While no written copy of that speech was ever saved, recalling this quote even today tends to stir the hearts of some with patriotic fervor.

Unfortunately, the greater number of citizens today seems less concerned with maintaining liberty than with attaining comfort. Somewhere down the years we seem to have become less concerned with protecting ourselves from the menace of intrusive and abusive government than we are with protecting ourselves from gingivitis. Little concerned about the essential rights of all men, we now seem more concerned with government protection from each other and from ourselves. Instead of being concerned with protecting the fundamental liberties that this country was founded on, we seem far more concerned with the presents that we hope to find under the tree after the next election. When did this happen?

When did we start to ask for government to protect us from all of the trials, tribulations, and potential pitfalls of life?

When did it become government's responsibility to take care of us in ill health or old age?

When did it become government's job to sustain the Stock Market by printing more money or manipulating the interest rate?

When did it become government's responsibility to bail us out when we took an ill-conceived loan or made a bad bet?

When did it become government's responsibility to tax some forms of business to the edge of bankruptcy while subsidizing others?

When did we begin to believe that governments might have a place in deciding how much profit a company should make or how much money the CEO of such a company should be paid?

It shames me to think that the noble experiment that the Founding Fathers attempted in creating this nation has so degraded itself as to make its citizens believe that they have no responsibility in their own future. It distubss me that the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" have been degraded to a "make all the bad stuff go away mommy" philosophy. It depresses me that so many are looking forward to the November elections, not for an increase of opportunities or freedoms; but for an increase of government hand outs.

Well maybe the world has changed in the last 223 years, but there I think that there are still a few or us relics of the past around. I only hope that as November's responsibilities come closer to home, that more people realize that what we are supposed to be doing in an election is choosing leaders who can make the right (and sometimes the tough) decisions. It is not to treat a trip to the voting booth the same way that kids treat a trip to the mall ... to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what kind of presents we would like.

As far as I am concerned, you can keep the toys and the pretty packages thank you; I'll stick with Patrick Henry's choices.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In the Grip of the Grape #1

I have been recently accused of being both a fraud and a miser by not sharing some of the education in wine that I have acquired over the years. A fraud because the experience that I claim might not in fact exist. A miser, because if this knowledge does exist, I never share it. I have to say that nothing is further than the truth. (OK, I am a fraud, but that's simply the false sense of confidence that allows me to write this blog in the first place.) I have already shared some of that experience in previous postings on both red and white wine. I chose at that time however, not to impose my tastes on anyone as I don't like to pick wines for others unless and until I know their taste. (Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine. - Fran Lebowitz) 

It has been requested that I share specific information on either something really good that I would recommend or something really bad that I would stay away from in this venue though; and being someone who finds it difficult to turn down the opportunity to share my opinions (even when I am not asked), I decided to accede. I have chosen to title these irregular offerings "In the Grip of the Grape" after an idea for a restaurant and wine store that never got off the ground. Please remember that these are my opinions on the subject, and while they are based on over 25 years of consuming fermented grape juice, they may mean nothing at all to you. You may find that you disagree wildly with what I think, or you may find that I have introduced you to a new favorite. Wine is all a matter of time, taste, and self-education; and half the fun is trying new things. So don't be afraid of anything, and above all enjoy.

The Good
While I would have to say that I drink more red wine than white, there are a number of white wines that I enjoy. One of them is an inexpensive little Australian Chardonnay called Black Opal. Now there are two kinds of Chardonnay, one that has a dry, almost citrus taste to it. The other has a more earthy and buttery feel. Black Opal is that latter. The malolactic fermentation that this wine goes through reduces the acid flavors and gives the wine a hint of buttered popcorn. At $6 to $7 a bottle, it is well worth the effort to keep some of this around. Chill it fully, but leave it out once opened. You will be amazed how the flavor changes (and improves) as the wine warms to room temperature.  
The Better 
As Cabernet became more expensive, I found myself searching for any and all alternatives. It is not that I don't like Cabs, I just couldn't afford the ones that I wanted. One of the wines that I was introduced to was Zinfandel. No, not White Zinfandel, the Kool Aid of wine; but a red of surprising quality and complexity. One of my favorites is Cline "Ancient Vine" Zinfandel. Now in order to get the ancient vine designation, the wine vines must be at least 50 years old. This means that the grapes themselves grow in small, very limited bunches; and that the grapes in these bunches are very small as well. The size and scarcity of fruit does an incredible job of concentrating flavors in the wine. Don't be surprised if you taste hints of blackberry, raspberry, cherry, chocolate, or even coffee in it. While not as inexpensive as the Black Opal, it is never the less a bargain at around $17. 


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Can You Say Intermodal?

There have to be a fair number of you out there saying, "What in the hell in Intermodal?" Well if you will give me more than one line in a posting, I'll explain it to you. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, Intermodal is simply defined as: being or involving transportation by more than one form of carrier during a single journey  

Now for those of you not keeping up with your world economics lately, what this really means is this: 

1. We are more and more living in a global economy, where goods are not just shipped across the country, but around the world. 
2. In order to participate in this kind of business, every kind of transportation is involved (air, rail, ship, and truck) to get products from the point of manufacture to the final point of distribution. 
3. Strategically located points of transfer are required to make such a system work. 

"This is all very interesting Tim" you say, "but why are you posting about it?" Asking such a question would imply that you do not understand much about the town that I live in, Toledo, Ohio (or that you do, and are simply too caught up in feeling sorry for me to think this through)

Toledo has a port on the Great Lakes, straddles the Ohio Turnpike going east-west and I-75 going north-south, has an airport that while not much used for passenger travel is ideal for freight, and is at the crossroads of a number of rail lines (both through the US and Canada). Perhaps now you are beginning to get the picture. Toledo would be an ideal location for an Intermodal transportation hub. 

Having recognized this in the 2 minutes that has taken to read all of this, you have to ask why no one has tried to build one here? In fact, a group has tried to. Many years back, it was pointed out to a few investors that land directly across from the Toledo Express Airport, close to an Ohio Turnpike entrance and to I-75, and only a few miles from the Port of Toledo would eventually be ideal for such a thing. These investors, being good businessmen, purchased the land, and waited for such an investment to bear fruit. Two years ago they began to put the final pieces together required to begin to break ground for this Intermodal transportation hub. 

They ran into a stumbling block however. Access to water was 40 yards away, and extension of that water line required city approval. Now let me explain at this point, that Toledo has the highest unemployment in the state, currently at about 9.3%. Businesses have been moving out of the city regularly and taking their jobs with them. Residents have been leaving the city because there are no jobs to work. So you would think that the opportunity to get such a job magnet as this Intermodal hub would gain immediate support from the city of Toledo. 

Would it then surprise you to learn that even though the investors have offered to pay the city for the water line extension, that the city (or more accurately, the Mayor of Toledo) has been sitting with the request for this extension in his desk for 2 years? Should I also point out that this same mayor is the self-appointed director of economic development in the city? Does this sound like any rational way to run local government?

It is time for everyone to contact the Mayor, the City Council, and the County Commissioners to get this water line extended the length of 1/2 of a football field so that this development can get off of the ground. To paraphrase a more formal contract, if any one of these people can show reason why this boon to the local economy should not move forward, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace. 

 It has been tough times for the city and county that I live in and it is likely that their are tougher times ahead. It is past time that government gets out of the way of one of the few opportunities that this region has. If our local leaders want to do their job, if they want to bring money and jobs to an area that desperately needs it, if they want to serve the people that elected them, they will do everything in their power to see this water line extended and this project moved forward. 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Special Posting: Happy Mother's Day

After careful consideration this year, I have chosen to return to the days of my youth and use my creativity in dealing with the Hallmark Holiday known as Mother's Day. (OK, I waited too long, and I am down to the electronic equivalent of the the cut and paste card in order to get something to her on time.) This tardiness is no reflection on this wonderful woman, or on the love and respect that she has earned from her children over the years.

My siblings and I were not an unruly bunch growing up, but I am sure that we presented our share of challenges. This was made probably made more interesting for her by the fact that our father worked nights for the lion's share of the time during our upbringing, and traveled extensively afterwards. That left the lioness protecting the cubs from threats foreign and domestic, and protect them she did. Some days found her breaking up the natural squabbling that occurs when there are four siblings under the same roof, others saw her wading into a crowd far beyond her weight class to restore order to an unruly mob. Some days found her acting as referee during the the occasional youthful shouting matches at home, while other saw here performing the same function at hockey games (though not officially, of course). In the end she gained the respect of those around her, and her advice was always listened to and often heeded (even the refs finally broke down and gave her a striped shirt).

An avid sports fan during her years in Chicago, she expanded her fanatical support of the Cubs and Bears to include the Chief and the Royals, and later the KU Jayhawks. Somehow she is able to keep player rosters, performance levels, personal quirks, and character flaws on each player of every one of those teams straight in her head; with a perfect recollection of detail at the ready. She does this too with a family of truly Catholic proportions spread throughout the country. Confronted with a name or a face, she is immediately able to place them by parents, siblings, children of their own, city of residence, and time since last seen. (A trait which she somehow failed to pass on, at least to this offspring.) I am constantly amazed to see relations approach to say hi to "Aunt Sis" (a nickname picked up long ago), never expecting to be recognized or remembered; only to have her reveal facts and figures to that person and ask questions of the most exacting detail about their current lives.

And so it is only right that we her children, remember her on this holiday first celebrated on May, 10 1908 in Grafton, West Virgina. In spite of the hype that has come to be associated with this day, it is truly right that we pay homage to one who contributed so much to what and who we are today. (Sorry Mom, I'm not blaming you.) You gave us so much, and expected so little in return. I only hope that the people and the parents that we have become today, in some way shows you the great job that you did.

You know, now that I think about it, I seem to remember that Mom always liked the efforts of originality the best of anything I gave her over the years on Mother's Day (so maybe I'll get away with this).

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Moral Dilemma

Welcome to another of the seemingly endless (and perhaps pointless) attempts to find the qualities of a good political candidate. As we continue this forced march to the November election, the next quality that I would like to touch on is that a candidate should be of "good moral judgment". Continuing scandals at almost every level of government may lead us to believe that such a thing is a vain search. But before we go too far down that road, let's at least give it a try by turning to our ready reference at Merriam Webster.  

Perceptual or psychological rather than tangible or practical in nature or effect This can't be what we are looking for, as it seems mostly like gibberish. If it has any meaning at all, it would be to say that the candidate "feels" like the right one rather than saying one "thinks" that this is the right one. I'm not sure I want to go down that path, as this seems to lead us back to the cult of personality that we have discussed before. I think that I would rather use logic to pick a candidate than my gut. 

Probable though not proved 
This may even be worse. This implies a doubt in the suitability of a candidate, rather than an affirmation of suitability. I have a doubt about all politicians in general as it is. I would like something more proven if it's all the same to you. -  
Conforming to a standard of right behavior 
This one seems to be the one at first glance, but what is "right behavior"? It was right behavior for Crusaders to kill Muslims in the name of their God. It was right behavior for the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expected, by the way) to kill any kind of "unbelievers" in the name of theirs. It is considered right behavior today by some Muslims to do the same. No, I am far from ready to accept this as a standard.  

Capable of right and wrong action 
No I don't think this one helps. Of course one can be capable of right and wrong action. The only other alternative is no action at all, something we often hope for from politicians. For the most part, when they aren't doing anything, they aren't making things worse.  

Sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment 
I think that this is what we are looking for, but I am not sure that the two parts always go together. A conscience leaves some leeway that I'm not prepared to give. It will allow someone to do something awful, and simply feel bad about it. Ethical judgment, on the other hand, is something to be sought not only in politics, but in all aspects of life. It is certainly something that someone who seeks to lead should have.

Well, this search has been more successful than most, though it seems that what we are looking for is actually an 'ethical' candidate, more than a 'moral' one. Since ethics has always seemed to be more of an unchanging standard than morals are, that's OK with me. I won't quibble over the words as long as there is something here of substance that we can use as a guidepost. Maybe we are finally on the right track, and there is something to this search after all. Of course, this probably means that we need to look up ethical (but not now).


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stop The Madness

As part of the madness that masquerades as every day existence for me, I am periodically subjected to things outside of my control. No, I am not complaining about my lot in life (though if you have a hour or two, I will be happy to). I am talking about the loss of freedom, the physical and mental degradation, and public embarrassment that we subject ourselves to every time that we fly on an airplane. Now I know that I have touched on this before, but these periodic reminders do little harm, and may do you some actual good. I am therefore going to apply some common sense (something that one should never do where government regulations are involved), and comment on some of the madness that are the current TSA security regulations regarding air travel:
Liquids cannot not be brought on as carry-on luggage in volumes more than 3 oz.
I have to ask first, what can I do with 4 oz that I couldn't do with 3? Is this some critical mass in chemistry that I was never made aware of? And if I have two different containers with 3 oz of the same fluid, does this too constitute a violation of the regulation, and if it does how would they know?
I can't carry a pocket knife with a 1" blade (or longer) onto a plane.
I understand that a knife can be used as a weapon, but if that's the case, why have airlines gone back from using plastic butter knives to metal ones? If knives are the only issue, then why do the airlines hand out metal forks with 1" tynes? Call me silly, but it seems this eating implement could also easily be used a a weapon. Heck, the handle on a metal spoon can be pretty dangerous used by someone with training.  

I can't have more than (2) boxes of matches in my checked luggage.
(See 3 oz of liquid) What danger are 3 boxes of matches going to pose that 2 didn't? What if I have traveling companions carry some for me? Is there some critical mass at which matches become bombs? Haven't these guys ever heard of collecting matches as souvenirs from restaurants?  

I can't carry a lighter in my checked luggage.  
I can only assume that this is because it might ignite the matches that I or someone else collected from the restaurants. Since it is checked luggage however, this would have to happen spontaneously.

... and here's my favorite after some recent international travel Liquor or perfume purchased at a duty free store out of the country constitute liquids. 

In spite of the fact that they are purchased after you pass through security in a foreign airport, are factory sealed, and that they are not delivered to you until just before you board the plane, they are a violation of TSA rules once you land. Because you must pass through security before boarding your domestic connection, you must put these liquids into your checked luggage (which of course you find out about after you have already rechecked this luggage for the domestic portion of the flight)

Your options are then to:  

1. Go back and check just the liquids at the counter (because luggage never gets damaged in processing).  
2. Go back to the counter and convince the airline to bring your luggage back up so you can put it in your checked luggage (if you have time).  
3. Allow TSA to confiscate the liquor or perfume that you purchased and allow you to continue on your way. (Good booze and perfume, oh baby. Sign me up for the next TSA office party or work picnic.)  

Listen, I still fly a fair bit and I would like the airlines to be safe. I do not take that safety lightly, but I can't help but take lightly the lunacy that masquerades as security and the Wal-Mart greeters in charge of it. I want to know why they keep hiring the guy who wrote the rules for the IRS to do so for every other agency. I would like to know why it takes 3 people to operate an X-ray machine at an airport, and 1 at a hospital. Actually though, I just really want to know why the government believes that harassing every air traveler will make them safer. 

If this is the only way that we can be safe, then they better pass a law forbidding the construction of any building of more than two stories for fear of earthquakes. The truth of the matter is that it was probably easier to get through Checkpoint Charlie (the crossing point between East and West Berlin when the Wall was still up for you young people), than it is to board an airplane these days in the US. 

TSA's answer to the concept of security is suspect profiling that assumes that everyone is guilty (though some airports will grant you the privilege of the equivalent of an FBI profile to get a card that says that you aren't a threat). Ignoring successful programs in Israel and European countries with far higher threat levels, we instead settle for the gang who couldn't shoot straight and a process right out of bad Marx Brother movie (you know, the ones where Zeppo sang all the time).

And even then like cattle lining up for the slaughter, we calmly cue ourselves up to participate in this farce. Simply a part of the lowing herd, we divest ourselves of jewelery, electronic equipment, and articles of clothing so that we can be processed like the mindless beasts that we allow them to treat us as.  

The only people that TSA will capture under the current system will be more than terrorists, they will be morons. So shame on us all for submitting to an abuse of the very laws that this country was founded on.  

(As a note for personal safety, duct tape is legal as part of carry-on luggage and may be required to keep your head from exploding while dealing with TSA.)


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Get Your Paper Here

As some of you might have realized from prior postings, I am a part of the newspaper industry. Not the writing or editorial side of course. I have neither the education nor the experience to write professionally for a newspaper (though this blog site is an attempt to work on the latter). Instead, I am involved with the equipment that gets the newspaper from the printing press to the loading dock (you know, the part where people sweat and get dirty). It has not been a bad living and having been part of it for more than 30 years, I'm not sure that I'm capable of doing anything else. As a consequence of this, I have a vested interest in seeing that this industry survives (at least as long as I do). Now having completed this preamble, I will now regale you with a piece of my own wisdom on the industry that I am a part of:
The newspaper of today is a lot like the Norma Desmond character in "Sunset Blvd". Once a beauty and a power to be reckoned with, she is now merely an over-painted trollop, with nothing but the memory of power and greatness. In a vain effort to seek past glories, she now sticks her nose in the air while prostituting herself to anyone who will listen, complaining when no one is paying attention her. It's funny and a little sad to watch, especially for those of us who play the part of one who still serves her.

The problem as I see it, is that I am part of an entire industry that attempts to live off of its past glories and may not understand its place in the new Information Age. More focused on the way the world was before the Internet and cable news networks, and on artistic awards like the Pulitzer prize, they have no sense of where their future might lie. Well for any of them who happen to be reading this, let me tell you something about your customers they you may not know or choose to recognize.

We don't care if you no longer have a Moscow, Beijing, or London Bureau, and don't need your on-site perspective from these places. Someone else with a faster response time has already filled us in, and their perspective is as valid as yours is.

We aren't buying your product because it has the most awards in or out of the media. The only one who remembers who Joseph Pultizer was is you. (Quite frankly,we are usually buying your product because it's the only one in town).

We don't need you to compete with MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, or even the local news shows. If you need to print what they have already told us, do so and give them proper recompense and accreditation, otherwise use a wire service and save the money. We need you to do what they can't for us.

1. We need you to cover the local news. Not just the news in the city of record, but all of the suburbs around it, and in depth. We need you to create the editions that tell us about every political gathering, sports competition, PTA meeting, and charity fund raising event. We want and need you to show us our kids, our leaders, and our neighbors and everything that we should be proud of them or worried about them for; and do it every day of the week.

2. We need to have you simply report the news, without attempting to spin every story that you cover to the editor's, the publisher's, or the owner's point of view. Take it for granted that by virtue of our ability and willingness to read the written word, that we are actually capable of forming our own opinions without your help, and understand that we are starting to resent you for shoving yours down our throat. Leave your editorial opinions in the editorial section.

3. We need you to go back to the investigative reporting that used to be your hallmark. Newspapers have the time now, and their journalists have the training to find out the dirty little secrets that those in power (both in government and in business) don't want us to know. You also have the time and page space to show us the details of such stories. (By the way that continued on page 8, 14, and 16 stuff is really annoying.)

Some have already begun to realize this message, and the benefits of such thinking. Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs is showing consistent increases in circulation while 95% of newspapers across the country decline, and competes successfully with the larger Chicago Tribune there because it aggressively uses local editions for each of it's markets. Here locally, the Toledo Free Press, a weekly publication, appears to be growing and profiting by concentrating on the very things that I am talking about, while the larger Toledo Blade continues down the industry's traditional time honored path (apparently to destruction).

Newspapers are no longer limited in the stories that they can best cover by the editorial deadlines of their past. Neither are they restricted in the size of a story that they can tell by the commercial breaks and time restrictions of their competition. It is far past time that they woke up and used that advantage. Their only limit in serving their future marketplace is that of their own imagination.

Recent technology changes in the printing industry have made everything that I am talking about not only possible, but fairly simple for to accomplish (shaftless printing presses and inserting machine capable of true demographic production come to mind). I am begging you therefore, before the newspaper becomes the media equivalent of the dodo bird, to find that place where you can best serve our needs and interests, and your own as well. I am begging you to find the path back to the prosperity and profitability that you desire. I am begging you to improve your business so that I can stay in mine!

(Sorry, if you were looking for something less self-serving here you came to the wrong place. I'm just a greedy bastard trying to maintain a standard of living here.)