Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather one to skid in sideways Cabernet in one hand, chocolate in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn, out and screaming, What a hell of a ride!"

- Anonymous

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Run For Your Lives ... COSI Is Back

Yes ladies and gentlemen, COSI is indeed back. David Waterman, chairman of the COSI board is bringing a request for inclusion on the November ballot to the Citizens Levy Review Committee of the same levy that has been defeated twice before. After all, as the Toledo Blade points out "the third time will be the charm". Mr. Waterman's feelings, according to the story are that the larger voter turnout in a presidential election will help the efforts of COSI to gain taxpayer funding for COSI's operation, even though it is a private organization. (It qualifies for this through a special change in state law)

Mr. Waterman is correct when he points out that the previous levies were only defeated by narrow margins (71,249 to 70,001 in 2006, and 43,248 to 41,571 last November). He fails to point out a couple of things however:
  1. That a loss is still a loss, as any professional sports team (or amateur one for that matter) can tell you.
  2. That both the margin of loss and the percentage of loss has increased from one election to another, in spite of lower voter turnout.
  3. That the planned levy being put forward is still based on the city providing the Portside building for a rent of $1.
  4. That the planned levy being put forward is likewise based on city continuing to pay the utility bills that it was covering before COSI closed (and still covers today in order to maintain the building).
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it appears that while dead (COSI closed last December), this sinkhole of public funding has more lives than Jason Vohees in the Friday the 13th series. No matter how many times somebody kills the damn thing, it just keeps coming back ... and uglier each time than the one before.
  • There is still no discussion of creating or having created an efficient business plan, even though the board has had over 6 months to come up with one.

  • There is still no discussion of using something other than the Portside building for this effort, even after admitting that the facility is inefficient for such use.

  • There is no discussion of seeking money other than taxpayer money, though the COSI board has found funding for marketing their levy effort. (Unless of course, they get the taxpayer money first, and then that future effort is listed only as a "hope".)

  • There is no direct benefit listed for the reopening of COSI, other than an emotional appeal loosely associated with kids and education.
Evidently the will of the people is only realized when it gives more of its money to government to dispense on its behalf. Evidently such will can only be expressed during presidential election years (as was pointed out by a County Commissioner who will remain nameless 'Konop', but who was not elected during one). Evidently "no doesn't mean no" when expressed by the voters of Toledo and Lucas County. Well Mr. Waterman, at the risk of contradicting the Toledo Blade and yourself on the potential outcome of this levy, let me use my own metaphor to describe your upcoming effort:

"Three strikes and you're out!"

In the spirit of full faith and disclosure, I should mention that I have written before on the subject of such an entity as a cautionary tale or fable. I should likewise point out there may be an economic benefit to the passage of this levy. I previously compared COSI to the Titanic.I now have heard a rumor that Clive Cussler is waiting in the wings with a book and movie deal if this Titanic is successfully raised.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Marine Corp Reunion - Quantico, A Lesson In Respect

I have mentioned before attending a recent reunion of my late father's Marine Corp Battalion, held on the Marine base in Quantico, VA. There is not much left of Company A these days, and fewer still of them are capable of traveling. The bond that these men and their families still share after over 60 years however is absolutely amazing to behold.  As I was to discover however, this was not the only thing that would amaze me during this brief visit however, and I would like to share a few of the weekend's events:

The Marine Corp Museum: I have already posted on this subject, as the link shows, but let me reiterate for anyone who can manage to get south of Washington DC for a day, you will find this well worth your while.

Arlington Cemetery: Though better known as the home of Robert E Lee, Arlington was originally the mansion constructed on the property by George Washington's adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Curtis. Robert E Lee became part of the story here when he married their daughter (and his distant cousin Mary Anna Randolf Curtis), but you can read more about all of this here

Our visit here was to pay homage to Colonel Peck (only a captain then), the leader of this battalion during its service in World War II. Even though I had never met him in life, it was impossible not to see someone exceptional and to get to know him through his wife, daughter, and the men that served under him. It was likewise impossible not to begin to understand something of the true meaning of service and sacrifice while strolling this hallowed ground. So many lives cut short while serving something far greater than themselves and so many as well, who returned at the natural end of their days to be with those with whom they had served. Only someone with no heart could fail to be moved.

The Evening Parade: We were privileged as well to get tickets to see the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I in Washington. This is the original Marine Corp Barracks, and was built in 1801. There are a number of amazing facts surrounding this barracks (available through the link), but I was struck by the fact that even the bricks that make up these barracks were made by Marines. I was likewise struck by the members of "The President's Own", the Marine Corp Band and the Drum and Bugle Corp who performed (every one of which is a college graduate and a professional musician); and the members of Alpha and Bravo Company who marched. One of the young men who explained the evening's events to us (looking as if he was not yet old enough to shave) had served before in Bravo Company; but had just returned to it from a tour in Iraq, something which he had volunteered for as soon as it became available and hoped for yet again.

Marine Corp Base - Quantico: We were fortunate to be staying at a hotel right in the middle of the Marine Corp Base in Quantico, VA. (Oh sure they let the FBI and the DEA put some facilities there as well, but make no mistake people, this is a Marine Corp operation.) It was amazing to me to watch the true respect with which the current crop of Marines treated the veterans I accompanied. While taking breaks outside near the reunion banner, it was rare that one of these men wasn't asked about their experiences in the Pacific, the landings that they made, and the meaning of the term "Lost Battalion". 

Even a wedding group that was also at the hotel paused in the haste of their preparations to speak with us and introduce the entire wedding party. Every Marine that we met was routinely helpful, courteous, and respectful (heck, they even let our group off on a speeding violation while returning one evening). Our final dinner together at the Officer's Club, surrounded by the memorabilia of many wars was a wonderful experience and fitting tribute to those I was lucky enough to be with.

This is not to say that this trip did not hold some disappointments. Some of those at the last reunion had passed in last year (including my father). Some were in ill health and were unable to attend. Some are just not able to get around without great difficulty which makes these events more challenging than they should be for those who have served. These men and these families treasure each other though, and vowed this year to continue until simply no one can make it any longer. I expect that there will indeed be reunions to come. It is difficult to grasp or impede the resolve of Marines.

I must make note of a rather serious personal disappointment during this trip. Seeing so many Marines is such fighting trim (there was a Marathon going on the weekend that we were there), made looking in the mirror every morning a rather grim experience. Thank Goodness that I don't spend much time shaving or I might never have found the strength to stop cowering in embarrassment and leave the room. I will be going into training soon to attend the next reunion.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Three Little Pigs - Update

 It seems like only yesterday that I was posting on COSI here in Toledo using the metaphor of the story of the The Three Little Pigs. I warned you at the time that:

"This is not anywhere near the end. In fact, it may be that we will never see the end of this story. After all, these are 3 very determined little pigs."

I hate to say that I told you so, but it appears that I was right, and that the board at COSI will be asking for a levy to be placed on the ballot for November.

I will have more to say on this when I have a chance to do the subject proper justice, but I felt that it was important to make you aware that even wildly outlandish Fairy Tales ultimately have their basis in fact. I would also caution you when using the link. Please do not read this Fairy Tale to your children at night unless you are prepared to deal with screaming and crying throughout the rest of the evening. (Oh not from your kids, but from from you and your spouse. At least that's how it always affects me.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Man In The Mirror

Every now and again, life demands of us that we take a serious look at the "Man In The Mirror" (or Woman, as the case may be). These are times when the world outside gives a subtle (or not so subtle) nudge to remind of of who we really are and what our true place in the world is. Sometimes the image that we see has no reality beyond that we perceive.

I got one of these recently in a comment to a posting, in which it was pointed out rather strongly that my opinion is no better and no more valid than anyone else's in the world. They were right of course. While I take some pains to make sure that any insight that I try to present is based on logical argument and facts which I check assiduously, this does not mean that it can or should count more than anyone else's. The fact that I have recently commented so much of a political nature (which is not my profession) leaves me open to even greater error and potential criticism.

I may not reduce the amount of political commentary that I do going forward, but having made this introspective examination, I will try to recognize that others may not share my opinion, nor particularly care for the methods that I use to present it. Irony, sarcasm, and pithy commentary are not for everyone, though I hope that I keep enough of a sense of humility and humor about it most of the time to at least make it palatable. On the other hand, it seems that there are times when strict adherence to the facts, and reasoned and logical argument seem to be equally difficult to digest for some. I guess that it's just that political discussion can be unruly at the very least, and down right life-threatening at its worst. (As for religion, the other "third rail" of reasoned discussion, I think some subjects are best left alone by those still in training as Village Idiots.)

After all is said and done, this is the lot of position Court Jester position that I have taken up in writing this blog. I believe that speaking truth to power can be fun, but know that it always means walking a fine line (and sometimes crossing it) in the process. There are no "Falling Rocks Ahead" or "You Are Entering A Minefield" signposts to warn one of impending danger. Even when trying to make a joke to those who rule (or think that they do), one always runs the risk of sometimes severe disapproval (or worse yet, not being funny). Such disapproval has cost more than one guy with a funny hat the the funny little head that he fit it on.

For those of you who choose to take an opposing view and seek to criticize the things that I write, please know that I will never restrict your right to do so unless you cross the line of good manners as I define them for comments. Reasoned discussion and divergent opinions are always welcome. Bad breeding and poor upbringing, when they rear their ugly head, are not. Know also that I will read these criticisms closely, and will weigh them using my own good judgment regarding the positions that I have taken. I can and have been convinced of my own error in the past (though certainly such cases are a rarity, of course). Remember however, that your criticisms (even the personal ones), unless soundly backed by fact and logical argument, are nothing more than opinions. As you know, everyone has an opinion, much as everyone has a rear end (even me, though mine is mostly scar tissue these days). Unfortunately for the world, most of both stink.

The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.
- Winston Churchill

On a more personal note, I want to wish my sister Maureen a "Happy Tweener" (inside joke) on this auspicious day...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Marine Corp Museum: Tradition Remembered

The spike at the top of the building is at the same angle and
is pointed in the same direction as the flag raised on Iwo Jima

I recently attended a reunion of the Marine Corp Battalion of my late father down in Quantico, Virginia. There are a few things that I have to say about that visit, but will do that in a separate posting. As part of that trip however, we were able to spend part of a day at the Marine Corp. Museum that is part of that base. For any of you who have friends or family that are serving or have served in the Corp. (or anyone as fascinated as I am with this organization), this is a pilgrimage that you will have to make. Rather than bore you with any of my usual nonsense on a subject however, I will instead simply share with you some of the pictures that I got while touring this facility.
Enjoy ...


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tony Snow 1955-2008

Perhaps no man since Ronald Reagan has served his country and the cause of conservatism as well as Tony Snow. His good natured, positive, and principled approach to politics and life is one that we can all use as a shining example of how to be not only a good citizen, but a truly good person.

I could wax on poetically about the particulars of a man who will be missed greatly, not only by the family he leaves behind, but by a nation that has see far too few like him.  

In the end however,  I think that no one can put it better than Mr. Snow himself, in this quote from the most recent Patriot Post:

"You want to make every pundit look bad? Then stand tall for what you believe. Don’t be shy. You want to stun the establishment? Then become a mighty force for conservative principles, and tackle the task with confidence and cheer... This may be a time of testing. But it’s not our swan song. Not by a long shot. Instead... this is our moment. This is the time to do what we do best—turn adversity into strength."

His passing lessens us all...

It's Like Oil & Water

I was taken by the discovery recently that not all of the oil currently floating on our oceans is the result of a tanker spill or the discharge from the bilge of a passing container ship. In fact most of this seepage is the result of a natural process.

You see, it turns out that that most oil doesn't like staying under the ground. Instead, it would rather rise to the surface. We have known about this since the 1860's, when it was noticed in areas as diverse as Pennsylvania and Azerbaijan. 

In fact, in a study published in the 90's by BP among others, it appears that there is seepage in 75% of the "petroliferous basins" (places where there is oil underground for those unwilling to pick up a dictionary or too lazy to follow the enclosed link). This fact is also true when the oil is under the ocean floor, and because oil is lighter than water, when it seeps out of the from these areas, it floats to the surface. This sub-surface seepage in the oceans can actually be detected by oil companies using a satellite-based Synthetic Aperture Radar, and is used as a indication of where they should be able to successfully drill for oil on the ocean floor.

Now if you believe (and I do) that oil floating on the ocean is a bad thing, impacting the fish and wildlife of this watery habitat, you must therefore agree that drilling for it and pumping it out from beneath the ocean's floor may be the only way to prevent this pollution of the world's oceans from continuing. It is not only environmentally sound therefore to do this drilling; but as good "Stewards of the Earth", it is the only compassionate thing to be done for the life of the planet. Please write or call your elected Representatives to make sure that any prohibition, regulation, or impediment to this off-shore drilling is removed immediately. This may be the last chance that we have to save Mother Earth.

Note: The fact that the actions described above will bring down the price of oil, stimulate the economy, and make us energy independent of a bunch of Third World despotic "hell holes" who would rather see us all dead should play no part in this argument. We are not talking here about feeding profiteering oil companies simply to promote the lifestyles of an uncaring American bourgeois class driving their SUV's. We are talking about saving the very planet that we live on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Things That Make You Go Hmmm ... #3

I was feeling a little bored this morning, so I thought I would throw down the challenge and get answers to some of the questions that just bother me (Well at least this week). Here they are:
  • Why does a psychic have to ask your name?
  • Why does the phone company give you a phone number to call if the phone doesn't work?
  • Is atheism a "non-prophet" organization?
  • If a cannibal ate a clown, would he taste funny?
  • If horrific describes something horrible, why doesn't terrific describe something terrible?
  • Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?
  • Where do the Interstate highways in Hawaii go to?
  • If you choke a Smurf (something that I have always wanted to do) what color does it turn?
  • What was the best thing before sliced bread?
  • If a book about failure doesn't sell, is it a success?
I will be awaiting those answers...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Candidate Qualities - The Search For The Grail

Well for those of you who have followed me in my quest for the qualities that should be needful or desirable in a political candidate or office holder, my heartfelt congratulations (and my sympathies). You have participated in a journey seemingly as long, as difficult (and almost as fruitless) as that King Arthur's knights made for the Holy Grail (Monty Python version, of course).

Like the knights in that tale, you have had to deal with everything in the world from the sublime to the ridiculous. You have braved the twisted paths of logic and reason created by the vagaries of the English language and faced the abuse of that mode of communication with the stout hearts shown by those fearless knights as they faced everything from vicious rabbits to French tormentors. (OK, they did run away in the end ... but so what.)

Be now of good cheer however, for though this cup may yet remain beyond our our grasp, we have discovered some of what we seek. Take rest now, and let us review this remarkable expedition so that we can all move on with the rest of our lives (and about time, eh).

In this search for the qualities that both we, and the candidates themselves seem to place the greatest importance on, we have explored: character, honesty, morals (and with it, ethics), and the ability to be a leader.
Character: Unfortunately, this appears to have been a rather elusive quality. We were told that this was a symbol or a role for an actor which we knew wouldn't work, and the only hint of something of substance pointed towards moral excellence. As we later discovered, this can be a rather fluid concept.

Honesty: This trait seemed an obvious one, and proved less so. Our search here left us with "an adherence to the facts". Unfortunately for our search, the "facts" in politics often seem to be subject to interpretation (and sometimes some serious spinning).

Leadership: This led us to a definition of "a person of commanding authority or influence". While seemingly good on the surface, this definition left no room for the direction of this leadership, and the world has too often been led down the wrong path by people of commanding authority.

Moral: This was our most slippery term, though we did find, "
Sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment". Unfortunately for this search, counting on the conscience and judgement of a politician is often an exercise in futility. In the end, we were left with the fact that 'moral' may have been the wrong word, and that we needed to move on in order to reach our goal.

Wisdom: Here for the first time, we saw some light at the end of the tunnel, when we found, "Marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment". There is little doubt that this would be something that we would like to see in politics and candidates (and far too rarely do).

Ethics: Here again, we found something to sink our teeth into with, "The principles of conduct governing an individual or a group". A candidate should have an abiding sense of principles that act as a guide for their actions. For myself, I would prefer that they drew these principles from the Founding Fathers, The Declaration of Independence, and The Constitution of the United States.

Perhaps the very elusiveness of these qualities is what makes choosing a candidate or a leader so difficult. Perhaps the problem is the "profession of politics", with a group of potential power seekers using professional speech writers, political handlers, and spin masters to further confuse us and make these choices even more difficult. Perhaps even when we can agree that the qualities of both Wisdom and Ethics are necessary for a candidate or leader, being able to recognize these qualities through the cult of personality built around candidates these days is extremely difficult. Then again, nobody ever said that democracy was going to be easy (OK, Representative Republic). It took the Founding Fathers 3 years to come up with the system of government that now gets abused after the Revolutionary War ended, and only after having abandoned the Articles of Confederation that they had originally come up with. I suppose that if the people wise enough to design a form of government that has lasted for over 200 years in this country struggled with it, that we can cut ourselves a little slack over the process.

I have to tell you though, that this Quest has worn me out. Exhausted, road weary and sore at heart, I think that I will seek instead that most desired by the Knights of Ni:

"Bring me a shrubbery!"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

That's Not Right #11 - Help I've Fallen Update

You know, it seems like only a month ago I was doing a posting on the government stepping in to bail out those who gambled and lost in the real estate market with adjustable rate mortgages. (Oh wait, it was just a month ago!) Well it seems that much like I had warned, the auto industry is picking up torch and is running with it as if they were on their way to the Beijing games with a bunch of Tibetan protesters nipping at their heals.

I don't know if you have been listening closely to the car dealers commercials lately, but I have. They are offering deals on new car purchases which include paying off the loan on your existing car, even if it's $10,000 more than your car is worth!

Perhaps I am simply over-reacting to the situation; but it seems to me that if you are financing a new car plus $10,000 more that you still owe on the old one, you might be placing yourself in a questionable financial situation. The fact that you are probably buying this new car because you can't afford the gas for your current vehicle might likewise make us believe that you are a someone potentially in an over-extended credit position.

Of course these auto dealers, and the people stupid enough to buy cars using such a program are probably counting on the fact that it is more than likely that we will see a Democratic majority in Congress (and a Democratic president as well). Certainly such a kind, compassionate, and caring group of politicians will look with equal favor upon these transportation ne'er-do-wells going down the road (pun intended) and likewise find a bail out program for these victims of "big oil" and "predatory auto lenders".

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go find my duct tape. My head is about to explode....

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Loose Thread

Have you ever found a loose thread on a shirt that you just couldn't resist pulling? (You should be hearing the voice of Andy Rooney when reading this.) Didn't it drive you crazy as it got longer and longer? And what about when you looked down and realized that continuing to pull this thread instead of just snipping it off has completely ruined the shirt. Didn't that make you feel silly? (OK, Andy voice off) You may be wondering where all of this is going, and that's exactly the point that I'm trying to make. OK, maybe I need to go back just a couple of steps here for those of you not already hip deep in the blogging world. 

  • Bloggers like myself put up postings on a variety of subjects
  • Most bloggers allow comments on these postings as a way of allowing the presentation of additional information, encouraging discussion, or just having some fun with the subject.
  • The list of comments after a posting is called a "thread".
  • Most people commenting do so intelligently, rationally, and politely.
  • Some people commenting do not. They either bring up extraneous information which diverts the attention of the readers from the original subject, use this forum as a soapbox for their own agendas, or in some cases just get mean, petty, and personal - commenting on other comments and the people who make them instead of the subject at hand.
While nothing is a sure thing, the odds are pretty good that the longer the thread of comments gets, the more chance that it will go off topic and get more than a little nasty. Add to the mix that because all are capable of posting comments anonymously or using a pseudonym for this purpose, people in the blogosphere often feel free to say things here that they would never say outside of this world.

This is not to say that rational discourse does not take place in blogging. I have shared intelligent, thoughtful and amusing exchanges with many out there; even those who I disagree with. Likewise I should say that I can only look at this from the outside, as postings on this site do not normally engender long threads of commentary and irrational discourse that I am talking about. I would like to tell you that this is because of my amazing ability to sway people to my opinion, but find it more likely that I simply do not have the volume of readership or take on the type of subjects in a way which inspires such vitriol and insanity.

I have been watching with interest and amusement, a couple of these longer threads on other blog sites in recent days. They are guilty of everything I am talking about: wandering off subject on a scale that would intimidate Johnny Appleseed, personal attacks that should make those involved grateful that the practice of dueling is no longer in favor, and naming calling that ranks right up there with one 4 year-old calling another "doo-doo head". Reading them is like watching a bad version of a TV reality show in which the residents can't seem to get along with each other and seek to draw attention to themselves through mindless misbehavior. 

While some might consider such things (and shows) entertainment, I simply find them further proof that civilized behavior is dying in the world. I will not try to delve too deeply into the background of misbehavior of this type however, as I have always found that such actions, and the children who commit them, should be ignored rather than catered to by attention (just ask my kids).

It's a shame that blogging has to be the beneficiary such childish behavior. It's a shame that many use anonymity to spread ignorance, stupidity, and vitriol. It's a damn shame that rational discussion on many issues in this country cannot take place without a breakdown of good manners and civility. Having said all of this however, I find that I should end this posting as well, before the thread of my argument gets away from me and begins to unravel as well.

Annoying things these loose threads; and the longer they get, the more annoying they become, and the more damage they do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The "Stuck on Stupid" Toledo Dictionary #5

Courtesy of my friends at WSPD, and a roundtable discussion between Brian Wilson, Fred Lefebvre, and Maggie Thurber; we have yet another addition to the SOS Toledoisms we are entering into our dictionary.

usage: to Rescind a law unnecessary or detrimental to citizens or businesses in Toledo

1. To look at a law or regulation with an eye on removing it, with the expectation of making no serious effort, nor taking any further action to actually do so.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The "Stuck on Stupid" Toledo Dictionary #4

New entries for the SOS Dictionary of Toledoisms...

Will Of The People

1. Any levy that is passed, even by the smallest of margins.

Unwise Decision

1. Any levy which fails, whatever the margin.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Where Have You Gone, Thomas Jefferson?

I cannot think of a more fitting time for a posting that I have been playing around with for some little while. (You would be amazed if I told you how many times some of these were edited or rewritten.) So just one day after the 4th of July, the anniversary of both the death John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1826 (our 2nd and 3rd Presidents respectively) , I offer the following.
In 1967, Simon & Garfunkel wrote, "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns it's lonely eyes to you." This line in the song "Mrs. Robinson" from the movie "The Graduate" speaks to a confused culture, crying out for a simpler time when heroes were easier to recognize, easier to admire, and easier to gain inspiration from. The sentiment was a noble one, but picking a baseball player may be a little more naive than can be tolerated in the reality of today's world. If we really wanted to pick a true hero, we should go back more than 200 years to one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, for the type of inspiration that we could use today.

Here is a man who served his country well and fully as a member of the Assembly and Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to the Court of France, Secretary of State, Vice-President, and as our 3rd President. Most importantly, he served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. It is in that early role that we see his intelligence, his eloquence, and his vision as he penned the Declaration of Independence.
The truly amazing thing about this is that Jefferson did all of it while earning a living as a: farmer, lawyer, inventor, horticulturist, archaeologist, paleontologist, author, and architect (oh yeah, and he also helped found the University of Virginia). In spite of all of the time he spent in government service, Jefferson ultimately remained a private citizen, believing in the concept of the "yeoman farmer" as the ideal. Serving the government when required was a duty, not a profession; and was performed as personal sacrifice.

This belief in working with the land made him suspicious of urban dwelling as well. Jefferson loathed both commerce and manufacturing as ways of life, seeing them as temptations for corruption. He was also skeptical of both newspapers and banks. When the discussion of a National Bank arose, he said:

"I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."

(You have to wonder how he would feel about the current state of the Federal budget and the Federal Reserve.)

In truth, he had nothing but contempt for large cities, and believed that the country was best served when there were new lands to conquer. It was this vision, over strong opposition in the country at the time, that compelled him to complete the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 (many thought it was in fact, unconstitutional at the time). This massive land purchase from Napoleon for just over $23,000,000 now encompasses about 23% of the Continental United States, and truly established the US as a world power. This new frontier, and the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore it, fit very well with the concepts of freedom as Jefferson understood them, and provided citizens at the time with the chance to act in relative isolation and independence, free from the entanglement of government and growing with the country.

Above all, Jefferson was a man who believed in Republican principles (no, not the political party, but the principles of representative government). He truly believed in the inalienable rights of man, restricted only by interference with the rights of other men. He also believed that men had an innate sense of morality, which would allow them to restrain themselves from interfering with their fellow man's rights. He believed that because of the nature of man, little government was necessary, or preferable. Government's only function would be to prohibit individuals from infringing on rights of other individuals and to restrain itself from diminishing individual freedom. (I would say that belief in such principles today would make Jefferson sound like a libertarian, but I wouldn't want to place the "right-wind lunatic" label on one of our Founding Fathers.)

The epitaph on his tombstone (he was buried on his Monticello estate), is one that he himself wrote with the insistence that it be only his words used and "not one word more". It was simply:


Where are those today who believe in the rights and responsibilities of Man? Where are those who believe in the limits of government? Where are the true defenders of Republicanism today? Where those who contribute from a broad range of knowledge to their society? Where are those citizen-servants who leave private life only for a brief period in order to serve their fellow citizens in government? Where have you gone, Thomas Jefferson?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th: The Tomb of the Unknowns

Many will be posting today about fireworks and picnics, family gatherings and parades, and these are all wonderful subjects in which I too hope to participate over the holiday. I am going to choose instead on a day that I don't normally post, to pass on a bit of obscure information that I was able to dig up from a number of websites out there on a little more somber subject, the monument to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to provide the very independence that we celebrate on this day.

This came home to me while recently attending a Reunion in Quantico, VA of my late father's Marine Corp Battalion (something that I did last year ). During the trip this year, we visited the grave site of their commanding officer, Colonel Peck, in Arlington National Cemetery. While touring the cemetery, we passed, but did not stop, at the Tomb of the Unknowns, something that I had hoped to do and truly regret foregoing. We were on the way to the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks on 8th & I however, and one does not keep the Marines waiting. I promise that I will regale you in the future with some of the other things I was exposed to during that visit, but in the meantime, I would like to share with you some of what you might never have known, and I was recently enlightened about: 

Tomb of the Unknowns

  1. The tomb contains the unidentified remains of a soldier who served in: World War I, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam, and has been guarded continuously since 1930.
  2. The Guards are members of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard), and wear no rank insignia on their uniforms while on duty so as not to outrank one of those lying in the Tomb.
  3. The Guards take 21 steps, in recognition of the 21 gun salute; the highest honor given anyone in the military or any foreign dignitary.
  4. Upon completion of those steps, the guards hesitate 21 seconds in memory of that same honor, turns 90 degrees and hesitates again for 21 seconds, before completing another 90 degrees and hesitates one more time before resuming his march.
  5. The Guards march with moistened gloves to prevent the gun from slipping from their grasp while on duty.
  6. Guards are changed every 30 minutes; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  7. The guards always carry the rifle on the shoulder furthest from the tomb. This move places the sentinel between the tomb and any threat.
  8. The Guards of the Tomb, an honor currently carried by just over 500 people, is awarded only after careful examination (and noted by the award of a wreath pin). They subsequently live under very strict guidelines for the rest of their lives.
  9. For the first 6 months of this duty, guards spend most of their free time learning of the most notable people buried in Arlington in preparation for their exam. With their rigorous training, hours of marching, and rifle drill, they have little time for anything else.
  10. Each guard spends five hours each day getting his uniforms ready for this duty.
  11. In 2003, as Hurricane Isabella approached Washington and while Congress took 2 days off in anticipation of the dangers of this storm, these guards stood their duty. Soaked to the skin, they continued to march their rounds in the pelting rain of a tropical storm. They had been offered the opportunity to suspend this assignment; but refused, stating that such duty was not simply an assignment, but was the highest honor afforded to a serving member of the military.
Honor indeed to those of our troops serving in defense of freedom around the world today, to those who have in every conflict where Americans have served, and to those who gave all for the men that they served with and for their country.
(Keep an eye out for an additional posting relating to the Holiday as my regular Saturday effort.) 


Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Oil Shortage Is My Fault

I reached a moment of epiphany yesterday that I felt that I had to share with all of you. I discovered, during a singular moment of clarity, that I am responsible for the current shortage of oil here in the United States, and the resultant higher prices that we are all paying for gasoline. 

I know, I know ... I am not an oil company, nor do I have the ability to drill for oil. (Hell, with my little car and the amount that I drive, I don't even use much of the stuff.) The problem that I appear to have created instead seems to be one of imitation. You see, I have been meaning to lose some weight for some time now (since about the Carter Administration if you must know). This is a problem (like the person with it) that has been growing for a number of years. I have complained about it, sought sympathy over it, and have told myself that I was dealing with it as best I could. The problem however, is that I was not making the honest effort that I should to change. Looking at the situation, it would be easy to say that: 

* My appetite has increased, but I don't make much of an effort to curb it. - My situation leaves me desk-bound, but I don't push to exercise more. 

* I am capable of eating healthier, but I don't do so nearly as much as I should. 

* Not dealing with this problem for so long a period has made it worse, but recognizing that this is the case has not caused a change in my overall behavior. 

Compare this to the way that the country has been dealing with the current energy crisis (a problem that we have been facing off and on since the oil embargo during ... the Carter Administration), and you will begin to see why this relationship is now so clear to me.  

- We know we have a greater appetite for oil, but perform only the most cursory efforts to curb it.  

- We know that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but won't exercise our right to drill for it domestically.  

- We know that there are healthier sources of energy out there like nuclear, but don't make an honest effort to use them.

 - Not dealing with this problem has added to inflation (pun intended) and other economic hardships for the country; but though we recognize this, we appear to be unwilling or unable to make any real changes and resolve it.

 Based on due consideration of the above, I am forced to the conclusion that my personal behavior has been controlling national policy, and that the country has suffered as a consequence. I wish to apologize for the hardships that I have caused the American people. I further wish to apologize for not realizing the problems that I have been causing. 

Ignorance (even when not aggressive) is no excuse for such a lapse in discernment or judgment however. In recompense, I hereby resolve to expend every effort to address this situation as quickly as possible. In fact, it is my intention to immediately go on a diet ... well tomorrow anyway.  

(For those of you who believe that the concerns that I have share here might be nothing more than a form of posturing and pretension that may even border on megalomania, I must concede that it's possible you are correct. My response however is, "What's your point?")


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Necessary, But Not Sufficient

I was sitting quietly one recent evening when that phrase began rolling around in my head (the emptiness of the appendage that decorates the top of my neck sometimes permits such things). I am not entirely sure to whom it should be attributed (anyone who knows is more than welcome to fill me in), but it feels pretentious enough to have come from one of our Founding Fathers. It struck me how little it's used these days and how appropriate that it might be to an understanding of our current relationship with government. 

For example: Providing roads and keeping them in repair is necessary, but not sufficient to justify the crushing level of taxation placed on gasoline for this purpose, the graft involved in the attempt, and the horrible job being done in spite of or because of this. 

Providing police protection for life and property is necessary, but not sufficient for the way in which it is underfunded, the lack of respect for those performing it, and the occasional examples of abuse of power which seem to be the only thing that make headlines.  

The availability and quality of the long term health care is necessary, but not sufficient to justify the phenomenal costs, the mind-numbing maze of paperwork involved in getting it, and any need for government intervention. 

Holding elections in order to fill offices at every level of government is necessary, but not sufficient to justify the money being spent on it, the annoying political ads that we are subjected to, and never-ending circus that politics has become in recent years. 

Laws to regulate the trade of goods and services between states and countries is necessary, but not sufficient to justify the incredible number and complexity of the current laws, intrusive nature of those laws, and monstrous bureaucracy (growing larger every day) that seeks to stifle the very thing it attempts to protect. 

The creation of laws to guarantee the freedom and protect the general welfare of the people is necessary, but not sufficient to make comprehensible the labyrinth of nonsense, overlapping and contradictory drivel, and obsolete claptrap that makes up the massive pile of dead trees that masquerade as law in this country. (... talk about your carbon footprint, sheesh!)  

Taxes, levies, or duties to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the citizens of the United States is necessary, but not sufficient to justify the the crushing level of taxation imposed, the unnecessary level of complication in the process, and the abuse of power that the IRS has committed in the performance of enforcement. 

A jury of peers for the adjudication of cases both civil and criminal is necessary, but not sufficient to explain the madness of consciously ignored facts, sentences without regard to the crime or the victim, and settlements that have turned the civil courts into a form of judicial lottery. 

See what I mean! Like Super Glue, there are 1001 uses for the phrase, "necessary, but not sufficient". While I am sure that anyone now reading this can easily come up with additions, or even their own list where this phrase is concerned (and you are certainly welcome to send them in as comments), isn't it astonishing that we don't hear it used more often? 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Doing Business In Ohio Is Unhealthy

Well the word is finally getting out there on the initiative currently trying to reach the ballot known as the "Healthy Families Act". Credit should be given to the poliitical handlers again for coming up with such a friendly, compassionate, and feel-good name for what should be more rightly called the "Give Ohio a Nurturing Environment" Act. Such a name would be equally friendly, but would more accurately describe what will happen to Ohio businesses. They will be GONE. Let's set aside what the direct cost of such a law might mean to Ohio businesses. Let's additionally set aside the mind-numbing amount of additional paperwork and the state bureaucracy that will be required for tracking and enforcement (more cost). Having done so, why shouldn't we want something as compassionate as this law? Because: 
  • Business do not move to or stay in states that like to place restrictions and mandates upon them. They get enough of that at the Federal level.
  • Business owners understand how to run a business (unlike governments). They likewise understand that 'giving' this benefit will mean 'taking' something else away (oh, like health benefits, vacation, non-mandated sick days).
  • Unions support this proposal, and that's never business friendly.
  • Government is never satisfied with the level of control or interference that is has in anything. It will not be satisfied with this "toe in the door", and we will all need to be afraid of where this could go.
Now in the spirit of full faith and disclosure, I have to admit that this appeal is strictly my opinion and is by-and-large an emotional one (much like that of those pushing this legislation). There are those however, who manage much more fact-based postings, and ones providing much more and better information on the subject. This one by Maggie Thurber does exactly that. It will not only give you the gory details of what this initiative is about, but who else thinks that it's not a good idea.

As for me, I am now cancelling my plans to incorporate "Just Blowing Smoke" as a business in the State of Ohio. In spite of the fact that I am the only employee and would not qualify under the current version of the proposed law, I believe that this measure, if passed, will eventually be forced onto every employer. I am not willing to provide these paid sick days for that employee, and experience enough labor unrest as it is without tempting the fates further.