Saturday, November 29, 2008

The New Political Diet

While recently reading the post of fellow blogger Maggie Thurber on this year's Food Stamp Challenge, I decided to throw up one of my usual semi-pointless and cheesy comments. Then I realized that there might actually have something in what I was saying. 

You see politicians love the kind of challenges that allow them to hold press conferences (almost as much as they like the press conferences themselves). With the election over and no one due to take office for a month or so, there is little reason for such events, and nothing for them to say in front of microphones and reporters. 

This situation is probably unacceptable to our representatives in government, so I would like to inject an opportunity for them to once again seek a little public attention by accepting the challenge that I propose: It is that each politician agree to discuss a given subject of their choice (or all of them if they're really a glutton for punishment) for a week without the sentimentality that normally dominates their remarks during public appearances. No compassion, no tugging at the heartstrings of the voters, no appealing to our "better angels"; just (as they used to say on "Dragnet") "the facts, ma'am". 

I wonder if they could do it? I wonder if they would bother to do the work and research required to speak intelligently on nothing but facts without falling back on spin, trite phrases, and emotional appeals? I wonder if any could or would stand in front of reporters and speak from the head and not the heart.

It would certainly be refreshing, wouldn't it? It would in fact be the equivalent of the Atkins diet of politics. Nothing but the protein of facts, without the double helping of emotional carbohydrates and fat. A true performance of the Aristotelian method of discussion based on empirical evidence, common sense, with arguments laid out in simple symbolic logic.  

Perhaps, in light of the fluff and nonsense that we were handed leading up to the election, we are actually owed a bit of this. Perhaps just once in our lives, we could be trusted with common sense instead of compassion, the facts instead of the truth. Perhaps beyond hope and change, there is fact and reason that may yet reveal itself.  

So as we all attempt to recover from our over indulgences during Thanksgiving dinner, still parked in a recliner watching football games as we pound down a double helping of left over stuffing, I ask you to consider such a parallel universe. As we attempt to choke down yet another turkey sandwich we don't need while nodding off during a TiVo replay of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade (which they've ruined completely by the way, but that's for another day), I ask that you let such thoughts bring a smile to the place between those now chubby cheeks. As we lay down to sleep, with that last slice of pumpkin pie as our final conscious thought of the day, I ask you to use your imagination in dreaming about such a world.  

I suspect that most of our current crop politicians would starve on such a diet, even if we could get them to take such a pledge (OK probably not, but we could hope anyway). Doing so however, might at least provide the opportunity to reduce some part of the dead weight that we currently put up with in politics.


Friday, November 28, 2008

TFP Column - How the Government Stole Christmas

For those of you not lucky enough to live in the Toledo are (yeah, right) and therefore unlucky enough not to receive the Toledo Free Press, I thought that I would further reduce your lottery winning chances by posting this link to my column in this esteemed publication. I hope you enjoy it.

There are as always, many interesting things in the TFP this week; though Michael Miller's interview with Scott Adams, the creator of one of my favorite comics "Dilbert" was certainly an unexpected jewel for me this week.

TFP Column - The Big Three Bailout

While the Toledo Free Press Website is back up and functioning, my column from last week no longer appears in the online edition (maybe they are getting wiser about the burden that they are willing to place on their readership). At any rate, I have had numerous requests (OK, a couple from family members) to permit those of you outside of the circulation area of the TFP to see one of my more venomous rants. I hope that it gets you as stirred up as I am about this.  

Following a series of disturbing clues, I was finally able to decipher the secret message in the “DiVinci Code” from the latest puzzle of the current bailout program(s). It came as Congress, currently in lame duck session (a strangely appropriate term considering), and in the midst of its seemingly non-stop effort to throw good money after bad, was trying to decide whether they should funnel additional bailout money into the auto industry. Surprisingly enough, they couldn’t. 

Make no mistake; the auto industry is going through tough times. Consumer cash and the credit to finance major purchases is in short supply and the brief but abrupt rise in gasoline prices has forced consumers to reconsider their purchasing decisions. Not surprisingly as a consequence, sales of cars are down. 

These bleak financial conditions are further exacerbated for automakers GM, Ford, and Chrysler because of their poor decision to manufacture big cars, SUV's, and big pickup trucks; vehicles which fit neither the current consumer’s fuel efficiency requirements, nor their depleted budgets, but do have a higher profit margin for manufacturers. 

Do not fear for our intrepid US auto manufacturers however, as the Federal government had already decided to make $25 billion available to the US auto industry to retool itself in order to meet the CAFÉ standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) that these car makers claim is one of their biggest problem. Not content with this piddling amount however, they came to beg for another $25 billion (and probably more later); saying without it that they might not survive, and that 2.6 million jobs may disappear. (Can you say doomsday threat?) 

This additional money is not for additional retooling however, to build manufacturing plants utilizing the latest in labor-saving technology (something mostly forbidden to them in the US by current labor contracts), or even to provide them with capital for the massive change to their business plans that's undoubtedly required for their survival. Amazingly, the bulk of this money appears to be needed to cover the pension and medical funds of union workers, current and retired. After much debate and negotiation however, the vote on their bailout has been delayed this week to provide the automakers time and opportunity to provide something that looks like a business plan. 

Their plight will then be taken up after Thanksgiving in Senate committee review, and relief undoubtedly provided in some form using part of the original $25 billion in special session. They will then get to make their case for even more cash with the new Congress next year. Let’s be clear however, about the fact that this bailout has little to do with the continued operation of these US automakers (as opposed to all of the other automakers in the world currently operating manufacturing plants in the US and employing non-union US workers in those plants)

This bailout is little more than a quid pro quo by a bunch of politicians attempting to prop up the unsupportable pension and medical plan of unions who have supported them through yet another election cycle. Worse, it’s a poorly hidden attempt to tell taxpayers that they should willingly hand over this cash knowing that it will undoubtedly raise taxes, increasing the odds that they will have to look forward to retiring on little more than the pittance provided by what is an all but bankrupt Social Security System and hope to survive on whatever level of medical care is capable of being doled out by a Medicare / Medicaid Program already strained past the breaking point. 

They should do this so that union auto workers can sleep safer at night, knowing that they will have bullied the elected representatives of those taxpayers into supporting what for them will be a much more comfortable level of retirement and better grade of medical care (you know, like Congress gets), negotiated at almost the point of a gun with their former employers and now ultimately funded at the expense of their fellow citizens. Based on this new found revelation, the secret message of the puzzle is obvious for all but the most gullible to decipher. It reads that "The Big Three really means: U A W”. 


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I will once again be celebrating Thanksgiving this year in Kansas City again. Doing this brings mixed feelings this year, as the joy of being with family is tinged with some sadness, revisiting a rather sad anniversary for the Higgins clan. You see, it was right before Thanksgiving last year that my father passed away. That single event will forever change that nature of this holiday for me, but does not in any way take away the point of the day, or the concept and need of giving thanks in my life. You see:
  • I am thankful that I was able to get back to speak with him one last time before the end.
  • I am thankful for the inspiration that he provided to me on both a personal and professional level.
  • I am thankful for all of the things that both he and my mother taught me about the truly important things in life.
  • I am thankful that I will able to get back to KC and be with my mother, sisters (and their families), and one of my sons for this year's holiday.
  • I am thankful for the health and prosperity of my family and friends this year.
  • I am thankful for the opportunities that have opened up for me in the last year.
There are of course, a few things of a less serious nature that I am likewise thankful for:
  • I am thankful that the election is over and that my future expenses in duct tape will be reduced (at least until January).
  • I am thankful that I live in a country capable of surviving the choices that it makes each Election day.
  • I am thankful that the newspaper industry has survived yet another year (though not by much).
  • I am thankful that Michael Miller has not recovered his senses and continues to print the columns that I write.
  • I am thankful that one of my sister Maureen will be responsible for cooking Thanksgiving dinner. (While I am capable of doing so, I am also honest enough to admit to being lazy and dodge the responsibility.)
I am also thankful for all of you out there reading this blog. It has become rather an obsession for me over time, and has contributed to some of the opportunities that I spoke about. Without the support, help, and feedback from many of you, there is no telling how far down the path of degradation it and I would have otherwise gone.
Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christmas Is Coming

Well Halloween is over and the election behind us. So here in November, before we even get a chance to sit down and enjoy our Thanksgiving turkey, we can turn our thoughts to ... Christmas.  Yes, even though it's weeks away, we must now all turn our attention to consumerism and profligate spending in the hopes of giving every national department store chain a profitable fourth quarter. 

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Department stores or profit, and I certainly don't have anything against Christmas; but I just got done being bombarded with political commercials leading up to the election and I would have preferred a short break before having it replaced by endless advertising for the latest big toy(s). 

As for some of the other commercials, don't even get me started. I have had up to here with the ham-handed bludgeoning that masquerades as marketing campaigns in commercials trying to convince me that my loved ones will only be satisfied on Christmas by jewelry with large diamonds, a big screen TV, or a new car. (Of course if someone wants to leave that 42" flat panel under the tree for me, that's OK.)  

My few consolations in the coming weeks will be presentations of "A Charlie Brown Christmas", "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (I just love that elf dentist), and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", along with a few of the great old black and white movies like "Holiday Inn", "A Christmas Carol" (almost every version), "It's a Wonderful Life", and " White Christmas". In between, I will overdose myself with with egg nog and cookies, and frequent repititions of all of the Mannheim Steamroller offerings and the James Taylor Christmas albums (I also have the soundtrack for Charlie Brown Christmas, but that's for special occasions) in the hopes of working up the proper state of mind. I likewise hope to find not just consolation, but indeed real joy in being able to visit with both children and grandchildren through the holiday season, though schedules these days are often more complex than any of us would like. 

For it is only through the eyes of children (and especially grandchildren) that we truly understand the magic of Christmas. It is in their perfect happiness and wonder on Christmas morning that we get past the embarrassment of the Christmas party miscues, the insanity of Christmas shopping, and the anxiety that we feel over the added calories from a Christmas dinner or the candy that we pilfer from stockings.

 But before I can begin to fully get myself in the spirit of the Holiday however, I must take a deep breath. Before I can take my place once again as the jolly old guy with a beard and a weight problem, I must find some serenity. Before I begin to obsess over my shopping list and have to brace myself for a trip or two to shopping malls that qualifies as torture under the rules of the Geneva convention, I must find a little piece of mind. While I do that, let me take just a moment to wish all of you some of the same. I have a feeling that we'll all need it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

TFP Column: Big 3 Bailout


The TFP website was down earlier in the day and is evidently slowly rebuilding, so the column is not currently available. I will update this again when all things are back up and running. (Geez, I hope it wasn't my stuff that broke it.)

Once again, the Toledo Free Press has will be sharing with an unsuspecting public, information that I feel is also worth sharing with you here on Just Blowing Smoke. This week's column, on the Big 3 Bailout may prove of interest to you.

As always, while at the TFP website make sure to check out everything in the online edition and become fully informed and enlightened on the week's events in Toledo and Northwest Ohio.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Bailout Plan

With the increasing pressure to add GM, Ford, and Chrysler to the list of companies that need to be bailed out, I began to ask myself: "Who should be bailed out?" Now not being an expert in economics or government, I decided to look for alternate reasons for who should be bailed out and why. In the end, I realized that like government, I should use arbitrary and irresponsible guidelines for such critical path thinking.

Here therefore are my list of companies that should receive multi-billion government bailouts, based on nothing but their importance to me personally. (Please note that I am not saying that any of these companies actually need bailing out, but when have I ever let logic like that ever get in the way of my decision making processes?):

Google - For no other reason than that they provide me the platform (Blogspot) to spew this nonsense upon an unsuspecting public. Blizzard Entertainment - The creators of World of Warcraft (one of my other sources of non-productive entertainment) to insure that this source of significant wasted hours in my life remains available to me.

Dell - The choice of manufacturer is arbitrary; but without some form of computer, it would be impossible to use either of the above.

Cigar Manufacturers / Retailers - For without out them, how would I blow smoke?

California Wine Growers / Wineries - Hey, you need something to sip while smoking a cigar and playing WOW or writing a blog posting.

Coca Cola & Pepsi Cola - Man does not live by wine alone.

AM Radio Stations - For I am well and truly addicted to talk radio.

Yum! Brands Inc. - You probably don't recognize this company, but they own the franchises for Taco Bell, KFC, A&W, Pizza Hut, and Long John Silvers. That should keep me in fast food even if McDonalds falls.

Kroeger - OK, I will concede that I probably need a grocery store around to buy food not found at the fast food places listed above (you know, like snacks and the previously mentioned Soda and Wine).

This list is by no means complete, and I am sure that others will come to mind over time. There may also be worthy and valuable inclusions from readers out there that I have simply overlooked, so please feel free to suggest.

Please note that while being completely self-serving in my list, I do not mention my employer in this list. While I am relatively sure they would accept the money if offered, I will not mention for them out of a fear of losing the checks that keep me bailed out from week-to-week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

TFP Column: COSI II - The Wrath of Con


I was incorrect in my earlier posting on my submissions to the latest edition of the Toledo Free Press, when stating that I would have a column in this week's edition. In fact I have two pieces in this week. I spoke to Michael Miller about the dangers that such a large dose of my particular brand of nonsense might have, and I was assured that my previous submissions had already probably immunized TFP readers to any potential contamination. (Besides, what would make me think that anyone was actually reading anything that I had written anyway.)

The first of these columns is on a continuing subject of interest to me - COSI, is posted in the exclusively online version of the TFP. If not informative, you may find it at least amusing. The second has to do with my review of the Election of 2008, and what it's results means to me. This particular bit of wisdom will be available in only the print edition this publication.

If you visit the TFP website to read one or both of these offerings, I again remind you to avail yourself of the additional wisdom contained there again this week, as there are much smarter people than me who have worked very hard in attempting to keep you informed about Toledo and Northwest Ohio.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fear & Consequence

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me an through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
Frank Herbert - Dune  

I can't tell you how many times over the years that I read this quote and this book while going through tough times, and it has come back to me in recent days. No, I'm not talking about the results of the presidential election (though they were kinda scary in any number of ways)

We've survived good and bad presidents in the past (yes, and both are equally dangerous) and we will make it through the time of this one regardless of his abilities. My concern is more about the overall direction that we appear to be taking the country. I am afraid of the power, influence, and control that we the American people appear to be willing to grant to the government over their lives. This is not an America involved in a World War, when the entire economy is gearing itself to the effort of winning a war, but more simply an America that does not understand the concept of consequences.
  • There are no consequences to a business that makes poor business decisions and fails.
  • There are no consequences to a company who fails to heed the changing marketplace.
  • There are no consequences to organizations who hand out lavish compensation to a senior management who is in the process of bankrupting that same company.
  • There are no consequences to unions who negotiate contracts that they know will kill the companies that they work for.
  • There are no consequences to stock brokers who push a stock knowing that it's value is wildly overrated.
  • There are no consequences to a person who buys a house that they cannot afford.
  • There are no consequences to a person who spends themselves into crushing debt that they will never be able to get out of.
  • There are no consequences to a government which expands its bureaucracy regardless of its inefficiency.
  • There are no consequences to a government who spends more money than they can ever take in to provide benefits for which they have no mandate for.
  • There are no consequences to a government which robs money supposedly secured in one part of the budget to pay for things from another part of it because they have squandered all that they had there.
  • There are no consequences to legislators who betray the very principles of the government and the people that they represent in their never-ending grab for power.
Yet even while these fears grip me, I have hope as well. Hope in the indefatigable nature of the human spirit, hope that we can yet stop before we go too far down the path we are looking at, hope we can return to the freedom and self-sufficiency of our Founding Fathers, hope in the innate common sense of the American people. It is this hope that sustains me and allows these fears to pass through me until only I remain. As incurable romantic however, there is one fear and one hope that never entirely leave me. The fear is that I will finish my days without once again seeing true love in another's eyes. The hope is that I am wrong. 

Awww, isn't that sweet ...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fairness Or Pornography

Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-NY) has come come out strongly in favor of The Fairness Doctrine.“I think we should all be fair and balanced, don’t you?” he said during an election day interview on Fox News. Encouraging the FCC to move forward with enforcement (which may be a bit premature since the FCC has no legal mandate to do so), he compared insuring such fairness to regulating pornography on the airwaves, and called any other plan "inconsistent".

 Now I'm not the experienced politician that Mr. Schumer is, but I can't help but find his argument less than persuasive. In fact, one could make the argument that by Sen. Schumer's rules, the pornography that he brings to the table for comparison should have an equal place on the airwaves, something that I think that he and few others would concede. But such comparisons do little to advance the discussion on the Fairness Doctrine, and Sen. Schumer's argument is therefore nothing more than distracting. In fact, this argument is less about what goes out over the airwaves and more about who decides what goes out. 

Current law says that the Federal government owns the airwaves and grants licenses to companies to use portions of them. As part of that licensing the FCC created the Fairness Doctrine in 1949, a policy designed to insure that media outlets, which it considered public trustees, provided fair and balanced coverage to the most important issues of the day. 

The Fairness Doctrine was thrown out by the Supreme Court in 1987 however, mostly because it was not properly mandated by Congress. Congress hastened to correct that fact, but their efforts were vetoed by then President Reagan. It lately seems to be getting a lot of traction with Congress though, as the political left feels that talk radio is unbalanced in favor of the political right (while ignoring that the exact opposite appears to be the case on television). With a Democratically controlled House, Senate, and Executive branch apparently coming in 2009, it appears likely that some form of such regulation is likely to see the light of day soon. 

As for me, I would like to see as little government interference with what goes out over the airwaves as possible. With all of the choices in programming that are out there today, I have to think that there are more than enough alternatives available and that we the listening public have more than enough intelligence to choose which of them we will listen to. If you don't like what someone is saying, change the channel. If you think that it is wrong or objectionable, call the station and complain. If that doesn't work, call the advertisers. 

What you don't do is force a government to mandate its version of pornography, morality, or fairness on everyone as an alternative. For by such standards, one might equally argue that Christian radio stations be balanced by the opinions of those of the Jewish or Muslim faiths, or even that of the atheist; and be forced to broadcast them as a consequence (as someone, somewhere probably is).

Isn't the act of choosing in this case, more comparable to the right to assemble peaceably, something that is guaranteed to us in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution? Isn't listening to those we agree with, whether on a street corner, in a town hall, or on the radio very much in keeping with the precepts which the Founding Fathers laid out for us? Such freedom should not be taken lightly, nor subjected to the monitoring of a government agency. Before we go down that long, dark road, let me remind everyone of a couple of surprisingly intelligent things that some equally intelligent people have said over the years:  

"I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."
- Voltaire  

"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." - Hubert Humphrey  

And one of my favorites, a great little line from a movie about the personal crisis and triumph of a liberal chief executive called "The American President",

"You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."
- President Andrew Shepherd (as played by Michael Douglas)  

... that sounds fair to me.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Sounds Of (Political) Silence

For those of you who might have missed it on Election night, I wanted to share some thoughts that I had on the process after the close of play.  

"Hello darkness my old friend. I've come to talk with you again..."  

These lyrics begin an old Simon and Garfunkel tune that many of my generation are familiar with, "The Sounds of Silence". Written in 1964 as a commentary by Paul Simon on the trauma he felt in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, it became an instant hit for the duo, was released on two different albums (one of the same name), and used in the movie "The Graduate" as well. I use the song here to describe the almost deafening silence to be heard in the aftermath of the election. 

After what seems like years of non-stop news coverage, commercials, and pundits from both sides of the aisle telling us what we thought and felt; it's finally over. Though we seem to say this during every election, never before in history has so much been spent in order to achieve the highest office in the land. Over $1.6 billion has been raised and $1.3 billion spent by the combined efforts of the McCain and Obama campaigns. This amount does not even begin to talk about the additional prodigious spending done at the Congressional, state, and local levels. In spite of the so-called protections that were to be provided by recent campaign finance reform legislation, this amount is nearly double the totals from the 2004 election. 

As a consequence of all of this money, we have been literally bombarded with the babble of non-stop media campaigns on television and radio for (and more often against) candidates at every level this year. As for the behavior of the media itself, never has such a shameful display been made. I will not speak of bias, as many before me have more than adequately dealt with the subject. I will speak instead of an industry not fulfilling its self-appointed obligation. The news media, in all of its forms, is the watchdog of the common man. Its task is to seek for the truth and present it, no matter whom it affects and how uncomfortable it is. In this mission, it has failed miserably during this election. 

Certainly the campaigns can be accused of being complicit in distracting the voter and the press from uncomfortable information, but that's not new and the press should have been able to deal with it. Instead, they have chosen to make themselves complicit in the process. They chose to edit the information revealed to the voting public and when it should be revealed, doing both themselves and the voters a disservice. 

Because of this media complicity, perhaps more than ever before, campaigns have taken on an air of advertising. We select candidates in the same way that we buy cars and toothpaste. No more are we asked to decide on an elected representative based on their long-standing beliefs, their views on critical subjects, and their vision for the future. 

Today instead, we are fed a steady diet of slick campaign slogans, soundbites, and fabricated heroic images. Neither major party is immune to the process and its abuse to gain power, while attempting to silence dissenting voices (and especially that of those not of the two major parties). Both work to hire the best and brightest experts to take advantage of the bastardized process that they have created in a flagrant restriction of the very free speech they are supposed to protect.  

While the election of 2008 is now over, we are going to have to examine this process more closely going forward. We must decide as a people what free speech is, and who will get to set the rules by which it is governed. In the meantime, let us take a small break in the process. We, like the candidates, have run a long race. We deserve a chance to rest and recover our breath. And in the peace and quiet of the moment, as we wait for the dust to settle in the election of 2008, we can all enjoy the "sounds of silence". 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's not the Diamond, It's The Flaws

"My addictions may not define me, but they do a pretty good job of describing me. The same could be said of my flaws."

I came up with this little pearl of wisdom some time back, and as I make continuing efforts to keep my ego in check, I find that such self-deprecating thoughts provide a much needed perspective. It sometimes seems to me that it is far too easy to get caught up in the hype of the occasional successes that we have in life, only to have them set us up for future failure by focusing any attention on them. 

For example, the minor success that I have come to experience with this blog while gratifying, often makes me wonder if I have become visible enough on the public radar screen to become a target (something that I have found is a dangerous thing where I live). Likewise, I can't help but wonder if complacency about my efforts in this regard, while potentially allowing me to drop off of this radar screen, will cause me to fall flat on my face.

This was not always the case. In my youth, successes on a personal or professional front brought on wild emotional highs. Caught up in those moments, I found myself feeling on top of the world and all but bulletproof. Failures caused equal levels of depression and feelings of a devastating lack of self-worth. Both often took days to recover from and were more than trying for both friends and family around me over the years. 

Time and experience however, proved to me that I was neither bulletproof, nor the lower life form that I sometimes felt. Soon, the pendulum mood swings gradually became smaller, and I learned to accept both success and failure with far less emotional distress. With this relative emotional equanimity achieved (and without medication, I might add), I may have even achieved a better balance between my personal and professional lives.  

Now it may seem both confusing and pessimistic to focus on the aspects that are somewhat negative as we strive to lead a happy life, but it is a path that works for me today. Keeping a sense of perspective about our successes as well as our failures, can contribute to a certain level of stability (something that I, for one, can certainly use). Keeping our expectations low while keeping our hopes high can help us to set aside the minor setbacks that come along the way. Keeping our attention focused on the things that we can do better helps us to do everything better. 

 Oh don't get me wrong, my ego is still over-inflated and out of control (as is my waistline, but that's another story), but I'm working on it. Meanwhile, I'll keep my attention on the flaws and not the diamond, in the hopes of becoming the person that arrogant nature has always thought that I was.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In Mourning

There will be no regular mid-week posting on Just Blowing Smoke today, as I am in mourning for the death of intelligence in the American voter. Not only did we vote most of the incumbents back in office here in NW Ohio, but additionally voted in every levy request. While ostensibly voting for change, we are placing the masters of the "business as usual" mentality back in power, with little to hold them in check. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Political Pundit?


As I mentioned in an earlier posting today, I will be commenting throughout the afternoon and evening on Election 2008 for the Toledo Free Press. This is my first time attempting such a thing, so I have no idea what the results will be. It could get rather lively however, so I invite you to check it out as you are sifting through the evening's nonsense. I will try and update this Commentary with some regularity as the evening progresses. 

Note: As I have little or no respect for most political pundits, there is a certain amount of shame involved with the acceptance of this assignment. It is only because it was The Free Press that asked, and because of those who I will be sharing this responsibility with (Brian Wilson, Lisa Renee Ward, Chris Myers, Jim Blue, and Jim Harpen) that I am feeling brave enough to make the attempt. 

Record Numbers At Pools

Every media outlet in the US is reporting record numbers of voters at the pools on this Election Day. While the weather here is Toledo is unusually warm for this time of year, this news is more than a surprise to me. 

First of all, most of the pools in the area closed, as per local tradition, during the Labor Day Weekend. Second, what this should have to do with voters on Election Day is beyond me. 

Hold on ... Wait a minute ... It turns out that in fact that there are a record number of voters at the polls (you know, those places where you go to vote). The release that I read must have had a typo. ... Sorry 

Election Night Preview

By the time you read this, I will have made my contribution to the One Person / One vote process of the election of 2008 (ACORN didn't recruit me for some reason). I am left now to sit on the sidelines and watch the chips fall where they may. Like most of you, I am forced to wait until later in the day, to receive my information from hour upon hour of teleprompter readers and people who used to hold positions of power as they tell me what I already know ... Nothing.

In Phase I of this performance, they will inform us that they can't really say anything until after the polls are closed, though such information will not seem to keep them from continuing to speak. They will ostensibly tell us that this is because they are not allowed to influence the polls on the West Coast with results on the East Coast. If they were honest, they would admit that they have been been wrong so much of the time and have so little credibility left that they dare not stick their foot in it again during this election. This non-stop barrage on non-information normally causes me to open the first bottle of red wine of the evening and light the first cigar, while informing those on the screen what a bunch of vacuous fools they are.

Phase II will begin at the actual closing of the polls, when they begin to feed us tracking poll information and pull out the Electoral voter maps. The fact that this tracking poll information has not provided accurate information in the last couple of elections won't keep the pundits from "reading the tea leaves" of the election from them and sounding like they are somehow in the know. Nothing much of actual import will yet be said, but the use of computer graphics and maps will certainly make it look more important. The second bottle of red will probably come out somewhere in Phase II, as will the second cigar, accompanied by insults regarding the intelligence of a fair number of these experts while accusing their parents of never having been married in a voice loud enough that my neighbors may hear me.

In Phase III, the press and pundits will begin to attempt to call votes based on data released from key precincts in each states. Of course this will be especially difficult this year with the volume of early voting and the number of potential provisional ballots, but that won't stop the flood of educated guesses. Pretty red and blue colors will begin to fill the Electoral map, and the 'experts' will begin to talk about scenarios, trends, and motivations; as if these inside the beltway BS artists understood anything other than the mind of someone from Washington DC or New York City. The discussions will become more scholarly and less informative, as each one attempts to show how much more insight they have than the rest. It is usually around this time that I switch to whiskey, light the third cigar, and reconcile myself to a headache and a bad taste in my mouth come morning. While still exceptionally angry that they simply don't get it, my voice is usually too hoarse to continue my solitary diatribe about their numerous faults.

Phase IV for me can be a bit of a blur. Having over-served myself throughout the evening and smoked too many cigars, I now have a taste in my mouth normally reserved for those who allow small animals to die there. In spite of the fact that some real information is now available, I have begun to lose interest, lulled into insensibility by the alcohol and the droning voices on my TV. The election process is now over for good or ill, as is a good part of the evening and what remains of my voice. Once more, the American Voter has proved their predilection for choosing feeling over fact and emotion over logic. My disgust for my fellow man is renewed, though balanced with my admiration for the democratic process. My last concern for the evening is making sure that the last cigar of the evening is properly extinguished before my consciousness is. Smoking is bad enough for me (though Blowing Smoke is a necessity) without burning the place down in the process.

Note: This year will be slightly different, as I have been asked to post a few thoughts to Michael Miller of The Toledo Free Press throughout the evening. While I will at least attempt to maintain some shred of dignity through the evening, I wish to apologize now to Michael, for the nonsense (and typos) that he will undoubtedly receive as the evening progresses.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pre-Election Quotes

I would like to share with you, as election day approaches, some rather interesting quotes that were forwarded to me (though their attribution required some research and editing). They provide a unique historical perspective to the choice that you will be making tomorrow.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
  • You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  • You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
  • You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds.
  • You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
  • You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.
  • You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
William J. H. Boetcker (1916)


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Government Inefficiency, The Good Old Days

I have, from time to time, written about the joys of an inefficient government and the need for less, not more of it's interference in our daily lives. As we begin to live with the consequences of the government bailout of the financial institutions of this country, my point in this is shockingly made. Let's go back and look at this for just a moment. 

It was the government which created the financial entities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as a prop to a publicly traded mortgage market. It was usually former government employees who served as senior managers of both of these two financial entities. It was government which put pressure on the banking industry to make questionable loans to people who couldn't pay them back in order to make political points with their base, which they in turn ran through Fannie and Freddie. It was government who failed in its mandated oversight duties of these organizations, allowing them to operate using accounting practices found shameful by small, third world dictatorships, and so heinous that were they to occur in any other industry the entire senior management staff would find itself behind bars (if not lined up in front of a wall in that third world dictatorship). It is government which now owns Fannie and Freddie, AIG it's insurance company, and is investing in a good part of the rest of the banking industry ... all in the name of helping us, of course. 

Not content with this socialization of the mortgage industry however,the government is now looking at bailing out student loans, credit card debt, and car loans. Additionally, the federal government is talking about stepping in to loan money (your money and mine by the way) directly to other businesses. If that weren't enough, the first of the states in financial straits (due to their own profligate spending) is asking for financial help. California is not doing this because they cannot borrow money elsewhere, but because they know that they can get a better interest rate from the government than they can on the open market. With Arnold leading the charge on this (and who can turn down The Terminator), how many spend now, worry later liberal state governments will climb in line behind him? What does all of this mean? It means that government is becoming far too efficient ... IN RUINING OUR FUTURE! 

In one giant swoop, government has more than doubled the national debt, drug out a dip in the economy that might well have corrected itself if anyone had given it a chance, and condemned future generations to a life of taxation and government intrusion into every aspect of the national economy. If a doctor had done this, the perpetrators could at least be sued for malpractice, but in government error and incompetence are not only not actionable, they are in fact rewarded with re-election. 

So while I still have the strength (and the right) to say anything about it, I just want to do something that I normally object strenuously to, and reminisce. Before my taxes exceed my income and I discover that I will be working until two weeks after I'm dead because my Social Security payments have been used to bail out somebody's bad mortgage or credit card, I want to look back in fondness to when government was too inefficient to take on such far-reaching goals. Before I face the fact that the only 'hope' I have is that I won't cry too often in public and the only 'change' that I will have will be what will laughingly called my take home pay, I want to remember what it was like to live in a country when there was not only a separation between church and state, but between government and business. 

And while I still have a bit of "the creature" still available to ease the pain and suffering that I feel today, I will raise a wee glass and toast: "To Government Inefficiency and the Good Old Days." Slainte'