Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Airline Security - Firing With The Safety Off

I have watched in wonder in recent days, the changing position of our government since the failed attack against a US airliner in recent days. I was amazed when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano initially stated that "the system worked". I was amazed again when less than 48 hours later, the President ordered a review of all of these same procedures because of "a systematic failure". 

What I found truly amazing however, was the bravery shown by passengers in this recent attempt. This is bravery far too often glossed over by government bureaucrats in their vain attempts to seek personal glory or political cover. This is bravery that has nothing to do with the TSA screenings, Homeland Security, or the continuing failure of airline security regulations and procedures in this country. This is bravery perhaps inspired by that of similar passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into the fields near Shanksville, PA on 9/11 when terrorists attempted to use it as a weapon targeted at Washington DC. For the situation that we find ourselves in today is as much a part of the horrors of that day as any that have come since. 

The Bush Administration did what was necessary in the days that quickly followed, securing the country and the safety of air travel. It followed up on that success however, by subverting the very freedoms that it was seeking to protect in the name of such safety. The "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001" (USA Patriot Act of 2001) provided the federal government with the weapons for that protection and an equal amount of intrusion into the rights and freedoms of American citizens. 

Created in the same period in history, we saw the passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act in November of 2001. This in turn led to the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to take over airline security from private companies that had previously taken care of it. Though originally part of the Department of Transportation, this government airline security arm was moved under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security (yet another agency created in the wake of 9/11), as the primary weapon to insure the safety of air travel. 

Eight years later with the Patriot Act well-established and as today's politicians seek continued expansion of the Federal bureaucracy and budget, I have to ask myself whether the creation of and reactive restrictions under TSA and Homeland Security have truly made air travel any safer. We take our shoes off because someone used shoes to smuggle explosives, getting past TSA. We carry smaller bottles of liquids to insure that sufficient combustible chemicals are not contained in our carry-on luggage, because someone got past TSA. This latest attempt involved an explosive device contained in a passenger's underwear, which begs a serious question of what new humiliations could be heaped upon us by TSA as a consequence. (I don't know about you, but I'm not putting my underwear on the belt, even though it would prove to my mother that I wear clean ones when I travel in case of an accident.) 

So as we congratulate ourselves on another unsuccessful terrorist attack on one of our airlines and as our government once more wrings its hands and delivers yet further regulatory abuse to air travel in this country and abroad, perhaps it is time to rethink the process. As even heavier artillery in the government arsenal seek to make the process more cumbersome, more intrusive, and more expensive to the airlines and the taxpayers; perhaps it is time we reconsider the failed path that we have been following. As we witness the continuing failure of the policies used to protect us, perhaps it is we instead who should be afraid of the all too imperfect weapons we continue to use in attempts to thwart this terrorist threat. 

Maybe there is something to be learned from the story of "The Hunt for Red October" (the movie of which has been on recently and struck a chord with me on this), when the V K Konovalov (a Russian attack sub) launched a torpedo at the titled submarine with the safeties off in an attempt to once and for all end its threat. That weapon, having missed both the Red October (its intended target) and another submarine (the USS Dallas) now continued on, searching for any target of opportunity. In the end, it chose those very same people who first sent it on its way. Perhaps we should use it as a teaching moment, when we listen to the words of the first officer as he scolds the captain of that Russian submarine for firing a weapon without understanding where the damage would actually occur:

"You arrogant ass, you've killed us!"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quote of the Day

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed? 
- James Madison

Careful Reference

I usually try to avoid commenting on Blade editorials these days, as their voice becomes increasingly more irrelevant over time. In spite of the fact that I have no ties to the Republican Party, I could not however, let pass without comment the editorial today "Dissension in GOP". It is right and proper that the local daily newspaper should comment on the current internal struggles of the GOP in its responsibilities to inform and educate the public. This conflict of leadership will have a great effect on the local Republican party for the coming years, in spite of the fact that the GOP seems to have had little effect on local politics. I was taken however, as someone who often tries to use words to advantage, to read this quote: "Images of Hitler's Brown Shirts breaking up Communist political meetings in pre-World War II Germany dance in our heads." 

Could any historical reference be more inflammatory than to include both the Nazi party and Communists when speaking of the Republican Party in Lucas County? While we know that such acts did occur in pre-World War II Germany, is this not the very type of language that the Blade and other media outlets have long decried in the debate of partisan politics? Is this kind of editorial rabble-rousing both unworthy of a major metropolitan newspaper and insulting to its readership? 

Of course, the Blade goes on to point out that those allegedly behind this apparent party coup have ties to Tom Noe in order to cast further aspersions on their efforts. The Blade has found it difficult to write a story about the Republican party without referencing this rather sordid part of the party's past however, and we expect little more of them (though similar references to Democratic faux pas seem glaringly absent)

It was a surprise however, to find a purported connection between federal legislation of health care and the benefits provided to a state worker, since one seems to have little to do with the other, and both parties will continue to benefit from lavish government employee health and retirement programs. It is likewise of little surprise to find that the Blade fails to point to its own relationship to the players in this game; as Jon Stainbrook, whose reign may have now come to an end, is a long-time friend of John Robinson Block the publisher and editor-in-chief of the newspaper. 

Would it not be of interest to the readers to know that such a relationship exists in the spirit of full faith and disclosure? It might also be worthwhile to know that Mr. Block runs his local newspaper here in Toledo from his offices in Pittsburgh, where one of their other media properties the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has its home. It might further be worthy of note that the Blade and Mr. Block have been long supporters of the Democratic party in Lucas County, and that only the election of his friend Jon Stainbrook has caused him to shine any form of a more neutral light on the GOP. Would it then be fair to say that Mr. Block attempts to run a "shadow empire" and acts as an "absentee landlord" with regard to his properties and their impact on Toledo and Lucas County? Could we then add that perhaps editorials like this one are little more that rhetoric aimed at maintaining control of an area that he considers little more than lebensraum, subject to his whim and to his controlling influence on the debate? Would it be fair to characterize Mr. Block as a foreign influence, attempting to impose his will on the readership of the Blade? 

 You see, one always needs to careful when using words and historical references, for such language can often be considered inflammatory or a misrepresentation of the facts; and their use often subject therefore, to misinterpretation.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Early Happy New Year

As I was putting together this weekend's offering, I noticed that another milestone in my blogging career had passed, almost without my notice. Earlier in the week I put up my 500th posting on Just Blowing Smoke (and you have to admit, that's quite a smokescreen). Now I know that's this is not a lot for some of those truly dedicated to this effort, and I'm sure that there are a couple here in Toledo (that could easily be called to mind) that achieved this level of production far more quickly than I have. As I have always considered a bit of a plodder however, this has proved considerably more effort for me. As it has been for everyone else, 2009 has not been a perfect one. I have faced my share challenges in 2009 as well, but I refuse to be daunted by them. 

Far too many of us it seems, have a thing or two on their plate in recent days to be dealt with and I'm sure that most feel that the less said about them the better. My own are things of little real concern to the world, things for which I alone must take responsibility and action, and with just a bit of good fortune the coming year will see them well past. But these are not the things that I deem worthy of remembrance on a personal level as I look back on 2009. For I have been fortunate indeed in the last twelve months, with a number of events in my life to be truly grateful for.
  • I got a chance to act as a substitute host on the one hour radio show "Eye On Toledo" a couple of time on 1370 WSPD.
  • I have had a column which has become pretty much a fixture of the Toledo Free Press (a bathroom fixture perhaps, but a fixture nonetheless).
  • One of my efforts for the Toledo Free Press "Wants and Needs" managed to get picked up by Glenn Beck on his syndicated radio show.
  • I had the real pleasure of finally meeting two of the local bloggers that I had been sharing ideas with on the blogosphere in person, Roland Hansen and Dave Zawodny (Hooda Thunkit).
  • As I have all of my life, I have had the friendship and love of friends and family to support and protect me (mostly from myself).
I cannot help then, to see this year about to end as a very happy and rewarding year. I hope that each and every one of you is able to say the same about 2009. And so with just six days left to this year that is, I take this time to wish each of you the happiest and most prosperous of New Years.

Friday, December 25, 2009

TFP Column: Yes There Is A Santa Claus

The weekend is once again upon us, and perhaps because it's a Christmas weekend, it became necessary to take one last shot at a holiday parody. Hence my column for the week, "Yes There Is a Santa Claus"

Now before being accused of plagiarizing the 1897 letter to the editor at the New York Sun, let me say that I am merely updating the answer to Virginia's letter (in more ways than one). I hope that you find it suitable to the season. 

For those of you interested in local politics there are a couple of articles worthy of the time about the recent "Christmas Coup" in the Lucas County Republican Party. Tom Pounds and Michael Miller do their usual stellar opinion pieces, and there is also a rather interesting piece by WSPD's Brian Wilson in this week's editorial section. 

So my recommendation would be to go ahead and let the kids play with the new toys, while you put your feet up and catch up on what's going in the area with the Toledo Free Press.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

I have taken the opportunity to poke fun at the holiday season a number of times in recent weeks, both here in the blog and the in my columns for the Toledo Free Press. I don't want to let that sense of humor with which I think that it is essential that reality needs to be viewed however (even when you have one as warped as mine), disparage in any way the feelings of the season. 

While I do not intend to get into the religious aspects of either Christmas or Hanukkah here, I believe them both worthy of the special esteem with which they are held. And as I honor the beliefs of each of my acquaintances, friends, and family; so too will I honor and respect these holiday traditions as something of great value. As to the secular aspect of Christmas however, let me say this ... 

Christmas is a special time of year, bringing family and friends together because of (and sometime regardless of) those beliefs. It exists separately from those beliefs, and lives and breathes in the kind nature and charitable spirit that is the best of each of us. It is in the warm greetings that we share with strangers, the generosity we show those less fortunate, and in the opportunity to come together, often when those opportunities become more rare. 

Most especially, it is a holiday seen in the joy on the faces of little children. While it's true that some of this naturally has to do with the receiving of presents, just as much as to do with the excitement inherent in the experience of the day. Who among us has not smiled watching a child ignore the large present in favor of the still larger box that it came in? Who has not laughed at the sheer delight of a pet frolicking while awash in wrapping paper? Who of us has not welled with emotion watching the parent or grandparent open the handmade gift of a child. Who of us has not felt that special joy that only comes when seeing in the face of a loved one, the result of a specially chosen or gift? 

So on this Christmas Eve, let me offer this humble gift to you. May you have a a Happy Hanukkah, a very Merry Christmas indeed, and the happiest and most prosperous of New Years.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The New Government Math

Many of us were confused when "New Math" came into use in our schools. Far more of us are confused by the math that the government throws around these days when talking about the bills and budgets that they are passing (including me). It got me thinking I that I should run some common sense calculations to see what they all mean. I found it interesting enough that I thought I would post it. Please note that this math is completely non-partisan, with both parties equally guilty of throwing around numbers with far too many zeroes these days.

One Million Dollars 
If you spent $100 every day of the year, you would run out of this sum in slightly less than 27.4 years. If you upped the ante to $1,000 per day however, it would all be gone in less than 3 years (but you would be having a really good time)

One Billion Dollars 
Forget the $100 per diem on this one, as none of us is planning to live 27,397 years. Even if we up our spending to $1,000 per day, we're still going at it 2,739 years later. Ramp it up to $10,000 per day and we could be living a "Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous" for almost 274 years; and if you go hog wild and manage to blow $100,000 per day, you are out of cash before attaining room temperature in a mere 27.4 years. (Can you see where this is going?)

One Trillion Dollars 
I had to do some of this work by hand, as my calculator is a couple of years old and won't display that many zeroes. If we start out at the $100,000 per day level however, we're broke in 27,397 years (plenty of time to watch climate change). If we can find a way to spend $1,000,000 per day, we would have to hang around 2,739 years or face some serious "inheritance tax" issues before passing the balance on to our heirs (assuming any of them are left by then). At $10,000,000 we can manage to hang out for some 274 years, and if we threw money at everything and everyone in sight to the tune of $100,000,000 per day, it would still last for over 27 years. (You know, it occurs to me that you could probably run a fair sized country for something on the order of ten to one hundred million per day. Or at least you used to ...) 

These days of course, Congress is throwing billions and trillions around the way we once talked about millions. In fact, it seems like the talk of a mere million dollars is treated these days with a fair amount of disdain. (Heck, 40 million doesn't seem to concern most in Toledo these days.) 

It reminds me of the movie "Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery", where the villain Dr Evil, having been kept in cryogenic slumber for thirty years, asks for a ransom of "one million dollars". How we all laughed at the fact that he didn't realize how little that was back in 1997. Somehow it doesn't seem nearly as funny these days when Congress casually mentions one billion dollars. The joke falls completely flat when mentioning one trillion dollars doesn't cause a raised eyebrow. 

Could it be that money has somehow become meaningless in recent years (not in my house, thank you), or that there has been runaway inflation in the last couple of years to devalue currency? Could it be that both parties in Congress and their willing bureaucratic allies have finally managed to desensitized us to these vast sums, either by accident or in some insidious plot to control every aspect of our lives. (Sorry, I slipped on my tin foil hat for a minute by accident.) 

You know much like the New Math when I first heard of it, the more I learn about this New Government Math, the more frightened I become. Perhaps in this case ignorance was bliss, since a little knowledge is anything but reassuring. Heck, I didn't even take into account the interest that could be earned by simply placing the initial sum into a bank account in my calculations. Then again, who but the government would be silly enough to place such sums in the hands of "fat cat bankers" these days.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Media Misandry

Many of you are undoubtedly looking at the title of this posting and saying to yourself: "Huh?" I can't say that I blame you, as I had to look up the term myself. But it is in fact a term with which we should all become more familiar, since it appears to be a growing sentiment in this country. 

Now for those who will not take the time to look up the term, Misandry is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as: "a hatred of men". I find this to be a growing message in this country, willingly perpetrated on the public by the popular media. TV sitcoms on all of the major networks (and many of the cable networks as well) have shows in which apparently all of male characters are portrayed in a less than favorable light. 

If this were not enough however, additional abuse is heaped upon my gender during the commercial breaks. Women buy smaller, environmentally friendly cars, while guys buy trucks. Women save money buying groceries that men spend on foolish toys. Women, hoping for a modicum of thrift and common sense from their spouses, send them shopping for home appliances; only to have these men, who are seeking only the quickest way out the situation, allow the store to do the searching while actually spending their time vainly attempting to fool their spouses (and playing ping-pong)

Nor is even radio a safe haven from these demeaning examples of male bashing, as advertising spots depict the advantages of women having the time to blog about their "jerk ex-boyfriend". Positive messages about members of the male gender seem limited to straight men who show up with jewelry or new cars for their female paramours or gay men who seem to have the ability to understand how horrible straight men are. (Please don't write me about gay bashing, as this is anything but my intent or point.) 

This consistently poor representation of men disturbs me in ways that I have difficulty describing (not that this has or will keep me from trying). Not only do I find all of this grossly insulting to myself and other members of my gender, but I wonder at the example that it provides. 

Too much of television today is geared towards and watched by impressionable young males. Far too many of those young people we are told, are looking for positive role models in sports in the media. What then are they given as a guide in the media? It appears to be an endless series of images in programs and commercials of a group of moronic, juvenile, and mostly disgusting, beer-swilling misogynists (the opposite of misandry but you probably figured that out), who are completely incapable of self-sufficiency. 

This is something that I think all can agree might be something better left off of the role model educational curriculum. Now this should surprise us, since we are told that corporate America is in fact one of the last bastions of male domination. If we are to believe that this is truly the case though, how could these negative images be the media message of the gender in charge? Could it be that men are filled with such self-loathing that they allow these images as some demented form of penance? Could it be that some of these images are correct and that while men think that they are in charge, they are secretly being manipulated by women into doing things against their own best interest? Could it be that not only do men fit a profile that may not place them much above the other apes, but are so blind to their own shortcomings that they either don't realize the message being sent or mistakenly and wholeheartedly endorse these images as an accurate projection?

Don't get me wrong, many of us may well fit the profile being handed out (Nah ...); but pointing it out doesn't help, reminding us of it shatters our all too fragile male self-esteem, and bombarding the airwaves with such images can only contribute to the continuation of what (according to these images) must already be an appalling situation. So if any of you media or advertising moguls out there are reading this (yeah, like that's happening), would you mind giving us a break from this Media Misandry.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Money For Nothing

"That ain't workin', that's the way do it. Money for nothin' and your chicks are free." 
- Dire Straits 

While I'm not sure what the "chicks are free" part of this lyrics from a song first released on the 1985 Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" album means in relation to the banking bailouts, the "money for nothin" part certainly strikes a chord (pun intended) these days. You can't help but think about it when considering the furor made over the year end bonus packages of bank executives by the Pay Czar and President. 

The news has been filled lately with stories about how banks are returning to profitability and paying back TARP money that was loaned to them by the government, fulfilling the prophecy by political leaders that the original investment is thereby justified. I think that I've made myself clear about not liking the government stepping into the employee compensation process, but one has to wonder how such compensation could have been earned in such difficult times. How did these corporations justify an expenditure for lavish salary packages at a time when the economy has been mostly stagnant? Obviously, the payment of these bonuses must be predicated on the successful management of their respective organizations.

It appears that under the guidance of these so-called over compensated managers that even in these difficult financial times banks, unlike many other businesses, were able to make profits. It seems that these talented financial wizards were able to play the system now managed rather closely by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government, like a cheap fiddle. The Federal Reserve has been lending money to financial institutions recently at an effectively 0% lending rate in order to stimulate the economy and prime the system with capital. The banks, instead of lending this money out to people and small businesses as intended, used this all but "free money" to buy out the now discounted assets of other financial organizations. They also used it to buy the debt incurred by the very government that they were being bailed out by and borrowing from, at interest rate returns of up to 4%. 

So what we are basically seeing here is that banks borrowed money from the government to buy loans that the government was forced to make in some part to finance the money that they were both giving and loaning to the banks. The end result of this nonsensical "Capital Carousel" was that these supposedly incompetent bank executives were able to cash in and make a profit on the even more incompetent leadership and policies of the government claiming the wisdom and ability to know how best they should operate. 

This may appear to be nothing more than trickery and deserving of little praise, but you have to give these managers credit (sorry, poor choice of words) for being able to manipulate the system handed to them to the advantage of their employers. 

You may not like these people, but you have to admit that they are probably smarter than (or in cahoots with ) the government employees who were supposed to monitor and control them. You don't have to admire these people, but they may therefore be worthy of some sort of credit and compensation. It may not be rock and roll, but I believe that even Dire Straits founding member Mark Knopfler would agree that if ever anything did, this may qualify as "Money for nothin'".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Will The Pay Czar Step Up?

I have been asking myself this question as I put together a column for this weekend's Toledo Free Press. The more I thought about it, the more I got to wondering:
Why is the Pay Czar not stepping up to do his job?

Oh sure, we have the President meeting with banking executives to scold them over their salary and bonus programs, something which the government believes that it has the right to do because taxpayer money is involved. Where however, is the President and his adviser when it comes to acting as a watchdog for other citizen funded businesses?
  • Professional sports sees some rather large salaries being doled out in football, baseball, and basketball (hockey doesn't seem to rate such largess); while playing in stadiums and arenas funded by taxpayer dollars.
  • University presidents manage pretty lucrative salary packages for running"publicly funded" educational facilities, as do many of the coaches who guide their sports programs.
  • According to a USA Today article, employees paid by taxpayers in the Federal government making more than $100,000 per year has gone up from less than 2,000 to more than 10,000 in the period from 2007 to 2009.
  • Federal legislators in the House and the Senate receive lavish salaries and benefits, and a retirement program second to none; all taken from money extorted from the citizens of this country.
So where is the government when it comes to all of this? Is Kenneth Feinberg shirking his responsibilities as Pay Czar? Is the moralizing over salaries and bonuses only to be enforced on those organizations receiving TARP money, ignoring all other forms of taxpayer support? Can it be that "fat-cat bankers on Wall Street" as President Obama recently called them on '60 Minutes' are the only target in the sights of the Federal Government? 

While I disagree with the principle of a government regulating the contractual agreement between an employer and an employee, I disagree even more with such unjustified power being used arbitrarily. While I find no provision in the Constitution that allows the government to determine the salaries and bonuses of anyone, I find it disingenuous to apply it to 'fat-cat bankers' and not 'fat-cat athletes'; and I am especially upset that the Pay Czar ignores 'fat-cat' government bureaucrats. While I see this as abusing a fundamental principle of property (and therefore liberty), I wonder what standard is being used to decide who's compensation gets controlled. 

So while I deplore the very position that Kenneth Feinberg holds as one that is Unconstitutional in concept, I can't help but wonder when the Pay Czar will step up to address the rest of these rampantly abusive compensation packages for anyone working in areas funded in some part by taxpayer dollars.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Government Christmas Update

Those of you who have already read my latest effort in the Toledo Free Press, "Government Christmas" may have wondered as to how quickly such policies would be implemented or expanded. As is typical once the government takes command and control of such things, additional regulations and guidelines are coming out of Washington D.C. faster than they can be released to the public. In just the time since I wrote the original piece, it has been announced that:
  • The Little People formerly known as elves will be allowed to organize into a union under a first test of the "Employee Free Choice Act". Not only will a decision on such a union be done by a simple public show of hands, but counting of votes will be performed by ACORN. My understanding is that the union so approved will be under SEIU. (How can we say that how a vote for a union vote not yet taken will be approved? Hmmm ...)
  • Stricter regulations regarding the carbon footprint of present delivery will be done. While the current system (a sleigh) is not a fossil fuel vehicle, the reindeer have been known to emit both carbon dioxide and methane.
  • In addition, the Post Office will be used as a government approved alternate delivery method when required, so as to lessen the load for one-day delivery and provide a much needed boost to Post Office revenues.
  • Children will no longer be able to sit on Santa's lap and ask for presents, as such behavior can cause a loss of self-esteem and reeks of pedophilia.
  • Future requests for gifts will no longer be sent as letters to Santa at the North Pole. They will instead be submitted to the Office of the "Christmas Czar" in triplicate for review and approval.
  • Candy canes will no longer be allowed to be used as a symbol for Christmas, as the concept demeans those individuals "specially-abled" and therefore requiring the use of canes for mobility. (I know that it's supposed to symbolize a shepherd's crook, but I don't write these regulations, I just release them.)
  • Snowmen (and Snow-women) can no longer be depicted with such large bottom sections, as such a display goes contrary to the obesity conscious nature of the new holiday.
  • Snow depicted on the new "approved" Christmas cards will no longer be limited to the color white in order to illustrate the diversity being sought in all things government.
As more regulations become known or available, I will be sure to add them. My time is limited on keeping up with this research however, so if you hear anything out there, please feel free to let me know.

Friday, December 11, 2009

TFP Column: Government Christmas

I decided, with the permission of the editor-in-chief of the Michael Miller, to move my ongoing discussion of holidays over to the Toledo Free Press. 

As a consequence, this week's column is on the potential fate of the next holiday on the calendar, "Government Christmas". All tongue-in-cheek of course, it lays out the ramifications of our bailout and regulation crazy government taking over the reins of this time honored tradition. 

As always, there is far more worth reading in the TFP, the largest circulation Sunday newspaper in Toledo. I urge you to take a little time this rather chilly weekend to make sure you catch up on anything and everything going on in the Glass City in its pages. 

And while I have the opportunity to do so, I want to make sure to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest and most prosperous of New Years.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why Are Toy Trains More Fun Than Real Ones?

As Christmas approaches, I was thinking recently of some of the great gifts that I received over the years, and of course the most memorable of my youth were toys. None of these has left a more lasting impression than the Lionel trains that my brother and I received.

My father took the time to build a table for operating them that could be set up in the garage, and we spent hours on end setting up track and running them around it. We marveled at tiny steam locomotives that made smoke and whose lights shone brightly, even during the day. Tiny diesel locomotive replicas towing miniature passenger or freight cars provided hours of fascination. We reveled in being able to control their movement forward and backward, switching tracks along the way as they made their way round our private little world.

We later added to the reality of that world (with my father's help of course), acquiring, painting, and assembling various accessories for these trains. Trees, grass, buildings, crossing gates, and even tiny people soon became part of the bit of miniature reality that we tried to create.

Later on after moving once, we had an adult neighbor even more obsessed than we were, who had turned the entire basement of his house over to a small world of tiny trains. Mountains and lakes, tunnels and bridges, and even small towns and cities were a special part of this world in which he spent endless hours and which we were privileged to visit from time to time.

These days trains have a far different meaning for me. Government subsidies of Amtrak, the cries for additional funding for light rail and commuter rail in cities, and the need for railroads to run commercials to prove the worth of their existence seem to have dimmed my fervor.

Instead of getting eye level with miniature crossing gates, my mind is filled with thoughts of the needless accidents at unsafe railroad crossings. Instead of hours of the fascination of watching these tiny trains follow their fixed paths, I remember the wasted hours over the years that I have spent waiting for one to parade in front of me. Instead of seeing myself in those tiny Pullman car replicas (built not many miles north from where I lived near Chicago), I now mourn that there is no longer any such thing.

Perhaps it is simply that I have lost the ability to experience the simple joys of youth. Perhaps it's that the fantasy of trains (and most of life) fascinates far more than their reality. Perhaps reaching a level of understanding in the reality of such things as an adult (OK, in my case kind of an adult) ruins the fantasy forever.

I still dream of one day taking a long train trip across the country, and maybe even up the west coast of the US and Canada to Alaska. I dream of the endless scenery passing by the window to the repetitive sounds of the joints in the tracks. I dream of the hypnotic effect of such leisurely travel in a way that I have never experienced.

I fear however, that it will never be. The reality would (and could) never live up to such a dream. Travel is no longer the romantic experience that it once was, as anyone who has flown recently knows far too well. And even if it were, passenger trains themselves are no longer what they used to be. Besides, my understanding is that with the current level of repair of both tracks and passenger cars, such travel (and such fantasies) can be downright dangerous.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The "Stuck on Stupid" Dictionary #22

Yes here we are once again, adding yet more words to the lexicon of local terms more commonly known here in Toledo as the "Stuck on Stupid Dictionary". 

Now for those of you who have somehow managed to miss previous postings in this area (Shame on you, now go back and read all of the postings under the title of SOS, stuck on stupid, or dictionary.), the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appear to mean something entirely different to us in Toledo and Northwest Ohio. 

1. The preservation of wealth from danger or destruction, most notably performed through economizing. 
2. A term apparently understood by neither the Legislature of Ohio, PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio), or First Energy as it: 
- Forces the distribution of "energy-saving" CFL light bulbs to a public that by and large doesn't want them (virtually guaranteeing that they will not be used). 
- Charges more for such bulbs to its customers than they would pay if they purchased them on their own, doing anything but "saving" them money. 
- Charges that public additionally for the energy "saved" by the use of these bulbs, so as to "save" their lost revenues.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Daily Paper Goes To Dogs

This should have been the banner headline on page one today instead of 'Pit bull' law sticks despite tries for change 

One of my greatest joys on a Sunday is reading the Sunday Paper! Having been a newspaper junkie for a number of years, I especially look forward to getting a leisurely weekly fix on every Sunday. Imagine my disappointment in the fact that with everything that is going on in the country (and the world) right now, that 2-1/2 pages of the A-Section of the newspaper is devoted to articles on dogs, as is the lead editorial (yet again) and about 25% of the Letter to the Editor space. 

Nothing about the recently released CRU emails and what impact this bastardization of the scientific process should or will have on the upcoming Copenhagen climate change meeting except a column in the 3rd section (though the protesters made the front page). Nothing about the fact that GM is "paying back" the government with money from the government. Little about health care legislation that threatens to bankrupt this country. 

No, we get page after page on dogs ... (While I'm being a nitpicker: How does a newspaper have two "A" sections with the 3rd section listed as the B section, as today's Blade did? Calling the second section more of the first does not make it so, no more than calling the second page the first make the laws of counting change.) 

As I have stated in the past, I have nothing against dogs and grew up with them as a kid. I am nonetheless aggravated when so much of the primary news section of a newspaper is devoted to such a second level story. I continue to resist the claims of the death of the daily newspaper in this country, but have to have serious doubts about the Toledo Blade if this is the product that they believe to be one.

The Safety Net

My ideological counterpart at the Toledo Free Press Don Burnard, wrote an interesting piece for this weekend's edition of the the paper (I was absent this weekend, but will be returning soon). I say interesting because there are parts of it with which I am in total agreement. 

That is not to say that we don't disagree on a few major points however. Mr. Burnard writes.: "One of the biggest differences between this recession and the Great Depression is that the Depression was a combination of government spending, regulation and the advent of World War II brought us out of it. Today, wartime spending is adding to the problem rather than helping." 

I would agree that our current level of wartime spending is not helping an already horrible situation; though I am sure that as is typical, military contracts are stimulating some parts of the economy. I would disagree however, with the premise that government spending and regulation brought us out of the Great Depression, as many economists now agree that FDR's policies in fact extended a crisis that would have corrected itself more quickly without the government's intervention. 

I find instead that one of the biggest differences between this recession and the Great Depression is that in 1929, the country was not already burdened with the crushing debt of the very "safety net" that he looks to for salvation. There was no Welfare, no food stamps, no Medicare and Medicaid, and no Social Security system to burden the federal debt at a far greater level than the "two wars" that we are fighting. 

 In fact, I would point out that according to the Obama Administration, we are not actually fighting wars, but Overseas Contingency Operations; but that's beside the point. I agree with Mr. Burnard that we have little chance of "emerging victorious" from either of these conflicts. No amount of time or money is going to change the culture of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, or most parts of the Middle East. There have been tribal wars going on in each of areas for thousands of years; and it is sheer hubris to believe that we can force an American mindset or peace on these areas by force of will. 

I believe in fact that the only responsibility that we have in any of these conflicts is that in Iraq, since it was only through our support and funding that Saddam Hussein was able to take power and make a mess of that country in the first place. I likewise disagree with the repetitive cheer voiced in the column that all of this is the fault of the Bush Administration. I believe that this ridiculous policy notion can trace its history back through many years and many presidents on both sides of the aisle, with such examples of Korea, Viet Nam, Panama, Grenada, and Nicaragua on the list of attempts at nation building or enforcing American values on a foreign population. 

I agree wholeheartedly that both parties have been the willing accomplices of special interests in the banking industry, among others. The efforts to subvert capitalism in recent years has been a truly bi-partisan effort; with little change between a Republican or Democratically controlled Congress, and with both Bush and Obama attempting to orchestrate the flawed process. Bush may need to take credit for starting this snowball rolling, but the Obama Administration must likewise take credit for its increased size and speed. 

The solution proposed is the worthy call to build a solid middle class (which cannot be done by the government by the way); but quickly becomes tainted, as its only purpose apparently would be to provide a "strong tax base" (code for increasing taxes) to fund the growth of this safety net. Forgive me if I cringe while reading those words. I have a copy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution before me, and in no place is such an obligation of the citizenry therein established. The government in this country was created to serve the people, not act in loco parentis

I do not believe, as potentially accused, that Mr. Burnard is a socialist, a communist, or a co-conspirator in a global plot to take over the economy. (I chose not to wear my tin foil hat while writing this, though many say I look damn good in it.) I do believe however, that he is misguided in his proposed solution through drinking a bit too much of the progressive Kool-Aid that so many now seem to use as their primary form of sustenance. I believe that many of the problems that he cries out against, and that I agree need solutions, have been caused by the continued and increased interference of government in business. 

I would agree that banking bailouts are wrong and should never have been done, but so is the creation of a "salary czar" to insure some equitable distribution of monies between workers and management. I believe that bailing out corporations like GM and Chrysler is wrong, but so is taking the recompense due to legitimate bond holders and giving it to the UAW. I especially believe that adding to the already poisonous debt load that this country is burdened with in the name of expanding the safety net that Mr. Burnard sees as its salvation is without a doubt the wrong direction for this country.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Exceptional Government

Few would argue that what this country needs more than anything these days is an exceptional government. For some of us, that may be the one wish that they have for their fellow citizens this Christmas. I would argue the case that in fact we already have one. Of course, in order to prove this, I would first need to define our terms for discussion (according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Exceptional: (def.) forming an exception Exception: (def) a case to which the rule does not apply 

Now, having defined the term, let's go on to prove the case based upon illustration or example (Understand that in these examples, I attempt neither to approve or disapprove of the policy outlined, merely use it as an illustration)

- The government of the United States is against wage controls, except through the use of the minimum wage requirement or when discussing the salaries of corporation managers that have taken bailout money as determined by the pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. 
- The government is against price controls, excepting where farm subsidies are used to prop up the prices of various agricultural products. 
- The government is against taxing the same money twice, except when taxing the interest earned on such money or when such money is bequeathed to others upon the demise of the original earner is concerned. 
- The government is against monopolies, except when it is the one granted for the delivery of mail to the post office. 
- The government is against subsidizing industry, except when it's Amtrak, General Motors, or Chrysler. 
- The government will not seek to control "legal" behavior, except when that behavior is eating fatty foods in NYC, buying a big screen TV in California, or smoking anywhere in this country. 
- The government will guarantee me the right to my property, except if I want to do something with it not provided for in zoning laws or unless the government wants to seize it for use under "eminent domain" for use by the government (or a well-connected developer)
- The government will guarantee me the right to a speedy trial, except if it has defined me as a terrorist, in which case I can rot in jail forever before I get any form of trial or tribunal. 

See, based on the evidence of our own history, there is no doubt left that the government most of us thought that we needed and that we have is exceptional. (What's that old saying about being careful what you wish for?)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quote of the Day

If the American people allow the banks to control the issuance of currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied. 
- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Any of you who have seen the classic Rob Reiner film "The Princess Bride", remember the line by Vizzini, the rather inept kidnapper of the princess of the title. Played by Wallace Shawn, this character looked at every setback to his plans by the "Man in Black" and responded with a single word, "Inconceivable!"

So much of what we saw in the movies and TV over the years seemed to me to be equally inconceivable. Superman stood calmly as bad guys shot him in the George Reeves series, but ducked when they threw the empty gun at him. Imperial stormtroopers in "Star Wars" movies wore armor that restricted both movement and vision, but obviously not as protection, as every weapon used by the Alliance took them out, as did rocks in the hands of those little teddy bear Ewoks. Hundreds of bad guys shot at James Bond over the years in films, and none of them seemed to be able to hit him. On the other hand, Bond James Bond and most of the other good guys in film rarely seemed to miss. 

Speaking of getting shot, how do the good guys run around on legs that have just gotten shot or throw a punch after getting shot in the arm or shoulder? How can the last two minutes of a quarter of basketball or football game take longer to complete than all of the previous minutes in that same quarter?

But apparently such observations are not restricted to entertainment. I now find myself in Vizzini's position in real life. I watch with awe as the government of a Representative Republic seemingly ignores the will of the very people that it is supposed to represent: Remember when you said that Congress would not pass a Stimulus Bill that would do no good, well they did it anyway. "Inconceivable!"

Remember when you said that the government would never bail out the mortgage and banking industries, in effect nationalizing them, well they did it anyway. "Inconceivable!" 

Remember when you said that Congress would never bail out Chrysler and General Motors, well they didn't, but the president did it anyway. "Inconceivable!" 

Remember when you said that Congress would never bring health care reform to a vote in both Houses, knowing that it would add to a debt burden already too large to pay back, well it looks like they are going to. "Inconceivable!"

Remember when you said that "Cap and Trade" Legislation would never be put forward, as it would stifle the very economic growth that this country so desperately needs, well they are. "Inconceivable!" 

And so we return to "The Princess Bride", where finally frustrated by his bosses repetition of the word Inconceivable on each of these occasions, his henchman Inigo Montoya (played with such a perfect sense of irony by Manny Patinkin) finally rejoined: 

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." 

Inigo my friend, I'm afraid that you might be right.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who Gets (Or Wants) To Pitch A Big Tent?

When far too many important issues need to be debated in the country, the choice these days seems to be over whether the Republican Party should be allowed (by the Democrats and Liberal media) to determine who is a Republican. 

For those of you not already saying, "Huh?" let me elaborate. It appears that some part the Republican Party, fresh off of some victories in the recent elections, has arrived at the position that these victories have something to do with adhering to core Republican principles. It also appears that that some part of the Republican Party has decided that if this is the case, it would do well to identify and codify those principles in order to continue this success. 

As pointed out in a Wall Street Journal piece by Peter Wallsten from November 24th, ten members of the Republican National Committee have come up with ten principles on which they would to be used as a litmus test to decide who gets funding from the National Republican Party. (I won't go into the details of the resolution language or the principles, but I urge those interested to read the linked article.)  

My question here however is why an opposition party (and their co-conspirators in the media) feel that they should have a part in the internal debate in the Republican Party? Are opposing coaches in a football game consulted before play calling? Do firms competing for a contract consult each other before submitting bids? Do opposing generals ask each other for advice on strategy before conducting a battle? 

Quite frankly, the questions seem too ridiculous to even be asked. Of course in none of these situations do opposing positions or ideologies consult each other or allow such opposition to dictate strategy. In fact, in the isolated cases when an opponent has been allowed to to do so, even indirectly, those dictating the strategy usually win the battle. OK, well that at least tells us why the Democrats are pursuing their strategy. 

(You know, Joseph Heller of "Catch-22" fame, once said: "The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on.") 

Let's ask instead then, why Republicans would be expected to follow the dictates of Democrat's strategy as that for their party. In the case of these ten members of the Republican National Committee, it appears that the answer is that they will not. It also appears that these ten individuals do not therefore agree with the concept of a "Big Tent" for the Republican Party. They appear to have come to the conclusion that political parties are formed around a limited number of core principles (hence the term core), which has been the case with each new political party in this country as it's formed. 

So whether I am a Republican or not (not), or I agree with each of these core principles as stated; I believe that each political party should have a group of stated core principles which serve to qualify inclusion in that party. I also agree with the concept that such core principles are a fair litmus test to determine party support. 

As for the concept of the "Big Tent" that Democrats and the media believe that the Republicans need for their future, let me repeat a statement that I have previously made on the subject: "Circuses have big tents, but we don't vote for the clowns."

Monday, November 30, 2009

The "Stuck on Stupid" Dictionary #21

Yes here we are once again (and so soon), adding yet more words to the lexicon of local terms more commonly known here in Toledo as the "Stuck on Stupid Dictionary". 

Now for those of you who have somehow managed to miss previous postings in this area (Shame on you, now go back and read all of the postings under the title of SOS, stuck on stupid, or dictionary.), the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appear to mean something entirely different to us in Toledo and Northwest Ohio. 

1. A form of choosing leaders unique to human civilizations which often appears to be neither human nor civilized. 
2. A human behavior, the definition of which comes fro the Greek poly (more than one or many) and ticks (blood sucking insects), which more than seems to describe it.  

1. An individual who runs for elected office at any level of government. 
2. An individual who should be treated with caution and mistrust until they prove themselves worthy otherwise, having already established at least one instance of bad behavior in having run for elected office. (see Career Politician) 

Career Politician: 
1. An individual who spends a lifetime running for elected office at any level of government. (see Politician) 
2. An individual who should be treated with caution, mistrust, and most probably disdain; having already established that they have no real interest in holding down a legitimate job in life. 
3. A subhuman creature deserving no more respect than a common thief, an idiot relative, or a borrowing in-law (the behavior of which they seem to exhibit simultaneously); who should never be voted for and only spoken to when absolutely necessary, such speech being always done with one's hand clasped firmly over one's wallet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Global Warming: The Conspiracy Conspiracy

It appears that in spite of Al Gore telling us that the debate on man-caused global warming is over, that this is in fact far from the case. As the furor over recently released emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit shows (the definitive source of information on the subject), what we may know about the debate is that instead it has been being manipulated. 

As reported this week the the Wall Street Journal, it appears that there has been a systematic effort to suppress, refute, and repudiate any dissenting views other than that global warming is man-caused. When the scientists (and I use this term sarcastically) disagreed with an opinion not their own, they simply denied publishing access in prestigious publications to it. When the publication was not under their "peer-reviewed" control, they dismissed the publication itself. 

Having now had their nefarious goals and means revealed to the unwashed public, the claim is simply that the emails in question are being taken out of context or misunderstood. There is also a claim that the timing of the release of these emails, right before the Copenhagen Climate Conference scheduled for December 6-18, is more than suspicious. 

Even granting this to be the case however, none of the people in question are denying that the emails released are false or fabricated, or that they did not in fact say the things in these emails. 

For myself, I find it interesting this the most fascinating part of the story. A group which has been systematically acting as a Conspiracy to suppress any dissenting opinion and ridicule any dissent of its position is now crying "Conspiracy" when their own is revealed. Rather than actively defend what are apparently manufactured and predetermined results to the data gathered, they simply claim that the other guys isn't playing fair. I have never believed that the scientific debate on global warming is over, simply because I believe that the debate on no question of science can ever truly be over. We still debate Relativity, The Big Bang, and Evolution; in spite of the overwhelming evidence to some degree of truth in each. 

That is the job of science; to constantly question the established views, to debate the facts and their interpretations, and to reject any theory which does not explain all of the facts as we currently know them. Global Warming appears to be the scientific exception to the rule, with such debate squelched hardly before being uttered. 

In fact, I believe that there has been no such treatment of a scientific questioning since the Catholic Church's aggressive suppression of the growing body of knowledge of astronomy in the 1600's. (Though perhaps a Church of Global Warming was founded while I wasn't looking.) 

So how now do we view man-caused global warming? Is it fact? One can hardly say so when those who believe in it are forced to cook the data. Is it a failed theory? Perhaps, but there is much information yet to be revealed and who knows how real scientific debate will interpret them once they are. At the very least however, I think that we can safely say now that the debate is far from over, and that any action taken on the basis of the current "published understanding of the facts" may be premature. I think that we can also say that the current defense of the theory by the CRU is little more than a Conspiracy Conspiracy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

White Snow / Black Friday

There was a chance of snow predicted for Toledo this weekend (which never really materialized), which might perhaps have prevented at least a few of the psychotic "early shoppers" from camping out in front of the doors of stores in waiting for the best deals. Wal-Mart, having already experienced the litigation involved with such practices in the past, chose a different path and has been open long hours since Thanksgiving to offer early Christmas discounts. 

However, anyone who was expecting a piece from me today decrying the rampant consumerism that has taken over Christmas will be sorely disappointed. No, much like the plot for the movie "The Day After Tomorrow", I consider this simply one more catastrophe of human origin that must be overcome by strength of character and treated simply as simply an annual test of survival. In fact I applaud this year, those with enough optimism to race out to the stores to spend at a time when the income of so many is in jeopardy. I salute those out there attempting to support the banking industry through credit card fees, interest payments, or check processing fees (and I'm sure that those evil banking executives that you were bitching about a couple of weeks ago are doing likewise). I congratulate those of you bolstering our position in the world economy as consumers by buying products undoubtedly manufactured in foreign countries (especially those of you who are union members and only were recently crying the blues about "buying American cars")

Perhaps those of you spending money like it was going out of style (something that I guess you learned from the government?) simply have a understanding of economics greater than my own. They say after all, that rampant inflation is right around the corner, caused by the government printing presses that have been running non-stop for some time now. 

So perhaps blowing all of your money now is simply your way of exercising what you see as your best hedge against such inflation. Perhaps instead, you know already of the next stage of government interference in banking; understanding that it likely includes credit card interest rate reduction regulation (after all, the current high interest rates have to rank up there with extortion or loan sharking). This would mean that you need have no fear of the massive balances to your credit cards and that there is little need to worry that like the government, you will be hard-pressed to keep up with even the interest payments on your debt. Perhaps you simply believe that we are just around the corner from the next Government Stimulus Package, and your spending is merely being done in anticipation of future government payback (which of course, you will also be paying for)

Regardless of the reasons however, you will undoubtedly be contributing to better retail numbers for the government to report upon in the coming days and weeks (and good news in any kind of economic report is something that a government can always use). You will likewise have proved beyond a doubt that hope springs eternal in the heart of the American consumer (regardless of the stark reality that they face)

You will also by the way, have done wonders for the Chinese economy, where I don't believe that Christmas is much celebrated. I suspect however, that while there will be grand coverage of the crowds in the malls, and much anticipation in the retail sales numbers; that there will be far fewer shoppers out there fighting for bargains than last year. 

Common Sense seems to be making a rare and unscheduled appearance among the American people, and profligate spending appears to be a behavior limited to Congress these days. The white of snow may be little more than wishful thinking in parts around the country this weekend, but I fear that the color in this year's "Black Friday" may more clearly represent that of mourning for Christmas retail sales.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

TFP Column: A Christmas Message for Toledo

With this being a holiday week, the Toledo Free Press is by convenience and necessity out early. Far from being a problem however, this simply provides you something to peruse while fighting the urge to nod off from the tryptophan in the turkey and the performance of the Lions against the Packers. 

It will also allow you to read the Christmas Message that I put together for this week's edition. While it's not the last that holiday message that I will probably pen for the year, it is I believe, appropriate as a compliment to Michael Miller's piece from last week. 

There's a lot of great information as well, about all things of a holiday nature going on in the Glass City. So turn off the Macy's parade (it's nothing but a bunch of Broadway show promotion these days anyway), stop picking at the turkey and the pies, and spend a little time catching up on the really important things going on in the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The "Stuck on Stupid" Dictionary #20

Yes here we are once again, adding yet more words to the lexicon of local terms more commonly known here in Toledo as the "Stuck on Stupid Dictionary". 

Now for those of you who have somehow managed to miss previous postings in this area (shame on you, now go back and read all of the postings under the title of dictionary), the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appear to mean something entirely different to us in Toledo and Northwest Ohio. 

Legislative Dysfunction: 
1. A legislative process which misfires during execution or fails to reach satisfactory conclusion (similar to erectile dysfunction) because: it is unnecessary to begin with, provides no additional safety to the public, and cannot reasonably be enforced. 
2. Recently passed legislation by the Toledo City Council on "safely passing bicycles" and "texting while driving".

Thanksgiving Banned (?)

This another is a series of public service posts on holidays here in the United States. The first of these, Ban Halloween, sought to warn the public of the dangers on both sides of the problem to a bunch of costume wearing candy beggars. Today however, we take on a more serious issue, Thanksgiving.

Warning: Be aware that considerable irony and sarcasm will follow! 

Thanksgiving is the holiday traditionally celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It commemorates three days of feasting by early colonists to this country who after nine weeks of voyaging from Plymouth, England ended up in Plymouth, Massachusetts (coincidence, I think not). Having barely survived their first winter in this new land, they chose to celebrate that following fall. It is, in fact a tradition never repeated by them after the original gathering in 1621. 

Of course basing a holiday on a celebration by old white people seems doomed on the face of it, especially when one considers the recent treatment of our Founding Fathers. Neither can I find any great need to celebrate the traditions of the same people who gave us the sham trials and witch burnings in Salem, MA only some 70 years later. If this were not enough, Thanksgiving was in fact considered a religious holiday, its original purpose allowing these colonists to thank GOD for bringing them through the previous winter. What's more, the religious nature of this celebration involved thanking only a Christian God; ignoring the practices of any other religion. 

How anyone can therefore consider having a national holiday with religious overtones that ignores the cultural and religious diversity that has become so dear to the ruling elite is simply beyond me? Consider if you will as well, that while neighboring Native Americans (the Waupanoag tribe) were the architects of this colony's survival and were invited to that original celebration; that these same Native Americans were, like most others in this country, later chased from their homes and the greater part of their lands by the very greedy colonists that they saved ... hardly something to commemorate with pride. 

If this typical treatment by a European, white, invading population were not enough to see this practice ended once and for all, consider if you will the treatment of Turkeys as the centerpiece of the menu on this so-called day of thanksgiving. Turkeys, for those of you who didn't know, were once very close to being the national symbol of the United States. They even found support in this effort by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, the eagle being considered little more than a glorified vulture by this early patriot. While perhaps not the brightest of birds, the turkey nevertheless can offer a great display and a substance that it produces (tryptophan), induces the need to sleep in humans. (Come to think of it, turkeys seem a lot like politicians, don't they?) How then can any holiday be celebrated by the murder, butchering, and consumption of such a national icon (turkeys I mean, not politicians)

And they are not alone! Along with turkey, many families in this country will serve goose, duck, and even ham (another political reference?) at these celebratory meals. How can PETA stand idly by as thousands of our animal friends are disposed of (probably inhumanely) in the name of a holiday devoted to "thanks" in this country? Is this in fact how we choose to celebrate the bounty of Mother Nature? 

The only redeeming thing that this holiday may in fact offer is that it was created as a national holiday in 1863 by progressive political hero President Abraham Lincoln. Other than that, the only thing that it has going for it is its stimulation of a depressed airline industry as the largest travel holiday of the year, that it provides a platform for the non-stop watching of parades and football games on television (providing yet further opportunity for laziness and gluttony), and of course that it is followed by "Black Friday" the traditional opening day of Christmas consumerism. 

We must therefore ask ourselves; what in the end is the Thanksgiving holiday in this country about? It appears to this writer as nothing more than a celebration of racism, gluttony (not to mention obesity), and the murder of our fellow creatures on the planet. As such, it has no place in the caring, politically correct, and progressive society that we apparently long to become. And so I say to those of you choosing to celebrate tomorrow with family and friends, gathering around a table to once more give thanks in 2009 (a year that may have less reasons than many to do so):

"Save me one of those drumsticks, will ya?"

Happy Thanksgiving