Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fourteen Is Enough Already!

Going through the news over the last couple of days, I couldn't help but notice the stories in every media outlet of the successful birth of Octuplets in California. To me, there are two amazing parts to this story:

First, it appears that this woman has already had six children and was still choosing to go through fertility treatments. I would have thought that after giving birth to six, that one would begin to think about slowing down the reproductive process, if not stopping it all together.  

Second, having already crossed a line that not many would in seeking fertility treatments after six children, this woman has not one, but EIGHT embryos implanted and brings them all to term. Listen, I love kids as much as the next guy (or so I would suppose), but in a situation like this, I have to say that I have a couple of questions on this one. I would have to question the sanity of the potential parents. 

Even if you thought that half of the implanted embyos wouldn't make it, what would possess you to go from six to ten children, let alone fourteen? I would likewise question the ethics and the good sense of the medical practitioner in this case. What would possess this practitioner to do fertility treatments to a mother of six? What would possess you to implant eight embryos when common practice in situations of implantation calls for no more than four? 

And while we're at it, who paid for the miracle of all of this modern medical technology? What insurance company in it's right mind would include compensation for any part of this type of fertility treatment? How would a doctor performing such over the top levels of fetal implantation get on any insurance company's approved list. (Please don't even tell me that any part of this is going to be paid for by the California taxpayer, I'm not sure that I'm strong enough to hear it.)  

Forgive me for being judgmental. It sometimes seems however, as if there is a more detailed examination of a patient's stability and state of mind for a breast augmentation procedure or sexual reassignment surgery than there is for fertility treatments. 

Why is it that doctors would be more concerned about the mental health of a person choosing to change their own bodies, than it would be for a person bringing new life into the world along with its long term commensurate responsibilities? When does our ability to do a thing medically exceed our common sense about the ethics of proceeding with it? When is it time to consider not only whether we can do a thing, but whether we should?

OK, so it turns out that that I had a lot more than a couple of questions on the subject ... so shoot me. 


Friday, January 30, 2009

TFP Column: The Wheels On The Bus ...

Well another weekend is almost upon us, and I have been once again favored with the acceptance of a column in the Toledo Free Press. This particular effort deals with the circular logic of regulation and bailout in the auto industry; and you should pay attention, as this will end up being your money on both sides of the equation.

Michael Miller this week describes what I believe to be the typical experience with the red light / speeding cameras with an column "I fought the law" (and forgive me for quoting the old song Michael, but it looks like the law won). This is a subject that Maggie Thurber spoke about in a column just a couple of weeks ago. 

Maggie contributes this week with some interesting thoughts on how drillling for oil might be better than the $1,000,000,000,000.00 stimulus package (I'm going to keep writing out all of these zeroes until I finally start to scare the hell out of everybody.)
There is also a fantastic article by Adam Mahler on one of my favorite subjects in the world. His take on the wine the opinions of the wine magazines is well worth your time.

But as usual there is a lot to this weekend's edition of the TFP, in either the print or online edition.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Take Back Toledo: Cake Or Death?

I was sitting Tuesday evening, desperately trying to come up with something intelligent, interesting, and perhaps even informative for my traditional mid-week posting. I cannot tell you how miserable that experience was. I know that there is no such thing as a perfect vacuum, but the space between my ears had achieved a state so close to such perfection that the laws of nature were taking a considerable beating. 

Of course it is at time like these, when there is no potential interference to the random thoughts careening around my brain, that inspiration strikes. (Or more accurately, that my ADD connects the dots on things that had shown no previous connection.) 

In this case, it was a connection between the Take Back Toledo (TBT) Group and an old Eddie Izzard comedy routine. For those of you who don't know, the Take Back Toledo group is seeking to gather enough signatures to recall the Mayor of Toledo, one Carlton S. Finkbeiner. I have detailed the reasons for this recall in numerous earlier postings and Fairy Tales, so I will not bore you with them again. 

The need for the recall effort however, is both real and self-evident. Eddie Izzard, for those of you unfamiliar with him, is a comic import from the UK (though he was actually born in Yemen), who describes himself as an "executive transvestite". He has been around for a more than a few years now, and his stand up material is both outrageous and sheer genius. (He is also an actor of some note as well, and for those of you who recently saw Valkyrie, he had a small part in that film.)

"What's the connection?" you might ask, and you might even be forgiven if you were not familiar with Mr. Izzard's material. You see, one of Izzard's more famous routines involves a description of the lack of fundamentalism in the Church of England. As a consequence, his opinion is that if the Anglican church were to have inquisitions, it would lead to such difficult choices as "Cake or Death".

As you can see from the video, the choice that TBT offers is likewise pretty simple. Sign the recall petition for the mayor or face the slow, tortuous death that the city of Toledo continues to experience under the administration of Mayor Finkbeiner. As for me, before they run out of it, I choose ... cake. 

TFP Column: DDT or PC, Which Kills More?

This week's effort for the Toledo Free Press has to do with the law of unintended consequences where Government regulation is concerned.  It's hard enough for scientist to understand the effects of using or not using the technology available to them.  Add government, with its lobbyists, special interest groups, and lack of thinking beyond the next election and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is in this light that I look back at DDT and Political Correctness, and the impact that the latter had on the former in "DDT or PC, Which Kills More?"  I hope that if nothing else, it stirs some discussion.

Of course there's much more going on in Toledo that will do that, and you'll only know about it if you take some time to read the Toledo Free Press.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Puppy Prejudice

The news in the Toledo are has been full of appearances by the Lucas County Dog Warden, Tom Skeldon. It appears that Saturday is the last day for Lucas County residents to purchase the proper license for their dog in 2009. After that day, the fee for the license doubles from $25 to $50. Should a pet owner be cited after this for having a dog without a license, there is the potential for additional penalties of $25 and court fees of up to $75. Setting aside the government's right to regulate and license the owning of a pet (a rather large set aside in my opinion), I have to ask where the other licenses are.

Where is the license for turtles and frogs? Why is this only a license for dogs? Where is the license for minks and for parrots? Find me the rules for snakes, fish and ferrets? Show me the tag for a pot-belly pig, or abolish the law, I don't give a fig. Show me the license we need for a cat. Show me, oh show me, I'd love to see that. (Sorry, but I had an irresistible urge to channel Dr. Suess...)

This is nothing more or less than discrimination against dogs and their owners, and I am outraged! I would have thought that in this country of hope and change, in the politically correct world that compassionate people have now created for us, that such a thing would be impossible. Please join with me to fight this blatant prejudice against our canine companions and their human masters.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Blade & The Good Old Days

Something struck while reading the reading today's Toledo Blade (and no, it wasn't the rest of the Blade being thrown). It was the idea that perhaps The Blade, recognizing the beginning of the end of its days of power, is beginning to focus instead on the Good Old Days. Two things on the front page of the newspaper did this for me: 
  • The statement at the corner of the front page banner that The Blade was the 2004 Pulitzer Prize (depicted in the upper left) winner for investigative reporting.
  • The page 1 headline, above the fold "Kaczala details decision not to take Noe money".
For any paper who believes that they are a mover and a shaker in the industry (even given what it is today), going five years without winning another Pulitzer prize is a significant blow to the ego. Every newspaper in the country measures its success based on these awards. Revenue, quality of reproduction (printing) and even profit all take a back seat to the concept of winning this most coveted recognition from its peers. 

Talking about Tom Noe is likewise a subject often on the lips of Blade writers.
Despite the fact that the Republicans are mostly irrelevant in Toledo and Lucas County politics these days (when not proving themselves to be a comedy of errors), the Blade returns to the subject like a carrier pigeon to the roost. 

Regardless of the fact that the scandal is years old, that the perpetrator of the crime is currently serving time in prison, and that there are no new real facts to report, the Blade cannot seem to stay away from this story and must in fact recount in endless (and nauseating) detail its entire history. 

While I used to think that all of this was simply about the Blade's well-illustrated media bias where the Republicans were concerned, I now begin to believe that it is more the senile ramblings of its owner John Robinson Block. Having reached a point of diminishing authority, his bully pulpit growing smaller each day, and with his newspaper empire crumbling around him; he can only look back at the days of power and glory that used to be. 

At a time when nothing could be more important than the present and the future, he and The Blade can only see the past. There is some consolation in all of this however. As time continues to move forward, as the ramblings and rantings of The Blade become even more shrill (and perhaps less coherent), the diminishing readership of the newspaper in general and The Blade in particular will insure that fewer people will listen to its recollections of The Good Old Days. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When Is it Cute?

Have you ever noticed the reaction of women to the arrival of an infant or young child? All activity stops, all female heads are turned, and inevitably the voices produce the sound of “oohs and ahhs”. That child then becomes the center of attention, with compliments flowing over the appearance and behavior of the youngster, and smiles become the only response to any facial expressions that are made by this "cute" child.

The amazing thing to me here is the positive reaction that occurs regardless of the behavior exhibited. A burp is cause for amusement, drool rolling down the chin a cause for sympathy, and the smell of baby excrement is dealt with simply as a cry for assistance. Even when such behavior involves crying, screaming, or tantrums; it is met with kindness, understanding, and an undeniable urge to find a remedy for whatever is the cause of the child’s dismay.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that well of sympathy and understanding tend to disappear as the child becomes a man? Imagine if you will, the reaction in a public place (any bar, restaurant, or airport for example) to an adult male as he sits amidst a group of women; smelling like an outhouse, drool rolling down his chin, belching to beat the band.

Without claiming to be an expert in the behavior of the female of the species (anyone who makes such a claim of expertise is probably trying to sell a book), I feel fairly safe in saying that they would not be smiling and racing to his assistance. I likewise suspect that the comments made by the fairer gender would not involve cooing, but would instead be sounds of dismay and disgust. Rather than halting their current activities to get a closer look and attempt to be of some assistance, I venture to say that all would be trying to get as far as possible from this miscreant as quickly as they could.

Don’t get me wrong here. I neither find fault in such a reaction, nor am I planning to exhibit such behavior now or in the future. My parents performed all of the tutoring required to guide me through the maturation process successfully (at least they thought so). I consider myself mostly self-sufficient, and am normally capable to behaving properly. (Well, most of the time anyway, and I deny any stories to the contrary that do not have documentary proof attached). On occasion, I have even been found to have enough of the social graces to be able to function in public situations.

I like many men however, would like to understand the rules of this game. I would like to know how such a prejudice on behavior, based simply on age, is acceptable to women. I would like to understand, if someone can explain it to me, when this child-like behavior becomes childish. I would like to know when the continuation of youthful exuberance becomes simply a failure to grow up. I would like to understand if at all possible, when such behavior becomes no longer cute and becomes instead a Scarlet Letter of immaturity.

Perhaps one of my female readers (I know that there are a couple of you out there) would care to explain this. Perhaps using small words and simple definitions, you can convey some level of understanding to us, the unwashed male gender. Perhaps you will share some your boundless understanding in the hopes that more of us might find a way to return to a point when all of our now unacceptable behavior should once again become cute.  

(By the way, for those of you out there wondering, the picture above is of me with my little ooh and ahh attractor, my youngest granddaughter Maggie.)

TFP Column: Hail to the Chief ... that was

As I previously mentioned, I have been honored with not one, but two pieces in this week's Toledo Free Press (one in print, and both available on the website). 

The second of these efforts, "Hail to the Chief ... that was", is a tribute to the man who had to lead the country during some difficult times, and left office on January 20th with little in the way of fanfare from the media on Inauguration Day. 

As always, there is far more of value to be found both in the pages and on the website of the Toledo Free Press.

Friday, January 23, 2009

TFP Column: My Innaugural Oath

Once again, the Toledo Free Press has decided that the output from my keyboard is worth of publication. In fact, I consider myself fortunate indeed that not one, but two of my efforts were granted this honor. The first of these offerings "My Inaugural Oath" details my pledge in the treatment of the incoming Obama Administration.   I will out up a separate entry for the 2nd piece.

But listen, anyone who would limit themselves to my offerings would be doing a massive disservice to themselves and to the bright hard working staff at the Toledo Free Press. My advice is to make sure you lay hands on a copy this weekend, but don't forget to check the website for a lot of online exclusives.

Quote of the Day

I can normally count of Maggie Thurber of "Thurber's Thoughts" to get quotations of excellence up before I ever get the chance. For some reason (her busy schedule these days, no doubt), she has gifted me that privilege today. I would therefore like to share this little tidbit with you from one of our Founding Fathers.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

- James Madison

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fashion Fairness

The Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was a truly historic occasion in American politics and the crowds that came out to witness it are proof. It was a festive occasion for those in Washington DC (over a million) and for many in other cities as well, but especially for those attending the gala balls and luncheons held all through the day and most of the night in our nation's capital.  

As I was reading today's USA Today this morning on the festivities however, an article struck a chord with me. "A real departure for first ladies" talked about the first lady's bold choices in both colors and designers. Now my fashion sense is probably not what it should be. In fact, the only thing that I know about fashion for sure is that I should have been more complimentary (or at least noticed more) with the clothing choices that my two ex-wives wore over the years. My critique here therefore is not about what Michelle Obama wore or who designed it for her. 

In fact, it is about something that was not mentioned in this piece. It did mention the outfit for the Inaugural train trip, for the Kids Inaugural Ball, for the "We Are One Concert", for Inauguration itself, and for the formal evening ball. It mentioned the designers themselves, some of whom are relatively unknown (except to me, to whom they were all entirely unknown). It even mentioned the bags and shoes that the first lady wore with them (something that I have been given to understand is very important). What it did not mention was the cost.  

That struck me because of the furor raised during the campaign over the Sarah Palin ensemble. Both the Democrats and the Republicans were in an uproar during the campaign over the $150,000 worth of clothes that the Republican National Committee purchased to supplement the Governor Palin's wardrobe as she sought the office of Vice-President. Even when we later learned that she was not going to keep those clothes after the campaign, it was not enough to deflect the criticism, outrage, and vitriol cast in the way of the Republicans in general and Mrs. Palin in particular. And all of this occurring before we knew the full extent of the impending financial crisis that the country was facing. 

I know that I am probably setting myself for criticism and attack by asking the following question then, but I can't help it. Even when we are all supposed to be carried forward in an ecstatic wave of hope and change, the Court Jester has to ask why the emperor is naked. I am that Court Jester, and in the spirit of Fashion Fairness, I therefore have to ask: "How much did the first lady's clothes cost, and who paid for them?" (I'm guessing that we'll never know. ) 


The Cost of Medicine

With a great deal of idle time on my hands, I am often struck by strange thoughts while driving down the highway. This is something I have been doing a lot lately. (I mean driving down the highway part, not the strange thoughts. No, on second thought the strange thoughts come a lot lately as well, but oh ... never mind.) The thought that hit me on this particular trip came as I was nearing one of the cigar Meccas of the US, the JR Cigar store in Statesville, NC. I was thinking about loading up on cigars, because the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) appears large on the Congressional radar screen. Without George Bush in the White House to veto that bill again, there is a better than even chance that it will pass and be signed into law. If it does, the tax on cigars will go up significantly in order to fund this program (and my anguish will likewise increase), and "Just Blowing Smoke" will become a lot more expensive for me.

This got me thinking about a different cost of health care however. It is one that will not be picked up by the SCHIP program, or any other government health program. It is also a cost that is not picked up by the health insurance currently provided by my employer, even after my deductible is met. In fact, it is a cost that entirely picked up by me, the consumer. It is also a cost that is directly attributable to the health care provider. This cost has nothing to do with the care provided or the technology required to provide it. In fact, there is plenty of technology available to alleviate the problem, not that it will ever be used. This cost instead is about nothing other than the lack of efficiency in the care provided. It is the cost of waiting.

I know that I have you now. There is none of us out there who has not sat idly, whiling away the hours in a waiting room well past our appointed time. No matter how punctual that we are in showing up to see our health care providers, it is rare indeed if they are equally so in providing such care. For those of us who have, or have had children who cannot get themselves to their appointments (Yeah I know , but you just can't get them to drive themselves to the doctor for at least the first 16 years) that total of wasted hours goes through a significant multiplier, as children require a great deal more care than adults and pediatricians seem even less able at clock management where appointments are concerned. I couldn't help but wonder over the thousands of hours wasted.

- How much the cost to each person or family in lost wages?
- How much cost in lost hours of productivity?
- How much the cost in wasted vacation and personal time?
- How much the cost in frustration, aggravation, and sanity?
- What is the cost to the consumer, their employer, and the nation based on any realistic pay scale?

My guess is that if the number could be determined, it would be staggering. Enough perhaps to pay for SCHIP? Enough perhaps to contribute significantly to perscription drugs for the elderly? Enough perhaps to reimburse taxpayers for the illegal aliens or people without health care who gain unreimbursed treatments in the emergency rooms across the US?

No matter however. While Congress and the politically correct commend themselves on striking a blow for children's health care, while the anti-smoking lobby pat themselves on the back for yet another blow to those who indulge in the evil pleasures of tobacco, while the forces for government expansion exchange their secret handshakes over another step on the road to nationalized health care; perhaps some few will step back far enough to recognize the monster hiding in the corner. Perhaps someone with begin to notice the inefficiency in handling the simplest of business dealings on the part of health care providers today, as it continues to be the dirty little secret of the cost of medicine.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Riverfront Real Estate

The Mayor of Toledo, Carlton S. Finkbeiner, has once again put on his real estate broker uniform. It is not a well-fitting oufit, nor is it particularly flattering to the mayor, but it does seem to cause a noticable drop in intelligence when worn. For those of you who seem confused about why the mayor would be wearing ... well, anything but a mayor suit. It seems as though there is a piece of property that the city owns in South Toledo that the Mayor would like to sell. This parcel is 1.7 acres right on River Road, and the city has been offered $165,000 for it. Unfortunately, there appear to be a couple of problems with any potential sale.
  • The parcel is considered to be a park by the local neighborhood, and is cared for by the department of parks.
  • Sale for residential use would require rezoning of the property, which would in turn require the approval of city council, something that does not appear to be forthcoming.
  • The city would be required to spend approximately $135,000 to bring the land up to code for residential use, leaving only a net profit of $30,000 for the sale.
  • This piece of property provides the only local access to the Maumee river in the area.
Mayor, I have to tell you in the spirit of hope that the new Administration brings that I hope you will give up this idea, it simply isn't going to fly. (It didn't fly when attempted in 1999 either, by the way.)

But listen Mayor, as long as you have you broker suit on and a mind to sell riverfront property, how about The Docks. The last time that I heard, the city had an offer on the table for over $3 million from both Tom Cousino, owner of the Navy Bistro there and Main Street Ventures, who owns Legal Seafood at the other end of the property. A sale at this amount would net the city over $500,000 and retire over $2 million in city debt at a time when the city is looking at a $20 million budget shortfall. In these tougher economic times, I don't know if either of those offers remains on the table, but I think under the circumstances (and before you hang the ugly jacket back up), I would find out.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wisdom of the Witless

It has been so cold the last couple of days that I truly believe that my brain may be frozen. Since I have been traveling a good bit the last couple of days, I have likewise done without the "wee bit o' the creature", which in the past has provided not only a thawing, but lubrication of the few brain cells still firing in the vast ocean of space between my ears. 

What I am trying to get around to the hard way is that I have not adequately prepared a suitable submission as a weekend posting (something that I promised myself that I would do). Not wanting to leave such vows unfulfilled, and being too lazy to try and muscle up and put something together, I have decided to regale you with some bits of wisdom that I have come up with over the years. Who knows, if this gets a decent reception I might try doing it again on purpose.
  • Life consists of a series of glorious successes and monumental failures. The trick is to be able to survive both.
  • I hope one day to be able to look back on a long and happy life instead of just a long one.
  • I believe whole-heartedly in the concept of moderation in spite of the fact that I seem to have a great deal of difficulty with its practice.
  • A well-turned phrase usually requires the prodigious use of an eraser.
  • The hypocrisy that I am forced to deal with in life disgusts me, and that’s just my own. That which I endure from the rest of mankind merely disappoints me.
  • I sometimes wonder if my life hasn’t turned out exactly the way that I had hoped because I didn’t forward all of those emails from friends that I was supposed to.
  • There are none so blind as those who think they can see how to make our lives better.
  • Radical liberalism is a disease that can never be cured; but with luck, it can be contained, and more importantly, survived.
  • There was a period in my life when I was considered quite a catch. History however, has proved that I was more of a “catch and release”.
  • I recognize that there will come a time in my life when I will lose interest in the company of women, and it is my hope that someone will bury me quickly thereafter before I start stinking up the place.
Keep warm and have a great weekend.


TFP Column: The Era of Big Govt Is Far From Over

This week's effort for the Toledo Free Press is speak to the stimulus plan presented by President Obama to cure the nation's economic ills.  It's a far cry from the chant of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who told us that the era of big government was over.

Maybe not.

At any rate, I encourage you to spend a little time with "The Era of Big Government is Far from Over", while catching up with all that's going in in the Toledo Free Press.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The "Stuck On Stupid" Toledo Dictionary #15

It is time once again to add another word to our "Stuck On Stupid" Dictionary. For those of you unaware of the existence of this reference book, it is a guide to words or phrases that are nominally part of the English language, but which appear to have special meaning here in Toledo, Ohio.

Closed Bargaining:

 1. The process of negotiation between a union and its employer, held in closed and secret meeting, in order to reach a new collective bargaining agreement or contract.  
2. A process of contract negotiation which the city of Toledo is legally obliged to follow with its unions, but which the Mayor violates at his own discretion. Such violation usually resulting in bad blood, bad press, and bad contracts from the city's point of view and unfair labor practice charges from the unions involved. 


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Casino Logic

The economy is in the worst state that it has been since The Great Depression. Unemployment is at an all time high. The government is about to go on a spending spree unparallelled in this country's history. The nation is about to triple its budget deficit as a consequence of all of the above listed statements. What can possibly be the answer to this perfect storm of economic doom and gloom?
Let's build some casinos!

Fresh off turning down a state Constitutional Amendment in the recent election to permit the building of a single casino and resort complex in Ohio, a new group has stepped forward to put forth a proposal for not one, but perhaps as many as eleven new casinos in the state. Penn National Gaming (which owns 19 gambling facilities in the US and Canada, including Raceway Park in Toledo), and it's partners have been holding talks with the the governor and state legislature about putting casinos in seven racetracks in the state, as well as building four new stand alone casinos.

Don't get me wrong here, I have no objection to casino gambling in Ohio and have spoken out in favor of it in the past. I simply question the logic of building gambling establishments at a time when disposable income in this country is at almost all-time low. Many restaurants are cutting back staff or closing all together because no one has the money to eat out, and the same is happening with bars. 

The auto industry is failing because nobody has the money to buy a car. Housing sales are down in spite of the lowest mortgage rates in my lifetime. Yet in spite of all of this economic doom and gloom, someone believes that we will take the last two nickels that we have left to rub together and put them in a slot machine.

I can't wait to see how the moralists and do-gooders demonize these guys. Children going hungry as the adults gamble the grocery money away. Houses going into foreclosure as their owners sit mesmerized in front of a one-armed bandit. Bankruptcy filed by irresponsible people with too little money and too easy an access to the evils of gambling. Don't look for me to speak out this time though.* 

I plan to sit idly on the sidelines this time and watch the fun. This promises to be almost as entertaining, and a good deal less expensive, than a night of Texas Hold'em.

* All promises not to speak out on a given subject are subject to change at any time, as I often have difficulty remaining silent on anything. (ask anybody who knows me...)


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama Economic Plan - The Devil Is In The Details

As with most government plans, the devil is in the details. There appears to be no exception to the economic plan as modified in the president-elect's weekly radio address and supporting economic report given yesterday, and reported in today's Toledo Blade. This article, titled "Obama boosts job creation estimate", outlines that speech and report. Two things have struck me when going through this proposal. 

First, the numbers just keep going up, on both the amount of money required and the number of jobs that will be saved or created. We started out with a program at a little over $300,000,000,000. (Yes, it does look scarier when you print out all of those zeroes, doesn't it?) The program outlined in yesterday's address now stands at more than $775,000,000,000. Likewise the number of jobs that will be created or saved is up from the original 2-2.5 million to an estimate yesterday of over 5 million. 

Forgive me if this isn't starting to sound like an old John Lovitz routine from Saturday night live. I can just hear him saying: "I saved two, no it was three, three million jobs. No wait it was four million, no five, five million jobs I saved with my plan." ... and all of this before the president-elect even takes office. I know that there is an expectation of stretching the truth from all politicians, and I know that plans change as more information comes to light; but this taffy pull seems to be getting out of hand. 

Second and more importantly, the president-elect said in this most recent address that of this 5 million jobs, nearly 90 percent will be in the private sector. For those of you who didn't take as many math classes as I did, that means that over 10 percent of the jobs will be government jobs. 

Now adding to your respect for my mathematical abilities, I will further calculate that even 10 percent of 5 million jobs would mean 500,000 new government jobs. This is half a million government salaries, benefit packages, and pension contributions. For those of you who eyes are now widely staring at this page yes, that means that the taxpayers will have to pick up a pretty hefty check for this increase in bureaucracy at a time when our wallets are getting a little lighter already. 

I know that the incoming president has talked about the necessity for budget deficits to jump start the economy, but shouldn't be we looking closely at the burden we push onto our children and theirs. I know that the country needs more jobs. I merely question whether we need any more in a government containing an already bloated bureaucracy. 

The president-elect and I do agree on one other thing in the report released by his economic team in support of this plan as well: "There is a limit on how much government investment can be carried out efficiently in a short time frame." On this snowy Sunday morning I can only add, "Amen, Mr. Obama, amen." 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Where To Blow Smoke

Far too often in this politically correct world, the humble cigar smoker will find themselves in a world that does not allow them the enjoyment of the awful little habit that the past once allowed. 

I am am both pleased and grateful to announce to you that such is always not the case. Regardless of what the smoke Nazis would like you to believe, there are yet places in the world, in Ohio (and even in Toledo) where a proper cigar can be purchased and smoked, and a proper cocktail can be enjoyed while doing so. 

La Casa de la Habana, a Toledo purveyor of fine cigars on Monroe street just east of Tallmadge, continues to offer the true cigar smoking experience, combining an exceptional humidor with a wonderful selection of single malt scotches to create a truly memorable experience. 

Equally memorable, is the relaxed atmosphere of the lounge and stellar service provided by Danielle, the mixologist working her subtle magic behind the bar. The bar and her talents are not limited to the pouring of Scotland's finest exports however, and I am reliably told that she serves one of the best Margaritas in the city. Two separate lounge areas provide ample room, seating, and ventilation for the proper enjoyment of the tobacconist's art, and there are usually a few congenial fellow smokers to pass the time with.  

While not normally using "Just Blowing Smoke" to endorse businesses (as I haven't found a way to make any money doing so), I would be doing a disservice to fellow local cigar smokers if I attempted to keep this a establishment a secret simply for my own use and enjoyment. Take advantage of one of the few guilty pleasures left in life, and feel free in fact, to tell them that I sent you their way (don't worry, they won't hold that against you). Who knows, it's even possible that one of these days you could run into a stogie-smoking curmudgeon during your visit and blow a bit of smoke together.  

Enjoy ... 

Friday, January 9, 2009

TFP Column: Wants and Needs

Once again, Michael Miller and the Toledo Free Press have taken life and professional reputation in hand by printing my most recent column, "Wants and Needs". It might be something to think about with the continuing downturn of the economy.  

I also highly recommend the column by Tom Pounds, publisher of the Toledo Free Press, "The Good Fight" for some additional insight on the economy in general and the newspaper industry in particular, as well as an interesting piece by the aforementioned Michael Miller on how he will be losing the rest of his free time on Facebook (as opposed to the time I waste writing this blog)

For those of us locally, there are also some interesting stories on the first round in the coming battle between the city with its mounting budget woes and the union contracts that it must negotiate. Given the Mayor's negotiation style, this process promises to be an updated version of "The Bickersons".  

Given that Toledo is due for somewhere between 2 and 10 inches of snow accumulation, staying inside where its warm, and reading something interesting may be the best plan that you could have.  


 For those of you who have been looking at the comments and wondering about them, yes it's true that Glenn Beck read my column on his syndicated radio show this morning. I was not contacted ahead of time and was as shocked as anyone to hear it as it happened. As a regular listener to his program however, I was extremely flattered (and humbled) to have him grant my work any value.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fractured Fairy Tales - The Little Dutch Boy Of Toledo

Hello boys and girls, and welcome once again to "Fractured Fairy Tales". These slightly twisted fables of an imaginary land known as Toodledeedoo (pronounced Toodle-dee-doo) have amused and fascinated so many over time. OK, they have slightly amused some once in a while. Alright, they bring a smile to my face from time to time as I am writing them. At any rate, it's time for another one, so let's waste any more precious time and get right to it.

Once upon a time in the mythical land of Toodledeedoo there lived a little boy named Carty (OK, he was actually a man, but trust me when I tell you that he was really immature). Now it seems as though this man was walking through town one day when he noticed the city's dike. Now the dike (which for some strange reason was called Budget) was important to the town, as it provided the protection for Toodledeedoo, and made the town a livable place where people and businesses could flourish. (Hey no snickering here, I said it was a Fairy Tale.)

Now Carty worked for the city, and one of his jobs was to make sure that the dike (Budget) was OK. You could say in fact, that one of his jobs was to make sure that the Budget was doing its job (and I just did). Carty wasn't very good at this job however, and seemed to go out his way to perform this service poorly. 

The Budget tried to protect the city, and Carty would poke a hole in it to water some flowers, flowering shrubs, and things that say welcome. Someone would come along and patch that hole and Carty would poke another one in, this time to help the Erie Street Market grow (it didn't). The Budget would get patch for that hole, and Carty would poke another one in to keep COSI alive until somebody could figure out what to do with it. Another patch would be provided, but soon another hole would get poked, this time to help win a contest that no one had ever heard of or cared if we won. Patched once again, the Budget continued to try to hold back the waters, but Carty poked yet another hole in it, this time try and bring back a shopping mall that had died. (It stayed dead.)

It seemed that no matter how many times someone came along to patch the Budget for Toodledeedoo, it's keeper Carty would poke yet another hole in it. In all fairness to Carty, he sometimes tried to fix the holes in the Budget himself, usually by stuffing them with things like furloughs that he wasn't supposed to use; but being Carty his fixes only created bigger holes that required even more fixing. Sometimes some of the other things that he did (like getting himself and the city sued for doing other parts of his job) made holes in the Budget all by themselves, and once again repair was required. 

Finally, it seemed that Carty's efforts had all but destroyed the Budget and only massive sacrifices on the part of the citizens would allow the Budget, and Toodledeedoo to survive. Looking to their future, it was obvious to even the most dense of its citizens that even greater sacrifice would be required to keep this Budget functioning ... or they were going to have to find a different protector of the Budget. 

Now this might seem unlikely, as on previous occasions these same citizens had given Carty back his job every time that he asked, and all previous efforts to remove him from this job had proven unsuccessful in spite of his poor job performance. But so egregious were his poor performance and so great was the damage done however, that this time our ne'er do well keeper of the Budget might indeed have to look for another job.

Like many of the Fairy Tales about Toodledeedoo, this story doesn't have an end yet. There appears however, to be enough anger out there in the citizens of this fair city that change may finally be in the wind. A group of citizens called "Take Back Toledo" has begun to get organized. It appears that this time the torches are being lit and pitchforks have been sharpened. I haven't seen any tar and feathers yet, but I'm sure that they can't be far behind. I suspect that the end, at least for Carty, and a new beginning for Toodledeedoo is closer than ever before.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Consistent Inconsistency

I have chosen not to pick on the local daily newspaper in Toledo for some time. This is not because of any pity that I feel for an industry that is suffering significant revenue losses recently or the Blade in particular because I know that they are working under difficult working conditions with recent layoffs and therefore are more than a little short-handed. 

While I do feel for the industry in general and the Blade in particular, my reasons are probably more personal and more selfish. Even such pity must end however, when the Blade shows such blatant inconsistency and consistency in its editorials. Today (1/4/08) is a classic example, with two editorials on the same day pointing the way. In the first "That sinking feeling", the Blade blames the current state of the economy on the Bush Administration, blaming the pitiable state of the economy on the Iraq war, lax oversight of financial institutions, and tax cuts. 

In the second, a guest editorial entitled "Hunting the budget snipe" from the Washington Post that it does not provide a link to on its website, then points out that the incoming Obama Administration can only fix the current budget by seeking out waste, cutting pork, and most importantly putting the brakes on entitlement programs (all no doubt also the fault of the Bush Administration). Now I know that the second editorial was not written by the Blade, but it was published by the same editors; and those of us unwashed, uneducated, and unsophisticated readers out here would like a bit of clarity. Is the economy the fault of:
  • The Iraq War which the current administration must take full responsibility for?
  • The oversight of the financial institutions, which the current administration warned us about years ago?
  • Tax cuts encouraged by the Bush Administration which in previous economies (under either party) have done nothing but increase government revenue?
  • Waste in the budget?
  • Pork in the budget?
  • Or entitlement programs whose budget increases have far exceeded the cost of living or inflation-adjusted budget numbers?
The inconsistency is obvious here. The problem in the economy has two vastly different causes, the Iraqi War and bad domestic policies. The Blade editorial makes no mention of the entitlement programs, pork, or waste. The Post editorial makes no mention of the War. Either both missed things which were rather significant to the other, or neither chose to look at the whole picture before going to print. 

There is one consistency however. No matter what the problem is, it is George Bush's fault. Never mind that Congress signed on (fairly enthusiastically at the time) to the War in Iraq. Never mind that oversight of the banking industry was the responsibility of Congress. Never mind that the pork and waste placed in the budget were done so by members of Congress. Never mind that the dramatic increases in entitlement programs were introduced and passed by Congress. Never mind that any tax cuts currently in place were introduced and passed by Congress. George Bush is at fault. 

Don't get me wrong, Mr. Bush does not get a free pass here. Quite the contrary. He must in fact plead guilty to abandoning Conservative principles where the budget was concerned, and in fact has seemed to encourage the horrendous increases in government spending that were once an anathema to his party. He must also plead guilty to sending troops to Iraq, and while I will not debate the merits of that choice in this post, the cost of doing so must rest to a large extent with him. 

The point here however, is that when the Blade wants to know why its readership has and is deserting it (though I still keep my subscription), it might want to look at the inconsistency of what it says and the far too apparent agenda that it consistently puts forward. Even those of us who do not travel in the rarefied circles that the Blade appears to be pandering to are getting fed up with the insult to our intelligence that both illustrate. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fairness vs. Laziness

I recently had a chance to share a brief visit with my son Sean over the Christmas holiday. Now Sean and I share a number of common interests, including a love of reading and a certain computer game which will remain nameless (World of Warcraft). On the other hand, we do not share a common political view. While there is an overlap of our thinking some subjects, Sean leans a fair bit more to the left than I do. (I am sure that he would tell you that it is only that I lean a fair bit more to the right, but such is perspective.) 

As a consequence of these differences, any political discussion which occurs (and it invariably does) can be very lively. Both of us attempt to argue our point of view cogently and passionately, and while one may give ground to the other based on logical argument, such ground is given grudgingly. Such is the strong will and obstinate nature of the Higgins clan. (Yes, that means you too Laura.) 

The reason that I bring this up is that during our time together, we often make a journey by car. While my radio is invariably tuned to a local Conservative talk radio station, my son's vehicle is often to have it's radio tuned to National Public Radio (NPR), which is probably as liberal as radio gets. What the two of us listen to is a choice that we have made and a reflection of our political philosophy and taste. This divergent taste in listening material is also a great illustration of why we don't need a re-institution of The Fairness Doctrine. 

Now for those of you who do not know the history of the Fairness Doctrine (because you haven't been reading this blog) it was a policy enforced by the FCC beginning in 1949 as part of the licensing of a radio station. It was designed to insure that media outlets, which it considered public trustees, provided fair and balanced coverage to the most important issues of the day. It was thrown out by the Supreme Court in 1987 however because it was not mandated by Congress. When Congress sought to rectify this at the time, their efforts were vetoed by then President Reagan. 

Never a group to let a bad idea go to waste however, Congress has recently taken up the concept again. You see Congress, a group that has always proved itself the Huckleberry Finn of politics, believes that the American people are as lazy as the legislators who represent them. When Congress believes that we are too lazy to be charitable, they simply take the money from us and give to causes they choose. When they believe that we are too lazy to save for our own retirement, they foist the ponzi scheme of Social Security on us and again take our our choice and our money for "our own good". The Fairness Doctrine is simply the next logical step for a group of citizens who Congress believes are too lazy to change the station. 

In a time of unprecedented choices in media with cable and satellite TV and radio channels numbering in the hundreds, and where we can get information from more news sources than in the history of humanity, Congress is telling us that we are too lazy to push a button to choose what we will. Instead they would like to "mandate" equal time and points of view to insure that we are not burdened with choosing what we will listen to. They would like to decide for us what is fair and balanced, to insure that we are being properly exposed to what they consider are all points of view. 

What next? Could we move from that to government approved radio stations? (Can you say Pravda or Al Jazeera?) My response is pretty simple ... No! At little over fifty years, I have managed both the strength and the ability to change the channel when Seinfeld, Friends, or any reality show came on TV for some time. I have likewise managed to go through life while changing the radio station when rap music came on or the Howard Stern Show aired. While many might consider me now in my dotage, I believe that I am still capable to continue in such responsibilities. What our government looks at as The Fairness Doctrine is more than taking for granted our physical laziness though, it is using it is an assumption of intellectual laziness which I for one will not tolerate. I will prove my ability to choose by making two additional choices instead: the choice of a free marketplace where ideas can compete and the choice to keep government out of my freedom to choose. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

TFP Column: New Years Resolutions

Owing to the holiday no doubt, much of this weekend's online version of the Toledo Free Press is up and running already, including an offering from this humble writer. But there is a lot more than my normal natural fertilizer production in this week's TFP, including an article on a local student who won a scholarship to Notre Dame for an essay entitled "If I were Mayor". There are also essays from some of those actually seeking the office  
(though personally, I'm more impressed with the young lady).  

A couple of folks have asked me to add my list of resolutions from this weekend's TFP column to this posting as an additional reminder of some thoughts for all of us in the New Year. I am flattered and happy to do so:
  • I resolve to be less tolerant of those choosing to take more of my hard-earned money for uses that I would not approve of.
  • I resolve to be equally intolerant of those choosing to limit my freedoms in the name of protecting me.
  • I resolve to be completely intolerant of those choosing to do evil to me in the name of the greater good.
  • I resolve to never again vote for the “lesser of two evils”, as evil is evil and being less is no excuse to choose it.
  • I resolve to listen carefully to arguments made against even my most closely held positions, but not to be swayed by the emotional content of any such arguments.
  • I resolve to hold firmly to my principles, even if doing so allows me to be demonized by those who oppose them.
  • I resolve to do more than simply complain about the violations of those principles, no matter who they are committed by.
  • I resolve not to be bullied into silence on the things that I believe in the name of political correctness.
  • Most importantly, I resolve to deal with the governments in whose care I have given power over me on the basis of the documents that limit them. I resolve to use the city charter, state revised code or state constitution, or the Constitution of the United States to judge whether they are using that power legally or correctly.