Thursday, April 30, 2009

The First 100 Days

For some strange reason, I have been asked to comment on the first 100 days of the Obama Administration. Unfortunately I was busy ranting about the automobile industry yesterday and missed my opportunity. 

Even though I am prepared to comment today, somehow commenting on the first 101 days does not seem nearly so important or news-worthy. Not to leave the small and rather twisted audience of this blog without any comment on the subject however, I will at least say this about the first 101 days.
1359 to go ...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buy American Automobiles: An Idle Question or Two

There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks over the automobile industry in the United States (some of it in this blog today). In spite of the fact that almost all of the manufacturers of automobile in the United States have manufacturing relationships with each other for various parts or parts of their product line, we never the less insist upon defining them as either foreign or domestic.  

This definition gets plenty of discussion as well. Is a car foreign or domestic based on where the preponderance of its parts are manufactured, where it is assembled, or where the company in questioned is Incorporated? There are many good arguments for all of these points, but all discussion seems to end when we talk about the country of incorporation comes up. 

We are told that we should buy from the Big Three not because the parts for these vehicles are manufactured in this country (which in many cases they are not), not because they are assembled in this country (which again, in many cases they are not), but because these corporations return and reinvest their profits in the US economy. Forgive me for asking the obvious, but:  

What profits?
 The Big three have routinely proved themselves unable to make a profit, in fact losing money. So what profits are we actually worried about them reinvesting. In many cases quite frankly, the only profit that the Big Three are making is in their overseas sales. Which leads to my next question.

 If we restrict ourselves to the purchase of "American Automobiles", what do we do if the rest of the world decides to do the same kind of restrictive auto purchasing? Where would the Big Three be if their only market was in the United States?  

Maybe I'm being a bit simplistic here, but this problem will not be solved by trade barriers, or worse trade wars, over the manufacturing of automobiles. I recommend a bit of reading on a situation that eerily relates to the current auto crisis, "Well Made In America" by Peter C. Reid. It is the story of the fall, and rise of Harley Davidson in the motorcycle market. It's a real eye opener.


GM: Government Motors

Well, General Motors has unveiled its plan for how to move forward in the business of automobile manufacturing; and it is unique in the annals of American capitalism. As a part of this reorganization, GM will drop its Pontiac brand, eliminate an additional 21,000 jobs, and do likewise with some 2,600 dealers. It announced this plan under a government deadline of reorganization that it hopes will get it another $11.6 billion in government aid, on top of the $15.4 billion in that has already been invested by our leaders in Congress and the White House. GM likewise has a deadline of just one month to get both bondholders (who are far less than happy) and the government to sign off on the final details of this plan. It must also get the UAW to agree some kind of settlement on over $20 billion in cash obligations that GM has with the healthcare plan of its union retirees. If it fails to meet this deadline with any of the three groups in question, it faces bankruptcy. Should this perfect storm of economic events manage to occur however, the GM of the future would look something like this:
  • The government would end up with at least 50% of the common stock of the company, making them the majority stockholder.
  • The UAW would end up with as much as 39% of the common stock.
  • Bondholders would end up with the remaining 10%+ of the stock in exchange for $27 billion of GM's current debt.
  • Current shareholders of GM stock would effectively have their investment wiped out.
For those of you have somehow managed to miss the signs (Signs, more like billboards!) of a fundamental shift in capitalism in the US (and the world), this would be it. This is no longer a loan or a temporary fix, this is a company voluntarily and permanently turning over voting control of its stock to the federal government. While the taxpayer will foot the bill for this, Congress, the White House and a small group of Federal bureaucrats will determine the long term future of what was once the world's largest company. What's more, they will do this in partnership with one of the nations largest labor unions. I cannot imagine a more ill-suited group to run a business of any kind, let alone one of such size and importance.
And ask yourself this:
  • If GM is owned in the majority by the government, will it change it's name to "Government Motors"?
  • What level of debt, in a government which seems to treat debt as its closest ally, will this new GM be allowed to roll up?
  • If this plan, boldly put forward by current management, fails to return GM to profitability, what amount of red ink in this new company will determine when it fails?
  • What unsupportable contracts with its partners in the UAW will be allowed to continue regardless of a lack of profitability because the UAW controls so much of the stock and the government has the taxpayers bank account to fill any gaps?
  • What new levels of expensive federal bureaucracy will be required to direct, manage, and regulate this new Government Motors?
  • What impact on competition (from the standpoint of both US and foreign automakers) will a government owned auto manufacturer have?
And most importantly,

Would you buy a car from a company where the design, manufacture, sale, and long-term service of your vehicle would be ultimately performed by the federal government?

I have to tell you that I will be purchasing a new car later in the year, and that this situation has certainly given me pause over the potential selection that I will make...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu Susceptibility

Just a passing thought here on the dangers of the Swine Flu Epidemic:

Considering the character and actions of our country's politicians (especially recently) and the incredible amount of time that they have spent in close proximity to pork, are these individuals more susceptible to Swine Flu than (other) human beings?

I'm just asking ...

The "Stuck On Stupid" Dictionary #18

Once again, it is time for us to add words to the ever-growing SOS "Stuck On Stupid" Dictionary. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular piece of reference material, the SOS Dictionary is an ongoing effort in lexicography which compiles terms and expressions nominally part of the English language, but which often have a special meaning here is Toledo and Northwest Ohio.  

Old GM Business Plan:

1. The strategy that a capitalist company or organization like General Motors creates in order to achieve an established end or objective (ie. a Profit).

New GM Business Plan:

1. Any strategy that a combination of government bureaucrats, elected officials, and union leaders like the proposed new General Motors can manage to come up with, using the US taxpayers monies as financing in order to achieve an established end or objective (ie, a Profit).
2. Something that has lower odds of occurring than the result of the "Infinite Monkey Theorem". (see Infinite Money Theorem)

Infinite Monkey Theorem:

1. A mathematical theorem that states that an infinite number of monkeys hitting random keys on a typewriter for an infinite period of time will almost surely type a given text, such as "The Complete Works of Shakespeare".

Saturday, April 25, 2009

US History Trivia

My apologies, but once again I have failed to come up anything vaguely creative or interesting to put up as a weekend posting. It might have something to do with the fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets went down without a win this spring in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (much like my Cubs did in the first round of the World Series playoffs last fall). Perhaps it is simply that the weather is warming up (especially in the South where I have been traveling) and I am suffering from a bit of spring fever. More likely it is simply that the pressure of nonsense in my head has been temporarily relieved, and nothing therefore is forcing it's way out. Since I have become an even more voracious reader of history in recent years, as well as a collector of trivia, I decided to regale you with some interesting tidbits about the history of our country.
  • If a statue in a park of a person on horseback has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.
  • Our first president was elected by almost unanimous acclaim, riding on the coattails of his success as the head of the Continental armies. This is pretty amazing when you realize that he lost approximately 70% of the battles he fought. Of course he won the last one, which was why the position of president was available in the first place.
  • Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2nd, with the last signature being added 5 years later.
  • The most well-known version of the song “Yankee Doodle”, adopted by American colonists as an anthem during the Revolutionary War, was actually created by the British, and as an insult. The song described a Yankee ‘doodle’ which was another word for a fool going to a club in London notorious for its membership of foppish dandies. So it could be said that Yankee Doodle was not only one of our first anthems, but possibly our first “gay anthem”.
  • Andrew Jackson’s opponents called him a “jackass” during his run for the presidency in 1828. He liked the image so much that he made the image of the animal the new symbol of his national party, the Democrats.
  • The only war that the United States could actually be considered to ever have lost was not the Vietnam War, as most people think, but was in fact the War of 1812. During this war the US lost almost every land and sea engagement, and had its capital burned to the ground. Ironically the most significant battle that the US won during this war was the “Battle of New Orleans”, which made Andrew Jackson famous and launched his political career. It fought on January 8th, which was two weeks after the war was technically already over.
  • ·Every day, more money is printed for Monopoly than for the US Treasury. (I'm not so sure on this one any more, as I believe that the Treasury has put the presses on overtime and into overdrive.)
While I recharge my batteries this weekend with sunshine and warm weather (and perhaps some single malt lubricant), I hope that you too get a chance to enjoy Toledo's belated spring.

TFP Column: Pulitzer or Profit

This week's effort for the Toledo Free Press came as a result of the announcement of the Pulitzer Prizes for this year.  Daily newspapers have long been confused as to whether they were "award winning businesses that occasionally made a profit, or profitable businesses that occasionally won awards".  I fear that the day is coming soon when it may be too late for them to choose, the choice will have been made for them ... to their decline.

And so I take up the subject of "Pulitzer or Profit", and what it holds for the industry that I'm a part of.

No need to worry about weekly newspapers like the Toledo Free Press yet however.  They are much more in tune with their markets, and much more in touch with the concept of running a profitable business.  Which is why, if you want to know what's going on in Toledo and Northwest Ohio, you will find out from the Toledo Free Press.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The "Stuck On Stupid" Toledo Dictionary #17

It has been a while since we have added to the particular piece of lexicography. This is not to say that our city's leaders have not been up to their normal stupidity, but it takes exceptional stupidity in order to make it into the SOS Dictionary. Such stupidity has come to the attention of this humble scribbler, even while is a far away state.

 (On a side note, I would like to give thanks once again to Fred LeFebvre, Brian Wilson, and Maggie Thurber of AM 1370, WSPD in Toledo; whose efforts to highlight the nonsense and stupidity in Toledo often inspire and greatly contribute to my efforts in assembling this particular series of postings.) 
Insurance Company:

1. A publicly held company (except in the case of mortgage insurance) that is empowered to operate a legal process of gambling. The company gambles that it will take in more in premiums from policy holders than it will dole out in policy settlements. The policy holder gambles that he will get more from insurance company in settlements than he (or she) will pay in premiums.
2. An organization that Councilman Mike Craig thinks that he can beat at their own game by having the fire department bill for everything from fire suppression foam to wear and tear on the department vehicles. (It is this kind of thinking that pays the utility bills for the Casinos in Las Vegas.)


1. Asking the taxpayers of Toledo to believe that they will not be the ones footing the bill for the lost revenue from these fees that the fire department charges when the city discovers that it is not as smart as an insurance company dedicated to making a profit, something with which the city is entirely unfamiliar with (see profit from previous entries).


1. Striking a pose literally or figuratively in order to draw attention to one's self or make a point.

Poor Posturing:

1. Striking a pose unnecessarily only to discover that you have done so in quicksand and the only attention that are now drawing is based on the fact that you are sinking and unable to escape the untenable position that you now find yourself in.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Banking Confusion

I have been trying to follow the government handling of the banking bailouts lately, but I must tell you that I am beginning to find the whole thing rather confusing. 

Let me see if I have this right. It was the injudicious use and improper lending of money that got the banks in trouble in the first place. Much of this improper lending was done under threat from the Justice Department of the Clinton Administration in the first place (but I only throw that out as a sidelight)

Having overextended themselves, these banks then found themselves in a rather precarious capital position when the those people to whom they lent money couldn't pay it back. The stock market responding in turn, then found itself in an equally precarious position, which made the bank's position even worse. The government agreed to loan these banks government (taxpayer) dollars in order to remain solvent, in exchange for “preferred stock”, a position which would place the government (taxpayers) first in line for receiving any dividends from the bank’s return to profitability. The government (taxpayers) would not however, receive the same voting rights as those owning common stock, and would therefore have little to say in how the bank ran from day to day. Being a government however (especially a progressive one), ours was unwilling to be in a position where they could not control how these businesses were run and reneged on their promise to not interfere. 

The banks, realizing that they were in yet another bad deal, this time at the hands of the government (remember the cause now), decided that in the choice between the rock and the hard place, they preferred the rock. Many therefore announced that they would like to give the government (taxpayers) their money back. 

Now you would think that the government would welcome a repayment of monies that were at serious risk, would take their money (with interest), and would go back to the business of government (which is normally bad enough). Instead, the government refused repayment (of taxpayer money remember), and announced to the banks that they would like to exchange the preferred stock for common stock. This meant that we would be far less likely to get this money paid back (HEY!), but that the government would now have a voting interest in how the banks were run from day to day. 

So starting out with an issue caused by government interference with the operation of banks on a day to day basis, they attempt to fix the problem by throwing government (taxpayer) money at it. When this solution proves even more egregious than the original problem to these businesses, those businesses decided to step back from this fix. The government, which remember again caused the problem in the first place, rejects getting its (our) money back, and in turn chooses more of the same and perhaps even greater control than that which caused the problem in the first place. The sum total of this assistance program in fact, is that in the name of capitalism, our government would like to commit the socialist act of nationalizing the banking industry. See my confusion?


Earth Day

For those of you who didn't realize it (how that could be, I don't know), today is Earth Day. 

In the spirit of evil Conservatism and the with concept of just blowing smoke, please note that today's postings were both written on a lap top powered by a coal-fired generator (high sulfur, by the way) while every light in the hotel room that I was staying in at the time was turned on.

 Happy Earth Day to all ...


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Toledo Government Is Pro Business

The light finally came on in the dark, dusty attic more commonly called known as my brain. Mayor Carlton S. Finkbeiner and the city of Toledo are in fact business friendly.

No, think about it. What could be more business friendly than wanting to own one yourself? You know, like a towing or ambulance service, a trash hauling company, a museum (which they finally and grudgingly gave up), an apartment building, and even a night club. Of course the fact that the mayor and the city have been unsuccessful in running any of these businesses at a profit is simply a function of a difficult economy (and the Bush tax cuts, of course).  

This program has been so business friendly that even the Federal government has finally taken notice. The mortgage and banking industry and auto manufacturing are only the first examples of the new Administration being just as business friendly in some difficult economic times. Kudos to the Mayor and Council for creating a program so compelling that it must of needs be taken up on a national level.  

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like I have an outside cabin on the Titanic. The food is outstanding, the service is excellent, and the view is great, but the ship is going down.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

You Stink !

Just in case you thought that I was kidding about this, I wasn't ... you stink. Don't get me wrong, it's probably not your opinions (well, actually, I'll get to that later), it's literally the way that you smell. Whew! "Now wait a minute," you say. "You're the one smoking those nasty, stinky cigars and trying to kill me with the second hand smoke." And that might be even true enough, in spite of the fact that all of the studies citing second hand smoke as a cause for cancer are anecdotal and that the link is therefore tenuous at best and a lie at worst. As for the smell, I would argue that the smell of a good hand rolled cigar is something that most people savor (good pipe tobacco even more so). 

Besides, your objection should not get to determine my behavior. I am allergic to cats, but that doesn't mean that other people shouldn't get to own them. What we might be able to agree on as objectionable however, is that the smell of a cheap cigar is bad, and much like a cheap perfume can be truly annoying. And that brings me to the my next point. 

There are far too many out there who qualify as parts of the "unwashed masses". Not that we have sunk to the level of the French at least, where bathing still appears to be an occasional hobby rather than a regular practice; but there still appears to be more than a few out there who could use additional doses of soap and water. And of those do manage to get within a handshaking distance of human cleaning products, many of those could use guidance in the area of cologne selection. For those of you who didn't know, the cologne that smells good on your friend may not smell as good on you. A more expensive bottle of perfume does not necessarily smell good, nor does wearing more of it make you smell better. And for those of you who have bought into the nonsensical and wildly successful ad campaign, Axe cologne and body spray does not make women go mad over you (unless it is in fact to run from your ignorance)

Covering a lack of regular bathing with a perfume or cologne, no matter how expensive or how much you use, simply doesn't work. (Remind me to tell you of an acquaintance of my youth that we used to call "Belly" some day.) What often smells even worse in many cases however, is the arrogance of the opinions of the politically correct crowd, sneering at all who do not hold the views that they consider sacred laws, never to be violated (yeah, you knew I had to get to this at some point, didn't you). The stench of such sanctimonious behavior reeks of the putrefaction of a dying mind, no longer capable of processing new facts or information. In fact this odor may be worse than almost all others; as it is insidious in the way that it spreads, can often go unnoticed until the carrier begins to speak, and is such that it cannot be helped by any purchased scent, regardless of the price. Once perceived however, it permeates the very fabric of the space around it, conveying the odors of self-righteousness, decay, and arrogance.

So for those of you sitting smugly on the pinnacle of such arrogance, looking down from its heights on those of us indulging in what you consider our misguided views and filthy habits. For those of you who wrinkle your nose in disgust at us in what you consider our misguided notions and behaviors. Remember that from the heights that you inhabit the breeze hits your exposed position first, and more directly. And for those of us, who seem to be eternally down wind of your snobbery, pompousness, and condescension let me tell you 

... You stink!


Friday, April 17, 2009

TFP Column: Sword In Toledo's Stone

I have been rather remiss in not pointing the small, twisted group of people who read this blog to the Toledo Free Press in recent weeks. There is probably no excuse for such a lapse in judgment, though perhaps subliminally I was trying to save Tom Pounds (the Publisher) and Michael Miller (editor in chief) from the embarrassment of having to admit to their association with me.

I feel that I can no long do so however, having just enjoyed their hospitality at the opening day festivities for the Toledo Mud Hens (made famous by Jamie Farr's "Klinger" on MASH). The weather was bright and beautiful, the food and beverages served were wonderful, and the company was exemplary.

Of course I have a drum of my own to beat, with a column in this week's edition, "The Sword In Toledo's Stone". It speaks about one of our currently announced mayoral candidates, and amazingly seemed to come together as a series of images in my head that merely needed to be connected by proper verbiage.

As always however, if you go online for the Free Press simply for my contribution, you are truly missing the boat. Lisa Renee has an interesting piece in Blog It on the caffeine concoction that keeps many of us alive, there are a couple of pieces udating all on the state of the recall petition for our esteemed Mayor, and as always, Michael Miller has an interesting piece, this time on a Treasuer Hunter of a different kind.

Have a great weekend, and happy reading....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Pay Gap Is Growing

As we celebrate the day by which all of us will have handed over our "Fair Share" to the Federal, State, and Local governments in an increasingly tough economy (and the day of the Tea Parties of course), we have yet one more thing to inflame our passions (as if the budget, the bailouts, and the tax code were not enough). It is a disparity that continues to grow in this country. 

No I am not talking about the disparity in the amount of taxes paid between the rich and poor (I'm an evil Conservative after all, and we don't talk about things like that). In fact it's a growing disparity in the in the compensation that people receive for their labors. This is not however a discussion of the disparity in the packages of CEO's and blue collar workers or the disparity between the pay given to male and female employees for the same work (again I am a Conservative, so you obviously won't hear about such things from me). Instead, it is a discussion of the growing disparity in pay between workers in the public and private sector. 

According to an article in USA Today from 4/10/09 entitled Public, private pay gap grows, while the wage gap between the public and private sectors has remained pretty much the same (in the public sector's favor of course) the growth in salary benefits has led to a steadily increasing divergence between the two. Last year in fact, government benefits rose at a rate three times more than those in the private sector, $.69 vs $.23; with totals salary packages averaging $27.35 in the private sector and $39.25 in the public sector.  

In fact, according to the numbers in just one area of such packages from the the Bureau of Labor Statistics data that USA Today used, government workers receive more than double the amount of money contributed to their health care than private sector workers received ($8800 vs $4100). While this seems to have had no impact on a Federal government that continues to add new employees at a rate that only Carl Sagan would have been capable of keeping up with (oh come one, everyone remembers "billions and billions"), this disparity does appear to be having some impact on other levels. 

Ohio's government workers as an example, have agreed to take unpaid furlough days in order to help return $440 million to state coffers over the next two years, a period in which the state budget is desperate to find ways to make ends meet. (Of course what remains little talked about with this agreement is that the workers will get most of this back in the third year.) On the local level, Toledo has likewise noticed this trend and while facing a $28 million budget shortfall, is looking at both the salary and benefit packages of city employees (even those with previously negotiated union contracts)

In yet another example of emulation, they are attempting to discover if there is a way to use the state as an example to get some of the money contributing to this disparity back. Being politicians, I suspect that they are likewise deciding whether such a growing disparity in pay to city workers in an area where unemployment is currently running at about 13%, is a politically defensible position any longer. While many will be running for cover as this continues to be an ever-growing issue in an ever-growing government, legislators across the country have finally realized that there is an elephant in the room that they can no longer ignore.

"People will become angrier and angrier when they learn the difference between their pay and benefits and what we give to public employees," state Sen Chris Lauzen of Illinois was quoted as saying in the article.  

(Really!  Ya think?)


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Right Wing Extremists ?

An interesting document is making its way around the Internet from the Department of Homeland Security. This document purports to have been something called the Extremism and Radicalization, Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division, coordinated with the FBI. If accurate, it says a lot, not about the group that it hopes to portray in disrepute; but about the state of the Department of Homeland Security in the US.  

It begins by saying:  
The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic right wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.  

For any of us used to seeing such reports in regards to global warming, the key word here is may. There is no proof or direct account of such actions taking place, but that should not prevent law enforcement from being on the alert based on the charges being laid. The report then goes on to blame the economy, potential gun restriction legislation, free trade agreements, illegal immigration, abortion, and same-sex marriage on these anti-government groups; making them ripe for violent action. They even cite disgruntled returning Middle East veterans as a threat because of their combat skills; and they further cite the example of the mentally deranged individual who killed three police officers in Pittsburgh as an example of the violent behavior such people are capable of.  

Prominent in all of this is mention of course, the "historic" election of election of Barack Obama, the first African American president. Quite frankly, this document is either the lousiest piece of intelligence done since the CIA in the days leading up to the Iraq war, or it is a wonderfully crafted hoax designed to stir up "right wing" anti-government sentiment. 

I must add that the timing of the release of these documents on the days leading up to the tax tea parties occur is more than a little suspicious. Might this be something trumped up by left wing extremists? For it was those left wing extremists who, in the days leading up to the last presidential election, committed numerous demonstrations (sometimes violent) in the name of their causes. 

It is the left wing Sierra Club who distributes misinformation on the environment, PETA who throws blood on those wearing fur coats, and ACORN who perpetrates voter fraud, while the right wing stands idly by, attempting to play by the rules. It was the Republican candidate who strictly followed his campaign pledge to release all campaign contributor information while the Democratic reformer refused to disclose any such information.  

Do not let your hackles be raised on the day before those who choose to peacefully gather to try and return this country to its proper direction. Do not let yourself be fooled or incited by the tone or accusations of this document, real or fake. Do not allow the intent of this classic example of non-violent protest be painted as something other than it is meant to be. 


 It appears that the document in question is in fact genuine. Wow, I guess that one should never underestimate the government's ability or propensity for (using a phrase made famous by our own Mayor Carlton S Finkbeiner) "half-truths, mistruths, and outright lies". It should likewise be pointed out that if this kind of information were being passed about any other group other than Conservatives in this country, that it would be considered government sponsored hate speech.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Second Hand Noise

Having put up for years with bogus studies and dire warnings detailing the health risks of second hand smoke to those around me I have finally reached a point where I will seldom smoke in public. The looks of horror and disgust, the disdainful remarks, and the visible hatred that I am subjected to by many of those around me in such situations is simply not worth the small pleasure of enjoying a fine cigar.  

While I continue to refuse to give up my "filthy little habit", I will at least concede the day to the army of politically correct nannies who seem to control the discussion and limit myself to such guilty pleasures either in the privacy of my home or during the occasional pilgrimage to a good cigar store (and La Casa de la Habana, you know who you are). Having thus performed this sacrifice for the betterment of mankind however, I now have a health concern of my own that I wish to share. My concern is for the insidious and despicable attack on my piece of mind made through second hand noise. Now for those of you who cannot understand this concept, it is basically noise that someone else is making, that has nothing to do with me, and that I do not wish to hear. I am sure that you know the kinds of noise that I'm talking about if you take but a moment to think about it; but let me list just a few of them anyway:
  • You are crammed into an airplane for a cross-country trip, only to be subjected to someone four rows ahead of you playing an I-Pod or DVD player through their headphones loud enough for you to hear what they are listening to just well enough to annoy the hell out of you.
  • You are stopped at an intersection only to have someone pull up beside you in a car whose stereo is playing loud enough to rattle the windows in yours, not only drowning out the sound of your own radio, but that of your engine as well.
  • You are sitting in a quiet restaurant attempting to enjoy a fine meal, a great bottle of wine, and perhaps an even better conversation with someone, only to be interrupted by the screams of a baby far too young to be there in the first place, but brought nevertheless.
  • You are attempting to shop for what may prove to be a couple of completely unnecessary items in a grocery store or mall as quickly as possible before returning to the relative peace and quiet of your home, only to be subject to the squeals, screams, and shouts of some family's rug rats as they clamor for some sugar or chocolate coated item or toy guaranteed to make their behavior only worse.
  • You are sitting almost anywhere these days, simply trying to enjoy a moment of peace in what is proving an increasingly insane world, only to have that brief respite ruined by someone who thinks that listening to their end of a conversation on the hands-free rig of their cell phone is something that you cannot live without.
People, if I am forced to deal with your unproven anecdotal data on the dangers of second hand smoke and to modify my behavior as a consequence, then those of you contributing to the loss of the volume control of the planet can deal with my very real concerns with the now deafening output of noxious noise coming from most of the rest of you, most of the time. 

Perhaps those of you particularly guilty of making this auditory assault on our collective eardrums can make a sacrifice similar to my own, and limit yourself to more solitary occasions for your mostly auditory assault. Perhaps it's time that every one of you contributing to the higher overall decibel level of the human race begin to make a similar behavior modification in the name of species' peace of mind. 

TFP Column: The 10% Solution

This week's effort in the Toledo Free Press is pretty straight forward.  We keep getting told by the government that times are tough and we all need to make sacrifices.  Well about we go with "The 10% Solution", where every member of Congress takes a 10% pay cut instead of the raise that they just got.

Oh sure, it won't balance the budget; but it would save the government over $9 million per year, as well as show we taxpayers that our elected representatives are willing to share our pain.

Pain is exactly what you'll be feeling if you find out that you missed something going on because you thought you were too busy to catch up on everything that's going on in NW Ohio by reading the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Agony and The Ecstasy

I am sitting in front of the computer tonight trying once again to come with anything with some degree of originality and in the hopes of likewise being able work it into something of at least reasonable quality for tomorrow's posting. Unfortunately, it seems that I have failed. 

For those of you who have never attempted to write a blog, a newspaper column or anything else on a regular basis for that matter, this is the agony sometimes dealt with by those of us who do. With the submission of this posting, my total for Just Blowing Smoke is now 340 in slightly less than two years. I have likewise penned some 22 columns (counting the one for this coming weekend's edition) in about 5 months for the Toledo Free Press. It's hard to come up with that many things to write about, even in a target rich environment like Toledo. 

While there is certainly some duplication in the topics that I have dealt with in both of these arenas, that number is surprisingly small. Equally small during these periods when the Muse has apparently abandoned me, is my ability to string together sentences coherently or intelligently. There is little worse than the feeling as I agonize over each turn of phrase, berate myself over improper sentence structure, and recognize later that I have even failed to properly run spell check. 

Quite frankly, the experience leaves me in a state of both physical and mental anguish. I started doing this whole writing thing because I enjoy it, and the only thing worse than not being able to produce anything is only being able to produce something of poor quality. There is ecstasy as well however (though I find it hard to believe tonight). 

Every once in a while you get a phrase just right. With what often seems about the same regularity as the coming of locusts, an entire paragraph comes together exactly the way you want it to. With the seeming frequency of Halley’s Comet, an entire posting or column comes together as something you don’t mind having your name over the top of. (Well, that’s what I’ve heard anyway … I’m still waiting and hoping.) 

Maybe the problem this week is that I have been on the road too long on this trip, that attending two conferences back to back has allowed me to kill too many brain cells in a short period, or simply that I’m in Hershey, PA and distracted by all of the chocolate around here. And since it appears that the concept of an ecstatic feeling from writing seems far beyond me this evening, I think that I will go down to the gift shop and indulge in a bit of milk chocolate mood enhancement. 


Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm A Liberal

I am a liberal, and what's more, I'm in pretty good company. No I am not on medication, drinking the Kool Aid, nor has the world flipped on its axis. Neither have I been invited to the Kennedy compound for a global warming summit with Al Gore or an economic summit with Chris Dodd, Charlie Rangel, and Barney Frank. What has in fact happened is that I have decided that words after all, do mean things. 

You see Liberalism (or more accurately defined these days, Classical Liberalism), had it's birth in the Age of Enlightenment and is a philosophy that stresses individual liberty and a limited government. Taken in great part from the works of such writers John Locke, David Hume, and Voltaire it exhorts the concepts of equality of opportunity (not outcome as today's Liberals would like to believe), property rights, and equal rights under the law. 

It's no surprise therefore that I say that I'm in pretty good company when say that I am such a Liberal. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, James Madison, and the rest of the Founding Fathers were all such Liberals in their time. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are in fact based on such thinking. 

In turn, it was the Conservatives of the time who believed in a strong central government, sought government control of prices and wages, and were against the very concept of independence and the American Revolution. So what happened? How did what the Founding Fathers believed become the liberalism that we see today? 

The answer, once again is that words mean things. While Classical Liberalism believed in those principles previously outlined, there is another kind of Liberalism, Social Liberalism. Social Liberalism believes in heavier taxation and more government control of the economy. European Social Liberals of today in fact shows more of a tendency towards Socialism or even Communism than the more pure form of the philosophy. As language often does, the original meaning of words becomes gradually changed over time (some would say even perverted). Those with the loudest or most strident voices eventually decide what words will mean (much as the winners of a war write the history)

In the 19th and early 20th century, and especially during the Depression this led to a change in liberalism; especially in how it related to economic theory. It is here that the theories of John Maynard Keynes took root, in what classical liberals would say was a misguided attempt to get the government more involved with the economy to redress what Keynes felt was an inequality of wealth. It was this philosophy, taking hold in the policies of FDR's New Deal, that formed the basis of today's liberal thinking. Over time, those in power simply took over the meaning of the language, leaving the term Conservative for those seeking to maintain at least the status quo, and who rejected the type of change that these new Liberals were making.  

Time and History march on, and labels stick; but I take the position (as I said in the beginning of this posting) that words can and must have meaning. I believe that true liberal thinking (Classical Liberal thinking) is still of value in today's society. As I consequence, I proudly proclaim that I am indeed a Liberal. 

TFP Column: Asleep At The Wheel

This week's effort, "Asleep At The Wheel", speaks to the somnambulism of Conservatives in this country.  Lulled by a president who assured us that he was in fact a Conservative (though a compassionate one) and misled by a media that demonized him just enough to keep us from suspecting, we have only recently discovered this 'sheep in wolf's clothing'.  

But don't let my depression over discovering yet again that I haven't been paying attention to much of what has been going on around me.  And don't make the same mistake that I have, a situation that can be quickly rectified (at least in part) by spending some time catching up with events in the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SCHIP II - April Fools

It is with deep sadness and a delicious sense of irony, that I wish all of you Happy SCHIP II today. For it is today that this legislation begins to take effect. For those of you who decry the evils of smoking and claim the beneficence of knowing that more "children" will now have available health care, I wish you all happiness of the occasion. Of course there are a few dirty little secrets in the gift that you receive today that you might want to consider as it goes into effect:
  • Under the new guidelines, families earning up to $70,000 per year for a family of four will be eligible for SCHIP coverage
  • Under the new guidelines people will still be considered children when they are 30, and therefore likewise eligible.
  • 60 percent of those currently uninsured are under 35, and 40 percent of them are under 25.
  • Many of these without coverage are uninsured not by compulsion but by choice, choosing to spend their money on things other than health insurance and believing that their youth and current good health offer them some level of protection.
But what the heck, you have what you really want now, don't you? Those of us smoking tobacco products will see the single largest increase in taxes on that product in the country's history. Taxes on cigarettes will double, and those on cigars will go up by about 1000%. Therefore those of us with this filthy little habit will be punished on an unprecedented scale. 

While you're enjoying our misery however, you should recognize a few other things. The tax increase put forward will not solve the problem of child health care nor will it fully fund the program that it's supposed to support. That probably means that we are only seeing the beginning of massive increases on tobacco taxes to help make up the coming shortfall, but that's OK too as only the evil will be punished. 

As those burdened with this increasingly punitive taxation finally bow to your politically correct will on the evils of smoking and quit however, the funding problem will not only remain, but will get worse. Eventually the law of diminishing returns will take over and the burden for this travesty of legislation will be placed on the general revenue budget (you know, like Social Security is about to be)

By then however, this will have simply become one more step down the path to National Health Care in this country that this program was always intended to become, and we can look forward to the shortages of doctors, medicine, and medical technology that has plagued (pun intended) this program in other countries like Britain and Canada. Welcome to the world that you have created, and oh yeah ... April Fools.