Saturday, May 30, 2009


I was spending the last couple of nights reading blog postings and comments while traveling. (Actually I spend far too much time doing that most nights, and some of them are actually on this blog.) While comments on "Just Blowing Smoke" seem to run to smaller strings and therefore fairly normal grammar and sentence structure, the same cannot be said for many of the other sites that I normally visit. 

As I have commented before here, there seems to be a direct relationship between the length of the comment string and the likelihood that those commenting will stray beyond the confines of the King's English, that capitalization will crop up in the most unlikely of places, and that a string of mostly personal vitriol will begin to pour forth anonymously. 

Some of this is simple texting abbreviation like: IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), or my personal favorite ROTFLMAO (Rolling On The Floor, Laughing My Ass Off). Others are actually quite clever attempts to make a point through sarcastic misspelling (Mi Amigo at the "Hooda Thunkit Therapy Blog", as you could probably guess from the title, is a master of this.) Some are simply so interested in pouring forth an almost obscene level of acrimony that they forget to check spelling, grammar, or common sense and common decency. 

There are those however, that have taken this process to an almost incomprehensible level. In their honor, I too am going to take advantage of the my own limited creative abilities and use them to coin a new word: "Blenglish". Of course, this word is a combination of "Blog" (already slang for the original term web log) and the language that it occasionally makes fleeting contact with, English. It includes both the clever and not so clever screen names that anyone with access to a computer keyboard can and seems to revel in hiding behind, all of the texting abbreviations that I have to have my children explain to me, and the random form of capitalization and punctuation that becomes a greater part showing emotion and emphasis while blogging. 

It is neither a positive nor negative descriptive term, but instead is merely one that attempts to label (as we human beings do far too often) a form of behavior and a method of communication becoming more and more a part of our world. So I want you to remember this day well. Years from now when "Blenglish" is finally entered into the Merriam Webster dictionary to formally become a part of the vernacular, you can say that you were there when the word was first conceived of. 
... have a great weekend

Friday, May 29, 2009

TFP Column: Questions About A TARTA Sales Tax

Another Friday is here, and with it the latest edition of the Toledo Free Press. I once more pecked away at the keyboard this week, in an attempt to produce something worthy of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. I failed, but did at least manage to fire a first salvo in what I expect to be an escalating war over future funding of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, better known as TARTA.

Politics is a strong theme in the TFP this weekend, with an interesting article about an interesting man, Ben Konop, in his bid for mayor of the fair city of Toledo. I have spoken about Mr. Konop a number of times, both here and in the TFP, but Brandi Barhite does an outstanding job of profiling the man and his politics. (The comparison to the cartoon character "Ben 10" on the front page is something that I found particularly amusing.) 

On a completely different note, Publisher Tom Pounds pays tribute to a true Toledo role model. Michael Miller on a more sober note, takes on a subject that all of us writing for publication on any level (and especially those of us writing for the Free Press) need to be aware of.

As usual, there is too much to list that is makes this weekend's TFP edition, so I won't even try. I will point out however, that the TFP has now passed the Toledo Blade for Sunday circulation, making it the city's largest publication on the weekend. Take some time to check out why.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Protection Racket

In the payday lending laws passed recently here in Ohio, our legislators sought to protect us from the predatory lending practices of so called "Pay Day Lenders" who charge a fixed fee for a short term loan. This law was passed so that these potential bad guys could not rip us off, allowing us instead to go to banks. On May 23rd we signed into law House Resolution 627, the "Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights". (By the way, spellcheck just told me that Cardholder isn't a word. Of course it also told me that spellcheck isn't a word.) 

This newly signed law was designed to protect us from predatory banks who charge too high an interest rate or change the rules on credit limits arbitrarily. You know, now that I think about it a little more, government has been protecting us from a lot lately:
  • They took over the mortgage and mortgage insurance businesses to protect us from predatory lenders.
  • They took over the banking industry to protect us from ... the banking industry.
  • They took over GM and Chrysler to insure that US automakers would build the 'right kind' of cars for the future (whether we want to buy them or not).
  • They just raised the CAFE standards in the US, to protect us from gas guzzling cars.
  • This will likewise protect us from the greenhouse gases that those cars produce, which in turn will help protect us from "Man-made Global Warming" (a theory which is falling into greater disfavor every day).
Protecting us is something that government has been doing for a while, though sometimes with less than favorable results:
  • They protect us with Social Security, a government controlled retirement program (ponzi scheme) which is now all but bankrupt and little able therefore to serve its original function.
  • They protect us with Medicare, a limited form of the national health care program which they would like to turn the entire health care system into, which is likewise all but bankrupt and barely able to serve its original function.
  • They protect us with Mandatory seat belt laws, assuming that we have neither the good sense or the ability to decide whether wearing a seatbelt is in our best interests (and in some cases, it hasn't been).
  • They protect us with regulations for automobile air bags, regardless of the fact that these safety devices have sometimes proved less than safe when they deployed.
  • They protect us from harmful chemicals like DDT, which has been proven to be effective in controlling mosquitoes that spread malaria, something that kills far more.
  • They protect us from irradiated food, which there is no proof causes any harm, but the lack of which may contribute to numerous food poisoning situations.
  • They protect us from nuclear power plants with endless regulations and road blocks, while failing to protect us from the serious power shortages that failing to build such plants engenders.
Now I know that government was designed to do some limited form of protecting. It was designed to protect its citizens from all threats, foreign and domestic. It should likewise protect me from criminal behavior as defined by the rule of law. It should even protect me from other people trying to infringe on my freedoms. I am beginning to think however, that government has become just a little too fond in recent years of protecting me from things whether I need it or not, and whether I want it or not. So my question for all of you out there (and I think that I already know the answer) are two:

  1. When did government become a Protection Racket?
  2. Who will protect us against our protectors?

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Voice That Must Not Be Silenced

For those of you who don't know already, Maggie Thurber of WSPD's "Eye on Toledo" program and the blog "Thurber's Thoughts", has resigned as a columnist for the Toledo Free Press. The uproar was created due to accusations of plagiarism in her most recent column for the TFP "The history of Memorial Day". 

I won't go into the whole mish-mash, as the reader can do so in the Toledo Blade article of May 23rd (and Lord knows I want to get that attribution correct), and the article online by Michael Miller in the Toledo Free Press. I will say however that I believe Maggie when she says that the mistake was an honest one. 

It can be very difficult to remember to credit every source when doing one of these history pieces, which are compilations and interpretations of information from multiple sources. It is also easy to write lines very similar to the ones that you have just recently read when you read so much from so many sources when doing one of these pieces. 

I will also say that Maggie has been a strong, clear voice in Toledo, taking on the tough issues and the subjects difficult to understand for most of us (especially when it comes to the finance). She has likewise been extremely fair over time in bringing such information to the public, complimenting opponents when they make good decisions, and taking them to task when they do otherwise. 

That she should be taken to task so enthusiastically in the Blade in an unattributed article (Blade staff) is both cowardly and typical of that organization. One could expect little else of a newspaper however, in which many of its main editorial columns go unattributed as well as Cowardly.  

Cowardly as well has been much of the criticism in the online community that she served so faithfully and so well. Catchy online "nom de plumes" (by the way, I had to look up the spelling in Merriam Webster - attribution, attribution) do little to hide inconsequential, incomprehensible, and incoherent vitriol (came up with that one by myself) aimed at smearing a person who has only sought the best for Toledo and Northwest Ohio.  

I hope that these continuing cowardly and anonymous attacks from the left will not prevent others with a Conservative voice from likewise speaking their minds. The runaway train of Progressivism is out of control these days and about to jump the tracks. Those with the courage to speak out against it are vital to our future survival. It is also my hope that this minor setback will not keep Maggie from continuing to be a strong Conservative voice. She has given far too much to the area with the information, interpretation, and education to let that voice go silent now. 

 (I originally titled this posting "A Voice That I Hope Will Not Be Silenced", but retitled it after a little additional thought this evening.)


Memorial Day 2009: A Day of Rememberance

I was thinking about trying to put together something appropriate for a Memorial Day posting for the occasion. Then I remembered a compilation piece that I did from last year on the 4th of July. While the entire posting is not necessarily appropriate to the day, the information that I dug up from various sites on the Tomb of the Unknowns is especially so. I would like to share it with you again here. 

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

This came home to me while recently attending a Reunion in Quantico, VA of my late father's Marine Corp Battalion (something that I did last year ). During the trip this year, we visited the grave site of their commanding officer, Colonel Peck, in Arlington National Cemetery. While touring the cemetery, we passed, but did not stop, at the Tomb of the Unknowns, something that I had hoped to do and truly regret foregoing. We were on the way to the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks on 8th & I however, and one does not keep the Marines waiting. I promise that I will regale you in the future with some of the other things I was exposed to during that visit, but in the meantime, I would like to share with you some of what you might never have known, and I was recently enlightened about the:
Tomb of the Unknowns
  1. The tomb contains the unidentified remains of a soldier who served in: World War I, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam, and has been guarded continuously since 1930.
  2. The Guards are members of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard), and wear no rank insignia on their uniforms while on duty so as not to outrank one of those lying in the Tomb.
  3. The Guards take 21 steps, in recognition of the 21 gun salute; the highest honor given anyone in the military or any foreign dignitary.
  4. Upon completion of those steps, the guards hesitate 21 seconds in memory of that same honor, turns 90 degrees and hesitates again for 21 seconds, before completing another 90 degree turn and hesitates one more time before resuming his march.
  5. The Guards march with moistened gloves to prevent the gun from slipping from their grasp while on duty.
  6. Guards are changed every 30 minutes; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  7. The guards always carry the rifle on the shoulder furthest from the tomb. This move places the sentinel between the tomb and any threat.
  8. The Guards of the Tomb, an honor currently carried by just over 500 people, is awarded only after careful examination (and noted by the award of a wreath pin). They subsequently live under very strict guidelines for the rest of their lives.
  9. For the first 6 months of this duty, guards spend most of their free time learning of the most notable people buried in Arlington in preparation for their exam. With their rigorous training, hours of marching, and rifle drill, they ahve little time for anything else.
  10. Each guard spends five hours each day getting his uniforms ready for this duty.
  11. In 2003, as Hurricane Isabella approached Washington and while Congress took 2 days off in anticipation of the dangers of this storm, these guards stood their duty. Soaked to the skin, they continued to march their rounds in the pelting rain of a tropical storm. They had been offered the opportunity to suspend this assignment; but refused, stating that such duty was not simply an assignment, but was the highest honor afforded to a serving member of the military.
Honor indeed to those of our troops serving in defense of freedom around the world today, to those who have done likewise in every conflict where Americans have served, and to those who gave all for the men and women that they served with and for their country. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Washington DC Time Warp

I was shocked (shocked I tell you) to discover that government has discovered a way to modify the laws of physics, though they seem unwilling to share such knowledge with the public. You may be thinking that I am mad (quite possible, actually) or wondering what I am talking about (something that happens quite often actually)

In fact, I am talking about the fact that our government seems to have discovered a method by which to speed up time. This must be the case, as President Obama signed House resolution 627, (better known as the Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights) into law yesterday. Setting aside the abuse of the Founding Fathers by the use of 'Bill of Rights' here, the abuse of the English language in calling this protection, and the continued abuse of the banking industry in putting this into law; I find that there is a problem here. (Of course the number of problems with this legislation are far too numerous to mention without getting far off of the subject at hand, but I may attempt to address them next week in another posting.) 

The problem that I see here is that while the law was passed by the House on April 30th, it was only passed by the Senate on April 19th. Signing into law on the 22nd means that there were only three days between passage and signing. But how could that be? President Obama promised us that there would be a wait of at least five days between the passage of a bill and signing it into law in the name of government transparency. 

Oh sure, I know that when we passed the second round of bailouts, there was no time to waste. The economy was in immediate danger and the legislation needed to be signed to avert disaster. Of course when it came to pass the latest federal budget, there was no time to waste either (apparently there was no time to read the entire budget bill either, but again, I digress). Again, the economy was in dire straits, and the people (?) must be served (have you noticed a certain level of sarcasm here)

With HR 627 however, nothing in the legislation takes effect until 12 months after the date of signing or June 30, 2010; so obviously there should have been no rush to get this one signed into law. Now I'm sure it can't be that the President has gone back on his word for transparency in his Administration, nor could it be simply that the President is being disingenuous with us (more sarcasm ... you decide). I can only assume then, that government scientists, working in secret government labs, and after exhausting government funded research; have discovered a way to speed up time, turning 3 days into 5 days. I wish to congratulate these geniuses on solving one of the great problems of the ages. I am sure that when the actual announcement is made, that this group of dedicated explorers in the sciences will receive all wealth and recognition that they deserve (you know, a Nobel prize like Al Gore's)

Speaking of wealth, I sure wish they would share this knowledge with me. Payday isn't until late next week, and I could use a trick like this to get me to it in a hurry. 

On a serious note: This is Memorial Day weekend, and while we are all looking forward to enjoying the first 3 day weekend of the summer, let's not forget those who served, those who continue to serve, and those who gave the ultimate service in protecting the freedom this country continues to enjoy. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

TFP Column: Handling Charges Do Apply

I have once again written a piece for the Toledo Free Press for the Memorial Day weekend edition, this week entitled "Handling charges do apply". It touches on the increasing role of government in delivering goods and services to us, and to the charges that we incur as a consequence. It might get you thinking a little bit. 

As you would expect however, there are a number of efforts far better than mine, including Tom Pound's piece on the growing number of candidates stepping up to run for office in Toledo, Michael Miller talks about the results of the "Song of Toledo" contest, and Maggie Thurber does a great piece on the history of Memorial Day. 

There is a lot of great stuff in this weekend's edition, and you've got a three day weekend to enjoy it, so please take the time to do so.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


As you know, I often take great pains to point out in this blog that words do in fact mean things, especially some words. I have been thinking about such a word a good bit recently ... Projection. 

I have been thinking about it because like many words, it has more than one meaning. The first one that comes to mind is: An estimate of future possibilities based on a current trend. My desire for a true understanding of this meaning is a simple one, because so few in our local government seem to understand it. 

The $27 million budget crisis that Toledo faced in 2009 didn't happen over night. It was the product of years of unrealistic revenue forecasts, profligate spending, and the willingness to completely ignore reality. It was likewise the practice of creating an environment in this "livable city" equally hostile to both businesses and individuals through insufferable regulatory practices, onerous taxation, and outright belligerence on the part of the Mayor of Toledo. The combination of these inabilities, in combination with the current economic crisis, has proved to be a perfect storm for Toledo. 

It has taken what in normal circumstances would have been a troubling, but not life threatening situation into a disaster of Biblical proportions. Even with all of the cuts that the Mayor and City Council have made thus far to stem the incoming tide of red ink, it appears to have had little or no effect on the overall outcome of this flood of bad city finances. Unfortunately, it is another form of projection that seems to have taken hold. That definition of projection reads: The externalization of blame, guilt, or responsibility as a defense against anxiety.  

Unfortunately this appears to be the only form of projection that our city leaders seem capable of. The Mayor blames the City Council for their failure to do exactly as he says, in spite of the fact that he has never done even an adequate job of properly budgeting for the city. The Council blames the Mayor for failing to produce a balanced budget, in spite of the fact that it is Council that is supposed to control the purse strings of the city. While the Mayor presents a budget, it is Council which has the right and obligation to approve city spending (or deny it). 

Neither bothered to honestly attempt to understand the realities of the 2009 revenue or to spend responsibly in years past so as to have funds to fall back on when tough times invariably came. The horrible truth is that both parties are equally responsible for failing in their responsibility to the voters who placed them in office. 

Even now, in spite the fact that both parties have made some attempts in recent days to address the current situation, the city remains some $15 million in the red for the current budget, with worse news ahead of us going forward into 2010. There is another definition of this word that I would like to bring to the Mayor and Council's attention: A transforming change. Let us hope that there is yet the courage, the intelligence, and the political will to move past prior failures with the first two definitions that Projection gives and some hope of this transforming change.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Disposable Income

One of the things that the media seems to talk a lot about in these days of economic challenge is what we are to do with our disposable income. I have to tell you that I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines disposable as "designed to be used once and then thrown away"

Now I don't know about you, but based on that definition, the pure and simple truth of the matter is that I consider none of my income to be disposable. This is not to say that I don't have some bad habits (I mean lifestyle choices) which require capital infusions from time to time. I recently had a "kid in a candy store moment" during a recent trip to North Carolina with a stop at the J R store humidor and performed a corresponding investment in my cigar inventory. My travel sometimes allow me to stumble over a particularly good bottle of wine or liquor at a reasonable price that subsequently manages to find its way into my luggage. I even indulge myself from time to time in a meal better than one which requires me to decide what size french fries I would like with it. The income used for these choices is not something that I would call disposable however, but more like "choosing a style of life which I would like to become accustomed to if I could more easily afford it"

You see, like most people out there, I live on a "fixed income". Oh not the kind that people who are retired from their labors talk about, but the kind that requires that I put in long and exhaustive hours to get a paycheck (for the same amount) every two weeks. I have supplemented this recently with the columns that I write for the Toledo Free Press, but this is after all a "free" newspaper, and as such they cannot afford to reward me with large sums of money for the meager prose that I produce for them. Also like most people I have a number of fixed costs. This includes money for the place that I live in, the utilities for it, an automobile (which thankfully is paid off), gas and maintenance of that auto, luxuries such as Internet service for the different things that I do (like this blog), and something more than ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS for entertainment on television, and of course groceries that provide the nourishment that my body requires to survive. 

What the media then portrays as my disposable income I suppose then, is the money that I spend for the nourishment of my spirit. There is in fact a difference between simply living and being alive. I have to believe that there is more to life than simply existing or the sheer pointlessness of such an existence would drive me mad (hmmm, maybe I can use that as my excuse). I believe that words have to mean things, and in this case I have to say that as defined in today's common parlance, the term disposable income is a 'null input'. Today's media says enough already that has little or no meaning or relevance in the world as we know it. I wish therefore that this same media, who would like us to believe that they are so much wiser than the rest of us, would simply dispose of this term. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

TFP Column - Paying heed to the President

Experiencing the "Luck of the Irish", my writing effort this week was once again included in the Toledo Free Press. This week's effort, Paying heed to the President, speaks about the Presidents radio address of May 9 and of the confusion that I experienced as a consequence.

As usual however, my effort is neither the only nor the best effort in this weekend's Toledo Free Press. Michael Miller does a wonderful piece on kites, children, and the maturity that both bring. There is a tremendous piece by Brandi Barhite on a rising local political movement growing out of the Tea Party Movement. Christine Senack does a great piece on the recent "Stamp Out Hunger" Food Drive and on a recent Mom's House celebration. There was also an interesting piece by Maggie Dziubek for those hoping to see downtown become a viable living area.

So make sure you keep up with everything going on by reading this weekend's TFP. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The "Stuck on Stupid" Dictionary #19

Yes here we are once again, adding yet more words to the lexicon of local terms more commonly known here in Toledo as the Stuck on Stupid Dictionary. Now for those of you who have somehow managed to miss previous postings in this area (shame on you, now go back and read all of the postings under the title of dictionary), the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appear to mean something entirely different to us in Toledo and Northwest Ohio.  

Administrative Staff Reduction:

1. A rather exotic form of "three card monty" in which our mayor claims to be reducing the size of his staff, not by actually sending city adminstrative staff members home without further pay or employment; but instead by shuffling them to positions covered under parts of the city budget not directly relating to the General Fund, and therefore allowing him to claim a budget savings. (see Three Card Monty)

Three Card Monty:

1. A card game played on street corners where the bettor (sap) attempts to find a single previously identified card out of three, as card sharp masterfully manipulates the placement of this trio of paper placards. (The bettor rarely wins except when the card sharp allows them to in order to set them up for larger losses.)
2. A personnel game played by city governments where the taxpayer attempts to understand which fund their fees and taxes are going to and being taken from to pay city staff, as a master manipulator (or massive blowhard) shuffles both the cash and the people from one place to another. (The taxpayer never wins, because no matter where the cash or the people go, the taxpayer never pays less or gets anything in return.)

Why Do We Pay For Primaries?

Candidates are already jockeying for position for state and local elections. Democrat, Republican, and Independent; they present themselves for positions for at-large City Council seats and for Mayor here in Toledo, while Congressional and Senate seats that are also up for grabs in this next election are a constant source of speculation as to who can beat who heads up. 
This got me thinking about the election process in general, and these preliminaries in particular. You see before we know it, it will be time for the political primaries. For some reason, the United States seems to have developed as a two party system. There is no real reason for this that I can discover, as there is nothing in the Constitution that mandates or limits the political process to two parties, and many other countries around the world seem to have made a multi-party system work; but it seems that this has been so almost since we first elected a president. 

Beginning with the Democratic-Republicans (curious when we see the two parties using those names today) who wanted a weak central government, a single opposition party grew, the Federalists who wanted a strong central government. Political parties came and went over the years, with such parties as the Anti-Masonic Party (1826-38), the Whig party (1833-56), one of my personal favorites the American party (known as the No-Nothings) (1854-58), the Socialist party of America (1901-73), with the current Democratic Party being formed in 1828, and the current Republican Party having been formed in 1854. 

And while we have often had more than three parties at any one time and there are some 3rd party candidates who have taken quite serious runs at offices in the US over the years (very occasionally even succeeding), for the most part the competition for elected office in the US has generally been a two party battle in this country. The point that I would like to make however is not that the two party system is good or bad, but that these two political parties appear to be quite capable to raise money to elect candidates, raise money to participate in conventions to decide on platforms, and raise even more money to choose candidates to run in their names at conventions. They even attempt to ask for my money from time to time in these efforts (I always refuse), but they never really ask for my input except to request my vote for their candidates on election day. 

They are not run by the government nor really for the government, but the preliminary internal elections that they have to choose their candidates are never the less paid for by the government. So you see, as a registered Independent (and card carrying Libertarian) I have to ask myself why any government money (you know, my money) is being used by either the Democratic and Republican Parties to hold these primaries, especially since I don't get to vote in either.

 Don't get me wrong. I want them to be able to field good candidates to chose from. I want them to be able to debate, share their views, and go through a process of choice to get the best people to run for office. I simply do not understand why this is a cost that should be picked up by the taxpayer rather than the party in question. Third party candidates do not get to utilize such government resources in challenging this two party monetary monopoly. Libertarians as an example, have to spend their own party funds to nominate their candidates. Heck, they have to spend a great deal of their party's funding to even get on the ballot in most cases, let alone to choose a candidate to do so. I see no reason therefore why membership in a one political party over another should rate special funding in running for office. 

Looking back at the amount of money spent during the last election cycle (the largest in history), I can see no reason why this can't be be the case. Both traditional parties proved themselves remarkably adroit in raising funds for campaigns, in spite of the current restrictions of campaign finance law. If that is so, let them raise the money to select their candidates as well. 

Certainly in these days of government funding cut backs and budget crunches, there is ample reason to remove this burden from city, state, and federal budgets. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate this part of the electoral process. Perhaps in these days of hope and change it's time to divorce the political process from these two traditional parties that have not served it particularly well. Perhaps it is time to level the playing field a bit in order to elect the best possible people to office, rather than those from the two most in control political parties.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

No Longer Whining, but Wine(ing)

I have been whining for a couple of months now since my favorite local wine restaurant closed down, well no more. 

Now I do not normally use this blog site for promotion (except self-promotion of course), but such rules are defined by their exceptions, or in this case the exceptional. I was lucky enough the other night to enjoy the exceptional in a meal at a new dining establishment in Toledo, Encore by J. D. Wesley. 

Located at 5333 Monroe Street where Poco Piatti once was, Encore offers an outstanding lunch and dinner menu, but I would have expected that considering the chef involved. As a wine geek however, I was very impressed with the wine list. Not have they put a great start on an excellent cellar, but they are not afraid to put some outstanding wines out front by the glass (my personal favorite is the Cain Cuvee)

There are a number of good restaurants in Toledo, but few understand what the pairing of wine and food can do to the overall enjoyment of a meal, Encore does it well. Now revealing this secret will probably further hinder my chances of getting into what has quickly become my favorite local dining establishment when I want to, but I am willing to take the risk of even this in order to share my passion for great food and great wine with you. Enjoy ... 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Energy Crisis Is Over

While doing some research on impending legislation currently under review in Congress, I suddenly discovered that the Energy Crisis was over! I mean it must be or the Senate would not have passed omnibus legislation to set aside almost 2.2 million acres of land, significantly expanding National Parkland, Heritage areas, and of course Conservation areas (by about 60 sites in all). of oil rich land, banning any exploration or drilling on it.

The legislation, for those of you who love to look up the details (or to make sure that I am not pulling this stuff out of an orifice better left without discussion) is S.22 The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. I won't go into the details of this particular bill, as the link will allow you to do so at your leisure. I will tell you however, that it only failed to become a national reality on a political technicality. This legislation actually passed in the Senate by a vote of 73 to 21. It then moved on to the House, where it passed by a vote of 282 to 144. It failed to become the law of the land only because that vote was taken on a motion to suspend the rules, which requires a 2/3 rather than a simple majority for actual passage.

Knowing that Congress is the best and brightest of us all, I can only assume that we would only take potential oil rich land out of the mix during a time when the price of energy may help to determine the pace of economic recovery if in fact there were abundant sources of cheap power throughout the world. Certainly the senior legislative body of the Congress would not tamper with the future of the country in a time of impending economic crisis unless they knew that there was no possibility of negative repercussions, right? This whole thing certainly wouldn't have been perpetrated as political gamesmanship which would appease the radical environmental left and their virulent objection to any new oil exploration, while still managing to hold off the more moderate and and right wing elements who want to "drill here and drill now" to avoid seeing gasoline prices go back up to $4.00 per gallon.

Why isn't this all over the news? Why isn't the Obama Administration calling non-stop prime time press conferences to announce that they have resolved the energy crisis, one of the most baffling conundrums of the 20th and 21st Century? Why isn't gas under $1.50 per gallon?

I must tell you that I am amazed! Who would have thought that a bunch of politicians who can't seem to balance a checkbook (personal or governmental), can't pass gun control law that actually control anything but the right of law abiding citizens to defend themselves, and can't seem to remember which CIA questioning techniques they have been briefed on could possibly be smart enough to understand something as complex as economic energy policy and the distribution of natural resources in our country?


Friday, May 8, 2009

TFP Column: The Scavengers Are Circling

The latest edition of the Toledo Free Press has once again hit the presses, and once more a contribution of mine is a part of it. As I have talked about before, this one was a bit of a stretch as a writer for me, and I have to admit to being rather happy with my effort this week. 

I also have to admit however, that I was more fascinated with Jim Harpen's column on the political party growing in Toledo as a result of the Tea Party movement than I was with my own effort. Maggie Thurber likewise puts forward a more interesting effort than mine discussing the current penchant of government to ignore the concept of a contract (and perhaps by extension, property). In addition the publisher of the Free Press, Tom Pounds, discusses the potential repercussions of a bailout of the newspaper industry, a piece that I read with great interest since the subject is near and dear to my heart.

And what would a Mother's Day edition without something about Mom. Heather Miller has done a truly admirable job this year that is well worth the read. As for Editor in Chief Michael Miller's contribution, I will simply smile and let it speak for itself, as my poor words would be little more than wasted effort. 

In other words, there is once again a ton of stuff in this weekend's TFP more worthy than my poor efforts. The weather this weekend in Toledo looks to be marginal at best, so I recommend curling up with the Free Press for a couple of hours. It will be well worth the time.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quote of the Day

While this has been an infrequent feature of this blog (because I put up four "Quotes of the Week") and I haven't put a daily quote up in some time, but I came across this one while looking for something else (as we seem to do much of the time in life) and I felt that these words by one of our Founding Fathers were incredibly appropriate for the times we are in.  

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. 
- James Madison

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SOS - Save Our Seniors

Contrary to what my current employers would often like to believe (and what my picture here on the blog site might appear to show), I am not currently retired. I go to work every day, collect a paycheck every two weeks, and contribute to a retirement program for the day when I finally do get to set aside the care and strife of the daily grind. 

I have worked for a number of organizations in my career (some would simply say that I can't hold a job). One of them with a pension so criminally mismanaged that my net results for ten years of labor was little more than than enough to super-size a McDonalds value meal. I have worked far more years with organizations, as part of an ongoing trend, that had 401k plans. I fear that the perfect storm economy has hit those of us in my generation however, and pushed the expectation of those days of leisure as far out of reach as our long ago youth. 

A downturn in the market has turned my 401k into a 201k, increasing government debt pushes the benefit age of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid out beyond the horizon, and the "snow on my mountain" only adds to the increasing stress of trying to sell horseshoes and anvils in a world full of automobiles.

The truth of the matter is that anyone these days who is talking about early retirement is either a crook, or a union employee whose pension allows them to retire based not on age, but on years of service. Even many of those early retirees are more than a little concerned these days, as pension funds and health benefits are coming under increasingly close scrutiny by companies on the verge of bankruptcy.

 But have no fear my friends, I have a plan; and it is my full intention to increase the scope and scale of my bad habits in hopes of saving the day. I intend to smoke at least one cigar every day, not only celebrating the bliss of this relaxing lifestyle, but contributing valuable taxes to the government through the purchase of these leaf-wrapped beauties. 

I likewise intend to enjoy a glass of Guinness, wine, or whiskey on a regular basis; safe in the knowledge that when the government has finished taxing tobacco out of the hands of all but the most die-hard of smokers, they will attack alcohol with next with equally onerous levels of taxation. Not only will I be contributing (in my own small way) to the reduction of the crushing debt that government is placing itself under by my petty indiscretions, but I might likewise be contributing to the reduction in lifespan of a stogie-smoking curmudgeon. Perhaps by enjoying these harmful habits to the fullest extent while still able to, I will contribute to my own reduction of health for the future. 

I urge you to join me in this effort. With luck, we will be able to further contribute to federal debt reduction in our dotage by not living long enough to receive any of the benefits that we have contributed to (been extorted from is more like it) in many years of labor, and which the government will not in any case possess to distribute. Have no fear friends, I am neither preaching suicide nor feeling suicidal; but it sometimes seems that only by stating such a radical and extreme position that we can begin to stop the madness going on. It is only by shocking people out of the media fed lethargy that they appear to be suffering from that there is any hope of real change. It is only by presenting them with the patently absurd that the nature and seriousness of the situation is recognized.  

At some point people in this country are going to have to wake up and understand the consequences of actions that we appear to be taking far too lightly these days. Government debt does mean something, as does the inflation that inevitably follows. The path that we are on today leads to crushing debt and runaway inflation that all will have to pay for some day. For those of us following "the Greatest Generation", it means that we may find ourselves "the poorest generation"; robbed of our future by a Social Security Ponzi scheme foisted on us by the federal government on one side and by devastated personal accounts tied to a market that can never recover as long as it's managed by that same government on the other.

 If there are any people of good will out there today in public service, if there are any of you elected leaders who are are truly compassionate, if there is anyone left in government with a wit of common sense left, I beg you to save us from ... you before its too late. 


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Here's Your Law

For any of you who have seen any of the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour", one of funny man Bill Engvall's most notable routines is one called "Here's your sign". Like fellow BCCT comedian Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck", this routine outlines questions or situations for which you might be handed a sign stating that you are STUPID. I wondered where the concept for such a thing might come (other than the "I'm with Stupid" tee shirts) when it finally it me ...Government. Who better than they could illustrate just how idiotic, ignorant, and aggressively stupid a group of supposedly intelligent people could be if not local, state, and federal governments.  

Now I know that you would probably take this statement on face value, especially coming from me; but I would not insult your intelligence in such fashion. Besides, I have proof:  

City Level in Ohio
  • Toledo - It is illegal to throw a snake at anyone.
  • Bexley - It is illegal install or operate a slot machine in an outhouse
  • Youngstown - It is illegal to ride on the roof of a taxi
  • Akron - It is illegal to display colored chicken for sale
  • Paulding - It is legal for a policeman to bite a dog in order to quiet him
State Level in Ohio
  • Women are barred from wearing patent leather shoes for fear that men will be able to see the reflection of their underwear in them.
  • It is illegal for more than five women to live in the same house
  • It is illegal to fish for whales on Sunday
  • It is illegal to get a fish drunk
Federal Level
  • Bear wrestling matches are illegal
  • It is illegal to flick boogers into the wind
  • It is illegal to have an ice cream cone in your back pocket at any time
  • It is illegal to impersonate a person of the clergy
The point of this is that lately, our lawmakers at every level do not seem to be happy unless that are creating new rules and regulations to regulate our behavior. From the use of cell phones in cars to the similar use of seat belts, we are barraged with a non-stop and never ending stream of legislation and regulation designed to replace common sense and good judgment.

I have to wonder however, how many of the laws being passed today will be looked at with the same amusement, incredulity, and embarrassment in days to come. Perhaps this is something our all too busy legislators, in their haste to attach their name to the next bit of political nonsense should remember; lest we remember it the next time that they run for election.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Is Spring Finally Here?


I woke up this morning finally believing that spring had finally sprung. Having crossed the feast of Beltane (Celtic Right of Spring), I have now been given visible proof of the actual event. I have to admit that there have been days of late when I thought that it would never come. Besides, it reminds me of days past and all of the flowering trees that I had at my old house in Gahanna, OH.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Bit About The Writing ,,,

Weekend postings are where I normally like to kick back a bit, focus on the less serious aspects of life, and let my fingers do the talking (doing so makes it easier for me to keep my foot out of my mouth). Even writing nonsense however, is something that requires effort (and heavy doses of spell check) to do well.  

The problem is that I take every writing effort seriously. This is not to say that I take myself seriously. I clearly understand that my opinion and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee in most convenience stores (I think it's still $5 at Starbucks, sorry). Some of the subjects that I touch on are deadly serious however, and I believe that my particular form of ADD allows me to connect what would normally be considered disparate things in a way that may not normally be found out there. 

I was thinking about this as I finish up the work on my next column for the Toledo Free Press. It is one of those pieces in which I attempt to stretch myself. It is an effort at a George F. Will / Dennis Miller type piece that manages to come out of my keyboard from time to time, and that attempts (in my own poor way) to create the type of word pictures that these two genius wordsmiths do on a consistent and regular basis. Its goal is to intrigue and inform, and to do so in a way that might force one to the website in the process. 

I do this not out of a sense of intellectual superiority (oh, far from it), but with a sense of humor at my own normal discomfort with the efforts of my writing heroes, and from a gut feeling that we all need to be challenged on a regular basis. If everything that we are exposed to comes easy for us, if every idea that we are exposed to can be absorbed like a sponge, we will become intellectually as well as physically lazy (and on that, I may be considered more than a bit of an expert). It is only when we set the bar a bit out of reach that we realize how much is within our grasp, only when we set ourselves a goal that even we are doubtful of reaching that we achieve something worthwhile. 

Likewise, it is only when we place this effort in our consciousness that discover that we are able of making the effort required and likewise what we are truly capable of achieving. In my own particular case, I believe that I am still learning as a person and growing as a writer, and that I have a long way to go. I am humbled by that challenge, but convinced that the goal is something attainable some day (though I may be very old indeed when it occurs)

Meanwhile, I hope that you enjoy and are entertained by the effort expended each week. It takes considerable time, good cigars, and often a fair amount of brain lubricant (CnH2n+1OH or alcohol for those unfamiliar with the chemistry) to produce the particular brand of nonsense that I call my own. And though I don't say it often enough, thanks for hanging out and humoring me in these efforts.


Friday, May 1, 2009

TFP Column: Konop Shows His Stripes ...

Once again, the publisher and editor in chief of the Toledo Free Press have gambled with their reputations (and perhaps their fortunes) by printing the political rantings of a stogie-smoking Curmudgeon. This weekend, I decided that some of the nonsense over stimulus package money being perpetrated by Lucas County Commisioner and mayoral candidate Ben Konop needed a bit of light shined on it.
As usual though, there is much more to this weeks TFP than my bit of insanity.
  • Michael Miller talks about his continuing experience with the Red-light cameras in Toledo
  • Tom Morrissey gets trashed by those who feel that only the Big 3 make quality or patriotic automobiles.
  • Publisher Tom Pounds throws the gauntlet down to those who would threaten the TFP
  • You can even read about (and hear) the winner of the "Song of Toledo" project.
It looks like a sunny weekend here in NW Ohio, so pull out that lounge chair, grab a cool drink (smoke 'em if you got 'em) and enjoy some great reading.

Happy May Day

Now for those of you unfamiliar with this holiday (it not being a recently created Hallmark Holiday), May Day is traditionally celebrated on the 1st day of May. In Ireland it was also known as the feast of Beltane, and bonfires were lit on the Emerald Isle to mark the banishment of winter and the first day of summer. 

Over the years May Day has had many types of celebrations in many countries, from electing a May Queen to dancing around the traditional Maypole, with dancers circling the pole with ribbons. Since the original pagan holiday was a celebration of spring however, most of the celebrations involved fertility rites. (Woo hoo!) 

In more recent history, May Day has become known as "International Workers Day" in commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre of Chicago in 1886, when Chicago police fired on striking workers seeking an eight hour work day. Demonstrations were called for in 1890 and were so successful that the event was made an annual celebration, which somehow became subsequent riots in 1894 and 1919. 

By 1904 however, Labor Unions and the International Socialist Conference had called on all good Social Democrats to demonstrate enthusiastically in celebration of workers on May 1st. In 2006, migrant farm workers celebrated May Day with "The Great American Boycott", a general strike of all migrant farm workers in protest against immigration reform legislation. In 2007, a repeat of this protest ended in violence with an assault by officers of the LAPD. In 2008, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union celebrated by moving no cargo in West Coast ports as a protest against the Iraq war. 

So before it becomes a more widespread part of the Democratic Socialism that seems to be becoming a greater part of our present and our future, let me be the first to wish for you (a bit sadly, I must add):

Happy May Day