Sunday, March 29, 2009

Challenging Status Quo

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has tossed his hat into the ring for the office of Mayor of the City of Toledo. Citing the fact that all of the other candidates seem to represent the status quo and a continuation of good old boy politics in the city, he says that he has a record of aggressively challenging such thinking. Let's take a look at that record.
  1. By running, Mr. Konop is going back on a campaign pledge that he made (and signed) while running for the Commissioner's office, that he would serve out the full term for the office if he was elected.
  2. In 2007, Mr. Konop felt that the County would best be served by providing $250,000 of the county's money to subsidize a program to allow people to purchase local art from at $500 to $2,500 at a 1% interest rate.
  3. Mr. Konop has consistently fought against funding the Lucas County Improvement Corporation, while providing no alternative for helping to create and grow businesses in the county.
  4. Mr. Konop opposed spending previously appropriated money for new windows on its office building (a maintenance and energy saving measure well within the purview of the Commissioners) instead favoring spending the money on the unemployed.
  5. Mr. Konop proposed (and was later trumped by fellow Commissioner Pete Gerken) legislation for a "living wage" for all projects having to do with the county. His original $8.38 per hour wage was later raised to $11.67, in spite of the opinion issued by the county prosecutor's office that the Commissioners had dubious right at best to issue such legislation.
  6. Mr. Konop, a law professor and lawyer here in Ohio (and therefore an officer of the court) joined a group calling itself the "Toledo Foreclosure Defense League" as they called for the Lucas County sheriff to refuse to execute legal courts orders of foreclosure.
  7. Mr. Konop claims to have executive experience from his two years of service as a County Commissioner, while having no prior experience in the private sector in managing budgets or handling personnel.
So in my humble opinion, we have yet another career politician attempting to move up the political food chain. A politician who has no experience in the private sector, who chooses style over substance and "feel good legislation" over fulfilling the responsibilities of office, and an officer of the court who violates that trust by usurping the very power of the law that he is sworn to serve. 

Which part of the political status quo Mr. Konop, is it exactly that you are challenging? But heck, if you don't think that I know what I'm talking about, perhaps the opinion of a former Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber would carry some weight with you. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fulfilling The Promises - A Better Take

While I was scribbling away on my own posting for the weekend, Maggie Thurber was assembling the notes from a visit that she had on WSPD by phone yesterday afternoon with Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC). The interview ended up providing some interesting information about how things in government work these days, and Maggie's insights and conclusions about the information shared are well worth reading. 

Fulfilling The Promises

A few stories in the news this weekend in the Toledo Blade caught my intention because of the common thread. Let me share them with you. The first was our Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, telling us that the answer to the current financial mess is more Federal regulations and regulators. He tells us that more rules and people to enforce them are required in the hedge fund industry (you know, where John Edwards made all of his cash)

Now it seems to me that we were originally told that the problem was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with AIG as the puppeteer. We were told that they were responsible for the imminent collapse of the banking industry, and that they were under what can obviously be called in retrospect failed Congressional oversight. But I guess that all investment is the same and all of it needs more government regulation and protection, so perhaps we should set aside all that we have been previously told and simply give the man what he wants. 

The next story is about Congress attempting to put the tobacco industry under the Food and Drug Administration as a regulatory body. While some of the claims made in this editorial are suspect. What is not in question is the desire to expand the government's level of bureaucracy and role in regulatory function. The FDA, already claiming to be understaffed for its current tasks, would be asked to assume control of marketing, product review, and labeling of a huge industry. There is little doubt that in order to do so their size, regulatory power, and budget would have to see dramatic expansion. 

The third was about the labor department failures under the Bush Administration to properly process claims or to protect workers. Even assuming that the Blade is correct in its assertions (which I do not dispute, as they came from a GAO investigation), I find it most likely that the government bureaucracy is simply functioning as it always done, at the lowest level that keeps its workers in their jobs and out of jail. Hearings are going to be held however, with the undoubted result that more regulations, bureaucrats, and money will be needed to solve this problem. 

The common thread here of course, is the expansion of the size and control of bureaucracy. In spite of the "government gone wild" spending habits we are seeing from the new Administration, the only answer anyone seems to be coming up with is more spending. In spite of the continued nibbling away of personal choice and freedom in this country, the only answer appears to be more government regulation and restriction. 

Two promises seem to have been kept in all of this however. The first is that of Rahm Emmanuel, the president's chief of staff, who is fulfilling his promise by not letting "a serious crisis go to waste". The second is that made by President Obama to create new jobs. That both are doing so by creating an even more expensive, massive, and intrusive bureaucracy and that all of jobs are government jobs should perhaps not be held against them.

TFP Column: Fixing Public Education

I may not know much about "Fixing Public Education", but as this week's effort in the TFP shows, neither apparently does the government.  Never has so much been spent in such wasted effort with so little result.  But heck, don't take my word for it.  Take a look at the numbers and judge for yourself.

While your at it, take a little time to find out what else is going on in Toledo by reading what is fast becoming the true paper of record in the Glass City, the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Need For Change

My father held three jobs as an adult. The first of which was as a Marine, serving in the Pacific in WWII. I start with this position as his first adult job because he was still a teenager when he accepted the post. Like many, he was in the blurred line of “able to qualify” under the age limitations for enlistment of the time. It is during this time trial, destruction, and death that he came of age as a man. Returning home at war's end, he took a position in the commercial printing industry, working in Chicago and rising through the ranks in a career of some 28 years, which was abruptly concluded with the final edition of Life magazine in the 70's. This did not end his career path however. He accepted a position in the equipment manufacturing end of the industry, where again he worked for over 20 years, before finally accepting (grudgingly I might add) that it was time to retire at the age of 70. 
The world has changed in the ensuing years however. Even while attempting to follow my father into that industry, the career stability that he enjoyed seems to have been beyond me and many others. The three different employers that I have had since the turning of the millennium (all while working ostensibly for the same company I might add) seem to be the rule rather than the exception these days, regardless of the industry involved. Ownership changes, Cutbacks, and layoffs seem to be the rule of the day recently; and for those us who are either necessary enough to our employers, or in my case, simply lucky enough to be getting a steady paycheck carry feelings of both fear and gratitude on a bi-weekly basis. 

Let’s be honest about this concept of changing employment though. Many of those whose futures are secured are never the less looking for the better position, the fatter paycheck, or change in employment simply for change sake of a change of scenery. For the sake of change as well, it often seems that we look to trade up our cars (though not so much lately) our homes, and sometimes even our marriages. 

We seem never content in our constant march forward on this road to change, with the big screen TV giving way to the flat screen, and the flat screen to the flat panel unit. Laptop computers and cell phones are now often replaced every two years, rather than simply replacing the batteries in them. Many children live with three and four pairs of grandparents and more uncles, aunts, and cousins than you can shake a stick at; the result of parents with multiple spouses. 

And what has all of this change gotten us? Are we happier or more fulfilled as a result? Are our lives less stressful because of the non-stop change that we seem to experience? Has the almost constant change made us more satisfied with our lot in life? 

In most cases, I expect that the answer would be no. The new technologies are exciting, but tend to make our lives more complicated, more hectic, and more stressful. Replacing cars, computers and cell phones stimulates the economy, but can leave a rather large hole in our checkbook. The ending of relationships in a mindless search for the next best thing can prove costly both financially and in human terms. 

With the distance of time and perspective, I have to say that I envy my father the stability that his career provided him in life. I can’t help but wonder if it helped to provide some of the piece of mind that he always seem to possess in life. I can’t help but wonder if this stability of career, that of his marriage, and that of his family reinforced each other to assist him in dealing with his experiences during the war. I wonder likewise whether all of these things contributed to the quality of his life. I wonder if perhaps we haven’t lost something we will never be able to recover with the constant rush towards change. 


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nonsense, But No Politics

I sometimes think that I spend far too much time concerned with serious subjects and especially with politics on this blog these days. I have to tell you that it was anything but my intention to do so when creating this outlet for the nonsense that rattles around in my head. Instead, I was seeking a way to ease the internal pressure from a warped perspective and a borderline case of ADD that has plagued me most of my life in such a way that I neither annoyed nor alienated the members of my family. So I thought, just to break the mindless tedium of my everyday existence, that I would take this weekend's effort to stay away from politics or anything of a serious nature and simply comment of a few of life's interesting, intriguing, and confusing aspects.
  • Is it just me, or is every bar and restaurant in the world now carrying too many different kinds of vodka? I don't want to pick on anybody here, but most places carry more varieties of vodka than they do wine (red and white combined). I find this especially amusing and disconcerting when the producers of this particular form of distilled beverage have said that their ultimate goal is to produce a product without taste. If that's the case, why do we need so many flavors of the stuff?
  • Does wearing a bluetooth headset still make you cool? I'm as big a techno-geek as anyone out there, but I wonder if this one has finally run the course from impressive to obnoxious. I understand it of course if you are driving and using the headset to attempt to keep both hands on the wheel (yeah right, like that's going to happen), but just walking the halls of the office or the streets of the city mindlessly jabbering away on these wireless wonders seems a bit over the top to me. Quite frankly, I think that a lot of these non-stop conversationalists are faking the whole thing simply to try and look impressive (and failing).
  • Speaking of high tech, how many online groups must I join to maintain contact with family and friends? MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk ... when does it end? I have to tell you that I am spending so much time updating the information on my personal pages on these sites that I have no time left to actually keep in touch with the people that I joined the damn things for. And for those of you out there who want to send me another IQ test challenge, don't. Even without the test, I can tell you that my IQ normally falls within 3 numbers of my shoe size, and I have really small feet.
  • If global warming has occurred, then why am I still freezing my butt off in the middle of March? The lows overnight this week were still below freezing and the highs are still not making it into the 50's. At the rate that things are going, we'll be digging the Easter eggs out of the snow this year. This question is not a political one by the way, I just want to know when I can put my ice scraper away for the winter and sit out on my patio and smoke a cigar without getting frostbite.
  • Why is Nancy Pelosi trying to pass legislation to make it easier for newspapers to merge and thereby to survive? Aren't newspapers those evil corporate entities that kill thousands of trees (perhaps millions) in order to create a product which will most probably end up filling our nation's landfills? Don't get me wrong here, I need to have this group of organizations survive as an industry, but how does the Speaker square this new legislation with her strong environmental concerns? (OK, I let a little politics slip in ... sorry.)
OK, your turn. If there is anything that you want me to add to the list, please let me know. If there are any questions that you think that I might be able to offer insight on from my exalted perch (You know, like the quote: Even on the most exalted throne in the world, we are only sitting on our own bottom. - Michel de Montaigne), please feel free to ask. After all, I will be working on that Facebook update on the computer all weekend anyway.

Happy BIrthday Michael

Fast on the heels of the recent birthday of my youngest grandchild comes the birthday of yet another. In this case, it is in celebration of the birth of Michael. 

Though a recent addition to the clan through my step-son Joe, he is never the less the oldest child of his own family and the oldest of my grandchildren, a responsibility that he takes very seriously. Wise beyond his 14 years (and far too wise for this humble writer), he is a credit to himself and the upbringing of his parents. 

As is far too often the case over the years, I will be unable to attend the celebration being held for the young squire this year, but my thoughts will be with him and the rest of his family as he takes one step closer to a manhood which holds such promise (and the birthday card is on the way). Happy Birthday Michael, and I hope to see you soon.

Friday, March 20, 2009

TFP Column: All The News Fit to Find

I have been somewhat remiss in letting folks know when I have a new column in the Toledo Free Press, but the effort this week may actually be worth reading. In "All the news fit to find" I talk a little bit about news and newspapers, something I ought to know a little bit about after 30+ years of hanging around the business. It's funny that we can all be critics of a thing while little recognizing what the repercussions its loss might bring.

But hey, if my fertilizer was all that was in the paper this week it would hardly be worth reading. Michael Miller (editor-in-chief, no less) once more shares some insight and wisdom with us in the care and rearing of children. (Where were you when I was attempting to raise rug rats Michael?) Publisher Tom Pounds shares some interesting insights on the local requests for funding from the federal stimulus package. Lisa Renee once more takes us behind the curtain to show us some of the more interesting aspects of the online world in Blog It. There are also a couple of very interesting pieces on the local Republican Party by Joseph Pellman and on Toledo's version of water negotiations as related by the Mayor of Rossford, William Verbosky Jr.

So if you aren't lucky enough to be one of those who gets home delivery, and can't manage to find the print edition in one of the local outlets, please feel free to use this link make your way over to the online edition.

(You will also find a link to the archive of my columns over on the left.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Budget Suggestions

The Mayor of Toledo has recently challenged the members of City Council to come up with a plan to balance the 2009 city budget, since they didn't like the way that he was going to do it. Now while it does seem a bit childish on the face of it I believe that the Mayor, who has held little but fairly good paying government jobs most of his life, has presented those of us out here with a voice an opportunity to help. Perhaps we can show the Mayor how budgets out here real world households are handled, and as a consequence, how to handle the larger issues. 

Keep the house maintained. 
It's easy to say that you will let go some of the repairs that need to be done when times are tough, but this is in fact when it's most important. Small repairs not handled today can turn into big repairs tomorrow. That includes patching the driveway, keeping the drains clear, and home safety (You know, like roads, sewers, and police and fire protection.)  

Don't add the deck or the workroom onto the house this year. 
It would be nice to add some extra space on for relaxation or hobbies, but you don't have the cash to do it. Wait until the money is there again, then wait again to make sure that you really need it in the first place (You know, NO MORE BIKE PATHS!)  

Let the maid service and the digital cable TV go. 
It was great to have a maid service come in once every couple of weeks to clean, and to have 150 channels on cable, but you can do with less until times are better again. In the meantime, learn to get by on less. (You know, cut down on staff and give up some of the frills. I'm not talking about for just for the city workers, but for all. How big a staff does a Mayor need? How many boards does a city need? Lead by example and cut staff.)  

Sell the boat, the jet ski, and the motorcycle. 
It was a lot of fun and maybe even useful to have hobbies, but you can't afford them now. Get rid of them and their related expenses. (You know like getting rid of departments that do little more than make people feel good about themselves. The same holds true for the businesses that you own competing in the private sector. Go back to doing the basics as mandated by the City Charter and budget to cover those costs, and those costs only.) 

Sell the vacation home, you can't afford to take one anyway. 
I know the real estate market sucks, but making payments on multiple homes is only the way to bankruptcy. You may have to take a bath, but that's better than going under. (You know, sell off the Erie St Market, the Docks, Portside, The Commodore Perry, the Steam Plant, and every other piece of real estate the city owns. You never did very good at real estate speculation and the costs of maintaining these properties is only more of a drag on the budget. Get back what you can, but get out now.)  

Stop Gambling. 
It was a bad habit when you took it up, and now you simply don't have the disposable income. It's over as of now. (You know, stop entering contests. Few people knew, fewer cared, and the there's no money for flowers and signs to spare. Give someone else a chance to earn a few meaningless titles.)  

See, it may not be that hard after all. I'm sure that if the Mayor and Council can get behind the simple logic of the way that they probably run their own homes that they can find a solution to the problems of the city. I am likewise sure that if they can't, we will find a solution to the problems that these elected officials have become. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit

For those of you unfamiliar with the Gaelic, the translation of the title of this post is of course "Happy St. Patrick's Day to You". And on this day when many of you will be 'wearin' the green', contributing to the Irish economy through the consumption of one of Ireland's greatest exports ... Guinness (if not partaking of a wee dram of Irish whiskey, which in fact Irish monks invented), and celebrating the day of this Irish saint .... my thanks.  

St. Patrick is actually quite curious as a Patron saints, or even Irish saints go. Curious because he was in fact British (not a favorite nationality on the Emerald Isle), and only came to Ireland in chains the first time as a captured slave (often held to be the favorite way for the Irish to treat their eastern neighbors). He escaped that captivity however after six years, and returned to his home in Britain, eventually becoming a deacon, priest, and later a bishop. He returned to Ireland as a missionary, working mostly in the north and the west of the island. 

While little is known of most of the places that he actually worked, and though the diocesan model of the Catholic church that he worked for did not come about as a result of his labors; he was nevertheless named the Patron Saint of Ireland by the eighth century. As for the myths surround him, though credited with using the shamrock to describe the Holy Trinity in converting the heathen Celts of the Emerald Isle, such stories did not surface until centuries after his death, and are likely fabrication. Likewise, while St. Patrick is credited with chasing the snakes from Ireland, the truth of the matter is that this would have been a rather simple task, since there never were snakes in Ireland. Regardless of the truth of the situation and the fact that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church, we celebrate him on March 17th, believed to be the day of his death in 493.  

While all of this is reason enough for honoring the day, I will be once again be likewise celebrating the birthday of my youngest granddaughter. Margaret Ruth Tipatina Demaria turns three today, and has received a crystal angelfish from the city of Waterford from her old grandad to commemorate the occasion. 

With luck, she will get to see the parade in New York City today, as well as have a bit of left over cake from the party that was had this last weekend. Whereas I will have to content myself with a quiet pint or two at a local pub, followed perhaps by a wee bit of the creature, a call to the birthday girl, and a cigar upon my return to the Higgins Manor of Toledo.  

I hope each of you gets a chance for some kind of celebration on this day when all are gloriously Irish. I hope each of you, as you raise a glass to the Irish in general and St Patrick in particular, will likewise raise a glass at some point in your evening to that young flower of Irish heritage, Maggie Moo Demaria on the day of her birth. I hope each of you will enjoy the blessing of St. Patrick for the coming year. In honor of that sentiment, I offer you my true Irish toast:  

"May you be in heaven for two hours before the devil knows you're dead. "


Monday, March 16, 2009

Smile, You're On Govt. Camera

Just as we in Toledo are signing a petition to eliminate "Red Light" Cameras from our city intersections, our local State Representative Peter Ujvagi is sponsoring a bill to place similar cameras on construction sites to watch for speeders. 

Now the goal of the cameras, according to Rep. Ujvagi, is safety; but according to an editorial in The Blade on Sunday, only about 30 deaths per year occur due to passing motorists in construction zones across the country. A far greater percentage of such deaths occur with job related accidents. Likewise in the injuries related to passing motorists in such zones, the only numbers cited point to approximately 22% of them being related to traffic. So while the safety of highway workers should be of concern to all of us, and following traffic laws on our highways (especially in construction zones) should likewise be something we are all aware of, why the sudden fuss about putting up these cameras? 

Well for those of you not yet experiencing this recent technology (an ever-shrinking number), Both Red light and speeding cameras are designed to capture the license plate number of the offending car. The citations filed however are civil ones, carrying no points against the offending car owner but a great deal of annual revenue to the budget of the local government handing them out. Yes, I said car owner. You see the system is not designed to capture the offender, but the offender's vehicle instead. And since this is a civil and not criminal prosecution, the concepts of "innocent until proven guilty", "the right to be confronted by one's accuser", and "the right to a trial by a jury" are all set aside without that pesky little Bill of Rights of the Constitution getting in the way. 

Not set aside however, is the fine of up to $250 imposed for such a violation and the impact that such fines could make on diminishing government budgets. The state now it seems, learning from cities across the country that such laws and the installation of such cameras will be held up by the courts, would like to extend its reach into the potential new revenue stream. 

But what the heck, let's not stop there. Perhaps next we could look for speed cameras in our school zones for the safety of children or jaywalking cameras at intersections, ostensibly mounted to protect citizens at crosswalks. They too could be used to offset shortfalls in local and state budget. Maybe we could even mount cameras inside of bars to monitor the compliance with local smoking regulations (in Toledo, we would probably make the bar owner pay for the cameras as well).  

I know that all of this may sound a little far-fetched, but if Rep. Ujvagi gets his way, we will move one step further down the slippery slope of increasing government surveillance and a decreasing value to the Constitution that limits the control of our government over our everyday lives. It hasn't happened yet, but some day sooner that we expect, we may be able to paraphrase a line from an the old TV show produced by Alan Funt,  

"Sometime when you least expect it, a notice may come in the mail to you that says Smile, you're on government camera".


Saturday, March 14, 2009

John Lovitz for Mayor

I have, after some recent soul searching, come to the conclusion that perhaps John Lovitz should run for Mayor of Toledo. Oh I know that it would amount to a massive pay cut for an actor and comedian who works regularly, that he doesn't meet the residency requirements of the City Charter, that he has no experience in politics (at least that I am aware of); but he does have one thing that all of the current candidates for mayor (and the man currently holding the office) don't have ... the ability to make us laugh while he is lying to us.

Lovitz, for those of you who are unaware, created a character on 'Saturday Night Live' some years back called the pathological liar. It seemed impossible for this character to speak a line of without embellishment of the truth at best and complete abandonment of it at worst. His bits on the show while performing as this character defied all possibility for acceptance, denied any potential for belief, and stretched our sense of the outrageous as we watched this character do to truth what ... well what most politicians seem to do to it regularly. 

Maybe it's because our incredulity was stretched beyond the breaking point, or the fact that we had no vested interest in the pronouncements of the character, that allowed us to be amused by such behavior. Perhaps the portrayal of the character as such an obvious and blatant liar is what tickled our funny bone as he performed. Perhaps we were simply entertained by sheer nonsense that the character was capable of spewing and that we even found some core of honesty in the unadulterated dishonesty that his performances characterized. 

Now I don't know about you, but there are times lately when I simply throw up my hands with our current crop of politicians and what they laughingly call telling of the truth. It seems as if they are simply incapable of answering a straight question with a straight answer, or voicing a pronouncement of supposed fact that's anything less than a self-serving soundbite. I have reached a point in fact, where listening to anything that they purport to be the truth automatically calls the facts cited into question. It's as if every pronouncement carries with it a sign that says, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" or "these are not the droids you're looking for". 

As another old saying goes, "we know he was lying because his lips were moving". It causes me to wonder if Mr. Lovitz were capable and willing to submerge himself for four years in this character to act as a leader. We might not be able to expect any gain in the level of truth we are handed during press conferences, but we could at least be entertained while being told the fiction that passes for truth by most elected officials these days. 

TFP Column: SCHIP II - A Fool's Bargain

I believe that it's no coincidence that SCHIP II, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, will go into effect on April 1st.  For a stogie smoking Curmudgeon, this will mean substantially higher taxes on cigarettes and cigars in the days ahead; and in spite of what the government keeps telling us, I doubt that there will be much in health benefits that come out of it.

I therefore believe that "SCHIP II (is) A Fool's Bargain".  But hey, don't let the dirty trick that the government is playing on me ruin your week.  And the best way to cheer yourself up and find out what's going on is to spend some time with this week's Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Strange Irish Wake

I have been attending a strange Irish wake this week. Strange because it was certainly not intended by those who threw it to be a wake. Strange also because we are having it in Las Vegas, a town known more for weddings than for funerals. Strangest of all because the wake is being held for a trade show and not a person.  
You see, this week I am attending the newspapers industry's Media Xchange Conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. This is the first year of this conference under the current name, though I have been attending this gathering of the newspapers for over 25 years under the previous names of NEXPO and ANPATEC.The name of the conference is not the only thing that has gone through changes over the years however, as its parent organization has likewise gone through some changes. 

First known as the American Newspaper Publishers Association (hence the ANPATEC name), and more recently by its current nom de plume of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), they have been the organizing and guiding force for both the industry and this conference, making them in this case I suppose the family of the deceased. You see the conference, much like the industry it serves, has been suffering for some time from a wasting disease. Once drawing up to 20,000 people to its programs and exhibits, it now commands a dismal attendance levels of what look to be less than 1,000. With tough economic times in the industry (as everywhere else), little money is allocated for travel budgets to attend such meetings. 

Continued diminishing customer attendance and what I believe to me little better than mismanagement by NAA has fed a weakening presence by vendors as well, reaching a peak this year when many of the major organizations serving the industry pulled out at the last minute, even when realizing that the money for the booth space that they had purchased would be forfeit.  

There is work here to be done however, and those of us who have come out this week are trying to accomplish at least some of our required goals; but the lack of attendees makes it all but impossible to do the work that we should be or want to be doing. There is widespread recognition that as a consequence, that this will probably be the last year that any of us participate in this gathering. 

After many years, many adventures, and many stories from years gone by (all of which I am sworn to secrecy on), this conference has finally died a rather sad and ignominious death. It is left to those of us in attendance this week to its rotting corpse to do what we can to give it a proper send off. And so at some point this week we will quietly gather, raise a glass, and offer a sentiment for the passing of an old friend and the end of an era.



Saturday, March 7, 2009

Good Posture

My mother always told me as I was growing up that good posture was an essential to good health. Sit straight in your chair, hold your chin up, and never ever slouch was the rule of the day if I wanted to grow up to be a strong and healthy young man. I tried to follow those rules as the years went by (though I never did seem to manage the whole growing up thing) and as a consequence, the only thing bending my back these days is the crushing level of taxation that is leveled at me by city, state, and federal governments (but that's another story for another day).  

There is a different kind of posture that seems to be equally important these days however. This interpretation though, has less to do with long term health than it does with public image. Come to think of it, what I am talking about is really not posture at all, but is in fact simply posturing. It is an act performed rather regularly these days whenever a microphone or especially when a camera is present, by both our elected and appointed holders of government office.  

Now Webster defines posturing as: "to assume an artificial or pretended attitude", and I think that its a workable one for purposes of this discussion. In fact, I believe that no further explanation is necessary. You can probably picture one of the all too familiar faces and names without further suggestion from me. 

On the right, they will undoubtedly be talking about family values or strengthening the military. On the left they will unquestionably be talking about reforming societal inequity or simply helping those less fortunate. The speeches are well written, the tone of the speaker drips with sincerity, and most importantly they strike the proper pose in front of the microphone. On C-Span, CNN, MSNBC, or Fox, we are treated daily to the non-stop, non-partisan posturing of an endless stream of people who ostensibly have some actual function to perform; but feel that it is more important to strike the proper pose in order to show us either how caring or how important they are.  

I believe these days that there are few (if any) innocents left in government, and party affiliation makes little difference to this widepread affliction. There are just as many guilty parties on either end of the political spectrum. Even those claiming to be in the middle do so while taking a publicly practiced superior position of fairness, equality, and non-partisanship for all to see.  

It's not that any of these positions does not have merit at some level (though some have very little). I am sure that some them might actually seek to serve the greater good. The problem however is that these elected officials take them not as a matter of principle, but rather as a politically correct and electable pose used to both seek and maintain their power. Their affectation is clear and their performances lack conviction. Quite frankly, the whole thing would be rather sickening and pathetic if it weren't so widespread.

 So Mom, while I will be eternally grateful for the lectures that I received and the erect posture that I have, I sometimes wish that you had been able to communicate a more important message to a more widespread audience, a message on being upright (or forthright for that matter). Politicians seem to have learned proper posturing rather than proper posture, and I fear that few if any as a consequence, will ever be accused of having a backbone of any type.


TFP Column: Government Dependence

This week's effort for the Toledo Free Press talks about the encroachment of government in every aspect of our lives.  It seems as though someone is in fact working a conscious agenda to create more "Government Dependence" by taking away income that might otherwise be used for charitable purposes.

If the trend continues, we may soon find ourselves in a position where the only charity left in this country is the redistribution of wealth through government largess.

It would be more than charitable, in fact it would be downright beneficial for you to spend some time this week catching up on everything going on in the Glass City in the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lawsuits & The Death Courage

We seem to sue everyone for everything these days, with causes from bad grades for our kids to who got the promotion and the raise at work. We sue when the coffee is too hot at McDonald's or the food is too cold at our local restaurant. We sue for physical pain, emotional cruelty, and loss of self-esteem. The truth of the matter is that many people sue like playing the Lottery, regularly and in the hope of winning the "big bucks".

 I wonder about the cost though. Oh not the court costs or the costs to businesses every year, though they have to be staggering. What I am talking about instead is the cost to courage in this country. The truth of the matter is that each of us, to some extent, has our words, our actions, and even our very freedoms are restricted by the threat of such lawsuits. 

Where such restrictions should call for courage in the face of adversity, I am afraid that such calls go largely unheeded. Instead, the moral high ground is ceded to those who shout the loudest. Common decency, common courtesy, and common sense are shoved aside; with control instead grabbed by those threatening legal action. Even our very laws themselves are ignored by those entrusted with their care as these bullies and their legal vermin seek compensation from anyone.  

Judge Robert H. Bork (yes, that Judge Bork) once said that we now seek, "the equality of outcomes, rather than opportunities". And if for some reason, your outcome doesn't fit your self-image, then by God sue somebody for an outrageous amount of money to redress that discrepancy.  

And what of those who chose not to play this Lawsuit Lottery? We now bow our heads and submit to those who shout at the rain. Bereft of the courage that once founded a country we hide ourselves away, terrified that anything that we might do or say will place us squarely in the sights of the takers. Confined within the walls of political correctness that have been erected around us we cower, fearful of giving offense and refusing to take offense from these loud-mouthed louts.  Even the government takes sides in this battle, telling us that "hate speech" and "hate crimes" somehow make illegal actions worse because of their motivations.  

Well I for one have just about had it. I am tired of living in fear of those who want to shout me down. I am tired of hiding to keep them from noticing and thereby targeting me. I am ashamed of having abandoned courage in the name of political correctness and safety. I hope that in the coming days you will find me engendering some PC outrage, not as an exercise in writing, but as a result of a statement of principle. And for those of you lining up to lay claim to some part of what is mine as redress for some imagined insult now or in the future, take your best shot. (I don't have much of anything, anyway.)