Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ban Halloween!

How long will it be before a government bent on domination of personal behavior and convinced of the need to protect us from our inability to make good choices for ourselves or our children, ends Halloween as a detriment to public health? How long before the religious implications of the holiday (both Christian and pagan) force this holiday off of school calendars and city observances? How long will the government permit the handing out out high sugar treats to our obese young people as a reward for already tragically bad behavior? 

Far-fetched you say. Well, last year Belleville, IL banned trick or treating for teenagers, apparently to protect residents from these unruly youth. The New York City education department has recently passed a school regulation banning fund raising through bake sales for such sugary treats as cupcakes in order to protect our obese children from the temptation to indulge in such calorically challenging goods. Mayor Bloomberg and his health commissioner Thomas Freiden have separately called for a tax on soda with sugar in it. The Ft Worth Independent School District banned Halloween costumes at football games played that weekend. Dunkard Township in Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) has in fact banned Trick or Treating completely, choosing instead to hold a party at a local fire station. 

Now for those of you thinking that we don't need to ban the holiday, but only the type of treats passed out, think again. Justify this conclusion based on the concept that popcorn balls, apples, or fruits and vegetables of some kind might substitute for these sweet treats if you can; but keep in mind the X-ray machines operating in hospitals on Halloween to insure a lack of metal in the goody bags. Watch as parents throw away anything that children bring home that is not hermetically enclosed in its original factory-sealed wrapper. 

No, unless we are talking about the limited selection of pre-packed and dried foods (yeah, I got those little boxes of raisins when I was a kid too), there is little to qualify in this regard. Besides, think of the economic impact to candy companies that could well be considered "too big to fail". You know come to think of it, the only advantage that I can see to this holiday in the eyes of an increasingly intrusive progressive government is that it rewards the behavior of public dependency, better known as begging (something that it increasingly appears that they support)

The only up side to Halloween behavior is that people (well young people anyway) are trained by this holiday to demand a reward for no other reason than looking like something other than themselves under threat of dire consequences if such reward is not delivered. As for those of an opposite political view, the practice of Halloween Trick or Treating might be viewed by those on the political right as a continuing reinforcement of a system of government behavior modification, intent on creating a dependent society. 

While they may have something on the whole government dependency part, I'm not sure that Halloween is as guilty as a national legislature that sees the continuance of its own privilege being dependent on the handing out of 'treats' to the voting public year round (and without the costumes). Either way you look at it however, the behavior of young people dressing in costume and parading around neighborhood streets in search of mischief or chocolate confections one night a year seems doomed. 

No matter which point of view you take on the subject or where you stand in the political spectrum, it seems that whoever is in control will eventually have to ban Halloween as an abhorrent practice. (If the arguments presented here do not convince government to close down this despicable practice, perhaps the picture above certainly should.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

TFP Column: Halloween Costumes 2009

As those of you who follow "Just Blowing Smoke" know, every year around this time I publish a list of humorous Halloween costumes with a slightly political slant. (OK, I find them kind of funny anyway.) 

This year, I decided to try something just a bit different. There will in fact be a posting on Halloween tomorrow, but my costume list this year will instead be my column for the Toledo Free Press. It is something that Michael Miller and I have talked about from time to time, and this year he gave in to me on it (probably in order to make me quit badgering him)

This is one of the annual efforts that I most look forward to and I hope you enjoy it as well. As always, there is much more of far greater worth in every Toledo Free Press; and with this being the edition before the November election, even more so. 

So tomorrow when you are sitting next to the candy bowl and attempting to find excuses not to dip into it while waiting for those cute little kids to show up on your doorstep (or the mean little buggers that always show up at Casa de la Higgins), keep your copy of the TFP handy to occupy both your mind and your hands. Your waistline will thank you.

Issue 2: The Coward's Choice

On the ballot this year in Ohio is Issue 2, "To Create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to establish and implement standards of care for livestock and poultry.
For many of you this might be a bit confusing, since it appears that there has never been a problem in the state of Ohio with the mistreatment of livestock and poultry, and since Ohio is evidently an exemplary state both in the quality of the treatment of its livestock and the quality of the meat produced. It may likewise seem confusing, since such treatment can should already be handled in the state under the province of the Department of Agriculture. 

We are being told however, that this additional bureaucracy is the only way to protect Ohio farmers from the intrusion of the Humane Society of the United States (no relation to your local Humane Society) from lobbying for even stricter control and legislation. 

To me this appears to be a Hobson's choice. I say this because the choice presented is one between creating unneeded state bureaucracy and legislation ourselves, or waiting to see if it is forced on us from an extremely activist animal rights group from the outside. This is like telling someone that you will not allow them to shove you off of the cliff, you will jump instead. 

This is a coward's choice. We do not need more legislation, more regulation, and more government in Ohio at a time when the cost of state government is already too high. We do not need to create another level of appointed bureaucracy in this state to legislate and regulate without the knowledge or consent of the voters. We especially do not need to cave in to the threats of outsiders and animal activist groups to correct a problem that doesn't exist. 

Let Ohio instead turn down an increase of the intrusion of government in yet another part of our lives. Let Ohio stand up for less government and less regulation. Let Ohio not add something fundamentally flawed to its state Constitution. 

And if HSUS chooses to come to our state at some future date in a misguided attempt to push this pointless nonsense upon us, I say "take your best shot, you self-loathing freaks". We will fight to you to the last man and with our last breath rather than make this Coward's Choice. 

Health Care Quote

Well, the combined Congressional Health Care bill is out, to the tune of just under 2000 pages. There is so much that I would like to say about this odious piece of legislation, but right now I am simply dumbfounded by the carbon footprint of printing it out, let alone the time and effort of reading it. While I am sure that I will have more to say on the subject after I have done so, I wanted to at least say something. Here it is:  

"If this is the future of health care in America, I fear that my long term plans to deal with personal illness will fall under much the same category as that of many southern states when dealing with snowfall. God put it here, and He can take it away." 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Issue 3: The Best Law Money Can Buy

I listened with great interest when representatives of Penn National were interviewed on Monday on Brian Wilson's show on 1370 WSPD AM. Because I have been rather vocal on the subject, writing columns on the subject for The Toledo Free Press, calling in on WSPD, and commenting on some of the local blogs; I wanted to make sure that I had the facts straight and understood the issue before election day. I was also curious to hear what those most desiring this Issue's passage had to say on the subject. 

I urge you to follow this link to a podcast of this interview on the WSPD website. I attempted to listen with an open mind, and here is what I got from the interview.
  • Yes passage of this issue will provide Penn National with a monopoly on casino gambling, but only in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo (three of these probably being the best markets in the state).
  • Anyone else who wants a casino can build one, but not in these four cities. They have only to approach the state legislature to build one in another city like Dayton or Youngstown however.
  • These casinos will bring money and employment wherever they go, with jobs galore and tax revenues to help bailout the budgeting process in every bloated city government where they will be (for those of you not paying attention, this is sarcasm).
  • Additional money will get funneled to the state, which likewise still shows no sign of realistic budgeting. Gambling will therefore help to prop up their equally inflated spending practices.
  • Local contractors will be used and a "fair wage" will be paid to all workers. This is what is commonly known as a sop to Democratic, heavily unionized jurisdictions to insure either their silence or their active cooperation through jobs at union scale.
The bottom line here is that sure, this issue will create a constitutional monopoly on gambling in these four cities, but doing so is OK because Penn National has put so much effort and money into getting the issue on the ballot, let alone passed. In other words, a bad law is OK in their book as long as it is properly bought and paid for. (This, for those of you who have not read their history, is the way the the railroads were built to join east to west in this country during the 19th Century. This was not particularly one of this country's shining hours.) 

Issue 3 may not be the best law for providing casino gambling in Ohio, but there is little doubt when listening to those who would benefit most from it, that it is "The Best Law Money Can Buy". 

Quote of the Day

I received this as a forwarded email message, and thought that it was definitely worth sharing with you. As the story goes, this was a contest winner from Texas A and M University at coming up with the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term.  

"Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end." 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fractured Fairy Tale: The Watchdog

Yes boys and girls, I know that it's been a while, but fear not, for it's time for another Fractured Fairy Tale. Time once again for one of those cautionary tales of life and politics in this crazy, mixed up world around us. Much like the first fairy tale that I wrote for this blog, this one is an original, if cautionary tale of "what if" that may very well soon become a "what now". I hope you enjoy it. 

Once upon a time there lived a man named John Q. Public. There was nothing at all remarkable about Mr. Public. John (and I'm sure he'd let us call him that) did have one thing that set him apart however, it was his watchdog. 

 Now this dog was not really owned by John in the strictest sense of the word, as he had never actually purchased it. The truth of the matter was that he had simply started feeding this dog upon discovering it, eventually naming the animal Newspaper. 

Newspaper, liking the attention that he got from John (and more especially the feeding), adopted John Q Public as its master, and was soon performing the duties of watchdog where John was concerned. Now Newspaper was never the most attractive of dogs, though occasionally he cleaned up rather well. Neither was he particularly well-behaved, sometimes serving his own or the needs of others as well as those of his master. 

Newspaper was in fact an often ill-tempered mutt, treating John with measured disdain (much like a cat, come to think of it). In fact if anything, Newspaper behaved more like a junk yard dog than anything else; good enough at being a watchdog, but just as likely to bite the hand that fed it as it was to snap at that of strangers and villains. 

Time passed, and Newspaper had been around for some time. Some had begun to say that he was getting a bit long in the tooth (if you know what I mean), and no longer able to hold up his end of the bargain. John of course, was no youngster either, though he often acted like one. Quite frankly, he was reaching that age where one begins to think about turning things over to the next generation, and if the truth were known they didn't much care for his watchdog. 

Much like the wayward child that he had become, John had begun to pay less attention to the care and feeding of his long-time adopted pet. This treatment did nothing good for the health and well being of his watchdog, and as a consequence it began to look even thinner and shabbier than usual. 

As time passed, an almost starving Newspaper began to become a bit resentful of this treatment. It howled at its sorry lot in life and tended to snap at anyone who came near it. While never completely leaving off at its watchdog post, even Newspaper had to admit that it wasn't doing the job that it once did. 

Now one day, one of the worst of the miscreants that this watchdog had kept at bay crept forward once again to work his mischief. This ill-mannered neighborhood bully had been hanging around for years, often trying to do ill to Mr Public; but with Newspaper on the job, he was never really able to succeed. 

This nefarious individual (let's call him Government) was well known as one of the worst of criminals. A strong-armed thief who was often known to take money at the point of a gun, a loan shark who lent money that always had strings attached, and a bully who loved to throw his weight around in the neighborhood; Government was most well known for his operation of a massive protection racket and for running the biggest Ponzi scheme that had ever been seen. In other words, Government was a pretty nasty guy.

With the lack of attention from his adopted owner and a hunger that was soon bordering on starvation, Newspaper finally started sniffing around at the treats that had been dangled for years in the outstretched hand of Government. Knowing that continued refusal of these morsels might portend the end of its days (while perhaps scarcely realizing that accepting them could do likewise), this watchdog began to whimper over the potential of such offered nourishment. 

Long at the service of its adoptive master John Q Public, Newspaper didn't know what else to do if he was to survive to continue in his duties. While still somewhat loyal to his master's needs, Newspaper was equally interested in his own survival. And so there we see them, much like the scene of Kevin Costner extending a bit of jerky to the wolf 'Two Socks' in "Dancing With Wolves". Government now carefully extends the hand of potential survival to Newspaper, and this once faithful watchdog creeps ever closer to accepting it.


I know, I know, this is one hell of a way to end a Fairy Tale. The truth of the matter is we don't know the end of this story yet. Quite frankly, the fate of Newspaper, Government, and John Q Public are hanging in the balance right now. If this self-appointed watchdog of our freedoms begins to accept anything from government, there is little doubt that it will be unable to properly perform this long-held function in the future. If it doesn't however, there is real doubt that this watchdog may be around much longer. For good or ill, the end of this tale has yet to be written. For newspapers, for government, but especially for the Public; these are perilous times indeed!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Refugee Relief?

For those of you who hadn't noticed, $20.3 million dollars of immigration aid has been quietly appropriated by Congress and signed by President Obama in House Bill 1388 way back on January 27, 2009. Sailing under the radar of discussion on Stimulus Packages, Bailouts, Cap and Trade, and Health Care Reform going on in this country; this seemingly paltry sum has been allocated for use under executive order without fanfare. 

Now I know that $20 million seems like nothing these days when billions of dollars are tossed about like coins in a fountain , but this one caught my attention because it is to be used for "migration assistance" of people from Gaza. 

Now let's be clear here. Gaza has not been a tourist destination for some time now, and anyone wanting to get out of there probably has their head on straight. That being said, at this time of rampant unemployment, soaring government debt, and an economy that's in the tank, is it really time to be paying people to come to this country? 

In light of some of the recently foiled terrorist plots admitted to in this country, I likewise have to ask myself if this is the right time to use government funds to provide refugees with airline tickets and food and housing support to do so; knowing that many of these people may well have ties to Hamas. 

Don't get me wrong. I understand the desire of someone to leave such a troubled area in the hopes of a better life in the US. I am also sure that they will find one in this country (we don't have nearly as many mortar and missile attacks as they do in Gaza) I simply don't understand how our government, in the midst of transition and with all of the crises that it was facing at the time, could place this at the top of their list in January when so many other things could have and should have been there.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Master of None

My recent recovery process has given me ample time to pause for reflection, which is something that I have discovered can be a truly frightening experience. You see, there were so many things that I wanted to do and to be in my life, and I fear that I never made it. 

I wanted to be a musician at one point in my life, and was even in a couple of bands as a young man. I quickly realized however how tough a business that this could be, and that my musical abilities were nowhere near those of many people that I knew then and now. 

I wanted to be a radio personality like Larry Lujack on WLS AM radio in Chicago when I was growing up, or like many of the talk radio personalities that I hear today both locally and nationally. I have even been given a shot to do so here in Toledo a couple of time on 1370 WSPD. I can't say that I find any real talent or ability in myself for this profession though. It's a lot of fun, very hard work, and probably something that I shouldn't be allowed to do very often. 

I seriously considered becoming a professional student, and maybe even a professor. I discovered however that the life of academia was far more rigid than the worst of trade unions. Far too little original thought is generated, and far too much regurgitation of tired ideas is treated as knowledge. I soon realized that I had neither the patience nor the temper to deal with this hide-bound existence and moved on. 

I hoped to become a captain of industry by making my way in the world through production or sales. I have spent a number of years doing it and had a fair amount of successes both in working with people and in sales, but realize now that I am neither intuitive enough nor enough of a bastard to rise to the top of the capitalistic pyramid. 

I hoped at one time in my life to be a civic leader, and perhaps even run for minor office. I discovered however that while I like people on an individual basis, I find them often mean, lazy, and hard to deal with in large groups. I also discovered that I had trouble not telling them so. This lack of inhibition, along with some rather ugly scars of life's battles that I have accumulated make me unsuitable as a political candidate and probably even more so as a potential leader. 

I desperately hoped to become a writer, having become enamored of literature and addicted to putting things on paper in my youth. As this blog, a few letters to the editors to local papers and USA Today, the columns that have been published in the Toledo Free Press, and the effort of my still unpublished novel attest; I have certainly given it a try. 

I fear however that I will never be compared with the great novelists, the great columnists, or even the best bloggers of the world. It's not that I do a bad job, it's just that I don't rise to the level of my betters in these efforts. I have decided in my recent reflections that this is going to be OK with me. The lack of true talent, short attention span, and lack of initiative that I have illustrated with my life to date has probably always kept me from being able to do one thing well enough to rise to the top of a profession. 

I have discovered however, that I do have a little ability in each of these fields and that each of them as been a rewarding pursuit. I guess therefore, that I am the living example of the expression "jack of all trades, master of none". 

Friday, October 23, 2009

TFP Column: Paranoia Indeed

I have once again been honored by having a column printed in the Toledo Free Press. This weekend's effort "Paranoia Indeed", tries to answer some of the very literate, but equally wrong efforts of fellow columnist Don Burnard in that same publication. 

The fact that Tom Pounds and Michael Miller see fit to put such efforts from opposite ends of the political spectrum in this publication speaks volumes of their desire to see at least one level playing field in the media of the city of Toledo. 

As always, there is much more to see and to read in the TFP, and with the prospect of inclement weather for most of the weekend, little excuse not to dive right into it. 
(I need to pass on a special thank you this week to Lisa Renee of Glass City Jungle, who fact checks much of what goes in to the TFP and helped me to clarify a part of this week's column.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Best Talent

Some concern is being expressed in the last few days as the government "Pay Czar" Kenneth Feinberg reaches out for some of the lavish pay enjoyed by senior managers of businesses that have received a government bailout. 

Make no mistake about this, the concept that the United States even has a Pay Czar is abhorrent to me. The idea that our government should in any way decide what pay a job is worth in a free market economy (which we haven't really had in years I suppose) is frightening. The fact that a legal contract between an employer and an employee no longer means anything; and that a bureaucrat that was neither elected to office by the voters, nor confirmed by the Senate can rule on legal issues which Constitutionally are the province of the courts should be of great concern to all of us. 

That being said, I am amused by the released comments by these businesses that controlling the pay of executives may prevent the best and brightest from seeking jobs with these companies, and that such interference by the government may prevent them from recruiting necessary talent. My question is this: 
If these companies were getting the best and brightest in management before the Pay Czar jumped in to interfere with the salary process, why did they need the government bailout in the first place?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stranger In A Strange Land

I had recently been given a stern medical recommendation to abandon some of the heavy reading that I have been doing ("American Progressivism" and "The 5000 Year Leap") in favor of a lighter literary burden. Having read all of the rest of my stack at home, I decided to return to an old friend, "Stranger In A Strange Land", by Robert Heinlein. 

Since Heinlein is one of my all-time favorite authors and science fiction is the literature that got me hooked on reading, this was a real vacation. Originally published in 1961, some of the technology discussed now seems either primitive or far-fetched, but the techno toys were as much an excuse to send a message as anything else in Heinlein novels. Like many sci-fi writers, Heinlein had a lot to say about improving society, and used the future to do so. 

But why talk about this mid-week, when I usually discuss something political? The answer is simple, it is because re-reading this book reminded me of something that I used to know before taking up the subject of politics and government more seriously, both in this blog and in the columns that I write for the Toledo Free Press. Heinlein had a universal distrust of government and politicians and expressing it was a common theme in his writing: 
"Of course the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you. If you don't play, you can't win."  

This is not to say that all elections are rigged (though you would be hard pressed to convince the people of Afghanistan that), but rather that politicians set up the system, so of course the rules favor them. That doesn't mean that we have to to like the rules and that we shouldn't try to throw in a monkey wrench when the opportunity presents itself. If you sit on the sidelines though, there is little chance that you will have any influence or that things have anything more than a hope of getting better.  

"Stupidity cannot be cured by money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim cannot help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime: the sentence is death, there is no appeal and execution is carried out automatically and without pity." 

To me the meaning is clear here. Those who take on the mantle of aggressive ignorance (sometimes almost gleefully) where their government and leadership is concerned have no reason of surprise or complaint when Darwin's theories place them in the same category as that of the carrier pigeon and the dodo bird. Truth be known, the rest of us may be better off without them.  

"Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil" 

Government these days seems intent on taking care of us whether we want them to or not. They tell us that they do this in large part because the world is too complicated for us to handle it on our own. In other words, they are doing this out of the best, the kindest, and the most altruistic of motives. Invariably, they are wrong, and in the worst way.  

"A motion to adjourn is always in order." 

I have always taken this to mean that government does the least harm when it does the least. I believe that history will prove me out on this one. This is why I am so concerned about a government that is now so concerned with every fiddlin' detail of our lives. 

I live for the days when Congress is not in session, knowing these days that the more time they spend not legislating and regulating, the happier that I am and the more freedom I keep. You see, the reading of my youth prepared me for the place where I am today. The lessons that I learned (and recently relearned) about life from Robert Heinlein still stand me in good stead. As for "Stranger ...", it simply reminds me what an odd duck we Conservatives are in this encroaching world of liberalism and progressivism, causing us to feel like strangers in a strange land. I have hopes however that with or without reading one of my literary heroes, such will not always be the case. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should also point out what Heinlein said about those engaging in pursuits like this blog:  

"Writing is never something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterward." 

If you will excuse me, I have a date with some soap and water ... (BTW, for those of you who 'grok' Heinlein, I am thinking a lot lately of changing my name to Jubal or Lazarus.) 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Change of Stripe

Listening to Fox News Sunday this morning on the health care debate, I found an interesting change of stripe revealed. The question was to Senator Conrad, after discussing the potential of a "public option". The change of stripe was revealed when the host Chris Wallace asked Senator Conrad how moderate Democrats like him were going to reconcile their thinking with liberal Democrats like Senator Specter. 

Isn't this the same Arlen Specter who until recently was a Republican? How can someone with such long experience in the Senate and such a lengthy political career in general go from an "evil" Republican to a liberal Democrat in such a short period of time? (By the way, what does this say about the political affiliation of Sen Snow, based on her recent voting record?)

Quote of the Day

"There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong ... In fact it is only reestablishing under another name and a more specious form, force as the measure of right."  
- James Madison

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Shopping Days of Halloween

Oh how I love these days leading up to Halloween. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I plan to go out and Trick or Treat the neighborhood (even without a costume, that prospect is simply too frightening to contemplate). No, I am enamored of this period because of the shopping days of Halloween. 

You see, having long ago decided on an annual costume, I am free to peruse other delights. I can wander the aisles endlessly in search of the treasures of Halloween. I can gaze longingly at Snickers, Milky Ways, and Three Musketeers. I can remember with joy the times when I could stuff my face with Nestles Crunch, Butterfingers, and Baby Ruth bars. I can even think back to the days when Popcorn balls and taffy apples could be handed out without handling them with Hazmat suits or run through X-ray machines before consuming them. (I can also sneer at the little boxes of fruit that some still attempt to substitute for the real goodies.) 

Heck, I'll even spend a few minutes noticing the current crop of "decorations made easy" for houses these days, full of inflatable pumpkins and pre-formed spider webs. Finally I will falsely admire the current trends in kiddy costumes and how politically correct they look with massive eyeholes for proper vision and special luminescent colors to insure that they can be seen from space. 

The bottom line however, is that this is the only time of the year when I can run two or three bags of these sugar-filled goodies past the check out staff at the store without getting a raised eyebrow in the direction of my waistline. It is only time that by telling myself that I must prepare for the arrival of cute little munchkins in costume that I can attempt to fool my conscience over their purchase. 

To be brutally honest, it's the only time when I have the excuse of potentially handing these politically incorrect treats out to already obese children that I can replenish my stash of ill-gotten sweets. Of course those who know me well know that the lights will be out on Halloween at my house, and quietly sitting in the dark in the middle of some completely lame horror film festival, amidst a growing pile of empty wrappers, and will be occasionally be unobtrusively and nibbling on these unrequired holiday donations in almost tearful admission of my long standing addiction to these confections. 

Riddled with guilt, I will nevertheless spare those calorically challenged children from the horrors of what I see in the mirror every day. Caught up in a chocolate-filled ecstasy, I will mourn the days of my youth and the thrill of discovering the unknown treats from a hard nights work of begging door-to-door. While there are yet two weeks to go however, I will simply be enjoying the shopping days of Halloween. 
(For those of you who just can't stand not knowing, the annual costume hanging in my closet is a monk's robe that I purchased some time back. Not only does it adequately cover all that should be covered, but in my particular case it also perfectly illustrates the life of poverty and chastity that I have been my pitiful lot recently ...)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The world ain't going to be saved by nobody's scheme. It's fellows with schemes that got us into this mess. Plans get you into things, but you got to work your way out." 
- Will Rogers 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Katrina Victims

It appears that some of the politicians and residents are less than happy with the brief visit that the president made today to "The Big Easy". They feel that still not enough time, enough effort, and of course enough money has come their way in light of the disaster that they experienced when the hurricane struck in 2005. While I am sympathetic to their plight, as my daughter and son-in-law were residents of the city when Katrina struck and were forced to leave a city that they dearly loved, I nevertheless have three words for you 'victims'. 

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Town Criers

Getting the news to the public has always been a rather perilous profession. Called heralds or town criers, these couriers used to travel from village to village providing information on military victories. 

All of course, know of the Battle of Marathon, where a Greek runner crossed some 26 miles to bring back the news of victory over the Persians to the populace ... and died from the effort of doing so. The subsequent Olympic Games, where the races commemorating this achievement were held, were in fact opened by a contest of those heralds or town criers. 

The tradition of heralds continued throughout history, evolving into using town criers in each city to announce laws, warn of impending danger, and pass on such news as was worthy. Since writing was something mostly restricted to the clergy and most of the populace was illiterate anyway, such a method seemed to be the most expedient way of circulating information to growing urban populations. The profession still had its dangers however, as the expression which grew up at the time, "don't shoot the messenger" implies. 

With the evolution in technology of the printing press and the extension of literacy to greater numbers of citizens, this function over time began to fall more and more to a newsletter or "newspaper". The herald no longer ran from city to city and the town crier no longer stood at the center of town, providing all of the news that was fit to speak. 

For the many years since, it was the responsibility of the daily newspaper to serve as that herald, and they have had success in doing so. But while they often made claims to some loftier perch than deserved as a consequence of their responsibilities, failures were often as spectacular as successes. While serving as the voice of the people, they were just as often the tool of unscrupulous politicians. While attempting to serve the needs of the common man, they were equally guilty of the vices of well-to-do ownership. While often the lone voice crying out against injustice, they were likewise the mouthpiece of more nefarious purposes. 

What has become of this noble purpose today? Well certainly some of those original names survive. The Herald, The Reporter, and The Courier among others still survive as the names of many daily newspapers around the country. Information on battles, on laws, and on local news and opinion are still a regular part of what they print every day. But like what once came before them, daily newspapers now face potential extinction in the evolution of information disbursement technology. 

Newspapers appear unwilling face such demise quietly however, and some now cry out to have the government subsidize what may be in fact an outmoded system. Undoubtedly like the heralds at the time of their replacement, they beg to be kept on to serve a need that may no longer exist. No longer able to reap the vast profits that for so many years made them such a lucrative business, they now claim to be a necessity of freedom as reason for continued existence and therefore financial support . 

I mourn this potential passing of my beloved daily printed printed page (a passing that could have serious implications for me personally), but find this no reason to provide them with taxpayer support. I am concerned about how this time of change will affect protection from the infringement of government, but find this insufficient reason to subsidize them. 

I feel sure that just as the first newspapers were sold on the street, their predecessors railed out at the injustice of it all and warned the populace of the impending danger if they were to be no more. Bellowing in stentorian tones (a term which comes from a Greek herald from Trojan War days who was said to have a voice as loud as 50 men), I have little doubt that they cast a pall of doom on their positional demise. Using the voices which had served their profession so well over the years, they now no doubt whined and cajoled for solace and support. 

And so with the clamor of the daily newspaper today for such support, we see a return to its true roots. As they join the line of businesses tightly grasping their "Oliver Twist" begging bowls in the hope of something more, they truly become what once they were ... a Town Crier. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal - else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy." 
- Robert Heinlein 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Terrifying Quote of the Day

I was watching the "DiVinci Code" DVD on Saturday, when the character Sir Leigh Teabing (played by Ian McKellen) comes out with most of the most terrifying quotes that I believe that I have ever heard. It seems appropriate that on this day of worship in many religions, that we take a moment to consider it.  

"As long as there has been one true God there has been killing in His name."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bread & Circuses

The Toledo Blade printed a special section recently on the impending grand opening of the new Lucas County Arena in Toledo. Soon to be the home of the "Walleyes" hockey team and the "Bullfrogs" (our new arena football franchise), this modern cathedral of entertainment is all but ready for its debut. 

While the naming rights for this new venue have yet to decided, it has even gained a nickname through the efforts of Fred Lefebvre of WSPD, calling it the "FinkRink" in honor of outgoing mayor Carlton S Finkbeiner. As well as the above named sporting events, this new facility is already destined as an true entertainment hot spot, with many other types of amusement on the way including: comedy, music concerts, and yes, even the circus will come to town here in Toledo. 

This special section in the daily paper and some of the recent posts on "Thurber's Thoughts", along with the closeness of the upcoming elections, got me making strange connections (yeah I know, big surprise). "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," said George Santayana, and I think perhaps he was right. It seems to me that our politics today have a curious parallel to historic events. 

You see, the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire came when the people began to lose touch with what had made it (and them) the heart of civilization, the seat of reason, and the center of justice and freedom in the world. Some part of the spirit that drove the creation and growth of something that had never been seen before in Europe seemed to have gone out of it. Something of that greatness, not only of its leaders, but of the people themselves seems to have dried up, withered, and died. 

The Romans, somehow forgetting the very principles that made them great, diminished as a government. Wearied with almost never ending wars and perhaps robbed of some of their best and brightest as a consequence, they began to fail as a people. The citizens, grasping almost desperately at glories of the past, sought instead a standard of living that they no longer earned and cheap entertainment to fill the growing emptiness within them. 

The Roman government of the time, being shrewd politicians rather than great leaders and recognizing the threat to their power, gave in to these desires. They held huge gladiatorial contests in their grand coliseums with recreations of past glories, with the life and death struggle of men pitted against beasts and each other, and finally with people whose opinions differed from those of the leaders being horrifically sacrificed. 

The common people were entertained with the pomp and ceremony of these "games". They had all of the drama of life and death, all of the inspiration and indoctrination required to keep them content with their leaders, and of course bread and wine were distributed. You see, you couldn't very well expect these mere shadows of what were once a great people to sit through a day of entertainment without being fed and having something to ease throats that were parched from cheering such entertainment. 

I think about that a lot now, as I see Toledo spending over $100 million on this new entertainment venue. Likewise for many of the citizens of the US slouched in front of their televisions, seeking other idle amusements. And while they pass their often meaningless hours, they clamor for their leaders to give them ever more. Pay our mortgages and give us special deals to buy new cars or refrigerators. Provide us with health care and insure our retirement. Whatever it is that we want to keep us happy, give it to us now whether we have worked for it or not. 

Yet like those Romans of history, we could all too soon find ourselves with the Huns, the Mongols, and the Vandals at the gate as we enjoy our pastimes. Even as we attempt to amuse ourselves, history may well be recording this as the dimming of the yet another bright light in the dark tide of the history of Man. Caught up in our 'bread and circuses', we may at last be forgetting the best part of ourselves and ignoring that which seeks to destroy us from without and within.

Friday, October 9, 2009

TFP Column: Issue 3

I have once again put my two cents (not sense) in for this weekend's Toledo Free Press, this week weighing in on State Issue 3, which will be on the ballot in November. 

Being a rather strict Constitutionalist, I am not a terribly big fan of the use of a Constitutional Amendment this way, and I go into a bit of just why that is. 

This weekend's TFP is rather unique on the subject of Issue 3, in that the Publisher Tom Pounds (who I respect greatly) has weighed in on the other side of the issue from me; while Editor In Chief Michael Miller (another person on that respect list) slides a rather interesting and extensive piece right in the middle of the road on the subject. 

It's not often (at least I've never heard of it), that you see a newspaper do this kind of thing. There's a lot going on in the rest of the TFP, and the only way you are going to know what's going on in the Glass City this week is to give it a read this weekend.  

(Just as an FYI, there are different versions of my column in the print and electronic version this week. The print version went in a while back, but Michael Miller allowed me to update the column for the electronic version.)

Alfred Nobel & His Fiendish Prize

So President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize for "giving the world hope for a better future". Wait, have I missed something? Is Democracy established in Iraq? Has peace broken out in Afghanistan? Have Iran and North Korea abandoned their nuclear programs? Have Israel and the Arab world declared their undying love for one another? 

President Obama is in the tenth month of his presidency, and other than running up the national debt of the United States by a couple of trillion dollars, he has accomplished little. I'm sorry therefore, but I find that giving a Nobel who has yet to actually accomplish anything of consequence says more about the Nobel committee than it does about our current president. 

Add to that those previously awarded to Al Gore for bringing questionable science to the world's attention, the award given to terrorist leader Yasser Arafat, and that of the Secretary General of the less than useless United Nations Kofi Annan; and I think that you can safely say that this completely discredits the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Never has so much fuss been been made for so little accomplishment. I am reminded of the quote from George Bernard Shaw, 

"I can forgive Nobel for having invented dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Peace Prize".

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Occasionally when looking, I see someone who appears to be both relatively intelligent to be aging fairly well. Before being able to congratulate myself however, I realize that I am not looking in a mirror but out a window."
 - me

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You Go Home Now

Like a nightmare that you cannot seem to wake from, the time of the current mayor of Toledo just never seems to end. While the latest (and we can only hope final) stint in office of three-term Mayor Carlton S. Finkbeiner is about to end, it appears that it and he will not go quietly. Apparently aware of the impending end of his reign, Carty continues to miss no opportunity to stake his claim to one last bit of celebrity. 

When this lame duck mayor is not in front of the cameras announcing projects and milestones that never seem to occur, he is touting as if they are his own, projects that he has had nothing to do with. When not attending the manufactured publicity events like the destruction of a communication tower, he can still find the time to mistakenly defend the hiring or retention of ill-qualified, ill-behaved, and/or over paid city employees. 

Intent apparently, on wishing to establish a legacy for his split terms in office ( a term-limited two initially, and now this third), Carty cannot seem to go through a week without at least five mostly useless and patently manufactured press conferences. (Hmmm, who does this remind you of?) 

While failing to adequately perform his own tasks however, our Mayor still manages to find time to tell city council how to do their job. While famous for spending money on expensive plumbing, ill-advised real estate deals, unprofitable competition with private businesses, and landscaping projects for soon to be empty properties; our mayor has the effrontery to damn council members for not managing to fill the pothole of a budget that he created during his time in office through his plan of taxes and fee imposition and creation, all of dubious nature and questionable legality. 

While infamous for playing fast and loose with the rules regarding how he operates under the city charter, he yet finds opportunity to cast aspersions and attempts to exert pressure on council members for operating within their own rules for their own ends; even when such influence directly violates the separation of powers defined in that charter. While assuming a absurd posture of pretended principle and heaping scorn and ridicule on any citizens or media who dare to question him on the narrow view from his bully pulpit, he nevertheless appears ready to question the motives of any and all around him on anything he sees fit. While assuming a false mask of almost regal bearing, he continually destroys any illusion of majesty through wild-eyed rantings and nonsensical ravings. (John Mason Brown had a great line about this: "He played the king as if afraid that someone else would play the ace.") 

Well today places us but ninety days from the end of this dreadful nightmare. In but three months, we in Toledo will finally be able to wake up from what has appeared to be an almost "Groundhog Day" experience. A new mayor will take the stage (with hopefully a few new city council members will join the process as well)

Perhaps this new mayor will learn from his predecessor and stay a bit more out of the limelight. Maybe he will learn to play nice with city council and not threaten to take his ball home every time that he doesn't get his way. Maybe he will even be able to rebuild some level of the trust that no longer exists between Toledo, its citizens, and its neighbors. 

As for our soon to be ex-"cheerleader in chief", I can only recommend to Carty Finkbeiner what the owner of the Chinese buffet suggested to the calorically challenged diner: 

"You go home now. You been here too long." 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Imagination Station" Is Almost Here

For those of you who haven't been paying attention (which is probably most of you), the former Toledo COSI (Center Of Science and Industry) is about to reopen its doors as "Imagination Station" on October 10th. I can hardly contain my excitement! Who wouldn't be excited though with a venue, now funded in large part by taxpayer dollars, that has:
  • Taken its name from similar facilities in Wilson, NC and Lafayette, IN; after dropping the COSI name that Columbus would no longer allow it to use
  • Is still in the same ill-suited building downtown
  • Has still not presented its business plan publicly in spite of its acceptance of taxpayer funding (where are all of you YMCA people on this, by the way?)
  • Has not decreased it's $8.50 entrance fee, in spite of the taxpayer largess
  • While it has promised many new exhibits, has not actually said whether they are in place and if so, what they are
Now I know that we are all supposed to be set aside the harsh realities of life for the children, that science is an important part of a child's education where such an institution might help, and that we should probably be grateful that anyone is doing anything in downtown Toledo other than pulling out. I am afraid however, that the folks at Imagination Station have done nothing yet in my mind to prove to me that they are worthy of such enthusiasm, or of the public trust that they have been given for that matter. 

I am willing to give Imagination Station a small chance to prove itself worthy of the money now being lavished on it by Toledo taxpayers, but only a small chance. If the history of those running this facility is to be used as any indication, I suspect that they will deserve little else. It is my fear however, that it won't be long before we hear that they are going to need additional funding in this tough economy, that the exhibits will not be able to be refreshed as often as earlier committed to, and that many of their other grand plans will simply not be able to be realized. 

Perhaps then they can reorganize yet again, come to all of us cup in hand, and perpetrate yet another failed business plan on Toledo's citizens. Hey, then we could rename it: "Reincarnation Imagination Station", the museum that just won't die. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

TFP Column, Not

For those of you looking for me to highlight my column this week in the Toledo Free Press, you will be disappointed (or perhaps relieved). Circumstances beyond my control have occurred and I received a call late yesterday delaying the publication of the effort that I put forward. The reason for this will become apparent next week.

Meanwhile, the usual cast of characters will be busy outdoing my contributions to this outstanding collection of weekly news and views, and I urge you to peruse all of it on this first chilly weekend of fall.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quote of the Day

Trivial Pursuits"When as a young man I was promoted from the production floor in printing to management, I was informed that such an elevation required that half of my brain be removed. When I left management for sales, they insisted it was necessary to take the other half in order to fill the position. Now while this might on the surface appear to qualify me for elected political office, the fact that they left my spine intact may in fact preclude me from such duties."
- me

My Candidate's Campaign Speech

I don't write campaign speeches for candidates, though for a number of years while "The West Wing" was on, I felt a calling to do so. I soon discovered however, that I had neither the looks of Rob Lowe nor the talent exhibited by his character Sam Seaborn (nor that of the writers of the show for that matter). I expect now that such an opportunity will never come my way in real life, so I thought with the elections so close in November and the campaigns winding up, that in place of that dream I would write the speech that I would want a candidate running for office in this city to give. 

We come together as Toledoans once again to decide the direction that this city's future will take. Too often in the past, we have allowed ourselves to stand idly by while the interchangeable candidates and unchanging policies have held sway in the Glass City, doing little more than holding this city back from the promising potential that we all know exists. Far too much of that potential has been squandered by a group of professional politicians who move from the School Board to the Council Chambers on their way to even higher office, or who have purposely ignored such potential by continuing the 'business as usual' policies that this self-appointed ruling class imposes on this city.

The fault for this loss does not lie entirely with the political parties, though they have long turned politics in Toledo into a twisted game where the only thing that matters is the number of players you have on the field.  Neither is it entirely the fault of unions, though their symbiotic relationship with local government long ago reached a point where it's killing the host.  Perhaps it's not even the fault of apathetic voters too lazy to look beyond familiar names and too concerned about the latest celebrity scandal or popular TV show to make educated choices at the polls ... or any choice at all for that matter. 

It's long past time that voters in Toledo looked beyond some these partisan loyalties and started looking at what must be done to stop the runaway train of regulation, taxation, and obfuscation that Glass City government has become.

Contract with the city's unions need to be fair, but not to reward its employers on a far grander scale than those paying the bill for such agreements.  Efforts to support supposed 'quality of life' issues instead need to buttress the quality of streets and sewers necessary to that city's life itself.  Beautification projects long designed to hide this cities flaws must be set aside in favor of repairing those flaws instead.

It's far past time when Toledo stopped looking at ways to maintain its past and began to start looking at ways to define its future.  

Stop seeking ways to generate revenue through levy, permanent temporary taxation, and fees derived from marginally legal surveillance of its citizens.  Stop placing bureaucratic red-tape and onerous regulation in the way of small businesses seeking nothing more than to remain in Toledo.  Stop adding to the burdens of a budget filled with constant effort to erase red ink and start finding ways to live within a budget that has too many residents and businesses voting with their feet.  

We can begin by running an independent audit of the city to see where we 'really are' where revenues and expenditures are concerned.  We can continue by doing what government does best when opportunity knocks and potential presents itself, get it out of the way.  We can build a strong foundation for change by understanding that any level of government works best that infringes on the efforts of its citizens to improve their lives the least.

The beginning is simple enough.  Place a majority in Council that will not add to its already onerous list of laws, but instead seek the removal of those which most stand in the way of progress.  Place a majority in Council that can look beyond the interests of Unions with big pockets to fund future ambitions and look instead to citizens whose taxes pay the bills.  Place a majority in Council who understand that government cannot fix everything and should not try to since often creates more problems than it solves in its attempts.

None of this may stave off the current problems caused by the economic downturn, but even a few might begin to turn the ship of state and chart for it a more promising course.  None of this may end the exodus in the city, but doing so may encourage some of those refugees to return.  None of this may end the distrust of Toledo's neighbors, but might show them that we are making an honest effort to regain such trust.

Doing something so radically different may not solve the problems that the Glass City faces in an economy continually growing tougher, but hold more promise than continuing to follow policies that have long since proven ineffective at doing anything but adding to the city's never-ending budget woes.  Doing so might likewise at least be a small step in regaining the trust of those who long ago lost faith and gave up on the elected leaders that got the city into this mess in the first place.

Now is the time to shake off those shackles of the tired and shopworn past and look ahead.  Now is the time for a clean break with that past and those associated with it, in order to find a better future.  Now is the time to realize that most of today's Council has history of failure and find promise instead in the unrealized potential of new leadership for the Glass City.

Should any of you candidates out there actually believe in any of this and wish to use any or all of this speech, you may do so with my blessing (and with credit given of course, I want to make Sam Seaborn proud).