Monday, March 29, 2010

The "Stuck on Stupid" Dictionary #23

Here we are once again, adding yet more words to the lexicon of local terms more commonly known here in Toledo as the "Stuck on Stupid Dictionary". 

Now I know that it has been far too long since proper additions to this reference tome have been made, but it appears that the humble scribbler in charge of such work has been suffering from criminal laziness. For those of you who have somehow managed to miss previous postings in this area (shame on you, now go back and read all of the postings under the title of dictionary), the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appear to mean something entirely different to us in Toledo and Northwest Ohio. 

1. Yielding a right or privilege in an argument or negotiation 
2. Yielding something barely worth noticing on a temporary basis in a contract negotiation, only to have it returned to you a few months later with interest. 
3. The appearance of giving something back when in fact nothing actually has been, so as to make those asking for it appear in some way assertive and those giving it in some way magnanimous .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Timing Is Everything

It's tin foil hat time again here at Just Blowing Smoke ladies and gentlemen, so bear with me as I set aside my tam, seat its metal counterpart firmly in place, and once again speculate on something that occurred to me in the wake of the now almost week-long celebration that the political left is having since the passage of health care reform ... 

While few of those on the right would like to give President Obama credit for much of anything, most would agree that over his relatively short career in public life he has been a pretty savvy political strategist. Who can argue this when watching a relatively obscure Illinois state senator in 1996 rise to win election to the highest office in the land by 2008? 

How then do we explain the ugly, lengthy, and often painful to watch strategy used to see health care reform legislation passed? Was it a failure to properly utilize crushing majorities in both houses of Congress? Was is poor planning on the President's part to let Congress fumble about the task for months before stepping in himself to lead the parade? Was it a failure of purpose on the part of the House and Senate leadership to see this drag through Congressional recesses in 2009, knowing that some would face difficult meetings with constituents during those breaks? Could it instead have been yet another bit of brilliant political maneuvering on the part of a President and his team to get this legislation passed and provide just enough political cover for legislators who are running for re-election? 

Consider that while it seemed to take forever to get this supposed #1 presidential priority signed into law, it is now in fact the law of the land. Consider that while a super-majority was squandered in the Senate, enough votes were found in the end to achieve passage. Consider that though enough backroom deals were brought to light in the process to make the abuses and maneuverings of Tammany Hall seem tame by comparison, that they had no effect in the end on passage of this bill. Consider that once again, Congress voted on legislation that it had not properly read, did not understand, and passed anyway. Consider as well that though many Conservatives have vowed to wrest public office from those who supported this legislation, those considered most responsible have only now been identified. 

And though opponents of health care reform have targeted those they consider the culprits in this apparent comedy of errors for political challenge, they do so now with the clock quickly ticking away. This is, as most will note, after the date for petitions to run against them under the auspices of the two major parties had to be turned in. It is barely more than one month before primary elections for nomination of these two parties are held. It is barely more than seven months before the general elections for those seats will be held. 

One can hardly help but notice that this provides little time for opponents to raise money to battle against those with already large political war chests, little time to attempt to run an effective campaign against what in many cases are firmly entrenched incumbent legislators. 

Could it be that while Conservatives and Republicans (there is some overlap, but not as much as one would like) are celebrating the minor victory of at least fighting the good fight before losing this long-fought battle, that those in the Obama camp are likewise celebrating a strategy that has drug out the process long enough to pick the time and place of the next one? Could it be that while political right is vowing to carry the fight to the coming election, confident that the health care vote will be their key to victory, that the left recognizes that their strategy has in turn made that battle more difficult to win? Could it be that what was considered by many to be a flawed legislative strategy by the left was in fact a master stroke, in that it lured the political right into a strategically weak position (in time) through these apparent minor defeats? 

Whether you approve or disapprove of the health care reform legislation or approve or disapprove of the president, I fear that we may all need to tip out hats (even the tin foil ones) to what perhaps might have been an absolutely brilliant bit of political strategy. For in warfare and in politics, as in much else in life ... timing is everything.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Post-Debate Thoughts

For those of you who missed it last night, I was lucky enough to participate on the panel for a debate between Rich Iott and Jack Smith, the two Republican challengers to Rep. Marcy Kaptur for Ohio's 9th Congressional District. This debate was held under the sponsorship of a Tea Party group, The Children of Liberty and the Toledo Free Press; and was moderated by Fred Lefebvre of WSPD. 

Let me say first that I appreciated the opportunity to sit on this panel and share some thinking with fellow panelists Kristen Rapin of the TFP and Scott Allegrini of The Children of Liberty. The time that we spent going over potential questions was both enjoyable and educational for me, and I believe that the questions that we finally came up with together served the debate pretty well. Next let me say that I was extremely impressed with how well organized this event was. While having no prior experience participating in such events, this one seemed to come off pretty well. Not only did it get going on time, but it ended on time as well; and I believe that Scott and the Children of Liberty deserve a tremendous amount of credit for doing the required prep work so that this could happen. 

Once things got going, the credit should go to Fred, who kept things on track and on pace. His experience and ability in dealing with both politicians and regular people were readily apparent, and he managed to keep the mood in the room light while retaining the serious nature of the proceedings. 

I would also like to say that I was impressed with both of the candidates. Mr. Iott and Mr. Smith did a great job of keeping their answers to the questions posed both on topic and within the time limits proposed. Since I am a registered Independent and have no vote to cast in the upcoming primary, it is not my place to choose. I believe however, that either would serve the Republican Party well in the general election. Each brings different talents to the position that would be an asset, and both seem firmly grounded in more traditional conservative values. 

While both are inexperienced in the political arena, unlike many of the more experienced members holding office they seem to understand the Constitutional limits of Congressional representation. Mr. Iott's business experience could serve him well and might also give him an understanding of what is required to jump start the economy. It seems likely that such business connections could also help in the area of fund-raising. Mr. Smith's law enforcement and military experience should likewise be an asset should he make it all the way through. While not having direct experience in politics, like our current Mayor in Toledo he has certainly been exposed to and dealt with politicians over the years, which cannot help but be an asset. 

On a final note, isn't amazing that with a Republican Primary coming up on May 4th, that having a debate between the two candidates fell to the Children of Liberty? Where were either of the groups claiming leadership of the Lucas County Republican Party? Absent such leadership, where were any of the other local county Republican Party leaders, any of the local Republican Groups, or failing all of that, the state Republican Party. With the rhetoric out there about taking back leadership in the House and Senate, what chance are either of these candidates to have if their party cannot get them in front of potential voters? 
(I may try and do more with the notes that I attempted to scribble while participating in this, but no promises. Asking questions, listening to answers and writing notes at the same time left me with some rather unusual chicken scratchings on a legal pad.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Health Care Recipe

On this weekend of what will apparently be the deciding vote on the future of health care reform in this country, it's interesting to understand some of the history and human nature involved with the recipe for health care that we are cooking. What we are trying to prepare here is a dish from the tax exclusion of employer provided health benefits. 

This all began under a rather famous progressive President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose administration during WWII instituted wage and price controls to keep corporations from profiteering from the war ("excess" profits were taxed at an extremely high rate) and to keep them using such profits in a bidding war for employees. Employer provided health benefits were exempt from these laws however, so companies plowed profits into such plans to retain their best and brightest. 

Hence today, if you try and buy private health insurance, you do it with money that you are taxed on. If you receive it from an employer, the money is untaxed ... clearly a better bargain. Human behavior then makes its way into the recipe, by following the golden rule that anything provided to a person for free will be considered of little or no value. In the days of low-deductible, low co-pay insurance, there can therefore be no harm in abusing the use of something that costs you nothing. 

As a consequence, people and doctors took full advantage of this "free" service provided by employers. The government re-entered the process with Medicare and Medicaid. Well intentioned as the programs might have been, they provided further "free" medical care to those already not covered under employer programs and encouraged further abuse of the system. Not only did they cater to the potential abuse of a program which the patient didn't seem to directly pay for, but they contributed additionally by setting fixed benefit payments structures for certain procedures. This had the doubly negative consequences of readmitting government price controls to a part of the process and allowing (or forcing) doctors to recover lost revenue by charging higher prices to those not covered by these government programs. 

Added then to the ingredients of this were the efforts of trial lawyers, who sought to maintain the confusion between honest human error and criminal behavior for the purposes of personal financial gain. Capitalizing on a combination of greed (personal and professional), carefully bought and paid for tort law, and the natural sympathy of juries for those they feel have been wronged; they turned medical malpractice into a winning lottery ticket. Pain and suffering were turned into potential free rides for those unlucky enough to have been injured, but lucky enough to have a good case and better lawyer. This liability lottery in turn led to malpractice insurance rates that further drove up the cost of medicine and a massive increase in testing procedures (and their billable costs) in a vain attempt to cover the posteriors of doctors against future lawsuits. 

The final ingredient of course is the creativity of the human mind. Given time, opportunity, and the opportunity to make a profit by doing so; Man (and Woman) will seek ways to extend their own existence and that of their fellows through and increase of medical science. New technology, new drugs, and new treatment procedures will inevitably drive up the cost of medicine and the length of time that a given human being has access to it. 

Stir such mixture together and bake in a Congress that has no concept of fiscal responsibility and you get the spiraling increases in the cost of medical care in this country today. 

 There is a further truth here however and since I know of no other way to do so, I will just say it: "Government has never been able to control the cost of any good or service, only the payment given for it." Thus the recipe for health care reform currently on the table seeks to change the nature of the result without changing any of the ingredients used. It does not take into account the nature of the cooks or the way that the dish has been prepared for over 60 years. In a argument far too typical of government policy, they tell us however that this recipe will undoubtedly achieve a better and more palatable result if we just make it in a much larger batch.

Friday, March 19, 2010

TFP Column: Look For The Union Label

Another week has come and gone in Toledo and the only thing that we know for sure is that neither the budget for the city nor that for the Toledo Public School system are balanced yet (though the city is fast approaching its March 31st deadline). Union layoffs have been threatened by both organizations, but both appear to be hesitating. It seems as though pulling the trigger on such a decision is as attractive to the politicians involved as a game of Russian roulette with most of the chambers loaded. 

It was thinking like this that led me to this week's TFP effort, "Look For The Union Label". I hope that this catchy little jingle from days gone by also strikes a chord with you. 

After a week of beautiful weather in Toledo, it now appears that we will see declining temperatures and increasing humidity (of the rain variety). My advice would be to find a way to stay dry while catching up on the week's events in the Toledo free Press.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St Patrick's 2010

La'Fheile Pa'draig Sona Duit

For those unfamiliar with ancient Hibernian tongues, I have just wished you Happy St. Patrick's Day in Gaelic. Patrick is of course, the patron saint of Ireland (pronounced 'areland), also known as Eire in its native tongue. Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, since its regular rains leave a countryside dominated by this lovely green color. Since this is a day in celebration of Patrick however, it would be rude not to recount at least briefly, his history. 

St. Patrick is actually quite curious as patron saints go, especially an Irish one. This is because he was not Irish, but was in fact British (not a favorite nationality on the Emerald Isle); and came to Ireland the first time as a captured slave of the Irish. He escaped that captivity after six years however and returned to his home in Britain, eventually becoming a deacon and later a bishop. He returned to Ireland as a missionary, working in the north and the west of the island. Little is actually known of the places that he worked, though there are many legends of the places that he stopped and the miracles performed. 

His mission was ultimately a successful one and the country remains largely a Catholic one. And while 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. St. Patrick is also credited with chasing the snakes from Ireland, though this too is a myth, since the truth of the matter is that there never were snakes in Ireland. 

Regardless of the vague nature of his legend (a bit of Blarney perhaps) 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. (All of this of course, being a suitable reason to go to the pub and have a pint or two by way of a belated Irish wake.)

As I have pointed out on previous occasions on this blog, March 17th is also the birthday of my youngest grandchild, Margaret Ruth Tipatina Demaria. "Maggie Moo Kropotnik" will in fact be turning four on this day of family celebration, and I understand that they will be once again holding parades in New York City (near where she lives) and in Chicago (where my own roots are) as a consequence. 

Now while I doubt that I will be lifting a glass of anything myself today, let me nevertheless offer an Irish toast to all of you on this day of days: 

May the road rise up to meet you 
May the wind be always at your back 
May the sun shine warm upon your face 
And the rain fall soft upon your fields 
And until we meet again 
May God hold you in the palm of His hand 
And may you live in peace and freedom 

As for those of you less lyrical (and more likely to drink green Anheuser-Busch or Miller products, perhaps I can offer this instead: 

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


Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Stupid Treatment

Is it just me, or has the world begun treating people as a lot more stupid in recent history? I find myself asking this question regularly as I look at the way that we are being treated by everything from entertainment to politics. I submit the following as evidence:
  • Television networks seemed convinced that we will be entertained by shows about about the lives of people whose company we would take great pains to avoid.
  • Pharmaceutical companies attempt to convince us in commercials to have a doctor put us on medications that have the potential of causing such side effects as rectal bleeding or death.
  • Syndicated radio shows that we can listen to for free attempt to convince us that I should instead pay them a monthly fee to watch them perform this show on our computers. (How we are supposed to work using that computer while doing so is strangely left unexplained.)
  • Infomercials seemed convinced that our lives would be truly fulfilled if we would only start that collection of quarters, buy a new set of knives, or trade in a working vacuum cleaner for any one of a dozen different new ones. (That is of course, when they are not telling us that they know the secret of making money, and they will share it if we share some of our money with them. I know it too, it's getting a bunch of mooks to send you a check to learn your secret.)
  • The lawyers in Congress tell us that health care is too expensive because the doctors make too much money, while the doctors say that the cost increases in medicine are mostly about the cost of hiring lawyers to defend themselves in lawsuits.
  • Car companies provide a warranty on the engine and drive train of up to 100,000 miles, but provide little or no warranty on the body or interior of the car. (What good the engine and drive train will do me without the body and interior has yet to be explained.)
  • Some scientists tell us that the human race must stop producing greenhouse gases before they drive the temperature up from 2 to 10 degrees and melt the polar ice caps causing cataclysmic floods. Then they tell us that if we do so, it will only make about .5 degrees difference in those increases.
  • Karl Rove (the Deputy Chief of Staff under former Republican president George W. Bush) wants us to believe that what's wrong with the country today is that Democrats are spending too much money, when the Administration that he worked for was doing pretty much the same thing on only a slightly smaller scale.
  • Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tells us that Congress needs to pass health care legislation first, so that we can learn what's in it afterward. (which may not make sense but does kind of solve the problem that Congress has been having in reading bills before voting on them)
I'm sure that there is a reasonable and logical explanation for the apparent disconnect of such information, but I'm damned if I can figure out what it is, which is I suppose why I at least am considered stupid. 

Now perhaps there is a government study currently going on somewhere, consuming vast amounts of tax-supported resources to come up with a truly scholarly work on the subject. Have no fear however, when and if the answer is finally released in such a ponderous document written in academic code, we will all probably be too stupid to understand it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

TFP Column: The Gifts That Keeps On Giving

Having successfully launched its "Star" edition just days ago, the Toledo Free Press has gone back to the presses for its regular weekend edition. Toledo's massive budget deficit and the March 31 date of required balance are approaching like an oncoming freight train. 

Not surprisingly there are a couple of opinion pieces on the subject, mine included. Michael Miller has once more outdone himself again with a rather amusing take on a potential solution, with his "2010 Telethon For Toledo". I myself contributed a much humbler effort on the subject with "The Gifts That Keeps On Giving", attempting to trace this situation back to the mistakes of the previous administration. 

With the upcoming St Patrick's Day holiday fast approaching, I would also recommend to your attention this listing of all of the places that you can properly celebrate this auspicious occasion in Toledo. (I myself will be in church all day.) 

While the temperatures will be up this weekend, the rain will be falling. My recommendation would be to spend a little time working on your taxes (if you haven't already) and improving your mind with the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Airport Security Restrictions

TSA (the Transportation Security Administration) is rolling out yet another and perhaps even more intrusive security procedure in their continued effort to annoy the flying public in the name of making travel safer. Passengers will now be randomly selected anywhere from the security lines to the gate to have their hands swabbed for the presence of gunpowder residue. Of course this will also mean additional delays to the travel process, government spending (about $39 million for the portable detection devices), and will also call for spending on additional TSA staff to operate them.

On its face, this new level of airport security procedures appears little more than another government spending program and a chance to influence unemployment numbers by the creation of government jobs paid for by taxpayers. There is a more subtle message being handed to the American public however that I believe that few recognize, and it is that the movement of this country's citizens needs to be more controlled.

When I began traveling for a living in the late 70's, there was an unwritten guideline that if the trip was over four hours by car, we should fly to be more efficient. As security procedures increased around the 9/11 attacks, that guideline moved the line from 4 up to 6-7 hours before we went to the airport. Now we are told that with the new security procedures, that we should be at airports at least 3 hours in advance of the flight at a minimum. We are finally told to expect body scans, pat-downs, and these random swabbings in an attempt to make us more safe.

Added to the fact that owing to fuel costs and airline profitability there will be longer travel times to most destinations, what this means to me is that the unwritten rule will now say that spending more than a full day of driving from point to point will be required before considering trying to climb on an airplane. Not only is this counter intuitive to what we are told is the socially responsible thinking on private transportation vs mass transit in this country, but its outcome eventually leads many in this country to conclude that they will decide to travel (other than locally) only when absolutely necessary.

The United States has always been a beacon of freedom in the world in terms of travel, with no "border crossings" when traveling from state to state in a geography far more vast than that of Europe. There has never in fact, been a more mobile society than that in this country. Increasing government influence now forces us to admit that while the cost of gasoline is high, and the cost of airline travel is increasing as well, Americans are now beginning to rethink the mobility that they have long enjoyed in an attempt to avoid the increasingly intrusive government security inspections between the ticket counter and the gate at an airport. 

Amazingly, we allow all of this to go on while most would agree that the lion's share of these procedures do nothing to add to the actual safety of airline travel in this country. Most would likewise agree that the government imposed, politically correct nature of the prosecution of these practices does not effectively target the potential dangers to travelers that exist. We have become so fearful however, and so compliant as a society, that when our leaders tell us that we are in danger we willingly go along with this nonsense in spite of this knowledge. It may place the tin foil hat firmly on my head, but I would suggest that hidden in this apparent drive for safety is an agenda supporting an increasing role for Homeland Security and its TSA police arm that states that a population is easier to keep safe (and to control) if it simply finds it more convenient to stay put. 

Might I also suggest that the continued and gradual increase of these draconian security measures appears more an example of the practices of the old Soviet Union than the country designed by our Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin once warned us that: "Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." It appears that we are becoming ever more willing to allow our government to take these liberties from us bit by bit in the name of a such safety while traveling. It also appears that once again, we are going to allow that government to impose new airline security restrictions upon us in the name of the the very freedoms that they take away.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Act Natural, The Cameras Are On

It occurred to me while watching commercials intended to convince me to watch the reality shows on the various networks (they were unsuccessful) that during filming of these mostly unimaginative bits of natural fertilizer, there must be someone standing just off camera saying, "OK, we're going to turn the camera on, act natural." How many of us could fulfill this ridiculous and impossible request if it were asked of us? 

And yet there seems to be a growing number these days who spend their time seeking public attention in one way or the other and finding new and increasingly pathetic ways to place themselves in front of a recording device for later public consumption, in a rather sad form of a game that I like to call: 'Look at me!' We see it in the characters and caricatures that have taken over our television screens on 'reality shows', in contestants attempting to become a star on 'American Idol' or its knock-off counterparts, and in those simply seeking their 15 seconds of fame by leaning into a camera shot while a news crew films a tragedy unfolding. 

And when we are not hypnotized by the antics of these desperate cries for attention by those filming 'human pet tricks' on You Tube, we are dealing with with one of today's media darlings similarly attempting to mesmerize us by convincing us to form the audience of a radio and/or TV show, sign up for a newsletter, and pay them for 'insider' access to their every move; while simultaneously encouraging us to buy books, movie tickets, and T-shirts. Those still attempting to lead a normal life (not that I understand anything about the concept of a normal life you understand) in the wake of such non-stop media exploitation are far too often asked to attempt to do so while the cameras are running. 

Even if you decide that the 'Look at me' game is one that you are not interested in playing, it is likely that you will find yourself unwillingly and unexpectedly caught up in some other player's effort. It often seems these days as if we have no knowledge or control of when these cameras are running, what part of that which we used to consider 'personal and private' they are recording, and who will eventually be watching it with embarrassment or amusement. 

The only thing that we can appear to be sure of is that sooner or later some act that we least wanted to is likely to become publicly displayed. So what's to do in response? Should we succumb to the paranoia fostered by this ever-growing invasion of privacy and hide in our homes? (yeah, as if they were safe) Should we spend our days physically and emotionally paralyzed as we second guess each and every move for fear that someone will be playing back a copy of the poor choices that we have made? Should we simply give in to the 'Ed TV', 'Truman Show' mentality and spend the rest of our lives in a rather stilted performance of a script that no one ever bothered to give us? 

I certainly have no answers. I do know however that these are questions that we had better begin to ask ourselves. The lines between reality and entertainment have now blurred to a point that they are all but unrecognizable (a sad commentary on the lack of originality in the media, but we've covered that ground before); and whether we like it or not, we are asked (or soon will be) to act natural because the cameras are on.

Friday, March 5, 2010

TFP Column: The Toledo Family Budget

The weekend is upon us once again, and while many are focusing on the completing some financial paperwork required of us by our wicked uncle (Sam, not Ernie), some here in Toledo are paying more attention to the finances of a different family. 

My hope therefore, is that you enjoy reading what I at least consider a humorous and sarcastic effort about the finances of this family, whose level of dysfunction can only be compared to the Bundys (Al, not Ted), "The Toledo Family Budget"

There's a lot more going on in Northwest Ohio however, and Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper (soon to be publishing two days a week) is the only way that you can hope to keep up with what's going on. This weekend hints at the first signs of spring, and that makes it great time to catch up with the Toledo Free Press.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

TPS Budget Meeting: The Wearing of the Green

The Toledo Public Schools have chosen to hold their next public budget hearing to discuss cuts to the system and the tax proposal that will be on the May ballot will be on March 17th at 5:30 PM, at the Start High School (2100 Tremainsville Road, Toledo, OH 43613). At first I thought the timing of this particular meeting to be rather unfortunate, as the expectations for attendance during happy hour on St Patrick's Day (and my granddaughter Maggie's birthday, which is a religious holiday for me ) would be rather low. Then it occurred to me that there might be a couple of hidden messages in such timing:
  1. Perhaps the timing is to be used as a metaphor, and the symbolism of "the wearing of the green" is simply to draw attention to the money that has been spent on public education over the years in this city.
  2. Perhaps the timing is a call to arms for Toledo taxpayers, and that like St Patrick did in Ireland, it is time to drive the snakes from the Toledo Public School System.
(On the other hand, perhaps the timing is simply to hint at the fact that the information provided will be nothing more than a bit of blarney, and that these politicians will show little more than "a gift for the gab".) 

At any rate, owing to the religious nature of the day, I will be unable to attend. My suggestion to get some additional bodies in the room considering the occasion however, would be to serve Guinness ( a beverage appropriate for all occasions) to those attending.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Government Non-Compete Clause

The Winter Olympics just wrapped up in Calgary and far too many spent far too many hours glued to a television watching hockey games, ice skating, and people going down hills on various types on skis, snowboards, sleds. Few of us have the talent to compete in these events or comprehend the commitment to training required to reach this exalted level of excellence. We do however, love to root for the them as they exhibit their skills and revel in the spirit of competition that they exemplify. 

It's a pity that this tremendous example of competitive fervor in western Canada did not inspire the government that some of these athletes represented to catch some of the spirit of the games. Our government it unfortunately appears, has a different concept of competition, either legislating against it or rigging the results of the game before it begins.

Take the US Postal Service as an example. Once a vital part of transmitting information from place to place in this country, it was founded in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin as an instrument vital to the national interests. Over the years however, it has become increasingly unnecessary, especially so in this age of the Internet. While the Postal Service grows less useful and increasingly more expensive however, it remains as a government mandated monopoly for everything but package delivery, and expends as much effort to insure this continued lack of competition as it does for anything else. Even the containers to which it delivers, though purchased and owned by citizens, are forbidden by law for use by any other entity.

Consider the education process as yet another example. Once all education in this country was a privately contracted business between citizens and teachers, with a fee being paid for a service provided. Today we have a massive education system run and funded by government money (you know, ours). And while there are still private education institutions at the university levels that are lauded, all other attempts to compete with what many now consider little more than government indoctrination camps are continuously attacked. Private schools face increasing scrutiny in spite of their successes at providing the same service at a consistently lower cost than their publicly funded counterparts, charter schools are being all but regulated out of existence to remove them from the game, and home schooling is now under increasing attack in spite of its successes. It seems that parents who take take a personal interest in their childrens' education are essential, unless they attempt to compete with the government monopoly of the process.

Now the federal government is looking closely at controlling the ways that banks and credit card companies compete for business, is attempting to all but eliminate the competition for health care insurance by becoming a player itself, and is attempting to enter into the competition of every business in every way by regulating the use of power and level of emissions in this country. And believe me when I tell you that once this two hundred pound gorilla enters the the field of play, all of the other players will be forced to step aside.

What we need to understand is that when it comes to deciding who is going to make the rules for the people of the country, the federal government does not much care to compete. Four years of the bloodiest war in this country's history (the Civil War) proved that pretty effectively. They were fought to declare very clearly that while People and States have rights guaranteed under the Constitution, those rights do not include challenging the government that their union formed (in spite of language that says otherwise in the Declaration of Independence). And while the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution declares that: “The powers delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” that's is not always the case. If you don't believe me, try running it by Washington DC when they want to set your speed limits or pass another unfunded mandate for Medicare spending.

While it appears that the citizens of this country glory in the spirit of competition, the government that they empowered has far less interest in it (at least where their operations are concerned). And while I cannot find one in The Constitution after constant study, there appears to be an invisible non-compete clause somewhere in this document that the government operates under.