Friday, April 30, 2010

TFP Column: Leaving It To Professionals

It is the last day of April and my last column of the month for the Toledo Free Press. It may even be my last effort ever for this fine publication. Having met with Michael Miller (editor-in-chief of the TFP) on the subject a bit earlier in the month, Michael rightly points out (and I agree) that to be relevant to Toledo market and growing readership of the TFP, one really should be a part of that city and immersed its culture. This is something that will prove difficult for me in the days ahead when I will have left Toledo for Kansas City. He has graciously left the door open a tiny bit however, and the challenge will be for me to produce something worthwhile for the TFP readership from my new home. I don't know if such a thing is possible (then again, I don't know if I have done so in previous efforts), but I've always enjoyed a challenge and it will be interesting to see if it will be possible to pull it off. The idea of relevance is something that I took to heart in this weekend before the May primary, as a significant part of the discussion in the mainstream media has recently turned to who deserves to be heard in the marketplace of ideas. It reminded me of many of the same discussions about who is qualified to serve in elective office. I therefore hope that you find "Leaving It To Professionals" as a worthy effort and perhaps a fitting end to my contributions to the TFP. My work for the Toledo Free Press has been one of the great joys of my time in Toledo and of my life, and I will always be grateful to Michael and to publisher Tom Pounds for the opportunity they have given me to submit material and for the help and support that they have given me throughout these efforts (and I'm going to stop now before I get sloppy about it). This being the week before the primary, there is going to be lots of stuff (important stuff) for readers in Toledo to catch up on. Perhaps the wealth of information contained in this week's edition will even be enough to inspire more than the normal handful of dedicated individuals to GET OUT AND VOTE! As usual for spring in Toledo, the weekend promises little but rain (though the temperatures will be pretty good). My recommendation would be to enjoy the warmth, ignore the rain, and try and find out everything that's going on in Toledo and NW Ohio in the Toledo Free Press.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Questions of the Day

Am I the only one who wonders how many of the same politicians that applaud the use of "red light cameras" to enforce traffic laws can decry the recently passed Arizona legislation to enforce immigration law? 

Aren't both about both safety and holding those accountable who break the law?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Greater Threat

Though there appears to be some confusion regarding the priority of the legislative agenda right now, it is apparent that sooner rather than later Congress will be looking to take up the subject of Financial Reform in this country. 

There is little doubt that miscalculation in the the relative values of real estate and the stock market in this country contributed significantly to the financial dilemma of unprecedented proportions beginning in 2008. There is little doubt as well that the public was duped by the system of banks and brokers, screwed by the regulatory processes that we counted on to protect us, and clueless of the rather arcane rules involved with the banking industry in general, and those curious things known as financial derivatives in particular. 

I will not attempt to provide specific definitions on these particular items, as even Wikipedia admits that its explanation may involve too much jargon and be too complicated to understand without further clarification. Neither will I attempt to apologize in any way for the actions of bank managers and stock brokers who appeared to have proved little more than thieves and prostitutes while selling us out. They took our trust in the system as well as our money; and if it can be in any way proved that any broke the law, they should be jailed. 

None of this appears to matter anyway, as Congress (which is becoming well-practiced in attempting to repair things that it doesn't understand either), has decided that only now can we bring all of this to the attention of the American people. Now many might question why it is that if the issue of this abuse (real or imagined) is such a critical one, it has taken so long to bring it to the public eye.  

Some might even be cynical enough (like me) to see that we are well into an election year, and the timing is all about the fact that there is now enough potential political advantage to both sides to finally bring up the issue. Some might even ask if the attention being drawn to one evil group might draw attention away from some other. For as we join in the charge to castigate the moneylenders, we might want to notice that the crisis is also far enough in the past that many will forget that there was already government oversight in the banking industry and the stock market ... oversight that failed rather miserably. 

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) was apparently incapable of oversight of its own employees, let alone the markets which they were tasked to watch. Forget that some of those employees were too busy surfing the Internet for porn to perform the tasks assigned to them, the truth of the matter is that they didn't appear to understand the house of cards being built as stock brokers and banks became interchangeable, or make any attempt to limit risks with other people's money which increased exponentially as a consequence of such inaction. 

Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee on Banking not only allowed banks to become further embroiled in the risky nature of certain parts of the stock market, but encouraged (threatened) the banking industry to make riskier investments in the mortgage industry in order to provide home ownership to all. At the same time, they stood idly by as these companies loaned money in excess of inflated housing values to those who could not afford it. When the lack of regulatory oversight responsibility on the government's part met the fiscal irresponsibility of banks gambling on drawing an inside straight in the derivative market, a perfect storm of economic unsustainability was created and we have all been forced to live wit the results in the days since. 

We must now deal with the future rather than the past however, and our concern might better be to look at the continued political philosophy that if improperly handled regulatory practices have failed, more regulation is the best and only answer to fix it. If the existing regulators fail to fulfill their responsibilities, then the only answer is to add even more regulators to fix it. This seems to be philosophy of Congress when dealing with anything from Income Tax to Social Security, and while the while the complexity of the regulations continues to grow (the Tax Code is over 13,000 pages currently) and the number of regulators continues to grow as well; the problems of understanding these complex regulations and proper oversight of such programs yet remain. 

In other words, both groups have taken billions of dollars of our money over the years to keep for us. Both groups appear to be untrustworthy with this money, having squandered it for their own gain while ostensibly holding it in trust for our future use. Both seem incapable of following the often conflicting, confusing, and often contradictory rules either by monitoring themselves or under the oversight of outside groups set up specifically for this purpose. 

One cannot help but wonder therefore, whether the greater threat to Main Street (as politicians love to call us) is Wall Street or Congress?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Packing Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Packing has preoccupied a good bit of my time and attention in recent days, much to my dismay. As any of you who have performed such labors recently already know, it is not something that someone would recommend to a friend (or even an enemy that one wishes to take pity on). And as I bend you ear (eye actually) with complaints on the process, understand that it is only a one bedroom apartment that I am attempting to deal with here, not a residence of any size.

This is one of those labors that should be taken on with the regularity of the appearance of Haley's Comet, and I have done it far too often in recent years. I moved in Ohio from Columbus to Medina (and back to Columbus again), Columbus to LaGrange, GA, LaGrange to Toledo, and now Toledo to Kansas City; and all this in the time that has passed since the turning of the millennium. 

Oddly enough, even with all of the practice that I have been getting, I find that I get no better at the process; and each succeeding effort becomes no easier than the last. It's not the physical effort required that's all that onerous however, but the mental and emotional effort that one can find difficult. Moving forces us to deal with the fact that no matter how hard we try, we still manage to accumulate far too many "things" in our lives and that some day they must be dealt with. We are likewise compelled when the time comes to move them, to decide how important each of them is to us. 

Packing them therefore makes us look back far too closely at our lives and our past, reliving a memory with each item picked up to be carefully wrapped or set aside. Each sorting selection of what to take and what to leave behind makes us consider all of the other choices that we have made in our lives. (It also makes us wonder how we could have accumulated so much crap in such a short period, but that's a posting for another day.) 

You can therefore understand the painful nature of the process I'm talking about. Memory is in fact a minefield planted with beautiful flowers that we wander in at our peril. It's fun to savor the view and the aroma of the blooms, but we never know when a misstep will reap us a reward that we neither looked for nor wanted (along with the addition of a scar or two). Even the happiest and most poignant of our memories can carry a painful price. 

As for choices, I can't say that say that the ones I have made in life have always been the best, either for myself or for those around me. Reliving them in this process does nothing to change or improve them, and often only seeks to remind us how little we learn from history (especially our own). Packing for a move however, does not allow us the luxury of avoiding such memories and choices (something that many would say I have become pretty good at over the years)

The process inevitably involves deadlines that cannot be avoided and will not be postponed. It is a time that proves once again that the only constant in life is change, and that our only real choice in life is to move forward (often blindly) to whatever future might await us. And it is with this terrible realization that I perform the labors of packing up my life and belongings yet again, coping as best I can with the sweet sorrow of these memories that must inevitably come with the process.

Friday, April 23, 2010

TFP Column: The Right Tool For The Job

Tax day is behind us and for those of us who have survived, another weekend approaches. It seemed a fitting time to look back a week to the subject of taxes and tax day protests in the TFP with "The Right Tool For The Job"

 As always, there is a lot more going on in the TFP, with a great piece on some of the candidates for the Lucas County Commissioner position by publisher Tom Pounds, as well as an extremely informative piece by Lisa Renee Ward catching you up on all of the issues on the May 4th ballot. 

 It's going to be a rainy weekend here in Toledo, so your best bet is to find a dry place and catch up on everything going on in Toledo in the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Concession Speech

At the end of an election night, there is always one politician who must stand before a dejected (and usually intoxicated) group of supporters to concede defeat. (The other politician usually stands in front of an exuberant and equally intoxicated group to accept victory.) The speech that the loser gives is one where he congratulates his opponent on victory, pats his supporters on their collective fannies in spite of the outcome, and concedes that their effort (while noble) was not successful. While there is no election this week, there certainly seems to be a number of concession speeches being given. 

In fact it seems that we have heard little else in recent days than speeches about concessions by Toledo Unions. AFCSME locals gave a speech on their concessions of six members, 3 percent of their pension pick up (for 7 months), and spread of retirement payouts for those leaving employment this year. Toledo firefighters had already conceded at least a temporary 3 percent pension pick up and some delayed overtime payments. Toledo fire chiefs also conceded the 3 percent pick up, along with some vacation to be carried over to 2011 and some sick time conversion reduction. The police union (TPPA), has to date conceded nothing to the city and has instead taken it to court. All of this was done in response to Mayor Bell and City Council approving the move to exigent circumstances for Toledo, and the city demand of an across the board pension pick up all 10 percent of the employee contribution by all unions to their respective pensions (for those of you who didn't already know it, the city currently picks up the 10% employee contribution)

Now since this is Toledo, we must defer to the definition of concession in the SOS Dictionary as the final arbiter of meaning, and this tome speaks as follows:  

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 . 

The problem in this case however, is that I at least am confused about who is actually losing, and who should be giving the concession speech as a consequence. While the unions appear to be giving something back to the city, they don't appear to be giving much ... or for long. The city, having finally taken the principled stand of exigent circumstances to resolve this situation now seems to have conceded that the problem may not have been as great as they made it out to be. They also seem to have conceded that what they originally demanded of the unions to balance the budget is not in fact what they need. Meanwhile, it seems as if the city has merely put a piece of duct tape on the band aid, which is in turn holds on the patch, which covers the money leaking out of the hole in the city's budget through union contracts. 

The solution proposed appears to do little to resolve the issue of spending more money than the city is taking in; and instead seems only to push the hard choices out beyond the next election cycle (perhaps what was intended all along). It should also be noted that should TPPA win any part of its case in court, all bets on these "concessions" will probably be off. 

I fear that the only concession speech that should be made is the one that will never be given. It is the one where the Mayor and Council concede that they took the best chance they had to permanently fix the budget problems of the city and threw it away in the name of political expediency. It should also concede that far too many City Council members are running for new offices in the approaching election cycle to maintain the principled stand that they briefly assumed, and have once again conceded the city's future to union rule.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

From A Certain Point Of View

"So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view. Luke, you will that many of the truths that we cling to depend greatly on our point of view." - Obi Wan Kenobi (from Episode VI, "Return of the Jedi) 

Something about this simple pronouncement in a movie script has caught my attention recently as I watch instances of the political debate in this country. Both sides believe that they have the facts on their side, both seem convinced that they have the backing of history, and both are equally passionate in defending their beliefs (and attacking the opposition). It is however, the facts that we choose and how we interpret them that defines us however. 

Take for example, the recent proclamation made by the Bob McDonnell, Governor of Virginia, declaring April as Confederate History Month. Given that he was a Republican governor swept in on the Conservative momentum change he was already a target, and with this he was immediately attacked by the media and the left as racist for attempting to lionize the Confederate history of his state and for not specifically mentioning the evils of slavery in this proclamation. (He later amended his proclamation to do so, though he continued to be vilified.) 

Forget that Civil War tourism is a large source of revenue for his state, at a time when all are struggling with revenue shortfalls. Forget as well that many of Virgina's most famous and laudable citizens deserve to be remembered regardless of which side of this war that they fought on. Apparently all we are to remember is that slavery is evil and that the Civil War was fought about the cause of slavery alone. 

Now while there is no doubt that slavery is evil and little that it had something to do with this tragic period in American history, anyone who looks closely at the times can see that there was far more to it. If slavery were the cause of the war, then why is it that slavery was not ended before the war began (see definition 1 of cause)? In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation was not issued until January 1, 1863, two years after the war had begun, and slavery was not officially abolished in the United States until 1865, with the passing of the 13th Amendment. 

If the belief instead is that the war was fought not because of, but over slavery; how do we reconcile this with the fact Lincoln initially felt that he had no Constitutional right to abolish the institution? In fact, Lincoln stated after the war had begun: "My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it."  

Perhaps instead we should look more closely at this first Republican president, someone who was committed to strong central government and to a tax and spend philosophy. Lincoln believed in high tariffs that were putting a strangle hold on Southern exports when he was still a Whig Party member in the mold of Henry Clay, and signed the bills that created the IRS and the first US income tax when president. He also favored spending federal money to sponsor massive infrastructure projects (outlawed in most state constitutions of the time), which greatly expanded the miles of railroad track in this country (mostly in the North) through the use of federal subsidies. 

In addition to saving and strengthening the Union, Lincoln was unafraid to use the power of that stronger central government he desired to enforce his will. He suspended (illegally) the rights of habeus corpus in this country, arrested Maryland legislators who were considering joining the Confederacy in legitimate legislative session, shut down newspapers and arrested publishers who spoke out against his abuses, and deported to the Confederacy a former Ohio Democratic state legislator (Clement Laird Vallandigham) who criticized him.

Perhaps in fact, the Civil War was (until very recently) the last stand of the states who adopted the US Constitution in 1787 to assert the states rights that they thought were guaranteed under that document. It might be said they feared the federal government with Lincoln at its head was overreaching the limits placed on it by that document, and that they simply sought the same relief that the Founding Fathers outlined in the Declaration of Independence and pursued some 111 years earlier. 

While some might argue the extremity of the method used, it is difficult (especially in these times) not to sympathize with the fears that these men had. It is also difficult to understand why Virginia cannot use a state proclamation (often an instrument of spectacular absurdity) to create a discussion to explore the subject and more closely scrutinize some of the facts and interpretations of the history of this period. Instead of castigating the man and attacking the idea, perhaps this could be used as one of those "teachable moments" that the liberal intelligentsia is so fond of. 

Of course all of this is simply my take on the issue, given from a certain point of view ...

Friday, April 16, 2010

TFP Column: Issue 3 Is Long On Tax, Short On Explanations

Another weekend is upon us, and yet another of my efforts has made its way onto the pages of the Toledo Free Press. "Issue 3 Is Long On Tax, Short On Explanations" is my manifesto as to why the .75% income tax issue for the Toledo Public Schools should be voted down. 

Since the May 4th vote is only a few weeks away, perhaps it will cause a few of Toledo's voters to think twice. 

But as usual there's a lot more in the TFP this weekend, including a Kristen Rapin piece on Mayor Bell's first 100 days in office that you will undoubtedly find of greater interest and a piece by Michael Miller on Professional Journalism, the competition, and the use of social networking.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Global Warming Likely To Take Another Hit

As if those touting the imminent dangers of global warming have not taken enough of a beating recently with the e-mail scandal and the revelation that many of the sensors used to gather information for study were improperly placed, the very planet now seems to be conspiring against them as well. 

The ash cloud from a volcanic activity which began on March 20th in Iceland, and as shown in recent NASA photos posted in has increased and is now wreaking havoc with visibility in the UK, canceling hundreds of flights there and across western Europe. These ash clouds, which spread quickly when they reach the upper atmosphere, are also known to reflect back a good bit of the sun's energy, causing cooling temperatures across the vast areas of the planet that they eventually cover. 

Have no fear however, there will undoubtedly be climate change scientists that will blame the Icelandic activity on the very global warming that will be reduced by its occurrence.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Blade - Dinosaur or Weasel

There has been talk for a number of years that the daily newspaper was dinosaur, on its last leg as a viable news source ... and as a business. The internet had grown stronger in recent years as a alternative to it; and with the growth of high speed internet, download speeds had increased to a point where pictures and pages of data could be viewed in real time. With the recent introduction of the Ipad (and soon the competing unit from Google) even the issue of portability and convenience will no longer be an issue. The were only a couple of real questions left to daily newspaper organizations as their printing presses wind gradually down to a stop:
  • Will some part of these corporations survive, utilizing their ability to gather news while finding a way to use the web in some way as both revenue source and distribution mode?
  • More importantly, as these final days wind themselves down, with what dignity will these ancient and venerable businesses be able to end their days?
The local example in Toledo, the Blade, has made this question even more confusing in recent days with the behavior of its reporter Tom Troy, its editors, and the publication of a story based on some notes belonging to Jeff Simpson (one of two men claiming to head the Lucas County Republican Party). I won't go into the details of the story, since the entire affair seems too tawdry and distasteful to spend much time on. Anyone who is not aware of the story however, can read it here (from the Blade itself) and get additional information from a postings on from Glass City Jungle and Thurber's Thoughts. The issues that I would like to deal with here however are more fundamental:
  • Since the Blade has long been a newspaper supporting Democratic candidates, why didn't they make greater efforts to show at least a perception of neutrality in news coverage of an internal Republican issue?
  • Once discovering that they possessed Mr Simpson's property, and having been asked for its return by him in a face-to-face meeting, why did they not do so? (Even if they chose to make a copy of such property for their own record and for the purposes of the story.)
  • For the record, we might also want to ask why Mr. Simpson (a lawyer) didn't make a greater effort to gain the return of his property once he discovered it was in the possession of the newspaper.
  • Knowing of the personal relationship between the publisher (John Robinson Block) of the Blade and the other person claiming to be head of the LCRP (Jon Stainbrook), why didn't they take greater pains to try and show strict journalistic integrity in its treatment of the parties involved?
  • If this story were of such great import and these notes so important, why was it that the story was published on a Saturday, traditionally the least read newspaper of the week?
  • Maybe most importantly ... Would there have been a story here at all if this were about the publisher's friend (a person long known for Machiavellian plots and regular use of the legal system) and not Mr Simpson?
This is not to say that the Blade does not have the right to write stories about any subject that it chooses. It is however to say that in these delicate times for newspapers, that they might have attempted to be even more careful in maintaining the highest form of journalistic integrity in covering this story. Similarly, with the reputation that the Blade continues to gather for confusing the journalistic and editorial aspects of its efforts; perhaps they might have done a better job with this story for themselves and for their diminishing readership. 

This effort by the Blade does nothing to enhance its own reputation, that of the daily newspaper, or that of Toledo. It does however, beg a question of daily newspapers in general, and the Blade in particular. Will they choose to go out gracefully as yet one more example of the dinosaurs that most daily newspapers in this country have become, or like the thief and rodent that they appear to have become in this instance ... a weasel?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sleeping Late On Sunday

I used to love getting up early on a Sunday morning. I could make a pot of coffee, spend some quiet time with the Sunday newspaper, and wait for the news and punditry on the networks. One day a week at least, there would be a morning news show that was more concerned about Supreme Court judges than it was about the judges on American Idol. Better still, for the last half hour of these shows there would be well considered and polite discussion by those whose long experience in the machinations of politics could help those of us who were not so blessed understand what was going on in the separate reality known as Washington DC. Then cable news networks happened. 

CNN was first able to show us everything important going on in the world as it was happening. They were likewise able to interpret it for we who were not immersed in the cultural events of the Middle East or Eastern Europe. Media corporations, never the most most innovative or imaginative of people, eventually caught on and soon there were more (and spin-offs of the existing)

Unfortunately, while there were now more networks giving us the news 24 hours a day, there was not more news to give. This left these networks endlessly repeating the same 15-30 minute news show more often than the average "Seinfeld" or "Friends" episode in syndication; and soon leaving the audience just as numb. And as the ratings began to fall (and the advertising revenues with them), some brilliant executive realized that while there couldn't be more news, there could be more interpretation; and a whole new genre of cable pundit shows were born. 

These new shows were a boon to newspaper journalists that were having a tougher time finding work, and likewise to retiring broadcast journalists were looking for a lighter work load. What's more, these programs actually did a pretty good job of filling the void with a combination of interviews and punditry. Occasionally there was something new or exciting that came out of this new venue and those who wanted to delve deeper into what is often the cesspool of politics had somewhere to do so. 

As the number of shows grew however, the constant practice allowed the interviewees grow in their ability to stay on talking points rather than answer questions, and these show became less interesting. Again borrowing from other sources however, producers of these shows began to follow Jerry Springer guideline instead of the Jerry Seinfeld. If the news couldn't be more interesting, perhaps the sources and pundits could. If the story couldn't generate the excitement, perhaps a good on-screen battle of political pundits could add some spice. 

This media philosophy eventually led us to where we are today. While there are still a few voices of calm and reason out there (like George Will, Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer, and even Juan Williams occasionally) most of the punditry out there is blatant partisanship. This would be OK if the partisan discussion were about political philosophy, but instead it has become yet another example of bolstering the talking points of the two major political parties in this country and abandoning any other attempt at reasoned thought. 

Abandoned as well is the concept of discussion or debate where there is a give and take of ideas. Instead what we have is one side or the other attempting to monopolize the limited time available, rudely interrupting or denigrating their fellow pundits while they are trying to make a point, or ignoring the question and attempting to steer the conversation to a subject that allows them to return to their party talking points. 

These not only fail as reasoned debates, they aren't even debates. They cast no glowing light on the contestants, but instead a shadow of shame on the process. I would go so far as to say that these ungracious and pugnacious pundits can accept a great deal of the responsibility for the sometimes deplorable level of political discussion going on in this country today. How can they expect better behavior from we who are simple "hard-working Americans" (sorry, I couldn't resist that one) than we get from they who are the "best and brightest of a well-educated society"? 

And so I find myself sleeping later and later on Sunday mornings these days, for there is little reason to do otherwise. The Sunday paper gets smaller each week and contains less news in the pages that remain. The Sunday news shows rarely step beyond journalists interviewing professional politicians reading off of their talking point cue cards. The Sunday punditry has become little more than unreasoning disdain for the right by the left and vice versa. On the other hand, getting up so much later does relieve me of the desire to make a pot of coffee, which they tell me is not good for me anyway.

Friday, April 9, 2010

TFP Column: Toledo Budgetmania

What do you get when you combine Toledo's budget process with professional wrestling, why "Toledo Budgetmania" of course.  Sure the match has been scripted; after all, politics is even more phony than wrestling.  It's entertaining though, and you don't have to fork over enough money for a large pizza to cover the pay-per-view event.  

So go ahead and order that pizza, put your feet up on the table, and catch with who's on the ropes, who's on the mat, and who's getting conked on the head with a chair.  

While you're at it, why not catch up with all that's going on in the Glass City by taking some time to read the Toledo Free Press cover to cover.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On Hiatus

To the potential disappointment of a few and the probable relief of many, "Just Blowing Smoke" will be going on Hiatus in May. There are a couple of reasons for this of a personal nature, and they include a relocation from my current home in Toledo, OH to a place that I called home once before in Kansas City. 

As anyone who knows me well can tell you however, there is little chance that I will be able to remain silent for long; and I will no doubt be blowing smoke again as summer progresses. I will not try to bore you with my feelings on the subject of leaving the Glass City, as I have bored you with far too many others already (and getting sloppy just isn't my style). I will say however, that while I am happy to be reuniting with a members of my family in KC, I know that I will remember Toledo fondly. 

For with all of the challenges that it faces as a city, there are some remarkable people here more than prepared to face them. There are also a number them who mean more than a little to me, and that I know I will truly miss each and every one of them. Toledo has also been a lucky city for me in many ways, providing me with opportunities to meet people and do things that might never have come my way otherwise. I will be eternally grateful for them, to the people who provided them, and for the time spent here. 

So as yet another episode in my life draws to a close (and hopefully some of the current drama with it) and the next begins, let me say good luck to all of us, until we meet again ...


Monday, April 5, 2010

The "Stuck on Stupid" Dictionary #24

Here we are yet again, adding yet more words to the lexicon of local terms more commonly known here in Toledo as the "Stuck on Stupid Dictionary" (beating the scribbler from time to time does seem to yield results)

Now for those of you who have somehow managed to miss previous postings in this area (shame on you, now go back and read all of the postings under the title of dictionary), the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appear to mean something entirely different to us in Toledo and Northwest Ohio. 

1. That part of the government to which no one is elected, yet to which is ceded the most power and control over the everyday lives of the governed. 

2. A parasitic entity of monstrous proportions living off of the governed, seeking nothing more (or less) than an ever greater portion of the power and money available to run said government. 


1. An unelected government employee who creates and enforces regulations that everyone but the bureaucrats themselves must adhere to. 

2. A person who works in or for a government bureaucracy, whose chief function is to do as little as possible while generating vasts amounts of paperwork and draining away far too many of the resources allocated to the running of said government.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Principled Stand

It's a time for reflection of a far different nature this weekend in more than one of the world's major religions. Such contemplation is far more important than anything that I have to say about pretty much anything. I will not therefore bore you with a long rant this weekend, but instead just a quick note as we begin the run up to primary voting in just one month.


No matter which side of the political argument you're on, you have to admit that there are some on the other side that are saying and doing some pretty stupid things these days. The fact that by such admission, you are likewise admitting that there are some on your own side that are saying and doing equally stupid things should not dissuade you from doing so. 

This is not to say that all politicians are stupid (though it sometimes seems a near thing), but that far too many are more concerned with playing to the worst of their respective audiences than with taking a well thought out and truly principled stand. 

Such after all, is most of the nature of political argument in these days of Twitter, Facebook, and 24-hour news networks. Those in front of the cameras and the microphones and those in front of the keyboards and the cellphones are committed to the "sound bite" and the "moment" in an almost desperate need to be clever; even when they are not. Those not in front of the cameras and who long to be, are willing to breach common sense and common decency if it gives them a shot at their 15 minutes (or 15 seconds for that matter) in the spotlight. 

How else should we expect them to behave in these days of self-involved television shows where truly talented and wildly untalented alike are granted the media spotlight, where reality shows that are as close to being real as they are to being entertainment search for the lowest common denominator in humanity, and where media outlets that are hell-bent on blurring the lines between journalism and punditry spend half of their time confusing the issues and the other half accusing their competitors of doing so? How are we to respect legislators who find it difficult to find time to speak to their constituents or show up for a vote, but can find time to read pages of natural fertilizer into the Congressional Record on C-Span's cameras to an empty room? 

It has in fact become so confusing that even those of us who actually spend time trying to sift through the muck of the issues have difficulty in telling the difference between a principled stand and a made-for-media posture. Then again, considering that those showing up to vote regularly in elections normally slips well below half of those eligible to do so, how many really care to know? 

It's a shame when you think about it, but I suppose that it's part of human nature. Much like people, a culture can grow weary; especially under the constant effort required by the effective application of limited democracy in a Constitutional Republic. Perhaps 200+ years of such effort is beginning to show on the one that we are a part of. It must often make one feel like Atlas bearing the weight of the world on ones shoulders (Could this then be why Ayn Rand believed that "Atlas Shrugged"?). Little surprise then, that so many should find it so difficult to take, to maintain, or to expect from political leaders a principled stand.

Friday, April 2, 2010

TFP Column: Tea Parties & Projected Violence

After consulting with editor-in-chief Michael Miller of the Toledo Free Press, I am happy to say that a piece that I originally posted on this blog yesterday is now in fact in print in the TFP. 

Such confusion is perhaps natural with the amount of material that I regularly pester Michael with. So for those of you not quick enough to read yesterday's post before I pulled it, let me recommend you to this week's columnIt makes an interesting counterpoint to fellow contributor Don Burnard's piece "Lunatic Fringe"

This weekend, which is part of the celebrations of both Easter and Passover, promises to be a wonderful one weather-wise in Toledo. As for me, you will probably find me somewhere in the sun, enjoying a fine cigar and catching up on all that is Toledo in the Toledo Free Press.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thought For The Day

Is it merely coincidence, or is there in fact some demented plan in the fact that the we in Toledo celebrate passage of our city's balanced budget on April Fools Day?

Projected Violence

Due to some confusion with the Toledo Free Press, I have temporarily pulled this posting from the site. As soon as I can get things sorted out (if in fact I can), I will make sure that there's access to it one way or the other. 

Thanks for understanding ...