Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TFP Column: I've Been Framed ... Badly

The debate is heating up in Congress over the debt limit, and the rhetoric from both sides of the aisle has little to do with the issues at hand. Congress has in fact become little more than a shopaholic whose credit cards are over the limit. 

Even before today's madness began, I was seeing trends in the discussion which were disturbing. It's bad enough when lawmakers can't come up with the answer, it's worse when they don't even know how to ask the question. This led to my offering for this week's Toledo Free Press, "I've Been Framed ... Badly"

I even managed to use the words of economists who are much smarter than I am about everything, but most especially about what this debate is actually about and how Congress is treating their entrenched positions. I hope that you find the words of Thomas Sowell, Walter E Williams, and Henry Rosovsky as interesting and enlightening as I did. I hope that the words I used to fill in the gaps between also have some value. 

Speaking of value, what could be a better value than this week's TFP (it is after all, a free newspaper published twice a week). With the short week, the Star edition will be on the stands before you know it, with the regular weekend edition only a few short days behind. Summer is finally beginning to make an appearance, so you ought to spend some time outside enjoying Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

I have used the words of what follows on two prior occasions, but find them a fitting Memorial Day tribute nevertheless. Never having had the privilege of serving in this country's Armed Forces, it's difficult for me to express the sentiments that I have when giving this day its due consideration or even whether I'm worthy of doing so. I would therefore instead simply like share with you a bit of information about the symbol of ultimate sacrifice in this country.

I was exposed to this hallowed symbol of service in 2008 while attending a Marine Corp reunion for my father's unit from World War II being held at the base in Quantico, VA ... Company A of the 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion. There was something about sharing my introduction to this sacred ground with those veterans and their families that brought even more meaning to the experience. That they went there not only to pay tribute to the commanding officer buried there (Colonel Peck) but to all of their fallen comrades
, carries far more meaning than any humble words I write could ever hope to.

So instead of boring you with my normal attempts at either significance or relevance, I will once more share with you the simple facts of this National Shrine, dedicated like the holiday to those who have fallen in battle
, the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Tomb of the Unknowns

  1. The tomb contains the unidentified remains of a soldier who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam, and has been guarded continuously since 1930. (Though a soldier killed in Viet Nam was originally interred here, that body was later removed and identified through DNA testing. It was subsequently decided to leave the Viet Nam crypt empty.)
  2. The Guards are members of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), and wear no rank insignia on their uniforms while on duty so as not to outrank one of those lying in the Tomb.
  3. The Guards take 21 steps, in recognition of the 21 gun salute; the highest honor given anyone in the military or any foreign dignitary.
  4. Upon completion of those steps, the guards hesitate 21 seconds in memory of that same honor, turns 90 degrees and hesitates again for 21 seconds, then completes another 90 degree turn and hesitates yet one more time before resuming their march.
  5. The Guards march with moistened gloves to prevent the gun from slipping from their grasp while on duty.
  6. Guards are changed every 30 minutes; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  7. The guards always carry the rifle on the shoulder furthest from the tomb. This move places the sentinel between the tomb and any threat.
  8. The Guards of the Tomb, an honor currently carried by very few soldiers (there were just over 500 people in 2008), is awarded only after careful examination and is recognized by the award of a wreath pin. They subsequently live under very strict guidelines of personal conduct for the rest of their lives.
  9. For the first six months of this duty, guards spend most of their free time learning of the most notable people buried in Arlington in preparation for their exam. With their rigorous training, hours of marching, and rifle drill, they have little time for anything else.
  10. Each guard spends five hours each day getting his uniforms ready for this duty.
  11. In 2003, as Hurricane Isabella approached Washington and while Congress took 2 days off in anticipation of the dangers of this storm, these guards stood their duty. Soaked to the skin, they continued to march their rounds in the pelting rain of a tropical storm. They had been offered the opportunity to suspend this assignment but refused; stating that such duty was not simply an assignment, but was the highest honor afforded to a serving member of the military.

Honor indeed should be given to our troops serving in defense of freedom around the world today, and to those who have done likewise in every conflict where Americans have been called to do so. Greater veneration still is due those who made the ultimate sacrifice for those they served with and for the nation that honors them this day. May this day serve as a reminder to us all that the cost of liberty sometimes carries a very high price indeed; and may we remember to accord them equal esteem on every other day that we live in freedom.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Operative Term

I have been thinking about many of the upcoming campaigns a bit lately, and while the duration of the one for the highest office in the land has become all but interminable, I must say that my curiosity is piqued. Being a commenter on politics in general for a while now, on the process, and occasionally on the people involved; I sometimes ponder what it might be like to be on the other side. 

Don't get me wrong here folks, I have no aspirations nor any intentions of seeking elected office. I have far to many skeletons in my closet (a problem that increasingly makes it difficult to hang up my clothes) to even consider such an effort. My irresponsible nature likewise precludes me from hold a position of any responsibility, let alone authority. Even if I were interested (and believe me I'm not) there's the fact that I am by self-definition a Curmudgeon, and the tendency to be a cranky bastard would make me a difficult candidate for anyone to warm up to. 

All of that being said however, I believe that I might prove of some small value to the efforts of someone in seeking office. After all, I have a rather extensive and successful career of over thirty years in sales and marketing to draw upon that might be of some worth in the 'selling' of a candidate to the voting public. I have likewise been told that I have some meager ability to string together words coherently (not that you could tell it from this effort), which might prove useful in preparing both press releases and speeches. With the exercise of considerable effort, I can even occasionally manage to control my temper for short periods in what often seems like interminable meetings about campaign strategy. 

As a consequence, I cannot help but find myself wondering whether it would be worthwhile to offer my services to a worthy candidate as a political operative. Some of my acquaintance (and that I greatly respect) have offered themselves up to such service at one time or another in the past. Roland Hansen operated for some years as both an elected official and political operative. Maggie Thurber has likewise both held elected political office and worked to help others do so. Denise Soper, though never having run for office, certainly contributed greatly to a recent political campaign in NW Ohio. And while I have no prior experience in such efforts and would certainly expect to hold no more than a minor position at best, the idea of helping someone worthy of being elected to reach that goal is somewhat intriguing. 

Of course it's entirely possible that my efforts would stink worse than a cheap cigar (something I try to remain unfamiliar with). Such efforts require not only talent, but dedication; and my reserves of both were never all that extensive. It's also entirely possible that such thoughts are as self-serving as many of the politicians who put themselves forward for election. Altruism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; and one person's dedication is another's self-serving fanaticism. It may be that the idea of putting the term 'political operative' on my resume is what I find so fascinating, and not the concept of entering the struggle to see an able person fill a necessary role. 

Motives are after all, something that we should always call into question where politics is concerned. Who is the person seeking office and of what is their character made? What are their qualifications for office and what are the reasons that they seek to serve? Would the siren song of power and authority over others make them fall prey to the corrupting influences that surround office holders, or could this person be counted on to remain true to their principles after election?  

Even my own aspirations to perhaps play a minor role will bear much greater scrutiny before I would be willing to cast a vote. Would participating in the process in particular contaminate my ability to comment on it in general? Would crossing this line make me part of the problem or part of the solution? Would I have to wear a campaign button? (I really hate campaign buttons.) I have to admit that there is something about the concept that I find rather compelling though. Motive, Qualifications, Worthiness, Principle, and Character ... there are many words that could in fact be said to be operative terms to be considered in such a decision ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Political Candidates: A 'Royal' Pain in the Ass

You know, it's bad enough that we have to put up with what has become an almost never-ending campaign season without having politicians add insult to injury. I understand that candidates have to raise money to match the riches of Croesus in order to run these days, and must therefore begin the process of large scale begging far earlier than politicians of prior generations. I understand as well that when the president isn't making a speech that shows his inability to function without a teleprompter, we have to put up with the lunacy of 24 hour a day coverage of who's running, who's not, and who all the really smart people would like to have running against the President in these early days of the campaign. I even understand that the game of politics can only be played these days if the candidate is the quarterback surrounded by a large team of handlers, writers, and countless other minions to operate on their every whim. 

Of course most of these skill players only exist to keep the candidate from making a fatal misstep in front of cameras or constituents. (Which begs the question of whether Newt Gingrich's leadership skills should be judged by his campaign's early faux pas. But that's a question for another day ...) The last time that I looked however, it was still individual candidates who were announcing their intention to run for office. It seems however, that it's not enough that we have to put up with overflowing hubris, rampant egotism, and only a vague pretense of false modesty in our candidates. 

Now we have to deal with an apparent assumption of a mantle of nobility by candidates running for elected office, a concept that I thought this country was formed to belie. At least that's what I am forced to conclude based on the fact that so many feel the need to refer to themselves in the third person, and with the royal "We". 

Now I know that we've all grown used to the third party speech pattern from the examples given by the monumental egos of professional athletes. For like politicians, they too are brands to be marketed, and as such they often refer to themselves like brand names. Since I am a big fan of capitalism, it would hardly be consistent of me not to cut them some slack for the use of such language in their efforts. I likewise understand that politicians must in the end be sold to the voting public, so some third party rhetoric is necessary (though I suppose that something in me would prefer elected officials not to be bought and sold)

I would prefer however, that such candidates not treat the process as if they were visiting royalty and not someone shilling for a vote. I don't care what 'WE' think about Obamacare, or what 'OUR' plan might be to solve the spending and deficit crisis in this country. Neither do I care what 'OUR' energy policy might be or what 'WE' plan to do to solve the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare. 

Annoyance at this assumed pose of aristocracy in fact often overshadows the ideas being put forward (good and bad); and obscure information that should be the basis on which we decide who might best serve the nation. Attempts at presumed nobility will not make a bad idea a good one, nor will an assumption of false eminence do anything to further policies and ideas that have long since been proven to be a failure. 

It's far past time that candidates learned to speak to us as a person, and from the heart about what they believe. Unlike many in this country lately, I manage to vote every time that an election is held (which reminds me that I need to change the address on my voting registration). As a consequence, I am getting a pretty regular view of the documents used to cast a vote. The last time I looked (not all that long ago), there was room for only one name on the ballot for each job. Since that's the case, perhaps its far past time that those running for elective office thin their internal herd while speaking to us. 

Of course maybe I've got this all wrong. Maybe this is not an assumption aristocracy, but an admission of multiple personality disorder; in which case these politicians may simply be trying to give us a heads up as to the nature and extent of their condition. Quite frankly I hope so. The other possibility, that they feel that by seeking such an exalted position of elected service, that they are somehow catapulted into a societal stratosphere that constitutes royalty in this country, is simply too terrible a thing to contemplate. 

You know, the story is frequently told that Admiral Hyman Rickover of nuclear navy fame had something to say on this subject. His comment was that, "Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?" I can only add to that sentiment in a small way, by repeating what Queen Victoria is said to have stated, "We are not amused".

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TFP Column: A Victimless Crime

OK, so I spend too much time watching "NCIS" and "Criminal Minds", what of it?

How else can you explain connecting the dots between Union pension plans in Toledo and Kansas City with crime? Sure we're talking about police officers here, the guys who catch the bad guys (at least when they are using them to negotiate their contracts). We are likewise talking about contract terms that are all but highway robbery of taxpayers (and never a cop around when you need one). Then there's trying to dispel some of the myths about the recent law (SB5) passed in Ohio that restricts the ability of government workers to negotiate contracts with with those in office with whom they live a sick symbiotic relationship. But what has any of that got to do with crime? 

You're going to have to figure it out by reading "A Victimless Crime", already posted on the toledofreepress.com website. I did all of the damage that I could do just by writing this piece connecting information supplied by the Buckeye Institute and in the Kansas City Star (and all without without having Ducky, the other Tim, Abby or Penelope to help).

Without knowing what will be coming up in both the Star and regular Free Press editions, I can tell you that you are going to want to read both. It is after all the Memorial Day Weekend coming up, and no one will be more in the know about what's happening in Toledo and Northwest Ohio than those keeping up in Toledo's larges Sunday circulation newspaper, the Toledo Free Press. (Now if you'll excuse me, NCIS is about to come on ...)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yet Another Threat (yeah, yeah ....)

Phones at 1-800-RATBUTT were ringing off the wall at the Department of Just Blowing Smoke Security last week! OK, maybe not ringing off the walls, but they were REALLY BUSY! Well OK, not really busy, but they were busy. Alright, alright, there were two phone calls the entire week. One was the wrong number and the other person must have had asthma, since all I could hear on the other end of the line was labored breathing. (Hey, wait a minute ...)

With such encouragement, how could I do less than once more delve into the realm of secret and nefarious organizations attempting to assume some level of evil influence in this country. One might even go so far as to say that with the recently formed DJBSS at my disposal, I could now be considered the Geraldo Rivera or John Stossel of such investigations. (Of course, such consideration can be made with the clear understanding that the only similarity between the three of us is that we all have a mustache.)

In this week's startling report, we shine the light of absurdity (the light of truth had already been checked out by Rush Limbaugh and he still hasn't brought the damn thing back) on a cadre of electronic miscreants who have plagued the World Wide Web almost since its inception, otherwise known as the Terrible Responses in Otherwise Legitimate Locations group.

The goal of these TROLLs course, is to disrupt the free flow of ideas on the Internet through the posting of comments that are at a minimum shamefully spelled,
at best poorly written, and which usually seem to have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

Their offerings in fact, may be the first form of Internet porn; being often obscene, generally disgusting, and with no redeeming social value. In offering these perverse attacks however, TROLLs often manage to distract the discussion from a legitimately debated topic. Falling into the verbal trap set by these minions of mindless pap, subsequent responders misguidedly attempt to either refute the information provided or lose track of the argument at hand by seeking to berate an agent of disinformation that has long since moved on to another target.

Interestingly enough, this aggregation of electronic evildoers has managed to take their appellation mainstream by way of cover, with the term troll becoming the generic brand for them and their odious offerings; and engendering no more curiosity than does the term JELLO. (Oh the stories I could tell you about JELLO. But perhaps another time ...) Not unlike many malefactors before them, their current nome de guerre was not in fact their first selection. Originally known as the Intermittent Disruption of Internet Operational Transmissions group, they were perhaps more aptly named; but members quickly grew tired of calling themselves IDIOTs and moved to change it.

Regardless of the alias they travel under however, these villains have managed to grow their membership at a rate even greater than the growth of Internet use itself. With recruitment proving a success amongst all major religions and across the political spectrum, TROLLs have become so numerous that they are now often reduced to taking on each other in the comment sections of blogs and newspaper web sites in a form of perverse self-gratification.

TROLLs can usually be distinguished from their fellows on the information superhighway by their bastardization of the English language,
their atrocious grammar, and by the serious misuse of the 'Caps Lock' key. They can also frequently be identified by hideous attempts at anonymity through what they consider to be clever screen names, or their even more clever efforts to hide through the use of the screen name 'Anonymous'.

There is no true defense against TROLLs, though those with private blog sites can choose to 'Moderate' their misdeeds out of electronic existence. For the more public sites, while the practice of moderation might seem the more prudent course of action, they in fact secretly enjoy TROLLs efforts. Such distractions often encourage people to return to a site frequently in order to vent their displeasure, driving up hit rates and as a consequence, Internet ad revenues.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES call the DJBSS with reports on TROLLs at 1-800-RATBUTT (OK, go ahead. It's not like we get many calls anyway. But don't expect me to actually answer.) The truth of it is that I don't want to know because I long ago stopped giving a 'rat's ass' about the maunderings of these illiterate and irredeemable electronic lowlifes. Putting up with a TROLL is never pleasant, but is simply part of the price that we pay for being a free society and enjoying the free exchange of information.,

As a consequence of the level of threat engendered on a ongoing basis by TROLLs however, the DBJSS terror threat is being raised to the obvious color of YELLOW.

Be advised ...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TFP Column: Other People's Money

"I loneliest time that I have ever spent was that waiting for inspiration." - me
Writing this week was more difficult than usual. I was facing a crisis of confidence, a lack of inspiration, and a writer's block larger than an SUV. 

Of course, deciding in the end to take on the subject of the coming debate on raising the debt ceiling in this country posed the additional concern of writing on a subject only slight more interesting to the general public than the varieties of crabgrass in the Midwest. 

'Good things come to those who wait' however (and unaccountably, to me as well); and I was finally able to string together a few words on a subject for the Toledo Free Press called "Other People's Money". It seems strange to me however that something that ought to be a hell of a lot more important to people than Arnold's 'love child' (since it involves the financial Armageddon of this country) doesn't seem to be; but then again, I'm in the midst of reading "The Federalist Papers" for entertainment, so who am I to judge. 

Since this link is going up before weekend edition of the TFP this week (and in fact right after the "Star" edition), I can't describe to you the wonderful and exciting things that it will contain. Of course, even if I could, I wouldn't; since that would ruin the surprise. So if you want to know, you're just going to have to spend some time catching up with Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Playing By The Rules

For those of you who may not have noticed, I have been rather silent on the execution of Osama bin Laden. Don't get me wrong, it's not because I don't believe that this was an evil man, a murdering thug, and and a terrorist who deserved to die. Like many others in this country, I am quite glad to see bin Laden gone. I have even managed to take off my tin foil hat long enough to get past the inconsistency of the information released by the White House after the raid. 

We are after all, talking about self-serving politicians attempting to speak about the selfless acts of a group of elite soldiers (sorry, sailors) that they have no better chance of understanding than men have of understanding women. It's to be expected therefore, that getting the story 'straight' (you know, telling it in a manner that would make the politicians sitting in a nice, safe room in Washington and facing danger no greater than from paper cuts or their own misstatements) might take a couple of tries and perhaps some creative 'spinning' from the professional writers around them. 

What does concern me however is the continuing level of arrogance that this latest strategy in the 'War on Terror' illustrates. Perhaps it's simply something about this war that I don't understand. It is after all, like the 'War on Drugs' and the 'War on Poverty' a rather ambiguous conflict with imprecise goals, indefinite strategy, and equivocal declarations of success. In fact, if we are to believe what we have been told in the last couple of years, it's not actually a war at all. 

So you can imagine my confusion when an elite military unit is sent in to take out what must be considered a military target under a kill order in a war that doesn't exist. Was this action taken under the auspices of the 'War Powers Act'; and if so are there now any effective limits that Congress will place on this exercise of Executive power? (If not, an even greater question exists as to its limits.) Is it now considered right and proper to violate the national sovereignty of any nation we choose in order to execute (a term I use guardedly) such a strategy? Is it now acceptable for the US government to send troops across any border, without the permission of Congress or any nation (enemy or ally), to work the will of the Executive branch of government against any individual, a group, or government?  

At this point the whole thing becomes less about bin Laden than it does about us. Whether Pakistan is a poor ally or not, that doesn't justify the government of the United States kicking them to the curb to meet out punishment decided upon without any pretense of abiding by the rule of law. Criminals don't play by the rules in this country either (hence the term criminals), but the police are not excused from following the rule of law when dealing with them, no matter what terrible acts they may have committed. 

One might also question the lack of outrage of the American people on the subject at a time when so many are concerned over the security of our own borders; but only if one were seeking consistent logic and reasoning in those people. Most of us, however grudgingly, accept that there are rules in a modern society that we must conform to or civilization simply fails to exist. Many of them we follow with little conscious thought, as they are conventions of little import or concern. 

We agree on things as simple as where to place a knife, fork, and spoon in place settings around the table. We agree to obey local, state, and federal laws so that we may live in an ordered society. We likewise form a government, limited in what it has the power to do, based on the Constitution of the United States in order to create and enforce those laws to protect us not only from each other, but from that government. And just as there are rules and laws to protect people from each other, there are rules and conventions to protect one nation from another. 

This country has gone to war more than once to protect other nations from those considered despots for violating those rules and conventions. How then are we to view our own nation acting as the worst sort of bully in this recent act? Flush still with military power (stretched however thin) and still willing to buy friendship and compliance with our wishes around the world, we coerce cooperation of friend and foe alike. Claiming to be a bastion of the principle of the 'rule of law', we are apparently not above violating such principles in the name or working our will upon our enemies. Assuming a mantle of menacing omnipotence, we justify acts of strong-armed persuasion that we would fight to the death to defend ourselves and others from. 

 It may be past time that we took a hard look at not the ability, but the right of this nation to impose its will upon the world regardless of the consequences. It may be time to ask ourselves whether it's more important to win at any cost, or to play by the rules.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The New Threat

I have warned readers of this blog in the past of the diabolic threat of the ADL (Anti-Destination League), a secretive and nefarious organization bent on delaying travelers at every ticket counter, boarding gate, and baggage claim carousel in this country. It has come to the attention of the DJBSS (Department of Just Blowing Smoke Security) however, that this is not only evil alliance attempting to work its perverse will on the general public.

It is therefore with considerable sarcasm, extensive irony, and tongue planted firmly in cheek that I raise the threat level in this country to "plaid". It seems that though once considered eradicated forever, the dreaded Permanent Regiment for Idiotic Guilt has in fact made a decisive reappearance. These agents are not to be confused with your everyday prig however. It is the goal of these PRIGs in fact, to make everyone (including themselves) feel endlessly guilty for not following rules that most have never heard of, don't understand, and would consider downright silly when and if they did.

Originally known as the Paperwork Enlargement & Enforcement Patrol, these parasites once limited their activities to the creation of endless forms that everyone had to fill out, but no one ever read. This malicious band of malcontents was forced to change its name and ambition however, when their ultimate goal was achieved far in advance of their carefully written, annoyingly ponderous, and massively detailed plans.

Quite frankly, they were considering the name change anyway, since no one could take seriously a group whose members called themselves PEEP's. Their former ID badges (edible in the case of capture) were and still are considered delicious however; and for some strange reason, make an annual appearance every Easter.

Make no mistake that these are simple prudes however, these PRIGs are a dangerous bunch with a puritanical strip a mile wide. They are well-recognized experts in the arts of creating distress in those caught unaware in a web inconsistently interpreted behavioral legalize or misapplied elucidations of antiquated custom. Many's the poor innocent who thought themselves snared by a simple misunderstanding of manners, only to unexpectedly find themselves embarrassed, shamed, and publicly humiliated by an agent of PRIG for doing something that they not only didn't realize was wrong, but hadn't even realized that they'd done.

Cough in your hand instead of the inside of your elbow, and you'll find them at the ready with an expectorated disparagement. Wipe your nose with a handkerchief instead of a disposable tissue and they'll be at the ready with a audible sniff or two of their own. Improperly recycle an aluminum can, plastic bottle, or newspaper and you'll find your self-esteem similarly and improperly disposed of. If by some mischance you should make the fatal error of being caught smoking in any place (public or private), be prepared for their full frontal wrath, and a diatribe the likes of which few have survived. (See, they were right, smoking can be hazardous to your health.)

While there is no escape from these psychotic sycophants of pointless propriety once they get you in their evil clutches, they can in fact be avoided. The key to such subtle subterfuge is early recognition of your enemy. A PRIG can be easily distinguished from those around him by
an unmistakable pinch-faced expression, the stink of false modesty, and a determined and relentless stride. If you see someone who looks like they're sucking on a sour grape, smells like a ripe diaper pail, and walks at a pace only used by someone approaching a cop at a parking meter just as time on it is expiring .... turn at a right angle to their path and make your way quickly and quietly to the nearest exit (windows can and should be included in this category when on the second floor or lower).

PRIGs are not to be taken on lightly and can be challenged directly only at the greatest personal peril. Do not therefore, attempt to confront such a person in single combat; as they are armed with an over-abundance of self-righteousness and armored against retaliation by oblivious conformity. While accepting the challenge of battle (even knowing you will lose) might seem on its face a courageous act; such selfless sacrifice will ultimately prove pointless. It will protect neither your reputation nor that of your companions. Discretion calls for even the heartiest soul to seek salvation in diplomatic cowardice in such cases, while living to fight another day. PRIGs can in fact only hope to be defeated when the odds are greatly in your favor (2:1 is good, but I personally prefer at least 4:1).

While isolated reports of PRIG encounters are occurring already, there is no telling when this will ramp up into a full-fledged pogrom. Any incidents or even encounters with PRIGs can be and should be reported immediately to the DJBSS hotline at: 1-800-RATBUTT (which is the PC way to tell you sorry, "tell someone who give's a rat's ass").

Remember, you have now been formally warned. Keep safe ... and Good Luck!

Friday, May 13, 2011

TFP Column: Worth Preserving

A strange coincidence led me to pen an effort for this weekend's Toledo Free Press, when I discovered that Libbey High School (which has been much in the news again lately) was built just one year before the main building of my old alma mater, Mt Carmel. And while both were city schools built in neighborhoods that have since seen great change (as have the structures themselves), the fates of the two are far from the same. I hope that you find my take on what the passage of time has done to both and why, "Worth Preserving", worth reading. Besides the research for the piece allowed me to remember (and maybe brag a bit) about a place that still holds a significant place in my life. And to put up these images here: The Past .... The Present ... And as for the future of this venerable old academy, it looks brighter than ever; perhaps because of what they instill in their students from the first day that they see the school crest.
Zelo Zelatus Sum Pro Domino Deo Exercituum
"With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts"

I hope that you get to enjoy some part of what promises to be a wonderful weekend, and to enjoy Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TSA: Total Senseless Absudity

Three items in the news recently caught my attention and simply begged to be connected for your reading entertainment. The first occurred a little over a month ago with the release of a YouTube video of a six year-old girl being given an enhanced pat down by agents of the Transportation Security Administration at the New Orleans airport. I found a copy of it on this USA Today piece posted on April 13th. I think that the story speaks for itself. 

The second occurred here in Kansas City and I found the actual photograph posted just yesterday. In KC's case, the story linked here came from the local TV Fox station; and the picture shown was of an eight month old baby being given an enhanced pat down by a different group of TSA Agents. If you didn't find the concept of a six year-old being used as a weapon of mass destruction rather idiotic, perhaps the concept of a 'poop bomb' in the diaper of a young baby might help the process along. 

The third image and story (from an AP bit on the MSNBC website) tells of an actual incident on a airplane occurring when a Yemen native became a little unruly on American Airlines flight 1561 bound for San Francisco. It seems, at least according to prosecutors, that Rageh Al-Murisi should be considered "dangerous and erratic" simply for screaming "God is great" in Arabic and attempting to break into the cockpit. The interesting thing to me about these three travelogues is that while two small children (one unable to walk on its own) were detained for careful scrutiny and 'special attention' from TSA agents; apparently this man carrying, according to the story, "several valid and expired forms of identification from New York and California" was not waylaid on his journey by the dedicated (and soon to be unionized) bastions of airline safety. To the no doubt immense gratitude of his fellow passengers, he was able to make his flight. 

The justification for what should probably be considered little more than three failures on the part of our 'mall cops of the air' is of course that in all of these cases, TSA agents were strictly following the guidelines laid out by the Department of Homeland Security for our travel safety. (I know after reading these stories, I certainly feel safer flying.) 

I don't want to go off on the TSA however, as in this case they are simply too easy a target. I will however use this opportunity to point out that once again, the federal government's attempt at 'one size fits all rules' are a dismal failure, an annoying nuisance, and an expensive boondoggle. I would also like to point out that these guidelines and the minons of the TSA did nothing to keep what was either disturbed or disturbing individual from attempting to interfere with the guys flying the plane. In the end, it was not through state-of-the-art imaging technology, highly trained security personnel, or draconian procedures that make the crossing at 'Checkpoint Charlie' seem simple by comparison that foiled the only actual incident that all of this nonsense is supposed to protect us from. No, once again, the 'gentleman' in question was subdued instead by crew and passengers on the plane. (By the way, where were the 'Sky Marshalls' that have proved equally invisible and unheard of recently.) 

It seems for all of the rules and procedures that our caring government has put in place to secure a safety that they tell us only they are capable of providing, the only true safety and the best protection available to us comes from a flying public that will no longer tolerate this kind of behavior and will rise to the occasion when called for to defend themselves. This is something that the enemies of this country (including those who appear to be serving in government) might wish to take note of. 

There is a point beyond which the citizens of the United States cannot be pushed, and they will rise up to defend their peace, their honor, and their freedom when required ... against any and all threats. All might wish to take note as well, that the actions of the passengers on Flight 1561 have done what no Congressional Committee or government review has been able to do, render the appropriate judgment on TSA; a Total Senseless Absurdity.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

I left the city that my parents lived in back in 1980, and while they seemed to yo-yo between residences Chicago and Kansas City, I bounced around like a ping-pong ball from city to city in following a career. As a consequence, my mother and I have not been in the same city for a Mother's Day in over 30 years. 

 This year we are both living in Kansas City, but she left town Friday with one of my sisters to attend the requiem ceremony of my uncle Gordy. We will therefore once again be apart on this day that celebrates female progenitors. 

For those of you who unaware of the history of this holiday in the US, it is said to have been the results of three women, Ann Jarvis, her daughter Anna, and Julia Ward Howe. Ann Jarvis apparently began the effort by forming a committee calling for a "Mother's Friendship Day" in 1868, continuing efforts in pacification that included her treating wounded on both sides of the Civil War. Julia Ward Howe (also famous for writing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic") later added the "Mother's Day Proclamation", in reaction to the death and destruction of both the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Ann's daughter Anna took up the cause during her mother's life and continued promoting the concept after her death. It became an official US holiday in 1914, after not only all of the States had declared it so, but Congress passed a law, and President Wilson issue a proclamation. (This might be considered a bit of typical government overkill, but I have it on good information that even politicians have mothers.) 

As for the excellence of my own, even the words of someone who likes to believe that they are rather good at stringing them together simply fail at trying to describe this woman. She is at once both patient and strong, loving and giving, fierce defender and kind critic. She is also the family's memory, being able to call on some vast reserve of memory which no one else possesses (certainly not this humble scribbler) to connect a face with a name, a lineage, and personal stories either touching,funny, or both. 

That her reserves are both endless and overflowing can be illustrated no more simply than by saying that she has managed to put up with this Curmudgeon for over fifty-five years (something no other woman has yet come close to managing). To say therefore on this Mother's Day that I deeply love and respect this woman is to damn with faint praise. Since she is halfway across the country however, it will have to suffice. I hope that each of you, will manage to celebrate not only this day of mothers, but with them as well.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

TFP Column: When The Levy Breaks

An experiment was tried this weekend, and it resulted in the second effort in as many days being posted online at ToledoFreePress.com. In a piece titled, "When the Levy Breaks", I manage to tie together spring flooding, misuse of public transportation money on a levy, and a Led Zeppelin song. 

The attempted effort was a lot of fun, and something that I hope comes up again. I have little doubt however, that in spite of my altruistic motives, this will not see me advanced on a "Stairway to Heaven".

Moving ... On

There is nothing more true in our lives than that we are constantly forced to move on with them. Time in fact has no respect for our longing for it to stand still and little care for our desire to have things remain as they are, for however brief a period. In fact, we often question whether time is as impersonal as we are led to believe, as it often seems that eventful change is secretly accumulated in places that we are not aware of and used to surprise us when least expected. 

The only constant that seems to hold sway is that just when we believe that we have some level of control over the change that's going on in our lives, some almost malevolent entity in charge of this process decides to illustrate otherwise; and often in ways that insure we clearly understand how little we actually do control. 

Now some moving on is simply moving on, and those of you reading this blog recognize that I only recently concluded a change of residence. While the move itself was only a short distance, making sure that your stuff is properly prepared to be taken from one place to another is always an 'interesting' experience. The fact that much of mine had been in storage for some time, and that I had therefore lost all recollection of where things were packaged, made (and still makes) the unpacking experience particularly exciting. 

Some of you also may know that my mother was moving at almost the same time, in her case from a place where she had lived for a number of years. Downsizing from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom condo also presents some unique and 'interesting' challenges and choices as well. Leaving a home that you had shared with someone for many years presents one with emotional baggage that must also be properly organized and carefully packed away. 

Few of you probably know that my mother's move was complicated further by a construction delay to her new home. It seems that the electrical contractor had failed as a business (and may have stiffed some of its employees in the process). Understanding souls that these workers were, these soon-to-be former employees reacted by cutting internal wiring (that they had just installed) in the building on their way out, punishing innocent bystanders as well as the development company in charge of the project. 

As a consequence of this poor planning and execution, and of her own good planning in setting up the preparation and sale of her house, she will be forced to move into a hotel for a couple of weeks while the builder attempts to complete her new home. She will then be blessed with yet another move, this time finally into what will become her new home. 

In the midst of this however, we received notice that my uncle, Gordon Higgins, passed away in Seattle last weekend. He had been ill for some time (I believe setting a medical record for the number of simultaneous cancers that he had in the process) and this passing was probably inevitable; but its timing was unexpected and as always, tragic. 

In fact, Gordy had been holding the Grim Reaper at bay for years with with much of what modern medicine could provide, but more importantly with an indomitable spirit and an unflagging optimism that were always his trademark. In fact my uncle Gordy may have been one of the strongest, the finest, and the most kindly souls that it has ever been my pleasure to come across. His gentle spirit and good humor will be missed in ways that I'm sure none of us who knew him can yet comprehend. 

My sympathies (in the unfortunate absence of my presence) go out with my mother and sister to his family out West. And though I am sure that he would wish all of those who loved him to celebrate his life and go forward with our own, his passing marks yet another example of how life insists we move on. You see, he was the last of my uncles on either side of the family, and his passing carries with it the subtle yet convincing message of the fragility of each of our existences. 

For regardless of the conviction that we are still in the prime of our years (and in spite of the almost constant messages to the contrary that our bodies send us), each of gets a small step closer to the end than the beginning with each passing day. Perhaps then the message to uncover in the midst of the anxiety, confusion, and heartache that each move brings us is to treasure each and every day we are granted while dealing with the trials of advancing from one point in life to the next. 

 We must treasure as well, those who have in some way, through friendship or love, touched our lives; and thus become such an vital part of this movement. For in the end, it is this friendship and love that is perhaps the only thing worth carrying with us as we find ourselves moving on ...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TFP Column: Treating The Symptoms

Bad government is like bad medicine. It can not only be time consuming and annoying to deal with, but can ultimately be life-threatening. These were the thoughts running through my mind (and encountering little in the way of obstacles or resistance), as I sat down and penned this week's effort for the Toledo Free Press. 

The result, "Treating the Symptoms" is not a bad little effort; though I must apologize in advance for some of the typos and grammar errors. It appears that attempting to do my best writing when exhausted by a long day of work and continued unpacking, and editing that's performed before the sun comes up the following morning, is not the proper way to prepare an effort worthy of the TFP. 

I promise to make a greater effort in the future to eliminate such errors, leaving only those of perception and opinion in my work. As I write this post, I have not yet had the chance to go through this weekend's edition myself, but feel sure that with all that's going on in the Glass City that it will be one well worth reading. I hope that each of you will find the time this Mother's Day weekend to catch up on everything worth knowing in NW Ohio by spending some time with your mom and Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Three Ring Media Circus

Warning: This posting will contain adult language and adult concepts. Those who find either offensive or unacceptable may wish to leave this site now

Seldom in recent history have we been treated to such a series of media sideshows in such a short period. In fact both literally and figuratively, it has been a three-ring circus. 

 In ring one we have the president and his birth certificate. Of course the President always had one, but there had been some lingering question over where it had been issued from. Mr Obama had already released his short form birth certificate, a document normally good enough to get a passport issued by this country, but apparently not enough for some of the sideshow geeks and freaks (including one potential presidential candidate) whose tin-foil hats were on just a little too tight. 

Now while I have some experience with tin foil predicaments, I have to tell you that this one was mostly manufactured by a Mainstream Media on a mission, that continued to ask the question long after almost everyone had lost interest in the answer. 

The President of course, was perfectly willing to let them have their way with the situation, as it provided a bit of comic relief and misdirection from bad economic reports, worse foreign policy reports, and reports of horrendous approval numbers. Content to assume the role of innocent victim in this, the President finally brought out the long form Certificate Of Live Birth, which only allowed those who spend most of their time biting heads off of chickens on a political right gone so far around the bend as to be almost left again, to question its authenticity as well. 

Meanwhile self-appointed Ringmaster Donald tipped his top hat (exposing a haircut far worse that any forged document) and patted himself on the back for allowing the president to make him simultaneously a front runner in Republican poling and a caricature. 

In ring two we have the royal wedding. Don't get me wrong here, while managing to miss every bit of the coverage (both during and subsequent to the event) I hear it was both a beautiful ceremony and majestic spectacle, that the dress Kate wore was lovely, and that Prince William looked grand in his military uniform. Of course I place such information in the same category as the fact that the first married couple shown sleeping together in the same bed on TV were ... (wait for it) "Fred and Wilma Flintstone"

The marriage of two people turned into the initiation ceremony in an out-of-date monarchy in Great Britain should only be news for Cosmo and People magazine (and of course TMZ). The fact that every mainstream media outlet and news network felt obligated to send front line anchors and reporters to cover what was billed as the biggest marriage ceremony since .... Prince William's parents, is a commentary on society in general and what reporting the news in particular has sunk to. That a country that recently had to scale back services that it provided to its citizens had to shell out for the security and ancillary costs of such an event speaks volumes to the concept of giving 'bread and circuses' to the peasants. By the way, I hope that the newlyweds are very happy together, produce lots of little princes and princess (hopefully without their grandfather's hideous ears), and manage to stay out of the news for a very long time. 

In ring three we have perhaps the main event, the killing of Osama bin Laden. Now there is little doubt that this POS deserved to die. That being said, the Navy Seals who actually carried out the mission may have been doing the bastard a favor. He was after all rumored to be in failing health, with stories (yet unproven) that he required use of a dialysis machine regularly. Even more incredible than this bastard's death however, is the strange stories that continue to come out surrounding it. He had a gun ... well no, actually he didn't. He used his wife as a human shield ... well, not so much. He resisted being taken. He resisted being taken? Let me tell you, while never having faced Navy Seals in hostile territory, under enemy fire, and with public enemy number one right in front of them; I would suggest that the ability of a 53 year-old terrorist to resist is hardly something of concern. 

Of course the politicians, in typical fashion, quickly moved beyond the heroic efforts of those whose sweat and blood were expended in this effort and to the front of the parade. Instead of tales of the personal heroism of troops on the ground, we were regaled with stories of the bravery and strength of character of politicians and shiny pants generals who made the decision that someone (and not them) needed to go into harms way. 

We were shown pictures of an inner circle, none of whom has probably carried a weapon, let alone fired it in anger; with sleeves rolled up and glaring intently at the televised version of events like it was the final episode of "Terrorist Survivor" (which of course, it was). Then of course there was the courtesy done to this murdering piece of crap after first doing him the discourtesy of killing him. We must of course insure that the body was buried within the 24 hour period as required by Muslim tradition, and it was felt that a burial at sea would prevent pilgrimages to his grave site, even one that would no doubt have been kept secret (well as secret as governments are capable of keeping things)

Personally I would have preferred to have seen him get the same burial treatment that Hitler got, doused in gasoline and set on fire, but no one called to ask me. If they really felt the need for a burial at sea however, using the body of this now former terrorist to chum the water for sharks would have been more than suitable as funerary arrangements with me. 

In the end however, we have little or nothing for the 'big blow off' and little to show for what should have been the big finish of the week. No body, no real proof of the killing; not even a picture of the corpse that the tin-foil hats could argue over the authenticity of. We are told that a picture may be released at some point, though its graphic depiction may be disturbing. (Has anyone at the White House watched HBO lately?) 

We may have achieved a form of vengeance on this evil person, but to what purpose? Will terrorism stop now? Will we be able to stop flying over Libya, pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan (or South Korea, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, or the hundred other places around the world where we have troops deployed)? Will this mean that the intrusive surveillance measures of 'The Patriot Act', passed for our protection, will now be withdrawn. Will we now be able to fly without being scoped or groped and feel safe in the 'friendly skies' again? Will any of these circus acts get those who need and want it a good paying job, lower their taxes, or reduce the crushing national deficit that threatens this nation's very existence?  

Of course not, but they were great fun and a wonderful distraction for many while they lasted. What's more, they were all good theater and helped flagging network TV ratings. And though they appear to be over for now, don't despair. There's always the usual brand of clowns to keep us at least mildly entertained while we wait for the big top to return. And there's little doubt of course, that the media circus will indeed be in town again soon.