Thursday, June 30, 2011

TFP Column: In The Absence of Proof to the Contrary

Writing is a curious process. While I have never spent any real time dissecting the mechanics of it with other people that I know are doing it, I freely admit that there times when I don't understand where this process begins or how it works. Sometimes it's with an article of story that moves me to comment, sometimes it's an accumulation of research that comes together of its own accord. 

In this case, it began with phrase that came at me out of nowhere. It was in fact this phrase that began the research for this week's TFP effort, "In the Absence of Proof to the Contrary". It simply struck a chord with me, and challenged me to find out why this was so. 

My hope is that the effort to discover it will help to turn around a mindset that seems so prevalent today (and of which, I too am guilty). Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller likes to surprise me as to when these efforts will pop up on the TFP website (and this week, apparently himself as well), so I won't know whether it will appear in the shadow of the mid-week Star edition, or as part of the weekend Free Press. (It may even rear its ugly head again.) 

It doesn't really matter though, because anyone who want's to know what's going on in Toledo and NW Ohio will already be looking at Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Best Weekly Newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The anniversary of the day that my mother went through great pains to introduce me to the world seems to be fast approaching, as is the end of the brief period when I am not the 'older brother'. I find however that many of the places that I look to these days for some small bit of solace point to the inescapable fact that I am continuing to get older. 

I was reminded of this once again as I contemplated something on the inside of the trousers that I was putting on most recently. I could not help but notice the tag that once helped me to determine this article's ability to fit; noting that while the inseam measurement has remained much the same for many years, the same could not be said for the other published dimension. Even after having recently lost some weight (some being one of those wonderfully relative terms) the disparity of extent vs magnitude is not a happy one for me. 

There was a time in my life when these numbers were in fact identical (and for a short time in my youth, leaning in my favor). They could still be so today if I were tall enough to be capable of playing power forward in the NBA. Since I am not however, such numbers (like that of my age) must be accepted, albeit grudgingly. It occurred to me today however, that in spite of my displeasure over these dimensions; they are at least accurate with the printed designation. The disparity of these measurements for many of those of the current generation must be truly formidable indeed. 

How can it be otherwise given the current style? Aren't many of those young men choosing to expose colorful undergarments facing a far greater dimensional disparity? After all, if you're wearing your pants below your hip bones, you certainly don't need much in the way of an inseam. Doing so would cause the bottom portion of the legs of such pants to be constantly under foot. If this did not result in a dramatic increase in tripping from stepping on these unruly extensions, certainly the the bottom portion of these garments would wear out rather quickly from being constantly stepped on. 

And as the inseam measurement (at least as I understand it) would be curiously and seriously changed, the distance at the other end of a pair of pants would also suffer by comparison. It is probably a solid assumption that the measurement where such garments are worn is probably greater on most than that where I was taught to wear them. While bowing to minor variance from body to body, I think it's safe to assume (based on what those taking in or letting out my pants told me over the years) that the distance around at butt level is greater than that at the waist. 

In fact, it occurs to me that most of today's youth might be able to shop in the same clothing section as Snow White's seven companions to achieve the desired effect. I find this thought somewhat cheering, though I recognize that those in their teens and twenties perhaps no longer see a negative in such disproportion as we would have. Perhaps young men are no longer so vain as to concern themselves, as we once did, over the incongruities of such numbers (Nah ...); and seek more proportionate measures as a consequence. 

Of course the other thing that occurs to me in this situation is that even the names for such measurements might no longer have meaning in the Modern Age. Inseam seems highly impractical when apparently measuring from the knee to the floor. As for Waist, why bother to even mention such a measure when the belt loops can no longer see the part of the anatomy in question. 

I can see a day in the future in fact, when there will be multiple dimensional designations on pants, based on generational concerns. For those of my age, the traditional inseam (from crotch to cuff) and waist (at or above the hips thank you) will no doubt suffice as the areas of concern when fitting. For the younger generation however, new appellations will no doubt be required. Might I be so bold as to suggest 'drape' as the measurement moniker to replace inseam, as it appears to most strongly describe the affect that most are attempting to achieve. As for the other, I can think of no better than 'HDYA' as the indicative abbreviation. How better to designate the desired fitting goal then as "Halfway Down Your Ass".

Monday, June 27, 2011

TFP Column: When I Was A Child

After a taking week off as a columnist, I found myself time and again returning to a couple of subjects; the ongoing conflict in Libya and the continued negotiations over raising the debt ceiling in this country. 

Unable to choose between the two, I selected a path even more unlikely for me and used a New Testament passage to draw the two together. The result for this week's TFP, "When I Was A Child ..." speaks to the apparent disparity of perspective on the subject of ruling, depending on whether you are in power or not. 

It's extensive use of quotation is likewise a bit of a departure for me, but I hope worth the time it takes to read (and think about). There's a lot going on in NW Ohio worth thinking about, but the only way you're going to find out what it is, is by reading Toledo's largest circulation (and Ohio's Best weekly) newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Taking Kind Of A Break

Those of you paying attention will have noticed that this is my first actual writing output in a week. Those of you paying close attention will have noted that last week's effort was mostly a reissue and the normal Wednesday effort never actually occurred. 

The reasons for my recent failures of production are nothing earth-shattering, and certainly nothing to be of concern about; but they did seem to lead me to the conclusion that now might be a good time to take on a lower level of output for a couple of weeks or so. 

I suddenly found that while there seems a lot that could be commented about, doing so seems at best farcical and at worst futile. I also found that I was writing because I had to write about something and not because I wanted to. Since "Just Blowing Smoke" is a non-profit endeavor, such effort seemed even more foolish than the output itself. 

This is not to say that I will not be writing anything for a while, but rather that my schedule for posting will more than a little erratic, depending more on how much a subject moves me than on the day of the week that it does so. I hope that perhaps by reducing the quantity for a bit might increase the enthusiasm for doing so; and that the quality of the work will begin to show improvement that it has recently lacked as a consequence. 

I hope that you will look in from time to time to see what might have been added to the compendium of nonsensical maundering that Just Blowing Smoke has become infamous for, and will try to post links when possible on my Facebook page. Meanwhile, smoke 'em if you got 'em. You can be assured that I will ...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Since this weekend is when Father's Day is celebrated, and since I am both a father and a grandfather, I decided to take a bit of the weekend off. Now some may say that this is because in spite of all that's going on in the world, I could come up with nothing worthy of a weekend post or was simply too damn lazy to write one (and there could be a kernel of truth in such an accusation). I would say however, that in looking back in the Just Blowing Smoke archives, I discovered a post from 2008 on this same holiday that bears some repeating. Though the statistics cited are now three years out of date, I suspect that I would be safe in saying that things have only gotten worse in the intervening period. So without further comment, I present it and them for your edification.
I didn't want to do a post on this subject for a variety of reasons, but it seems that everything that I see and everything that I am reading leads me back to the subject. Bowing therefore, to the apparent inevitability and karma of the situation I will touch on the subject of Fathers. This will not be however, one of those sappy, sentimental postings that call for tissues and a Hallmark card. Nor will I be regaling you with tales of my own father and what he meant to me. That particular wound is still healing and I refuse to pick at the scab too often. I will instead drop a little cold, hard truth on you about fathers (or the lack thereof).
  • 50% of children born to married parents will suffer through their parents’ divorce by age 18.
  • Almost 60% of black children, 32% of Hispanic children and 21% of white children are living in single-parent homes
  • Children who live apart from their fathers will account for 40% of incarcerated adults, 63% of teen suicides, 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71% of high-school dropouts, 75% of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80% of rapists, 85% of youths in prison, 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 90% of homeless and runaway children.
  • About 8% of children in married-couple homes live at or below poverty level, while almost 40% of children in homes without fathers live below poverty level. The latter group risks a much higher incidence of serious child abuse or neglect.
And if that isn't enough to scare the bejeezus out of you, let me tell you that some of my recent reading tells me that it wasn't half as bad as this 10-15 years ago and that the situation seems to be getting worse almost exponentially. This dissolution of the basic family unit appears to be causing problems at every level of society. 

The education system, welfare system, and even the police departments of the US are being impacted directly by the lack of a father in far too many American families. This is no indictment of single mothers, who often operate in some of the most trying of circumstances; but more of the fathers who fail to care for the offspring that they produce. 

Now I have to tell you that I don't consider myself to be one of the best male parental units to have hit the planet. Like far too many fathers in society today, I was too wrapped up in the career that I was pursuing to have been there as much as I should have been. Even today, and though I have a very good relationship with my 3 children, I wish that I was able to spend more time with them. 

Fortunately for me, there were two very good women involved with their lives (their mother, and in case of the children from my first marriage their step-mother), and they were able to take up the slack from my slacking.

Something must have worked however, because I couldn't be happier or more proud about the way that the three of them turned out. On top of what their moms were able to do, maybe I was able to pass on some of what my father taught me:
  • That honesty is the best policy, even if your only reward is that of self-respect.
  • That your word is your bond and everything else is just society's nonsense.
  • That if you work hard it will be rewarded, even if that reward is nothing more that knowing that you did your best.
  • That you will make mistakes in life, but they are rarely permanent and that it's usually easier to fix them than to admit to them.
OK, enough already. I said that this wasn't going to be one of those sappy Hallmark postings and I meant it. Go call your Dad and wish him a Happy Father's Day!

Note: Thanks to the Patriot Post for the startling statistics on this issue.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Anniversary Just Blowing Smoke

Isn't typical that a man will forget anniversaries? Why they even have a cell phone commercial popularizing this fact these days. I find it amazing though, that the fourth anniversary of "Just Blowing Smoke" managed to slip past without my notice. 

The fact that this particular form of madness has been going on now since June 14, 2007 is almost as amazing to me as my own lack of recollection concerning it. (Of course, there are days when I desperately try to forget that I'm to blame for it, but that's a tale for another day.) I am likewise fast approaching another milestone, that of having written 750 posts (and quick little posts like this one will make that come even sooner)

With all of the smoke that I have blown in the last four years, it's a wonder that I don't have Al Gore sitting on my doorstep trying to tell sell me carbon credits; or the EPA attempting to shut me down for the pollution that I've caused in the intervening period. 

While blogging is in most cases a selfish habit, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have chosen to share this sometimes rather twisted journey with me. While often enjoying a fine cigar while doing so, I hope to continue trying to entertain and enlighten (in my own small way) those who continue to read and participate in what sometimes seems little more than a never-ending stream of absurdity, bombast, and drivel. I would say more, but I'm suddenly feeling in the mood to celebrate. So in honor of this occasion, I can say only one thing:

deatach dóibh má tá tú bhí orthu (smoke 'em if you've got 'em)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's A Grand Harvest Of Subsidies For Farmers

Yesterday the Senate decided to kill the ethanol subsidy 73-27 in a largely symbolic vote, since it's attached it to another bill that's unlikely to pass. This is the type of legislative misdirection that we can expect in a town where doing right is not nearly as important as being seen to 'try' to do right. There will be little publicity when this bi-partisan effort dies an ignominious death in the House. 

Of course the ethanol subsidy is but a paltry $5 billion of the budget. If the Senate wanted to show true bi-partisan effort, they might want to take on the bigger picture. Ethanol after all, is largely a product of corn, one of the many crops which the government pays farmers not to plant. Yes, that's right. Along with Soybeans, Wheat, and Rice, the government pays out some $25 billion per year in subsidies to farmers not to farm. And while this sum is less than 1% of the Federal budget (something that's alarming in and of itself), it is nevertheless a significant amount. 

When you think of it, it's kind of like a special form of unemployment compensation (being paid not to work) for farmers only. And lest we think that this money is the only thing saving the small family farmer, in fact it's commercial farmers making over $170,000 per year that receive a majority of the subsidies (according to the Washington Times). Even the EPA admits that according to its 1997 numbers that "46,000 of the 2 million farms in this country accounted for 50% of the agricultural products"

It's not much of a stretch to assume that a good portion of the subsidies is going to those shrewd enough to be running the largest farms. And all of this, according to the Times, when in the last year: wheat is up 81%, corn 59%, and soybeans 39%. Of course none of this could have anything to do with ethanol, which uses some of these same grains in its production. But heck corporate welfare for corporate farmers who are dangerously close to being in the riches 1% might be a small price to pay if in fact we can use ethanol to decrease the use of imported oil right? Except for the fact (pointed out by the CATO Institute in a posting from some time ago) that if we used all of the corn in this country to produce ethanol, we could displace only about 3.5% of our gasoline consumption. Likewise pointed out in this previous effort, were the facts that:
  • Without government subsidies, ethanol production is currently not a viable energy option economically.
  • Ethanol actually causes more pollution than fossil fuels when that during its production is added into the equation.
  • Ethanol, even as an additive to gasoline, does considerable damage to many of the current internal combustion engines in use today.
Crops being used in what is apparently the wasteful and polluting process of producing a gasoline additive might also be looked at as food taken out of the mouths of starving people if one were so inclined. For as more farmers turn their crops over to ethanol production, and in light of the land being covered with water in spring flooding, food prices for both these grains and the meat products that come from the animals they feed are likely to see an even greater increases than they have in recent years. 

But that's not all! According to a Las Vegas Review Journal article from 2008, the government program of "paying farmers "rent" not to grow row crops -- including corn and soybeans -- on 34 million acres (emphasis added) is now identified as a "conservation" program". Farmers literally enter into a rental contract with the government not to grow crops in buffer zones along streams and rivers for 10 to 15 years in the name of being eco-friendly. Incredibly, some of this payout is not even about farming and exists only as a legacy to the land, as pointed out in a Washington Post article from back in 2006: "Even though Donald R Matthews put his sprawling new residence in the heart of rice country, he is no farmer. He is a 67-year-old asphalt contractor who wanted to build a dream house for his wife of 40 years. Yet under a federal program approved by Congress, his 18-acre suburban lot receives about $1,300 in annual "direct payment" because years ago the land was used to grow rice." And Mr Matthews is not alone! "Mary Anna Hudson, 87, from ... Houston, has received $191,000 over the past decade. For Houston surgeon Jimmy Frank Howell, the total was $490,709." The total for the program in 2006 was $1.3 billion. One can only imagine what the natural increases in such programs has done to these payments in the intervening 5 years. 

Don't get me wrong here, its nice to see any business doing well in this economy, and small family farms have suffered setbacks in years past; but income for farmers has been up in recent years. It seems that now however, with the increase in larger individual farms and Corporate farming, that this occupation has become little more than another bunch of self-serving individuals and greedy businesses that have gotten very good at playing the government lobbying game at the expense of taxpayers. So while they may be planting corn, wheat, soybeans, and rice (or not of course), what they are reaping is in actuality a grand harvest of Government Subsidies ...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Something For Nothing

I received a suggestion (thank you Brad) that I should write this weekend about the continuing controversy surrounding Ohio State; and while this did get me thinking, the problem is that I don't normally write anything about sports. Let me say this however. As their situation currently stands, Ohio State is a college football program in shambles; their coach tainted forever for running a dirty program, their players disgraced by callous rule-breaking, and their one-time quarterback playing the role of a clown by assuming the mantle of diva before he even enters the professional ranks. Having said this much about the Buckeyes shameful behavior, I have probably said all that needs to be said about their dishonor, and perhaps more than they deserve. 

It's not like they are the only program recently besmirched by the actions of players and coach, as USC too has found itself at the center of controversy. And while its coach somehow seemed to escape to the professional ranks with little stigma attached; the behavior of Reggie Bush has caused the school to send back its Heisman trophy reproduction and forfeit a national championship. But these two programs are emblematic of a system rife with all of the worst in society today; and its message in general is perhaps more telling about many of those in society. 

For aren't the members of these teams simply another elite group assuming that the rules don't apply to them. On this one you can take your pick: high priced coaches, pampered egomaniac athletes , or the universities themselves who turn a blind eye to what they know is going on as long as the money keeps pouring in. It's actually almost amusing to watch those of the hallowed halls of the educational system (you know, the ones that look down their noses at the whole concept of college athletics) shaking their finger in righteous wrath at politicians and corporations while their employer is bellying up to the same money trough and begging for scraps to be thrown their way. 

Coaches meanwhile make "Weiner-like" pronouncements of innocence about what everyone understands has been going on for years, saying that they simply didn't know. The fact that their lack of knowledge can be directly attributed to hiring a staff the size of Genghis Khan's army, so that they can hide the fact that there's a 'dirty tricks detail' included in it should be overlooked. 

Speaking of overlooking, let's be clear that this mob of malefactors has only one job; seeing that rules violations of their programs are treated like a litter box (kept out of the way, minimizing the stench, and quickly covering anything remains visible to inspection). As for the athletes themselves, I would love to heap blame upon what in most cases are little more than a bunch of self-serving prima donnas with the moral education of a three year-old (no insult intended to 3 year-olds). It's pointless to go to such effort however, when they are indifferent to the opinions of anyone but themselves (and their sycophantic 'crews' of course)

Protected from their earliest days of promise in life from everything but self-gratification, we should expect little more acceptance of following rules than what we get from this self-styled and pampered nobility. Held to a different standard from the first appearance of talent or ability, they are molded into the perfect physical forms and twisted souls that they have become. They have been told always that their ability on a football field or basketball court excuses them from following the rules of lesser humans. 

Those rules are twisted into shapes more complicated than that of DNA to accommodate their advance in school, attendance at practices, camps, and tournaments, and achievement of personal fame. And when one day they are old enough, those in higher education court them as assiduously as any maiden, and on bended knee offer them years of future bliss if only they will consent to a joining (no honeymoon jokes, please)

It's little surprise then, that they treat that in which they have no investment with less than disdain, casting it aside at the first opportunity for the chance of the next deal, the better gig, and the bigger prize. Little surprise too, that the awards that they receive during what's supposed to be their 4-year marriage are of no emotional value to them except that which they have monetarily. Having nothing of themselves invested in the shiny trinkets presented to them as they seek a greater prize, they sell them off with little thought, less regard, and no regret. 

I would say "Shame on them" for treating money earned through the hard work of others with such disdain; but what can one expect of those raised in a system with no moral compass except 'winning' and no definition of right and wrong except 'don't get caught'. Shame on us instead for creating such a system, and for not demanding payment in respect at least for the gift that these young people are given. Shame on us for putting these people on a pedestal and using them as role models. But shame on us especially for forever damaging their lives teaching them little but contempt for the rules of society, and giving them "Something for Nothing".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Social Network Nitwits

Well it's official. In spite of all the disingenuous and deceitful protestations of innocence, careful skirting of the truth, and half-denials, Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner of New York has admitted not only to sending the underwear picture that has become such a sensation on Twitter; but apparently a number of other questionable photographs and 'tweets' as well. In a typical political mea culpa, the Congressman threw himself on the mercy of voters. That he did this after only days ago looking into cameras and attempting to spar with the media (when not actually lying) is not cause for our pity but our scorn however. 

And so with this admission, we see yet another politician begin his final fall from a combination of moral ambiguity and an inability to separate their public (and electronic) lives from their private ones. Weiner has not only lost his chance to become the next Mayor of New York (if Bloomberg ever agrees to leave), but will be damn lucky to hold onto his Congressional seat. The House ethics committee will next take up the faux pas and foibles of Rep Weiner, and they are more than welcome to them. 

Perhaps those with similarly duplicitous natures and questionable moral judgment will better understand him; for he is not alone in his questionable behavior. Far too many of them (and us) are guilty of exposing our ... feelings out there on Twitter and Facebook in the hopes of garnering attention, receiving accolades, and sometimes engendering sympathy. And while we usually get what we ask for, it's far too seldom what we want or really need. 

Absolutely! Put your words, feelings, and personal life out there like a guest on "The Jerry Springer Show" and there's little doubt that those who follow you on Twitter and Facebook will notice. Quite frankly, it's a train wreck that's hard to turn your eyes from. 

Yep! Those can come as well. (I've been especially guilty on this one.) Playing with words and manipulating the English language in the hopes of appear clever or creating a minor piece of verbal art is fun. Sometimes it even works. More often however, it's simply a different form of train wreck, as sarcasm and irony are left behind in the keyboard. Attempt this at your own risk, as the repercussions can be more far-reaching than you realize. Then there are those who stoop to re-posting the efforts of more inventive minds. They do little more than trace over the lines of the Mona Lisa and expect to be credited as an artist. It's as intellectually laudable as any other form of plagiarism and as creative as line dancing. 

Not so much ... Oh don't get me wrong, there are those day-to-day tragedies whose frustration gathers some 'awwws' when aired in public. There are even some actual misfortunes that become easier to bear when shared; and where solace can be received with help and advice to be received from friends, electronic or otherwise. Most of us will even share some bitter laughter along with our compassion when life from time to time seems to paint a target on someone we know or care about. 

Excessive hand-wringing and drama however, will eventually wear thin the understanding of a saint (not that I know any personally) and are to be avoided at any cost. Those conducting their private lives on the Internet in the hopes some level of fame (like Rep Weiner) run a number of terrible risks in the attempt, which include (but are not limited to)

* A law of averages which has determined that eventually you will make a mistake between the private and public lives you live and humiliate yourself (bad enough) or perhaps others who don't deserve it (much worse). * Airing a private grievance in a public venue, while self-satisfying, is unlikely to produce the result intended; and far more likely to produce its opposite. * When we share information with friends, we often forget that it's not only shared with friends of friends automatically; but that it's going to be out there in cyberspace forever, just waiting for the opportunity to jump up and bite us in the butt long after we've forgotten about it. * Even the most sympathetic of souls runs out such sentiment at some point, and those attempting to continue to draw from this well are far more likely to gather scorn than the sympathy they crave. * There is such a thing as 'too much information' about any of us. The reason that people have both public and private lives is because they are different things. They need to remain so. 

 All of that being said, I want to thank Rep Weiner and all of the rest of you out there committing social suicide while attempting this twisted form of social networking. The fear that you produce through your spectacular failures is an inspiration to many of us (You know, like the movie "Jackass"); and a cautionary tale to be learned from. And as the human race has managed to mature in its use of so many technologies, let's hope we can find a happy balance with this one. Let's continue to find ways to stay close to friends and family without airing all of our dirty laundry in public. Let all say of us that we know how to socially network well, and have not, like Rep Weiner, become a Social Network Nitwit.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mixing Politics & Religion

They say that talking about politics and religion is a great way to lose friends; and yet here I am again bringing up the subject for no other reason than that something is beginning to stick in my craw. I feel that there is a lot of confusion out there between these two things, and everyone seems to be too afraid or too sanctimonious to talk about it. 

While everyone is talking about what's going on in the Middle East, quite frankly I'm concerned that there's far too much self-righteousness and religion in politics in this country these days. Doubt or discount me if your will, but before you completely write this idea off, consider the following. 

Forget if you can, the furor over the preacher and church that the current President attended for many years. Imagine instead a candidate for President running in 2012 that announced that he not only didn't attend church, mosque, or temple regularly, he didn't attend one at all. Can you conceive of the uproar that would follow? Can you comprehend the way that such a candidate would be assailed from media, the religious right, and those who believe themselves to be no more than simple "God-fearing Americans". Can you picture the cloud that would gather over what would no doubt be the remaining hours of that failed campaign. 

Yet why should regular attendance at any house of God serve as a qualification for elective office in this country. Does Ford pick their CEO based on his religious attendance? Do investors consider Donald Trump's church (if he even has one) before investing in his projects? Does the market price of Apple stock fluctuate based on Steve Jobs regular attendance at services? Why this should this nation pick its leader based on the regular attendance at religious services? Don't get me wrong. 

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't question a political candidates beliefs. There is in fact an absolute need to know the principles that guide a such a person when they make decisions. Those beliefs however, do not necessarily need to be founded in a particular religious belief, or any at all; let alone their regular attendance at religious services. If recent history has shown us anything, it is that some of those who profess the most public of such beliefs or in fact lead those services have been proven to be the most flawed of human beings. 

Caught up in their personal 'divine revelation', they assume a self-granted mantle of infallibility. With divine authority on their side, they allow those beliefs to dictate that they should work their will on those who they lead, often on some misguided mission to create a world in which only their beliefs reign supreme. Little thought is given to those who believe otherwise, except to add them to the list of those that must be converted. Isn't this in fact what we object to in the theocracies of the Middle East? Isn't this our objection to radical Islam? Isn't this confusion of political and religious mandate what makes us so fearful of their potential for destruction? Isn't the fact that political dissension in these countries becomes blasphemy the concept that makes these nations so out of control and so dangerous. 

Quite frankly I would prefer a political leader who told me that what they believed in was the Constitution, the rule of law, and their personal responsibility to serve the public trust to one who told me that they attended church regularly and believed in this or that Supreme Being. Belief after all, is not something that is subject to the democratic process or to the will of the majority in this country. 

The United States is not a nation where we vote on our favorite religion, making it the path that all must follow. Yes I know that many of the founding documents were written based on Christian principles. I have also done enough reading to discover that many of those Founding Fathers were closet Deists, who like their modern counterparts, wore a public face of regular church attendance in order to advance their professional and political careers. Like those founding documents however, it is the principles that are important, not the place that they came from. 

The world currently looks upon the 'Arab Spring' with mixture of joy and trepidation. We celebrate it when people seek freedom in Northern Africa and the Middle East. We likewise fear what will become of their future as Islamic extremists who see no separation of church and state seek political power in the vacuum created by these uprisings. But are we not likewise guilty in this country of insisting upon a certain level of religious adherence in our leaders? Are we not also guilty of mixing politics and religion?

Friday, June 3, 2011

TFP Column: Successful Recycling

In yet another effort of misguided pity, questionable judgment, or simple insanity, editor-in-chief Michael Miller is allowing yet another of my efforts to appear on the web page edition of the Toledo Free Press. 

 This effort, "Successful Recycling", looks at the money that Lucas County, Ohio is proposing to wring from over-taxed and cash-strapped residents. One can only look on in amazement as politicians and administrators of the County trot out some recycled rhetoric in order to justify a government run recycling center that could be done far more efficiently and cheaply by the private sector (if in fact it was needed at all)

They seek to prove themselves worthy perhaps of national office with claims that adding government jobs at taxpayer expense is good for the economy, and for those under their care. While typical of the area, their efforts might be put to better use in finding a way to turn this recycled material into coverings for the empty windows of the buildings that they will be creating by such policies. 

But enough of this! Summer is upon us and those who wish to be in the know in NW Ohio will be spending time catching up on all that's going on by enjoying the glorious weather with a copy of Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper (and its web-site of course), the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Piling On Weiner

I am normally able to resist the temptation to pile on a popular target, but this Twitter thing with Rep Anthony Weiner of New York simply has too many possibilities to pass up. Having been around the newspaper industry for a few years, I can in fact imagine the headlines in the days ahead:
  • Young girls are apparently a Twitter over Weiner's wiener
  • Weiner says that he will not be distracted by his wiener
  • Congressman claims that his wiener was 'hacked'! (Lorena Bobbit Questioned)
  • Congressional Twit Tweets - Weiner's wiener exposed
  • Member's member to be focus of Congressional investigation
  • Weiner's wiener ... a scandal that stretches from coast to coast
  • College student refuses to release Weiner wiener photo saying, "Objects appearing in the camera are further than they appear"
  • Investigation over the Weiner Tweet hack moved to small claims court
And they just go on and on ... (Feel free in fact, to chime in with a few of your own) For those of you who may not remember, or have just finally managed to forget, this is the same Rep Weiner who blew a gasket last July when many Republicans voted against a $7.4 billion dollar fund to be used to aid 9/11 First Responders. This was not an objection to the 'Zadroga Act', which had 115 co-sponsors, including 15 Republicans. Nor did anyone particularly object to the size of the fund or believe that taking care of these people was not a national obligation. They were concerned however about the waste and fraud that always seem to occur when the government has lots of money to hand out and does so. With examples of such behavior before them from the previously established 9/11 fund, they might even be forgiven for such misgivings. Not by Rep Weiner however, he went off on a rant on the House floor that remains a YouTube favorite and was even considered over the top by many of the politicians and pundits to whom over the top is a way of life. He seemed to take great relish in taking center stage to castigate his fellow legislators with a verbal assault that left him shaking and all but foaming at the mouth in righteous indignation. His moral superiority and outrage were almost palpable to all as he called down fire and brimstone on those whose behavior he considered little more than repugnant and reprehensible. His tirade earned him 15 minutes of fame and a chance to go around to the talk shows to bask in the attention that such nonsensical notoriety often brings. (Just as an FYI, this act was eventually passed and signed into law.) It's a funny thing about grabbing the national spotlight in politics however. Just when you think that you've done you bit on stage and can safely retire behind the curtain for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, someone bumps that previously sought source of illumination in such a way that you find yourself back in its glare; often at the most inconvenient of times. And so yet another vainglorious politician, wooed by the siren song of power and fame, may now have succumbed to one foolish temptation too many. Another elected representative seems to have confused prerogative with potency and crossed a number of lines of good conduct and good sense in the process. There's no telling whether this incident (and the others which are bound now to find voice) will bring about the end of a potentially promising, if shrill career. It's interesting though that in spite (or maybe because) of the fact that so many politicians are in love with themselves, they believe that all others are in love with them as well. It's also rather amusing (in a sad way) to realize that those we place in positions to make good choices for all of us can make so many poor ones for themselves. Hey now that I think of it, maybe what Rep Weiner needs is a little time away from Washington DC to let all of this uproar die down. Maybe (like in "Animal House"), what he needs is a little road trip to return things to proper perspective. After all, Sarah Palin is making her way around the country these days using a neat bus and some motorcycles. Maybe Anthony Weiner could latch on to a cool ride and do a little traveling of his own.
I understand the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile might be available ...