Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bi-Partisan Compromise ... Phooey

The only thing that aggravates me more than the mind-numbed robots endlessly repeating the left-wing mantra that all of our current problems are the responsibility of George W Bush, the Republican Party, and Fox News (with occasional tips of the hat to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the rest of right-wing talk radio); is listening to their counterparts telling us that its all the fault of the man behind the curtain Barack Obama, the scarecrow Harry Reid, and the Wicked Witch of the West Nancy Pelosi.  

Oh don't get me wrong, GWB deserves his share of the blame, as do the rest of this cast of characters and a few more besides.  In fact the list is a rather long and distinguished one, going back to the 30's and including such luminaries as presidents FDR, LBJ, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter; along with Senators such as Bob Dole, George Mitchell, Trent Lott and Tom Daschle.  While we're at it, let's add in some current and former Speakers of the House like Sam Rayburn, Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill, Newt Gingrich, and John Boehner. 

You see, much as I hate to admit it, President Obama was right when he said that "we didn't get here overnight".  Of course he misused one of the only statements of fact that he's made since taking office; but the truth remained that the problems we face now have been brewing since long before the current President ran for elective office at any level.

As for the idea that all of this can be solved by some bi-partisan compromise ... please.  After all, wasn't it such bi-partisanship during the FDR Administration that got us Social Security in the first place?  Hasn't it been some bi-partisan shenanigans that have allowed politicians in Washington who have known for decades that Social Security was eventually going to go broke, to do and say nothing?  Isn't the only compromise that Democrats and Republicans have reached about the national pension program in recent years one involving adding people that were never originally intended to be a part of it? Bi-partisan spirit in Congress has done little more for this program than to trade its imminent failure for the votes of those protected by it.

As for health care, it was wage and price controls implemented under FDR during WWII in a bi-partisan spirit that got employers into providing health care insurance for workers instead having them pay their own medical costs in the first place.  Not content with setting us on another road to failure however, they made an additional bi-partisan effort with the 1965 Social Security Act, creating Medicare and Medicaid in what amounted to another government attempt at wage and price controls, this time for health care. 

Not only did their compromised effort prove a dismal failure, but with these two new programs, States were now conscripted into the no-win game as well.  Costs continued to go up and increasingly successful (and expensive) medical technology insured that this bi-partisan effort would eventually become another financial monster.  How did our bi-partisan Compromisers answer dawning awareness of another government program that was on the verge of collapse?  ... by adding insult to injury with bi-partisan passage of prescription drug coverage under G W Bush.  No longer content with poisoning what little is left of private sector health care however, the Obama Administration decided to strike the next blow in nationalizing health insurance and health care in the US with what has now become known as Obamacare.  Early analysis of this most recent effort (which surprisingly was not bi-partisan, but a partisan lack of compromise on the part of Democrats) tells us that Government has once more worked its magic, and things will be getting more expensive much quicker than they had been, under the control of a government that can't afford them.

But let's not focus on the big three (now four) entitlement programs as the limits of compromised bi-partisan disaster.  Doing so might cause you to miss other government support programs passed over the years like food stamps and subsidized housing by a legislature ripe with bi-partisan compromise, in an effort to create a dependent class while spending other people's money.  It would also mean that you had failed to take notice of the legislative alphabet zombies that now stalk the land and cannot seem to be killed.  The IRS, DEA, and EPA may be the most infamous of these bogeymen; but the HHS and DHS (and its minions of the TSA) have mandates and budgets that are growing almost as quickly as their public unpopularity. 

Why should any of this make you angry?  Because we let all of this fraud, waste, and nonsense be spoon fed to us in the spirit of the bi-partisan compromise that legislators told us was required to make government work.  Republicans and Democrats alike not only continued to support failed programs, worthless subsidies, and useless departments, but added to their numbers and budgets in a truly bi-partisan fashion that has run up the debt to what was once an unimaginable number. (Feeling compromised yet?)  

So now we're told that the problem is the rancorous language of partisanship in Congress; and the only thing that can save us is Bi-Partisan Compromise. 


The problem is that professional politicians, who won't have to utilize the monstrous programs that they've compromised the rest of our futures with, are sitting fat and happy on great pensions and medical coverage that's the envy of the world.  Having secured their own bit of the American dream they are once again trying to stir up voters in the months winding up to an election with nonsensical rhetoric about bi-partisanship. While legislators continue to do nothing to fix real problems in this country, party spokesmen and political pundits drone on about the lack of bi-partisan compromise to provide political cover for the inaction of Congress.  Well, I've got a compromise of my own that might gain broad bi-partisan support: 

Do your job (for once) and we'll think about re-electing you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Health Alert

The Just Blowing Smoke Health & Human Services Division has just informed me of an epidemic that has been sweeping the nation for some time; and has gone all but unreported by the Mainstream Media.  (And they're usually so good at reporting famine, death, and disaster...) 

What, you tell me that there's no such thing as the JBSH&HSD!  I beg to differ.  In fact the staff of this high level department occupies the area in the attic at our Headquarters, right next to the DJBSS (Department of Just Blowing Smoke Security) in space we created by stacking more of the empty cigar boxes and old tin-foil hats stored up there.  At Just Blowing Smoke, we figure if creating departments whenever they want to to tackle problems that may or may not exist is good enough for the government, it's good enough for us.

The contagion once again sweeping the nation is indiscriminate in nature; failing to recognize race, gender, or age in its deadly attacks (though curiously, it seems to have little of no effect on the very young).  Neither does it have any respect for political persuasion, finding victims among Democrats, Republican, and Independents alike (though again, Libertarians seem mostly immune).  This scourge, now found to have been a recurring and often overlooked affliction has been called by many names over the years, most popularly "having you head up your own arse"; but has currently been designated by the CDC as:   ... Cranial / Rectal Inversion.

Those afflicted with this deadly malady may be recognized by the following symptoms.

  • A willing and unquestioning belief that the stories they read in newspapers and see on television news programs are both factually correct and true
  • A likewise intransigent belief in the pronouncements of politicians regardless of previous records of fallibility or the suspension of common sense required to do so
  • An unsupportable belief that things were much simpler and far better in the "Good Old Days"
  • A strange inability or unwillingness to check the facts on which they base their most fervently held opinions, preferring instead to have their basic assumptions about life handed to them on a silver platter by media personalities; many of whom pick and choose their own version of the facts for no better reason than to make their shows entertaining
  • A marked certainty that things will get better if we can just put one political party in charge of government for a while (For some reason, it doesn't seem to matter in general which one, though individual sufferers are adamant about their particular choice, once made.) 
  • An assurance that the US can spend its way out of the horrendous debt that it has incurred if it only spends enough
  • An absolute inability to perform simple math functions, manifested by attempts to subtract government spending from government revenue and always coming up with a positive number.
  • An unaccountable faith that Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D Roosevelt, and Lyndon B Johnson were good presidents (Many others feel the same way about Richard Nixon and George W Bush, in the red vs blue strain of the disease.)
  • An almost dogmatic conviction that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will be just fine if we can pick the pockets of a few of the rich bastards in this country 
  • A misguided though adamant presumption that the results of the next election will put things right
If it seems like most of this thinking is absolute crap, consider the proximity of the seat of thinking to the orifice of defecation considered to descriptive of the disease.  Not only does such an affliction present difficulties in seeing the facts (owing to the tortuous pose required), but one cannot help but think that the back pain incurred by being hunched over in such a position cannot help but make one cranky and short-tempered.

Regular self-examination is not required (and can be rather messy anyway).  You should be able to recognize whether you are showing symptoms or suffering from the disease by the expressions on the faces of friends and family around you, as well as their willingness (or lack thereof) to be close to you. Be careful however, when you recognize these symptoms in others, as all contractors are carriers of this dreaded condition.  

While there is no cure for Cranial / Rectal inversion, the disease can be put into remission through daily use of doubt and skepticism, and minimal contact with newspapers and national television news.  Broadcasts of most of cable news networks should be carefully rationed; and "The O'Reilly Factor", "The Sean Hannity Show", or anything with Chris Matthews on it should be avoided at all costs. (Hell, just avoid MSNBC all together.)  Regular attempts to reach your own conclusions through facts unedited by news readers, talking heads, and pundits pimping their latest book can also be an effective prophylactic treatment.

Good luck out there, and by all means ... Keep you heads up!  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TFP Column: Presidential Debates

There's another debate of Republican candidates for President today, which leaves me looking forward to the evening's festivities with much the same feeling that I would have if I had an appointment tonight to get a root canal ... without anesthetic.

Don't get me wrong, I think that the Republicans should do everything that they can to learn about those seeking the highest office in the land in the hopes that Obama can continue channeling Jimmy Carter and become a one-term President.  That being said, someone ought to smack the news networks for turning such important opportunities to discover what nominees are made of into a sick parody of the Jerry Springer show.  

While they're at it, someone ought to smack the candidates for allowing the media to treat them with such disrespect in venues largely reminiscent of a circus.  Before it's all done, someone ought to smack the electorate around a bit for either not paying attention to what's going on, or encouraging this People magazine version of politics.

Before all of this corporal punishment is properly administered (Damn, where are the Jesuits when you need them?),  what everyone ought to do is read my take on the current debate process on the TFP rather curiously titled, "Presidential Debates".

And when you're done catching up on the political world, you might even want to find out what's going on in Toledo and NW Ohio in the mid-week Star edition before reading Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's Best Weekly Newspaper this weekend, the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm Hunting Powiticians

Somewhere in the last week, election season kicked into full swing.  I know this not because with Labor Day, Tourist season officially came to a close (which I found rather disappointing, since I was nowhere near bagging my limit in tourists this year), nor by the slight stench of decay which normally permeates the atmosphere when political speeches are emitted by candidates (after all, we've already had three Republican debates).  No, it was the tone of Presidential rhetoric that announced the official change of season this year.

With the President's recent stump speeches on his jobs and debt reduction programs (BTW, the lack of capital letters is an intentional insult), gone is the push for compromise, bi-partisanship, and the spirit of shared sacrifice that rang with hollow sincerity just a few short weeks back.  Now what we get is full-throated campaign mode, where getting along is no longer the goal and demonizing political opponents most definitely is.  

Republicans of course, responded quickly with a round of uncompromising rhetoric of their own.  Statements issued within hours by both Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell which attacked the plans put forth and the President himself for encouraging class warfare (or perhaps more accurately, no class warfare).  Interestingly enough however, as Peter Nicholas and Lisa Mascaro of the Chicago Tribune pointed out in a recent piece:  

"[T]hose Republican rejections may not trouble the White House, because Obama's new proposal was designed less as a solution to the deficit problem than as a political argument to put before the voters."  

While this can certainly be a surprise to no one, it does once and for all sound the clarion call of open season on the inconsistent, power-seeking, and self-serving politicians at the beginning of their fall rutting season.  It is they and not I who have fired the first volleys in what will now become the non-stop attempts to mate with each and every potential voter (and some of them unfortunately, more than metaphorically); fending off their competition with rhetorical head butting, while attempting to evade sharpshooters like me.  This is a herd of vermin that once more cries out to be thinned by shining the light of absurdity (Limbaugh is still hogging the light of truth) on their dis-ingenuous duplicity, and demagoguery.  This is a task for which I am well-suited, and this is not my first rodeo.  (Of course it would be if it were in fact an actual rodeo, but ... oh, never mind.)   

For those of you now blushing or appalled at my choice of violent sounding verbiage; language that certainly does not fit the PC criteria to which Conservatives have been recently limited to ... get over it.  I'm long past being sick and tired of a society that's so afraid of speaking its mind for fear of offending someone that it can barely speak at all. I believe that people (well OK, some people) are intelligent enough to be able to tell the difference between well articulated castigation and incitement to violence.  (And if you're not, it's your problem, deal with it.)  Besides, it seems that if politicians of both major parties are free to take pot shots at each other, that some license is granted to us in the peanut gallery to let off a few rounds of our own.

Perhaps I'm just sick and tired of the bluster and bombast of politicians during what has become an all but perpetual election season.  Don't get me wrong, there are actually a few good people running for office at local, state, and national levels.  Unfortunately, they are surrounded by throngs of damaged goods who come awfully close to proving that human beings could not possibly have evolved from lower forms of life, since there are no forms of life lower than the members of the herd.  The unfortunate few seek a position held in the same regard as used car salesmen cannot help but be cast in an unfortunate light; the pathetic remnant of that shone on their conceited, power-mad counterparts.  Much of the light left is likewise obscured by the willing sycophants of the 24 hour news outlets; who prostitute themselves whenever required for the chance of a great sound bite.

You know, I've always like the political season.  The weather has grown cooler, which permits me indulge my addiction to smoking cigars without enduring conditions that allow me to light them by exposing one end to direct sunlight.  I can bask in an hour of cloudy enjoyment without turning the end of the cigar clenched in my teeth to a sweat-drenched monstrosity and myself into someone appearing to have only barely survived a WWII death march in the process of enjoying my no doubt cancer-causing folly.  Mostly however, I truly love this time of year for allowing me to pursue that most guilty of pleasures.  So I must ask you please:

Be vewwy, vewwy quiet.  Heh Heh, I'm hunting  powiticians ....

(GDH 9/21/71 +40.  Gone, but never to be forgotten.)


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sell Crazy Someplace Else

"Sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here." 
- Jack Nicholson from "As Good As It Gets.

That's it ... 'nuff said.

OK, I guess that I can't leave it at that, as much as I'd like to.  But let's face it, that train (the crazy train) left the station a long time ago; and not only is it not coming back, but as Ian Anderson said in 'Locomotive Breath', "the train won't stop going, no way to slow down".  It would be nice however, if somebody would let you off for a rest once in a while, especially during what has already become another never-ending election season.  You see, during election season, every time someone dares to turn one of our sacred cows into steaks, the mental wards seem to let loose great streams of naysayers to speak to the Media.  Don't believe me, then let me cite some examples:

Rick Perry says that Social Security is a 'Ponzi Scheme' and everyone is up in arms.  How dare he attack one of the most important programs in the history of this nation!  Of course the fact that Social Security fits the definition of a Ponzi Scheme like a glove (and not the ones from the OJ Simpson trial) is irrelevant. The facts get thrown out the window because Social Security is in fact part of the fabric of American Society (and that fabric seems to be more than a little frayed these days).  After all Rick Perry must be a kook since he's a Republican from the same state as George Bush and that strange Ron Paul guy (who's not only also skeptical of this unsafe safety net, but tells the not-so-pretty truth about most of the rest of this country's economic problems).  Besides, the AARP and a lot of the early investors don't want hear the truth about Social Security for fear that they'll lose out on the money promised to them when they were forced by the government to join it.

Some candidates are saying that Global Warming is true, some are saying its not!  OK, even if we concede some validity to the prospect that the planet is getting warmer (for the sake of argument), do we therefore need to concede that the sole cause of it is Man?  Yes, I know that Man's technologies produce carbon dioxide, methane, and other 'Greenhouse Gases', and that Man could therefore be part of the cause.  On the other hand, there's a lot of other things on the planet that produce Greenhouse gases that could be contributing (like cows and pigs, and oh yeah ... volcanoes).  If the planet is in fact getting warmer though, couldn't it also have something to do with that big bright ball of fire that we see in the sky.  You know ... the Sun.  Let's face it, this planet has been getting warmer and colder since it was formed; and a lot of the same guys that are telling us that the Man is causing the planet to get warmer now were telling us that Man was causing the planet to get colder 40 years ago.  Which is it?  Or do we need to concede both sides of the equation to them so that there's justification for massive government regulation designed to save us (if it doesn't kill us first).  Besides, the guys trying to make the case can't get the weather right from day to day or year to year, let alone decade to decade or century to century; and seem to change theories far more often than they change their underwear.  (Sorry, that's not fair.  I have no idea how often they change their underwear.  Hey, maybe we can get some government funding to do a study and find out.)

Republican candidates are saying The 'Theory of Evolution' is right, no wait it's wrong.  No wait, it's a still theory, not proven fact.  New evidence is coming to the attention of scientists every day that cause this 'theory' to be modified; but that's what you're supposed to do with scientific theories.  You test them against the evidence and change them to fit the facts.  The 'Theory of Evolution' has itself evolved significantly since first proposed by Charles Darwin; and while he'd probably still recognize it, I'm not sure he could stake a claim to it any more.  As for the alternative proposal, that every form of plant and animal on the planet was created in seven days, I for one am just as skeptical.  The only proof seems to be a book that has been translated more times than 'Gone With the Wind' and probably become more garbled with each translation than Brent & Stuart Tarleton's speech when they tried to chat up Scarlett O'Hara at Tara.  Factor in that many of these translations were done at the behest of the government in power at the time or by a Hierarchical church bent on proving a point or controlling the peasants, and maybe we should all be more skeptical.  That doesn't make what was written wrong, but neither does it make the latest translation proven fact. 

The Democratic candidate seems to believe we can spend our way out of the current recession.  The discussion really heats up when talk begins about how to get us out of our financial doldrums.  In spite of crushing debt in this country, there seems to be a body of opinion that says that spending more money that we don't have is the answer.  Red or Blue, take your pick.  Both have managed to ignore easily provable facts of mathematics and contributed to the continuing disaster by endlessly debating their reliability for more years than I have been around.  Recently they seem to spend most of their time with their fingers in their ears singing "la la la la la" when you try to talk to them, until you want to slap them sillier than they already are.  The two sides of the argument often seem limited to the ones who say it's really not problem in the first place and those that believe we can fix it without spending less.  When someone does at long last stick their neck out far enough to concede the proven scientific principles of addition and subtraction are true, they cut it off, castigate the perpetrator as an apostate or a loon, and propose a fix that involves not reducing the spending, but reducing the rate at which spending increases.  You know, it's this kind of thinking that normally leads people to grand new chapters in their lives ... usually Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. 

Ahhhhhhhh!  Where did I leave my damned duct tape?

Of course this list of insanities could go on and on (hmm, sounds like an old Stephen Bishop tune), but doing so could be considered symptoms of obsessive / compulsive disorder (yep, back to the Nicholson reference); and I think you're starting to get the idea anyway. Besides it's almost time for one of the twice weekly therapy sessions I attend during election season (which means year round these days) in the misguided hope that it will help me to cope with the madness. Let me tell you though, for those of us really paying attention to what's going on in the country these days, we're already getting plenty of crazy.  Go sell yours someplace else.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy Constitution Day

I thought about trying to come up with something truly inspiring in honor of the 224 years that the Constitution has been around on the day before it was signed by the members of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  I quickly realized however, that any words of mine would be so far overshadowed by the Constitution as to be all but meaningless.  Then again, the day of celebration may incorrect, since the document didn't become official until ratified by at least nine of the thirteen original colonies, something which didn't occur until almost a year later (though almost on the same day), on September 13, 1788.

But enough of the history lesson about a document that tragically few understand anyway.  The simple truth of the matter is that we must shamefully admit that with very few exceptions, the only people in this country that do understand it, other than Libertarians, Tea Party members, and Constitutional scholars are the citizens of this country that became so only through the immigration and naturalization process.  

Government sponsored re-education camps no longer teach it's construction and principles, believing it to be little more than the outdated pronouncements of a bunch of slave-owning white men.  Many of the graduates of such rigid indoctrination also believe it to be a 'living document' subject to the will of the mob and historic (or perhaps more accurately, hysteric) re-interpretation. Politicians who take an oath of office to "preserve, protect, and defend" this document often spend more of their time in office trying to figure out ways to get around it than they spend in fulfilling such oaths.  Nominees seeking to take up the robes of the Supreme Court, the branch of government designed to determine whether new laws fall within the limits of this document, often preclude themselves from consideration for such duties by being 'strict constructionists'.  (In other words, if you understand and believe in the language of the Constitution, you are unfit to rule on things that might impact its meanging.)

Of course the fact that I almost always have a pocket copy of this document and the Declaration of Independence with me might have something to do with what might be seen as unwarranted concern on the subject.  The fact that I have read more than a few books about interpreting the language used by the Founders in writing it ("The Original Constitution" by Robert G Natelson is particularly good) might indicate a certain level of preoccupation with the document defining and limiting our government.  The fact that I recently managed to get through all of the arguments set forth by those early Founders for ratification in "The Federalist Papers" (the original, not the Beck translation) might indicate to you how serious I am about this.

So you can imagine how crazy I get when I have to patiently explain that there is no "separation of church and state" laid out in the Constitution.  In fact, the First Amendment merely prohibits the establishment of a national religion, and prevents laws from being written prohibiting religious practice.  You can likewise imagine how frustrated I get with people not understanding that election of Senators by state legislatures was not a mistake, but by design as a way to set the power of states in balance with the potential power of the federal government.  You can well imagine how insane I get when explaining that the Constitution does not define the boundaries of a democratic government in the United States, but instead sets the limits of government power in a representative republic; something far different.

I could go on ad nauseum, but fortunately for you I'm saving myself for some continuing education on the Constitution on its birthday this year.  While sadly not being able to attend the session at Owens Community College in Toledo with any number of friends and acquaintances this weekend, I will be attending (by computer) the sessions being held by Hillsdale College today.  Now Hillsdale has long been famous for its Constitutional scholarship, and today's sessions will no doubt be both entertaining and enlightening.  While I will have to settle for the archived video in most cases (as my employer has strangely not declared this a national holiday and given me the day off), I am looking forward to the live presentation being given by Charles Krauthammer at 8PM Eastern time this evening.

I hope that each of you, even if you choose not go through such an extensive educational process, might take just a minute or two tomorrow to read and understand even a portion of the document that provides the blanket of freedom that we sleep under.

Happy Constitution Day! 


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TFP Column: Too Little, Too Late

The results are coming in on the Toledo primaries, and none of them (including the embarrassingly small number of voters who cast ballots) is much of a surprise.  Equally unsurprising was that just a day before voting day, the Sixth District Court of Appeals finally released a decision telling the the Lucas County Board of Elections that they couldn't hold a hearing on whether to remove incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Lindsay Webb from the ballot.

This belated decision merely adds to a seemingly endless chain of overdue actions connected with this situation that I outline in an early effort this week for the Toledo Free Press website.  Come to think of it, writing "Too Little, Too Late" seems an action ripe tardiness itself.

If you want to catch up on the latest results of the Toledo primary and not find yourself late to the party, you'll do what all the other really smart people do.  You'll catch up on everything that goes on in the Glass City by reading not only the mid-week Star edition, but Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's Best Weekly newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Occasional Brilliance

I was having a electronic conversation with the Toledo Free Press Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller yesterday about his most recent effort for the paper (an exceptional piece, BTW) and my own two lesser efforts of the last week.  Michael, being the gentleman that he is (and recognizing that praise is often the only wage of such efforts), was very complimentary of my work, citing amongst other things, a level of consistent achievement.  I responded that I would trade much of such consistency for occasional flashes of brilliance.

Alas, such things are rare indeed ....  which got me thinking about what to write this weekend after having already offered a piece on the coming anniversary of 9/11 in the TFP.  And while I hope that all are able to take a bit of time this weekend to remember both the tragedy of the event and the heroism that came about as a result of it, I was left with the need to put something up this weekend.

I came to the realization that perhaps putting some of those brilliant efforts up this weekend was just the balm that my aching spirit needed.  I therefore offer what at least I consider to be some fine efforts in turning a phrase.  Knowing that like my efforts for the TFP I will be overshadowed, I will never the less put a few of my own quotations up in the 'Quotes of the Week' section (in some way making this a honest writing effort).

One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
- Will Durant

When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.
- Benjamin Disraeli

 More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads.  One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness.  The other, to total extinction.  Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
- Woody Allen

The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on.
- Joseph Heller

The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.
- Harlan Ellison

He who builds a better mousetrap these days runs into material shortages, patent-infringement suits, work stoppages, collusive bidding, discount discrimination, and taxes.
- H E Martz

Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us.  We are not the only experiment.
- R Buckminster Fuller

In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.
- Paul Harvey

The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.
- George F Will

If you put the Federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand.
- Milton Friedman

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
- Frank Zappa

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of the hammer.
- Will Rogers

A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.
- Robert Frost

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.
- James Madison

Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.
- Elbert Hubbard

Those who welcome death have only tried it from the ears up.
- Wilson Mizner

Ninety percent of everything is crap.
- Theodore Sturgeon

Thursday, September 8, 2011

TFP Column: 9/11 - Conflicting Feelings

As promised, my second effort of the week is appearing online on the Toledo Free Press website.  After some email exchanges with Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller, I got to work on an effort commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11; something that they are going to devote this weekend's edition to.

As the title describes, "9/11: Conflicting Feelings" speak to the evolution of my emotional state in the years since the events of that tragic day.  I won't try to describe them, as it was hard enough to put them on paper once.  I will recommend however, that you keep your eyes out for this weekend's special edition of Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's Best Weekly Newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TFP Column: How Many Wrongs Make A Right?

After taking a week off to do some training in my chosen profession (well, at least the one that pays me), I found myself writing at a furious pace upon my return.  So it is with some pleasure that I offer this link to what I hope will be the first of two pieces to appear this week on the Toledo Free Press website.

The subject of this first effort is the ongoing saga of the misdeeds, misstatements, and mistakes being made in the District 6 City Council primary going on in Toledo.  I remember well my parents telling me that 'two wrongs don't make a right'.  With all of the wrongs being perpetrated in what should, at least in theory be a simple balloting process in Toledo, you have to ask yourself however, "How Many Wrongs Make A Right?"  

Now Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller tells me that this weekend's edition of the TFP is to be a special one.  Of course I believe that they all are (or maybe it's just the ones in which I am included).  My advice however, would be to keep your eyes open both for the mid-week Star edition, and of course for Toledo's largest circulation Sunday and Ohio's Best Weekly Newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

America's Longest War ... Really?

Having studied logic during my days in college, it breaks my heart when someone attempts to reach a correct conclusion from a false premise. Under the 'Infinite Monkey Theorem', such things are bound to happen, but they often defy the odds.  Oddly enough, Lewis Diuguid actually manages to get to some truth in his piece, "America's Longest War is 10 Years Old And Raging", but his premise that the wars in the Middle East are our longest conflict is in fact a false one.

The longest War that America has been fighting should more accurately be considered to be Korea. Begun on 6/25/1950, it was the first of the US 'undeclared wars' (though some point far earlier to Panama). Though an armistice was signed on 7/27/1953 US troops are never the less still defending South Korean borders, a military budget is expended on their behalf. and shots have been fired (artillery shells, in fact) as recently as last year.

Next on the list of Wars we are still fighting, is that announced on 1/8/1964, LBJ's 'War on Poverty'. This undeclared war was the beginning of the 'Great Society' and is one we have been pouring billions of dollars into for some 47 years with no victory on the horizon and no end in sight. If anything, the goal may be further from achievement now than when begun.

Such things being bi-partisan, the next of the wars we are still fighting was the 'War on Drugs' declared on 6/17/1971 by President Richard Nixon. Nixon even managed to enlist Elvis Presley into government service a second time and awarded him a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; which seems rather ironic, since the subsequent deterioration of Presley's health was largely contributed to by years of drug abuse. The influx of drugs and the number of casualties in this war are far too well documented for me to need to go into (so I won't). Still, this makes the War on Drugs over 40 years old, and in spite of the billions spent, likewise no closer to victory.

Skipping ahead 30 years to 9/11/2001, ostensibly the point of Mr Diuguid's piece, the history of wars might be allowed to begin again (at least for him). Of course, the facts of history become rather confused here. Most would in fact tell you that the war in Iraq was the response of the US to the terrorist-flown airplanes in NYC, Washington, and Pennsylvania; but they would be wrong. In fact the US, in its next undeclared war, began fighting in Afghanistan on 10/7/11 in response to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We didn't begin fighting in an undeclared war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein until 3/20/2003.

Most recently, we could jump forward to 2/15/2011 and our support of the mission in Libya. Another undeclared conflict and another expenditure of treasure by a nation that now has little or none to spare. And while actual fighting appears to be drawing down, we have as yet no idea what the final cost of this effort will be. 

At least now though, we can talk about the impact of the impending anniversary of 9/11 and a display that is being set up by the Kansas City Interfaith Council. To quote Ira Harritt, its program coordinator: "There is the realization that we cannot afford the wars anymore. People are realizing that $800 billion a year for the military and these wars is not worth the price tag." 

While this is a sentiment with which I would tend to agree; strangely enough, I find it strange that these groups do not find such selective history contradictory or that they can ignore events before 9/11 or outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. No one protests the nature or the budget of the Libyan campaign, or seeks to keep us out of the growing number of 'Arab Spring' uprisings in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain among others. Discounting the rest of the Middle East, they likewise ignore the failure in the strategies of social programs that have been going on far longer and wasting even more time and treasure.  

"We recognize the sacrifice the armed forces made in pursuing the war on terror. We want to remind the public there are alternatives to the challenges we face," Harritt said. "The more we invest in military solutions, the more we are perpetuating the problems we face. I think 10 years has shown us that doesn't work." And Diuguid ends it with, "It's past time for peace to dominate."  

Cheers to Mr Diuguid for managing not to plagiarize John Lennon (and for having a last name that's a palindrome). I fear that his thinking and Mr Harritt's may in fact be too narrow however. While on the right track, they may wish to broaden their perspective to understand that government solutions to problems, military or otherwise, seldom come to a successful conclusion in the wars they fight. If 10 years is too much, what would over 40 be?  If the failure of a military campaign to produce the desired result is reason enough for ending it, how then the failure of social programs?  

Perhaps its time check the facts of history and to declare peace in wars that have been going on far longer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Worker's Day

The summer is about to be officially over (not that you could tell from the temperatures in Kansas City).  Swimming pools will soon be closing however, most of the kids are already back at school (and the rest soon will be), and along with the rest of the nation I find that I am more than ready for a three-day weekend to let off a little steam.

In my own case, it might have something to do with having begun my week by traveling last Sunday and having labored a considerable (and perhaps inordinate) number of hours training for my chosen profession.  The fact that such efforts may well be in vain (something to do with old dogs and new tricks that I seem unable to recall in my depleted physical and mental condition) has nothing to do with the honest effort expended by such exertion.  I find however that my well-deserved bit of rest has been ruined by by the holiday that in title at least celebrates such efforts, Labor Day.  

For it seems as though the extended weekend we get away from our jobs cannot even manage to rise to the level of carrying the stigma of being a Hallmark Holiday.  We cannot even happily revel in rampant consumerism, safe in the knowledge that the increasing credit card debt we saddle ourselves with will put money back into the economy in more direct way than the food stamps or unemployment benefits that the government apparently prefers.  Instead, we will have to grudgingly accept that whatever merrymaking we choose to participate in will in fact celebrate the labor movement in this country.  

Don't get me wrong, there was a time in this country when such a movement was perhaps necessary.  People often worked too many hours and in conditions that would be considered unsafe by any standards today; but unlike the long weekend that I at least need, that time has long passed.  Legislators and government regulators have long since stepped in to insure that citizens are protected, producing as many positives as negatives in their often misguided efforts to correct past ills.  Even without organized labor as a force in this country, it hardly seems possible that evil corporations could have their evil way with their workforce ... even in Right to Work States.

The impetus for the festivities this weekend therefore, is little more to me than a reminder that another President (Grover Cleveland) once attempted to placate organized labor with a national holiday after using government troops during a strike back in 1894.  And since the current Administration seems to use its bureaucratic thugs on employers rather than employees, the holiday seems more like a hollow remnant that does little more than highlight the sorry state of jobs in this country.  

The numbers have only gotten worse since I wrote about this back in January of 2010, with employment (or more accurately unemployment) still the largest problem that this nation faces.  And while Union jobs are a small percentage of the entire workforce, the growth of high paying, union-protected government jobs seems to be the only employment expansion going on.  This not only highlights the astonishing incursion of that government and its minions into the present and future in this country, but the control of organized labor in today's government.  And it is that very incursion that perhaps most contributes to the stagnation; both in terms of growing the economy and restraining the runaway spending that plagues government.  A government that pays more to its own unionized staff than the private sector does (or can afford to), while imposing its will upon private corporations has done nothing to promote growth or alleviate the current malaise.

A willingness to gift large parts of GM and Chrysler to their Unions, ignoring the limitations of the Constitution and legal traditions regarding preferred debtors, and the nonsensical interference with Boeing's attempts to build production lines where it wants to cannot help but make one wonder who is indeed in control of policy in Washington itself.  And while there has always been a fear of government and religion having far too cozy a relationship, one cannot help but wonder instead if equal or greater concern should be directed at the affinity of the labor movement with those in power these days.  

Celebrating the labor movement in this country hardly seems patriotic, though it could be considered politically expedient.  Certainly, labor unions are seen by as  large contributors and equally large voting blocks by those running for elected office these days; and not to be trifled with.  The influence of labor leaders over policy and legislation is often far greater than their actual numbers would seem to justify as a consequence. Perhaps then, it's long past time that the unrecognized leverage of Unions took its place along with corrupt lobbyists and evil corporations as an unhealthy influence on the direction in which the ship of state sails.

Now as luck would have it, the KC Irishfest is going on this weekend.  I am determined to attend at least one day of these festivities (and perhaps even tip back a pint or two).  I refuse however to acknowledge the motivation for the holiday that it falls within.  So it is with truly mixed feeling that I wish you what I choose instead to call a "Happy Workers Day".