Thursday, February 2, 2012

Silly Bits I

I was getting some grief over the title of some of the previous entries to this blog (Stabilizing the MCP).  Evidently there were some that thought that instead of writing about miscellaneous crap, I was writing like crap instead. (Personally, I was surprised that anyone could distinguish the difference.)  But as Gene Autry once said: "How come you know me so well, when I'm just a stranger to myself."  Nevertheless, from this day forward such posts will henceforth be known as “Silly Bits” in homage to the Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” skit.  (I won’t bore those of you not interested with the entire piece, but for those who would like to travel down memory lane, or have never seen it before, you will find it here.)  Now for the other silly bits:

The National Right to Work Foundation and the National Federation of Independent Business, along with other business groups have filed suit over the recess appointments made by President Obama to the National Labor Relations Board and the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  It appears that this President didn’t like the tactics used by the ‘Democratically Controlled’ Senate to ostensibly stay in session in spite of the fact that he was a part of the very same tactics being used to prevent his predecessor from making recess appointments when he was in the Senate. 

Having gotten a paper from the Department of Justice saying that he was within his rights to do so (The President’s lawyers agreed with him, imagine that!), the appointments were made in what many are calling a violation of the separation of powers in the Constitution. Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Republican Senator Rand Paul of KY announced that he was joining the suit.  Now while this might appear to be little more than two male children squaring off in childish comparison of linear measurement, let me say that there are two important things to take note of here.  The first is that this is a serious question of executive authority in this country, and the decision here will be far-reaching no matter which way it goes.  The second is that having long believed that emasculation was a requirement for the national legislature, it could be considered even more startling that a member of Congress in fact has the equipment required for such a comparison (though the fact that it’s Rand Paul goes a long way to explaining it).  

Indiana became the 23rd state (and first in the Rust Belt) to become a ‘Right to Work’ state.  Similar efforts are under way in Michigan and Ohio, both traditional strongholds of the union movement, as they are in New Hampshire and Montana.  None of these laws prohibit Unions from forming and representing workers; but their passage means that Unions may no longer demand that workers join such a Union nor must they pay dues to the Union in order to work at that profession.  With the Super Bowl coming up in Indianapolis this Sunday, the timing of this bills signing means that the potential for gamesmanship is as likely outside of the field as inside it.  Union representatives have called passage of such laws ‘the beginning of the race to the bottom’ (in spite of the fact that almost half of the nation now has them).  No one knows whether they are right, but regardless of the answer to the question the race is unquestionably on; and those states who will compete in the coming economy had better decide whether they will run in it, or merely stand by in the pits (that's an Indy 500 reference).

For the first time that I can remember, a municipal government representative in the nation has admitted that the placement of red-light cameras were for revenue and not driver safety.  (I guess he’s seen the same statistics that I have and couldn’t say otherwise with a straight face.) As I pointed out in a column for the Toledo Free Press on Tuesday, Toledo’s Finance Director Patrick Mclean said that they wanted to install the new cameras in order to generate $320,000 that the city would use for youth recreation programs that the city could not otherwise likely fund. 

Setting aside the ramifications of any government finally admitting that these red light robo-cops have become a next generation tax collector in a ‘scofflaw tax’, there’s that pesky bit of how these laws are enforced.  You see in these cases, the presumption of innocence central to American justice is tossed out the window.  The evidence that a car you own committed the offense is enough to convict you whether it can be proved that you were driving it or not.  The only alternative to a guilty plea is to rat out whoever else might have been driving; an alternative that seems as unpalatable as paying the $130 fine.

And finally, from the land that brought you the promising beginning (allegedly) of Arab Spring, we have news today that riots broke out once again in Egypt.  This time however, the goals of those taking to the streets seem not so lofty, nor can the cause be deemed worthy of praise.  Apparently this violence broke out as part of a long rivalry between fans of local football (soccer) teams Port Said and Cairo.  When Port Said won the match 3-1, fans of the Cairo team stormed the field.  According to the latest counts released, 73 are known dead and over 200 injured so far in the riots that ensued.

Now I don’t know about you, but I've personally found soccer matches to be so boring that I might consider storming the field at the end of the game myself, but only in protest of the lack of entertainment provided for the ticket price charged.  I do know however, that the next time I hear about football fans turning out into the streets after an Ohio State – Michigan game, turning over a couple of cars and setting a few dumpsters on fire, my reply is going to be:  “That’s nice…” 

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