Saturday, July 28, 2012

Four Year Farce

While it traditionally takes the locust seven years to emerge and for its devastating effects to be felt, there are plagues whose cycles are far shorter and whose damage and may be far more wide ranging.  We are currently facing one, in a chain of occurrences going back many years.

The current outbreak is one that rather than seven years, occurs every four, and does not involve insects (though some other members of the animal kingdom and some other pretty scary creatures are involved).  They are eventful years which feature over-the-top and often disjointed oratory, seemingly pointless public events, and monumental misjudgements of behavior.  They are also years which, regardless of the winners and losers, will see little changed in the world around us.

By now, many of you are already girding you loins (an expression which I always snicker at, since it seems obscene rather than protective) for yet another long-winded piece about the 2012 election.  You would be wrong however, since what I'm talking in this case about is the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Don't get me wrong here.  I have nothing but approbation for the dedication not only the athletes who give up a sizable chunk of their lives to pursue a dream (though corporate sponsorships make it easier than it once was), and the families of those athletes who likewise sacrifice and without hope of reward.  I have nothing but awe for the abilities of those who have reached this pinnacle of the world stage that allows them to complete for the coveted gold medal.  I have nothing but appreciation for the little people like ticket takers at these quadrennial events that somehow make it all work in spite of their masters.  

It's a shame that the event organizers are neither as skilled or as talented as those competing.  How can anyone feel anything but disgust for the lamentable efforts of these Hollywood wannabes for the tasteless and lavish festivities that they put on?  How can anyone feel anything but abhorrence for their abandonment of the simple pomp and circumstance of the world's best marching into the main venue behind the flags of their nations and taking the Olympic oath, in favor of an 'Industrial Light and Magic' display of artificially enhanced magnificence? 

Apparently the Olympics was unable to learn from the ruining of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and the Super Bowl half-time show.  Instead in recent years, they have bowed to the pressure of their massive TV contract and a foolish national arrogance to present an 'Olympic-sized' Broadway show that's become an awful parody of the worst Cirque du Soleil concept ever created, and ruined further by a rabid touch of George Lucas computer enhancement to insure that any shred of dignity left in the proceedings departed the stadium long before the participants were allowed to.  (By the way, when did a lot of people waving or holding things become entertainment?)  Quite frankly, the only tacky thing missing were cameos by the 'beautiful people' who will star on NBC's fall lineup (though maybe they're saving that for the closing ceremonies) 

If this continues, it won't be long before they turn the whole thing over to Pixar and allow them to animate the opening and closing ceremonies; ensuring not only their perfection, but allowing them to choreograph events on an even more massive scale, and permitting them to take advantage of Olympic mascots that have become increasingly hideous and horrifying Muppet avatars whose incessant hopping and waving frightens the children.  (Besides, then the whole thing could be sponsored by Pixar, who could recoup some of their money by putting subliminal frames to hype their latest movie releases.)

If they can continue to mess with the opening and closing however, maybe we could mess with the events themselves?  For starters, it seems that it should go without saying that all archery and shooting events should be eliminated by an enlightened society that decries weapons and violence. (Please note that sarcasm is often used on this blog.)  Quite frankly it amazes me that such barbarity hasn't been done away with already.  I mean my God, they might as well allow suicide bombers to compete (an event which would make medal ceremonies superfluous and preclude multiple medal winners).  On the other hand, since you 'shoot' pool, such an elimination would mean that Billiards could never be an Olympic sport (not that it's an exciting game to watch).

But let's face it. not all of the competitions are all that exciting.  So maybe in the name of TV ratings and commercial revenues, we could abandon things like synchronized swimming and diving, along with rhythmic gymnastics in favor of a combined 'synchronized gymnastics'.  Let's see some high bar routines where they switch bars during the routine, pommel horse with two people moving around it, tumbling routines where athletes cross paths; and vaulting efforts involving teammates running at each other like they want to take each other out. (You know, kind of combining gymnastics with NASCAR.)  

As long as we're combining ....  What if we combined badminton and ping pong, playing alternate games on field and table and switching birdie with ball while using the same racket/paddle?  Perhaps we could even throw in tennis and really mix up a three set match.     

You know personally, I believe that setting aside some memorable moments of Olympic competition, the whole thing has become a tedious and boring farce (and even Bob Costas telling us otherwise is not enough to convince us).  Quite frankly, I'd prefer that more of it than not be scrapped in favor of the 'Monty Python and the Flying Circus' version, called the "Silly Olympiad"; and I will end this week's rant with just a bit of its potential.   

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TFP Column: It's All A Bit Taxing

I guess I'll have to owe you one for a bit, as once more an attempt at a mid-week blog post has become yet another column for the TFP.  Since the media and the election campaigns for President seem to be caught up either calling for release of more of Mitt Romney's tax returns, or the refusal to do so; I decided to put my two cents in with "It's All A Bit Too Taxing".

It's not that I know any more about whether or why they should be released and why they're not; but I think that I'm capable of applying a bit of common sense to the situation while making fun of some the other out there purporting to do so.

Another thing I don't know any more about than anyone else is what's going to be going on in the Glass City for the rest of the week.  So while passing on the opportunity to read my own effort and discover the typos and grammatical errors that I've committed, you can bet that in order to find out what's going on I'll be reading today's 'Star' edition, as well as this weekend's edition of Toledo's largest circulation and Ohio's best weekly newspaper for the third year in a row; the Toledo Free Press.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's Murder Out There

Since the tragedy in Aurora, CO early Friday morning, we are once more deluged with an outpouring of tears, a plethora of local vigils, and an over-the-top outpouring of sympathy for the victims.  Pardon me for noticing, but it certainly seems like a number of you are in serious need of reducing the drama (real or imagined) in your phony baloney lives.    

Such a statement is likely going to get me into a fair amount of trouble, but I'm not sure that I care anymore.  I find that while nothing can match the anger and disgust I feel for this lousy bastard and his actions in Colorado, I'm also becoming increasingly sick of the collection of weepy faces around the country that the media seems to think are also important to the story.  I've had it with the non-stop and over-the-top tears of those who never knew any of the victims, have no experience with such tragedy in their own lives, and somehow just suddenly felt the need to express their ability to feel someone else's pain. (And just when a television camera or microphone was around.  Go figure!) 

Hey listen though, if you'd really like to go off on a crying jag, let me share some statistics which might engender some additional flower purchases, candle lighting, and teddy bear placement on your part.  Last year in 2011, 33 homicides were committed in Toledo, OH, 114 in Kansas City, 433 in Chicago, and just over 500 in NYC.  Where were you when any of those lives were ended?  Too busy watching "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" perhaps, or maybe simply catching up on your daily quotient of faked reality shows; the main character of which you would run from screaming if ever you came across their path in 'real life'?

Before we are forced to bring in the grief counselors to conduct the proper level of therapy for you to obtain closure, and lest your outpouring of sympathy become overwhelming for the number of those killed in the US; you should know that six other nations killed more of their citizens per thousand residents than we did last year.  Of course while the US having the 7th highest homicide rate in the world is nothing to brag about, it might mean that there are citizens of nations out there who you might want to save some of that random and anonymous sympathy for on your Facebook page. 

Then again, perhaps we must ask ourselves if we really are sympathetic to every one of those in this nation who've lost their lives through homicide.  USA Today was able to document back in 2007 that 91% of murder victims in Baltimore had a criminal record; while the numbers were 85% in Newark, NJ, 77% in Milwaukee, and 75% in Philadelphia.  Does anyone feel like lighting a candle for any of the member of these homicide statistics?  Can I get anyone a tissue?  

On a related subject ....

Lest there are any of you our there are seeking to turn your mourning for the victims of this particular tragedy into moaning that what's required to properly memorialize their loss is more gun control ... cut it out.  Not only does the fact that 35% of the homicides in the US are committed with things other than guns show your lack of imagination compared to those doing the killing out there, but continuing to beat this tired drum also begs the question as to what other things you'd like to control in your fervor to exert power over the behavior of society.  

Illegal immigrants (sorry, undocumented residents) in this country account for 21% of crime in this country according to Rasmussen (which must by implication include the murder rate).  Are you therefore calling for greater control of Illegal immigration and deportation of those in this country illegally as a way to reduce the homicide rate?  Shall we put a 3-day waiting period on cutlery purchases or ban certain blade lengths and kinds of knives?  How about axes, baseball bats, or plain old sections of pipe?  (Please note that I did not mention chainsaws, as I find that even the movies that depict their use on anything other than trees as at least a misdemeanor criminal offense ... to public taste if nothing else.)  What are we to about those nasty appendages on the ends of our arms that pull the trigger, hold the blade, or are simply used to choke? 

Unfortunately so is the perfunctory, self-seeking, and self-serving blubbering from a mostly superficial and largely uncaring public who use such events to display the same disingenuous fervor as they do for the next winner of "The Bachelor"(As for the vultures of the mainstream media feeding them juicy tidbits 24 hours-a-day for little more than a cheap ratings boost, my scorn for you knows no bounds.)      

The bottom line here is that murders are committed by people who are evil, crazy, or crazy-evil.  No law, no regulation, and no mandated 3-day waiting period is going to keep them from committing their nefarious deeds.  And as a part of the twisted and malicious acts that these monsters commit, innocent people will sometimes pay the ultimate price.  Nobody wants to hear this of course; but whether you like it or not, their malignant nature is a part of the human condition that's impossible to eliminate.  Despite our best intentions and no matter how much we would like it to be otherwise; it's murder out there.  

(To those of you hoping or expecting that like most Saturdays, today's effort would be an attempt to find a bit of humor in our everyday existence; my profound apologies.  This is my blog however, to use as I see fit; and this nonsense had to be called out for what much of it is .... crap!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When Pigs Fly

Sometimes our government does things so incredibly out there that it makes you realize that literally no one can make this stuff up.  (Well you could, but it would be a lot of hard work and still probably not be as funny.)  So laugh if you will, but if the Department of Transportation gets their way with a recent guidelines update, it may soon be easier for Pigs to fly than for most of the rest of us.  And they will not be the only members of the animal kingdom that might be taking to the skies.

According to the "Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel:  Draft Technical Assistance Manual", airlines will be 'helped to comply' (you know, forced by the government under penalty and fine) to allow not only such animals as the pot-bellied version of swine (the pot-bellied human version having been allowed for many years already), but dogs, miniature horses, and monkeys to be allowed in the cabin as service animals to see to the needs of those considered by such regulations to be disabled. 

In these recently released 'regulation updates' (regulations which total some 200 pages) that I spotted in a Fox News piece by Todd Starnes, service animals used by a passenger with an accepted disability must be allowed to accompany such a passenger into the cabin and remain there so long as it doesn't obstruct an aisle.  If space isn't available, the airline is required to speak to passengers (asking them to switch seats if necessary) until the animal is accommodated. 

We all know what a pain in the ass it is these days to go through the rather onerous and time consuming process of security checks and luggage restrictions that passengers must go through in order to get aboard an airplane these days.  The entire system has become such a morass of examination, regulation, and intimidation that many of us simply choose to fly only when no realistic alternative presents itself.  One can only speculate therefore, on what new terminal adventures await the air traveler when sharing the security lines with 'Arnold the Pig', 'Bonzo the Chimp', or a miniature version of of 'Trigger the Wonder Horse'.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm all in favor of those with Special Needs getting a helping hand in enjoying life to the fullest through traveling by air.  Why should we, who require no more special assistance in flying than detailed instructions on how to operate a seat belt, breathe into an oxygen mask if one drops in front of your face, or grab a seat cushion as a flotation device in the unlikely event that your plane attempts a 'water landing' (you know, does a really awful job of trying to imitate a boat) be the only ones willingly to subject ourselves to the gulag-style treatment afforded us by the TSA and the simmering hostility of many current airline employees? (Not that we don't deserve it.) 

Besides, I can't wait to find out what the TSA pat down procedures are going to be for this Noah's Ark of personal assistants.  I'm also looking forward to some vocal and over-the-top demonstrations by members of PETA; not for the use of service animals as personal servants for the disabled (which may be a line that even they will not cross), but for subjecting these 'animals are people too' to the abusive practices of the Mall cops of the TSA.  In fact, if one were to take this to its illogical extreme (a duty for which I am particularly well-suited); one could ask what the ramifications would be if TSA's procedures were to be considered inhumane in the eyes of PETA or the ASPCA (let alone the Humane Society), since they were originally developed for use on humans.

I'm also curious to see how airlines will deal with animal allergy issues that are bound to come up.  Having long ago retreated in the face of the peanut threat, how will they now deal with the potential of their recirculated air carrying animal dander to passengers who may be hypersensitive to such exposure?  How will such sensitivities be determined before boarding, and will the person with the disability (along with the offending service animal) be required to relinquish their seat(s) or will the one with the allergy (which could also be considered a disability) be required to deplane

Additionally, what about phobias?  It's not that I personally have any fears in regards to miniature horses or monkeys flying (except of course, for the horrible ones in "The Wizard of Oz"); but then again, I've never been trapped in an airplane at 30,000 feet with a 'My Little Pony' that's got a case of the gallops or a 'Curious George' getting just a bit too curious where I'm concerned.  Will flight attendants be required to learn the additional skills of roping and tying for our four-legged friends, or proper restraint techniques for our simian cousins?

And as for the potential terrorist threat, there's no telling where those who believe that the soles of shoes and underwear are OK places to hide explosives will be able to make of these new regulations.  While I believe that religious proscription will probably maintain the safety of pot-bellied bacon bearers, the rest of the animal kingdom could well come under serious threat as they are added to the list of potential and unknowingly suicidal explosive devices.

Now lest anyone think that the DOT has completely lost its frigging mind, they have at least placed some limitations on service animals, and are allowed to reject some species on these Greyhounds of the air (the buses, not the dogs).  Animals coming into question include, but are not limited to:  "ferrets, rodents, spiders, snakes, and other reptiles" (though with multiple ocular opportunities, certainly a 'seeing eye spider' makes a creepy sort of sense).  It does however beg the question:   

If snakes can be banned, and with them ferrets (a member of the weasel family); will the promotion of these new guidelines cause members of Congress to be banned from returning to their districts by air, even as service animals?

(Hey wait a minute!  I have been confronted for years by my employer with responses for raises that I would see my next one when pigs fly.  It sounds to me like it may well be time to step up and ask for that well-deserved salary increase.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TFP Column: Unsustainable

After a barely noticed respite, I am back in front of the keyboard again.  Though not a holiday in the truest sense of the word, it was at least a few days without the pressure of producing an 800-1000 word piece for the blog or the newspaper.  Speaking of which, during this all-too-brief hiatus I attended a public meeting on public transportation; an experience which might best be compared to the anticipation and performance of root canal surgery ... without anesthetic.

While the midst of contemplating suicide through a series of small but very painful paper cuts, I kept hearing an old Irving Gordon tune which at one time turned into perhaps the greatest father/daughter duet of all time (at least in my humble opinion).  The results of this recurring them became my first returning effort for the TFP, "Unsustainable".

I won't ruin the article for you by recounting any of the details of it for you, but I will tell you that I did attempt my best imitation of Bernie Taupin (the lyricist on many of Elton John's best).  Since I'm in the mood not to ruin things for you, I will also not attempt to tell you what's best in the rest of the paper as well.  This is partly because I don't want to spoil the surprise, but mostly because I simply don't know.

So if you want to know what's going on in the Glass City and Northwest Ohio this week, you're simply going to have to read the mid-week 'Star' edition; as well as Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's best weekly newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

You know, since I'm in such a good mood, I think I share the pleasant experience of the tune that was running through my head as inspiration.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TFP Column: Civil Political Discourse

I know that I'm supposed to be on vacation, but as I was getting ready to take this break, there remained a couple of efforts that were promised and delivered; and only now being released.  That included a piece that I wrote Saturday for the TFP.

In my particular case, it meant going back and looking at a subject that I had worked through a while back, that of "Civil Political Discourse".  It seemed that a couple of things needed to be presented to a wider audience whose political memory stretches no father back than Watergate (if that far) to point out that campaigns have used questionable rhetoric for as long as they've had campaigns in this country.

As for the concept of a debate, the definition of that word has likewise apparently disappeared into the mists of time; and like that of compromise, has become a form of politically expedient spinelessness.  Apparently schools no longer teach of some of the great political debates that it's had in its history, and that these ideological confrontations are part of a forgotten past.

What shouldn't be forgotten though, is that the 4th of July is fast upon us, and if you want to know the fireworks schedules and everything else going on in Toledo and Northwest Ohio for the holiday and the week; you're going to be able to find it in Toledo largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's Best Weekly newspaper for the last three years, the Toledo Free Press.

By the way, you'd be well-advised to check out last weekends special tribute to those who have served and are serving in the military from NW Ohio in the "2012 Military Yearbook" edition.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Re-Declaration of Independents (Independence) 2012

Perhaps because of the absence of the staff  (and their noisome behavior) some random thoughts and efforts from days past pushed their way forward. With all due respect to Thomas Jefferson, this little tidbit from days past found its way into my attention and I decided to put it forward once more.  It seems terribly appropriate.                                                       

About Congress July 4, 2012  
The Re-Declaration of Independence of the 50 Oppressed, but still United States of America
When in the course of government-controlled events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which connected them to what can no longer be considered a viable form of government, and to decry among the powers of the earth an intellectual position which has nothing to do with either The Laws of Nature or to Nature's God to which they are entitled, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that have separated them from such Tyranny and reconnected them with their own good Common Sense. 
We hold these truths to be evident to all but apparently a few misguided members of the Mainstream Media; that all men are created equal (in spite of the fact that some in their eyes appear to be more equal than others). That while they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, they are now often encouraged by Government and that same Media to show the lack of courage and good sense which allows them to relinquish those same rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; while simultaneously embracing the ridiculous concepts of the right to a good paying job, full medical care, a home that they can't afford, a smoke-free environment, and full amnesty and free education for illegal immigrants. 

That to secure such relinquishment, Governments are constantly and corruptly expanded in spite of Men, deriving their increasingly overreaching powers from the belief that an elite group of elected officials and non-elected bureaucrats are far smarter than they. That whenever any form of Government becomes aggressive in securing such twisted ends, it is the further Right of the People to be ignored by such Government, and for that Government to create new laws, rules, regulations, and taxes to exert such control over every aspect of a population so as make them into little more than a flock of bleating sheep; laying its foundation on previously committed abuses of power, and altering such rules or forms as may be deemed necessary to most likely protect their petty Government positions, overreaching authority, and lavish salaries and benefits. 

Prudence indeed will dictate that Governments, changing the rules as they go along, shall not be changed back by those in power, nor be challenged in such pursuits for light, transient, or any other causes for that matter. Accordingly, all experience has shown that once such Government has been insidiously instituted, that mankind becomes gradually more disposed to suffer the most insufferable of evils rather than to right a ship of state that has listed so far from its original purpose that the deck may no longer be stood upon. 

But when a long train of abuse and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under all but absolute Despotism, it should be their right and their duty to throw off such Government, excepting that such would require far too many of what has become little more than flock of sheeple to remove their morbidly obese, overstuffed faces from the Government trough. Such is now the patient suffering of the people of these States and is now the necessity which constrains them, as the Federal government seeks to alter the last bit of freedom and liberty left in this nation in order to fully embrace the concept that the lack of need for honest labor, for self-reliance, and for personal responsibility are no longer essential to their continued happiness. 
To prove this, let the Facts of our Government be submitted to a candid world. It has confiscated the legitimately earned money of some to in turn give it to others; outside the rule of law, the concept of a legally binding contracts, and the definition of property rights as understood in law for many centuries. 
It has favored Union workers over legitimate investors when dividing up private corporations that it had no right to divide in any way, let alone as it sees fit. It has fired the chief executives of private companies with neither the vote nor approval of that company's Board of Directors. It has forced private companies to accept government funding, and with it government control of its operation. 
It has forced both sale and merger on private companies at the point of a financial gun and the threat of never-ending government-funded investigation and a full-throated, government-backed, negative media campaign. It has appointed the equivalent of government royalty (more commonly known as Czars) to run aspects of private business without either lawful election or the legislative confirmation required of it under the document which defines it. 
It has sought to make equal not the opportunity of all, but the results of all through wealth re-distribution in the form of ill-disguised, onerous, and oppressive taxation. 
Not blameless by any means, in every stage of these Oppressions we citizens have sat idly by for the most part, ignorant by choice to the assault on liberty and freedom and numb to the abuses of power committed upon us. Those few who have humbly begged for a return to Common Sense and a Redress of such past ills as have been committed have been universally maligned and unmercifully vilified for their efforts by both those in power and by the members of the so-called fourth estate who willingly do their bidding. 
We the few who remain standing in righteous indignation therefore, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for rectitude of our intentions, do in the Name, and by the Authority granted us under the original Declaration of Independence, and by the Constitution which it, and by which our Government was designed (and most especially limited), solemnly publish and declare ourselves in opposition to the destruction of freedoms and liberties being perpetrated on us at an ever increasing pace in this country. 
We further declare that we will Peacefully resist further oppression of its people and perversion of its laws to the best of our abilities, and if need be to our final breath. We undertake this endeavor humbly, but firm in our resolve, firm in the belief of our principles, and firm with the knowledge of the rightness of our cause as God has given us the light to see it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Taking A Holiday

Contrary to popular belief, this isn't how I type
I was torn about how to go about telling the rather twisted, but exceptionally loyal readership of "Just Blowing Smoke" that the editorial staff of this blog recently voted unanimously to take the entire month of July off (especially since it's seldom that any two of them agree on anything).  

Not that it's particularly surprising to me that this group would vote itself a month long holiday, but that's only because I know what slackers they can be when they set their minds to it.  This is the United States of America however (It is, isn't it?), so taking the advice of friends and advisers, I put my foot down (very gently, as I remember) and told them that we needed to limit their shenanigans to a two week period.    

Even at that, my greatest concern with such a break was over having to unlock both the attic Command Center of the Department of Just Blowing Smoke Security, and the smaller room in which the lexicographers of the "SOS Dictionary" work with quill and parchment. The ramifications of such an event were so grave that I even seriously considered issuing a 'Terror Alert' without the permission of the DJBSS, knowing the damage that could be realized by turning these hooligans loose on a largely unsuspecting public (not to mention the potential legal actions).  In the end, a decision was made not to issue such an alert, figuring that like Adam Sandler movies, the public-at-large usually gets what it deserves.  We have collected all available liquid assets however (no, not the booze, but the few coins lying about in the sofa cushions), in case we need bail money.

I did want to make sure that we set a specific time frame for this holiday, in the hopes that we wouldn't lose those of you who have been loyally following this site for some time now.  So as we take a break here beginning with July 1st, a return to what constitutes a normal schedule (a word I always hesitate to use regarding this blog) will occur with a new posting on Wednesday, July 18th.  During the interim, one can only hope that the staff manages to recharge their batteries, stay out of jail, and rediscover some of the very limited talent and writing ability that they once had (skills which have diminished significantly since the last such break).  If nothing else, they will hopefully return with a greater enthusiasm than they appear to be exhibiting lately. (No matter how hard we tried, we never seemed to get the staff to buy into "the beatings will continue until morale improves" program that we instituted.)

Knowing this group, it's unlikely that they would have been able to take the entire month off anyway, and that they will gladly return in a couple of weeks; broke, hung over, and grateful to return to the safety of their respective enclaves.  It's possible however that while even this brief holiday lasts, some subject will come up that demands a timely response.  Since I myself don't expect to be leaving headquarters during this period (are you kidding, with that mob out there), I may try to cobble something together on my own in such an event (such efforts normally producing a great deal of amusement for the rest of the staff); so feel free to check in from time to time during this couple of weeks. 

In the meantime, I hope that you find enjoyable pursuits (but not too enjoyable) to substitute for this regrettable but necessary absence.  The smoking lamp is now officially lit, so smoke 'em if you got 'em.