Friday, November 30, 2012

TFP Column: Conservative Christmas List

I had been absent from sending appropriate efforts to Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller of the Toledo Free Press for no good reason.  Quite frankly, with the election over and the season of holidays upon us, politics was probably not as much on my mind as it should have been.  The fact that no original ideas were rattling around in the empty head of mine (much as they failed to make their presence known in Washington DC's recent discussions) might also have had a bit to do with my absence.

I sent an apology to Michael for my shortcomings and lack of worthwhile ideas, he replied with a suggestion in keeping with the Christmas spirit which should now be upon all of us.  This spark of creativity on his part in turn led not only to this week's late breaking effort:  "Conservative Christmas List"; but to a further effort that I am working on for next week (and maybe even more).

Fortunately, Michael need not count on my productivity in order to produce a newspaper that keeps the Glass City not only informed, but entertained.  So if you're looking to be either as you work your way through the holiday shopping season, you could not do better than to pick up this week's edition (or spend some time on the website of) Toledo's largest circulation Sunday, and Ohio's best weekly newspaper (yet again); the Toledo Free Press.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Comes Out ......

Back in the Dark Ages of Education when I was attending Mt Carmel High School in Chicago, we had a sports opponent in the Catholic League in a school by the name of Brother Rice.  (Don't ask me who Brother Rice was, as I had and have no idea.)  Along with our standard repertoire of cheers during such sporting events, we had a special special one for this particular opponent which went: "What comes out of China man's ass?  Rice!  Rice!  Rice!"  (Yes I know that such a cheer is politically incorrect, then and now, but we were high school kids living in an age 40 years ago when being PC was far less important.  I use it now only to illustrate a point, which I could get to if I wasn't so busy explaining my prior offensive behavior to you here.)

Of course it was stupid and politically incorrect, but it served its purpose of infuriating the other team and distracting them from more important issues going on around them.  You know, like the game ....

Today we have our own 'Rice' issue going on surrounding UN Ambassador Susan Rice and the talking points she used on five Sunday talk shows soon after the attack on our Consulate in Benghazi.  For myself, I must continue to say,  "Who cares who gave Ambassador Rice her talking points, who changed them, and why she repeated them on each successive show?"  Maybe she was just being a team player?  Maybe she's a self-serving bureaucrat trying to claw her way up the ladder in the State Department?  Maybe she's a simple-minded fool or drank so much of the Kool-Aid that she would believe anything handed to her from the right source?  

Speaking of who cares, who cares if Republican Senators believe her?  Who cares if they're more confused after questioning her than before?  (Though I would have to say that if this is actually the case, these guys might better spend some of their time watching "NCIS", "CSI", or "Law and Order" as a way of improving their interrogation skills.)  What I can't help but ask myself is why they and we are distracting ourselves with 'Rice Cheers' questions about what she said; as if it mattered then or now in the greater scheme of the game?

The real question in fact is why, in an area of obvious unrest, the Libyan US Embassy in Tripoli wasn't well-staffed enough to be able to send a large protection team of its own down to support the AMBASSADOR (its most important functionary) at the consulate in Benghazi?  Why did we not add staff or beef up the defences of the compound after two prior attacks on it?  Why did we stay after both the British Embassy and the Red Cross had left the area, considering it too dangerous?  Why did they pull a military protection team deployed to Libya specifically for the embassy's protection out a month before the attack?  Why were there apparently no backup teams (military or private security) deployed in an area crawling with US bases and ships, to assist during a running seven hour battle?  Even if things had settled down after the initial assault and fire (and during which the Ambassador was evidently killed), why wasn't significant fire support team immediately sent to the area for no other reason than to secure the Consulate and Embassy (which are by international treaty, US territory); and to discover where and in what condition the Ambassador was?

For some reason however, we have become distracted by the meaningless to care more about who was in the circle and what rules were used for the government official game of 'Telephone' being played in Washington DC, who the head of the CIA was sleeping with that he shouldn't have, why some military base social climber is getting nasty emails from that CIA head's mistress, and of course the in and outs of the gross misstatements of Ambassador Rice.  Four people (including an ambassador) were killed! 

With all of the other things that we don't know, we should at least recognize that the events surrounding Susan Rice are less than a side-show unless and until the actual attempt is made by the President to nominate her for higher office.  The entire Rice episode, like that of my high school days, is a distraction to larger events unfolding, and to a rather nasty foreign policy failure on the part of the current Administration on which no one seems to be able to keep their eye on the ball.  So if you'll pardon my language, I know what comes out of a China man's ass ... rice.  I also know what comes out of the nonsense of Ambassador Rice where the real story of Benghazi lies ... NOTHING.


Friday, November 23, 2012

It's Hell Getting Old

The holiday weekend is one that's beginning to make me feel my days.  I finally perhaps realize that unlike my nephews, I am not only no longer able to sit at a Thanksgiving table and gorge myself on the inordinate quantities of well-prepared food that they can, or even the amount that I would like to.  In spite of this tremendous and somewhat surprising effort on my part not to indulge my appetite unfortunately, I continue to look as if I have.  I have likewise discovered that I am no longer interested in indulging my past desires to place myself in 'the grip of grape' as a part of my holiday entertainments, sufficing with but a single glass passing my lips.

Of course this particular holiday weekend was for me probably much more about my son Sean as it was about the menu, since he brought his lovely fiance Sarah Moglia to the City of Fountains in order to introduce her to the better part of my immediate family.  The chance to learn a bit more about her and to see the way that they are together has been wonderful; and I look forward to them setting a date.  On top of all that, we were able to talk about their impending closing on an absolutely gorgeous house in Columbus, Ohio in the next few weeks.  The conjoining of so many happy events today carries all of the portents for many wonderful things ahead of them.  

This then will mean that my step-son, son, and daughter will all have joined themselves to beginnings, new lives, and new families of their own.  Why Sean and Sarah even went so far as to take the opportunity yesterday to break the news to those gathered that there soon will be a new addition to their family (not a child but a puppy, though I have to admit they had all of us going for a bit).  This means that all three therefore are on their own paths, doing very well indeed, and should have all that all that a parent could wish for his offspring to look forward.  While obviously pleased at their all of their good fortune and being overjoyed for each of them; I couldn't help but feel a touch of selfish nostalgia for those days in my own past.

Beyond my other frailties, it now began to occur to me that I was no longer needed as a guide in their lives and must relegate myself ever more to the sidelines.  I also realized that much of what they will be experiencing and looking forward to in the days and years ahead are those now far behind me.  The joys of taking a house and making it your own, the wonder of watching your children miraculously change almost daily, and the glow of the world around you when you're in love now things I remember rather than experience.  They have now become things that are theirs to know.  This is not to say that any of these things were altogether unknown to me, but that as each day passes, their likelihood of recurrence diminishes.

For those of you who have not yet had such a realization thrust upon you, let me tell you that it can indeed be earth shattering.  Prior experiences of offspring graduations or even a first grandchild that you believe have prepared you for the inevitability of this process, in fact do nothing to brace you for the stunning impact of this terrible realization when it comes. Neither will looking in the mirror, since no matter what face it is that you believe is looking back at you, it's not the one that the rest of the world sees.

I suppose that over time this new perspective will also begin to fit itself into the greater consciousness of my life, but I suspect that it will do so only slowly and  grudgingly.  For through those rose colored glasses, I still see myself as the incurable romantic; the white knight seeking noble causes to follow, ready to right any wrong, and ever-hopeful of rescuing the fair maiden.  Then of course I see a number on the scale that makes me believe that I must be wearing armor all the time these days, my knees begin to creek as I take on the only quest I'm capable of ... a journey to the kitchen seeking out a snack, and I remember that while the fair young maiden may be seeking a white knight, the color she longs for is supposed to in the uniform and does not refer to that of his hair or beard.  

Perhaps my attitude will improve with the approach to Christmas.  Not only is the resemblance its seemingly lovable character far closer; but if I play my cards right, I may even find someone who is not all that young and nowhere near a maiden interested in sitting in my lap as she tells me how good she's been in the last years (which is OK even if she's lying)

(Wait, was Santa ever portrayed in a suit of armor?  Nah ......) 

Yep, it really is Hell getting old ....


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is It Time To Ban Thanksgiving?

With family on the way out to visit and the hectic nature of the holiday week, I decided that rather than attempt to come up with something especially fitting, amusing, and /or really original (well, as original as I'm able to anyway); I would instead attempt to blatantly plagiarize, repair, and update one  of my previous efforts on the subject to see if I could get away with it.  Since it's three years old, hopefully most of you will have forgotten about it (or never seen it) and find that it still resonates.  Be aware, before you go on, that considerable irony and sarcasm is awaits you in this effort! 

Thanksgiving will be celebrated again this week, as it is on the fourth Thursday in November every year. In theory, we will commemorate three days of feasting (which seems a bit over the top. by the way) by early colonists who arrived in to this country after voyaging nine weeks from Plymouth, England found themselves ending up in Plymouth, Massachusetts (many choose to call this a simply coincidence, but I'm still skeptical). Many died on the voyage over from disease and hunger, and more still in the winter that followed from much the same causes.  When spring of 1621 came however, with the help of the local indigenous population they planted what they could, and with the following fall's harvest chose to celebrate their good fortune.  Though we now repeat their celebration each year, it was a tradition they themselves never repeated. 

After almost 400 years and in this politically correct society however, the idea of maintaining holiday based on the one-time celebration by a bunch of white people seems doomed on the face of it (you know, like the 4th of July).  It only becomes slightly more palatable (pun intended) if we give them some credit for at least inviting some of the Native Americans who came to their aid and helped keep them alive in those early days to their party. (Of course, they probably made them bring most of the food.) 
Consider if you will as well, that while neighboring Native Americans (the Waupanoag tribe) were largely the architects of this colony's survival and were invited to that original celebration; these same Native Americans were, like most others in this country, later chased from their homes and the greater part of their lands by the greed of the very colonists that they saved ... hardly something to commemorate with pride.  Only adding to the historic difficulty is finding reasons to celebrate the culture and traditions of the same people who would some 70 years later be giving us the sham trials and witch burnings in Salem, MA. 

Speaking of arcane rituals, Thanksgiving has always been considered a semi-religious holiday, since its original purpose for coming into being was to allow these colonists to thank their GOD for bringing them through the illness and privation from the previous year; and we know how popular religious holidays are in this country.  Adding insult to injury (much like the holiday that follows), the religious nature of this celebration involved thanking only a Christian God; specifically ignoring the practices of their Native-American guests, among others.  Quite frankly, it's amazing that there are not atheist groups across the fruited plain demanding that Pilgrim and Turkey displays on government property be taken down as violations of the separation of Church and State.  (I have more to say on this subject, but not here or today.)   How anyone can therefore consider continuing a national holiday with religious overtones that ignores the cultural and religious diversity that has become so dear to the progressive ruling elite of this country is simply beyond me. 

But if this typical, well-documented, and disgraceful treatment of an indigenous population by a white and European invading population were not enough to see this practice ended once and for all (that of bringing disease to the natives while stealing their land), consider instead the treatment of the main course of this so-called holiday ... the Turkey. Now Turkeys, for those of you who don't know your history, came very close to being the symbol of these United States. They were supported in this effort by no less Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who considered the eagle as being little more than a dandified vulture. The turkey is not the brightest of birds (perhaps adding to its suitability as a national symbol according to today's standards), but it does have a couple of rather interesting traits.  Not only does it seek females for mating by showing them a their butt, but this bird is also know for being too fearless (or too stupid) for its own good to run away properly when being shot at (both seeming counter-intuitive to species survival by human standards).  

If this symbolic destruction were not enough, the Turkey menu of this national holiday exposes the public to a naturally narcotic substance (tryptophan), which often induces the need to sleep in humans. (Much like the speeches in the election season which immediately precedes it.)  This begs the question of how a caring government can allow the exposure of its citizens to such toxins (turkeys I mean, not politicians).  Of course alternatives have been offered over the years, but the slaughter of geese, ducks, or pigs (ham) can hardly be seen as much better and must be viewed as yet another example of the predilection for violence on the part of the American people (probably caused by video games).  And though one bird is pardoned each year by the President himself (two this year, but probably after the poor birds were water-boarded), it passes understanding that even PETA stands all but idly by as thousands of our animal friends are disposed of (probably inhumanely and after 'aggressive interrogation') in the name of a holiday supposedly devoted to supposedly "thanking" the very God that put these gentle creatures by killing them? 

I suppose that one might expect little more of something that was created as an official national holiday in 1863 by a man now considered a national political hero (and current movie star) President Abraham Lincoln (without recognizing that Lincoln was, after all, an evil Republican). The rampant gluttony and consumerism it exemplifies clearly shows it to be something typical of the party of capitalism's so-called champions.  Sure, the celebration of this holiday might stimulate a still mostly depressed airline industry by being the largest travel holiday of the year, but all of the travel involved makes it simultaneously the least green holiday in the nation through all the fossil fuels used for this purpose.  Sure it helps the bottom line of grocery stores and food preparation companies across the country, but this too is counter-balanced by the health-threatening calorie counts of the edibles put on the table.

In fact, one could demand the end of the Thanksgiving holiday for no other reason than the life-threatening caloric temptations that its meal offers.  Any minor compensation to the consumption of turkey over more deadly alternative of red meat is far outweighed (literally and figuratively) by the chemically induced somnolence that follows a morning dedicated to the idleness of endless parade watching followed by an epoch length period of pro football game broadcast observation.  Adding further insult to this injury to national health is that this awful excuse for a holiday has now been turned into the even more egregious  tradition of "Black Friday"; the opening day of greed and capitalism which begins the even more disgusting period of Christmas consumerism. 

We must therefore ask ourselves; what in the end is the Thanksgiving holiday in this country about.  The facts seem to indicate that like so much of what goes on in this country, it's nothing more than a celebration of racism, gluttony (not to mention obesity), the ingestion of potentially dangerous drugs, and the unwarranted murder of our fellow creatures. As such, it has no place in the caring, politically correct, and progressive society that we apparently long to become in this the 21st Century. And so I say to those of you choosing to celebrate this week with family and friends, gathering around a table to once more give thanks in 2012 (a year that may have less reasons than many for doing so):

"Save me one of those drumsticks, will ya?"

Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Really Silly Bits

I had a couple of things that I was debating in writing about for a weekend rant and some of them seemed very serious indeed.  While they may be important, I now clearly recognize that most of them are clearly in fact, quite silly.  Besides, I was having a great deal of difficulty in deciding which of them to choose, and by treating them as they deserve, I don't need to choose at all.  So here they are in no specific order.  All by the way, relate to fairly simple ma mathematical computations.


Now I may not be an economist and I've never played one on TV, but even I can figure out that the approaching Fiscal Cliff is a big deal for this country.  Since the last couple of the Bush Administration, the federal government has been pursuing the policy of a reduction of taxes and an increase in spending; and when the Obama Administration took the reins of power, they accelerated the process (at least on the spending side).  Now it doesn't take a degree in advanced mathematics to see that neither the trends for revenue generation or spending add up very well for the American people and that they never will.  

What also doesn't add up is that a bunch of people who make a very good living were sent to Washington DC to address situations exactly like this, and seem to have no interest in taking on this problem, though they've been perfectly willing to kick the can down the road before going on to talk about how important addressing it is on cable news networks.  The President is in fact pulling down $400K, the Speaker and Majority Leader earn $223K, Cabinet members are at $200K, and Senators and Congressman see $174K in annual salary.  Now normally when people get paid that much, it's because they have the ability to solve problems or steer companies away from them.  All of these high priced politicians however seem to think that solving this problem means putting off til next year, what you shouldn't have put off til tomorrow.

At the invitation of the President, Representatives of this august group met this week in the White House on Friday to talk about this very serious situation for an hour.  REALLY?  A WHOLE HOUR!  Why that's 1/4 of the time that it would take the President to play a round of golf. That's less time that it would take Speaker Boehner to fly back from Washington to his home in Ohio.  And not only did they spend less time in this doomed effort of national importance than Jerry Springer spends on the average day talking about brothers who cheat with each other's wives, but they did it late enough on a Friday so that their all but planned failure to make any real progress could come light barely in time to make it into the Friday 'take out the trash' news cycle and go all but unnoticed.

Speaking of modern math, the next time I hear from a Democrat about big business pouring too much money into political campaigns, I'm going to (as they say in Python's 'Holy Grail'), "fart in their general direction".  Labor unions poured $400 million into the President's re-election, and still had enough money to pour hundreds of millions more in state and local initiatives.  According to the Wall Street Journal, in the case of California's Prop 32, an initiative which would have banned using automatically deducted dues for political purposes, in fact "Labor contributed about 90% of the $62 million spent to defeat Prop 32, including $21 million from the California Teacher's Association and $13 million from SEIU." 

They successfully bankrolled a school collective bargaining reform initiative in Idaho with $3.4 million, a South Dakota initiative to overturn a law installing merit pay for teachers by outspending them 5 to 1, and set aside $2 million to roll back an emergency financial manager's law in Michigan because it allowed contracts to be restructured in troubled cities like Detroit.  

So for all of you standing on your tired soapboxes complaining that the Supreme Court's 'Citizen's United' decision has handed politics over to rich white guys and major corporation, maybe you should take a closer look at who is actually giving and to what ends.  The numbers don't seem to add up.

Most of you not living in a cave this week are now well aware that Hostess bakeries has all but shut down and that it plans to liquidate its assets.  Most of you have likewise heard the story that the tasty snack treats this company manufactures have fallen on hard times due to the changing eating habits in this country, multiple bankruptcies, and in the fine print, a strike from their bakers union.

It's true that Hostess is going through it's second recent bankruptcy in a decade and that eating habits in this country are changing. (Though to hear politicians speak, they're getting worse; which should have been good for Hostess.)  Some are now instead trying to get the message out that the Hostess demise comes not from the way it operated, but because greedy management and private equity funds were draining it of profits.  I guess the fact that Hostess did $2.5 billion in sales, but lost $341 million last year is equally lost on anyone attempting to define the concept of profits.  Apparently a company that just lost $341 million asking its employees for pay cuts (also for the second time this decade) is likewise unreasonable under the circumstances.  

According to a Wall Street Journal article from the November 16th however, what you haven't heard is,  "The snack giant endured $52 million in workers' comp claims in 2011, according to its bankruptcy filing this January. Hostess's 372 collective-bargaining agreements required the company to maintain 80 different health and benefit plans, 40 pension plans and mandated a $31 million increase in wages and health care and other benefits for 2012."  On top of which, existing collective bargaining agreements prevented bread products (like Wonder Bread) and cake products (like Twinkies) from being delivered to the same location by the same truck, nor could the guys who loaded cake products into trucks also load bread products.  It should go without saying therefore (but won't) that the drivers of neither the cake or the bread product trucks could have anything to do with loading their own vehicles.

I should stop here and also point out that a company management that is constantly seeking bankruptcy protection is as bad as a Union constantly seeking more from a company that doesn't have it.  Teamsters had already settled, and perhaps this Union might have sought a greater stake in the company's future than a bigger piece of a pie that was long gone, but they didn't.   And for those of you who might be wondering about Hostess's biggest competitor, Little Debbie....   Well, they're actually able to offer similar products in larger portion sizes than Hostess while still managing to remain profitable.  Of course Little Debbie's is a company consisting of  non-union bakeries.

Fortunately however, the 18,500 layoffs that will be caused by this layoff and liquidation did not happen before the election, and will not therefore be counted until long after any recall ballots already have.  From the sounds of things, Hostess will probably not have much of an impact on unemployment numbers anyway, since so many firms are likewise sending people home in the wake (pun intended) of the election.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Twinkie Is On Life Support (Updated)

Those of you not paying particular attention to financial events critical to this nation's survival may not realize that Hostess Brands Inc., makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and Cupcakes is on life support today.  You were warned of course, I wrote about the potential demise of the Hostess Brands some ten months ago here; as its battles with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Miller Union.  (Some have hinted the biggest impediment to an agreement is the aggravation caused by repeating the Unions name over and over again during negotiations.  There has been no confirmation to these rumors.)  

Now let's face it, a management group that's constantly taking the company through bankruptcy protection is a lousy one.  As badly as they've served the stockholders however, the Union however took it to the next level when went on strike last Friday.  A company so often in bankruptcy has little if anything to negotiate with.  As a consequence, Wednesday Hostess announced that it will liquidate the entire company if enough workers aren't back to work by 4 PM today. 

Now I don't know what the strike's about and I don't care.  I am however begging anyone out there who is or even knows a striking worker to go back on the line.  


How can Americans be asked to face the impending financial crisis, the continuing lack of well-paying jobs, and the increasing pressure of the boot of government on our necks without the solace of these creme-filled, angel cake beauties?

I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen, I am simply too overwhelmed to go on.  With only hours to go on this death watch saga however, I ask you to visit your church, temple, synagogue, or mosque and pray that this purveyor of heavenly treats survives to see another sunrise.

As for me, if you are on the streets he in Mission, you undoubtedly will find me at one of my local grocery outlets, attempting to buy out their Twinkie inventory, lest the worst-case-scenario occurs.  If your efforts fail, the expiration date on Twinkies insures that I will have an ample supply, and should at least have enough to stave off the worst effects of TWS (Twinkie Withdrawal Syndrome).  I may even become a wealthy many if, as I suspect, the world abandons both fiat currency and gold, and goes on the "Twinkie Standard".  If your efforts succeed, I will undoubtedly lock the door to my apartment and binge on my inventory on what can only be considered a Biblical scale, at which point your prayers may again be required ... this time for me.



Hostess Brands made it official and pulled the plug as they had promised.  The company has officially filed with the Courts for formal liquidation.  This process will not only cost approximately 18,000 jobs; but also deprive the general public of one of the few government non-approved treats left in the world.  And while some of Union persuasion have been attempting to blame these job losses on management, it should be remembered that this same management will likewise be losing their jobs, even though they never went on strike.

While we must truly say "Requiescat In Pace" to the Hostess Brands (at least for now), this is not yet the death of the Twinkie, since their 20-year shelf life means that for those of us who recently began to hoard them, there are years of creme-filled pleasure to look forward to.  And as the Financial Cliff of 2013 occurs, there many of us out here who may yet survive the financial holocaust as the price of silver, gold, and even diamonds plummet in favor of the "Twinkie Standard" of economic exchange.

And so let me say in closing that, "We come not to bury Twinkies, but to praise them (and maybe snack on a few)."



TFP Column: Four More Years

My effort last week for the TFP concerned the period running up to the election, so it seemed only fitting that this week's should be about what we have to look forward to in the period after.  No, I'm not going to give you any hints as to what I talk about in "Four More Years", lest you come to your only conclusions as to its nature and not bother to actually read it.      

On the other hand, using my link to get over to the website will at least get you over to a place where you can find out everything that's going on in Toledo and Northwest Ohio in both the mid-week "Star" edition.  What you don't find out now in the "Star", you absolutely know will be in Toledo's largest Sunday circulation offering and Ohio's Best Weekly Newspaper for so many years in a row that we're beginning to lose count (OK, it's four); the Toledo Free Press. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Town Ain't Big Enough

Brian Wilson and Toledo's 1370 WSPD very quietly announced this week that they have parted company.  Nobody at the station is saying much, and Brian has remained almost surprisingly silent on the subject.  Brian was not only doing a three hour show in the afternoon, but was also the Program Director and News Director (a post that his wife Cassie formerly held), which leaves some rather large gaps on the station's personnel roster.

Now I would like to consider Brian a friend, though I'm sure that there are many across the country who would like to make a similar claim; and most of whom are of far greater stature and importance that this humble scribbler.  To present a bit of unimportant history ...

My own introduction came not long after moving to the Glass City, finding the show, and calling in a time or two.  I met Brian (along with his producer at the time, Phil McGeehan) soon after when he spoke at one of the first gatherings of an attempt to start a Lucas County Libertarian Party.  He spoke passionately and intelligently about his own 'small l' Libertarian values and beliefs, helping me to reconcile my own principles with a political system that I long felt had long since abandoned me.

We spoke briefly that evening, and occasionally continued to exchange information during the show, even while I was traveling around the US pursuing my own career.  As time passed, Brian, Phil and I even managed to get together once in a while for an adult beverage and additional conversation on the issues of the day when I made it home.  (I was even fortunate enough to meet his wife Cassie a couple of times.)  His recommended reading list, both off the show and on, proved a tremendous source of education to me not only on basic principles, but on being able to argue them from a logical and consistent perspective.  I was even allowed me to serve as the guest host of the one hour "Eye on Toledo" show with his permission a couple of times when Maggie Thurber (whose show it was at the time) took some well-deserved time away.  

I have to stop briefly here and acknowledge that I would probably not survived these experiences without the incredible amount of assistance provided at the time by Dr Phil McGeehan and 'Shaggy' Matt Culbreath, nor of the encouragement of Maggie Thurber to take on the opportunity.               

Even after leaving Toledo some years back, I continued to listen to WSPD for Brian's show most days, as well as that of Fred Lefebvre (which I still do) when I can get the webcasts to work.  I found myself keeping up with my former home through them, writing them, and occasionally calling in to make my two cents known; which is what talk radio is all about.  I likewise shared emails with Brian from time to time, continuing what I hoped was a friendship, even though it had become a long distance one.  I had no foreboding on how this situation came to pass; even after it did. 

I have yet to hear any tales of what really happened from him, though I suspect that it has to do with something to the painful budget realities that I experienced with regards to the newspaper industry a few years back, and which now is becoming more common for radio.  More's the pity, for while most of us doing our jobs are literally a dime a dozen, Brian neither was nor is.  Perhaps someday we will get a chance to again lift a glass with him, share that sentiment in person, and learn the story behind the story.  It ought to be a good one.  So while there's nothing that I know about the situation definitively, here's what I 'think' I do know.

1370 WSPD will be significantly diminished in stature and content by Brian's departure, as will the programming of talk radio in Northwest Ohio.  Not only was his a clear voice articulating the message of freedom and personal responsibility in Ohio, as he had in other places; but he was able to bring nationally-known, authoritative guests to a small market radio station in order to enhance that message and reinforce those principles.  I don't know if WSPD will attempt to bring in another host, or fill this show in with some nationally syndicated effort.  Regardless of what they do however, any effort they make is likely to suffer by comparison.

I have little fear for Brian, as with his ability, his credentials, and his industry contacts, I'm feel sure that he will continue to succeed. (Oops sorry.  Brian taught me to think, not feel.  I'm afraid I'm already back-sliding)  It's a shame for Toledo however, whose daily paper suffers from the dearth of leadership of an absentee landlord, a terminal lack of credibility, and editorial bigotry that foretells its ultimate doom.  A city whose only salvation now for something other than the Progressive Party line handed out by the Blade may be the efforts of its competition, a twice-weekly newspaper.  And a city whose other media outlets, though they sometimes consider presenting a less liberal, union authorized point of view; appear unwilling or unable to stand against the history of thuggery perpetrated by these often vindictive and controlling city influences of a decades long, single-party rule.

I will continue to listen to Fred in the morning whenever I can, but even with his valiant efforts continuing, WSPD will never be the same.  I fear that the truth of the matter is that Toledo may never really have been big enough for Brian Wilson in the first place.  With Brian's departure however, its odds of ever becoming so just went down significantly.   


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Such A Sentimental Scmuck

(I know that the weekend rant is a bit late this weekend, but some of this is harder to write that others.)

For those of you hormonally imbalanced from eating leftover Halloween candy or too charged with adrenaline from the election results to notice, it has officially become the Holiday season.  While many may complain that Thanksgiving gets a rather short shrift in this process, I don't find the couple of weeks accorded to a turkey and the Pilgrims a big problem on our way to the fat guy with a white beard taking center state (and no, the personal resemblance has nothing to do with this attitude .... at least as far as you know).

In fact, I choose to lump this multiple holiday period together into one big "happy happy time" of over-the-top emotions that must be fought with all of the strength that a over weight, gray-haired, stogie-smoking Curmudgeon possesses.  After all, the kids are grown and moved away (and the fact that I did as much or more of the moving is besides the point), the grand kids went where the kids did (which for some reason they tend to do), and there is no significant other currently in my life.  (This last of course, is a subject on which a posting of its own could be written, but that would in fact be another post and not this one.)  So as the holiday season comes into full bloom, it's my hand on the TV remote, with none to complain or compete when it comes to channel selection.  As the title of this post suggests, this mastery of my digital world inevitably lead down a path of sentimental pap.

Because in spite of what I at least would consider my nature, I have found myself increasingly and surprisingly dialed in on offerings from the Hallmark Channel.  Unlike many other networks who have long abandoned the callings of their network names in favor of low-budget, no-plot reality shows, the Hallmark Channel has remained true to delivering a product in keeping with their line of cards (you know, sentimental crap for all occasions).  We are not talking about Cecil B DeMille cinematic efforts of legendary proportion here, but the made-for-TV movies that these are the offspring of.  What we see are TV sitcom stars whose careers apparently disappeared when their shows departed returning for efforts in the way they used to for "Love Boat" episodes.  All of which are obviously being filmed in Canada with the same cast of supporting players as every other Hallmark movie (and a lot of the non-network dramas) because it's cheaper to film in Vancouver, BC than in NYC in spite of the fact that the exchange rate has gone the other way.  The generate a suprising number of offerings with a small book of cookie cutter plots that though formulaic, have not completely lost their appeal.

There are no car crashes except tragic ones that lead to lost loved ones, and no car chases except those to reach an airport or train station before a newly-found or rediscovered loved one departs.  There is little violence and less nudity, though the actors are certainly still attractive enough to pull it off.  There's always a hint of comedy and a dose of drama on which these tales are based; with the supposed cliffhanger ending being one in which everyone in the the fictional community (and the audience) knows that the star-crossed lovers are going to reunite before they do.  In other words it's schmaltz, pure and simple.

And yet it serves its purpose in this crazy world of ours today.  This is the entertainment the way most of us my age remember it.  It's where family is everything and the good guys always wins.  It's where the right guy gets the girl, and where love and the holiday spirit always triumph.  Now most of us today are going into a period where we may not be able to be with our families that way that we'd like, where holidays are often a time of greater stress, and where being alone is simply something that must be borne.  Aren't these times where such diversions are the true meaning of entertainment?  While the knowledge is ever-present that the world can be a bad place and is certainly not as simple as stories we love to watch, isn't their very presence something that helps to give us a little hope and the strength to go on?  Isn't an underlying belief in their positive nature something that we hope lies at the heart of every one of us?  For even if the world cannot be the these movies portray, isn't it still necessary for us to believe so?

And so as the Holiday Season begins, you will have to forgive me my occasional retreat into "Good Witch" marathons and the all-day Christmas specials already playing in this Norman Rockwell cable TV world.  It's hard enough to face today's all-too-harsh realities without allowing one's self to be occasionally diverted by such optimistic fiction.  It may be true that underneath this cranky old, stogie smoking Curmudgeon is in fact another one that's even worse; but apparently somewhere deep underneath all of that lies little more that another Sentimental Schmuck.     

Friday, November 9, 2012

TFP Column: Wait Until Nex Time II

Surely you didn't think that I'd let the election results be posted without having something to say about them.  Well I didn't and I do, and they've gone up this morning in a TFP effort entitled:  "Wait Until Next Time II".  I've never been much on sequels, and even less on those with opinions patting themselves on the back for their efforts.  I am so seldom right on my predictions however, that I couldn't resist a little shoulder dislocation by way of reminder.

While media pundits across the nation are dissecting how Mitt Romney lost because he didn't appeal to Hispanics, single Women, or Moderates; I contend that someone who got even fewer votes that the lackluster effort of his predecessor, (a perennial moderate) Senator John McCain, lost because he could make no emotional connection with, nor gather any excitement from the conservative base of the GOP.  Not only do I still contend that I am correct, but I contended it back on September 6th with a previous TFP effort:  "Wait Until Next Time". 

But heck, telling you too much about this week's column here would prevent you from discovering not only my opinion, but that of a bunch of other really smart people.  And speaking of smart people, it might also prevent you from being well informed about everything that's going on in Toledo and Northwest Ohio from Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's best weekly paper for so long that everyone's lost count ... The Toledo Free Press.          


Monday, November 5, 2012

Twas The Night Before Voting

Twas the night before voting and all through the cities
The ads were still playing, and more is the pity.  
Signs were replaced now, in front yards with care
Secure without Union sheet metal trucks there

The pundits were nervous, they gave their best hunch
And hoped that the voters wouldn't hand them their lunch
The pollsters were drinking, unsure in their bumbling
With poll weighting likely to make their night humbling

The cable new networks were all in a tizzy
At last they had something to keep them all busy.
They'll pant and they'll whine til they talked themselves blue,
Lucky if one word in twenty is true.
While safe in Chicago, the dead were now mute.
They'd voted with Mickey, and Adolph, and Knute.
The states all around them indignantly stared,
But none were a swing state, so nobody cared.

The hopefuls were out there and still on the stump,
With ad buys they hoped would give them one last bump.
They knew with one speech they could still win the game, 
So they pulled out their soundbites and called them by name.

Don't vote for the red guy, he'll just kill old ladies.
Don't vote for the blue guy, he's killing off babies. 
The blue guy is digging the debt hole too deep.
The red guy just wants cash for rich folks to keep.

This one's for the wealthy, and this one's for poor.
This one gave us health care, so show him the door.
Remember for four years how hard this man tried.
Remember Benghazi and how those four died. 
They talked and they lectured and scolded us all
They told us without them the nation would fall.
Their PAC's proved that there was no line they'd not cross,
And in the end two billion dollars it cost. 
Eventually both of them ran out of words
Six years is too much of both men being heard.
We've tired of the process, we're sick of the spin.
We're ready at last for the vote to begin 

Tomorrow therefore we will show we are clever,
Without our ID's we will pull down a lever.
The ads will be over, at least for four years,
And all that remains will be crying the tears. 

Regardless tomorrow of who wins the vote,
The losers will soon call the process a joke.
They'll grumble and groan as they call their foes sinners
For Democracy works these days just for the winners. 
The chads will be hanging, in recounts galore
Each candidate claiming, "I know I got more".
And off in the distance, you'll hear the retort,
Make no bones about it, this ends up in Court!  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dance of the Dead

Halloween is over and the November election is but days away.  It's a special time of year when, if they know what's good for them, those in swing states are busy consuming large quantities of their left over 'Trick or Treat' candy; and washing it down with whatever version of brewed, fermented, or distilled products that they can lay their hands on.  This tinkering with the body's hormonal balance may in fact be their only hope of anesthetizing themselves from the incessant political commercials they are currently being forced to endure.  (And is a practice which has been surprisingly successful in keeping down the suicide rate down in swing states during election years.)  You see, it's time for the "Dance of the Dead".

This is not by the way, a term that you will likely hear from the media, since it's one that I 'borrowed' in attempt to explain the political poppycock occurring from now thru Monday night across the fruited plain; but especially in a favored few places.  The media after all, is too busy preparing to cash in on the upcoming quadrennial events to have any compassion for their audience.  Every news reader, political analyst, pollster, pundit, and former politician (along with their familial relation wannabes) are queuing themselves in front of every camera and microphone they can find to share their dearth of information and lack of insight with an audience that's only watching because the reruns of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" aren't on until later this evening. They will talk about how close the race this year really is (otherwise who would care, since it's only about who will be President for the next four years and not who will win 'American Idol' this one), while they micro-analyze percentage point polling changes for each of the swing states, and get an occasional plug in for their web-site or latest book release.

Of course most of what they say will be way too 'inside baseball' for anyone outside the Beltway to understand it (how else could they impress us or get us to sign up for something so that they can explain it to us); and the rest will prove little more than self-serving nonsense designed for media personalities who likewise need to promote their own careers.  After all, the candidates themselves have been out there raising money and getting their message is out for over six years; so what point can possibly be served in repeating it incessantly now.  What, you say that while it may seem like it's been a decade, that the campaign could only have been going on for four years at most?  Really?  As I recall, the Democratic candidate is an incumbent who's been continuously running for president since soon after he got elected to his first term in the Senate.  The Republican likewise ran for this high office in 2008, but got thrown off the island early during the last election cycle.  These two guys have been running for office so long that some of the positions have actually changed in the intervening period!  (Which apparently is now calling 'evolving' and not 'flip-flopping', unless it's being done by the opposition candidate and not yours.) 

There they are however, still out on the stump in every city, village, and hamlet that can provide them with a camera-ready audience of middle Americans (carefully screened so the proper demographic shows up on camera), repeating the same talking points they have for years to well trained audiences.  It doesn't even seem to matter that the only people that they're speaking to are their own, since such events at this point are by invitation only, and are carefully screened to insure that only the faithful are present.  Apparently, the need to fill twenty-four hour a day media coverage means that it's still vitally important for them to preach to the choir as long as the cameras are in attendance.  Repetition is the new rule, in some twisted (though sadly perhaps, accurate) belief that if you don't start speaking again before the last echos of your sermon die out, somehow they they will forget both you and your message.  As for the media, they cannot help but be there to recording this repetitious rhetoric for posterity, lest some part of that TV audience learn to tell the difference between a small town in Ohio and one in Iowa.

And when it's not the candidates themselves attempting to delivery carefully and barely restrained sermons to the party faithful, it's their fire and brimstone surrogates delivering partisan admonitions deemed too uncivil for the candidate himself.  Sniping and scurrilous claims fill the air so that even small market local media outlets won't be left out of the game.  Vice Presidential candidates assume their places as zealous attack dogs (though some have perhaps rightfully characterized incumbent VP Joe Biden as having morphed from zealot to crazed demagogue); but they are far from alone in their efforts.  From the former mayor of NYC to the former governor of Ohio, these stand-ins will spout ever greater amounts of acrimony (much of it often subject to selective interpretation of the facts) to ever dwindling audiences; and the farther away from the candidate they get, the more highly charged the vitriol in their message. Keeping the candidate protected under a cloak of 'plausible deniability', all of this is of course designed to whip up those attending into an all but rabid partisan frenzy for a media consumption that shows enthusiasm for the candidate.  The media plays along for their own reasons however, watching these side ring events in the hopes of snagging the Biblical scale gaffe or unforgivable faux pas.  This doesn't seem to deter these political apostles from challenging civility however, asking only for their fair share of face time on camera (and perhaps the occasional opportunity to comment on one of the cable news shows).

Unlike the debates or conventions however, these last days stand out in this long and bitter campaign for ... absolutely nothing.  Their tired oft-repeated rhetoric and disturbing diatribes add nothing to the national debate and do little more than provide a cadaverous song and dance.  Only the news and political junkies of this nation (like me) even occasionally watch, and we often do so in horror.  After all, voting has been going on in many places across the country for a month; and with the exception of the Chicago area, those who've already done so cannot participate again.  The party faithful, if they've not already cast their ballot, know how they will decide and long for the opportunity to do so.  If there are still undecided voters out there, as we are often told, they should probably have their polling cards taken away from them immediately; lest they contaminate the process by casting their vote based on a coin flip or random button push.  This weekend's 'Show That Never Ends; is actually nothing more than cheap bit of political / media theater where the actors are locked in circle jerk in which one half is a group jaded opportunists hoping to add to their resumes and the other a bunch of self-serving whores seeking to enhance their own.  (I'll leave you to decide which is which.)  I could say more about the twisted sexual nature of this Dance of the Dead weekend, but the tiny shreds of decorum that still remain a part of my shady character prevent me from using any of the off-color terminology that I can barely restrain myself from. (Though I must say that if the premise of my original metaphor is correct, much of what occurs this weekend could be considered little more than political and media-monitored necrophilia).

As for me, I have little fascination with the dead (and don't even watch zombie movies).  What's more, any woman that has ever gamboled with me quickly recognized that while not guilty of permanent foot damage, I am seldom confused with Fred Astaire (though I do look pretty good in a tux).  I will therefore not be attending this weekend's quadrennial Dance of the Dead.  How could I in good conscience when there's a 'Real Wives of Mission, Kansas' marathon on this weekend?     

(In the spirit of full confession, I should point out for those of you interested, my next self-serving novel, "The Black Helicopters Will Soon Be Here to collect the Tin-Foil Hats Who Got Mugged While Trying To Get There Share Of The American Dream Like My Father Did" will not be out immediately after the election as expected.  The publishing house appears to be making some vague and nonsensical complaints about title problems.)