Saturday, November 30, 2013

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

I spent a part of my Thanksgiving in a conversation with my daughter discussing the steps involved with repairing a leaky toilet in their home.  (What, this isn't the normal holiday conversation you have with your kids?  Really?)  Now that you're riveted to your seats by what's about to come next .... 

 (12/5/13:  An updated version of this effort was just posted to the TFP Website.)

I could do this because I was fortunate enough to have a father who while I was growing up (OK, growing older) was able to instruct me in the basic 'Harry the handyman' skills involved with maintaining a homeIn fact, he went on to instruct me in an apprenticeship program that he had taught at R R Donnelley and Sons that included basic mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic / pneumatic principles when I began my career in the printing industry.  One of the first things he stressed in those lessons was that since maintaining any complex system would be difficult enough for even the most conscientious maintenance staff: 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.  This is apparently something that the Congress and the President either never learned, or forgot about when creating the 'Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act' or 'ACA'.  
Oh I know that politicians often like to simplify subjects that they either don't understand themselves or don't think that 'the voters' will, in order to sell us something (usually a bill of goods); but the simple truth of the matter is that when all of this began, the US had a level of health care that was the envy of the world. That's why other world leaders and that pesky '1%' with the cash often came to this country for treatment of their ailments. This is not to say that there weren't things that needed improvement, but most of that seemed to be greater "access" to this wonderful system through minor modifications of health insurance coverage.

While even those who had no insurance or couldn't pay had access to some level of medical care, they needed more. Those with pre-existing medical conditions also needed the ability to obtain or retain insurance (especially when changing jobs). Doctors needed tort reform to reduce the amount of defensive (and expensive) medical procedures being performed for no better reason than to protect themselves from frivolous malpractice lawsuits, without removing the patient's right to seek redress from poor practitioners. Patients and doctors alike needed protection from the crony-capitalism in an insurance industry riddled with restrictive choices mandated by individual state insurance regulators.

In its normal ham-fisted approach to almost every issue however, our federal legislators chose a 'throw the baby out with the bath water' approach, without considering the ramifications of another 'never-ending gobstopper omnibus' effort, as well as the laws of unintended consequences. Far too concerned about winning points for their respective parties that they could store up like nuts for the next election (like there aren't enough nuts around in every election), our legislators allowed themselves to be caught up in the momentum of a 'sweeping reform' which only seem to clean out sound judgment, and good law. Sadly now, the nation is left with a result that even many of those who originally voted for it are less than pleased with.

This is not to say that the ACA doesn't positively address some of the issues that it intended to. Those with pre-existing conditions now have the access to insurance that they deserve. Unfortunately, this came with the cost that far too many of those who had pre-existing insurance plans lost them. Many who needed access to health insurance will finally get it, but in spite of all the back-slapping after its passage, 30 million will remain without it. Instead of freeing up the insurance market between states to make it cheaper, the ACA instead further restricted it to four 'government-approved' plans that make it even more expensive (and, contrary to the law's title, less affordable). Perhaps worst of all is that politicians who touted the necessity of this sweeping change and the fairness of their effort granted themselves their staffs an exemption from the rules that they insist the rest of us follow.

Not surprisingly, those seeking electoral credit for their legislative efforts are instead contracting incurable levels displeasure, disapproval, and disrepute that may cost them the privilege of the jobs they sought to protect with its passage. Curiously, it's only the distraction of the temporary collapse of the website used for enrolling in this monstrosity that's offering any protection to these wayward legislators from the greater ruin and future recrimination that awaits them. Tragically (if not perhaps fatally), the CYA and CYP (Cover Your Party) nature of the entrenched politics involved precludes even the most honorable of members of either party from doing what they know in their hearts probably now needs to be done.

So it's time for many to learn a hard lesson that apparently their fathers couldn't or didn't pass on to them. You don't fix a simple leaky toilet by ripping out the entire bathroom. You don't remodel a house by demolishing it and rezoning the neighborhood for commercial. In fact, with anything that needs repair, the first rule must always be: 

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"    


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Time To Ban Thanksgiving

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 foist off on you one of my previous efforts out of sheer laziness.  In my own defense, I did make some changes to this effort, but that's because the original was so poorly written that shame forced me to do so.  Be aware before going on, that considerable sarcasm awaits you!

Thanksgiving will be celebrated tomorrow, as it is on the last  Thursday in November every year (though not the original fourth). In theory, we will commemorate what was three days of feasting with one day of binging, in order to celebrate the voyage of an early group of colonists who traveled nine weeks from Plymouth, England only to coincidentally find themselves in Plymouth, Massachusetts. (Coincidence ... yeah, right.  It's a conspiracy!)  

Many died on the voyage over from disease and hunger, and more still in the harsh winter that followed. (Evidently Al Gore hadn't let them in on Global Warming yet.)  When the spring of 1621 came however, the newcomers planted what they could in land cleared with help of the local indigenous population (who had no idea that's who they were), and with the following fall's harvest they chose to celebrate their good fortune.  Though we now repeat their celebration annually, it was a tradition they themselves never repeated.

Almost 400 years later however, the idea of maintaining a holiday based on the one-time celebration by a bunch of white people seems doomed from the start; and only becomes slightly more palatable (pun intended) if we can give some credit to these 'Pilgrims' for inviting their Native Americans saviors to the party.  (Of course, they probably made them bring most of the food.)  

Consider as well, that while the Waupanoag tribe were largely the architects of this colony's survival; these same Native Americans were, like most others in this country, later driven from their homes and the greater part of their lands by the greedy colonists whose lives they'd saved ... hardly something to remember with pride.  Only adding to the historic difficulty involved with the holiday is finding reasons to celebrate the culture and traditions of the same people who would only 70 years later give us the witch burnings in Salem. 

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 religious refugees from England to thank their GOD for bringing them through the illness and privation of 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 involves thanking only a Christian God; showing a massive insensitivity by 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 consider continuing a national holiday with religious overtones that ignores both the cultural and religious diversity that has become so dear to the progressive ruling elite of this country is beyond me. 

But if all of this typical, well-documented, and disgraceful history were not enough to put this celebration in jeopardy; consider instead the treatment afforded the main course of this so-called holiday ... the Turkey.  Now Turkeys, for those of you who don't know your history, came within a hair (OK, a feather) of becoming the symbol of these United States. They were supported in this effort by no less than Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who considered the eagle as being little more than a dandified vulture. The turkey is not the brightest of birds however (perhaps adding to its suitability as a national symbol by today's standards), though it does have a couple of rather interesting traits.  Not only does the male seek its mate by showing them its butt (in humans apparently, the trait is reversed), but this bird is also know for being fearless (or stupid) in the face of being shot at.  (Remember however, that these were the days before the 2nd Amendment or gun control.)     

Modern medicine, of course, could easily also demand the end of the Thanksgiving holiday for no other reason than the life-threatening caloric abuses carried out in its name.  The traditional menu in fact exposes the public to a naturally narcotic substance (tryptophan), which often induces sleep in humans. (Much like the speeches in the election season which immediately precedes it.)  This begs the question of how a government attempting to take over healthcare of its citizens can allow them to be exposed to such a toxic substance (turkeys I mean, not politicians)Any minor compensation for the consumption of turkey (the other, other, white meat) over its more deadly alternative of the red variety 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 period of Thursday afternoon quarterbacking.  For many, the only holiday exercise apparently permitted is by thumbs manipulating smart phones for fantasy football league results.  

The fact that a single bird is pardoned each year by the President (Yet another religious symbol if you can you say Barabbas.), should be a source of national shame as PETA stands all but idly by while thousands of our tasty animal friends are disposed of (probably inhumanely and after 'aggressive interrogation') in the name of a holiday devoted to supposedly "thanking" the Deity that put these gentle creatures here in the first place.

Of course one might expect little more of something that, while first celebrated by our first president, was not seen as an official national holiday until 1863 as a political expediency to divert attention from the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln.  (Apparently no one remembers that Lincoln was, after all, an evil Republican)

Today of course, it's easy to see now that the rampant gluttony and consumerism it exemplifies to be something typical of capitalism's staunchest supporters. Consumerism's greatest celebration, 'Black Friday', now not only follows, but has expanded so far as to encroach on the holiday itself, making it little more than a day of capitalist celebration, propaganda, and profit taking.  Far too many this year will be pushing themselves back from the table (assuming that they still actually can), only to begin the full contact shopping and unbridled consumerism of Christmas.  Far too many will gleefully abandon family gatherings for no better reason than a deal on a 60" 'smart' TV (with 3D of course) that will find itself under their own tree. 

We must therefore ask ourselves; what in the end has the Thanksgiving holiday in this country become and why should it continue.  Facts seem to indicate that like so much else of what goes on in this country, it's nothing more than a festival featuring the unwarranted murder of our fellow creatures under the guise of celebrating racism, gluttony, and the onset of soul-sucking consumerism.  As such, it no longer has a place in the caring, politically correct, and progressive society that we apparently long to become in this the 21st Century and should be banned for the bane it is. 

And so I say to those of you choosing to celebrate this week anyway with family and friends, gathering around a table to once more give thanks in the year 2013 (a year that may have fewer reasons than usual for doing so):

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The "Stuck On Stupid" Dictionary #43

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and perhaps in the hopes of being released from their labors for a four-day weekend, the lazy lexicographers here at the "Stuck On Stupid" Dictionary have released some new entries for this twisted lexicon.  Now this is rather unusual behavior for a staff that normally has to verbally abused, if not physically beaten, to get them to notice such responsibilities.  

One might suspect that beyond their desire for a better venue from which to watch the Macy's parade and the football games, that they've begun to hear rumors of their impending dismissal and are attempting to work their way back into the good graces of Senior Staff. (Little do they know that the Senior Staff will likewise be 'transitioning to new opportunities').  More like however, is that they're looking for time away from Headquarters to try and polish up their resumes before being cast to the winds to seek their own futures.

Regardless of the petty personnel problems associated with the continued literary production here however, it comes to my attention that many of you reading this have somehow managed to miss previous postings on this subject.  (Shame on you, now go back and search all of the postings under the label of  'Dictionary'). 

For those of you even more woefully unfamiliar with this rather twisted reference effort, the SOS Dictionary is a guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appears to mean something entirely different when looked at through the jaded eyes and rose colored glasses of the SOS Dictionary staff.

1. Rules included in a City Charter, the Ohio Revised Code, or passed by City Council and/or ratified by the Mayor which apply to the citizens of Toledo, Ohio; but not to the elected officials who voted on them.
(This definition ostensibly applies only within the confines of the Glass City, though it is often marginally modified for use in every city in Ohio, as well as in States across the nation and at Federal levels as well.)

2. Rules written and voted on by legislators at any level of government that have grown increasing incomprehensible and unintelligible to anyone, including those who wrote them, because of their length, their contradictory nature, and their inconsistent enforcement.
(see Regulations)


1. Rules written by unelected bureaucrats at any level of government which carry the force of Law; and which have grown increasing incomprehensible and unintelligible to anyone (including those who wrote them) because of their length, their contradictory nature, and their inconsistent enforcement.

2. Government Rules which can be arbitrarily added to, changed, or removed all together by the bureaucracies which created them (and often profit by them) without the knowledge or permission of the Legislators who originally created these unelected fiefdoms or the citizens whose rights are ultimately infringed upon.
(see Laws)

1. Something that cannot be known or comprehended.

2. Something which is unintelligible, or in the Biblical sense 'passes all understanding'.

3. Most of what goes on in government at every level.

4. Shutting the down "Just Blowing Smoke" website and dismissing all of the 'so-called' lazy lexicographers of the SOS Dictionary at the end of the year.
(This last definition was included without the prior knowledge or permission of the Senior Editors.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Desire Named Streetcar

For those of you who thought that potentially wasteful capital improvement in the "City of Fountains" was limited to a massive study group that seems intent to replace a perfectly good airport with one that's better suited to TSA security features and which has a better Food Court, "au contraire mon ami".  (That's French.  Look it up.)   

Not only is KC attempting to convince local taxpayers into funding the replacement of an airport known nation-wide as one of the most friendly to get into and out of at a cost them over $1.2 billion, it's also looking to add, or replace, upgrade (depending on who you talk to) chunks of its existing (and mostly under-used) public transportation system of buses with the more attractive (and expensive) alternative of streetcars. 

The 'initial phase' of this Streetcar system, which will run for some 2.2 miles, is ready to begin construction at an estimated cost of about $102 million.  While some $20 million in federal assistance has been secured (we thank you all for your contribution, of course), the bulk of the cost (along with its inevitable cost overruns) is to be paid by a 25-year, one-cent sales tax that will fall only on the neighborhood in which this phase of the system is to be built.  This tax was approved by voters in a rather shrewd ballot maneuver in which only residents of the area surrounding the line were able to vote on its approval, while business owners in the same area (unless they lived in their buildings) were not.  

While this new streetcar will be rather limited in route, it's expected by supporters to bring not only new businesses, but new (and rather high-priced) residential living to the area.  Perhaps I'm missing something in the thinking here, but other than the 'gee whiz' factor or riding the lines soon after their opening, I fail to see its benefits that new businesses will receive.  

While they will certainly get to be subject to the 'sales tax district' paying for the line, it would be surprising to find that their workers will get to use the line for their normal daily commute.  I say that because most of the residential projects being discussed in this tax district involve condos that go for $250,000+ and apartments that rent for $1,200 per month and more.  Even if we assumed that people shopping for housing in this range were those who normally ride public transportation (yeah, right ...) we're left with fact that other than the City Market, this area is a food desert with no grocery stores within the line's commuter route.

In typical government fashion however, that an expensive and perhaps unsustainable capital improvement project should never be limited by practicality or common sense, supporters are quick to tout that 'this is only the beginning'.  Before the initial stretch of track has even begun to be laid, before this concept has proven itself with increased ridership levels, increased interest in the neighborhood involved, or has in any way proved that it can pay for the massive capital investment involved; the city is already planning to add to it.   

Kansas City's City Council has in fact recently approved almost $2.5 million in funding to a consultant team to produce a route expansion study. A route on Main Street from Union Station to either 63rd Street or 75th Street, a second route from Independence Avenue that goes east to a yet-to-be determined end point, and a third from Linwood Boulevard or 31st Street to yet another undetermined end point have already been approved for further consideration.  If this expected additional 8.8 miles of track is finally approved by the city (and the bandwagon seems to have already gathered some serious momentum), it's estimated to cost taxpayers some $545 million.

Regardless of the apparent Dyslexic nature of this title, it's obvious that this is not about nostalgia over an old Tennessee Williams play written in 1947 or even a 1951 Elia Kazan movie starring Marlon Brando.  In fact, rather than even being a play on words of the title of the play "A Streetcar Named Desire" this post should probably have been filed under "Field of Dreams".  For it's the iconic line from this 1989 Phil Alden Robinson cinematic effort that, "If you build it, he will come" that seems to rule all discussion on the subject.  Speaking of discussion, Kevin Costner (who starred in the effort) might relate to Kansas City's legislators, who appear to be 'hearing voices' where subject is concerned.  Not only that, but his character's single minded devotion to nonsensical construction in the face of sanity, if not common sense certainly defines the thinking in KC on this pipe dream of a project.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Scandalous

Once upon a time, they called it Tabloid Journalism ...

Of course that was before economics forced many newspapers to down-size their formats to such an extent that an unfolded broadsheet (standard format) newspaper was little larger than the smaller versions that their big brothers denigrated.

While the Tabloid format was easier to read, such newspapers were often known for over-large headlines, racy photography, and stories that were often a rather curious blend of fact and all-but-speculative fiction.  From the sleazy grocery store tabloids (most of which are now magazines) to major city commuter alternatives in New York and Chicago, there was always a certain taint to such publications.  

Over time, many of these lesser publications established themselves as real players in an ever shrinking market with hard-hitting investigative reporting, award-winning photography, and a willingness to take on issues that their more traditional and staid brethren refused to.  Over much of the same period, many weekly newspapers moved from their original broadsheet format to the Tabloid one in order to take advantage of the readability factor and ever-changing postal regulations. 

This is not to say that Tabloid journalism didn't eventually make its way from the printed page to the small screen.  "Inside Edition" (where Bill O'Reilly spent 5 years) and "A Current Affair" were two early examples of faux news programs that covered red carpet events, new movies, and of celebrity scandals as if they were hard-hitting news.  Racy pictures and less content in fact seemed to fit this Tabloid evolution to a "T".

Then of course came the 24-hour news networks with CNN and C-Span on one side and ESPN on the other, taking the place of two traditional newspaper sections.  It wasn't long however before we had an alphabet soup of news networks, some attempting to break new ground and others content as mere spin-offs.  As each tried to establish its own place in the market, they likewise needed to define themselves by how much "Tabloid Journalism" they would include in their offerings.  As each evolved from 'news only' to 'news and commentary', the lines seemed to become even more blurred.

Television after all, is a medium that's defined by its ratings as much as its content.  Unable to rely on the support of prime-time scripted television to support those efforts as the Big 3 always did, these new News Networks had to be self sustaining.  While certainly the journalism component would establish their credentials, it would be their prime time offerings that would pay the bills.

All this is a roundabout way of say that it should be of little surprise to anyone that many of these news networks have allowed themselves to be seduced by the Dark Side of tabloid journalism.  Having taken the worst from their network counterparts and the seamy side of newspapers and magazines, some of these efforts are increasingly becoming the worst of all worlds.

Now their prime time lineups are filled with hosts who titillate with only the most scandalous headlines from around the world.  Which politician has a addiction problem (Toronto / Florida)? Which politicians or political party is suffering the biggest drops in popularity?  Which government's leaders have been caught literally or figuratively exposing themselves to ridicule?  Which of the latest proposals from one party or the other can be twisted into the biggest scandals?

From presidential popularity to the latest Obamacare website scandal, which recent controversy can be turned to a ratings advantage?  Which political dishonor by one party or the other can be turned into a dishonest roundtable dialogue of true deliberation?  Which guests can be counted on to create a 'Jerry Springer Circus' of interruption, contention, and high volume confrontation to glue the audience to their seats?

This is not to say that all such efforts are completely without merit or that this is the only thing that these networks do; but like so many things in life, this medium lives on a slippery slope.  Each of them, having once chosen 'the sizzle rather than the steak', now finds themselves slipping ever farther down the dark path in order to keep up.  The never ending battle to compete in the ratings wars has them constantly seeking new ways to ratchet up the repartee to a constant frenzy.

The losers in all of this of course, are we the viewers.  Like a movie that keeps you constantly on the edge of your seat, their attempts cause our attention spans to burn out.  Regardless of what these efforts seek, no one can maintain such a level of hysteria without finally succumbing to exhaustion.

Little surprise then, that so many viewers turn instead to reality shows, period dramas, and movie escapism.  Many of us add insult to injury (including yours truly) by decrying a lack of interest by this audience wearied of world affairs around them, and views this apparent abandonment as a lack of passionate patriotism.  The world is a difficult enough place to deal with however, without the manufactured madness and 24 hour-a-day mania that these 'news' programs now cheerfully espouse for no better reason than ratings and corporate profits.

Call this capitalism's practical media's dishonest dissimulation if you will.  You can even call it the mass insightment of indifferent insanity (if you want to get fancy).  I however, will simply settle for calling this mainstream media masquerade of purporting to be news little more than the latest version of Tabloid reporting, and Scandalous.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hallmark Channel, You're Killing Me ,,,

For the few of you out there still living within the limitations created by Time-Warner's Basic Cable, the holiday season this year has already taken an alarming turn.  Recent reductions in the channel offerings available to those of us unwilling to pay a $100.00 plus monthly cable bill has placed many in a rather precarious position; one that even those of us (like me) with long-time subscriptions to 'Netflix' have yet to come up with a suitable solution for.  In fact it sometimes seems that the only channel providing reasonable cable cinematic efforts on TV is the Hallmark Channel.

Don't get me wrong here, I really like to watch movies and normally have no real objection to the 'made for TV' type that represent the common fare on Hallmark Channel.  The plots on their films are fairly well written (though sometimes horribly formulaic), the obvious Canadian studio production values of these films are solid, and where else could one go to see all of the great character actors from serial TV and old movies since "The Love Boat" and "Love American Style" went off the air.  The problem however, is that since I no longer receive AMC, TMC, TNT, or even the "Sharknado" movie on the ScyFy channel from the friendly folks at my cable company; Hallmark's offerings are damn near the only alternatives available on the channels remaining. 

I have therefore been plunged in recent days into a world of non-stop Christmas movies through their current "Countdown to Christmas" schedule.  This is bad enough for someone who's long been suffering from a near terminal case SCSS (Santa Claus Similarity Syndrome); but making the symptoms even more tortuous lately are the diabetic-destroying sugar levels in the romance and romantic comedy story lines that are woven into Hallmark's holiday offerings.  

Listen, I like my 'chick flicks' as much as any other sports-addicted, chest thumping, Neanderthal, but this expanded exposure to the 'Dark Side' of movie making has gotten completely out of hand.  My anxiety over the situation has reached a point where I've had to monitor my sleeping habits; lest I drop off with the TV on and find myself being subliminally programmed with an overdose Christmas spirit and more weepy sensitivity than any member of my gender can willing be asked to contain.  

The fact that I'm able, and even willing to write about the recent impact of this not-too-subtle re-programming (brainwashing) should indicate to even the least discerning how ghastly my own personal situation has become.  The further admission that this recent exposure has probably allowed me to 'grow as a person' should in fact be recognized by the rest of my gender as symptomatic of the terrifying potential harm that this network's offerings represent to the species.  

The fact that I'm not currently seeing anyone (and admitting that publicly as well), adds insult to injury by forcing me to watch this "Groundhog Day" programming schedule by myself.  The entire situation is serious enough that I've actually begun to fear future retention of my 'Man Card'.  Heaven help me, but it's lately gotten so bad as to find me writing down late night tear-stained 'Post-It' notes with the URLs of dating websites in a desperate (and mostly pathetic) search to re-create the happy ending from the most recently viewed cinematic effort.  (Fortunately, I come to my senses in the morning; belch, fart, scratch myself, and run such notes through a paper shredder immediately afterward.)

So if you're out there Time-Warner, I'm begging you!  Please give me back ESPN or Spike TV and allow me to return to my former (and mostly insensitive) nature.  Stop taunting me with the choice between the cable upgrade required to allow me to view the manly TV I long for and the prescription medications that I require to survive.  Don't force me to replace the take-out and microwavable high in salt, high in trans fat meals that I usually consume in front of the TV set watching football games with the Dog Food that the government and mainstream media have threatened me with for years as the only way I will have left to make ends meet.  

Come to think of it, don't force me to begin a letter-writing campaign to my Congressman or Senator with desperate appeals for greater government regulation in the cable industry at the very least; or better still, Cable TV subsidizing.  (Isn't full cable a right in this country, after all!) 

While there's more that I'd like to say on the subject, right now I'm feeling a little too emotional to properly express myself.  Besides, "The Santa Suit" with former "Hercules" star Kevin Sorbo is about to come on the Hallmark Channel, and (sniff, sniff) I don't want to miss it.   


Saturday, November 16, 2013

That's All Folks

This is to give formal notice that as of the end of December, "Just Blowing Smoke" will cease the addition of new entries.

It was June of 2007 when I formally moved this blog over to the Google blogspot platform, and since then over 1100 entries have been added to a site that has experienced some 70,000 pageviews from all over the world.  In spite of the world renown that I have garnered because of it (OK, maybe renown is too strong a term, but my grandkids still recognize me when they see my picture), I've decided after 6-1/2 years that it may be time to fold up the tent and move on.  

I will not bore you with the terribly long, tedious, and self-serving explanation that has led up to this decision; as the odor of natural fertilizer production involved in doing so (not to mention the terminal boredom experienced) would probably drive you from the room in tears.  Tears are in fact, the last thing that this announcement calls for.  Instead I would simply like to thank the small and rather twisted, but extremely loyal following that has made this long journey an extremely enjoyable literary experiment.  (Well, at least for me, anyway.)

Speaking of tears, if you happen to know anyone who can use the efforts of a team of apathetic investigators from the Department of Just Blowing Smoke Security, or the services of a bunch of lackadaisical lexicographers (from the Stuck on Stupid Dictionary) please let me know.  Both obviously, will soon added to the growing ranks of the unemployed, and it is my intention to tearfully (but firmly) kick the Cheetos-eating bastards out of the headquarters facility as soon as they sober up on New Year's Day. 

The website will remain up even after I have ceased adding to it (not that there's a chance in hell that I will reconsider my decision), but there are a few writing projects that I am working to finish up; both here on the Blog and for the Toledo Free Press that will be posted to the site between now and the end of the year.  I hope that you will enjoy them, and all of the insanity that has come before as much as I have.

Thanks again my friends ...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

TFP Column: Santa Is Coming ... Beware

While experiencing the briefest of mourning periods during the election cycle, I am back once more within the pages of the TFP website this week.  Self-chastised for being consistently wrong about the results of those elections yet again (which is why I don't bet), it seemed only fitting to change my focus from the painful subject of my own abjectly miserable performance and turn instead to the coming holiday season.

I think that you'll find "Santa Is Coming ... Beware" an amusing (if not troubling) effort, dripping with the kind of sarcasm required to put the commercial aspect of the holiday and it's symbolic leader in a slightly different (OK, warped) perspective.  Of course it's not surprising that there should be some contradictions in the secular version of mythical character who ends up being merged over time with a religious figure who actually existed.  Be aware however, that my analysis of someone whose traditional depiction bares a vague similarity to my own does not mean that I have spared my subject in any way, or that we share any of the potential personality quirks that I ascribe to him.

Since it's already a bit past mid-week, you're lucky that the 'Star' edition has already hit the streets to provide more serious counterpoint to my more fanciful offering.  With the weekend edition yet to come, there's plenty more still to look forward to, especially in Toledo and Northwest Ohio.  

What else would you expect however, from Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper, one which has been named by the Ohio Society of Professional Journalism as the Best Weekly Newspaper in Ohio for the last five years running.  I'm speaking of course, of the Toledo Free Press.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The "Stuck On Stupid" Dictionary #42

The lazy hazy days of summer here in the Midwest are now past and the beautiful fall colors seem to have created a distraction to the lazy lexicographers of the 'Stuck on Stupid' Dictionary.   Either that, or a misguided belief that the recent 'Tin Man' surgery performed on a member of the senior staff left some of these ne'er do wells to believe they could get away with something.  Have no fear however.  We have been promised that order will be swiftly be reestablished with the the swift recovery of our convalescing "Just Blowing Smoke" Disciplinarian.

Regardless of the petty problems associated with the literary production here however, it seem that there many of you reading this who have somehow managed to miss previous postings on this subject (shame on you, now go back and search all of the postings under the label of  'Dictionary').  For those of you thus unfamiliar, the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appears to mean something entirely different when looked at through the jaded eyes and rose colored glasses of the SOS dictionary staff.

Political Apology:

1. An acknowledgment of guilt which blames not the politician who creates a situation through their action or inaction, but instead the citizen whose only fault is a failure to understand the consequences of that politician's most recent effort.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shame On You Glass City

Not currently being a resident of Lucas County in Northwest Ohio, I probably shouldn't comment on the results of this week's election.  (Such considerations however, have never stopped me before and are unlikely to now.)  It's far too early to know what these choices will mean to much of area, but there are a few things that we probably do know based on the tallies in its largest city ... Toledo.  But before I make a couple of probably inappropriate comments, let me say first and for the record:  Shame on You!

This is not a comment about the choices that you made or didn't make.  (That will come later.)  This is instead a reproach for your continued abominable voter turnout.  D. Michael Collins won the office of Mayor in the Glass City with a 56 percent margin of the 25 percent of registered voters who took the time to perform their civic responsibility.  My congratulations go out to D. Michael for the solid majority of his victory; but for those of you unwilling (or unable) to do the math, I should point out that this means that the city's next leader will take the reins of power with a mandate from 14 percent of the city's electorate.

As for the rest of the city's results, this might well be a special Toledo edition of "Silly Bits".

  • With the exception of Sandy Spang, the City Council elections returned enough incumbents, retreads, and familiar names that Toledo may be eligible to receive special recognition from the environmental lobby as a political 'Green City' for its candidate recycling efforts.  Friend and fellow blogger Maggie Thurber thinks this may be an illustration of the "Stuck on Stupid" concept that she coined for so much of what goes on in local government (one that was later co-opted by the lazy lexicographers of the SOS Dictionary here at "Just Blowing Smoke").  I cannot disagree with that discerning assessment, but tend to see it myself as a return to Toledo's "SSDD" philosophy (Same Shit, Different Day), one that has served it so poorly for decades. 
  • With D. Michael Collin ascension to the title of Mayor, his City Council position will require that a replacement be appointed by sitting members.  There's a rumor that former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is seeking that Council position and the chance to join former Mayor and newly elected council member Jack Ford.  For all the hard times that Toledo has fallen on and all those who have abandoned the city for one reason or another (yours truly included, though my departure was not entirely voluntary), certainly there must be someone out there with a pulse that can serve better in this capacity than this former object of municipal embarrassment.  If Carty wants to get more than his retirement pay from the city, let him walk in through the front door of the electoral process by running for office and not try to sneak in through the back door of political favoritism.
  • My own efforts in the blogging world and those of many I know, have been relatively silent in their criticism of the Mayor's office during the term of Mike Bell.  You may not have agreed with everything Mike Bell said or did, but it was difficult to argue his selfless and sincere desire for the City's improvement, and the logic of his thought processes.  I suspect that the Collins Administration will not see such peace and quiet remain.  This is nothing against D. Michael Collins personally, as I believe that he's an honest guy who says what he believes.  That being said, I have a suspicion that the direction the city will take is one that some of us with more conservative principles will have something to say on.
I'd like to tell you that I paid attention to the other local races, school board elections, and levies were on the ballot this year, but I was prevented on getting too far by the pay wall recently installed on the website of the daily newspaper.  It was just as well however, as the depressing nature of the results that I was able to gather had me pulling up the covers over my head and seeking the comfort of my bed far earlier that I normally would on an election night.

"When you're a child, you believe that monsters are hiding under your bed. When you grow up, you often discover that same bed to be the only place left to hide from them."
- me 

The good news that one can take in retrospect from the election, for those of us scribbling in the wilderness of politics and looking at the days ahead, is that it seems likely that Toledo will return to being the classic 'target-rich' environment that we've all come to know and love.  I believe that the Glass City's Mayor and City Council are likely to be a lively bunch and one worth keeping an eye on.

But let me end on this the day after the election by saying congratulations to the winners, condolences to the losers, and 'Shame on You' to all of you who refused to give up even the small enough period of your Reality Show schedule, Facebook chatting, and pure laziness to take part in the electoral process.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Get Over Yourself

Sitting in front of the keyboard once again, I was trying to make the difficult decision of what to provide the extremely loyal (if somewhat twisted) readership of "Just Blowing Smoke" in the way of a weekend effort.  Should it be some insightful bit of purposeful prose lamenting the current political state of the nation and how it can only be saved by conservative ideal; or perhaps instead a rather clever and amusing piece filled with wit, sarcasm, and irony (with a bit of poorly hidden polysyllabic intellectual snobbery thrown for no better reason than that it amuses me) whose value is not more than distraction and (if I'm lucky) a bit of entertainment? Fortunately for those of you reading this, such intellectual pursuits quickly sent me racing to the bathroom to revisit my most recently consumed meal.

After wiping my brow, brushing my teeth, and gargling, I was able to stumble back to my seat; much disappointed in my recent dietary choices, similarly humbled by the position of porcelain worship I had assumed, and emotionally staggered by the realization that led to this rather abrupt departure.  "Get over yourself," escaped all but unbidden from my lips.

You see, far too often I find myself (personally, as well as electronically) in the presence of my betters.  While I've learned to grudgingly accept and respect those with far greater knowledge and insight, more ability, and a far larger audience than myself; I can't help but occasionally find myself feeling rather smug about the exalted company that I'm keeping (whether I actually belong there or not).  In the end however, something usually brings me back to the brutal realization that even the best words of those I admire have little lasting effect on a society far more concerned with the cult of celebrity and the next 'squirrel moment' that comes along; a cognizance which make my own wretched efforts insignificant. 

This could be an insight that many of those who aspire to public office might seek to learn as well.  The job is important but quite frankly, you aren't; neither before or after obtaining it (nor even in the ineffective, if noble effort of failing to do so).  While there's a nobility of purpose in a goal of public service and a value in doing it well, both are entirely lost when the person involved becomes focused instead on a sense of real or imagined entitlement coming along with such a position. 

In the end, working in the national legislature is no more noble a calling than picking up the trash, and could in many cases be considered less necessary.  Being the Mayor of a city makes the decisions one makes sometimes more significant because of the numbers they may effect, but deciding makes one no better or more important than an insurance agent or used car salesman (and often far more annoying).  Voting on City Council may have greater long-term impact on ones fellow citizens, but makes that person themselves no more special than anyone who votes on "American Idol".

Win, lose, or draw, those of you running for office should seriously try to recognize that you will be no more and no less necessary whether you win or lose.  Yes, this is a glorified beauty contest and you might well find yourself wearing the tiara soon, but it's the responsibility of the crown that's important, not the potentially swelled head wearing it.  You may represent us, but you don't rule us.  You do not become the office you might win, just the latest person responsible for filling it.

So before this humble scribbler gets far too carried away with self-important sentiment where this all-too-forgettable effort is concerned, let me finish it with these two thoughts before election day:

1. To those of you capable of voting in the coming elections ... do so.  The responsibility of such a task is one not only to yourself, but to your fellow citizens.  The failure to do so is not only a breach of public trust, but a tacit submission to so many of the things that are wrong with society in general and government in particular.

2. To those of you running for office ... Thank you.  Though many of us pick on you endlessly for choosing this path (well, I do anyway); you deserve some credit for willingly subjecting yourself to the public humiliation involved with a life of public service.  Even as you are chided, it's recognized that you possess a special courage and a strength that perhaps the rest of us do not.  On the other hand; far too many of you doing so possess an ego that wouldn't fit on Mt. Rushmore; so get over yourself.