Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TFP Column: Post "Network" Politics

(Contrary to all logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 03/20/2014.

In 1976, Peter Finch spoke to a generation as newscaster Howard Beale by telling us: “So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out and yell, I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Not many recall “Network” screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s cynical prescience regarding the degradation of television network news (cable news networks didn’t yet exist), or director Sidney Lumet’s portrayal of the general apathy and eager gullibility of the American viewing public. Few indeed remember anything of this film other than its iconic tagline.

The only thing that’s changed in the intervening years is the addition of cable channels dedicated, in theory, entirely to news yet with programs that have become in many ways far worse than Chayefsky anticipated, and perhaps more outrageous than Lumet was willing (or heroic enough) to portray.

We may not yet have astrology segments, but multiple (and mostly inaccurate) weather segments seem to serve well enough as a substitute. Revolutionary groups may not be on the air yet, but the proliferation of journalistic zealotry makes one often feel it is.

Not anticipated in 1976, however, was the proliferation of non-news stories (and reality shows) from Hollywood regarding those leading lives of unthinkable luxury and unthinking ignorance. While flouting moral precedent, society’s rules and the nation’s laws (with the permission of lenient courts), many find time (between rehab sessions) to support international tyranny under romantic notions of revolution.

Talk radio, for all its supposed sins, at least attempts to devote an entire 30-minute segment (including commercials, news and traffic) to a subject as important as whether we should get into or out of a war, or whether the laws and regulations pouring out of the pens of pampered politicians make a difference.

With television, we’ve come to accept a schizophrenic form of news. Most days, it’s force-fed to us in two- to four-minute segments (bipartisan commentary included). Eastern European politics or the science of hydraulic fracturing, we’re apparently only capable of digesting important national or world events in a Reader’s Digest condensed format, with segments only slightly longer (and often less intelligently written) than the commercials that separate them.

Occasionally however, the networks depart from their information shorthand to provide their viewers with nauseatingly repetitious offerings on what they don’t know on a story, supplemented by experts and pundits providing commentary so “inside baseball” that few if any can understand it.

As for their coverage of national politics, networks prefer an inflammatory sound bite to their job of covering the four W’s of the story (who, what, where and when). If they do get around to them, one can be certain of an Obi-Wan Kenobi interpretation of such facts “from a certain point of view.” And as for the fifth W (why), once more a panel of experts returns (fellow journalists and unemployed political minions) who can ignore questions in a bipartisan fashion, regurgitate party talking points ad nauseam and still find time to promote their current book.

Much of that unresolved “Network” anger still exists in this country, but remains largely unfocused. We’re angry with government for not doing the job it’s expected to do while doing far too many things it’s not needed for. We’re angry with politicians and political parties who’ve spent far too much time feathering their own nests instead of the nation’s work and have done so with our feathers. 

We’re angry with each other for the selective inattention we exhibit to the pain and suffering going on around us. Often however, we’re the most angry with a mainstream media that continues to assert special privilege as “The Fourth Estate,” ignoring their responsibilities and failing as badly as the American equivalents of the first three.

The right of a free press was included in the First Amendment for a reason by the founders, who understood that the republic would never survive without it. I wish Howard were still around, and this time “mad as hell” at those he worked with.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

TFP Column: Rites Of Spring

(Contrary to all logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 04/03/2014.
Despite the dire prognostications of the Pennsylvania rodent population, the contradictory evidence of flowers that seem brave enough to begin poking their way into the sunlight (though forced to do so through the semi-frozen ground of global climate change) and despite the mirage of lingering snow drifts to your lying eyes ... spring is finally here.

Spring means many things to many people. Here in the Midwest, it means planting of crops for farmers (or in some cases, getting the government to pay you not to plant them by placing land in a “soil bank”). It means fertilizing the lawn, then rushing to tune up the lawnmower so we can cut it after stimulating its growth. It’s likely to mean it’s time to repair the car’s suspension from that unfortunate assignation with a pothole the size of that meteor crater in Winslow, Ariz.
One of the most important things about spring however is sports. Spring is in fact the convergence of all things sports.  College basketball holds its two different tournaments, the NCAA championship for the “feasible,” the “unlikely,” and the “surprising” and the NIT for those whose yearly efforts haven’t reached the previously mentioned levels, but should be rewarded by face-saving and revenue-generating post-season play. The professional basketball season is also winding to a close, with more teams making its postseason play than missing it, and the usual suspects likely to be there at the end.
Hockey follows basketball to a season close in the growing warmth, though it’s outdoor play these days is only for show and therefore not an impediment.  Like its brother basketball, it too has fallen prey to the lure of revenue, and far too many will contest to dethrone the Chicago Blackhawks and lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Football too has begun, whether you’re talking about the spring practices of the college teams of the U.S. version or the more accurately defined world sporting event that’s only in recent years getting its proper due in this country.
The king of sports this time of year, however, is and always will be the national sport, baseball. Oh sure, they messed with Opening Day this year by allowing the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers to play one in Australia, before the traditional opening game in Cincinnati; but games played on the other side of the international dateline can probably be discounted in a 162-game season. 

Regardless of whether snow must be cleared from the fields and long sleeves are the rule rather than the exception on the field, it’s time to “Play Ball!”
Across the nation, we abandon balmy living rooms and cheerfully face the often frozen confines of a land where “hope springs eternal.” We encourage our overpriced stars, cheer those we’ve never seen before, but who show early promise and salute those who, perhaps unknown even to themselves, are taking their final lap as men playing a boy’s game.
This spring is particularly special for some of us, as it commemorates the 100th anniversary of historic Wrigley Field in Chicago. This celebration is likely to be rather muted however, since the Cubs have failed to win a World Series during the entire century of this ballpark’s existence and the Cubs enter what’s likely to be the 108th year of their rebuilding program.
A point that forces one to take note that not all things associated with spring are positive is that politicians are already out on the stump, attending fundraising dinners across the country and forming exploratory groups, while simultaneously denying that such efforts exists. (A curious process since the only thing that such exploration groups seem to discover is a previously unknown groundswell movement for the candidate to run.)  For those seeking further evidence of the dire consequences of the season, it’s also less than two weeks until tax day.
Alfred Tennyson told us that “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Recalling dim memories of having been one during the Dark Ages of history, I believe I can say without fear of challenge that a young man’s fancy seldom strays from such thoughts.  For many this week, however, the glorious contemplation of such emotions and perhaps of the fairer sex in general will be done in the Glass City with a hot dog and an adult beverage at Fifth Third Field. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TFP Column: Toledo - Real Estate Entrepreneur

(Contrary to all logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 07/21/2014.
When the story broke that the City of Toledo might become its own landlord, I immediately offered my services to Toledo Free Press Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller:

“Permit me the time to carefully gather and analyze the facts and figures involved with this situation and I will deliver to you the finest effort that I’ve ever done for the Toledo Free Press.”

Oh sure, setting the bar this low makes the goal far too easily attainable, but I could not let that deter me.

I spent countless hours over endless columns of figures that made little sense to me and would likely have made the most dedicated IRS auditor catatonic. I tirelessly dedicated myself to interpreting market trends that even Donald Trump would find all but impossible to decipher.

Half blind from lack of sleep, nerves jumbled from too much time attempting to live on a diet of coffee and Snickers bars, and terrified by the implications of the material that I had thus far digested, the answer struck me in the wee hours of the morning when I least expected it, like the lightning bolt that struck the jackass in “Sergeant York” (which seemed a strangely appropriate metaphor).

Of course the city should not be permitted to become its own real estate agent and purchase One Government Center. The logic was as simple as it was brilliant; the reasoning as inarguable as it was definitive.

Oh, it was not about decades that showed an unblemished record of abject failure in real estate market speculation under every administration in Glass City history. Such a conclusion could be reached almost intuitively, and a more satisfactory form of closure was required. Speaking of history and failure, however, neither was it about the State of Ohio’s documented history of minimal maintenance over the 30-year-plus history of the building that had aged this 22-story structure far beyond its years and likely put it in a state of disrepair capable of creating one of those “catastrophic and unrecoverable spins” a la Tom Cruise “Top Gun.” (Similar personal experience in the case of my own structure had taught me more than a few tragic lessons in this regard.)

It probably should have been, but wasn’t about the volatility of the Downtown Toledo real estate market during an economic recovery that remains shaky, and where the only ones still apparently making any money are the carpenters putting plywood up in the windows. This is is Toledo (“where you will do better”), where even experienced and savvy gamblers like Larry Dillin and the Chinese, playing their cards close to the vest, have feared to go ‘all in’ with what would normally appear to be winning hands in games like Southwyck or the Marina District.

It wasn’t even about the fact that even by using Common Core math principles (where 2 + 2 = 5 for some values of 2), the numbers never seemed to work out. Even if purchasing the property at a cost of $1, by the time the city completed a “property flip” on this facility that meet all of the current building codes and ADA requirements, it would likely exceed the existing current estimate of $7 million. Add in the consequences of Toledo’s liveable wage, the labor overruns that come with any government project and the inevitable yet-to-be-discovered costs that will only come to light when the project is too far along to turn back on, the real costs of Toledo’s “This Old House” fixer-upper may not only exceed the worst nightmare from this PBS show, but in a worst case scenario could conceivably approach the original $61 million construction cost.

But all of this can be set aside as not being the real reason that Toledo should not become a real estate agent and buy this building. That, in fact, was something that I only discovered late into my research.

As many of you know, government overreach is at an all time high in this nation, with bureaucratic encroachment at every level of government occurring against a largely disinterested electorate. Government in this nation is more powerful, more intrusive and more dangerous than it has even been in its history. The real reason, therefore, that the city should not be permitted this move is … the Blazers.

Government simply cannot be allowed to add to their already formidable arsenal of weapons, the power imbued in those hideously colored, horribly tacky real estate blazers. Equipped with these polyester stormtrooper uniforms, what chance has even an aroused citizenry against them?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

TFP Column: Politicians, Blame and Credit

(Contrary to all logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 07/19/2014.
Politicians and political parties in power are usually concerned with taking credit for anything that improves under their watch — even if they have nothing to do with it, or if that improvement amounts to nothing more than a better way to spin the story than has previously existed. Their political enemies, meanwhile, often see it as their mission in life to discover any deterioration in order to raise the specter of fear with regard to such failure, and to assign blame (political and otherwise) for its occurrence.

Blight, however, is not so much a periodic occurrence as it is a constant condition that ebbs and flows with the economic tide. It exists every single day, and on a bipartisan basis. The party in power may carry the responsibility for how much attention it ultimately garners (or doesn’t), but those in the minority bear an comparable responsibility (if not complicity) for attempting to ignore it for as long as they’re able to.

As for the daily newspaper whose recent efforts have brought so much attention to a subject always there, but often obscured, one cannot help but note a few things. First, that while the issue is an enduring one, the inadequacy of prior coverage on this issue is equally long-standing.   Second, that target identification in this case has been followed by little in the way of proposed solutions. Third, and perhaps more telling (if not self-serving), that interest in drawing attention to the city’s lost prestige seemed important only when its own reputation seemed to be going down faster than the Titanic.

It would be easy therefore (and maybe even a little fun) as someone far from the power base wielded by the current administration, to blame Mayor D. Michael Collins and the current City Council for the blight that exists in Toledo. It would, however, be completely wrong to do so. One might find equally misguided amusement in blaming the previous administrations of  Mike Bell, Carty Finkbeiner, Jack Ford and the often lackluster City Councils for a blight issue that’s been around far longer than any of them have served in office.

Just as local political leaders are not the cause of blight in a city, seldom are their actions likely to provide its solution. Overreacting to any temporary media attention that such stories garner, their traditional ham-fisted methods of over-funded studies and emergency regulations are far more likely to leave the city dealing with the long-term unintended consequences of their ill-conceived notions. Such efforts are in fact more likely to prove themselves a greater affliction than the blight they propose to resolve.

So it is (as Toledo Free Press Publisher Tom Pounds recently pointed out) up to local residents and businesses that the city must look to if any long term change can be hoped for. His  “My Toledo, Buy Toledo” initiative may seem a simple thing and, as he says, “a small start”, but as the saying goes: “Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who decided to stand their ground.”

Mr. Pounds is therefore to be applauded for this effort, not for its grand scope and scale and comprehensive nature, but in fact for being just the opposite. Not only is such a small grassroots effort, without benefit of taxpayer funding, far more likely to succeed, but not having an attention span tied to a news cycle (or an election cycle), it’s far more likely to be sustainable.

This is not to say that elected officials can or should have no part in this effort, and I would certainly hope that all of them will step forward at some point to show their support for what Mr. Pounds has begun. Whether already business leaders in the community or not, there are roles for them to play as simple as that of looking at the City Charter and removing or waiving any regulations that inhibit direct citizen participation in keeping their own neighborhoods up. Really ambitious ones might even show support by participating in such upkeep efforts, especially in their own districts.

Such an effort, even if it initially appears to be largely symbolic in nature, is about to begin in the private sector. Mr. Pounds rightly points out that there is likely “a very long way to go,” even to begin achieving their goals, but as Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

TFP Column: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

(Contrary to logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 4/24/2014.
At the end of the initial sign up period for the Affordable Healthcare Act, the Administration announced that the program had signed 7.1 million people up for health insurance (8 million in numbers released subsequently) and took their own “Mission Accomplished” victory lap. After all, 7 million was the number that the Non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicted would be sold during the initial rollout before even it began, and without discussion as to why, became the benchmark by which both sides measured success.
The right was certainly quick enough to adopt it in the early days, attacking the chances of success after the dismal rollout problems of the web site and the all but epic failure of the federal exchange in the opening months of the sign up period. Subsequent performance, along with the apparent reticence of the government to release numbers on a timely basis, only fueled the confidence of failure in opponents and did little for the morale of supporters.
The left spent just as much time blaming the delays of the initial rollout, if not more, in what some might be considered to be whining attempts to excuse a failure that had yet to occur. Those who continued to assume any air of confidence were made out to be dreamers and losers who refused to face reality.
State Exchanges didn't do all that much to help the situation. While those in New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Washington prospered; websites in Hawaii, Oregon, Maryland, and Vermont fared dismally. The general consensus of those tracking the numbers was that reaching the CBO goal was simply never going to happen.
As the deadline approached, Jay Carney and Kathleen Sebelius put the best face possible on the situation, but prepared us for the worst. The web site was better, traffic was improving, and people were getting insurance, so 'the number' wasn't as important in measuring success of the law.
Once victory had been declared however, the tune changed again. It was all about the number and nothing else. Sure, some still wanted to dispute the accuracy of the numbers released by the Administration, (I know, how could anyone fail to trust numbers released by the federal government?) but they were little more than malcontents.
In spite of the fact that the US Electorate largely has the attention span of a 5 year-old where the details of any story is concerned, these pundits and naysayers still attempt to contest the victory by disputing whether payment has been made (or will continue to be), whether those signing up were those whose insurance was canceled as a result of the law or previously uninsured, or the health and age of those who signed up. Interesting questions perhaps, but only to those tracking statistics in the government fantasy league.
But it was what no one was talking about that was interesting. Benjamin Disraeli is credited with the quote, “There are three types of lies … lies, damn lies, and statistics. Even the most cursory examination of the latter in this case point to a law with numbers that have largely ignored in favor of the 7 million. Speaking of ignored, if 7 million signed up, more than 22 million this year alone ignored the law and failed to sign up. What's more, the same CBO whose numbers awarded the victory to the ACA has now projected numbers going out into the year 2023. They tell us that going out those ten years, there will still be over 31 million people who still won't have health insurance.
If these numbers victory then, perhaps it can only be considered a Pyrrhic one. For those unfamiliar with the term, it comes from Greek King Pyrrhus who in victories over the Romans (280 and 279 BC) suffered such devastating troop losses in his victories that they were little better than defeat.
Then again, perhaps the 'statistics' reported on the ACA and the 'victory' declared by the current Administration require more than simple analysis. Perhaps they require the popular perspective inspired by George Lucas from “Star Wars” (from Episode VI, for the nitpickers); and that the victory declared is true, “... from a certain point of view”.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TFP Column: My Guilty Past

(Contrary to logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 5/05/2014.
I've been thinking about the recent resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich and what it means; not only as a user of this particular search engine, but as someone paying attention to the direction in which the political winds blow. Now for those who somehow missed the story, let's go over the highlights of the story.
Six years ago Mr. Eich, who co-founded Mozilla back in 1998, made a $1000 contribution in support of Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that opposed the legalization of gay marriage in California. Prop. 8 passed by a 52% to 48% margin, but was later overturned in the court system. Since those rulings, gay marriage has resumed in California.
After many years with the company, Mr. Eich was recently named to the position of Chief Executive Office, a position which had been open for over a year. While news of his contribution made the news years ago, the story resurfaced after the promotion was announced, and a firestorm of controversy ensued on social media and within the tech community.
Some initially merely called for Eich's resignation, but soon others went further and called for a boycott of Mozilla. Mr. Eich issued a statement re-affirming his commitment to inclusiveness at the company. The Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, Mitchell Baker, later also issued a statement about the company's continuing commitment to inclusiveness and its support for marriage equality. The damage appeared to have been done however, and Eich resigned his position and left Mozilla on April 3rd of this year; ten days after becoming CEO.
The Free Speech issue of course, is at the heart of this controversy, and it's one that can be appreciated from both sides. Mr. Eich is certainly free to exercise his speech rights in making political contributions. Customers considering use of Mozilla (which is provided free by the way, except for voluntary contributions) are likewise free to use or discard any product from any company for whatever reason they choose.
I can sympathize with Mr. Eich however, who while he apparently had a rather closed definition of what constitutes a marriage in 2008 (the same one the President had at the time), showed no other signs of discriminatory practices against LGBT employees in the workplace. I can likewise sympathize with anyone (in the LGBT community or otherwise), who finds Mr. Eich's opinions on marriage offensive and responds. I do get concerned however, when a single action, years in our past, can have such far-reaching impact on our present and future.
Now, as a Libertarian, I take a somewhat different view on the entire subject of marriage. My concern is not about the respective sexes of those being joined (or the number for that matter), but what business the government has in the process. The fact that one must obtain a license to marry from that government (and pay them for the privilege) is not only offensive, but seems ludicrous in this day and age. It's not as if government stands in as a feudal Lord whose permission must be sought before joining; nor is it a state affair in which inheritance of lands and title may be at stake.
Considering that for those of non-noble lineage, this ceremony was little more than a gathering during which the happy couple jumped over a broomstick together, today's rules and regulations seem almost grotesque. That the rite supposedly being protected from desecration can now not only be legally officiated at by a priest, minister, magistrate, or justice of the peace; but by any mayor, ship's captain or Elvis impersonator with a drive thru lane makes the demand for government certification seem farcical.
I bring all of this up of course, because of my own trepidation over exposure. No, I haven’t been asked to step into a position of greater authority recently, nor do I expect to be at any time soon. Nevertheless, I fear that some crack TFP investigative reporter might choose to 'out' the guilty secret from my own dark past.
No, it's not some contribution to a ballot initiative that would portray me as a homophobe, a racist, or a religious bigot in the last six years that I fear. Growing up in the rarefied political environs of Chicago however and influenced by a Catholic education under the tutelage of a rather dissident clergy during the sixties and early seventies; I'm ashamed to confess that when I was finally able to legally cast my ballot for the first time, I voted Democrat two elections in a row.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

TFP Column: Canceled Commencement

(Contrary to logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 5/25/2014. 
In response to a lunchtime protest by the janitor and groundskeeper at Whatsamatta University, I have canceled my commencement appearance at this extinguished center of higher yearning.

While neither surprised nor disappointed to discover that my opinions are objectionable to some at Whatsamatta U (in fact, I take a certain warped pride that they are), I ultimately decided that such events should be about those graduating (both of them) and not about me.

In spite of the public dissent,  some have told me it’s important I speak, accept the honorary degree that’s been offered, begin to call myself “doctor” publicly and insist that others do so as well, and eventually try to parlay this into a career as a radio or TV talks show host.  I say, however, that an honorary degree is little more than a fancy piece of paper rewarding me for work that I’ve never done and I already get a pay stub for much the same thing every couple of weeks.

Others say that I should damn the naysayers and accept the opportunity to fly halfway across the country (difficult when you live in the middle) in order to say things to an audience smaller than (and soon to be even more impoverished than the titled characters) for “Two Broke Girls.” I say, however, that I have already put in my time in riding these “Greyhounds of the skies” and let me tell you, it’s no longer what it once was. Besides, if I wanted to work for peanuts, I could continue to write freelance columns for the rest of my life.

It appears, however, that I have inadvertently managed to become a member of an ever-growing (and far more credentialed list) of conservatives that have accepted an invitation to speak at a university event somewhere around the nation, only to later cancel said appearance in response to the pathetic whining of a vocal minority protesting the decision to invite them in the first place.
We are told this is a First Amendment issue, which only proves that we appear to be living in an age where the writings of the Founders have been vastly misconstrued by a number of the citizens who live under its freedom. While it’s true that the Constitution guarantees us the right to speak freely, it does so only within certain legal limits. Those limits do not include a protection against there being consequences against anything other than arrest.

Sadly however, it appears that any expression of politically incorrect speech (especially at institutions that in theory exist for the free exchange of ideas) is now likely to cost you everything but your freedom. No longer content with being the PC police, today’s latest group of zealots has a adopted a pose more consistent with that of the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expected).

This is not to say that anyone must like what’s said by someone exercising those First Amendment rights.  It certainly doesn’t mean that you must agree with what they’re saying. It does perhaps mean, however, that a person in this country should be able to be heard out politely without fear of interruption or reprisal.  I remember the Michael Douglas line from the movie “The American President”:

“You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

Now, however, it seems as though every casual remark, every failed joke and certainly every tweet gone wrong are subject to endless scrutiny by a group of sanctimonious hypocrites who celebrate their own free speech by castigating others behind anonymous screen names.  Conservatives face the additional damning change of well … being conservative, and these social media bigots are are more than willing denounce and censure on the basis of that charge alone.

As for my own situation, regardless of my decision not to appear this year at Whatsamatta U, I am resolved to keep the down payment made on the speaker’s fee. Though cancellation means I am no longer be required to deliver my remarks (a boon for which many would gladly pay me), recompense is nonetheless deserved for having completed the difficult task of preparing them in the first place (which you can’t prove I didn’t).  Besides, retention of this honorarium should be just enough to “Super Size” my dinner tonight.