Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

There are a lot of scary things going on these days, and I'm not talking about the ghost and goblins wandering around and attending parties or trick-or-treating.

We've got government takeover of auto industries, banks, insurance companies and - if they are successful - the entire health care industry. We have unelected/unconfirmed individuals in government deciding how much people will be paid and who will get what in bankruptcy settlements as well as what kinds of vehicles Americans want to buy. And they're on the way to telling us what kind of medical coverage we need, how much doctors will be paid to provide it to us and how much we'll be taxed so 'everyone' can have 'everything' for 'free.'

But in spite of all these things, I'm going to focus on handing out candy to kids - and yes, with hubby doing some work for Hershey, it will be KitKats and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (our favs) ... along with Smarties, because they don't melt...and a package of candy corn to keep us company while the kids come and go...

And then tonight, it's up to the SandBar for their end-of-the-year blowout Halloween party ... in costume of course.

So with more than enough real things to scare us, I'm going divert my attention to the more fun things in life. Here are some quotes to get you in the mood for a day of creepiness and hauntings. Enjoy!!!!

"'Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world." ~ William Shakespeare

"One need not be a chamber to be haunted. One need not be a house. The brain has corridors surpassing material place." ~ Emily Dickinson

"Listen to them: the children of the night. What sweet music they make." ~ Vlad Dracula(Dracula)

It's as much fun to scare as to be scared.” ~ Vincent Price

"Once the door is locked, there is no way out. The windows have bars a jail would be proud of, and the only door to the outside locks like a vault." ~ The House on Haunted Hill

"Darkness Falls Across The Land
The Midnite Hour Is Close At Hand
Creatures Crawl In Search Of Blood
To Terrorize Y'awl's Neighbourhood
And Whosoever Shall Be Found
Without The Soul For Getting Down
Must Stand And Face The Hounds Of Hell
And Rot Inside A Corpse's Shell
The Foulest Stench Is In The Air
The Funk Of Forty Thousand Years
And Grizzy Ghouls From Every Tomb
Are Closing In To Seal Your Doom
And Though You Fight To Stay Alive
Your Body Starts To Shiver
For No Mere Mortal Can Resist
The Evil Of The Thriller"

~ Vincent Price in Michael Jackson's Thriller

"She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?" ~ Psycho

Friday, October 30, 2009

We're not in Kansas anymore....

My friend Earl Glynn, who writes at Kansas Watchdog, had a very interesting post about a store that moved 100 feet in order to leave the state of Kansas and go into Missouri - to avoid the higher taxes and more burdensome regulations.

The store was in the enviable position of having the state line through their property, so it was relatively easy to tear everything down on one side and build new on the other.

According to one politician interviewed on the issue, the store could save around $1 million by making the move.

It's not just businesses looking for better opportunities, the state of New York is seeing middle class families leaving in droves.

Despite liberal thinking that says taxes are good, individuals know better. They realize that every tax dollar going to the 'state' (i.e. government of any kind) is a dollar they don't have for the best interests of their families. And people know they can spend their money better than the 'state' can.

So what are people to do? They move. They vote with their feet and they leave places where taxes are high in favor of places where the burden of government is lower.

While many liberals tout the idea that taxes allow governments to 'give' us things, most productive citizens are not the recipients of such 'gifts.' Yes, we all benefit by police and fire and road service, but when you watch your government cut those so they can open swimming pools in the summer, or have Halloween parties and Easter Egg Hunts for kids, or do 'studies' for whatever special interest captures a politician's fancy, you realize that you are 'sacrificing' so others can benefit - and that government has lost its way by taxing for non-essentials while cutting mandated and necessary services.

And then you see the results of elections and realize that faces may change, but the philosophy of the winners is still the same - and that philosophy over the years has led you to the morass your city is in...

So you move. You pick up and leave. You decide that the investment made to date does not outweigh the potential gains in another location. You take your earnings, your property and income taxes, your volunteer hours, your charitable donations, perhaps even your company or business and its jobs, taxes and purchases - and you go where you can make a better living for yourself and your family.

In a 'stuck on stupid' move, politicians recognize this is happening, but they fail to grasp why. Their solution is to compensate for the loss of governmental revenue by imposing higher taxes on those left - until even those left will decide it is too much to bear and leave as well.

The politicians rationalize that fewer people paying taxes (because they left over the high rates) must - obviously - mean more taxes are needed to make up the difference (the rates must need to be even higher yet). They see only the 'loss of revenue' to them - the government - and never comprehend that their actions led to the problem.

It's a vicious cycle to the bottom. But the good news is that at some point, like a drug addict, the city will hit rock bottom and realize that it needs to change. At that point, the people will elect individuals who have a different philosophy of government and maybe, in the long run, the city will regain a small portion of the families and busineses they lost.

The lesson from Kansas is a clear. What do you think Kansas politicians are going to do about this? The same thing as Toledo????

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New health care bill is out!

Well, it's here - the combined House of Representatives health care bill. It's only 1,990 pages and contains the word 'shall' only 3,425 times.

Oh - and it has a separate 13-page bill to repeal the sustainable growth rate caps on Medicare spending ... and it doesn't say how it's going to be paid for ... and it's projected to cost more than $200 billion even though it's called the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

And ... in the age of proclaimed transparency, they checked IDs and prevented some people from attending the press announcement on the bill.

Read it and weep, America!

No on Issues 1 and 3

For many of the same reasons as I oppose Issue 2, I am also against Issues 1 and 3.

Here is the Ohio Issues Report from the Ohio Ballot Board that provides the ballot language for the measures, the actual text of the proposals as well as pros and cons of each one.

Issue 1 would "authorize the state to issue bonds to provide compensation to veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts."

Under the provision:

* The state would issue up to two hundred million dollars ($200,000,000) of bonds to provide compensation to veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq conflicts, and to pay for the administration of the Compensation Bond Retirement Fund and the Compensation Fund.

* The Ohio Department of Veterans Services would provide compensation to persons who have served in active duty in the United States armed forces at any time during the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq conflicts and who were Ohio residents at the start of active duty services and are currently Ohio residents.

So the state of Ohio is going to borrow money to pay out to a certain class of citizen based upon their employment in the U.S. armed forces. This is not for individuals who actually fought in the named conflicts, but for all veterans.

There are many who will say that this is 'the least we can do' for our veterans. But I have a sneaking suspicion that our veterans would not want the state - or its taxpayers and their fellow citizens - to go into debt just to give them cash for their service.

And that's what this measure will do. The state is going to borrow $200 million dollars to pay out to a particular class of Ohio citizens. There is nothing that says where the payments for this loan are going to come from - or whether or not tax incentives or credits on the Ohio Income Tax forms might be a better way of 'compensating' the valiant individuals.

Plus, the maximum amount is only $1,000 per vet. Do we really think $1,000 is going to be 'enough' to express our true gratitude for their service? If $1,000 is a good amount, why not $5,000, or $10,000 or even $25,000? Or is the $1,000 at a total cost of $200 million just what they think voters will approve?

And exactly how much of that $200 million is going to be dedicated to paying for the 'administration' of the bonds and the disbursements? Issue 1 would create another expansion of government, including an expansion of the costs of government.

Additionally, we're still involved in these conflicts, so we really have no idea what the final costs would actually be. Between the unknown number of veterans and the unknown costs of administration, there is no guarantee the final bill will be 'just' $200 million.

It is true that we can never do enough for our veterans, but that is a personal choice and a personal obligation - not a state deciding to borrow money and then tax everyone for the repayments. Besides, do you really think the politicians will be telling our veterans to thank the Ohio people for the 'gift'? Or will they be going around touting what 'they' did to help???

The very noble goal of providing a 'thank you' should be not be done by putting a financially-strapped state into further debt, or by expanding the cost of state government, or by taxing individuals just so politicians can have a point to add to their campaign literature.

If Ohioans really want to help our veterans, volunteer for them. Offer to help a military family clean out their gutters or do other home maintenance and repairs. Offer to drive a vet to the doctor's appointment, take them out to lunch, give them a grocery gift card, visit them when they're in the hospital.

If you want to show your appreciation for their service, YOU do it - personally - in a way that brings honor to you and them.

Vote NO on Issue 1 and take it upon yourself to provide your own 'thank you' for the sacrifices our U.S. armed services have made for our safety.


Issue 3 would amend the state Constitution to allow for one casino each in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo but would distribute the taxes on the casinos to all Ohio counties.

Many people have taken a position on this measure based upon the economic development aspects, the potential revenue to the various jurisdictions or because of the very subject of gambling.

My opposition has nothing to do with the subject matter. I believe that if you want to gamble, the state shouldn't be able to dictate to you about that choice. And while I believe that gambling can be bad - in fact, very, very bad - for some people, it can also be a form of entertainment for those who do it responsibly. Of course, that requires individuals to be responsible - or to suffer the suffer the consequences if they are not.

When it comes to tax revenue and/or economic development, pick your side and you'll find plenty of studies, reports, evaluations, etc...that will reinforce your opinion.

My opposition is to the amending of the state Constitution to carve out a business option for a particular type of business in only a few of the cities in the state.

If there was an amendment to establish plants that make whiskey in certain towns in Ohio with income from taxes distributed throughout the state, would you believe this was a proper use of the Constitution? Probably not...

What if the industry was a Halloween costume maker?

The point is that the 'industry' or specific business is not relevant. What is relevant is maintaining the Constitution as a document that applies to all equally - not one that can be piece-mealed to carve out benefits or exceptions for some.

So regardless of your support or opposition to 'gambling,' I urge you to reject the Constitutional amendment process proposed and vote NO on Issue 3.

*** If you'd like to know what positions other bloggers and media have taken on these issues, be sure to check out the 2009 Ohio Issues page on Ballotpedia.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No on Issue 2

My post opposing Issues 1 and 3.

Issue 2 is a constitutional amendment to create a 13-member Livestock Care Standards Board to prescribe standards for animal care and well-being that endeavor to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food, and protect Ohio farms and families.

Issue 2 - summary, full text and pros and cons begins on page 9 of this link.

It comes as no surprise that groups like the United States Humane Society (USHS) oppose this because, in their words, it doesn't go far enough, while many legislators (Republicans and Democrats) are supporting it.

What does surprise me, however, is the support from traditional 'limited government individuals' - primarily out of fear that more restrictive rules could be enacted if they don't support this measure. Many of these individuals cite what the USHS has done in California - as if Ohioans would really embrace the bankrupt state of California as an example we must follow.

But representatives of the Humane Society said last week that this measure will not prevent them from seeking, through citizen initiative, more restrictive rules if Issue 2 passes. They admitted that passage would make their goal harder to achieve, but they will pursue it anyway.

And then there is the conundrum that supporters will find themselves in if Issue 2 fails - and even if it passes. Having supported one form of government intrusion into the area, they will be hard pressed to oppose any other form. So the idea that they can prevent the USHS standards by creating their own puts them in the position of not having any credibility if they later decide to oppose any USHS-written measure.

So the reasoning presented is basically this: "We need to embrace an expansion of government in order to prevent an expansion of government."

Rather logical isn't it? Of course, the 'logic' falls apart the minute it is reduced to the basic premise.

I oppose Issue 2 based upon two principles - that amending the Constitution of the State of Ohio should not be done, except in the most serious of circumstances; and that a limited government is most desirable.

I reject the idea that a government agency should be enshrined in our state's constitution. The Constitution details such things as the inalienable rights of citizens, the election, replacement and duties of the branches of government and other such details for the organization of the state. It currently requires only a board of education and a ballot board, which is responsible for approving the ballot language for issues to be voted upon.

It does not require any other such boards, so to do so now would be an aberration in our document.

If there is truly such a need for this type of body, why not just make another department within state government? Great question, right?

Well, the answer is because there already is one - the Department of Agriculture which, interestingly, has the ability, per Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 901, to do exactly what this measure purports to accomplish.

So why do we need to amend our Constitution if the ability to implement the proposed idea already currently exists?

Sadly, the proponents of Issue 2 have not explained this. Instead, they are using 'fear' of extreme action by the USHS to encourage support of the measure.

But more importantly, the government of Ohio does not need to be expanded.

I'd oppose such expansion in a good economy, but to create a new board, a new bureaucracy, add new costs and impose new regulations in an already faltering economy makes absolutely no sense.

The state legislature recently voted to 'delay' planned tax cuts because they don't have enough money to balance the budget. As State Auditor Mary Taylor warned, the budget was based upon nearly $5 billion (yes, billion with a 'b') in one-time funds that will not be here in the next biennial budget. So where does anyone think we'll have the funding for another - new - bureaucracy? The simple answer is - we won't.

So either the state will have to cut something else in order to have this new board, or they will have to raise more taxes. Either way, Ohioans will not be happy.

Expansion of government is never a good idea - and this one is no exception.

There are plenty of other reasons to oppose Issue 2, but these are the principled ones. I hope you will vote NO on Issue 2.

*** If you'd like to know where the issues stand in terms of endorsements, be sure to check out the Ohio 2009 issues page on Ballotpedia! Positions taken by bloggers and newspapers are listed.

Conflicts of interest vs. free speech

Maricopa County, AZ, is the talk of the blogosphere today after the County Manager decided he wanted to know who was talking to bloggers.

Apparently, there is a dispute between the Manager/County Supervisors and the County Attorney's office (which is supposed to represent the other elected officials) and, as part of lawsuits between the two, the 'client' wants to know if the 'legal representative' has a conflict of interest.

In order to determine that, the County Manager wants to know if any staff person in the Attorney's office has ever communicated with bloggers, various conservative groups or certain media - under any name, on their time, on any subject.

What they've done, in effect, is drag the public and various constituencies into their internal dispute. In doing so, they are trampling on the First Amendment rights of individuals. Now, I'll be the first to admit that attorneys have special rules when it comes to representing their clients. But if you're the Public Information Officer for the Attorney's office, you're going to have conversations with all kinds of people, including bloggers, as part of your job, so this seems like more political posturing than true concern over potential conflicts of interest.

Blue Collar Muse has more details, but lest you think this is a partisan issue, know that the primary offenders are Republican.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quotes of the Day

"If I want to be free from any other man’s dictation, I must understand that I can have no other man under my control." ~ William Graham Sumner

"For this future emancipation, we have to rule out ideologies that aim at reinforcing the state, the police and controls in general, and at reducing liberty." ~ André Thirion

"Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges."
(The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.)
~ Cornelius Tacitus (55-117 A.D.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday roundup

* Whenever you hear a politician say "revenue enhancements," you need to translate this government speak. "Revenue enhancements" for government mean "income subtraction" for you.

So remember: revenue enhancements = income subtraction.

* Karen Shanahan has a second 'fact-checking' piece on Keith Wilkowski, this time having to do with his record on taxes. It must have attracted some attention because his prior history of voting in favor of tax increases was a key question at the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum.

According to The Blade, Wilkowski 'defended' his vote by saying "the circumstances are totally different."

Mr. Wilkowski was a Lucas County commissioner in 1989 and 1990 and joined a 3-0 vote on Dec. 7, 1989, to raise the county’s portion of the state sales tax from 1 percent to 1.5 percent, which brought the total sales tax to 6.5 percent.

The tax increase, enacted in two 0.25-percent increments — one continuing, one to expire after three years, was overwhelmingly repealed by voters in May, 1990.

Mr. Wilkowski resigned from the board of commissioners later that year to become the city of Toledo law director...

Mr. Wilkowski told the moderator, Blade ombudsman Jack Lessenberry, that “the circumstances are totally different” and that a tax increase now would hasten Toledo’s loss of population.

While it is true that Toledo's population has declined since the 1970s, I don't believe the situations are that different, as Wilkowski says. In both cases the governmental jurisdiction 'needs' the money to pay for the things the politicians believe the public wants.

I would have been more impressed - as would, I believe, many voters - if Wilkowski had said he'd learned the lesson about raising taxes because the tax he voted for was overwhelming rejected by voters.

But he didn't. He justifies an action contrary to his current words by saying 'it's different.'

Karen also has a post with Wilkowski's complete answer on the tax question as well as some questions of her own. I'm very glad that Karen has done these fact-checking posts because it's clear the local paper and televisions stations aren't going to bother.

* A failure to implement planned tax decreases is an increase. There is no way politicians can get around this fact. When the Ohio House voted to 'delay' the planned roll-back of taxes, they increased the tax burden for all of us. It's just like politicians (Republicans and Democrats) to decide that they need your money more than you do.

* This article about a park being considered for designation as one of the darkest places on earth caught my eye. In the late '80s, Sam and I did a trip to the Bahamas during his spring break. Along with several friends, we chartered a sailboat and ended up at the Northwestern tip of Great Guana Cay in a delightful bay just where the island is the most narrow.

This was the first time I'd been anywhere 'remote' and that first night anchored in paradise, I wanted the sun set and then went down below to help fix dinner. Shortly, though, it was pitch dark and Sam called me on deck to see the sky.

I'd never seen so many stars in my entire life and I was awestruck. I kept saying, "I know there are billions and billions (yes, in Carl Sagan imitation for he was big at that time) of stars out there, but I never realized just what that would look like." I could even see the Milky Way, though at first I thought it was just some high, thin clouds blocking the view.

So, I can only imagine what the sky looks like at night in Gallaway Forest Park. Interestingly, the only two places currently designated this dark are Natural Bridges, Utah, and Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Guest hosting on WSPD

I'll be filling in for Brian Wilson this afternoon from 3-6 p.m. on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD. If you're not in the listening area, you can listen live on the Internet.

Accordingly, I'm saving up all the things I'd blog about so I'll have plenty to talk about on air.

It's 'Fishing Line Friday,' where callers can set the topics, so I hope you'll join me!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

DeMint to offer constitutional amendment on term limits

NetRightNation has the text of the podcast from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) on his plan for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits in Congress.

"Fifteen years ago, Republicans -- who had been out of power in Congress for forty years – made term limits a centerpiece of their “Contract with America” agenda.

The term limits constitutional amendment ultimately failed, in part because so many new reform-minded congressmen imposed term limits on themselves. After six or eight years, these members voluntarily went home, leaving behind those Republicans and Democrats who fully intended to make a career inside the beltway.

The fact is, party doesn’t matter when it comes to reform. If you want to change the policies, you have to change the process.

That’s why in the next few weeks I will introduce a new constitutional amendment to limit members of the House of Representatives to three terms (which is six years), and members of the Senate to two terms (which is twelve years)."

Full story is here.

UPDATED! Carty is right - again

UPDATE: Toledo Finance Director John Sherburne has issued a letter to city council regarding the debt proposal. The letter is below Carty's at the bottom of this post.

Original post:

I know, I know - it doesn't happen often, but when it does, we need to acknowledge it.

Yesterday, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner sent a letter to City Council objecting to the transfer of Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) funds into the general fund to pay for interest on the loan taken out to purchase garbage trucks and cans. (The letter is below.)

I explained yesterday how council had no plan for meeting the obligation they were making and paying for the debt they approved for this purchase, but I did not address the fact of the ballot measure - which is how we got the available funds in the first place.

Hoping to get voter approval to take money out of CIP to pay for police and fire, the council 'set-aside' roughly $3.9 million and did not allocate it any capital improvements. They put the question to the voters as Toledo Issue 1 and called it the 'Safety First' plan.

But the voters said no - and it wasn't even close (54% to 46%).

Carty's letter rightly points out that voters don't want money diverted from the CIP to cover general fund expenditures - and that's what Councilman Joe McNamara's plan for the garbage truck payment would do.

As Carty states, the voters didn't want the city to move those funds around - even for such critical services as police and fire. So why would council even remotely consider moving the money for garbage trucks?

"We are elected by the citizens and work for the citizens. In case of a city-wide vote initiative, Council and the Mayor should respect the voters decision.
I am uncomfortable, at the very least, in going against the will of the voters who spoke to us on September 15."

And he's right. The citizens have instructed their employees on council that CIP funds are not to be transferred - and council needs to follow those instructions.

However, knowing this council, I'm afraid they'll think they know better and will vote to use those CIP funds. This would allow them to avoid making the difficult decisions of cutting government spending. And when given an easy versus a hard choice, they'll take the easy way out.

Just remember, five of these people are up for election. If you expect to have better decisions on city council, you MUST vote for people who don't embrace these perspectives.

Here is the mayor's letter - you can click on it for a larger image:

Letter from John Sherburne to Toledo City Council raising concerns about the city's debt limit, the identified plan for payment of the loan for the garbage trucks and cans and a 'reality check' for the claim that McNamara's plan will somehow help the 2009 deficit - you can click on it for a larger image:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There was no plan

Toledo City Council and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner have debated, for what seems like years, the issue of garbage collection. Questions of whether or not to automate the process, contract it out, purchase new trucks, purchase cans for the citizens, what to do with the workers who have a contract that requires the city to find them other jobs if they automate....and all the myriad of follow-up issues that go along with any potential answer have been discussed.

I've been a proponent of contracting out the service because it would save me (and everyone else in the city) money. That's just a no-brainer.

The politicians, however, did not agree and in February voted to issue $9.6 million in debt for new trucks and garbage cans.

Many people asked how the city was going to actually pay for this new debt, considering the financial situation of the city, facing - still - about an $8 million debt for 2009, and as much as a $25 million deficit for 2010.

My question revolved around the difference in costs between subcontracting the service versus automation. I've still not seen a fiscal analysis of the two options and doubt one even exists.

Today we find out the truth - council had no plan for how the city was going to cover the costs of this purchase. They were just going to 'hope' that the money would be there, despite knowing that they couldn't meet current obligations, much less a new one.

So what are they going to do? Scramble for funds.

According to law, approved by the voters, a portion of the 'temporary' 3/4% payroll income tax goes directly into the CIP to fund various long-term projects in the city, like roads and major purchases. Often, the (correct) decision has been to issue notes or bonds for those purposes and pay the debt from the CIP. Additionally, the city has placed a restriction on itself that not more than 90% of the amount transferred from the 3/4% tax each year can go toward debt payments. This allows other projects to also be covered while keeping the city from incurring too much debt.

Now Joe McNamara wants to use the CIP to pay for the debt for the new trucks and cans. (Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle has the press release.) Except that using these CIP funds for this purpose requires council to waive their 90% limit on debt.

From today's paper:

Mr. McNamara wants to use most of the money to pay 2010 debt-service costs for the purchase of automated trash trucks and containers.

He said the plan would cut the city's $7.8 million deficit by $2.5 million.
Mr. McNamara said it would be fiscally smart to go ahead with the plan and waive the policy, because the debt for the trash trucks and containers has been issued.

See? We'll just use CIP funds to make the first payment because we have no money in the general fund to cover our obligation...and look! By making this decision, we've cut our deficit!!! Aren't we smart!

This is the equivalent of taking out a loan to purchase a new boat when you can't make your mortgage payments - and then deciding to spend money out of your savings to cover the boat payment. That's really smart, isn't it?

So we're left with only one conclusion: city council made a decision to purchase items and had no plan for how to pay for them.

Well, perhaps that's not quite right. They planned to pay the debt, but didn't look at what other items would have to be cut in order to make that payment because there is only so much money available - and all of it is spoken for.

In fact, they've got more expenses than revenue - which they KNEW - but decided to add to the expenses anyway!

So the plan that will probably pass at next Tuesday's council meeting will be to waive their 90% limit on debt payments out of CIP and use those funds to cover the debt for the new garbage trucks and the new cans (because, you know, we just can't be trusted to purchase our own cans so we have to have government do it for us - and charge us more than we'd pay otherwise).

These people did not think. They didn't follow through on the implications of the purchase to get to the point of actually paying for it. They were well aware of the current deficit and the projected future one. They were well aware of the decline in revenues - and the potential that lost revenues would never return. They were well aware of the fact that the city was having trouble meeting every day obligations without adding even most costs.

And they put us another $9.6 million in debt anyway.

Remember - Joe McNamara, Phil Copeland, George Sarantou, and Steve Steele are up for election in November. Do you really want 'more of the same' when it comes to these kinds of financial decisions being made on your behalf?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meteors expected from Halley's Comet debris


METEORS FROM HALLEY'S COMET: Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Halley's Comet, and this is causing the annual Orionid meteor shower. If forecasters are correct, the shower will peak on Wednesday morning, Oct. 21st, with dozens of meteors per hour. The best time to look is during the dark hours before local dawn.

For the past three years, Orionid rates have been unusually high, with reports of 60 or more meteors per hour. Researchers believe this is a result of some very old and rich debris from Comet Halley drifting across Earth's orbit. Computer models of the debris suggest that it is still in the neighborhood, so the trend of "good Orionids" could continue in 2009. Visit for photos and updates.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Toledo government's 'loss' is taxpayers' gain

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is at it again with a 'letter' to both mayoral candidates and Toledo City Council, chastising them for not 'raising revenues' for the city. (see bottom of post for the three-page letter)

He again cites his proposed increase in the trash tax and the elimination of reciprocity for payroll income taxes paid to other jurisdictions as 'revenue' the city should be collecting.

But the perversion of thought that passes for logic in Toledo politics is most evident in this statement from the letter:

"Our refuse fee is one of the lowest in Michigan and Ohio - $8.50 per month if you don't re-cycle (stet) and $1.00 per month if you do. We lost $8.4 million this year because it is so low."(emphasis added)

I'll skip over the whole point that our payroll taxes are supposed to pay for this service and the 'refuse fee' is over and above those payments. I'll also skip over his hyphenation of the word 'recycle' - and even the mention of Michigan prior to Ohio.

Let's look at the perspective Carty has with his claim that "we lost $8.4 million." Just who is the 'we'? He clearly means the city bureaucracy because he certainly isn't referring to the taxpayers.

And he considers the lack of imposition of additional taxation a 'loss.' Now, that may be true in terms of the government. However, he fails to see the reality of the situation in that failure to pass this additional tax meant the residents of Toledo 'saved' $8.4 million. Those who would have been taxed actually kept all that money to themselves.

And what happened to that money? Well, we spent it - on items we needed like food, mortgages, utilities, college educations or even amenities that helped our local economy. Or perhaps we saved the money, putting it into a bank account and providing a resource for a longer-term goal - or even assets upon which the bank could base lending to others.

This is a really terrific thing for the taxpayers and for our local economy. Rather than turning over the money to government, we kept it and used it for our own purposes.

Carty, instead of complaining that the city 'lost' something it had no right to, should be advertising how much 'extra' residents of this city had as a result of the failure to implement an additional tax.

But Carty, the local paper and the members of council who support this taxation see only one side of the coin: additional money from us that they don't have to play with.

And they conveniently fail to address the 'what if' when it comes to the trash tax: what if they lose a lawsuit over whether or not their so-called fee is, indeed, a tax and implemented illegally? If they lose that case, they'll have to repay what they've collected to date. Where will that money come from and how much more in debt will the city be then? Well, let's not even think of that, they must be saying to themselves.

Toledoans are fed up with the way this government is spending our money - continuing to fund studies and non-essentials while cutting police and other required services. They say there's no where else to cut, but we obviously don't believe them because we see them spending money on such frivolousness as life insurance coverage for themselves and other non-mandatory items they justify with the 'it's only' logic.

But the bigger problem in all this is the perverted reasoning and perspective that permeates the halls of One Government Center: that forcibly taking more of your money (at any time, but especially in a down economy) is somehow 'good' for you, while the opposite - you keeping your own money - is somehow a 'loss' for government and a really terrible thing for the city.

We have an election on November 3rd. Do we have the courage to elect people who believe that government's 'loss' is, indeed, the taxpayers' gain?

Or will we just elect the same old names and philosophies that got us into this mess in the first place?

The letter:

Shanahan fact-checks Wilkowski's JEDZ claim

Local blogger Karen Shanahan has gotten into the 'fact-checking' field by actually researching a specific claim of Toledo mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski regarding his involvement in a JEDZ between Toledo, Monclova and Maumee.

She finds the claim 'wanting' - or maybe 'exaggeration,' or even 'lie,' might be a better term.

Another example of bloggers doing what our main stream media don't.

Keep up the good work, Karen!

Quotes of the Day

"The [classical] liberal, of course, does not deny that there are some superior people -- he is not an egalitarian -- but he denies that anyone has authority to decide who these superior people are." ~ Fredrich August von Hayek

"The essential characteristic of Western civilization that distinguishes it from the arrested and petrified civilizations of the East was and is its concern for freedom from the state." ~ Ludwig Von Mises

"It used to be the boast of free men that, so long as they kept within the bounds of the known law, there was no need to ask anybody's permission or to obey anybody's orders. It is doubtful whether any of us can make this claim today." ~ Fredrich August von Hayek

"The fundamental principle is this: No matter how worthwhile an end may be, if there is no constitutional authority to pursue it, then the federal government must step aside and leave the matter to the states or to private parties. The president and Congress can proceed only from constitutional authority, not from good intentions alone. If Congress thinks it necessary to expand its powers, the Framers crafted an amendment process for that purpose. But too often, rather than follow that process, Congress has disregarded the limits set by the Constitution and gutted our frontline defense against overweening federal government." ~ Robert A. Levy

"Can the real Constitution be restored? Probably not. Too many Americans depend on government money under programs the Constitution doesn't authorize, and money talks with an eloquence Shakespeare could only envy. Ignorant people don't understand The Federalist Papers, but they understand government checks with their names on them." ~ Joseph Sobran

Saturday, October 17, 2009

No thanks, Toledo City Council - I can make up my own mind on Issue 3

As an elected official, I tried not to use my elected position in support of or against specific ballot measures.

As a commissioner, part of my job was to vote on placing levies on the ballot. While there were times I voted in favor of the public having their say on existing measures, many times I voted against attempts to tax the people further.

But when it came to state issues or non-county-wide levies or even votes on precinct liquor sales, I advocated against the Board of County Commissioners taking a position - as a body. I certainly had my personal opinions, as did my fellow commissioners, but I did not support passing resolutions urging people to vote one way or another.

Unfortunately, Toledo City Council does not share that view. Outside of ballot measures within their control (like the 3/4% payroll tax), they routinely weigh in on all sorts of issues whether Toledoans want them to or not.

This week, they held a Committee of the Whole meeting to hear from proponents and opponents of Issue 3 (starting at page 12 of the link) - the constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in certain cities in Ohio. Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle has a comprehensive post detailing the discussion at the meeting if you'd like more information on the measure.

But Issue 3 is not the point of this post. I don't mind that City Council held a committee hearing on the subject, but I do object to the elitism on display at council that makes these elected individuals believe they need to tell people how to vote.

From The Blade news story:

During the face-off yesterday, Councilmen Lindsay Webb and Betty Shultz both said they would support a resolution urging passage of Issue 3.

"I think this issue is of serious consequence for our community, and it is right for City Council to express itself on this issue," Ms. Webb said. "I think this is an issue we can't sidestep and be neutral on."

If Lindsay feels this way, she is certainly capable of holding a press conference to express her personal support for the issue. I'm certain the proponents would LOVE to show up for that and help publicize her personal opinion on the measure. And expressing a personal opinion would allow her to not 'sidestep and be neutral' on the matter.

But there is no need for Toledo City Council - as a body - to take any action whatsoever. The position of members of council on this issue is not indicative of the position of the city. That can only be determined by the actual vote in November.

Also from the paper:

Councilman George Sarantou - a strong Issue 3 supporter - raised the point of how elected officials would explain to their constituents why they would turn their backs on a potential windfall from casino gambling when several neighboring states have legalized casinos.

Actually, George, we're more interested in how you turned your back on the taxpayers by supporting an increased tax for garbage pickup.

We're also wondering why, as chairman of the finance committee, you've not done more to challenge the budget assumptions of the mayor - assumptions which continually prove wrong.

Or to use historical data to challenge the estimates.

Or to seriously question huge increases in certain line items without explanation - like for red-light cameras.

Or why the city increases revenue line items by a set percentage despite logic telling you that a $10 fee which nets $400 in income is not going to generate $12 more simply because the budget says so.

Or why city council continues to spend money it does not have on amenities while pushing necessities aside.

By the way - how much did this 'hearing' cost us when we have a budget deficit still unaddressed???

These are the things your constituents want explained.

Besides, we already know the penchant of Toledo City Council to grasp at any potential income, so the inevitable support of potential income from Issue 3 is a no-brainer to us.

The idea that city council members are somehow more knowledgeable about what is good or bad for the city is something only council members seem to accept. As members of council, these fellow citizens are supposed to representatives for us, though lately they're more like dictators than employees.

The assumption that the body of council needs to tell us how to vote on an issue is highly presumptuous. What council should remember is that the voters they believe need to be told how to vote on Issue 3 are the same ones who were capable of casting a vote for them.

(Side note: some would say that's proof, in and of itself, that said voters need to be told how to vote, considering that the voters continue to elect the same people over and over again despite the definition of stupidity.)

But if you 'trust' the voters to select you as their representative on council, you should also 'trust' them enough to make a decision about ballot issues without the council dictating what that decision should be.

Go ahead, if you want, and express your own opinion. But stop using the authority and stature of the Council to tell us what you think is good or bad for us. We already have enough of that coming from Washington - we don't need it from Government Center as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Parents still know more than their children

When I was in the third grade, I told my parents that I didn't need to go to school anymore. I said that I knew how to read and write, add, subtract, multiply and divide and, with that knowledge, I didn't need to actually report to school every day.

I wasn't stupid enough to think I didn't have more to learn, I just thought I could do it on my own without showing up in a classroom. Being 8, though, I didn't think about how I would gain the further education I needed - I just didn't want to go to school. My parents were not persuaded and I did continue my education at Edgewater Elementary.

Parents will tell you that children always think they 'know better,' especially when in the teenage years. But having been children themselves (I know - it's still hard to believe), parents always knew that wasn't exactly true.

Except that, today, the message that children know more than parents is permeating our culture ... through advertising.

I've seen several commercials where kids are reading information on the Internet about their parents' medical condition and telling them to go see their doctor about some new medication.

There may be some validity to this scenario in that many children are more Internet savvy than their parents, but whatever happened to parents teaching children about how to be discriminating in terms of the information they read? I certainly remember my parents telling me that you can't believe everything that's written down, just because it's written down.

While questioning the tactic of having kids advising parents about medical research, along comes a Sears commercial using a child to influence a parent on the purchase of appliances.

In the ad, a father comes into the Sears store and tells the sales clerk that a bunch of people (who are pictured behind him) have told him he needs to get a new energy efficient washer and dryer. Included in that group of people are his local anchorman and his daughter. There is then a close-up of the daughter holding a picture of a polar bear and looking sad. The daughter says something about 'remember the polar bears, Dad.'

The premise that man-made global warming is a threat to polar bear populations is tenuous, at best. One of the original reports on which such 'science' is based is not accepted by all. Furthermore, forecasting scientists say the U.S. Geological Survey reports on which the polar bear 'endangered' status were based are "critically flawed."

Professor J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School says, “To list a species that is currently in good health as an endangered species requires valid forecasts that its population would decline to levels that threaten its viability. In fact, the polar bear populations have been increasing rapidly in recent decades due to hunting restrictions. Assuming these restrictions remain, the most appropriate forecast is to assume that the upward trend would continue for a few years, then level off.

“These studies are meant to inform the US Fish and Wildlife Service about listing the polar bear as endangered. After careful examination, my co-authors and I were unable to find any references to works providing evidence that the forecasting methods used in the reports had been previously validated. In essence, they give no scientific basis for deciding one way or the other about the polar bear.”
Prof. Armstrong and his colleagues concluded that the most relevant study, Amstrup et al. properly applied only 15% of relevant forecasting principles and that the second study, Hunter et al. only 10%, while 46% were clearly contravened and 23% were apparently contravened.

Further, they write, the Geologic Survey reports do not adequately substantiate the authors’ assumptions about changes to sea ice and polar bears’ ability to adapt that are key to the recommendations.

Therefore, the authors write, a key feature of the U.S. Geological Survey reports is not scientifically supported.

The consequence, they maintain, is significant: The Interior Department cannot use the series of reports as a sound scientific basis for a decision about listing the polar bear as an endangered species.

But despite the valid scientific questions regarding the existence of man-made global warming, this commercial shows a parent making a major purchase based upon a child's unfounded fear for an animal.

There's another issue in the commercial when the clerk says that the amount of money saved in energy costs could pay for the dryer over time. The father turns to the group and asks, 'why didn't you tell me that?' The response is for the anchorman to repeat the claim - as if that makes it true.

I suppose an adult could be forgiven for expecting that 'facts' reported on the news by anchormen have been checked for validity and that both sides of an argument are presented. However, we know that such expectations often go unfulfilled in this day and age.

Children, however, are gullible - believing many things told to them without the experience and training to think critically about the issue. Why would a parent fork out between $900 and $3,300 for a washer and dryer based upon a child's indoctrination?

For that's exactly what this is. Children are not taught in school to think critically anymore. They're not taught to question, research and then evaluate. They're told what 'is' and then told to tell their parents the same things.

And what they're told is having an impact. In a poll done earlier this year:

One out of three children aged 6 to 11 fears that Ma Earth won't exist when they grow up, while more than half—56 percent—worry that the planet will be a blasted heath (or at least a very unpleasant place to live)...
On a sliding scale of anxieties, minority kids have it worst; 75 percent of black children and 65 percent of Hispanic children believe that the planet will be irrevocably damaged by the time they reach adulthood.
28 percent say that they fear animals, such as polar bears and penguins, will become extinct and disappear from the planet more than any other environmental concern.
59 percent of kids in metro areas are more concerned that the Earth won’t be as good a place to live when they grow up compared to non-metro kids (47 percent).

Most parents would be shocked by what this poll discovered and then do everything they could to reassure their children that such fears are not founded. That's what parents do. Allowing children to influence major purchasing decisions based upon said fears is ridiculous and certainly not conducive to the reassuring role parents are supposed to play.

While I take exception to such commercials, I don't think the problem is the advertising company that put it together nor even the company that paid for it.

The problem is the parents. Rather than take the time to research issues and provide perspective to their children, many often just 'give in.'

Children should be included in discussions about major purchases - not so much so they can influence the decision, but so they can learn how and why such decisions are made. Parents should explain the need for a new appliance; discuss the capacity or amenities that are necessary to meet the needs of the family; talk about what is 'necessary' versus what is 'desirable' in the product; and, especially, explain the family's budget - including what other purchases are sacrificed in order to acquire the 'needed' item.

Children, by hearing and participating in such discussions will learn how to make similar decisions on their own. And, in doing so, will learn to base their own decisions on reason and logic - not just emotion, like the advertisers would like.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TOBAL-itis infects Toledo

No - it's not related to Swine Flu - but it's as infectious and as insidious as any physical disease...

Cato Institute has a terrific article, "There's No Way to Enforce a Texting While Driving Ban," explaining the illness and it's a must-read for all Toledoans ... well, everyone else, too.

Forget flu season. Several times per year, America comes down with a national case of TOBAL-itis.

TOBAL is short for "There Oughtta Be a Law." Here's the progression of symptoms: Wrenching anecdotes about the effects of some alleged new trend make national news. A panic takes root in the media. Earnest editorialists scrawl urgent pleas for action. Politicians grandstand. Soon enough, we have our new law or regulation. It doesn't matter if the law is enforceable or may have unintended consequences. Nor does it matter if the law will have any actual effect on the problem it was passed to address. In fact, it doesn't even matter if the problem actually exists. The mere feeling that it exists is sufficient.

And so it goes with the panic over texting while driving.

As author Radley Balko explains, "...we need to get over the idea that we can solve every bad habit with a new law. We can't, and this issue illustrates why."

Because, as he documents, despite the increase in cell phone usage, traffic fatalities and accidents have dropped. Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle even has a post about Lucas County getting traffic safety grants where the press release from the state touts this fact in Ohio:

In the past three years, Ohio roadway fatalities have decreased to near record lows. There were 1,191 fatalities on Ohio roads in 2008, down from 1,257 in 2007 and 1,239 in 2006.

So why, exactly, do we need a law?

Balko also raises a point I've made in the past about other things that are just as distracting:

There are countless other driver distractions that we'd never think of banning, from having kids in the back seat, to eating or drinking while driving, to fumbling with the radio. Certainly, it's foolish to type out text messages behind the wheel, but what about merely reading from your phone?

Are you more impaired following MapQuest directions from your Palm Pre while driving than reading them from a sheet of paper? What if you're looking at a GPS navigation device that's only slightly larger than your cellphone? What if the GPS system is on your cellphone?

He also wonders how to enforce the law:

Maryland just passed a texting ban, but state officials are flummoxed over how to enforce it. The law bans texting while driving but allows for reading texts, for precisely the reasons just mentioned. But how can a police officer positioned at the side of a highway tell if the driver of the car that just flew by was actually pushing buttons on his cellphone and not merely reading the display screen? Unless a motorist is blatantly typing away at eye level, a car would need to be moving slowly enough for an officer to see inside, focus on the phone, and observe the driver manipulating the buttons. Which is to say the car would probably need to be stopped — at which point it ceases to be a safety hazard.

But let's say you're OK with a ban on reading cellphone messages, too. How would you write that law? Would you prohibit so much as a glance in the general direction of a cellphone while driving? Should we mandate that cellphones be stored out of the driver's sight while the car isn't in park? What about other things that might distract him from the road, like navigation systems? Shiny objects? Pretty girls in the passenger seat? How would you prove a driver was looking at a cellphone and not something near it?

How, indeed? And if the person challenges the citation in court, with no way to prove the crime, the case will be dismissed ... resulting in a waste of everyone's time, money and effort.

Balko hits the nail on the head with his conclusion:

These laws aren't about safety; they're about symbolism.

Here are two things these bans will do: They'll give police officers another reason to pull people over, and they'll bring in revenue for the municipalities that aggressively enforce them. I think both are arguments against a ban. You may disagree, but the one thing these bans aren't likely to do is make the roads much safer. And if they won't accomplish that, there's no reason to enact them.


Which is why Toledo will probably enact the law, despite the logic and reason of not doing so. But then, that would require our city council members to actually think about and consider these points, which I doubt most of them will do. They'll be too busy claiming credit for 'making us safe,' destroying our liberty along the way.

Random thoughts on a rainy day

* Average temperatures for this time of year in Toledo are around 62 degrees. Highs of 45 just don't add up - I sure could use some of that global warming 'believers' are always talking about.

Oh - and I use the term 'believers' as the opposite of 'deniers' since the whole global warming movement is so much like a religion it isn't funny.

And please don't start in on 'it's now climate change.' Having been on the wrong side of global cooling in the '70s and the wrong side of global warming in the '00s, they had to change the name just to remain relevant.

Yes, the climate of the earth does warm and cool. As I've said too many times already, if it didn't we'd still have glaciers in Toledo, rather than just the grooves they left (evidenced on the Lake Erie Islands)'s just that man's impact on those cycles is minimal at best, and certainly not enough to justify billions and trillions of spending to try to influence it by a mere fraction of a degree.

Okay - next rant...

* Maine Senator Olympia Snowe voted in favor of the latest Senate bill (summary, actually) to put government even more in control of our health care. I've seen her described as 'the lone Republican,' an 'influential Republican' and a 'maverick' for this vote. While that may be the way the media and leftists want to see her, I can assure you that the 'average Republican' (if there is such a thing - in either party), is convinced that she is not exhibiting the core principles of the Republican Party - and is influential only in the amount of animosity her vote will generate among true conservatives.

Don't misunderstand my position on this - the GOP has a big tent and has room for varying positions. What makes us a party is adherence to the basic, core principles we profess to support. No one who supports this bill can say they are also supporting the core principles of the party.

If you don't believe and adhere to those core principles, why are you a member of the party in the first place? And if your votes on a fairly consistent basis contradict those core principles, why the pretense?

Hopefully, she'll find more to object to in whatever the final version of the bill will be and it will fail.

* I'm concerned over the actions of various groups in what should be private transactions. There are the local issues with the Manhattan Kroger store and the South Side YMCA, and now the national issue with Rush Limbaugh wanting to be a part owner of the St. Louis Rams.

In all cases, individuals who are not part of the transaction believe they have the ability to dictate what should/should not happen. While patrons of an establishment have an interest in the outcome, they have no authority in dictating terms - or, at least, they shouldn't have.

But that's not what's happening. In the local issues, the people believe they are 'entitled' to the services no matter what the cost to the provider. (Does this sound like the health care scenario???)

The YMCA and Kroger locations are losing money and cannot be sustained. But individuals interested in both cases have expressed the sentiment that the providers should continue to lose money on the specific endeavors because it's for the 'greater good.' Even city officials have gotten into the mess by insisting that because the company has received tax incentives or other types of support, they 'owe' the city and must do what a handful of citizens demand.

In the national issue, it has more do with hatred of an individual's opinions, despite the fact that those opinions really don't have anything to do with football. Because they dislike the individual and disagree with what he says, they don't want him to be able to participate in a free market.

Sadly, in all these instances, the targets have given in - even if only partially. The Kroger store offered free transportation to other locations (though that's not been utilized as much as Kroger had expected) and free delivery of prescriptions. The YMCA delayed their decision to see if the surrounding community was willing to put their money where their mouths are and purchase enough memberships to keep the location open. Today, the Rams said they're no longer interested in having Limbaugh be a part of the organization.

This bodes ill for our future, when political pressure becomes the standard by which business decisions are made. I'm not advocating that companies and organizations ignore the public relations aspects of their decisions - that would be stupid. But when the personal preferences of a small group of individuals have the ability to negatively impact the investments of shareholders and owners, we have moved away from the capitalistic system that brought us the success we have today.

Of course, that may be the end goal...and that's what has me more concerned - that these recent examples are only the beginning.

Government tyranny in wake of Toledo bar shoot out

I picked up my Mom and Dad at the airport last night after their trip visiting my brother in Portland, OR. They asked what was going on in Toledo and said they saw the news story about the bar fight/shoot out .... in Portland ... and in Seattle ... on the national news.

They were surprised that no one was killed and said the video was pretty amazing.

I'll admit that I didn't watch it and only saw the headlines of the story. While a shootout is a bit unusual, even in Toledo, shootings at bars are a relatively normal event - happening periodically and getting just a blurb in the media.

At least that was our discussion, which then turned to talk about the inevitable push to outlaw guns. Of course, the fact that these individuals were breaking a law just having guns in a liquor establishment in the first place doesn't seem to phase the people who want more government control on this issue. If said individuals didn't mind breaking the law by the possession of the guns, what makes anyone - in their right mind - think that outlawing the guns would have made any difference?

And just how many of those guns in that shootout do you think were legally obtained in the first place?

Of course Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, ignorant in his analysis and clamoring for publicity, immediately started talking about shutting down this establishment and blaming the owner for not checking the patrons for guns before they came in.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the owner showed a lack of appreciation for the dangerous mix of alcohol and weapons and said a message has to be sent.

"The owner should have had the common sense if he cared about his establishment to pay attention to whether patrons were coming onto the premises with weapons in their belts, weapons in their pockets, weapons in their coats and shirt pockets," the mayor said.

Did you get that??? The mayor thinks the owner should frisk his patrons to be sure they're not committing the crime of possession.

Don't for a minute think this is just 'Carty being Carty' and brush off his comments. I predict that, in the near future, you'll see all kinds of gun-ban groups pushing for laws that require bars to have metal detectors at the door.

Stranger things have been known to happen - especially in Toledo where the politicians think owners of properties are to blame for laws that others break and end up paying settlements in lawsuits over the issue.

And, in typical over-reaction and righteous indignation, the mayor is going to "use every tool open to him, including health and nuisance inspectors," to make sure the bar is closed.

"Even though an incident might have been an isolated incident, this was a very violent, potentially hurtful incident that cannot be tolerated," he said.(emphasis added)

Talk about government tyranny! The mayor is promising to bring the full force of a municipal government to bear against a business owner because some idiot patrons did something illegal.

And note that no one was hurt! He doesn't react this way when someone is killed in a shooting - why now? Because it made national news?

The mayor's chief of staff, Robert Reinbolt, who doubles as city safety director, wore a large gold badge on his jacket pocket and made a statement saying, "This is a safety issue and we're going to do everything we can to make sure the issues are addressed and we don't have these problems occurring again."

Maybe the solution isn't to go after the business owner, but to eliminate unnecessary spending (like Reinbolt's shiny new badge) elsewhere in the city so we can bring back our laid off police officers and do increased patrols. What a thought!

Now, I realize that no amount of police officers or laws is going to prevent someone from possessing a gun illegally and using it. But increased patrols are going to be far more effective than shutting down this one business.

If this bar closes, those patrons will just go elsewhere - and take their illegal activity with them.

Finkbeiner disagrees:

The mayor also rejected the suggestions of some that his layoffs of 75 police officers last May - 60 of whom have since returned to work - contributed to the outbreak of violence. He noted that there was a riot in North Toledo four years ago and that was not blamed on a lack of police.

That riot he references? That was when the Nazis came to Toledo and some of our citizens reacted badly to the situation, destroying their own neighborhood. It is certainly not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Fortunately, it seems as if common sense prevails among the neighbors:

"This is mostly everybody's favorite spot, and they have good food, too," Ms. Otto said.
"He always tries to keep things down. He looks out for his customers," Mr. Haney said. "Anytime you are running a business you can't tell who's walking in off the street."
"Cut the guy some slack. He's struggling like the rest of us to keep his business going," Mr. Malczewski said.

Unfortunately, I have no faith that such common sense will prevail in the halls of government.

But I do have faith that Carty will keep his promise to use the full force of government to make an example in this 'isolated incident.'

Sadly, though, that example will expand government tyranny and end up doing more to enforce the 'not business friendly' attitude of Toledo government than it will to increase safety in the city.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Birthday U. S. Navy!

Today is the birthday of the United States Navy and in honor of those who have served (including my Dad, my brother and my father-in-law) and those who still do, here are some photos I took of the Navy Memorial in Washington D.C.

The flags:

The center of the circular memorial with a map of the world:

The statue of the sailor:

One of the many quotes engraved along the facing of the waterfall - this one from Comm. Oliver Hazard Perry who defeated the British in Lake Erie:

The plaques honoring the various divisions of the Navy and the other waterfall with fountains:

Thank you to all the sailors for all they do to keep us safe - and Happy Birthday!

What you get for the money

With apologies to HGTV and their show of the same name, here's a terrific article about ACORN and what it does from fellow State of Ohio Blogger Alliance member Tom Blumer, who writes at BizzyBlog and NewsBusters.

As Tom explains, several news reports about the amount of work being done and people being served caught his attention. It started with this:

Every month more than two dozen people walk into ACORN's Cincinnati office on Central Avenue for help with avoiding foreclosure and finding financial aid programs.

Followed shortly by this:

Locally, that means about 20 clients a month will be turned away, said Amy Teitelman, the local and state director of ACORN.

And then this was found:

Six years later, in 1986, the organization created the ACORN Housing Corporation to "build and preserve housing assets." Since its inception, according to its Web site, the corporation has assisted more than 45,000 families to become first-time homeowners and has rehabbed more than 850 vacant or abandoned housing units.

As Tom writes:

Even if those totals were for only 5 years instead of 23, that would be 1.57 families per office per week (45,000 divided by 110 cities divided by 5 years divided by 52). It seems pretty obvious that the real number is a lot lower than 1.57. Again assuming only 5 years instead of 23, the rehabs are less than 1.6 per city per full year (850 divided by 110 divided by 5). Habitat for Humanity (this is a huge understatement) runs circles around that.

On a side note, I wondered just how much money ACORN had gotten during this time frame for the 45,000 families and 850 vacant homes, and found this reference:

One of its affiliates, ACORN Housing Corp., has received $53.6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over the last 15 years, $27.8 million during last year alone..."

But if you really want to know what you get for the money, Tom examines the number of tax returns ACORN helped people prepare. News reports about the IRS cutting off funding for this service all report that ACORN provided help on about 25,000 returns nationwide.

But the United Way of King County served 13,631 people, Tom says, "over half as many returns as ACORN did in the entire country, and provided their services for free."

What Tom doesn't address and what I could not find (at least, not in 20 minutes of Internet searching) was how much money the IRS was 'cancelling.' I find it strange that the news stories all mention how many people were supposedly served but never mention the dollar amounts ACORN had gotten.

Without this information, it's hard to know what you get for your money, but as Tom explains, there's still time to find out:

Local reporters ought to be all over this, assuming they're interested in digging for the truth instead of parroting ACORN's press releases and talking points. National reporters should be ashamed that they have ignored the obvious indications that ACORN's offices really accomplish very little of value on behalf of the poor people they allegedly serve.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The end of personal responsibility in America - from dependence to bondage

If I 'need' a new furnace, should I be able to go out and get one and then tell the seller that I really can't afford it so he should just give it to me - or not make me go into debt to pay for it?

If I 'need' a car, should I get a new one with state-of-the-art accessories and then tell the dealer that, because I have a low-paying job, I'm entitled to have it for what I can pay, despite the price, and not go into debt for it?

If I fail to convince the suppliers of these products that they should grant them to me based upon my need and not my ability to pay, should I turn to government to force, through law, my 'right' to a new furnace and/or the new car?

Of course not.

But so many people think that other 'services' should be treated this way, especially when it comes to the service of health care. A letter-writer in today's paper has a tragic sob story based upon her experience as a 'medical insurance biller.'

The author somehow believes that because you might 'need' a particular service, it should be provided at no cost - or at whatever cost you can pay - rather than at the cost of producing the product. She also seems to believe that individuals who provide a service should not expect payment for those services simply because the costs are too high for some to afford.

What she doesn't account for is the personal responsibility of the individual receiving such services. She doesn't address the fact that said person may not have pursued a higher paying job by getting more training or education. She doesn't address the fact that said person might have chosen to have children and pay those costs rather than save money for future expenses. She doesn't address whether or not said person has family who can (and probably should) help in such circumstances. She also doesn't address why a person should not be obligated, over time, to pay for services rendered, as if there is something bad about owing a debt to a person who has helped extend your life through the application of their knowledge.

No - she assumes that one individual's 'need' requires another individual's sacrifice - rather than assume a mutually beneficial exchange between the two. Her letter indicates she thinks that because a person cannot afford a product, they 'need,' government to step in and mandate it be provided. Which means she thinks you and I should pay for someone else to have something based upon her concept of what is right. (And she apparently misses the contradiction of why the receiver of services shouldn't have to pay but you and I should, despite our lack of involvement in the transaction.)

And why shouldn't she? Look at what people have come to expect of government - rather than of themselves: food, housing, child care, higher education, bus tokens, cars for transportation, refrigerators, help in finding a job, supplements, pensions (Social Security), and medical well as a host of other things that enshrine in law personal preferences, like preventing your neighbors from planting trees because you don't like the location they pick.

What we are seeing is the end of personal responsibility in America - and with that comes the end of liberty.

We've become a nation where all things are 'rights' and must be granted by government, despite the fact that your 'right' to something necessarily infringes upon my 'right' to keep my own money and not to pay for you to have something - especially when I'm also paying for my 'right' to have the same thing and at the same time.

Everything these days seems to revolve around 'rights talk.' As George Will recently wrote:

If our vocabulary is composed exclusively of references to rights, aka entitlements, we are condemned to endless jostling among elbow-throwing individuals irritably determined to protect, or enlarge, the boundaries of their rights. Among such people, all political discourse tends to be distilled to what Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School calls "rights talk."

Witness the inability of people nowadays to recommend this or that health care policy as merely wise or just. Each proposal must be invested with the dignity of a right. And since not all proposals are compatible, you have not merely differences of opinion but apocalyptic clashes of rights.

Rights talk is inherently aggressive, even imperial; it tends toward moral inflation and militates against accommodation. Rights talkers, with their inner monologues of pre-emptive resentments, work themselves into a simmering state of annoyed vigilance against any limits on their willfulness. To rights talkers, life -- always and everywhere -- is unbearably congested with insufferable people impertinently rights talking, and behaving, the way you and I of course have a real right to.

But this talk of 'rights' is even more insidious.

When everyone has a 'right' to the product of other's labor (and health services are a prime example), there is no private ownership of that labor. It is, at that point, government ownership of that labor - and the means of production, where government dictates what you must provide to others and at what costs and under what conditions. Even if you can choose which doctor to go to, that doctor must follow the government's laws of the exchange of his services for your payment, regardless of what the two of may agree to otherwise. Government's determination of your 'rights' to this type of service means that the doctor's liberty - and yours - no longer exist in the transaction.

That is certainly contrary to what our founders fought for and, in fact, exactly what they fought against in the struggle to form these United States. They firmly rejected the idea of 'rights' granted by governments or kings and embraced the idea that 'rights' are inherent, granted by God. As a result, governments are supposed to guarantee the protection of each person's rights - not create new ones in order to put government in control of their management.

And yet, we find many of our countrymen embracing such concepts and ideas when it comes to what they're 'entitled' to. When government provides, rather than protects, what we've always believed were 'rights granted by our Creator,' we have lost our liberty. And without our liberty, we are reduced to tyranny, with an ever-growing government constantly expanding its ability to determine what is and is not a 'right' and then graciously giving it to us - and, inevitably, taking credit for it during a re-election campaign.

Thankfully, there is also a letter writer (third letter down in the link above) who understands that health care is a benefit - not a right - and urges people to work to attain such benefits. Sadly, though, that opinion is not shared by enough people. It's too easy to allow government to provide, rather than work hard in order to provide for yourself.

And now that we find a majority of Americans receiving rather than contributing to the costs, we are truly at the stage we were warned of:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.

We are, I believe, already fully entrenched in dependence.

So what about bondage and tyranny?

Think about the fact that more of the average American's work effort goes to supporting governments (federal, state, local ... and all the related quasi-governmental agencies or property tax levies) than it does to supporting themselves and their families. I once heard a phrase: there is no greater form of tyranny than when government seizes your funds to pay for items that you would never pay for yourself.

Consider these quotes:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ~ C. S. Lewis

"Government initiatives tend to fail because they lack competitive pricing mechanisms that measure effectiveness and value. This trend is getting worse as more and more authority moves away from local control toward higher levels of central control. Governments based on politically expedient special interest (instead of moral principle) tend to use our money and their version of how people should live, to dictate "feel-good" solutions. The truth is government does not have insider knowledge on what individuals need and how they will respond. The U. S. government has become nothing more than a massive tyranny of good intentions. God gave us freedom to choose. Why does government attempt to do what even God did not?" ~ Wes Alexander

Considering this, can bondage be right around the corner? Or are we already at that stage?

When that bondage arrives, it will not come with pronouncements and chains ... it will come wrapped in the guise of 'safety,' and 'greater good' and 'compassion' or 'saving the planet' or 'for the children' or any number of catch phrases designed to mask what is really happening - that government has become the master and we its slaves.

Quote of the Day

"Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow
~ Author Unknown

It's a crisp Fall morning and just too nice to ruin it with talk of politics, 'idiocracy,' stuck on stupid actions or ranting.

Despite the cooler weather, I have what will probably be the last bloom of roses so I will trim them and bring the fragrant flowers inside to enjoy. They're always more fragrant in the fall, though I do not know why.

And this afternoon we'll be working on the Mobile Meals' Wine Gala live auction. Since 1994, we've volunteered our time and efforts for this fantastic organization and we truly love the fun of the event.

One of the highlights of the Gala is the live auction of fine, often rare, wines that have been donated for the event. My husband, Sam, and a couple of others from the committee, will arrange the various bottles into lots and then sort them into a good order for auctioning. I'll be creating the program that lists the lots along the way...

So with good wine and sun and crisp weather, no serious posts today ... Enjoy!

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Friday, October 09, 2009

The insanity of government-mandated energy programs

The insanity of certain government mandated energy-saving programs is on full display here in Ohio with the recent issue of the 'gift' of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to homeowners in the state.

The Bullet Points:

* Ohio politicians pass 'bold, new' energy law (aren't they great???)
* Law puts mandate on energy producers to get their customers to reduce consumption (yes, that's what the law does...)
* Electric company develops program to 'give' us all CFL light bulbs - at a cost 67% more than we'd pay for the bulbs in the store
* Government agency 'allows' company to recoup costs of program - including the cost of energy NOT used because of the energy-reducing product
* Public expresses outrage
* Ohio politicians begin backtracking

The Details:

From our electric supplier, FirstEnergy, is this description of the program:

To help customers use energy more efficiently, we're delivering two compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to the homes of residential customers of FirstEnergy’s Ohio operating companies -- Ohio Edison Company, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, and Toledo Edison Company. These types of bulbs use up to 75 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and can last 10 times longer -- contributing to significant money and energy savings over the life of the bulb.

Providing energy-efficient light bulbs is just one way we can help our customers save money while also helping the environment.

So, according to the website, what will happen is that FirstEnergy will have people go door-to-door to deliver two of the bulbs. You'll recognize the workers by their green t-shirts and matching green hats. How we're supposed to see those green t-shirts in this cool weather is a question that is not addressed, but not to worry. They'll have a photo ID indicating their employment with PowerDirect, the company hired to make the deliveries.

But, you ask, what if I don't want these bulbs? What if, being a 'kind and caring person,' I'm already doing my part to help the environment? Or, what if, being an 'evil and callous person,' I've decided the regular old standard bulbs are fine for me and I don't mind paying the extra energy costs for a product I like?

Well, they've got an answer for that:

We're sorry you don't want your energy-efficient light bulbs. Unfortunately, we're not able to pick up your bulbs. Feel free to give them to a neighbor, friend or a family member. Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, the EPA recommends specific disposal guidelines. If you want to throw them out, check if your municipality permits you to put CFLs in the garbage. If so, seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash, or other protected outside location, for the next normal trash collection. If not, you will need to properly recycle the bulbs. CFL recycling is available free of charge at The Home Depot stores – or your municipality might have other CFL recycling programs available.

So does this mean I can't refuse them? Apparently not - at least, not if my goal is to avoid the costs.

And what are those costs? If I purchase one of these bulbs at a local store, it's going to cost me around $8 for a four-pack of the CFL equivalent of 100W bulbs. How much will the ones from FirstEnergy cost, especially because they say they're not making any money off the program, just recouping the costs?

Their website doesn't give an exact figure:

You will not see a separate charge for these bulbs on your bill. This CFL program is part of a larger energy efficiency program that is being mandated by state law. As part of this law, the utility is able to recover the costs of these programs through customer rates over a period of several years. However, the impact on your bill for this program will be minimal.

But this news report has the details:

The company, which bought the bulbs, said it would charge 60 cents per month on customer bills over three years, or about $21.60. The bulbs would be hand-ed out and the customers would be billed whether they wanted the bulbs or not.

Hmmm...if someone sends me something I did not order and I refuse to accept it, or try to return it, and they bill me anyway, I can seek relief through the courts. Ohio has specific laws to prevent me from being billed for items I did not order and do not want. Apparently, though, when lawmakers crafted this law, they missed the irony of the contradiction. Or perhaps they just thought it would be "good for us."

But let's look at the cost. They're going to charge me a total of 'about' $21.60 for two light bulbs when I can buy four for $8? That's 63% less if I get them myself! Yet this program is supposed to save me money?

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), which regulates the rates these companies can charge, approved the program, though they are now saying they approved a plan with estimates, not the actual program. FirstEnergy said they submitted the plan to the PUCO and received approval of it on September 23rd.

Now, because of outrage over the program, the costs and the negative publicity, the whole thing has been put on hold.

Some are blaming FirstEnergy - but the real blame for this rests with our elected officials. Under Ohio law, FirstEnergy is required to get its customers to reduce energy consumption by 22.2% by the year 2025. Note that the company is the one required to make its customers reduce their usage. The government didn't require the purchasers of the product to make the cuts - but put the onus on the supplier of the product.

That's like telling Starbucks that people drink too much coffee and they need to get their customers to drink less. Is this not unrealistic and bordering upon 'insanity'?

So with the government telling a company that they need to reduce the sales of the products, the company's common sense reaction would be that such a law would also reduce their income.

That's okay, the PUCO and the state says. If you do a program that cuts energy use as we've mandated, we'll let you recoup the costs! See????

So what's included in such program costs? Well, obviously, the purchase of the bulbs and the shipping to get them to the company, and the distribution of the bulbs by the company they've hired to hand-deliver them.

But that's not all. According to numerous media reports quoting FirstEnergy spokesman Ellen Raines, the 'costs' they recoup include the amount to offset a loss in revenues for the expected lower electricity usage resulting from the energy-efficient lighting.

If you weren't convinced of the insanity of the program thus far, this should clinch the deal!

The 'logic' of our government is that a company should be forced by law to reduce the sale of their product in order to achieve some arbitrary target of 'energy savings' by their customers but will be allowed to charge those customers for what they would have paid prior to the energy-saving program - thus resulting in no real 'savings' at all.

There's even more to this story, though...

Other states have tried to implement similar programs, though they've used a coupon or voucher process to get people to switch bulbs. However, the general consensus of the group tasked with coming up with the plan said that too few people actually take advantage of the vouchers, thus limiting the amount of reduction in energy usage achieved.

This should tell the politicians and do-gooders something - namely, that customers don't want this product to the degree they want the customers to want it.

***SIDE NOTE: Sounds sort of like the failure of the Susan B. Anthony dollar and the $2 bill, but that's too relevant of an example and won't be mentioned by said politicians who are too busy trying to force us to do what they think is best for us, despite our own opinions.

So, because of the evidence that a voucher/coupon program wouldn't allow the company to achieve compliance with the law, the idea of distributing the actual bulbs was hatched.

But wait - there's more!

These bulbs are made in....CHINA!

According to the FirstEnergy FAQs:

At this time, compact fluorescent bulbs are not mass produced in the United States.

Insanity, I tell you! And certainly a qualifier for 'stuck on stupid' designation.

While this makes no sense to the 'average' Ohioan, an even scarier aspect is that many of the people who crafted, and will brag about, this law will get re-elected!

"[I]f the public are bound to yield obedience to laws to which they cannot give their approbation, they are slaves to those who make such laws and enforce them." ~ Candidus in the Boston Gazette, 1772
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