Thursday, November 30, 2006

Getting "in the spirit" for the holidays

There's a lot going on politically, these elected officials being sworn in (congrats to Joe McNamara), others preparing for the change of office in January, deficits in budgets in the City of Toledo and the County, issues of cuts - perhaps in fire service - in Sylvania/Sylvania Township, ... and these are just the ones getting attention in the news on a local level.

But this time of year, despite all the pressing problems and challenges, is the time that people start to think of things other than politics. After inundating our families with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and pies - and all the leftover recipes that follow, we begin to plan for what can be a hectic, but fun, time of year. A time of rejoicing, giving and new beginnings.

My family did attempt to shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving - for about 30 minutes. We made one stop around 9:30 a.m. and realized that there was no way to gather a few items, pay for them, and get out by 11:30 for another family event. Perhaps it was foolish to think that 2 hours would be enough to buy a couple pairs of gloves...but our conclusion was that a 50% discount of $6 was about $3/hour for our wait - even the minimum wage is more than that.

But we did go out Saturday morning. The shops didn't open at 5 a.m., but many were open at 6, and while the glove discount wasn't 50%, it was 40%. Our arrival at one store at 7:20 meant that we shopped with only about 10 other people. The sales clerks had time to check the stock in the back room and seemed relieved that it wasn't a repeat of the previous day - yet.

The stores in the mall opened at 8, which was perfect timing. We had time to shop, have some personal attention to questions or suggestions and didn't feel pressed for time, or rushed, or frazzled. The sales clerk at the Discovery Store even had time to help me with a phone order for an item that wasn't stocked in the store - and I was very grateful! We had time to wander around a bit and have a cup of coffee before returning home for brunch (with leftovers, of course).

After our delicious brunch and the family had all left, we put up all our outside Christmas decorations and took the convertible out for a ride.

Had we not experienced such a delightful shopping trip on Saturday and an easy installation of our lights, I don't know if I'd be in the same holiday mood I'm in now. Maybe, but I'm not sure.

Now, unlike the last several years, I'm actually looking forward to getting our tree this weekend and putting on all the ornaments. For a while now, I've seen this as a chore, but this year it seems to be a pleasure. I'm planning our Christmas day meal (something OTHER than turkey and ham) and even getting excited about our annual New Year's Eve party with our dear friends.

I could speculate about what's different this year, but that would require a reflection and concentration that seems too much for this pleasant mood. Besides, I know the answer - but acknowledging it would also mean acknowledging the negative impact my job has had on me over the last 13 years. Like any job, there are positives and negatives, and this time of the year, I'd rather just enjoy the spirit of the holidays and not let anything interfere with that.

So, some things I'm doing: not letting the 'buying' interfere with the 'giving,' relishing kindnesses from people you don't know, savoring the site of wonder in children's eyes, anonymously giving and enjoying the feeling it generates, delighting in the lights and decorations as we drive around at night, appreciating the good wishes, taking pleasure in the things I may have overlooked in the past, and more dearly valuing the company of family and friends.

As I take this break from the everyday struggles and issues, I hope that you, too, will be able to take advantage of this time of the year - for the reflection it brings and the opportunity it presents to see the important things in life.

The Nutcracker Suite
Holiday Concerts
The Night Before Christmas, the Whole Story
Area Theater Productions

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Post hoc ergo propter hoc - it's a fallacy, logically speaking...a technical flaw which makes an argument unsound or invalid.

The fallacy of Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc occurs when something is assumed to be the cause of an event merely because it happened before that event. For example: "The Soviet Union collapsed after instituting state atheism. Therefore we must avoid atheism for the same reasons."

Most people will see that these two issues, state atheism and the fall of the Soviet Union, are not causational. The practice of atheism did not, solely, result in the fall of the USSR.

Another example of this would be: "Maggie Thurber was elected County Commissioner and since that time, unemployment in Lucas County has declined." No one, including me, would say that my election caused the unemployment rate in the county to fall. But we seem to accept this fallacy when it comes to other issues.

Why do I raise this point? It's because of the false belief that building an arena will result in an economic boom in this area, simply because other communities who've built arenas have seen improvements. Today's Blade article on last night's arena public forum starts with this:

"Until the arena came along, the business core of Grand Rapids, Mich., struggled. Storefronts were boarded up.

Today, 10 years after the Van Andel Arena was built, the mid-sized city in western Michigan claims that it's competing with Detroit.

That was the comment Richard MacKeigan, general manager of Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena, had for a public hearing last night on Lucas County's proposed arena.

Mr. MacKeigan, who works for SMG, a national arena operator based in Philadelphia, which is bidding to be the Toledo arena operator, said Toledo would have a similar experience."

To suggest that the Van Andel Arena (opened in October 1996) is the reason that storefronts are no longer boarded up is a prime example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. It ignores other such factors whose impact is signficantly greater than the building of arena - factors like educational level of the workforce, tax rates, sales taxes, population, per capita income, business climate, etc.

Just compare the census date of Grand Rapids to Toledo. You'll see that, from 1990 to 2000, GR had a population increase of 4.3% while Toledo's population decreased 5.8%. Almost 28% of GR's population has a bachelor's degree or higher compared to Toledo's rate of 16.8%. Median household income in Grand Rapids is about $5,000 higher than Toledo's. Toledo has 17.9% of its population below the poverty level compared to GR's rate of 15.7% Retail sales per capita in GR are about $2,000 more than in Toledo.

When you get to County data, some of the figures are even more disparate. Kent County's population increased 14.7% from 1990-2000 while Lucas County's population declined 1.6%. Kent's median household income in 2003 was about $7,000 more than in Lucas.

Additionally, the hotel-motel taxes in Grand Rapids are, according to the gentleman from last night, 12% versus our current rate of 14.75%.

But the arena is not the only area in which such fallacious arguments are used...just look at the rationale regarding the recently-passed minimum wage hike. Policy Matters Ohio used a study from the Economic Policy Institute which said that states which raised the minimum wage didn't see a decline in employment. Again, this argument presumes that no other factors contributed to the employment situation - and declines to consider whether or not employment might have increased by MORE than it did had there not been a hike in a minimum wage.

There's a lot of debate we can have on such issues and policies. But if we want to improve the quality of our debate, we must be capable of spotting invalid arguments and rejecting them - otherwise, we'll find ourselves facing the consequences of bad decisions.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

Article I of the Military Code of Conduct, states: "I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense."

On this Veteran's Day, we are charged with honoring those who defend us, our freedoms and our way of life. There's no easy, or concise way, to demonstrate the depth of our appreciation to those who gave up so much to serve our country. The simple words, "thank you," seem so insignificant for what the men and women in uniform commit to doing. So I borrow the words of Walt Whitman:

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

To my father, brother and father-in-law who served in the Navy, as well as to all Veterans, thank you!

Below are some quotes particularly suited for this day, followed by the History of Veteran's Day - what it means and why we celebrate on November 11th. And if you'd like to see something impressive, watch the Navy Ceremonial Drill team here.


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. ~Dick Cheney

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. ~José Narosky

But fame is theirs - and future days
On pillar'd brass shall tell their praise;
Shall tell - when cold neglect is dead -
"These for their country fought and bled."
~Philip Freneau

When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep? ~George Canning

Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul. ~Michel de Montaigne

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. ~Cynthia Ozick

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die. ~G.K. Chesterton

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935


World War I, then normally referred to simply as The Great War (no one could imagine any war being greater!), ended with the implementation of an armistice [temporary cessation of hostilities—in this case until the final peace treaty, the infamous Treaty of Versailles, was signed in 1919] between the Allies and Germany at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of November, 1918.

November 11: President Wilson proclaims the first Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" The original concept for the celebration was for the suspension of business for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M., with the day also marked by parades and public mettings.

Congress passes legislation approving the establishment of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. November 11 is chosen for the date of the ceremony. According on October 20, Congress declares November 11, 1921 a legal Federal holiday to honor all those who participated in the war. The ceremony was conducted with great success.

Congress adopts a resolution directing the President to issue an annual proclamation calling on the observance of Armistice Day. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, most states establish November 11 as a legal holiday and at the Federal level, an annual proclamation is issued by the President.

Congress passes legislation on May 13 making November 11 a legal Federal holiday, Armistice Day. The United States has no ‘actual’ national holidays because the states retain the right to designate their own holidays. The Federal government can in fact only designate holidays for Federal employees and for the District of Columbia. But in practice the states almost always follow the Federal lead in designation of holidays.

1941- 1945
1950- 1953
World War II and the Korean War create millions of additional war veterans in addition to those of the First World War already honored by Armistice Day.

On June 1, President Eisenhower signs legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day.

Congress passes the Monday Holiday Law which established the fourth Monday in October as the new date for the observance of Veteran’s Day. The law is to take effect in 1971.

The Federal observance of Veterans Day is held on the fourth Monday of October. Initially all states follow suit except Mississippi and South Dakota. Other states changed their observances back to November 11 as follows: 1972- Louisiana and Wisconsin; 1974- Kentucky, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina, West Virginia; 1975- California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming

Legislation passed to return the Federal observance of Veteran’s Day to November 11, based on popular support throughout the nation. Since the change to the fourth Monday in October, 46 states had either continued to commemorate November 11 or had reverted back to the original date based on popular sentiment. The law was to take effect in 1978.

Veteran’s Day observance reverts to November 11.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Birthday U.S. Marines!!!

From the U.S. Marine Corps History website:

Title: Marine Corps Birthday Message
Category: Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921)
Author/Presenter: Major General John A Lejeune, USMC
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Date: 1 November 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and is the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

John A. Lejeune,
Major General Commandant

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Congrats and Thanks!

Congratulations to all election winners and a sincere thank you to all candidates.

It takes a lot to run a campaign, time and money being just the tip of the iceberg. When you're a candidate, you've got so many places to be and people to meet, other things - like yard or house work - tend to fall by the wayside. You end up relying on friends and family to take up the slack, run errands, and assume responsibility for the tasks you traditionally do. They do this gladly, as they obviously support your efforts, but it's never easy.

While there are many downsides to being a candidate, there are also many rewards. To participate in such a public way in the political process, offer your ideas and see that many people support them, inspire others who enter the political scene because of you...these things make your efforts worthwhile.

When you enter a race, you obviously want to win. But the best campaign advice I ever had was to have a goal other than winning. In my first race, my goal was to make sure that people knew what a Clerk of Court did so that they could make a good decision. In my last campaign, because I filled a vacancy on the ballot, it was to make sure that the voters had a choice. On election night, regardless of the outcome, I knew that I had accomplished that goal.

Today, there are winners who are celebrating. But those who "lost" the seats they sought also have a reason to celebrate. Because of them, the voters were given options. We were inspired by their ideas, gave thought to their perspectives and had good discussions about the issues our community, state and nation face.

Regardless of the individual you supported, you and I - indeed, everyone - owes a thank you to the many people who put themselves forward and offered us a choice on election day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day

“If the people fail to vote, a government will be developed which is not their government... The whole system of American Government rests on the ballot box. Unless citizens perform their duties there, such a system of government is doomed to failure.” —Calvin Coolidge

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual—or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” —Samuel Adams

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” - Ayn Rand

"Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote.” - William E. Simon

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” - John Quincy Adams

“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.” - Henry Louis Mencken

"If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves." - Thomas Sowell

"In times of stress and strain, people will vote." - anonymous

"People who don't vote have no line of credit with people who are elected and thus pose no threat to those who act against our interests." - Marian Wright Edelman

"Personally, I believe that our American system works as long as you participate in it. You must vote and make your voice heard. Otherwise you will be left out." - Mari-Luci Jaramillo

"Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: 'Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." - John F. Kennedy

"Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
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