Tuesday, September 30, 2008

'No on Issue 5' press conference today

COAST, Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, will be in Toledo this morning for a press conference against Ohio Issue 5, the 'payday lending' law.

Jason Gloyd, chairman of the Cincinnati-based anti-tax group, will be at the Lucas County Courthouse property at 10 a.m. to urge citizens to reject the recently passed law because of the intrusive government intrusion into private lives that it contains.

The current ballot language for Issue 5 reads:


Substitute House Bill 545 (H.B. 545), which was passed by the Ohio legislature and signed into law by the Governor, substantially changed the law regulating how certain lenders in Ohio operate. Under the referendum, voters must decide whether Section 3 of H.B. 545 should go into effect.

Section 3 of H.B. 545 deletes the old provisions of the law regulating check cashing enders, sometimes known as “payday lenders,” in favor of the new provisions.

1. If a majority of Ohio voters approve Section 3 of H.B. 545, all short term enders, including check cashing lenders, would be subject to the following imitations:
• The maximum loan amount would be $500;
• Borrowers would have at least 30 days to repay the loan; and
• The maximum interest rate would be 28% annual percentage rate (APR) on all loans.

2. If a majority of Ohio voters reject Section 3 of H.B. 545, check cashing lenders ould be allowed to continue under previous law as follows:
• The maximum loan amount would continue to be $800;
• There would continue to be no minimum repayment period; and
• Check cashing lenders could continue to charge rates and fees, resulting in a total charge for a loan that substantially exceeds an equivalent APR of 28%.

A “YES” vote means you approve of Section 3 of H.B. 545, and want to limit the interest rate for short term loans to 28% APR and change short term lending laws.

A “NO” vote means you disapprove of Section 3 of H.B. 545 and want to permit check cashing lenders to continue to be able to offer short term loans as currently permitted.

A majority “YES” vote is required for Section 3 of H.B. 545 to be approved.

The interest rate that can be charged is the major component of the bill, but there are other provisions in H.B. 545 that give the government intrusive control over aspects of our lives - onerous "big brother" provisions are not even listed as part of the ballot language.

If Issue 5 passes, the state government will create a data base to keep track of who gets payday loans, how much is borrowed and when. Prior to giving out loans, the payday lenders must check the state's database to see if the recipient is 'eligible.'

Yes, that's right - the state gets to say whether or not you can have a loan.

How do they know if you're eligible? According to the law, you can only get four payday loans in a calendar year.

You can have two payday loans within a 90-day period of time, but if you try to get a third loan in that time frame, you are denied, until you take a 'financial literacy class.'

Yep - if you're taking out such loans you obviously need the government to educate your about financial issues...never mind that the individuals most in need of financial education are the very lawmakers who passed this bill.

You also can't get a loan if you already have loan with that lender - or if you have 'more than one outstanding loan,' if you've paid off your loan on the same day you're taking out a new one, or if you're planning to use the loan to pay off another payday loan.

And then the law restricts how much you can borrow:

If the loan would obligate the borrower to repay a total amount of more than $500 to licensees, or indebt the borrower, to licensees, for an amount that is more than 25% of the borrower's gross monthly salary not including bonus, overtime, or other such compensation, based on a payroll verification statement presented by the borrower;

Since when is it the role of the government to track what you borrow, when and how much? Since when is it the role of government to tell you how you can use the money you borrow? Since when is it the role of the government to decide whether or not you need or should take a class in finances? Since when did Ohioans think it was okay to grant government this kind of intrusion into our daily lives?

Even if you think payday lenders should be restricted by state law to certain interest rates, how can you possible approve of giving the government such authority over peoples' lives?

If Issue 5 passes, it will result in a loss of jobs in Ohio, and it's not just the ability to charge a higher interest rates. I don't think any business would approve or support the restrictions placed on the payday lenders when it comes to collecting what they're owed.

The government can charge the payday lenders for accessing the database - a fee that will probably be passed along to the borrowers. so that's another 'tax' on businesses.

Usually, when a business deposits a check and that check bounces, they'll put it through a second time. They may pursue court action, as well. But payday lenders, under this law, cannot do that.

The law prohibits lenders from re-depositing a bounced check unless they first get written permission from the borrower to do so. They also can't bring or threaten to bring court action against the borrower if their payment is refused or returned for insufficient funds. The only way they can pursue such action is if they can prove the borrowed intended to defraud the payday lender by closing their bank account, or giving false bank account information, in order to avoid payment.

If you're a business owner, would you agree to such terms being dictated by the government?

Many loans have pre-payment penalties. Payday lenders, however, would not be able to use such terms. Also, under the new law, they couldn't include a contract provision to automatically deduct funds from your account or bill your credit card for payment on an agreed-upon date. If they violate these restrictions - restrictions other businesses in Ohio are allowed to utilize - they're subject to criminal charges.

Any debt collectors hired to collect unpaid loans also have significant restrictions placed upon them. When people don't pay their bills, they often don't want to be 'found' by debt collectors. So if a collector calls another other than the borrower to gather information, they cannot reveal that they are calling because the borrower owes money.

If someone called my house looking for one of my relatives and wouldn't tell me why they're calling, I wouldn't give out any information - would you????

They also can't communicate by post card or include anything on an envelope that indicates the contents relate to a debt. And if you don't this debt collector to contact you, the law has provisions for that as well:

If a borrower provides written notification, to a licensee or a debt collector, that the borrower refuses to pay a debt or that the borrower wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the borrower, the act prohibits the debt collector from communicating further with the borrower with respect to the debt, except:

(1) To advise the borrower that the debt collector's further efforts are being terminated;

(2) To notify the borrower that the debt collector or licensee may invoke specified remedies that are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or licensee; or

(3) Where applicable, to notify the borrower that the debt collector or licensee intends to invoke a specified remedy. If such notice from the borrower is made by mail, notification is complete upon receipt.

Who would accept such a collection contract under these terms and conditions? It almost assures failure in the effort to get the loan repaid.

With such onerous restrictions on borrowers, lenders and the collections, would it make sense for these businesses to continue to operate? Many say no and are planning to close, laying off their employees, if the referendum passes.

Of course, credit unions are probably very happy about this law. Under the terms, they get subsidized by our tax dollars, through a linked deposit program, to give our short-term loans. This is intended to replace the 'option' payday lenders are currently providing, but the terms are not as conducive, requiring a loan that is at least 90 days in length.

This law is anti-business, anti-consumer and 'Orwellian' in its provisions. As I said earlier, even if you agree with the interest rate component, how can you possibly approve of giving the government this kind of control over decisions which should be yours - and yours alone?

We need to vote NO on Issue 5.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kaptur, Latta vote NO on bailout

Kudos to the Representatives from Northwest Ohio: Marcy Kaptur (D) and Bob Latta (R) for voting NO on the bailout!!!

Up is down, day is night, and bailout fails

First, I'm opposed to socialism so I'm very happy that the bailout proposal has failed.

What I don't understand is how this is the fault of the Republicans.

I watched the vote and, absent any last minute switches (which members are allowed to do), there were 94 Democrats who voted AGAINST the bailout bill. That was more than the 65 Republicans who voted yes. If Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats had the support of their own members, they wouldn't have needed any Republican votes in order to get this passed. In fact, if even 12 of those Democrats had voted yes, the bailout would have passed!

For years we've listened to Democrats criticize Republicans saying all we care about are 'the rich' and our friends on Wall Street. We've heard how terrible we are because tax policy and subsidies favor 'evil corporations' while Democrats are all about the 'little people.' At every opportunity, we've been excoriated for favoring businesses (i.e. job providers) over individuals (i.e. people dependent upon those job providers for a wage).

Now, along comes a bailout plan for Wall Street and 'evil corporations' and Republicans are now the bad guys because we defeated the plan????

Up is down, day is night. Thankfully, this obvious move toward socialism is stopped for now.

Summary of bailout terms - Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required):

After days of negotiations, Treasury agreed to such concessions as curbs on executive pay, government acceptance of equity stakes in companies and oversight that will include the inspector general. Here are the details of the proposed compromise. Some terms could change before a final vote.

The Troubled Asset Relief Fund:
The bill authorizes $700 billion for the fund in installments. Treasury will first get $250 billion, with an additional $100 billion immediately accessible. Congress would have the option of blocking the final installment of $350 billion by issuing a joint resolution within 15 days of any requests.

How it works:
Treasury plans to hire asset managers to determine how to buy bad loans and other ailing assets from financial institutions. Many of the details, including pricing and purchase procedures, will be worked out between those managers and Treasury. The legislation requires Treasury to set guidelines within 45 days for pricing methods and setting the value of troubled assets, as well as mechanisms for purchasing assets, procedures for selecting asset managers and criteria for identifying troubled assets to buy.

The legislation requires Treasury to purchase assets at the lowest price, and allows the government to buy through auction or direct from institutions.

Treasury expects to start buying the simplest assets first -- mortgage-backed securities, for example -- followed by more complex securities. Treasury likely will publish a list of the assets it is seeking to purchase. Banks and other institutions are expected to submit bids in a competition to sell bad loans and securities.

Executive compensation:
The legislation places restrictions on executive compensation for certain companies that sell assets to Treasury. If Treasury buys assets from a company directly -- something it would do if a firm were failing -- then no "golden parachute" exit payments could be made during the period when Treasury has an ownership stake in the firm. Companies that sell assets to Treasury through an auction process will be subject to some limits. Firms that sell more than $300 million of assets to Treasury won't be allowed to make any new golden-parachute payments to top executives. A tax-deduction limit on compensation above $500,000 also will apply.

Equity stakes:
The legislation requires Treasury to receive warrants in companies that participate in the program. If a company sells its assets through an auction, Treasury will get a nominal amount of nonvoting warrants. If Treasury buys assets directly, it could get a majority equity stake.

The Troubled Asset Relief Fund will be overseen by a bipartisan congressional commission that will receive reports from Treasury every 30 days. The program will also be overseen by a board comprising the heads of Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The office of accountability will have an inspector-general office within Treasury.

Treasury will have to submit a written report to Congress no later than April 30 on the overall financial regulatory system and "its effectiveness at overseeing the participants in the financial markets, including the over-the-counter swaps market and government-sponsored enterprises" and recommend improvements.

Protecting taxpayers:
If after five years the government has a net loss, the president will be required to submit a legislative proposal to seek reimbursement from the financial institutions that participated.

Help for homeowners:
Treasury will buy mortgage-backed securities, mortgages and other assets secured by residential real estate. The legislation requires Treasury to use its position as the investor in those loans and securities to "encourage the servicers of the underlying mortgages" to help minimize foreclosures.

It also calls for Treasury to "identify opportunities" to acquire "classes of troubled assets" that will improve the ability of Treasury to help modify and restructure loans. The idea is that Treasury would be more patient with homeowners who have fallen behind on their payments than commercial lenders.

The bill would require Treasury to establish, alongside the asset-purchase plan, a program to insure mortgage-backed securities. Financial institutions that want to participate would essentially pay the government a fee and, in return, the government would insure their assets against any future losses.

The legislation would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to study so-called mark-to-market accounting standards, which require that firms reflect the market value of assets on their books. Such accounting has culminated in many financial institutions writing down big losses as the value of certain assets has fallen in price. The SEC would have to study the accounting rule's effect on balance sheets and report to Congress within 90 days of its findings.

Pandering to 'the poor' replaced by pandering to the 'middle class'

Do you remember when the Democrats used to talk about how much we needed to help 'the poor'? I do.

I remember all the speeches and flowering language calling upon our religious teachings to care for those who need assistance. Of course, they were for giving your money to them - in the form of taxes - for them to decide how to give it out to help others, but that was beside the point to many. The 'poor' needed our help and we were just plain evil if we objected to their ideas.

As a result, we have welfare payments - actual cash to help people live. We have subsidized housing for people who can't afford a place to live. We have Aid to Dependent Children to help parents who have children they cannot support. We have job training - and actual educational grants - to help people learn skills that are supposed to help them get a job - or a better paying one. We give them fans and air conditioners in the summer and then give them assistance to pay the electric bills that result from their use. We help them pay for their gas in the winter and, to help them help themselves, pay for insulation and such. We give them cars to get to work and gas cards when the price of gas is high. We pay for uniforms for their kids to wear to school, provide school supplies for their kids and then give the kids both breakfast and lunch at school. And that's on top of the food stamps we provide to help them buy food. We pay for their medical costs, dental costs and even glasses.

And the result is that we still have poor people, but now they've been in this cycle for generations and some of the adults in the system today know nothing else. The result is also that most of those individuals vote for the Democrats who gave them the system that, more often than not, keeps them in the dependency mindset.

But having the 'poor' support you at the polls isn't enough.

And that's why you've got politicians, in the last several years, talking about the middle class. Check it out, yourself. How many times have you heard Barack Obama talk about 'the poor'? Not nearly as often as he's talked about the 'middle class.'

After their first debate the other night, the Obama campaign even produced an ad that was supposed to be critical of John McCain. They said he didn't even use the words 'middle class' once during their debate. (That the debate was primarily about foreign policy, that Obama only used the term three times and that McCain used the term "Americans" instead of playing class warfare was beside the point.)

That's because 'the poor' are firmly entrenched in their tendency to support these policies and hand-outs coming from the Democrat candidates (and some of the Republicans as well). So now they're branching out to the next group - making all kinds of promises of what they're going to do for these 'middle class' people in the hopes of getting their votes like they did with 'the poor.'

Their policies have resulted in a dependent class of Americans - dependent upon government for just about everything. So now they're planning on expanding that dependency up the earnings ladder. Everything from rising limits for eligibility for SCHIP to promises of taking money from 'the rich' and giving it 'back to the middle class,' as if the only way rich people got that way was by somehow taking it or stealing it from those who make less than them.

The scary part is that the strategy is working.

More and more of the middle class of America is looking around and seeing how hard they're working just to get by, only to see their earnings taken in taxes and given to others. They are rightly wondering why they're trying so hard when they've got a government just begging to take over such responsibilities for them.

Most realize that this is the major problem with socialist-based societies and economies - that without reward for your own labor, you don't labor. But it's becoming increasingly more difficult to swim upstream against the current of more intrusive government programs and dependency.

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 followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.

~ Alexander Fraser Tytler

Where do you think we are?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

UPDATED! What happened to the search for truth?

As I have a degree in journalism, I often go back to what I was taught in school about reporting versus opining and the ideal that journalism and media reporting was all about the search for the truth: to report the facts absent our own personal biases and to be sure to get both sides, never just accepting the words a person says without checking their veracity.

One of my personal pet peeves is when reporters 'quote' individuals who are, in fact, telling lies. When confronted with the facts that prove the lie, the reporters' standard retort is, 'it's an accurate quote.' Of course the quote is accurate, but the quote is a lie and, without any verification on behalf of the reporter, the lie becomes the truth because, obviously, if it wasn't true, the paper would have included the facts, right?

Magnify that a thousand-fold and you've got what's going on in today's main stream media - or lame stream media, as one of my fellow bloggers calls it.

Today I sent out an email link to a video I thought my fellow State of Ohio Alliance bloggers might want to see. It's from one of my fellow Samsphere blogs, Red State, and it details the way Democrats defended Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against increased scrutiny and additional oversight.

DarkeGOP blog also saw the video and decided to add it as part of the comments on an ABC news story about the issue. His comments were deleted.

What is ABC so afraid of? That people might actually know the truth?

Or that they will be caught ignoring it?

Spread the word! Go out and make your own comment on the ABC website, including the link to the video...let's see just how badly they want to keep that video from the news!

UPDATE: Just got an email from a friend who, after reading my blog, went out to the ABC blog site and posted a comment with the link. The comment remains, but ABC removed the link. My friend also posted on a second story and the link was removed from that one as well. There was another post that just listed the name of the referenced video, by a user named 'cultural amnesia,' but that post is also missing.

What is it they don't want you to know?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Sam Adams

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.”

“Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can.”

"How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!"

"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."

"If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin."

FOIA Friday - a day late - Campaign Disclosure Project

Sorry for being a day late with the FOIA Friday...but I think this news was worth waiting for.

The Campaign Disclosure Project has released its state grades on campaign disclosure for 2008, noting that access to state-level campaign finance information has improved dramatically since 2003 due to the increase in electronic filing of campaign disclosure reports.

The Campaign Disclosure Project seeks to bring greater transparency and accountability to money in state politics. The project is a collaboration of the California Voter Foundation, the Center for Governmental Studies, and the UCLA School of Law and is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Washington State earned an A in 2008 and has ranked first in each of the five Grading State Disclosure studies. California and Michigan also earned As in 2008. Tennessee earned the distinction of being the most improved state since 2003 and Montana improved the most in the last year.

Ohio earned a B grade and was ranked 12th, down from our 10th place ranking last year. The report says the decline in ranking was primarily due to improvements from other states.

Grades in the Subcategories:

C+ in Campaign Disclosure Law, rank: 27
A+ in Electronic Filing Program, rank: 1
A+ in Disclosure Content Accessibility, rank: 2
C+ in Online Contextual & Technical Usability rank: 19

Ohio’s grade in the Online Contextual and Technical Usability category dropped from a B- to a C+ due to a slight decline in usability test performance in 2008, though the test occurred prior to an attractive redesign of the disclosure site in 2008. The site provides excellent information about what data can be found online, and also gives site visitors the ability to easily compare finances across all campaigns from 1996 to the present. One area that could be further improved is the index of a candidate’s reports; amended reports are not clearly labeled and the starting and ending dates for each reporting period are not displayed.

→ Quick Fix: Add the starting and ending date for each reporting period in the index of a candidate’s reports.

Congrats, Ohio!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pork in the bailout plan? Say it ain't so!

Bill Smith, fellow Samsphere blogger from ARRA News Service, has received a copy of the 'agreement in principle' for the $700 billion bailout which, if left to stand, could have some serious implications for taxpayers.

According to Bill:

In the "agreement in principle," there is the effect of a major "earmark" which commits money from future "profits" to be given to nonprofits organizations like ACORN, National Council of La Raza and potentially the National Urban League. This agreement clearly evidences that the Government expects to benefit in the future from the bailout when the values of property rises and mortgages or properties are then sold by the Federal government. The agreement --

"Directs a certain percentage of future profits to the Affordable Housing Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund to meet America's housing needs."

In the proposed bailout agreement, Sen. Christopher Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee and other Democrats desire to pre-direct that future funds (profits) not be returned to the taxpayers via the treasury but that they be used to underwrite potential questionable (maybe even illegal activities) of certain nonprofits which have had a hand in promoting and expanding access to "no money down" loans for minorities, illegal voter registrations and extensive lobbying activities.

I suppose I'm being overly optimistic to think that the current crisis would have taught these idiots a lesson, but I guess not.

The major reason we're in this mess isn't because of 'greed by Wall Street,' but because legislators like Dodd wrote laws to accomplish such social engineering like 'affordable housing,' threatening banks if they didn't increase the number of mortgage loans to minority and low-income individuals. They even went so far as to say that welfare and unemployment payments should be considered as 'earnings' for the purposes of qualifying for loans.

John Lott, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, cites a manual from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in the early '90s that warned mortgage lenders to no longer deny urban and lower-income minority applicants on such "outdated" criteria as credit history, down payment or employment income. Those "outdated" criteria:

Credit History: Lack of credit history should not be seen as a negative factor...

Sources of Income: In addition to primary employment income, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will accept the following as valid income sources: overtime and part–time work, second jobs (including seasonal work), retirement and Social Security income, alimony, child support, Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, welfare payments, and unemployment benefits.

The Fed warned the banks:

"Did You Know? Failure to comply with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act or Regulation B can subject a financial institution to civil liability for actual and punitive damages in individual or class actions. Liability for punitive damages can be as much as $10,000 in individual actions and the lesser of $500,000 or 1 percent of the creditor’s net worth in class actions."

Other members of Congress, specifically Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chuck Schumer, fought against reforms in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would have addressed many of the issues before they became a crises.

In Congress, they made sure there was no additional oversight, no additional limit on executive behavior and compensation, and no further restraint on the growth of the companies' mortgage-backed-securities portfolios, among other changes.

Even after the 2003 Freddie Mac accounting scandal, Frank said, "I do not think we are facing any kind of a crisis."

The Wall Street Journal quoted Congressman Barney Frank in 2003 as criticizing Greg Mankiw, chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, "because he is worried about the tiny little matter of safety and soundness rather than ‘concern about housing.'"

And now, they're at it again, attempting to take any profits the government might possibly get from all these 'illiquid' assets and direct them NOT back to the taxpayers whose money is being used, but right back into the very practice that got us into the mess in the first place.

I can only hope that some of the Republicans in Congress, like Rep. Mike Pence, can hold the line.

Warner Todd Huston has some interesting points on this as well.

Red State's commentary on the pork provision.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another strategic blunder by the Obama campaign

Sen. John McCain announced today that he was suspending his campaign and returning to Washington D.C. to help the Senate work on the bailout proposal. He invited Sen. Barack Obama to join him.

But Obama said no.

Obama said that unlike McCain, he will not suspend ads, or campaign events scheduled between now and Friday's debate.

"I think it's very important that the American people see the people who potentially could be in charge of this problem within the next couple of months and so my attitude is that we need to be focused on solving the problems, as I have been," Obama said. "It's also important that we communicate where we need to go in getting us out of the situation."

Obama said he will stay in Florida for the time being and will not return to Washington unless asked by Congressional leadership.

"I've told the leadership in Congress is that if I can be helpful then I am prepared to be anywhere at anytime," he said.

I think Obama's answer is a huge blunder when it comes to the campaign. For weeks we've been hearing how the financial issues are a crisis. We've been told that this is the worst economy we've ever had and this bailout will help stabilize the situation. We've also been led to believe that unless Congress acts, doom, gloom and destruction will erupt.

"...my attitude is that we need to be focused on solving the problems, as I have been."

Maybe it's just me, but how can you be focused on solving these problems if you're not in the Senate participating in the discussion and crafting of the legislation???

"It's also important that we communicate where we need to go in getting us out of the situation."

What good is communicating where we need to go if you're not communicating to the people who are making the decision? The members of the Senate are deciding where we're going on this issue - not the candidates out in the field.

Obama said he will stay in Florida for the time being and will not return to Washington unless asked by Congressional leadership.

"I've told the leadership in Congress is that if I can be helpful then I am prepared to be anywhere at anytime," he said

So let me get this straight...unless the leadership in Congress asks him, he's not going to go to D.C. to do the job he was elected - and for which he is getting paid - to do????

What happens if no one asks him to come back? Does that mean they don't think he would be helpful? And if they do ask him to come back, and he goes, would he be contradicting himself?

"What is important is that we don't suddenly infuse Capitol Hill with presidential politics."

I think Capital Hill is pretty infused with presidential politics as it is.

Obama's statements make me think he is somehow afraid of the vote on the bailout and that it would be more politically expedient to not actually cast a yes or no vote on this issue.

Another thought is that he's mad about McCain getting the jump on the issue by coming out first with the idea that they should both be in the Senate doing the job they were elected to do and his only possible political response is to disagree or be on the opposite side. If he agrees, he's following McCain's lead, and he can't be seen to do that.

To oppose the idea provides the contrast - and campaigns are all about contrast. But it also puts Obama on the wrong side of the issue. If this is such a critical issue that it has so dominated the campaign discussion, how can Obama actually say that participating in deciding how the issue will be resolved is not as important - if not more so - than campaigning and debating foreign policy?

For Obama to stay on the road while McCain is 'coordinating the solution,' may eliminate the small lead Obama had gained in the polls over the last several days. And now, after saying he's not going along with McCain, he will look even worse if he decides, tomorrow or Friday, to change his mind.

I think the Obama campaign blundered in how they overreacted - in a negative way - to the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate. The handling of this issue is, I think, their second strategic blunder.

Will they make a third - perhaps fatal - one between now and election day?

The Next Right has a good look at the issue from the McCain campaign side: On Multi-tasking, Governing and Solutions.

Where's a police car when you need one?

Well, if you're in Toledo, they're on southbound I-75 between the Michigan State Line and Interstate 280. At least, that's where they've been for the last week or so.

Going to the station at 2 p.m. last week as I filled in for Brian Wilson and the afternoon drive, there were usually 6 cars doing targeted speed enforcement in this area. They were gone by the time I came home at 6.

Tonight, on my way home from the station there 8 - yes, 8 - police cars catching speeders. Now, the fact that they were catching speeders is a good thing - and the city probably has a traffic enforcement grant to cover the expense of doing this. And the city certainly needs the money from the traffic fines.

But 8 cars sitting on the expressway could make many residents wonder if the city might have their priorities a bit off when you've got so many who complain about a lack of neighborhood patrols.

Of course, it's not the officers' fault that they're out there, but if you're one of those people who can't get a patrol car to come out and take a report about something stolen, it could make you a bit angry. And rightfully so.

So if you're planning on heading South on I-75 - watch out!

Breaking news: McCain suspends campaign

FOX News is reporting that John McCain is going to suspend his campaign to help on the bailout issue.

Sen McCain has requested a delay of this Friday's presidential debate, plans to suspend his campaign tomorrow night and return to Washington for bail-out talks, and has challenged Barack Obama to do the same.

Not 'business friendly' post #14 - noise restrictions

Even before Ohio had a smoking ban, the City of Toledo passed one. The result was that many businesses spent loads of money to separate their patron areas into smoking and non-smoking, in addition to installing upgraded air filtering systems.

That money, it turns out, was wasted after Ohio passed a much more restrictive smoking ban. Now, in response to the total ban of smoking in bars and restaurants, many businesses are building outdoor patios where patrons can have service and a smoke. Of course, that presents its own problems as patrons also want to enjoy the sounds emanating from said establishments.

As District Councilwoman Wilma Brown opined, the reason taxpayers are leaving Toledo is because of the "durn noise." (Actually, they're leaving because of high taxes, high government spending, lack of job opportunities and poor schools - but that's another rant for another post.) So Toledo City Council is considering enhanced restrictions in their noise laws.

During last night's meeting, they decided to continue the measure until their next meeting, but not before adding a very anti-business amendment.

According to the amendment, the first two violations would result in a warning. Upon a third violation, the city would suspend the business’ occupancy permit for two business days. On the fourth violation, it is suspended five days; a fifth violation results in a 15-day suspension.

Yes, you read that correctly. Toledo, with the highest unemployment rate of all the urban areas in the state, wants to shut down a business and put all its employees out of work if they make too much noise!

Fortunately, not all members of council think that's a good idea. The amendment passed 7-4 with Michael Ashford, Joe McNamara, George Sarantou, and Mark Sobczak voting against the stricter penalties. Betty Shultz was absent.

What amazes me are the number of people who didn't anticipate such an issue in response to the smoking ban. The new law says you can smoke outside, but not inside. So what did people think bars and eateries were going to do? And if an establishment has an outdoor area, wouldn't it make equal sense that any entertainment would be extended to the outside venue?

The public may demand reasonable restrictions on noise, but do we really want to sanction violators by shutting down their business?

This certainly doesn't say 'welcome' to companies considering doing business here. Instead, it screams 'not business friendly' and enhances the anti-business reputation Toledo is proving it deserves.

I'll have more to say about this tonight on Eye On Toledo, so tune in!

Three ideas about the government's bailout

First, Leslie Carbone reports on the House Republican Study Committee's "Ten Conservative Concerns" with the bailout plan.

I think one of the biggest questions raised is what if?

4) What if it fails? The plan does not give any consideration to what would occur if this authority failed to solve the current crisis. Those reasons could potentially include risk from other private sector failures outside of mortgage-backed assets, international financial services failures, lack of willing sellers, lack of willing buyers, an understatement of the depth of the problem or the financial commitment needed to abate it, or even the fact that the program might work according to planned but produce no beneficial impact.

Leslie has the complete list.

Second, The Heritage Foundation says that any bailout must (1) restore the markets and (2) protect the taxpayers. They also call for any legislation to be free of other programs, projects and pork. They give a good analysis of the good and the bad in the current proposal, along with proposals that should NOT be included as Congress goes forward.

Third, we have this post, The Bargain for the Bailout, on The Next Right. Author Ironman speculates that, despite issues with the bailout, both Republicans and Democrats may find it impossible to vote against it. So he recommends some 'conditions' upon which to base a vote.

Some prominent Democrats must demonstrate a level of responsibility for this disaster before Republicans allow themselves to be roped into looking like die hard Dubya loyalists.

The quid: The chairman of the Senate and House Banking Committees---Chris Dodd and Barney Frank--must relinquish their chairmanships as a condition for Republican yes votes on the bailouts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Discord in the Obama camp?

Yesterday, Sen. Joe Biden, the vice presidential running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, told CBS's Katie Couric that the Obama attack ad on Sen. John McCain’s ignorance of computers and technology was “terrible.”

Asked whether he’s disappointed with the tone of the campaign, including the ad that Couric characterized as “making fun of John McCain’s inability to use a computer,” Biden said “I thought that was terrible by the way.

“I didn’t know we did it and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it.”

When Biden was in Ohio, he had another of those 'Joe being Joe' moments when he said he 'supports clean coal for China but not for the United States.'

"We’re not supporting clean coal," he said of himself and Obama.

According to the Obama website:

Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology.

Obama’s Department of Energy will enter into public private partnerships to develop five “first-of-a-kind” commercial scale coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Then this morning, Obama had to reprimand Biden about another comment.

"What has been clear during this entire past ten days is John McCain has not had clarity and a grasp on the situation," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told NBC's Matt Lauer in an interview that ran this morning.

Lauer was talking about how Obama hit Sen. McCain for flip-flopping on the AIG bailout -- saying he opposed it one day then announce he supported it the next day.

But, as Lauer pointed out, scarcely three minutes after McCain said he opposed the AIG bailout last week, "in an interview with Meredith Vieira, Joe Biden, your running mate was asked the exact same question, 'should the federal government bailout AIG?' And he said, 'No, the federal government should not bailout AIG.'" (As we noted at the time.) "And I think that in that situation," Obama said, "I think Joe should have waited as well."

"But it's the kind of thing that drives people crazy about politics," Lauer said. "It sounds like you were trying to score some political points against John McCain using his words, when your own running mate had used very similar words."

"No, hold on a second Matt," Obama said. "I think what drives people crazy about politics is the fact that somebody like John McCain who for 26 years has been an advocate for deregulation, for 26 years has said the market is king and then starts going out there suggesting somehow that he's a populist who's been railing against Wall Street and regulation -- that's what drives people crazy about politics."

Obama doesn't answer the question about the contradiction, he just changed the subject to his own point - a good political strategy for the interview, but it leaves everyone wondering about the 'flip-flopping.'

Of course, just as everyone was excusing Biden for his gaffes, he makes another one.

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened,'" Barack Obama's running mate recently told the "CBS Evening News."

Except, Republican Herbert Hoover was in office when the stock market crashed in October 1929.

And even though I wasn't alive during that time, I'm pretty sure television wasn't around then.

With these incidences, many are wondering if the rumors that Biden will resign from the ticket for 'health reasons' might have some validity. I think such a step would do more harm to Obama than keeping Biden on the ticket, especially because this penchant of Biden to insert his foot into his mouth was well known. But it does make you wonder...

Lawsuit filed to stop AIG bailout

I received an email about this, but haven't seen any news coverage of the action.

We The People Foundation, has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in Albany seeking to halt the execution of the emergency bailout of American International Group, Inc. (AIG) by the United States Government and the Federal Reserve.

The lawsuit asserts that the commitment of public funds and credit for the direct benefit of privately owned AIG is an ultra vires action by the United States Government and Federal Reserve, i.e., beyond the limited legal authority granted by the Constitution. The lawsuit asks for a "show cause" hearing demanding that the Government produce evidence of its legal authority to commit public funds for such a purpose, as well as emergency and permanent injunctions halting the bailout transaction.

Beyond the Constitutional deficiencies, the bailout establishes a dangerous precedent enabling the Fed and/or Government to nationalize virtually any business or property within the United States without legal authority or congressional approval.

(ultra vires means 'beyond powers')

The complaint is very simple, while the memorandum in support of the injunction is more detailed.

In asking for the injunction, WTP states that taxpayers are subject to irreparable harm if the government takes action while AIG has other alternatives (bankruptcy protection) if it cannot pay its bills. The suit is asking the government to prove it has the Constitutional authority to take the action contemplated.

Regardless of your position on the bailout, I think there are a lot of people who will be interested in how the federal government responds to the challenge of proving their authority for such action.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Regardless of name, government does not create jobs

Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle is on the email list of Commission Ben Konop. I am not. She reports the following 'Fellowship Program.'
Commissioner Konop Urges Colleagues to Support High Tech Jobs Program

Proceeds of Stamping Plant Loan to Fund Jobs at Local Start Ups in Alternative Energy and High Tech

(Toledo, OH)– At a time of rising unemployment and serious economic uncertainty, Commissioner Konop will propose a jobs program to help jump start local start up businesses in high tech and alternative energy. Commissioner Konop will introduce his resolution at tomorrow’s 9:30 A.M. Commissioners Meeting.

Several local small business owners in the high tech and alternative energy fields will be speaking at tomorrow’s meeting in support of Konop’s resolution.

“Last week I was excited to support an investment in the stamping plant to help create manufacturing jobs in Lucas County,” stated Konop. “This week I hope my colleagues have the courage to also invest in jobs in high tech and alternative energy and put people to work in 21st century jobs,” added Konop.

Konop’s proposal calls for investing the proceeds of the loan to the Maumee Stamping Plant into a fellowship program which would place 15 Lucas County residents in 6 month fellowships at local companies in emerging technologies. Under the plan, local businesses in the high tech and alternative energy fields will submit proposals to the County for six month fellowships in research, design, engineering, manufacturing, business strategy, and marketing. These jobs will then be filled by Lucas County residents, including recently displaced workers, via the Source, the county’s one stop job center.

“This program is a win/win for local small businesses trying to grow but lacking capital and people looking for jobs in an increasingly tough economy,” stated Konop. “I hope my colleagues put progress over politics and invest in our communities future by voting for the resolution,” concluded Konop.

This is not the role of government!

First of all, the county doesn't yet have any of the interest on the loan and probably won't until after the end of the year.

Second, since when is it the role of government to hire people to work at private companies? This is his 'Job Corps' program repackaged with for-profit companies rather than non-profits, but it's still wrong. Government should not spend tax dollars to pay people to work at outside entities - and the only government workers they should pay would be the ones absolutely necessary to fulfil the mandates placed upon the county government.

Third, this is not creating jobs nor wealth within our community. Remember the 'broken window fallacy' of economic development? It's the story of a shopkeeper whose window is broken by a little boy.

Everyone sympathizes with the man whose window was broken, but pretty soon they start to suggest that the broken window makes work for the glazier, who will then buy bread, benefiting the baker, who will then buy shoes, benefiting the cobbler, etc. Finally, the onlookers conclude that the little boy was not guilty of vandalism; instead he was a public benefactor, creating economic benefits for everyone in town.

The fallacy of the onlookers' argument is that they considered only the benefits of purchasing a new window, but they ignored the cost to the shopkeeper. As the shopkeeper was forced to spend his money on a new window, he obviously could not have spent it on something else. For example, the shopkeeper may have spent the money on bread and shoes for himself, but now cannot so enrich the baker and cobbler because he must fix his window.

Thus, the child did not bring any net benefit to the town. Instead, he made the town poorer by at least the value of one window, if not more.

If one broken window is good - is not a dozen, or a hundred or a thousand? Shouldn't we break all the windows, thus stimulating the economy? So it is with Konop's 'fellowship' program. If 15 fellowships are good, what about 50, or 100?

One great lesson of political economy, emphasized for centuries, is that the government creates no wealth of its own. Everything it has it has to get from you and me, one way or another. If the Commissioners spend this interest income on part-time, temporary jobs, it won't be spending the money on the mandated functions of county government - and that means that you and I will still have pay taxes to afford those things.

Of course, if you're one of the few businesses that would qualify, you might welcome having someone else pay for the work you're getting through such a program, so expect Konop to produce several business owners who will rave about what a great idea this is. Should we be surprised that the recipients of government's largesse support it? No.

As the Board of Commissioners rejected Konop's 'jobs corp' program, they should reject this 'fellowship' program as well, because other than the name, they are exactly the same. However, if Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak again reject this type of 'program,' expect Konop to accuse them of 'politics over progress' and 'maintaining the status quo' while he whines about not getting his way - once again.

If you really want to 'jump start' local businesses, lower the taxes, reject all property tax levy increases, stop spending so much money, reduce regulations and end duplicative requirements on businesses. Doing those things would be a much more effective way of helping ALL Lucas County companies, not just the ones you like.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

McCain over Obama by 6 points says Ohio Newspaper Poll

The race for president is still tight in Ohio, but is trending toward Sen. John McCain.

An Ohio Newspaper Poll shows McCain has a 48% to 42% lead over Democratic opponent Barack Obama. The margin of error is +/- 3.3% for the survey which was conducted Sept. 12-16.

Some interesting tidbits from the poll:

* A majority- 53% - said they are either the same or better off than they were four years ago. (If a majority of voters are not experiencing difficulty or find themselves better off now, this does not bode well for candidates who are selling themselves as a solution to a bad economy.)

In the breakdown, the higher your education level, the better off you say you are, with 85% of respondents without a high school diploma saying they are worse off now than they were four years ago. A large majority of Democrats - 68% - say they are worse off. Independents are evenly split at 50% but only 26% of Republicans say they're worse off now. Interpreting the results from an educational perspective is easy - people without education are not doing as well as those with an education. This is pretty much a given. Interpreting the discrepancy between the opinions of Democrats and Republicans is another matter entirely.

* A significant majority - 70% - believe in global warming, but most do not think man-made emissions are to blame. (Yes, Ohioans know how to think critically.)

* A majority - 57% - support building more nuclear power facilities. (This is a plus for McCain who has indicated his support for this source of energy as well.)

* A majority - 55% - think the most important priority for an energy policy is alternative energy. The other choices in the survey were more drilling, nuclear plants, conserve energy and don't know. There was no 'all of the above' choice.

The political party breakdown on this question was 71% of Democrats, 52% of Independents and 41% of Republicans selecting 'alternative energy' as an answer. Conversely, for 'more drilling,' the results were 16% of Democrats, 20% of Independents and 43% of Republicans. Independents had the highest percentage for 'conserve energy' at 22%.

* A majority - 65% - support providing health care for all Americans, even if it means raising taxes. (This is a plus for Obama who supports a universal health care concept.) The choices were universal coverage, even with higher taxes, no taxes for universal coverage and don't know. 87% of Democrats, 67% of Independents and 44% of Republicans selected 'universal coverage, even with higher taxes.

* A majority - 57% - think Obama's race won't have any impact on the presidential race. (This shows that some elected Democrats in Ohio are out of touch.) Interestingly, it was Republicans who gave the 'no impact' answer most, 66% versus Democrats (33% of whom thought his race would hurt him) and Independents (who were evenly split between 'no impact' and the other choices of 'help,' 'hurt' or 'don't know.')

* 51% think McCain's age won't make a difference. 51% of Democrats, but only 39% of Republicans think it will hurt him.

All in all, I'm not surprised by the results of this snapshot of likely Ohio voters.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One-third of white Dems are racist, poll says

While some Ohio elected Democrats think their fellow Ohioans are racist, it turns out that perhaps the problem is in their own party.

An AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

"More than a third of all white Democrats and independents—voters Obama can't win the White House without—agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views."

This certainly does not bode well for the Obama campaign, as such voters could easily swing the presidential election one way or the other.

The poll was conducted to determine why Obama is locked in such a close race with McCain. Elites just don't understand why Obama is not running away with the lead, citing the unpopularity of the president as an advantage for Obama. Of course, they forget that the only approval rating less than Pres. Bush's is that of Congress and both candidates come from that body.

Apparently, 'experts' just don't get it ... for Republicans, it has more to do with Obama's positions and policies than it does his race. Even the survey found that, while Republicans harbor prejudices, too, they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. "Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president—white, black or brown."

The survey had some surprising news for Democrats - especially those who've been saying, in the last several days, that their fellow Americans are bigots and afraid to vote for a black man. According to the results, doubts about Obama's competency outweigh the racial issue.

"More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that.

Three in 10 of those Democrats who don't trust Obama's change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain."

Some other interesting survey findings from the article:

* More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites."

* About 20% of independent voters called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."

* Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they "try harder."

* Just 59% of Hillary Clinton's white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17% of Clinton's white backers plan to vote for McCain.

* Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well.

Ohio unemployment: numbers vs. percentage

The media was awash yesterday with the news that Ohio's August unemployment rate of 7.4% was the highest it's been since 1992.

EGAD!!! It's all Bush's fault!
NO - it's that Democrat Strickland!

But the reality of the situation is a bit different when you take a look at the details and not just just the headlines and the spin.

The unemployment rate is a reflection of the number of people unemployed divided by the total estimated number of people in the labor force and then multiplied by 100 to get the percentage.

And percentages can be deceiving.

If you have 100 people available to work and 20 of them are out of work, your unemployment rate is 20%. If you have 1000 people available to work and 50 of them are not working, your unemployment rate is 5%. Obviously, if you're comparing only percentages, it would seem that the 20% rate was much worse, even though fewer people are unemployed.

So it is with Ohio's rate. The number of people unemployed in August in Ohio was, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, 445,000. If you look at their historical records, that's actually 38% less than the record number of 715,200 unemployed in December 1982.

We had fewer people unemployed in August 2008 than we did in December 1982.

But, because we have fewer people in the workforce these days, the percentage is high.

We are, of course, comparing apples to apples in that the unemployment rate is always the number of people not working divided by the total estimated number of people who can work. But what does it really mean?

Is Ohio worse off now, because of a higher rate, than it was in 1982 when more people were actually unemployed? That's the question.

Sadly, the facts behind the statistics are often overlooked when it comes to how politicians and others spin the numbers. With a Democrat governor, Republicans will blame the high percentage on him and his administration of the state. This being a presidential election year, Democrats will blame the Republican in the White House.

And in trying to put the blame on each other, they will miss the real problem: that Ohio has not been a place where businesses want to be, which is why we have residents who cannot find jobs, and that our out-of-work residents either can't or won't do the jobs that are available.

Ohioans (both employed and unemployed) would be better off if those politicians would focus on making our state more business friendly, rather than focusing on how to 'spin' the numbers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rangle calls Palin 'disabled'

Yep - it's true. Rep. Charlie Rangel, when asked why Democrats are so afraid of Sarah Palin and her popularity, said, "You got to be kind to the disabled."

The reporter then questioned Rangel on this, to see if he did, indeed, mean Sarah Palin. He did.

If I had been the reporter, I probably would have turned the comment back on Rangel by interpreting the 'disabled' to apply to the Democrats who are so afraid of her...but that's just me.

I realize that there is a lot at stake with a national election - but this is just too much! However, the more they talk like this, the better the chances McCain-Palin have of ending up in the White House.

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Ahoy there, scallywags and sea wenches! It be Talk Like A Pirate Day.

According to the originators, "Talking like a pirate is fun. It's really that simple. It gives your conversation a swagger, an elán, denied to landlocked lubbers." And anyone can do it - though some do it better than others. LOL!

In honor of this ignoble day, here be some bad pirate jokes:

A seaman meets a pirate in a bar, and the talk turns to their adventures. The seaman notes that the pirate has a peg leg, a hook, and an eye patch. 'How did you end up with the peg leg?' he asks.
The pirate replies, 'I was swept overboard into a school of sharks. As my men were pulling me out, a shark bit my leg off.'
'Wow!' says the seaman. 'What about your hook?'
'Well,' answers the pirate, 'we were boarding a ship when one of the enemy hacked off my hand.'
'Incredible!' says the seaman. 'How'd you get the eye patch?'
'A seagull pooped in my eye,' the pirate replies.
'You lost your eye to a seagull dropping?' the seaman asks.
'Well,' says the pirate, 'it twas my first day with the hook.'

Q. What are a pirate's favourite socks?
A. Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgyle.

Q: Why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet?
A: Because they can spend so many years at C!
alternative answer: Because they can't get past R (arrgh)

A pirate walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender points at the parrot and says, 'Wow! That's really cool! Where did you get that?!'
The parrot says 'Hispaniola! They're freakin' everywhere!'

And a classic:

A pirate walks into a tavern with a ship’s wheel down the front of his pants.

The bartender asks the pirate if he knows its there and the pirate responds: Yarr, it’s drivin’ me nuts.

Quote of the Day

From The Patriot Post:

"The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy."

~ Benjamin Franklin (Emblematical Representations, Circa 1774)

FOIA Friday - September 19, 2008

One of the biggest frustrations in trying to get public records is when a government entity doesn't want to give you the information. Despite the fact that the information is there, it might not already be in a form that makes it easy to hand out.

Each state has its own laws and in Ohio, governments are not required to create a record in order to provide it to you. While this makes sense on the one hand, it can become a way for entities to hide information they don't want you to know.

When I was the Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court, the city of Toledo, through which our budget was processed, periodically issued a report that listed how many employees were in each department (by classification) and how many of those budgeted positions were vacant. Figuring that if the report existed in the past, it should be able to be produced in the present, I asked for the information.

Apparently, they no longer do the report on a regular basis, hence, the answer I got from the city was that no such report exists. Could it easily be produced? Probably, considering that they haven't changed the computer systems since I was in office.

But, if the city doesn't want people to know this information, they can just say that they have no such report, and the logic of 'you used to have it so please produce it' just doesn't resonate with them.

As a citizen, I should be able to know, at any given point in time, how many employees the city has on the payroll, and how that number differs from what was budgeted. The mayor, facing budget deficits, has said that he believes there are positions in each department that are not necessary and could be eliminated in order to reduce those deficits.

Um...if the positions are not necessary, why are they there in the first place????

But if you're getting ready to lay off people, wouldn't it be logical to think that you already know how many of the budgeted positions are not filled? Either you do, and you just don't want to share that information with the public, or you don't, which makes you a less-than-competent mayor.

He who controls the information controls the world...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm not racist because I don't want to vote for Obama!

Some elected Democrats in Ohio say the only reason Ohioans won't vote for Barack Obama is because they're racist. Some idiot from Cincinnati said the same thing on CNN last week and even the governor is playing this tune.

"There are good people who won't vote for Obama because he's a black man," (Ted) Strickland said.

I get so sick of this - it's not his skin color I'm voting against, it's his philosophy and policies.

Of course, maybe they're just setting up a reason for losing the state. I can hear it now: "it's not our fault we lost the election, Ohioans are racist..."

I guess they'd rather believe the worst of others than admit their policies don't resonate with their fellow Ohioans.

The irony of Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day. It was on this day in 1787 that the first 39 signatures were placed on the Constitution that had been created.

On December 8, 2004, the Congress of the United States, one branch of the government established by the Constitution, passed a "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005" (118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45), establishing Constitution Day in the United States.

In Section 111 of Division J of Pub. L. 108-447, there is a subsection (b) that states:

"[e]ach educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution."

So today, just about every school in the nation is, or should be, doing a program of some kind about the Constitution.

I suppose the irony of the law was unrecognized by those members of Congress who voted for this. Where does the federal government get the authority to “mandate that all federal agencies and schools receiving federal funds hold educational programs pertaining to the Constitution on Constitution Day”???

Certainly NOT in the Constitution they’re promoting.

I also find it sad that Congress could find the votes for such a mandate, but cannot muster the courage to pass the Enumerated Powers Act, which would require all legislation passed to include the section of the Constitution which grants them the authority to pass such a law. Of course, if Congress had such an Enumerated Powers Act, we wouldn't have a Constitution Day.

Those points aside, I do think it's a great idea that we focus attention on this historic document that has given us one of the most stable - and free - governments of all time. I just think we should pay attention to its precepts on a daily basis - not just one day out of the year.

If you'd like more information, you can visit The Constitution Center, Constitution Facts or Constitution Day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Should Ohio unionize court workers?

That's the question that will be before the Ohio legislature, thanks to State Representative Matt Szollosi (D-49th District), who issued the following press release yesterday:

Rep. Szollosi Introduces Bill to Protect Court Workers’ Rights

Legislation Would Allow Collective Bargaining for Court Employees

COLUMBUS – State Representative Matt Szollosi (D-Toledo) introduced legislation today to give specified court employees the ability to enter into collective bargaining.

The legislation would eliminate an exemption from the Public Employees’ Collective Bargaining Law for “employees and officers of the courts” and “employees of the clerks of courts performing judicial functions.” It was born from a situation at the Lucas County Juvenile Court in which court employees voted to form a bargaining unit, but the Court reversed an initial decision and stopped the employees’ effort to organize.

“We want to enable these court workers to negotiate for better wages, competitive benefits and improved working conditions,” Rep. Szollosi said. “It seems only fair to allow this flexibility for public employees who work so hard to keep the public safe and uphold our laws.”

Rep. Szollosi’s legislation now awaits assignment to a House committee for formal hearings.

SIDE NOTE: As I've said before, if the state law specifically excludes you from collective bargaining, you have no 'right' to it, no matter what Szollosi's press release states. And someone should ask Szollosi about those 'better wages' and 'competitive benefits.' These workers already have wages higher than the private sector in the county, and they are consistent with other courts in the area. Their benefits are the same as all county employees and are extremely generous (including minimal co-pays, coverage of just about all health conditions, prescription drug coverage, vision and dental coverage, and health coaches) and, again, better than what is available in the private sector.

Why is this even an issue? Because, for about a year, the United Auto Workers has been trying to organize our Juvenile Court workers. They'd been given a voluntary recognition by the judges, because they are, under Ohio law, specifically excluded from collective bargaining. Several things went awry during the negotiations, from the interference of a county commissioner to damage to a judge's tires, resulting in the withdrawal of the voluntary recognition and the rejection of any further discussions.

The UAW, furious with the withdrawal of the recognition, began a public campaign. They took out a full-page ad in the paper and began radio commercials to urge citizens to tell Presiding Judge Denise Cubbon to change her mind. This resulted in my effort to encourage the public - and my WSPD listeners - to also call and share their opinion.

Obviously, the public campaign wasn't successful because the UAW, with Szollosi's help, had a bunch of state elected officials sign a petition urging Judge Cubbon to reconsider. As I detailed in my linked post, the UAW is certainly getting a return on its campaign donations.

But despite the urging by all those state reps who've never been to Toledo, the UAW saw no success, as Judge Cubbon has stood her ground.

So what's a union to do? Well, it does what it always does: failing to gain support within the community, or with voters, or - in this case - with the court, they want to change the law. And they have a willing participant in Rep. Matt Szollosi and, I expect, the other signers of the petition.

Did I mention that this is an election year for state representatives?

Having been a Clerk of Court, I'm pretty confident that this proposal will generate objections from across the state, although some of it may be behind the scenes so as not to anger the unions in Ohio. But support of unionization for workers aside, this is bad policy in general and, specifically, a bad reaction to a local problem. And Ohio legislators and citizens should reject this change in law.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Development principles for Ohio cities

The following is an article by Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a co-founder and senior fellow at the Buckeye Institute. He directed the Urban Futures Program at Reason Public Policy Institute, the research division of the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles from 1997 to 2002 where he also served as Deputy Director of RPPI. An Ohio native and resident, he is the author of several books.

While this was written in 2003, the principles are valid today, especially #2 when it comes to Toledo's economic development approach.

Five Development Principles for Ohio Cities

Local regions in Ohio are faced with 21st-century challenges that fundamentally question both the logic of existing economies and the ways we approach economic development policy. Citizens and local policymakers must take a fresh look at how the economy repositions itself in an information-driven, globally competitive world market and what, if anything, public policy can do to influence these shifts.

There are five key observations and principles that would be helpful to include in any discussion of local economic development policy:

1. Focus on the achievable. Any elected official's first inclination is to create and implement a positive program for change. Unfortunately, reality, political and economic, often gets in the way of grand plans, and elected officials need to factor this into their policy recommendations. Cities must focus on what they can achieve, not on visions, hopes, or aspirations that are no longer within reach or impossible to achieve under the best of circumstances. While vision can provide a general context, it cannot provide a workable action plan. Thus, a practical key to successful economic development policy is the ability of local leaders to be realistic in their expectations and in the programs they create to achieve them.

2. Private-sector participation will be key. In the late 20th century, many elected officials believed that government could create jobs by investing directly in projects, or seeding projects that would create a catalyst for long-term investment and growth. Most of these plans have achieved results far below expectations.

Over the past two decades, economic development specialists have recognized that good projects almost always have a significant private-sector component because entrepreneurs have a better grasp of market conditions and the long-term viability of certain kinds of projects. In short, the private sector does a better job of leading and managing projects and leveraging public dollars than does the public sector investing on its own.

Nowhere is this more evident than in downtown revitalization efforts. Downtowns across the nation continue to struggle despite significant public subsidies. Downtowns that in fact have revitalized are those that recognize long-term growth depends on creating a viable market and a business climate in which private investors and entrepreneurs could thrive. More often than not, this requires local officials to recognize that downtowns are boutique markets and serve a specific niche; they no longer serve the historical role of economic engines for regional economies.

3. Providing core services efficiently is paramount to long-term success. Local governments must not lose sight of their core competencies - the services and products local governments provide that no one else can (or will) provide. These core competencies include local infrastructure, certain kinds of regional planning, law enforcement, criminal justice, the quality of public education and other services. To ignore these core services risks compromising economic development in the short and long run.

4. Private investors create sustainable economies. Government investment does not create long-term job growth. Certain types of investments, such as road and sewer infrastructure, help lay a broad-based foundation for private investment. Their job creation and impact on local wages, however, are relatively small. Public works projects may provide a short-term infusion of cash that increases the number of jobs in the short run but they don't provide a foundation for sustained investment.

The vast majority of jobs come from local small businesses starting up, expanding and diversifying over time. Local officials rarely can pick and choose among those private businesses to determine which will be successful. Indeed, the history of economic development is rife with examples of companies that became successful as a by-product of their efforts in their core competencies. Wealth creation, from a public official's perspective, is largely a spontaneous process where the logic and rationale of the success of a particular business can be determined only in retrospect.

5. Leadership requires focus, drive and simplicity. Sometimes, policymakers tend to take a shotgun approach to economic development policy that captures the following philosophy: try as many ideas as you can and hope two or three have an impact. This approach tends to diffuse accountability in the process, and often sets in motion initiatives that work at cross-purposes. A more effective strategy has been for local leaders to identify two or three key areas and goals, and then develop a timed, phased action plan to achieve them. The results are easier to measure, and implementation is clearly and more likely to succeed.

Ohio cities should strive for programs that are focused, market-driven and provide a basic foundation for private investment and wealth-creation. That is what generates tangible results in the long run.

Light postings this week

I'll be filling in for Brian Wilson on the Afternoon Drive (3-6 p.m. on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD), so my postings may be a bit light as I focus on preparing for the show.

You can always listen live if you need your daily dose of Thurber's Thoughts.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Can a conservative be a feminist?

When I was growing up, I was surrounded by women who didn't follow the 'traditional' roles. Both my grandmothers worked - one out of necessity and the other out of interest. One helped run a family business; the other, a divorced woman at a time when that was taboo, supported her two young daughters.

My mother and my aunts worked as well, partly for the additional income and partly because of their desire to have a career. As a sailor - more specifically a racer - there weren't very many women role models, but that didn't make much difference. While I and my female friends were outnumbered by men on the race course, we were there - along with our mothers - and were quite competitive.

My perspective of the feminist movement comes from these women. For me, it was never about the issues: equal pay for equal work, glass ceilings, abortion on demand, burning bras, pregnancy leave, etc. It was always about the philosophy: as a woman, I should be treated equally. With this philosophy, I didn't require special consideration - just equal consideration - being judged by the same criteria. Furthermore, that philosophy included my ability to decide my own life, not have it dictated to me by other's expectations.

I was once asked, during a County Commissioner candidate debate, to say something nice about my opponent. She was older than me and had been in politics much longer. I pointed out that she - and several other women in Lucas County - paved a path for younger women like me. They broke the political glass ceiling in our area before I even knew the term. As a result, the fact that I was the first woman elected as the Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court wasn't an issue. The fact that two women were running for County Commissioner wasn't an issue. Today, Lucas County continues to have a very high proportion of female elected officials. And I consider myself fortunate to live in an area with such a perspective.

Am I an example of what the early 'feminists' fought so hard for? Definitely! I chose a career path and have been successful. My sister, who chose to be a stay-at-home mom when her kids were growing up is also an example of what those early female leaders fought for. She made her choice and that was her decision.

Today, women are found everywhere - in every profession, field, and role. While there are still some 'firsts' to be achieved, we know that those 'firsts' are just a matter of time - no longer a wishful dream.

But then along comes Sarah Palin. She, too, is a perfect example of what those early feminists fought so hard for. She has a successful marriage, a fine family, and a successful career. When it came to choices, she made them and no one told her she couldn't.

So why are feminists so outraged and vehement in their opposition to her? Is it because she chose a political philosophy different from their own? Apparently. According some, it appears that you can't be a 'true' feminist unless you're also liberal.

But if feminism is all about making choices for yourself and not having them dictated to you based upon others' expectations, why is it that today's feminists expect you to adopt their collective left-leaning political philosophy? Doesn't this expectation from today's feminists contradict their core philosophy? Do they really believe that women should have 'choice' only so long as they can dictate what that choice should be?

Have today's feminists become the same as those they used to fight against? It seems so.

Today, instead of a patriarchal system dictating the role of women, we have feminists dictating the political role of women. It used to be men telling us that 'a woman's place was in the home.' Today, it's feminists telling us that 'a woman's place is as a Liberal' and woe unto those who dare challenge such a concept.

As a woman, I oppose the hijacking of the feminist movement by partisan interests. The core principles of feminism are not the purview of any one political party - nor should they be. If women are free to choose, that choice must apply to politics as well as jobs, motherhood and abortion.

I reject today's so-called feminist leaders who tell me that my choices aren't the right ones because they are different than the ones they made or support. We've seen this fight before. Stay-at-home moms used to be denigrated because they chose motherhood over a career. But saner minds prevailed.

I'm a conservative. I'm also a feminist, in that I believe in the ability of women to lead a life free from coercion. Being both is not contradictory, rather it is the epitome. And the sooner today's so-called feminist leaders recognize and acknowledge this fact, the better off all women will be.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Obama can't win against Palin

My husband and I have been having some interesting discussions about the way Sen. Barack Obama has been going after Gov. Sarah Palin. The positions range from 'democrats don't know how to run against women - even their own' to 'has he forgotten he's running against Sen. John McCain and not Palin' to 'I hope he keeps it up because it spells doom for his campaign.'

Karl Rove, former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, is loved by the right and hated by the left for his savvy abilities when it comes to campaigning, earning the nickname 'The Architect' and with just cause.

Rove's column in the Wall Street Journal sums up the points we've been making at home. Some of the key points:

If Mr. Obama wants to win, he needs to remember he's running against John McCain for president, not Mrs. Palin for vice president.

If Mr. Obama keeps attacking Mrs. Palin, he could suffer the fate of his Democratic predecessors. These assaults highlight his own tissue-thin résumé, waste precious time better spent reassuring voters he is up for the job, and diminish him -- not her.

A debate between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Palin over executive experience also isn't smart politics for Democrats. As Mr. Obama talks down Mrs. Palin's record, voters may start comparing backgrounds. He won't come off well.

Mrs. Palin did seek earmarks as Wasilla's mayor. But as governor, she ratcheted down the state's requests for federal dollars, telling the legislature last year Alaska "cannot and must not rely so heavily on federal government earmarks." Her budget chief directed state agencies to reduce earmark requests to only "the most compelling needs" with "a strong national purpose," explaining to reporters "we really want to skinny it down."

Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can't win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he's been in the Senate. If voters dislike earmarks -- and they do -- they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year.

Mr. Obama is already finding it difficult to win over independent women and Hillary Clinton voters. If it looks like he's going out of his way to attack Mrs. Palin, these voters may conclude it's because he has a problem with strong women.

If Mr. Obama keeps attacking her, the odds of Gov. Palin becoming Vice President Palin increase significantly.

Rove gets it right, even if the Obama supporters don't want to hear what he has to say. Of course, the McCain-Palin supporters obviously hope it continues.

When you're on the defensive in a campaign, you're losing.

Quote of the Day

Tolerance is the last virtue of a dying society” – Aristotle

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another editorial telling the United Way what to do

I'm tired of the Blade editorial pages - and I hate continually pointing out their deficiencies in logic and consistency. But I think it's important for there to be a balancing perspective when it comes to their agendas.

So I find myself today taking exception to their portrayal of the United Way and the decision their board has made to tear down their old, dilapidated building and construct a newer, smaller one.

In today's editorial, "No haste for waste," they try to twist the facts to have readers think that the United Way has made a 'hasty' decision.

"UNITED Way of Greater Toledo should set aside a rash decision it may regret and heed Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's request for a moratorium on demolition of the charitable group's downtown headquarters."

Rash??? The United Way board spent three years evaluating the building and developing the plans for how to deal with it. They had one of the preeminent engineering/architectural firms spend several months examining the structure and workings of the building. They involved the Stranahan Foundation, the organization which represents the original donor who made the existing building possible, and the Foundation fully supports the decision.

Three years is hardly 'rash' ... but they don't mention the amount of time the United Way spent on making a good decision.

What is 'rash' is the immediate rejection of all the months of work in favor of the opinion of the publisher, John Robinson Block, that buildings - no matter what - should always be preserved. Of course, such opinion was conspicuously absent by many, including the publisher and The Blade, when it came to tearing down buildings for the new downtown arena.

What is 'rash' is the outcry by the lemmings in elective office who, without even viewing the building, joined the cry to stop the demolition. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner hasn't even toured the building yet, but he's making demands on the United Way and telling everyone he'll do everything within his power to keep the building standing.

What's also 'rash' is that the mayor, in his perpetual tendency to offend, made such an announcement at a meeting of historic committees - prior to communicating his idea to the United Way. Bill Kitson, the U.W. president, probably heard about the mayor's promise through the media when they called him for a response. Even two days later, he hadn't received the letter the mayor said he was sending.

According to the editorial, Finkbeiner said that tearing down this structure destroys the fabric of the central business district. Well, far be it from me to bring reason and logic into the discussion, but what really destroys the fabric of the central business district is the lack of jobs - not a brand new building!

The editorial says the plan to tear down and build new was hatched in secret. Not true. The U.W. board members told many individuals - including the mayor, though he claims to not remember - that they were examining their options, including tear down and rebuild. It was covered in the local media over a period of months. I can't help but think that 'hatched in secret' is Blade code for 'they didn't consult with us, first.'

"In this case, the greater good lies not in the wrecking ball but in preserving a downtown building that, despite its problems, has not outlived its usefulness."

Actually, the greater good for the community IS what the United Way is doing. They are spending around $400,000 out of their operating fund to maintain the building. That's money that could, without the challenges of this dilapidated building, be spent helping people in need. Isn't that the greater good?

"The decision to demolish, we believe, was not arrived at by the United Way board with the deliberation it deserved. While the board includes plenty of good people, it lacks the sort of municipal movers and shakers with the vision to look beyond the immediate desires of its executive leadership for a new building and see the risks inherent in a tear-down philosophy."

Here we go - because you disagree with our opinion, you obviously are the wrong people to make such a decision.

In case it isn't clear, The Blade is saying that all the board members are being swayed by Bill Kitson, the relatively new president of the organization. Here is a list of board members. The current chairman of the U.W. board is Robert LeClair, senior vice president of Fifth Third Bank. Yes, the same Fifth Third Bank that is the primary sponsor of Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens. This certainly doesn't sound like someone swayed by a single individual. Many would say that LeClair is, indeed, one of the "municipal movers and shakers" with vision.

What about Robert Helmer, President of Lourdes College? Or Elaine Canning, President and COO of The Bostwick Braun Company? Or Sara Jane DeHoff, founder of Caphelon? The members of the United Way board are the who's who of Toledo and the surrounding area - individuals who've made their own way, been successful in their careers and, most assuredly, are the 'movers and shakers' in the community. But they've made a decision The Blade doesn't like so they are suddenly pliant individuals capable of being swayed by short-term desires. Yeah - right!

"Moreover, the costs cited by United Way for demolition and construction of a new building one-fourth the size don't, to our way of thinking, add up."

Well, there are a lot of things that obviously don't add up when it comes to Blade opinions. They complain about the loss of population and businesses, but continue to support increasing the taxes of the people and companies who are here. They complain that the area is going in the wrong direction, but continually support the exact same philosophies that put us into our current economic mess. They blame the bad economy on the current federal administration and say that they must go, but defend the local administration who is more directly responsible for our local economy and say we need more of the same.

The editorial concludes with this:

"United Way should listen to the mayor and act accordingly."

What they're really saying is that the United Way should listen to them, even though they haven't spent anywhere near the time studying the situation and are, themselves, guilty of haste.

I get no pleasure from reading and critiquing the warped perspective of such writings. But, for too many years, we've not had such a competing view when it comes to many important issues. It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.
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