Friday, July 31, 2009

Why not duplicate an insurance that works?

Numerous times I've questioned why politicians and President Barack Obama are going the socialized medicine route when it comes to health care and not looking at how auto and home insurance systems work instead.

Now comes this post by Eli Lehrer, "Auto Insurance Works - So Why Doesn’t Health Insurance?" which wonders the same thing.

Those looking for solutions to America’s health insurance bills can see a lot to admire in the auto insurance market. Auto coverage purchasers throughout the country have a wide choice of providers, a fair number of different options within those plans, and benefit from vigorous price competition in the market. In states that don’t monkey too much with the auto market even the worst drivers can usually find a private carrier to cover them. All states but New Hampshire, furthermore, have “financial responsibility” — the individual mandate — that requires car owners to have either insurance or another means of paying for any accidents they cause. This last feature, in particular, has attracted praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.


Lack of tough questioning during campaign hurts Obama now

I have opined in various forums that the press was too easy on President Barack Obama during his campaign and his first months in the presidency.

And I'm not the only one. Numerous strategists, campaign professionals, bloggers and journalists have noted that he gets quite a lot of 'easy' questions - soft balls - because, it is believed, of an affinity for the man and his positions.

My concern, in noticing his lack of tough questioning, was not just the unfairness (you know how liberals love 'fair') and double standard, but the results of such lack of vetting and preparation.

When the media ask candidates tough questions during a campaign, two things happen: 1) the public gets to see how the candidate responds to difficult issues thus informing the public about the character and the positions of the candidate; and 2) the candidate gets practice for what should be even tougher issues and questions if he should win.

For the first point, having been in the situation, I can tell you that nothing prepares a person more than having to stand in front of cameras and microphones with lights and no one whispering in your ear and have a difficult question thrown at you. Such questions and challenges (for they are challenging you) require you to know your position and be able to articulate it, to respectfully disagree with what an opponent has claimed, to demonstrate your poise in handling the situation, and, hopefully, sway people to your side.

What the public saw with Obama was emotional, for the most part. He sounded good and looked good, but there was very little substance (details) in much of his positions. He really didn't get the type of questions that required him to delve into policy or philosophy, so the public didn't get to see that aspect of him. If you wanted to know those sorts of things, you had to seek out such information on your own. As a result, many people did not really know his positions, just his general approach of 'hope and change.'

On the second point, Obama, because he did not have the tough questions and probing in the campaign, now finds himself unprepared for the type of questions he's beginning to get. He's being challenged on the health care issue and had to admit he hadn't actually read the bill he's promoting, but he's supporting it anyway. He also finds his words about the bill contradicted by the actual language in the legislation.

Additionally, he's being questions on details of the health 'reform' - details he was not expected to produce during the campaign. Remember when he said that 95% of Americans would see a tax cut? Rarely, if ever, did anyone sit him down and ask him to explain various points of this promise, like: what impact will such a 'cut' have on the deficit; if he's giving tax cuts to 95% will he increase taxes on 5%, what about the people who don't pay anything in the first place; how will he pay for the cost of his promises if he's cutting those taxes; will fees or other charges go up instead? Reporters, if they did ask such questions, didn't insist on real answers, just accepting whatever words came from Obama's mouth.

This was a disservice to the man, the candidate, and now, to the President. He is unprepared for the types of challenges he's getting on the issues. He's being asked why, when he promised the stimulus would keep unemployment from going above 8%, the rate is now 10%. He's being asked why, if he doesn't want to 'own' General Motors, he's taken it over. He's being asked why ... and he's starting to get that question a lot, mainly from people and, increasingly, from the media.

Had he been challenged regarding these types of things during the campaign, he'd be better prepared for them now. He'd know that platitudes won't cut it when it comes to talking about medical care for you when you're sick. He'd know that 'feel-good' messages might win you a vote, but it won't win you long-term support if you can't back it up with facts, logic and reason.

As a candidate, I was the underdog in all four of my campaigns. I was the Republican in a Democrat-leaning jurisdiction, my opponents were always much more well-known and better financed, and I was often described as 'young' which was portrayed as a negative at the time. I knew, going into these races and in office, that I had to be twice as good as my opponent just to be perceived as equal.

Perhaps my upbringing in a family business had something to do with that approach - always having to prove myself to my co-workers so they knew I wasn't just 'handed' a position in the company. I earned it.

The media helped me during my time in office - not by supporting my positions, but by challenging them. They asked me the tough questions, they evaluated my answers, they critiqued my campaign promises and compared them to my performance. Their examinations prepared me for the even tougher challenges I faced when making decisions in office.

As a result of what I went though, I was a better elected official. I was routinely more prepared than my colleagues, always had documentation to support my positions, always read everything that came across my desk - myself, and was never without a solid position that I knew how to articulate in the 30-second sound bite. Even my detractors complimented me on my preparedness with one saying that knowing how prepared I would be made him work to be as prepared as well.

President Obama has had no such experience, so he relies upon hand-picked attendees at town hall meetings, pre-screening questions at press conferences and teleprompters. While I don't want to say he's afraid of an unscripted event, he certainly appears to avoid them at all costs, perhaps knowing that he isn't prepared for the randomness and isn't confident in his own ability to handle the unexpected.

If the media had done their job, this wouldn't be an issue.

So what should he do? Some might call me presumptuous offering advice to "the president," but that's what I'm going to do. I think he should do his homework and then go out and participate in unscripted events. Let people question him about all the difficult things and be honest in responding with answers, not just words. Allow the follow-ups when people don't think he's really answered the question. Experience now what he didn't on the campaign trail and use it to get better.

Yes, it will be difficult at first, because mistakes will be made. But that is how we learn. Pres. Obama, being a smart man, will learn quickly ... and that will be good for him - and for us.

Reuters features Toledo in article

Yesterday, Reuters and reporter Nick Carey did a story that featured Toledo, "As U.S. recession bites, Ohio hopes fade for Obama."

It's pretty standard, as these types of stories go, but I didn't get a press release from Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's office touting the coverage.

Some interesting points from the article:

A Quinnipiac University opinion poll released on July 7 showed the Democratic president's popularity in America's seventh most populous state had fallen to 49 percent from 62 per cent in May. Even worse for Obama, 48 percent said they disapproved of his handling of the U.S. economy, with 46 percent approving.
Unemployment hit 14.2 percent in June in Toledo, a city of about 315,000 people. Many of the roads in and out of the city are in a poor state of repair and many
downtown stores have closed down.
"We're not just in a recession here, it's a depression," said Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.
Toledo's retail vacancy rate hit a record level of 14.6 percent.

H/T fellow SOBer, Patrick Poole

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How is this a good deal for taxpayers?

According to the Journal of the City of Toledo, when city council approved Ordinance 373-09 (beginning on page 8), the contract with the Toledo Police Patrolmen's Association (TPPA), it also agreed to the following:

Other provisions - Grievance Settlement.
The City agrees to pay $25,000 to the TPPA to withdraw any and all outstanding grievances filed prior to June 24, 2009 with the exception of grievances on employee parking, eliminating of the tax officer position, on call compensation/payment for fuel, sergeant-at-arms position, permanent shifts, and layoff grievances.

Tax Payment. A one-time payment will be made by April 15, 2010 based on the sliding income tax collection schedule as follows: if the 2009 audited books reflect an income tax collection greater than $148 million, the employee receives 2% of his/her base rate; if the 2009 audited books reflect an income tax collection greater than $150 million, the employee receives 4.5% of his/her base rate; if the 2009 audited books reflect an income tax collection greater than $152.5 million, the employee receives 7% of his base rate; if the 2009 audited books reflect an income tax collection greater than $155 million employee receives 9% of his base rate.

So, let's get this straight: the city is going to pay the union - not the members, but the organization - $25,000 to get them to drop a bunch of grievances? Since when did taxpayer money get to be used to buy off settlement of grievances - many of which the union never should have had to file in the first place?

And how much are we really saving if the city has to pay up to 9% (based upon income tax collections) in a lump sum? Police - and firefighters who have the same terms in their contract - are going to be financially rewarded if the city collects more than it estimated? Of course, there is the chance that the city doesn't collect more than it budgeted in income, but history indicates the unions have a safe bet on this one. However, a lump sum is just a one-time payment so there is no cumulative effect on the base wage.

How 'bout if the city, after balancing the expenses based upon the project income, REFUNDS any extra income to the taxpayers who paid it in the first place, rather than pay off the unions????

Oh - but the city hasn't yet balanced the 2009 budget. Even with the 'savings' from these contracts, the mayor is still estimating an $8 million budget deficit for the remainder of the year - with no source of extra funds to the cover the shortfall.

And if the administration's projections for next year are even remotely accurate, there is no money to pay for 2010 basic services, much less a lump sum for police and fire fighters.

Yet council approved both these contracts with no idea whatsoever of how they were going to pay for the terms they agreed to.

Are taxpayers just supposed to hope that the city doesn't collect more than the budgeted $145 million in income taxes so we don't have to pay out the lump sum? And if we don't get more than that, we still have an $8 million budget deficit to pay for, which is why Carty Finkbeiner is asking council to increase the trash tax and eliminate reciprocity for people who live in Toledo but work in another city.

What it boils down to is this: the city has no money, but if it collects more money than it budgeted, police and fire will get lump sum payments (of up to 9% depending), reducing the amount of 'extra' money that could be used cover the deficit.

And city council and the mayor think this is a good deal for taxpayers???? I think we got screwed...

Top 1% pay more in taxes than bottom 95% combined

Yep - according to information released by the IRS, the top 1% of taxpayers pay more than the bottom 95% of payers combined. (Information is from 2007, the most recent year available.)

The Tax Foundation has a good post on the subject and a chart, if you're a fan of visuals. From that article:

To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined.

I've posted on the subject of tax burdens in the past (two relevant posts here and here), but with the plan for funding just about everything in Washington these days being 'tax the rich,' and with this new information from the IRS, I have to wonder: Just how much do liberals want to "tax the rich" in order to make the tax code more fair?

How is it "fair" that 1% of the earners incur more burden than 95% of the rest - combined? We're already giving 'back' to individuals who've paid nothing to begin with - and many in Congress want to increase those amounts.

In 2007, you were 'rich' if your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was over $66,532. How's that? Well, because at that AGI, you're in the top 25%. When you're in the top 25% of wage earners, aren't you 'rich'????

Additionally, filers in that percentage paid 87% of the income taxes collected.

Just remember, as the 'rich' are required by federal, state and local governments to pick up more and more of the tax burden, the amount of earnings it takes to be classified as 'rich' decreases.

Where does your income fall? Are you one of the 'rich' who can 'afford' to pay for everyone else?

Central dispute between Right and Left over health care

Greg Mankiw, a professor of economics at Harvard University with a blog of 'random observations for students of economics,' has done a good job, I think, of summing up the central dispute between Left and Right over health care.

Perhaps a lot of the disagreement over healthcare reform, and maybe other policy issues as well, stems from the fundamental question of what kind of institutions a person trusts. Some people are naturally skeptical of profit-seeking firms; others are naturally skeptical of government. ...

I tend to distrust power unchecked by competition. This makes me particularly suspicious of federal policies that take a strong role in directing private decisions. I am much more willing to have state and local governments exercise power in a variety of ways than for the federal government to undertake similar actions. ...

Most private organizations have some competitors, and this fact makes me more comfortable interacting with them. If Harvard is a bad employer, I can move to Princeton or Yale, and this knowledge keeps Harvard in line. To be sure, we need a government-run court system to enforce contracts, prevent fraud, and preserve honest competition. But it is fundamentally competition among private organizations that I trust. ...

A central question in this and perhaps other debates is, Whom do you trust?

Quote of the Day

"If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute." --Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For everything else, there are taxpayers

A bit of humor:

William Warren's award-winning cartoons are published at and are a free service of ALG News Bureau. They may be reused and redistributed free of charge.

Kaptur: 'I'm not subject to FOIA'

Earlier this month I made a FOIA request of Rep. Marcy Kaptur to find out the numbers of calls for/against the cap and trade bill.

While I was aware that congressional reps claim constituent communications as confidential, I thought that the numbers of calls was a public record, since revealing the numbers, percentages or ratio does not, in any way whatsoever, reveal who contacted the rep nor their specific communications.

Several others across the nation have made this same request, including Earl who blogs at Kansas Meadowlark and Skip who blogs at GraniteGrok and has a radio show.

Our efforts have not been fruitful. Yesterday I received the type-written response to my request. I received an email copy of the letter over the weekend. The letter denies my request as 1) members of Congress are not subject to FOIA and 2) communications with constituents "are considered confidential and are generally not made public without the constituent's request." Accordingly, Rep. Kaptur "respectfully declines to the produce the information you have requested."

Unlike the other members of Congress who responded, Marcy did not answer my request. My answer came from the U.S. House of Representatives Office of the General Counsel:

So they 'generally' don't give out this information? No confidentiality between a constituent and their representative will be violated if Kaptur tells us how many calls or the percentage/ratio of 'for' and 'against' she got on this issue.

Why doesn't she want us to know?

Congress has again exempted themselves from the laws they impose on others, making FOIA apply to the executive branch of government but not the legislative. Furthermore, how can we hold them accountable to actually represent their district if we cannot ever find out how their district instructs them to vote on specific issues?

Are we just supposed to trust them when they tell us they're doing what we want?

This has to change!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

5 Freedoms you lose under health care reform

I've been reading the House version of the health care bill, American's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. I must say, though, that a more Orwellian name could not have been conceived. It's not 'affordable' and there are relatively no 'choices.'

I've been taking notes about the various provisions and trying to figure out how best to summarize them down from my dozens of pages. Today I came across this Fortune article, "5 freedoms you'd lose in health care reform," that does it best.

The president repeatedly says that you'll still be able to keep your current plan and doctor. But Shawn Tully, editor at large of Fortune and author of the piece, sees it differently:

"A close reading of the two main bills, one backed by Democrats in the House and the other issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy's Health committee, contradict the President's assurances. To be sure, it isn't easy to comb through their 2,000 pages of tortured legal language. But page by page, the bills reveal a web of restrictions, fines, and mandates that would radically change your health-care coverage."

The article then explains the five freedoms we'd all lose under these bills:

1. Freedom to choose what's in your plan
2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs
3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage
4. Freedom to keep your existing plan
5. Freedom to choose your doctors

As I was going through the House bill, I was struck by the lack of choice I would have under these proposals. I don't need well-baby care, childhood immunization and a host of other coverage that individuals with children need. I also don't need substance-abuse, fertilization or hair transplants (which is required to be covered by Connecticut law). But many of those services will be mandated by the federal government in order for a health insurance plan to be designated by the government as a 'Qualified Health Benefit Plan' (QHBP).

Then there is the community rating aspect of the bills. Under this concept, each person is charged a similar rate based upon what their community is like - not based upon themselves as individuals. Toledo has been ranked as having the highest adult smoking rate in the country of 31%, and was ranked the worst city for men by Men’s Health magazine. What do those rankings do for our 'community rating' and how will that impact individuals who don't smoke and who maintain their health? It won't matter - healthy people will pay based upon everyone else.

This also gives people with non-healthy lifestyles no incentive to change their ways. If you pay the same as a healthy person, why make sacrifices and change behaviors if there are no financial consequences for doing so?

***Sidenote: I continue to wonder why it is that we can't pattern health insurance against other types of insurance. Car insurance is available across state lines, has multiple types of offerings to meet the needs and budgets of anyone and the states have mandates with penalties for not having the coverage. I can purchase various types of life insurance policies and the fee is based upon a number of factors specific to me and the level of coverage I want. Why can't we at least consider a similar system for health insurance????

As with any bill in Congress, they are exemptions for some and not for others. Self-insured companies (most large corporations) get a five-year grace period during which they can continue to offer their current plans with no penalties. What most people don't realize is that the vast majority of municipal, county and state governments are self-insured. So the government workers would have their current benefits while the rest of the nation gets dumped into the government-dictated and, if the Congressional Budget Office is right, more costly plans. How convenient for government workers.

What consumers think

A recent Zogby/University of Texas poll on health care showed that 83.5% were satisfied with their health care. Of course, is the overwhelming majority are satisfied, why are there demands on Congress for 'reform'????

Interestingly, majorities believed that insurance rates should be the same for everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions (question 542 and 543), but a majority also believed that rates should be based on age and behavior (question 545 and 556).

Apparently, the contradiction in what these consumers want isn't recognized by the consumers. How can you be charged without regard to pre-existing conditions, but also be charged for behavior, like smoking, exercise, etc? Such contradictions may be why the congressional plans contain what they do.

Another interesting point of the poll is that roughly two-thirds agree that a federal health plan could undermine private insurance companies and that private insurance plans better than the government's should not be taxed. But these bills contain such provisions, because government can't give us something for nothing, no matter what the politicians claim and promise during their campaigns.

Considering the results of this poll, is it any wonder that Congress 'feels' the 'need' to do something and 'believes' the solution is to just let government control everything for us? According to this poll, we don't know what we want. So we'll just let the politicians decide - life is so much better when other people make our decisions for us, isn't it?

No wonder we live in an ever-increasing nanny state and are about to lose our health care 'freedoms' in addition to so many others.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Toledo Walleye present their mascot

This in via email:

Toledo Walleye Introduce Spike!
Lovable hockey mascot introduced at Mud Hens game…

(TOLEDO, OH) - Hey Toledo, something fishy happened today at Fifth Third Field.

This afternoon at the Toledo Mud Hens game, a new fish in town joined the action as “Spike”, the official mascot for the Toledo Walleye hockey team, was revealed.

Spike joined the team straight from the Maumee River and can’t wait for hockey season to start. Spike plans to be around town in the next few months as he anxiously waits for the hockey season to start on Friday, October 16 at the new downtown arena.

Spike hopes you’ll join him at one of his many appearances at the Mud Hens remaining home games or at a Wendy’s location near you.

Check the website for more details. Toledo Walleye ticket packages on sale now – call (419) 725-WALL for more information.

Mascot Profile


Name: Spike

Species: Yellow Walleye

Gender: Male

Height: Taller than most

Weight: Big around the belly

Birth date: July 27, 2009

Birth place: The Maumee River

Residence: The Fish Pond, Lucas County Arena, Toledo, OH

Favorite Movies: Finding Nemo & The Mighty Ducks

Favorite Songs: The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors, Take on Me by Reel Big Fish, and What I like about you by the Romantics

Favorite Food: Worms

Hobbies: Cheering on the Walleye Hockey Team, playing hockey, dancing, writing poetry, and reading

Favorite Books: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Suess and Z is for Zamboni

Favorite Quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” --Wayne Gretzky

Q & A With Spike

Do you have any special skills?
I’ve got some pretty wild dance moves.

How did you become the Walleye mascot?
It’s only natural for the #1 fan to become the mascot.

What will you do when you’re not at the games?
I’ll flop around town visiting businesses, fans, parades, festivals, and parties. Who doesn’t love a party?

What is your biggest fear?
Fishing Poles

What do you think the new arena will be like?
I hope it’s cold, crazy, and loud! Hockey fans know how to cheer.

What would your fortune cookie say?
“Big things are headed your way.”

Tell us something no one knows about you.
If I told you, then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore!

What’s your favorite Joke?
What day of the week do fish hate? Frydays

I’m Spike (my first published poem)

Born in the Maumee River
Fun is what I deliver
I found a home at the arena downtown
Where there’s lots of people all around
I’m the Walleye’s #1 fan
I’m too cute for the frying pan
I can skate with the best
I won’t settle for less
Hockey is the game
Spike is the name

The Toledo Walleye will begin the regular season on Friday, October 16 at 7:00 PM vs. the Florida Everblades at the Lucas County Multi-Purpose Arena. Season tickets and mini-plan packages are on sale now and group outings are being reserved. Fans can call (419) 725-WALL for more information.

The new minimum wage will hurt more than it will help

Last Friday, the federal minimum wage increased 11% to $7.25/hour.

In Ohio, the minimum is $7.30, which was effective as of January 1. The old Ohio minimum of $6.55 (for 14- and 15-year-olds and employers who gross $267,000 or less) is replaced by the new rate, making it the same as the federal minimum - also an 11% increase.

So what does this mean in a state that has record unemployment numbers, especially among teens and those with only a high school education?

Well, common sense will tell you that if employers have to pay more for an item (in this case - labor), they will try to get their money's worth - the same as you and I. So with higher numbers of people looking for work, you have more supply and more options when it comes to who you will hire. If you can hire a high school kid or someone who's actually got some work experience but has now been laid off, which are you more likely to choose?

Most employers will pick the more experienced individual, leaving more of the teens and lesser-skilled individuals without work.

The wage that is touted as 'helping' those who only have the skills to earn the minimum, ends up hurting them because it makes them less desirable than others when compared to the value of the work.

Steve Chapman has a great column on this very concept, calling the minimum wage a 'dangerous mirage':

At a time when employers are laying off workers, Washington is going to make it more expensive to keep them.

If you're a minimum wage employee, your job will pay more, but only if it still exists. These days, most companies are scrutinizing every position on the payroll to make sure it's worth the cost. Raise the toll, and some employees will find they are no longer valuable enough to make the cut.

He also explains how the increased minimum wage pushes more people into jobs that are not subject to minimum, actually increasing the number of people who earn below that amount.

The facts and data clearly show that increasing the minimum wage does not really help people who earn that amount. So why do politicians keep doing it? And will the American public ever truly understand the negative economic impact of this action?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What's wrong with this?

Today's paper has an article about the Lucas County Job and Family Services outreach to minority populations.

It's really just a profile piece, but there are certain points screaming for attention that get none.

Let's start with the very first paragraphs:

Despite multimillion-dollar budget cuts and skyrocketing demand for services, one government agency is hungry for more clients.

Lucas County Job and Family Services is sending its outreach coordinator, Betty Rios, into the community to promote the agency - and its programs - to minority populations that might otherwise be left behind.

The reaction of most people to this would be to ask: Why, if you've got less money and more demand, are you trying to increase the number of people you serve? The article explains how the agency has cut back on staff and how the offices are much more crowded than in the past. A prior article in the paper mentioned how the number of clients each case worker serves has also increased.

So why try to increase the work load, especially when you have less money with which to 'service' said clients?

Sadly, the article doesn't address this question.

Then there is this sentence:

Last year, 71,000 people were receiving food stamps, while this year, the number is 81,000.

Yesterday, I did a post about a new feature on the Ohio Secretary of State web page that lists various statistical data, including the number of food assistance recipients by county. That data did not include 2008 or 2009 information, but this article does. Based upon the recent yearly figures, does anyone care why the number of people getting food stamps has increased 111% since 2001 - increased even when the economy was good????

The article doesn't address this question, either.

And then, tugging on the heartstrings so we get distracted from the logical and reasonable analysis of the information and don't ask such questions, there are stories of two families who are now getting help.

Here's the point in those two examples you may miss: the amount of food stamps each family will get.

An hour later, he left with the assurance that his parents would receive $322 a month in food stamps.

...Ms. Rios was able to tell the waiting couple that their baby was eligible for $200 a month in food stamps and Medicaid.

Remember the bogus food stamp challenges our elected officials and newspaper writers took? You know, the one where they willingly partake in a publicity stunt to raise the amount of the give-away by trying to live on $23 a week, which is what the lobbyists say is the average amount of food stamps recipients get? None of them could live on that meager amount - and the few that could bemoaned the fact that they couldn't get a healthy diet on that amount. All this to 'prove' that individuals need more than the average and government (meaning tax payers) have to cough up more money for the program.

Funny, but in this story, the amounts received are much greater than $23 a person. The parents are each getting $37.44 per week and the baby is getting $46.51 per week (based upon 4.3 weeks in a month). Where is the follow-up or notation explaining how it can possibly be that these recipients are getting more than what our politicians tried to live on?

Could it be that, despite the spin, the food stamp program actually meets the needs at the current give-away amounts and that the weekly allotment does NOT need to be increased?

Again, a reasonable question that arises within the story but remains unanswered.

But there is another message subtly woven in amongst the words: that there is no shame in being on the government dole. The entire purpose of the outreach coordinator is to make it 'okay' for people to sign up for government handouts.

People weren't comfortable applying for benefits because of a cultural stigma or fear of immigration services. And in most cases they were from countries that had no system of public benefits.

What's wrong with a cultural stigma that imparts the message of independence and self-reliance? Why is it such a bad thing for people to not want to be dependent upon government? Why are we trying to overcome the reluctance of dependency? Why are we 'struggling' to encourage people to give up their 'shame' of participation?

In the instance of the Kim family - the parents mentioned above - the son was looking for medical assistance for his father. He came away with both parents enrolled in two programs. Why - when the original need was for one?

Some will say that your own tax dollars have funded these programs for years so you might as well enroll when eligible and get your money's worth. And that's a valid point, made more insidious because you have no choice about 'contributing' even if you swear on a stack of Bibles never to receive in exchange for an exemption to give.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that half of Hispanics who are eligible for food stamps don't apply.

Overall, that means 4 million aren't getting benefits that may be crucial to their survival.

Just look at that wording - if you're Hispanic, you're not getting what you're 'entitled' to. And if you don't let the government take care of you based upon its determination of your abilities, then you might not survive.

However, this contradicts the fact that these families are, indeed, surviving. Maybe not to government bureaucratic standards, but by their own. But if government comes along and says, 'look - we can give you more than what you have, and it's free,' why would anyone say no?

Insidious ... creating a dependency and then expecting, as a return, the continuing support of those who promise ever more and more dependence.

What would our founding fathers say? And why is a 'free press' perpetuating it?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

BREAKING: Kriner, Olman set the record straight on BOE allegations

This just in via email:

For Immediate Release

From: Patrick Kriner and Lynn Olman


It is time to set the record straight concerning recent allegations cited in the Toledo Blade regarding performance issues at the Lucas County Board of Elections. Since our appointment to the Board of Elections in March of 2005, we have worked diligently to insure fair and accurate elections in Lucas County. Along with our counterparts from the Democratic Party we have eliminated political infighting and restored trust in the electoral process. These recent allegations seem to indicate that there are issues, which undermine the elections process. They cannot be any further from the truth. Lets deal with the facts.

There is an allegation of race fixing in the 2006 Republican Party central committee race. The facts are quite clear. That this is false. Ms. Gallagher was defeated in that race by one vote. Thomas Nichols received 12 votes Ms. Gallagher received 11. The twelfth vote claimed to have been cast for Ms. Gallagher, was actually cast on a Democrat Primary ballot for the 46th House District. Mark Dansak was running as a write in candidate for the Democratic Party in the 46th house district and a voter requested the Democratic ballot and wrote Ms. Gallagher’s name in for that race. Since there was no ability to write in for the Republican Central Committee because the voter requested a Democratic Ballot, we could not rule that the voter intended to vote for Ms. Gallagher for central committee. In addition, Democrats cannot cast votes for the Republican Party Central Committee. The result: Nichols 12 votes, Gallagher 11 votes.

In addition, it is alleged that documents were destroyed. The facts are that we have a policy that deals with destruction of documents. The test decks were on a destruction list. These test decks are documents used in testing the accuracy of the machines used to scan paper ballots. It is uncertain whether these documents were destroyed or not. We may never know. However, these test decks do not have an impact on the official outcome of the election.

There is an allegation about misleading the public regarding the fire that took place in our warehouse. The fire actually happened in an adjacent building and we did suffer smoke damage as a result of that fire. All discussions regarding the cleanup, cost, and claims regarding this incident were discussed in an “open meeting” and shared with many members of the local media. The public was not mislead. Were records damaged in the fire? Absolutely. Did our Board employees respond in an appropriate manner to protect and preserve these documents? Absolutely. Were our comments to the media misleading? No.

There is an allegation that the Board allowed the former Executive Director of the Republican Party to sign documents which were required to be signed by a candidate when in fact she was not the candidate. The fact is that we did allow her to sign those documents. Ms. Wack was filing petitions for several candidates and was presented with a document that all petition filers are required to sign indicating that they received information from the Board regarding campaign finance requirements. We want to make sure all of our candidates are aware of their obligations in filing campaign finance reports. Was Ms. Wack able to file petitions for candidates other than herself? Absolutely. Was she asked to sign a form stating receipt of the campaign finance information for each candidate she filed for? Absolutely. Just because the form states “candidate signature” does not mean that the only person that can file petitions is the candidate. There is no language in the Ohio Revised Code that requires this. The form is simply an acknowledgement of receipt of information. No harm, no foul.

Finally, there is an allegation that we failed to monitor the activities of an employee who downloaded pornography onto his computer during work hours at the Board of Elections. The fact is that someone outside the Board of Elections sent the employee an email with suggestive material thinking that they had sent it to the employee’s home email address. When the employee opened the email and realized what it contained, he immediately closed it. He did not forward it to anyone nor did he download anything. The email should have been deleted from the computer but as a result of the many public information requests made in our office which include copies of emails, our employees are instructed not to delete any emails from their computers. The employee was aware of this and the suggestive email remained on his computer. No downloading of pornography occurred in this instance in 2005 and none have taken place since that time.

Unsubstantiated allegations serve only one purpose. That purpose is to undermine the public’s confidence in the Lucas County Board of Elections. It is time for truth and fairness to prevail. Voters in Lucas County must have confidence in their elected officials and in the process by which they are elected. The integrity of the electoral system in Lucas County is always at the top of our agenda. Although we are partisan by design, the current members of the Board of Elections have taken a “Bi-Partisan” approach to our duties to insure fairness and accuracy. Although we take no joy in having to deal with these unsubstantiated allegations, we cannot allow party politics to impinge on the electoral process. Our first and highest mission is the integrity of the vote. To that end we will remain diligent in our efforts and remain steadfast in our duty to protect the vote at all cost.


New web site compiles Ohio data on social health indicators

Did you know that there were 354 deer-vehicle collisions in Lucas County in 2007?

Or that 8.62% of the total acreage in the county is designated 'green space'?

Or that the average food assistance per recipient in Lucas County in 2007 was $103.87/month?

Or that there were 180 adoptions in our county in 2007?

These, and other facts, are now available on the Secretary of State's web page under the category Better Lives, which was introduced last week.

The searchable web page provides statistical information about the state's 'social health' in areas such as education, government, natural resources, health, public safety, family and the economy.

Several years of information are available, with the most recent on most categories being 2007. Voter turnout data is available for 2008, which makes sense considering this is the Secretary of State website. However, most of the public safety crime information (you can search on various categories like assault, robbery, homicide, and fatal crashes) is only available through 2006.

While this information may be interesting to the casual observer, I can see bloggers and other activists taking advantage of the information presented.

For instance, below are the numbers and a chart of the food assistance recipients in Lucas County from 2001 to 2007.

2001: 38,471
2002: 43,838
2003: 50,613
2004: 56,190
2005: 59,680
2006: 61,883
2007: 62,643

As a commissioner from 2003-2006, these increasing numbers concerned me. Partly, they were a result in increased eligibility rules, raising the limits of what people could earn and still receive monies. But those increased limits cannot account for a 62% increase in recipients over a six-year period of time - especially during an up economy.

So what is accounting for the huge increase in numbers of people? Cuyahoga County, our nearest large urban comparison, saw only a 47% increase in recipients. And if our recipients have increased 63%, why have our expenditures in this area increased 118%? Does inflation account for the difference?

These are the questions that come to mind when I look at the various data available. What questions do you have? And how can this information influence policy and decisions we make?

Friday, July 24, 2009

What Ohio Dems are saying about the health care bill

Rep. Zack Space (D-OH):

“‘I and the rest of my Blue Dog Coalition... are deeply committed to fixing the health care delivery system,’ Space said in an interview Tuesday. ‘However, we share some concerns about the bill that's been presented to us by leadership, specifically concerning cost issues and the speed at which we are moving.’”

(Bill Theobald, “Rep. Space At Center Of Health-Care Reform Debate,” Zanesville Times Recorder, 7/21/09)

Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH):

“Still, that’s the kind of discussion that could raise concerns for centrist freshman Democrats like Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio), who says there’s ‘a little fear’ among his constituents of a government-run plan, and no appetite for a tax increase. ‘My feeling is there’s enough money in the system already,’ Boccieri said.”

(Mike Soraghan, “Speaker Pelosi Makes Aggressive Push To Finish Healthcare Reform This Month,” The Hill, 7/8/09)

Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH):

“Although Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Columbus, was the only freshman Democrat from Ohio not to sign the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Kilroy spokesman Paul Tencher said she still is ‘concerned’ about the taxes on small businesses and the wealthy.”

(Jack Torry, “Ohio Democrats Call Out Pelosi On Health Bill,” The Columbus Dispatch, 7/21/09)

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH):

“A group of Democratic legislators sought Tuesday night to shape a compromise measure with an amendment say that abortion coverage could not be mandated as a part of insurance plans, but that insurance companies also couldn’t be prohibited from offering that coverage if they chose to. ‘We clearly don't want any federal funding for abortions,’ said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), the lead author of a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposing the measure, which is unlikely to satisfy conservatives. ‘I think this is where both sides can come together.’”

(Ben Smith, “Abortion Roils Already Tense Health Debate,” Politico, 7/22/09)

Interestingly, none of these individuals, (in fact - no Democrats as of today and only Rep. John Boehner in Ohio) have signed on to House Resolution 615:

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Members who vote in favor of the establishment of a public, Federal Government run health insurance option are urged to forgo their right to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and agree to enroll under that public option.

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that Members who vote in favor of the establishment of a public, Federal Government run health insurance option are urged to forgo their right to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and agree to enroll under that public option

Problems with LCRP campaign finance reports

On 7-31-08, the Lucas Count Republican Party (LCRP) semi-annual campaign finance report showed they had $181.29 on hand and had received no donations.

Their pre-general report shows they had a single donation of $2,000. This is a hand-written report dated 10-23-08 at 4:30 p.m. - the filing deadline.

They filed an amended pre-general report which shows corrected amounts of $2,310 in donations and $13,693.76 for in-kind donations.

Their 2008 post-general report shows $7,345 in donations and $5,711.20 for in-kinds.

Since Jon Stainbrook took over as chairman, the party has received $9,655 in cash donations and $19,404.96 in in-kind contributions (which are primarily the cost of the building in which they were located). This is a total $29,059.96 - a far cry from the $50,000 Stainbrook says he's raised since becoming chairman.

Now, one would hope he has raised money since January, but the amount that he's raised through June won't be known for sure until the semi-annual reports are filed at the end of this month.

But there are other problems with the campaign finance reports.

Chris Myers has addressed the issue of signatures on the reports. I've looked at the party's designation of treasurer form and the signature on the forms from 7-31-08 and 12-11-08 are the only ones very similar to the original designation.

Additionally, there are no addresses for any of the donation records. Including the address of the donor is a mandatory requirement, which normally means that the Board of Elections sends out a letter telling the committee to get the addresses. (I listed the street address of my bank once as 'Point Place Branch' and received a letter saying I needed an actual street address.)

***UPDATE: It may be that political parties are not required to provide addresses for all donations. I'll be researching this over the weekend and will provide clarification/correction, if needed, when I'm finished with the research.

When will the LCRP perform this routine record-keeping task? Maybe if they spent as much time completing their own forms as they do looking for errors from everyone else?

***Sidenote: As you can see from the links, campaign finance reports filed at the Lucas County Board of Elections are available on line.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fact-checking Obama's press conference

Philip Klein has a column fact-checking the statements made last night during President Barack Obama's press conference. I suggest we all read it.

The New York Times also has a fact-checking piece. More details here at Newsbusters.

The press is supposed to question what politicians say (not just mimic their words and positions and then claim to 'quote them correctly') and check on the statements, comparing them to facts. But the critical part is also to include what they find in the news coverage of the event.

This is good.

Quote of the Day

"A theory deeply etched in our law [is that] a free society prefers to punish the few who abuse the rights of free speech after they break the law rather than to throttle them and all others beforehand." ~ U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

And so it begins

I hope this is just an isolated incident, but my concern is that such intimidation of political detractors will spread.

What Happened in Ringgold, VA?

Written by Adam Bitely
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 15:53

Last Friday, a series of events unfolded that leaves many questions unanswered. At a "Town Hall" function in Ringgold, VA attended by Obama Administration Secretaries Chu and Vilsack and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), a series of events began to unfold involving Nigel Coleman, the Danville Tea Party Chairman.

read more

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Toledo is broke but has money for a study?

Yes, of course we do! Can you say 'stuck on stupid'????

The City of Toledo - still - has a budget deficit. According to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's July letter to City Council, it's just over $8.6 million. Yet last night, council passed Ordinance 383-09 "Appropriation for engineering & planning by Tetra Tech of Municipal Solar Field, $110,000 Water Improvement."

This is on top of the $65,000 they've already spent, but if they spend the additional money now, they might be able to get some federal dollars for this.

This is just more twisted logic. First they needed to spend the money to show that we're 'supportive' of the solar industry.

(I hate it when politicians think that 'being supportive' of an industry means they have to spend our tax dollars, rather than their own by purchasing stock or making a personal investment in these companies!)

The additional money is urgent, they say, because maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to get help from Washington for the project. So what happens if we DON'T get any funds from DC? Then what?

Council and the mayor will justify this expenditure by saying it's from the water fund, not the general fund, so the budget deficit is not impacted. What they fail to understand is that it's their philosophy of spending that's the problem.

First, the water fund is supposed to be solely for the water system and service. How, exactly, does a solar field fall under that limited use? It could only be by a good stretch of imagination, or perhaps a 'willing suspension of disbelief.'

Second, what did the $65,000 study buy us? Where is the report from the expenditure of those funds? Why hasn't that been released for all to see PRIOR to spending more money? Where is the analysis of the return on investment for this project? Where is the detailed listing of available funds to go forward, if that decision were to be made? Why would we spend more money for a study if we don't have the money to build it when the study is done?

And third, if this is such a fantastic idea, why don't they put their own money toward the project? Let them 'invest' their dollars, rather than our tax dollars. What, you say, they wouldn't do such a thing? It must not be such a good idea, then, is it?

Our Toledo politicians have bigger problems than funding a study of a solar field on a dump. But they don't seem to want to address those. They'd rather keep spending - and getting nice headlines from a local paper who loves the idea.

For last year's deficit, they took money out of the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) fund and moved it into the General Fund in order to balance 2008. This year, the number of CIP projects are reduced as a result.

They've voted to put a temporary change to the distribution of the 3/4% payroll income tax on the ballot so they can, again, move money from the CIP to cover their general fund expenditures, including a police class.

Carty is still pushing for an increase in the trash tax. Though that was supposed to be for garbage service, it's being used as a general tax to supplement general fund activities, an action likely to cause them to lose their lawsuit over the issue. And there has been no public discussion among council members on the impact of losing that lawsuit and the potential cost to the city to reimburse residents for the money collected.

Additionally, Carty is still pushing for the end of 100% reciprocity for Toledo residents who work in other jurisdictions - basically, a tax increase on citizens who live in Toledo but work in areas like Sylvania, Maumee or Oregon. Council has rejected this in the past, but we still have a deficit, so who knows?

The problem is that they have no idea how to live within their means - our means, actually. They're too busy promoting their own pet projects and programs and expecting that they'll just get the money from somewhere, though that 'somewhere' ends up being from us - and we're completely tapped out.

I don't care how good of an idea you think it is, we just don't have the money.



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Would $17/week keep you in Ohio?

That's the question and it appears that state legislators believe the answer to the question is 'yes.'

According to today's paper,

"The program, watered down from a bill offered by Sen. Stephen Buehrer (R., Delta) and approved by the state Senate, offers cash grants to home buyers that would be second mortgages and would disappear after five years if the graduate stays in the state, automatically adding to the equity in the home. "There would be a cap on income, so we would not be giving a free lunch to people with half-a-million-dollar jobs,'' Mr. Buehrer said. His original plan had no income limits and would have offered larger grants to those earning a higher degree."

So we're going to take tax money from everyone who's already struggling to stay in our homes (remember all the political fretting over Ohio's highest foreclosure rates????) and just give it to recent college grads as a gift? How does that help all Ohioans?

The simple answer: it doesn't.

Taking tax dollars from some in order to redistribute it to others is exactly what Republicans in Columbus have been criticizing the federal government and the President for: redistribution of wealth by politicians who think they know better who 'deserves' the money. Yet they go and do the exact same thing in Ohio. Do they expect that we won't notice?

And, there are limits on income in order to qualify. If you're one of the few graduates making a good living (no more than $61,800 for a one or two-member family in Lucas County) - the kind of wage earners we really want to keep in the state - you don't qualify. This would be only for those of lesser incomes. As Buehrer explains, "There would be a cap on income, so we would not be giving a free lunch to people with half-a-million-dollar jobs."

Really? Do we really have college graduates going into 'half-a-million-dollar jobs' upon graduation? In Ohio? And if this is to keep college graduates in the state, we have to know which of those graduates are most likely to leave. What do you think: the ones with potential incomes above $50,000 or those with potential incomes below that amount? So if only lower earnings are eligible, will we really get the results touted?

They must think that keeping college graduates here for five years is more important than providing a state environment that is attractive to everyone. And since it's only for five years, how likely is it that these same grads will take this option, wait the five years, and then flee? Well, that's a good question - and one that isn't answered.

So how much will this cost? Again, a good question without an answer:

"The state budget contains no appropriation for the program and there are no estimates on the revised program's cost."

The paper uses an example of 3% of the purchase price of the home for the second mortgage bribe. So let's take a look at the 'incentive.'

If you're earning $60,000/year, it's likely you'd be looking at a house in the $150,000 range (based upon the suggestion that your mortgage be no more than 2.5 times your earnings). A 3% second mortgage on a home valued at $150,000 is $4,500. When you divide that by the 5 years, that's $900 per year - or $17 per week.

Would you stay in Ohio for $17 per week? Or might a recent college graduate weigh that $17/week against other factors and components of leaving the state and getting a better paying job in a more taxpayer-friendly state?

Being a college graduate, hopefully they've got the financial and educational wherewithal to effectively evaluate, for a 5-year period of time, the value of $17/week for staying in Ohio versus leaving the state and getting lower overall tax rates, higher earnings potential, better climate and other such amenities, including getting a good-paying job in the first place (something lacking in Ohio in many areas right now).

So what value does this unfunded program really have?

None - except for the politicians who want to claim they've 'given' us something, 'helped' keep people in Ohio and 'deserve' our vote as a result.

Konop promises failed policies if elected mayor

On Sunday, Lucas County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Ben Konop was in a church giving a political speech from the pulpit.

Aside from the fact that this was a Christian church and Konop is Jewish, and the fact that his fellow liberals, including the editorial board of The Blade, have previously said that "The Pulpit's for Preaching" (Blade editorial Oct. 5, 2008), what is most disturbing are the failed proposals he suggested in trying to pander to his listeners.

* He promised to 'acquire' funds from the $12 billion that President Obama has set aside for community colleges and use that money to help Owens Community College open a campus in downtown Toledo.

There have been numerous proposals to put higher education in downtown Toledo. The University of Toledo had a 'campus' at the Convention Center and offered classes there. The Blade has long pushed for moving the law school downtown, though there is little interest in moving it off the main campus of the University of Toledo. And there has been no indication that Owens even wants to put a campus downtown.

Of course, there is also no guarantee that Konop would be able to get $12 million for this purpose along with the question of whether or not our colleges and universities might have a better use for it should it be 'given' to us.

From a 'basic functions of government' perspective, it's not the role of the mayor to address higher education facilities - there are presidents and boards of trustees of those institutions to perform that task.

* Despite the failure of the state-wide push last year to implement such a policy in Ohio, Konop promised to put a ballot initiative before voters by November 2010 that would require businesses with 25 or more employees to provide paid sick days to both full and part-time employees.

The reason the unions pulled this off the ballot last November is because they could read the reaction of the public to this proposal just as well as everyone else - and it was in for a huge defeat. Businesses do not want to have their benefit packages dictated to them by a bunch of politicians. Employees want the ability to have benefits that meet their needs - not a one-size fits all mandate.

Locally, Toledo is at a huge disadvantage for attracting and retaining businesses with our higher payroll income tax, higher property taxes and the amount of regulations enforced upon them by current and previous councils and administrations. The last thing a Toledo mayor should do if they want to promote businesses in Toledo is create a new mandate.

Konop cites 'studies' that prove this mandate is good for business, but the paper doesn't identify which one(s), if they even asked. Of course there was an Ohio specific study which showed just the opposite, and my previous post on the issue addresses the discrepancies between the two.

I could go on and on about the fallacies presented by Konop to justify 'why' paid sick days is a good idea, but let's just look at Konop's background. He's never run a business, never been employed in a management position within a business and, as far as I can tell from his published background, never even worked in a private business. I think that says everything you need to know about his 'opinion' on what is good for business.

* He also wants a 'living wage' requirement for any business with 25 or more employees that gets money from or does business with the city. This proposal is similar to the one he presented for Lucas County, but couldn't implement because it wasn't allowed under state law.

Now, common sense will tell you that if companies hired by the city of Toledo have to pay their employees more, the costs of government will be higher than what they might be without this regulation. Duh!

The hypocrisy of this proposal is that living wages actually hurt those the politicians claim they will help. Additionally, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce is on record opposing the proposal before the county, and will probably stay on record to oppose it if presented within the Toledo limits.

This will, as would the mandatory sick days, put Toledo businesses at a disadvantage within the region. That is not business-friendly.

* He also proposed merging the county and city building inspection departments. This actually has some potential for savings on the part of everyone and is an idea that should be considered. But why wait for an election? If it's a good idea, then start now to evaluate it and don't worry about whether or not it gets votes for Konop in November.

But you see, just like with many of his other proposals, they seem to be a ploy to pander for votes, not a genuine interest in reducing the costs of government.

Today's paper has the reaction of the other candidates to his proposals, including D. Michael Collins questioning the appearance in a church.

They all say the proposals are anti-business, put the city at a disadvantage, or are recycled failures. Konop's reaction is to personally attack some of them and call their positions 'right-wing talking points,' a phrase he utters often when people point out common sense observations that poke holes in his ideas. (note to Ben: it's getting old.)

The mayor is the CEO of the city and we need someone who, at the very least, has a modicum of supervisory/management experience. Konop doesn't - and his ideas and campaign are clearly designed to pander to specific groups with promises he cannot implement by himself.

The more Konop speaks, the more he proves that he's just not qualified for the position.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Plain language requirement - maybe government should follow it first?

I've been reading the House version of the health care bill (socialized medicine bill) and wanted to mention this little paragraph on page 39:

(2) PLAIN LANGUAGE.—In this subsection, the term ‘‘plain language’’ means language that the intended audience, including individuals with limited English proficiency, can readily understand and use because that language is clean, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices of plain language writing.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the government commissioner in charge of overseeing the regulations has this requirement:

"(3) GUIDANCE.—The Commissioner shall develop and issue guidance on best practices of plain language writing."

I guess that if the government doesn't tell us what 'plain language' is, we just don't know.

Now if only they'd only followed their own requirement in writing the bill in the first place.....

Smoking banned inside homes

And they make fun of those who warn of the 'slippery slope' ....

"Housing complex owners vote to ban smoking

By Julian Emerson
Leader-Telegram staff

It's not just indoor public places in Eau Claire where lighting up is prohibited. Now residents of a south side, owner-occupied housing complex will have to snuff out smoking in their homes, the most recent sign of public anti-smoking sentiment.

Members of the Fairfax Parkside Homeowners Association on Wednesday voted to outlaw smoking inside residences that are part of the 34-unit development. The ban also prohibits smoking in shared spaces, such as porches and garages, but does allow it in yards and on patios."

If I lived in that complex, I'd want them smoking INSIDE the homes and not out in the open where the smoke could drift into my house/yard ... but what do I know? And in this particular case, the issue is that the complex has connecting units, so there seems to be some validity to the concern of smoke from a neighbor 'drifting' into another's home.

The issue here is the 'vote' wherein the majority dictate to the minority and use the 'majority rule' to violate another person's personal property rights. At least in this case, the rule makers are a private group - not the government - and if anyone doesn't like the rule they don't have to live in that complex.

But anti-smoking proponents will use this as an example of what government should do ... and that slippery slope just keeps getting slicker.

Stimulus funds - where's the cheese?


According to, the Department of Agriculture has awarded MICELI DAIRY PRODUCTS COMPANY in Cleveland, $1,562,568 for "mozzarella cheese."

That's a LOT of cheese!

According to the company's website, they are a family-owned and -operated cheese manufacturer that specializes in ricotta - "a national leader in ricotta production and the entire Italian cheese industry." They also make mozzarella.

According to a press release issued by the USDA, the cheese (and other food products) were purchased by the government for distribution to food banks and other entities that feed the needy, like food pantries and soup kitchens. They purchased 837,936 pounds of mozzarella cheese.

I remember the man on the moon

It was 40 years ago today that man first set foot on the moon and I remember it so clearly, even for my young age at the time.

My dad had been following the news reports on a small TV in the bedroom. Being 5, I had no interest in watching 'the news' and my sister, age 3, even less.

But just before Apollo 11 landed, my dad called us all into the bedroom and I remember distinctly him telling us to pay attention because this was something really, really important. He also said, "This is something you'll remember for the rest of your life - it's something you'll tell your grandchildren about ... that you got to see people take their first steps on the moon."

I'm sure he said other fatherly stuff at the time, expounding upon the significance of the event as we watched the module land and waited while Neil Armstrong climbed down the steps and actually took that step, but I was 5 and probably wasn't paying too much attention to him.

But I did pay attention to what was on the small black and white television set. And Dad was right. Forty years later, I do remember the historic event and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

As I think back now, I wonder if witnessing man's first steps off world had more of an impact than I realized at the time. Throughout high school, I wanted to be a physicist. My plan was to work on the space program since my vision wasn't good enough to be an astronaut (though my hatred of calculus quickly resulted in a change of direction in college). And my reading preferences have always been for science fiction/fantasy. Even today, I follow such websites as and the Hubble Telescope, and never miss an opportunity to learn about the latest discoveries in space.

I'm certain I'm not the only one influenced in such a way.

And now, looking back on the last 40 years, I wonder why it is we haven't done more exploration. We've made plenty of trips into space, but they've all been near Earth orbit, with the shuttles and the space station. We've sent out probes and telescopes, but that's about it.

Have we lost our interest in "what lies beyond"? Are we no longer curious about 'boldly going where no man has gone before'? Or do, perhaps, the alien conspiracy theories have some measure of truth - that we have been limited by 'others' to exploring in person only our immediate area of our solar system? Perhaps it's just that we're too busy living our daily lives and dealing with our own issues that we just don't have the time - or the money - to pursue something that doesn't seem to have a direct impact. Maybe, too, we've been so conditioned by that television set that we no longer have the capacity to maintain an interest in something that requires years of attention, rather than having all problems solved in the 30 minutes of a sitcom or the two hours of a movie....

Whatever the reason, it makes me sad that we've not done more when it comes to space exploration but grateful that I've lived in a time where I did get to see that 'one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.'

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Health Rations and You

A must-see video from the Health Administration Bureau.

What do Google searches tell you about the economy?

If you're Larry Summers, they apparently tell you everything.

Summers, top economic advisor to the White House, recently said that the number of people searching Google for the term 'economic depression' is down. While that may be a fact, his conclusion is that it indicates consumer confidence is higher and that the "economic free-fall is ended."

I cannot conceive of anyone making such a ridiculous statement, except maybe Vice President Joe Biden.

Google searches are not an indicator of the economy, only of a person's interest in a particular subject. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that searches for a particular term indicate anything at all about consumer confidence.

One alternative, and just as likely, conclusion from the decline in Google searches is that people who were curious about the 'definition' have now found their answer and no longer need to search the term.

Another alternative and likely conclusion is that people no longer care about the definition because they know first-hand what the term means.

Still another: that people were curious about the difference between recession and depression and when one begins and the other ends.

In October 2007, I did a post 'Do they even know the definition of a recession in order to be polled?' CNN had done a poll asking if Americans believed we were in a recession and 'nearly half' said yes. In examining the title question, I found some definitions of 'recession.'

For about a year after that post, I was still getting hits on that post when people did a Google search on the term. The searches steadily declined over time, as expected. But I did not conclude that the recession had ended simply because the number of searches for the term had declined. That would have been absurd.

Now, I realize that Thurber's Thoughts is not Google, but the comparison is valid. In fact, here are the top 10 Google searches from yesterday:

1. tom watson wife
2. watch erin andrews peephole video
3. erin andrews peephole video download
4. hilary watson
5. hans reiser
6. erin andrews peephole video cache
7. erin andrews peephole video
8. tour de france stage 14
9. dirty sexy money
10. dan quinn

And from January 1, just for comparison:

1. reebok hockey
2. doobie brothers
3. svc inc
4. nittany lion
5. g commercial
6. taylor mays
7. der springer
8. penn state football roster
9. hgtv dream home
10. dick clark

In fact, the term 'depression' (and anything remotely similar) does not even appear in the top 100 for either of those days.

A look at the 2008 trends for a search on the word 'depression' also shows some alternatives to an impact on the economy. Other issues in the news which Google references for the search are two medical studies about depression with diabetes and in heart patients. There were two tropical depressions as well.

And if you do the same for the term 'recession,' you'll see that searches on that term are still high. Does that mean our 'recession' is not over?

Here's something rather interesting: In 2008, no one in Ohio searched for the term recession from February through about mid-September. Does that mean Ohio was not in economic difficulties during that time? I don't think so!

So what does all this mean? Only that the 'top economic advisor' to the White House is grasping at just about anything to show that the economy is turning around. The problem is that it isn't, really, and government actions are only making it worse.

However, when you've made the condition of the economy out to be the absolute worst ever as part of your political campaign, and then promised and implemented spending to solve the problem, only to find that your solution is making things worse than if you'd done nothing at all, you find yourself in a very difficult situation trying to explain exactly why all this is happening...and you can no longer blame your opponent.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Toledo deficit still at $8.6 million, mayor again calls for tax increases

This press release in via email (at 6:30 a.m.) from Mayor Carty Finkbeiner:

Saturday, July 18 2009

Notice of 2009 Budget Deficit

Attached is a copy of a letter from Mayor Finkbeiner to City Council regarding the 2009 budget deficit. In the letter, Mayor Finkbeiner attached an analysis of savings for the tentative agreement with Local 92 and the expected cost savings with the TPCOA contract.


Friday, July 17, 2009

A fundamental problem with the Sotomayor confirmation hearings

I've been reading a lot about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's answers to questions during her confirmation hearing and one point keeps striking me as a fundamental problem.

She seems to be basing her answers on what the Supreme Court has previously ruled - not on the Constitution. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land - not nine individuals in black robes.

In doing this, she fails to reveal her judicial philosophy and her interpretation of the Constitution - which is critical to know when deciding whether or not to appoint or confirm a person to such a position.

My speculation is that this is a planned approach designed to conceal exactly what her judicial philosophy is, or to provide a non-controversial response to difficult questions that might, if answered differently, imperil her confirmation.

It’s a shame that none of the Senators asking her questions have noted this fact and asked her to state her own position - and not just recite what the court has previously done.

After all, that’s what she’ll have to do if she gets confirmed.

Toledo to repeal convenience store licensing law

Kudos to the Midwest Retailers Association (MWRA) on their huge win in the settlement of their lawsuit against the City of Toledo over the convenience store licensing law!

In 2007, the city passed an ordinance which required a 'license' to operate a convenience store - on top of all other licensing already required for such an operation. Included in the 'not business friendly' provisions were requirements to clean up debris and litter on other people's property as well as the threat that the license would be revoked if illegal activities happened upon the store grounds, regardless of the owners' efforts to stop them.

Fortunately, many of the store owners got together, hired an attorney and sued the city over the constitutionality of the law. They also filed an emergency request for an injunction to stop the implementation of the law, which was granted.

The city did repeal that version of the law and implement a new one - which was immediately challenged in court as an amended complaint as well. But not before the federal judge awarded MWRA $29,999.00 in attorneys fees for the first portion of the case (which was paid in March, 2009).

Since that time, the two parties have been in negotiations over a settlement. Council President Joe McNamara issued a press release explaining some of the terms of the settlement:

The proposed settlement agreement, which would need to be approved by Council, repeals the licensing ordinance. In exchange, the Midwest Retailers Association agrees to do the following:

* Adopt a code of ethical business practices for its member that includes:

1. banning the sale of items commonly used as drug paraphernalia,
2. establishing a zero-tolerance loitering policy
3. keeping stores clean and well-maintained
4. not generating any undue noise
5. selling healthy items like milk, fruit and vegetables

* Encourage store representatives to attend Block Watch meetings

* Develop a plan for a coordinated security patrol of member stores consisting of off-duty and laid-off police officers

* Meet quarterly with representatives of the Community Development Corporation alliance to review the relationship between the stores and their neighborhoods.

* Waive any additional attorney fee or damage awards.

So the store owners will do what they probably would have done in the first place if just asked and the city repeals the law, which never should have been implemented to begin with. The city also gets out of paying any more attorney fees.

But the city is still out more than $30,000 with the payment of the first set of fees and the amount of time, effort, energy and wages spent on defending this case in court over the last two years, not to mention the negative publicity over the law and the 'not business friendly' message it sent to current and potential businesses within the city limits.

I still have a problem, though, with the city's dereliction of duty when it comes to safety. The agreement requires that the stores "develop a plan for a coordinated security patrol of member stores consisting of off-duty and laid-off police officers."

First of all, why must it be off-duty or laid-off police officers? Many companies use private security personnel for such purposes, so this can only be construed as the unnecessary interference of the city in operational aspects of a private business. Or perhaps this has more to do with helping the police unions and/or covering the city because they've so overspent in almost every other area that they had to lay off police. Regardless, this is wrong and I wish the settlement would have contained more generic language to be able to give the store owners as much flexibility as possible.

Secondly, this particular requirement is a bad precedent for the city to set. The reason this is needed - and the reason 'community development groups' and politicians wanted the law in the first place - is because of a lack of enforcement of existing laws. The original problem wasn't the stores, but the illegal activities that police were unable to address, either because of lack of numbers or low priority.

Rather than address the lack of policing, politicians did what they normally do - created a new problem in an attempt to 'solve' an old one, enacting a law for every single store of this type, despite the fact that only some of the stores were having a problem. What they should have done was increase the enforcement in and around those particular problem areas - but they didn't.

Now, the solution is not for the city to assume its chartered responsibility, but for store owners to pay additionally for that same service. And if the city can do it with one, it can do it will all.

Considering everything, this may be a win-win for the parties: the store owners get the law repealed and the city doesn't have to pay anything more in attorney fees.

However, there are other 'costs' to this settlement:

* the enforcement of the anti-business reputation of the city;
* the perspective that if business owners don't do what politicians want, laws will be passed to force compliance - also know as extortion, especially with the threat of reintroducing the law;
* the precedent of making certain businesses pay extra for police protection which should be a service available to all; and
* the negative message that if some members of a group (convenience store owners) are acting in a way that some do not like, all will be punished.

...and those 'costs' will be felt for years to come.

Quote of the Day

"Fraud may consist as well in the suppression of what is true as in the representation of what is false." ~ Justice Heath, English Jurist

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An oldie but goodie - Konop should read it

With both Lucas County Commissioner (and mayoral candidate) Ben Konop and President Barack Obama touting a taxpayer-funded college education for all, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at this oldie but goodie from the Foundation for Economic Education.

The article, "No More Subsidies for Higher Education" by George C. Leef, was published in FEE's magazine, The Freeman, which is also available on line.

The author makes several excellent points:

* He tears apart the 'social justice' argument that higher education is something that society 'owes' to low-income and other 'under served' populations.

* He points out that a 'good education' does NOT equate to a college degree, especially considering the lack of 'quality' education many students are getting in today's public schools.

* He looks at employment outlooks that show many anticipated job openings are in fields that might require specialized training, but do not require a college degree.

* He questions why existing opportunities are not sufficient to meet the demand. (And note that neither President Obama nor Comm. Konop have indicated a 'demand' for more college graduates - especially in such fields as women studies or English literature.)

While the article is from 2002, the points are as valid today as they were then. Even if you look at the 'green job's' being touted by the President and Konop, you'll see that many of them are for tasks that certainly do not require an 'advanced' degree. Does a window or insulation installer need a four-year bachelor's degree - or just some on-the-job training?

Konop should read the article ... but I won't hold my breath waiting for his 'rebuttal.'

Uh-Oh! Private insurance is not an option

From the National Center for Policy Analysis:

It didn't take long to run into an "uh-oh" moment when reading the House's "health care for all Americans" bill. Right there on page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

The provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage. Under the Orwellian header of "Protecting The Choice To Keep Current Coverage," the "Limitation On New Enrollment" section of the bill clearly states:

"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law.

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised -- with, of course, exceptions, says IBD:

* Those who currently have private individual coverage won't be able to change it.

* Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.

From the beginning, opponents of the public option plan have warned that if the government gets into the business of offering subsidized health insurance coverage, the private insurance market will wither:

* Drawn by a public option that will be 30 percent to 40 percent cheaper than their current premiums because taxpayers will be funding it, employers will gladly scrap their private plans and go with Washington's coverage.

* The nonpartisan Lewin Group estimated in April that 120 million or more Americans could lose their group coverage at work and end up in such a program.

* That would leave private carriers with 50 million or fewer customers; this could cause the market to, as Lewin Vice President John Sheils put it, "fizzle out altogether."

What wasn't known until now is that the bill itself will kill the market for private individual coverage by not letting any new policies be written after the public option becomes law, says IBD.

The legislation is also likely to finish off health savings accounts, a goal that Democrats have had for years, says IBD. They want to crush that alternative because nothing gives individuals more control over their medical care, and the government less, than HSAs.

Source: Editorial, "It's Not An Option," Investor's Business Daily, July 15, 2009.

For text:

Here is a link to the Senate's Health Care Bill

Here is the link to the House version. HR 3200 American's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.
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