Monday, August 31, 2009

Block paper to charge for on-line content

Breitbart is reporting that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will launch a members-only website and provide on-line content for a fee.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said "PG+" would be a "members-only website with interactive features and exclusive content" available to subscribers for 36 dollars a year or for 3.99 dollars a month.

It said "PG+" would not replace, the newspaper's current website, but would feature "a new stream of exclusive blogs, videos, live chats and behind-the-scenes insights into the news of the day." will continue to provide its mix of content and would remain free, the newspaper said.

The Post-Gazette's move comes as newspapers across the United States grapple with a steep plunge in print advertising revenue, steadily declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online.

The Post-Gazette is owned by Block Communications which also owns the Toledo Blade. Do you think they'll offer the same for the Blade - and would you pay?

A new tax on stock trades being pushed by unions

The Hill has the story about the AFL-CIO and some Democrats pushing for a new tax on every stock transaction.

It would *only* be about a tenth of a percent, so, they claim, most small and medium-sized investors wouldn't really notice it. (Beware when someone says a tax is *only* ...) It would, however, significantly cut into the profits of large firms like Goldman Sachs, the article points out.

“It would have two benefits, raise a lot of revenue and discourage speculative financial activity,” said Thea Lee, policy director at the AFL-CIO.

“The big disadvantage of most taxes is that they discourage some really productive activity,” she said. “This would discourage numerous financial transactions. People flip their assets several times in an hour or a day. They make money but does it really add to the productive base of the United States?”

I cannot believe this! At a time when the economy is in decline (still), this would discourage people from buying stocks. It they don't buy stocks, they don't become investors. If there are no investors, there are no investments. Without investments, there are no capital expenditures or expansions. If businesses don't grow, they fail.

Do 'they' not understand basic economics? Obviously not.

And now the AFL-CIO gets to determine what actions "add to the productive base" of our nation? Incredible! Unsustainable union demands are what contributed to the decline of the automotive industry and the layoffs of thousands - how's that for contributing to the productive base????

The AFL-CIO and some allied Democrats would like to cut down on the overall level of trading, or at least give the U.S. government a piece of the action, which would likely tamp down trading.

There's the point - they want more money for the government, which obviously means more spending on union priorities. Take money away from the citizens in order to spend it on pork projects or in meeting the demands of the union. Of course!

But that's not the only thing. According to the article, liberals are mad at Goldman Sachs:

Democrats and labor officials would also like to take a bite out of Goldman’s profits. Liberals are angry the company, which immersed itself in the frenzy of speculation leading to last year’s financial collapse, is now making huge profits after accepting (and repaying) $10 billion in government aid. Goldman employees are on track to earn an average of more than $700,000 this year.

Now we're getting to the heart of the matter. The company accepted and repaid government aid. As a result, the government can't tell them what to do anymore, since it no longer has the hammer of the bailout to hold over their heads. And now, the employees are going to - wait for it - earn money!!!!

We can't possible have people making huge amounts of money - they must suffer! But how to make them suffer for the sin of earning a lot of money? Tax them in such a way as to discourage their ability to earn.

And this is what is passing for government policy? Whatever happened to government protecting our rights and our liberties and our private property? Whatever happened to being happy that others can make a good living and earn money? How did we get to the point of such class envy that we use government to steal from those who "have" to give to others with the end goal of buying votes and ensuring re-election so the process can continue?

How did we get to the point that we demonize wealth instead of celebrate the accomplishments of the individuals who attain it - and thus are able to fund so many charitable, artistic and philanthropic acts?

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said, following the election of Barack Obama as president:

"We have taken the first crucial steps to build a better future for our children and grandchildren. And what we've seen – the stunning voter participation and the common call for change – is an indication of the history we can continue to make together.
The election is just step one in delivering the change we need."

The article further states that one of the priorities for the unions is "regulating Wall Street."

So that's what they're trying to do. But in trying to get even with a company they don't like, and raise money to fund their goals of socialized health care, they are supporting a bill that will tax everyone - and will be especially hard on the average investor like many of their union members.

Most individuals have their pensions invested in retirement accounts and mutual funds that make such investments. As individuals age they make changes in their accounts and this bill will tax them every time. But don't worry, it's *only*...

The bigger problem with this idea is that the tax will discourage the overall market. If people are taxed based upon how many times they buy or sell a stock, it will reduce the number transactions, which will have a global impact. If you have the option of purchasing a stock in America or in Japan, but America charges you a tax for each purchase, would you be more likely to invest in the Nikkei, instead? People invest to make money so why would they willingly forgo a portion of their hoped-for profits simply because some union thinks they're more 'entitled' to the earnings than they are?

This needs to be stopped. Not just because it's bad for the nation and bad for Americans (it is!), but because unions (and other special interest groups) should not be able to have the laws written to benefit their own narrow interests (like the bailout of their union health care and mismanaged pensions), especially at the expense of the American tax payer.

5th Annual Support the Troops Rally

The 5th annual Support the Troops rally will be Wednesday, September 9. at 6 pm in Friendship Park, on 131st Point Place.

This is a tribute to the brave men and women who risk their lives for their country and all of us. Jerry Anderson from WTOL will serve as the master of ceremonies. The evening's activities will include: speeches by armed forces veterans; the Ohio National Guard rock climbing wall; a rifle salute and honor guard.

According the email I received, more information is supposed to be available at, but I couldn't get the link to work.

I remember the first rally on a cold, windy September evening at the Conn-Weisenberger VFW Post in the little outdoor shelter they have on the side of the property. There were about 20 of us there.

Last year, I did my first live broadcast from the event. There were over 300 people present.

Alas, this will be the first rally that I've missed, as I'll be in Memphis that day. So I hope many of you will find the time to join the rally and pay tribute to those who sacrifice on a daily basis to keep us safe and free.

The hawk in my garden - UPDATED

So I was sitting on the couch opposite my picture window that looks over the yard and the lake when a huge bird flew across the garden and up to the eave trough over the window.

It was a hawk. I could hear it settle down and was debating if I could get the camera and go around to the other window without scaring it off...but as I was doing so, it flew down and landed in the garden.

So I carefully walked over to the window and dreaded every squeak in our 50-year-old wood floors, afraid that the noise would cause it to fly away, especially since the side window was open...but it didn't.

I took several pictures of him next to the rose bush, but because I was through a window and on a high zoom, not all of them turned out well. This one did though...

It's funny how it seems so much bigger with the wings spread out.

He sat for a few minutes in the garden and then flew over to my crab apple tree. While downloading the photos, he swooped in and went for one of the little sparrows that flew through the yard...don't know if he got it or not as the chase ensued out of the yard.

What a neat thing to see!

UPDATE: First the hawk this morning and just now, an eagle flew across the yard about 10 feet off the ground...must be the day for large bird watching!

Group concedes red light camera issue, vows to return next year

This in via email from the We Demand A Vote/Toledo group:

STOP Red Light Cameras Committee concede this year.
The People Lose… Again.

Friends and Volunteers,

As you have undoubtedly heard by now, our petition to bring red light and traffic cameras to a vote of the people of Toledo was rejected by the City Clerk as insufficient because each circulator did not notarize their signature on each individual part-petition.

This is the declaratory statement where, under the threat of felonious election fraud, the circulator states they personally witnessed each person sign, and that each person who signed is, to the best of their knowledge, the person they purported to be and was qualified to sign, and finally the total number of signatures on that individual part-petition.

This is the second time this year the will of the people has been thwarted by the details of election law – which is not to imply details aren’t important, but the people deserve better.

Our legal team feels horrible they missed this extraneous and unnecessary step that most cities in Ohio do not require. This has only served to strengthen our resolve, and we hope next year when we issue a clarion call for patriots to retake civil liberty, you will respond.

The We Demand A Vote Coalition recognizes Toledo's unique requirement for, and regrets we did not notarize each circulator's names on the Red Light Camera petition. It is disappointing, and we apologize to all of our hard working volunteers who petitioned selflessly to put this on the ballot.

We are, however, undeterred in our resolve to bring this issue to the people. We shall not be defeated by the forces of bureaucracy, and shall return next year to give the people of Toledo the right to vote on Traffic Cameras, because despite this temporary set-back, We Demand A Vote!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Does this make sense to you?

The other day I read Dan Kennedy's column about the initial outrage over the closing of the automotive dealerships and the subject of whether or not the decisions were politically motivated.

He used an example of a Stow, Ohio, dealership whose new car sales were up 57% in 2009 (prior to cash for clunkers) despite a 40% decline in the national market - and wondered why this businessman could get no explanation for the decision to close him down.

And then I remembered an Automotive News editorial I read (opinion piece of 8-24-09, subscription may be required) that talked about General Motors and Chrysler taking applications for new distribution points:

"During bankruptcy, each automaker described the need to build a rational distribution system by closing some dealerships and shifting franchises, and the bankruptcy judge agreed.

But if what was achieved in Madison, Wis., is an example of Chrysler's new strategic distribution plan, there was too much suffering for too little gain.

In Madison, Chrysler fired the east-side dealer and the west-side dealer. Then the automaker hired the west-side dealer to be the east-side dealer and the east-side dealer to be the west-side dealer. The company handed out additional franchises so each dealership will sell Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep.

And what did Chrysler accomplish? It lost sales for several weeks and disrupted two profitable businesses.

In hindsight, Chrysler's precipitous rejection of 789 dealerships looks ill-advised, ill-planned and poorly executed. It still is not clear what standards were used to determine which dealerships to reject. But the process appears random and arbitrary. And there are still rejected dealerships that are stuck with unsold inventory that is difficult to unload.

Those were cruel moves, even if necessary. And Chrysler has yet to prove the necessity of closing all those dealerships, even though the cruelty is evident."

I guess I don't get it. If they need new distribution points, could some of the existing dealerships have been relocated or moved instead of shut down? Will they look for another dealership in Stow and, if so, what kind of loyalty will those area customers have if they lost the oldest Chevy dealer in the county, costing 80 jobs, only to have another open shortly thereafter?

If new dealerships open where old ones were closed without justifiable reasons, people will be more inclined to agree with Kennedy's conclusion:

"To their shame, the media has let this story go, even though there's good chance there's a Watergate buried in it somewhere. Killing the successful auto dealers, while sparing the less successful, is most likely a political rather than equitable or rational decision."

Sunday round-up

* Do you blame companies for making decisions based upon politics? Or do you blame the politicians?

This column by Thomas J. Borelli, PhD., the editor of, takes a look at two companies, Whole Foods and GE, that are, indeed, making politics a core component of their business decisions - with drastic results. The fact that such considerations are contemplated is part of the problem. If government and various elected officials didn't write laws to benefit or harm particular industries/groups, there'd be no need for political considerations in the first place.

I wonder what our Founding Fathers would think of this...

* Patrick Henry is known by most people for his 'Give me liberty or give me death' rallying cry. But do you know what got him so angry as to make such a statement? Samantha Hagan, Director of the Patrick Henry Legacy Program at the Patrick Henry Center, has the background in this column, "Liberty and Gunpowder."

You see, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, seized a town's community supply of gunpowder and ordered the disabling of weapons stored in the public magazine. He did so following his disbanding of what today we'd call a house of representatives and the rallying of the public to Henry as a result of his impassioned speech.

"Patrick Henry demanded the return of the gunpowder, or failing that, he called for compensation to replace the colony’s fleeced supply. Lord Dunmore feared Henry and his men, and from the security of the palace he threatened to destroy the town should any hostilities begin.

For days the standoff continued until a deal was finally brokered in which a sum that both sides agreed upon was paid from the royal account to replace the stolen gunpowder."

Property rights, a core basis of our free nation, were also at the heart of the Revolution.

* From

"A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study says that all levels of government – federal, state, and local – will have to come up with a total of $16.6 billion in additional revenue to purchase carbon allowances, if cap-and-trade – to allegedly combat global warming -- is enacted into law. Experts say this could prompt increases in taxes.

This is the second government report to estimate that the proposed climate-change legislation, formally known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, will eventually cost consumers more.

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study published on June 19 revealed that the House cap-and-trade bill, passed by a 219 to 212 vote on June 26, would cost an estimated $175 per household every year."

How much are you willing to pay in additional taxes to *potentially* lower the temperature by a fraction of a degree???

* Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, has this scary perspective on Eric Holder's Hidden Agenda. For a long time, I have been concerned about actions by those in the federal government and the courts that seem to indicate a willingness to subject our sovereign nation to the whims of others. While we have a global economy, we do not (yet) have a global government - and that's a good thing. For the same reason I support states rights, I support the ability of nations to govern themselves. If people in positions of authority in our nation's government are not willing to support our nation's laws over all others, they don't deserve their places in that government. You cannot uphold our Constitution if you're willing to place it below the rules and laws of others.

Again I wonder what our Founding Fathers would think. Would the word 'treason' enter their minds?

* This is sick! Melissa Lafsky, at The Huffington Post, speculates on what Mary Jo Kopechne might think about the life of Sen. Edward Kennedy. She writes:

"Who knows -- maybe she'd feel it was worth it."

I think there's something wrong with any individual who would make such a comment. Perhaps I've misunderstood the post, but I find it hard to believe that the Kopechne family would agree - and I'm sure they knew Mary Jo much better than Lafsky.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How much SHOULD we pay for prescription drugs?

The other day, there was a man in front of me at the pharmacy counter picking up his prescriptions and he was complaining about the cost.

Now, my husband and I choose not to have prescription drug coverage in our insurance plan because of the cost versus our need (we purchase our insurance ourselves). We have only one drug item we need and it is available in a generic, so the additional money per month in the insurance plan was much greater than just purchasing the drug on its own - especially with the $4 generic prescription program offered by most pharmacies. We made this decision because of our own relatively good health after a cost-benefit analysis. Even if we would need more drugs, we estimate that the overall cost of obtaining them would be less than the cost of prescription drug coverage. We recognize that this may change in the future, and we retain the ability to add drug coverage on the insurance plan renewal dates.

So, considering our own circumstances and our willingness to make a financial decision, I was struck by the man in front of me complaining about the cost of his prescription. He was not that much older than me and he had insurance, so he was paying his co-pay of $15 and was mad that it wasn't less. When the clerk pointed out that the $15 was much less than what the actual cost would have been, he was still angry.

This exchange made me wonder just how much people think they *should* pay for prescriptions. There was a 12-pack of Corona beer in his cart - isn't that roughly about $10-15? (I don't drink beer and hubby is the one who usually buys it so I have no idea...) Why would $15 be too much to pay for a prescription, but not too much to pay for beer? While some might disagree, beer is not a necessity where a potentially life-saving drug is.

In doing some research for this post, I came across numerous articles that cite the average time to bring a drug to market as between 10-15 years. This article, from Healthcare Economist, addresses the cost of drugs:

"The final estimate is that it costs – including the expense of failed drugs – $802 million to take a drug from phase I trials to approval. Over 50% of this figure is the cost of capital needed to finance the R&D over such a long period."

This article, from Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health (,, echoes that amount and points out that profits for drug companies are necessary to fund future research:

"New drugs will not be developed and brought to market if there is no economic incentive for investors. To illustrate: if every time a life-saving drug finally came to market, activists and politicians demanded it be distributed free to anyone who needed it, there would be no further miracle drugs because there would be no fiscal incentive for research, development, and running the risk of failure."

So considering the extended amount of time it takes to produce a new drug, the cost of paying researchers and scientists for the 10-15 years to bring the drug to market, the number of drugs that are pursued but never pan out, just how much *should* a 30-day supply of any drug cost? Shouldn't the cost be enough to cover all expenses and set aside some profit for further development of other drugs?

Why do people think that they shouldn't have to pay the actual costs of these items? Why do people complain about the relatively minor cost of something that will save their lives while not even blinking at the costs of other, non-essential things? What is it about the entitlement perspective that makes people think they should have something they 'need' without being responsible for the actual cost of it?

And who do they think is actually paying for the difference between what they're charged at the pharmacy counter and what the drug actually costs? Because someone always pays, even if you don't see it.

I guess I was struck by the man's idea that $15 was somehow too much money to pay for his health, and his misconception that he should have the benefit of others knowledge, technology and product at what he wanted to pay for it rather than at what it was worth. Or, rather, without regard to the actual cost of producing the item.

All this boiled down to my thought that he had no real idea of economics 101 - or that if he did, he wasn't willing to admit to the principles because of his desire to have his money to spend elsewhere. Of course, if others are paying for your necessities, it makes it easy to think you should be able to spend your dollars on amenities.

And that's part of the overall problem with our health care system today. As employers (and/or government) have provided insurance coverage, individuals have been removed from the impact of the spending. They utilize the product without real understanding of the dollars necessary to have the product in the first place. Without that direct relationship, people become accustomed to using without knowledge of the actual costs, so they 'use' and then get mad when others make the decisions about cost-effectiveness or priorities or choice.

I think the best thing that could happen is to put consumers back in charge of the spending on their health.

Will some make bad decisions? Certainly. That is to be expected because we're all human beings and all make a bad choice at some point in our life. But suffering the consequences of a bad decision will help us learn not to make the same - or similar - mistakes in the future.

Will some refuse to purchase insurance because they're in good health and believe they don't need it at this point in their lives? Absolutely. And that's okay, too. And if something should happen and they find they need medical treatment? Then they'll pay for it themselves, rather than expect others to do so for them (unless it's family and friends who've decided on their own to help out).

Will this mean they could owe a hospital huge amounts of money that will take years to pay off? Probably, especially if their need was drastic. But expecting the individual to be responsible for their own decisions is the 'fair' and right thing to do - much more 'fair' than expecting me and others who've set aside funds to cover our own expenses to pick up the bill.

We've got to change the idea and attitude that all people are somehow 'entitled' to treatment for their own health needs at no cost. Should someone injured in a car accident be treated at a local emergency room? Absolutely! Should they expect to have such treatment without accountability for the cost? Never! Should they also have the ability to refuse treatment because they don't want to pay for it? Yes. And if they later die as a result? Then they made a decision that had consequences others don't like - but it was their choice.

Is this cruel and heartless? No - not in any way whatsoever. This is personal responsibility and freedom of choice. That's how it goes in a free world - and I'd rather be free to make such choices on my own, even when they may be contrary to my own best interests, than allow government to make them for me.

Freedom is more important than security.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Random thoughts on a rainy Friday

* Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle has a post about the Freedom From Religion Foundation's opposition to the prayers said prior to Toledo City Council meetings.

First, I thought the Constitution guaranteed our freedom OF religion, not FROM. Also, despite my Christianity, I'm NEVER offended by someone of another religion offering up a prayer and have never thought that a prayer from a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, etc, prior to any gathering, including a political/governmental one, would in any way whatsoever hinder my participation in the function.

And then I wondered, considering all the talk about 'representing' the community, just what the religious affiliation of Toledo was. The Census Bureau is prohibited by law from tracking religion as a statistic, so it's hard to tell what portion of the city's population identifies itself as religious, or to get a breakdown of which religions. Here's the question: if the majority of citizens identify themselves as 'Christian' and the city council is trying to be representative of the community in their selection people to offer prayers, isn't it likely that the majority of those prayers will have Christian overtones?

Here's the other point: tolerance. I'm tolerant of people who have a different religion than me, or who are atheist/agnostic. Why can't they be tolerant of me and my Christian faith? And if they don't like the prayer being offered, can't they just get up and leave during that portion?

And just who is the person identified in the letter from this organization that is so offended by a prayer that mentions Christianity and Jesus Christ? Are they as offended by the mention of Muhammad by an Imam who practices Islam? The letter doesn't say...

* I'm tired of polls that ask people what they think about something without first finding out if the people can properly define the subject matter PRIOR to offering an opinion. I've written about this in relation to a poll about the recession and am now seeing it in polls about health care.

From a recent Denver Post story:

"Nearly 8 in 10 Americans support a federal health insurance plan for those who can't afford or can't get private insurance, but only 37 percent define "public option" correctly, a new national poll found."

If 63% of the people can't define a 'public option' correctly, why would we trust their support for it? How can they be in favor of something if they don't really know what it is?

At least this poll asked about the definition. Most pollsters don't want to include that aspect in their questions for fear of the criticism I've just given.

* This morning I heard a news clip of Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner saying that the only mayoral candidate he's heard present an economic development plan is Republican Jim Moody. Considering Carty's history, I could only wonder if this was the kiss of death for the Moody campaign.

* I love rainy days when the clouds make it so dark in the house that you need to turn on the lights. I love the sound of the rain on the windows and the way I can watch the heavier downpours move across the surface of Maumee Bay. It's the kind of day where you want to stay in your pajamas, curled up on the couch with a good book or good movies on TV.

Alas, nothing good on TV and, not being able to predict the weather, I spent all day Wednesday reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So I guess I'll have to get my work done, instead.

Quotes of the Day

A couple of quotes while I catch up on work after spending all day Wednesday reading the last Harry Potter book....

"Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage. But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us -- and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along." ~ Carl Sagan

"Any man who has the brains to think and the nerve to act for the benefit of the people of the country is considered a radical by those who are content with stagnation and willing to endure disaster." ~ William Randolph Hearst

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is it time to freeze federal wages?

According to The Cato Institute:

"Federal Pay Continues Rapid Ascent
Posted by Chris Edwards

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its annual data on compensation levels by industry (Tables 6.2D, 6.3D, and 6.6D here). The data show that the pay advantage enjoyed by federal civilian workers over private-sector workers continues to expand.

The George W. Bush years were very lucrative for federal workers. In 2000, the average compensation (wages and benefits) of federal workers was 66 percent higher than the average compensation in the U.S. private sector. The new data show that average federal compensation is now more than double the average in the private sector."

The article includes several charts which dramatically highlight the difference between federal and private-sector pay, especially when benefits are included.

"In 2008, federal worker compensation averaged a remarkable $119,982, which was more than double the private sector average of $59,909."

No wonder most Americans think our government is out-of-control and has no real understanding of economic realities. As Edwards notes, with pay like this, federal workers are "insulated from the economic reality of recessions and from the tough competitive climate of the private sector." Plus they have job security that most in the private sector would never dream is even possible.

With all the talk from politicians (of both parties) in Washington, does anyone find it strange that bemoaning the debt of the nation and talking about 'fiscal responsibility' never extends to doing what many state and local governments are doing - freezing wages, laying off workers and *gasp* actually cutting spending?

Sen. Kennedy and health care

Sen. Edward Kennedy passed away Monday.

I offer my sympathies to his family and friends over his loss. Having lost an uncle to brain cancer, I know first-hand what a dreadful disease it is. So I'm grateful he is no longer suffering its effects - and that he had a full and good life.

I was not a fan of Sen. Kennedy. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I rarely agreed with any of his positions and was quite opposed to many of his proposals.

However, I respected and admired the shrewd politician that he was. Which brings me to the subject of health care....

Kennedy was a strong proponent of universal health care and supported a government-run option.

I can only imagine the thoughts he was having on the subject as he learned of the public's growing opposition to the concept. Being an avowed and unabashed liberal, he probably thought those of us opposed to the idea just didn't know what we were doing...that he knew better for us on the subject.

I don't mean that as an attack; merely a statement of fact. But knowing that the proposal was sinking fast, what could he do to help it? Give it a rallying point - which is what his death has done.

The headline:


ABC News:

'Win One for Teddy,' Say Dems Pushing for Health Reform
Key Question Is Whether Kennedy's Death Can Rally Fellow Democrats

CBS News:

Sen. Byrd: Health Bill Should be Named for Kennedy

Even his final act has political overtones - shrewd, calculated, brilliant - and perfect timing, which is a big factor in political success.

I'm certain he would rather still be with us, fighting in the trenches of 21st Century politics. But knowing that he really had no option (death greets us all some day), I do not think he would mind the use of his death to promote one of his long-time goals.

While I don't think it will be enough to overcome the opposition, I can - and do - admire the strategy, unintended though it may be.

Of course, the strategy may back-fire. While Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid may think this is a good thing to do, if the bill goes down in flames (which it appears is likely), the last bill with Kennedy's name will have been a failure - something I don't believe Kennedy would appreciate.

Regardless of the outcome, I think Kennedy would appreciate the battle. Rest in peace, Sen. Kennedy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keno revenue comes up short

I saw coverage of this in various news outlets over the last couple of weeks, but nothing locally. I may have missed it, but just in case....

The Ohio Lottery reported that year-end figures for the new Keno game were significantly short of projections. They were budgeted at $73 million for the year which ended July 31. Total collections, however, were only $30 million - 41% of the estimated amount.

From The Columbus Dispatch, which questions the results in relation to the new video slot machines:

"The video-slots plan will raise $933 million for the current two-year budget, the governor predicts.

About half -- $455 million -- will come from license fees paid by racetracks that install slot machines. The rest, $478 million, is the state's projected share of revenue generated by the slots.

How likely is Ohio to see $478 million? Amanda Wurst, Strickland's spokeswoman, says the governor's slots estimate takes into account the slumping economy. But if the same thing happens to slots revenue that happened with Keno, then slots will generate just $196 million for Ohio, leaving a $282 million hole in the state's 2010-2011 budget.

And even this is contingent on the state winning a lawsuit challenging its right to authorize slot machines without a statewide vote."

This shows that, even with gambling revenue, nothing is guaranteed. So what's next?

The Keno revenue was counted upon to avoid deep cuts in education funding. Now that it's not even half of projections, what decisions will the state have to make regarding education disbursements? Will there end up being cuts to local school systems?

Considering that we will be electing school board members this November, I'd be interested in hearing their thoughts on this on the campaign trail.

And we also have Issue 3 on the ballot in Ohio which would allow casinos in certain cities. Will the lack of projected revenue from Keno have an impact on that vote?

stay tuned....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Would Obama settle for one term?

Back in March, I wrote a post questioning whether or not President Barack Obama cares about winning a second term.

From that post:

The goal is not the presidency - that's merely a tool with which to achieve the agenda: the European-style socialism of America and the total consolidation of power within the hands of radical leftists. Sacrificing his re-election would be a small price to pay for accomplishing this nefarious feat.

Yesterday, I saw this headline on

Obama ‘Quite Comfortable’ As One-Term President, White House Spokesman Says

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was "addressing a question about a comment made by Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), who said the president told him he is willing to risk a second term to get a health care overhaul bill approved."

I've also seen several articles and opinion pieces which ask if Democrats would be willing to 'sacrifice' majority control in the House and Senate in order to usher in some of their policy agenda items.

While I think most politicians are more concerned with maintaining control via constant re-election, I believe there may be some who would trade a temporary loss of the majority in order to obtain a massive change to a type of socialism for our country.

What do you think? Is the loss of an election is too big a price to pay for the goal of socializing our nation?

Property: the foundation of all rights

The Cato Institute is a non-profit public policy research foundation whose mission is "to increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and peace."

They produce numerous publications, including a Handbook for Policymakers that focuses on issues with recommendations. I thought this portion dealing with Property Rights was very informative and am sharing it with you. I hope you'll read the entire chapter.

34. Property Rights and the Constitution

America’s Founders understood clearly that private property is the foundation not only of prosperity but of freedom itself. Thus, through the common law, state law, and the Constitution they protected property rights—the rights of people to freely acquire, use, and dispose of property. With the growth of modern government, however, those rights have been seriously compromised. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has yet to develop a principled, much less comprehensive, theory for remedying those violations. That failure has led to the birth of the property rights movement in state after state. It is time now for Congress to step in—to correct its own violations and to set out a standard that courts might notice as they adjudicate complaints about state violations. In the Property Rights and the Constitution chapter of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, Roger Pilon explains why Congress should:

- Enact legislation, to guide federal agencies and to provide notice by the courts, that outlines the constitutional rights of property owners under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause,

- Follow the traditional common law in defining "private property," "public use," and "just compensation,"

- Treat property taken through regulation the same as property taken through physical seizure, and

- Provide a single forum in which property owners may seek injunctive relief and just compensation promptly.


49% want to opt out of Social Security, Rasmussen reports

I wasn't part of the poll, but you can count me in that group.

From the Rasmussen website:

"Forty-nine percent (49%) of U.S. voters say working Americans should be allowed to opt out of Social Security and provide for their own retirement planning.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 37% disagree and do not believe Americans should be able to opt out of Social Security. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure.

A majority of voters under 50 say workers should be allowed to opt out. A plurality of those over 50 disagree."

With the unfunded liabilities this Ponzi scheme currently has, I have no illusions that the money I've paid into the system over the years will be available for me when I retire. In fact, I'm making other plans because I expect there to be nothing left by the time I'm eligible to collect.

And the trustees who oversee Social Security are predicting no cost-of-living-allowance (COLA) increases for the next two years, due to the formula which ties such increases to inflation. But politicians want to break the rules anyway, spending even more money and covering the cost by increasing taxes:

"The cost of a one-time payment, a little less than $8 billion, could be covered by increasing the amount of income subjected to Social Security taxes, ..."

This means younger workers would be paying for older recipients to get an increase in violation of the current rules.

This is proof that those younger than me are certainly at a disadvantage in the Social Security system. As the system goes broke, government must reduce the amount of payouts or massively increase taxes to cover the obligations. If younger workers could put the same amount of funds into an IRA or other type of retirement account, they own those funds and are assured of actually getting them back, plus interest. Such assurances are not possible with Social Security.

Where do you stand? Would you forgo any withdrawals of Social Security funds in exchange for having your own retirement system? Would you opt-out if you could?

Miscellaneous Monday Matters

* Chris Stirewalt, of the Washington Examiner, has an interesting column about President Barack Obama and his relationship with the media. I recommend you read "The thrill is gone for Obama and the media" and note toward the end of the column where he says something similar to my comments in this post about how Obama is still in campaign mode.

* Thomas Sowell, one of my all-time favorites, has a (currently) four-part series called "Whose Medical Decisions?" which are a must-read for anyone who'd like a fresh perspective on the health care bill components currently being considered by Congress.

His first one emphasizes what Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Obama's own "Special Advisor for Health Policy," has to say about the type of medical care Americans get and how a government-run program will end up rationing care:

Americans also have more of what the article calls "amenities" with their medical care. "Hospital rooms in the United States offer more privacy, comfort and auxiliary services than do hospital rooms in most other countries."

In other words, it is not quantity but quality that is different — and more expensive — about American medical care. This is what Dr. Emanuel's "over-utilization" consists of.

At one time, it would have been none of Dr. Emanuel's business if your physician prescribed the latest medications for you, rather than the cheaper and obsolete medications they replaced. It would have been none of his business if you preferred to have a nice hospital room with "amenities" rather than being in an unsanitary ward with inadequate nursing care, as under the National Health Service in Britain.

The involvement of government gives Dr. Emanuel the leverage to condemn other Americans' choices — and a larger involvement of government will give him the power to force both doctors and patients to change their choices.

His second one explains why it is important that you get to decide how to spend your own money, regardless of how 'society' (meaning politicians) thinks you should spend it - especially when it comes to your health care. He also makes a distinction between 'health' care and 'medical' care - which is rather important when it comes to the legislation.

His Part III column points out Congress's 'bait and switch' - saying the legislation is supposedly to address the 'millions' of Americans who don't have health insurance, but the actual language in the bill has "nothing whatever to do with insuring the uninsured — and everything to do with taking medical decisions out of the hands of doctors and their patients, and transferring those decisions to Washington bureaucrats." He also points out the overlooked fact that many people without insurance can afford it, but choose a different priority for the money - a priority Congress doesn't like and wants to control.

His Part IV urges us to really think not only about the legislation, but about the mindset that leads to such rules, regulations and elimination of our freedom.

What we also should stop to think about is the mindset behind this legislation, which is very consistent with the mindset behind other policies of this administration, whether the particular issue is bailing out General Motors, telling banks who to lend to or appointing "czars" to tell all sorts of people in many walks of life what they can and cannot do.

The idea that government officials can play God from Washington is not a new idea, but it is an idea that is being pushed with new audacity.

Take the time to read the entire columns - it's well worth it.

* I remember reading an article once about how political decisions overrode medical/scientific ones when the issue of AIDS and H.I.V.-infection first became known. I've looked for the article, but cannot find it on line. However, the premise was that standard or routine medical protocols for treating an infectious disease were not implemented in the early days of knowledge of the disease because of political considerations having to do with the gay community and many of the civil rights issues they were bringing forward at the time. Even the original name given the illness - Gay-Related Immune Disease (GRID) - was changed to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) to address some of these political concerns as well as the spread of the disease among intravenous drug users and hemophiliacs who'd received blood transfusions.

As I remember it, the concern of the article was that a push to make the disease seem more mainstream than it really was prevented a reduction in the spread of the disease because it focused efforts on reducing the stigma of associating the illness with the homosexual lifestyle.

I couldn't help but recall this perspective on the disease as I read this article about potentially requiring circumcision for all baby boys to reduce the risk of H.I.V., even though "the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk here, men who have sex with men."

I suggest you read the news story for more details on the issue.

* Two quotes to remember when it comes to freedom:

"Whatever the individual motives of the censors may be, censorship is a form of social control. It is a means of holding a society together, of arresting the flux which censors fear. And since the fear cannot be appeased, the demands for censorship mount in volume and intensity. And one form of censorship can easily lead to other forms." ~ Carey McWilliams

"As Hitler showed us, a press suppressed does not make a recovery. As Lenin indicated, a press controlled does not revert to a critic’s role. As history reminds us, free speech surrendered is rarely recovered." ~ William J. Small

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quotes of the Day

"In a recent conversation with an official at the Internal Revenue Service, I was amazed when he told me that 'If the taxpayers of this country ever discover that the IRS operates on 90% bluff the entire system will collapse' ." ~ Henry Bellmon (1921-) Governor of Oklahoma, US Senator (R-OK) 1969

"Only the rare taxpayer would be likely to know that he could refuse to produce his records to IRS agents... Who would believe the ironic truth that the cooperative taxpayer fares much worse than the individual who relies upon his constitutional rights." ~ Judge Walter Joseph Cummings Jr. (1916-1999) U.S. Federal Judge, United States Solicitor General

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Scary reality: $107 trillion in liabilities

An editorial in the Charleston Daily Mail spells it out in stark - but factual terms: we're in trouble because (t)he nation can't pay for Social Security and the health entitlement programs it has now.

$107 trillion in liabilities
Congress needs to fix existing programs if it creates new ones

AS Americans listened to people yammer on about "death panels" and other distortions of some of the health "reform" proposals circulating in Congress, larger and more important questions have gone unasked and unanswered.

First on the list should be: Are members of Congress out of touch with reality?

The nation can't pay for Social Security and the health entitlement programs it has now.

The Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports for 2009, released in early May, laid out the situation plainly:

Social Security and Medicare have a combined unfunded liability of almost $107 trillion.

According to Pamela Villarreal, a senior policy analyst with the National Center for Policy Analysis, that's about seven times the size of the American economy, and 10 times as much as today's national debt.

Members of Congress have, over the decades, promised Americans $107 trillion more in benefits under these two existing programs over the next 75 years than they have provided for in taxes.

Medicare alone has an unfunded liability of almost $38 trillion.

By some people's reckoning, when today's college students reach retirement in about 2054, the burden of paying Social Security and Medicare benefits would consume one in three dollars of taxable payroll.

Yet some in Congress would create a costly new medical entitlement program to deflect attention from the fact that they don't want to deal with the problems they already face.

All responsible Americans should insist on better than that.

If corporations had such unfunded obligations, we'd have members of Congress demanding appearances and accountability in front of committees and lots of cameras. But they ignore their own house while complaining about others.

And these same people want to create a new government program based on the same pyramid scheme that puts non-elected people into jail?

Can you say stuck on stupid?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Finkbeiner wants to ban texting while driving

This just in via email from the Mayor's office:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mayor Finkbeiner submits ordinance to prohibit text messaging while driving.

Today at 1:00 p.m., Mayor Finkbeiner and City Officials will hold a press conference to announce an ordinance prohibiting the use of text messaging devices while operating a vehicle. The press conference will be held on the 22nd Fl. Conference Room of Government Center.

The media is respectfully asked to attend.

This is insane!

No - it's not because it's a really, really, really bad idea to try to read and send text messages while driving ... it is!

But there is already an ordinance on the books that deals with such circumstances. In fact, it's a catch-all so that all sorts of things you shouldn't do while driving are against the law without having to name each and every one. It's Toledo Municipal Code 333.02

333.02. Reckless operation on streets, public or private property.

(a) No person shall operate a vehicle on any street or highway without due regard for the safety of persons or property.

(b) No person shall operate a vehicle on any public or private property other than streets or highways, without due regard for the safety of persons or property.

And if that's not enough, there's also a similar law for the entire state in the Ohio Revised Code, under which law enforcement office can cite:

4511.20 Operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.

(A) No person shall operate a vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street or highway in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property

So why do we need this law? And if we need a law to ban this particular action, where are the laws to ban other equally dangerous actions like: eating while driving, lighting a cigarette while driving, putting on make-up while driving, shaving while driving, changing your clothes while driving (yes, I've seen that before!), holding your dog in your lap while driving, etc...

Before creating new ways to make criminals out of people, let's just enforce the laws we have.

But maybe, not everyone who texts while driving is dangerous. Could that be?

Yes, it is possible.

The problem is not that texting is causing too many accidents because, as I've demonstrated, if you're not paying attention to your driving that's already a crime and you can be penalized.

The problem is an issue of prior restraint. We don't want you to *possibly* cause an accident, so we'll censure your behavior ahead of time. We'll make the action a crime, rather than punish for the outcome. We'll control what you do and how you do it so you don't maybe do something that could be a problem.

This is the same logic used by liberals in just about every other circumstance where they seek to tell you how to live and what to do - despite your ability to make such decisions on your own. Whether it's soda pop taxes, smoking bans, seat belt laws, helmet laws, and on and on and on ... they'll tell us it's for our own good - as if some politician knows what is or is not best for you and your family, even when they've never met you.

Or they'll say that government picks up the cost for *some* individuals when they are hurt as a result of such behavior. Well, the answer to is to not let such individuals off the hook when it comes to paying for the consequences of their actions. If you're hurt more severely because you didn't wear a seat belt or a helmet, you'll get your treatment for your injuries, but you'll be responsible for paying - no more relying upon government (taxpayers, that is) for payment because you don't have a job - you or your family will just be in debt for the rest of your life.

A few well-publicized incidences of just such consequences and people will make better choices on their own. Most all people who know they'll be responsible for the consequences of their actions make better decisions. And those who don't make the good decision quickly learn not to make the same mistake twice when they are held responsible for the outcome.

This is a very steep slippery slope and, as I've said before, I think we're already at the bottom.

This is about control and behavior modification - and it's about time citizens told the government (and all the special interest groups such legislation caters to) to butt out! We don't need government to create new laws that turn us into criminals because of our actions, especially when such actions are not hurting anyone.

And doesn't Carty have anything better to do? You know, like an $8 million budget deficit????? Or is he trying to emulate Nero, fiddling while Toledo burns?

Obama doesn't get it - this isn't a campaign anymore

In this Breitbart article, Obama fires back at political critics, President Barack Obama tries to draw a parallel between a couple of incidences in his campaign for the Democratic Party nomination and what he's going through now with the failure of his economic stimulus plan and the overwhelming rejection of his health care reform.

And the comparison shows he just doesn't get it.

This is no longer a campaign - this is governance.

During the primary, he was trying to win over the votes of fellow Democrats who believe, pretty much, what he does. There are many who will say they were swayed by his rhetoric and lofty ideals but really didn't know what he stood for - and for that I fault the voting public and the press, who didn't ask the tough questions which would have revealed his intentions during the campaign.

But that point aside, trying to convince people with the same ideology that you're the best one of several to represent that ideology is much different from convincing an entire nation, the majority of whom claim no party or are Republicans, to join your cause.

Obama isn't going to the opposing side and presenting his viewpoint on the issue, he's handpicking audiences and 'preaching to the choir' and trying to re-energize his base. But that will only go so far as the vast majority of Americans are not in that group to begin with.

He's still in campaign mode, trying to sell an idea, when the public would rather have the facts and the details - all the things they were too busy to bother with during the actual campaign. Now that Obama is in the White House, the public expects him to manage the operations, though he's had absolutely no experience whatsoever in doing something even remotely similar. And now it shows, especially in how he blames everyone else for his failure in this regard.

"Voters, it seems, want to understand a little more about what ObamaCare will mean for them, what it will do to the doctor-patient relationship, and what it will cost future generations in higher taxes and, yes, rationed supply.

Rather than examine the public’s concerns, the plans’ inconsistencies or the sheer irresponsibility of trying to ram something this big and complicated through Congress without a small-scale trial, the Obama administration is pointing fingers. Lots of them."

He also, wrongly, thinks the opposition is all about him - that Republicans are trying to deny him a victory, rather than acknowledge that it's the general public that doesn't like the idea.

That's what you do in a campaign - demonize and blame the other side, appeal to the sympathy of the voters for your position, and promise you'll do better if just given the chance. Now that he's got the chance, though, he's failing.

His win demonstrates that he knows how to persuade people to an idea, but his actions since January 20 show he doesn't know what it takes to actually follow through with the details and documentation and evidence to support those ideas.

So he reverts to what his knows and what put him in this position in the first place - campaigning ... trying to convince his base that his ideas are still the right ones. In doing so, he neglects those he really needs to persuade, reinforcing their opinion that they are, indeed, right on the issue.

Obama is not the only one to find himself in such a position. Voters routinely elect legislators and other similarly-experienced individuals into the management positions of administrative/executive office. Voters - and political parties who endorse - rarely stop to think about the skills necessary to actually do a job once elected. Rather, they focus on the electability of the individual or the person's stated prior accomplishments. Getting a bill passed in a legislative body is much different than implementing it when approved - and voting on a budget or advocating for a particular funding line item is very different from creating the budget in the first place. The skill sets necessary for those functions are very different, and may, in fact, be opposite, but people rarely distinguish that fact or vote accordingly. This sets everyone up for failure: the elected official who finds they don't have the skills they need to actually to govern, and the public who expected governance but gets none from someone they never should have put into such a position to begin with.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Death threats, cell phone numbers and politics as usual in Toledo

As a former county commissioner and someone who's had death threats in that position, I believe I can speak with some authority about the latest circumstances surrounding Ben Konop.

First, let's address the issue of his personal cell phone number being given out on WSPD's afternoon show by Brian Wilson.

Many are saying they wouldn't want their own cell phone numbers given out over the air, but those who make such a statement are not public officials. Such 'privacy' issues are different when an individual is in the public eye. Is Konop's cell phone listed publicly on his website for his campaign, his blog or in any other communication, like a press release? If so, then it's publicly available and all WSPD did was share it with a wider audience. If not, then I would have to question the use of that number rather than his office number when urging people to call him.

When I was on air and Konop refused to respond to my invitation to appear on Eye On Toledo, I encouraged people to call or email his office to ask him to 1) provide a response to my invitation and 2) encourage him to accept. I also encouraged them to ask him about this when he appeared in person at events or forums. There's nothing wrong in encouraging citizens to engage their elected officials.

But before anyone can take exception to the broadcast of Konop's personal cell phone number, you need to know whether or not it's already a public number. Only then can you make an informed decision about whether it was the right thing or the wrong thing to do.


When I was first elected to the commissioner seat, but before I was sworn in, I had a death threat on my home telephone - at an unlisted number I used only for family and friends - and they left the message on the recorder. Rather stupid of them, but they did so. The details in the threat made it clear that they were familiar with my house, the people in my house and our daily routines. I probably would have just dismissed the threat if it hadn't been for the additional details which made me believe they'd observed the goings-on in our home for a while.

My reaction was to call the Toledo Police since I live in Toledo and also because I was the Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court and worked very closely with that agency. Because I did not want to encourage the caller, in any way, by publicity about the incident, I called the chief's office to ask about the best way to handle the call and my family's concerns. They sent a detective over who listened to the recording, make out a report and suggested some additional patrols in the neighborhood. It was suggested that officers in patrol cars would be asked to park at the end of our street to do their paperwork or during their breaks, to provide an additional presence that would, hopefully, discourage any unwanted activity.

We also took some additional measures and installed a security system in the house, which we'd been planning to do anyway, and went over the advice given out at most block watch meetings about being aware of suspicious activity.

Shortly after being sworn in, there was a break-in at the house. Fortunately, the alarm system worked - quite well, in fact - and while a rear basement window was broken and the perpetrator did get a foot on the table, the alarms went off and nothing was taken.

After getting the phone call from the alarm company, I arrived at home to find both TPD and Sheriff Deputies (LCSO) on the scene. While I was not surprised to find my local law enforcement personnel, I was surprised to find the Sheriff's Department had responded. As it was explained to me by then-Chief Deputy Ken Perry, the LCSO believed it was their responsibility to protect all county-elected officials, in addition to county residents, and they take threats against such individuals - regardless of the politics - very seriously. (Perry was my opponent in the 1995 election for Clerk of Court.)

Fortunately, following the investigation of the break-in (which was never solved), the police concluded that the break-in and threats were separate incidents and not related. But I know that when my family took our annual vacation a few weeks later, Chief Deputy Perry made several stops at my house just to check things out and make sure everything was okay. Though I told him that wasn't really necessary, he said he wanted to do it and, upon my insistence, assured me he wouldn't stop during his normal work schedule and take time away from his obligations to the Sheriff to do so.

So I know, first hand, the attention the LCSO places on the security of the individuals they assume responsibility for. But with the serious and detailed nature of the threat I received, I did not ask for a body guard so I wonder about the threats Konop has gotten and why this has become a rather public issue when prudence would dictate keeping a lower profile on the security.

I would like to see the emails Konop has received to judge for myself, though I know they'd probably be designated as non-public documents relating to an on-going investigation.

As an elected official, you get all kinds of communications from all sorts of people who use varying degrees of words when they don't like decisions you've made.

One of the easiest ways to handle such communications is to diffuse the issue yourself through conversation or response. Konop, unfortunately, has a reputation for not being able to do this well, if he bothers to respond at all. Is it likely that his reaction to such communications has escalated the situation? It's a good question to ask and the answer would probably only be revealed with an investigation of both sides of the communications.

When you've done your best to de-escalate the situation and it isn't working, it is logical to share the information with law enforcement. But does this warrant a body guard - a LCSO deputy to escort you various places, including within a well-protected government building? I don't know because I haven't seen the emails.

But I do know that the Commissioners used to have a Sheriff Deputy on duty for all the commissioner meetings. Shortly after Tina Skeldon Wozniak and I were sworn in, we examined the need for this person and Tina, Harry Barlos and I decided that we had enough protection in the building from the State Highway Patrol officers and really didn't need a deputy at our meetings. Besides, we figured we really had nothing to fear from our own constituents, especially in Government Center. So we asked the Sheriff to use that deputy more productively within his organization. And we never had a problem. In fact, I don't believe subsequent boards of commissioners have had any such issue that would warrant changing that decision.

So where does that leave us, as taxpayers footing the bill for all of this? Wondering, speculating and opining - which is all we can do under the circumstances. We do not have enough details to make an informed decision and it is likely that we never will.

So we are left with questions:

Is it likely that Konop is taking advantage of the situation in order to generate sympathy for his position and get in a few digs at a radio station he hates? Yes.

Is it likely that people are more angry at Konop's actions with the trampling of the U.S. Flag than what he expected? Yes.

Is it possible that he is at risk of physical harm? Yes.

Is it possible that the threats against him are real, credible and worthy of the concern of law enforcement? Yes.

Is it possible that he requested a body guard rather than have the LCSO insist upon one? Yes.

Is it possible this is being blown out of proportion? Yes

Will we ever really know the answers to these questions? No.

So some comments:

To the people who read my comments and other news stories or blogs about this: take a step back and ask yourself if you really have enough information to establish an informed opinion about the incident ... or if your preconceived ideas about Commissioner and mayoral candidate Konop are influencing your perspective.

To the media who cover the 'what' without asking for the supporting evidence to justify the 'who' and 'why': get the whole story and share it without bias.

To Konop: if you really believe you are in danger, protect yourself. Only you know the truth about that. But if you're taking advantage of the situation for political purposes, know that such a strategy can and will backfire when facts are revealed.

Also to Konop: while you have the 'right' to not speak to any media outlet, news department, reporter, TV news show or radio talk show host, your constituents also have the 'right' to hold you accountable for such decisions. Just because you can and should make such decisions, you are not immune from the consequences of those decisions and you should expect the public to respond as they see fit - which includes calling you out on the issue.

To the law enforcement officials involved in this: thank you! Your willingness to serve and protect is always, always valued and appreciated.

Judge denies restraining order in Board of Elections lawsuit

Lucas County Republican Party chairman Jon Stainbrook filed suit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to force the ouster of Board of Elections member Patrick Kriner.

This is part of an on-going effort by Stainbrook, who has a reputation for holding grudges and has been trying get rid of the current Republican members of the BOE for a while now, so he could have the position.

The hearing on Stainbrook's request for temporary restraining order was yesterday - and it was denied by Judge Ruth Ann Franks. The matter was continued until Sept. 23 at 8:30 a.m.

Patrick Kriner was present with attorney John McHugh and was given seven days in which to file a motion to intervene in the case, though that was to be held in abeyance pending the Sept. 23rd hearing.

Here is the court record from yesterday's hearing (Kriner's name is spelled incorrectly on the docket):

8/19/2009 1 Title : ORD:TRO DENIED
Case called for hearing on Plaintiff's "Motion for
Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction" on
August 19, 2009. Court reporter TRICIA WADSWORTH Ordered.
Attorney JOSEPH KIDD present on behalf of Plaintiff.
Plaintiff HANS SCHNAPP also present. Attorney ANTHONY
DEGIDIO present on behalf of Defendant. Attorney JOHN
MCHUGH present and made his formal oral appearance as
counsel for the potential Intervening-Plaintiff, Patrick
Kreiner. PATRICK KREINER also present.

Hearing had and oral arguments made on behalf of the
parties through counsel. Based upon the testimony
presented, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff's "Motion for
Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction" is
found not well-taken and DENIED.

It is further ORDERED that Attorney, JOHN MCHUGH, is
granted leave of seven (7) days to file his "Motion to

It is further ORDERED that this matter is continued for
hearing on September 23, 2009 at 8:30 a.m. Counsel's
"Motion to Intervene" shall be held in abeyance pending
said hearing.

August 19, 2009

The slide down the slippery slope

Through a series of comments and links in various articles, I ended up at this Washington Post story about the latest intrusion of government into private business.

"Two senior House Democrats are seeking a raft of financial figures from health-insurance companies, upping the ante as President Obama and his allies push to make the insurance industry's flaws a centerpiece of their campaign for health-care reform.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the panel's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, wrote letters Monday to more than 50 of the nation's largest insurers informing them that the committee "is examining executive compensation and other business practices in the health insurance industry." They requested detailed information on the compensation packages of the companies' highest-paid employees, as well as information on the companies' boards, conferences and events they sponsored, the profitability of the individual health-care products they sell and revenues earned through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The letters ask that much of the information be provided to the committee by Sept. 4, and the rest by Sept. 14. The House is scheduled to return from recess Sept. 8."

Since when did Congress have the authority to 'examine' the compensation decisions of private companies? The Constitution does not give them the power to do this, but some might say prior practices do.

Remember way back when people first discussed the idea of a federal minimum wage? One of the questions was this: if Congress can set a minimum, can they also set a maximum? Oh no, we were told, that would never happen...everyone always wants to make more money and American was built on the idea of being rewarded for hard work...

But now we find that we are, indeed, at the place we were warned of: a bunch of politicians in Washington deciding what the pay of various privately-employed individuals should be - not based upon their value to the organization providing the compensation, but upon the political goals of the politicians (who, by the way, get to set their own compensation without any oversight whatsoever!).

We even have a pay czar, though his role is supposed to be limited to compensation within companies who took bail-out monies. But how long do you think it will be before his unelected role expands into other sectors as well?

The politicians will tell you that since these companies are getting 'public' dollars, the 'public' gets to dictate terms, conditions, practices, even product development, and a host of rules and regulations. But they don't really mean the 'public.' They mean the politicians. And these same politicians use their elected positions to force their own views on the nation, even when the nation disagrees.

So here we are, with Congress delving into matters of contract between two consenting parties with the idea that despite the mutual agreement of the parties, the contract should be changed so that what government wants (regardless of anyone else) government gets. But it's not just matters of compensation, it's creeped into almost every aspect of our lives, from smoking in private places to mandatory seat belt usage to taxes on products we like but government says are bad for us.

It is a slippery slope - and we're closer to the bottom than we ever thought possible.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

COAST to submit signatures for red-light camera charter amendment today

This just in via email:

For immediate release: August 19, 2009

Volunteers turn in Toledo Red LightPetitions -- TODAY

Press Conference at 2:30 PM at City Hall Clerk of Council's office Camera

Today at 2:30 PM, volunteers from WeDemandAVote.Com/Toledo turn in petitions at Toledo City Hall for a Charter Amendment to ban the use of Red Light and Speeding Cameras in the City of Toledo. WeDemandAVote.Com/Toledo will turn in more than 8,400 signatures to the Toledo Clerk of Council. This is nearly twice the 4.625 signatures required to attain ballot access for the proposal.

COAST is proud a member of the WeDemandAVote.Com/Toledo coalition and proud partner of the many Toledoans who have together forced this issue to a vote this November.

In November of 2008, Cincinnati voters became the first in the nation to ban the use of Red Light and Speeding Cameras within City limits. Because Toledo City Council will not repeal these oppressive devices on their own, COAST came to Toledo in January to launch this drive, which has culminated in this accomplishment.

If Toledo City Council does as the Ohio Constitution requires, they will check the sufficiency of the petitions through the Lucas County Board of Elections and vote before September 3 to place the issue on this November's ballot. If they refuse, COAST's attorneys promptly will litigate to force them to do as they are required by the Constitution.

COAST's Toledo coordinator, Scott Ross said: "More than 8,400 Toledoans have demanded that the pernicious and confiscatory policies of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and this City Council be put to a vote this November. Thanks to these volunteer circulators and signers, voters will have the chance to seize back a small part of their liberties taken by these invasive devices."

COAST's seven reasons to oppose Red Light and Speeding Cameras may be read here.

# # #

The payroll income tax shell game

Last night Toledo City Council rejected Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's plan to place a measure on the November ballot that would allow the one-time transfer of $3.9 million in Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Funds into the General Fund.

The vote was 9-2 against, with Betty Shultz and Mike Ashford voting for the resolution. Phil Copeland was absent.

Generally, the members of city council supported their own re-allocation plan (which they're calling 'safety first') which will be on the September ballot.

Their plan, Issue 1, would change the allocation of the 3/4% payroll income tax.

Apparently, creating ballot issues in order to move this money around is habit-forming.

The temporary (since 1982) addition to our payroll income tax has a four-year term, so voters must continually approve its implementation, though some on council have speculated that it should be permanent.

Here's how the tax has been allocated over the years:

Prior to 2005:

* 1/3 for Police, Fire and Safety Department
* 1/3 for the General Fund
* 1/3 for the Capital Improvement Fund

From 2005 to 2008:

* 1/3 for Police, Fire and Safety Department
* 1/2 for the General Fund
* 1/6 for the Capital Improvement Fund

Since 2008:

* 1/3 for Police, Fire and Safety Department
* 1/3 for the General Fund
* 1/3 for the Capital Improvement Fund

Proposed Issue 1:

* for 2009:
- 1/2 for Police, Fire and Safety Departments
- 1/2 for General Fund

* for 2010-12:
- 1/2 for Police, Fire and Safety Departments
- 1/3 for General Fund
- 1/6 for Capital Improvement Fund

Even though the tax was not scheduled to expire until the end of 2005, then-mayor Finkbeiner and members of city council placed the change in allocation on the November 2004 ballot, citing difficult economic times as a reason to short the CIP. Promises were made then that the entire amount that 'could' be moved based upon the revised allocation would not be - that council would only move what was necessary to cover the budget deficit. Those same promises are being made today.

If Issue 1 passes in September, we'll have four changes to this tax in a five-year period. It's obvious our council and mayors have no idea how live within their means.

And why should they? Every time they threaten cuts to police and fire, the voters willingly 'pull the lever' for the latest proposal, bailing out politicians who do not know how to make a budget and stick with it.

Even the latest union contracts give a good example of their lack of sensibility when it comes to future commitments of funds. While many concessions were made by the unions, the pension contributions to PERS are rolled back only for 2009. Next year, those pension contributions and other terms will go back into effect. Council will have the same unsustainable union contract obligations to deal with in January 2010 as they did in January 2009.

This is why they want the ballot issue to pass - because it gives them more money for 2010, 2011 and 2012 than what they have right now, saving them (maybe) from having to explain budget deficits next year.

Except I don't believe that will be the case.

First, even if Issue 1 passes, the city still faces a $3.8 million deficit.

Second, with the additional monies allocated to the General Fund and the everyday obligations of the city, I expect they will find a way to spend all of it - just as they do now - with no thought to the long-term effects of a continually decreasing CIP Fund.

So council plays with 1/2, 1/3, 1/6, police and fire, general fund, CIP, one year, two years, four years ... moving allocations and dollars around - all in the hopes that you'll lose track of what exactly your money goes for so that they'll win the prize: an electorate that doesn't have a clue and has given up trying to find out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A back-up plan if voters say 'no'

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner wants to take money from the Capital Improvements Fund and move it into the General Fund to cover the budget deficit for 2009.

City Council has already voted to place an issue on the September ballot that would re-allocate our 3/4% payroll income tax to help cover a portion of that deficit.

Tonight, city council will deliberate on the following resolution which would place a back-up issue on the November ballot to do, basically, the same thing - on a one-time only basis, move $3.9 million from CIP into the General Fund.

Here is the text of the legislation:

RES. 488-09

Providing for the submitting to the electors of the City of Toledo at the Regular Municipal Election to be held on November 3, 2009, the question of the approval of the issue under Ordinance No._____ –09, passed by the Council of the City of Toledo on August 18, 2009, by amending Chapter 1905 of the Toledo Municipal Code, to provide for reallocation on a one time basis of funds allocated to the Capital Improvement fund to the General Fund; and declaring an emergency.

Currently Chapter 1905 of the Toledo Municipal Code (Code) provides for the permanent levy of a tax on income at the rate of one and one-half percent (1-1/2%) from and after January 1, 1967. Additionally, Chapter 1905 of the Code provides for the levy of a temporary three-quarters of one percent (3/4%). On March 4, 2008 the voters of Toledo approved the continuation of the additional ¾% income tax for the period of 2009 – 2012 with an allocation of one-third (1/3) for Police, Fire, and other Safety Department responsibilities, one-third (1/3) for the General Fund, and one-third (1/3) for the Capital Improvements Fund.

Due to extraordinary economic conditions that have impacted local and national economies the City of Toledo is facing a significant General Fund deficit for the year 2009. While several steps have been made to reduce the size of the projected deficit, it is likely that a sizable shortfall will remain unaddressed if immediate action is not taken. Ohio law and he Charter of the City of Toledo require that the City balance its budget.

Pursuant to the mandate of Chapter 1905 of the Code as enacted by the voters, the City has allocated one third (1/3) of the three quarters percent (3/4%) income tax to the Capital Improvements Fund. Fortuitously, the City has also been awarded funds in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 grants (Stimulus Funds) for capital improvement purposes.

The Council of the City of Toledo desires to reallocate an amount not to exceed three million nine hundred thousand dollars ($3,900,000) from currently allocated and unencumbered amounts in the Capital Improvement Fund to the General Fund to help address the projected budget deficit. This would be a one-time reallocation to address a pending fiscal exigency and would not affect future allocations to the Capital Improvements Fund.

The approval of the electors of the City of Toledo is required to reallocate portions of the Capital Improvements Fund to the General Fund because the original allocation was mandated by the people. NOW, THEREFORE,

Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Toledo:

SECTION 1. That there by submitted to the electors of the City of Toledo at a Regular Municipal Election to be held on November 3, 2009, the question of the approval of reallocation on a one time basis of funds allocated to the Capital Improvement fund to the General Fund.

SECTION 2. In accordance with Ohio Revised Code Section 718.01, the Board of Elections of Lucas County, Ohio is directed to provide for the submitting of the question of passing Ordinance No. ___-09 at the Regular Municipal Election on November 3, 2009.

SECTION 3. That the Clerk of Council be and he is hereby authorized and directed to file with the Board of Elections of Lucas County, Ohio a certified copy of Ordinance No. ___-09 and a certified copy of this Resolution for the submission of the aforesaid Ordinance at the Regular Municipal Election to be held on November 3, 2009, and the said Clerk of Council is further directed to request the aforesaid Board of Elections to provide for the submitting of the questions of passing said Ordinance at such election.

SECTION 4. That is the desire and request of this Council that ballots for said questions shall be substantially in the following form:

Proposed reallocation in 2009 on, a one-time basis, of funds in an amount not to exceed three million nine hundred thousand dollars ($3,900,000) allocated pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 1905 of the Toledo Municipal Code, for the Capital Improvements Fund to the General Fund.

A Majority Affirmative Vote is Necessary for Passage.

Shall Ordinance No. ___-09, providing for the reallocation in 2009 on, a one-time basis, of funds in an amount not to exceed three million nine hundred thousand dollars ($3,900,000) allocated pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 1905 of the Toledo Municipal Code, for the Capital Improvement fund to the General Fund be approved?

______________For the reallocation of Capital Improvements Funds to the General Fund.

______________Against the reallocation of Capital Improvements Funds to the General Fund.

SECTION 5. That the Clerk of this Council shall and hereby is directed to file a copy of this Resolution with the Board of Lucas County, Ohio no later than the 19th day of August 2009.

SECTION 6. That this Resolution hereby is declared to be an emergency measure and shall be in force and effect from and after its adoption. The reason for the emergency lies in the fact that same is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety, and property and for the further reason that this Resolution must be immediately effective in order to comply with the statutory deadline for submission of the question to the electors at the November 3, 2009 Regular Municipal Election and for the further reason that this Resolution must be filed with the Board of Election at least seventy five (75) days before the election.

Carty did send a letter to city council stressing that if the September issue is approved, they could remove this item from the November ballot, but if voters reject the transfer of funds in September, this measure could still be supported and allow the city to have a balanced budget, as required by law.

The only health care question you need to ask

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, 1820

People are rightly concerned about what's in HR 3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, and, when they can find a representative, are asking tough and pointed questions about the components of the bill and how it will work.

But the questions are all about the details - who will do what, how will it work, what does section 1151 really mean?

These questions, while pertinent and important, miss the overriding and first principle of any legislation or action of congress: The Constitution.

Members of Congress have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

The first question we should ask - and demand an answer to - is this:

Where in the Constitution does Congress get the authority to implement any health care law?

If they cannot provide the section number, then they are bound by their oath to vote no on this bill.

If they cite their ability to provide for the 'general welfare' of the United States, you can remind them what James Madison wrote in vetoing a public works bill in 1817:

To refer the power in question to the clause "to provide for common defense and general welfare" would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, ...

Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms "common defense and general welfare" embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust.

It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared "that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." Such a view of the Constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the General and the State Governments, inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare, being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision.

A restriction of the power "to provide for the common defense and general welfare" to cases which are to be provided for by the expenditure of money would still leave within the legislative power of Congress all the great and most important measures of Government, money being the ordinary and necessary means of carrying them into execution.


I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.
(emphasis added)

You don't have to use the entire quote - you can summarize. But if this is too long, you can try these:

"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." - James Madison, Letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792 _Madison_ 1865, I, page 546

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constitutents." - James Madison, regarding an appropriations bill for French refugees, 1794

"With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." - James Madison, Letter to James Robertson, April 20, 1831 _Madison_ 1865, IV, pages 171-172

"Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." - Thomas Jefferson

Without an enumerated power in the Constitution to implement HR 3200, our members of Congress have a choice: they can uphold their oath and our Constitution by voting 'no'; or they can show their disdain for the the supreme law of the land - and suffer the consequences.

They work for us and should tell us now - before they return to Congress for the next session - which option they choose.
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