Monday, January 30, 2006

He's Baaaaaack...

It didn’t take very long for “Bad” Carty to rear his ugly head, but after hiding for a year prior to the Toledo mayoral election, he has a lot of time to make up for.  Even before Carty was sworn in as mayor, he voice his mighty and wise opposition to the Westgate Village renovation project.  

Carty’s opposition to the project centers on the addition of a CostCo to anchor the shopping center.  For those of you who are not familiar with Toledo, the Westgate Village shopping center is one of our West Toledo malls.  In the 1970’s the mall was the height of the shopping experience.  Thirty years later, the mall is dated and is lacking for an anchor store.  Last year the owners of Westgate unveiled a renovation plan that included a major overhaul of the mall and the addition of a new anchor, CostCo.  This move initially met with the approval of former Mayor Ford and the City Council.  

However, now that Boss Carty is back in the palace, there will be none of those shenanigans.  God forbid, that a company decide what to do with their own property, or their own business.  So far, Carty has floated four of his own plans for the Westgate shopping center.  

At a meeting Jan. 18, Westgate owner Liz Holland said she thought the two sides agreed to work from the original site plan, which is to be reviewed at the Toledo Plan Commission meeting Thursday.

"We didn't seem to be too far apart. [But] the only feedback we've received are other plans," said Ms. Holland, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Abbell Credit Corp., which owns the shopping center. "It's difficult to say what they like or don't like about our plan because they continue to come up with other alternative plans."

I didn’t realize that Carty held degrees in economics, geography, or architecture…

Apparently, Carty is worried that building a business that actually attract customers will draw traffic to the area, and that a “big box” store will be uglier that the empty ‘70’s façade that currently graces the corner.

To top his foray into urban planning, Boss Carty is now displeased with a new law the state government had the audacity to pass.

COLUMBUS - Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner urged Ohio's big-city mayors to fight a new law signed by Gov. Bob Taft yesterday that would prohibit governments from requiring their employees to live where they draw their taxpayer-funded paychecks.

As it stands now, all the working shlubs for the city, have to live in the city, while managers and others with ten years experience have to choice to kiss the glass city good bye.  Boss Carty says that this is so that the workers have an emotional investment in the city.  I have new for you Carty.  I live in Toledo, and I don’t have an emotional investment in the city.  Making the employees live in the city isn’t going to magically make them care for the city.  Perhaps you might try hiring enough police and firefighters to really get the job done.  Maybe you could pay the employees better wages to attract better employees.  Nah, I guess that is just silly talk.

At least I guess that with Bad Carty back, there will be more to write about.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

We Don't Need No Education

People's exhibit #23413461298582375098 in the case for what is going wrong with this country.

"To say that competition is going to improve education? It's just not gonna work. You know competition is not for children. It's not for human beings. It's not for public education. It never has been, it never will be," Holmes said.

Holmes is Florida teacher Ruth Holms.  The quote came in referencee to the Florida Supreme (and I use the term loosely) Court's decision that Florida's educational voucher system was unconstitutional.  If you want a good discussion on how wrong Ms. Holms is, click the link above and read John Stossel's piece on school competition.

I think, however, that this statement is indicative of the faulty viewpoint many people (especially in education) have in regard to our society.  Many people have bought into the idea that competition is bad.  However, competition is what a free market economy is based on.

You see, in a free market, I have to compete against other people for shares of the market.  This drives me to make a new, different, cheaper or better product that the other fella.  If my product isn't new, different, cheaper, or better than the other fella, then the consumer (that's you and me) will buy from the other fella.  

Take a look at what happened in the former Soviet Union and other communist countries.  There was little or no competition in their collective economy.  Everyone made dirt low wages, the government owned all businesses and there was no motive to make a new, different, cheaper or better product.  After a time, the government couldn't keep up with the cost of supporting industries that couldn't support themselves and eventually the system collapsed.  China is the one exception, but rather than allow the economy to collapse as happened in the former Soviet Union, the Chinese have allowed a very modest and heavily controlled "free" market to grow (a la McDonalds).

But back to my point.  Without competition to drive people to become better and to make better products, the economy will stagnate.  Thus enters the education system.  Since the 1970's the education system has been purging itself of all vestiges of competition.  Children are no longer given grades*, everyone gets a trophy at the end of the football season (even if their team never won a game), and some places have even tried to outlaw dodgeball, and all in the name of self esteem.

Now, having been on the receiving end of a dodgeball pummeling (and on the "b" team who never won a t-ball game) I know as a parent, we don't want to see our children suffer the same trials as we did.  But games like dodge ball teach kids a valuable lesson.  Namely, that if you stand in one place, you are going to get creamed by someone else.  Life is hard.  That sucks, but that's the truth.  There is someone else out there who wants your job, your product, your market share, even your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse.  If you don't know how to compete, or deal with competition, then you are going to get creamed, just like dodge ball.
So, after decades of allowing our schools to slide into the hole of mediocrity just for the sake of self esteem, then we are going our future generations a great disservice.  I don't mean that as an attack on educators.  I have a lot of respect for educators (being that I am one), but I have seen, first hand, the results of such mediocrity.  Last semester, I had the worse papers I believe I have ever seen.  Many of my students who had either graduated from high school, or at least received a GED, couldn't put a simple sentence together, even after correcting their early work.  We are raising generations of children, who will become our leaders when we are old and grey, who don't know how to deal with a competitive market.  We, as a society cannot allow this to continue.

*Funny story; my son's school grades from K to 4 on a P, S and N scale.  P is praiseworthy, S is satisfactory and N is not satisfactory, and they throw in plusses and minuses just to confuse the parents.  My son brought his grade card home one day last year.  As his mother and I were trying to decipher the codes, my son declared, "that P there, that's an A, the S+ is a B"  If my seven-year-old can figure it out, how is it protecting his fragile self esteem?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

WTF is Going Down in Texas?

Ok, can someone explain this too me?

SIERRA BLANCA, Texas – Men dressed as Mexican Army soldiers, apparent drug suspects and Texas law enforcement officers faced off on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, an FBI spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Andrea Simmons, an agency spokeswoman in El Paso, told The Associated Press that Texas Department of Public Safety troopers chased three SUVs, believing they were carrying drugs, to the banks of the Rio Grande during Monday's incident.
Men dressed in Mexican military uniforms or camouflage were on the U.S. side of the border in Texas, she said.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of Ontario, Calif., reported Tuesday that the incident included an armed standoff involving the Mexican military, suspected drug smugglers and nearly 30 U.S. law enforcement officers. It said Mexican military Humvees were towing what appeared to be thousands of pounds of marijuana across the border into the United States.

The Mexican army is now escorting drug smugglers in the U.S.? Now I know that Bush, being a Texan, has a “special” relationship with the Mexican government. But this is unacceptable. Naturally, the Mexican government is denying any involvement and to smoothe things over, Michael Chertoff is trying to play down the whole issue.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday that reports of Mexican soldiers frequently crossing onto U.S. soil were overblown, calling many of those incursions innocent mistakes.

Rafael Laveaga, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, declined to comment on Chertoff's remarks. He stood by earlier remarks that the Mexican military has never deliberately stepped onto U.S. soil. He declined to say if there were any unintentional crossings.

Oh, I see, those guys were former Mexican army troops who just happened to get lost and forgot that the Rio Grande markes the border between Mexico and the U.S. Riiiiiight... That would be why the border patrol has to do this.

The U.S. Border Patrol has warned agents in Arizona of incursions into the United States by Mexican soldiers "trained to escape, evade and counterambush" if detected -- a scenario Mexico denied yesterday.

The warning to Border Patrol agents in Tucson, Ariz., comes after increased sightings of what authorities described as heavily armed Mexican military units on the U.S. side of the border. The warning asks the agents to report the size, activity, location, time and equipment of any units observed.

It also cautions agents to keep "a low profile," to use "cover and concealment" in approaching the Mexican units, to employ "shadows and camouflage" to conceal themselves and to "stay as quiet as possible."

Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora confirmed that a "military incursion" warning was given to Tucson agents, but said it was designed to inform them how to react to any sightings of military and foreign police in this country and how to properly document any incursion.

In response to Mr. Lavega’s statement;

"Give me a break," said T.J. Bonner, a 27-year Border Patrol veteran who heads the National Border Patrol Council. "Intrusions by the Mexican military to protect drug loads happen all the time and represent a significant threat to the agents.

We have either, former members of the Mexican military taking their equipment and uniforms with them and providing security for drug traffickers, or else the drug smugglers are using Mexican uniforms to intimidate U.S. Federal Agents. Either that, or units of the Mexican army are coming into the U.S. and firing on U.S. representatives. Whichever the case may be, something MUST be done. If some drug dealer wants to dress like a Mexican soldier, then let him. But let him know that if he does so, he is going to have a Marine hunting his ass. I have never been a supporter of putting troops on the border to deal with law enforcement issues. But this goes way beyond a law enforcement issue. If the Mexican military is coming into the U.S. they should be meeting their American counterparts.

Have I Ever Told You I Hate the Holidays

I hate the holidays.  There, I said it.  Its not the whole Christmas thing.  I rather like Christmas.  The lights, the decorated trees, the whole compassion and brotherly love thing, give Christmas a lot to look forward to.  I just hate the holiday season.

You see, and Scatta can attest to this, in my life, the holidays always seem to bring angst and stress one way or another.  When I was younger, it was the stress of my mother who always seemed to try to do everything for the holidays.  She would purchase more presents than was reasonable (not that I am complaining about that, mind you) for our income bracket.  She would cook a meal for twenty people, even though there was only four of us for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years dinner.  So the weeks before the holidays would be filled with stress and consternation on the part of my mother, which then flowed over to my dad and I.

Now that I am out of the house, living with my family, and trying to live a little more realistic holiday season, you would think that the holidays would be stress free.  Oh, but no.  Something always seems to happen around the holidays.  This year started out when one of my students was killed in a car accident just hours after she completed the final exam in my class.  To add a cherry to that sundae, she was eight months pregnant and very much looking forward to celebrating the holidays with her husband and two-year-old daughter.  Hearing this news put me in a wonderful funk, just before my family and I left on our vacation (only time I get to get out of Dodge).

The day after we arrived at my in-laws, and working on pulling myself out of my funk, my father attempted a half Gainer in the living room and broke his hip.  This little event brought us home early, but not after having to put up with several days of trying to deal with the stress of two elderly people trying to manage hip replacement surgery over the phone.  You see, mom refuses to drive, dad was the designated driver, and now he is laid up in the hospital.  Thus, mom was forced to get rides from family members who she can hardly contain her disgust of.  And I got the whole thing over the phone.

Then, when we did come back from our abridged vacation, we found out that two very good friends of ours had medical problems too.  However, their medical problems make a broken hip look like a hang-nail.  One had an aneurysm and wasn’t expected to live (she did, and is making a miraculous recovery).  The other discovered that their eight-year-old daughter had a tumor.  

Well now, dad is home (he has already fallen once and mom has been fighting me on the changes we have to make in their home to accommodate dad’s condition).  The tumor isn’t cancerous and our friend with taneurysmism is doing much better.  Life returns to what passes for normal in the Cracka house.  So, with any luck, I will start posting more regularly.  Once I have recovered from my “vacation” that is.

SCATTAGUN: Your holidays always play out like "Stalingrad: The Remix".

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What a Dumbass

Former Toledo mayoral candidate, and city councilman, Mike Ferner was arrested for defacing highway overpasses with idiotic, anti-war slogans.  

Mike Ferner, a former Toledo councilman and one-time mayoral candidate, was arrested yesterday with his brother for spray-painting anti-war slogans on overpasses along I-475/U.S. 23 in Maumee and Sylvania Township.

There once was a time when Mr. Ferner was seen as a postitive alternative to the bombastic managerial stylings of Mayor Finkbiner.  Despite whatever Mayor Finkbiner’s critics might say, the mayor hasn’t supported a megalomaniac dictator nor has he been arrested for vandalism.

Mike Ferner has been an active critic of U.S. military action in Iraq and, in 2003, took part in a "peace tour" of that Mideast country. He has several previous convictions for civil disobedience related to war protests or other causes he has taken on.

What I don’t understand is what makes a fairly intelligent person, no matter what political views you might hold, think that by spray-painting crap on the side of an overpass is going to change the president’s foreign policy?

Ms. Carter said the graffiti is one of her husband's nonviolent tactics for speaking out against injustice, and he "has always been prepared to go to jail."

In keeping with the great tradition of other non-violent protesters like Gandi and Martin Luther King, Mike Ferner will certainly go down in history for his immortal protest against the war on terror "Bye Bush! Hi Robb!".

Or maybe everyone will just ignore the washed up-has been idiot.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chalk One Up for the Good Guys

For anyone who has read this blog for any length of time, you should know that I am a supporter of Scouting by now.  I have written in the past about attacks on the BSA as well as attempts by scouts and friends of scouting to protect the institution.

Well, much to the consternation of liberals, the Save Our Scouts act passed the Senate the week before Christmas.

The "Support Our Scouts Act of 2005" was passed as part of legislation titled, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2006. (H.R.2863), passed in the House of Representatives on 6/20/05 and on 12/21/05 passed in the Senate.

The law protects scouting units and activities (such as jamborees) by allowing equal access to government funding and recourses (such as Fort Hood which hosted the 2005 Jamboree).

(Sec. 8173) Support Our Scouts Act of 2005 - Prohibits any federal law from being construed to limit any federal agency from providing any form of support for a youth organization (including the Boy Scouts of America (Boy Scouts) or any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts) that would result in that federal agency providing less support to that youth organization (or any similar organization chartered under federal law relating to the Boy Scouts) than was provided during the preceding fiscal year.

Thus, we have moved in a positive direction in protecting the institution of scouting from one avenue of attacks by liberal groups like the ACLU.

This isn’t the end of the war.  It is, however, a great victory in one battle to keep Scouting for generations to come.