Archive for April, 2009


A White House official apologized Monday after a low-flying Boeing 747 spotted above the Manhattan skyline frightened workers and residents into evacuating buildings. Witnesses reported seeing the plane circle over the Upper New York Bay near the Statue of Liberty. The huge aircraft, which functions as Air Force One when the president is aboard, was taking part in a classified, government-sanctioned photo shoot, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Much has already been said about the sheer stupidity of keeping NYC in the dark about the nature of the flight. So, instead of jumping on that ride, I’ll follow the money.

According to an Associated Press story, the White House took Air Force One for a drive to update its file photos of the Presidential plane near the Statue of Liberty. reports that an Air Force spokesperson estimated the cost of the publicity shot of the 747 and two F-16 fighter jets at $328,835.

The Huffington Post makes a more conservative estimate**, using Government Accounting Office (GAO) to calculate the bill at somewhere between $27, 500 and $215,000.

President Obama’s plan for America includes a hefty section on technology which promises that he and VP Joe Biden will “…use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks.”

Technology could have gone a long way to save alot of taxpayer dough. Haven’t these people ever heard of Photoshop?

Actually, my photographer friends will cry foul at this, andquite honestly, the journalist in me can’t advocate altering –or rather inventing–reality. I can, however, ask why this photo was even necessary. If the White House was updating its file photos, doesn’t that suggest that it already has older shots of AF-ONE next to Lady Liberty?

When belts are tightening and when the government has already promised taxpayer-generated funds to preserving rodent habitats and tattoo removal, updating publicity photos should be on the long list of activities that are put on hold until the halcyon days return.

**I couldn’t pass by an opportunity to use “conservative” to describe the Huffington Post.

On Potholes

At what point, I wonder, is a pothole no longer a pothole, but a canyon?

My research into the craters dotting Toledo’s roadways reveals that potholes could pose a problem for the powers that be when it comes to election time….unless they capitalize on the problem and turn the citizen’s frowns upside down.

Were Fidal Castro eligible to cast a ballot, potholes would have affected his decision in the New York City Mayoral race. During his October 1995 visit, the Cuban leader said he ”would not vote for [Mayor Rudy Giuliani]. ”It’s not just because he didn’t invite me to dinner, but because on my way into town from the airport there were such enormous potholes.”

If Castro gauges public sentiment, anyone who wants to keep their office in One Government Center should heed warning and  find some way to get those holes repaired. Nevermind that the First Secretary of the Communist Party wouldn’t vote for you if you aren’t a part of the pothole solution; Potholes are a daily reminder to just about everyone in your voting base that the government is not doing its job and that your city infrastructure is literally crumbling.

But, if you cannot beat the potholes–and apparently this city’s finances are so strapped that it cannot fix those on residential streets–perhaps thinking creatively might turn a pox positive.

  • Capitalize: I pass by a couple potholes my daily commute that are rather canyon-like–they may well become tourist attractions as their spanse increases. Think of the possibilities for small business–Vendors could sell “I visited the Toledo Canyons” T-shirts. In a couple of years, we could offer sunset burro rides.
  • SLOW! Children at Play: City Council reps who want to stay in office might tout  potholes as a cost-efficient solution to the speeding motorists who terrorize child-friendly residential  neighborhoods. One English town is doing just that, letting roads “revert to a natural state,” to deter speeding and save money.  One caveat–I suppose the potholes can’t be permitted to worsen, else the children they protect might fall in and need rescue a la “baby Jessica,” thereby cancelling out the cost savings. ..unless the fire department can “just” bill the insurance company for the call…
  • Vigilante Road Crew: Grab a bag of bitumen, and some DIY instructions, and kill those criminal crevaces, Charles Bronson style.
  • Capitalize, Part II: Some entreprenuers with a shovel, tamping pole, and access to the resources of the vigilante road crew (see above) could easily benefit by starting a small business financed by neighborhoods of citizens weary of the moon landscape.
  • Kill Three Birds with One Pothole: The City of Toledo just this week announced that it will not open any public swimming pools this summer, sparking fears that bored and sweaty kids will be crusing the streets for gateways into a life of crime, and opening up hydrants (which actually is a crime).  Save our children! Grab a hose and fill up your street’s largest pothole for instant summer refreshment. Hire a  lifeguard and you’ve done more to create jobs than the current city administration.

WWHD? What Would Hoover Do?

After reading that President Obama calmly sat through–and failed to rebuke–a 50-minute anti-American rant of socialist Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega during last week’s Latin Summit, I flipped through a book or two looking for a similar situation in which Herbert Hoover was audience to a raging dictator.

In March 1938, then former President Hoover was in Berlin when he received an impromteau call from Adolf Hitler, who was just launching his Lebensraum…overtaking Austria, carving up Czechoslovakia, and setting his sights on Poland and Romania.

Hoover reportedly did not want to meet with Hitler, but the US Ambassador nudged him.

No chummy handshakes here.

No chummy handshakes here.

For whatever reason, Hoover dropped the word “Jew” into conversation. In response, Hitler jumped to his feet and launched into a “prolonged standing rant.” Hoover endured this for a short time, then told Hitler “Sit down. That’s enough. I’m not interested in your views.”

The International News Service reported that Hoover also “… bluntly informed Hitler that the United States will never become reconciled to understanding or even having the slightest tolerance for Nazism as a political and national creed…” and that ”
American ideals reject the fundamental principles on which the Nazi regime is based and upon which it flourishes…”

The March 8 edition of Life Magazine bore the headline: “Berlin: Herbert Hoover tells Hitler his doctrine would be intolerable in U.S.”

Hoover, oft criticised for his anti-interventionalist creed, intervened when it mattered.
While I can understand why President Obama would not leap to his feet, raise an angry fist and tell Ortega to shut his trap, I can’t give him a pass on not taking an opportunity when he took the podium to defend the ideology and the dignity of the United States of America. As I wrote in a previous post, it’s like listening to the loudmouth in the bar who goads you with “Yo Mamma” jokes.

In National Public Radio’s perspective, this is Obama “Turning on the charm.”

In mine, this is Obama failing to uphold the values and ideals of his country when the situation is sticky.

It bears note that President Obama no more than returned from this Latin excursion and tongue lashing to address the CIA, to whom he told
“What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy; even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when it’s expedient to do so. That’s what makes us different…”

So, then, why didn’t Obama stand up for what he believes in at the Latin Summit? Why didn’t he uphold our values and ideals when it was hard?

In the same speech, which seems to be a means to prepare the CIA for the release of the torture memos and photos later that week, Obama tells the agents, “… you’ve got a harder job. And so do I. And that’s okay, because that’s why we can take such extraordinary pride in being Americans. And over the long term, that is why I believe we will defeat our enemies, because we’re on the better side of history.”

I’m not sure that he really believes that.

To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidents. James M. McPherson, ed.(2000)
The Anti-Interventionism of Herbert Hoover. Justus D.Doenecke (1987).
The White House Blog: “What Makes us so special.” (April 20, 2009)

When Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday was criticized for witholding the run-down of Police Department layoffs, he explained, “The last thing that I think that anybody responsible should do in the city of Toledo is raise the fears of our citizens.”

So, why was fear the first thing that he, Toledo City Council, and the Toledo Blade turned to when the 3/4% income tax was up for renewal in 2008?

From a Feb 25, 2008 Toledo Blade newstory:

“Nearly a third of the uniformed people who patrol
the streets of Toledo, investigate murders, pick up trash, and put out
fires could be off the job if the 0.75 percent income tax on the ballot
next week is ultimately defeated, city leaders have warned.”

The Toledo Blade editorial team joined in, warning just a day before the election that Toledo voters would be making a “grave mistake that could irreparably damage this city, ” if the levy went down in defeat, said,

Defeat of the surcharge would require laying off 735 city employees, 40 percent of the total workforce, including 456 police officers and firefighters from safety forces that total 1,146. It is no exaggeration to point out that such cuts would severely delay police and fire response to crime, fires, and other emergencies. With 200 officers on layoff, the police department would have to close two district stations, two substations, and six neighborhood offices. Police no longer would be deployed in public school buildings, and they wouldn’t be able to respond to noninjury traffic accidents.

And then they go for the jugular:

“The threat of crime becomes all the more likely when carjackers, robbers, and burglars know fewer police are on the streets. A minor home or business fire can become major the longer it takes firefighters to respond to an alarm.

Then-councilwoman Edna Brown said that should the tax renewal fail, she would “fireproof her home,” and wouldn’t drive anywhere in Toledo, conjuring up a picture of a lawless city.

A year and a half later, with .75 percent of our income in hand, the city makes generous gashes to safety and fire resources anyway. And, they are looking for more ways that they can bleed us to support their irresponsible management and inability to prepare for an economic crisis. Fear is no longer a tactic, but a state of mind wrought by the actions of those who promised that all would be well if we continued to pay.

Think The Godfather II: Don Fanucci, the blackhander, forces the merchants of Little Italy to pay protection money. Even Fanucci, who we couldn’t wait to see offed, didn’t renege.

In that same Feb. 25, 2008 news conference mentioned above, the mayor said, “I hope and pray that thoughtful people will realize that there is no evidence the city of Toledo has in any way taken taxpayers’ dollars and irresponsibly spent [them].”

We have our evidence now that 150 police officers will likely be laid off, the gang task force will being eliminated, and the vice squad will face cuts.

Fear was used to keep the income stream flowing, and now that Carty can’t use fear as leverage–as a tool to get what he wants–he’ll claim it’s not “responsible” to release information to us directly related to the quality of life in the city.

It’s time the citizens of Toledo raised some fear–and a little hell–of their own.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?


Rabin and Arafat famously shake hands after signing the Oslo Agreement, September 13, 2993.

When he faced criticism for signing a peace treaty with the Yassir Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said, “You don’t make peace with your friends, only with your enemies.”

Right. But do you make peace with people who call you names? Do you make peace with those who disrespect the people you lead? Do you make peace with those who hate your nation and everything that it stands for? Who boast that they will “bury” you?

Rabin and Arafat had a long history of discord, yet the two worked together on the accord, which for all intents and purposes, seems to have failed. Why? Because while the handshake and treaty were symbolic, they could not change the fact that the ideologies of the two nations/nation states conflict. Can you make peace with someone who does not believe you should exist? Can you befriend someone whose religion is in direct opposition to your own?

Jake Barnes’ last line in The Sun Also Rises comes to mind, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

I recalled this historic meeting of the hands after the one this week between President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas.

President Obama and Venezualan President Hugo Chavez

President Obama infamously shakes the hand of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez April 17, 2009

Chavez can be characterized as an enemy of the United States. For evidence, look no further than his prompting of Venezualean crowds to chant “Death to America!” Or how about this rant he gave at the World Forum 2006, where he shouted “socialism or death!” and said of the USA, “It is the most perverse empire in history: It talks about freedom while invading and destroying other nations …This century we will bury the US empire.”

And lastly, just before their chummy meeting, Chavez resorts to name calling when Obama claimed he generates terrorism and holds Latin America back. “He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism,” Chavez said. “The least I can say is that he’s a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality.”

If I go to a party, and someone is there who wants me, my nation, and its economic system dead,and who has called me a name and suggested that I need to be better schooled, a hearty handshake and ear-to-ear grin are the last things I give them. The evil eye, daggers, a scowl or two from across the room would be on my agenda.

All conspiracies and controversies aside, President Obama seems to be playing nice. He’s the bigger guy, able to be cordial, turning the other cheek. Let their be peace on Earth and let it begin with Obama. Why can’t we be friends?

What purpose would a scowl and vitriol serve anyway? However, the enthusiastic handshake and smiles sends a message to the rest of the world, and to US citizens, that our president will stand by and let the bully beat his chest and make a laughing stock of the mother country–this is not unlike letting the boastful guy in the bar get away with slamming you with a litany of “Yo Mamma” jokes…Who let’s someone diss their mother?

Just as the Israelis and Palestinians cannot achieve peace, the USA cannot be “friends” with Venezuala until our ideologies are in line. And that should not mean that we shift our democratic and capitalist ideals to ally with their dictatorial socialist mindset.