The battle is joined

Looks like it’s time for the fight to begin. January 11th is just around the corner, and that’s the start date to our 90 days of lunacy known as the General Assembly session. At or near the top of the list is going to be the vote on overriding Governor Ehrlich’s veto of the so-called “Fair Share” bill.

I was reminded of this yesterday listening to the radio. I was working out and minding my own business when I heard a commercial. (Hopefully the link works, it’s the actual .mp3 file.) And it just so happens that Delegates Bozman and Conway are MY delegates.

So I laughed to myself and said, “well well well…looks like it’s time to take the fight to them.” Step number one is right here, I dashed off a letter to the Daily Times. As always, we’ll see if they have the balls to print it.

Yesterday I was listening to the radio and a commercial came on asking me to thank Delegates Bozman and Conway for their support for “fairness” – that concept being determined by their support of a particular piece of legislation.

After listening to that, I said to myself, “ok, the battle is joined now. It’s going to be the special interests and the money that they all but coerce out of their workers to put ads on the radio, against me and my words that I type on my computer and hope to have placed in the paper.” Luckily, I know that common sense and right are on my side.

Here’s why. When they speak of “fairness,” they forget to tell you that this bill is written against one particular multibillion dollar entity. Just one. It would be as if the rest of Maryland decided to levy a tax against the citizens of Salisbury for a real or perceived advantage they have over the remainder of the state.

In fact, their commercial never cites the entity by name, nor does it reveal the true source of the funds behind buying its time on the radio, simply billing itself as “Maryland for Health Care.”

Well, I live in Maryland and I’m for health care too (is there anyone who’s not?) But I’m not for using the power of the legislature for gaining an unfair advantage at the expense of a successful company. As a resident of their district, not some far-off national concern coming into Delmarva with slickly packaged radio ads, I strongly encourage Delegates Bozman and Conway to reconsider their previous stance and uphold Governor Ehrlich’s veto of “Fair Share.”

And I wonder what I’ll be doing this Friday afternoon when I get off work. Think I have a phone call or two to make. That’s step two.

Oh, as if it wouldn’t be patently obvious, “Maryland for Health Care” is a front organization for the Service Employees International Union. I suppose the SEIU decided that the United Food and Commercial Workers had put enough money into lobbyists and political contributions to the Democrats in Annapolis so it was their turn.

It’ll be a story to follow as the time gets closer. We’ll see if Maryland really wants to punish achievers, wipe out Somerset County’s bid for 800-1000 jobs, and show that special interests run the state. Considering which party has a stranglehold on the General Assembly, it’s pretty obvious what the answer will be. Even so, I’m not going to just sit idly by without making my feelings known. It’s time to fight.

Green day

This is the editorial I referred to in my last post. It came to me in an e-mail I regularly get at work, which links to Architectural Record. As an architect, I probably should read the magazine more, but I have more mudane things to do like actually serve my clients. And honestly, I try not to think much about work at home – there’s office time and afterwards there’s ME time.

But I’ll have to give you a bit of personal background before I continue with this story.

When I was in Ohio, I went through all the testing and became a registered architect. So every two years, the state of Ohio sends a reminder notice to me that I have to renew my registration in order to legally practice for another two years (within the state of Ohio.) Despite the fact I live in Maryland now, I’ve opted to retain my Ohio registration – never know what can happen in life. (I also can continue to claim reciprocity as I work on getting registered here in Maryland.)

Anyhow, the state of Ohio, in its infinite wisdom, decided to kowtow to lobbyists from the American Institute of Architects and other interested groups who stand to gain from such regulations and adopt a mandatory continuing education policy, effective with this year’s renewal. So in order to maintain good standing with the state of Ohio, I have to complete 24 hours of continuing education in the next two years. (Fortunately, I’ll be able to use those hours concurrently for my Maryland registration once I get it since their requirements are similar.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some benefit to continuing education. But, honestly – have brick, steel, wood, and concrete changed that much in the last 20 years? Arguably, adopting a new building code every few years requires some study, but they retain 80-90% of the old code for the new one.

So what does the industry use as filler material for these hours? Primers on “sustainable” or “green” architecture, of course! That’s the AIA’s pet project, as evidenced by this article.

Thus, seeing it on the Sweet’s website piqued my interest. (Sweet’s is a company that compiles various product catalogs and annually publishes a multi-volume set of them, arranged by product. They were bought out by McGraw-Hill several years ago. McGrawHill also publishes Architectural Record.) I laughed out loud when I saw this though:

By now, you know the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) as the originators of the LEED program, which certifies that completed buildings meet a list of stringent criteria, from appropriate building materials to the disposal of construction waste. The program is generating its own energy, and although relatively few buildings [see Record, June 2005, page 135] have achieved LEED certification yet, and some have thrown up their hands and dropped out (the New York Times headquarters, for example, which folded its formal LEED program, if not its commitment to building green in the face of Manhattan’s unrealistic costs), projects in the pipeline are increasing.

So the New York Times, which probably made a huge deal out of becoming a “green building” participant, is given a pass because of “Manhattan’s unrealistic costs.” I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not just Manhattan that has unrealistic costs for green architecture.

Currently I have a project under construction that is attempting LEED Silver certifiication. That means they have to attain 33 points on a scale of 69. Some of these are common sense and good economics (like energy-efficient heating systems), but others are completely esoteric. (Here is the entire LEED 2.1 Green Building Rating System, it’s a 75 page .pdf file.) All of this to get 8% of your building cost back at some future point before 2011. But my bet is that it’s going to cost 10% or more to get this tax credit. We were pretty close on the calculations and that was before the owner decided to make a boatload of changes to the building. Hell, they STILL are and the building’s about 55% enclosed.

What sticks out to me above all else is that there has to be a tax credit to make these things happen. Just like too many other things, the government has to stick its nose into the market because it’s supposedly for our own good. I will grant that it’s the state government that’s doing it, so it’s the proper venue; but to me if there was a big demand for it people would naturally do this on their own, rather than create a lot more paperwork for everyone (particularly the contractor.)

And it leads me full circle to continuing education. Again, something for my own good, but let me be the judge of what’s good. I can do a lot more good to my employer restudying the code book on my own to verify the building is safe and sound as designed than spending unbillable time learning about another government boondoggle.

News digest #1

It’s a potpourri of stuff tonight. A bunch of stuff that piqued my interest in the last week, mostly culled from CNS News and AgapePress via www.gopusa.com. Basically, GOPUSA is a sort of internet newspaper with conservative news and commentary. And it’s upfront about it – the tagline states “Bringing the conservative message to America.”

News item: ADF battles Georgia county’s ‘Christmas’ ban in schools. ADF is the Alliance Defense Fund.

Money phrase: ADF attorney David Cortman says Jackson County officials have completely eradicated Christmas from the public school system.

“Teachers are not allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas’ [and] they’re not allowed to wear any pins or angels or crosses or clothing that has any religious connotation or affiliation,” Cortman explains. “They can’t have a Christmas party — they have to call it a ‘winter party.’ They can’t sing religious songs. In fact … they actually censored the word ‘God’ from the song.”

Now I cited this because there was a comment I left on Crallspace where he talked about the “so-called war on Christmas.” Just more proof that anything Christian in schools is being eliminated. Tyranny of the minority.

Here’s a link to that story, by Jim Brown of AgapePress.

News item: Kyoto Protocol declared ‘dead’ at UN climate conference.

Money phrases: “Kyoto is absolutely dead,” said David Ridenour, vice president of the D.C.-based conservative group, National Center for Public Policy Research.

Ridenour, who questions the alarmist scientific basis behind Kyoto, accused the industrialized nations that ratified the protocol of hypocrisy, for only verbally supporting the emission reduction goals.

“They’re hypocrites, those countries who say ‘we have to have the [Kyoto emission] targets, but we are not going to meet them.’ You have 11 out of 15 of the E.U. (European Union) nations that had increases in CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions. So whether they admit it or not, Kyoto is dead,” Ridenour said.

Not surprisingly, seeing their dreams go up in smoke, environmentalists deny this:

“Kyoto is alive and well, thank you very much,” said Catherine Pearce, the international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth International.

“These kinds of comments just come from the United States actually and it’s driven by the White House who actually wants to see this process die,” Pearce told Cybercast News Service.

And:

“Kyoto is alive and kicking. This conference is proof of that,” said Kaisa Kosonen, the energy campaigner for the European-based Nordic division of Greenpeace.

“I still have high hopes,” Kosonen added, while warning that the U.S. was playing a destructive role at the conference.

“The U.S. has done its best to sabotage everything. [But] you have to differentiate the Bush administration from the United States,” she said, noting the many U.S.-based groups in attendance critical of the Bush administration’s climate policies.

All you need to know about the Kyoto Protocol is that 11 of the 15 EU countries increased their emissions, and the goal of Kyoto was to restore the pollutants to 1990 levels. Ain’t gonna happen, unless all industry and progress in Europe cease. Even our Senate knew this was a turkey, which is why they rejected it on the order of 97-0.

The link to the story, by Marc Morano of CNS News, is here.

And if you don’t believe the whole global warming scare isn’t just a ploy to extract wealth from the industrialized countries to the forces of global governance, read this.

News item: ‘Are you better off this holiday?’, Democrats ask.

Money phrase: (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi promises that a Democrat-controlled House will offer a “real energy plan that focuses on lowering high energy costs and developing new, cleaner technologies like hybrids, conservation, and renewable resources.”

She said Democrats will offer a “real prescription drug benefit that lowers out-of-pocket expenses and guarantees benefits, not one written by the pharmaceutical companies,” and she said Democrats will challenge the Bush administration’s “incompetent and dishonest foreign policy.”

Pelosi notes that Democrats need only 15 seats to regain a majority in the House: “Then the People’s House will be a place that is truly befitting of the holiday spirit — where we care for all people, and do the things necessary to make us stronger today and in future generations.”

Oh, such fun with this one!

Nancy, your idea of lowering high energy costs would be a freeze on gas prices and windfall profit taxes on oil companies. Then, when supplies dry up and there’s long gas lines because the oil companies can’t make money on their product, you’ll blame them for creating shortages in the market. Not only that, oil supplies that are tappable and refinable sit unused because of moratoriums on additional exploration (such as in ANWR) and the building of new refineries.

High energy costs are cyclical in some respects as markets fluctuate and stabilize. This also covers some of the “new, cleaner technologies” – if not for the governmental subsidies on some of those, they would never see the light of day. Just naturally build a market for it – if it’s as good as advertised, entrepreneurs will come. Oh yeah, Democrats don’t believe in personal initiative, just engorged government.

Bloated government will also be their “solution” to the “problem” of prescription drug access. I think it was a huge mistake to add prescription drug benefits to Medicare. The system of private insurance and subsidies by drug companies to poorer patients wasn’t broken, so no “fix” was necessary. Again, the Democrats’ solution will likely either drive up taxpayer costs or drive down pharmaceutical company profits, with a lack of new research being one possible effect.

Incompetent and dishonest foreign policy? That’s code for pulling out of Iraq. Nancy, I know it and you know it, quit bullshitting us and just say it. It’s easy, you can even do this in San Francisco, where they’ll cheer and throw flowers at you. Just walk to a microphone, get the network news cameras rolling, and say, “I want us to abandon our Iraqi mission and let the insurgents retake the country. Let Saddam Hussein reclaim what was rightfully his until we took it by force. In fact, we owe him compensation for killing both of his sons.”

We know you want to, grow a pair and do it.

And I liked the fact that the word “Christmas” did not once escape her lips. She’s into the “holiday” spirit as well, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

She did say one true thing. Read the phrase again, “Then the People’s House will be a place that is truly befitting of the holiday spirit — where we care for all people, and do the things necessary to make us stronger today and in future generations.”

The People’s House? Is that like the People’s Republic of China, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (what we know as North Korea)?

Where we care for all people? Is that to read, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”?

By “us” does she mean Americans, or the Democrat party? We already had a president or two who came up with hundreds of government programs that maybe were well-meant at the time but have become like a pack of rats – ugly, pesky, and damn hard to kill off one at a time. They’ve already trumped up charges to get rid of the exterminator that’s in Washington, and a renewal of the Democrat-controlled Congress will be like giving fresh garbage to those rats who are always looking for the easy meal.

Here’s a link to that story by Susan Jones of CNS News.

I hate it when this happens. I had one more item in mind, but the link doesn’t work. Oh well, it’s a blog post for another day. This item bears some relation to the environmentalist items I led off with, but on a personal level. So I suppose I’ll stop here with this post, I have another post to write tonight since something VERY interesting came in the mail for me today.

Late edit (12:20 a.m.) The second post will keep until tomorrow, or actually, later today.

Updates and additions

Just a few things before I go to bed.

Tonight was my bowling night. I had a lot of spectators during the third game, and no I wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes. Seems that the Friday night league that was at Strikemaster Lanes (see below) is now bowling after us at Seaford Lanes. That presents some interesting opportunities to get some extra bowling in. I really could use the practice and sub in that league. Nothing to bowling 6 games instead of 3, especially at the slower pace of 5-person teams.

I’ve decided to delete the “polls” page of monoblogue. There’s just so many polls out there and I don’t want to get hung up in the minutia of them all. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Dawn at WriteWingBlog tagged me with the “meme” virus a few days ago. Basically it’s reveal ten things about yourself. Well, if you don’t gather what you need from my blog posts, that’s what the “about” page is for. Wonder if anyone reads it?

I added a couple links to the sidebar here. Basically how I determine what’s there is what I’m listening to and reading. So Atlas Shrugged will be there awhile – it’s a 1200 page book for goshsakes, and I read Coulter recently as well. Probably on Monday I’ll change out the G n’ R and Motley Crue to different CD’s based on what I take to work next week. You know, I didn’t think I’d like the John Korabi version of Motley Crue as much as I do – it’s actually a quite varied CD with some melodic songs (like “Driftaway”) and a couple crunchers (such as “Smoke the Sky”, my favorite.)

I also linked Drea’s blog since I asked and she agreed I could. I don’t really like to link to “personal” blogs so much just because some people might want them, well, personal. So I asked Drea’s permission first. Something like “Crallspace” is a little different because he’d already commented on my blog a number of times and I knew he was more political in nature than Drea. Besides, we all need a leftwing archnemesis to give us our humor for the day. But trust me – I have a lot more links in my Favorites bloglist on my computer than I show here. The ones I selected to show are a judgement call on my part.

It’s 2 a.m. Time for me to run my anti-spyware program and go to bed. Tomorrow will be a day I do a news digest of sorts, finally read through some of the e-mail I get from various sources and a number of them piqued my interest. So I’ll touch on a bunch of stuff briefly and throw it open for reader comments.

Speaking of that, I do eventually moderate the comments. Think I’m getting better at it now.

The outside world

I was writing to my friend Drea last night and I got to talking about how I’m not a big fan of winter because I can’t sit outside and watch the world go by. Well, I could, but I do prefer staying where it’s warm. I’m paying for the heat, I might just as well take advantage!

In my previous Ohio life my first wife and I owned a small house on the south side of Toledo. It was in a typical lower to middle class area, nice and close to the school in a neighborhood that had been there for generations (my house was built in 1925.) One of my favorite pastimes was to sit outside on a nice summer night and simply watch the world pass by. Sometimes I’d be joined by my wife, sometimes I’d be joined by my stepdaughter, and sometimes by her and a host of her friends. But most times I could sit and ponder the world as it was.

Still, I would wave at the neighbors if I saw them and sometimes walk over and have a conversation with them about whatever was going on. One of my favorite neighbor couples were the Grohnkes, who lived a few houses down. They were an older couple, and both of them had lived in the neighborhood for decades – he was a lifer as I recall. Talking to them, I could imagine how the neighborhood was like in the forties and fifties when they were young. He worked at the old hospital that literally sat around the corner and she was the typical housewife. I could imagine her out in the backyard hanging her wash and talking to the next door neighbor or the lady back across the alley.

Back then, there were a couple small grocery stores in the neighborhood, one right on our corner. A drugstore was 4-5 blocks over. There was a small business center of a handful of commercial buildings at the closest main corner with a filling station. The largest feature in our area was the state hospital for the insane across from the old hospital. It was literally the edge of town – the city limits were at Detroit Avenue then.

I think in some ways I would have liked that time, at least as far as being neighborly goes.

But the area evolved. The hospital closed in the mid-1960’s, later becoming part of the new Medical College, then sitting abandoned for most of the time we lived in our house. Just before I moved, they renovated the old building into senior apartments, and did a nice job. Most of the land that was the insane asylum now belongs to the Medical College and some is being developed into a business park.

More importantly, the people who used to own the houses moved away. Some houses remained as owner-occupied, but a number became rentals. And as more houses became rentals, the quality of the neighborhood began to decline. Crime, once unheard of, became an occasional occurrence but one that was still too common. Garages in particular became fair game for burglaries as most were oriented toward the alley.

I moved into the area in 1991, when most people still considered it a desirable and well-kept area. I don’t want to say it’s become a slum by any means, but along with the increase in absentee landlords, the heart of the area is now slated to be ripped out. The old school which was built about the same time as my house is to be replaced by a newer building in another location. While the school will remain after its replacement is completed (originally scheduled for the summer of 2007), it’s fate is unknown. There’s talk that it should be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, to wit:

“Arlington Elementary School is an excellent example of Collegiate Gothic architecture that has experienced a minimum of insensitive renovation. It is one of the few Toledo schools that has experienced neither major additions or renovations. The richness of detail and fine execution of the style define Arlington as perhaps the finest example of Collegiate Gothic executed by the…Toledo Public Schools Architecture Department…we believe on architectural merits alone, Arlington Elementary School appears to meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.” (Historical survey by Mannik & Smith, 2002.)

But even if it stays, who will care for it? As the neighborhood becomes less and less owner-occupied, fewer people will want to get out and meet their neighbors – why bother when the place is just a way station on the path of life? And the houses will become solely cash cows for their owners, who will likely just do the minimum of upkeep on them. They start to deteriorate and rents start to go down. That attracts a lower element of people who care even less, and the death spiral begins.

It’s happened already in one neighborhood, where Toledo’s race riots occurred. A once-proud neighborhood gone to hell because no one really cared there anymore. I want the Grohnkes to live out their few remaining years in a nice neighborhood.

So why did I move out? Well, it wasn’t a matter of necessarily disliking the old house or the neighborhood. But wife #2 and I wanted a little bit more space and we found it out in the hinterlands of Wood County. However, we didn’t find marital bliss there nor did we find as many good neighbors. They all sat on their back porches as their main communal spaces faced inward instead of outward. Instead of walking down the street to see neighbors, I generally just talked to the two I had next door on either side. Kinda sucked.

I may not sit outside on these cold winter nights, but I do say hi to my neighbors when they pass. I live in an apartment complex now, but sometime I want a place to call home, and I want a good neighborhood to live in. Each of us should do no less than be good neighbors. It’s not just a State Farm slogan, it should be a way of life.

Caveat emptor, part 2

It seems to me that sometimes we as consumers have become way too driven by price. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but cheap needs to be good too.

I was talking to a friend of mine last night about where she works. The company she works for is a rather large, publicly traded company that manufactures various items for the healthcare field. One thing she’s had to do is watch as component production is being sent away from Ohio to factories in Mexico and China (mainly China.)

Now, I’m as much a free trader as anyone. I do think having free trade will help everyone in the long run. But one of her complaints about the factory in China is that they do not produce the quality of items needed to manufacture the items they assemble here in the U.S. So there’s a percentage of the items that have to be rejected. The problem she noted is that you just can’t get money back from China (for their rejected product)…what they offered is a slightly larger production for the same price. So basically you’ll get more crappy items from them in the hopes that the increase in sheer numbers will make enough product that meets standards.

It’s a problem that I see becoming worse, not just her company specifically, but in general. Her company is already suffering as their sales projections are down to what they were three years ago. The company’s stock is taking a beating too – in an era of rising prices and the Dow flirting with an all-time high, their shares are down almost 35% from their 52-week high. While they manufacture a product that should be very popular, I wonder perhaps if people have noticed the lack of quality in their product and begun to shy away from it.

I’ll set aside my mistrust of China as a trading partner for the moment to argue along another avenue. Consider the true cost of cheap and unskilled labor. Unskilled labor is fine for making and doing many simple things. But when you have a product that depends both on stability of structure and electronic components working properly, perhaps a little higher skill level is demanded.

We talked about her looking for a new car. One that she’s not going to consider was one that she drove for awhile, and that was a Kia. She just didn’t think Korean cars were made as well, but there were design elements she did like in them. I also have some experience with Kia, but my car was a Ford Festiva (which Kia actually made under the Ford name.) For the first 50,000 miles we loved that car – in fact my wife and I bought another one used as a second car when my old Chevy Sprint gave out. She drove the white one (an ’89) we bought used and I drove the red one (an ’88) that we bought new.

But the last 49,500 miles I had that Festiva were really hard on it. Three times the plastic door handles broke. The mechanism holding the driver’s side mirror in place broke after I bumped it one too many times walking by. The gasketing on the sunroof got loose and soon the handle broke. Brakes and muffler rusted out. I will say that the engine and transmission were fairly decent in it but it got to a point where the car wouldn’t start on damp and cool days. Plenty of those on Ohio.

I understand that it was a relatively inexpensive car. But one would think that a company wanted to have a product that was made inexpensively, but well. (By the way, we traded the other Festiva in for a Jeep Cherokee. Bought it new in 1994, my stepdaughter finally totaled it a year ago. Not her fault, it was the deer’s. The Jeep was falling apart as well, but the car was over 160,000 miles.)

It seems to me that sometimes we as consumers have become way too driven by price. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but cheap needs to be good too. How many of you have had a product made by a company that you associated with quality and you end up throwing it out after two years because it’s stopped working? And how many times was it “Made in China”? Sometimes you don’t have a lot of choice, but do you ever stop and think why that is?

Let’s go back and examine the case of my friend. Somewhere along the line, the buyers and beancounters at her company found that it was cheaper for a plant in China to make their components and ship them across the Pacific than it was to make them in Ohio or even another state. Obviously, it was a price-driven thing. But it seems like the quality of the work suffers. Honestly, a worker in China is most likely not very educated or skilled with the exception of making whatever widgets the state-backed factory is putting out.

More importantly, what incentive does this factory have to create a quality product? They know that a Chinese worker is going to take his meager wages and not complain, for fear that either another willing worker will come along, or worse, he might be sent to a labor camp and work at the point of a gun. So it’s obvious that they can supply Americans with all the cheap products they’ll ever want to buy (and do, like it or not.) All Americans seem to want is a cheap product – almost so cheap that they don’t care about tossing it out a couple years later, then buying yet another one and the cycle starts over. It used to be called “planned obsolescence”, now it’s called “modern life.”

So where are the craftsmen? Unfortunately, they don’t seem to exist here either. The work ethic isn’t being handed down from generation to generation like it once was. Seeing a man who loves his craft is more and more rare. Seeing a man who has no compunction with putting in an honest day’s effort and working hard to move up the ladder of success is rarer still. Today’s workplace is more in line with the Dilbert Principle.

Now, I’m not tooting my own horn here, but I do take some pride in my work. It’s discouraging to me to see a contractor mess it up. It really pisses me off when it’s my fault, like I forgot a dimension someplace. We do look out for each other’s work at my company, but sometimes there’s things overlooked. I do get lectured from time to time about checking over stuff and not guessing or using “standard” details. So I learn a bit every so often.

I just wish that people would do more of that in the stuff they buy. Not just big ticket items like cars, but some of the little stuff. Your TV should last more than 5 years. That digital camera you buy for $99 – if it doesn’t work in a year, you can go out and buy a new one, just pay attention to who made it and where it was made. Don’t repeat the same mistakes if you can.

Ford used to say “Quality is Job 1.” It seems like a hollow slogan sometimes when yet another of their cars is recalled. The other thing I noticed in the news lately is that when Saturns were first made, they were considered one of the better quality cars in America, and their plant was noted for its culture and not being like every other car plant. But GM recently decided to pull the plug on one of the plant’s assembly lines anyway.

My last observation is this. Once again, imagine the Chinese factory. It runs constantly, belching out who-knows-what types of pollutants, unencumbered by such things as safety regulations and minimum wage laws. Obviously, the American factory that is shuttered won’t pollute, nor will they see any workers injured on the job. But their minimum wage is now zero as they have closed due to foreign competition – a Chinese factory that can’t match theirs in the quality of work, but kills them in price.

But if we could free ourselves from the shackles of excessive regulation and put an attitude back in the American people that values quality as much as price, perhaps we can find an entrepreneur willing to work hard and get his hands dirty in restoring a valuable company name. Maybe we can get back workers who give a damn about the things they make, won’t accept any less than the best, and are genuinely pissed off when they find out what they made was defective. But making an honest mistake would be grounds for the company to be more careful with the products they make, not grounds for a lawsuit-happy trial lawyer to encourage a few people who claim to be harmed by the product to make their attempt at winning life’s lottery and extorting millions out of the company (of course, the shyster gets his cut too!)

Recently, some unions dropped out of the AFL-CIO and formed what they termed the “Change to Win Coalition.” I hope one of the changes that they make is being a little more willing to work with corporations on getting some of the onerous regulations the labor movement has sponsored and created off the books so we can change to win. I know we can compete with the cheap Chinese if Americans can promise quality and prove why it’s better to be good than cheap.

Lions lament

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

As a long-suffering Detroit Lions fan, this says it all. 21-56 since Matt Millen took over as Lions president, worse than even the expansion Houston Texans.

December 7, 10:58 p.m.

Here’s one set of fans “mad as hell and not taking it anymore.” Sean Baligian used to work at WSPD, the talk station in Toledo. I see he’s making national news now.

Print this.

It’s simply common sense, isn’t it?

I love it when people respond to my letters to the editor in the Daily Times here. This is what the poor uninformed chap wrote:

Support Gilchrest in his ANWR stance

Rush Limbaugh has been urging his listeners to put the pressure on Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md. 1st, and other Republication moderates who refused to vote for the budget reconciliation bill on Nov. 9 as long as it contained a provision opening the ANWR to oil drilling.

As a swing voter and environmentalist who visted Kaktovic and Arctic Village in 1996, I am happy to support a Republican congressman who recognizes the importance of a pristine area to the health of the ecosystem of the entire north slope and Brooks Range.

Contrary to a recent Daily Times letter to the editor, the coastal plain is not “barren,” but a great birthing ground for the nearly 200 wildlife species, including polar bears, musk oxen and caribou and more than 135 species of birds.

Granted, we are in an energy crunch and the price of gasoline and heating fuel has been rising. But drilling in the ANWR will not put oil in the pipelines for at least a decade, and will not produce enough to appreciably lower prices on the world market.

Opening the ANWR for drilling is a Bush plum for Young, Stevens and Murkowski, and the voters of Alaska who receive a monthly check from the oil bonanza fund — a fund that may soon be depleted.

Americans are being asked to sell a portion of their birthright for a mess of potage.

Gilchrest needs Delmarva’s support for his courageous stand on this sensitive issue. Conserve the environment — and turn off the radio when Limbaugh comes on. Let Rush know we can take care of our own.

Bill Horne

Salisbury

So this is what I wrote back. We’ll see if they have the guts to print it.

To the Editor:

Because Bill Horne’s letter of December 2 is the answer to mine, this is my counter to his.

It’s a very shortsighted position that he and Congressman Gilchrest agree on. While it’s admirable that he’s caring for the caribou and other wildlife species that inhabit the North Slope area, he’s forgetting the human costs that not having a dependable source of energy will extract on our economy. It’s a shame that we have waited this long to begin the exploration process on the North Slope because had we began when it was first proposed, the initial gallons of gasoline could have already been in our tanks.

The wildlife of the North Slope has been present there for untold generations while they were sitting thousands of feet above millions of barrels of oil. The wildlife of the North Slope will be there generations hence whether we drill for oil or not. Don’t let Mr. Horne convince you otherwise when the area that is to be used for actual oil exploration is to ANWR as Salisbury is to the state of Maryland. And even if there is the small chance of an oil-related accident that would create an environmental issue, nature has a very good way of cleaning itself up. We need only look at what the dire predictions that were aired in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill and the Iraqi-induced oil fires in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War have produced in reality, very little long-term effect.

I’m perfectly aware that someday we’re going to exhaust our oil supplies and we’ll need the ingenuity still present in the American people to solve the problem, much as we’ve solved problems in every field of science. But if the resources are there, they are accessible, and the benefits of using them outweigh the unlikely risks to wildlife to extract them, then I believe it’s time to go ahead and do so.

Mr. Horne and Congressman Gilchrest may feel they have a position that benefits all in the long term, but I strongly disagree. It’s long past time to start working on a real energy program that uses American resources and knowledge to cut down our dependence on foreign supplies. Drilling in ANWR is a necessary step in the right direction.

As for Rush Limbaugh, it’s nice to know he agrees with me on the subject.

Michael Swartz
Salisbury

It’s simply common sense, isn’t it? Ask yourself – what is more important and higher on the plane of existence – caribou or humans?

I liked another Daily Times letter I saw today, so I feel no need to respond – I’ll reprint it here instead.

It has been said, “We use the past to judge the present and to predict the future.” There is no other way. Of course “hindsight is 20-20.” If we knew what tomorrow would bring we would all be rich, but we don’t know.

Using the past as a guide we know what to expect from our associations. Often we would refuse to believe what our senses tell us. When we do, we usually suffer the consequences of our foolishness. Still, it is human nature to hope for the best. In our day, (I’m 76), we have witnessed the atrocities of Adolph Hitler, Stalin and others who desired world domination. More recently, Saddam Hussein.

I can judge by his past deeds that the world was a dangerous place with him in power. He was not the same as Osama bin Laden, but they were cut, as it were, from the same cloth. Hate, murder, intimidation and domination were their methods to achieve their aim, and still are.

On 9-11, the world was really no different from what it is today. Threats existed, but that’s all they were, threats. When we lost thousands of innocent lives to the vicious radical suicidal attacks on the World Trade Center we were suddenly in shock. We looked for someone to blame. Why us? We look especially at our leaders. What would we do?

Going back again to draw on the past, the date 1915; the Lucitania (sic) was sunk by a German U-Boat. Our president had, up till then, been reluctant to get into the war that was raging in Europe. Again, after that attack, America came together as only a committed and determined people can and we were victorious; again. Without our participation it is not difficult to see where we, and the world, would be today.

The same conditions existed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Again, America came together to stand as a free people who refused to be cowered into submission by a terrorist attack. The past is a wonderful teacher. Today, we stand as a free people and witness the atrocities of terrorists who would cower us into submission and deny us the right to defend ourselves from the truth, justice and freedom that we so rightly desire; even that our forefathers died for.

To that end, we have again dispersed our young men to fight and die to defend our interest in other lands. Today, our troops are in the process of helping and training a people that has suffered from the tyranny of ruthless men. Helping them to stand on their feet so they can defend themselves while defending the freedoms of others; us in particular.

Where Iraq was a war of defending our interest, it has become a political whipping boy. I think it is disgraceful upon Americans as a people not to support the engagement that we are involved in and see it through to the finish so that our men have not died in vain. To do otherwise will only allow more attacks upon Americans as a people (upon our homeland) which will surely come, as it has in other lands. It has been promised to us, and I believe it will come unless we settle this thing now.

As the words of the song state: “I’ll gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today. Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.”

S. Lee Smith Jr.

Salisbury

Stand up and cheer for this man! That’s proof of the saying “age begets wisdom.”

Now I know that a lot of people don’t support our being in Iraq, most of them seemingly populate the partisan media. Sometimes I wish I could go out, knock them upside the head, and scream, “Don’t you understand! The jihadists want to kill us, kill our way of life, kill our great nation, all for the sake of building up a caliphate that would plunge us back into the Dark Ages! Listen to me, damn it! OUR side is the side of right. If they win, do you honestly think you’ll have a job? You’ll be the first to be stoned as the useful idiots.”

So spare me the bullshit as you snivel, “Well, I support the troops but I don’t support their mission…” You’re with us or against us. Black or white. Bitch all you want, Dan, about me being a so-called right-wing tool, but I’m right on this one.

And yes, my site is now officially capitalist. Since I listen to and read the stuff and I think it’s cool, more people should get it. Oh, and speaking of cool stuff, go listen to “Snowblind” by Black Sabbath and tell me that’s not the coolest drum song ever. Just mash those cymbals, Bill. (They just played it on the radio.)

All right, my ranting is through for tonight. It was a passionate post, wasn’t it?

Sometimes capitalism sucks

Tonight I went bowling and I heard some sad news. The rumor I heard is that the bowling house where I bowled my summer league recently is meeting its wrecking ball demise soon. It’s a real shame, apparently the place is only 10 years old or so. Not only that, I just bowled a pro-am there for a PBA Wild Turkey East regional event in October.

It’s got to be hard on all those who signed up for a league over the last few months only to find their league’s being pulled out from under them. There’s not really enough vacancies at my current house, Seaford Lanes, to cover all these bowlers.

A sad story in some respects. Yes, Seaford will get its Home Depot or Lowe’s or whatever they’re putting up there. I know that it’s probably considered the “highest and best use” for the site, which sits on a relatively busy road but not right on U.S. 13 (that road sort of bypasses the main part of Seaford to the east.) And it’s not unheard of in this country to see a bowling alley go away. Where I lived before in Toledo, both of the former bowling centers that were situated close to the Westfield Shoppingtown were razed for retail establishments.

Now I come from a bowling family. I’m a proud card-carrying member of the United States Bowling Congress and Lower Delaware Bowling Association. My mom and dad were both league bowlers for years and years, they finally stopped just recently because they’re moving to Florida. Both of my brothers bowl, my brother LJ is the proud owner of rings for 298, 299, and 300 games. He, my other brother Tom, and my dad have all even participated in the ABC (now USBC) national tournament. I’m sure someday I will too, my game is starting to improve to that kind of level. Just tonight I got my awards for a set I bowled recently – 75 pins over average game and 140 pins over average series patches, a 200 game key chain, and 600 series card deck. Threw a 658 series (“triple deuce” – all 3 games over 200) with a 159 average. No, I’m not a sandbagger, I suck at converting spares sometimes. Much easier for me to throw a good game when I don’t have to worry about them.

(Note to USBC: Baltimore or Philadelphia would be nice places for your national tournament.)

However, these days there’s fewer and fewer league bowlers out there. Personally, I like having the opportunity to go out and bowl every Friday night. For a lot of folks though, it’s hard to have that kind of commitment in a 24 hour world, and I can understand that. Many houses have abandoned weekend leagues in favor of “glow bowling” where they create more of a party atmosphere. And, since the rolls of league participation and regular bowlers continue to shrink, a lot of houses find themselves sitting on land that’s far less profitable as a bowling center and coveted by retailers who like the idea of a property that already has all of the necessary services there and more than likely sits on a major thoroughfare.

There was a book out a few years back called Bowling Alone. It used that metaphor as an explanation of why Americans aren’t as social as they used to be, prefering to stay inside their houses and entertain themselves. I know how it is…I was married with a child (not once, but twice!) and there were a lot of nights where we ran ourselves ragged keeping up with what we wanted our (step)daughter to do in order to “keep her out of trouble.” Particularly with my first ex-spouse, we tried to do our part in our neighborhood – PTA, helping out with the young’un’s sports teams, Block Watch, etc., etc.

As it turned out, doing for others ruined us in a lot of respects (which is why we’re ex-spouses.) However, I think if the world were run a different way things would be a lot easier. A lot of couples are running themselves ragged because of one major factor: the wife has to work in order to maintain a lifestyle, yet also play mom to a child who ends up being a latchkey kid. I happen to think that moms are more nurturing and really want to be a mom, not necessarily attorney or real estate agent. (Now you can cite my track record as a married guy to know that my advice is worth the cost of this blog.)

It would not bother me a whole lot if people started to take the time and really consider the costs of “having it all.” I’m particularly annoyed by these places like Quicken Loans, who encourage people to take the one tangible asset they have equity in (their home) and borrow against it for yet more “stuff.” Let’s face it – is a big screen TV going to make you closer as a family when it sits silently because Mom’s working, Dad’s online, Johnny sits in his room listening to his iPod, and Sally is out at cheerleading practice?

Maybe if we focused less on “stuff” and more on quality time Mom and Dad can go join the ma and pa league at the local bowling house, grab dinner, and have a nice mini-date every other Saturday night. Or, even better, find an adult-child league and make a family outing from it.

It’s too late to save Strikemaster Lanes. But it’s not too late to reestablish family by cutting back on stuff and adding to quality time by letting Mom be Mom.

Welcome to monoblogue!

On my old site I somewhat confined myself to the political realm. But now it’s more about my passions on a lot of subjects.

I was actually trying to think of some serious weighty subject to do the “first” blog post on, but then a package arrived in the mail today. I’ve only waited 38 years for this shirt!

And there is a parallel in the shirt’s arrival to the purpose of monoblogue. On my old site I somewhat confined myself to the political realm. But now it’s more about my passions on a lot of subjects. (If you go to the “About” tab you’ll see something about my thoughts while creating monoblogue.) If you want to see my archives from the old website, I did place links to almost every one of my 100+ posts in the “ttrwc” section of the site. You’ll see that a lot of them are politically related. Politics is something I follow closely and will frequently comment on.

The post that may tell you a little bit about the 38 year wait for my shirt is the one called Joy in Mudhenville, part 2.

But tonight I’m just getting my feet wet here and making sure it all looks good. Tomorrow I’m going to catch up on my reading and start getting out the red meat. Actually, I’m watching the MAC championship and it’s tough to work back and forth while keeping focus. How’s that for honesty?