Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Attention those in power: We're not happy

What happened in Massachusetts on Tuesday shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone because elections are no longer about Democrats and Republicans. They’re about which party is in power and whether a majority of us are happy.

In case you didn't know, Democrats are in power and not many of us are happy.
In Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the race to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate. Brown’s election – a repudiation of Democrat policies, according to Newt “Contract-With-America” Gingrich -- means that the Democrats are no longer filibuster-proof and can’t guarantee that the party will push through its debated-to-death (literally) health care reform bill.

If it were smart, the Democratic Party would now shelve the health care issue and get to work figuring out how to get Americans back to work. This will probably not be done.

In the old days, Democrats aligned themselves with the working man, his union and blue collar, guaranteeing that government would be there for him if something bad happened.

Republicans were a thrifty bunch and believed that what was good for America was a lot less government. Republicans somehow were credited for being on the side of a strong defense – you know, carry the big stick.

So, we all got along because one party kept the other party straight, so to speak. And in the process, we prospered.

What’s the difference today? Democrats are MSNBC, junk science lovers and environmental nut cases; Republicans are Fox News, war mongers and homophobic.
And both parties spend in every direction like there’s no tomorrow.

I don’t pay too much attention to gung-ho Democrats or their Republican counterparts. I do pay attention to the independents because they actually call the shots.

They don’t give a damn about what party has power as long as their lives are better and their dollar goes further.

And a health care solution?

Who can figure that out? Not doctors. I’ve asked them. Not the average guy on the street. I’ve asked him.

And members of that most important demographic – the independents – can’t decipher it either.

This all begs the question, are the Democrats running for Congress this year in trouble?

Yep. Sure are.

And it doesn’t help that two of the most unlikeable people in Congress – Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid – are leading them.

None of this means I want to see President Obama fail. I don’t. But I also don’t want to see a health care bill that ends up costing all of us a lot of money.

You know, unintended consequences.

American Samoa was featured on “60 Minutes” last Sunday because it is a hotbed of high school football and contributes many players to the NFL.

Eighty percent of its economy is based on tuna fishing and canning.

But since the American government mandated minimum wage requirements on the island territory, one company – Chicken of The Sea – pulled out. Others are threatening.
Now, the livelihood of many islanders is in jeopardy.

Unintended consequence? You bet.

And a good reason to doubt that any good ultimately will come from passage of whatever is the current state of health care reform.

Want to get re-elected, Mr. President? Do the mea culpa on health care. And then focus on getting Americans back to work and out of places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

And if you still have some time on your hands, spend some of it saying goodbye to a whole host of Democrats in Congress. Many won’t be back for the 2011 session.
The independents are unhappy.

See you next time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Craziness at New Philadelphia City Hall

Prosecutor Ryan Styer has determined that New Philadelphia Income Tax Administrator Dixie Dyer committed no crime after he, the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the New Philadelphia Police Department investigated allegations that Ms. Dyer wasn't working enough.

That's right -- a management issue turned into a criminal investigation, wasting taxpayer dollars and investigator manhours.

The whole thing, reported in The Times-Reporter, is just craziness.

Dyer answers to New Philadelphia Auditor Beth Gundy, who ultimately said Dyer is doing the job she was hired to do. If I'm reading correctly, why didn't the police -- if they were the first to receive the complaint from what appears to be disgruntled and/or jealous employees -- go to Gundy in the first place?

Why didn't the employees go to Gundy? Or the mayor?

Why did BCI get involved in a city of New Philadelphia management issue?

Why did the county prosecutor get involved in a city of New Philadelphia management issue?

For goodness sakes, it's New Philadelphia, not bureaucracy-laden, corruption-loving Cuyahoga County. Are the inmates running the asylum in New Philadelphia? Hello, is anybody in charge?

If Dyer's work ethic is an issue then it's one voters can take up with Auditor Gundy at the appropriate time. If I were on City Council, I might be asking questions how a management issue ultimately ended up on the desk of the county prosecutor via a state police agency.

Then I would apologize to Ms. Dyer.

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See you next time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hear about this?

Sources tell me that Dover's Zimmer Patient Care has laid off 15 full-time employees, moving one facet of its local operation -- Accounts Payable -- to Warsaw, Ind.

Apparently, the Zimmer folks lost their jobs at Christmastime.

Sigh.

I'm still having trouble with all the talking heads on my favorite business channel, CNBC, who continue to maintain the Great Recession is over. Let me reiterate. Get off Wall Street and visit Main Street.

It ain't over.

And now American Greetings Corp., which is headquartered in Cleveland, plans to leave the state. It wants to move its operation, with 2,000 employees, to another city in another state that offers a better tax deal.

Of course, Gov. Ted Strickland is on it. He's pleading with company officials to stay.

I wish politicians would visit employers before they make a decision to leave, not afterward.

By the way, if American Greetings leaves, does it take its beloved Ziggy -- the comic strip character created by AG's Tom Wilson that has somehow been able to strut around family newspapers for decades without wearing pants -- with them?

Oh, the pain of it all.

* * *

My old friend -- former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney of St. Clairsville or Heath or wherever -- is heading to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where he'll preview "Casino Jack and the United States of Money."

Ney was interviewed for the film and apparently appears in it. The film details the life and times of super lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who led Ney and others down a very bad path.

Ney did time in a federal prison for his role in the Abramoff scandal before his release some months ago.

And by the way, give credit to Ney for the new interchange being built between the current Dover and Strasburg exits on I-77. He started the ball rolling and got the initial funding for it some 10 years ago. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a Johnny-come-lately.

* * *

After Sarah Palin was selected as John McCain's running mate, she was briefed on world affairs. Apparently, according to the book "Game Change," Palin did not understand why there were two Koreas, nor could she identify the enemy in Iraq even though her son was headed there as a member of a military deployment.

Her staff suggested she call Joe Biden "Joe" during the vice presidential debate because she kept referring to him as "O'Biden" during debate preparations.

It's unfortunate Fox News won't let Sarah Palin fade into the woodwork.

Clearly that's where she belongs.

* * *

See you next time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Left-wing conspiracy?

I don't go to the movie theater very often. But this sci-fi film "Avatar" intrigued me. Most of what I had read about the film touted its cinematic qualities and 3-D experience.

The last 3-D movie I saw was back in the early '70s. It was a flick called "The Stewardesses" and featured naughty flight attendants whose legs would extend out of the screen and into your face while doing naughty things with, if I remember correctly, pilots. You had to wear silly glasses to experience it because if you took them off, everything would be out of focus. In retrospect, maybe that was the way to watch “The Stewardesses.”

It wasn't exactly Academy Award stuff.

Anyway, some 40 years later, 3-D is back with a vengeance and I was intrigued. A couple of friends who saw "Avatar" warned me that it was "anti-Republican" and/or that it had a real liberal bent.

Huh? I thought this was movie about large, blue people with magic tails?

Anyway, we caught the film in Canton and for $10.50 apiece we received plastic 3-D glasses that we could keep or recycle afterward. I kept mine just in case the 3-D experience becomes mainstream, you know like "Facebook" or "Twitter."

"Avatar" is the story of an American war veteran, who signs on to a civilian initiative on the planet "Pandora," which holds some sort of magic rock that is embedded under the environment of the natives and the folks from Planet Earth want it big time even if it means clearing out the natives. The veteran, however, has an out-of-body experience and ultimately sides with the native aliens.

OK, if you're a conservative and/or Republican, I can see why you might think the film is a left-wing conspiracy. It's kind of like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan all rolled into one conflict with the military-industrial complex calling the shots in a doomed endeavor that costs lives on both sides and all for a friggin’ rock.

However, I think it's a whole lot simpler than all that. It's about man's inhumanity to man (or in this case, aliens) and to the environment and about how we’re all basically narcissistic and greedy.

I think given the option, most Republicans/conservatives would protest the destruction of our environment (and even the environment on Pandora), would warn against the military-industrial complex calling the shots (remember Dwight Eisenhower?) and would cheer for the underdog.

For goodness sakes, go see the movie for the unbelievable technological and cinematic experience and leave Fox News at home. And, what, you don’t think Bill O’Reilly is all about ratings?

No? Then you’re more na├»ve than I am.

See you next time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Transitions

On Christmas Eve, one of my favorite people, Anna M. Skocaj, went to a better place.

Not only was Anna, 85, my next-door neighbor, she was my mother-in-law and one of my biggest supporters.

In the 30-some years that I knew her, not once did she ever have a cross word for me though as I think back she certainly had reason for a critical review of her son-in-law's performance as husband and father.

In early November, when we learned of the extent of her illness, her response was, "I'm 85. I've lived a good life."

As the disease took control, Grams never complained about her fate, underscoring again what a terrific role model she had been for family and friends.

We are left with memories of Grams holding her three great-grandchildren, all delivered in 2009 and a good reason to not totally write off the year as a bad one for our family.

We look forward to a better 2010 as we're sure that you do, too.

* * *
If you're looking for a charity to believe in, look no further than Hospice of Tuscarawas County, which provided a crew of angels for our journey with Grams over the last two months.

You've probably heard of the fine work Hospice does but not until its team touches your family will you ever totally appreciate its work.

Hospice allowed Grams the dignity she deserved as she left this world. If you have a couple bucks to spare...

* * *
Since we last talked, the Tuscarawas County community also lost former Sheriff Lou Clark.

Clark was one of the first elected officials I dealt with as a young reporter and looking back I'd have to report that he didn't really like what I represented -- the news media.

In fact, Clark yelled at me on a regular basis when I visited the sheriff's department/jail, which at the time was located on 2nd St. NE in New Philadelphia.

Oftentimes he was upset because a story referred to "sheriff deputies" when it should have referred to "Sheriff Lou Clark" as in "Sheriff Lou Clark solved the case."

Nonetheless, Clark, I think, grew to accept me and we exchanged many pleasantries in later years. My condolences to his family.

* * *
The December issue of Ohio Schools, published by the Ohio Education Assn., focuses on Newcomerstown Village School District's Project Hope, which aims to involve parents in the education process and provide a foundation for a sucessful future for their children. An article detailing the project by Mike Harden is not yet online, but should be soon.

Some interesting tidbits from the article:

-- Some 70 percent of students are receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

-- One teacher, Paul Miller, said that out of 100 students, only four parents scheduled parent-teacher conferences and only three actually showed up.

The article also points out that there are few opportunities to return home for students who do achieve a high level of education. I believe that might be true for all school districts in Tuscarawas County.

Evidence of that phenomenon can be found in the engagements/wedding announcements published in your favorite newspaper. Those who have achieved a higher level of education are residing in Ohio's larger cities (if they're staying in Ohio) rather than returning to Tuscarawas County. Those receiving education degrees might be the exception, although there are limited opportunities in that direction as well.

The challenge, of course, is to create a Tuscarawas County that will be an example of prosperity rather than poverty. We've much work to do.

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See you next time.