Winners And Losers And General George Patton

As President Obama and congressional leaders work feverishly to negotiate an end to the debt ceiling impasse, I am sure most Americans are keeping our fingers crossed that the parties reach a meaningful agreement that allows the country to avoid a ruinous default and credit rating downgrade.

If a deal is struck, news media pundits will promptly declare who came out a “winner” and who came out a “loser” in this torturous process.  They may contend that President Obama was a loser because his call for increased taxes as part of a “balanced” approach was unsuccessful.  They may argue that the Republicans were losers because they were maneuvered into a last-second backroom deal that doesn’t make enough spending cuts.  Or perhaps the mantra will be that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats were marginalized during the final hours, or that “Tea Party” Republicans looked too uncompromising and unrealistic, or that progressives in Congress have lost their clout as the debate focuses totally on spending cuts.

The insistence on declaring triumphal winners and abject losers, with no middle ground, may be one reason why it has become so difficult for Washington to reach agreements.  No one wants to be a “loser” because they know that General George Patton was right:  Americans celebrate winners and despise losers.  In this case, however, it’s hard to see how anyone comes out of this ridiculous process covered with glory.  Our political leaders have failed to govern responsibly for so long, irrespective of which party has been in power, that there should be plenty of “loser” status to go around.

Update:  As predicted (except this writer finds a lot of “winners” in the process).

Queen City Quaffing

Last night, after a fine reception to celebrate Will and Megan’s wedding, some of us decided to head out to sample Cincinnati night life on a sultry Saturday evening.

Boy, The Queen City was rocking! The Reds had just beaten the Giants, so the departing game crowd was mixed with the normal weekend partiers and people in town for some kind of musical festival on Fountain Square. The area around the Square was thick with revellers looking for some fun.

We ended up sitting outside at a place called the Cadillac Ranch, listening to electronic dance music pulse from the speakers and watching the crowds and roaring choppers cruise by outside and drunken thrill-seekers try to ride a mechanical bull inside. The place was jammed, the atmosphere was hopping, and the beer was cold and tasted good in the warm summer air. When we left sometime shortly after midnight, it looked like things were just getting started.

Living On The Air In Cincinnati

What’s a trip to Cincinnati without a visit to Fountain Square, and what’s a visit to Fountain Square without thinking of the theme song to the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, and Andy, Les Nessman, Herb, Jennifer, Dr. Johnny Fever, the hapless Mr. Carlson — and the timeless flying turkey promotion episode.

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

Cousins, Together Again

We’re in Cincinnati for our first family wedding in years.  Today our nephew Will Kishman is marrying his long-time sweetheart Megan.

The great thing about a family wedding, of course, is the chance to see people you haven’t seen in a very long time.  The Kishman clan is far-flung these days, with outposts stretching from Brooklyn, New York to Ohio to Louisville to Chicago to sunny California.

Last night was a night for reconnecting for the cousins, as we quaffed some adult beverages and visited a dueling piano bar. It was great to spend some time with Will, Matt, Andrew, Annie, Max, and Miles.

Revisiting A Hot Topic

We need some good news, and NASA has provided some on on the “global warming” front.

The good news comes from data gathered by NASA satellites, which have evaluated the release of heat by the Earth’s atmosphere into space.  The data, from 2000 through 2011, indicates that far more energy was released — and therefore far less heat was trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere — than the dire predictions of United Nations computer models.  One of the principal U.S. scientists on the project said the satellite observations “suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” and that “[t]here is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”  If science works as it should, the real-world data should lead to revisions in the computer models and consequent reductions in predictions for temperature change.

The world as we know occasionally seems like it is going to hell, but it is at least reassuring to learn that predictions that we are going to reach Hades-like temperatures in the near future apparently are misplaced.

401(k) Follies

Many of us have tried to save and plan for retirement.  We’ve read the books about how investing in mutual funds is one of the best ways to maximize your return and grow your nest egg over the long term.  We’ve followed that advice, and many of us have stayed the course, through up years and down, trusting in the historical fact that the stock market will produce long-term gains that outstrip every other investment vehicle.

As I sit here tonight, amazed that President Obama and congressional leaders have taken us to the brink of apparent default, I wonder:  If the debt ceiling is not increased, if the United States defaults, and if ratings agencies downgrade the investment value of United States government securities — with the likely negative ripple effect of those developments throughout the economy — does anyone doubt that the stock market will plunge and our carefully considered long-term investments are going to take a huge, unnecessary hit?  And if that inevitable hit occurs, how long will it take for our retirement funds to recover from it — if ever?

I think the dumb brinksmanship we are seeing from every one of our political leaders right now is infuriating, but I cannot imagine how angered I would feel if I were on the eve of retirement and saw those leaders taking absurd risks with the value of my hard-earned, soon-to-be-needed retirement nest egg.  It’s one thing to believe that our elected representatives are unconcerned about the average schmoe, it’s quite another to see that they are gambling with your money and your future solely to further their partisan political positions.

Speaking Of Fair Food And Doughnuts . . . .

How serendipitous!  Right after writing about fair food and America’s love of doughnuts, I see a news item that combines the two.

This year’s New York State Fair will be serving up the Big Kahuna Donut Burger.  This quarter-pound burger is served between slices of a grilled glazed doughnut.   With cheese, bacon, and the fixin’s, The Big Kahuna Donut Burger comes out to about 1,500 calories:  a true, over-the-top gutbuster.  What will they think of next?  Couldn’t they have worked a deep-fried Snickers bar into the mix somehow?

I’d like to see someone slug down a Big Kahuna Donut Burger and then take a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl — at least, I’d like to see it from a safe distance.

Our Cowardly Senate

Tonight all of the debt ceiling drama is in the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner is hoping to round up enough bills to pass his proposal to increase the debt ceiling and avoid a default.

Meanwhile, what’s happening in the Senate?  Nothing.  The house that likes to call itself “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” has become the World’s Greatest Do-Nothing Body.  They wait, criticize the House of Representatives, try to dodge any responsibility or avoid taking any position that might cause them any kind of political pain, and spend their time pondering political maneuvering at the expense of the good of the country.  Although my inclinations are to favor budget-cutting to get us to fiscal sanity, I think you would be as disappointed in the performance of the majority-Democrat Senate if you were a hard-core progressive.  Why haven’t they independently debated and passed the Senate solution to the problem?  Because they don’t want to commit to anything.

Who knows what will happen with the Boehner plan, or whether our fractured, grossly dysfunctional and leaderless government will allow our country to suffer a needless, ruinous, and impoverishing default.  One thing is clear, however:  it is hard to imagine a more gutless, craven performance than we have seen from the Senate during this entire debt ceiling issue.  They have been a pathetic embarrassment to the concept of responsible representative government.

Doughnut Love

Yesterday, America showed its love for doughnuts and put its money where its mouths want to be.

On a bleak day when the Dow Jones average plunged nearly 200 points on fears that the debt ceiling quandary will not be solved, Dunkin’ Brands Group — the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts — was a lonely bright spot.  Yesterday, Dunkin’ Brands had its initial public offering.  It started the day’s trading at $19 per share and ended at $27.85 — up a robust 46.6 percent.  Dunkin’ Brands has ambitious growth plans that seek to feed on America’s insatiable appetite for fried rings of dough and expand into new markets on the west coast and in Asia and South America.

Americans — and not just policemen, either — eat billions of doughnuts each year, although our per capita consumption apparently lags behind that of our Canadian neighbors to the north.  We are addicted to consumption of those heavenly circles of doughy bliss, coated in glaze or honey or chocolate icing, filled with fruit jelly or whipped cream or custard, and topped with colorful sprinkles or coconut shavings or chopped nuts.

As for me, I can’t resist a basic glazed doughnut or a simple cake doughnut with dark chocolate icing.  I therefore try to give all doughnut stores a wide berth, lest my waistline mirror Dunkin’ Brands rapid expansion.

The Party Nations

Who hasn’t idly wondered which countries hammer down the most alcohol?  Thankfully, the World Health Organization has released a report that answers that crucial, nagging question.

Where does the U.S. stack up?  We’re middle-of-the-pack, actually.  Americans consume, on average, 9.4 liters of alcohol per person, per year — about half the average of the booziest nations.  Of that amount, 31 percent is consumed in spirits, 16 percent in wine, and 53 percent in good old beer.  I feel that I have done my share in the beer category, at least.

Who’s number 1?  The wine-swigging French?  Nope, they barely crack the top 15, finishing at number 14.  What about Ireland?  That would be wrong, too — the Irish barely beat out the French, finishing at number 13.  How about our vodka-guzzling Russian buddies?  Closer, but not quite.  The Russians finish at number 4.  No, the top three are Hungary, the Czech Republic, and overall winner Moldova.  The studly Moldovans pound down 18.22 liters of alcohol per capita and they apparently aren’t picky, either:  they drink about as much spirits (4.42 liters) as beer (4.57 liters) and wine (4.67).  In short, Moldovan partiers will be happy to drink just about anything you put in front of them before they collapse.

Where in the world is Moldova, anyway, you ask?  It’s a former part of the Soviet Union, located between Romania and Ukraine.  It’s also so small — only slightly more than 4 million people — that a few serious tipplers could skew the national average.



Banned From Buckeye Land

The Terrelle Pryor saga continues to grind along, and it isn’t pretty.

Pryor, who will not be using his last year of eligibility at Ohio State — he was suspended for the first five games, anyway — wants to enter the NFL supplemental draft.  In order to establish his eligibility for that draft, he has to show that he cannot return to OSU.  As a result, his attorney asked for a letter confirming that Pryor could not return to the Buckeyes.  Athletic Director Gene Smith obliged by writing that Pryor was ineligible because he had failed to cooperate with NCAA and OSU investigators, and also by announcing that Pryor is banned from any contact with the Ohio State athletic program for five years.  Of course, Pryor can still attend classes and get his degree from Ohio State.  Anyone want to wager on that happening?

So now, the guy who was the most heralded recruit Ohio State had landed in ages, and who was often touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate, has left the program in disgrace and, now, has been excommunicated.  What’s next — declaring that no Ohio State player will ever again wear the forever tainted no. 2 jersey?  How much has changed since Pryor led the Buckeyes to another victory over Michigan only 8 months ago!


A Time Travel Update

Scientists have conducted experiments that have confirmed that individual photons cannot travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

For a time, it was thought that photons might be able to travel faster than the speed of light.  That prospect left open some tantalizing possibilities, because under Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, if an object could travel faster than the speed of light it could evade principles of causality.  That is, an event’s effect, by traveling faster than the speed of light, could theoretically precede its cause, and time travel conceivably could occur.  The most recent experiments have ruled out that possibility, as least as it relates to photons.

Fortunately for fans of time travel everywhere (and everywhen), Einstein’s theories still permit random intersections of curved space-time continuums — i.e., wormholes — through which time travel could occur.  Thus, it remains possible that Star Trek‘s Dr. Leonard McCoy could inadvertently cause the Nazis to win World War II and that H.G. Wells’ Time Traveller could save Weena from the Morlocks, and you should still take care not to accidentally kill an ancestor and thereby prevent your own birth.

Fun At The Fair

Tomorrow the 2011 Ohio State Fair begins.  There will be some differences this year — for one, beer will be served for the first time in more than 100 years, although apparently only at adult events at one of the concert venues — but the core of the Fair will be the same as it has been for decades.

In the livestock barns, 4-H kids will be showing animals they have raised and fed and tenderly cared for since birth.  The poultry pavilion will be a cacophony of cackling and quacking and honking by often-exotic looking fowl.  Delicious fresh ice cream and milkshakes will be sold at the dairy building, next to the traditional butter cow and butter calf.  Other buildings will house concession stands that hawk garage sale items and curious products you normally see only on TV.  On the Midway, there will be vomit-inducing rides and a rich display of tattoos.  And everywhere there will be legendary Fair food that ranges from home-cooked meals prepared by church groups to the most absurd fried offerings imaginable.

I love the Fair.  I love the animal and vegetable competitions and horse shows and the chance to reconnect with Ohio’s great agricultural heritage.  I love the Fair’s timeless quality and old-fashioned feel.  And how can you beat the food?

If you’ve never been to the Ohio State Fair, you’re missing something.  This year’s edition runs from July 27 to August 7.

An American Scene

Amusement parks are a big part of the American summer.  Every year, millions of children of all ages travel to these asphalt-topped celebrations of speed and thrills to eat ice cream and cotton candy and cheeseburgers and then scream like banshees as we are flipped, twisted, turned, dropped, and soaked on the fastest roller coasters, the tallest Demon Drops, and wettest water rides. We’re Americans — it’s just what we do.

This photo was taken in the line for the Millenium Force at Cedar Point.

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene

An American Scene


The debt ceiling remains unraised.  Talks between the sides have broken down.  The Republicans in the House have submitted a proposal, and the Democrats in the Senate have done likewise.  All the while, the days before the August 2 deadline slip silently past.

So, what to do to try to end this apparent impasse?  Why, give a speech, of course!  President Obama will address the nation at 9 p.m. tonight to discuss the debt ceiling issue, and Speaker of the House John Boehner will present the Republican view immediately thereafter.

I’m all in favor of a good speech, but what is giving a speech a few days before an important deadline supposed to accomplish?  It’s an opportunity for each side to trot out their spinmeisters, of course, but aren’t we awfully far down the road for that?  Is highlighting the parties’ differing positions supposed to reassure the jittery markets?  Are the members of Congress supposed to focus on the polling numbers after the speech to decide how to vote on this issue?  If the numbers say Americans liked the President’s speech better than the Speaker’s, or vice versa, does that carry the day?

This all seems like political posturing to me, as each side tries to set the other up to take the blame, rather than a legitimate effort to bring an end to what has often been a pathetic and embarrassing process.