Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Christmas Checklist

The blue skies and warm temps last week were nice, but now that the winds are blowing and a chill is in the air, there’s no question what time of year it is.


Here are some things I plan to do to make the season mean what it should. You can borrow it if you like.

Attend one of our area’s many Holiday musical events. Symphony on Ice, Stefano’s Home for the Holidays, BE Taylor’s Christmas concert. No music reflects the season and settles you into a perfect mood better than holiday songs and Christmas carols.

Give a toy to the Marine’s Toys for Tots. Then write a check to the House of the Carpenter and take a tag or two from one of the Valley’s various Giving Trees. Making someone else’s Christmas brighter is a highlight of the holiday. Doing it for more than one is an extra mitzva.

Get your decorations up early. It relieves the worry about getting them done and gives you more time to enjoy them.

Take the family to dinner. Eat slowly and talk to each other. Drive through the Festival of Lights when you're done.

Go to church. If you attend regularly, add an extra service and if you’re not a churchgoer, give it a try. It will end your year with a different perspective.

On a clear night, stand outside and stare at the sky. Try to imagine what the Wise Men thought when they saw their star.

Say “Merry Christmas” to someone you don’t know and who doesn’t care. Sometimes the offering is as important as the receiving.

Watch a Hallmark Holiday movie. They are sappy, simplistic, moralistic, and predictable. What fun!

Make a list of gifts for your family and friends. Make sure the gifts are very personal and really reflect the person who will get it. If you actually GIVE the gifts, so much the better. But making the list will remind you of your good friends and what makes them special.

On Christmas Eve, read The Night Before Christmas and one of the Christmas gospels. They both sound special on that bright and holy night. Read them out loud.

On Christmas morning, sip your coffee slowly and take all the time you need to open your gifts. These mornings will live in your memory a long time. Make them slowly. But if the kids want to hoop and holler and hurry up, that’s OK, too. They’re making memories as well.

I love this time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What's next?

In just a few days, the American public will likely see a major shift in the national power structure. Democrats almost certainly take control of Congress and have a strong shot at the Senate as well.

Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. The GOP leadership abdicated any attempt at oversight of President Bush. They were happy to bask in the reflected glow of his success and thus were complicit in all his errors. When Republicans took control in the Republican Revolution of 1994, they were going to "change the way things are done". They were going to end "business as usual." They were going to term limit themselves, be more cooperative with the minority than the Dems were when they were in control, and in general return respect to the role of politician. Over a decade later, they clearly were swept up in the pull of power and have become more controlling, more power hungry, more derisive of their ideological opposites than the Democrats ever dreamed of during their years in control. And they did everything but give a crown to the Imperial Presidency of George Bush.

Now the table turns.

The question is what will my party do with this opportunity? Will we punish the GOP for its ham handed and dictatorial control? Will we refuse them access to committee rooms, deny their right to amend bills, refuse their attempts at oversight hearings? Or will we say "enough"? Will we come out of this dark tunnel of single party control and decide to attempt bi-partisanship and true governance again?

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The power of the informed voter to transform society is inherent in our democratic process. But the continuing influence of big money has distorted that concept out of all recognition. In a recent interview with an official of the National Republican Campaign Committee, I asked why the GOP believed that they would retain majority control of the House and Senate in the wake of virtually EVERY poll that said otherwise.

And the answer I was given was a single word: MONEY. With enough cash in the coffer, you can change the momentum of a campaign.

That wouldn't be so bad if candidates were getting cash the old fashioned way. If individuals who believed in a candidate gave their contributions to help get them elected so the incumbent could continue to do what is seen as a good job--or give a challenger who shows promise a chance.

But the big bucks today come elsewhere. In West Virginia's First Congressional District we have seen the effects of ONE MAN bankrolling the campaign against Alan Mollohan. In fact, the Charleston Gazette tells us that Robert Perry is the single biggest campaign contributor in America this election. We all know the efforts by coal baron Don Blankenship to dictate his policies to West Virginia out of his own checkbook. And in what is perhaps the most frightening of all, the LA Times today tells us that Karl Rove is using taxpayer dollars to win the election!

In just a week, the midterms will be over. And the next Presidential election cycle will be in full swing. The issue of the impact of big money in these races cannot be ignored. Whether the Elephants or Donkeys win, the American public will lose if we don't address these issues. Blankenship, Perry and Rove should not dictate with their dollars to the American voter.

And like it or not, the dollar dictates in the contemporary election system.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Moving Money Around

When I take a dollar from my left pocket and put it in my right, I am no richer.

When business moves from one Ohio Valley town to another the Valley has not grown.

When the government ponies up cash for "economic development", it should raise all boats. It should IMPROVE the area, not just move money around.

I am thinking these thoughts as Belmont County looks at a big loss of sales tax dollars and Commissioner Mark Thomas lays the blame at the feet of the Highlands--Ohio County's new retail development surrounding Cabella's, which Thomas says has simply taken dollars away from the areas around the Ohio Valley Mall and Plaza.

When businesses choose to move for their own reasons, that's

But when multi-millions of tax dollars are spent to create a development area---as was done in the case of Cabella's and the Highlands---some sort of greater good should be achieved. Tax revenue should grow, opportunities for good jobs should be expanded, or the possibility of future growth should be enhanced.

Cabella's itself, I think, DID create the possibility of future growth. There will be a big announcement next week about a major new attraction at the Highlands, and it, too will be a big boost.

But many of the stores already in development at the Highlands are just more of the same. And there will be a second big announcement next week that will be a big addition to the Highlands---but will be a huge loss to the City of Wheeling.

And I think there's something wrong with that.

I hate to sound like a Republican, but government should stay out of the economic development arena UNLESS in the end there is growth.

Moving money from one pocket to the other is a waste of our taxpayers dollars and is a fraud on the public when it's called "development".

Death of Democracy?

He's done it before and he's at it again. Massey Energy boss Don Blankenship want to remold the Mountain State in his own image. He wants to make changes in the way we run government, wants government to make changes in the way we run our lives.

Mind you, he doesn't want to put himself up as a candidate so the residents can vote on whether we like him or his ideas....he just wants to spend his own millions to defeat candidates he doesn't like and set the State agenda on some of the social issues he thinks are important.

There is one absolute fact in contemporary elections; MONEY TALKS. No matter how many spaghetti dinners and street fairs a candidate attends. No matter how often he takes to talkradio. The defining factor in our elections today is who can buy the most ad time. It's TV (and to a lesser extent radio) that makes or breaks the campaign.

When a millionaire like Blankenship puts his money into the mix--WITHOUT putting himself up for consideration--the playing field is no longer level. American democracy is based on the premise that "Everyman" has a chance to be elected. But if Blankenship targets "Everyman" , it's tough to fight back. Most candidates can't match him dollar-for-dollar. And if a candidate wants to meet Blankenship's money in a fair fight, "Everyman" has to spend a lot of his time and energy raising money instead of campaigning.

I truly do NOT have the answer. The Supreme Court has ruled that spending money on campaigns is "free speech". Although I can't imagine that the Founders intended for bags full of cash to be as protected by the First Amendment as a "pamphleteer", it nonetheless IS.

But at least we need to see what Blankenship is up to. To understand the arrogance of a man who thinks his money allows him to push us around.

Maybe the Mountain State will remember it's motto "Montani Semper Liberi". And NOT "He who has the gold rules"

She will be missed

When I feel stressed and overworked, I often take a minute to think of Kathy Fortunato. There is no one I know who was able to juggle more balls, manage more matters, and do it all with a smile, than Kathy. Her family always came first, but community, church, and charity were never far behind.

Kathy Fortunato passed away this week. A friend and former colleague, Kathy suffered a sudden stroke over the weekend and died Tuesday morning at the all-too-young age of 46.

Our tremendous sympathy, support, and prayers go to her family--Dr. Mike and the kids--as well as her extended family in the community.

From medical matters--(Health Right, The Medical Society)-and politics (Ohio County GOP Chair, a personal mention from the President)--
to The Chamber of Commerce (executive committee) community events (Chair of the Sternwheeler Festival)
and her church,
Kathy was deeply involved in every aspect of our community.

She will be missed.

Sleep softly, sweet lady. You done good.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I get lots of calls from folks who know what's wrong with downtown Wheeling. Too many bars, too many parking lots, too high taxes. So, we thought we'd take away the objections and see what IDEAS you have. Here's the idea: if start up money was no object, if we wrote you a check for whatever you need...buying land, hiring people, purchasing equipment, acquiring advertising....what's the one business that can't miss in downtown Wheeling.

We had a few ideas...some good, some iffy. A "Science Museum", like COSI in Columbus, for kids. A new TV Station. A Nike outlet store. A "Build-A-Bear" store. A "dollar store". A nightclub for seniors. A new/trendy tavern-restaurant.

Personally, I think downtown Wheeling works as it is. The future of a downtown such as ours lies in offices--doctors, lawyers, ad agencies, and radio stations. Banks and parking lots. Taverns and diners to serve the people working in the offices. Add a few specialty stores and you have a downtown.

If I had the "blank check" we imagined, I think I would buy and renovate a couple of buildings into "loft apartments". Trendy living spaces on the river for young middle-to-upper income professionals. After they moved in, I think additional trendy shops, small galleries and some entertainment would pop up to support them.

In the meantime, the City of Wheeling should buy and tear down as many of the ugly, dilapidated properties as it can. Plant some grass, maybe a tree. Create some downtown "mini-parks". And wait. When the time is right; when the next "big idea" comes along, someone will find a use for that space.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Separation yes; above the law, no

I have intense respect for the separation of powers established by our Constitution, and I am fiercely protective of that privilege. But I also believe that no one is above the law--and that includes elected Members of Congress.

Based on the information that has been made public, it seems to me that the Justice Department had ample probable cause to think Louisiana's William Jefferson was involved in accepting bribes or other abuses of power. They had a legal search warrant and executed it on his office. That seems reasonable.

Not even a MOC is above the law. It is true that the Constitution prevents their arrest on lower crimes but they are not protected from felonies.

I am amazed at the outcry from both sides of the aisle claiming that this violates the separation of powers.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's Just a BOOK!

A few years ago I had a pleasant beach vacation sitting in the surf and reading The DaVinci Code. Just like I read a John Grisham novel the year before, Robert Ludlum a few years earlier and so on.

Yep. It was an interesting read with a lot of historical references that it was fun to Google. An interesting theory about Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene conceiving a child with their bloodline still living today. It was fun to lie in the sand and contemplate. Just like I have contemplated time travel after reading a science fiction book, or about America in the wake of the SOUTH winning the Civil War after reading an historical fiction book.

But I never THOUGHT the South actually won.

And as a Christian, I haven't had my belief shaken by Dan Brown's book. IT'S A BOOK (and soon to be a movie).

Several clerics (primarily, but not exclusively, Catholic) have criticized the book, damning it as blasphemy, and even calling for legal action against it.

First, I wonder when critics will understand that when they shout loudly about popular books (movies, music, tv shows), they only help PROMOTE the book. The DaVinci Code movie will only see BIGGER audiences because of the complaints.

And second, if a Christian has a faith so shallow, so lightly taken that a work of fiction....a book, a movie...can shake that faith and change their Biblical understanding, then they didn't have much of a faith to begin with.

Perhaps the complaining clerics should worry more about that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


OK. First, the qualifiers and disclaimer: I don't think kids should be boozing it up. I know that underage drinking is against the law.

But I still think Wheeling Jesuit University was out of line when they called the cops on a group of their own students. Most of the kids, apparently WERE of legal age. Proper care had been taken to make sure no one was drinking and driving (they rented BUSSES, for heaven's sake). The University itself was holding a "Last Blast" party on campus.

Sounds to me like sour grapes. Here were some students who wanted to have some OFF-CAMPUS fun. Handled it safely with careful planning. Yet the University had to send in the gendarmes.

IF--and it's a big IF in my mind--WJU felt the party was so bad it had to be stopped, they should have taken responsibility themselves. They saw the ad on the internet. Could have called the organizing student in and called the whole thing off. Suspended him if that fits with University policy.

But calling the cops. Come on.

And isn't there something more important 10 Wheeling cops could have been doing on a Saturday night than standing on 12th Street breath testing a bunch of kids WHO HAD A SAFE RIDE HOME ANYWAY?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I had planned to write my own small analysis of what The President said in his State of the Union speech; and I began the evening with my yellow pad and fountain pen keeping notes. But as the speech went on I learned something about myself.

I continue to gain a much greater appreciation of what went on in the Clinton years. I thought those who spent so much time sniping at calling, nit picking....were just a bunch of sore losers. That they just weren't willing to open their eyes and minds to look at what he was doing or deal with the real issues but just had a basic hatred of the man.

Watching tonight's speech I realize that I have the exact same feelings (in reverse). I simply can't stand this man (Bush). I disagree with his policies, I think he is uncaring about the average American or the impact of his policies. I think he lives in a rarified world and doesn't know or care that he does. He is arrogant, cocky, smarmy. He is willing to break the law when he wants to and dare anyone to challenge him. Cindy Sheehan gets arrested but HIS dead soldier's mom gets a place of honor. It's disgusting.

There may have been something worthwhile within the speech but I couldn't find it because I can't stand the man. It's visceral.

It is a revelation to me. I'm certainly not "proud" of it....but there it is.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


When the future of the Democratic Party seemed so shaky in the early '90s that even I suggested we nominate George HW Bush for President and then just fight for the VP, Bill Clinton came along to blaze a different trail.

And with him came Paul Begalla and James Carville to help hone his campaign strategy and themes (remember "It's the Economy, Stupid"?) And Clinton became the most successful Dem on the national stage literally in a generation.

Now with the Party of the Working Man again in turnoil, The "ragin' cajun" has hit the nail directly on its head once again.

Bill Clinton's colorful campaign advisor has a new book that is saying much of what I have been saying about the problems with the democrats.

Paul Rodriguez of the conservative web site has a really concise analysis of Carville's arguments and I highly recommend you look it over.

A few key items:
* Too many dems still think it's enough to just "hate the GOP"
* Democrats have a laundry list of issues and ideas, but not defining "narrative" that truly explains what they stand for
* Democrats should look at adopting a theme of "Progressive Patriotism", in Carville's words "wrap themselves in the the Republicans".
* Stop the "pillow fighting"....don't be swayed so much by power that you will do anything to keep it instead of fighting for change

There's much more, and it's just excellent thinking!

You've heard me say for years that my party is in disarray. We are truly the party of America and the party of the People, yet we have let the GOP define us and denigrate us and we have done little to help our own cause.

If only party leaders--or potential leaders--would listen to Carville and Begalla---again.


The holidays have begun.

It's my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving is here and that means family gatherings, turkey, and football. Then it's the wonderful Christmas Season.
As a Christian, I believe the "reason for the season" is to celebrate the birth of Christ. But I also know that the "season" is more than that. There is the "holiday season" that includes Santa, Rudolph, shopping, and parties. There's nothing wrong with that.

Which is why it doesn't bother me a bit when someone wishes me "Happy Holidays". It's a warm and wonderful time of the year and I hope they are indeed happy for us all.

When a store clerk says "Happy Holidays" after I buy something, they're really saying "thanks for buying". If they said "Merry Christmas", frankly, it would often be blasphemy. They wouldn't be making a heartfelt statement about the Birth of the Son of God. It is almost like taking the Lord's name in vain.

So, celebrate the season. Enjoy Jolly Old St. Nick. Trim a tree and have a cup of egg nog. Then make sure, if you're a Christian, you set aside time to thank God for the Gift of His Son.

Season's Greetings.

And Merry Christmas.

I mean it.


I Loved it when that curtain swept open.

He was one of the undisputed giants of television. Johnny Carson created a special type of late night party nearly every night for 30 years. Middle American charm, urbanity, wit, humor, humility all mixed together in Johnny. Carson's death at 79 sends me thinking about what we DON'T have on TV today.

Carson saw talent and gave it a chance to blossom for our enjoyment. "American Idol" takes talent and trashes it for entertainment.

Carson's monologues skewered any one who made mistakes and he did with a sly grin that softened the blows. We got the message, but heard the humor, too.
We learned about the personal side of our stars, Johnny didn't feel a need to dig into their personal lives.

And when Carson decided it was time to leave the stage, he did just so--he left the stage. An occasional comment to an interviewer was the most we got from the King after he retired. He lived the lesson he taught on his show: what matters is what's on stage; the rest remains personal.

America's Court Jester. The King of Late Night TV. The host we all went to bed with for 30 years. NBC's biggest earner. Husband to several, friend to so many more. The founding father of more comedy careers than I can remember.

He retired over a decade ago. He left us at last this weekend.

And I thought I heard "HEEEEEEEEEERRRRRREEEE'S Johnny" coming down from heaven last night.

The eternal monologue has begun


I don't understand the problem some law enforcement folks have with probable cause. If they have reason to believe that I am committing a crime, they can certainly get warrants and come investigate me.

In the case that led to this week's Supreme Court ruling, the cops said they felt that the "suspect"--who had been stopped for a traffic violation--was acting nervously and had used air freshener in his car, which made them suspicious. Which is why they brought in the drug sniffing dogs.

So why didn't they simply get a warrant? They, indeed, had "probable cause". I know a very specific example recently where a man was stopped for a traffic violation. Cops suspected drugs (they were right) and they told the guy: "you can let us search the car, admit to what you've got, or wait for an hour and we'll get a warrant." The guy admitted he had dope.

If certain judges are too tough in their determination of probable cause, then we should address THAT issue. With more clearly defined legal definitions or greater oversight of those judges.

But I don't want cops to be able to threaten me with dogs when there is no cause.
No one disputes that we need to more vigilant and aggressive in this post-9/11 world. But it is ENTIRELY possible to do so without violating civil rights.

I don't understand what's wrong with probable cause.