Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Banks and Wall St: Reach for your piggy banks

THE CLOSING DAYS of the year have prompted financial advisors to call me for a "review" of our inertial investments. They, of course, wanted to lead me in a positive direction with cheery "maybe-we-can-upgrade" them . To what? I asked with a snarl, as if I hadn't heard it all before. Besides, how is one to react after all of the things that have gone into the tank for people like you and me with the experts in charge of our accounts.

I've also been getting written notices advising me of all of the changes taking place in the accounts in the new year. One of them from my bank folds out to nearly 19 inches of tiny print, which should immediately prepare you for the worst. To assist the confused reader, it should have at least been bundled with CliffsNotes. In bold face it declares:
Their odd insertion of a lower case "notice" was fair warning that it was written by the same kind of person who once sent me impenetrable Air Force orders with jargon that I never fully understood other than I had to report to such- and-such base at such-and-such time.

I did notice that the term "Credit Card" appeared more often than "savings account", which was comforting in that they weren't looking to me to help pay for Wall Street bonuses under their concept of the blessed free enterprise system. But I did take a stab at one of the paragraphs:
Finance Charges: If not already the case, your APR will be a variable rate calculated by adding 21.74% to the value of an index and will have a minimum and maximum of 24.99% . As of October 1, 2009 the APR is 24.99%. As of July 1, 2010, the maximum amount (cap) will be removed.
You could stop trying to decode the bank's 19" directive right there. What they want you to know in layman's terms is that the interest rate on your credit card is going up. And up. And up.
At the same time, the interest paid to me on my savings account and CDs is virtually invisible.

I also have been hearing from the folks who handle a portion of my securities . They sent me a flier that was reassuring. It said things like:
The team of financial advisors...strives to maintain current records of your investment experience and objectives. To this end please provide your...advisory team with any information that might assist them in determining your risk tolerance, financial circumstances and investment objectives.
Investment objectives?

When an advisor called me I told him explicitly what my investment objective was for my last remaining fail-safe mutual fund that has been mired in red ink for more than two years.

"SELL IT!" I barked.


"As we speak".


"As we speak!"
I had been telling my experts for more than two years that Wall Street couldn't care less about the little guys in the market. The big guys have proved it time and again that your money and mine was strictly a way for them to pocket the profits.

As Arianna Huffington wrote the other day:
The big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leverage activities that brought our ecoomy to the brink of disaster. In a slap in the face of taxpayers, they have also cut back on the money they are lending....But since April, the Big Four banks - JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and ells Fargo - all of which took billions in taxpayer money, have cut lending to buinesses by $100 billion."
The check for the sale of the my mutual fund arrived a couple of days ago. Against the advice of any financial advisor, I stuck it into the purgatory of a savings account. At least I know it will be safe there. How's that for a financial objective?


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Bush's brain", is so troubled

KARL ROVE, the so-called "Bush's brain," went back up to Fox's robotic news spinner, to say that he was "troubled" by the Obama administration's response to the terrorist who wanted to blow up the plane from Europe. You sort of expect his repeated tongue-stomping to get attention. But if he took a single breath, he might recall who was president when they were crashing jets into buildings on 9/11, now that it has been established that his team from the Oval office ignored all warnings.

Steele and Kasich: A lucrative sideline

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL Committee chairman Michael Steele and Ohio GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich have found that their political roles can pay off in more ways than one. In less polite society it's known as gaming the system. The word has now gotten out, like those 22 million missing e-mails, that they are frequently invited to share their beliefs in lofty Republican values with audiences across the land. In return, they are personally being paid thousands of dollars by their hosts. And their money-making sideline appears to be more than crass with former RNC chairmen.

Hissed the conservative Washington Times: "Michael S. Steele, Republican National Committee chairman , is using his title to market himself for paid appearances nationwide, personally profiting from speeches with fees of up to $20,000 at colleges, trade associations and other groups - an unusual practice criticized by a string of previous chairmen."

I should say so. However, if you're one to keep score, it does seem that the University of Akron snared a bargain when it paid Steele only $12,000 for his public speech in E.J. Thomas Hall on Oct. 15. Having sat through his schtick at the time, I would have have moved his fee four or five decimal points to the left.

If Kasich was paying attention to the Steele System of rhetorical punishment and rewards, he must have been a quick study. Indeed, he prefers the Cadillac version of fees, doubling what Steele feels is an honorable charge for a service call to corporate business groups and friendly associations, regardless of the oddity of speaking in states like Nevada, Illinois and Minnesota where there aren't likely to be any Buckeye voters. But a Wall Streeter to the core, he's finding it's not that difficult to charge whatever the traffic will bear.

Meantime, Columbus Dispatch columnist Joe Hallett pointed out, Kasich "hid in the weeds" during the attempts to resolve the state's budget crises, except to "deplore the tax increase." Way back in June, Kasich bobbed at the Cleveland City Club when asked for his views on fixing the budget, insisting: "I'm not messing with that...It isn't my job now to be micromanaging the process." He's lucky. Gov. Strickland, with help from legislative Republicans, fixed it without him.

Is Kasich serious about being a governor? Or are all of those out-of-state fees too generous for him to change his mind?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A nod to the cast of 2009

WELL, THE GOOD NEWS is that we've managed to get through 2009 without South Carolina, Texas and Alaska seceding. The bad news is that 2010 will give them another whole year to think about it. So may we assume that Ft. Sumter and Myrtle Beach vacations are safe for another year? The outlook for these states, particularly Texas, is hazy at best. As George Bush proved not long ago, we are never that safe from Lone Star politicians. Sorry, but I never know what to think of Alaska.

There are other matters working in behalf of national sanity. The political scene in South Carolina is in such disarray that its leaders won't have much time to think about checking out. Sen. Lindsey Graham has his hands full with the Republicans in his county who censured him after accusing him of being too "relevant". Gov. Sanford will be too busy trying to figure how many of his shadowy trips to Argentina can be converted into tax write-offs as official therapeutic business. And Rep. Joe Wilson must be so self-satisfied that he has already seceded on his own. By adding "You lie!" to Bartlett's Quotations he has at least matched Socrates' "Know thyself" for profound brevity.

Meantime, secession-leaning Gov. Rick Perry of Texas may have to revive the spirit of Davy Crockett and Sam Houston to head off a serious challenge to his day job by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary. Both candidates are tightly identified with prayerful guidance, so Perry may have to depend on troops on the ground for this one.

The year nearly succeeded in ending without Sen. Joe Lieberman charging up to Fox News to declare his impatience with Yemen. But on the last Sunday of the year - what perfect timing! - he virtually declared war on Yemen without consulting President Obama or Congress. The befuddled Connecticut senator, who never served a day in military service, is one of Capitol Hill's super-chickenhawks with a sliding-scale identity depending on the moment.

The year produced something new in political slang - tea parties, which had little to do with tea nor partying. Polls told us that a majority of Republicans believed (1)Palin should be president (2)climate change was a liberal red herring and (3) that Obama could very well have been born in an African tree. They wanted the rest of us to believe that socialism was at our front door when in fact, if they had been paying any attention, they would have known that there have been many "socialistic" programs around for nearly a century. It has been with certain irony that one of the biggest but not brightest congresswomen, Michele Bachmann, has received more than $250,000 in farm subsidy handouts while she has been bad-mouthing socialism and various federal excesses.

Fortunately we saw less and less of the losers: Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, (who has declared that he isn't running for anything this year) and Mike Huckabee, who still manages to front for Sheriff Andy Griffith. On the other hand, Newt Gingrich continues to rise from the ashes and has even threatened us with running for president in 2012. It was a good year for Rush Limbaugh, who became familiarly known as the head of the Republican Party, and Glenn Beck, who is so wacky that he is more to be pitied than censured.

And the Republicans in Congress continued to play the role of the Petrified Forest, anchored to their waist in their opposition to health care reform whle supporting death panels, death taxes and death notices for their opponents, as did Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Curiously, they scored an approval rating of 23 pct. in the latest public survey. They, more than anything else, could save the Democratic Party in 2010 from self-destructing.

It was a tough year for Obama, who spent too much time trying to be neighborly to the R's, and an enomously profitable year for Wall Street, which spent the entire year being generous to its bonus-enriched self.

On the more diversionary side there was the emergence of new terms and words such as the Balloon Boy, Octomom and Twitter, which I still haven't figured out and probably won't.

Lastly, our "Persons of the Year" award goes to the upbeat hard-working Washington lobbyists whose numbers represented a growth industry despite lousy national employment figures for the year. According to the Harper's Index, drug company lobbyists outnumbered congressmen, 2-1. Health-care companies spent an average of $1.5 million daily to influence congressmen. What other group so generously contributed more to the economy?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Health care reform: halfway home

WELL, THE SENATE finally passed the damn thing. It wasn't easy, nor perfect, given the opposition from a handful of Democrats and all of those politically correct core-value Republicans ambling around the halls of congress on their knuckles, snorting that the end of the world was near.

This was the disloyal opposition at its worst, from the racket of "death panels" to Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's unspeakable appeal to Americans to pray that someone would not show up for a vote to block a Republican filibuster. It didn't take a second or two to realize that he was tallking about Sen. Robert Byrd, the ancient and infirm Democrat, to either lapse into a deep coma or pass 0n to wherever Democrats go when they die. (As the talks now move to the House, the Coburn Prayer will still be on the table if and when an accord is reached to pass the bill.) I wonder when a U.S. senator last prayerfully called for a colleague's absence. Fortunately his avenging angels decided to sit this one out.

The nearly year-long debate was a made-for-TV (and cable) extravaganza in which fiction far overwhelmed fact. It was often played out by role-players who saw little reason to speak in behalf of rational differences. If you are looking for an explanation of how so much of this got out of hand, remember there is no better way to secure your 15 minutes of fame than to to sit in front of a TV camera arguing that health care reform doesn't necessarily turn on its axis and could easily knock the whole planet out of whack.

I couldn't resist thinking of Dick Cheney, recently applauded by the ultra right-wing Human Events, as the conservative of the year. The guy has been on the prowl for most of this decade with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator(ICD) that regulates the heartbeat - a device that the doctors figured might extend his life after his four heart attacks and a quadruple bypass. The total cost of his medical bill was reported to be nearly $3 million. But even pampered penny pinching vice presidents have a right to stay alive. One of his aides said his Blue Cross/Blue shield policy would likely cover all of it. Cool.

On the other hand, folks without health insurance are not vice presidents or senators.
As they say, rank has it privilege.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas story on the Hill...

'TWAS THE DAY before Christmas and up on the Hill
Some creatures were stirring, still alert for a kill.

Their wallets were hung in their offices with care
In hopes that the lobbyists would soon be there.

The uninsured had frantically leaped from their beds
Wondering how they would pay for their critical meds.

They had visions of McConnell, with DeMint in his lap
And Boehner and Bachmann busily setting a trap.

But out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
That Brownback arose to pray for McConnell's great matter.

Away from the caucus they flew like a flash
Tore open some bags and looked for the cash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
gave the luster of K Street to those in the know.

When what to their wondering eyes should appear
But a gleaming Mercedes with eight powerful gears.

The driver was Palin , who was so lively and quick
I knew in a moment she was up to her old tricks.

More rapid than eagles her idolators they came
She shouted and winked and called them by name:

"Now, Bunning! now, Inhofe! now, Coburn! now, Steele!
it's time for all of us to seriously get real."

"To the top of the of the rostrum, to the top of wall
Now dash away, dash way, dash away all!.....

(Well, folks, it's getting late and you know how the thing ends. But if you want to add a line or two, be my guest. Besides, I don't get paid for this. GA)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

RNC's Steele flips out on flipping a bird

ALTHOUGH IT didn't seem possible that RNC Chairman Michael Steele could lower his rants to the depths of the gutter, he did exactly that with a blast at Democrats on the health care front. In a conference call with former Texas Rep. Dick Armey, who has resurrected himself as a leader of the Tea Bagger movement, Steele frothed:
"I'm tired of this congress thumbing their nose and flipping the bird at the people of this country!"
Flipping the bird? If the term eludes you, think of a middle finger raised in anger. Some Democrats as well as Republican Sen. Judd Gregg found his outburst quite distasteful. As for me, I have no choice but to award him the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award. For Steele, that's not the first time he walked off with a GALL - and I'm sure not the last.

Yule shopping: Blue shirts vs. Winston diamonds

THE FULL PAGE AD from a diamond merchant in today's New York Times reminded us that there were only "three days till Christmas." As if we didn't know. Despite the ugly war of attrition on Capitol Hill (Please. When will the cavalry arrive?), I am trying to be merry. I am even making allowances for all of the gushing these days over Mike Holmgren, the former football coach who now will be the BMOC of the Cleveland Browns. His pensive profile, surely inspired by Rodin's Thinker, arrived massively on the front page of the Plain Dealer today as the paper's sports columnists and editors worked hard to convince the reader of the historic significance of the moment.

Meantime, there are still those three days till Christmas to reckon with and the Times , in its snooty fashion, paraded a number of last-minute luxury gift ads from dealers with names like Ulysse Nardin, Everlon and Rolex. I was particularly taken by Harry Winston's $12,800 four-row diamond ring with the ground-level trade name of "Traffic." Honest.

I recall another time with no more than a hometown weekly that dwelled on births and deaths right up to its pre-Christmas edition. My mother made her annual shopping visit to George Saloom's little "department store" facing the World War I monument on the town square. She defined her need for a shirt for my father, deeply into the details. Only a few shirts were ever exhibited at Saloom's. So the proprietor would listen attentively, turn to the shelves behind the counter and pull out a couple of boxes that would meet her need. "We have a nice blue one and a white one in the right size," he assured my Mom with a degree a satisfaction as he removed the quarry from the boxes for closer inspection.

"I think I'll take the blue one," she said finally, aware that further shopping was not an option. "It won't show the dirt so fast. He spills things."

It was an annual transaction, to the point, with not a lot of deep thinking. Afterwards she would take me to Sam Samer's Candyland for a banana split. That makes me more cheerful already.

Monday, December 21, 2009

PolitiFact: Here's the lie of the year

PolitiFact.Com the fact-checking watchdog of the St. Petersburg Times, has reported its first "lie of the year" award in a survey of 5,000 voters: It is....death panels. The wacko term drew 61 pct. of the vote in a field of eight finalists. PolitiFact, which won a Pulitzer Prize this year for its work in exposing slippery tongues, traced the term to Sarah Palin, who stuck it in her Facebook psychobabbling. Here is how it was born:
"The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have go and stand in front of Obama's death panel so his bureaucrats can decide..."
Sarah can now claim she won something in 2009. And that's no lie.

Walter Hixson: A critical look at UA's priorities

WALTER HIXSON'S op-ed piece in Sunday's' Beacon Journal was more than a shot across the bow of the University of Akron administration. It hit the bow.

Hixson is a distinguished history professor who serves as president of the UA American Association of University Professors that is in overextended contract negotiations with the
school's front office. Some might argue that in his union role he would be expected to attack the administration for its alleged financial shortcomings. But that would merely summarily deny the validity of his criticism without giving it a wide- screen analysis.

Here are a few points in the Hixson column that should remain on the table:
The university's priorities have shifted from its self-proclaimed "landscape for learning" to a "landscape for earning". In the meantime, Hixson asserts, the new landscape "benefits a bloated administration and local contractors but no longer serves the best interests of the university to teach them."
Money budgeted for teaching and research has declined from 37 pct. in 2004 to 34 pct. in 2009. At the same time, student tuition as part of the university's income has risen from 32 pct. in 2002 to 43 pct. today. UA is also ranked near the bottom of salaries of associate and full professors - 10th and 11th among Ohio's state-supported schools.
So what do we make of this? Is UA failing as an attractive campus for educational talent that is heading somewhere else? Is it losing its competitive edge as it further engages in a massive building program on the campus rather than human talent?

As a rule, university administrations think corporately and resist responding openly to public criticism other than, at best, a canned statement from a beleaguered media information department.

Don't the points made by Hixson and other critics (yes, there are others) call for a forthcoming response from President Proenza and certainly from the Board of Trustees that has ratified the administration's initiatives ? Has the UA become top-heavy with management with vice presidents reporting to vice presidents?

Is there anyone on the board willing to take a serious look at the financial as well as image problems? Hixson's Sunday column should serve as the road map for anyone still in doubt about UA's need for accountability. After all, it is a public university.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

At this rate, the future was yesterday

HOW OPTIMISTIC can we be about the future of a nation that refuses to act decisively on its most critical domestic issues? Ho, Ho, Ho. Not very. The issues are plain to see: the raging costs of health care, global warming, the environment, education, the widening gulf between rich and poor, Wall Street - all of these and others have have created a caustic political divide that won't be bridged in this generation, nor maybe the next.

The problem is, sound doesn't travel in a vacuum. Any reasonable attempt to invite the Party of No into the mainstream of rational discussion is futile, as President Obama has finally learned the hard way. When you have a phalanx of racial, religious and broadcast crackpots barging in at every progressive idea on the table, what will change the landscape? I can't think of anything. The old concept of nation-building is now a concept of nation-razing. Is that over-the-top logic? Well, how about this: A recent poll reported that 66 pct. of Republicans say they would vote for Sarah Palin for president. That's the vacuum where sound dies.

Palin and many of her righteous rightists scoff at global warming as evidence mounts that some South Pacific islands live under the constant threat of flooding from rising sea waters. As the Arctic icecap melts, polar bears are slimmer these days as they amble about for food and safer havens. You don't have to be a friend of polar bears to realize that something quite serious is happening. The anti-warming gang sniffs that it is "junk science" when a great majority of scientists insists that an oncoming catastrophe is probable. On the other hand, even the Bible suggests the planet will not be around forever. Should we be planning for that day?

For too many politicians, the future of the planet and your grandchildren doesn't matter beyond the next election as the ascendent cash-flow lobbyists do the thinking for their political recipients. It has been shown that a fair number of senators and congressmen who oppose health-care reform are doing the bidding for their caregivers on K Street. The powerful lobbies will be the last groups standing as the planet disappears.

With few exceptions the national media that once boasted of James Reston, Ed Murrow and Walter Cronkite have not only been political patsies within the prescribed ideological guidelines of their corporate owners, but also have fashioned an entirely new world of scatterbrained stars like Palin, Michele Bachmann and Joe Lieberman whose virulent mediocrity has carried them a long way on the national media dole. Bachmann, you may recall, asked her cheering throngs to cut their wrists if that's what it took to stop health care reform. This week she shouted at a D.C. rally that the anti-reform crowd had formed the charge of the light brigade. It became necessary to remind her later that the charge of the British cavalry into the Russian lines was one of the dumbest and most disastrous military decisions on record.

If there is faint hope that the we will survive all of this, maybe it will come from what Conan Doyle dismissively said of the new art of his day: "One should put one's shoulder to the door and keep out insanity all we can."

Well, it's worth a try.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The 'Joe' complex is getting to me

FOLKS, I'M getting a "Joe" complex. Mention Joe to me during this Christmas season and I cringe. I know you're not talking about Mary's husband. My complex began during the 2008 presidential campaign when John McCain used Joe the Plumber to fill in the wide gaps of his uninspired campaign. After the election, I figured that was the end of that nonsense. But now we have Joe the Zelig Lieberman. And it tells you something about the awful state of American politics today.

The current Joe is a pathetic human being who has moled way into the Democratic caucus and held it captive while he does the minority Republicans' dirty work. However, as he has continued to pull aces from his sleeve, the word has finally sunk in to the spent Good Samaritans among the Democrats that you wouldn't dare hand him a pin in the midst of gas filled birthday balloons. How can you trust a guy who spent this week condemning a Medicare expansion that he was championing 3 months ago? With his talent for bait-and-switch, he could have taken on the entire Medici family.

But now, finally, he is getting a taste of his own foul medicine. There are calls that he be recalled from office, although that is more symbolic than realistic. Connecticut does not provide for recalls. Rabbis have beseeched him to get out of the way of the health care reform bill. The Connecticut on-line news papers have riddled him with invective. Protestors have shown up to picket his home. Unkind things are being said about his wife, Hadassah. His rubbery smile has become a whimper.

His response is not surprising. He's being victimized by his enemies, he says. He's only serving his conscience. That's the Pat Robertson gambit: the evil people are victimizing Christians.

Joe doubtless knows more about what's in the Bible than I do. But I do know that somewhere it says, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Right, Joe? But not soon enough.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ohio Senate: Life on the lifeless track

I SELDOM WRITE about the Ohio legislature. I have found the place to be a bore. I know. Those senators and house members in Columbus shape our daily lives, from taxes to such diversions as slot machines. For their part-time labors they are well paid and receive other benefits that those of us back home seldom see. On many days they predictably sit around doing nothing at all.

As Plain Dealer columnist Tom Suddes rudely pointed out on Sunday, ignoring the minor courtesies you might expect for the near-unemployed, of the 219 bills introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate, only three made their way to the governor. And as Suddes, a veteran of seizing indolent politicians by the neck, also pointed out, they did give a hint of exhalation by forwarding to Gov. Strickland a measure to create an 18-member War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, an event still three years away. Bless 'em! It was bipartisan. That will give them a little something to write home about when the next check arrives in their $60,584 a year payday.

Meantime, the sedentary senators don't seem to be in a hurry in plugging up a desperately current $850 million hole in the state budget, creating an aching impasse that is stalled on the issue of whether to delay a tax cut for Ohioans. You'd think they are trying to resolve the issues in Cornelius Vanderbilt's will. A foolish Ohio tax cut should be a no-brainer for the GOPers to go along with Democrats who insist it would further deepen the state's budgetary woes. But Republicans are genetically wedded to such dumb considerations. And who knows? Since they are term-limited, some may even move on to Congress to advance their troubled concepts of tax math.

All of this led Beacon Journal Statehouse columnist Dennis Willard to report that there is still a lot of gravy in doing next to nothing down in Columbus. In addition to the lawmakers' base salary for a few days a week, they are entitled to huge tax deductions by various self-serving devices amounting to the efforts of living ghosts. Legislators not only get tax breaks for days they are in session but also for those in-between idle days if the legislature adjourns for four or fewer days. They also qualify for deductions on holidays and weekends.

Willard figures it's possible for a state senator to reap $55,144 in tax deductions if he or she lives outside of Columbus. That would make the tax burden akin to that of the underemployed. Depreciation will likely come next.

None of this accounting might have surfaced if the Senate had been doing what it's paid to do.
It seldom does.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Joe lit up the health-care industry's cigars Sunday

WELL, Sen . Joe Lieberman must have gone to bed quite pleased with himself Sunday night. He succeeded, as is his wont, in making headlines all over the Internet as well as the New York Times as the potential destroyer of the health care reform bill. It reaffirmed his image as the Zelig-in-Chief in the wearying months-long congressional debate, telling Senate Majority leader Harry Reid eyeball-to eyeball that the bill hasn't made enough concessions to Republicans so he will join a filibuster to stop it in his tracks. Concessions to Republicans? And Joe considers himself a deeply religious man!

The Connecticut Independent (Huh!) has become an expert at blackmailing the Democratic leadership while retaining a committee chairmanship in the Democratic caucus. My hunch is that he will continue to play this ugly role until the November 2010 election, counting on a Republican senate majority that will swab him with political gravy. Inasmuch as he's already forfeited his honor, he's got nothing worthwhile to lose.

Meantime, we are told that poor women are being denied cancer screenings in a growing number of states whose health-care funds are shrinking. In Ohio, for example, the Cancer Society reported that a $2.5 million allocation in 2008-09 for such screening has been cut to$700,000 in 2009-10. It's a brutal thought, but as the opponents of health care reform might shrug and tell you, "You just can't keep everybody from dying."

And if you woke up Monday morning with a rotten odor in the air, that was from the cigars that the folks at the insurance companies and pharmaceuticals lit up to celebrate their guy Lieberman's careful attention to their requests.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

McCain:'nice guy' turned critic

CAN WE ALL recall the noble storyline of John McCain's failed campaign to win the presidency? He cast himself as the Great Emancipator who would free the Congress of its ugly bonds of partisanship. No issue would be so divisive that he couldn't find a way to work out a consensus for the good of the nation. He offered that pledge with benign assurances, a friendly smile and a full guarantee that it would happen if he were in the Oval Office. He was a Dr. Welby with political ambition.

To express his gratitude, Obama turned up at a dinner for McCain soon after the election and declared, "There are few Americans who understand this need for common purpose and common effort better than John McCain."

The president's math was flawed. There is one fewer today. A year into the Obama presidency, McCain has become a thuggish partisan critic of the Administration's policies. POLITICO`recounted the McCain record and it referred to the shifty Arizonan as "critic-in-chief."

POLITICO WRITERS Jonathan Martin and Manu Raju observed:
"For years, McCain relished being an outsider and a maverick, a style that often led to battles with his own party's leadership. Today, for reasons that friends and McCain observers say could range from unresolved anger to concern for his right flank as he seeks re-election to genuine dismay about Obama's agenda, he is helping lead a fiery crusade of GOP loyalists against Democratic priorities - and irked some of his Democratic colleagues in the process."
He has long been known to have an explosive temper, which was carefully suppressed during the campaign. Forced sincerity didn't come easily, beginning with his robotic opening TV speech to reach out to an audience wider than his home state's Grand Canyon. Whatever corrective action his handlers took, it didn't get much better in the following months.

The problem with McCain and his Republican colleagues remains: How could a war hero POW from the ruggedly correct Southwest lose to an upstart African American from Chicago? How, indeed?

The question doubtless continues to eat at McCain in the twilight of his political career - as well as lock-stepping a Republican Party that refuses by words and deeds to recognize that historical trends are becoming far more decisive against a party wedded to white politics.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Alas, Editor & Publisher is dead!

AS A YOUNG reporter for an Indiana newspaper I sold my first freelance story to Editor & Publisher magazine for $10. For the week that my check arrived, my income had increased 14 pct. I was ecstatic. I remembered that happy moment this week with the report that E&P , the industry publication that had made its way into every newspaper office in the country, died on Thursday after more than a century of serving its ever-shrinking newspaper base. When an important industry publication turns off the lights it is another sad reflection of the growing death toll of its clients.

UA-AAUP conract talks in home stretch

UPDATE: Negotiations between the University of Akron and the AAUP on a new three-year contract may not produce an agreement by next Tuesday, when the current contract expires. "We're in intensive negotiations with a mediator and I'm hopeful," says Walter Hixson, the AAUP president at UA. But a big issue remains - faculty pay. The AAUP is seeking $6.4 million economic package spread over three years; and the UA administration is locked in on "zero zero, zero," he said, noting the the university is much less competitive with other state universities in economic benefits. The AAUP has also called for the recognition of domestic partnerships by UA - an initiative rejected by the other side on "moral grounds," says Hixson,

Without an agreement by Tuesday, the issue will go into a fact-finding phase to determine the validity of the terms sought by either side. . If there is no agreement by mid-January, look for a strike vote , Hixon says, which could lead to a disruption that neither side wants.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Have you 'we-weed' up lately?

Sarah Palin, the Neo-Webster of Wasilla, claims critics of her Op-Ed piece in the Washington P0st (in which she declared global warming was junk science) got all "we-weed" up. What the hell is that supposed to mean? I couldn't find the term in any of my dictionaries, so Sarah has broken new ground on her insightful use of the English language. Does it mean wetting one's pants? And she's running for president? That, I'd say, is reason enough to wet one's pants.

Another new GOP face on elections board

CIRCLE YOUR calendar, folks: On the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Summit County Republican Party's Executive Committee will elect a successor to Jack Morrison Jr. on the Board of Elections. It won't rank among the gravest events under way in the world, but it should be a little interesting to those who keep track of the Republican comings and goings at the board, none of them free of contention. Chairman Alex Arshinkoff says it will be a public meeting at the party headquarters at 520 South Main Street. What he isn't saying is whether he has a new board member in mind.

"My responsibility," Alex says, "is that we have a credible candidate." And the qualifications?
"The person must have a strong management background, understand the law and be active in the party."

If you connect all of those dots, we will see a business- and corporate-oriented lawyer who has always returned the party envelope with the sort of contribution that would befit a person of means. That's just a guess, but can you translate the profile any other way? I doubt that the new member will express shock that he was elected on the spot. Political business isn't conducted that way.

By the way, it should be a free ride for the Arshinkoff forces on the election of a new board member. State Sen. Kevin Coughlin, who has tormented Arshinkoff in the past, tells me there will be no effort to impede the vote. "He has a handpicked executive committee," Coughlin said of the chairman, "and we're not involved in this one."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

With Lee Fisher, he's talking experience

Lee Fisher's appearance at the Akron Press Club this week concluded the club's program series of U.S. senatorial candidates that served more as preliminaries to next May's Ohio primary election. Fisher, the Democratic lieutenant governor and former Ohio attorney general, carefully crafted a talk that, much like an experienced chess player, moved confidently from an opening gambit to a solid endgame and one didn't have to listen that attentively to know that he is marketing his governmental experience to the fullest in his encounter with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

"I've been on the ground doing the things that we've been talking about," he said, noting that he has been working as the state' economic development chief during a period of deep economic stress nationally and in Ohio. On that score, one doesn't need a high priced political guru to point to the most effective option to win the voters hearts these days: J-O-B-S. Fisher spent a good portion of his talk on the topic., voicing a number of economic initiatives he supports. For example, some relief could come from giving tax credits to the businesses capable of spurring employment, he said. And no tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

He also sent a strong signal that the Democrats will not let anybody forget that Rob Portman, the leading Republican candidate in the field, came out of the Bush administration as the president's trade and budget director - an administration that left a mountainous economic mess. He characterized Portman as a "nice guy" who was an architect of "policies that harmed millions of workers."

On this score, Brunner, his Democratic primary opponent, will have to play catch-up to Fisher in articulating the clear differences between Democrats and Republicans in fixing the economy. Although she is running well behind Fisher in fund-raising, she is nonetheless a popular figure in the state, particularly among women voters. In her talk to the Press Club, she spoke more as an efficient Secretary of State than as a senatorial candidate. That will gain little traction as the campaign wears on.

On the Republican side, although Portman is the Republican establishment's choice , there has to be unease in that camp over the fact that Ganley, a wealthy auto dealer, is committing millions of dollars to a campaign drawing the attention of the party's right-wingers. It could sap campaign funds from Portman that would be more productive against the Democrat in the November. As they have already demonstrated, the Tea Partyers will not go quietly. It promises to be a boisterous campaign. I may find myself watching it.

Look for the opening bell to ring clearly on both sides in January, offering fewer than four months for a made-for-TV campaign. Will Sarah Palin show up for a Ganley rally. Better chance of that happening than George Bush showing up for a Portman shindig.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Palin-Lieberman dream ticket?

SARAH PALIN'S book tour in Iowa over the week end prompted her to continue to drop hints that she will be a serious candidate for president in 2012. Indeed there seems to be no hesitancy by some of the pundits to suggest that she's already a candidate. She's hanging out with her loyal enthusiasts wherever she turns up as a literary novice, many of whom quite likely will never turn a page in her book. Just as well. Volumes have already been written itemizing the factual errors in her tome, which I gather is about rogues and stuff. Maybe she actually meant it to be a fantasy.

It appears the only question remaining as she reaps her own whirlwind around the country is who will be her running mate? (It's still 2009, but isn't this fun?) So allow me to speculate with the paid political analysts in the trade and suggest that the shortest list should be headed by Joe Lieberman, who would take no more than a few minutes to put on his game face if she looked in his direction.

Joe has been standing in the wings since he ran as Al Gore's sidekick in 2000. It was during his mock debate with Dick Cheney that Lieberman's talent as the deal-breaker with Gore became the vapid sideshow of the whole campaign. He spent so much time sucking up to Cheney that it was fair to consider whether George Bush had managed the preposterous tandem of two vice presidents on his ticket. It also added to the senator's luster as a chameleon ready to emerge in another campaign down the road. Republican, Democrat, it didn't matter. Still doesn't.

You may recall from the last episode that Joe is puffed up these days to block the health care reform bill because he cares so much about people. It gives him the kind of prominence that the the Palin crowd can't ignore. At the same time, Palin, who has not yet outgrown her tales of the Alaskan steppes, needs a guy with his experience and brand on a national ticket. It could be billed as Beauty and the Least, and the Tea Baggers would arrive with signs and epithets and all while Joe grinned from ear to ear, satisfied that somebody finally values him as much as he values himself.

Clip and save. Remember where you first heard of this confluence of two religiously devout candidates. It would be an historic ecumenical and gender moment in American politics spanning the nation from Juneau to Hartford, with maybe a moose or two in between.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Was Morrison's ouster a ground breaker?

IN THE WAKE of the Ohio Senate's dismissal of Jack Morrison from the University of Akron Board of Trustees, I don't know of another instance where a trustee has been removed from a campus board by political action. Was this the first time? Tell me if you know.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

He's the "dean," whether or not it is right.

IN THE WEEKS leading up to President Obama's high-risk decision for a surge in Afghanistan, we got a glimpse of the state of the national media from the "dean" of the Washington press corps, David Broder. Impatient for a decision by the president, the pater familias of pundits huffed:
"Given the reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision - whether or not it is right."
That one should end up in Bartlett's - whether or not it is wrong.

After all, winning isn't everything

LET'S PUT this one in the Heaven-can-wait category:

The swirl of speculation about the possible successor to Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis is building a case for Cincinnati Bearcats coach Brian Kelly, whose team was undefeated during the regular season. But there's reportedly resistance to the idea in some quarters because Kelly and his wife Paqui are "pro-choice". If so, does it mean that the same litmus test would apply to the players? You'd have to think it would only be fair.

UPDATE: Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Hayes writes that the Kelly controversy is "lighting up the message boards of what might be the most plugged-in fan base in the nation." Observes Hayes, who says the issue could be a "deal breaker":
"When you talk about a football coach being pro-choice, it usually means he reserves the right to punt or go for it on fourth down. In Notre Dame's case, it takes on a different meaning, which tells you how impossible athletic director Jack Swarbrick's mission has become."
The flap recalls the time a former great ND coach, Frank Leahy, was advised by a priest about a coaching decision. Leahy calmly reminded the priest that the latter deals with spiritual matters, but it's the coach's sole mission to run the football team.

Moral: Re the pro-choice issue over Kelly, as ye sow so shall ye reap.

When you

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another way to "take back the country"

THIS MAY SHOCK some of you, but there are moments when I find myself in partial accord with the teabaggers when they wave their signs and shout that they want their country back (from you-know-who). I, too, want my country back, not from you-know-who but rather from the congressmen who run their offices 24/7 as a federal depository for health care industry cash. It is running into the millions these days, and like that robber Willie Sutton, who found banks to be his most rewarding nest eggs of choice, the Hill people in Congress take the lobbyists' money because it is there.

So those Republicans (who are being served well in the Senate by some Democratic colleagues) who are in for the long haul to defeat reform have good reason to keep stalling. Can you imagine the hit their daily cash flow would take if they were no longer useful to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry? The K Street handouts have become so scandalously common that you have to wonder why the pols can't be a little less conspicuous about their consumption. Maybe a ham for Christmas and round-trip airfare to the world's most fashionable golf courses. They aren't the worst abuses on the planet and a little R&R for our hard-working public servants might do them and the country some good.

These guys even raised hell about mammograms , which they would never equate with prostate cancer exams! When Sen. Barbara Mikulski's amendment expanding preventive health care for women went to a vote, it passed easily with only 3 Rrepublicans crossing the aisle to support the measure. Two thirds of the Republican yeas were women, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Do you think the lords of their manor will try to explain that one at their next women's auxiliary speech ? It was left to Mikulski to set the whole issue into the working context. She said, ever so incisively: "For many insurance companies simply being a woman is a pre-existing condition." I wish I had said that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ohio Senate: Finally, enough is enough

NOW THAT THE Ohio Senate has persuasively (30-3!) stripped Akron Lawyer Jack Morrison of his seat on the University of Akron Board of Trustees, might he now conclude that there are times to fight and times to go quietly to your room? Ever since his convictions July 29 on two ethics charges that grew out of a real estate deal between his son and UA, his ouster seemed to be inevitable. The only question was how long would he remain on the board as he challenged the court's ruling and state officials, including Gov. Srickland, at every turn. We now know.

Not that he has quite returned to his room. He still is fighting Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's decision to remove him from the Summit County Board of Elections, where he sits as the chairman. Maybe Morrison is simply the tenacious bulldog as he has been described by others. Or maybe it was a case of political arrogance by an influential Republican activist and a generous contributor to the county party. He is, after all, GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's lawyer.

Although the debacle began with a couple of misdemeanor ethics charges, it fleshed out in a nose count on the UA Board. Morrison's dismissal from the board would give the Democratic governor the windfall of an appointee, and a 5-4 Democratic majority when the next seat opens in 2010.

Political considerations? Elementary, my dear Watson. (Holmes never said that, but you get my point.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The only thing we have to fear is Tom Coburn

THE DEPTHS OF the Republican opposition to President Obama's health care reform plan was downgraded to the fallout shelter during the Senate floor debate on the issue. It was left to Sen. Tom Coburn, the arch conservative Republican obstetrician from Oklahoma to lay out the deadliest end of the spectrum when he rose to warn Americans' of their impending doom if the bill passes.

"I have a message for you," the doctor declared. "You're going to die sooner."

For his big dose of fear-mongering to unsuspecting Americans, Coburn easily wins the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (Gall) award. And I was naive enough to think that things couldn't get worse in the war on health care reform. They have.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Re Weis: Better yet, the check is in the mail

THE FIRING OF Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who reportedly has $10- to $18 million remaining on his contract, drew this epitaph from ND's president, Rev. John I. Jenkins:
"I am most appreciative of Coach Weis for his service to Notre Dame and our community. He and his family have my prayers and best wishes."
It's a start.

Clevelandness strikes again

UNLIKE THE NIGHT before Christmas, there are a lot of creatures stirring around in Cleveland these days. I'm not referring to the fans' disenchantment with the Browns. A lot more troubling than that. It is concerned with geography. Where, everybody with an official title is asking, will they build the proposed medical mart? As political controversies have been known to grow and linger up on the lake, the details aren't that easy to comprehend for an outsider (and probably not a few insiders, either!).

The newspapers reported last April that Cuyahoga county and MMPI, a Chicago company, had agreed in ink to an agreement that included a downtown site for the $425 million project and embrace the debilitated convention center. The following month the city agreed to sell the Public Auditorium and the convention center beneath it to the county for $20 million. Studies followed to the point where the major construction company declared the auditorium to be in terrible shape. And in November, MMPI, which is being paid $333,333 a month in the meantime, shifted to a new site a couple of blocks away to cut costs. That's the shortest version I could create. Suffice it to say that Plain Dealer Architecture Critic Steven Litt referred to the MMPI's new plan as a "bombshell".

Considering the reaction from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Litt wasn't far off the page. The mayor even canceled a trade mission to Bulgaria to have a hands-on role in the unraveling of the issue. He clearly isn't happy about what has now developed into a new prologue to whatever comes next. The gene pool doubtless now includes the city, the county, the Chicago company, the downtown landowners, wary politicians, sidewalk vendors and the every-present speculators. As Litt summed up the reaction to MMPI's substitute plan, "The problem is that what's best for MMPI now may not be best for Cleveland."

Probably not. But you would think that Clevelanders would be used to such recurring tussles. County Commissioner Tim Hagain once sat in a campaign hotel room on mayoral election night and lamented the defeat of his buddy Ed Feighan to Dennis Kucinich and lamented that Lake Erie water had something to do with it. "It's gotta be in the water," he said in despair.

But as the late Chicago columnist Mike Royko used to explain the Cubs' regular defeats as "Cubness," I would argue that the contentious city on the lake is again suffering from Clevelandness, in which nobody ever wins. Just you wait and see. As usual, there are simply too many moving parts.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sarah and the Nashville Sound

Going back to Nashville, thinking about the whole thing
Guess you gotta run sometimes
Maybe I'm a fast train rolling down the mountain
Watching all my life go by.
From "Nashville" lyrics

The first national convention of the Tea Party Nation, otherwise known in the vernacular simply as Teabaggers, has been scheduled for Nashville and if you can come up with more than $1,000 for basic $549 admission plus hotel expenses in February in this troubled economy you will be eligible to attend the keynote speech by Sarah Palin. You might also be lucky enough to prompt her to autograph Glenn Beck's forehead and draw a dark mustache on a photo of a grimacing John McCain.

Although Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, seems to be getting equal billing for the event in Grand Ole Opryland, don't let that fool you. The Nashville Sound for the three-day event (Feb. 4-6) will be the echo of Sarah Palin juicing up the troops for a mad dash against Democrats and so-called moderate Republicans. As the song says, Guess you gotta run sometimes. Unless she flames out upon striking the earth's atmosphere, she's running.

Knowing these flapping geese, I'd guess the convention will take names, addresses and bank accounts of the loyalists on hand while staging a show trial that the networks will be duty-bound to breathlessly report. Beck will need an extra ecstasy of it all. George Will may even return to bow ties and look still more troubled.

The big question is, what will the GOP do about the silliness of it all? President Obama and the Democrats are used to hearing this sort of thing. But so-called moderate Republicans will have to explain to constituents why he or she is not part of the Teabagger Revolution. Although the Democrats are showing some wear and tear despite their majorities in Congress, the divisive Teabaggers could become their greatest source of energy.

Got to get off the train here , folks, and wait for the album.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For GOP Scouts: Loyal, thrifty, reverent, scary

AS IF REPUBLICAN pols didn't have enough to keep them busy these days, there's now word that some predatory members on the Republican National Committee have a mind to confront their candidates with a modern version of those scary loyalty oaths of decades ago. In short, they are insisting on adherence to a list of fail-safe conservative ideas that have long escaped the cutting room floor. Violators, I'd guess, will be accused of ideological adultery and probably disowned.

Some critics of the party's rightwing adventure into self-profiling refer to it as a litmus test. But the inquisitors have placed what they consider to be a nobler title on their plan. They are calling it, "Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates," and if there's anybody young enough on the RNC to remember all of that in one sitting, it might have a chance for success. On the other hand, the GOP sleuths might only be kidding. You would hope so.

I can only conclude that somebody must have picked up a tattered copy of the Birch Society's Blue Book at a yard sale, issued by its late founder Robert Welch. Replace Welch's notion of an insidious domestic Communist threat (as well as showily patriotic assaults on unnamed traitors and socialized medicine) with "socialist" and I don't find much difference between the Birchers mob-like passions of the late 6os into the 70s - and the Teabaggers of today. I was reminded of that again when a government official lost his job after Glenn Beck dragged him through mud.

Well, those Republicans who have apologetically cowered before Limbaugh have only themselves to blame. Politics have never been an arena for polite society. But you can ask what has the party done in recent years to avoid the Frankenstein that it created on the hard right that is now threatening to consume its own people, litmus test included. The Becks, O'Reillys, Kristols, Bachmanns et al have had fun while it has lasted, but now the GOP faces threats of a third-party movement that has already begun in Florida. In February, the Teabaggers will stage their first national convention with such headliners as Sarah Palin and Bachmann. It will be more than a moment for the exchange of valentines.

GOP candidates have also stood silent against the bizarre ranters at the Tea Parties who lowered their brand still further with over-the-top misbehavior at public meetings. None has so demeaned their tactics more than the mocking outburst of laughter and hoots by a a group that dubbed itself the Chicago Tea Party Patriots at a recent Chicago town hall meeting. They targeted a couple who rose to lament that their daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild died in the absence of health insurance.

Oh. I haven't mentioned the 10-point test for true conservatives, but you can probably name the talking points: free markets, taxes, federal debt, guns, overseas containment of the bad guys with whatever it takes, marriage contracts, labor rules, immigration etc. One study by Think Progress has already identified 40 Republican congressmen who couldn't pass the exam.
As a counter-test of the profilers I might suggest challenging them to recite the alphabet in the proper sequence.

I've just read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. The historian wrote that the Romans considered the Barbari (anyone not a Roman) as an "undistinguished, matted mass of Others, not terrifying, just troublemakers, annoyances, things one would rather not have to deal with..."

I thought that it might well describe the crazy profilers on the RNC. On the other hand, for their fellow-traveling Teabaggers, do you think that description might be too kind?


Another chapter in Morrison epic!

THE BEACON JOURNAL's Dennis Willard reports today that Jack Morrison has now moved his case to the Ohio Supreme Court, still another chapter in his epic effort to demonstrate that an immovable object can overcome the evil effects of an irresistible force. In insisting that he was wronged by two ethics convictions in a court of law last July, the Akron lawyer and University of Akron trustee is moving on more legal fronts to protect his honor from court-decided guilt.

In the meantime, he has ignored repeated calls from the governor on down to remove himself from an embarrassed Board of Trustees (and University) as well as his seat on the Summit County Board of Elections.

But that raises other questions about a simple case of guilt or innocence. You might understand how any person would want to clear the slate of a couple of convictions. But how that bears on his persistence in hanging on to his two politically appointed jobs despite official demands that he do otherwise remains a mystery.

If his honor is at stake, that question won't be resolved by standing (or sitting!) rigidly pat but rather by a court decision that is handed down on his appeal. Are there other reasons apart from his hope that his ethics convictions will be reversed? As a powerful politician who is Summit County Republican Alex Arshinkoff's lawyer, isn't there a point where guilt or innocence intersect with the county party? As Arshinkoff, who has remained rather silent on the sidelines, once noted, if Republican Morrison leaves the board, his replacement would be Democrat. And is it mere coinicidence, as some legislators have noted, that State Rep. Tim Grendell, an Arshinkoff ally, has entered the fray to delay action on a Senate vote to kick Morrison off the board. Grendell, a teabagging Chesterland politician, says more time is needed for "fact checking". Good grief!

That's where we are and all of us could use a few more facts on whatever political subplots are in play.

UPDATE: A ruling judge appointed by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has upheld her demand that Morrison be removed from the Summit County Board of Elections. But she has given Morrison until Dec. 4 to respond to the ruling.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You can't put lunar water in my jalopy!

I HONESTLY don't know what to make of NASA's report that it has discovered 26 gallons of water on the moon. Taking care not to mislead earthlings that its revelation ranked anywhere near finding Martians at home on their own planet, NASA did award itself a star for advancing science a few more trickles into the universe. One of its experts even suggested that such pioneering could very well lead human beings into a lunar sanctuary in the event that we would have to evacuate the earth after a nuclear disaster. It would even give us an option if the Teabaggers assume total control of a vanishing civilized society.

The NASA report might have been easier to consider if oil had been discovered instead. In minutes, Iraq's s oil wells would have been abandoned for more lucrative deposits deep down in the moon's craters. McDonald's would soon lock in and Glenn Beck would look for new fans lured by another book about loony socialists. ("A siren call," is how the Hartford Courant described the moon's lure.)

Seriously, we have come a long way since Copernicus. Even the Vatican, which once condemned the Polish astronomer for declaring the earth was not the center of the universe, is heavily into astronomy. It recently staged a "study week" for astronomers and other specialists who might offer a new perspective on the mysteries of the universe, explaining that the church has a stake in what might be happening out there and might find such knowledge useful to advance its own mission. It also wanted people to know that such initiatives prove that it is not "anti-science."

As the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, astronomer and scientific adviser to Pope Benedict XVI, explained the church's celestial position to the New York Times: "Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can't put limits on God's creative freedom. Why can't we speak of a 'brother extraterrestrial'? It would still be part of creation."

Still, as a pragmatic earthling I would be much more impressed with oil. My 16-year old station wagon wouldn't get very far on 26 gallons of water. In fact, oil or water, my machine is doubtless headed into one of those black holes in space that so fascinates the astronomers these days. With that in mind, I urge NASA to keep looking.

Health insurance, no. Afghanistan, yes.

IF THE NEWS report are accurate, President Obama will foolishly soon announce an expansion of our presence in Afghanistan that, combined with Iraq, has already cost the U.S. nearly a trillion dollars and the tragic loss of thousands of lives. I wonder: How many of the hawkish Republican and Blue Dog bean-counters who oppose extending health insurance coverage to
Americans because we can ill-afford the costs will now rise up to use the same argument against the endless conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq? Oh? Should I repeat the question?

Monday, November 23, 2009

How do you get a job like this?

FROM THE DECEMBER issue of Harper's Index:
"Projected amount that lawyers and other advisers will earn from the bankruptcy proceeding of Lehman Brothers: $1,398,000,000"
That's nearly $1.4 billion, folks! Even these days, life can be beautiful on Wall Street.

John Seiberling, abortion, then and now

IN WHAT SEEMS to be centuries ago, the late Rep. John Seiberling of Akron leaned over to me in his election night headquarters and in a dry matter-0f-fact wisp of a voice said: "So much for abortion." He had just glided through another successful congressional campaign with a landslide over an anti-abortion candidate. He wasn't boasting. There was no sneer in his tone. He just wanted to point out that his constituents were assessing a quality about him as their representative that was more important than his liberal views on abortion rights. A former corporate lawyer with a corporate family name, Seiberling's political career enjoyed a deep public trust. (After a Barberton Labor Day parade, a woman cheered when he approached the microphone at Lake Anna and exclaimed to me: "I don't agree with his position on gun control, but I still like him."

Today, I would have to disagree with Seiberling: the abortion issue is more alive than ever, overriding the health reform debate, sending threats to those congressmen who supported it to punish them at the polls.

And today comes word that U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, was told by his Catholic bishop that he was not eligible for communion because he was pro-choice. That sort of threat has happened to others, including then-presidential candidate John Kerry. A former Notre Dame football player sat across the table and explained to me that although he had great respect for Kerry, he couldn't vote for him because of abortion. An engaging Akron priest told me in his office that he had marched in protest against the Viewnam war, but abortion was in no way open to discussion. For some, the line of demarcation cannot be crossed. etc. etc.etc.

By the way, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence says he didn't really instruct priests to not give communion to the congressman, but rather he only requested that the priest deny it to Kennedy. You know how that works.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Joe's a multiple choice politician

JOE LIEBERMAN, the protean politician, a.k.a Zelig, continues to turn up in public to defend his thesis that (1) he wants health care reform because there are unfortunate souls among us who don't have insurance and desperately need it and (2) he will support a filibuster that will essentially kill any reforms in the current congress because his conscience tells him to do it. That sort of thinking is commonly called cognitive dissonance and Lieberman is in the top tier of those who manage to get by each day on their never-ending reliance on psychobabble.

For one thing, Joe knows as well as anybody that to kill the bill and start all over again would take us back to where we've been before - for decades, and may not return until long after he will be enjoying his retirement on a senator's many perks. Where his conscience fails him is his insistence in protecting the very health care industry with which his wife was closely associated for more than three decades.

But he , like some of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle who have the same conflicts of interest, don't allow that to trouble his spirit. He just soldiers on, wherever a TV camera crosses his path, repeating his credo day after day, always full of warm reassurances that he only wants to do what's right for America. But the real problem is that political hypocrites like Lieberman are what's wrong with America.

Friday, November 20, 2009



(From the front page of the New York Times) ...
"Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, has decided not to run for governor, according to people who have been told of the decision." Page A27
News that the whole world wasn't waiting for...

Coughlin: Morrison's a "tenacious lawyer"

TO FOLLOW UP: Kevin Coughlin, one of two Akron area state senators who are calling for the ouster of Jack Morrison (see previous post), says Morrison has a reputation of being a "tenacious lawyer" who is unlikely to gives seats on the University of Akron Board of Trustees and the Summit County Board of Elections without a fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here's how Coughlin viewed the political ramifications of the issue when I spoke to him:

Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff (never any love lost between Coughlin and Alex) has convinced others in his grasp that if Democrats take over the majority of the trustees, "everybody gets fired - including Ted Mallo [UA vice president and general counsel] and Ted Curtis [vice president of capital planning, architect]. Coughlin further maintains that if the full Senate votes on it, Morrison loses. His prediction: The issue will be resolved by Dec. 1.

Although Morrison is Arshinkoff's lawyer, Alex has repeatedly told me that he is a mere bystander in the Morrison case, but he has acknowledged that it would be a setback for the party if Republican Morrison left a vacancy that would permit the governor to appoint a Democrat. Coughlin agrees that Arshinkoff isn't in the driver's seat on this one. On the other hand, Coughlin sees a greater setback for the party if the issue drags on. "The Democrats will have a big issue to use against the Republicans, just as they did with Tom Noe." Noe, you may remember, was the powerhouse Ohio Republican fund-raiser who was convicted in the so-called coin-gate scandal of several corruption charges in 2006 and sent off to prison.

Unlike old soldiers, funny how these matters neither die NOR fade away at election time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Morrison case: I think I'll wait for the movie

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! (And don't say I didn't warn you.)

The Ohio Senate has delayed action on a vote to decide whether Jack Morrison should be dumped from the University of Akron Board of Trustees. The Akron lawyer has found an ally in Sen. Tim Grendell, the hard-right Chesterland Republican and teabagger who was once described by the Plain Dealer as a voice of the "lunatic fringe." Grendell stalled action to allow more time for "fact-checking". That, of course, makes teabagger sense. After all it has been only four months since a court convicted Morrison on a couple of ethics violations - a period in which everyone from the governor to the secretary of state to legislative Republicans and Democrats have asked him to find another line of public work.

Among them are Akron Sen. Tom Sawyer, a Democrat, and Cuyahoga Falls Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Republican. Sawyer says Senate President Bill Harris, a Republican, would like to resolve the issue promptly, but he's also trying to avoid an "unseemly" trial in the Senate that would embarrass the legislative body. Such a trial, Sawyer said, would be unprecedented.

"Bill Harris is a man of decency and honor," Sawyer tells me, "and although we have disagreed politically on some issues, I know that he is personally trying to avoid an embarrassing trial in the Senate to retry a case that has already been tried. Morrison has been found guilty in a court of law."

At the same time, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is pushing ahead to remove Morrison from his seat on the Summit County Board of Elections. In short, Morrison is standing pat on his argument that the state his trampling on his right to due process. Brunner doesn't at all think so.

What began as a routine case that would have been concluded for a person of less political influence and wealth has now become a running spectator sport as he holds a bipartisan army at bay.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rabbi Fish: The Lieberman 'incongruity'..

HAVING REFERRED to Sarah Palin's travel adventures in the previous post, it seems to be a natural fit to continue here with Joe Lieberman's latest setback in his ubiquitous road show to become somebody's - anybody's - vice presidential nominee in 2012. Joe has tried it a number of ways, as a theocratic conscience-driven politician, as a Republican in a Democrat's clothes, as an independent in the sneaky attire of Republicans and Democrats, and as an unsuccessful presidential (2004)and vice presidential candidate (2000). Now he may have stretched his luck a bit too far in his home state of Connecticut. More than 70 of the state' religious leaders, Christian and Jewish, want him to put his spiritual commitments where his mouth is and endorse the health care reform bill.

Lieberman, who says he is an "observant Jew," insists he not only opposes it but also is committed to supporting a filibuster to impede its passage. He considers it a well spent day's work for God.

But Rabbi Ron Fish, leader of the Concerned Clergy of Connecticut, has other ideas. Says Fish (courtesy of Think Progress): "In this case, Sen. Lieberman so regularly invokes his religion and his 'conscience' to support his positions that I felt it was important that we called him on the incongruity of his position on health care and his faith."

I think a better word, rabbi, is hypocrisy - which hasn't bothered Lieberman in the past and probably won't now. He wants to keep getting invited back to his caregivers at Fox News.

Palin bows to Beck: He's a bold effective hoot

SARAH PALIN, who is putting up more miles on her resume than Nellie Bly, managed an interview with Newsmax (which calls itself the "No. 1 conservative news agency on line") and added one more facet to her political mystique. When she was asked whether she would consider a presidential ticket with Glenn Beck, she replied (courtesy of Think Progress):
"I can envision a couple of different combinations, if ever I were to be in a position to really even seriously consider running for anything in the future, and I'm not there yet...But Glenn Beck I have great respect for. He's a hoot. He gets his message across in such a clever way. And he's so bold - I have respect for that. He calls it like he sees it, and he's, very, very, very effective."
Just for the hoot of it, Palin is the recipient of today's Grumpy Abe Lingusitic Lunacy (GALL) award. And pu-leeze, all of you socialist liberal communist nazis out there, don't lift a finger to discourage her. Not since the new transcontinental railroad started hauling circuses across the land have we witnessed so much comedy and drama under the big top.

With Beck, she's one hoot to another.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Morrison Saga lingers on and on and on...

THE BEACON JOURNAL'S editorial call on Monday for Jack Morrison to give up his seat on the University of Akron's Board of Trustees was the latest attempt to persuade him to leave short of trussing him up and wheeling him off the campus. Don't count on that happening any time soon, if ever. For months, Morrison, the Akron lawyer whose resume now includes two misdemeanor convictions on ethics charges, has been impervious to any suggestion by high ranking officials that he pack up and leave the UA board as well as the Summit County Board of Elections, where he is the chairman of the often rancorous four- member panel.

His critics have included Gov. Strickland, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, some Democrats and Republicans in the Ohio legislature and a silent cadre of trustees who whisper there there's not a damn thing they can do about it.
Morrison, an influential Republican who serves as the lawyer for the Summit County GOP, knows all of this quite well and assumes that so long as his conviction is being appealed, any attacks on his status as a UA trustee are, well...purely academic.

As everyone surely knows, his legal problems evolve from his son's purchase of a derelict home near the University's new football field and Father Morrison's interest- bearing loan to his son to underwrite the transaction for a house that has since been torn down after it was resold for a profit. The Ohio Ehtics Commission insisted that the elder Morrison was less than candid about these details.

Since July, when the court ruled against him, Morrison has drawn more attention in political and academic circles than one would expect of Sarah Palin, the newly arrived literary sensation who has been known to draw a crowd or two in Ohio, as elsewhere - in a losing cause.

Morrison is not really the only issue anymore. It's the negatives that he's heaped on the University simply by stonewalling. He probably correctly concludes that if the University can live with it, so can he.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Karl Rove: Self-styled protocol chief in exile

KARL ROVE, who treats political history as opaque tales on prehistoric cave walls, was at it again over the week end from his pulpit on Fox News. Karl was quite troubled that President Obama had engaged in a courteous bow before the Japanese emperor. Accusing Obama of being on a world-wide "apology tour," Rove sniffed that Obama "simply can't get it right" adding: I think it's best if American presidents do what they have always done - which is to stand for our small 'r' republican values and do not bow to monarchies."

Karl, care to join me in a brief review of what your "small r" presidents have done? Pay attention:
Ronald Reagan: Seen dozing during a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome. Reagan's assistant, Jim Kuhn, explained. sort of: "For some reason, the pope's voice has a hypnotic effect on the president."

George H.W. Bush: Threw up on the Japanese prime minister in 1992.
George W. Bush: Approached German Chancellor Angela Merkel from behind at an official meeting in 2008 and clawed both of her shoulders as she responded with pained surprise. Ha! Ha! (At least he didn't towel-snap her.)
(Just for the hell of it, Karl, you might try "getting it right" yourself in your Sunday sermons. The "r's" in your name just got smaller. )

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Ohio GOP wants your telephone number

FOR A POLITICAL PARTY that prides itself on rugged individualism and enforced privacy from government intruders as though the fate of empires depended on it, we now must turn to Columbus, Oh., for the latest word in snoopery from the Ohio Republican Party's front office. The party is defending itself in court from the Ohio Education Assn. for the GOP's deep-well attempt to gather up educators' telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and whatever else (no DNA this time) will help it take its message to the voters. State Republican chairman Kevin DeWine says he doesn't know what the fuss is about because the party is simply trying protect itself from the OEA's "lies and attacks." DeWine says his party wants to reach many other groups, including fishermen and farmers. I don't know what that's got to do with unfriendly teachers, but why not I.D. even infants while they're at it?

It does seem a little strange that as voters are bombarded by the media from all directions, he fears he could miss one or two teachers in Coshocton who haven't heard the latest word about Gov. Strickland and President Obama. A Columbus judge is taking all of this into account before moving on.

But there is obviously no agreement within the GOP on how far you can go - beyond the telephone directory and Google - to tell you more about your neighbor than you care to know. Rep. Michele Bachmann, the latest Republican rage from Minnesota, has noisily declared her scorn for census takers by saying, law or no law, she will bar the prowling socialists from her house.

In fairness to the other side, DeWine might at least agree to a trade that would have him release the names, email and home addresses, and license plate numbers of the many donors to his party. Fair is fair! Sometimes, even in politics.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mangini's Browns: Fourth down and Forty

WHAT CAN THIS diehard Steelers fan from Western Pennsylvania say about the Cleveland Browns that won't be irresponsibly offensive to their fans who have already decided that the team is offensive? I've been thinking about it for some time, but have always retreated from the role of an interloper in what is, after all, the worst stink on the lake since some overly sincere, if misguided, folks failed to recall Dennis Kucinich from his huge desk in City Hall. Fortunately for him, the enmity wasn't unanimous and he seems to be living reasonably well as a congressman and quadrennial presidential candidate. The same fate doesn't appear to be imminent for the Browns.

It's been tough on me, too, as friends from around the country assume that anyone living this close to Cleveland owes it to the city to root for the Browns. I've tried to point out their error but they simply conclude that I am in denial. It was that way, too, when we lived in Columbus and the neighbors reacted in shock when I told them I was planning to mow the lawn on the afternoons when the Buckeyes were pummeling their opponents. It wasn't enough to explain that I happened to be an alum of another Big 10 school, the University of Illinois, whose football team is rarely anything to brag about even though the school does have a very nice campus.

But I was emboldened to speak out about the Browns after hearing their soon- to- retire running back , Jamal Lewis, complain that Coach Mangini was driving the players "too hard". That may be, although it's not NFL friendly to criticize a coach in public. I think it would be more deferential to the boss to observe that receivers are paid to catch passes on those occasions when the quarterback succeeds in throwing the ball in their general direction. But being a good sport myself, unlike Mark Antony, I'm not here to bury Mangini nor praise him.

But I do want to give some moral support to the overwrought Browns fans who hate the Steelers for winning so much. What they don't know is that Steeler fans such as yours truly suffer desperately through an entire winning season, game by game, with the playoffs and Super Bowl at stake. It can be most unpleasant to see a single fumble or interception that could be an immediate signal that this one will be a defeat that you will long mourn. On game day when the team isn't on network TV, we watch the clock, trash the NY Times crossword, absently nibble lunch without having a clue to what's on the plate and head for a sports bar to watch our team for a couple of hours of sweaty palms.

To Browns fans I say: when you are pulling for a loser it isn't nearly as agonizing as it is when your team is a winner. Trust me. I speak from experience. I'm also a Pirates fan, if you know what I mean.

Swine flu and other mess-clearing events

IN A WORLD with so much gloom and doom it is sometimes too easy to overlook those who are still going to work every day to make it a better life for all of us. That is the story of the Italian inventor who, according to reports, has found a way to "avoid sacrificing your soul for your health." To demonstrate that the creativity of Leonardo DeVinci didn't die with his model flying machines, this fellow invented an automatic holy water dispenser that will lessen the threat of flu germs in Milan. The idea won't rank with Brunelleschi's dome or gelato, but it does demonstrate that with a great Italian cathedral, there is always a way to provide safe passage through the flu season, if not the berserk drivers on Italy's congested streets.

ONCE WE HAVE recovered from the shock, we can all be happily thankful for Sean Hannity's mea culpa about cooking the video on the latest Tea Parties in Washington. In Fox's laboratory of fiction, the video of an earlier and much larger protest was used to highlight a much smaller Tea Party crowd. And once again, it was Jon Stewart - not the national media - who nailed the Hannity program with the profound observation that, Hey, folks!, the trees were still pre-autumnal green in the video of the larger event whose turnout was much more persuasive for Hannity's tale. But Hannity, with no room at all to wiggle, did apologize to Stewart, thusly:
"He was correct. We screwed up. We aired some video of a rally in September, along with video from the actual event. It was an inadvertent mistake. But a mistake nonetheless."
Right, inadvertent until a late-night comedian-amateur botanist began wondering about the color of autumn leaves.

THE FUN AND PAGEANTRY of Mardi Gras is arriving earlier than usual way down yonder in New Orleans as Louisiana Sen. David Vitter is being challenged by a hot porn star, Stormy Daniels, who claims that unlike Vitter, she has nothing to hide. Vitter is one of Capitol Hill's holier-than- holy morality activists who found a place of honor on a D.C. madam's telephone list. He also was a prominant member of the birthers' demands that Obama's birthplace be verified again and again. But give him credit for accepting a little shame for his sexual misdeeds. He apologized and said he would never do it again.

FINALLY, WHAT was it I said in a recent blog about the scoop-happy national media? Now comes another example, this one regarding an ABC report by the network's Brian Ross that Maj. Nidal Hasan was in league with al-Qaeda, sending terrorist chills across the land. Not true, says the FBI, on the Crooks and Liars blog. The Feds said this:
The FBI determined that the e-mails [to an American-Islamic radical cleric] did not warrant an investigation...Investigators said Hasan's e-mails were consistent with the topic of his academic research and involved some social chatter and religious discourse.
Wiggled Ross in defending his shattered scoop: "That was how it was initially described to me." At this rate, ABC will get around to finally determining that according to its sources the Phillies won the World Series.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tea Partiers: A third party where losing is good

THE WORD from the Tea Party front in Florida is not reassuring to fogies who feel that two parties are more than enough. The rebels down among the sheltering palms have filed papers, not to indict President Obama for treason, but rather to create a third party to oppose Gov. Charlie Crist, who is the GOP's choice to run for the Senate. I'm not sure where they got the idea but the Tea Partiers are outraged that Crist is rumored to have hired a retired liberal to fix a leak in his sink without clearing the guy with Glenn Beck.

Such maneuvering to offer the TP's a seat at the table on Capitol Hill should bring joy to Democrats, who may find a way to contribute to the TP's . As we have all been told, 2010 will not be a vintage year for the D's without outside help. With a civil war under way in the GOP, even President Obama might agree to sit down at Fox News to argue that the TP's are merely proud evidence of democracy in action and should not in any way be discouraged. And in what better place to encourage these rebels than in Florida, where there is precedence for rogue alligators lumbering across the residents' backyards?

Besides, who can blame the TP's for being encouraged by their defeat by a Democrat in New York's 23rd Congressional District after forcing the moderate Republican candidate out of the race. The predatory campaign even brought on what is the formative array of conservative immortals to the scene - Sarah Palin comes to mind - to encourage the execution. For them it's not the loss that matters but rather what you insist you've won by losing. It may sound bizarre, but these folks always think of something.

Down in the Sunshine State, they're going after Crist with a guy named Marco Rubio, Florida's House speaker. Rubio has already attained the Holy Grail with the endorsement of the Club for Growth, a mega-rich collection of self-serving political philosophers who would argue that sea waters are rising because the burden of taxes on the affluent is making the globe flatter with each passing day. The club's president is a former congressman from Indiana, Chris Chocola, who once boasted that his old manufacturing business sold most of its stuff overseas. I'm not sure how that will figure into the blitz against Charlie Crist. But we should look for it in clues posted at Tea Party rallies.

Rubio has also won the endorsement of the usual commandos, transient people we've come to recognize from other right-wing stages. That would include ex-Gov Mike Huckabee, and Sens. Jim DeMint and Jim Inhofe, as well as the folks from the forever purifying Family Research Council. They are framing their crusade on the necessity to avoid sending any old Republican to Washington but rather someone we can all trust not to be the neighborhood grocer with a left thumb on the scale.

So far Charlie Crist has survived the third party's assaults, leading Rubio 50-28 in the polls. But by TP logic that losing is winning, , they will doubtless be more inspired by an earlier poll in which the score was 50-35. With those kind of numbers in their tank, it wouldn't be surprising if they extended their reach into other campaigns. If it worked in a heavily Republican district in New York, even South Chicago could be next.

It's quite confusing, I know. But hang on. It will take a little time to figure out the rules of this revolution.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Health care reform: A learning experience

LESSONS FROM the congressional wasteland in the debate over health care reforms:

The national media's track record on reporting the issues was about c-minus, often speculating on things that didn't happen. The influential A-list people working in Washington have agendas, and for scoop-hungry pundits, it was not difficult to find "well connected insiders" on both sides who used pundits as their surrogates on the national public address system to plant a rumor. Some reported that the public option was DOA in the House, or that it was alive but would likely take us into next year to resolve (according to, eh...sources familiar with someone else who was familiar with someone tracking the inside sources. The new media moral: Get it first, even if it's wrong. LESSON: It will get worse as the Senate takes up the bill.

Fox News broke the mold on the cliche that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it it drink. It proved that you can not only lead an audience to contaminated water, you can also force it to drink it. LESSON: There are more horses' asses at Fox than there are horses.

Sen. Harry Reid is making a mockery of his title of Senate Majority Leader. So far he has acted as the Senate minority leader, which is just fine for Republicans. If the Democrats do nothing else, and they probably won't, they should put him out to pasture when they return in January. He's managed to reverse the meaning of majority and minority. LESSON: You'd have a better chance at the roulette wheels in Reid's home state of Nevada than laying down a wager that Reid will rise to the occasion of his high office. He's not a carpe diem kind of guy!

The nation is now divided into two parts: Wall Street and everybody else. And Wall Street is winning, thanks to the willingness of the Obama Administration to turn the other cheek while the investment empire gives its employes billions in bonuses. LESSON: With the Wall Streeters, including the health care industry and pharmaceuticals, you have no chance. None.

Separation of church and state is a myth. Further evidence of this was the invasion of Capitol Hill by powerful Catholic bishops to strong-arm (with success) House members to take public funding of abortion off the table, not prayerfully but with threats to call out pro-choice candidates on Election Day. Much of Europe, with the exception of Ireland, has legalized abortion. Even Italy, where voters are in the Vatican's neighborhood, legalized abortion in 1978 and in 1981 rejected by a 2-1 margin a referendum that would have again outlawed abortion. LESSON: The last remaining bastion against the separation of church and state is the exemption of taxes from churches.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Get out the CliffsNotes for Lieberman's conscience

SHOULD WE have the benefit of CliffsNotes to understand Joe ( Zelig) Lieberman's holier-than-Obama's explanation of why he will join a filibuster against the health care reform bill just passed in the House? Joe is now telling people that he must act according to his conscience. Once-Democrat Joe has shifted back and forth politically and wormed a committee chair from feckless Democrats who figured he would be helpful as an independent in their caucus.. This was a conscience-driven Zelig who became John McCain's obsequious water boy and spoke adoringly of the Republican candidate without ever convincing many people that he knew what he was talking about. Could he have been thinking of a vice presidential nomination?

Considering the subplot to his conscientious opposition to the health care bill it is fair to ask how much his conscience governed him in view of the fact that his wife Hadassah has a history of working in the neighborhood of pharmaceutical and insurance companies through her paid association with Hill & Knowlton, the giant lobbying outfit, as well as others. As columnist Joe Conason has pointed out, "For most of the past three decades, Hadassah Lieberman has been employed by either pharmaceutical companies or the lobbying firms that represent them..."

How inconvenient for the family that Barack Obama, the man who beat Joe's candidate by more than 9 million votes, has dedicated the first year of his presidency to a public option plan that is anathema to the health care industry! How inconvenient for a chickenhawk like Lieberman , who put no limit on the Iraq war costs, that his conscience now tells him to oppose spending Federal dollars on uninsured Americans! When Lieberman speaks with such mock sincerity of conscience-driven decisions, he's not only a liar, but a disgusting creepy-crawly one at that.

P.S. I can't complain about Lieberman's cohort, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who also is against the bill. Graham is from South Carolina, of course, a state that has offered the national government and America's sanity nothing but grief. For him, it must be genetic.