Thursday, April 30, 2009

Something old, not much new

CURRENT  OHIO GOP LINEUP FOR STATE RACES (which rhymes with familiar faces): 

Governor - Former U.S. Rep. John Kasich, who is expected announce his candidacy Friday.

U.S. Senate - Rob Portman, who has announced.

Secretary of State - Jon Husted,  State Senator, announced

Auditor - Incumbent Auditor Mary Taylor, announced

Attorney General l - Mike DeWine, former U.S. senator, to be announced

Treasurer - Josh Mandel, state representative, announced.  


GOP morphing into cult

DEAR REPUBLICANS (wherever you are):

If I may use the vernacular, your party has gone to hell.

Repugnant evidence is growing each day that  the Grand Old Party has become a cult.  It now excludes anybody who is slightly to the left of Planet Limbaugh and therefore has shrunk beyond recognition unless you are an expert in atomic imaging.      The gatekeepers for the cult have placed a premium on losing. 

The events in just the  last few days have demonstrated that the cult is so deeply intrenched in ideological cleansing that it may soon require all true-believing  members to perform  the "loyalty dance"  so popular back in the days of Mao.  

Check these:
  • THE REPUBLICAN  chairman of Kent County, Mich. (Grand Rapids) has canceled a talk at a party fund-raiser by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.  He's too moderate, the chairman said. My God!  The Republican governor of Utah, a proud red state, too moderate? 
  • FOX NETWORK refused to air President Obama's Wednesday night news conference - the only network to lower the curtain -  with the apparent decision to not report so that nobody can decide. Instead the network programmed something called "Lie to Me."(I think Fox should rely more on John Stewart to upgrade its limp attempt for clever humor. )  
  • RUSHBO HAS has urged John McCain to become a Democrat, too, and take his daughter with him.  
  • SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE,  Maine Republican, was placed on the right-wing's enemies list after an op-ed piece in the New Y0rk Times that questioned the GOP's exclusivity that drove out Sen. Arlen specter.
  • REPUBLICAN representatives leading the fight  against the hate-crimes bill (which passed, despite their rants), declared it was a transparent attempt to protect homosexuals. Sample:  Rep. Steve King, the crackpot Iowa Republican, said of hate crimes, "I, Mr. Speaker,oppose and I defy the logic of the people that would advocate for such legislation the very idea we could divine what goes on in the heads of people when they commit crimes".  (I do have a clue to what isn't going on in King's mind.)
  • GREG MUELLER,  a high-ranking Republican consultant, proposes that the party can regain its bearing by dusting  off Newt Gingrich's old Contract with America, and Newt couldn't agree more wherever he goes these days, which is usually Fox News.  
  • FINALLY, FOR this hour at least, there's this word from the Cincinnati Enquirer about the Hamilton County Republican chairman, Alex Triantafilou, who shamlessly posted two photos on his blog in reaction to Specter's action.  One was a photo of a bald Specter during his chemotherapy; the other of a bald Dr. Evil from the "Austin Powers" movies.
 Believe me, folks, I don't these things up.  Jonestown next for GOP strays?  


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Republican Four Horsemen

TIME FOR a new assessment of this week's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Award with some familiar names...
REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN. Minnesota Republican,  who suggested that swine flu epidemics only occur under Democratic presidents.  She later had to be reminded that the last one occurred under Gerald Ford, a Republican according to all of the papers at that time. 

        SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, of Kentucky, the U.S. Senate minority leader,  whose fatherly assessment of President Obama's first 100 days was long on criticism and short on praise, while closing with a Republican promise that it would continue the party's "principled support, principled opposition and pragmatic, creative solutions to meet the challenges of the day."   But he also warned that Arlen Specter's defection was a threat to the nation because it would give the Democrats too much power. ( Almost as much as the Republicans had during George Bush's first single-party six years, Mitch?)

       MICHELE MALKIN, simple-spoken columnist who spells her first named differently than does Bachmann,  who has traced swine flu to Obama's visit to Mexico and called the President a "frivolous man" who never goes anywhere without his teleprompter.    She heard about the swine flu source from Rush, who is believe to have heard it from the old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate. She was delighted that Specter bolted the party and advised him to not let the door hit him on the way out. He didn't.  

        MICHAEL STEELE, Republican national chairman who is always in the act, despite growing impatience within his party with his blundering comments about, well...everything.  There's an undertow of feeling that Steele must resign.  I hope they don't get ahead of the curve by the next trading deadline. .  The Democrats already have a chairman.

With enemies like these, Obama and his soaring popularity don't need more friends.  




Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter: Being a Republican no fun anymore

WELL, ARLEN SPECTER just crossed an aisle as wide as the Delaware River.  He is becoming a Democrat, elevating the Republican McParty's  outbursts of hysteria to Vesuvian levels.  And in the early damage-control reaction the best that Republican National Chairman Michael Steele could offer, allowing for his minimal political insights,  was that the Pennsylvania senator was, after all, a renegade with a left-wing voting record. In a prepared statement (who writes these things anyway?)  Steele further noted that Specter was not acting on  "principles of any kind" but rather on the  reality that he was going to be defeated in the  Republican primary. Meantime,  Specter's other navel-gazing critics will have to take a number for their turns on the Fox network. The veins will be popping out of Sean Hannity's forehead.   

But just as it failed to spin socialism, Marxism and all of the other isms into the cloth worn by President Obama, few people outside of Rush Limbaugh's revivalist followers will be impressed by the current GOP's obtuse vocabulary.  Clearly, his former party had put an overwhelming hit on  him by posting up a right-winger in the next senatorial primary with overwhelming appeal to the shrinking right-wing base.  Yes, Sir Michael, you could bet the farm and every luxury car in Pennsylvania that Specter would lose.  And Specter was no more disaffected by his party's suffocating base than the 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans who are now registered as Democrats.

Although Specter's forced defection will cause more havoc in the Senate's Republican caucus, where it clings to its  fantasy of Government by Filibuster,  don't look for a sudden change in ideological direction.  Check out its gagging  resistance to the appointment of  Kansas Gov.  Kathleen Sibelius as secretary of health and human services.  How toxic could she be as a Democrat who was widely popular in one of the most Republican states in the Union?   Oh, she's pro-choice.  I see.  Republicans now in charge of controlling their party's destiny just don't get it.    

There was an old poem that said "for want  a nail the shoe was lost" and  "for want of a horse the rider was lost."

The GOP today has no horses nor riders.  Nor ideas.  Without them,  the party of Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh  is sounding only its death rattle.  The Moral?  Be careful what you wish for...


Plusquellic supporters: Recalling recall signatures?

ADD THIS TWIST TO the final days of the mindless attempt to recall Mayor Don Plusquellic: Persons who signed  recall petitions  have an opportunity to change their minds before their signatures are validated in the final count.   At least, that's the goal of Citizens for Akron, the group supporting the mayor against Warner Mendenhall's forces. Letters will be sent to the signees this week reminding them that the City Charter permits them to withdraw their names from the petitions by contacting Akron City Council Clerk Bob Keith.  I'm told the rationale for the  home-stretch tactic:  There may be some who are now quite disenchanted with recall leader Mendenhall in the wake of reports  that there are nearly $170,000 in  federal tax liens against him.  

Mendenhall's forces fell 508 valid signatures short in the petitions filed on April 16.  The campaign is now working through a 20-day extension in its hope to satisfy the legal requirement of 3,179 valid  signatures.  It's my idea of having nothing more productive to do.   

Monday, April 27, 2009

Haley Barbour: Another door left open

A WASHINGTON source is reporting that Haley Barbour, the Republican Mississippi governor, has "left the door open" to a candidacy for president in 2012.  In political jargon, Barbour, once the Republican national chairman, is sending a coy signal that he may very well run if the planets line up in his favor.    It's smart politics.  He'll keep everybody guessing that he might be the 25th or 50th potential Republican candidate in the race and lobbyists and donors will tread carefully around him the next year or so  in the outside chance that the will be in the presidential pack. 

The former New York Times columnist Russell Baker once called it the great mentioning game.  And you have little chance of winning a free lunch at McDonald's if you are not at least mentioned on all of the Sunday morning talk shows, particularly by George Will on a good day. Newt Gingrich also says he might run if things don't change.    He had better hope that they do inasmuch as President Obama's latest  ABC News poll numbers gives Barack a startling 72 pct. "favorability" rating with Americans.  Against  congressional Republicans, he leads 61-24.

 But the mere fact that Gingrich is now leaving the door open means he will be a regular guest on conservative talk shows to revive his failed "contract with America."  Right now, there are doubtless 20 others leaving the door open with a promise of letting in some fresh air.  It works wonders with political egos. So if any of them is invited to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game, the announcer is bound to say, "Congressman Smiley is from Arkansas and has left the door open to run for president.

One, however, must be careful not to get too far ahead of the curve.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, made quite a spectacle of himself at a photo-op to declare that Texas might secede if the Feds don't leave him alone with stimulus money and other Big Brotherly incursions.  How silly he must look today after he asked the very same Feds for help in combatting the swine flu epidemic. (Sorry, Texas politicians never think they look silly about anything.)

I never left the door open for myself.  Happily for me, when I came home from grade school with a report card with two c's on it, my mother sensed my gloom, but came though with a consoling remark by a dear mother who preferred bingo to books.    "Don't worry," she said. "You're never gonna be president anyway."

She was right.  Mothers usually are.  




Sunday, April 26, 2009

Columbus Dispatch shocker: Raise taxes! :

GATHER 'ROUND ME, all ye unhappy tea baggers.   I have news for you:  You just lost another one. Glaring harshly at you from the editorial page of the Columbus Dispatch today is  an uncharacteristic plea to raise Ohio taxes to meet the peril of a financial crisis that neither political party seems ready to address,

As George Costanza might say, "This is HUGE." Over the years, the political graveyard was filled by the Big D with the bodies of candidates who even whispered tax increases on, oh... Life Savers,  in their sleep.  This was the paper that once chaperoned a number of conservative pols into the legislature and governor's office simply because they had an R after their name on the ballot.  In the earlier days it was bloody bad business for anyone to suggest that there were at least one or two liberals who shouldn't be institutionalized.  

But give the current Dispatch credit.  It has grown philosophically.  And now, in this time of great need, the paper entered the fray with words  that surely will jolt the tea bagging leprechauns from their postmodern  fantasy world of Coolidge, Hoover, McCain et al. Spoke the Dispatch:
No one wants to take the lead.  No one wants to be first to utter the T-word.

Everyone in the Strickland administration, the Democratic-controlled Ohio House and Republican-controlled Ohio Senate knows the only way to fill an $8 billion budget hole is with a combination of new taxes and service reductions....If it is quaintly anachronistic to hope for bipartisan, statesmanlike leadership to tackle one of the state's  most historic economic  crises  then Ohio may have no hope at all.
The world has changed.   I wonder why there are still some people around who don't know that.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lieberman's brain runs dry

I HAD RESISTED piling on poor  Sen. Joe Lieberman because I'm really not a bad guy when you get to know me.  But when he said a couple of extraordinarily contradictory things, I felt it was necessary to resurrect him from McCain's ashes from the last presidential campaign.  I was constrained to give him not one, but two,  Grumpy Abe  Linguistic Lunacy Awards (GALL) - the first such double honor of the year, which will qualify him for the annual GALL Award in December.   Take a look:

Joining his  road-show pals McCain and Lindsay Graham,  Lieberman signed on to a letter to President Obama  regarding waterboarding and other means of torture that said:
"We have also strongly  opposed the overly coercive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that these memos deemed legal."
However, two days earlier,  ensconced in his comfort zone at Fox News, Lieberman said:
"Well, I take a minority position on this.  Most people think it's definitely torture.  The truth is, it has  mostly a psychological impact on people....We ought to be able to use something like waterboarding.
Uh, he did say that it was a terrible thing to do if we had to do it.  But...

Sorry, Joe.  You lost me at the last trickle.  Waterboarding is not good to the last drop.  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mayoral recall: Trial by mire

WARNER MENDENHALL'S grim recall army against Mayor Plusquellic is continuing to obsess.  The latest gambit in its ongoing trial by mire is to force the city to release some records, most of which have already been issued except for a redaction of  privileged attorney-client material.  Such "editing" was unanimously upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court in another case earlier this week. 

A key figure in this farcical matter is Bob Smith, a former Akron resident, former Hudson resident and now a Chagrin Falls resident who has been a tormentor of  City Hall since the days of Simon Perkins, Akron's founder.  Maybe even earlier than that.  Got that? An expatriate now living in another town is in the vanguard of the crusade to throw out the mayor of Akron.  Couldn't we at least expect it to be reciprocal with Chagrin Falls?  In attempting to build a case against Plusquellic over the years, Smith has nibbled at every public document with the mayor's name on it and cost the city tens of thousand of dollars in city-worker hours to turn up whatever information that he supposed might help his cause.   Less obsessive people  devote some of their leisure hours to reading good books or scavenging for unusual shells at the seashore.  I would donate the first dollar to a counter-movement to buy him some interesting reading material  that would not require the labor of  city employes.  

It would seem to me that Mendenhall, a lawyer himself, would know something about attorney-client privilege and doubtless would be among the first to squeal if his were the privilege that was being gored.  Or maybe not.  With his own hours devoted to ridding the city of its mayor I doubt he thinks very much about his private law practice these days. There are many more signatures to be sought for the recall petitions while possibly   spending  some time hunting for a loan to pay off his $169,000 tax lien to the IRS.

I tell you, life can get complicated at times.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How phones can improve your reading habits...

OOPS!  SORRY if I might have kept you waiting.  I've been on the phone with...well, nobody exactly.  A voice, probably the creation of zeroes and ones in dense computer talk, popped up at intervals to tell me that "all of our representatives are currently assisting our other customers. But your call IS important and somebody will  be with you in a moment."  And for reasons that I can't explain, I'm always told that  my call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes even when there is no more than a 50-50 chance that I will finally talk to any living soul.   If you're looking for a growth industry in America,  put your few remaining dollars in Recorded Messages, Inc.  

First of all, I doubt that there is more than one representative on duty.  And that one may very well be taking a coffee break.  Secondly, I didn't reach this point without first pumping a series of digits from one to infinity to determine the party or department I would like to talk to if anybody is working at the other end today.  In the interim there are cheery sales pitches and really awful elevator music.  I shouldn't have to say this, I guess, because if you have a telephone, you know what I mean.

While wasting your  time and mine, wouldn't it benefit a company to develop a plan to educate or entertain you while the minutes and hours pass. You can always find old fishing magazines in doctors offices and barber shops to keep you moderately occupied until it's finally  your turn . Cable companies, however, can get you well into War & Peace before you decide to take a second bathroom break instead.   ( A friend lamented to me that it took seven hours to remedy a problem with his computer, which put him on a first name basis with a fellow in India.   I think they will  exchange birthday cards to honor their global experience. )

For others similarly situated, it would make a lot of sense to have somebody  at the other end read from a current best-seller to make the dead time useful.  Or from J.D. Salinger's short stories.  Or even Pericles' funeral oration as you are being asked to kill an afternoon. A lot of people seem to enjoy figuring out riddles, so maybe that would work, too.  Or how about electronic bingo until you find a real person to talk to.?  

 Remember,  folks, I grew up in a small town with four-digit telephone numbers and where my Old World grandmother, upon being introduced to her first telephone as a birthday gift from the family, nearly  dropped dead when she was urged to pick up the receiver and hear a cousin's voice.  

On the other hand, I might react the same way today if I heard a real voice at the other end, especially if it were a certain cousin.    

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Congressman begging forgiveness

ADD REP.  TODD TIAHRT of Kansas  to the growing list of enfeebled Republican supplicants at the knees of Rush Limbaugh.  Tiahrt foolishly crossed the line by suggesting that Rushbo,  the party's vengeful valedictorian, was nothing more than an entertainer and hardly the de facto leader of the Republican Party. You can imagine how that sat with  the forever swarming Dittoheads.   Within 24 hours, Tiahrt's office issued a self-flagellating statement insisting that no insults were intended and that the"congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America...Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement." In a few apologetic words, Tiahrt elevated  Limbaugh from fictitious de facto leader to a great leader to have the congressman's name removed from Limbaugh's enemies list.

Do you see a pattern here?  By my count at least three soft-spined GOP congressmen and the party's silly national chairman, Michael Steele,  have abjectly recanted  their careless remarks about their father-confessor.  Do you find it odd that a political party that boasts of its supreme muscle against foreign enemies  cannot challenge a reckless propagandist who earns millions of dollars by tossing reality to the winds?  Think about that the next time one of these fake warriors proposes to blow up Iran or North Korea.   

Monday, April 20, 2009

Talk is not only cheap...

I GREW UP in a noisy family.  The folks and relatives shouted at each other, even as they were dozing off after dinner.  If you wanted a second  helping of mashed potatoes you had to get my mother's attention by  yelling across the table, "I WANT MORE MASHED POTATOES, HELEN!"  Otherwise she wouldn't hear because one of my uncles already commanded her attention with,"WHERE'S THE OLIVES?" Most of the time the din was a cultural thing.  It was harmless (not always) high-strung, eh...communication.  When I left home I had heard enough.  I wanted peace and quiet whenever possible.

That doubtless explains why I get fidgety and even nasty at times in restaurants, theatres and concert halls. when my code of silence is abused.  It's a losing battle.  Some people go to restaurants to eat; others,  to rudely let their kids dance on tables and race up and down the aisle.  The other night I heard more of the conversation in the next booth than in my own.  The woman cackled loudly to her friend about how  she was looking for in a new bedspread.  She liked color, but not too flashy. And she wanted something that would fit in nicely with the color scheme in the room.   "Why  aren't you talking to me," Nancy usually asks on these occasions.   "I can't hear you," I said.  "The woman in the next booth is looking for a bedspread."

At this point, I should add that some of the worst music that ever fell out of a CD bin is played loudly in a lot of "family" restaurants. Am I that old not to appreciate it? I ask myself.   I try to avoid these places  with only modest success. If you want to see me at my grumpiest, join me for lunch someday in one of these  trouble zones and watch me flush and pale.  .
The movie houses and concert halls are getting worse.  Inevitably seated behind me are people whose commentary is  a split second ahead of the plot or call out the names of the operas from which the arias are being sung by the soprano.  If you see a silhouette moving to the aisle during the film or  the tenor solo, it's probably me looking for a haven from these jerks.  If it wouldn't disturb civilized others in front of me, I would belt out: "For God's sake, SHUT UP."  (I've been known to use those words, but quietly. This, after all, is not my parents' dinner table.

At public performances, we are cautioned against using flash cameras and told to turn off our cell phones.  Might they add, "And shut up"?  I won't name names, gender or probable age.  But you must know who you are.   

Deep in heart of Texas


In Texas they're talking about secession
as they exhume the confederate obsession.
But will they really go?
Or is this  political show
as the rest of us  cope with the recession?  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meghan McCain to the barricades

SHOULDN'T WE SAY something really nice about a McCain?  Not John or anyone like that.  I'm talking about his daughter, Meghan McCain.  The woman went up to the podium at the Log Cabin Republicans convention the other night and laid out a course for the GOP to have some color return to their anemic complexion (not a pun, but I guess it could be.)  To a highly responsive gay audience, Meghan, who is nowhere near her own closet, put it in words that cannot be sanitized  for polite society.  She said "old-school Republicans" were "scared shitless"  by modern social trends.  That would certainly include broader societal acceptance of gayness.  I'm sure that comment drew shudders from homophobic Republicans from Maine to California.

But she said other sensible things:
"Simply embracing technology isn't going to fix our problem.  Republicans using Twitter and Facebook  isn't going to miraculously make people think we're cool again.  Breaking free from obsolete positions and providing real solutions that don't divide our nation further will.  That's why some in our party are scared.  They sense the world  around them is changing and they are unable to take the risk to jump free of what's keeping our party down."  
Bravo, Meghan.  No - bravissimo!  (You can take that as a supreme compliment, Meghan. I don't usually resort to superlatives about  other Republicans.) 

Ms. McCain has been on the cutting edge of rebukes of the GOP  that has put her at odds with the old-timers with their cave-like mentality.  Contrast her comments with those of  House Minority leader John Boehner, who refuses to accept carbon dioxide fixes as a remedy for global warming and suggests that the flatulence of cows is among the culprits. Anti environmental Republicans  -speaking of flatulence - having been saying these things for years as an excuse for doing nothing.)   

Keep going, Meghan.  The party has given up any claim to having its initials capitalized.  It should be gop.  But if the current  McParty  is to somehow revive, Meghan can say she had a significant role in it.  

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grassroots? Where are the roots?

Derided by elitists as  phony, the tea-party movement is spontaneous..." - Karl Rove

A FEW NIGHTS ago   I had dinner with a  fellow who said his paycheck is a bit healthier these days because of the tax cuts arriving via the Obama Administration.  He said others in his company had experienced the same benefit. No one was prepared to make a down payment on a new yacht or a Lear jet, but all had more dollars  in their pockets.  Would anybody deny that these income tax cuts embraced all middle income taxpayers from California to New York? 

Well, yes. Indeed, if you listened to the rants on tea-party day, the President's policies are drenching all Americans with steep federal tax increases.   Karl Rove, a political survivor whose wallet will never deny him a good meal enhanced by a job with the Fox megaphone,  insists America is entering a new phase when the common folks aren't going to put up with runaway "tax-and-spend government".    Republicans like the sound of tax-and-spend because it has been around on their calling cards since the days of Herbert Hoover. Meantime, Republican presidents have spent and spent.  Or didn't they tell you that? 

Rove and his cohorts, who slammed us with eight years of George Bush,  are in denial.  They have no options left but to tell us, when the occasion calls for it, that Thursday is Saturday and Monday is Wednesday, and the dark spot on the moon is a wayward cow. Now they are selling "spontaneous " tax revolts that would be quite agreeable to winning elections for their brand of conservative Republicans down the road.   

Spontaneous?    For Rupert Murdoch's Fox News,  such imagined impromptu tea bagging was such a seductive thought to rabble-rouse that the  station's incendiary talk show hosts sold it endlessly to their  audience  with the vigor of those bombastic used-car commercials.  Joining the "grass-roots" assault on the White House was an old pro at this sort of nonsense:  Dick Armey, the former Texas congressman who is now the head of an outfit called FreedomWorks, another of the right-wing enterprises that confuses patriotism with Wounded Knee.  

All of the old crowd were out there sellin' their wares:  Newt Gingrich, whose curse we must bear because he has yet to find a job that will get him entirely out of the way; Phil Gramm, an inspired deregulator, a vice chairman of UBS (which is being investigated for serious tax fraud)  and a super-rich Texan, who got his share of income as a senator from oppressed taxpayers;  Tom DeLay, another discredited Texan  who smiles painfully when  Chris Matthews toys with DeLay's loopy invasions of reality.    

If there were anyone big enough to lead a fragmented McParty these days, he or she would promote a series of Smart Parties around the country that would begin with the premise that nothing is working for the GOP's good these days, so maybe it ought to consider something more sensible as the loyal opposition.   At the moment it is nothing more than a composite of silly free-lancers on the right who have kidnapped the GOP as their own private plantation where they grow peculiar ideologies from barren soil.  A party cannot survive with the wealthy alone.  

So be alert when you see grassroots as the key to the party's revival.  If  the tea parties were the domain of the future look of the party - white Obama-haters with Hitler-Obama posters - the slugs have eaten the roots and converted the lawn into a rollup carpet.  

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mendenhall's impossible dream sinking?

WHAT'S THIS?  Is the heat in the kitchen  reaching the boiling point?  You get this strong hint from Warner Mendenhall when he sends out advisories that he may want to slip out of the noose of his recall campaign against Mayor Plusquellic if it harms the cause. The sand under his forceful stride has shifted still more with reports that he has state and federal tax liens going all the way back to 1999.  In round numbers, he owes about $171,000 in back taxes!

Here's what he has to say about the lingering liens with a sort-of mea culpa to his supporters:
"If the co-chairs of this campaign and its thousands of supporters feel that my roles as spokesperson and treasurer of Change Akron Now is detrimental to the recall effort, I am offering to stop filling those roles."
Whatever joy that invigorated  "backdoor" Republicans  at the beginning of the campaign  to destroy Plusquellic is now dissipating.  "We had Plusquellic where we wanted him," complains  one Republican analyst, "with his close primary the last time and the defeat of his sewer issue.  Now this guy Mendenhall will turn Plusquellic into a hero. There's an old saying that if you shoot at the king, you had better kill him."  

Well, politics will be politics.  And, alas,  the IRS will be the IRS.  And who knows what will be left of  Mendenhall's dream  when his opponents finish him.  Does he have a Sancho Panza in reserve?  


                                                             * * * * *
ANOTHER UPDATE:  Whatever happened to the ethics charges against Atty. Jack Morrison?  The court has delayed a pre-trial hearing until May 11.  Morrison's lawyers have filed for a dismissal of the 7 ethics charges on which Morrison was indicted in December.  Morrison,, an influential attorney who sits on the University of Akron's Board of Trustees and is the advisor to the Summit County Republican Party, was charged in connection with the purchase of a house by his son  that then was sold to the University for a quick profit.  

Rohrabacher's ugly roar

ON SUCH A NICE, SUNNY DAY - finally -  sit seems brutish to  describe the threat by a California Republican congressman against those who might disagree with him on how to fight terrorism.   But it leaves me little wiggle-room  in offering Dana Rohrabacher, a raw-meat right-winger, the Grumpy Abe Lingistic Lunacy (GALL) Award for his over-the-top comments during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee in responding to three members of the European Parliament.  He said, in a burst of anger:
"Well, I hope it's your families, I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences (of a terrorist attack.)"  
And remember, this guy's a congressman!  Over the years he's said a lot of loony things. This one ranks with sky-diving without a parachute.   So maybe I should have addressed the award to the loonies who elect him every two years.  You wouldn't get me anywhere their neighborhood at night. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Warner: Questions but no answers

IF IT ISN'T one thing, it's something else with Warner Mendenhall, the Robespierre  of  the recall uprising against Mayor Plusquellic.  As a lawyer, he's doing some things in a lawyerly fashion to get his message to his perceived jury.   Today's news  from the front (i.e.,  the Beacon Journal)  for example,  reported that Mendenhall  questioned in an e-mail whether the city's new schools are safe, then he asks:
"Were electrical inspections done by phone on our new school buildings? This isn't safe.  An honest man objects then gets fired.  Was Plusquellic involved?"
Well, Warner, was Plusquellic involved or wasn't he?   Was he the person on  the phone doing the inspections?  You really don't tell us.  It's an old rhetorical trick:  raise the question without answering it.  

The point here is that simply by asking a question before his jury, this lawyer served his case by creating doubt about the person on trial.    And who fired the guy in your e-mail? The mayor? From what I understand, it was his  employer, J.W. Didado Electric.  All of this happened a couple of years ago, and even though the complaint against the building inspector was  sent to the state, no action was taken on it by the Ohio Board of Building Standards. A board spokesman said, "There was nothing of substance to warrant any action."

Warner, why are trying to assert your "leadership" while treating the rest of us as dummies?  Will there be more of this nonsense as the campaign barges on?   I'm afraid so.  And when it does, I'm sure  it will be challenged. Good Lord.  What a way to waste the summer months!  

                                                                             *  * * 

 MAYBE MY BRAIN is a bit soggy from all of the rain hereabouts, but I don't follow the logic  of hiring a thoroughbred Republican lobbyist for $142,000  as an associate vice president of "strategy and finance" at the budget-challenged University of Akron. The recipient of the newly-created position is Scott Borgemenke, and, says the Beacon Journal, his job will be to develop "innovative  solutions to challenges."  In other words, a lobbyist.  And one who was the designated hitter as the top strategist for the Ohio Republican Party.

The irony in this should be clear enough.  Borgemenke, a former race track executive,  is a first team figure in a political party that, as we all should know by now, has been damning the stimulus and government spending - big socialist  dollars.  And I presume such dollars are what the university is looking for from the new guy on the campus.  Or in Columbus.    And maybe even from the hated Democrats.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bob Ney, the new radio showman

TRIED TO REACH  a reporter at a West Virginia newspaper today and this is how it went:

ME:  Let me have the city desk, please.

VOICE:  OK (With all of those commercials about the paper rattling on in for several minutes)

VOICE: (Finally)  Nobody is answering.

ME: I know that.  Get me somebody else.

VOICE:  I'll try Heather.

ME: Who's Heather?

VOICE: (PAUSE)  Not answering, either.  

ME: How about your political reporter.

VOICE: NO (A  few other words undistinguishable)...I'll try somebody else.

ME: How about somebody who puts in your radio and TV news?

VOICE: The Associated Press does that.

I hear another voice on the line now.  

ME:  Hi. I have a question  about a radio station there, WVLY-am.

VOICE:  Who?

ME:    A radio station.

VOICE:  We're a newspaper.

ME: Don't you think I know that?

VOICE:  This is a newspaper.

ME: Yes, but I'm asking a question about a radio station, WVLY-am.

VOICE: I've never heard of it.

ME:  Isn't it in the Wheeling area?

VOICE:  This is a newspaper.  I've never heard  ---

ME:  Click....

I suffered through this to get some simple information on a radio station (which I wasn't able to reach by phone, either)  on which the former Ohio congressman and felon, Bob Ney, will now have an afternoon talk show.  Ney, you will recall, was sent to jail for conviction on corruption charges rising from the the Jack Abramoff investigation.  Ney spent 17 months in prison. 

One of Ney's topics (I'm not making this up) is...ethics.  Why am I not surprised?  

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Pirate hostage rant falls overboard

THE AMAZING rescue of Pirate hostage Richard Phillips by Navy Seals on Sunday also kidnapped the right-wing fomentators' latest assault on President Obama as being something of an incompetent  sissy in standing up to America's enemies.  Led, as always, by the wingers Great White Whale, Rush Limbaugh,  Obama was already cast in pig iron as no match against the Somali Pirates, thus proving once again that we are in great risk without someone as tough as, can we say,  George Bush?  The Seals ruined their anti-Obama  rant by killing three of the Pirates and capturing a fourth while demonstrating to the world that we have not lost all of our smarts.  Until the dramatic rescue, the ranters would have you believe that in an Obama-world,  piracy was just another example of our rising mediocrity, no  matter that   it had been occurring all too frequently long before he entered the White House.  Limbaugh's word for it while  including Hilary Clinton in the wrap, was "inept" - as in, these people have no idea in hell about what they are doing. So  it may surprise them that the Associated Press has now reported that the president was in close contact with the rescue mission, getting as many as six briefings a day after  clearing the Seals  to use deadly force if necessary to bring Phillips home safely.     (Would it be fair to ask Rush how he came by such incisive military insights with not a day of military service on his resume?)  The wingers will keep up the beat, insisting perhaps, that a truly concerned president would have been on the scene disguised as one of the Seals.  All of this reminds me of what Dr. Samuel Johnson, the essayist and lexicographer, said about another fellow:  "The worst of Warburton is, that he has a rage for saying something, when there's nothing to be said."  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cleveland Indians: 0-162?

BASEBALL IS NOTHING if it isn't acres of statistical projections.  So as a Pirates fan well adjusted to losing seasons, I think it's important to note that the Cleveland Indians have opened the season with five losses and nary a win.  Based on my carefully researched theory of relativity between the Pirates and Indians,  if you project the Tribe's 0-5 record to date, it would be fair to project the possibility that the team will lose all of its 162 games this year.  Of course, if it happens to win tomorrow's game, it improves the final projection to a more socially acceptable 26-136.  (I may be off a game or two because I'm not good at math.)  Never lose hope even if your team is forever losing  games.  I hope this is helpful to get you through the remaining cold days of spring until you can get out into the yard to project the grubs that will strike next. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

A defining moment for teabaggers?

AND SO IT has come to pass that America is being beset not by locusts nor the bubonic plague but, teabaggers.  TV is romping through scenes of exhibitionist tax protestors throwing teabags into the sea to commemorate an historic event that happened a  long time ago in Boston. Not an original idea today, of course, but you must understand that the anti-Obama crowd of conservative oracles has not had a mature original idea to assuage its extreme frustration  ever since Obama was sworn in twice by a malfunctioning U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  

However, it's a free country and at least they're not throwing shoes or flashing "Sarah is hot" buttons.  But a word of caution to the forever family-oriented Republican officeholders who have been swept up by the passion of the moment:  If you check the Urban Dictionary, you will find a surprising, common definition for the act, teabagging.   I would give at least a triple X  rating  for  describing a sexual act in which...well, if you're that curious, folks, look it up.  And I know you will.

Nothing is going right for the right-wingers  these days, and I'm beginning to wonder whether they are more to be pitied than censured. When some of the adult demonstrators get home and find out that their teenage kids have already dog-eared the Urban Dictionary it might keep the teabagging parents  off the streets for awhile.   It's a start.   

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Warner's crime figures don't parse

WELL, WE are just hours away from the day we've all been waiting for.  It's deadline day (sort of) for Akron Lawyer Warner Mendenhall to end his surge for 3,200 signatures on petitions to recall Don Plusquellic, the city's mayor since 1987.  (Actually, if Mendenhall doesn't achieve that goal, he will have 20 more days  to knock on more doors to come up with the minimum number for a recall election whose systemic costs to taxpayers could crash through $400,000.  Some deal for a crusader who wants to spare the city of what he believes to be a free-spending Edward Scissorhands at City Hall.

We might not know much more by day's end tomorrow. I won't speculate on whether the accuser has already passed the finish line. He claims he has, but the signatures will have to be carefully checked.    For all that I know, the valid numbers may be locked in a Swiss Bank. (Was it John McCain who said he only wanted change that he could believe in. Huh!  A lot of good that it did him.)

Mendenhall's self-drawn map to glory has had a strangely disorganized response to his critics.  He accused me of trying to create a fight between him and Plusquellic, asserting that is not really his purpose. But for the life of me I don't know anybody else he is trying to recall.  He has often accused the mayor of public corruption while his campaign material works to link Plusquellic to the corruption scandal in Cleveland.  But as early as 2003 when Plusquellic was engaged in a lightweight challenge from the GOP nominee, Bryan Williams, I was told by Republican operatives to be on the lookout for federal indictments of the mayor.  Those whispers have been hanging around with the mayor's opponents for six years.  You do the math. 

But of all of the charges and innuendo in the 47 page campaign document the one that stands out as the most egregiously wrong is the attempt to show the mayor as soft on crime in his city.  On Page 26 of the strangely crafted statistics,   Mendenhall  attempts to show that Akron is falling behind other Ohio cities in controlling property crime. Some examples, all undated:

   Although Akron  experienced only a one pct. decrease in property crimes, all of the other Ohio cities were much more successsful, with Toledo  having a 13 pct. decrease.  (For what period, who knows?)  And the same is true in other categories, with the greatest urban gap in arson, with Akron registering a 69 pct. increase and Cincinnati showing a 14 pct. decrease. Scary, right? Why isn't the mayor personally slinking down alleys by the light of the moon to hose down the arsonists' matches?

However, I can date some crime figures for Akron:  the latest FBI city crime rankings - this date is important, for 2007, the latest figures available - shows Akron to be in much better 
shape than  the cities quoted by Mendenhall in his report.  Cleveland ranked 11th nationally for the highest number of crimes; Youngstown, 15th; Dayton, 26th; Cincinnati, 28th; Columbus, 43rd;  Canton, 46th;  Toledo, 64th; and finally, Akron, 79th.   

Akron the greatest den of iniquity?  Not according to the FBI, only to Mendenhall.  I rest my case.  For now.  So what point is he trying to prove at such great expense to the city?  

But of 

Morning Joe in mourning

I AM COMPELLED to elevate Morning Joe Scarborough (or is it  Mourning Joe?) of MSNBC as the winner of the Republican Obama-hating Panic Patrol button.  Scarborough's credentials as host of the daybreak program is that he is a  former Florida congressman and a rather superficial observer of the world scene.  But he got my attention when he accused President Obama of having never received a paycheck from a profit-making private company.  Hear him out:
"We have a president who never received a paycheck.  This  guy - think about it - he's running Detroit, he's running Wall street, he's gonna run other sectors of our economy ...he's never received a paycheck from a profit-making business in his entire life.  Not one check.  Think about the radicalism in that."

Well, I have thought about it, Joe, and with help of others' research, I have learned that he worked for  4 or 5 firms that paid him in American currency.  And think about it, Joe.  Even the fat checks he got for his books arrived from book publishers, the private profit-making kind.  

True, thanks to the mess left behind by Obama's predecessor, everybody knows these days that not many people are drawing checks from profitable companies.  As deadpan George Gobel once reminded Johnnie Carson about World War II, "It was in all of the papers."

As additional fodder for the Panic Patrol, Scarborough later gushed over South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's highly visible resistance to stimulus funds to his state,  praising him and urging him to run for president.  Joe, the governor already is running for president.  It's been in all of the papers.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rene Fleming, the complete lyric soprano

RARELY DOES a visiting performer expand the cultural awareness of an audience that is already conditioned for excellence.  For the nearly 2,000 patrons of Rene Fleming's memorable recital in E. J. Thomas Hall Tuesday evening there is little doubt that it went well  beyond the highest expectations.

From the moment that she burst onto the stage in a stunning maroon gown and matching floor-length  wrap the audience was happily at her command, hailing her entrance  with bravos, applause and excited anticipation.  It got better as the program went on with stadium-like cheers.  

Fleming's appearance, along with her exceptional piano accompanist, Hartmut Holl,  was something of a coup for Tuesday Musical and its executive director, Barbara Feld. And, therefore, an artistic coup for the Akron area.  Here, after all, was one of the world's leading lyric sopranos who,  whether in recital or at the Met,  appears to have assembled the best in her own career from the great singers of today and the divas who have come before.

Exquisitely beautiful with that clear, certain voice to match,  she approached each piece in the recital as though she had separated her listeners as individuals and sang directly to each. But she also has a girlish humor that unassumingly charmed, whether on stage or later at a reception in which she patiently  accommodated all who stood in line to greet her.  Superb voice, beauty,  humor, an always personable approach to the moment.  For all of her acclaim, she wants you to realize that she's also the girl who grew up in Rochester, N.Y  

Thank you , Rene Fleming.  And thank you Barbara Feld and Tuesday Musical's financial  sponsors.  You've set the bar quite high for classical music in this town.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Orrin hatches a thought

Let's give a Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award to Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, who explained why he believes  the Minnesota senate race  ought not to be hurriedly decided until every legal step is taken (maybe until the  next election, the Constitution requiring two senators for every state be damned). A  5-month delay so far doesn't sound overly abrupt to me, but I don't favor an open-ended Democratic vacancy in the Senate that would benefit the GOP in filibustering President Obama's initiatives.   Isn't that why we're all here, team?

Anyway, I chose this Hatch comment for the award:  
"There are very important issues involved - constitutional issues - and I have no qualms about saying that if he can, he ought to push it all the way.  We're so sick and tired of having one set of rules for the Democrats they don't abide by, and then another set of rules for Republicans.  The Democrats didn't count the ballots the way they should and they didn't put the protections in that they should.  It was the Republicans who were better at counting ballots and doing what was right and following the law.   They don't do it on the other side as much."

(P.S.: I don't deny that Hatch and his Republican colleagues are "sick and tired" about a lot of things, mostly because they are instinctively  in denial about how the ballots were counted in Bush vs. Gore.)   

UPDATE:  The Minneapolis Tribune just reported that a tally of the uncounted ballots that had been rejected has now upped Franken's tiny lead over Coleman to more than 300.  Coleman had hoped to gain some traction with the new tally. As Don Meredith used to sing on Monday Night Football after the game appeared to be decided, Turn out the lights.  The party's over.   Want to bet that won't happen soon?  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Newt on the pulpit

Happened to glimpse the ubiquitous Newt Gingrich for a few moments on TV as he intoned his recurring sermon on President Obama's alleged flawed policies.  His stated matter-of-fact truths reflect the glib style of a bored  Bill O'Reilly,   which says "What I am saying is so universally true that it  hardly needs to be said except for all of the dummies in my audience."   Gingrich has been on a glide path since he was rushed out of Congress in the 90's as a  misbehaving blowhard. But he doubtless wakes up  each morning refreshed by his presumption that he  is a profoundly wise and gifted conservative father figure within a shrinking southern-based political party.  He does get a bit peckish at times, offering last year's failed McCain gambit  that he might have to run for president in 2012 if the less mindful among us don't shape up by then.  Class dismissed.  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Another season, another woe...

 IT WOULD BE unlike me not to take note of the opening of a new Major League Baseball season today.  In this troubled world, it should be a national holiday to hail the unequaled  equality of the moment.  As minor philosophers have often observed, all of the teams have the same record before the first increasingly expensive pitch is thrown.  Such equilibrium is not lost on such Pittsburgh fans as I, whose Pirates modestly aspire not to pennants but to a .500 season, a plateau that the team has not accomplished since James Buchanan. Or was it Grover Cleveland?  No matter.  We savor our moment, as brief as a flash of lightning, before the first nine innings have expired.  After that, we start assessing the rookies at Altoona for a glimpse of next year's possibilities. It is precisely at this moment that we feel the pain of the Cleveland Browns fans, but not for long.  

For Pittsburghers, it is the best of times and the worst of times.  The Steelers' uncommon successes should more than make up for the Pirates' uncommon (horrific ?) failures.  Maybe that contradiction in outcomes could sustain us until  ...oh, the middle of June, when speculation begins in earnest on another Steelers winning season to offset the Pirates' firm hold on last place.  To those who tell me that the truth always lies at the midpoint between the two extremes, I say, "The hell it does.!"   The Steelers played 19 games last season to claim the Super Bowl;  the Pirates, 162 to claim the cellar.   Where is the emotional equity in those numbers?

But to give baseball its due, it should be recalled that the game was once known as "Our National Pastime"  before it  was replaced with Twittering.  I know nothing  about Twittering - until yesterday I didn't even know how to use it in a simple declarative  sentence - but I do know that a runner cannot go from first base to third without touching second and that the infield fly rule has nothing to do with insects.  For those insights, and the little figurine of Roberto Clemente that stands on the shelf above my desk, I will honor the opening of a new season with the not quite exhausted patience of Job while forlornly conceding once again,  "No, we can't!".    

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A happier face on Europe

I'M THINKING ABOUT going back to Italy.  The climate, I suspect, will be more comfortable.   I won't have to answer more questions from the native Italians about how such nice people as Americans could be so dumb to elect George Bush. In the dozen or so times that I've wandered hither and yon on the seductive Mediterranean boot, the cross-examination became more intense with each passing year Dubya governed the White House  domestics, if nothing else.   In fact it got downright ugly at times, and they didn't care who knew it. I lived in hopes that they believed me when I insisted that I had voted for the other guy.  Mi dispiace, I would say.  I'm sorry.   

This is not to say that the resident Italians are unfriendly people.      What the guide books never tell you is that if you merely say the wine in whatever region you are staying is the best wine in the whole  world, your host will smile proudly, pour another glass,  and ask if you know a priest in Milwaukee named Fr. Giusti, who happened to be a cousin or something. In my earlier meanderings the kids only asked me if I knew Michael Jordan. In either case, I found gracious ways to get me off the hook and change the subject.  

Except for the burden of having to lamely explain  how nice Americans ended up with a fool as president,  we got along fine.  But the animosity toward the American government has lingered in my mind  (It was just as scathing in Ireland, by the way).   With its resources and diversity, America was to be the democratic model for other countries struggling with greater adversity and far fewer resources, often jammed into borders that were no more than a taxi ride from one country to another in a single afternoon.  .  

So you bet I was pleased to see the welcoming reception that Barack Obama received in Europe!  While the right-wing sorest-losers were desperate to find flaws in Obama's European visit, from continuing to grouse about teleprompted speeches,   to his choice of questioners from the audience, I needed only to look out at his excited crowds to know that there has already been a sea change in  attitude toward our government overseas.  Gail Collins of the New York Times, assessed it as well as anybody in observing that the Obamas "wowed" the Europeans, further noting:
 "We were expecting a good reception, given the fact the previous administration set the bar so low that Barack was able to get hysterical applause just  by telling the crowd of students that Americans don't believe in torturing people." 
Don't underestimate the importance of the rise in affection for a new American president.  European leaders are as conscious of public opinion as we are. ( OK, Bush was a numbing exception, which made it all the worse.)  It might be a little easier dealing with those leaders to resolve mutual concerns if they perceive among their constituents a newly-constituted popularity in the U.S. chief executive.  Even a small change would be refreshing for America's image abroad. .  And for selfish me, I would have more time celebrating a region's wine with my host and talking about that priest in Milwaukee that, somehow,  I never met.        

Friday, April 3, 2009

Warner "learning" to become mayoral candidate

WARNER, LET IT GO.  You've been preaching hellishly to your choir for months.  You are merely asking them to greet your costly  plan to recall the mayor with an off-key Hallelujah  Chorus. I have read your version and choose not to accept it as Handel's masterpiece but rather the words of a desperate man who is trying to create a political environment  for his own long-festering mayoral schemes. Isn't that, after all, the root of your ambitions? Show me any councilman, present or past (as you are) who wouldn't like to be the chief executive at City Hall.  

Do I exaggerate your ironic insincerity in carrying out your avowal to clean up the debris from the Plusquellic administration?  Come now, Warner.  I haven't been a political journalist all these years who only attended the Saturday matinees for the free popcorn. The transparency hurts the eye. 

 Want to know what some of your friends (and enemies) are saying about this?  One fellow who claims you as a friend, despises  Plusquellic and has signed your petition,  casually mentioned to me that win or lose the recall, you are really involved in a learning experience to prepare you for your own mayoral campaign.  Well, there  is much  for you to  learn and a couple of years of creating turmoil for the city is hardly enough time to capture the imagination of a big city electorate.   As of now you only have your fixed chorus, who would never support the mayor anyway. After all, how common is it for any elected public official to be seated  by acclimation?

And don't count on all of those folks who have signed the recall petitions to be an electoral resource when you decide to convert your "learning experience" into a bid for the mayor's office.  Some of the recallers are Republicans who are using you to return to City Hall with their own candidate after   26 frustrating years of denial.   ( Curiously,  somebody was passing out recall petitions at the recent Republican Lincoln Day Dinner.)

Along the way you have lost support from key people who might have been expected to support the recall.  Are they captives of the Plusquellic mystique?  Would they vote for him in a mayoral election?  Probably not.  Would they pick you out of the crowd and vote for you?  Probably not. Why could that be, Warner?

 Having read your campaign material, I must say that it took years to assemble (Right?) in preparation for  your auspicious coming-out party.  God knows how much it cost the taxpayers for the lost hours for the city to respond to your  (or Bob Smith's) countless requests from Day One.    

Warner, why don't you end the charade?   If you want to be mayor, I would be the first  to say you have a right to go for it.  But you have not yet explained why your impatience should be hastily served by  a self-serving  inflammatory recall campaign rather than the normal election year process used by Don Plusquellic and all of his  predecessors.  

Unless, of course, you need the learning experience as the warrior in the Trojan Horse.  Warner, let it go.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Joe the Plumber, or whatever

ENOUGH, ALREADY, of Joe the Plumber, a.k.a., Joe Wurzelbacher. the 15-minute mock hero of John McCain's failed campaign.  Joe Whatever is back on the political trail, this time showing up at anti-union rallies to oppose the legislatively challenged card-check plan that labor supports.  Joe's getting paid for his current tour by a group benignly named Americans for Prosperity and I don't have to guess which  side it is on.  As for Joe Whatever, it's a nice line of work for a guy who isn't a licensed plumber, a detail of  little consequence if one never gets down to the fine print.  In an age when people can become national sensations simply by doing extraordinarily odd things for a brief moment, Joe latched on (or did the McCain people create him from the telephone directory?) to a thematically inspired nom de guerre to deliver the common folks to the GOP.  It will be left to the historians to determine whether he or Sarah Palin - two of McCain's  pathetic first tier miracle workers  - would have served the candidate better if either had decided to turn down the offer.