Saturday, October 31, 2009

UA's DNA: More than benign alphabet soup

WHAT COULD the University of Akron Board of Trustees possibly have had in mind (if anything) when it approved a policy permitting the University to subject new job applicants to DNA testing? As if the Board and the University didn't have enough on its plate with the Jack Morrison case and several staff image problems, the DNA issue caught fire across the country with predictable alarm from CBS, conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan, the ACLU and countless disapproving voices. Some suggested that anyone thinking about settling down on the UA campus ought to think at least twice. Not good.

The University's official response was that it hadn't asked anybody to submit to the test yet but would find the policy useful if it wanted to. Right. Whatever the rationale, the policy will be trashed on November 21 by a Federal law barring employers from requiring DNA testing by employes.

Too late. The damage has already been done by an indefensible policy lapse rooted in the Board's (and University's) legal counsel, Ted Mallo. He's been around for a long time and should have known better before it inherited this mess. More than a local mess. It sent a terrible message to academia that UA had broken ground as the first American university to turn to possible DNA testing. Such tests, of course, can open up a person to all sorts of problems, including access by health insurance companies on the prowl for finding a preexisting health condition. Even the DNA of prehistoric skeletons can reveal much about the owners.

The CBS reporter went to the trouble of contacting UA constitutional and criminal law professor William Rich for his reaction. It wasn't complimentary to the Board. Noting that the Faculty Senate had not been consulted about the new policy, Rich said: "I think it goes far
far beyond any imaginable justification for requiring DNA samples from job applicants, and I wonder just what the rationale for it was."

If there are a lot of red faces about this issue, there should be. It will take the entire University some time to recover from the nationally reported damage to its claimed image as a progressive institution of learning.

OSU, New Mexico St: Big payoff for a loser

ALTHOUGH YOU don't have to look that far to find travesties in the scheduling of college football games, rising to the top of the current culture is Saturday's game between the forever Olympian Ohio Sate Buckeyes and a forlorn team called the New Mexico State Aggies , which had lost its last two games by a cumulative score of 79-10. You couldn't have missed it. It was on all of the sports bar monitors as patrons toyed with their swizzle sticks or thumbed their cell phones. For their efforts in agreeing to a hopeless scrimmage in Columbus as 44-point underdogs, the Aggies were paid $850,000 - plus, you would hope, second helpings from the visitors' buffet. By the end of the third quarter, the home team was up 45-0 with the game's radio analyst exclaiming "45-0, 45-0, how about that Buckeye fans?" (It occurred during the 2 minutes that I tuned in.) Mercifully, the score didn't change as the Buckeyes decided not to pile it on their guests. That was about $19,000 a point. I went for a walk wondering whether people really paid for their tickets.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Portman et al: Bush, the invisible ex-prez

AFTER FOUR recent visits to Akron stages by Republicans from hither and yon, may we now conclude that the story line is firmly in place for the November 2010 elections? Merge the speakers' texts, and there are no surprises:
  • President Obama is making an outrageous mess of the economy.
  • The nation's salvation lies in cutting taxes.
  • Health care reforms will be ruinous to the greatest health care system in the world.
  • George Bush doesn'texistdoesn'texistdoesn'texist, the ex-president who isn't there.
I refer to the three earlier speakers: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, U.S. Senate candidate Tom Ganley, one of the two Republicans with an eye on succeeding retiring Sen. George Voinovich, and, yesterday, the other GOP senatorial candidate, Rob Portman. From the standpoint of political harmony, it could qualify as a barbershop quartet.

Portman, former Ohio congressman and Bush's budget director who was regarded as a cabinet member with close ties to the Oval Office, reiterated much of the GOP message on how to influence people and win elections. Ohio, he said, needs a path to prosperity now that Gov. Strickland had overseen the loss of 336,000 jobs; too many Ohioans are running out of money; we've got to stop the hemorrhaging; the death tax has got to be eliminated.

Allow me to stop right there. The death tax (DT) used to be called the estate tax until the GOPers in Washington decided to change its name into something funereal to encourage us to hide our piggy banks from the IRS until long after Judgment Day. Today the DT's do not apply to 99.75 pct. of the people and allow a $3.5 million exemption - double that for a couple. Just thought I would throw that in inasmuch as I doubt there was more than one person in the audience who would be affected by a DT. On the other hand, there was a time when Bernie Madoff would have to be concerned about it. Many Wall Streeters still worry about it. Do the math, all of you exempt middle classers.

But Portman's biggest problem at his coming-out visit to he Akron Press Club in the Martin Center was not his ideology but his surprisingly flat delivery that lost the attention of some of the 90 or so guests. The largely Republican audience stocked by Summit County Chairman Alex Arshinkoff was quite subdued as he looked downward to his text and read as though he were giving a 30-minute invocation with an unbroken tone and cadence. Ok, he droned.

That's not what I've come to expect after attending two trillion political speeches over the years. Steele and Barbour, for example, appealed to the crowd to go out and help them win elections for their party. Ganley demanded a chance to sock-it-to the Democrats, Tea Party style. A couple of Republicans told me afterward that they were disappointed by Portman's delivery.

For all of the Republican condemnation of the Obama Adminstration's economic policies, there's a dynamite gamble by their candidates that the economy won't be moving upward by the next election. In short, Democrats need the economy to brighten; Republicans need it to fail. At this point, who can predict?

The Beacon Journal reported Portman's dismissive response to a question about his former Bush connection. "I'm talking about the future - how can we get out of this mess.?"

But when the campaign goes head to head next year, I would be surprised if the subject doesn't come up once or twice again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Robertson's CBN demonizes Halloween

IT USED TO be so simple. As Halloween approached in my little town, we looked to the annual Volunteer Fireman's parade up Main Street for kids to compete for prizes for the best costumes. Our parents stood on the sidewalk gesturing to us to hang on as we trudged to the top of the hill, self consciously looking from side to side. The parade ended there in suspense among the motley participants. We waited for the judges' decisions. Since you didn't have to be a costuming genius, I chose as a nine-year-old to dress as a football player with no shoulder pads. I won anyway and was awarded a shiny new frying pan, one of the many prizes donated to the event by townspeople. My mother was proud and bragged to the neighbors. (Trick or treat night came the next night and nobody died from the experience.)

That was it. We enjoyed the evening and thanked the firemen. Not so simple today. Beyond all of the scary seasonal ghosts and goblins, kids are being warned that Halloween is a witch's brew that will destroy their lives. This sort of dark talk arises every Halloween and so it is here again today. The Huffington Post reported that Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network has posted an alarm that Halloween is not good for the soul. According to the frightful message,
"During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference."

I think that if somebody had said that to my mother, she would would have hit 'em with her new frying pan.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hume: Not all pirates are from Somalia

FROM A READER comes this bloody ship-to-shore warning from a Fox News guy:
Brit Hume tells the Los Angeles Times of the Fox battle mentality:
We may be No. 1, but there is sort of an insurgent quality to Fox News. And that's kind of our attitude: "Hoist the Jolly Roger, pull out our dagger and look for more throats to slit."
(Sort of, kind of, not. The place is a breeding site for cutthroats. Even Brit thinks so.)

Joe Lieberman: The Senate's Zelig is back

Attaboy, Joe. ( Lieberman, not the plumber.)

The always-evolving Independent senator from Connecticut seems forever inspired by his own smarmy political pieties and will again cross the congressional Rubicon to support a Republican filibuster against an opt-out health care reform bill. Joe has been a master of such happy-face gamesmanship on the Hill, pretending that he is holding a full house against the other side's four-card flush. So with his characteristic rubbery smile and reassuring bedside manner, Joe has again set himself up as the conscience of those honorable pols who rise to the defense of the nation (except, of course, those souls who have no health insurance.)

As a hawkish senator who avoided military service himself, he was once a Democrat who then charged into his friend John McCain's presidential campaign with spear and shield to wipe out Iraq, help the Republican candidate with Jewish voters and perhaps get a tidy vice presidential nod from the GOP. Having failed on all counts, Joe proudly retained his independence, but deftly played his hollow hand to literally blackmail unthinking Democrats into allowing him to caucus with the victorious party - a party, by the way, that mindlessly counted on his vote to override any Republican filibusters in the Senate! (How ironic!) They gave him his very own committee chairmanship and sheepishly said nice things about him.(Democrats may not be the party of sleeve-worn religion, but they do turn the other cheek to their own peril. )

His mercurial tactics may drive his old party to despair but it has made him one of Fox News iconic foster children, for whom he once described his political philosophy. Get this:

"I'm a Harry Truman, JFK, Scoop Jackson, Bill Clinton Democrat."

That there were varying degrees of difference among that quartet illustrate Lieberman's own warmed-over waffles, depending upon the moment. Let it be said that Lieberman's bizarre political initiatives are not totally ideological - not when he has received more than $1.6 million from the health care industry, including the invasive well-provided pharmaceuticals. He's been family-deep in the hands of health reform opponents. His wife Hadassah was on the lobbying payroll of companies for which Lieberman has bartered his soul. That's the short version.

Benignly concerned Joe is now in the front of the line, hardly as an independent thinker but as the leading teeter-totter in the Senate - a former Democrat, a happy-go-lucky cheerleader of the Republican presidential candidate, and now an Independent with a Democratic chairmanship and a valued Republican ear. For a Zelig of his skill, you can't do much better than that.

Attaboy, Joe. You can even boast to friends and family that you had been the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000, albeit again on the losing side. When the painful filibuster debate arrives, you may even be offered your own show on Fox News. Keep smiling.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The balloon boy: the televised version

FRANK RICH, the New York Times magisterial op-ed essayist, observed Sunday that America's fascination with the "balloon boy" episode reflected a media-driven society with a willing audience seduced by the latest hoax du jour. TV hustles spectacles. Millions of unthinking viewers buy into them. Think not? Oh? If you weren't among the glazed viewers watching an empty saucer-shaped balloon wafting for miles with voice-over, there was something nagging you that Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" was a put-on that, in one form or another, still exists in the tawdry tourist shops along the New Jersey boardwalks not that far from where the Martians landed.

Fantasies are the lifeline of television, from escapist reality shows to the soberly empty helicopter coverage of celebrities heading to the courthouse for still another hearing. That we were hustled by the balloon boy's dad was no more cynical than the meteoric rise of Joe the Plumber as a man hawked as a spokesman for the millions of unrepresented citizens (as well as a handy crowd-pleaser for John McCain.) And as some Americans wanted to believe, Sarah Palin's family was the moral equivalent of Ozzie and Harriet. (Some males went still farther and fantasized about Sarah.)

The fantasies never stop for today's Thumb Generation. Aim the remote at the screen and you may soon find an 800 telephone number that will end your labors and worries. Pyramid schemes abound with the fantasies of overnight riches. We go to war in the Middle East being told that the end of Saddam Hussein will take no longer than a few weeks or a few months - at most. The empty balloon made more sense.

Talk about gullibility. There's also a fellow named Arthur Ray, a mega-promoter of a fantasy that he calls" vision quest" that for upward of $10,000 he will literally roast you with heated rocks in a tent in Sedona, Ariz., to purge you of toxic invaders of your mind and body. His latest venture ended with three deaths among the 21 persons rushed to the hospital by emergency crews. Did some really believe they would survive the ordeal to help them overcome claustrophobia? You bet.

Also, despite the proven lies from the right-wing megaphones, there are still a sizable number of gullible folks who do not hesitate to believe that the earth is flat or that melting icebergs do not affect sea levels. The fiction may be stranger than the truth, but it sells to a wider audience, which is how decisions are influenced in the media. The once sacred network evening news reports are now limited to 22 minutes, some of which are superficially dedicated to whatever fantasies we are expected to believe. (Two minutes for the latest jobless figures? Ninety seconds for the hokum that health care reform is either dead or now ready for passage, depending on which lobbyist source is dishing it out?) And the Sunday morning panels have little more depth than boring coffee klatches. I confess: I don't think George Will, Cokie et al are ready for their own compelling reality show.)

The latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures upstage the fantasy hours on TV with harsh numbers: Newspaper circulation from April through September this year fell 1o.6 pct. from a similar period in 2008. While news rooms are shrinking, we must await the next made-for-TV journey into la-la land, or at least to the breaking "news" arriving in Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room. Some situation! But I don't expect any attitude adjustments. As Norman Lear pointed out on the Huffington Post, the balloon boy's parents were seduced by the networks into believing that "they are - even if what they dream up to qualify is a hoax - entitled to their 15 minutes."

With today's coverage of fantasies, it seems more like weeks.. During the Halloween season, at least we have long known that Linus's "great pumpkin" was harmless child's play.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Poison, suicide, quackery and servility

RECENT DECREES by the two reigning high priests of what was once the Republican Party:

GLENN BECK: Nancy Pelosi should be poisoned.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: (In a rant against New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin): "Mr. Revkin, why don't you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?"

And they continue to be defended by the servile pols in the GOP. As Columnist Elizabeth Drew observed in the latest New York Review of Books:
"Lacking any real leaders now, the Republicans' vacuum has been filled by the likes of talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, whose job it is to be outrageous, and before whom Republican politicians quaver. "
Curiously, the party of superhawks that led us into Iraq's quicksand is a different breed at home, cowering before a couple of out-of-control media quacks who have taken over the substance and tone of the GOP.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Heeeeeeerrs George W, Bush!

IS THERE A SLIGHT chance that the Get Motivated producers have taken a cue from the Balloon Boy (the latest vanishing sensation since Joe the Plumber) by paying George Bush to return to the stage as a speaker at its all-day spectacle in Ft. Worth Monday night? Guaranteeing that the media and late night-comics will be watching, Bush will be paid an estimated $100,000 for a one hour motivational (!) talk. The splinters are already flying about the odd choice for an inspiring pep talk for anybody aspiring to make a new career with a desk on the carpet. As the New York Daily News sized up his scheduled appearance:
"Former Republican President George W. Bush, last seen inspiring millions to vote Democratic - has a new gig as a high priced motivational speaker."
To put the event in context as Bush shares the program with such other luminaries as Zig Ziglar, Terry Bradshaw and Rudy Giuliani, it should be remembered that since he returned to his ranch in Texas with a 22 pct. public approval rating, there has been a serious effort by Karl Rove and others to rehab his ex-boss's dismal record in the image of Knute Rockne's winning strategies or Davy Crockett's heroics at the Alamo. There is even an instant rebuttal to the comics and critics by noting the Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton gave high priced speeches after leaving office. Trouble with that argument is Reagan and Clinton left office with decent numbers.

Get Motivated's web site boasts that its programs are "energizing, action-packed, star-filled and fun-filled. " Jon Stewart would not argue about the fun-filled bit. Just wait.

As for me, I'll go back to what I've said before about Dubya. It's the epitaph written by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II for himself:
"Here lies Joseph II, who failed in everything he undertook."


Bachmann: Is her non-pro really anti?

ON MY WAY to the dump this morning, I happened to pick this item:

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who continues to upstage Sarah Palin with her loopy comments on
Fox , assailed former GOP Senate majority leaders Bob Dole and Bill Frist for asking their party to be a bit more civil in the attacks on a health-care bill. Bachmann accused them of being, eh...
"non-pro-freedom." Non-pro? Is that like anti? Does it mean that if somebody disagrees with her, the person is therefore pro-non-pro freedom? In response, it would leave her no choice but to charge that her disagreement with that person could be described as non-pro-non-pro freedom, redundant though it might be. It does get confusing, doesn't it, even for a politician?
As the people from her home state of Minnesota have been heard to comment...You betcha!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of traitors, medical bankruptcies & enemies lists

THE GARBAGE TRUCK is out on the curb so I want to gather up a few items before it pulls away:

The bus tour of a right-wing Iraq/Afghanistan coalition of veterans has produced this comment from a supporter of the Operation Free tour, Pennsylvania Republican State Sen. Daryl Metcaife, with dire warnings about those of us who support climate change legislation:
"As a veteran, I believe that any veteran lending their name, to promote the leftist propaganda of global warming and climate change, in an effort to control more of the wealth created in our economy, through cap and tax type policies, all in the name of national secruity, is a traitor to the oath he or she took to defend the Constitution of our great nation. Remember Benedict Arnold before giving credibility to a veteran who uses their service as a means to promote a leftist agenda. Drill Baby Drill!!!"
According to Think Progress, which gave us that gem from Metcaife, he served in the army from 1980 to 1984. (Weren't we Iraq's and Afghanistan's friend at the time?) Metcaife, the blog reported, also refused to support Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Pennsylvania because "the resolution referenced domestic abuse suffered by men, which Metcaife interpreted as part of a 'homosexual agenda." It figures.

For all of this nonsense (drumroll), Metcaife is the winner of today's Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award.

And what about Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Diana Furchgott-Roth , who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on medical debt and bankruptcy reform. She insisted that medical debt bankruptcies would soar under reforms. Buy when Sen. Al Franken asked her how many such bankruptcies have occurred in countries like Switzerland and France, which have universal health care, she said she didn't know but would get the figure for him.

He advised her that she needn't bother because the number was zero. The same for Germany, he said. When she responded that he was obviously referencing zeros, he responded:

"Well, you're very good. Very fast. The point is I think we need to go in that direction, not the opposite direction. Thank you. " (And thanks again to Think Progress, which is having a field day with its ear to the dumb comments on the Hill) "

Finally, from Talking Points Memo we hear: Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander is advising President Obama not to create an enemies list by feuding with Fox News and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He said it would be comparable to the Nixon Administration.

Wow! Now they are comparing Obama to Nixon. Call the President a traitor, a socialist, a Nazi and all of those nasty other things, but to label him as Nixon is too much. Alexander may now be headed to the top of the enemies list.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WOIO: A "scoop" with more holes than a sieve


Violating the most basic rules of Journalism 101, the Cleveland Internet outlet declared Mayor Plusquellic to be "DUI" in the headline above a report of a 911 call from a source only identified as "Melanie". According to the Beacon Journal's follow-up of the station's fiasco, an officer who stopped the mayor's car on the basis of the anonymous calls to police found nothing that would indicate the mayor was driving under the influence.

Although television stations that spend as little as possible on their news departments (they're loss leaders) love to parade their "exclusives" past their audiences, WOIO laid an egg the size of a Halloween pumpkin. The BJ quoted WOIO executive producer Brian Sinclair as lamely explaining that he didn't know who the so-called informants were. I suspect the next time, he will. But maybe that's giving him the benefit of the doubt.

It's no mystery that the mayor, in his battle with the firefighters union, has become a marked man in public. That's the context that should alert everyone - most specifically the media - to look both ways before crossing the street into a mud pit. The station has a lot more explaining to do for its amateurish behavior. Fat chance. Right, Melanie? Whoever you are.

Is the Summit County GOP calming down?

ANOTHER YEAR, another Summit County Republican Finance Dinner, another event in which the accolades for the home team ranged from great to greatest. Nothing new there. Political parties, Republican and Democratic but no socialists that I'm aware of - yet) get high on promoting their versions of Academy Awards night.

So it was at the Hilton West Hotel Monday evening with County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff presiding over the throng whose number was described to me to be "500 plus change"). These opportunities are always Arshinkoff's high points of his long political life ( he's been at it for 32 years) , allowing him to announce that the dinner of chicken and Duchess potatoes raised between $675,000 and $700,000. Evidence enough that some of the diners paid a tad more than the going bleachers price.

For all that, the fund-raiser was tamer than some of the past adventures into stagecraft. It lacked the harshness of the past, with those earlier assaults on the Beacon Journal from the podium. (The BJ's business manager was in the crowd.) Mayor Don Plusquellic wasn't scorched. And even George Bush wasn't mentioned - by anyone!

Instead, Arshinkoff exclaimed that University Akron President Luis Proenza, who was seated in the audience, was the "greatest president in the history of the University of Akron". He also described the economy as "Obama's depression." That is pretty harmless partisan stuff on occasions such as these. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, followed up on lofty praise for him by others on the dais by calling Arshinkoff "one of the greatest chairmen Ohio had ever had." Kasich thought the way to a bright future for the country was to resurrect Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. Oh?

Still, the litany was directly from the essentials of the GOP playbook: cut taxes, stress individualism, don't screw around and ruin the health care system, create jobs. You will continue to hear a lot of that.

The guest speaker was Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, whose thick southern accent was reminiscent of LBJ's Texas patois, and his rambling good ol' boy humor was remarkably close to that of the late Jim Rhodes. He, too, declared it was time for a change, accusing the Obama Administration of "deindustrializing" America. Much of his rhetoric was a traditional locker-room pep talk to a team behind at half-time. For all of the glittering comments, it was a sign of the times that Dubya was never mentioned once. A Republican officeholder who pased by me in the back of the room whispered satirically "They left out eight years."

Barbour was a long way from home, where he has been sharply criticized for converting $600 million in federal Katrina flood relief money (tax dollars!) intended for rehabbing a lot of middle-income flood victims. The money was used instead for other projects as tens of thousands of Mississippians remain in desperate need of housing. The Bloomberg News Report also told of Barbour's family-related lobbyists who have prospered from the Katrina contracts.

Yet the nagging problem of the Republican Party is less about Barbour's possible mischief at home than it was in the sea of faces at the Monday night event. There were fewer than five African-Americans in the crowd - give or take a few - and there's not much the party has been able to do about it, even if it tried beyond its showpieces of Justice Clarence Thomas, who is more royalist than the king, and Michael Steele, the conservative head of the Republican National Committee. As I mentioned in an earlier blog about minorities and Steele, the party elders have have talked about the problem for more than a generation with promises to do better. Trouble is, the GOPers in Congress then vote the other way while many southern venues hiss, "don't bother".

The dinner also reflected the continuing disappearance of the media - print, radio and TV. Fewer and fewer keep night hours these days. As I stood alone at the rear, one gentleman rushed up to damn the Beacon Journal. I tried to explain that I hadn't worked there in 18 years. Unconvinced, he wanted to tell me he had canceled his subscription to the paper. Again, I reminded him I'm no longer on the payroll. He apologized. Later a woman rushed by, asking me, "Are you a spy?" On the other hand a Greek Republican friend fetched a program for me and invited me to lunch at his church. He said he would call. It made for a better-than-usual evening.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

LeBron doesn't dunk doughnuts

ASKED BY a magazine who would be his first choice to "dunk on", superstar LeBron James tartly responded:
"If it doesn't have to be a basketball player, George W. Bush. I would dunk on his ass, break the rim and shatter the glass."
To all of the groaners who will doubtless argue that King James should be more respectful, I would only respond that a president who dishonestly led us into a war that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and departed with an economic meltdown really doesn't deserve respect.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Steele at Bliss: the old-new-old GOP

THERE WAS something surreal about Michael Steele's visit to Akron Thursday night. Speaking in E. J. Thomas hall as a guest of the University of Akron and Bliss Institute, the Republican National Committee chairman briefly acknowledged Akron native Ray Bliss's leadership in rebuilding the party after its 1964 Goldwater disaster. Still, even with the passage of more than four decades, and with the ghost of Ray Bliss hovering over the event, it was easy enough to sense that Steele had arrived not to praise the past but to slay the image of a GOP that sloughs off the common folks to enrich the wealthy.

Against heavy odds (Walter Lippmann said it would be at least a 25 years before the party could think about returning to power after 1964), Bliss immediately, and without much public notice, set about to reassembling the GOP's broken parts into a cohesive whole. A taciturn fellow who was never inclined to hog the scene, Bliss was fastidiously self disciplined to the point of shyness., At the party dinners, never a fork nor spoon on the head table was permitted to be out of place.

On the other hand , standing on the stage as the latest successor of the Republican Party's most successful strategist, Steele offered his courteously attentive audience (mostly Republican, it appeared) little more than what we've been hearing from Republicans since the election. The party , he insisted, favors lower taxes, entrepreneurism,the true spirit of free enterprise, unquestioned wealth for the people at the top of the pyramid, and individual responsibility. As with the late Gov. Jim Rhodes, profit should never be a dirty word, he said, although I don't know many people, including me, who think it is.

For Steele, the rebuilding process could be even more difficiult as it was for Bliss as he speaks with concern for rabid groups, reminding us that they are frustrated because nobody is listening to their problems. When he does that, with the shorthand of political jabs that raises the specter of Big Brother and tax-guzzling Democrats, it is not a fresh approach to their problems but rather no approach at all. To make his case, he asked the audience if there was anybody who didn't like a little more money in his pocket. When nobody raised a hand, he considered it a vindication of his anti-tax defense. (These guys never ask whether anyone preferred to ride on dirt roads, cross rickety bridges, have nobody answer the emergency phone at the fire department or have the Pony Express deliver the mail only one day a week - services which, the last time I looked , are only possible through taxes.

He also fussed over the Obama Administration' s "rush" to pass health care reform, declaring that the President wants to accomplish it in 30 to 45 days - which , we all know, has been knocked about for nearly a year - and much longer for the Republican pols who had many opportunities to change things for the better when they occupied the White House and Congress.

Steele referred to his own meager childhood, which, with help from his mother, enabled him to become a successful African-American. He urged the audience, whites as well as the handful of blacks, to take control of their own lives for a brighter future.

When a woman asked him how a poor family with no job and no health insurance could pay for health coverage, Steele assured her that his party is working on a solution to the problem . These are always good cover lines to get to the next question. But can anyone deny that the party is no more progressive with an African-American at the RNC in order to show that the party has expanded its base? Sitting in the front row was Bob Bennett, the former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. It must have been 25 years ago that he boasted to me, in a mild act of contrition, how the party was going to expand its base. Seeing Steele, I had to ask, This is finally how they did it?

Whatever is happening within the party's back rooms to reach out to a more diverse electorate is still puzzling to me. It's too bad that Einstein didn't solve the mystery of "hidden variables" in his research. It might tell us what Steele & Co. all means.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New handbook has Latin for Dummies

THE NEW REPUBLICAN National Committee Website refers to GOP Icon Ronald Reagan as Ronaldus Magnus. You don't have to be a Latin scholar to understand the meaning. In fact, I doubt very much whether there are any Latin scholars or anyone else at the RNC these days. Still, I like the idea of Latin names for people who normally speak in the vernacular. Besides, Reagan is now the party's fifth saint to the right of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospels don't lie.

Let's see. In my quest to be hip with current progressive trends, I would have no trouble with Jonus Boehnerus Caracallus and Marcus Sanfordus Infidelus. Dickus Chenus Caligulatus would qualify if you added Monstrus to the surname. Yeah, I like that, too. Georgeus Bushus Nero would be OK if you weren't asked to explain the Nero part. Otherwise, drop the Nero and add Imperiatus . There are a lot of Caesars running around politics these days, but they can't measure up to Augustus. Anybody messing with this emperor's name would do so at his own peril. Take your time in identifying others. Rome wasn't built in a day. Oh, Tomus DeLayus Maximus Chachatus also works for me.

Take it from there. You may become the wave of the future. Well, at least a ripple.

Morrison's defiance more than guilt or innocence?

TODAY BROUGHT another dismal chapter in the tale of Jack Morrison's continued defiance of all moving parts since he was convicted of two ethics charges as a member of the University of Akron Board of Trustees. On Page One of the Beacon Journal he's reported to be glued to his seat on the Summit County Board of Elections despite Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's initiative to remove him. He continues to defend his innocence, which is usually the refrain of prisoners heading to the gallows. He has used the same excuse to remain on the UA's Board of Trustees.

What gall! Morrison, an influential operative who knows his way around the inner-sanctum of Republican politics as the party's lawyer, obviously has elevated politics to a disgracefully high level. Folks, this is less about guilt or innocence and more about retaining a Republican seat on the Board of Trustees until the day that a Republican might get elected governor.(Governors appoint trustees on the recommendations of local pols.) That is at least GOP County Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's rationale in defending Morrison's continued presence at the university. A former board member himself, Arshinkoff has long been involved in the university's and party's interests in tandem. I wouldn't be surprised if other higher-ups in the party have worked back channels to get Morrison off the hook. A man of his wealth and power always has friends.

Now the chairman must choose: Is a single seat on the Board of Trustees (the election board is another matter since it has always been a political instrument for both parties) more important than the recurring negative stories that will accompany the Morrison saga and further dent the university's image, partricularly those enrolled in ethics classes? .

It shouldn't be that hard to answer the question. But unfortunately, it apparently is.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The NFL may call offsides on Rush


THE RESPONSE to Rush Limbaugh's bid to become a co-owner of the NFL's pathetic St. Louis Rams has been largely negative so far. Surprise, surprise. The owner of the Baltimore Colts says he doesn't want to play this hand. The NFL's Players Association as well as Commissioner Roger Goodell believe the potential arrival of race-baiting Limbaugh into the muscular world of pro football would hardly be a salutary presence in a league where three-fourths of the players are African-Americans.

Race-baiting? He lost his job an ESPN's Sunday night football after he accused sportswriters of being uncritical of the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb because they cozy up to black quarterbacks. He also likened pro football to a contest between "Bloods and Crips," notorious street gangs, without guns. It's even been more obvious since Barack Obama became president. Limbaugh now projects a vision of ObamaWorld, as he calls it, to a daily routine of violent black kids beating up white kids. As he runs into the negatives of his latest dream, Limbaugh should be reminded of the words from Jeremiah: "As ye sow, so shall ye reap". I'm a long way from being a Biblical scholar, but somehow those words ring true to me.

Why am I so amused by the chutzpah of adulterous, sin-hating guys like Republican Sen. John Ensign who are now out to save the Republic from the monstrous fate of a health reform bill? Ensign is the Nevada once-religiously clean political star who paid off his mistress's husband (his former chief of staff) with $97,000 in "gifts" after it was discovered that he had been enjoying a jolly good time in bed with the chief's wife for months. Now that the transaction is complete, an apparently unrepentant and rehabbed Ensign is back on TV hammering the health bill. Can anybody tell me why we should believe him? (By the way, Ensign's lawyer says the gifts were legal because they were within the limits of tax rules. Problem solved.)

Blame me for being a broken record but I admit that the Orly Taitz saga is so fascinating that I can't walk away from it. The latest twist for this Queen of the Birthers is that she says she will refuse to pay a $20,000 fine by a Federal judge who accused her of misbehavior in her many lawsuits challenging President Obama's birthplace. She described Judge Clay Land to TV's Joy Behar as "corrupt and delusional." When a reporter asked her about whether she intended to pay up, she responded:. "You must be kidding."

Careful there, Orly. I've never known judges to kid around in their decisions. In your own deluded trot, you may have taken a step over the cliff.

UPDATE: Rush has been cut from the practice squad by a team of bidders for the Rams. They concluded that he would only "complicate" the deal to buy the team. He's said to be angrier than hell, and you can expect a torrent of invective from him on this issue. He'll have to settle for a seat in the end zone. Maybe he will organize his own league with only white players from Alaska and his idol Sarah regressing to her days as a cheerleader.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Anti-health reform mobs: Nullification next?


The New York Review of Books has an essay by Michael Tomasky, the editor of Democracy: a Journal of Ideas, that has a sobering look at the growing clout of the Tea Party mentality that is partly fueled by racism. Saying that it's unlikely that the reaction would be as hatefully demonstrated if the Democrats had elected a white president. He writes:
"We can't measure this, and I'm not sure what good it would do us to know even if we could. What we do know is that this movement is backed by corporate millions, powerful media organizations, such as Fox News, and votes in Congress, and that it will be around for some time, advancing new scandals and lies. The next phase in all this, if health care passes, might well be 'nullification' lawsuits or resolutions in states that don't want to have to implement Obama's reform."
Tomasky notes that South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have "intimated" that nullification would be the best course of action. (Sounds to me like the kind of stuff that was going around in South Carolina in the years leading up to the Civil War.)

THE BONUS ONUS remains very much alive, no matter where you look today. Even the Tribune Company, the mega-media owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and TV stations, is arguing in bankruptcy court that its $66 billion in bonuses were important to
"incentivize"(God, how I hate the word!) its management. David Carr takes up this silliness in his The Media Equation column in the New York Times.
"Let's say that a group of corporate executives uses scads of debt to take over a struggling company, sells off some profitable assets, lays off thousands of employees while achieving miserable results. And then less than a year after saddling the company with $8 billion in debt, they opt for bankruptcy.
"You'd expect them to walk the plank, or at the least, spend a good stretch of time in the naughty corner. but you wouldn't expect the top 700 managers to collect $86 million in bonuses. But that's just what might happen at the Tribune Co.
(By the way the guy defending incentivization (!) is the Tribune Co.'s chief financial officer, Chandler Bigelow III. That's not the sort of name that would head a Laborers Union.)

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for alerting us to the judicial setback for the wacky California dentist/lawyer Orly Taitz, who has been one of the national ringleaders in challenging President Obama's birthplace. Taitz is a birther who has been challenging Obama's legitimacy wherever she could park her lawsuits. But U.S. District Judge Clay Land (Georgia Middle District) decided he had had enough of her nonsense and fined her $20,000 for misconduct. Should you question the logic behind the fine, here is, in part what he wrote:
When a lawyer files complaints and motions without a reasonable basis for believing that they are supported by existing law or a modification or extension of existing law, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer uses the courts as a platform for a political agenda disconnected from any legitimate legal cause of action, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer personally attacks opposing parties and disrespects the integrity of the judiciary, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer recklessly accuses a judge of violating the Judicial Code of Conduct with no supporting evidence beyond her dissatisfaction with the judge's rulings, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law, that lawyer ceases to advance her cause or the ends of justice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

When politics becomes a religious experience

THE OCTOBER ISSUE of Church and State has a detailed account of the 2009 Values
Voter Summit in Washington, a sort of fun-filled, let's-show-those-godless socialists event sponsored by a number of right-wing politico-religious organizations. If that's how they want to spend a couple of days in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, that's fine with me. Besides, we've all heard it before.

But the annual haloed conference of true believers is also an enormous magnet for the Republican Party's worst and dimmest who would doubtless be expelled from the rolls of Judeo-Christian (mostly Christian) safe passage to the next election if they didn't turn up with bless-you smiles.

I mean, this isn't a case where a GOP pol with a few battle stripes is invited to be the keynoter that would provide the big photo-op for Fox News. Rather, they eagerly arrive en masse to see and be seen. All leaves are cancelled, even if it means giving up a brother-in-law's funeral or a day at the races to be counted at the conference. In return, their pictures are posted in the program and can be quite heartwarming for those who are deeply attached to these sorts of family reunions.

Check them out: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, ex-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, ex-presidential-candidate Mitt Romney, ex-Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, ex Miss California candidate Carrie Prejean, Bill O'Reilly and, of course, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. There were many more, but you get the point. All of these folks have bags and will travel without much encouragement. There was one glaring exception: Sarah Palin, who tentatively agreed to come, was a no-show.

When you hear the damning comments from these speakers, it only gets worse. I've picked out a few from the magazine's report. (The magazne is published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.)

Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota: "Keep the faith, and have heart, because remember, God is the God of all. He's the God of the White House, of the Congress, of state capitols, of school board meetings, city council meetings, all of it." (Does anybody doubt that Pawlenty is running for president on the God ticket?)

Blackwell: Calling upon his audience to convert Americans to fundamentalism, he declared: "If we don't do it, America in its third century will be redefined." (And I thought we were fighting religious fundamentalists in the Middle East!)

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey: Calling Obama the "abortion president," Smith complained: "I believe Obamacare represents the greatest threat since Roe Vs. Wade itself."

Ok, so we have the issues laid out for the 2012 presidential race - and sooner: Anti health care reform, anti stimulus package, anti abortion, anti moderate-to-left politicians and pro-fear of "socialism" and Big Brother.

As Frank Rich aptly pointed out in his Sunday New York Times essay, the war in Afghanistan is now costing us $2.6 billion a month. Let us pray that the religious conservatives will take note of that when they complain about the financial burdens that we are placing on the next generation.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Miss America and Limbaugh: Beauty and the beast

THE NEWS THAT Rush Limbaugh will be a judge of the 2010 Miss America pageant completes the circle of a declining event in desperate need of an audience. If Rush, a world-class sexist, can't help revive an "American sweetheart" contest, then the words of the former host, Bert Parks, ("There she is, Miss America") will finally stop troubling my memory. Although the contestants over the years competed with no more than a bathing suit and, say, a decent recital of Chopsticks on a grand piano, the young curvaceous women and their sponsors continue to insist it is something much more than a skin contest, which we all know is fibbing.

Art McMaster, the president and CEO of the Miss America Organization, showed little restraint in hailing his new panelist, exhaling: "We are thrilled to have Rush join us for our pageant this year. He will be bring a thrilling new dimension to the competition..." He said some other things, but you can easily guess that he was thrilled beyond any reasonable doubt. After all, the ennobling mission of the pageant was expressed back in the 1920s by an Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce guy who was looking stir up more business in town:
"Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a real combination of beauty, grace and intelligence, artistic and refined. She is a type which the American girl might well emulate."
Rush fits the description perfectly, wouldn't you say? Even McMaster's bit about dimension. FemiNazis need not apply.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Look both ways crossing the tracks

Just listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar
As we glide across the woodlands,
Through the hills and by the shore. ---The Wabash Cannonball

WITH OUTRAGED REPUBLICANS, it's always something. Today it was the roaring matter of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Obama, that came after the matter of the president's botched efforts in America's exclusion from the Olympics, that came after the matter of the death panels in Obama's projected health reform, that came after the matter of his certain birth in Labrador or wherever, that followed the matter that he shoots basketballs in his spare time, followed by the lack of grey matter by Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh and other revelers of the anticipated day when Ronald Reagan will reappear in a World War II bomber to save the nation from extinction. At this moment, the raucous critics and the Taliban are on the same page.

That Obama promptly decided to give his $1.4 million prize to charity didn't cost the GOP a single stride because conservatives have long considered Nobel Prizes to be ill-gotten awards from an international leftist institution. So it didn't come as much of a surprise that Limbaugh, doing his frantic hula hoop movement at the mike, profoundly referred to Obama's honor as a "greater embarrassment" than the loss of the Olympics. But even that thought is a non-sequitur inasmuch as conferring conservatives gloated and cheered at the news that the event was going elsewhere. These, after all, are Rush's people, and having watched their reaction, it didn't seem to me that anybody in the hall was a tad embarrassed.

The leader of the drive-by assaults on the Obama award was, once again, the GOP national chairman, Michael Steele, who quickly popped off with the question: "What has President Obama actually accomplished?" and ranted on about fiscal responsibility and unemployment. Well, for one thing, he won the election handily and as they say, it's the victors who write the history. For heaven's sake, Mike, stop talking under the heads of your public. The history is already being written with Obama's towering approval ratings in Europe in the high 80s to low 90s. Why so high? Bush is gone. You bet.

There were warnings from all around, including the mainstream media, that Obama had been sucked into political swamp that may sink him, maybe 25 or 30 years from now. The reporter for the New York Times called our attention to the award as a "potential political liability" for the president, adding: "Already, Republicans are criticizing the president more for his star power than his actual achievement..."

Already??? Slamming Obama has been their schtick since his nomination. Why is it so much different now?

Time magazine was less than enthusiastic, reporting that the prize was the last thing Obama needed in his diplomatic efforts to restore a gleam of order in the international scene. Well, now that he is a tall figure in the European electorate, what's the next to last thing that he needs to gather support from other nations?

The last thing the national media and the howlers needed was to be blindsided by this blockbuster. They are just finding it hard to say so.

May Day! May Day!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bipeds - the threatening kind - in our midst

A CALENDAR from the African Wildlife Foundation rose to the top of one of the stacks on my desk that told me we are in the midst of the "Year of the Gorilla." I'm not sure how it got there, although I am such a softy about animals that seldom does a day pass that I don't hear from one of the scores of wildlife outfits seeking a dollar or two. I do what I can.

Month after month, the calendar offers different photos of these menacing-looking but peaceful creatures of the wild and despite all else you might have been told about what are surely our ancestors, I've never seen a gorilla I didn't like. Well, sort of. In fact I was quite taken by Dian Fossey's book, Gorillas in the Mist, dealing with her unyielding efforts to protect the Rwandan mountain gorillas from poachers. So as editor of the Beacon Journal's Sunday News & Views Section years ago, I ran a long and beautifully written two part series about her work from the Washington Post that appeared on successive Sundays (to the astonishment and dismay of some insensitive hominids at the paper.)

I realize that I am treading on perilous ground. If this love story reaches a certain audience, I will have at least two dozen more wildlife calendars dispatched to me with promises of various tote bags or coffee mugs.

Unfortunately, there will be a notable absence among the new calendars. With full apologies to the gorilla population I wonder who will be the first to publish an annual calendar featuring some of the virulent apes who have been creating havoc in Congress with their incoherent mountaintop shrieks against health care reform.

Unfortunately the African Wildlife Foundation's well intentioned gorilla calendar has overlooked the possibilities of broadening its reach.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

UA: Two out of three falls one short

THE UNIVERSITY OF AKRON today shed two of its more prominent staff problems, but still faces a third challenge. First, the good news: UA's Board of Trustees accepted the resignations of John Case and Reno Ferri. Case was the vice president and chief financial officer who was arrested by Macedonia police in September and charged with drunk driving after other drivers spotted his car weaving in the road. It was his second encounter with the law. In February, 2006, he was found slumped over his wheel in traffic. He pleaded no contest when the charge was reduced to reckless operation. After his latest run-in with the law, he was placed on leave at full salary of $242, 625. The resignation will be effective in February.

Reno Ferri was UA's football running backs coach and recruiting coordinator who had been on administrative leave after the NCAA turned up some recruiting violations.

The still unresolved problem is Jack Morrison, the UA trustee who was convicted of two ethics violations in connection with the construction of UA's new football stadium. Although he has been asked to resign by state officials and the Akron Beacon Journal, Morrison has shown no interest in budging. And his lawyer insisted it will stay that way because his convictions are being appealed - a process that could take another six months.

As I've mentioned before, the Morrison issue is being played out along strictly partisan lines. If Morrison, a Republican insider and outsider, resigned, it would give the Democrats an extra opportunity to replace him with an appointee from their party . (The current split is 5-4 Republican, although that's a stretch. Although trustee Ann Amer Brennan is listed as a Democrat, it hardly identifies her true political tilt to the GOP). Actually, the Board is powerless to remove Morrison from its midst even though it would come as a relief to the other trustees if he voluntarily stepped down to remove himself as a major distraction.

Obviously, where political considerations are involved, the University's mission is of secondary importance. A trustee told me today that there was no doubt that Morrison and Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff have a common goal of holding on to the seat.
"I wish we could have had three resignations, but we didn't," the trustee sighed after today's meeting. "I know there are others who feel the same way."

And I'll bet you thought that universities operate for the sole benefit of advancing the knowledge of the students. Think again.

Taitz: A birther born in Moldova

DO YOU FIND find it ironic that one of the national leaders of the birther movement to disprove President Obama's birthplace is a California dentist/lawyer who was not born in the U.S. but is a native of Moldova, the former Soviet Republic? Her name is Orly Taitz and she is described as a rabid litigant among birthers. She earned a law degree from an online correspondence school. Her sidekick in this ridiculous mayhem is a lawyer named Charles Lincoln, who has been disbarred in three states for his way of doing legal work.

The four horsemen of the Brownies clips

Dirge for Edwards, Winslow, Jurevicius & Stallworth

All four of the Browns' honored receivers
were considered to be golden retrievers.
But now that Braylon's out
There's good reason to shout
They were no more than pathetic deceivers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Limbaugh and Rams: Where's the upside?

WHAT'S THAT!?!?!!? Rush Limbaugh wants to buy the St. Louis Rams pro football franchise, loser of 14 games in a row? There goes the NFL neighborhood!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A moral compass won't lead you to Cleveland

AFTER PLEADING guilty to bribery last week, Santina Klimkowski, an upper-tier bureaucrat in Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo's office, told the Plain Dealer that her "moral compass" had failed her. That should explain everything.

There seem to be a lot of failed compasses going around in Cleveland these days as corrupt public employes and their enablers literally have been lining up to take a number to appear before the crowded court. There are enough people who have been either charged or convicted on the public payroll that a single indictment against the entire political culture would seem to be a modest beginning in cleaning up the mess.

Instead, there will be a couple of "reform" measures on the November ballot to change the structure of county government to make it more responsible for an honest day's work for a day's pay. But even those two issues bear the trademark of the city-county's eternal rivalries. One issue, supported by the mayor and county commissioners, is confusing enough in its wording that calls for a charter review commission to study the issue even more. In effect, it would give everybody on the cusp more time to find a good lawyer. The other ballot issue is supported by the "reformers" who figure you've got to start somewhere.

Taken together, the two measures represent how every political action causes a reaction by those who fear any change in the status quo would ill-serve their interests. Still, even if the second and most upheaving issue passes, where is the guarantee that a new cast of characters will bring new honor and light to Cleveland's political culture? Judging by tradition alone, Cleveland and Cuyahoga County politics (indistinguishable one from the other) have shown little willingness to subjugate individual interests to the public interest.

A bit of enlivening history:

Cleveland politics have long been battered by ethnic, racial, partisan, corporate and religious issues that have been passed down genetically from one generation to the next. Democrats have largely presided over this stricken scene, although they have often rivaled each other and crossed party lines to be joined by Republicans in sharing whatever largesse was available.

During Dennis Kucinich's mayor campaigns, it was not uncommon to hear Eastern Europeans complaining about the throngs of (x#&%*&!!) Irish in public office and running things "downtown." When Democrat Jack Gilligan was challenged by Republican Jim Rhodes in 1974, George Forbes, the powerful black Democratic councilman and Rhodes ally, was hardly seen in the campaign for Gilligan. Although the late Carl Stokes opposed Kucinich, his brother Lou, a congressman was at Kucinich's side.

Need more? Although Rhodes and pseudo Democrat Frank Lausche, had run one of the bloodiest campaigns against each other in the 1954 gubernatorial race, it was Lausche who was standing shoulder to shoulder with Rhodes in denouncing Gilligan in their match. And when I once reminded Ralph Perk that his mayoral campaign opponent, Kucinich, called himself the city's premiere ethnic candidate, Perk hastily offered the profound political insight for his city: "There are ethnics," he said sharply, "and there are ethnics!" Just to prove it, he allowed me to join him that evening to a Slavic event where he was hailed as The Ethnic Mayor.

The media's record has only served to emphasize the detente with powerful politicians and their corporate allies which, on one famous occasion, threw together a Forbes legal defense fund when he was charged with graft involving the church sponsors of street fairs. A nun then testified that Mr. Forbes was a wonderful person. On another occasion the Plain Dealer endorsed all three mayoral candidates, two in the primary without a single mention of the third and evenutal winning candidate in the general election, Kucinich. But after the primary, Publisher Tom Vail, who never saw a winner's circle that he didn't like, endorsed Kucinich, ushering him into the PD news room on election night with beaming compliments. Vail told me that the paper had learned more about Kucinich's street smarts after the primary and decided he was the one to lead the city into a progressive future.

We haven't even mentioned Art Modell's desertion to Baltimore by the light of the moon , later explaining that the city's movers and shakers hadn't been nice to him.

A little history can shed a bit more light on the horrendous corruption that has beset a slowly abandoned city that has long been at distrustful sixes and sevens with itself . I hope the reform issue on the ballot passes, but it is fair to wonder what would happen next to change a way of life that has dominated the city for many decades through a broadly defined political fraternity with so many moving parts that has enriched itself at public expense,

A headline in the Plain Dealer Monday reported: Cleveland seeing 14 pct. spike in home burglaries over '08. But with all of the failing moral compasses, that's only part of the story.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The jeering from Rat Wing's Mt Olympus

HAS THERE ever been anything more politically degenerate than the Rat Wing's (as it is pronounced in some Southern precincts) eruptions of glee that the Olympics are not going to Chicago? We can only wonder what the response would have been if Dallas or Phoenix had been in play. The White House should fear the season's first snow storm. It will be Barack Obama's fault!

AS I gathered up my Sunday newspapers, I noticed that the Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer had featured a major flu story on the front page. A closer look told me that the same stories had run under the byline of Plain Dealer Reporter Diane Suchetka. The papers are still breathing, but competition and the once important reporter's personal satisfaction of his/her exclusive work are gone forever. It is now cookie-cutter journalism, folks.

NOW THAT Greece has elected a bona fide socialist government, does it mean that those of us who belong to the Zorba fan club are traitors? I should add that a stuffed grape leaf under a socialist government is still tasty.

Mr. President, don't go there!

ANOTHER GRIM report from Afghanistan: Eight more GI's killed by militants. Just as Iraq was George Bush's war, Afghanistan has become your war as casualties continue to grow without the slightest prospect of success. Don't spend more time talking to your generals, President Obama. Talk to the Russians who suffered grave casualties in Afghanistan for 10 years before they got the message that a war in the tunnels, caves and mountains of Afghanistan cannot be won. Remember this: the same hawks who impelled us into Iraq are now circling the White House. If you want to change the course of history, draft the Neocons like William Kristol and Dick Cheney, who found reasons to stay out of harm's way when it was their turn to put up or shut up, wrap them in army fatigues and send them into battle over there. If you want to add a profile in courage to your own legacy, back away from the impossible dream that America can police the world. Now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ohio U.S. Senate race: A Ganley moment

WHAT CAN be said of Akron mega-auto dealer Tom Ganley's mini-senatorial campaign speech to a sparse Akron Press Club audience Thursday? I wonder. Well, it was different. With a teleprompted text of no more than 15 minutes, he may have set a Press Club record for the shortest offering in my several decades of listening to candidates at the Martin Center. And to his opponent in the Republican primary, Rob Portman, it may also have been the least threatening of oratory by a rookie political opponent. In short order, Ganley wanted us to know that (1)he was NOT a politician, (2)he was NOT beholden to a single lobbyist (that most certainly would come later if he ever was elected and worth a lobbyist's attention ) and (3) he was NOT a lawyer but was proud to be a conservative businessman. That point he emphasized so often that it is almost certain to show up on bumper stickers, to wit: . Ganley means business.

His approach to government was not unlike the sort of thing one might hear at Tea Parties, a modern phenomenon which his people say he has attended. He lamented the loss of jobs and said we need to create more opportunities for the unemployed. He was critical of deficit spending and insisted it would take a businessman to produce more jobs. Creating jobs has been political boilerplate for both parties, of course, since the colonials created the presidency for George Washington.

Referring to his campaign material that assigned socialist enterprises to the Obama Administration, I asked him whether he thought Medicare and Medicaid were the products of socialists. He didn't really say yes or no, merely declaring that they were programs that had been around for awhile. He also opposed taxes on "the rich" because they won't create jobs and "in fact, it worsens it by taking investment dollars out of the system." He also said he would have no problem with allowing General Motors and Chrysler to fail because they would be replaced by somebody else in the free enterprise system.

The most jarring note came after he skewered illegal aliens. Someone asked what he he would do about an illegal alien's sick child who needed medical attention. He would have deported them, he snapped. "They're illegal!"

It will be interesting to me to see whether Ganley's businessman-to-the-core rhetoric will carry all the way to Republican primary in May, considering that Portman is the bell cow for Republican operatives around the state.

My late Republican father once owned a Pontiac dealership in Pennsylvania. I'm glad he never ran for public office.

A nutjob who lives in glass houses...

MICHAEL STEELE is now the tarnished hood ornament of a desperate, aimless and ranting Republican Party. As an African-American cynically chosen to represent the GOP as the head of Republican National Committee to flaunt its (hollow) commitment to minorities, he has instead unwittingly served to brand the party's failure to rationally reach beyond its white masses. Seldom a day passes that he doesn't offer his critics a silly comment or two to support their case. I can't be sure how much his political fraternity brothers in the GOP quietly suffer his antics, although in their silence you could suppose, at least, that they are willing to allow him to be their fall guy to advance whatever their cause despite his negative impact on what's left of the party. In that sense, he's being used.

Steele's latest venture into quicksand was his demonic assault on New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who had written that fire-breathing right-wingers care creating a climate of potential violence against President Obama. Anyone of sound mind who has followed the inflammatory elements of the anti-Obama crowd on the Internet and at rallies could easily agree with Friedman, who is quite the centrist. But Steele called the columnist a "nutjob", asking "where do these nutjobs come from?" Maybe the RNC that installed Steele could provide us with the answer.