Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sotomayor's critics can't do simple math

IF WE NEEDED more persuasive proof of the right-wing's desperation in self-serving revisions of current events, it was the gangland attacks on Sonia Sotomayer in the wake of yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the New Haven, Conn., firefighters case. Proving that they are as inept in math as they are in their public utterances, the wingnuts immediately described the 5-4 decision as a 9-0 whipping of Sotomayor's vote to reject the firefighters' complaint of discrimination. (By the way, she was one of three appellate judges who unanimously supported the city's action against the firefighters.). Fox commentator Laura Ingraham called it "9-0 on Soto's summary judgment of firefighters claims." Or as Rush Limbaugh put it, "9-zip." On and on throughout the day, the absurd story line reported a "9-0" defeat for Sotomayor. But I was particularly struck by the judgment of Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego, who bloviated: "Nobody agreed with Sotomayor - nobody!" Did I say law professor? At any rate, this group deserves a unified award for its loony day's work, and I will honor it with my first multiple Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy Award. (GALL)" I regret that this will have to do for now inasmuch as I have never set up a similar math award for folks who can't count.

Monday, June 29, 2009

GOP howling: Old business as usual

NO ONE SHOULD BE too surprised by the stiff resistance by congressional Republicans to the Administration's efforts to clean up the air we all breathe. Aided by those hide-and-seek Democrats who are incapable of rising above their own mediocrity, the GOP's attacks on climate change legislation represent business as usual for a party long identified with maintaining the status quo against all reason. If it's not global warming on this day, it's health care reform that sends the Republicans to the barricades to fire off screeching fears that we will become a nation paralyzed by taxes and deeper unemployment, as squishy as their figures may be..

Nothing unusual or imaginative here. The party of Nixon and Hoover has a well deserved reputation of opposing whatever might help the majority of Americans who don't enjoy their dinners in 5-star restaurants. It assailed the introduction of Social Security in the 1930s, insisting that it would bankrupt Franklin D. Roosevelt's America within a year. It fought Medicare and legislation to assist the unemployed. And now it is armed again to fight any steps, modest though they may be, to deal belatedly with global warming and the tens of millions who are not covered by medical insurance. Thank you Aetna and UnitedHealthcare.

The GOP's only sub-imaginative way of attacking two of most important issues of our time is to howl about the inflated costs. And the costs of doing nothing? The question is too profound for entrenched Republicans and the skittish amorphous Democrats who will never be remembered for noble behavior.

But in response to those who claim to have a better (albeit unclear) idea than the Obama Administration in dealing with these critical issues, a little history: The nation has had Republican presidents for 20 of the past 28 years, a great many of them shared by GOP majorities on Capitol Hill. And during those collegial periods neither the president nor his congressional base worked seriously to change the status quo in health care nor climate change - despite the opportunity to do so. Instead, the party slept, or lived as lemmings by the Bob Lutz Rule. You may recall that Lutz, vice chairman of General Motors, once declared that global warming was a "total crock of shit." Many of his conservative friends in Congress agree.

Some of it can be traced to self-survival at the polls, which for the ordinary pol trumps any issue of national importance. Some of it is also driven by a deep distrust of science, which plays to the evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party. Whatever the case, the same folks who are whining about the Administration's initiatives in climate change and health insurance had their chance and, you know what? They blew it. So let's pay no attention to anything from their side that suggests they have a better way to solve the nation's cutting-edge problems. They don't - and won't.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bachmann: Name, rank and serial number only?

HOW CAN I say this gently? Oh, hell!... Michele Bachmann is from Planet Pathetic, that mysteriously orbiting fragment that delivers folks to Congress to provide content for Fox News and diversion for everyone else.

Frankly, if Michele weren't an elected Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, which is looking more like a failed state every day with Norm Coleman's senatorial stonewalling, no one would take notice of her fanciful gibberish. But it is worrisome to me that she gets to vote along with normal people on everything that passes through the House of Representatives. I say normal because that's how some of the other crackpots in the House measure up so favorably against her verbal meltdowns.

That being the case, you may fairly ask , why all of the new attention that she has drawn these days from the gallery? Well, she is unhesitantly casting herself as a potential World War II detainee like the Japanese who were rounded up on our soil for internment. She leaps to that vacuous conclusion because of an encounter with the Census Bureau that, by law,will ask her to answer some questions for the 2010 Census. She says she will report no more than the number of people living in his home, which means she intends to break the law. "We will give the number of people in our home, and that's where we're going to draw the line," she told a flattering Glenn Beck, the tearful wannabe comedian and Limbaugh sound-alike, on his Fox show. Besides, she said, she doesn't want people from ACORN, the community organizers, knocking on her door for information. She despises ACORN.

You should also know that she has linked President Obama to swine flu, insisting that such epidemics occur only under Democratic presidents. (She tends to be forgetful. The las one was under Gerald Ford, a Republican) and once asked for an investigation of Congress to root out anti-American members. She also is satisfied that she was sent to congress by God.

Fair warning. But to repeat: she gets to vote like everybody else. .

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Recall leftovers:a turkey without the trimmings

AMONG THE MANY disconnects - and there were many - in Warner Mendenhall's failed attempt to eliminate Mayor Plusquellic short of Medieval poison, were his frequent references to democracy. It was a little surprising to me, at least, that a fellow with a law degree could find so little case history to justify his motives other than it was "democracy" in action. Having never spent a minute in a law school class, I can only refer to the cautionary words of John Ciardi, the late poet and poetry editor of Saturday Review and truly civilized human being:
"The Constitution gives every American the inalienable right to make a damn fool of himself."
Trouble is, Mendenhall was costing taxpayers a lot of money while he was trying to perfect his obsession against the mayor (another disconnect because he argued that his recall campaign was nothing personal against Plusquellic!).

Well, for all that, it ain't over yet. Mendenhall and his understudies are giving evidence that there is much more to come as he morphs into Batman's ever-troublesome Joker. His wife Kelly will run for council-at large and a couple of other seats will be challenged by Plusquellic haters. I don't have any problems with that. That's what regular elections are all about, a point lost in Mendenhall's haste to fast-forward a mayoral challenge with a recall election.

But given the failure to make Mendenhall's briefcase issues drive out Plusquellic, we can only wonder whether they will be revived in the council races. Wonder? Of course they will.

** * * *
On Monday night, I happened to tune in to this fellow Tom Erickson on WNIR at another person's request. Glad I did. It's pure comedy. Erickson, like some other right wingers on the station, is driven by demons that, among other bits of sophistry, try to raise doubts about the legitimacy of Plusquellic's Democratic primary victory in 2007. Erickson thinks conspiratorially that it should have been investigated. In a discussion about Akron's debt, an issue raised by his buddy Mendenhall, he declared; "Debt is a crime." But the real fun began in earnest when one woman caller complained that she didn't know whether she could vote in the recall election because she didn't know where she lived; and another caller expressed hope that the recall would fail because the governor shouldn't be kicked out.

Well, there's a lot of this crap going around these days, inspired by right-wing talk show hosts who merely tease their listeners into questioning such long-resolved matters as whether President Obama is actually an American citizen or, for God's sake, whether he is socialist-communist-underground Muslim-etc.etc.etc. And I would simply ask the anti-tax crowd to stay off the paved roads. My taxes paid for them.

* * * * *

Among the first orders of business in the post-recall hours should be finding a way to raise the threshold on the number of petitions to set up a recall election. It was the work of mice and politicians and unless it is dramatically improved, Akron may again find itself in a mayoral recall campaign. The current situation is as dumb as term limiting, which is costing legislators their jobs rather then letting the voters decide who will stay and who will go. The restriction cuts across party lines, of course, and even affects conservative Republican State Sen. Kevin Coughlin, of Cuyahoga Falls, who isn't thrilled with the limits, and must look for other work that doesn't require heavy lifting when his current term expires.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Sanford Chronicle

Late word from Alfred Lord Venison:

Mark Sanford has 'fessed up as a cheat
a born-again who was not too discreet!
He was a Republican star
Like Ensign, primed to go far
Soon, only Sarah will be left to compete.

Turn out the lights, Warner. The party's over

IT DIDN'T TAKE long after the polls closed Tuesday night to learn that Warner Mendenhall's drive-by drill team had been drubbed by the voters. Word spread quickly around the packed rally crowd at Musica downtown that Mayor Plusquellic had not only survived the farcical recall election but also did so with such overwhelming 3-to-1 authority that perhaps only Mendenhall and the night gab-guy on WNIR would sulkingly still consider it close enough for a recount.

Actually, still on his white horse after the final vote was in, Mendenhall emerged at his base, the Country something-or-other restaurant, to declare a moral victory by sending an important message to City Hall that would "change the future of the city" As he had during the entire ludicrous campaign against the mayor, he was still talking in riddles. What message might he be referring to? Was this the beleaguered football coach trying to incite his team to play harder after a 45-0 halftime deficit?

On the other hand, I didn't find a single Plusquellic supporter who had anticipated the wide margin of victory. When Dave Lieberth, the mayor's right-hand man and factotum at City Hall, was asked if were surprised, he could only nod that he was, while adding that he believed the mayor would survive, but added cautiously: "One never knows." County Executive Russ Pry and City Council President Marco Sommerville, also appeared to be sorting out the impressive showing by the mayor. Pry said the Mendenhall campaign was a "speed bump" when government should be concentrating on the more serious business at hand. "When you go through a campaign like this, it takes a lot of energy and time," Pry said. Sommerville handed the challenge back to Mendenhall, asserting: "The people have spoken. He (Mendenhall) says he listens to the people. We'll see...."

But it was the mayor himself who wrote the campaign's epilogue, reviving his plain-spoken cut-to-the-bone ways as he addressed the throng. He slashed at the "false statements" from the other side while conceding that he could be wrong on some issues but would never retreat from his commitment as a determined leader "to continue to be strong and continue to fight for the citizens of Akron."

Several people mentioned that one of the problems with the Mendenhall assault is that a mayoral recall election was the first in the city's history and nobody had any experience in addressing it. In some ways it was a a grimy underground protest campaign, word of mouth, full of sound and fury in certain precincts, , and as the Bard of Avon once wrote, "signifying nothing." Mendenhall cost the city's taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of it in time spent by city workers to research records sought by his forces. And what did he prove by all of this? Only that there was nothing to be proved.

Get over it, Warner. You lost, doubtless in a way that startled even you. Now try hard to become a good citizen like the kind that you want everybody else to be.

P.S. If you accomplished anything . Warner, with yesterday's numbers, you doubtless have made the mayor a much stronger candidate for his next election campaign. Sometimes you have to be careful about what you wish for, you may get it in ways that you never anticipated.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oops and Oops

THANKS TO the blog Think Progress for alerting me to the learned malfunction of two of the nation's most visible right-wing commentators.

The first one belongs in the history books for disconnects: Hosting a conference to support English-only language in America, Pat Buchanan again assailed Sonia Sotomayor on her ethnic roots while ridiculing her reading habits as a child that supposedly prepared her for the Ivy League by reading only children's books. Ha, ha! But the conference room featured a large banner that misspelled conference as "conferenece." Some days, Pat, it doesn't pay to get out of bed.

The second misfire was offered by Charles Krauthammer, the always-dyspeptic right-wing columnist and talk show guy who has been hammering President Obama for being too meek in engaging in the Iranian uprising. Krauty even sizzled because Obama referred to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the "supreme leader," which is, after all, the supreme leader's official title over there, whether we like it or not. However, appearing later on Dennis Miller's radio show, Krauty had this to say:
"There's no way he's ( Obama) going to sweet talk, you know, the supreme leader out of his nukes."
Maybe it all depends on how you tell it, right Chuck?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mendenhall's recall campaign nears the 'finished' line

DON PLUSQUELLIC seemed a little subdued when I caught up with him at Democratic Headquarters on Grant Street Saturday. Many of the mayor's supporters had departed with anti-recall material that would be handed out across the city. There wasn't much left for him to do to respond to the slanderous campaign against him by Warner Mendenhall and the Akron lawyer's obsessing cadre of me-too followers. He could now only hope for a decent turnout Tuesday by his side to repudiate the wannabe political kingmaker (and maybe, even king) who has driven him and much of City Hall to distraction, intruding upon workers' time that could be a lot better spent serving the public at large rather than a single venting dissonant. Plusquellic briefly mentioned to me the fallout from the administration's obligation to tend to the serious business of a city. The costs to the human delivery system as well as the new expenses of running a special election are hideous. Least impressed by the burdens placed on Akron, of course, was Mendenhall, whose tunnel vision about what makes cities function begins well below ground level and ends at the same murky depth.

The campaign has attracted the attention of many beyond Akron who are puzzled by the inexplicable siege on a mayor who as led the city to many honors. Indeed, Brent Larkin, the recently retired editorial director of the Plain Dealer , asserted in a Sunday column what I also believe:
"For the record, Plusquellic does offend. he's no Mr. Cogeniality. He is combative, acerbic and thin-skinned. Oh, he is one more thing: He is, by far, Ohio's best big-city mayor."

That won't impress the aginners who would risk losing a usually successful chief executive for...well, we don't really know, do we?

Over the the many years of working in Akron's political arena, I haven't always agreed with Plusquellic - and he hasn't always agreed with me. With similar temperaments, we were bound to bump into each other. But I grew to respect his style, convinced that he always had the best interests of his city at heart even when he erupted against a critic. As a political writer, I watched the mayor's service evolve as an idea-activist who, as Larkin noted, was not afraid to fail.

Well, with Tuesday's election arriving, I never thought I would be defending a feisty mayor who is perfectly capable of defending himself. As the panoply of corporate, business, professional and labor supporters lined up behind him, it should be obvious that he has been doing something right. That has left Mendenhall with nothing more than to boast wildly of a hair-thin endorsement of the recall by the Fraternal Order of Police. Some lonely mandate, huh?

I've felt from the outset that Plusquellic will survive the recall. I've seen nothing to change my mind.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Inhofe the captain of GOP's Ship of Fools.

THROUGHOUT HISTORY there have been crackpots, religious zealots and boobs, some of whom were either dangerous or plainly stupid. Figures like Torquemada, Savanarola, Caligula and Praise-God Barebone come quickly to mind. So I have to remind myself that we are not the only generation of fools every time Jim Inhofe's name pops up in the news, which has been happening with more than normal frequency for a politician of his trifling worth since President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme court.

Inhofe is the Republican senator from Oklahoma who spends a lot of his time preaching about wholesome American conduct when he isn't hanging out with bulging-pocketed oil interests. He's also been extraordinarily open about whom he considers worthy of a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. He doesn't exactly say so, but you easily get the feeling that he prefers to seat white guys on the bench rather than women of Puerto Rican lineage that would serve America more efficiently in the kitchens of Manhattan restaurants. Of course, he doesn't get it. Boobs seldom do.

Inhofe's latest expression of protecting the long-held turf of upwardly mobile Caucasian males was his refusal this week to meet with Sotomayor as she made the rounds of senators' offices before heading for her committee hearings. Having decided 11 years ago that she was unworthy to be seated as a federal appellate judge (he voted against her at that time, but she got the job. Great memory, that guy!), he decided that nothing could have happened in more than a decade to change his mind about her judicial qualifications. He may have noticed that she was still a woman as well as one still retaining her Puerto Rican ancestry.

In 2009, we should all be embarrassed by the actions of the senator from the Okie state. But if Inhofe's fellow-Republicans on Capitol Hill are embarrassed as they are reeling from the John Ensign affair, they aren't saying so. Instead they have rehearsed their talking points well about Sotomayor. Four GPO senators have been recorded saying virtually the same thing: Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, Charles Grassley and John Cornyn want everyone to know that the high court job should not be about "personal feelings, politics or preferences".

Read: personal feelings (women), politics (liberal) and preferences (Puerto Ricans and others who worked their way up from lean childhoods.)

Before the GOP can get serious about returning to power with the votes of women and minorities it might consider giving up its addiction to Kool-Aid. It might also work out a cash- for-clunkers deal for Inhofe.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Bush, baseball and balloting baloney

FROM A FRIEND comes a report of a speech by ex-President George W. Bush to a loving business group in Erie, Pa. in which he first asserted that he would not criticize President Obama - and then spent the next hour attacking Obama's policies on a wide range of issues from the plan to close Guantanamo Prison to the stimulus package. (I'll assume that he didn't also attack his one-time military guru, Gen. Petraeus, for supporting the closure.) The conservative audience responded gleefully to Bush's non-assault assault. As for me, it has often occurred to me when I see Dubya that his mien is much like what inspired Lillian Hellman to say of Norma Shearer: "A face unclouded by thought."

* * * * *

FROM ANOTHER FRIEND comes word from Baseball America, the go-to publication for all things baseball, that the shrinking newspaper world is impacting on how BA gets its reports from the beat correspondents on the hometown newspaper's sports pages as newspapers shut down or the baseball writers resign for other jobs. This is not the sort of shifting sand that would help us cope with melting glaciers. But it does add another downside piece to the fallout from the industry's melt-down.

On that point, Journalism.Org reported earlier that while the number of Washington-based reporters for American newspapers has shrunk dramatically by more than a third since 1985, the number of foreign media based in DC has increased ten-fold since the late 1960s. There has also been a huge increase in so-called niche newsletters and magazines of interest to special audiences. The decline in the mainstream media has been accompanied by less accountability for whomever is running the government. "Symbolic of the state of this relationship, George W. Bush is the first president since Theodore Roosevelt not to address the National Press Club during his his years in office," Journalism.Org. noted. In this instance, I'd say all's well that ends well.
* * * * *

It's conclusively OVER! In response to a column by the Beacon Journal's Steve Hoffman, on the recall campaign against Mayor Don Plusquellic, former Councilman Warner Mendenhall, the messy effort's icon, declared "success in many ways." That being the case, should there still be a costly election on Tuesday by Akron's voters? In years of covering elections , I found this one to be the first that failed to connect any of the dots. Could it be that the dots were never there in the first place?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ensign: Another hypocrite exposed

TODAY'S BRIEF HOMILY will deal with hypocrisy. It is prompted by another mea culpa revelation by a sworn rising-star conservative Republican senator with a Hollywood face and an ambitious political agenda, John Ensign. A Nevadan who was said to be ascending quickly in the GOP's pre-season ranks of presidential candidates, he has now admitted that some wannabe candidates may not be as morally equal as others. In short, he was carrying on with a campaign staffer. A married woman, no less. Yep. Adultery, and, as Zorba once sighed about his own marital existence, the "full catastrophe."

Oh, I did mention hypocrisy, didn't I? First, I should stress that infidelity is non-partisan, afflicting Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans, political agnostics and atheists, many of whom strayed after they were in the White House. But it's been the GOP that has boasted of its careful attention to family values, morality and religiosity on every street corner inhabited by its candidates. They all lie, of course. But what the hell. It's all for the cause.

So here we have John Ensign, a model conservative, joining the ranks of Sen. David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, John McCain et al in the growing list of sinners from their side of the aisle.

Ensign is an avid pro-lifer, a vocal proponent of something called fiscal responsibility, married with three children, a member of a group called the Meadows Christian Fellowship, Rotarian, Chamber of Commerce, all of the good stuff without an Acorn organizer or socialist in the lot. He was also the chairman of the 2008 National Republican Senatorial Committee and held influential offices in the Senate. If he had been a ball player, he would have been headed to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.

And now this! It can really mess up a politician's claims to achievement, much like Sammy Sosa and steroids. Frankly, I couldn't care less about what a man and woman do in their leisure hours. But the sooner that Republicans bury their claim on moral purity, the sooner I will quit calling them liars.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Palin and liberal Dems: UNSTOPPABLE?

TO FILL IN a slow news day, MSNBC'S Chris Matthews profoundly asked his guests, "What must Sarah Palin do to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2012?"

Hmmm.... That's easy: Millions of progressive Democrats will volunteer to support her candidacy all the way to the convention.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tweets to start the presses?

AS A NEWSPAPER junkie who has regularly fantasized that the media will find a way to survive, I am now beginning to ask myself: What's left that's worth surviving? In their frantic effort to tack against the technological challenges that today's culture finds so fascinating, newspapers have overextended themselves into their own dream world that has little or nothing to do with news. It is as though physicians would recommend twittering as a cure for diabetes, or digital TV to correct blindness.

Each day brings us more hip novelties intended to make newspapers and the broadcasters connect with readers and audiences in the Twitosphere, a kind of recreational hi-tech sandbox for many of its chatty mobile users. The local hometown paper asks us to join with it with an interactive Twitter View, the first one from, of all places Rockin' on the River in Cuyahoga Falls, enjoying the "fun" of twittering (tweeting?) with reporters "as the story unfolds". What story? How will that translate into new subscribers?

Or should journalists now engage in what an Akron-Cleveland area TV reporter-anchor prescribed as "social media" - the various tech ways to communicate with sources that make life so much simpler for the busy reporter. (You can stay out of the elements and don't have to wait so long for your calls to be returned. We used to say that the best stories resulted in the wear and tear of shoe leather.) If it's "interaction" that the media are looking for these days, it's the published boasts by the Beacon Journal that it has hooked up with WAKR Radio to bring you news of the mayoral recall campaign, which is what it should be doing as a newspaper sans a broadcasting armrest anyway. Collegiality is in; competition is out.

Virtually nobody mentions the word "journalism" anymore, yet it is something falsely implied in serving the public's critical need for news. The suicidal use of gimmicky appeals to disguise cutbacks in staff and coverage is not restricted to the Akron area as media owners who might have trouble writing a postcard home hasten the day to put themselves out of business. Writing in The Nation recently, Columnist Eric Alterman summed up the situation as well as anybody. He said:
"The men and women who continue to work in the newspaper business inhabit a surreal world. It's as if they are organisms inside a body felled by a fatal disease, and all the doctors prescribe is more poison. Charge for individual articles on the web? That would just send people to the free stuff. Demand that Google compensate the newspapers for the links? Watch your stories disappear when they stop coming up in Google searches. Stop publishing a print edition? Lose what's left of your only significant earnings base. Oh well - there's always more room for deeper budget cuts, more section cuts, more buyouts, fewer editors, etc....

"It's painful to admit, but admit it we must: we have no more hope today of saving the "newspaper business" than we do the "telegraph business. " What is needed - pronto - is a plan to save the collection and dissemination of news itself."

Call it a pandemic in the news field. Network TV and the cable have been unwilling to fill in the huge gaps left by newspapers sworn to strictly "local" coverage, piecemeal though it may be. On a playing field choked by complex issues, network TV's evening news shows are limited to 22-minute Reader's Digest versions of serious world events, with two minutes here and a minute there. Cable talk shows have fallen into self-absorbed superficiality, paying more attention to what the competitive hosts are saying than what the viewers should be getting. The Sunday morning talk shows have become beauty contests for the highly paid royalty: George Will, Cokie Roberts and their professional kin with scarcely anything new to say. The Internet is making some progress, of course, but too often, it is news-on-the-run with Hearst-like headlines. And it's not conveniently packaged for your breakfast table each morning.

Faced with shrinking advertising dollars, the media have retreated into comfort zones that will not annoy their own corporate owners nor the easily annoyed rich and powerful board rooms across America. No better evidence of this can be found than in the current hoopla over proposed reform of health insurance. The health insurance industry has already spent a king's ransom to block a single-payer program and has found among its collaborators two Senate Democrats, Ben Nelson and Max Baucus, both of whom are well provided for by the industry's lobbyists. Likewise, a media study by the Washington newsletter FAIR reports that of the hundreds of healthcare stories in newspapers and on Network TV and cable, "the idea of single payer was mentioned only 18 times - and only five of those included the views of single-payer advocates." I'll ask you to do the math from now on.

The national media's lemming-like support of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq has only served to create greater greater public cynicism that hardly paid off on the subscriber lists despite later editorial apologies for blowing the biggest story or our generation.

Meantime, while print media circle their wagons, I am reminded that J. Paul Getty once observed, "The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights." But a meek newspaper industry seeking a hip realm may inherit nothing more than its own epitaph.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

FOP recall vote a flat-liner

HAVING THOUGHT about it for at least 30 seconds, it seems to me that the FOP vote on the recall of Mayor Don Plusquellic proved nothing. Indeed Warner Mendenhall's efforts to bestir the mayor's angry opponents in the department fell hopelessly flat. Even though Mendenhall declared to the Beacon Journal in his post-vote "victory" speech that, "I couldn't be any happier," you should also consider that he has been deluding himself with happy thoughts about his campaign ever since it started. Happiness, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

But the figures tell another story. THE FOP gave Mendenhall a two-vote edge - 168-166. That was an underwhelming percentage of the more than 800 eligible active and retired members of the FOP. The outcome was even less decisive when only a reported 64 pct. of the active members even bothered to vote. Ouch. Having worked as a reporter at police stations in other cities, I think it is fair to say that there is always some tension between City Hall and the Police Department. Both sides have tough jobs and grievances are normally expressed solely against the mayor.

That said, the FOP's recall vote was bad politics. There was nothing to be gained by it, and it came within a hair of undercutting Mendenhall's attempt to stampede the voters with more anti-Plusquellic propaganda. There isn't much mileage in the way it turned out.

(Meanwhile, Warner might take a cue from his favorite radio station, WNIR. with its daily lineup of fabulists, which (I'm told) is running commercials by an outfit called American Tax Relief. The ad promises to save you up to 85 pct. of your delinquent tax debt. Let's see....at $169, 000 in tax liens, that would come to...Oh, hell. That's Mendenhall's problem, not mine.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Newt Gingrich: The de facto leader?

REPUBLICANS ARE now said to be regarding Newt Gingrich as the "de facto" head of the party. In return, Gingrich, who has been giving a lot of speeches for his supper these days, has publicly stated that if the party has a "vision" he will be a candidate for president in 2012. How reassuring it must be for a leaderless party to be de facto-ing a marathon GOP insider who spends more time talking about the vision thing than your friendly optometrist.

However, if you can trust the vision of those pundits who insist on calling Gingrich from his de facto bullpen, he has climbed above Rush Limbaugh in the GOP ranks for the party's affection. (Actually they might prefer Dick Cheney, but vision or no vision, he no longer qualifies to be a de facto.) To demonstrate his own peculiar witless desperation to maintain parity on the Republicans' short list of purported de factos, Rushbo saw an opportunity to again reinforce his own bigotry by attacking Sonia Sotomayor's accident.
"Now the question is," the Great White Whale spouted, "would a white male judge have fractured his ankle in the same circumstances?"

Better think of something, quick, Newt. He's not going away quietly.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Miss Tia's f-words don't refer to forte

HERE IS A well- deserved pat on the back to Bob Dyer, the Beacon Journal columnist, whose journalistic curiosity led him to the discovery of Miss Tia, who turns out to be   Miss Akron Garbage  Mouth of 2009.    And who, you might ask, is Miss Tia?  And why does she deserve her 15 minutes of attention  in a family newspaper? Read on.

Dyer ID's her as a "co-chair" of Warner Mendenhall's Change Akron Now recall website.  Inasmuch as I don't pay much attention to mysterious names because there have been some nasty ones sent to me in wrath before I put a filter on my blog,  I would have never thought to look into Miss Tia's internet profile.  Well, Dyer did and, among other tidbits, counted 32 f-words "in all of its glorious permutations" over the past three weeks. ( Note:  "f" doesn't translate into musical "forte".)

Unfortunately, the Guinness Book of Records doesn't track such   unladylike effusions, so we can only guess where Miss Tia would rank on her own developed scale of zero to one.  However, in the matter of neologisms, I think her reliance on "F---tard" as a noun would earn her a few more points in any alley fight.

There are other things that Dyer reports about Miss Tia, but he did all of the work so you should get it directly from today's column.  God knows. the BJ can use the readers.

If there is a postscript to this madness, is this  an example of where we want to go with Mendenhall's preposterous rag-tag scheme to kick out Mayor Don Plusquellic?    Scary, right?  

Miss Muffett's creepy political stunt

More of Keats' Treats:

Patti Blagojevich swallowed a big spider
I watched it (Yuck!) go down inside her
And, folks, wouldn't you know?
T'was an NBC reality show
She did it for her husband, the outsider. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Inhofe: a gusher for the oil industry

OKLAHOMA is known for its oil wells, old-fashioned religion and obsolescent senators.  It apparently hasn't progressed much since I raced though the state many years ago en route to Chicago from a basic training base in Texas. S ince then, I don't think I've even flown over the Sooner State.  The absence of progressive political ideas may  explain why it keeps electing an old fool like Republican Jim Inhofe to the U.S. Senate.   It is a perfect match . 

Inhofe  became the  befuddled star of the national media  last week when he erupted into a hissy fit over President Obama's Cairo speech, accusing him of being "un-American" and leading Inhofe to wonder whose side the president was on.  We haven't heard  anything that silly  from Capitol Hill patriots  since the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the late Sen. Joe McCarthy.  

(Can you imagine somebody calling  Berlusconi un-Italian, or Sarkozy un-French? What, I ask, does it mean in English?)

Well, Inhofe gets away with his gibberish simply because he has the oil wells standing at his side.  He's received over a half-million dollars from energy sources and graciously responds by calling catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."  And who can ignore his comment in the moments after the Oklahoma City federal building bombing that there wouldn't be many casualties because at 9 a.m., all of the feds would off somewhere drinking coffee?  

This is the guy you should know a little more about when he is out there attacking the president's patriotism. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Petraeus drops banana peel under Cheney's gospel

A WEEK or so has passed since Gen. Petraeus, once the revered Pericles of the Bush administration,  dropped a banana peel under the right-wing argument against closing Guantanamo while also criticizing our harsh interrogation methods on detainees.  

In case you missed it (it wasn't that big of a deal in the mainstream press) here are  precise quotes of his remarks  during a Fox News interview):
"Well, it's not for a soldier to say (where the detainees should be transferred to).  What I do support is what has been termed the responsible closure of Gitmo.  Gitmo has caused us problems, there's no question about it.  I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has been used by the enemy against us.  We have not been without missteps or mistakes in our activity since 9/11 and again Gitmo is a lingering reminder for the use of  some in that regard. "

And later in the interview regarding ending extreme interrogation - i.e., torture.
"Well, actually what I would ask is, does that not take away from our enemies a tool which again  have beaten  us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion?  When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions, we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it's important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international  justice arena and to practice those."
Violated the Geneva Conventions!  The very same conventions that Bush Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzalez dismissed  as "quaint"?  Alberto, you have a problem.  

 Except for the carnivores on the the right, who see the general flirting with  the edge of treason,  the response to Petraeus's comments has been strangely muted.  He has dashed the Dick- and- Liz Cheney show's rationale for harshly declaring that President Obama has made America "less safe."  To Obama, must we  now add  Petraeus to satisfy the carnivores?  For Cheney, who is trying save his skin by becoming a TV chatterbox as a bookend with his daughter, I think he would have been better off to quit while he was behind.  


Friday, June 5, 2009

The scourge of right-wing ranters

FROM THE SLATE of Mario Aurelius:
The true measure of a healthy democratic society is whether its citizens are getting more good  information than bad.  In America the good still outshines the bad, but not by very much.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kasich promises to end Ohio income tax. Oh?

WELL, HE'S BACK.    John Kasich has officially announced his candidacy for Ohio governor in a way that will thrill the deeply conservative wing of the Republican Party.  Relying on the boilerplate pledges that we have heard so often from that remote corner of the political world, Kasich has promised a Utopian economic climate in the state that includes a commitment  to get rid of the state personal income tax.  As Joe Hallett of the Columbus Dispatch so aptly pointed out,  five previous governors, Democrats and Republicans, have raised taxes.  Their successors will continue to do so whenever the cupboard is bare.  

Such revealing history will not deter Kasich, 57,  a former Ohio congressman who left Capitol Hill nearly a decade ago and has since served as an  executive for Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street investment firm that declared bankruptcy in September 2008. He's also been  a commentator on Fox News and an occasional fill-in for Bill O'Reilly as well as a welcome guest on Sean Hannity's  version of Hellzapoppin'.   That should fairly complete his ideological profile. But not since the glory days of Donald "Buz"  Lukens has there been a more ubiquitous Republican politician on the stump to sell his version of what ails Ohio.  He's already piled up scores of appearances at party dinners across the state in 2009 and may be expected to quadruple that awesome appetite for the rubber-chicken circuit in  the months ahead.    It's an Olympic marathon for his sole Republican opponent, Kevin Coughlin, to match. Besides, Coughlin must also deal with fallout from the flaming publicity alleging indiscretions in his personal life.

Some history: The income tax that Kasich says he will phase out has been around since 1972 during Democratic Gov. John Gilligan's administration.  That it was enacted at the time  didn't come as much of a surprise because   candidate Gilligan bluntly told the voters that if he were elected he would call for the tax.  Such dire warnings rarely  spill  from lips of  candidates (Walter Mondale is another exception).  When Jim Rhodes materialized out of retirement to challenge Gilligan in 1974,  he never let an opportunity pass that he didn't accuse Gilligan of taxing  everything in Ohio that "walks, crawls or flies."  Ahhhh, Rhodes had a way with colorful hyperbole! 

Satisfied that he had made his point with the Buckeye voters, "no new taxes" Rhodes went on to raise taxes several times as governor. As for the income tax, the joke around the Statehouse was that although Jim slammed the tax during the campaign, he never lifted a finger to get rid of it as governor.  The state, after all, needed the dough.  

Just thought I'd restore historical accuracy  before Kasich - as he will - gets too annoyed by the personal income tax in one of the state's greatest hours of need.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Uncle Fred's frightful ghost tales

WHEN I WAS A BOY, my inventive Uncle Fred would join my cousin Georgie and me at Grandma's kitchen  table to tell us scary stories.  In the midst of his tale he would tell us to shut our eyes and count to 10. When we opened our eyes we could see the string from the overhead  light wildly moving back and forth.  That would always announce the arrival of Lou and Fu, Fred's eerie ghosts who were always on standby when he wanted to scare the hell out of us.  (How were we to know that in our moments of darkness he had reached up and batted the string?)

Uncle Fred died years ago without ever revealing his secret plot device, which we eventually figured it out.  But many frantic ghost stories linger today and the field is getting awfully crowded with Lou's and Fu's who keep revealing themselves as fright-mongering real people in the Obama era.   As the anticipated right-wing fury over Sonia Sotomayor erupts 24/7,  the perps keep revealing themselves as so many nesting dolls.  There is always one more until you turn off the tube and go to bed.

  The latest Lou (or Fu) is Tom Tancredo, a political stagehand,  who actually wants to worry us with his fiction that Sotomayor is a Ku Klux Klansman (In fact, she is being pictured on a racist blog as wearing a pointed Klansman's hat.)   

A couple of sizes larger is Newt Gingrich, a revived apparition of his own glories past, who also finds Sotomayor to be a racist dangerously associated with a civil-rights organization.  (Do you think that part of President Obama's provocative finesse of the white male ghosts on the right is to give him a some breathing time from the nasty names that are routinely whipped at him by the flapping wingnuts?)

Then there is Rushbo, the former failed sports commentator,  who is addicted to this own idiocy, likening Sotomayor to David Duke.  One must wonder when he will call for the super-scientific  test of pounding Sotomayor's face with neurons to verify the color  of her pigments.  And so goes the ghastly hazing of the president's Supreme Court nominee by some creatures who have never shown that much concern  about racism in the past.

Now that Obama has wiggled the light string, the room is suddenly filled with a lot of spooky Lou's and Fu's.  Of course, they're  dealing with us  grown-ups now.  

A comedic recall scheme expands to oust Wayne Jones

THERE'S A scene in Seinfeld in which Jerry and George Costanza turn up in the office of a TV network producer to hawk their proposed comedy series.  When he is asked about  the theme of the still-unwritten series (nor will it ever be) , George has a confident response:  "It's a show about nothing!"  Ha, Ha.  

About nothing?  I recall those prophetic words every time the hyperkinetic Mendenhall Mud Machine lowers the bar still further in the recall campaign against Mayor Don Plusquellic. It just happened again with comedic force  with the word from the front that Warner  & Co. now want to remove  Summit County Democratic Chairman Wayne Jones from the Board of Elections and have asked Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to do the heavy lifting.  The charge against Jones:  He's "overly partisan" in the recall competition.  I can't make this up.  

I have to think about this, while Mendenhall obviously hasn't.  Long before there were hi-tech voting machines and other far-out paraphernalia, partisanship  was never a disqualifier to serve on the Board.   Each party is allotted two seats to duke it out.  Even the Board's Deputy Director, Bryan Williams, a Republican still brooding over his loss to Plusquellic in an earlier election,  has said that he has offered Mendenhall "spiritual"  guidance.  (My hunch is that it is a lot more than that.)

Another curious element in all of this:  Brunner is a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in what is shaping up as a tough primary campaign and I'll let you guess how deeply she wants to be involved  in an effort against Plusquellic, the most prominent Democrat in the city. (I thought you'd see it that way.)

No, mark the paper-thin challenge to Jones as still another stunt that, like George and Jerry's ill-fated comedy shows,  is about nothing. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summit Board interns get zero pay!

FIVE COLLEGE STUDENTS who have worked as interns at the Summit County Board of Elections are learning early in their young lives that, as Jimmy Carter once put it, life can be unfair.  Having worked part--time at the Board for two to three weeks, their promised paychecks are now being held up by Republican Board chairman Jack Morrison, who doesn't think they should have been hired in the first place.  In other words, the students are being treated as hostages while  Morrison insists on  some kind of unlikely compromise with the two Democrats on the Board.  

Morrison, an Akron lawyer and member of the University of Akron Board  of 
Trustees, is in enough hot water following his indictment on seven misdemeanor ethics charges and has rejected calls for his resignation from  as high up as Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.   Now this.  How exciting can one's life be?

He had asked Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to resolve the interns issue, but she sent it back to Summit County and called for the Board to take care of its own business.  But it's not likely he'll gain any ground with Wayne Jones, a Board member and chairman of the county Democratic Party who supported the summer hirings.  The blood on the board is darker and murkier than the stuff old men dig up in the Irish bogs.  

Oh, regardless of the political feuding,   it will eventually be resolved, which shouldn't be the point here.  If the kids were promised a paycheck, shouldn't they be paid for their work? It's an old-fashioned idea no matter how modern the world is.  I wonder how far Morrison is willing to go to ignore the Board's obligations.  Or as the legal advisor to the County GOP, is he counseling the interns to learn  the value  of pro bono work?  Jeez.