Thursday, July 30, 2009

The only thing we have to fear is...Boehner

Happy Halloween! Run out and buy a fright mask to join the dark revelry of Rep. John Boehner and his like-minded moon prancers who market fear as their moronic way of challenging President Obama, health-care reform or any other obstacle to their claim of honorable public service.

They've cast their latest evil eye on what they insist is a government attempt to kill off old people. Yep. Grandpa is just a government bill away from being sent to the nearest morgue. It's somewhere , they insist, in a health care reform proposal. And like most of the dead fish that guys like Boehner or Fred Thompson (remember him?) are throwing around, it can be easily disputed, which is all anyone should have to say about such nonsense.

One might excuse the malignant chatter of talk show hosts like Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck, neither of whom impress me as having much brain gloss. They are paid to make fools of themselves. As one Fox News executive noted , the network only hires people who can improve ratings. I would have never guessed.

But when an always grim fellow like Boehner, the House Minority Leader who speaks regularly for Republicans , and Fred Thompson, who tried feebly to run for president, come at us with trash talk for the sake of terrifying an already confused mass, we ought to start worrying about the consequences, don't you think?

Republicans are no longer the loyal opposition; most of them sit around twisting their handkerchiefs while Boehner sets the pathetic cultural tone for their party. If they aren't embarrassed, I'll step into the vacuum. Watching fools pretending to be serious thinkers does embarrass those of us who hang on to the belief that political discourse should be better than that. A zillion times better!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Morrison: How long will he stay on the UA board? .

NOW THAT AKRON lawyer and University of Akron trustee Jack Morrison has been convicted of two of the 7 ethics charges against him, the next question: Will he do the honorable thing and resign from the Board of Trustees? Until the court ruled against him today, his apologists had argued that he shouldn't have to leave the board because he hadn't been convicted of anything. Well, now you know. What will it be? Will he continue to be indifferent to the discomfort of the other trustees? My hunch is that he will now delay any decision about his relationship with the University , using as an excuse that the conviction will be appealed. God knows how long that would drag out a festering situation for the University.

You can run, but you can't hide

AS ANY political spectator knows, Rob Portman was hardly a bit player in the Bush Administration. In fact, Portman, a Republican senatorial candidate in Ohio, was Bush's beloved director of the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Dubya's inner-circle. As the Associated Press noted at the time: "It's difficult to find a more faithful supporter [of George Bush] than Rob Portman. Bush reciprocated by calling Portman a "trusted adviser" and thanked the Cincinnatian for his "friendship."

Well, none of that mutual admiration stuff is all that newsworthy. But Think Progress has now alertly pointed out that none of the warm and fuzzy Bush-bonding appears in Portman's official campaign website. In fact, Bush's name never appears. I hurriedly glanced at the site earlier today before rushing off on another matter. It confirmed the initial report by Think Progress. . However, when I checked again tonight for this post, it was gone with the explanation, "page not found."

Where did it go? Things have a way of disappearing, not the least of which is any reference to Bush. Did Portman enjoy preferred status through divine intervention, or did he really get the job from Bush? That will come later in the campaign - from Portman's political opponents whether he likes it or not, probably even more so now that he has shown such guarded sensitivity to his previous line of work.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chuzzlewit: Democrats' secret weapon?

ONE OF THE big reasons the Republicans get their way on so many issues is that they are profoundly clever in controlling the national story line. Clearly that's the way the line is going on the health care issue and who would think to challenge these pros? They have been aided and abetted, of course by the networks. A long time ago the networks laid off their fact-checkers as an economic move in anticipation of the recession, which as late as last September didn't exist because John McCain said the "fundamentals" were strong. That question having been settled, Republicans and their friendly broadcasters were free to cast the Obama clique as doomsayers and Obama himself in many wicked incarnations as socialist, communist, fascist, outer-space alien, and arrogant SOB, to name a few. Speechless from the absurdity of the GOP's designated hits, timid Democrats were unable to respond in kind, other than to describe Sarah Palin as an opportunistic hottie, which nobody outside her immediate family denied anyway. Democrats have a long tradition of being meaner to each other than to the other party.

But there is a way to handle such glaring linguistic deficits for Democrats to balance the playing field. They need to develop their own name-calling terms. Having thought about this for several minutes, I've concluded that the most effective start would be to refer to the other party as packed with chuzzlewits. When an acquaintance mentions that he heard Obama is a full-blooded Husseinian, you must bat it aside by referring to his accusers as dangerous chuzzlewits.

"Chuzzlewits?" you would certainly be questioned.

"Right. Chuzzlewits - and it could be quite effective in retaliating against the cliches that line the streets leading to Capitol Hill. It's fresh. It's provocative. It's full of non-meaning."

"But what is a chuzzlewit?"

"My dear sir, all I can tell you is that a chuzzlewit is so bad that you don't ever want to go there It doesn't mean a damn thing. It just has a dumb but fetching sound. Still, it will soon be the talk of the talk shows."

"But - "

"If you must know, l I can tell you is that it is worse than snoozing in the bathtub when an enormous 0ak tree falls smack on your house."

"Do you know today? I mean, really..."

"Sure. Think of Mitch McConnell."

"But he's a senator, right? How can he be a chuzzlewit, too?""

"See what I mean? Still not satisfied? Try John Boehner..."


"And Rush Limbaugh..."

"Wow! I never in a million years would have thought that Rush was, as you say, a chuzzlewit."

"Now we're getting somewhere. And if you really want to help your party, call all of your friends and tell them that Dick Cheney is not only one chuzzlewit, but two. Maybe even three."

"But I still would like to know what it means."

"Don't have to know what it means, my friend. The world is filled with things we don't know. But somehow we manage to survive."

"How awful."

"Right. Still such ignorance can work to the advantage of either side. If it helps, look at it this way: How many people on the other side know what a socialist or fascist is? Still, it works for them, just as chuzzlewit will work for you."


"With 2 z's."


Monday, July 27, 2009

Dark news from the health-care reform front:

DISPATCHES FROM the health-reform trenches:

  • A friend reports that the medical bill for his four-hour out-patient hospital visit for the replacement of a pacemaker battery was more than $50,000.
  • A middle-management fellow whose overtime has been frozen also faces a 20 pct. increase in his share of health insurance next year. That's a monthly bill of $600 instead of the current $500.
These aren't exceptional stories. So when President Obama says the situation will only get worse if we do nothing now, here's the gruesome evidence. Is Congress listening these days? I think not.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Out of the mouths of...

FAIR WARNING to Jon Stewart: a new comedy team on Capitol Hill and in the outlands is getting dangerously closer to challenging your top-rated comedy schtick. The past week saw an avalanche of droll one-liners from Conservative Central. Can't stop laughing, and I don't have to wait until your late night news spoofing to make my day. Much of last week's fun derived from the so-called health reform debate but there were other fiscally conservative spinoffs. Don't have the space or energy to repeat all of the examples, but here are some that made the cut, with help from Think progress and other gag-watchers:

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on the Obama health-care reform plan : The president is "dropping likc a rock. The plan would make us look like Havana in 1959 when Castro came in." (Or the U.S. when Dubya went out?)

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N. C.: "There are no Americans who don't have health care."

Rush Limbaugh, who thinks he should play the high priest in Mozart's Magic Flute: "Let's
face it, Obama's black, and I think he's got a chip on his shoulder."

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.: " If we're able to stop Obama on this [health care reform] it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

Lou Dobbs, CNN, on Obama's birthplace: "The questions won't go away because they haven't been dealt with."

Rush Limbaugh, again, on why he has an audience: "I'm inspiring."

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn: "Let's agree that we're going to have PAYGO [pay as you go] enforcement, that we're not going to cry 'emergency' every time we have a Katrina, every time we have a tsunami, every time we have a need for extra spending, that we don't go call for a special appropriation to allow us circumvent the PAYGO rule. [Note to Blackburn's district of Memphis: Stop laughing. This could cost you big bucks, and everything you own!]

My sides are splitting.

More half-baked Alaska?

FROM THE unpublished works off Percy, Bysshe & Shelley:

It's really a matter of not knowing
Where Sarah Palin is intent on going.
She must need more attention
with deals she won't mention
Before her fading stardom stops glowing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rep. John Campbell: In need of a language tutor

AMONG THE MANY boasts on Rep. John Campbell's home page is that he is a co-sponsor of legislation to make English the national language. After hearing the California Republican's evasive gibberish in a debate with Chris Matthews the other night, I would advise him to begin with some English lessons for himself.

Campbell is a co-sponsor of a bill that would require all presidential candidates to reveal a birth certificate. (Hint, hint.) When Matthews demanded to know whether the bill wasn't really playing to the "wackos" who insist that Obama is a foreigner and ineligible to serve in the Oval Office, Campbell insisted that his effort has nothing to do with Obama and - hint, hint - "as far as I know" Obama is an American.. As far as I know? Campbell seemed a bit blind-sided when Matthews held up a copy of Obama's birth certificate, which, for the congressman, was hardly irrefutable proof for him because it was on a TV screen that he was unable to read.

Pure blather. And as Matthews noted, a play to the paranoia that has existed in the right-wingers who gathered under their coconut trees last year to raise hell and havoc. In fairness, Campbell finally hedged on Obama, continuing to argue that his legislation only applied to the future. On the other hand, his co-sponsor, Rep. Bill Posey, a Florida Republican, says he couldn't swear on a stack of bibles that Obama is one of us. The wackos aren't the only sillies who spread ridiculous gossip. Some of them sponsor legislation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The less said, the better?

THE NORMALLY loquacious John Kasich has literally been speechless on what to say about eliminating Ohio's debt. POLITICO notes that the Republican gubernatorial candidate has simply refused to give his learned insights, apparently developed while on the payroll of Lehman Brothers, on what ails the Buckeye State's budget. He has allowed from time to time that a phase-out of the state income tax would greatly help the economy. Kasich's aides say it's too early for him to be precise as a candidate because the voters wouldn't be paying attention.

So I think I'll hand out the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy Award (GALL)to Kasich for his dismissal of reporters' questions about his remedy for dissolving the deficit. Says the candidate, ever so tersely:

"I'm not messing in that."

Well, I would agree, John, that it is a mess. And it could all be yours someday.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Fellowship is more than fellowship

MAUREEN DOWD'S reference to the "C Street house" in D.C. didn't quite identify it as a house of sinful repute, but played it on a broader scale as a "monument to Republican hypocrisy." In case you missed the column, the place in question is a darkly created religious/political safe house for true believers, straying Capitol Hill pols and whatever else the traffic will bear. Taken altogether, the clan is familiarly known as The Fellowship and its disciples have some important adhesives for their cause: they seek unlimited power, worldwide influence and the daily double of Jesus and political conservatism.

Among the current residents of the right-wing warren are Sen. John Ensign, who sought shelter from the locusts of adultery, and Sen. Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma, a deeply religious conservative ob-gyn and deacon who was on hand to counsel the Nevada senator, or whatever went on. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who strayed from the path of righteousness to saunter south of the border, is also a member of The Fellowship. So are countless other Washington evangelically-inclined achievers. There have even been reports it is a great place to bring your lady when day is done as though it were a far-from-home Waikiki Beach house. As a senator, even Hillary Clinton reflected favorably on the group's mission to spiritualize the world in the context of its own fervid dogma. President after president, including Barack Obama, have shown up at the annual prayer breakfast sponsored by The Fellowship. To ignore it is to expose yourself to disdain or worse in your critics' prayers.

The Fellowship is headed by an influential evangelical operative, Doug Coe, who has been aided in the movement by such household Nixon/Reagan luminaries as Chuck Colson and Ed Meese. The group has served as a conduit for young college-fresh evangelicals to enter government at various levels and also as a guest stop for world leaders. It makes allowances for dictators who have no interest in Christianity but are drawn to the tactics and the kind of covenants the Fellowship's leadership finds effective in the Mafia, Hitler and their fellow-travelers.

Although it has been around for decades, it's reasonable to ask why the Fellowship is becoming a topic du jour on the Potomac. For one thing, it has obviously increased its clout on Capitol Hill with folks who carry its banner. The breath and depth of the movement far exceeds normal church involvement. That much was made clear enough in a book published last year titled: "The Family: the secret fundamentalism at the heart of American Power." Its author is Jeff Sharlet, an associate research scholar at New York University's Center for Religion and Media. Sharlet lived at the Fellowship's estate in Arlington. Va., to witness a remarkable religious movement that is organized in prayer cells at the highest governmental and corporate levels, meeting secretly while luring likely prospects to what the movement calls "Biblical capitalism".

Sharlet writes: "The Family (fellowship) maintains a closely guarded database of associates, members, and key men, but issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities." But there is evidence that in its carefully guarded way, it has demonstrated considerable political influence in its lifetime, often without fanfare. One example: Former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird helped convince Gerald Ford that, Sharlet tells us, "Richard Nixon deserved not just Christian forgiveness but also a legal pardon." On the other hand, some of the members' lifestyles are deliciously bizarre, as was that of one religiously dutiful chap who wore a plastic get-up on his wrist that he called a "masturband". Sharlet writes that the fellow allowed himself to wear the band to tell him how long he had refrained from masturbating.

The author gives us detailed view of The Fellowship behemoth and it qualifies as recommended serious reading by anyone who wants a much closer look at its intricate subterranean quest for worldwide power that can only be achieved by recruiting the already-powerful. And, as Sharlet
writes of The Fellowship, "it is the story of an American fundamentalism, gentle and militant, conservative and revolutionary, that has been hiding in plain sight all along."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite was the iconic way it was

THE PASSING of Walter Cronkite has reminded us of a towering journalist and his times, and of someone unlikely to be fashioned again in the helter-skelter world of modern media. The contrast between the distinctively civilized bearing of Cronkite and the wearying hurry-up talking heads of today should be quite apparent to anyone who managed to watch any of the replays of the historic Cronkite moments at his CBS studio microphone or in the field as a reporter. It is no exaggeration that as a broadcast icon, he was remembered as "the most trusted man in America." As Lyndon Johnson, struggling as a torn president with the war, said when Cronkite turned solidly against the the war in Vietnam: "If I lose Cronkite, I've lost America."

But where would he find a welcoming hand today? Where would he fit into edge-of- your-seat reality news programming? How could he possibly sustain the gotcha formula? Clearly, there is no one of his stature and public command in front of the cameras. The networks are tiptoeing with inoffensive coverage of critical issues, and cable has developed a strong taste for breaking-news madness rather than in-depth news coverage. Meanwhile, back at the printing press, newspapers continue to humiliate themselves on their way out the door. How else can you explain the aborted scheme of the Washington Post to have lobbyists sit down at the publisher's house with key reporters and editors for a fee of, say, $25,000 (to the paper) to advance their own self- serving story lines? The Post's mandarins had a lot of explaining to do to save face as well as credibility, but it was too late.

Who would accept Cronkite's measured words and gently clipped tones as the way to improve one's Neilsen ratings? Yet who among today's broadcasters will someday earn the title as "the most trusted man (or woman) in America."? Wanna bet?

As I was growing up in the newspaper field, Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and Eric Sevareid held fast as my broadcasting models. They always made sense. I trusted them. Can we say the same of anybody in the bloody business today that is so committed to fatuously entertaining us rather than informing ?

In a world every bit as disheveled as today, Walter Cronkite's was the remarkable soft-spoken reassuring uncle who compelled us to watch, listen and believe. His tag line for his newscast was, "And that's the way it is." Who could disagree? Today, we can only wistfully add, "And that's the way it was."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Frankensteins stalk the Rhumba Queen

OVERHEARD AT a meeting of right-wing talk show hosts, a few southern Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee and some lobbyists in a private bar on K Street:

Subject A: Whew! that Soto-mooer is a cool bitch. Nothing rattles her.

Subject B: Yeah, she's one of them wise Latinas herself and ain't like any of them dumb Spics that violate our borders every day.

Subject C: I hear ya. But y'all folks, we're running out of time with the confirmation hearings. We've got to find a way to put the Rhumba Queen in her place. Or it will be just a matter of time before white males are barred from sitting at the counters of one of them cheap diners.

Subject B: Yeah, it crossed my mind. But we don't seem to be making much progress with these hearings. Before you know it she'll be cha-cha-ing on the Capitol steps with Leahy.

Subject D: Gentlemen, gentlemen! We've got some heavy lifting to do. Maybe Pat Buchanan is right. Maybe we should really destroy ol' Carman Miranda with nastier questions.

(pause in the action)

Subject A: How about this? Is there anything in the dossiers to suggest that she is empathetic with Santa Annie's attack on the Alamo? That would play big in my state. Ya know. Like one amigo to another?

Subject E: Hmmm...Interesting point. But I don't know of her doing the Mexican hat dance with Santa Annie.

Subject B: Doesn't have to be true. But we could say it in a way to give it legs on Fox News. They'll run up the flag on anything that pops the libs. Look, we're trying to score some points with our own amigos for the 2010 elections. This in no way will change the outcome of the hearings. . But we should try to get whatever mileage from them that we can. We could have Al Gonzalez haul out the Sonee-Santa Annie link at rallies and ---

Subject A: Whoa, there, Senor. Did y'all say Gonzo? We daren't go there. No way, no how.


Subject D: Here's an idea...Why don't we call Dick Cheney and see if he knows of a way to have the feminazi Spic waterboarded to answer our questions, like whether she is a Porter Rican lesbo. I've been told lesbos hate white males. So let's play the lesbo card. It couldn't hurt.

Subject C: In executive session, of course.

Subject A: By all means. By all means.

Subject B: Ole! I think it's coming together. We can even ask Rove to reference the lesbo thing on a Sunday morning talk show. Ya know. Just mention it casually to plant a few seeds and let Glenn Beck take it from there. .

Subject D: Right. By golly, it's falling into place!. It's coming together. I think we've got it.
This could cha-cha better than accusing Obama of being born in a rain forest.

Subject E: And by the way, do we rally know where the Tamale Terrorist was born?

All: Call Rove!!!!

Anyone for a second opinion?

HERE IS A quote headed straight to Bartlett's:

"Joe the plumber - and you can quote me - is a dumb ass. He should stick to plumbing".....................Meghan McCain

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buchanan (not the old prez) is deep-sixing

WOULD SOMEBODY please toss out a life raft to Pat Buchanan, the over-exposed TV-commentator who has been engaging in a non-stop rant against Sonia Sotomayor from the day her name surfaced as President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Buchanan's well deserved reputation as an anti- Hispanic, anti-Semitic writer/talker from the ranks of Richard Nixon's inner-circle has pulled him under the heavy undertow now favoring Sotomayor. He frantically gasps that she is a wicked witch who will cost white males any claims to their ruling masculinity, charging her in a Human Events column with a "lifelong resolve to discriminate against white males."

I really think his sociopathic comments on MSNBC and elsewhere may be prompted by watching Albert Pujols (eh, Domincan Republic lad) belt another one into the distant upper deck against an inferior white male pitcher. Does anybody except MSNBC and Pat's dead-enders take him that seriously anymore as the old bigot appears to be prepping for his own show on Comedy Central?

Southern GOPers: Here's to your health!

I HAPPENED to watch a handful of southern and southwestern Republican congressmen on C-SPAN this morning making a fuss over their God-sent health care reform proposals. They wanted you to know that their only true motive in opposing the Obama administration's plan was their deep concern for the American people, particularly those who are out of work, indigent and not covered by a dime's worth of insurance. They didn't see how any plan but theirs could actually "reform" health care - a plan that would control costs, spread the insurance around and give all of us an option to choose whatever path we preferred to follow. Just below the surface, however, is the GOP's protection of the health insurance industry , which is paying off a lot of congressmen on both sides of the aisle to keep the status quo.

Insofar as the cost of the administration's single payer plan is a major talking point for the Party of No, shouldn't somebody mention that health care costs shot up unmercifully when Medicare became mired in countless private insurance plans. Figures I've seen say the actual administrative cost of Medicare was about three percent; after the insurance industry cut into the pie, administrative costs of your health insurance coverage rose to beyond 20 percent. Anybody care to explain the difference?

But hearing the handsomely insured GOP group defend Americans' right to "freedom of choice" (except for abortion, of course) in selecting a plan free of the government, I am again reminded of the age-old saying that "Republicans are for a lot of things - but not very much."

As I have written time again, the Republicans had their chance with GOP presidents and congressional majorities to take up the challenge of our health care crisis - and did nothing. So why should we believe that they are our saviors now?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Coughlin bows out. That's news?

SEN. KEVIN Coughlin's withdrawal as a Republican gubernatorial candidate should have surprised nobody. He was never in the game, even before ex-congressman John Kasich blustered his way onto the GOP's A-list with deluded promises to cut taxes. Tax reduction is no longer a serious policy matter with GOP candidates. It is simply feel-good politics, like telling the voters that you were late for a town hall meeting because you were busy delivering groceries to an elderly couple. It has a nice rosy glow to it even if it is a fool's paradise in a time of desperate revenue needs.

Interestingly, it would be hard to distinguish the ideological differences between the two men. Both are crackerjack conservatives, and you can take it from there. The only difference, I'd guess, is that Kasich, being a Central Ohioan with more than a few dimes in his pocket as a former Wall Streeter, has earned more Brownie points from the GOP's front office in Columbus than did Coughlin, who allows that he may try again someday.

Still, it must be said that his decision to forgo a gubernatorial campaign was the fastest exit since the late Sen. Oliver Ocasek decided his chances for winning the Democratic nomination for governor in 1978 were none and none. I doubt whether you will find any mention of Ocasek's clandestine candidacy in the political annals, but for a short time at least he was an eager warrior. His ambition was carefully nurtured by his good friend and Summit County Democratic powerhouse Robert Blakemore, who believed that Ollie had toiled long enough as a leader in the Ohio Senate to build a statewide constituency . Blakemore assembled a group of labor, education and political activists in private meetings around Mansfield, Oh., to discuss an Ocasek candidacy.

When I learned of it as a political writer for the Beacon Journal, I wrote something to the effect that Ocasek, though a decent man, was on a wild goose chase inasmuch as another Democrat, Richard Celeste, had a huge head start in raising cash. Always the gentleman, Ollie called to say that he was deeply hurt by my article and would prove me wrong. He took off around the state, meeting countless township trustees, school officials and political friends, certain that his campaign would rise to any challenge. But, alas, when he returned to Akron several weeks later, he arrived in our office with a one-line statement: He had decided not to run after all. He was in shock, really, that for all of his good efforts as an Ohio state senator, he was given so little encouragement -and cash - to fulfill his dream. He also sustained the theory that nice guys don't win pennants.

A successful Italian American Festival downtown

AS A CONFIRMED Italophile, I would be remiss if I didn't pass out a huge compliment to the sponsors of the past week end's Italian American Festival at Lock 3 in downtown Akron. The synergy between the Council of Italian-American Societies of Summit County and the Plusquellic Administration successfully connected hundreds of volunteers and patrons ( along with a welcome blessing from the weatherman).

Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth said the crowd of 52,000 for the three-day event exceeded expectations . "We demonstrated we can handle major events - and there was not a single problem for the police," Lieberth said.

When the Society decided to move from Cuyahoga Falls to downtown Akron this year, among the first concerns of the critics of the move was that security would be a problem in an urban center. Didn't happen. Meantime, on the plus side were the additional space available to the vendors and the various attractions (slides, cliff climbing, high flying swings) for the kids.

Nancy and I arrived Sunday afternoon and wandered through a big crowd. We ended up at the pavilion in time to enjoy the all-in-the family four-member music group, Cavalieri Reale, on stage. It's a great outfit from Cleveland, proving once again that not everything in that city is a bust. I even bought one of the Cavalieri Reale CDs. I do what I can to help Cleveland, and in this instance it was an excellent investment.

Not being grumpy when I came home Sunday evening, I waited until Monday morning to write this - and I still was not ready to complain about Republicans.

The faint pulse of the Mendenhall team

DESPITE MAYOR Plusquellic's trouncing of Warner Mendenhall's forces in the recall election, a faint beat goes on. The Akron Law Department continues to receive post-election public records requests from Mendenhall's allies, including Miss Tia and the mayor's long-time nemesis, Bob Smith. To what end? No doubt they are frantically fishing for information that might be useful to help their slate of candidates in the September primaries.

Miss Tia's request that remains active would require the city to research and turn over an estimated 500 documents, says City Law Director Max Rothal. Confronted with that burden on the staff, the department is trying to work out a compromise with Miss Tia to lessen the workload. An example of the administration's opponents' search mission: Copies of all correspondence between the Law Department and also the Mayor's office with First Merit Bank. What? That's what they're asking at the Law Department and now that the recallers have been vanquished at the polls, it seems like a reasonable question to ask.

P.S. Who is Miss Tia? She's Miss Tia. That's her legal name, which she requested some time ago for reasons only she can explain.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

When Democrats reach for their hankies

"It's like deja vu all over again" - Yogi Berra

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS are mournful worriers. The untreatable sense of foreboding by my crowd is a kind of genetic guilt that took hold when the Democratic Party, which was less than progressive, foolishly endorsed George McClellan, a terrible general, against Lincoln in 1864. But things were so bad that even Lincoln, a Republican seeking a second term against the backdrop of the Civil War, didn't think he would be reelected. Since then the prevailing gloom among liberals was that if there was a way to lose an election, Democrats would certainly find it. It's the curse of John McClellan.

Nowadays, although some Dems are putting up a brave front, down deep they just know that Governor Strickland will be a one-term governor because of his dithering over a state budget. They flinch and reach for their moist handkerchiefs when polls show his approval rating in a nosedive. Frankly, I have no idea how that will turn out at the polls next year. The media will be full of dire warnings for Strickland, and will continue to urge him to raise taxes to pay some bills. That, of course, would only serve to increase the despair in his party, particularly among other Democratic candidates on the state ticket who will be forced to toss and turn at press conferences over whether they support tax increases, too.

On the other hand, liberals will be scowling at Republican John Kasich, hanging effigies of him in their basements, and fretting that their party's brief years of glory will be ended regardless of Kasich's ludicrous sing-song pledges to lower taxes. He, after all, was a big-time executive with Lehman Brothers before it tanked and would not be expected to know something worthwhile about the financial system. Sorry, not enough to assuage hanky-twisting liberals that the end is near. They will keep their cell phones turned on should a friend want to report the latest dismal poll. Damn the McClellan curse anyway!

There is even concern with the aforementioned crowd about President Obama, who still has three and half years remaining to define his work before the next election. My friends have been skittish about polls that say Barack has dropped some points but remains around 60 pct. job approval. It is of no consolation among always- nervous Dems that as a married man cavorting with a teenage girl friend, Italy's Silvio Belusconi's approval rating in the polls fell only two points. Boastfully defiant, the Italian president declared: "This is how I am. I am not going to change a thing. If they like me this way, they like me this way." The McClellan factor obviously has not found its way to Rome.

I quickly recall that during the past presidential election campaign, my gang was standing
on tall ladders looking ahead to the next poll and fully expecting defeat. John McCain and the national media mentioned more than once that the Republican was closing the gap. On the other hand McCain was cool and confident that nature, and even the Supreme Court, if necessary, would again favor the GOP.

Republicans, particularly conservatives, aren't like that at all. Guys like William Kristol, the Neocons' foster parent, grin their way through another Fox hour full of certainty that in the end, America is a just nation and will do what's extreme right. Even now, Kristol is finding ways to justify another national campaign for Sarah Palin.

It would have been different if Lincoln had been a Democrat.

Boehner's obtuse view of Ohio's stimulus

RIGHT OR WRONG, John Boehner, the House Republicans' darkly loquacious mouthpiece, should qualify for a citation for partisan crabbiness. Most recently, he unloaded on President Obama's stimulus plans in Ohio, complaining on Fox News that it has been essentially a bust. He said he saw no evidence of anything - anything - happening on the upside . But when he was taken to task by critics for being unaware of such projects already under way in the state, he retreated to Plan B: He said, well, the process has been "absurdly slow." Right. By now the five-month-old plan should have put a chicken in every pot and stocked Lake Erie with gourmet lobsters. And added a domed stadium for every town with more than 25,000 sports fans.

Boehner should have quit carping when he was behind. As Joan Mazzolini pointed out in the Plain Dealer, the Ohio Department of Transportation has approved about $84 million in road and bridge projects with stimulus money , which is also at the heart of new programs to rescue indigent mothers and children from Medicaid cuts. To reverse an old saying, what Boehner doesn't know about his home state is hurting his image. At least what's left of it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A quiet week in Lake Grump-begone

LET'S SEE...Where was I before Time Warner abruptly darkened my Internet screen and cut off the phone service for a week-long, outage. Well, with apologies to Garrison Keillor, it was a quiet week at Lake Grump-begone. Oh, there were the countless calls to the company demanding Service on Demand instead of Movies on Demand. But it soon became obvious to me that Warner Cable was in charge, not me, and the cable savants would fix the problem whenever they were damned ready.

Meantime, I could only spend the down time wondering whether the Indians would call up another relief pitcher from a sandlot down south and how I could be so obtuse not to appreciate the seismic consequences of Michael Jackson's death. On some days the media coverage far exceeded President Obama's discussions with the Russian front office on nuclear weapons and the worsening war in Afghanistan. It is anybody's guess what horrendous world event would have been able to draw our attention from Neverland.

But the late Mr. Jackson's fullest measure of media coverage did serve as a another glimpse of desperation by newspapers and television to sustain or increase their audiences by whatever it takes regardless of the relative consequence to the world. It has sadly become a truism that for all of their problems, the media's front offices have yet to define journalism as a means of making a profit. And my hunch is that at this late date, they never will. There are not enough Michael Jacksons to advance the media to the next level of professionalism, if indeed that is the medium's sublimated goal.

But I did find more than enough time the past week to follow the perils of Palin. Sarah, that is. Hearing her out on her resignation as the Alaskan governor, I realized that if there was a hidden massage in her rambling comments, I was too unsophisticated to discover it. I did, however, gain a tad of satisfaction by reading some national commentaries that appeared to be as much in the dark as I was. As a blazing-comet political celebrity, Palin has become as much a curiosity as a wannabe national political force.

I could only add to the Palintology that a loopy Alaskan politician with her national aspirations could come along not more than once in a lifetime. For that, we should all be thankful.

* * * * *
Scanning today's Op-Ed columns in the Beacon Journal, I caught up with one that was headlined Sarah Palin, victim of media sexism. It was a lament by Marie Cocco, a Washington Post columnist that strongly traced Palin's problems to a male-dominated media empire. That, to say the least, is a tearful stretch. As a white male writer who has spent 99 pct. of my complaints on incompetent white male politicians, I figure I should be able to say a few unkind things about Palin, too. I'm quite astonished that a national political columnist like Cocco could bring her comments down to such an adolescent level (which, I suppose, exposes me to being a sexist re Cocco.) Ms. Cocco, the same rules apply to anybody stumbling up the tower in the political arena which includes Mark Sanford, John Ensign, etc. etc. etc. And if Helen Thomas or Maureen Dowd decide that George Bush is a adrift, I would hesitate to blame it on sexism.

Sarah Palin happens to be a woman. She also happens to have said and done a lot of foolish things. And I am a male who happens to think she is fair game.

Folks, it's good to be back!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Left out of the Jackson news avalanche

AMONG THE MANY disadvantages for people of my generation is that we often find ourselves adrift in an alien pop culture from which there is no respectable escape. That has never been more evident than in the days since the passing of Michael Jackson. I was again reminded of my distance from the pop scene when a friend apologetically suggested that he had reached the breaking point from the media's overkilling reports of the event. Another friend tried to put it in perspective for the grumpiest among us. "It's a generational thing," he said. "A generational thing."

With no disrespect for the deceased, one could surely ask at what point would an international pop star's death cease to be a media commodity to be endlessly marketed above all other issues. And after all, it is in fact news marketing. It wasn't until I chanced to learn that Jackson's estate in California was called Neverland that I realized that my generation has been shunted to Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow, where the common folks walked around in
"continual reverie."

But even as a child growing up in a small town, I knew little about pop culture, unless you count Vic and Sade and, oh...Ma Perkins. I also have vivid memories of the Saturday night wedding celebrations at the Kosciusko Hall where we all foolishly exhausted ourselves by whirling to polkas without the benefit of a standby emergency squad. That was pop to us, even though nobody thought to call it that. The same applied for wakes where my mother made it a point to sit by the casket even though she had never met the supine person in it.

Such were the events that made up our days with no intrusions by cable networks sucking the last detail out of the poppers and only the weekly Journal to report that one hometown couple or another traveled over "hard surfaced roads" to visit friends in another town! My parents would mention it at dinner.

It's terrible now to know that you are missing something that appears to be is colossal but don't have a clue about what you have missed. That's my generational thing, which is what I'm likely to say to the new generation's pop savants who glare at me and begin by saying, "You mean you don't know? You can't be serious."

Honest, I don't know. And I'm serious.