Monday, November 30, 2009

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

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

Clevelandness strikes again

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sarah and the Nashville Sound

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For GOP Scouts: Loyal, thrifty, reverent, scary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Another chapter in Morrison epic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You can't put lunar water in my jalopy!

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

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

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

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

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

Health insurance, no. Afghanistan, yes.

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

How do you get a job like this?

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

John Seiberling, abortion, then and now

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Joe's a multiple choice politician

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009



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

Coughlin: Morrison's a "tenacious lawyer"

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rabbi Fish: The Lieberman 'incongruity'..

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Beck, she's one hoot to another.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Morrison Saga lingers on and on and on...

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Karl Rove: Self-styled protocol chief in exile

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

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

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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Ohio GOP wants your telephone number

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mangini's Browns: Fourth down and Forty

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

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

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

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

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

Swine flu and other mess-clearing events

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tea Partiers: A third party where losing is good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

Health care reform: A learning experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Get out the CliffsNotes for Lieberman's conscience

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Palin moment, or whatever she wants it to be

FROM ANOTHER Grumpy Abe reader comes this CNN report on a sighting of Sarah Palin, fresh off her failed attempt to elect a "true conservative" in New York's 23rd Congressional District:
(CNN) - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is set to deliver remarks at a Wisconsin Right to Life event Friday evening, one of the few speeches the former Republican presidential (sic) nominee will have given since she resigned the governorship last summer.

But Palin appears to be doing her best to keep a low profile on this trip: no press will be allowed into the Milwaukee auditorium where she will speak and those who have paid the $30 admittance fee are unable to carry in cell phones, cameras, laptops, or recording devices of any kind."
To which my correspondent added: No holy water, crosses, or strings of garlic allowed either.

Vampires, I'd say, can now breathe more easily.

Brunner's low-key quest for the U.S. Senate

JENNIFER BRUNNER stepped up to the Akron Press Club podium Thursday as the third in the club's series of four candidates engaged in a senatorial quest to succeed Republican George Voinovich. It was a low-key 20 minute speech (plus a Q&A period) in which she seemed trapped more in her role as Secretary of State than as a potential Democratic U.S. senator with an eye on the national issues that would command her attention in an Obama Administration. (Her opponent in the Democratic primary next year is Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who will close out the Press Club series on Dec. 8.)

Well, we're still in the preliminaries for the senate races and there is still much to learn from the candidates of both parties, although it does seem that on the GOP side, the litany will be tax cuts and more tax cuts, notwithstanding the fact that such holier-than-thou promises, when infused into the Bush administration's agenda, did nothing more than worsen the federal deficit and set the stage (along with Iraq's extravaganza) for a recession.

Brunner is an intelligent, thoughtful person who is less than forceful from the podium. She tends toward long answers to questions from her audience, each response becoming a rambling mini speech in itself. (Such was the case of Rob Portman, the bell cow of the Republican senate race hereabouts.) But as a career journalist, I can't pass up her remarks about the horrendous costs of political campaigns today.

She was absolutely right to note that the changing media culture has left candidates few alternatives to circulate their messages to mass audiences. As newspapers continue to shrink, relatively few political advertising dollars are spent in the print media. Cable networks, she said, reach far fewer audiences than the major mainstream broadcasters. So high-cost networks and local affiliates feast on political ads while spending very little on the coverage of the statewide campaigns.

So TV remains largely an entertainment medium? So what else is new?

When facts betray the media's "facts"

FROM AN ALERT Grumpy Abe reader comes this slice of current media life:

"Thank you, WTAM 100 FOX News.

"Reporting this morning that the Fort Hood gunman was acting alone and was still alive contrary to yesterday's reports, they offered: 'The facts keep changing' No, the facts don't keep changing...your reporting does.

"After referring to the incident as a terrorist attack several times their (WTAM's) morning personality finally felt compelled to say that 'of course, anytime something like this happens, it's fair to say it's an act of terrorism.'

"Of course, it wasn't just Fox News...they ALL got the story wrong but at least they got it quickly. It's not the media's fault if the facts keeps changing."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

John S. Knight: There was a human side, too...

AS I WAS READING a couple of more death notices for American newspapers, I recalled filmmaker Paul Jacoway's excellent one-hour TV documentary on the life of John S. Knight that was aired a week ago on Ch. 45/49. It was a sad reminder not only of the passing of the last of America's great publishers but also of the abject decline of the print media itself. Jacoway, a part-time University of Akron instructor, worked on the film for three years with Dr. Kathleen Endres of UA as his advisor and editor. It represented the careful assembly of a massive store of material for a journalist who towered above the field - and made a fortune from it.

I never met his brother Jim, who shared many of Jack's attributes, but for the 13 years that I worked under JSK's influence, my desk was no more than 20 feet from his office. Others have written about his life largely from a corporate viewpoint tracking the path of how he and his brother built a media empire. But Jack's passion as a newspaperman dedicated to the city of Akron was never an avocation. He lived it intensely every day, whether he was meeting with CEOs or union guys who ran the presses at the other end of the building. Presidents sought his advice as eagerly as I sought another bet with him on a particular football game. If he won, he arrived at my desk after the week end and primly explained to me how such bets required much research and thought. On the few times that I won, he sent his secretary to me with a $5 bill without comment in a sealed envelope. It was a game with our own rules.

With individuals of great power and influence, human qualities can easily be overlooked. Jack Knight was human, forever a professional newsman while burdened by the tragedies of two lost sons and the murder of a grandson who was being primed to take over Knight newspapers. After that, Knight seemed to retreat to lower expectations for the future of his beloved papers.

The little things about his passions for the newspaper business were clearly reflected when, after much prodding, I convinced him to speak at the Akron Press Club's first annual awards dinner. As it happened, the program was on his 80th birthday, and although he groused about giving up the day for a speech, I think he quietly liked the idea in a pouting sort of way. I found myself in the desperate position of having to work with him on several drafts of the speech and deleting some remarks, particularly his dismay over editorials that said nothing. He didn't want to wear his glasses and complained that I had not placed cards on the tables for questions - which I convinced him that I had. At times he appeared to be an unsure rookie prepping to face a big audience. He gave me strict orders that the speech and following questions from the audience (about 300 guests) would end abruptly 10:3o. Standing next to him on the dais, I reminded him of the time and said I would call it a night. He snapped that I was still holding some written questions on cards and insisted he would continue. I didn't argue.

I suppose that the thing that told me more than anything else about the man is that although my political ideas were to the left of his, he was responsible for my becoming a columnist. I'm sure he disagreed with some of the columns, but never tried to stop me.

While Pulitzer committees and presidents saw him as a fearless outspoken observer of critical issues facing the nation, he was also an editor who circled commas and raised questions in the margins of clippings that he forwarded to the reporter. Having lost a son in World War 11 he saw the folly of our later engagement in Vietnam and defended the young war protesters at the 1968 presidential convention in Chicago, He was attracted to their youthful energy against silly policies.

His voice in his Editor's Notebook column today would be welcome - and perhaps even a strong influence on politicians as we stare at Afghanistan and further losses in human lives and other heavy costs. In the bottom-line culture of newspapers and broadcasters today, you have to look hard to find the kind of courage and sensitivity that came naturally to Jack Knight. Yes, it's a different world, but hardly much better in his absence.

Advice for Obama by the barrel

PRESIDENT OBAMA is getting so much post-election advice from all sides today that he may have to invoke the Bush Rule: Slip off to a big ranch in Texas for some extended R&R and isolated meditation. Hey, it turned Dubya into a motivational speaker for pay. Clearly, with all of the rush to judgment, Obama needs to consult an oracle that will satisfy everybody, pro and con, which is what oracles do. Look what it did for Zelig Lieberman.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Red, dead meat for the national pundits

ALL OF THAT rattling you may have heard today was merely the clicking of bones from the knee-jerk reactions of the national pundits speculating on what REALLY happened in yesterday's elections. The consensus that made the talk shows and some of the august paragraphs of the New York Times was that the loss of two Democratic governors should be of great concern to President Obama for the 2010 November election. When I last looked, that fateful event was still a year away and what I've learned as a long-time political groupie is that there is nothing to confirm anything that might happen, good or bad, a full 12 months down the road. If you want further evidence of the fickleness of politics, while the New Jersey voters were kicking out the Democratic governor, 58 percent were telling the pollsters that they approved of Barack Obama.

Such split personalities occur often in, say, West Virginia, a poor state that depends on a lot of federal help to survive, now votes for a Republican president every four years to support a party that tends to deny the very social programs that help prop up the Mountain State. Go figure.

Less mentioned when the knees started jerking with the early results from Virginia and New Jersey was the Democratic victory in New York's the 23rd congressional district of New York, which had been a Republican stronghold. It happened after the original Republican candidate decided to withdraw under a furious onslaught from the party's ferocious right-wingers, including Sarah Palin, who showed up to support a "more conservative candidate." Is there a moral to this story? Not sure, other than to record the fact that Palin & Co.'s bark in this instance was a lot worse than the bite. Maybe Palin should take the advice of the late ex-senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, who dismissed a disturbing question from someone by shrugging: "Why don't you just hush?"

Joe Wilson: From Easter Island to South Carolina?

EVER SINCE Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie" at President Obama in a congressional setting not without its own share of liars, there have been reports of unease among his constituents in South Carolina that his class of politician is giving the state a bad name. That quickly translates into worries among the more rational residents of his state that it's bad for business. Wilson, like Gov. Mark Sanford and some other notables, has done it again, accusing Obama of being responsible for the H1N1 vaccine shortage after Wilson voted not to fund it. I didn't know very much about the guy until he turned to show business with moronic rants. But it does encourage suspicion about whether he might have descended from the great stone heads on Easter Island.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anyone for "voluntary" diversity?

THANKS TO A reader, we began the day with this winner of the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award from the website of Republican congressional candidate George Hutchins, a Tea Partyer in North Carolina's 4th district who wants to impeach President Obama:
"America is a great nation due to our diversity, but ONLY WHEN this diversity is VOLUNTARY" (CAPS not mine!)
A tribute to life on the slow track...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Was the mayor really raking leaves?


What? A whole week end passed and nobody called 911 to report that Mayor Plusquellic was seen in Halloween costume blowing leaves into his neighbor's yard?

The November issue of Harper's Index reports that the volume of the average human brain has shrunk 10 pct. over the past 10,000 years, which only partly explains Glenn Beck.

Connecticut Sen. Zelig (a.k.a. Joe Lieberman) is telling his critics that his waffling is really his effort to "do what's best for America." What would be best in his case is simply to get an offshore pizza route.

Since the National Football League has always been committed to parity among the teams, might it not consider giving the Browns 10 downs for each series - or, one per yard. It's a start.

A months-long study by McClatchy Newspapers revealed that Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street giant, quietly believed the housing market would crash as it was selling $40 billion in securities based on 200,00o risky mortgage loans. The scam has produced soaring profits ($50 billion plus in 2009, $20 billion in year-end bonuses) for the firm while its clients lost hundreds of millions of dollars and left countless homeless. It recalls the words of mobster Carmine Sabatini in The Freshman when he was questioned about his financial shell game:
"This is an ugly word - this scam. This is business. If you want to be in business, this is what you do."