Friday, December 31, 2010

Carlson: A one-man death panel for Vick

I MUST ALWAYS wonder about anybody who begins a comment by saying "I'm a Christian but..." as a rite of passage before launching into a brutal attack on someone else. It happens quite often these days to remove any doubt about one's faith before the awful zingers are flung. Not that I really care whether a person is a Christian or a Moghul. Please, just tell me what's coming next. Blessing people is not really my line of work.

Take, for example, the latest mini-confession by Tucker Carlson while subbing for Sean Hannity on Fox News. Carlson 's Ivy League look always makes him sound a lot more intelligent than he really is, Christian or not. He teed off on Michael Vick, the pro football quarterback who was sent to prison for a couple of years for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Vick also went into bankruptcy and was released by the Atlanta Falcons.

As a peace-loving dog-loving being, I can't think of any uglier treatment of animals than dog-fighting. Still, Vick's misbehavior was fully considered by a judiciary system that knocked him out of action for a long time before the Philadelphia Eagles hired him. Star? He will be a starting quarterback in the NFL Pro Bowl.

Obviously, the system decided that the punishment fit the crime. As for Carlson, you can't fool me with your bow ties and glib declarations of a certain faith. Execution? Repent, I say,. before you utter another hellish word.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Arshinkoff, Robart gang up on Coughlin

AS ANYBODY who has given no more than cursory attention to this blog could safely assume, outgoing State Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a conservative Republican, and I were seldom on the same page politically. Still, in the years that I've known him, I always found him to be accessible. articulate and willing to go the mat to defend his positions. So it was of particular interest to see a couple of longtime Republican opponents gang up on him in the Beacon Journal's front-page report on his exodus from the Ohio Senate.

The comment that shot from the page was issued by Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart, whose room and board at City Hall have gotten convenient long-term shelter from county GOP chairman Alex Arshinkoff. "He [Coughlin] is a very vindictive person He tried to hurt us...", the mayor opined.

Given the fact that his partner Arshinkoff has a long history of vindictiveness that was once aimed at one of Robart's top cabinet members, I do think that the mayor could have found a more plausible account of his displeasure with Coughlin. Alex has spent most of his career spreading ugly rumors about his opponents, even taking on a major Akron law firm - Roetzel and Andress - as being nothing more than a Democratic cell. The same is true of his whispering campaign against Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic. Or his harsh treatment of some of the workers at the Summit County Board of Elections. Don't' get me started.

And please, let's hear of no more boasts by the chairman that he led the county to sweeping victories in November, a Republican day in which Donald Duck could have been elected across the state.

Alas. In some cases, he was.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gay casualties in war: A fact of death

TODAY'S NOD for mindless courage under fire goes to Elaine Donnelly, founder and president of the Center for Military Readiness. Her group has been in the front lines (Gettysburg formation) of the assault on Don't ask, don't tell. In a pep talk to her crowd after DADT was repealed by the Senate, she said:
"CMR will continue to support the troops, and our mission has always been to advocate high standards on a variety of issues, and that will not change."
To which I would humbly ask Ms. Donnelly: "And what 'standard' would you advocate for a gay soldier who gave his or her life in dutiful military service?"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buz Lukens: when the cheering stopped

THE NEW YORK TIMES Sunday Magazine (Dec. 26) carried its annual Lives They Lived sketches of noteworthy persons who died in 2010. The brief bios carried many familiar names that included an ubiquitous congressman from southwest Ohio whose career will be best remembered by his moral recklessness that finally sent him off to federal prison for 30 months in the mid-1990s for bribery. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for Donald "Buz" Lukens, the Hollywood-handsome, right-wing Republican who freaked out young women in his Middletown district with his youthful crew-cut looks and engaging wit. He had, after all, been convicted earlier of a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl and there were reports that he tried to fondle a young woman elevator operator in Congress. With Lukens, where there was smoke one could usually find fire.

As a political writer at the time, I was always on alert for the next Lukens scandal. There were so many instances of his misbehavior, even for a pol of his stripe. He had generated a Life magazine story linking Gov. James Rhodes to the mob, but when I reported it in the Akron Beacon Journal he hustled Ohio newsmen together on the the Capitol steps to denounce me as a liar. However, a source had confided that Lukens had read the galley proofs before the article was published - which he finally admitted to me. Such sharing of texts was not common for a major magazine. There had to be more to the story.

On another occasion I spent some time in the Middletown area tracking down reports that he was flagging money from his campaign fund to a majorette. He later described it as "scholarship" money. But even a dentist who served as treasurer of the fund (in name only) was mystified by Lukens' relationship to the young woman.

For all of the talk, Lukens was irrepressible. Until he was caught, he had held all of the right cards because he had carefully chosen them to suit his purposes. Even his arrival in a small airport conference room for a press session carried Lukens' orchestrated patriotic fervor. When his aides struggled to place an American flag behind the lectern because the mast wedged against the ceiling, I asked one of them why it was necessary to delay the meeting with such stagecraft. The congressman, he told me , always brings his own flag and wants it to appear in photo-ops.

As writer Francis Wilkinson so keenly noted in the bio:

"Lukens' ideological allies abound. The former Lukens legislative assistant John Kasich is governor-elect of Ohio. The state legislator who defeated Lukens and represented the district is John Boehner, the next speaker of the House. And if Lukens could mingle with the incoming House majority, he'd discover a curious phenomenon: legislators positioned to his right. Lukens' conduct took its toll in personal dignity. But it didn't deny him a powerful legacy."

Buz would probably take a bow for the powerful legacy. But I doubt that a person of his repeated vile behavior would give a damn about such things as personal dignity. It doesn't
come with the territory.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Obama has a better month than the media doomsayers

AS THE NASTY political year winds down with an apparent soft landing, President Obama can claim to have something in common with Mark Twain. Responding to a report of his demise in the New York Journal, the iconic satirist declared: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

Anyone tracking Obama's bumpy career might very well have been carried away by insistent media reports that his tenure in the Oval Office was heading for extinction and that there was no chance for any of his first-tier projects to make it through an impenetrable Republican stone wall. So much for the national pundits, speculators and street corner doomsayers who wanted to be the first to report an administration in quicksand. The generic headlines and talk show experts often declared "DADT is dead", "Health care reforms will be shelved," and "Hopes fade for START nuclear treaty."

They were, of course, wrong. It is something that happened much too often in a media caught up in its own self-absorbed expertise in the split-second Information Age. Much too often.

Meanwhile, President Obama was rising from the purported ashes with a broad smile and a much higher batting average than any of his naysayers came close to predicting. Moreover, the polls were crediting him with rising in public esteem. One late CNN survey showed him to be comfortably ahead of congressional Republicans in his performance during the lame-duck session. His approval rating rose to 56 pct. against the GOP's 42 pct. At the same time a Public Policy poll in Florida reported hs was running ahead of all potential Republican presidential contenders - 14 pts. (52-38) against Sarah Palin.

Well, yes. Things can always change. But you might want to keep in mind how they change in, um, the Information Age.

Kasich: A holiday scolding by the Plain Dealer

ALTHOUGH HE'S not yet seated in the governor's chair, John Kasich already has raised the eyebrows of the editorial writers at the Plain Dealer, which you may recall, endorsed him over incumbent Ted Strickland. The PD decided that Kasich's appointment of of Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles as state public safety director - despite "demonstrable" unspecified "pluses" - has "serious minuses, including family conflicts and a partisan-tinged history involving Charles' recent investigations" of Strickland's public safety officials.

To which we can only append a paraphrase of a former U.S. President: "Johnny, you're doing a heckuva job."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Risch:Stolen Humvees for nuclear arms treaty

SEASON'S GREETINGS to New York Times columnist Gail Collins for telling us of one conservative's unique foreign policy gambit. Her op-ed piece today was all about Sen. James Risch of Idaho. Until deep thinking Republicans come along, we don't hear much about Idaho other than reports that it has a lot of wolves roaming around, potatoes and a very good college football team that plays its home games in Boise on the world's only dark blue astroturf . It is supposed to be an imaginative color coordinated scheme to match the team's uniforms. (I confess to having a bit of trouble singling out the players on TV as they blend and vanish into the dark field.)

But back to Risch. He obviously has no use for the Russians. "They cheat. They are serial cheaters," he declared in his failed effort to amend the START nuclear arms treaty. It was all down hill for him after that. His amendment would block the pact until the Putin gang returned four Humvees to the U.S. that were grabbed by Russian soldiers during the Russia-Georgia war.
  • Displaying photos of the monstrous vehicles being driven away, Risch snorted, "You can watch your property right here being towed away by the Russians! Back to Moscow!"
His indignant remarks were not a simple case of apples and oranges. They compared nuclear weapons with gas hogs as a reasonable trade. He might have at least sweetened the pot by demanding that the oil-rich Russians also give every American driver a gift card for 10 free gallons at the pump. Now, senator, about that blue astroturf...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sen. McCain, the loser, adrift in his own universe

IF IT'S MONDAY, John McCain is against something. But I write this on Wednesday. No matter. John McCain is against something on Wednesday, too. Or Friday. Or whatever. Unlike Gen. MacArthur's old soldier, the Arizona senator isn't fading away. Not yet, anyway. He is even said to be angry at his old buddy, Joe Lieberman, for supporting the repeal of the don't ask, don't tell bill that resoundingly passed.

McCain's fury in the midst of measures that are being enacted over his protest, is beginning to worry his Republican friends. Has seething bitterness over his defeat by Barack Obama destroyed his equilibrium? Has his apparent hatred of Obama now surfaced to the extent that he is offering himself as an incoherent public figure, whether he is lashing out against the nuclear treaty with Russia or the don't ask, don't tell act? Or the so-called DREAM act that would have granted citizenship to the children who were born in America to illegal aliens. It mattered not to him that he was a sponsor of the legislation!

Regarding DADT, he scowled: "Today is a very sad day. There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America," noting that cheers would rise from "elite schools that bar recruiters from campus" and the "salons of Georgetown." (Hell, we might as well include in the liberal bastions the wide majority of Americans who supported the repeal, right?

Despite his reckless comments, he has become a pathetic media star, the most favored guest on Sunday morning talk shows, which is usually followed by more coverage in the media of what he said. The national media's fondness for showcasing McCain over the other pols on both sides of the aisle is inexplicable unless they think they must engage viewers by exposing the bizarre side of public affairs journalism.

At 74, McCain is sadly adrift in the depths of his defeats. Isn't it time that the national TV outfits leave him alone so that he can leave all of us alone?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hal(l)ey's comet takes a hit

HALEY BARBOUR comes across as the generic good ol' boy from yonder Mississippi. Radiating good humor and unthreatening southern charm, he's done quite well for himself as the former Republican national chairman and now the governor of Ole Miss. A couple of years ago, Summit County's Republicans hosted him with an outpouring of amity and praise when he spoke at the party's big finance dinner as the guest of chairman Alex Arshinkoff. Then, as now, there was talk that he was itching to run for president.

After this week's fallout from his rising political fortune, Barbour may want to reconsider. In an interview with the ultra-conservative Weekly Standard, Barbour defended the notorious White Citizens Council as peace-loving business folks who maintained law-and-order against the Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights movement of the '60s. Or as he put it:
"You heard of the Citizens Council? Up North they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."
Historians don't quite remember it as happening that way for the peace of mind of blacks. . Robert Mickey, a University of Michigan political scientist, told the Huffington Post that the Council's primary purpose was to oppose desegregation of schools by intimidating black parents who signed desegregation petitions. The Council even printed the names of signatories in the papers. You can guess what that was all about in the thriving plantation culture.

Time for damage control. Barbour issued a statement saying he didn't think the Councils were at all saintly and, in fact, asserted that their activities in the community were"totally indefensible, as is segregation."

But it was Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant with campaign experience in the south, who stepped forward to defend Barbour. With the usual political finesse, Ayres blithely assured us that Barbour's revisionist account of the White Citizens Council was a "tempest in a teapot."

Problem solved. Or maybe not.

Kasich to reporters: Drop dead

FOR A BRASSY politician who didn't quite claim vict0ry in November by acclamation (49-47) Gov.-elect John Kasich already shown us that there isn't that much that escapes his harsh opinions these days. From his disdain for public unions to guarding the names of applicants for state jobs, Kasich has hit the post-election ground with an autocratic agenda that somehow shouldn't surprise anybody who has followed his career.

His latest stroke sliced the air with an assault on reporters who inquire about things he doesn't think he should have to answer. Such raspy official nonsense occurred, for example, when he was asked whether a certain appointee might have a conflict of interest. Not a yes-or-no moment for Kasich. Instead, he declared such intrusions into one's personal life discourage good people from entering the government. That, of course, doesn't explain why candidates spend zillions of dollars on their campaigns to win elections or happily slide into peachy government positions because of their past lobbying efforts. Can we conclude that these folks aren't the picks of the litter?

Kasich complained to reporters that "I find myself tripping over the anthills on the way to the pyramids" - his version of political correctness and transparency defeating his good efforts.".

I suspect that pyramids could become a growth industry in Ohio.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Sen./Rep. Grendell's staunch conservative values

STATE SEN. TIM GRENDELL may have set an impossibly high standard for other pols who boast of their core conservative values. You have probably read about the Chesterland Republican's sleight-of-ballot by winning an Ohio House seat in November and then telling the voters that on second thought, he'd rather remain in the Senate for the next two years. He explained his flip-flop by saying that the candidate who might replace him in the Senate didn't share his conservative values. Until now, I hadn't considered that reneging on your own election was a conservative value. But Grendell had become an icon of the Tea Partyers in the last campaign so we all have something to learn about any kind of values when he's around.

Survey: The Fox Trot to bad information

TOMORROW, TUESDAY December 21, is the first day of winter, according to countless authorities who have long declared December 21 to be the first day of winter. But if somebody should come along on Fox News and insist that the date is the consequence of scatterbrained liberals engaged in junk science, don't laugh. When it comes to weather reports, the experts at Fox might also report that those melting icebergs are optical illusions that have been digitally created by enemies of the people.

I have been troubled to mention this by a recent poll from WorldPublicOpinion.Org based at the University of Maryland. Unsurprisingly, the survey reported that a great number of voters in the November election were misinformed about the issues that contributed to their ballot choices. And the leading culprit that emerged from the flood of misleading information was, um, Fox. Even without the poll, I sort of assumed that.

The survey noted that on national issues regarding the economy, taxes, the stimulus, and health care reform, the Fox audience was "significantly more likely" than the non-viewers to
be on the other side of the facts.
"The effect," the pollster noted, "was not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it - though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican."
Couple these findings with earlier studies that reported more than half the Republicans question Obama's birthplace, and you can see where we're headed in the early stages of the returning Dark Ages.

The Fox commentators (one of whom used to be our very own John Kasich) will not react to the survey, one way or the other. They operate beyond the realm of good and evil because that's where the money is. But as I have written before, when a nation's electorate bases more of its decisions on erroneous information than on realities, it is time for Paul Revere to saddle up.

Meantime, I report; you decide.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An earmark is an earmark is an earmark

WHO IS SO partisan that one cannot sympathize with Sen. John Cornyn's memory lapse when he is accused so mightily of seeking earmarks while opposing them. Or maybe it's the other way around. There is so much to crowd the mind these days.

The Texas Republican, who is an anti-pork barreler as the trendy thing to do on Capitol Hill, has had to explain things that are quite difficult to explain. Hey, the senator says he knows folks on the Hill who don't think his earmarks are earmarks. You'd think that would be enough to satisfy his critics. But life among the pols who want their country back, is never that simple. To help him recall his path to pork, the Dallas Morning News turned up 48 Cornyn earmarks for his state that totaled $103 million. Planet Earth to Cornyn: Sorry, John. No conservative merit badge for you this time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are these the cries of the wilderness?

WHO WOULD HAVE thought that we would be closing out a terribly troubled year with so much attention being paid to the minor crisis of sobbing adults? To all of the sobbers of the world it is a phenomenon for which they can give deserving credit to John Boehner. As you might have noticed, he has revived official sobbing to a new level of honored masculine achievement as he tearfully reflects on rising from an Ohio nobody to achieve the American Dream as the next Speaker of the House..

I've witnessed several instant sobbers besides Boehner. Glenn Beck, Alex Arshinkoff and my mother, may she rest in peace. Mom was a professional mourner in our little town and often showed up at wakes for people she didn't know, where she joined in tearful respect for the deceased. Unfortunately, it never occurred to her that that she was participating in the American Dream. Nor that some day as a woman with Old World traditions, she might hold public office.

Well, had she seen Boehner and the others showering tears in public, she would have been deeply moved, even though it was unlikely that she would have been motivated enough to go to the polls on Election Day.

But the current story line is sort of refreshing. The holiday season will now have a less threatening story line of pending school closings, higher unemployment and reports that Sen. Jim DeMint, the Vader figure from South Carolina, was preparing to have a voluminous report on the START treaty read, word for word, to block any further action. On the other hand there could be Republican filibusters to shut down the government altogether even though DeMint believes that forcing the pols to work through the Christmas season is totally "unChristian."

While I'm at it, may I suggest a way to discourage filibusters? Wouldn't it help if the senators were not paid for time they were idling while a distinguished colleague was reading the "Epic of Gilgamesh?"

If you really want to see uncontrollable sobbing all over the Senate chamber, I think my idea is worth a try. Money talks more than epics.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mayor Plusquellic: Make it four more years!

IS IT PREMATURE to urge Don Plusquellic to end the speculation and declare his candidacy for a seventh term in the mayor's office? Understandably, he's been fending off questions about his plans, if indeed he's even reached the point in committing himself to another round as Akron's chief executive. Life hasn't been that simple in the current term in his bouts with the police and firefighter unions as well as that misguided recall attempt led by his chronic enemies. And you do make some enemies when you've been in office for nearly a quarter century, including Alex Arshinkoff, the county Republican boss who has thought nothing of spreading rumors in past campaigns that the mayor would be indicted by the Feds for alleged offenses that even the FBI wasn't privy to.

Much has been made of Plusquellic's short fuse when it would have been better for him to turn the other cheek. But that's not something that he'll ever reel in. Still, it has yet to be shown that these minor skirmishes have affected his competence in serving the city's best interests to the fullest, from huge support for public education to downtown development. He can be as tightly wound in his goals to make Akron a better place for all as he is in snapping at somebody who questions his behavior. Yes, he is combative.

One example stands out from all others: When the city's new baseball stadium opened downtown to the delight the fans and other home-towners, he refused to attend the opening-night ceremonies because the club owner owed the city $1 million. Although he raised fears that the newly arrived Akron Aeros would leave town immediately, he argued that he would find another team to replace it. The issue was resolved when the city got its million. That took guts by Plusquellic, an attribute that has never failed him. Would that more politicians take the cue.

So, in short: With the economy in terrible shape, the city would suffer a great loss if Plusquellic weren't around to guide it for another four years. It would be an awful burden on him if he decided to run again, but it seems to me that his options have been reduced a single course: Four more years. As he himself has said, there is still much to do.

Obamacare: It'll take years to reach the high court

NOBODY IS giddier these days than Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's Republican attorney general, who is claiming total victory after his favorite Virginia federal judge's ruling that health care reform is unconstitutional. In his euphoria, Cuccinelli has yet to recognize that the ruling has a long route before it (maybe two years, legal scholars tell us) until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the validity of the new law. That doesn't dissuade the AG from issuing such loopy statements about the verdict as
"if the government can order you to buy health insurance they can order you to buy a car, to buy asparagus, even cauliflower...or join a gym. (Notice how far he goes in spreading public fear and contempt by including asparagus and cauliflower in government mandates instead of gelato!.) "
Anyway, as it has often been noted, the government can't force you to buy a car, but if you do, it will force you to buy car insurance.

By the way, wasn't it Cuccinelli who asserted that public universities and colleges should erase any policy banning discrimination against gays? The next thing you know, this guy will be running for president.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another GOP win in gamesmanship

Admit it, Democrats, those Republicans have found the perfect solution to having their own unapologetic way to game any issue with which they disagree. They file their grievance with a judge who is guaranteed to rule in their favor. That seems to be the case with Federal Judge Henry E. Hudson of Virginia, shown at left, who has decided that the new health care law is (I'll whisper it) unconstitutional. The challenge was entered by Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, and although it won't change anything for the moment, it will satisfy all of the Ken Cuccinellis of the world, including Ohio attorney general-elect Mike DeWine, who has promised to file his own suit against Obamacare.

Meantime, Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, is reported to have been a contributor to Campaign Solutions, a tank which has been a staunch opponent of health care reform and has a number of Republican clients. Is that a problem for Hudson? Not at all. His office said the judge has no idea what Campaign Solutions does for a living because he is a "passive investor." But apparently the thrill is already spreading around GOP circles. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Idaho couldn't contain himself. "It's a great day for liberty," he exclaimed. If this involved Democrats, they would find dozens of ways to apologize for the negative image projected to the public. What did I tell you?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More bad news re Planet Kasich

OUR VOW TO keep you up-to-date on news re Planet Kasich comes to you today via the Columbus Dispatch. Although Gov-elect Kasich is not yet Gov. Kasich, he's already cost the state thousands of jobs and $400 million. The paper reports that Gov. Strickland has received word from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that money designated for a high-speed passenger rail system in Ohio has been has been shifted to several other states in the wake of Kasich's avowed opposition to the plan.

Kasich says he will pursue his own job-creating agenda, which he never defined in his campaign and still doesn't. Said Strickland of the setback to Ohio's struggling economy: : "Today is one of the saddest days during my four years as governor."

Kasich's behavior is looking more like the bull in the China shop. No surprise there.

When change means some of the same old lobbyists

AS THE POLITICAL reformers crowd into the new Congress, you can put the following report under the heading of, the more things change the more they stay the same.

ITEM: When Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landreau flew out of the chute to savage President Obama's tax compromise as "nonsensicalness and almost, you know, moral corruptness," it left me, you know, with the feeling that Katrina had garbled her memory (she did also defend BP on the oil spill, you know, you know. The problem with her outrage, however, is that she voted in favor of the Bush tax cuts in the early 90s.

ITEM: Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, of Arizona, an ardent opponent of earmarks, did manage to get a big one for old times' sake by slipping into another bill a $200 million Federal grant to one of his state's Indian tribes. His office insisted it wasn't an earmark. Right. Problem solved.

ITEM: The Washington Post had this to say about the all of the fresh faces who are arriving on Capitol Hill to clean up government: "Many incoming GOP lawmakers have hired registered lobbyists as senior aides. Several of the candidates have strong support from the anti-establishment Tea Party movement." And as Think Progress pointed out, "These lobbyists are not public servants. They are experts at carving out special deals and tax giveaways to powerful corporations."

Want a prominent example? Rep.-elect Mike Pompeo of Kansas has named Mark Chenowerth as his chief of staff. Chenowerth is a former lawyer-lobbyist for Koch Industries, owned by billionaires Charles and David Koch. They are remembered as the major sugar daddies of the Tea Partyers in the past campaign. (Guess where Chenowerth is going with this one to look after all of those angry little folks who want their government back!)

So far more than a dozen pols have been identified as having hired big-time lobbyists to shape the style of their humble offices.

I wonder if any of this has gotten back to the raging placard-wavers at the Tea Party rallies.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mighty Luke has just struck out

LET US NOT be too harsh with Luke Scott, the Baltimore Orioles designated hitter, for outing himself as a birther in a news interview that now has the making of a media event for the lack of much else to be a baseball event. Accusing President Obama of "hiding something", Scott believes that it should be obvious to everyone by now that Obama was not born in the United States. Of course, his geographical innocence leads one to suspect that Scott doesn't know that Hawaii is in the United States. Players usually leave all of that kind of useless trivia to their agents. Or, in this case, to the Orioles' front office, which denied sharing Scott's errant idea and issued this statement: "The fact is that Barack Obama is our president, duly elected by the people of the United States. End of story." Not too cool, Luke.

Political Q&A...

On Capitol Hill and in Ohio, the Democrats are a miserable train wreck and the Republicans are an awful disaster waiting to happen.

Next question.

The rascals haven't abandoned their old ways

HAVE YOU BEEN keeping up with Cuyahoga County's efforts to begin a new political life with a different form of government? Despite the civic enthusiasm over finding new ways to conduct old business, there are already distressing signs that the old ways may not have been entirely laid to rest. Take, for example, this Page One headline in the Plain Dealer:
Rancor over private meeting prompts council to delay vote
The story told us that a majority (six) of the recently elected 11- member County Council had stirred up a lot of people because it met privately (i.e., secretly) to select Council leadership from it own preferred stock.

Nice try. While some of the Slick Six were apologizing for their breach of propriety, the foul call did suggest that in Cleveland's raucously dissembled political culture, change may require something more than putting new upholstery on an old couch. Even the PD, which has vigorously supported a more productive political class, has now huffed that the new County Council is "divided." And it won't be holding its first official meeting until after the first of the year!

If the long entrenched political rascality up on the lake doesn't change under the new system, the county may have to shop for a benevolent dictator to turn things around. Not that the odds would favor its success.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The British have a new princely diversion

THE BRITISH have long substituted royalty for reality. Something about the divine right of kings (or queens) passed down through the ages as the Great Chain of Being. The monarchy was temporarily interrupted when Charles I got into a war with Parliament and ended up without a head in 1649. Among the common folks as well as the gallery at-large, the fascination with the pompous and prim culture of Buckingham Palace continues to this day with the spate of press reports of a new chapter in princely affairs.

I refer, of course, to Prince William, who's smartly perched on the second rung to the throne. His recently announced fiancee, Kate Middleton, is in the non-regal class, which adds to the suspicions that princes have slim pickings among upper-class royalists in the eligible ranks. On a scale of one-to-ten, this social item might crowd out soccer as Britain's top diversion during the gloomy winter months. As the British magazine The Economist put it, the public is "bored" with rehashing the late Diana's tragic chronicles. "The Royals" it observed, "need a woman with Diana's glamour but without her instability. Kate Middleton...might well fit the bill."

Marriage between social equals is hardly a family value among the enthroned true believers. Henry VIII plucked his stable of wives wherever and whenever they became available without asking too many questions about the stock. And now a dashing young prince has set the stage for his own mate, upgrading their acquaintance at college

So far, things are looking bloody well for the couple who are sending good vibes to the jurors.

As The Economist succinctly noted, "Miss Middleton is very pretty and the newspapers like her."

Monday, December 6, 2010

In praise of concealed weapons, fa-la-la-la-la.

DURING THE HOLIDAY season, we should all be singing the praise of State Rep. Danny R. Bubp (sic), a Republican pol from West Union , Oh. (It's not that far from Kentucky and just a short mule ride to Blue Creek , if that helps). Offering his voice to humanitarian needs, Bubp believes Buckeye citizens should be able to carry concealed weapons into saloons and restaurants that, you know, serve hard likker, even without the careful watch of Sheriff Andy Griffith or Barney Fife. He's busily seeking support from his colleagues to vote it into law. Shouldn't we all feel better that a considerate state lawmaker has the state's greatest needs in mind in these days of economic stress?

Speaking of holiday compassion, Summit Country Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff was quoted in the Beacon Journal's story about his Democratic counterpart Wayne Jones' struggle with Parkinson's disease. "I wish him a speedy recovery," Arshinkoff said. "That's a terrible disease. I wouldn't wish it on a dog." That wasn't quite as ill-mannered as some of the things that Alex has snorted about Jones in the past, but should he have also victimized man's best friend in a matter in which friendship between the chairmen never existed?

The latest litmus test for congressmen descending on Capitol Hill in January is said to be, Is he or she Tea Party compatible? Is that like high-definition compatibility for your TV set? Or a toxic conflict between prescriptions that could kill you, as the ads constantly remind us about
Viagra and such. Could we wire up a senator for a 30-day trial period to determine a compatibility comfort zone with a full money-back guarantee if the subject fails to satisfy Tea Party standards?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hubris, thy name is Mitch McConnell

(Twelfth of a series)

THAT GUY in the photo with thumbs-up glee is Sen.. Mitch McConnell of Ken-turkey. As the Senate minority leader, he is soooo proud that his GOP clan has just defeated a tax cut for the middle class. It's an historic moment for hypocritical Republicans who have built a constituency from promoting tax cuts. You'll be hearing a lot of such nonsense from wealthy political hacks like McConnell & Co. for at least two more years, so this photo will serve nicely as the party's brand. Clip and save. (Thanks to Talking Points Memo for posting this classic picture. )

Saturday, December 4, 2010

For some Texas Republicans Jews need not apply

A FELLOW named John Cook, a vocal member of the Texas State Republican Committee, doesn't believe Rep. Joe Straus, a Republican who is Jewish, should be returned as House Speaker in the state legislature. Here is his explanation to the Texas Observer magazine about seating Straus:
"I want to make sure that a person I'm supporting is going to have my values. It's not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right....I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They're the people that do the best jobs overall."
I have a hunch that would eliminate Jesus, too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Next: "My (6,000 year) Old Kentucky Home."

PERHAPS INSPIRED by the two dinosaurs that will be serving as its two U.S. senators in January, Kentucky has officially announced that it will spend $150 million on a vast theme park that will, among other things, insist that the planet is only 6,000 years old. It's not a new idea among the creationists, but now an entire state will try to reap the economic benefits of such logic with an emphasis on how religious education can be fun. If all goes well, it could turn out to be sort of a Serengeti with a Biblical message.

To complete the circle, Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, (which doesn't mean that much in the Bluegrass State) glowed that the new tourist attraction will be spread across 800 acres at the site of the existing Creation Museum, which already boasts of a 12-toot topiary dinosaur. More to come as the planners suggest the project has Jurassic Park in mind with a lot of other roaming creatures, benign or otherwise.

To this end consider Ark Encounter, a tourist knockoff of the USS Constitution parked all these years in Boston Harbor. Visitors, it says here, will encounter a 500-foot wooden replica of Noah's animal rights pride and joy. There will be live creatures, dwarf giraffes and maybe even another dinosaur if any are left at the movie lot.

So I'm not one to argue with the governor's optimism over a project that will open in 2014 and is expected to draw 1.6 million creationists and curiosity seekers a year. "Make no mistake about it, this is a huge deal," the Louisville-Courier Journal quoted him. You bet. Of Biblical proportions.

Oh, the financing. The collaborative developers are the for-profit Ark Encounters and a non-profit outfit called Answers in Genesis. With the governor as their cheerleader, they hope to get a lot of tax incentives that will come out taxpayer pockets. Beshear is already being challenged for wanting to stir state money into a religious pot, but he wants you to know that he is a Christian as well as a public servant.

Did I mention that the park will also have a live animal shows and a Tower of Babel, as if the daily reports from Capitol Hill aren't enough?

Unimpressed by the scope of this prayerful idea, the Courier-Journal editorialized that the governor needs a vacation. It worried that the state's chief executive is suffering from the sort of fatigue that would have him ballyhoo the theme park in the first place. It sinfully concluded that Kentucky needs an updated state motto: "Kentucky - Unbridled Laughingstock."

Whew! I'm glad that I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How the wealthy try to dwarf a party

WITH ALL OF the awful news about how slowly the economy is recovering, I decided to check out some purchases to release some of my own pent-up frustration. Besides, as you probably have heard, now's the time for all good patriots to buy - anything.

An ad for a luxury condo on the 76th floor of a new high-rise in Manhattan strained my budget with a price of $16.8 million but it did offer such amenities as a second bathroom, health club, newspaper delivery at your door, running water and a superb view of the bus stop on the next block. The broker also offered immediate financing with monthly payments of not quite $18,000. But when I arrived at the place, there was a line nearly two blocks long of men in black suits and wingtip shoes, many of whom were grumbling about President Obama's unwarranted tax policies that punished the wealthiest Americans. "Wherever he was born did they think money grows on trees?" one of them huffed as he tried to slip ahead of 10 other potential buyers.

Figuring I had no chance in that puffed-up crowd of hedge funders, I decided to switch my cash to something I had always wanted - a Rolls Royce Corniche that was advertised in the Wall Street Journal for a limited time offer of $380,000. But by the time I found the show room, the convertible had been sold. "Sorry, fella," the dealer said, feigning a Rolls dealer's sympathy. "I could have sold a dozen Corniches in the past hour. You gotta be quick when you're reaching for your wallet against the Wall Street guys. A lot of these folks are looking for a dependable family car these days."

OK. I was disappointed, so it was time for Plan C. I had an eye on a spiffy Hargrave Custom Yacht after my last bonus and found one for $9.6 million. Again, too late. The dealer said he could have sold blah, blah blah.

Being of sound mind, I decided not to imitate the Morgan Stanley Trader (since fired, reports the New York Times) ) who tried to hire a dwarf for an ugly bachelor party stunt! Those guys on millionaires row are really a kick, wouldn't you say? But to be fair about it, they did want to create a job for a dwarf, no matter the cost.

On the way home I stopped at my favorite drive-in for a hamburger and fries, then drove off to a garage to have the mysterious rattle in my 18-year-old station wagon checked out. It was nothing more than something called auto arthritis, I was told.

The simple moral of all of this comes from the genius who first said that the rich are different from the rest of us because they have more money. The only thing we can add to that in today's political climate is that the very, very rich now have friends in congress to protect their need to own a Corniche or two and hire a dwarf. For ego therapy, of course.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cantor: Nullification a step in right direction

YOU'RE looking at Rep. Eric Cantor , the likely next House Majority Leader, who apparently is trying to pick up further instructions from outer space. Cantor's latest deposit of wisdom on the media deals with something that was settled by the Civil War. It's called nullification, which would allow states to ignore Federal laws of their choosing. Here's what Cantor says about a proposed amendment to that effect in his home state of Virgin -yah:

"The Repeal Amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against congressional overreach, and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around. In order to return America to opportunity, responsibility, and success, we must reverse course and the Repeal Amendment is a step in that direction."
The worst part about this is that we will have to put up with his playground bullying for at least two more years. As you can see, Sir Eric, I, too, want my country back.

Plain Dealer: The response to its critics

THE PLAIN DEALER'S lengthy response to critics accusing it of a tardy response to the city's widespread political corruption amounted to little more than a journalistic non sola mea colpa. Although the paper has been relentless in reporting the FBI's work in turning up an avalanche of criminal activity that has already convicted some of the players, the PD defended itself from the critics who wondered why so much of the mischief went on right under its nose for so long.

Good question. And here's how Ted Diadiun, the PD's reader representative, explained the paper's late arrival on the scene in Sunday's voluminous report:
"It's easy to second-guess the coverage, or the lack of it, with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight. I was in charge of the Metro operation for several years in the' 90s myself, and I can tell you that things that seem obvious today didn't look as clear then." ,
In other words, there might have been a little smoke, but no fire. Huh? But he did concede that the paper was
"guilty of a lack of aggressiveness, of failing to put together threads of a story that a lot of people knew was out there and - perhaps - of failing to be as tough as it should have been on people its journalists liked and thought were doing a good job."
True enough. But who were the people that knew the story was " out there" and did nothing to protect the public trust?

Over the years there obviously have been many moving parts among the sinning pols and their beneficiaries and I find it hard to believe that not one aggrieved whistle-blower came forward with a sliver of information that would have led the paper to suit up a couple of its ace reporters to turn up the story. Cleveland politics have always been messier than normal, and more often than not, a hint that somebody might have his fingers in the cash register was a credible cue to go after it with the first team.

The paper has long had a roster of excellent reporters, some of whom ended up on another paper's honor roll. But the decision-makers at the top have been confused and overly-cautious at times and when in doubt, erred on the side of the polite conservative establishment. (See Kucinich, Dennis, for one glaring example. )

No matter how you come down on the coverage of a tattered political crowd, there can be little hope in today's media climate that the PD can improve its coverage as newsrooms, from the New York Times and CBS to the Weekly Reader continue to shrink. As I have lamented many times before, the disappearance of a healthy newspaper watchdog in any community is leading all of us down a very dark road well past the point of no return.

Of course, the PD's admitted early failure to go after a smoking gun in what turned out to be the city's biggest story of the year didn't help.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pro Football: Out of "luck" only in closing moments

ALLOW ME to change the subject to professional football, of which I am a nutty fan. With sports, one can be nutty without endangering fragile world peace, encouraging the wrath of Rush Limbaugh or forcing John Boehner to choke up. Still, in the wake of Sunday's games it was possible to hear some things that were nuttier than others. Not that they changed anything, which is a good reason why sports is so important in our workaday cares.

For example, you could not pick up a paper or listen to a sportscast that didn't accuse the Pittsburgh Steelers or Cleveland Browns of being lucky to have won because of their opponents' blunders.

The Steelers won in overtime against the Buffalo Bills because, as "luck" would have it, a Buffalo receiver dropped a pass in the end zone that would have changed the outcome. (Actually, the crestfallen receiver openly blamed his misfortune on God's last-minute intervention instead. Honest.)

And the Browns won, as luck would have it, because Carolina's field goal kicker missed the payoff zone with seconds remaining.

Being inexpert on the fortunes of winning and losing, I still must wonder why the witnesses to these terrible moments (for the losers, at least) don't make a big deal out of a mishandled end zone pass in the first quarter of the game, or a stray field goal attempt in the second quarter or any other game-changing episode that unluckily (?) doesn't happen in the closing seconds.

It's quite nutty to raise these questions, I know. There is doubtless a perfectly rational explanation by the deeper thinkers, but I don't know what it is.

As Chuck Noll, the former Steelers coach, once explained to a reporter who asked whether the Steelers would have won if, by chance, an onside kick had worked by traveling the necessary 10 yards. "Winning," said Noll, "has nothing to do with geography."

Gene Waddell's handoff to Alex Arshinkoff

THE PASSING of Gene Waddell recalls the controversy over the changing of the guard when he resigned as Summit County Republican Chairman in 1978. He had called me a few days before the regularly scheduled (and usually news-less) party's executive committee meeting to alert me that he would be announcing his resignation. I was the Beacon Journal's political editor at the time and he wanted to explain that 13 years as the party's chairman was long enough.

As I sat down later at the committee's afternoon meeting , Dick Slusser, a Summit County commissioner, seemed puzzled. "What are you doing here?" he asked, innocently. "Nothing ever happens at these meetings."

"Just stay awake, Dick," I said. "I think something will happen today to liven things up."

Waddell presided over the routine business until he'd run through the regular agenda. Then came his startling notice that he was giving up his job and recommending the party's loyal young gadabout, Alex Arshinkoff, to replace him. (Arshinkoff's name had been passed down by Ray Bliss, who was trying to pump some young blood into the operation at headquarters.)

Some of the local achievers, including Mayor John Ballard, at the meeting were outraged by Waddell's summary call for an endorsement of Arshinkoff and demanded a postponement until they could find a candidate more to their liking. They even sent emissaries to Arshinkoff to persuade him to step aside when a new meeting to elect Waddell's successor was scheduled. Fat chance. (No pun intended!) After weeks of delay, Arshinkoff won the job.

What a change, at least in style points: Waddell was largely a soft-spoken, avoid-the-limelight lawyer who carefully avoided controversy at all costs by not going out of the lines. Arshinkoff moved into the role like a thousand cossacks, never more than a day or two free of controversy.

The rest is history.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A perfect Limbaugh national poll?

DID YOU happen happen to catch Rush Limbaugh's unhinged rant against President Obama's Thanksgiving statement and Rushbo's mad assaults on Native Americans? Here's a challenge to any national pollster: Ask only one question, that's all. It would be, yes or no:
Is Rush Limbaugh crazy?

She's not even stopping to take a breath

SARAH PALIN is America's leading growth industry. To those of you who have tired of hearing the name, she's only getting started. The New York Times, which is not usually given to superlatives to political pop stars, has already described her as a " empire." That seems a bit excessive. Media empires tend to boom anyway.

Still, Sarah is never content to rely only on a wink and a nod in her 24/7 quest for the presidency. She has her own TV series, sort of a travelogue on the wonders of Alaska, where she spends as little time as possible. She is on Rupert Murdock's payroll as a chirping insider on the Fox News of the day. She is a mainliner at right-wing rallies. And her daughter Bristol found her way onto "Dancing with the Stars" to finish a dubious third-place in the finals, outlasting purported better dancers for TV ratings-sake.

Oh, in her spare moments she writes books. For some reason, she is said to prefer California for her literary endeavors. She will begin a national tour, including a stop-off in a small town in politically-hot Iowa, for her latest tome, "America by Heart"" - a wispy title that is sure to become a best-seller among all of her heart-felt disciples. It didn't hurt that the advance notices from HarperCollins, her publisher, describes it as a "highly personal testament to her deep love of country, her strong roots in faith, and her profound appreciation of family." (She will doubtless leave her affection for Babe Ruth, Shirley Temple and the Durants' voluminous 10-part history of civilization for her next effort.)

Nevertheless, HarperCollins seems to have touched the traditional native emotions of Americans with its clever way of saying "God, mother and country." That squares nicely with her own boast that she is doing the work of God.

By now Palin, has surely moved ahead of some of the other presidential sketches such as impossible dreamer Newt Gingrich, deep south governor Haley Barbour and Mike Huckabee. Poor Mike has already warned the other so-called contenders for the crown that Sarah might "run away" with the nomination, and very well could be. I can't imagine Newt Gingrich tugging at a kayak in the Alaskan wilds and Barbour scaling a deadly cliff for a travelogue. For that matter it would be unseemly for Huckabee, a man of God, to beat a convulsing and bloodied fish in front of a movie camera.

What seemed impossible after she helped shatter John McCain's dream of the presidency, now seems quite doable for a tireless, self-absorbed, heavily-promoted agent of promise for a staggering nation - at least among her wing of the Republican Party. Her GOP opponents are taking notice. And some are already wincing, "It's scary....Very scary."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Slow down, the voters may have some other ideas

ONE OF THE MANTRAS that Republican congressional leaders have energized since the election is that the people have spoken. Well, yes and no, depending on whether it means that the GOP clones are now free to do whatever the hell they want to do to defeat President Obama in 2012. That would include the latest babble from Michelle Bachmann that Obama is "anti-American".

But the problem with all of this breast-pounding on the right may have shown up in the latest McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll that blunts some of the notions that the pols want what Americans want. One of the findings, for example, is that a majority of voters (51-44 pct.) like Obamacare and some even want to expand it. (Are the two new guys on the block in Ohio, John Kasich and Mike DeWine, listening?) Unsurprisingly, voters in the higher tax brackets, Tea Partiers and conservatives want to repeal it. Likewise, a majority of voters would not complain if the Democrats allowed the tax cuts for the wealthy expire on Dec. 31

So where does this leave the next Congress that will be throbbing with newly-elected right-wingers operating in the midst of the established GOP lions? Hard yo say, other than it could be a the new version of Edward Lear's Jumblies, who went to sea in a sieve.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

When truth is the victim of political nonsense

NOW THAT THE National Republican Governors conference has ended with huzzahs for all, it can be safely reported that there are presently 126 Republicans running for president. That figure will grow when my out-of-work cousin adds his name to the list in hopes of being the party's compromise candidate on the 43rd ballot. It's silly, I know, but you have never met my cousin.

It is also being reported by Matt Drudge, who heard it from an unidentified janitor in Rupert Murdoch's office, that Sarah Palin will be offered a new multimillion dollar contract to play Florence Henderson in a reprise of The Brady Bunch, the sweet domestic assembly sometimes known as the basic "blended" family. However, in the spirit of the blend, it was considered wise not to permit teenaged Willow Palin to refer to another student as a "faggot" on Facebook while demanding that people stop dumping "shit" on her family.

Michele Bachmann reportedly is preparing a lengthy mea culpa for gossiping that President Obama's trip to the Far East was costing $200 million a day. She will confess her error, saying it was more like $400 million a day.

Mitch McConnell will finally concede that all of his talk about balancing the budget by cutting taxes has been a ruse to disguise his singular reptilian goal of burying Obama in 2012.

Actually, except for the trash-talking Willow Palin, none of the above is true. But it doesn't have to be, does it? As the recent campaign so vividly demonstrated, there are words flowing from the lips of the pols and their hustler friends that are so Pavlovian that they would give
Barnum even greater reason to shout "sucker".

If the past election proved anything it's that many voters don't hold candidates to account for their sins, even though the Christian Right claims the higher moral ground when it sends its people to the polls. Try, for example, the Florida election that elected Rick Scott governor. He's the fellow whose private career included a run-in with the Feds of biblical proportions. His health-care company, Columbia/HCA (from which he was forced to resign) paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. He insists that it wasn't his idea to raid the Federal treasury and promises to run Florida as a business.

You might understand now why I told you my cousin is running for president. I was only kidding. But so are all of those Republicans who say they can lower taxes, balance the budget and create jobs. What will they think of next? The fun house has gotten quite crowded, don't you think?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Democrats, Republicans finally agree on something

WELL, WHAT HAPPENED on November 2 when the inmates took over the asylum?

We're in luck. There are no complicated answers!

On this point, there was sort of a political detente with sheathed swords Thursday night as a bipartsan panel of four campaign gurus agreed that the cause of the Democratic demise in Ohio (as elsewhere) was nothing more profound than an ailing economy. Beyond that, the autopsy produced the insiders' look into the cupboard of strategies that both sides employed - the theatrical props that adorn every campaign , from yard signs to polls to negative ads. Still, all of the traditional stuff appeared to be less important than the fixed perception that when a lot of folks are out of work, the only remedy is to fire the incumbents. To the winning sloganeers with their guaranteed fixes, one can only say good luck to that.

The occasion on panel night was the national conference of the American Association of Political Consultants hosted by the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron. The panelists, who would lead various discussions the next day, were Aaron Pickrell, Gov. Strickland's campaign manager; Michael Hartley, John Kasich's campaign manager; Former Ohio Republican chairman Robert Bennett and former Democratic campaign consultant, Gerald Austin. Bliss director John Green served as moderator.

Of the economic baggage lugged by Democrats in Ohio, Bennett observed that "tsunamis don't stop at the state line". That was soon obvious when the flood waters receded in Columbus. But Bennett was cautious about the long-term benefits to his party. He has witnessed too many reversals by the shifting voters over his many years in managing GOP business to be puffed up with overconfidence after this lopsided mid-term.

Meanwhile, Austin noted that all campaigns can be reduced to "good luck and bad luck." For Strickland the story was full of bad luck, some prompted by his own decisions. The governor's fate was sealed when Barack Obama was elected, Austin said, a novel idea that didn't appear in any of the other post-mortems. His reasoning: Strickland could not run against (i.e., blame) Washington because he and the president were both Democrats. With incisive satire, which has been often been associated with his long path through Ohio politics, Austin referred to Strickland's choice of head of the Ohio Department of Transportation from Brown County, a rural outpost in southwestern Ohio, quipping that the new director probably didn't even know where Cleveland was. He cited other things but you get the idea: bad luck.

On the other hand, Kasich arrived on the crest of the economic meltdown and as a friend of the newly emerging anger-philes souped up as the Tea Party. At that, he merely won a plurality in a close race although he has been sounding a lot like an Eliot Ness who ousted the bad guys by acclimation.

As for the Tea Partiers , Hartley tippy-toed lightly, describing the phenomenon as the "real deal. You can't play games with the Tea Party." That much was already confirmed by the way the TP's wiped out some Republican incumbents in the primaries. I don't think the old Republican lions know what to say or do about the new political menaces who moved into their neighborhood.

All the forthcoming internecine warfare will keep the speculators quite busy until the next election day. For now, Austin was content to compare winning politics with baseball: "See the ball. Hit the ball." That's not inside baseball either.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fox's Ailes: Can't get Nazis and socialists off his mind

THE REPUBLICANS' Jolly Roger - Ailes, that is - is unable to restrain his pleasure in the wake of the past election. The boss of Fox News, through whom many right-wing blessings flow, told Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast that the people who run National Public Radio are Nazis and that President Obama's "socialism" is too far to the left to please Europe. On the other hand, he credited George W. Bush with being gentlemanly for not saying bad things about his successor - not unexpected praise from Ailes, who has worked his political talents through a couple of GOP presidents and resides quite comfortably as Rupert Murdoch's $6 million operative.

The voters continue to defy reason. In Ohio, they elected a new governor, John Kasich, after his many years as defunct-Lehman Brothers Columbus point man even though exit polls reported that American voters' primary concern was ...Wall Street.

Now come several polls that indicate growing public approval of openly gay and lesbian soldiers in the military. But we are also reminded that a CBS-New York Times poll in
February said public approval of gays and lesbians in the military stood at 70 pct. However, when the same voters were asked the same question about homosexuals, approval dropped to 57 pct. Hello out there. Anybody home?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

1776: When courage defined America's political class

AS WE CONTINUE to witness the genuflecting by some Democrats before the Republican hard-liners on Capitol Hill, it is obvious that they haven't learned much about the costs of running away from issues they once supported. Having fallen to their knees long before the ballots were counted, they lost anyway to the myths posed by their rivals. The Blue Dogs, ever fearful of losing an alley brawl on such issues as health care, taxes and Wall Street reforms, cut and ran without courage and honor.

The political class was quite different in the creation of the Declaration of Independence. They were well aware of the grave risks: The 56 men who signed the historic document knew that if their mission failed they would be strung up as traitors to the Crown. Neither side in today's ugly debate over moving the country forward comes close to measuring up to the colonists whose courage has led to the system that even allows for today's self-serving political cowards.

As Ben Franklin warned at the time: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Palin says refudiate, it's now a word

IS THERE NO end to the milestones that Sarah Palin has reached in her carefully planned jaunt to the Oval Office? From her vice presidential candidacy, to her book-writing, to her Tea Party universe, to her TV shows, she's now made it to the pages of the New Oxford
American Dictionary with a single word! Well, not really a word until she made it one, probably unintentionally at that!

The word: Refudiate. Translation: part repudiate, part refute. The New Oxford editors were so taken by it that they toasted it as the Word of the Year. Given that there are still about six weeks remaining in the year and the Mama Grizzly will still have a lot of things to say, the editors obviously are convinced that it's worth the risk that she won't come up with anything better. (The word was born in her protest of the proposed mosque near the Ground Zero site.)

So her linguistic miscue will forever be acknowledged in the New Oxford pages as a kind of nonsense chatter that was offered to us by Lewis Carroll in such meanderings as Alice's meeting with Humpty Dumpty in Jabberwocky. (Slithy, he explained , merged lithe with slimy.

But Palin is no Lewis Carroll. He knew what he was doing when he consciously created the words. With her, it just came out that way. We expect to see it on the Palin crowd's t-shirts. Operators will be standing by.

Out of the mouths of knaves

ADD THESE POINTS OF interest in your entertainment guide for your visit to Capitol Hill:

Meet Andy Harris, the conservative Maryland anesthesiologist, who will be going to Congress as a big winner with an anti-Obamacare campaign. At a freshman orientation meeting, he declared his confusion over why his federal health care benefits didn't kick in immediately after he was sworn-in in January instead of having him wait until February. Well, it is what it is, Doc. Maybe all of your sleep-inducing has had an effect on you, too.

Meet Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, another harsh opponent of Obamacare, who accepted without protest a $960,000 earmarked grant to the University of Nevada for a primary care residency program. Ensign has opposed earmarks, too.

Meet Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose state of Kentucky has received nearly $1 million in earmarks. He now says he supports a moratorium on

Finally, meet conservative Rep. Darrell Issa, a fun guy from California and the wealthiest congressman in the corps, who went on Rush Limbaugh's show and denounced President Obama "as one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." When he was challenged later to put up or shut up - Rep. Dennis Kucinich was among those who joined the assault on him - Issa meekly recanted on CNN with regrets about his fumble in his own (Limbaugh's) end zone. "If I had to do it over again, I'd have parsed my words a little more carefully," he said.
"Do I think the president is personally corrupt? No. I should never have implied that or created that in a quick statement on a radio call-in."

Strange things are said with so much adrenalin flowing in the Republican ranks these days.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

America's new era of enlightenment

IT WASN'T until New York Jets kicker Nick Folk missed his third field goal against the Browns on Sunday that I suspected Sen. John McCain of being a Cleveland fan. McCain has acquired such a reputation of changing his mind on issues that some discourteous reporters have now accused him of moving the goal posts when cornered with questions about his contradictory positions. Even his wife Cindy is now in the habit of doing it. She, first endorsed the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, and then joined hubby in opposing it.

To recap, McCain first held out against the DADT repeal until he heard from a commission that had been created to study the effects on the military. When word got out that it would support ending such restrictions, McCain complained on Meet the Press Sunday (Does he have a contract as a permanent guest?) that the commission didn't go far enough, so he is demanding further studies until the commission gets it right. The goal posts were moved into the hotdog concession.

I'm trying to acclimate myself to the boldly declared arrival of the breast-plated Republicans in January, although it is apparent that some have already arrived. There is hubris everywhere in the greatest upheaval in proprietary claims since the the Indian Removal Act against the Cherokees in 1830.

In Ohio, the Senate president, Republican Bill Harris, has already vowed to block any appointments to the Ohio Casino Control Commission by departing Gov. Ted Strickland. He told the Plain Dealer: "If they don't resign, then we'll take action." On the other hand, Gov.-elect John Kasich is said to have mixed emotions about gambling and thinks it would be prudent to study it more. Further study? How uncharacteristic of him!

The stakes are much higher at the national level, where there will likely be still greater resistance to Administration policies .South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, has become so forcefully bold in the party's winner circle that he wants to bomb Iran. For a time, I thought he and his fellow Republican in the Senate., Tea Party hero Jim DeMint, were leaning toward bombing Ft. Sumter. But if memory serves, that's already been tried to no one's benefit.

Other changes are expected to elevate Rep. John Shimkus, Illinois Republican , to a commanding chair on environmental policy. Shimkus is the fellow who denies global warming with the rationale that only God can destroy the earth. Corporate lobbyists are delirious that we may have staved off Obama's socialism and will no longer have to apologize for Wall Street bonuses. No one is more delirious than Dick Armey, the former Texas congressman, who is credited with being the chaperone of Tea Partiers into seats of power with his lobbying operation called FreedomWorks. Not being a shy person, he invited a number of the new congressmen to a meeting where he explained to the neophytes how the system works.

Be prepared to witness the new era of enlightenment.

Friday, November 12, 2010

'Decision Points': 'Bush a borrower of others material

WHAT IS IT about George W.Bush that he has spent so much of his life as a Mitty-like achiever and never getting it right? This is especially true these days as he moves about to rehab his fallen image with his book, "Decision Points". Although critics have panned the pedestrian writing of his so-called memoirs (despite alleged assistance from a standby author), he's now being accused of lifting anecdotal material - sometimes word for word - from other sources without attribution.

Ryan Grim, a writer for Huffington Post, has documented a number of instances in which Dubya left an impression that he had witnessed a particular meeting recited in the book while pirating these supposed presidential moments from other writers' accounts. (Full disclosure: I have not read the book, nor do I intend to.)

Who knows? Maybe he believes what he wrote was part of his personal experiences as president. Ronald Reagan, the conservatives' Master of the Universe, had some of these same memory lapses(?) . As a projected war hero even though he never drifted far from Hollywood, Reagan drifted in other ways, citing war experiences that were actually created on a movie set rather than a live battlefield - and apparently unaware of the difference.

Alito: the conduct code doesn't apply to him

THE STIR CAUSED BY Justice Samuel Alito's presence at right-wing fund-raisers not only raises questions about his own ideological neutrality on the bench but also whether he is arrogantly defying court rules that bar such action. Alito turned up at a fund-raiser for American Spectator, one of the prominent voices of the American Right, to fill out the crowd that included the loony Rep. Michele Bachmann and GOP National Chairman Michael Steele. (Yep, he hasn't gone away!) When a reporter from Think Progress asked him what he was doing at a political fund-raiser, Alito dismissed the question with "It's not important that I'm here" and walked away. That brief encounter with the media defined hubris.

It's not the first time that he has been spotted hanging out at conservative fund-raisers. Last year he attended an event by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, whose preferred candidate was Christine 'O'Donnell, the big Tea Party loser in Delaware. Web reports allege that he helped raised $70,000 for the Institute.

In case you need further witness to the rule that bars federal judges from poitical events, here it is from RAW STORY's website:
According to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, a justice should not "solicit for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, or attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by a political organization or candidate."
Back in 2006, after Alito had been nominated by George W. Bush to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the bench, Alito was more humble in the face of his big promotion. He told a student assembly at Franklin & Marshall College that a judge is guided by law and must forever be aware of it in his or her decisions.

"I have continued to learn from various colleagues that you have to have an open mind to wisdom whenever it presents itself, he said. Assuming that he has read the code, his wisdom enables him to say "it's not important."

Welcome back, Kimberli Hagelberg

THE DIGITAL AGE is adding a new voice to Fairlawn-Bath news coverage. It's called Patch and is part of the local news system created by AOL across the country. The editor of the online report is veteran newswoman Kimberli Hagelberg, former Beacon Journal and WCPN reporter. Kim says she will be working with freelance correspondents as well as covering news events herself to put out the daily news page on your computer screen. It will not only provide text, but also videos. And, yes, AOL will be developing advertising for the page. AOL's website site for Patch ( says coverage will be "community specific". Look for it soon. In the shrinking news business, there's plenty of room for one more voice.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


THE REPUBLICANS, joined by some mindless Democrats, continue to retreat before the arrival of those Tea Party-backed congressmen/women on Capitol Hill in January. Get this from Rep. Eric Cantor, the Virginia rightie who will be the House Republican leader: "I've always thought of the Tea Party as representing America." I wonder if Cantor, who is Jewish, includes those folks at Tea Party rallies waving signs insisting that "America is a Christian nation."


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chasing our tails to create jobs?

ALL OF THE THREATS from the right to cut government workers to shave the deficit leads me to wonder...

Every government employe who loses his or her job will not be paying taxes nor spending for things at the mall in a retail-based economy.

With tax revenue shrinking at all levels of government, it will necessitate more layoffs and only the wealthiest will be spared.

As government payrolls continue to shrink, even shedding law enforcement and school teachers, there will be more unemployed.

With more unemployed, there will be still greater loss of tax revenue.

As the tax base shrinks, there will be even fewer jobs and less spending at the malls.

And so the descending process continues unabated, feeding on itself at a time when the deep thinkers are promising to create jobs.

Not being sympathetic to the Republicans' secret plans to attack unemployment and create jobs, I know I'm missing something as we continue to chase our tails to do something that will only make things worse. But what?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

For Tom Price, haste makes waste

IN THEIR haste to prove that they ain't kidding around these days, hyperventilating House Republicans unveiled a plan to eliminate a welfare program that they say would eliminate $2.5 billion from the federal budget. But wait! The Huffington Post reports that the proposal announced by Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, who heads the Republican Study Committee, would kill a program that has already expired. ( Price was targeting a program in what he called President Obama's failed "stimulus" package. ) Well, it made another good photo-op for the congressman.
And the Republican-controlled House hasn't even been seated yet. Never mind.

Eric Cantor: Boehner's doppelganger?

You should get used to this duet who will appear together in most photo ops for the next two years -Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Eric is usually one step to the rear and one step to the right, the politically correct lineup of the pecking order.

On the other hand, is it at all possible that there is no Eric Cantor at all and that the image you see is simply a doppelganger of the incoming House speaker? Don't sneer at that, folks. Not after all of the other strange things that happened in the past election. (I felt the same way about Christine O'Donnell when she appeared on the screen with Sarah Palin. And I was right!)

Monday, November 8, 2010


IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE that a whole week has passed since the Republican massacre of the D's and we still haven't put the slightest dent in unemployment. To be sure, a lot of Republicans got new jobs but it was a wash since they put a lot of Democratic officeholders out of work. I know I shouldn't be impatient with the promised progress by the victors, but I've not forgotten the instant assault on President Obama by the GOP chorus the moment he was voted into office. As I recall, they warned us that America would be denied an elegant future because he was born in a rain forest. But even they couldn't agree on which one it was.

Once again, having not been one of the Army of the Potomac's minor pundits who was invited to the endless "expert" postmortems before the national TV cameras, I am left to man up to my confusion over the results in this blog while the stars shine in their own well-fed universe in Washington. (A friend tells me that the media is now reduced to a handful of third-tier invitees now that they exhausted hundreds of experts within 24 hours of the election.).

So I will say that the campaigns were the ugliest that anyone could have imagined for a nation that claims a superior grasp of political stability and can-do efficiency. .That could only occur with stable minds and there is plenty of evidence that the pols and the voters had decided it was better to wander off into the Twilight zone.

Exit polls reported that people who knew very little about Obamacare or Wall Street reforms, expressed dissatisfaction with both. They then voted Republican anyway while at the same time listing Wall Street as the No. 1 problem. (In Ohio, whose politics have become an echo of the Deep South, then voted in a governor who spent years as a Wall Streeter.) I would call this cognitive dissonance, except how many of right wingers - pols and their entourages - would understand the term?

The buzzwords arrived daily with clear signs of homophobia, racism and ethnic and religious bias. The angrier ones invoked the Constitution - a sturdy but imperfect document that allowed the founders to condone slavery - some simply regurgitating what somebody else had told them. .

More disconnects: Voters disapproved more "generic" Republicans (only slightly) than Democrats but voted for the GOP candidates. A dingbat, Rep. Tim Jones, represented by birther queen Orly Taitz in a lawsuit against the president, was unanimously endorsed by his Republican caucus in the Missouri House of Representatives to be that party's legislative leader. Textbooks were rewritten. Corporate America funneled millions upon millions of dollars into the campaigns with anonymity granted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Thanks to cable TV and the abetting "mainstream" networks, voters acted more on misinformation than facts - a helluva lot more - which is a measure of a society's decline.

Finally, the Tea Party...well, no need to go into that. You've heard more than enough about it already! Besides, it' s an awful way to start out a new week.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kasich already barking orders to his detractors

AS WE MIGHT have suspected, John Kasich didn't waste a moment in the wake of his narrow victory (49-47) that will wedge him into the governor's office. Never bashful about his image as a fast-talking hustler, he sounded more like a top sergeant than Ohio's next chief executive, barking warnings to any and all who would deny him his preeminent role from whom all blessings may now be expected to flow over the next four years. He first tore into the state teachers union for opposing him in the campaign with language that infuriated him. He demanded that it apologize to him by running full-age ads to admit its sins. That bit of grandstanding, of course, never works, whether it is sought by Kasich or any other politician once the campaign camp fires burn out. Besides, full page ads are expensive, and he knows it.

More interesting as he burst emerged into the center ring was his combative, well staged attack on lobbyists at a big meeting in Columbus that was reportedly mostly attended by...Statehouse lobbyists, who, I would assure him, will still be around long after he is somewhere off in retirement. Observing that a looming budget deficit could reach $8 billion in the next millennium, he allowed that it would not be wise for them to be hanging around for their pet projects when he starts slashing programs to make ends meet.

Among the pols closest to him at the meeting was Summit County Republican Alex Arshinkoff, a lobbyist himself, who is enjoying a rare moment in the winner's circle these days. Also on board was Don Thibaut, who, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, is a founding partner of The Credo Company, a newly created government relations consultant and lobbyist. Thibaut had been Kasich's chief of staff when the governor-elect was in congress and was later paid by a non-profit outfit associated with Kasich when he left Capitol Hill. The Ohio Democratic Party has asked IRS to inquire about the financial track, but that 's not likely to go anywhere, either.

It may never be clear where Kasich can go to support his truculence, but you can be sure that a year or two from now he will still be barking to convince us that he knows exactly how to do it, whatever it is that he says he can do. And lobbyists will still be making phone calls.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Political stuff that won't cure a headache

ELECTION LEFTOVERS (Best if accompanied by aspirin ):

For all of the raging political attacks on the bailouts of auto companies, including critics like auto dealer Tom Ganley, did you happen to see that General Motors has paid back the Federal government in full, plus interest? Sales of GM and other companies have all risen, which analysts attribute to a rise in consumer confidence. They also note that without the
$50 billion bailout, which saved thousands of workers' jobs up and down the line, GM would have been liquidated. So may we now say, in the rhetoric of the times, that GM got its company back?

There's some fresh conjecture that when the Republican head hunters start carving up new congressional districts in Ohio to accommodate the state's impending loss of two seats, they will match up two Democrats in Northern Ohio - Reps. Betty Sutton and Dennis Kucinich - to kick out one of them. There's a precedent: to eliminate Rep. Tom Sawyer, the ex-Akron-based congressman, Republicans so butchered the county that it was divided among three congressmen. It later cost Sawyer his job, but the GOP and Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff netted nothing from it because Sawyer's district was pieced out to two Democrats and one Republican. Inasmuch as there isn't a Democratic congressman left south of Akron, the options this time are limited as to who will be sent into retirement.

Speaking of Arshinkoff, he told the Beacon Journal that he is now so happy with the election results that "I can't see straight." Careful when you get behind the wheel to head to your favorite restaurant, Alex. There are sure to be other cars on the road. Wouldn't it be safer if you hired a chauffeur and expensed it to party headquarters.?

More talk now that outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland will appoint Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray, one of the brightest Democratic officeholders defeated Tuesday, to the Ohio Supreme court vacancy. Good move, if it happens.

It's no small irony that six of eight Democratic representatives who opposed the extension of unemployment benefits and were on Tuesday's ballots are out of work, having been dispatched by the voters. Also, Blue Dog Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat who gave the White House a headache. also was defeated. Shouldn't that say something about sticking to your beliefs instead of appeasing the other side? Are you listening, President Obama?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Boehner means business about,,.um... small business

IN THEIR POST-ELECTION theatrics, Republican leaders in the House continued to hypnotize us with their promises that the new Congress will get American moving again by helping small business. You can count on us to help small businesses in America, the likely House Speaker told us countless times long past midnight. It's critical, he says, that Congress take up the task immediately for the sake businesses. Rep. Eric Cantor, the next in line dauphin in the House, is another robotic supporter business. The only difference of Boehner's portrayal of the alleged work ahead is that Cantor doesn't say it tearfully but rather with a wide brush-a- brush-a brush-a Ipana smile that appears to be awfully real.

Where have these fellows been?

As I recall, the Democratic Congress finally was successful in passing a $30 billion small- business measure in September after GOP chorus blocked it for months. But it's easy to find disconnects with Boehner, one of corporate America's (i.e., big, big business) favorite baggers of lobbyist money even if he insists he is a commoner who shares the woes of small business because as a kid he used to scrub floors in his father's little tavern.

Kasich, DeWine create jobs- for themselves!

IF EVER AN election was preordained - or God's will, as some of the victors will call it - Tuesday's results will do nicely for a class in Politics 101. For some time, the national pundits had been convinced that life, as the Democrats once knew it, was over. The economy, a bottomless supply of campaign money, Tea Party hysterics and a determined assault on President Obama's policies from the board rooms of powerful corporate interests were a deadly brew for the party in temporary power. It was even worse in Ohio, where Cuyahoga County woke up each morning to more evidence of Democratic corruption, Gov. Strickland was burdened with a serious recession not of his own making in a state where manufacturing jobs had already been vanishing back in the years when Republicans had long controlled everything in Columbus but the course of the Scioto River..

As a so-called swing state, Ohio also finds a way to eat its young, as it did in the defeat of Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray, one of its most promising younger voices, to a bland Republican
retread, Mike DeWine, who came along for ride because as a once-defeated U.S. senator, he needed a job. (And so much for the unanimous scintillating major newpaper endorsements of Cordray!)

At the national level, it does discourage optimism for the nation's future when John Boehner says, yeah, we'll work with Obama but only if we don't compromise any Republican principles. It sounds like the comment that has often been attributed to Nikita Khrushchev that "what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable."

Or how about Mitch McConnell's pledge that the GOP's top priority was to make Obama a one-term president - this from the Senate minority leader who couldn't even get his own man nominated in Kentucky's Republican primary.

Well, it's now up to the Republicans in Ohio and across the land to see what they can do to turn the economy around by reducing the budget deficit and cutting taxes at the same time. If they seriously believe it can be done that will qualify them for the White Queen's boast to Alice in Through the Looking- Glass that she could believe six impossible things before breakfast.

FOOTNOTES: There was one bright spot in Ohio on Tuesday: Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton's convincing defeat of Tom Ganley, the conservative auto dealer who once had boasted that he would put up $6 million of his own money for his campaign. The moral: Even successful businessmen make bad investments ....

Some talk around town centers on Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's future now that he will claim to be a preeminent force ($$$ ) in Kasich's election. Some say that Arshinkoff will have less of a chance getting a job in the new administration than getting appointed to the University of Akron Board of Trustees, a position he once held. If so, it will be fun to watch how that plays out.

Scary signs of the times: Tea Party Republican Carl Paladino's snarling appearance before his crowd with a baseball bat after he was thrashed in the New York gubernatorial race by Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Paladino , a wealthy real estate developer, vowed he would return, and waved the bat that would serve as his weapon.