Thursday, April 29, 2010

UA students are taxed, but it's called a fee

THAT SHOPPING LIST of new student fees added by the University of Akron Board of Trustees would most likely cause angst in a cadaver. Poking around to satisfy the school's budgetary needs, the Board added fees (taxes, really) to several opportune areas ranging from transportation to tuition to meals to housing to student misbehavior.

If these fail, I'm here to suggest some others that could be a fertile source of revenue as we continue to price a college education beyond the reach of so many young people :
  • With full apologies to the airlines, classroom seats would be charged according to comfortable access to the front of the room, with first class seats the most expensive, window seats overlooking the campus having an add-on fee, etc. etc. etc. To enter the room, students would be charged per textbook, iPad and cell phone in the backpack.
  • Install pay toilets in every dormitory room, study hall and laboratory.
  • Charge a minimum fee for use of elevators to be prorated on the number of floors sought by the student.
  • Charge trustees a minimum fee for the wear-and-tear on their meeting rooms.
  • Have all cell phone calls and text messages channeled through the University's main switchboard, limiting each student to 10 free minutes per semester.
  • Charge parents and students admission fees for attending commencement.
  • Provide additional parking for University officers in Barberton and charge them added fees for the convenience to see how they like it.
And you think I'm kidding, I'm sure!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shall we all chip in to catch the illegals?

THERE'S BEEN A lot of scary talk going around these days about aliens, illegal and celestial, that may force some of us to retreat to our nearest closet. Although you do have to wonder about the panicky Arizona Republican pols who coldly ditched the rights of a free society, the concern for undocumented aliens was elevated by Stephen Hawking, the preeminent theoretical physicist who told us to be on the lookout for uninvited celestial visitors - a warning that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer never thought to mention when she signed the new look-me-over state law. In fairness, there's just so much you can think about when you are running for reelection.

Appearing on the new Discovery Channel series, Hawking darkly cautioned:
"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all of the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach...."
Hawking's words don't get any cheerier:
"If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans." (Nor for a lot of other people we have read about, either.)
Meantime, a Republican congressional candidate in Iowa has a fail-safe scientific solution to keeping track of of illegal aliens. Microchips. Dr. Pat Bertroche, a psychiatrist who has more experience brainstorming humans than I, should be the one to explain his weird idea:
"I think we should catch 'em, we should document 'em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going. I actually support micro-chipping them. I can micro-chip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I micro-chip an illegal?"
Sorry, but that's not the newest of ideas. The nation's right-wingers have long suspected that there are shifty-looking people on the federal payroll lurking in dark alleys who have reasonable doubt about a person's legal existence and are ready to implant the magic chip.

Indeed, cybernetics might easily come into play if you observe some of those suspicious folks rising for their moments of robotic oratory in the Senate. Frank Luntz, the GOP librettist and Big Brother, has already seen to that. We will always know who you are - and where you are.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A derivative is a derivative is a derivative

THE SUBJECT OF today's lecture, class, is the United States of Wall Street, in which we will explore the nature of, um, derivatives. Inasmuch as I don't have any idea of what I am talking about, I feel quite qualified in dealing with the subject. That is also true, I fear, of everyone in America except corrupt Wall Streeters and their lobbyists who are in the game solely for huge profits.

Wall Street, you should know, is the metaphor for tall luxurious office-like townhouses in lower Manhattan whose shadows so darken the street at the base of the ravine below that it would lead one to walk through the wrong door on an otherwise sunny day. Worse yet, few people, except those who have studied the ways of the Medici, Midas, Louis XVI and Shylock, are documented to entered the thick carpeted offices somewhere up the elevators. Wall Street loves shadowy mysteries as purposefully complicated as Rubik's Cube.

But we were going to talk about derivatives, weren't we? My pocket dictionary tells me that it is a "financial instrument" and it is really nobody's business how, say, Goldman Sachs, got away with making huge profits from gypping other people by "'betting" with the house odds in its favor while armies of unsuspecting investors lost everything in the rigged transactions that guarantee the sellers risk-free profits.

When I asked a banker to amplify the definition, he told me to "hush", adding that not even he fully understood how derivatives worked because like everything else these days, they were created in a remote province of China. "All you have to know," he said, "is when to buy long and when to buy short," which added nothing to my understanding of investment banking.

One of the problems as information tumbles out of Goldman is that so much of the vocabulary appears to be coded, as with a military invasion disguised with words to confuse the enemy. For example, you can go the "vanilla route," or the "exotic" route in your in investments (don't hold me to this!) or lean on someone who professes expertise in "structured product trading". After awhile, you may find yourself looking for MBA partners in a penny ante game with their hands always on the table.

There was a time when a lot more of us understood insider trading, which was nothing more than a broker with advance knowledge of a trade could...well, whatever he could do, to exploit the market.

Not anymore. With billions of dollars floating around in easy profits in those cash machines high above Wall Street, you need to know no more than the shortest distance from one trade to the next. Derivatives come in quite handy, but for the life of me, I don't know how.

There, now, has anything in today's lecture been helpful to you? A confession: I was going to mention hedge funds, but couldn't find anyone who could give me a hint.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ganley campaign insists on brakes for clunkers

THE PLAIN DEALER'S Sabrina Eaton of the paper's Washington Bureau has opened a Pandora's box with today's piece on the business workings of Republican congressional candidates Tom Ganley and Jim Rinacci. While Ganley, the giant auto dealer who is on the ballot in the 13th District, has made his opposition to government programs a staple of his campaign, Eaton noted that his dealership took advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program with the sale of 934 cars worth $20.6 million. Here, the narrative gets a little sticky for Ganley because after the GOP primary, which he is quite likely to win, he will be running against U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, the Democratic congresswoman credited with setting up the clunkers program.

Likewise, Rinacci, a conservative whose many business enterprises include a Chevrolet dealership, sold only 40 cars worth $754.167, Eaton reported. In this context with Ganley, Rinacci's sales could have qualified for a flea market.

It is interesting to hear the negative spin that Ganley's campaign chairman put on the trade-in program.

"The program," Jeff Longstreth told Eaton, "was, at its basic level, an unnecessary intrusion of government into the private business sector," adding that it merely helped car buyers and not the dealers. "It was unnecessary federal spending that is indicative of the current administration's policy of spend, spend, spend."

But as Sutton's campaign manager Julie Sweet replied: "If he is now saying it's a bad program, he's trying to sell you something, and it's not a car."

I doubt that you will see many clunker traders lining up at the dealers' counters to return their ill-gotten machines as their patriotic duty. I also doubt that Sutton will take Ganley at his doleful word on the program by returning her Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association for her work on the clunkers program.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Whose turn is it to make the mashed potatoes?

LADIES, IN CASE you're looking for a job, you might check the Medina County Republican Party. It has an opening in the kitchen and sort of advertised it in a party newsletter that told its loyalists: "Let's take Betty Sutton out of the House and put her back in the kitchen." Rep. Sutton is being challenged in the 13th Congressional District by car dealer Tom Ganley so it's not likely that she will be wearing an apron this election year.

The Medina County GOP chairman, Bill Heck, said he didn't see any sexist intent in the county newsletter but explained that it was published by the Republican Party and not written by him. (Don't those guys talk to each other over in the next county?) After all, he said, his wife was twice elected to county offices. They doubtless ate out a lot.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A featherhead's idea for cluckers

TWO MORE ITEMS for a time capsule that will help future historians define our generation of deep political thinkers:

SUE LOWDEN, a Republican senatorial candidate in Nevada, has proposed a simple solution to the nation's soaring health insurance costs. It works this way: the next time you visit your doctor, bring along a chicken to pay for your treatment. Although she hasn't said so, we presume the chicken is alive. Or is it? Either way, a chicken is the symbol of an old bartering system that Ms. Lowden wants to create. If the doctor refuses to go along with your feathery offer, try to persuade him or her with two chickens. She's confident it will work. "Doctors are very sympathetic people," she clucks. Sounds crazy, I know. But you must remember that Ms. Lowden is the former chairwoman of Nevada's Republican Party.


Glenn Beck, the right-wing oddball, says he celebrated Earth Day by burning his garbage with styrofoam. He also leaves his car outside his studio with the motor idling to do his part for global warming. It would be nice if he made some sense once in a while. But what can anybody do about a guy who was born in a squirrel's nest and lives in a tree?


A list of broken vacation plans


I was planning on going back to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon again. But why would I go to a place where the Republican-led legislature just passed a measure verging on creating a police state? (Will they stop a Major League baseball game to check out all of the Hispanic players?)

I was planning on going to Texas to see the Alamo. But why would I go go to a state whose loopy Republican governor thinks it would be heavenly if Texas seceded from the Union?

I was planning to go to the Mardi Gras in Louisiana. but why would I have gone to a state whose Republican governor had been touted as presidential material and fell flat on his ass with a single TV speech?

I was planning on going to Florida in the fall. But why would I go to a state whose Republican governor, once headed for the short list of presidential candidates, is running so far behind a Tea Party supported candidate in the senatorial primary that he may have to change his name and run as an independent?

I was planning on going to Alaska for one of those inland cruises, but why would I go to a state whose former Republican governor wouldn't share her front porch with me to see Russia?

I was planning on going to South Carolina for a week at Myrtle Beach. But why would I go to a state with a Republican senator who wants to set up a theocracy in America? ?

I was planning on going to Virginia Beach. But why would I go to a state whose Republican governor is a homophobe and tends to be forgetful of slavery in his declaration of Confederate History Month?

Folks, Ohio is looking better to me every day for a vacation in my backyard.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jim Duh-Mint, back to the pulpit

While Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is under attack from the conservative Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), accusing him of being a closet gay, Graham's Republican colleague in the Senate, Jim DeMint, shown at right, is busying himself defending the tea party movement as being, blessed be, a "spiritual revival". DeMint, who is known for saying a lot of silly things, (He predicted a year ago that the health care reform bill would fail and would be President Obama's "Waterloo"), now opines that government is failing because it has "turned its back on God." Hear him out:
"I think some have been drawn in over the years to a dependence relationship with government and as the Bible says, you can't have two masters and I think as people pull back that they look more to God. It's no coincidence that socialist Europe is post-Christian because the bigger the government gets the smaller God gets and vice-versa. The bigger God gets the smaller people want their their government because they're yearning for freedom."Apart from the non-sequitur bit about freedom, might somebody remind DeMint that when the French revolted to rid themselves of oppressive royalty to, um, gain their freedom. they also buried religion, too, sending many clerics to the guillotine. It had nothing to do with socialism and much to do about putting food on the table.
But here I go again, preaching secularly to a South Carolina politician. I don't have a chance.

BJ: Selling cars, or political candidates?

DID YOU SEE THE front page of the Beacon Journal today? It couldn't have been more useful for conservative Republican auto-dealer Tom Ganley's congressional campaign had his own people laid out the page. A huge photo of one of his Toyotas with the Ganley trademark license tag quite prominent in brilliant red. The story was about how local auto sales are accelerating. Oh? Since more people look at newspaper photos than read the actual article, this one was - how can we say it? - at least subliminal. (By the way, Ganley is running against U.S. Rep Betty Sutton, a Democrat, in the 13th congressional District.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Will Tea Party dump Ohio GOP overboard?

A FUNNY THING is happening to the Ohio Republican Party on its avowed fail-safe way to sweeping the Democrats in November. Despite its cordial attempts to play nice with the Tea Partiers, the Republican team is finding that wishing won't make it so. N o less a party celebrity than Ohio GOP chairman Kevin DeWine extended an olive branch to the Tea Party in a visit to Akron last week, inviting the outriders to come through the front door to join the state party.

But by Sunday, the Plain Dealer was reporting the latest collision between State Sen. Jon Husted, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, and Ralph King, the leader of an outfit called the Cleveland Tea Party Patriots. For whatever reason - and you don't need many these days to stake out an opponent - King & Co. don't like Husted. Worse than that, as King explaind to the PD reporter, "The only relation Jon Husted would have with the Tea Party is if he would have been driving the British ship into Boston Harbor." Safe qualifier. Even Google couldn't put Husted on that British ship. Besides, King accused Husted of showing "open hatred and contempt for the Tea Parties." Husted, of course, denied it.

There will be a lot of this sort of political auto de fe as the Tea Partiers flex their muscles, or whatever, this year, and Republican candidates are spending more time genuflecting to them than demanding that they stop telling lies. As matters now stand, the state GOP ticket is leaning heavily to a detente with the enemy.

John Kasich, the candidate for governor, has spoken at their rallies while trying to fend off Democrats' charges that he is tainted by being a white collar manager for Lehman Brothers up to the time that it went bankrupt. (Curiously, he has defended his years of employment with the big bank by suggesting he was little more than a walk-on each day - a claim of low-level servitude that seemed contradictory to his bonus of $432,200 in 2008 on top of his salary of $182,692!)

Rep. Seth Morgan, a very conservative GOP candidate for state auditor, has been endorsed by the State Tea Party; auto dealer Tom Ganley, challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton in the 13th congressional district, has appeared at Tea Party rallies; and U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine,who wants to be attorney general and should know better, has announced that his first task upon entering the office would be to file suit to repeal the health care reform law - and what Tea Partier would be against that?

As political campaigns go, this year's will be more irrational than ever. Don't be surprised if there are some surprises over in the Republican camp.

Sorry, but here's Mitch McConnell AGAIN

AFTER ALL OF THE MEAN things I've been saying about Sen. Mitch McConnell, I'm beginning to feel a twinge of sympathy for him. He continues to be trapped in Plato's cave, staring at his shadow on the wall with his back to the light. There was more evidence of his plight when he appeared on CNN Sunday to attack the Obama Administration's financial reform bill. Raising the specter of a filibuster, McConnell offered his own solution to fixing our financial mess: "We ought to go back to the drawing board." Bop!

All of the stale air in the cave has obviously affected his memory. Does he not remember that the GOP's back-to-the-drawing-board gambit failed during the health care reform debate? Maybe he does, but offhand he has no other ideas that won't make him seem so silly.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mitch gets another call from Edgar Bergen

...Look out! the McConnell-led Republican senators are back, tripping along to their orders from Frank Luntz, the party's Edgar Bergen, who makes a good living putting words into their mouths. The latest comedy act is the GOP senators' perfect-pitch 41-0 voice against the Democrats' Wall Street Reform proposal. Somebody should remind Mitch that there are a lot of people in the land who have no use for Wall Street, particularly on a day when when the SEC had filed fraud charges against Goldman Sachs....

Update: Neglected to add the observation by Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film, Wall Street: Greed is good. Right, Mitch?

State Road project: Who was talking to whom?

IF THERE WAS a common denominator in the derailment of plans for the old State Road Shopping Center in Cuyahoga Falls, it would be fair to say it was a lack of clear communication among the players. Interviews with several City Council members and the school board president insisted that Mayor Robart was in the driver's seat from the beginning, and not until recently did details of the tax sharing on the site emerge. And when they did, it was enough for Falls school district president Therese Dunphy to head up a 3-2 majority on the board to oppose the project. It was a setback that the outraged mayor and his staff never anticipated as its plan for a $60 million restoration of the huge site moved smoothly along over the flattened old buildings that were razed to be replaced by ---what?

According to Dunphy, the schools normal 60 pct. share of the property taxes became a moving part. "We had figured on 25 pct or 3o pct. for this project, but in February were told by Sue Truby (Falls development director) that actually we would only get 60 pct. of 25 pct., or 15 pct." She said that after Supt. Ed Holland talked to city officials, he advised the school board that the city's best offer would be 22 pct.

As is his wont these days, Robert assailed Dunphy because she lives in Silver Lake, which is part of the Falls school district, telling the Beacon Journal that Silver Lake school board members "had very little skin in the game". Cool, whatever that choice of words is supposed to mean in this instance.

Council members told me there weren't many meetings between City Hall and the Council on the ongoing project that led Council to authorize borrowing $10 million to buy the site in 2008 - a bill that will have to be paid whether the project goes forward or not.

Diana Colavecchio, the City Council president, concedes that the details about the project were not crystal clear, and that communications between Robart's people and Council could have been much better. But Council approved it as a measure of something that the city had to do. Others, she said, shared that view.

OK, already. What's next? Colavecchio says the matter will again be taken up at the April 26 Council meeting and she is asking city officials and school board members to attend to have a fair discussion of how the project can be salvaged.

I don't find anybody who is totally against the suburban renewal. but there remains a question about how an "upscale" grocery store will attract enough other retailers to fill that vacant land mass at Portage Trail and State Road. For this kind of an investment, assumptions and upbeat assurances aren't nearly enough. Particularly in these troubled economic times, right? There have already been too many assumptions to risk many more.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

GOP's Kevin DeWine: A tidy partisan talk

AS POLITICAL SPEECHES GO these days, Kevin DeWine's talk at the Akron Press Club was a rather tidy affair. The Ohio Republican chairman was in a mood to keep his comments on the safe side of today's outrageous rhetoric from his GOP teammates on Capitol Hill, offering the standard party talking points to the smallish audience in the Martin Center, maybe half of which were Bliss Institute students, the co-sponsor of the uneventful event. Considering the fact that he didn't call President Obama a Nazi or a socialist, who could be put off by his routine partisanship in this election year?

Still, some thoughts:

Like many of his GOP brethren, he resorted simply to criticizing the health care reform law as a $1 trillion initiative. I would bet there are many Americans who hear that astronomical number and shiver. Trouble is, many of these same folks may also believe that the trillion will be spent next month when, in fact, it is spread over ten years, matching the cost of the Iraq war. Indeed, the Bush Administration preferred to keep that cost on a separate budget, out of sight of a nosy taxpayer or two.

He may be dreaming when he says the Tea Partiers and the Republican Party have much in common and he would welcome them into his party. At the moment, it may be more accurate to wonder whether Tea Partiers would ever welcome Republicans into their ranks. Nevertheless, DeWine said nothing that would rankle the TPs.

Insisting that Obama's poll numbers have fallen two years before the mast, he might have been reminded that so did Ronald Reagan's at the same point in the recessional early 1980s. I think Reagan's approval rating was 42 pct. When the economy is sour, so are the voters.

Finally, as he is paid to do, he gingerly defended John Kasich's notion to eliminate the state income tax, which provides 40 pct. of the state revenue, saying Kasich didn't mean that he would do it immediately but instead would look at the entire budgetary limits first. If not immediately, then when? Indeed, Kasich isn't very clear about where he would cut the budget to avoid deficits.

Oh, there was a call for Republicans to return to their core values and support lower taxes and smaller government. He did turn to repeated use - in case you missed it the first time - of the term "skyrocketing taxes". Whatever happened to plain old "taxes" to arouse the voters?

He also predicted a big comeback for Republicans in November. No surprise there. What's a party chairman for?

Barbour's defense: Strom couldn't have said it better

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi gets today's Strom Thurmond Award for his Old South defense of fellow Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia for failing to mention slavery in declaring Confederate History Month down yonder. Shucks, Barbour opined, the exclusion "doesn't amount to diddly." And he didn't mean the late Bo Diddley. When you
are running for president, as is Barbour, you can't think of everything.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rudy Giuliani: a.k.a., America's Mayor

WHY DOES MY head begin to ache as though a cueball is caroming from ear to ear when I open up my Sunday paper and see a full-page ad hustling the GET MOTIVATED crowd? For starters, there's Rudy Giuliani waving to me from the top of the page, immodestly identified as "America's Mayor". As history will show, he's got personal baggage weighing down both shoulders and never can escape his illogical way of running a presidential campaign by hanging out in Florida while everybody else was campaigning. How creative can an ad writer be?

America's Mayor will be in the cavalry that will appear in Akron on May 12 to motivate the audience on a wide range of feel-good topics that, among other things, will tell me how to get "focused". I've often wondered about what that means, particularly when the mere act of living requires one to act on several tasks at a time while the phone is ringing.

America's Mayor will be in good company. Zig Ziglar will be back to tell us "how to stay motivated" after we've been motivated. Another motivational veteran, Dr. Robert Schuller, will be there to tell us that "tough times never last but tough people do", which, of course, sounds better than it really is. And for sports fans, Eric Mangini, the Browns Coach, will be a seminar celebrity. Now that he has lost last year's first and second-string quarterbacks, his comments on toughing-it-out may be the most interesting of all.

The fee for attending the all day rush of speakers costs no more than $4.95. They will also throw in something called a Success Library, free, a $495 value, it says here. There are more incentives: $10,000 in prizes and a Disney World vacation. And who can deny the priceless benefits of meeting America's Mayor?

I don't know how they can lavish all of this profound oratory on the crowd for only $4.95. But cynic that I am about these positive-thinking extravaganzas, I'm not motivated to find out. No matter. I'm sure I'll hear about this soon enough.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

BJ, PD, Ganley: holy triumvirate?

THE EDITORIAL PAGE gurus at northern Ohio newspapers are facing a unique situation posed by a wealthy businessman in the 13th Congressional District. That, of course, can only mean mega-auto dealer Tom Ganley, the right-wing Republican who is out to unseat U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton. For the first time in my memory, the leading advertiser in the Plain Dealer and maybe the Beacon Journal will be seeking their endorsements in the fall. My experience in hanging out with political wannabes is that unless you are a Dick Cheney sitting at the top of Halliburton, you are not likely to be so bored with making zillions of dollars in your business that you would toss it all in for a zip code in D.C.

Considering the desperation of newspapers to stop the bleeding in their advertising revenue, the PD and BJ will have to weigh that concern against endorsing a Democrat, a pro-labor congresswoman like Sutton who has never been in their comfort zone.

Trouble is, if the Ivory Towers would own up to it, there isn't much in Ganley's playbook that favors the issues that have been supported by the papers, not the least of which have been his vibrant opposition to the the new health care law and abiding interest in tax cuts, as well as a lot of other things that Tea Partiers find so inspirational these days.

Those things alone might not be enough to dump a big advertiser from the A-list. Besides, the BJ demonstrated its remarkable indifference to the candidates' positions when it trashed Democratic candidate Sherrod Brown, who went on to thrash Sen. Mike DeWine in 2oo6. (Sen. Brown has been considered to be an outrider by both papers, although the PD did prevail upon itself this week to connect him with the two new NASA programs ($2.1 billion!) that will add many jobs to the stricken Cleveland area. Front page stuff, too! On the other hand, the papers have had no editorial comment on DeWine, the GOP candidate for attorney general, for his grand style promise to repeal the health care law that both papers supported.

So far, the PD and BJ have endorsed Ganley in the Republican primary, which is clotted with a jumble of candidates, who, unlike Ganley, do not have the means for a limo-style campaign. I don't know how the papers squeeze play will turn out. So I can only humbly report the memorable tag on many an editorial: It bears watching.

Friday, April 9, 2010

And what did Daddy do to uphold our honor, Liz?

SHOULDN'T LIZ CHENEY be a tad more selective in her choice of rant against President Obama's foreign policy when she says that it "dishonors this nation and the brave men and women who have fought and died for our freedom ." The loquacious daughter of the former vice president can whip up a conservative audience at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. But it also whips up the fact that hawkish Dick Cheney, hardly a brave soldier, got five deferments from military service because, he said, he had other priorities.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Arshinkoff, Lincoln, socialism and whatever

REPUBLICANS DON'T have to look to Rep. John Boehner, RNC Chairman Michael Steele or Fox News to get their adrenalin flowing this election year. There's some basic fill-in-the-blank name-calling in the invitation sent out by the Summit County Republican Party for its $40-a-plate (and more) Lincoln Day dinner Saturday Night at Quaker Square. Prepared over County Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's signature, the currently fashionable plea to the party faithful is dredged up for the currently fashionable Pavlovian response - anger and more importantly, ready cash. Sigh. Times are tough all over.

In return it is promised to the dinner guests that U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, once slotted in the "moderate" column on Capitol Hill, will give a "lively first-hand report on what it's like to serve on the front lines in the fight against Nancy Pelosi and Obama's far-left socialist agenda."

Actually, what it has been like on the front lines for all of the GOP congressmen has required very little effort. Just say No, or, if you prefer to be more macho, Hell, no. There has been little evidence that anybody on the Right has given the "far-left socialist agenda" much of its own blood, sweat and tears. Nice work, if you can get it. You even get some weekdays and most week-ends off, as well as great self-mandated health-care coverage.

None of this would have deserved any attention, except that it's just starting. And with the current state ticket bearing hyper-candidates who want to repeal the health care reform law, or eliminate the state income tax, the field of battle into November is looking more like Texas. I mean, will anybody take a breath long enough to find out what socialism is? Or was?

By the way, it wasn't mentioned in the letter, but Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House and Barack Obama is the President. Both, I believe, are Democrats. As George Gobel once said of World War II, it's been in all of the papers.

Here's your iPath to the iPad...iHope

AFTER DAYS OF hearing about it, and seeing pictures of frantic people lined up to buy it, I did what any curious postmodern human being would do and decided to find out what IT was. I'm talking about the iPad, or course, which has dominated our sensibilities like no other scientific breakthrough since we were told by astronomers that there is a mysterious substance (?) in the universe that nobody has been able to see so we'll just have to call whatever it is dark matter.

The science of electronics has always baffled me and it has gotten much worse since we started identifying every new gadget with a lower case i in front of an upper case consonant, which makes no sense at all to someone who took spelling in Mrs. Haney's class. Having long resigned in defeat to understanding iPhones and iPods, I took one more stab at learning what it is that so fascinates the iPad crowd for about $500 per.

Here's what Google told me:
"On the inside, Apple has given us a surprise. The device uses an Apple-designed chip it is calling the 'A4,' which runs at 1GHZ and is used for managing everything.: processing, graphics and I/O. The system has between 16 and 64GB of memory, contains Bluetooth and EDR wireless connectivity, has a speaker and microphone and also contains Apple's accelerometers, ambient light sensors and digital compass with assisted GPS technologies. There is a 30-pin connector for attaching the device to computers, but it also uses Bluetooth and Enhanced Data Rate technologies for fast wireless access up to 3Mbps."
It should be further noted:"
The system contains 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi options but also can directly tap into UMTS/HSDPA and GM/EDGE 3G wireless networks, and come unlocked and without any contract so if your wireless carriers uses GSM micro SIM, it should 'just work'..."
In a home where the coffee maker doesn't always work, I'm not convinced the iPad would have any chance of working. But I would still ask, what was the big Apple surprise?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

McCain: Not now, or ever was, a maverick!

John McCain added a new layer to revisionist history this week in my latest copy of Newsweek. The Arizona senator, once the itinerant campaigner on the Straight Talk Express, told the magazine that, and I quote:
"I never considered myself a maverick. I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities."

Whoa, there, pardner. If what you say is true, you even fooled Sarah Palin, who could have sworn that your were a mav wherever she campaigned. She even said it again in Arizona to boost your campaign for reelection.

But you have yet to fool Newsweek. In big black letters it labeled the interview,


Time to come clean, John. The posse is rounding the bend.

Monday, April 5, 2010

DeWine heads for the anti-health care trough

DID YOU HAPPEN TO catch Mike DeWine's screed against the new health care law in the Sunday Plain Dealer? It was an op-ed counterpoint piece in his bid to unseat Democratic Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. In brief, DeWine lauded those attorneys general in other states who are conspiring in lawsuits to repeal the law. And DeWine says that when (if?) he is elected he would heartily do the same.

Poor Mike. If he is half the lawyer that he says he is, he would heed the constitutional lawyers who say that any action to repeal the law is a fool's errand. As a politician who could blend easily into the wallpaper of any old house, he and the A-G's that he's longing to join are giving grandstanding a bad name. If his threat ever came to pass he would add Ohio to the Old Confederacy Republicans at a critical time when the state needs to root itself in an imaginatively progressive future. (There's also some rumblings from the earlier GOP knee-jerkers that the costs of such legal action couldn't come at a worse time for their states' enfeebled budgets.)

DeWine's been out of the show for awhile since his days as a U.S. senator, so I wonder if he's given much thought to the risks of killing health care reform. For one thing, the new law will enable young people to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26.

The GOP may find them a little more difficult to add to the mix when it again, and again, and again swears that it wants to broaden the party's base.

I can only wonder who is giving him such antebellum advice on his campaign. Or maybe he just enjoys hanging out with his own crowd in hopes of raising campaign cash from the insurance companies. Surely there is something else more sensible that he can find to offer the state in which he wants to be its top legal brain. Jeez!

What? Poor Mitt's health plan could sink him?

THERE WAS a brief moment back in the last presidential campaign when I gave Mitt Romeny a decent chance of winning his party's nomination. He had good posture, spoke clearly enough without a cowboy's twang, and his hair revived the World War II he-man image of Ronald Reagan - an attribute that neither John McCain nor Rudy Giuliani could ever hope to assume. On the negative side, he was from Massachusetts, which was much too hospitable to Harvard for anybody from South Carolina or Idaho to embrace. And seldom a day passed when a radio preacher didn't inspire angry Bible-quoting callers to accuse Romney of being a Mormon cultist - a zillionaire or not.

But the tie breaker appeared to be that Romney had figured out a solution to America's health care challenges with his plan for Massachusetts. He spoke about it often in polite political circles (there were no Tea Parties then). For a photogenic politician who always impressed me as preparing for a place in an altarpiece, how could anybody not give him the edge against, say, Fred Thompson , who growled a lot, and Mike Huckabee, who could have once had a walk-on role in an old Andy Griffith show.

Ironically, Romney, who appears to be one of those guys who has no luck, is being forced to defend himself against the very thing that he boastfully helped create: his state's health plan. That's because President Obama and other Democrats keep reminding everybody that their health care plan is very much like Romney's. You can see the problem. As Gail Collins of the New York Times pointed out, Romney has yet to come up with an appropriate game-changer. When a couple of reporters from Think Progress rudely inquired, Mitt could say nothing more than it was a "big topic" and "ducked into an elevator."

I still like his chances of being cast as a presidential candidate in the next Hollywood movie. Which is more than I can say about McCain or Giuliani.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The papacy today: Henry VIII had other ideas

NOT SINCE POPE Clement VII was besieged by Henry VIII to annul the son-less king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon a half millennium ago has there been so much commotion over the Vatican's supreme role in shaping the religious path of its followers. You get a sense of the crisis when a reporter asked the ranking information guy for the papacy about the current public relations fallout. The poor fellow told the reporter that he had yet to discuss it with Benedict. Hmmm....

Otherwise, it should be obvious by now that even Holy Week did not provide a useful cover for the Holy Father from the fiery attacks over shrugged-off sexual abuse of kids. Historians tell us that when Henry was rebuffed by Rome on what was known as his "great matter," he simply did what any hot-tempered king would do and broke with the Vatican. It stayed that way with Henry's Anglicans until Benedict decided that the church's ranks needed be filled in the widening gaps and invited the Anglicans to come home to Catholicism. After all of these years of deep suspicions between the two camps, that was a hard act to follow, and I've seen nothing to suggest many took Benedict up on his offer. Maybe Larry King will find a convert and interview him.

There is little evidence that the pope will say or do anything more than what he has done so far, no matter the expressed irritation of some Catholic cardinals and bishops over the stone wall that has been built around Vatican City. As generally happens in times of great stress, a lot of folks on both sides have been anxious to get in their dibs. That includes the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa , the Vatican priest who allowed that the attacks on the pope were a lot like the persecution of the Jews. The front office in Rome didn't buy his comments at all and quickly distanced the Vatican from the priest's remarks. By the way, Cantalamessa's title is "preacher of the papal household."

Now, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, chipped in with a slam at the Catholic Church in Ireland, accusing it of "losing all credibility." That set off several other skirmishes in which he finally apologized to the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, saying he meant no offense by his comments. Cool. That may settle things for a day or two.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A liberal from a Republican family

I KNOW THAT this may shock some of you, but I grew up in a Republican family. Father, uncles and certainly a rich aunt who would have qualified as a Tea Partier today. And odds-and-ends other relatives. To be fair, I was never sure about my mother. If I asked her how she had voted, she would say she wasn't sure and hand me a list to pick up some groceries for dinner.

My father was a different story. He never got over FDR closing the banks. He also blamed Democrats for trying to cut Medicare and praised Reagan for looking after his needs. After he developed a hernia he walked around in pain for more than a year until he became eligible for coverage.

"Why don't you get that hernia taken care of?" I asked him from time to time as he grimaced. "I can wait. That's what Medicare is for," he said.

He also told everybody that the media had covered up Sen. Edward Kennedy's Chappaquiddick, mess, which made him unhappy about newspapers even though I was a reporter at the time.

"How did you find out about it, Dad?" I asked.

"It was in the Miami Herald," he said, with no apology for contradicting himself..

Most members of my family were Republicans, I think, because it put these early arrivals from Lebanon (and one from Haiti) and those born on American soil shortly thereafter on a higher social plane that they didn't think they could reach on their own. Class conscious, they liked the polish and pizzazz of the Republicans in town . No matter that two uncles were physicians and that Dad and his brother owned a Pontiac agency. Oh - and an aunt and two uncles who were in the restaurant business. None of them went without. I ended a long line of self-employed in the family when I went to work for a newspaper in Indiana that I had no interest in owning. Nor, for that matter, owning my father's business in the Western Pennsylvania coal-mining town where the family lived before they moved tribally to Miami and bought homes next door to each other. It was how Republicans were meant to live.

My choice of careers left nobody happy. My father thought the least I could have done was to become a lawyer and wear a necktie once in awhile. Sort of a middle ground compromise between his profitable business and mine. As for my loving mother, her only complaint about my work was that it was "too deep" for her and she didn't really understand a lot of it. We still remained on good terms.

Actually, I don't remember any of them talking well into the night about politics. But their profile about a lot of other things, their likes and dislikes which I won't mention here, was a dead giveaway. Most of the talk was about this relative or that one who didn't happen to be there for the gathered tribunal.

As for me, I can't account for my drift into the land of the hated Democrats. Maybe I was just ornery and rebellious enough as a youth to be different. Or maybe it was those hours each day when soot-blackened coal miners - many the fathers of my high school friends - staggered past my front door on their way home from their dark prisons in the mine shafts. Many worked too hard and died too young, thanks to the oppressive ways of the mine owners.

Or maybe it was because I didn't have a hernia and didn't have to wait around in pain for Medicare, risking the possibility that those damned Democrats would find a way to get rid of it.

George W. Bush: When fools rush in...

Making the rounds this April Fool's day is a reprise of George W. Bush's profound comment about being fooled:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, you can't get fooled again." Nashville, Sept. 17, 2002.

Wanna bet, Mr. President?