Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween, from zombies to Jackass

THE PROXIMITY OF Halloween and Tuesday's elections recalls something that Gerald Ford said upon taking the Oath of Office to succeed Richard Nixon:

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over..."

With all due respect to the late president, I would say: Not yet.

That was then, when most of us were pleading for sanity and found comfort in the new president's words. But this is now, in the wake of unhinged political witches and warlocks who sank to an ugly manic depth and are merely the prologue to another nightmare if the polls are anywhere near the truth. As Frank Rich so clearly expressed it in Sunday's New York Times, the new battlefield will embrace the Tea Partiers against the Republican Party, a rear-guard clash between the angry protestors shouting that they want their country back (from what?) to the Old Guard Republicans ensconced in the ways of fancy country clubs, Wall Street and Corporate America. The warfare has already begun as several GOP incumbents were clobbered in the party primaries.

Thanks to Fox News, which encouraged much of the nonsense that created scary moments of grandeur for Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell, to name a few, the Tea Partiers will not go back to their rooms quietly.

What will the new Republican brand be when everyone is seated in the new year? We can only look back and track what the nature of the insurgents will be. A short history lesson is in order.

Sharron Angle, a Tea Partier who might take the Nevada Senate seat from Harry Reid, declared on Christian Radio that the country is violating the First Commandment with its idolatrous "dependency on government." Said Angle: " We're supposed to depend on
God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government."

Conservative Guru Rush Limbaugh: "There is no equality....some people are self starters, and some people are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves."

Rep.Darrell Issa, right-wing Republican of California, a proponent of extending the Bush tax cuts: "One of the things you lose in a debate is most people don't make a quarter million dollars a year. But a great many people once in their lifetime will sort of win the lottery."

Former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, the Texan now leading a Tea Party charge against Social Security: "Social Security is a pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme."

Newt Gingrich: "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]. That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

Christine O'Donnell, Republican senate nominee in Delaware: "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. S0 you can't masturbate without lust."

And so it went with the new group of Founding Fathers and Mothers that will lead us into a debt-free, Obama-free Utopia - and away from Sharia in our neighborhoods, headless bodies in the Arizona desert and wedlock between human beings and clocks. You can count on it when you get your country back.

But should we be surprised in a day. as a Plain Dealer story tells us, when "vampires, ghosts and zombies claw back, win respect in books" ? Or a day when the leading box-office movie is Jackass.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How do you exchange vows with a clock?

(Eleventh of a series)

That's Tea Partier Rebecca Kleefisch, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Wisconsin. She says people shouldn't be able to marry clocks. Or a dog. Or a table. That was her quaint way of slamming same-sex marriage. As she explains her ill-timed imagery to make a point:
"This is a slippery slope. In addition to that at what point are we going to be okay marrying inanimate objects?"
That would not be too far off the reservation for some spouses who have long lamented that their partners were inanimate objects. But really, a clock would take it beyond the point of no return even though by Kleefisch's fundamental Christian references, I doubt that the Bible would have anything useful to add for anyone who might want to say "I do" to a tall oak timepiece at the altar.

When important news isn't that newsy around here

THE PRESIDENTIAL oil-spill commission has reported that Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, had used unstable cement on the deepwater platform that exploded in the Gulf and triggered the worst oil spill in history. Ho, hum. What else is new about Halliburton, which has enjoyed billions of dollars in government contracts for its less than reassuring work. Besides, Halliburton blames BP for not being more vigilant. How's that? If the big gorilla was aware of the weakness, shouldn't bells and whistles have gone off to alert everyone along the line ? Ho hum, again. But you don't call attention to soiled laundry.. Even reports in today's media in northern Ohio seemed to ho-hum the report from the commission. The Plain Dealer stuck a short piece on Pg. 4 and the Beacon Journal ran a single paragraph on Pg. 2. The only informative paper that arrived at my door (that leftist "rag", the NY Times) strung out two accounts on the front page, then jumped inside with the remainder , plus a photo and illustration. It is what it is these days, and I wouldn't look for it to get better.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rupert Murdoch: Media emperor at large

SHOULD THERE be any remaining doubt among you (excluding those who would sleep soundly during a tornado) about who has taken predatory control of the media, allow me to recommend a piece in the November issue of Harper's Magazine titled Triumphant Murdoch. The headline is deceptive only to the extent that it understates Australia's gift to empire-building, Rupert Murdoch, while much of the remaining media world is simply trying to hang on.

We all know Murdoch as the Sugar Daddy of his News Corp, the unthreatening alias of a sprawling rightwing network that reaches from London to the U.S. and deeply into the pockets of politicians and other friendly allies who expertly handle the cash.

I was once told by a fellow in Palermo, Sicily, that the Mafia was so skillful in disguising its dark work that one could have lunch with a well-dressed Cosa Nostra operative without sensing that he was a hoodlum shielded in a maze of streets and alleys where the real business was being taken care of.

Step by step, Marvin Kitman's article traces the careful journey, often without raising suspicions by a majority of voters, through closed-fist media control - Fox News, for one - that has made Murdoch a zillionaire and drawn politicians to him like islets in an archipelago. If you think about it, the names of his allies in the political and business class aren't surprising.

Shall we begin with Newt Gingrich, the old warhorse who has been carrying out a pathetic nomadic tour in the belief that he ought to be president. Shortly after Gingrich was at the top of his game with the Republican sweep of 1994, Murdoch paid the speaker-elect what was then described as a "social visit". But it only took a few months for the game plan to unfold as key Republican congressmen began to bow to Murdoch's fervent need to have the FCC pull back from an investigation of foreign ownership of U.S. Media. GOP House chairmen saw no need to press the matter further and money began to arrive in their campaign accounts, Marvin Kitman tells us.

Miurdoch reached farther in conditioning the public to the validity of his friends by hiring Roger Ailes, the Republican escort to the party's presidents, to shape the content of Fox News. Again, it was money well spent as O'Reilly, Beck and Hannity became the cutting edge of what is now widely regarded as the TV arm of the Republican Party. As New York mayor at the time, Rudy Giuliani, supported giving Fox broad freedom deserving of a good citizen, describing the Fox channel 's value to the city as "incalculable." For the first time, a single network exists to do the bidding of one political party. Such voices in other countries used to be called Pravda.

Still, Murdoch doesn't leave anything to the slightest chance as the owner of a network, 17 television stations, six cable networks blah blah blah. Plus the Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times of London. New York Post blah blah blah. He's now dumping tons of money into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Governors Assn., a million to each, who pass it on to the friendly candidates who need it the most. But Murdoch says he has no idea what they do with the money after it arrives. You can bet, however, that it wouldn't go to even a middle-of-the-road Democrat.

The Murdoch phenomenon was given enormous help by the U.S. Supreme Court's wisdom to let the cash explode as a kind of carpet bombing in the notorious 5-4 Citizens United decision supported by 5 GOP appointees.

Kitman does give us a pointed epilogue to the court's decision by dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens:
"While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Assailants man up, woman is stomped down!

THE MADNESS OF the election season reached a new level of deranged behavior in Kentucky when a supporter of Tea Party candidate Rand Paul stomped a young anti-Paul woman who had been slung to the ground by two other thugs (note the extended hairy forearm in the photo). But the stomper, Timothy Profitt, offered a novel excuse for forcing his shoe into her neck. He said he suffers from a bad back and could not bend over. The Lexington(Ky.) Herald-Leader was not impressed, saying the the assault was evidence of the return of the "goons". You never can be sure what they ill do when they man up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tom Ganley: The bombast of wanting your country back

TOM GANLEY, whom we all know as a wealthy auto dealer, opened his remarks at the Akron Press Club luncheon Tuesday with a cry that must have echoed across the entire University of Akron campus. Adding his voice to the current Tea Party manifesto, the Republican nominee for the 13th Congressional District declared:


We can only hope that we will get at least some of it back when the shouting ends moments after Election Day, but not for the reasons that have so steamed up Ganley and the right-wing candidate class this most discordant election season. Still it was Ganley's moment to preach to his choir what it already knows. Since the guy loves to come at us with statistics, let me add a few: More than 80 pct. of the 103 in attendance were seated at tables reserved by their boss. There was a handful of mindful Republicans at another table. As a seasoned regular at Press Club luncheons, I can only say they used to be a lot more fun.

Attendance figures would be remarkably insignificant except that he went down the same road when he said that he refused to debate Rep. Betty Sutton at the Akron Press Club and Cleveland City Club because he will only show up on a "fair" playing field where his opponent wouldn't have packed the hall with her friendly "outside" organizational supporters (notwithstanding the 10 tables his campaign reserved!) . Obviously not aware of a press club's open door policy, Ganley later backtracked on the insult to the Akron Press Club, saying he was largely talking about the Cleveland City Club. Too late, Tom. You did show up at the very same lectern when you had it all to yourself. Go figure.

He did want you to know in an imperious delivery that he was (1)a successful businessman (2) that he was a successful businessman and (3 to 32 ) that he was a successful businessman with 32 aut0 dealerships in Ohio.

Easing slightly away from the Tea Partiers' aroused attacks on President Obama's religion and birthplace, Ganley said he honestly didn't know what religion Obama practiced nor where he was born. For God's sake, Hawaii, Mr. Ganley, Hawaii, where all of those darker skinned Americans wear outrageous floral shirts and hula skirts.

Not much else is worth reporting because you've already heard it so many times as we tiptoe through a landscape of Halloween goblins: we can solve our economic problems by cutting corporate and individual taxes, Obamacare must be defunded ,the budget must be balanced, it was wrong to bail out General Motors and Chrysler, government is wrong to fund the arts, and corporate and individual taxes should be - oops, I already reported that, didn't I.

But there's no need to tell him, in the lingo of the day, to man up. He assured us that nobody owns him and that he packs a concealed weapon. Won't argue with that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

John Kasich: A moment of radio silence with NPR

Another GrumpyFirst:

WHEN JOHN KASICH says he's running for governor, we can tell you that he's really running - away from anything resembling an unscripted open Q&A. In one of the more bizarre moments of his panicky campaign down the stretch, he canceled an appearance on a NPR call-in show(shared by Gov. Strickland) just before it was to be broadcast Monday.

NPR responded to my email with this account of his disappearing act:
"With about 15 minutes before we went on the air, Kasich canceled; his campaign said they did not want to field questions, but from the beginning the Talk of the Nation staff made it clear that there would be questions from listeners. The segment was only Strickland."
Shall we now revise that old saying that you can run but can't hide? Sure you can hide. Apparently the only people that the normally voluble Kasich is talking to these days are his contributors, as well as Sean Hannity and Alex Arshinkoff."

Wonder why they gave NPR so much time to revise the format!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The week-end strike zone


The neighborhood Arshinkoff Republican Party added another statewide candidate to its list of $150,000 campaign contributions: GOP secretary of state nominee Jon Husted. That generous sum appears to be a reprisal of sorts (and insurance against it happening again if in Republican hands) ) for Alex's dismissal from the Summit County Board of Elections by the current outgoing Democratic secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner. As we have long known , his motives are never very subtle. The Husted campaign contribution joins another $150,000 bonus, that one to the Kasich campaign. (Can we reasonably call this a GrumpyFirst?)

The Beacon Journal's decision to run a lengthy corrected version of Rep. Betty Sutton's talk to the Akron Press Club could be the longest correction on record for a single speech. But if you look at the first piece that was reported on Thursday and the much longer corrected version on Friday, you might understand why the editors were left with no choice to give up all of that space. For reasons that must be left to greater minds than mine, some of the congresswoman's comments that were reported in the Thursday article were oddly rearranged on the copy desk - forever a journalistic no-no. This was worth more than a tsk, tsk.

Overheard: With the Akron Zips' football team heading for a winless season, might it not be a good idea to have the Zips' world-class soccer team don the uniforms and play out the schedule? It couldn't hurt.

The Harper's magazine Index is always a handy guide for keeping us up to date on modern culture. The latest statistic on young people's habits: Eleven per cent of Americans under age 25 say they would read a text message while having sex.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Summit Arshinkoff Party invests $150,000 in Kasich

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH reports that the Summit County Republican Party, which represents about 10 pct. of the registered voters within our borders, is the leading contributor - by far - to John Kasich among the state's 88 GOP county parties. Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff has come through with $150,000 for the Republican candidate! No other county Republican party appears in the Top 10. In fact, the list of contributors falls off to $22,791 from the next in line - ABC Northern Ohio PAC. (The leading contributor at $485,835 is the Ohio Republican party, but that's to be expected.)

It's no secret that Arshinkoff is looking at this race as possibly his Last Hurrah for statewide recognition with a job in the Kasich Administration. He's been Kasich's champion and regular host since the mercurial right-wing Republican announced for office. He tried that years ago with George Voinovich by raising a fortune for him in hopes of getting George's blessing to support him for state chairman. Didn't work out that way. In the end Voinovich went for Robert Bennett.

May we assume that since Arshinkoff gave up his $52,000 party salary to, as he has explained it, keep the headquarters afloat, that a third of the money that went Kasich came out of the chairman's pocket? Secondly, as another Republican pointed out to me, what does that say about the local party's debt of about $92,000 that has been on the books for several years?

The Summit County Democratic Party has given $151,175 to Gov. Strickland but that has been spread across his four-year term in both money and in-kind services.

How important is it to have a governor from your party? For Arshinkoff, it would increase his power in appointing his choices to university boards of trustees, to the judiciary and for the various other perks that are handed down from above. With the race now being called a tossup, you can imagine how many sleepless nights the always-emotional Alex is suffering these days.

UPDATE: The Summit GOP s latest financial report filed this week now lists its debt at $99,046.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CNN/TIME Poll: Ohio governor race a dead heat

THIS WEEK'S CNN /TIME poll that shows Gov. Ted Strickland moving ahead of Republican John Kasich by a nose, 48-47, is a surprising development, if true. But possibly more significant is word that the Kasich forces are getting so concerned that his earlier big lead is fading away that they called in their campaign people to Columbus for a pow-wow last Friday. At that meeting Team Kasich was said to have been told that his lead had dwindled to 2 pts in an internal poll - much too close for comfort. It wouldn't be surprising if the Kasich campaign got much nastier in the final lap before Nov. 2.

Betty Sutton: Don't just stand up to fight

REP. BETTY SUTTON reset the boundaries of this year's election in a few sharp words at the Akron Press Club yesterday. Dismissing the aimless rhetoric that has sent too many fearful politicians to their hideouts, Sutton asserted that our critical need today is for some plain talk, a vanishing ingredient in the flow of laundered comments from rostrums across the political landscape. Instead, Sutton, a Democrat, asserted that our representatives in
Washington need to "stand up and fight for solutions, not just stand up to fight."

That message would extend to both sides of the aisle. It hasn't been surprising that Republicans have used health care reform and other progressive breakthroughs as weapons against their opponents. But there's evidence everywhere that Democrats who voted for these measures have been seeking lower ground when challenged. As The Economist magazine observed in a review of the political season: "...most Democrats running for re-election are staying mum or apologizing for their votes for reform." That would dramatically exclude Sutton, who has been on the cutting edge of many issues (including Cash for Clunkers) from job creation to health care.

The problems with strategic retreats is that voters can rightfully ask why the candidates voted for this measure or that one in the first place. It's a sign of weakness that has given the Party of No new opportunities to pursue its mulishness with still greater zeal (if that's possible!).

It has been an election in which Republicans have called for solutions without a hint of specifics, and squirmy Democrats have meekly stood aside and conceded that even without those specifics, their rivals might be right. What a way to lose an election!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sean Hannity: Let's hear it for Kasich!!!

DID YOU SEE that the guy who wants to be your governor has no problem with having Fox News stage a not-so-subtle fund-raiser for him on the Sean Hannity show. Yep, in what was his 9th visit to Hannity's children's hour, John Kasich was exchanging mutual admiration for Hannity's breathless appeals to his audience to support the Kasich campaign back here in Ohio.

Has there ever been anything more blatant than for a so-called news network to pass the plate for one of its own? The blog ThinkProgress caught some of the conversation:

HANNITY: John Kasich, we're watching Ohio really really closely. We appreciate you being with us and thanks for taking time out of your busy day and we wish you the best. This is a very important election, I think, for the country. And we'll be watching in the next 14 days , and on election night, we'll be watching very closely.

(At his point, Kasich makes his pitch to viewers to visit his website. Even spelling his name for those who can't spell. He concludes his appeal with:

KASICH: We need all the help you can give us, Sean. They love you out here."

The kinship is overwhelming. Like Hannity, Kasich is a dedicated right-winger with Tea Party tendencies who is not easy to love, particularly when his ideas desert the reservation for fringe solutions. Even the mighty Plain Dealer, which endorsed him, expressed concern about him. It's scary to think that Kasich would try to govern in the embrace of Fox News, where he has appeared as a paid commentator. But it is a fair preview of what life in Ohio would be like with Kasich at the governor's mansion and Fox in the rooting section.

Michael Gerson: When it takes two snobs to tango

SO TODAY THE Beacon Journal's commentary page carries a column by Michael
Gerson that's prominently displayed with the headline: Barack Obama,what a snob.
Well, I guess that's OK for an op-ed piece from the Washington Post columnist, even for a guy who became a pundit after being President Bush's speechwriter for five years.

But then I came across this paragraph in Gerson's slam at Obama:
There have been several recent attempts to explain Obama's worldview as the result of his post-colonial father or his early socialist mentors - Gnostic attempts to produce the hidden key that unlocks the man.
If he had written such a high-falutin' paragraph in one of Bush's speeches, he'd be spending the remainder of his own highbrow life translating Sanskrit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where are Dubya and Alex these days?

WITH TWO WEEKS to go until Election Day, things have gotten awfully quiet for two Republican compatriots who had no trouble grabbing headlines in past campaigns - George Bush and Alex Arshinkoff. Some observers say the former president has been pre-occupied with the fortunes of the Texas Rangers in the playoffs - a team in which he once held a handsome stake. But I suspect that Republicans find him much more valuable to their fortunes if he remains in the distant centerfield seats where his mere presence won't remind people of the debris he left behind.

Arshinkoff, the Summit County Republican Chairman, may be another matter. In the past he has bombastically shared the stage at rallies in the county for his GOP brethren to flag the party loyalists to the polls. Not so, this year. No big rallies hereabouts, no Arshinkoff. Last summer he even denied knowledge of a fundraiser for Tom Ganley, the Republican challenger to Rep. Betty Sutton, even though the 13 th district covers a lot of ground in the county.

I can only guess that his pal, gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, has told him to remain under wraps to avoid stirring up the kind of controversy that Arshinkoff is known to inspire at campaign time. You may recall that he once threatened to boycott United Way because an innocent scavenger hunt had a Democratic campaign office on its itinerary. He also tore up the GOP playbook by challenging the Republican Hudson City Council that ordered him to take down a big Bush sign from his front yard because it violated the village's zoning ordinance.

Will he still materialize before Election Day? Hard to know about anything he will do. Meantime, the silence is golden.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The George and John Comedy Hour

KASICH: A lot of folks out there don't think our economic mess was caused by you and Wall Street, Mr. President.

BUSH: I'm with you on that one, John. Boy, did we fool them, Pardner! Ha, Ha! As I once said, "Fool them once and shame on...whatever!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is "man up" the same as "man overboard"?

THERE IS AN absolute in political campaigns that very little is said that is original. Ever since the proprietors in colonial days insisted that they should not be taxed, the idea has persisted among Republicans that taxes do nobody any good, particularly the wealthiest one or two percent who control most of the money anyway. Not a fresh idea.

But ancient anti-tax talk is now sharing the political dialogue with another idea that doubtless emerged from the prairies of America. From what I've read, men were men in those days. They carried six-shooters, drank their bottles dry, never shaved and killed cattle thieves for the hell of it. If guys like Gene Autry whipped out his guitar to fetch Frosty the Snowman, it was Hollywood's way of assuring us that life on the frontier wasn't all bloody macho.

Now, in the age of steroidal whacks at baseballs, the candidates, particularly the much heralded Mama Grizzlies, are insisting that you can't trust a man who won't man up. It has become an overworked talking point for the 2010 election as the Grizzlies challenge their male opponents to man up for no reason at all other than it's a catchy way (they suppose) to convince the audience that we have a newly vulnerable weaker sex on our hands. Even Newsweek picked up on the echoes in a cover story a few weeks ago by telling us that the "Traditional Male is An Endangered Species. It's Time to Rethink Masculinity."

That may be so. But as a threatened male, I have to keep telling myself they used to say the same things about buffaloes. There is even a term for this: the blog POLITICO calls it "man-upsmanship", so you see how the mere mention of unmanly things keeps getting recycled these days. When the word spread to Nevada, Republican Sharron Angle promptly challenged her rival, Sen. Harry Reid with "Man up, Harry Reid!" Moving to Missouri, POLITICO recorded these words from Democratic senate candidate Robin Carnahan, as she sought satisfaction from her Republican opponent in a debate over health care. "Man up," she challenged him,"and do what you ask of other people to do."

I've tried to rethink my male-ness and have asked myself, "Do I really want to be Hulk Hogan?" He had manned up long before Sharron Angle arrived on the scene. But I really don' t want to be a Mama Grizzly or a Hockey Mom, either. As a former poker player, I've decided to just play the cards that have been dealt to me and wait for somebody to invent another cliche.

In the meantime, I would caution the man-up ladies that there is a risk involved here: Now that you have the weakening sex right where you want them, do you really think it's a good idea to have them return to their old domineering ways?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Richard Shelby, Peter Diamond's nemesis, loses a big one

IT ISN'T THAT difficult to pick apart the medieval thought processes of the Republican political class in this awful campaign season. But the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has offered a fat pitch for the GOP's critics to hit out of the park. The Academy awarded Peter Diamond, an MIT economist, a share of the Nobel Prize for Economics - yes, the same Peter Diamond that Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama and his GOP colleagues have stonewalled since President Obama nominated him for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. In his Deep South Claghorn wisdom, Shelby has argued that Diamond isn't qualified for the seat. Right. And Shelby has countered that while the prize is "significant" the Academy has no right to determine who should be on our Federal Reserve Board. Huh? What's worrisome about all of this is the forecast increase in GOP power in Congress. You ain't seen nuthin' yet. Like the ancient Vikings' boats, the brains of Republicans like Shelby have a shallow draught, which made the predatory Norsemen's seafarers all the more dangerous.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The triumph of Chilean rescue over Christine O"Donnell

WE WATCHED a not-so-historic debate between Republican Christine O'Donnell, the latest Tea Party headlight, and Democrat Chris Coons on CNN before the network cut away to the historic miners' rescue in Chile. The juxtoposition of the two events offered the viewer a dramatic separation of the wide arc between human dedication to heroic efforts on one hand and the imbecilic babbling of a right-wing candidate who shouldn't even be on the GOP's senatorial practice squad.

In a word, O'Donnell is an embarrassment to the most modest expectations for a coherent U.S. senate candidate. Having said that, however, it's also true that with the help of crackpot right-wingers that have commandeered the GOP from coast to coast, she knocked off a moderate Republican congressman, Mike Castle, in the Delaware's Primary, thus allowing Sarah Palin to add another notch to her arrow.

When push came to a mild shove in the debate, O'Donnell was unable to name a single U.S. Supreme Court decision with which she disagreed, defensively sputtering, "Oh, Gosh, give me a specific one. I'm sorry. Right off the top of my head, I know there are a lot, but I'll put it up on my website. I promise." (Her spokesman resorted to damage control later by saying poor Christine had been "caught off guard."

She also noted that we had never finished the job - and need to do so - when we were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Christine! Are you aware that we are now fighting the enemies that we supported against the Soviets?

There's good news and bad news in all of this: The good news is that the polls show her trailing her opponent by 17 points. The bad news, particularly for Republicans, is that it doesn't take much persuasion for some voters to nominate a mindless political nitwit like O'Donnell who has spent some of her campaign on talking about witchcraft and the evils of masturbation.

Meanwhile, back in Chile the rescue effort was continuing as the world came together for a deeply emotional moment inspired by magical technology, perseverance and soaring can-do confidence that saved 33 lives on a planet populated by nearly 8 billion people. With that disproportionate spread, it wouldn't seem like much. But every now and then, civilized human beings demonstrate that they can live together, work together and celebrate together apart from the rising tide of Christine O'Donnells and the current disgraceful state of what's left of the Republican Party.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bizzaro: Why did Ganley slash his TV advertising?

A FUNNY THING happened to Tom Ganley on his road map to Congress. But I'm not sure what it is. To call the campaign bizarre would be true enough but still leave the question unanswered. What began more than a year ago as the auto dealer's boastful entry into politics as a short-lived senate candidacy with a $6 million war chest, flinched yesterday with the report that he is suspending his TV advertising campaign as a congressional rival to unseat U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton.

The explanation from his campaign manager, Jeff Longstreth, was just as bizarre. The candidate was looking for a way to "break through the clutter" of political ads on Ohio's airwaves. Well, that will surely occur if Ganley pockets his millions and, as Longstreth reports, spends no more than $300,000 on cable TV and radio.

The announcement drew all sorts of puzzled speculation on Ganley's intent. One source suggested that he was cutting his losses because his campaign might be going south. Another said that it was an expression that he was well ahead of Sutton. And another political observer familiar with the campaign predicted that he would lose by 10 points.
Interestingly, many of the published reports referred to recent allegations that he groped a wannabe campaign volunteer. When the story broke in the Plain Dealer more than a week ago, I decided to be the cool guy who would pass on it. There's no avoiding it now. His pullback of the TV ads has hit him with unintended consequences. At least, it has now trumped all of the the criticism of his refusal to meet Sutton in debates.

Kasich and Murdock:Million dollar transaction among pals

IF YOU HAVE ANY doubt about where John Kasich's million-dollar loyalties lie today, would the name Rupert Murdoch help you in your decision? As it is being widely reported, the masterful megamedia owner of News Corp., whose holdings include Fox News, has found a way to inject $1 million into the Kasich campaign for governor in Ohio. He did so with a convenient channel passing through the Republican Governors Association. From there it was a simple conversion to Kasich's political ads.

Kasich, who is forever glib about his work-room lifestyle, will doubtless pass it off as nothing more than a casual over-the-back fence relationship with Murdock. He's done the same for questions involving his handsomely paid work for Lehman Brothers, the bankrupt Wall Streeters. It should be obvious that in politics, Kasich is not a cheap date.

If these ties to the vast powers of the corporate world don't inspire confidence in Kasich's glowing vision of Ohio's future, you obviously haven't followed Fox's equally inspirational takeover of the Republican Party. (But wait: A Kasich spokesman told the Columbus Dispatch that his candidate didn't really solicit the contribution. I feel much better about it now.)

Murdoch obviously had an eye for Kasich's talent when the candidate showed up from time to time as a substitute commentator for Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News marquee conservative.

Murdoch has also contributed a million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been bashing any Democrat to the left of Herbert Hoover. He said he just wanted the Chamber to know tha he was trying to be a good member. But according to a report in the blog Politico, he confessed that he thought the contributi0n "would not become public knowledge."

How fair and imbalanced!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Congressional debates: What makes Ganley run?

SHOULDN'T SOMEBODY take auto dealer Tom Ganley aside and whisper to him that he is supposed to be a Republican congressional candidate and not a passenger in one of his cruise-controlled demos with a new car warranty? As we have noted more than once, he has rejected invitations to debate his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, for the flimsiest of excuses - this from a financially powerful operative who boasts that even as a political rookie in his late 60s, he will turn Congress around as a hard-nosed businessman with no seniority.

The Beacon Journal took note of his evasiveness Sunday. His campaign manager strung out the Akron Press Club for more than a month before agreeing to no more than a solo flight at a club luncheon on Oct. 26. That was sort of an undeserved reward for his adamant refusal to face Sutton on the dais. (She agreed to debate but accepted a luncheon slot on Oct. 20 - alone, of course.)

The Cleveland City Club, the state's prestigious political forum, was not as accommodating to Ganley's rules for a walk on the red carpet. It invited the candidates to debate, but when Ganley refused, it simply said something that sounded like, "Too bad, Tom - Betty Sutton will have the audience all to herself when she appears on Oct. 22." As it should be.

Apparently at a loss for even a mildly lucid explanation on where Ganley is these days, his communications director, Meghan Snyder, told the BJ:

"Tom is ready to debate Betty Sutton, if we can do so in a situation where the only thing on the agenda is the issues. We will not grant her the opportunity to continue to lie about him in a public forum." Good grief, Ms. Snyder. Who decides the issues? And what better way to counter those "lies" than in a public forum with your rival?

On the other hand when a candidate is prepared to spend millions in unchallenged TV ads, he might just as well be campaigning from an isolated pad back in the parts department.

Limbaugh's treatise on, um...predestined slaves

JUST WHEN YOU think you've heard it all from the rapacious political culture on the Right, along comes word from the blog RAW STORY that Rush Limbaugh has fallen even father into incoherence under the weight of his own words. Nobody should ever accuse Rush of being anything more than a reptilian elitist when he discusses all of us mortals who merit his sneer. It's become a multi-million dollar growth industry for him no matter how stressed the economy. Now hear these thoughts from him on his radio show in his slithery primer on predestination:
"There is no equality. You cannot guarantee that any two people will end up the same. And you can't legislate it, and you can't make it happen. You can try under the guise of fairness and so forth, but some people are self- starters, and some people are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves."
The born-slaves thing would doubtless come as a surprise to those historians who have told us that the African natives were kidnapped and shipped to American plantation owners because the gods had chosen them to pick cotton.

Using his profound logic, I'd say he's left out a category: Some people, like Rush himself, must be born simply to discredit human decency. We can only respond with the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award to be shared by all of his mindless dittoheads who are so inspired by his never-ending nonsense.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Political cash flow: the land of milk

THERE IS SO much cash flowing this election season that it would be reasonable to refer to America as the land of milk and money. By all accounts there will be a greater transfer of dollars to campaign jackpots than what Americans have spent on sexier abs the past year.

For this record high-finance moment in American history, we can thank the Republican appointees to the Supreme Court who said in the Citizens United (!) case that it would be OK with them no matter how much corporate and union money is spent. Even though they pretended not to discriminate between the white-collar and blue-collar contributors , they didn't get to the high court by being total dummies about who helped put them in their lifetime jobs. Offhand, can you think of any union presidents who are billionaires?

The decision did raise a little curiosity about Clarence Thomas, who unsurprisingly rubber-stamped the 5-4 Republican majority while his wife Virginia was bragging that her right-wing Liberty Central movement would be bigger than the Tea Party. Her anguished cry is that President Obama is a tyrannical leftist, a notion that must have at least casually influenced Clarence to vote the way he did. There are days when being a strict conservative is more persuasive than being a strict constitutionalist.

The justices also were aware that not one of them would be summarily laid off from his seat on the bench during a downturn in the economy. Nobody else can safely make that statement these days.

Some of us had a little trouble understanding George W. Bush when he talked with such enthusiasm about turning the country into an ownership society. How could we have known that he was setting into motion the Supreme Court decision that would allow the fat cats to own a politician for no more than airfare and a comfortable hotel room? When the probable next Speaker of the House (John Boehner) can enjoy pleasure flights to Shangri-la for golf and a 5-star hotel, courtesy of this lobby (R. J. Reynolds) or that one, that's as good a definition of corporate ownership as you'll find. Guys like Boehner are so certain that they are a perfect fit for today's political culture that they see no reason to apologize for their odd behavior.

We're told that outfits like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is spending everything but the kids' lunch money on the elections , is merely protecting American business from Barack Obama's invasive tax policies that soak 2 pct. of the wealthiest Americans. Wall Streeters, meantime, are outraged that anyone would consider government restraints on the highly suspect way that they pocket their profits and bonuses. The news these days, however, tells a completely different story about the Ninjas on Wall Street who managed to cripple the economy with sour subprime mortgages without even reading the documents that drove hundreds of thousands of Americans from their homes. And these are the same perps who are putting up millions to return Republicans to power in the House of Representatives?

Obama is shattering the American Dream of a a no-tax society, or at least one that can be gamed in a way that the gap between rich and middle class/poor continues to widen.

Columnist Gail Collins was so fascinated by the money flying out of the bloated piggy bank of Linda McMahon. the Republican senate nominee in Connecticut, that she had to wonder why McMahon didn't give every voter a car instead.

Yeah, every vote is important, but not quite as important as another cushy golf outing among friends for Boehner et al.

Oh, skip the milk. We are now, without challenge, solely the land of money.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Richard Cordray: No debate on the better candidate

MOMENTS AFTER Atty. Gen . Richard Cordray's speech to the Akron Press Club on Thursday, several people remarked that they fully understood why his rival, Mike DeWine, has turned down all invitations to debate him. It would have been a concession to human sacrifice for the former Republican senator. Not a pretty picture.

The contrast of Cordray's remarkably effective unassuming style, unfettered by a single note nor the usual cliches of partisanship, and DeWine's deadening talk at the same rostrum a week ago, was stunning. You couldn't attribute it to the contrast in the number of luncheon guests. (The incumbent drew nearly 150; DeWine, 31 (with no help from the local Republican Party) . While DeWine insisted that he could "do better" in the office, a political chestnut that is meaningless. Cordray articulated the role of his office with unembellished clarity (in the heat of a political campaign!) and dealt with each of DeWine's accusations without hyperbole nor a hint of common political arrogance.

For straight talk, modesty and logic, I haven't heard a virtuoso performance like this one in years. There are others around the state who have been just as impressed with his work. He's won a slew of endorsements from various organizations, law enforcement and firefighters groups, and several major newspapers (none for DeWine).

All of this leads me to say that it would be a terrible loss for Ohio if Cordray lost to the other fellow because of an economic environment over which he had no control. At 51, he has revealed an intelligence, honesty and grasp of the state's challenges that rarely emerges in the gang wars that we call political campaigns.

Did I say intelligence? How about this: Cordray once won 5 consecutive rounds on Jeopardy, the popular TV quiz show, back when you were limited to that number.

"I was term-limited," he told me with a smile. Let's hope that doesn't apply to his promising long-term political career. At the Press Club rostrum, it was no contest at all.

Gingrich assails food stamps as an enemy plot

I see that Crazy Guggenheim, a.k.a. Newt Gingrich, has come out solidly against food stamps. He doesn't see where food stamps help the economy but are rather a Democratic plot to feed the jobless. Besides, as the late Gov. Rhodes once said about mentally ill patients in the state's terribly neglected institutions, "Those people don't vote anyway." My spin on Gingrich's desperate attempts to get attention in a broad field of psychobabblers is that he is being crowded by so many other presidential hopefuls. But who will play him when the sitcoms come out?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Joe Miller: Sarah's ungrateful candidate

(Tenth in a series)

That's a picture of Sarah Palin and her anointed one, Joe Miller, in what is usually called "happier days." That was before some flock strife settled into the relationship and Sarah's husband Todd lambasted Miller for disloyalty to the woman whose endorsement is credited with swinging Alaska's GOP U.S. senate primary to him. But when Miller was interviewed on where-else-but-Fox News, he refused to endorse Palin for president. You can understand First Dude Todd's blow-up in which he said things like "Sarah put her ass on the line for Joe and yet he can't answer a simple question." Well, that's Joe Miller for you. He is so careless about what he says. For example, he has been attacking unemployment insurance even though word has now gotten out that his wife had been receiving such federal relief. He also failed to file a personal finance disclosure statement with the Senate, a step required by law. That could cost him up to $50,000. And he's a guy who is a Yale Law School graduate! So much for Ivy League credentials. I'd have to say that the whole gang up there in Alaska is at least 20,000 leagues under the Bering Sea!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Pelosi/Alamo factor, John Kasich and Witchcraft

JUST HEARD A REPUBLICAN slamming a Democratic candidate who would be "the same as Nancy Pelosi."

Nothing unusual there. Pelosi is frequently held up in the nastiest of terms by the GOP to rally its troops without further explanation. She has become the Alamo that the other side wants you to remember. But why? Other than she is a Democratic leader and a woman, what is it about the Speaker of the House that is so alarming to her enemies? Unlike Minority leader John Boehner, a chain smoker, she has never been accused of passing out tobacco company lobbyists' money to his Republican colleagues on the House floor.

She has roiled some of the white guys across the aisle by her female toughness in rounding up the votes on health care, Wall Street reforms and other matters of importance that Republicans have summarily dismissed over the years. And she has been seen smiling frequently in contrast to Boehner's dour Dr. Doom expression. So what is it about Pelosi that finds her name affixed so conveniently to anti-Democrat assaults without telling us more? But if you do decide to tell us, I should caution you that it is a small matter to find out that you are making it up.

John Kasich, who says he finds time in his whirlwind life to read three or four books at a time, told the Dayton Daily News that he still manages to come home and "lay on the couch and graze a bit". Could he have misused the verb to avoid associating himself with "lie". On the other hand, he may well be laying some of his political eggs during his off-campaign hours.

Who could blame Delaware voters for being confused when they go to the polls this year? With Tea Party/Republican candidate Christine O'Donnell on the ballot as the contender for the U.S. Senate the voters will be required to decide which is witch! Sorry.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The BJ endorses, Frank LaRose!

OH, HELL. AS LONG as we're at it, let me follow up on my post about the Plain Dealer's dysfunctional endorsement of John Kasich for governor by adding another sample of an editorial writer's mystifying disdain for a clear nod to its candidate of choice. It appeared in today's Beacon Journal for the Ohio Senate contest between Democrat Frank Comunale and Republican Frank LaRose. After saying some kind things about rookie LaRose - he would work across the aisle and shows a willingness to learn with a fresh political perspective - the editorial then told us that
"None of this should be read as diminishing the contribution of Frank Comunale to the community, from his services on the County Council to his work as a trustee for the Akron-Summit County Public Library" as well his emphasis on the need to invest in education, "protecting the poor and vulnerable, in bolstering innovation and job creation."
Of Comunale, the editorial opines, "He makes a solid case for his candidacy." (If all of that is true, Mr. Comunale, you never had a chance.)

Oh? As the editorial concludes, "Still, this moment is better suited to Frank LaRose..."

Well, all right, if that's the way it's going to be. Having spent some time at his request with LaRose over coffee, I found him to me a likeable young man even though he was one of Alex Arshinkoff's hopefuls to fill out the Republican ticket. LaRose told me that he had worked in John McCain's presidential campaign, another candidate who promised to work across the aisle. But that's another story.

Newspapers have long endorsed candidates. No argument there. I even wrote a few myself back then. But I must confess that I get a little dizzy tracking the logic of editorials that tell me all of the positive things about one candidate before endorsing the other. In football, that's when you throw the red hanky on the field.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Plain Dealer backs into an endorsement of John Kasich

OK. Let's see. The Plain Dealer's endorsement Sunday of John Kasich for governor told us that:

(1)he was capable of talking himself right off a cliff;

(2)With his "Red Bull Style, it is sometimes hard to tell what's his core belief";

(3)When he praises Ohio's "innovative Third Frontier, he still says things that suggest he doesn't understand or care how it works."

(4)If you listen to him talk about "phasing out Ohio's income tax, reducing the state's commitment to public schools or even making university professors work harder" he says things that suggest he doesn't understand or care how it works.

(5)And "does he understand that being a Fox News provocateur is not the same as being the leader of a diverse, complex state?"

Still, the PD, in its wisdom, settled on his all-of-the-above style that, with a "roll of the dice" mindset just might enable Ohio to regain its self-confidence and sell itself to the world.

Or it might not.

I would put this in one of the leading fingers-crossed hedge-your-bets, we're- not- sure- what-this-guy- will- do endorsements in memory.

But that's the PD for you. You may recall that it was deeply divided on a presidential endorsement in 2004 and the best that the editorial board could salvage then was to bow to publisher Alex Machaskee, a visceral Republican, who opted for George Bush over John Kerry. The mighty paper on the lake settled internal strife by endorsing no one for president.

When newspapers complain today that their credibility with the readers is falling in the polls, they might look into the mirror when they serve up cognitive dissonant pieces like this one about the Republican elephant in the China shop. It is classic editorial gibberish.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gekko is alive and well, even if the rest of us aren't

THERE WAS an auction this week in London in which Christie's fetched $66,500 for a large metal nameplate that had hung at bankrupt Lehman Brothers' London headquarters. That particular moment in the investment firm's life had the deadening sound of finality about it. It is quite common when the once-respected name of your enterprise comes down from the wall to be sold as a collector's item.

Lehman, which went kaput with $600 billion in assets, had fallen victim to its heavily leveraged investments in the subprime housing market. It had been a major player in what nearly led to a Depression. It is big business in the stratosphere in which even some of its slippery deck shufflers don't understand all of the rules.

The ugly arcane side of Wall Street high finance is dismantled to the level of the average movie goer's comprehension in Oliver Stone's sequel to his earlier film a generation ago and now has arrived as "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." And Michael Douglas is back as a felon who has served his prison time and is slyly pawing for more action. His character, of course, is Gordon Gekko, who asserted in the earlier picture the memorable line, "Greed is good."

For the rapacious high rollers along Wall Street today, that can be construed as a compliment as they award themselves the highest of bonuses and salaries with shameless indifference to how a great many Americans are trying to make do these days. The Stone script traces the voices in the luxurious board rooms as they begin to sense that their nifty investments are on the verge of collapse. As one financier tells the other seated at the long table, ""It would be the end of the world." Really.

Gekko shows us that serialized investors who think in terms of of converting $100 million into a quick billion can always find a way. He will do that because he is well beyond good and evil now. He is just trying to show off by outwitting the others. It's a frightful tale and close enough to the truth about the muck on Wall Street to be a documentary.

And there are documents galore today. In the past two days alone , both Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase announced that they are delaying foreclosures because in their haste they, um... didn't read the paperwork. That's only the tip of the iceberg of how the investment industry gamed the system.

If the movie has a moment of failure it is only in the final few minutes, which you might want to see for yourself.

Pardon me, but in watching this grotesque profile of Wall Street, I couldn't help thinking that we have a gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, John Kasich, who spent about eight years chasing down investments for Lehman Brothers as the managing director of Lehman's Columbus division. For his loyalties, Lehman paid him $587,175 in salary and a bonus in 2008. He says he didn't have that much to do for the New York office. That makes his big payoff even worse.