Wednesday, March 31, 2010

John Boccieri: Thank-you ads from the SEIU

FIRST-TERM U.S.Rep. John Boccieri of Alliance, a Democrat, is getting an acre of advertising support on several national blogs for his vote favoring President Obama's health care reform plan. The ads have been posted on such liberal blogs as Talking Points Memo, Raw Story and Daily Kos by the Service Employees International Union - all thanking him for his health care position. Interestingly, in today's electronic communications world, a top Boccieri staffer in his Washington office said he wasn't aware the ads were running. "They don't appear on our computers," said Ian Walton, his deputy chief of staff. "Obviously they are being targeted for the 16th District (the one embracing Canton and some rural counties.)

A first-term congressman, Boccieri is being challenged this year by Republican Jim Rinacci, a former nursing home management executive, auto dealer and professional minor league sports clubs investor. Both parties have targeted the race. The spending could set a record in these parts.

* * * * * *

HERE WE GO: A scheduled appearance by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, of Niles, Oh., at a town hall in Youngstown was cancelled at the last minute Wednesday by his staff over concern about his safety. WFMJ-TV in Youngstown said the congressman "received a threat to his office that was serious enough to report to the Capital Police and the FBI." Ryan supported the health care reform program.

The fallibility of Benedict's infallibility

AS A CURIOUS SPECTATOR to the controversy surrounding Pope Benedict these days, I was led to my dictionary to look up the meaning of petty, as in Benedict's dismissal of the raging complaints against him as "petty gossip".
Petty - Of little or no importance or consequence.
Despite all of the stonewalling and immunizing that is emerging from the Vatican, there are a lot of angry folks who don't consider their claims of priestly pedophilia to be petty, no matter whatever Benedict's apologists might call it. Papal infallibility is not in good working order in this instance. And quite likely never has been since it was inserted into the script in 1870 by Pius IX.

As papal historian Garry Wills writes in his book Papal Sin, the pope called together bishops from around the world for the First Vatican Council with the shady motive of having him declared 'infallible". Fearing that a majority of the bishops would not be overly thrilled by the idea, Pius' minions rigged the vote to make it happen. Thus, in a flash, popes have been deemed infallible ever since. It's all right there in papal doctrine.

Among Benedict's legal schemes put up by his defense counsel is that he is shielded from a Kentucky case involving abused children because he is a "head of state". That sounds more like the 1870 papal gambit which, so far as I have read, was not petty gossip.

UPDATE: A reader sends along this quote by Catholic League president Bill Donahue, an insufferable defender of Benedict, who fumes: "It is a sad day when al-Qaeda suspects are afforded more rights than priests.

To which the reader asks: "And how many priests are in Gitmo, Bill?"


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'll let you know when it's your turn, John!

Sen. John McCain attends Sarah's Candidate Obedience Class 101

Monday, March 29, 2010

O'My, O'Brien sinks to new depths

DURING MY YEARS AS a newspaperman, I tried to follow the rule of a wise old friend who said it did not serve our business well to criticize a fellow journalist. It made some sense, at least to those of us in that line of work. But a recent column by Kevin O'Brien in the Plain Dealer forces me to break the rule. O'Brien is the paper's deputy editorial page editor and is entitled to say whatever the hell he pleases so long as the paper's editors don't mind suffering the embarrassment of his mindless gibberish.

His latest opus is a further grisly attack on the health care reform bill that finally passed after more than a year of ugly infighting. Granted, there are some reasonable folks who find fault in the historic initiative by the Obama Administration. O'Brien, an overheated ultra-conservative with a deceptively benign smile, is not satisfied with mere disagreement. He writes:
"The Democrats in Congress and the White House have forced upon the United States of America a federal health care plan designed for people who are too stupid, incompetent and weak to manage their own affairs."
If he were a boxer, those callous words would have cost him the round - and maybe the whole match - for hitting well below the belt. (What, Kevin, is there to manage for someone out of work with no medical coverage and an ailing child? An ailing wife? I know. That's not your problem. Robespierre couldn't have said it with less heart.) The column drew a number of letters complaining about his reckless logic. But I doubt whether that is a problem or him. For guys like O'Brien, it's usually all about getting attention, like a cranky child tugging on mother's skirt. That places him in the back-row Glenn Beck pew. Unfortunately, his title also bears the imprimatur of the leading Northeast Ohio newspaper, which must share the responsibility. I trust the PD won't defend him with the standard reply that, like it or not, O'Brien does get an opportunity to speak for conservatives and secures wider readership on the op-ed page.

If so, what an awful smack-down of conservatism!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

When a spittoon won't suffice for these people

JUST WONDERING: Have you ever spit on another person? You know, clear your throat and whack! to express you anger? No? Me, either - although there have been times over the years when I have been damned angry at someone. Of late, airborne saliva has been one of the perils for some folks today who pass through a ranting chanting crowd fearsomely opposed to something or other. The targets have been African-American congressmen, but there may have been others. Unfortunately, the Constitution has nothing to say about spitting so the perps will tell you it's OK because, after all, they are angry. We can only hope that it will end soon before someone is seriously splashed with the blood bursting from a bulging vein in a frantic protester's f0rehead.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Maya and 2012: Don't mark your calendar

THROUGHOUT THE trash-talking and threats of Armageddon during the long health care reform debate, there were moments when Nibiru crept into my thoughts. Doomsday forecasters will immediately recognize Nibiru as a renegade planet that has been heading our way since long before Noah's ark. Blame the Sumerians for that scare tactic which, fortunately for our peace of mind, occurred before Glenn Beck got hold of it. Anyway, the apocalyptic end of humanity was supposed to occur in 2003, but in the absence of even a tiny meteor or two, the arrival of the crash was advanced to 2012. The latter date is the end of the ancient Mayan calendar as well as the date that Republicans promise will send President Obama back into the old neighborhood to find work.

It was surprising that in John Boehner's scary imitation of Tom Paine the night of the vote - which invoked liberty but not quite death - the minority leader didn't bring up Nibiru. Most people wouldn't have picked up on the name, but that was true of a lot things that were lost during the insufferable response to Obamacare.

Books have been written about the Mayan calendar and some became fairly popular during the fear-mongering of Y2K a decade ago that the millennial transition would at the very least wipe out all of the computers if not the humanoids who designed them. Well, it didn't happen, and for that escape, the Facebook and Twitter folks are thankful.

I should mention however, that anyone still stuck on the Mayan calendar might find some relief in the repeated denials by NASA that whatever else might destroy us, it won't be Nibiru. The agency has many outstanding scientists who insist that the world won't end in 2012, despite what the paranormal crowd has to say about it. And in those moments when Nibiru seemed to be edging closer as they counted the votes, I tried to keep NASA's assurances in mind.

After all, are you going to believe the state-of-the-art scientists at NASA, or Boehner's Sumerians?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The David Frum canto, sort of

FROM THE Grumpy Abe archive of poems:

Oh what pity for David Frum
Banished for not keeping mum.
Once so much a Bushie,
He's now out on his tushie
To AEI he's just another bum.

Diane Rehm: Here's to a national treasure

DIANE REHM'S lecture in E. J. Thomas Hall Wednesday night was an extraordinary example of how a leading radio talk show hostess can also be rational in surveying a nation deeply at odds with itself. We don't witness much of that kind of intelligent professional behavior from the Limbaughs and Becks, but Rehm more than accounts for the sane side of competing commentary, claiming 2.1 million National Public Radio listeners for her daily shows (WCPN in Cleveland - try it, you'll like it.)

She has a unique style, liberally mixing self-deprecating anecdotes about personal life - 14 years at home as a mother of two kids with no thoughts of achievement beyond that - and 30 years at the radio mike, a presence that is always persuasive in making her points. She looks at the world with the same questions that many of us share in a how-can-this-be? tone of voice. At 74, she has perfected that one-on-one delivery to her audience and leaves one with the feeling that she cares about her country without flags and slogans. On this night, she left no doubts about the matters that trouble her and the nation.

Mandated health insurance under the new health care reform act? But, she asks, don't we buy insurance for our cars and for other facets of our existence? Taxes? "We've got to pay for the things that we want, and we want an awful lot of things."

She is distressed by children who can't read or write and argues for greater attention to fixing the education system. She worries about how easily Americans can be lost in the maze of events that is shaping our lives. Her advice: Don't rely on a single newspaper or magazine or broadcast voice. Make an effort to read and listen to as many sources as possible because 'you need have your facts lined up. "Are we sure we know what we know?"

And she is pessimistic about the current atmosphere in which "everything is so divided around the country." Later she went on to lament about what she has been seeing of late: "Racism is alive and well in America."

But it was always stylishly presented as conversationally as though she was raising her concerns to a neighbor over the back fence. This is quite an exception in the national free-for-all. And for 90 minutes , I was in a comfort zone knowing that a caring, highly intelligent, civilized human being who happens to be a radio talk show host as well as woman who knows a thing or two about home life, was looking after the huge problems that beset us in a way that so compelled our attention.

Diane, you are a national treasure.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A response to the GOP's work stoppage

I HAVE A solution for the refusal of Republican Senators to work after 2 p.m . to punish Democrats for the health care reform bill: Dock these Republicans for the hours they don't work, freeze their own cushy health insurance coverage, ban their appearances on Fox News and...close all of their bars.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

They're Lincoln Day dinners - but why?

AS AN ALWAYS confused political observer, I must again ask what I've asked in the past:

With the current round of Republican Lincoln Day dinners in play, is there anyone who can explain to me what Abraham Lincoln, a leader of exceptional courage and conscience, has to do with the current version of the Republican Party?

Or is this one more instance of identity theft?

Steele: Republicans win, Americans lose

Just as we were lost in the swirl of instant analyses of the true meaning - really true consequential meaning spun with the silken voices of big-league TV - of the health care reform vote, it remained for Michael Steele, the voluble philosopher who heads the Republican National Committee, to cut through the ear-splitting gibberish, to explain the current state of the Republic. Declareth Mr. Michael Steele:

"There is no downside for Republicans. Only for Americans."

In relegating his party to a station breeds apart from Americans, Steele leaves me no option but to award him the coveted Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award for this day. It wasn't even close.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The nays of Texas are upon us

UPDATE: Wouldn't you just know that the cranky Republican congressman who yelled "baby killer" while Rep. Bart Stupak was talking last night was from....Texas? He's been outed as Randy Neugebauer," but he's now in the apologetic mode. He says he directed that screech at the agreement reached on the bill by Democrats, which, of course, directly involved Stupak,a hard-line pro-life pol from Michigan. I guess the question now: Is there anybody at all in charge these days deep in the heart of Texas?

MORE: A Christian radio broadcaster, who happened to arrive on my car radio scanning for some decent music, , was insisting to his audience that Stupak was a Marxist or socialist who supported ultra-liberal legislation, anti-abortion notwithstanding. But the minister reassured the listener that he personally didn't care about capitalism, but only the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.

FINALLY: Has anybody seen anything about Rush Limbaugh heading for the airport to emigrate to Costa Rica, which he promised to do if the health-care bill passed? And Rush never lies.

The GOP's televised nervous breakdown

FOR THOSE Republicans who would prefer an honored place in the history books for their steely opposition to health care reform, they overlooked an important tested guideline: the winners write the history. That was the message lost Sunday night as the party had a nervous breakdown on camera. It was left to Rep. John Boehner, the minority leader in the House, to seal the fate of his party's outrageous role in its long and ugly struggle to destroy the Obama Administration's signature mission and with it, President Obama itself.

With a self- described "sad and heavy heart," Boehner stood at the microphone sounding more like a scornful and defeated King Lear than the sane spokesman for the loyal opposition. "Shame on you!" he cried out at his Democratic colleagues, accusing them of disgraceful indifference to American values. There was more slander from his lips, but for some reason I could not feel a tad sorry for this graceless, mean-spirited pol from Southwestern Ohio, no matter his heavy-hearted sadness. The GOP must now find a way to live with him.

For more than a year, he has ridden the wave of the Tea Party's fashionable outrages on the political Right, to say and do weird things that hardly added any depth to the debate on Capitol Hill. He, like his allies, often complained that the GOP had no say in the reform bill's language although it had been pointed out more than once that the Administration's measure included 40 Republican amendments - so many, in fact that progressive Democrats started to label it a Republican bill. The cries of socialism were hollow from the outset, even those of the poor misguided souls who wanted the government to stay out of Medicare.

It's been an awful year for these losers. As late as Sunday evening, an unidentified congressman with a "southern sounding voice," shouted "baby killer" at Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak. This was the same Bart Stupak who threatened to kill the bill unless Obama accepted the anti-abortion group's terms. My head began to hurt even more.

On Saturday, Sarah Palin allowed that the bill would fail, proving once again that Obama lacked executive experience (read: the Alaska governor's office) to get anything done. "He's over his head," she chirped, tiresomely so. The Rep. Michele Bachmann added to the illogic among the rightwing desperados by whimpering that Stupak had broken her heart; it would require more time than I'm willing to take to figure that out. And wasn't it that Republican senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, a physician by trade who warned that everybody would die sooner if the bill passed ?

So the broken-hearts club will have to wait for another day to write the history. That could take some time.

David Frum, the former speechwriter for President Bush, threw in the towel for his party last night, insisting that "conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s." From the beginning, he argued, the Republican forces on Capitol Hill had decided to stonewall every move by the President - "no negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama's Waterloo - just as health care was Clinton's in 1994. Only the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53 pct. of the vote, not Clinton's 42 pct. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.
"This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none."
You'd think that somebody among the insiders in Boehner's classroom would have thought of that months ago.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rep Broun: More babble from the Old South

MORE ON THE OLD SOUTH: Rep. Paul Broun, Georgia Republican, rose on the House floor to compare health care reform to the Civil War, the conflict that he still calls the "Great War of Yankee Aggression." Broun, a physician and a birther, refers to something he calls a "free insurance card" - which it isn't - that will be as worthless as the Confederate dollar. Thoughts of the Confederacy still abound - unfortunately among congressmen, no less!

Health care reform: an historic moment

SUNDAY IS LOOMING as an historic day in the test of whether America will move beyond its current version of a caring democracy. There will be a vote on a tattered and smattered health care reform proposal that has served to rally the worst instincts of American politics against even the mildest form of civilized behavior. Even for the excesses of politicians, the health-care fight has lowered us to the edge of a banana republic, where easily refutable lies and obfuscation have revealed a Republican Party without any claim to respectability. It has embraced unspoken racism from the Old South and recruited some feeble allies from across the aisles who have been shown to be sharing the zillions of dollars in bribes from the health care and pharmaceutical industry in the form of legal political contributions.

In their desperation to find a sane response to the health bill, the shameless Republican opponents have had no credible answer. Instead they have repeatedly given us a vision of death - death taxes, death panels, job killers. But they have conveniently ignored the large number of Americans who actually die each year for lack of health insurance. No other advanced western country need apologize for such neglect.

For the white-guy southerners on Capitol Hill, there has been more than one ugly glimpse of how, in their vengeance, they hope to destroy America's first African-American president. Their regressive battle cry has been Sen. Jim DeMint's notion that if health care reform fails, it will be President Obama's "Waterloo". It has been more than a casual thought of his brethren in the Senate. It is fertile with meaning.

Thanks to the resistance on the Right, the bill is a skeleton of its original purpose, but it is more than what we have now. The foolish talk that we need to start all over again is just that: foolish. It will be grounded well into future administrations. .

It has taken more than a year of gutter talk, from the bizarre Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs and their wannabes, to reach this crucial point in history. For the have-nots, it will be a helping hand if it passes. But for Obama's opponents, it will be a dream come true if it fails. For the nation, it will tell us of whether we can move intelligently on the business at hand, or be sorely troubled in the months and years ahead by a cancer that is spreading up on the Hill.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When shoes count as much as guns

HAPPENED TO see a picture of a guy carrying a gun on his hip in a no-shoes, no-service coffee shop. Does it strike you as odd that in today's America you can bare a firearm in a restaurant, but only if you are wearing shoes?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dennis K. unpledges health care reform vote

THIS WILL DOUBTLESS sound like a boast - oh, hell, it is a boast - but Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the fellow that I recently described as "mercurial" - just changed his mind and will, in fact, support the proposed health care reform bill. You may recall that he was commanding national attention as one of the vigorous Democratic opponents of the bill. He even signed a pledge to vote against it. Today, he unpledged the pledge saying that although he still had doubts about the bill, "if my vote is to be counted, let it count now for passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health care reform."

A few days ago, as a one-time recorder of his life and times in Cleveland, I wrote:
"Despite his current aversion to the bill, I still wouldn't conclude that ultimately he won't support it if it ever reaches a vote. To know Dennis Kucinich, as I learned day in and day out, is not to know what he's likely to say or do next. Or how he intends to do it. ..."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there's plenty of dough to go around

Justice Clarence Thomas is one of the strict constructionists on the US. Supreme Court who voted to open the floodgates for corporate political contributions. Meanwhile, his wife Virginia , an activist in the Tea Party movement, was busy constructing a nonprofit lobbying group called Liberty Central that will be eligible to receive corporate money for her mission to promote "liberty" and slam President Obama's "hard-left agenda." She told the Los Angeles Times: "I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across the country." And the Tea Partiers have told us who the unpatriotic ones are. If we don't already know, she says, Liberty Central will be issuing score cards to keep us all up to date. Will she call it "America's Enemies List"?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Life on the maniacal front

THE VOTE IS IN, AND by a tally of 1-0, Glenn Beck has been narrowly elected as the Maniac of the Week. He outlasted Karl Rove and Liz Cheney by a single slur. More about them later.

As he has shown in the past, Beck's need for public attention, a deranged cry for help that doubtless arose in his near-drowning years ago in a rain puddle, is no thing of beauty. (On the other hand, he's lucky. Turkeys are known to drown in rain puddles because they are too dumb to raise their heads). This week, against strong competition , Beck again exposed his pathetically vacuous self by taking on America's churches. Atheists have done that, too, albeit with more restraint, but Beck is no atheist (He's a Mormon, obviously still a work in progress.) According to this Fox News payroller, anybody who attends a church that has a regard for social justice is either a Nazi or a Communist. He wants these churchgoers to flee their contaminated pews immediately.

Next in line for the Maniac of the Week Award is Liz Cheney, one of William Kristol's stable of immortals, who has publicly accused Justice Department lawyers who are defending accused terrorists of being the "al-Qaeda 7" and the Justice Department as the "Department of Jihad." Even Ken Starr, who lead the impeachment team against former President Clinton, was outraged by her smears. But can we expect anything less from the daughter of Dick Cheney?

Finally, there is the indomitable Karl Rove in the second runner-up slot for boasting in Europe of his pride in the U.S. waterboarders and insisting that it was not torture - this, from a man who never wore a military uniform himself. Rove, who has been contradicted on so many occasions, is still an unhappy wanderer staggering to the darkness at the end of his tunnel.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A congress without chairs and potties

WITH THE WEEK END upon us, we all need to escape to a saner world for a few days without further word of the debate over health care reform. My suggestion would lock up the entire congress in a room without chairs and potties with the warning that nobody leaves until they agree on a plan. That probably wouldn't happen right away, but who would miss this self-absorbed gang of underachievers if the doors were locked forever?

Kucinich: It rhymes with mercurial "itch"

NOW THAT Dennis Kucinich, the mercurial congressman from the Cleveland area, has checked in on the health care reform debate with a promise to vote against it, it might be a good time for his many Republican corporate enemies to admit that there is finally something to admire about the guy. Kucinich, you may recall, is the quadrennial Democratic presidential candidate who always manages to find a voice in those deadly multi-candidate primary debates. His entry into the deadly negative side of the health care marathon is no exception.

Kucinich says the current proposal "doesn't go far enough" - which is true with an asterisk: It won't, no matter whether he's for it or against it. But killing it will place him squarely in the camp of Sen. Jim DeMint and his congressional brethren who are holding forth mostly from the Old South and who disapprove more of Obama, the person, than of any version of reform. It was, after all, DeMint, the modern-day John Calhoun, who predicted last summer that if Obama's proposals on health care are defeated, it will be the President's "Waterloo."

That gotcha-shot has been the driving force of any initiative, including Obama's own insufferable concessions to the GOP, that has crashed in a state of confusion and left a noble idea in tatters.

Seems strange to me, as one who has followed Kucinich's career on site as a political reporter since his days as Cleveland's kid mayor, that he would cast his reputation as a populist in the profitable tent of the health care industry and their corporate friends, over the health care plan on the table. But Dennis has never been one to go-along-to-get-along, which has driven his opponents crazy over the years. I recall writing something during one of his many mayoral and congressional campaigns that he could sound like George Wallace on Cleveland's West Side (read, white) , and John Kennedy on the East Side (read black). I think he liked that.

Despite his current aversion to the bill, I still wouldn't conclude that ultimately he won't support it if it ever reaches a vote. To know Dennis Kucinich, as I learned day in and day out, is not to know what he's likely to say or do next. Or how he intends to do it. I do know, however, that it has been a long time since the last Democratic presidential primary, and Kucinich has a fresh supply or energy to do whatever he has in mind for the next presidential election, which, after all, is less than three years away.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Iraqi democracy? Three's a hostile crowd

NEWSWEEK published a breathlessly presumptive cover in its March 8 issue that declared in a war- size headline:
VICTORY AT LAST The emergence of a Democratic Iraq
How euphoric - particularly when the words were superimposed on that famous aircraft carrier photo-op for then-President Bush (who is pictured to the left of the headline) and the historic sign: Mission Accomplished.

And this morning, in my morning hometown paper, the op-ed headline over an equally euphoric column by Tom Friedman, an early booster of the war who has been waiting around for years for his hawkishness to be vindicated, declared: Young Democracy in Iraq.

I would like to think so, too. But we're talking about Iraq and the Middle East here, where you might have a greater chance of a happy outcome if you had been waiting around for Godot.

Some of the sheen faded a bit from the upbeat talk with the report on this week's Iraqi election in today's New York Times. After noting that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's coalition was likely to win a plurality, it grimly told us:
"The initial results, the officials said, suggested a race between Mr. Maliki's coalition; Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite and the leader of the Iraqiya coalition; and a Shiite coalition known as the Iraqi National Alliance. The Kurds, though divided, appeared poised to finish strongly as well, leaving the country's political landscape as fractured as ever."
Should the likelihood of continued political and religious conflict surprise us? Or that one of the participants in all of this is a fellow named Ahmed Chalabi, a leader of the Iraqi National
Alliance, who immediately questioned the purity of the vote count? Chalabi, a slippery former exile who quietly dished out all of those mythical stories to Times reporter Judith Miller to advance his own mission to return to power, was paid countless millions by the U.S. government from the outset of the invasion for his insider's fables. He's back.

When will we grow up and accept the harsh truth that that area of world has been at war since the earliest days of Mesopotamia, when religion-based provincial chieftains claimed each other's turf?

Sorry Newsweek. They'll be counting votes, sort of, for a long time. A stable democracy now? I think I'll wait for Godot, instead.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

May we call this the "banana split"?

YOU'VE DOUBTLESS heard that Rush Limbaugh, the clownish malcontent with Cadillac health care of his own, has vowed to move to Costa Rica if the health care reform bill passes. Regardless of his disconnect that Costa Rica has universal health care, there is more to his eagerness to become an expatriate, I'm told. Limbaugh wants to buy that country and convert it into a plantation with a private, male-only golf club while staging annual banana-eating contests by the natives to amuse his Wall Street guests. You think I'm kidding?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Boehner's No-brainer?

Meet Atty. Nick York , new UA trustee

THERE WILL BE a new face on the University of Akron Board of Trustees this week with the appointment of Cleveland Atty. Nick York to fill a three-month vacancy. York, a Democrat, succeeds Republican Atty. Jack Morrison, who was removed from the seat by the Ohio Senate after his convictions on two misdemeanor charges involving University land near the newly-built football stadium.

York's appointment by Gov. Strickland is expected to be announced Thursday or Friday, sources familiar with the transition say. York is chair of the Cleveland firm of Tucker Ellis & West Public Law and Finance practice group.

His arrival on the nine-member UA board will give it four Democrats. A fifth Democrat will be named in June.

Monday, March 8, 2010

No Oscar again for Fred Astaire

OSCAR NIGHT came and went and once again Fred Astaire didn't win. I'm sorry about that. Having seen his work with Ginger Rogers back when good tap dancing and top hats in movies really meant something, I've often wondered why he never got the recognition that he deserved. Maybe it was because his name was really Fritz Austerlitz and he was from Omaha, Nebraska. True. a lot of stars change their names, but not a lot of them are also from Omaha. Besides, Ginger wasn't of much help as his dancing partner. (Did Katherine Hepburn really say that Fred gave Ginger class and she gave him sex?)

Otherwise, the big night started off nicely with Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin on their game as a pair of standup co-hosts insulting the glitterati in the audience (it was noted that Meryl Streep had more nominations than anyone in Hollywood history, which also meant that she had more losses!) But I began to fade as winner after winner loped to the stage. There is a certain sameness about it all. At least Martin and Baldwin descended on the stage from high above it in a rig.

The red carpet leading to the hall was showered with the sort of gasps that you would expect if dozens of mermaids washed ashore in borrowed Gucci gowns. Fantastic and... totally surreal. Words like that Oh, wow! You look so beautiful!

But Hollywood did behave itself this night. Very little cleavage and even less political commentary. As for Fred, there's always next year.


Palin: Up among the palm readers!

Well, I'm glad that that's settled. Sarah Palin says that when she wrote on her palm for a tea party interview, she was in good company with God, who, she says, also wrote on his palm. I assume that also excuses cribbing students who jot down answers to exams between the cupped creases. This could become Biblically trendy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Aesop's well-paid fables on Capitol Hill

AS ONE WHO SURFS on to TV sports coverage on occasion, I've become aware of the growing number of moving parts that now have sponsors. "Please rise," the booth announcer implores, "for the seventh inning stretch, brought to you today by Knee World, Inc., the company that is a world leader in leg bends." More: "The kickoff is sponsored by Joy Masters, where you can get you own kicks with a simple 15-minute workout on our exclusive Fleet Feet walking machine."

On and on, from commercials for the National Anthem entrepreneurs to slam -dunk companies that want to remind you that they are unchallenged creators of doughnut holes that can be dunked with miniature spears, even in the morning or midnight darkness.

Wouldn't it be a boon to democracy, such as it is, if the same enterprising spirit could be attached to operatives on Capitol Hill who insist on throttling, say, the health care advances that the country, if not the said operatives, desperately need? Something like this might help our understanding of how the system is not working today:
Today's filibuster by Sen. Aesop is made possible by his sponsor, United Wealth Care, a leader in contributory control of those errant bouts of conscience that might keep you up at night. During these harsh days of the Obama presidency, it is urgent that we all have a good night's sleep. So remember Aesop and UWC in your next trip to the emergency room. What better way to repay your congressman as your friend?
Fabulous, if I have to say so myself.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Disney's "front-page news"

The desperation of newspapers for ad money is unhappily evident in this full page ad for Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. Alas, newspapers are edging closer to the rabbit hole every day.

Pew Research: For some, the evil eye exists

PEW RESEARCH is reporting that 16 pct. of Americans believe wholeheartedly in the "evil eye." If the relatives on my mother's side were still breathing, the number would have increased dramatically. Not a day passed that someone wasn't ducking behind a sofa to avoid the sinister stare of a cousin or a stranger. To keep whatever peace was available on any given day, we all gritted our teeth and went along with it until the crises passed.

My loving mother lived courageously with the threats of evil eyes, warning all within her reach of the perils of ignoring them. They were part of a larger assembly of superstitions that guided all of our lives since birth. For example, she warned us never to step outside within three hours of washing our hair - a rigid rule in our house that, if broken, could lead to pneumonia or painful death. She never said why that was so.

We were always under strict orders never to sleep on our left side. It had something to do with the pressure on the heart, as she explained it. Besides, wasn't there a rumor that an elderly fellow up the street had succumbed to a heart attack in the middle of the night and was found to be sleeping on his left side?

I must tell you, too, of my near encounter with death as a 12-year-old as I burned up with fever from pneumonia. Ignoring medical science, Mom slid a large butcher's knife under my pillow and sat at bedside throughout the night until I came to my senses at dawn. With that, she withdrew the knife, kissed it and concluded that it had cut the fever!

My Aunt Lulu played the superstition route daily with stacks of "dream books" that would associate a three-digit number to whatever dream you had in your deepest slumber. A few pennies on the dream image in the book and you would greatly improve your chances of winning a few more cents. Of course, there were 999 possibilities of 3-digit numbers so your chances with this gambling exercise were rather slim. May Aunt Lulu rest (peacefully) in Vegas!

Like countless others, my mother took steps to ward off the evil eye with a tiny gold pendant that she strung around my neck. It was shaped like a an animal horn and called a corno by an Italian family that gave it to her. With a corno, you could be reasonably safe from the dark spirits that threaten us every day. Back when I was being tutored in the Italian language, my teacher was annoyed to get a phone call from his wife that she had been afflicted by an evil eye from a stranger at the next table in the restaurant. She rushed home and went to work ridding herself of the certain misfortune (What? Nobody ever says!) with a batch of tea leaves placed above her head. At least that's how my tutor later explained it with wry disbelief.

History tells us that even Plato referenced evil eyes and may have believed in them himself. Are any of us smart enough to play in Plato's league? I think not. Fair warning to 84 pct. of Americans who reject the notion of the evil eye.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bunning: a bit player in GOP assault on Obama

NOW THAT MANY of us (except Fox News) have had a little fun over Jim Bunning's meltdown that jammed up the government for a day or so, the more likely version of this mad tale is that he was not really acting alone. Instead, he was merely an unsightly spurt from the boil that forms the seething Republican enclave on Capitol Hill. In the nanosecond after Bunning's first claim to the national media-driven spotlight, it is fair to conclude that some of his partisan colleagues were satisfied that his Caligulan rant had served their cause well in further debasing the Obama Administration. Some even muttered as much. But when the returns came in that the Kentucky senator may have gone too far in holding up his entire party to further ridicule, the game was up. Given Bunning's loony track record on The Hill, no Republican could happily adopt him as the GOP's poster boy - even if they agreed that he got it right.

We are long past the stage of constructive dialogue in Congress, which seriously puts a halt to social progress in a system that most of us with even minimal historical awareness call a democracy and the other side sneers is socialism. The sickness runs incurably deep. Since the day that Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office - Barack Hussein Obama! - the Old South began its dramatic return to the podium with the vibrant assistance of the GOP's high priest, Rush Limbaugh, unapologetically aided and abetted by a television network whose deception begins with the kooky assurance that it is fair and balanced.

Why has the unanimous assault from the political right been so much more bitterly sustained beyond ordinary ideological disagreement? . The most entrenched element, less and less muted as time goes on, is racism. Losing to a Democrat, as has happened from time to time in presidential politics, is one thing. Losing to an African-American Democrat is unacceptably something else. Particularly for the political party that is not represented by a single black in Congress.

As Columnist Bob Cesca writes in the Huffington Post:
"...when you strip away all of the rage, all of the nonsensical loud noises and all of the contradictions, all that's left is race. The tea party is almost entirely about race, and there's no comparative group on the left that's similarly motivated by bigotry and racial hatred."
So-called mainstream Republicans have stood before angry crowds and stared diectly into the ugly racist placards with indifference. At the same time, Cesca notes that Limbaugh "can stoke racial animosity on his show by suggesting health-care reform is a civil rights bill - reparation - and no one seems to mind. The Tea Party is an extension of talk radio...of the Fox News Channel. It's an extension of the southern faction of the Republican Party - the faction that gave us the Southern Strategy, the Willie Horton ad, the White Hands ad , the racially divisive politics of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. It's an extension of the race-baiting and, often, of the outright racism evident in all of those conservative spheres."

In the grand scheme of things, Jim Bunning was no more than a bit player who enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame for the team. Unfortunately, there will be others.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Of killer whales and right-wing prophecy

YOU KNEW IT would happen. The American Family Assn., one of the nation's biggest right-wing Christian groups, has concluded that the death of a whale trainer at SeaWorld was a matter of biblical vengeance. Why did the killer whale Tilikum attack the victim, Dawn Brancheau? I won't go through the AFA's dark narrative other then to say it believed the trainer's fate was clearly sealed in Exodus. Something about sinful neglect. As Think Progress points out, the AFA is the bell-cow for the "War on Christmas" campaign against retailers who don't honor the day with appropriate respect. But if you think the AFA is way off the main political track, it includes among its supporters Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Steve king as well as Sens. Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback.

The optimism of the season

CHEER UP! There's a new infusion of optimism in America flowing from Arizona to Florida. It is widely adorned with the hopelessly exaggerated pronouncements of Capitol Hill but is a non-partisan exercise that happily escapes the political bombast of the plodding and predictable Sunday morning talk shows. It is called spring training and not a day passes in a snowbound winter that a baseball player or manager in the warmer venues doesn't offer a Utopian vision of how much better he feels about this year's prospects than those of the team that finished 62 games out of first place last year.

There is, for example, Manny Acta, the Indians new manager. Commenting in the Beacon Journal after the team's four-inning intrasquad game, Acta was upbeat:
"I liked the way the hitters looked. They are not so far behind [the pitchers]. Also, the pitchers pounded the strike zone."
Fans who are suffering from political fatigue should be feeling better already. Acta is not alone in his optimism. Everybody on the practice fields has something good to say about himself or his team to build the club's confidence level with no filibuster on the horizon. Players with stitched up shoulder and mending ankles insist they have never felt better; front offices trying to sell season tickets in lean times point to a new look at third base or right field that will elevate the team to the playoffs. Hotdog vendors give no indication that they are prepared to strike this year.

It's the way the world was meant to be in March. Of course, for the have-nots perhaps not even luck will improve their fortunes. As Walter Alston was heard to say:

"It's pretty hard to be lucky when your pitching is bad."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bunning's one plus one: Two trillion $$$$

While Jim Bunning has his defenders in trashing an extension of unemployment benefits because they are too expensive, he was quite supportive of George Bush's tax cuts (at left, in 2001) that ripped more than $1 trillion from the federal treasury. Bunning also strongly supported Bush's $1 trillion Iraq war. My math is usually terrible, but it does appear to add up to $2 trillion - or more. (Notice how all of the budget hawks are happily wearing black suits, funereal fashion, in photo.)

Tale of two cities, one publisher

THE BIG MEDIA story in Hawaii isn't the tsunami threat anymore but rather David Black's purchase of the Honolulu Advertiser - the longtime rival of Black's smaller Honolulu Star-Bulletin. As Harry Liggett, formerly of the Beacon Journal, noted on the BJ Retirees blog:
The sale will lead to layoffs when and if the papers are combined, although the number of layoffs has not been determined.
Black's joy over his latest deal was only slightly muted. "It's a sad day when we can't keep two good papers running in a city of this size," he said.

Sad, indeed. At the time of the announced merger, Black's Beacon Journal was trying to wrap up negotiations with the Guild on a contract that expired way back in July 2008. And later this week the down-sized union will be voting on a proposed settlement that Guild spokesperson Stephanie Warsmith says is "concessionary" in pay and benefits. More concessions for a newsroom that has already been reduced to the size of a holiday staff. (Latest departures: three sportswriters.)

Buying and selling newspapers has been Black's modus operandi since he purchased the Beacon Journal and other papers in 2006 from McClatchy, which bought them from Knight-Ridder. At the time, Black, a Canadian publisher who owns a large estate of mostly weekly newspapers, expressed his delight in acquiring the Beacon Journal, asserting in a memo to the staff that there would be no layoffs while recognizing the paper's labor unions. Now-former BJ publisher Jim Crutchfield lauded Black's reputation "for figuring out how things work and making them better. He appreciates that value of journalism."

There is nothing that I can add.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Will the media leap to Tom Ganley's ad dollars?

AN INTERESTING situation is shaping up in the 13th Congressional District as financially weakened newspapers grope for shrinking advertising dollars. Mega-millionaire right-wing auto dealer Tom Ganley is not only expected to win the Republican primary to face U.S. Rep Betty Sutton, he also is the Plain Dealer's biggest advertiser. That's real big! So how much will that count when he marches in to see the paper's brass about an endorsement? I don't know. But the odds would seem to favor him - particularly against a liberal Democrat with friendly ties to organized labor. The only cautionary note is that fewer and fewer readers are taking newspaper endorsements seriously. Who can forget the thrashing that the Beacon Journal editorial page gave to U. S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democrat, in 2006 on his way to clobbering incumbent Republican Mike DeWine?

Bunning: His fastball is in the dirt these days

Republican Sen. Jim Bunning: "He missed the pitch by this much, and if you don't think so,

TOUGH S--T!!!"

Moral: "S--T happens" - even in Congress when an ex-Major League pitcher from Kentucky decides to block the extension of unemployment benefits and construction projects.