Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wolfowitz is back - and he still doesn't get it

JUST AS I believed that we had rid ourselves of Paul Wolfowitz's special insights into the invasion of Iraq, who should turn up on the NY Times' Op-ed page today but Paul Wolfowitz? . Wolfie was one of Donald Rumsfeld's honored tooth fairies in the Defense Department as we madly stumbled into Iraq. In today's column, he was full of advice on how to manage post-war Iraq. This is the same fellow who joined the Bush Administration in assuring all that the invasion was a walk in the park. While testifying in Congress in 2003 he promised that it would not be paid off in taxpayer dollars but rather by Iraq's huge supply of petro-dollars. It would be a relatively short war and we would be hailed as liberators. Did I say tooth fairies? Can't resist a rather belated but well-deserved Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award to Wolfie.

Yeah, and Bush left the country with a surplus!


NEWSWEEK is reporting in it latest poll that more than half of the Republicans believe that President Obama is definitely a Muslim sympathetic to fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law on the world (14 pct) or that it is probably true (38 pct.)!!!! And these are the profoundly stupid people that Republican "mainstream" candidates are embracing these days.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What to ask a Republican candidate

THE TABLOID at the supermarket checkout counter was quite explicit:

OBAMA IS A MUSLIM, the headline screams.

The shoppers can't miss it. More than one will believe it and share his or her conviction with others. Mob ignorance is spreading. Pew Research poll says 18 pct. now believe the myth. Worse yet, 43 pct. are on the fence. The figure is rising. Mainstream Republicans dance around the subject as the cancer spreads in their party. What a disgracefully hateful way to play politics. Is this what desperate partisanship is all about? Oh, well. Glenn Beck will pray for you.

Never in my lifetime has a major political party remained so silent before a Goebbels-type lie.
Never has the nation been so threatened by a party totally without coherence and conscience. So I will try to do what I can. Between now and the November elections I will confront any so-called mainstream Republican candidate and insist that he or she give me a simple yes-or-no answer as follows:

Since politics begin at the local level, to Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, I would ask: Is President Obama a Muslim? Speak up so the Tea party, to whom you played nice in the primaries, can hear you.

To Republican congressional candidate Tom Ganley, I would ask: Is Obama a Muslim? Yes or no. No weasel's answers like the one you gave to Congressional Quarterly that you, um, don't know.

To Republican gubernatorial candidate and Arshinkoff favorite John Kasich I would ask: Is Obama a Muslim? Yes or no.

To Republican attorney general candidate and Arshinkoff favorite Mike DeWine, I would ask: Is Obama a Muslim? Yes or no.

Unless we do this, how else will know how honest this current breed of right-wingers is going to be as the campaigns progress. So far we haven't heard much more than they want to cut taxes and kill health care reform. I know. The question shouldn't have to be asked. But it is a huge wedge issue that the GOP is using in scandalous ways to take over the country. Trouble is, these guys could very well succeed in further dividing America unless their opponents and the mainstream media start demanding clear answers.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tony L aRussa: A lost week end all around

NOW THAT SKIPPER Tony LaRussa has paid his respects to Glenn Beck's latest love-in and described it as "stirring," have you noticed that his fading St. Louis Cardinals then lost the following two games in a row to the woeful Washington Nationals. Hmmmm....Might the gods have been a tad unimpressed by a baseball manager hobnobbing on Dr. Martin Luther King's historic site with the masses of Religitics? I'm not suggesting that there was actually a connection, mind you. Still, wouldn't Tony have been better off spending the time stirring up his team instead. Even the St. Louis media are saying that the Cardinals appear to be going through the motions these days.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Akron Art Museum show: A sobering urban tale

THERE'S A remarkable show under way at the Akron Art Museum that is a sobering narrative of a great American city that has long been mired in grotesque decay. The exhibition is titled "Detroit Disassembled" and tells its bleak story with a series of starkly revealing large-format photographs by New York-based photographer Andrew Moore. You will be troubled by the desolate images that you see, but the best artistry is of necessity always evocative.

The trajectory of Moore's work is not meant to comfort the viewer. Instead, it is what it is: a tale of urban neglect that can embrace the decline in many other once-teeming cities, but even more so in Detroit's scattered ruins ranging from Henry Ford's now eerily disfigured executive suite with is green carpet ridged and bunched up in distorted squares, to the abandoned Jane Cooper Elementary School building that nature has now surrounded with scrubby untended prairie growth. (The crisply edited wall tags note that the houses around the school were razed for an industrial park that was never built.

The interiors of certain auto plants are nothing more than rubble. A house that once provided family's shelter and hearth is fully masked by vines. No matter which way you turn to view another photo, there can be no escape from a sense of stark abandonment.

All this, in the past half century as the auto industry lost its way. Political corruption deflected the city's real needs, vandalism flourished and crime found many opportunities to thrive as residents fled to the suburbs. There is a reference in museum material to Pompeii. But it suffered a natural disaster two millennia ago. Still, as one who has walked the paths of Pompeii's excavated ruins, I could wonder about the victims without feeling a tug of belonging and loss about something that happened so long ago. With Moore's photos, however, you must ask how it could have happened in a way that left the city of nearly 2 million residents in 1950 with less than half of that today. A third of the city's land is vacated. The irony of modern industrialization that now stands exposed to its dark side is a guilt that an entire generation can share as a social burden. There's no attempt by this exhibition to disguise that message.

Some Deroit natives have understandably considered such a baring of the city's open sores - "ruins porn" - as an unfair indictment that singles out their city against all others. But Andrew Moore has looked in on other places around the world, too - say, Cuba and the border regions of Russia, for his images. With this show, it was Detroit's turn. Whether intentional or not, there are no people in the photos to engender life. It is simply discarded and rotting non-human matter.

The photos were loaned to the museum from the collection of Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell. Bidwell is an Akron advertising executive. The show, a premiere exhibition, runs through Oct. 10. It has drawn many visitors and interest continues to grow, says Barbara Tannenbaum, the museum's Director of Curatorial Affairs. She says the photos will likely move on to other venues, but nothing is set. Moore will lecture at the museum on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 6:30 p,m. followed by a book signing. . The event is free.

In one of the pictures, someone has scrawled on a wall: God has left Detroit. There are steps being taken today to fill the vacancy with the combined efforts of City Hall, foundations and the Federal government. In the introduction to the show, questions are asked:
"Decay is but one step in a cycle that advances to renewal and growth. Moore's documentation of crumbling Detroit contains glimmers of hope. Will Detroit become America's Pompeii or will it lead the way to a new model for America's shrinking post-industrial cities?"
The jury will be out for awhile. Meantime, mark this down on your calendar as a show you can't afford to ignore. It is a harsh reminder that our society will have to find a way to do better.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hey, Tony! Where have you been?

TONY LARUSSA, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, rattled many of the descendants of Abner Doubleday and his flock by declaring that he would visit the Glenn Beck revival meeting at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday. He would come, he said earlier, to introduce his star slugger, Albert Pujols, ostensibly believing that Beck merely wanted to restore everybody's honor by rallying their patriotism with another of his oratorical spasms. How dumb of LaRussa.

I mean, here's a guy who knows how to transmit signals to his players by flicking his ears and scratching his chest, who wants us to believe that he wasn't attending a political bash featuring Beck, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party cast of thousands. When asked about his unseemly agreement to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Beck, LaRussa defended his decision to accept Beck's invitation:
"I don't know who's going to be there, who's going to accept it. But the gist of the day is not political. I think it's a really good concept, actually."
Tony! How could you miss the signals?

Although the Beck Tea Partyers have been whining to get their country back, I think LaRussa has unwittingly contradicted their notions by demonstrating that he can show up any place, any time, by God, to demonstrate his personal freedom. But that also means he is just as free to be stupid by denying the political sausage that would come from the podium at the rally.

When he was a major league infielder, his lifetime batting average was .199. He just added a another strikeout to that record.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Glenn Beck's feel-good way of embracing your honor

GLENN BECK IS LURING the best and the brightest of his crusaders to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial this week end to, as he calls it, restore our honor. Not a moment too soon , either. After the Beck right-wingers have been wringing honor from all of us for an eternity, I've been feeling a little shaky when the Stars and Stripes passed by. The latest downer is from that Louisiana congressman who swears that America has reached the point where we must decide whether we want to make this nation a hotbed of Christianity or the cesspool of atheism. I should add that he's running for reelection and doesn't want to take the risk of his jambalaya getting cold with the voters.

As we learned from the on-site historical reports of the Spanish Inquisition, which was aimed at Jews and Muslims, Christianity had some bad days long before Beck arrived before the TV cameras. Beck, however, was very much alive when he settled most doubts about his sanity in assuring all of us that he was not a zombie. How comforting! Still, that left open a lot of other possibilities of what he might be, none of which would qualify for his comfort zone.

I guess I could show my respect for Beck's pursuit of honor by attending his rally. But I think I'll wait for an account of it in another of Anne Rice's vampire chronicles. To my knowledge Beck has never denied that he was a vampire.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rhodes vs. Kasich: A case of Identity theft

THE HEADLINE above a column on the Beacon Journal's op-ed page Tuesday asserted:

John Kasich is no Jim Rhodes.

I should say not! The column was by Joe Hallett, the perceptive senior editor of the Columbus Dispatch, and it spoke of the many ways that these two politicians differed in approaching Ohio's problems, in their views of the Feds, how they were to pay for the fixes, and the wide gap in temperament. Why the comparison at this time? Well, as Hallett notes, Kasich is now reporting that the voters see him as the reincarnation of Rhodes. "We welcome that," Kasich boasts.

What a wretched stretch. So let me add something about their political credentials as one who went at Rhodes chin-to-chin in all four of his terms. Unlike Kasich, Rhodes was no ideologue. On more than one occasion he declared that he would gladly become a Democrat if it meant that he could pass some of his pet projects. At other times during Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign, Rhodes said he didn't want to criticize the peanut farmer about anything because "Carter might become president and I might need him to help me on some of my programs."

As Hallett points out, Rhodes was a cheerleader for federal programs that would send money to Ohio. Kasich is quite the opposite in his rants to dismantle government, including the Ohio Department of Development that Rhodes created.

And how can Kasich possibly match Rhodes' "Ohio-ness."? He is fresh from Wall Street and was not a household name among most Ohioans before his announced candidacy. He began his political career as an aide of some sort to the late hard-right Ohio congressman, Donald ("Buz") Lukens, one of Rhodes' arch-enemies. After leaving Congress, he spent all of those years apparently closeted (by his description) in a satellite office in Colmubus for the bankrupt Lehman Brothers.

But Rhodes' historic success - I say as one of his detractors at the time - is that he was a dues paying Ohioan who intuitively related to his constituents with down-home humor and self-deprecating comments. Slyly, he never seemed that interested in the political class and pooh-poohed national conventions as a waste of money. To him, the delegates simply could mail in their votes. It was always a disarming style for a man in the governor's office and if pressed by a reporter on a particular issue, he would beg off, saying: " I never yes or no", for whatever the hell that meant. He lived by the credo that "Profit is not a dirty word in Ohio" which always sounded as sincere as the Boy Scout oath.

But he did pay his dues on the political ladder, always conscious about how to reach the next rung. It might have been done in an unorthodox style, but he cleverly got away with it.

Whatever else you might have thought of Jim Rhodes, he was the real thing, often a spectacle but a memorable presence wherever he went, good humored and endearing to his business apostles (and in certain cases, labor union crowd , some of whom wore his pins.) I see none of that in Kasich. If only half of his reckless plans to rip apart state government come to pass, it will take years for the state to recover.

Newt has other ideas about American democracy

METHINKS NEWT GINGRICH's mind has strayed still farther in his profound opposition to building a mosque in Manhattan. The receding Georgia ex-congressman and presidential wannabe says the mosque should not be built until Saudi Arabia agrees to permit churches and synagogues to go up. In one failed stroke is he equating American democracy with a family-owned closed society in the desert? Is that what he thinks a free society should be all about?

Arizona primary day! Hooray!

IT'S PRIMARY ELECTION DAY in Arizona and for this occasion we can all be grateful. The senatorial race has been something awful, even witnessed from afar. Sen John McCain has increasingly seemed as disoriented as a sparrow in a windstorm. The dispatches from the front in that overheated sandbox assure us that McCain will win the Republican nomination against an opponent who is even less well-adjusted to reality than the former GOP presidential candidate. Perhaps the senator will now find time to return to earth.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

GOYAesque: The squareoff between Sutton and Ganley

THERE WAS quite a contrast between two p0litical events in our area last week, the Summit County Republican Finance Dinner staged behind closed doors at the Akron West Hilton and a wide open fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton at the United Steelworkers Local 21 Hall on Kelly Ave. The first event charged at least $250 per plate for the hundreds of local GOPers who attended; the latter at the union hall asked for $25 and featured bottled water and boxed pizzas. Talk about breeds apart!

The two events clearly defined the opposites that will be projected in the contest between Democrat Betty Sutton, a favorite of organized labor, and Republican Tom Ganley, the wealthy auto dealer who is blanketing the 13th District with his TV auto ads for his 32 dealerships.

In his speech to the Akron Press Club last October, Ganley reminded his audience that he was an ordinary guy from a middle class family in Cleveland whose father was a mechanic and mother a waitress. It was his way of taking a little of the shine off his personal Midas-like bankroll, more than $6 million of which reportedly will be spent on this campaign. Sutton, a lawyer, grew up in Barberton in a family whose father was blue-collar. She won't come close to matching her opponent, dollar for dollar.

So the greater issue in the hall was how much impact Ganrley's money will have on the campaign. Moreover, will the Democrats get out their people to vote this year. They aren't taking chances, several of the union speakers headed by USW International President Leo Gerard bluntly called out the troops in the indelicate language that was current in the days of URW President Pete Bommarito and continues to ricochet in the rafters today.

If Sutton is to win, he declared forcefully , then those in the hall must "GET OFF YOUR ASS."

It's the sort of indelicately blunt talk that has long resonated in the union halls and brought cheers from the listeners. In this instance, the audience included Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Summit County Executive Russ Pry and Sen. Sherrod Brown, as well as a number of labor leaders from northeast Ohio. Informality was the standard for the evening.

There was some mention of Sutton's leadership in the Cash for Clunkers program that Ganley trashed while showing a multimillion dollar profit from it. I suspect there will be more of that theme as the campaign progresses. For now, there will be the repeated reminders to GET OFF YOUR ASS and work for Sutton.

Come to think of it, that demand serves perfectly as the acronym for the Spanish painter GOYA. He painted some troubling scenes including one large series of prints that he captioned "The sleep of reason produces monsters." He was a great artist, but how could he have imagined what we're witnessing in campaigns from coast to coast?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Obama a Muslim? More stuff for Bullfinch's Mythology

THE FANCIFUL debate over whether President Obama is indeed a Muslim is the latest right-wing rage that should be confined to the pages of Bullfinch's Mythology. It is the product of a mythological advanced society in which semi-literate (at best!) political opponents and their disciples refuse to accept fact over fiction.

The latest evidence of the effects of the political wallowers are in the new Pew Research study that shows public opinion relating Obama to Muslim beliefs has risen from 11 pct. in March 2009 to 18 pct. in August 2010. But Pew also found that those who said they don't know whether Obama is a Muslim has increased during the same period from 34 pct. to to 43 pct. So when Rush Limbaugh refers to the president as an Imam, he and his kindergarten class know that it's working to damage Obama.

You can add Tom Ganley, the Republican congressional candidate in the Ohio's 13th District, to the "don't know" column, which leaves open the possibility that Obama might very well be you-know-what. When asked by CQ Roll Call, Ganley dodged the question by saying he doesn't "have a position on whether he's a Muslim." (Read: Obama might be - just enough to keep the voters guessing without disturbing the Far Right.)

Thomas Jefferson was a lucky man. There were no well-paid network and cable "news" staffs to advance the issue of whether he was a Deist (he was) nor ask him why he spent so much of his time rewriting the Bible. Wow! Can you possibly imagine how that would go over with the Big Media today?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Arshinkoff's chosen fellow travelers in protective custody


Alex Arshinkoff's decision to place his visiting Republican candidates in protective custody by barring the "media" from the party's big finance dinner Wednesday night can't - and shouldn't be - explained as the work of a rational party chairman. Indeed, it was a hoax that belonged on a silly sitcom. No one has complained more than Arshinkoff in recent years of the lack of coverage by the Beacon Journal of his coming-out political bashes. So much for his boast to his audience of several hundred that the media was barred from sharing an evening on his plantation of choice.

Still it raised more questions than it answered about this mercurial pol who doesn't appear to be aging well in his line of nasty work.

First of all, did he really want to use the generic term "media" when he had his loyal subjects man the gates to the $250 servings of chicken cordon bleu? Sources at the Beacon Journal said they had no intention of covering the dinner. The broadcast media doubtless were at the Browns' training camps or wherever. That left only me as the sole medium to be kicked out.

No, it would be in his comfort zone to ban one person on this occasion - yours truly. In so doing, he could boast to his retinue that he had risen well above the media in conducting his business by keeping out a longtime political writer who knows all about skeletons in the closets. It's also true that I have come down hard on two of his favorite candidates - John Kasich and Mike DeWine - which is what political writers sometimes do.

Actually, I am quite appreciative that I didn't have to sit through still one more event from the Arshinkoff Academy of Political Arts. It's the most attention I have received on the job since the late Gov. Jim Rhodes spit on my shoe. Or maybe the time when the same Jim Rhodes interrupted a press conference with stunned national reporters at a Republican presidential convention by asking me if I wanted to go bowling with him.

Sources who attended Alex's dinner told me there was nothing said by any of the celebrities on the dais that couldn't be shared with a wide public audience. So for reasons largely of ego and breast-pounding, he wanted my scalp. Big deal.

Well, I'm not that important to be the focus of this sort of sophomoric nonsense. What is the larger issue is the trend in the modern Republican Party toward insanity, a scary condition for the nation's future to which Alex has now added his own eerie ideas. His public outbursts over the years have shown him to be his own worst enemy. His behavior Wednesday night didn't change a thing. More and more he has become the GOP's problem, not mine. And so I would say, to hell with it. For now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hey, Alex: Guess who tried to come to dinner

WELL, AS THEY SAY, there's a first time for everything.

Take Wednesday night's Summit County Republican Finance Dinner, Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's annual fancy finance dinner - this one at the Akron West Hilton. From the grapevine I had heard that a slew of GOP candidates, including bell cows John Kasich and Mike DeWine, would be there to generously allow some of their prominence to rub off on the locals. The main speaker was billed as Sonny Perdue, the governor of Georgia and, of course, a good ol' boy. At least,I think so.

If some of this report sounds a tad tentative, there is a reason. By order of Arshinkoff, the party's bold commander-in-chief, I was barred from entering the dining room. Honest. Not even a teensy peek.

I don't really feel I missed anything. An Arshinkoff pageant includes a succession of candidates rising to the dais to drum rolls as Alex bellows to the crowd that each will be the greatest ever to serve in his or her respective office. I've heard it so many times over the years that I've come to expect it as part of the well orchestrated hyperbole of the moment . (Alas, the Democrats in this county have nothing to compare with it other than maybe an inexpensive Valentine event at Our Lady of the Elms with finger food. Somehow, they raise money anyway and win most of the important elections hereabouts.)

My moment of truth arrived as I wandered toward the dining room from the lobby to take my usual station at the rear of room without eating inasmuch as I don't want to mooch after the others have paid $250 or more for their victuals. But a determined woman at the entrance told me that NO media would be permitted in the dining room. Bizarre, I thought, since going all the way back to the glory days of Ray Bliss all of the media had been treated with courtesy. It was the sort of class that is not that apparent in today's climate.

The woman told me the media ban was ordered by the committee, and upon further questioning, I was told I would have to talk to Alex for further explanation. (Alex, it seems, was the committee). Crossing the lobby, I confronted Bryan Williams, the No.2 executive committee chairman under Arshinkoff. When I asked him what was going on, he shrugged and said sheepishly, "I just handle the accounts." Spotting Alex talking to candidates in the small room beyond Williams, I asked Williams to tell Alex that I would like to talk to him. "I really can't do that," Williams begged off.

A few minutes later, Arshinkoff burst from the room in a trot as I called out to him. With his arms extended above him, he shouted, "No media, No media" without breaking stride.

In more than four decades of covering politics hereabouts, I can't recall a more preposterous act by a party leader. I would only wonder what the hell those first-team candidates had to say to their dinner audience that the public shouldn't know about. But there's a lot of odd things going on in the Republican Party these days that in this instance borders on the secret lives of a lot of Walter Mittys. Apparently the state ticket guys are skittish about talking to even documented journalists outside of their familiar preserve. So I'll chalk it up as part of my learning experience during this abysmal election year.

But that's not really my beef. I'm upset that I had rushed through dinner with friends, put on my best pair of least-scuffed shoes, shaved and fished out a sport jacket that I hadn't worn in months to look as presentable as possible among a lot of spiffy guys in black suits.

Really, common courtesy would have told me ahead of time to stay home in a T-shirt and walking shorts and spared me the burden of getting all gussied up for one more self-absorbed Project Runway on a hot summer evening. Is that asking too much? I guess it is.

Murdock:A way to the candidate's heart

IN A DAY OF cash-and-carry politics, when former eBay boss Meg Whitman can boast that she has already spent $104 million of her own money in her Sothby's-style bid to become governor of California, a mere $1 million would hardly jiggle a piggy bank. But when media emperor Rupert Murdock's News Corporation tosses in that much for Republican gubernatorial candidates, you must wonder why they would not demand a lot more from the Bank of Mephistopheles for their souls. As we have seen, for the first time in history a powerful news conglomerate - particularly national TV - is openly aligned with a major party and is making its presence felt 24/7.

Of course, when approached by the NY Times about the deal, company spokesman Jack Horner came out of his corner to deny any connection between what the corporate owners do and what is presented on Fox News. asserting,
"There is a strict wall between business and editorial."
Cool. So we must conclude that it is strictly a seasonal coincidence that the news department reflects the company line across the board.

I can't let Horner off that easily. To him goes the the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award and it won't be a coincidence.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rand Paul: Rich people can solve drug problems

(Eighth in a series)

That's Rand Paul in the photo. By now most people have probably heard of him. He is a Kentucky veterinarian, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate and a bad joke on what's left of the political class. Paul should be an embarrassment for the GOP, but not that you would know it. After all, he is seeking the seat that will be vacated by Jim Bunning, a Republican and a former baseball pitcher who once threatened to sue his own party in a moment of sheer wackiness. Of late, Paul has been taking on the severe drug problem in his state by insisting that it can be rolled back by creating more rich people (cue the tape to where it talks about cutting taxes) . Do you think he's aware that some folks have gotten quite rich already, thank you, by pushing drugs?

GOP: People of color need not apply

DOES DEMOCRACY seem to be out-of-kilter when a major political party - the NSGOP (Not So Grand Old Party) - is counting on victories in the November elections by bashing three groups of color: Hispanics, Muslims and African-Americans, appealing to culturally and racially charged nativist voters. It's a shameful chapter in American history, but it could work.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meet John Kasich: 4 hours a month OSU lecturer

THERE WAS A letter to the editor in Sunday's Beacon Journal in which Bryan C. Williams, the executive vice chairman of the Summit County Republican Party executive committee, questioned whether Gov. Strickland, a Democrat, was fit to serve in the office. Among other things, he accused the guv of being a "hypocrite" and insisted that John Kasich would "do much better" if elected in November.

Well, I normally would ignore such official inbred partisanship from either side except this was a special case.

If Williams had fast forwarded to the BJ's Community Page, he might have had second thoughts - no, he probably wouldn't have! - when he played the hypocrite card.

There, plain enough, was a long piece recovered from the Dayton Daily News , that told of Kasich's particular ATM-style income that cost Ohio State University thousands and thousands of dollars with very little effort on his part other than to maybe buy a bigger wallet.

You need only to read the first two paragraphs by the paper's bureau chief, Laura A Bischoff , to find the real hypocrite in the room:
"As a candidate for governor, Republican John Kasich has called on colleges and universities to cut costs and force professors to teach more courses.

"Yet for seven years, Kasich served as a "presidential fellow" at his alma mater, Ohio State University, in a role that paid him the equivalent of $4,000 per campus visit." (OSU also paid Kasich's political friend $2,000 a visit as the candidate's aide.}
So for seven years, from the winter of 2002 to May 2,009, he picked up an easy $50,000 a year in hard-earned taxpayer money (a favorite term of the the tax cutters like Kasich) while his buddy got $20,000 - no questions asked by the university about what it was that Kaisch might be doing on its campus. Clue: He was a guest lecturer on several topics including finance and psychology while "serving as a panelist at banquets and forums." The Dayton News also noted that he once gave an ethics lecture to dental students.

Even Kasich admitted that he only worked on the campus four hours a month which, for all we know, might have included an appearance as Alfred Einstein.

But hold it right there. Richard Stoddard, President Gordon Gee's special assistant, defended the payments to Kasich, saying "we have a lot of positive feedback." Pro forma.

I should say. Kasich is a wonder. Always has been - even in the days when he chaired the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill and quietly worked up a plan that would hit the poor the hardest. David Hess, the Knight-Ridder reporter on the Hill at the time, managed to get a copy of it before it had become public knowledge and wrote a national story revealing its contents that appeared in many papers, including the Beacon Journal. Hess recalls that Kasich never talked to him after that.

But such additions to the Kasich profile - from Congress to Lehman Brothers to an honored spot on Fox News to OSU - begin to create a candidate who never knows that what goes around can come around. It would help if he would stop insisting on cutting back the cost of education as one who contributed to the red ink. You can fool some of the people some of the time........



Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Rosenberg-Plain Dealer mismatch: Who won?

WHEN MUSIC CRITIC Donald Rosenberg went to court two years ago against two of Cleveland's most powerful institutions - the Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Orchestra - to preserve his honor, he was faced with the impossible task of pushing a couple of huge boulders off a cliff. But after 16 years of covering the orchestra and winning respect as one of the nation's leading musical scholars, he had been demoted by his paper on grounds that he was much too critical of the orchestra's conductor, Franz Welser-Most. Don believed he had no choice but to challenge the decision. Having known him as a friend and colleague blessed with professional integrity, I could understand why he did it.

Well, he lost his case before a jury in Cleveland. The esteemed orchestra will move on. On the other hand, the paper will have a much harder time explaining its retreat into the fading professional judgments of newspapers today.

As you might expect, the story has become a cause celebre in classical music circles as critics from other major papers have come forward to defend the writer who was once chosen to write the definitive history of the Cleveland Orchestra - and didn't disappoint. But that was another time, when the orchestra's front office wasn't complaining about Rosenberg's work. (Will his wonderful book now be removed from the library at Severance Hall and there will now be no mention of him again by his detractors? Worse yet, will he now be barred from making passing references to his own book by name? You can see how messy this could get!)

Did the newspaper have a right to demote him? Of course it did. Did it have the right to go farther and fire him? Of course it did. (He's still on the staff covering things musical that are separated from the orchestral scene. But in Cleveland, the orchestra's the thing, rightfully enthroned above all other enterprises where music is played.)

Still, one can easily wonder how much effect the complaints from the orchestra's executive offices had on prompting the decision by the PD editors, who have naturally denied any dark collusion between the two.

The sobering reaction continues nationally. Martin Bernheimer, the music critic of the Financial Times who won a Pulitizer Prize while at the Lost Angeles Times, wasn't persuaded by the newspaper's denials. Writing in the FT this week, he referred to Rosenberg's report of Welser-Most's comments in a Swiss magazine in which the maestro demeaned the city of Cleveland - a column that served as the breaking point:
"...the establishment in Cleveland was embarrassed, and Rosenberg became persona emphatically non grata in crucially influential circles. The orchestra registered official complaints and withdrew customary press courtesies. In a move that shook journalistic and critical establishments throughout the U.S., Rosenberg's editor Susan Goldberg removed him from his primary beat, citing Rosenberg's 'closed mind.' He could no longer write about the Cleveland Orchestra."

Nor about any smaller groups - say, a string quartet - that included a member of the orchestra. Nor ever interview a member of the orchestra. Etc. Etc. Etc.

It was not only a harsh setback for a gifted critic, but also for all journalists as the newspapers of today stumble about frantically in a world of shrinking readership. As the papers' managers try to stop the bleeding, they also have become far more attentive to the institutions and advertisers who now stake a stronger, if nuanced, claim on what is, and what isn't news and what can be suffered and what can't.

At the same time, the arts are becoming the easier targets for cost-cutting. The Akron Beacon Journal, which once placed the highest standards on its succession of music critics, Rosenberg among them, today operates blithely without a critic. So the Akron Symphony Orchestra, as well as other music venues, must now perform without any hope off critical recognition. (Costs, I believe, are only part of the problem: the editors exhibit little sensitivity to the importance of the performing arts in the community the paper serves. Otherwise they would give priority to finding an inexpensive way to offer reviews.)

In Rosenberg's case, although the PD would never concede its dented reputation as an unflinching voice of modern American journalism - even the J-word has less currency today - I believe that it lost more than Rosenberg ever will.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some literacy tests may be harder than others...

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: From Harper's Magazine:

Chance that a new Afghan police recruit knows how to read: 1 in 10.

New rule: If you don't have to debate, don't.

IT'S BEGINNING TO appear that Ohio's Republican candidates are so confident of victory in November that they are reserving their presence for the friendliest of partisan audiences. A case in point is Mike DeWine's decision to reject an invitation from the Bliss Institute and Akron Press Club to debate Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray. You'd think that a former U.S. senator, lawyer and seasoned GOP soldier would not hesitate to cast himself before a mixed audience, no matter his opponent. But then, who is more confident than DeWine of returning to office under the radar from his imposed retirement after his loss to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2006?

On another GOP front, Tom Ganley's 13th District congressional campaign manager now says no decision will be made on a similar Press Club/Bliss invitation until at least the end of August. By then, of course, program dates should be filled for the hosts. As one who spent years as the Press Club's program chairman before stepping aside two years ago in merciful relief, I always interpreted these long delays as a "Thanks, but no thanks."

And speaking of confidence these days, there's Ganley's campaign manager, Jeff Longstreth. "We're just positioning ourselves to win this." he cheerily told me on the phone . "And right now we're in such good position today that I wish the election was tomorrow."(That projection against Ganley's campaign opponent, Rep. Betty Sutton, does seem a trifle euphoric at this moment, even with Ganley's millions that will be funneled into TV ads. But one of the essentials of a campaign manager is to be euphoric.)

One long-held theory is that the only candidates who accept invitations to debate are those who are running second or worse. The late congressman from Akron, John Seiberling, dashed that theory by accepting all comers even though he was heading for another landslide victory. But Seiberling stubbornly believed in the public's right to know about the candidates who sought their votes, no matter the probable outcome on Election Day. Obviously times have changed for some of today's candidates. And not for the better when a flood of television hyper-ads are created to make a stronger case for you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Schlafly vs. Einstein: Is there no end to conspiracy?

ALBERT EINSTEIN, who suffered many indignities from the anti-semitic crowd of his day, is taking a hit from a voice on the right: Andy Schlafly, the son of right-wing icon Phyllis Schlafly. Andy, who runs a website called Conservapedia and spends a lot of time complaining that the Bible is being distorted by liberals and should be revised conservative-style, contends that Einstein's theory of relativity is actually a liberal Trojan horse bearing nasty consequences for those who believe it. Or as he says with great profundity: The theory "is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world."

I don't know about you, but I make no claim about the deeper truths of Einstein's theory so I doubt that it would have any bearing at all on how I view the world. Still Schlafly sees a conspiracy in it somewhere. I would be quite surprised, however, that anybody would risk bringing it up in casual conversation at the next conservative ox-roast.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DeWine: A candidate who enjoys his non-debate privacy

MIKE DEWINE - you remember him, former U.S. senator who was trounced by Sen. Sherrod Brown?- apparently has a new theory about confronting his opponent in this year's race for Ohio attorney general: You can run, and you can hide.
That was the gist of a report in the Plain Dealer that DeWine has turned down invitations to debate Ohio AG Richard Cordray at the Cleveland City Club, the Bliss Institute and its program partner, the Akron Press Club.

The DeWine team would consider these comments unfair. After all, they maintain , he agreed to "debate" Cordray at Lakeland Community College, a rather controlled Q&A with no audience and a couple of news people who ask each a set of questions without the candidates responding to each other. Laura Kessler, the managing editor of the Lake Country News-Herald summed up the sterile event this way: "It isn't a debate of any kind. We invited all of the candidates and we ask them all the same questions. It's not a debate. They don't talk to one another unless they happen to turn and talk to each other." In other words, she says, "There's very little interaction." ("In case you are are still interested in this phantom exposure of DeWine's views, that exercise will be televised later on the college's public access channel.

His rejection of debates runs counter to the way it usually works when a challenger demands to debate the incumbent. But I'm told this is the new world of politics.

Other than his lofty promise to Ohio's voters shortly after his nomination that his first noble act as AG will be to repeal the new health care law, we haven't heard much of interest from him. Just as well, DeWine is not the liveliest ostrich in the sands. (I remember a time when I tried to interview him for a half-hour TV program and ran out of questions in the first 10 minutes as he peppered me with responses that were stoically quite brief. He wasn't the deer in the headlights but rather the one under the bus.")

And he wants to be Ohio's vibrant next attorney general. Anything good on TV tonight?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Headlining a victory doesn't make it so

NO, THAT's not a satirical knockoff of a Newsweek cover by an anti-war graphics artist at Comedy Central. It's the real thing that was published back in the March 8 issue. It seemed so blatantly optimistic at the time that I saved it as reminder of the cheerleading that has been going on in the national media ever since George Bush escorted them into the Iraq invasion.

You'll notice that the Newsweek editors didn't hesitate to adorn the cover with the spurious Bush "victory" on the aircraft carrier, one of the biggest theatrical props since the DeMille days. As I watched that fiasco I could only wonder why they had not also rented some of Aida's elephants as a subliminal way of boasting of another Bush triumph.

Democratic Iraq?

That would only make sense to the corrupt politicians on the ground over there who have yet to figure out how to run the place without giving up some of their U.S. largesse. The "government" has been deadlocked ever since the last elections (scarily like the worsening conditions here - which likely will grow worse after the November elections), frequent bombings and the absence of electrical power in Baghdad for nearly 20 hours a day in searing summer heat. A New York Times reporter on the streets told of polluted drinking water, trash strewn streets, blackouts, unsafe hospitals and still-shattered buildings destroyed by insurgents and American bombings.

For a more authentic comment on the democracy we created with nearly a trillion dollars, hear what Haitham Farhan cynically told the Times as he stood in his shop without electricity:
"Democracy didn't bring us anything. Democracy brought us a can of Coke and a beer."
So now president Obama is removing U.S. troops from Iraq with many of them destined for another losing cause, Afghanistan. Like his predecessors, Obama has trapped himself in the belief that there is something to win in that part of the world even as internal reports tell him otherwise, costing us more and more in lives while strangling the treasury. What is it about American presidents, anyway, that they can't escape the grasp of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about, a merger that prefers hawks to eagles?

Lyndon Johnson, who was responsible for so many progressive social programs, was dogged by Vietnam, and eventualy gave up any notion of seeking a second term. Obama, who crashed though an eternity of indifference or obstruction to preside over health care, Wall Street reforms and many other sorely needed programs, needs to have a copy of the final LBJ years on his desk. Obama can't win in Afghanistan because despite the assurances of the military and right-wing chorus, nobody has yet given us a clue to what winning really means.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The trend: "Sorry, will an apology do?"

HAVE YOU NOTICED how many remorseful individuals are offering apologies these days before going quietly to their rooms? The latest to be reported came from Gregg Steinhafel, the chairman, CEO and president of Target. Addressing the swift reaction from pro-gay rights activists to his company's contribution of $150,000 to an outfit that supports the anti-gay marriage gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, Steinhafel apologized to gays and lesbians for a company decision that "affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry." (Doesn't a big retailer like Target have a PR person on staff to anticipate what the boss said he didn't anticipate?

Meantime, Irvin Good Jr., the owner of Goodtime Amusements, apologized for a "shooter game" at a carnival in Pennsylvania, in which the target was unmistakably President Obama. Good said it wasn't Barack, shut it down anyway and...apologized.

That NAACP, Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Bill O"Reilly all apologized to Shirley Sherrod - after she was fired.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas apologized to BP for what he considered to be a shakedown by the Feds.

Overseas, Pope Benedict apologized to the Irish families who were victims of sex abuse by priests.

Tony Blair apologized for the Irish potato famine.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian big-shot, apologized to Jews for saying that Mussolini never killed anyone. He also demanded an apology from his wife Veronica for telling newspapers that she wanted a divorce. Sorry, Silvio. No chance of that.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Change the 14th Amendment? Just another scam

IN CASE YOU HAVE been trying to dodge the thunderbolts from Fox and other Olympian gods, there's one quaking burst that you can discount as an appetite killer. It's the ridiculous effort by some congressmen and their allies who should know better (but seldom do these days) to rewrite the 14th Amendment guaranteeing birthrights. Indeed, it's a scam by Republicans planning a new Gingrich-type Contract with America after they sweep the November elections.

In this instance, the dirty work is being done by a veteran team of "mainstream" GOP plaintiffs that includes Sens. McCain (will he ever get over his humiliating defeat in 2008?) and his over-the-shoulder buddy, Lindsey Graham, as well as Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, a pathetic soul who will go down in history with far less grandeur than Colonel Sanders' fried chicken.

For good reason, none of them is talking about the geological time frame for an amendment. First, as these three amigos are saying they must have hearings, and we all know how those things go. Then it must pass both houses with a two-thirds vote, which in these times would
be akin to pushing the Queen Mary up Mt. Everest.

Then the proposed amendment would have to work its way through state legislatures for
approval while the locals are busy trying to figure out how to deal with such minor distractions as budgetary holes.

Although the Supreme Court once ruled that all of this nonsense must be completed within a "reasonable time", anybody want to define reasonable?

Folks, fools are playing us for fools. The move is aimed strictly at you-know-who with various shades of skin color other than pasty white. (Not even Boehner favors that color.) But I would bet my office computer and treasured old Steelers towel that we will have a Hispanic president long before this ploy reaches the GOP's promised land.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From Ardi to today's knuckle-walkers

I'VE JUST finished reading National Geographic's report on the discovery in Ethiopia of Ardi, the pre-historic hominid who will be, um, around 4.4 million years old on her next birthday. The patient research by Owen Lovejoy, a comparative anatomist at Kent State University, contributed greatly to the findings of the dig that pushed back the evolutionary calendar for upright creatures another million or so years. Now, I wonder if we can spare a few moments for some devolutionary research to determine why so many politicians with wacky thoughts have regressed to walking around on their knuckles these days on their way to the November elections.

An orchid for Fairlawn; an onion for Voinovich

WE DON'T hear much from Sen. Voinovich until it's time for him to retreat to the Party of No's talking points. He has now announced that he will vote against the nomination of Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court. His reason: He doesn't know how she will vote on matters before the court. Hmmm....Is that a condition that we should always know in advance before the court votes? Or should every case be decided on its merits, which is happening less frequently every day under the reign of Justice Roberts? So here's another dent in the Voinovich armor of being a political "moderate." At any rate, we at least know how he will vote.

A few words of praise for the voters of Fairlawn, my town of residency. While tax levies for schools were being voted down everywhere yesterday, Fairlawn resisted the trend and supported an increase in taxes to support a great school system. Imagine that. Will I have to dig deeper to pay for it? Of course. But compared with the critical importance of serving the needs of education, which are so apparent these days, it's worth the added burden.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sharron Angle: Lemmings hate the media

(Seventh in a series)

That's Sharron Angle in the photo. She is the Republican Senatorial candidate in Nevada. She is the Tea Party favorite. She is a disaster waiting to be elected. Ms. Angle does not like the mainstream media. She explained to Fox News, which she likes very much, that she only wants the press to ask her questions that she wants to answer. Way to go, Sharron! That's trouble for the mainstream media unless they watch Fox News to learn what questions she wants to answer. She answers all of Fox's questions. Even the easy ones because Fox never offends its lemmings. Or as George Bush once said in response to a reporter's question: " I would have to ask the questions...I haven't had a chance to ask the questioners the question they've been questioning." (UPDATE: She just fired her campaign's communications director. But that's another story - Or is it?)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Three Republicans break ranks on Bush tax cuts

WHAT IN THE WORLD is going on here? It's not often that Republicans break ranks from their talking points oracles. But it is happening, folks, in the debate over exending the Bush tax cuts that have already siphoned more than $2.5 trillion (that's with a "tr") from the treasury with 52 pct. of the benefits going to the richest 5 pct. of our hard-working board room taxpayers.

Let's begin with Alan Greenspan, the craggy gravel-voiced former Fed chairman who told the Meet the Press audience that extending the cuts would be, well.. disastrous. Coming from a power peddler who once defended that Bush giveaway, that would border on heresy if not a common political flip flop. In short, Greenspan now insists the deficit cannot take a major hit like that.

Then there is House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, the Virginia Rrepublican just half a shadow behind John Boehner, who said he always likes the sound of tax cuts, but admitted that "Certainly you're a going to dig the hole deeper" into the deficit.

Now comes David Stockman, Reagan's budget director, who wrote in the New York Times:"If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing." So there!

On the other hand, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader, went into denial with second-grade arithmetic even before the other guys showed up. "There's no evidence whatsoever " he soared, " that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy."

With that lofty misstatement, maybe we can get him to give us the solution to pi.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Even body armor might not spare this contractor

FOR SOME CHOICE summer reading, here's a vote for the published accounts of a trial on Long Island in which a former defense contractor has been accused of so many bizarre personal expenses that they could qualify for something much greater than garden variety greed. The defendant's name is David H. Brooks, described by the New York Times as the former chief executive and chairman of DHB Industries, a body-armor company "enriched by United States military contracts."

Well, yes, and by the looks of things, Brooks didn't too badly for himself, either.

In fairness, Brooks, 55, had his moments as a family man. Among his alleged self-serving payouts from the company till were said to be such things as a $100,000 gold belt buckle and $300,000 in writing pens! But according to the prosecutor, Brooks, who left the company in 2006, staged a a multimillion-dollar bat mitzvah party for his daughter, purchased pornographic videos for his son, plastic surgery for his wife, a burial plot for his mother, prostitutes for his employes and board members.. Oh, he's also accused of a $190 million stock fraud scheme that inflated the value of the company stock just before he sold his shares in 2004. Altogether he's accused of expensing $6 million for his personal needs.

The Times reported that Brooks' lawyers saw nothing amiss in hiring prostitutes on the company dole. They called it a legitimate business expense "if Mr. Brooks thought such services could motivate his employes and make them more productive." That's one way of putting it. But apparently it wasn't enough to keep the company effectively amused. It changed its name to Point Blank Solutions, went to Florida this year and declared bankruptcy.

LeBrowns replacing LeBron on the lake?

NOW THAT LeBron is GONE, the media on the lake have found an emergency replacement to fill up the front page, as it did in today's Plain Dealer re the Browns' first practice session. The huge headline over a photo, story and Pluto column was "Plenty of excitement, and it's only first day". Right. May we now refer to the team as the LeBrowns?