Friday, December 31, 2010

Carlson: A one-man death panel for Vick

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Arshinkoff, Robart gang up on Coughlin

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

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

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

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

Alas. In some cases, he was.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gay casualties in war: A fact of death

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buz Lukens: when the cheering stopped

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

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

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

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

As writer Francis Wilkinson so keenly noted in the bio:

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

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Obama has a better month than the media doomsayers

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

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

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

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

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

Kasich: A holiday scolding by the Plain Dealer

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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Risch:Stolen Humvees for nuclear arms treaty

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

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hal(l)ey's comet takes a hit

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

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

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

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

Problem solved. Or maybe not.

Kasich to reporters: Drop dead

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 20, 2010

Sen./Rep. Grendell's staunch conservative values

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

Survey: The Fox Trot to bad information

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

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

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

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

Meantime, I report; you decide.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An earmark is an earmark is an earmark

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are these the cries of the wilderness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mayor Plusquellic: Make it four more years!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another GOP win in gamesmanship

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

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More bad news re Planet Kasich

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

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

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

When change means some of the same old lobbyists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mighty Luke has just struck out

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

Political Q&A...

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

Next question.

The rascals haven't abandoned their old ways

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The British have a new princely diversion

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hubris, thy name is Mitch McConnell

(Twelfth of a series)

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

Saturday, December 4, 2010

For some Texas Republicans Jews need not apply

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How the wealthy try to dwarf a party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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