Friday, April 29, 2011

When women and blacks are The Others

THERE'S BEEN ANOTHER Jon Kyl moment, this one in the Oklahoma legislature. (To refresh: It was Sen. Kyl who said that his numbers accusing Planned Parenthood of engaging in abortions 90 pct of the time were not meant to be factual.) Now, another Republican has stepped forward to apologize for saying something she didn't mean about women and African-Americans. Her comments would be nothing more than a micro-blip on the rest of the world's screens. But she deserves to be called out anyway as a sort of twisted microcosm of the ugly merger of religion and politics by the fringe's practitioners.

I'm referring to Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern, who, rather than whisper her virulent biases to her fellow travelers, went on to the legislature's floor to declare that women and blacks don't work as hard as white men and shouldn't expect to be paid equally. It spilled out during a debate on affirmative action that led her to share her expertise on stunted work habits by saying she knew "a lot of people of color who didn't study hard" because they knew " the government would take care of them."

In the case of women, she implied that they could expect their husbands to take care of them.

Well, people, I don't need to tell you that something awful hit the fan, which led her to apologize, saying, never mind, she didn't didn't really mean that to be factual. Let her explain: "It came out wrong."

Based on her track record, that's probably not factual, either. Driven by religious fervor, she was involved in a crusade called "Oklahoma Citizens Proclamation for Morality,''' which scandalized gays because the Bible tells her so.

It's always a time to pause before picking on little people like Sally Kern. But what she says is shared by a lot more folks than anyone can guess. The fringe Christians , according to the polls, make up a large segment of the Tea Party , which now controls the Republican Party. Or as Chris Matthews aptly describes it: "The party with the fringe on top."

As for Sally Kerry and Jon Kyl, it's altogether possible they've been spending too much time taking refuge in Peter the Great, who was once heard to complain about his erring subjects: "They understand everything erroneously!"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Santorum on the campaign run - backward

CAN ANYONE EXPLAIN - in rational terms - what Rick Santorum is doing in his possible candidacy for the presidency? His message casts him as a Republican super-hawk, super-patriot, super-family man, super-holiness and super-critic of the man in the Oval Office. He is also the super-wholesome fellow who lost his U.S. Senate seat in 2006 by 18 percentage points after Pennsylvania voters grew tired of his haloed gibberish. His latest assaults on Barack Obama accuses the president of not liking America and being totally adrift in foreign policy. He's also berating Planned Parenthood for practicing "racial eugenics". ( So much of the blather on the political right is inspired by racism, don't you think?) He will be going to New Hampshire again and again to make his case up there - and maybe lose it in the same breath. What makes him do it against such impossible odds? As my uncle George used to respond to my silly childhood questions, "Damned if I know."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Note to Donald Trump: You're fired!

JUST AS THE national media were preparing to spend the morning dealing with such less compelling issues as tornadoes, Libya and possibly jobs, President Obama released his birth certificate to put an end to all of the silliness that is the fringe's stock-in-trade. It was the only juicy story of the day. Not that the birthers will give up so easily over Obama's big Gotcha Moment. For Donald Trump, the self-appointed Grand Odd Peacock (GOP) of the Republican Party, it was an occasion for him to hold another press conference and take credit for forcing the president's hand.

Trump is nothing if he is not parading his alleged political virtues in states that he may seek out in a presidential campaign. One never expects humility from the puffy guy and he lived up to his narcissistic billing by telling reporters, "Today I'm very prond of myself, because I've accomplished something that no one else has been able to accomplish." But before he entirely closes the case, he says he wants to first look at the document.

Meantime, he's on to Chapter Two in his pursuit of Oval Office scandal. He wants to see the transcripts of Obama's college records. Since half of the gullible Republicans still believes that Obama is not an American, it won't take much for Trump to sell the idea that Obama may have even flunked out of elementary school on his fast track to Harvard. Shouldn't the Republican front office, whatever and wherever it is these days, take The Donald aside and tell him:

"Trump, you're fired!!!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kasich trumpeting through broken porcelain

I'M AWARE THAT it can sound like a scold, but when you have a governor who scuffs ahead as an elephant in a china shop, it's hard to avoid noticing his astonishing trail of breakage. The latest report of John Kasich's off-key trumpeting arrives from Marc Kovac, a Dix newspapers bureau chief in Columbus, whose column describes a strange Kasich press conference that left - figuratively at least - more broken porcelain on the floor.

We must first back up to the bows that the governor has been taking to discourage the Bob Evans restaurants' headquarters in Columbus from moving out of the state. The administration offered the sausage, gravy and biscuits king $8 million in incentives to move 20 miles up the road to New Albany. The Bob Evans Story has now become an article of faith for Republicans like House Speaker Bill Batchelder to offer up at town meetings as a clear example of how Kasich is dutifully creating jobs. (Many questions have been raised about whether the restaurateur had not already decided before the state deal to move to New Albany, which is a lot closer to Bob Evans CEO Steve Davis' home. )

But back to the china shop. Kovac reported that during another press conference, Kasich again touted the upside of his attack on public unions and used the Bob Evans model to justify his attempt to reform collective bargaining by telling reporters:
"When I go to Bob Evans and I see a woman working in there who doesn't have any pension and I don't even know if she has health benefits and if she does they're shabby at best...We're asking public workers to do a little bit more."
Or less! Did he really mean to take down his friends at Bob Evans by talking about the shabbiness of working conditions there? Do the restaurant folks consider that as a compliment? Should all public union workers be treated shabbily? Does the governor aspire to the lowest common denominator in working conditions. Will he encourage all of us to start leaving bigger tips for public workers? Will he clean up the broken porcelain by hiring more teachers as entry level janitors?

Kasich is a veteran politician who earned his bread on Wall Street before moving into the Statehouse. Shouldn't he be in better control of his alleged thoughts. At least he didn't call the restaurant worker an idiot for accepting such terrible conditions.

PS: When asked whether he considered having state officials and lawmakers take pay cuts, Kasich said quite the contrary, we'll be giving them raises. You need good people.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The fiery Mississippi governor flames out

HALEY BARBOUR, the Mississippi governor, says he won't run for president because he doesn't have the necessary "fire" in his belly. (Besides his wife has said she would be "horrified" if he decided to seek the Republican nomination.)

Maybe no fire. But it appears to me that there's something going on inside his waistline. .

Let's see: His retreat has shrunk the Republican field to ---

But who's counting?

Mike DeWine: Attorney general - and big investor

IT'S NOT UNCOMMON for wealthy politicians to pile up more than enough investments to reach the top shelf of a well-stocked pantry. Still, when the the pol is Mike DeWine, the mega-rich Ohio attorney general who campaigned to look after the little guy by working to rid all of us of the new health care law, it would be fair to wonder where his next meal might be coming from. That's especially the case in questioning his holdings in companies that could be subjected to the scrutiny of the AG's office.

The Plain Dealer's Sheryl Harris explored DeWine's pantry in detail in a revealing Sunday piece that raised red flags about DeWine's public job and his private stocks. She wrote:
"Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will find it tough to do his job without tripping over his stock portfolio. DeWine invests in hundreds of companies - including major retailers, energy companies, drug makers and wireless providers - whose business practices could come under scrutiny from the attorney general's office."
Hundreds? Hundreds.

Harris reported that some of the companies have already had problems with the AG's office in the pre-DeWine days. That group includes Novartis, the drug maker that paid Ohio and other states $422 million after being accused of "improperly marketing drugs and paying kickbacks to doctors."

The consequence of a lawsuit against a big company is that it could lower the value of the stock.
"By holding stock in the very types of companies his office investigates," Harris wrote, "DeWine creates a stiuation in which he stands to make or lose money, depending on the actions of his office."

The situation sounded serious enough until DeWine shrugged it off by insisting that he saw no appearance of conflict of interest and had no mind to sell the stocks. Problem solved. Still, I hope his lawyers can make a better case of persuading a judge or jury than his airy dismissal of critics of his own behavior in his new job. For him, it obviously wasn't too hot in the pantry.

And while we're at it: The PD also reports that Rocky River, which showered John Kasich with 56 pct. of the vote in the November election, is unhappily faced with a whopping 79 pct. cut in public school funding in the governor's proposed budget. Once again we are reminded that the voters often get the kind of government that they deserve.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

John Mc Cain: Our man in the streets of Benghazi

AM I MISTAKEN, or was that a stern-faced Sen. John McCain doing his patented presidential strut with rebel leaders in Benghazi? It made all of the TV stations and newspapers. What an opportunity for McCain to (1) show everybody back home that he is a watchful foreign policy expert in troubled lands and (2)blast President Obama for not waging an all-out war on Khadafi. Since his parading around in Libya's rebel-held city could not get him on any ballot as Libya's next president, the message was largely for domestic consumption in the USA and should enable him to extend his vast lead over all others as a Sunday morning talk show guest.

Surely he cannot be thinking that maybe, just maybe, with all of the pallor afflicting the current Republican crop of presidential candidates that he might, just, I cannot bring myself to say it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Say hello to, eh. Gary Johnson, prez candidate

JUST READ THAT Gary Johnson has announced his candidacy for president. Whooo. Gary Johnson? No, not the Gary Johnson who is your cousin Mamie's mailman, although it couldn't hurt. This one is the former governor of New Mexico. He says he's qualified. Besides, he needs a good job like a lot of other people these days. His decision to join the crowded field leaves only you and me and Joe the Plumber who haven't entered the race, and there's still time for Joe.

The Plain Dealer's front page spread on school vouchers and charter schools ("Kasich championing school choice") contained not a word about the ongoing court case in Columbus against Ohio charter King David Brennan's for-profit White Hat Management. The boards of ten charter schools under White Hat's management have accused the company of refusing to account for $230 million in state money that has been poured into White Hat since 20o8. In an earlier article by ProPublica, White Hat lawyer Charles Saxbe defended the company's secrecy about where the money goes, insisting that when it arrives from the state, it becomes private money for White Hat. There's a way to explain everything, even where it explains nothing. So let the good times roll!

How generous of the airlines. Their new rules will refund to the passenger the baggage fees if baggage is lost. Once when Pan-Am separated us from our luggage in a flight to Athens, Greece, the company blamed it on Olympic Airlines and said, "We're outta here." Not a dime. The luggage eventually turned up in Frankfurt, Germany, where it had remained for weeks without a single Greek having ever laid a hand on it. That's my sad story. I'm sure you have one, too.

From Harper's Index:
Minimum number of birds that die from crashing into New York City windows each year: 100,000

Date on which Glenn Beck hypothesized that an attempted assassination of Sarah Palin "could bring the republic down": 1/10/11

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An ugly chimp photo, birthers unite

The California Republican committeewoman who emailed this disgusting photo to some GOP friends has apologized, describing herself as an "imperfect Christian lady who tries her best to live a Christ-like honoring life".

With some of Marilyn Davenport's critics howling for her to resign, a few of her allies have rushed to her defense. They argue she's not like the sort of person now accused of being a racist. One , Orange County State Rep. Tim Whiteacre. a right-wing conservative himself (aren't they all in Orange County?) described Davenport as a "petite grandmother originally from Kansas" who spent some of her time teaching Bible study classes.

Nice try, defenders of the faith. But Davenport, a Tea Party activist, did take the time to forward the email to others who might find it as humorous she did. The photo's caption said, 'Now you know why - no birth certificate."

That settles the argument for me. If not, as they claim, a racist, at least a birther - the inspired cover story for racists. Obama is photo-shopped in the lap of chimpanzees (Get it?). Why would she send it to friends without believing the hoax is true. C'mon, you imperfect Christians!

Davenport should realize that she's not, as Alice once remarked to Toto, in Kansas anymore. These days words travel in a blink, and the perp must be held accountable. Even so, she says she will spend some time hunting down the "cowardly person" who leaked the picture to the media. That part I find bizarrely funny.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mandel: Off and running - again and again etc.

WHAT'S THIS THAT we're hearing about Josh Mandel, the young Lyndhurst Republican who at 33 has already held more positions than an Indians' utility player? Or, in baseball lingo, "much traveled".

Mandel is one of those phenoms - "young powerhouses" according to his gathering conservative friends - who was washed into the Ohio treasurer's office by the GOP tidal wave only last November. In political time, that could easily have been a a century ago for a person of his agility. .
Pols with his ambitious itinerary don't stay put for long. Upon election as treasurer he had repeatedly assured the voters that he would at least hang around for the full four- year term in the job that would likely bore a fellow with his wealth and curiosity. But now, little more than three months into the job, he has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for the Senate against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Earlier, he had been a Lyndhurst city councilman and then state representative. The latter job, which gave him little time to serve with distinction (a couple of bills that he introduced got nowhere, I'm told ). Thrilled by his hustle, his supporters boast that Mandel is "tested and trusted," Indeed, he has such an impressive political work ethic, they want you to know, that in his campaign for in the legislature, he "knocked on 19,679 doors and wore out three pairs of shoes listening to citizens." Sorry, there's no way I can challenge the doors figure.

I do have to raise the question of why his campaign ads for treasurer suggested that his opponent, Kevin Boyce, an African American, was linked to a mosque! As some have asked, what would have been the consequence if Boyce's ads had linked Mandel to a synagogue?

Mandel has been silent on SB5, explaining that his work as state treasurer has denied him an opportunity to know more about the bill. I seldom offer help for conservative Republicans, but in his case I would at least remind him that the union-busting bill has been thoroughly parsed in all of the papers and maybe even on Sesame Street. Good grief!

Kasich: My flights are important for the economy

APPARENTLY then-candidate John Kasich's complaints about Gov. Ted Strickland's use of state airplanes was nothing more than , um, flights of fancy.

The Dayton Daily News reports that Kasich, as governor, has spent as much taxpayer money on personal air travel in his first three months as Strickland did in his first 13 months in office: $31,849. Blame it on Kasich's learning experience in running the state, or as he explained:

"There is no doubt about it: I can't get to all these places if I'm not able to fly." He said it was important in building a broader economic base in Ohio to be in "multiple places at the same time." Problem solved.

It looks like the Guv is not going let any issue arise that he won't simply explain away as his bold efforts to create jobs. That's right out of the late Jim Rhodes playbook for a better Buckeye Tomorrow. Rhodes launched into his Jobs&Progress spiel so often that one soon could see everyone around him lip-syncing even the commas and exclamation points. Welcome to the past.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Birthers: Presidential politics (minus) 101

When the new media sensation Donald Trump, straining to be a presidential player, and the other birthers continue to make jackasses of themselves with the whole world watching, we can only respond:
Is that all you got?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jack Gilligan at 90: The Tribute to a special person

THE GILLIGAN FAMILY assembled a few nights ago to honor John Joyce Gilligan on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Although most of the nearly 200 who showed up at the Renaissance Hotel in Columbus were related to him only in reverential memories of their times with the former Ohio Democratic governor, it was indeed a family affair. The warm seamless camaraderie was real, the brief after- dinner talks from the podium were from the heart and the anecdotal references to the man who referred to himself as a "banana-nosed Irishman" were restorative for those us who have soured beyond hope on the current Ohio governor.

The crowd included three previous governors - Dick Celeste and Ted Strickland and Gilligan's daughter, Kathleen Sebelius, twice Democratic governor of the religiously Republican state of Kansas and now Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama cabinet.

None of this should in any way suggest that we are talking about another Frank Skeffington here, Edwin O'Connor's Old Sod Boston mayor who was given a dubious place in ward-heeling political history in The Last Hurrah. Gilligan never disguised the genetic Irish humor that was a delight (and occasional frustration!) for his staff and for reporters who were paid to report his days at the Statehouse, this writer included. But we were deceived by his airy manner. He was deadly serious about what he wanted to accomplish as the state's chief executive for Ohioans.

Gilligan was a humane person, professorially educated faculty man and possessed of enormous courage, who believed that people besides himself counted. As a naval officer in WW2 his heroism earned him a Silver Star. As a Cincinnati councilman, he walked the streets during the rioting to defend innocent blacks returning from their jobs who were set upon by police. And as a gubernatorial candidate in 1970, he promised to support a state income tax to pay for the mounting bills. For the more traditional pols, he was no more than an inch from stepping off a very steep cliff. Still, the legislature figured it was the best route to go and enacted it. The Republican lawmakers who voted for it were far more enlightened then, don't you think?

One by one, the folks who stepped up to the microphone to pay homage to the "father of the state income tax" saluted his daring and his legacy of honest leadership. Jim Friedman, the governor's chief of staff, set the casual tone as the emcee by telling the folks to kick off their shoes, lean back and enjoy the tributes. And the credits rolled on with a dedication to the income tax. It was different. When, after all, was the last time that you heard anybody praised for whipping up any kind of tax? One speaker went so far as to mention that the state's current hapless antitax governor is able to channel $16 billion from the income tax into state services. In fact, all of Kasich's boastful talk about phasing out the tax has soon disappeared from his empty rhetoric.

It was a a reunion of sincere pleasantries and wistfulness over the one-term governor who was removed from office in 1974 by the margin of a handful of votes with the return of Jim Rhodes, a man of half of Gilligan's intellect but blessed by down-home basic political skills. When Gilligan wasn't looking, his inept campaign staff literally handed the election to Rhodes, whose safe conduct through the campaign was superbly handled by a TV ad agency that saw little reason to expose the often unintelligible Rhodes in their rips at Gilligan. (The word of the day was "put the message in the ads and hide the candidate (the rough-cut Rhodes) in the basement."

Frank Skeffington was among the missing at the birthday party. Instead, Gilligan, one of the great but unappreciated public servants that I witnessed for years as a political writer, was there instead, his mobility slowed by age but his magnetism reaching across the years to the throng in the big dining room who wanted to share the privilege of being in his midst one more time. In that sense, it was hardly his last hurrah. Let's hope not.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kaisch & Rushbo: From one throne to another

"I wonder what the king is doing tonight" - From Camelot

WELL, I CAN tell you what King Kasich was doing shortly after he announced his state budget! He was hanging out with his buddy, Rush Limbaugh.

The Columbus Dispatch reported on Friday that the governor was interviewed by the right-wing Round Man on the latter's radio show, thus affording Kasich an opportunity to enter his comfort zone where he could lament that a lot of people don't like him anymore because of his heroic effort to create better lives for later generations of Ohioans. How entirely inspirational for others who might be bearing the same burdens with their constituents.

According to the Dispatch report, Kasich told Limbaugh that he wanted to "heal the divisions" arising from his bold initiatives on collective bargaining and other issues.
"But Kasich," the paper said, "also discussed his resolve, given the unpopularity of portions of his agenda with some groups. He blasted President Barack Obama for his approach to cutting the federal budget deficit and reminisced about his days in Congress and as a Fox TV analyst.

"Limbaugh's praise for Kasich's performance as governor was effusive. Limbaugh encouraged Kasich to stay the course amid opposition from Democrats."
Kasich got mushy at times, invoking his mother as a source of his strength when the whole world seems to be against him. He also credited his work with Fox News for making him a "better communicator". He added:
"I've just got to have the right motives. It cannot be about John Kasich. This has to be about Ohio and, as long as that's the case, I'm going to do fine."
But should we really feel that good about anything in Buckeyeland knowing that Rushbo is one of his go-to guys?

And whenever he says it's not about him, but about Ohio, beware. It's about him. Always has been.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Overheated Arizona lawmakers: the real cut-ups

JUST WHEN YOU think the birther crowd can't provide us with more pratfall comedy, along comes the Arizona legislature with a new test for one's birthplace when all else fails: circumcision. (Stay with me on this. I'm not making it up.) The lawmakers down in the desert sun this week added that infant event to the clues that will validate a presidential candidate if he doesn't happen to have a certified birth certificate. That, of course, will send snoopers through hospital records to find you-know-what.

Can you imagine what the TV anchors will be reporting for the breaking news hour?
"Hospital records today verified that Candidate XYZ was circumcised on March 21, xxxx. His office issued a statement saying the discovery should put to rest his rivals' suspicions that he had violated ancient religious laws and could ably carry out his duties as a bona fide American president."
But shouldn't male candidates be afforded equal proection under the law that, for obvious reasons, would not be a peekaboo burden for female candidates? Probably. But you must understand that this didn't occur to the deep thinkers in the Arizona legislature after a day in the Arizona desert. Besides, as Rep. Carl Seel of Phoenix, who introduced the law, assured us, the bill had nothing to do about the hoopla over President Obama's birthplace. "This bill," he purred, " is about the integrity of our elections. " But being of the same political class as Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, one wonders whether he really meant that to be a factual statement.

OK, you want to play silly? How about an IQ test for any Arizona male who runs for office. It might show that only the lowest third of that crowd got elected this time. o

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And now, here comes media star Paul Ryan

NOW THAT Rep. Paul Ryan has become the latest meteor in the Republican universe, it might be useful to know a little more about his political profile than simply that he wants to eliminate the federal deficit by doing such things as eventually fully privatizing Medicare for people now under 55. The private sector, of course, has long been the comfort zone of Republicans and the great benefactor of conservatives running for public office. Hooray for the big health insurance companies good work in their self interest.

So who is this Ryan fellow from Wisconsin ? . You may be surprised to know that for a lawmaker who disdains government assistance, he enjoyed some of it himself. He was only 16 when his father died, but he received his dad's Social Security until he was 18. According to his on-line bio, he used the benefits for "his education at Miami University of Ohio." In their eagerness to starve the government beast, how soon they forget. And he's not the only hypocrite in the Capitol Hill crowd.

The remainder of his profile fits the perfect conservative profile, from a 100 pct. voting record with the National Right to Life committee to an "A" rating from the National Rifle Assn. The bio offers no clue on what he thinks about President Obama's birthplace. But there's still time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

David Wilhelm: A call for aggressive Democrats

DAVID WILHELM IS a veteran political strategist who has seen some candidates come and stay, and other candidates come and go. That's the normal lot of the pros who manage campaigns without any guarantees of how they might turn out. In Wilhelm's case, the Ohio University alum has an impressive resume, having managed presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton as well as former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. His labors have turned up in other campaigns as well.

Now based in Columbus as a partner in Woodland Venture Management (which he founded), Wilhelm is sharing his political insights in a series of lectures to students at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. He also turned up at the lectern this week for a modest Bliss luncheon group to talk about essential differences in campaigns that have given the Republicans the edge in controlling the narrative.

We all can remember how Al Gore was victimized in 2000 by ridicule that he claimed to be the absolute founder of the Internet. The Republicans of Karl Rove drilled him with a specious charge to discredit whatever else one might have throught about Gore's credibility. (Gore still won the popular vote by more than a half-million ballots - but that's another story. )

In 2004, Wilhelm reminded us, John Kerry was framed with a charge that he was lying about his service in Viet Nam.

"It was switftboatswiftboatswiftboat," Wilhelm declared, " to the point where "Swiftboat
became a verb."

In both campaigns, the Republicans brutal talent of cornering opponents with baseless issues was obvious. As Wilhelm noted, "Republicans know how to play offense."

Even in Ohio, Ted Strickland failed to be aggressive enough against John Kasich, who built his campaign on a promise to restore the economy. While voters fell for the trap, they had earlier voted for a $700 million Third Frontier extension for technololgy programs in the state on Strickland's watch. Go figure.

No wonder that Wilhelm prefers to keep the the rhetoric on the Democrats' side. Many voters don't pay enough attention to protect them from their own contradictory ideas when they enter the booth.

There also has been much said about President Obama's willingness to turn the other cheek aginst his rivals, a frustrating point for supporters that Wilhelm believes will change as the president's campaign takes off. "Obama is extremely smart, and he's cool..,The candidadte of change will find a voice." But he cautioned Democrats from putting too much faith into believing that the Republicans will "screw up" - even if the current field is overrun by comedians (my word, not his).

"I think they will find someone who is more moderate than the ones who are campaigning today," he said.

But I would merely ask in this day of Tea Party Hegemony: From where? Think birther. .
Think abortion. Think socialist. Is there still time for them to give up their nasty habits?

If it's election time, it's Bob Smith time

IF THERE is another mayoral election in Akron, it means that Bob Smith is back in town. Smith has been tormenting the Plusquellic administration for too many years with fishing expeditions to embarrass the six-term mayor. Many of the Hudson businessman's requests have involved his demands for repeated deep searches into records by the city law department. They are costly and time consuming and have yet to yield whatever it is that Smith is trying to find.

I see that his name popped up again at a meeting of the Summit County Elections Board over an email that Smith sent to a Republican board member that was again fishing for any sort of damning information about the mayor's campaign finances. You may expect more of this from Smith right up to election day. z-z-z-z-z

Monday, April 11, 2011

Let's have a moment of silence for poor Iowa

WHAT MUST LIFE be like in Iowa to wake up each morning, turn on the radio and be told that Michele is back in town. Michele Bachmann, that is, the Minnesota congresswoman who is doing her part to move the Hawkeye state closer to a theocracy that she defines as freedom and liberty and such. Most recently, she again took on Planned Parenthood, now effortlessly describing it as the "LensCrafters of big abortions."

We can't be sure how that will go over with the execs at LensCrafters and whether they would rather that Michele drop her metaphors on a rival company. You can fairly ask why she chose an eyeglass company over, say, the "General Motors of big abortions" or the New York Yankees. Now we're beginning to make a little sense. Besides, what are big abortions, anyway?'

Poor Iowa, where there are some very nice people who don't need all of this silliness for the many months leading to the Republican presidential caucuses. They already have Rep. Steve King, whose dumb utterances arrive daily like the bong-bong of a grandfather clock. He will be remembered many decades from now as the fellow who said that if the government had followed his advice to abolish the IRS, one of its buildings wouldn't have been standing in February 2010 to tempt a crazed pilot to crash into it.

Nothing to be gained by mentioning that Mike Huckabee is working on another tent revival to carry him through the caucuses now that he has explained that he was misunderstood when he cast president Obama as a Mau Mau. Wanna bet that there won't be flyers tucked under automobile wipers on caucus day repeating Huckabee's original idea?

And it has to get worse before it has any hope of getting better. Donald Trump is scheduled to speak to a Republican Lincoln (!) Day dinner in Iowa in June. Will the thrice-married developer be inclined to speak on family values? Or will he still not have exhausted his mad crusade to expose Obama as, what? A darkly tanned Siberian?

Again, poor Iowa. The state deserves something better - and there's no chance that it will get it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The BJ tries to report a story - and doesn't

THE BEACON JOURNAL'S strange coverage of the Summit County Republican Lincoln Day dinner in its Sunday edition left me wondering whether most of it wasn't handled by remote control with pre-program comments from a few admiring folks standing in line to buy Mike Huckabee's book. A couple of things stood out in the boilerplate article:

Although the BJ reported there were 1, 300 who assembled to hear the probable presidential candidate, Quaker Station's on-line reference in the Akron hotels list says the Grand Station Hall's capacity is 850. Huh? It's not unusual for pols to inflate the attendance and it does appear that the paper went for the hook.

The bigger hole in the story was the absence of Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who is rehabbing away from home from critical foot surgery. A Republican source mentioned to me that it was Arshinkoff's first absence from a major county party event in 39 years. Seems to me, that deserved a place in an article stuck together as Journalism-Lite.

Finally, it was noted that Huckabee did not make himself available to the media; no questions, no answers, thank you. Folks, he gamed the BJ. He got the favorable publicity that noted that he is running second only to Mitt Romney, in Republican approval even though such polls tell us nothing. .

Newspapers should never allow this to happen. You want some positive free coverage, Mike, you damned well better make yourself available. But I am regressing to the days when it wouldn't have happened..

Besides the business about the book hustle, the only other thing we learned was about the fellow waiting to buy the book. He described Huckabee as a "good man" and a "Christian."
As matters stand in the GOP these days, invaluable style points, I'd say, for the ex-Arkansas preacher.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

From Jordan to Kyl, thanks for, um, a fresh viewpoint

BY MANAGING TO stay awake until the late hours for the climax of the epic budget battle, I learned some things that will make me a better-informed citizen.

Rep. Jim Jordan. the Ohio congressman from the Urbana area who is chairman of the right-wing Republican Study Committee, said he he will vote against the deal because it does not represent the reason that he was elected to Congress.

Jordan told reporters after the deal was announced:

"We don't want to shut down the government, we want to do what the American people sent us to do: achieve savings for taxpayers, and not have our tax dollars go to abortions."

There he goes again, even when we know that it is illegal under the Hyde Amendment to spend Federal tax dollars on abortions. But by conceding that, the family-values pro-life guys like Jordan will lose traction with their political base. Let the rcord show, in Jordan's words, that the November election was not about the economy and jobs, but about abortion. By the way, Jordan will be one of the honored guests at tonight's Summit County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who has described Jordan as a "fast-rising conservative star." (Do you think that's really the identity that Alex has in mind for himself in the Kasich regime?)

We also learned a novel way to spin the truth from Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who ranted that Planned Parenthood, now considered to be a subversive organization by the fringe, spends "90 pct. of its money on abortions."

Well, folks, it didn't take long for a lot of people to take that down. Actually, a very small percentage of the money goes to abortions. So it came time for Kyl's office to explain his numbers. I wish I were smart enough to construct its answer, but that isn't possible, so here it is from Kyl camp:

"His remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions."

That brand of semantics will add a whole new dimension to political double-speak.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Congress: The ugly week that still is

WELL, IT'S BEEN AN ugly week for America that will live in infamy for the Republican Party. A government shutdown, which may be hours away as I write this, will further divide the nation to the raw between the Tea Party/social conservatives and everybody else. And if that hasn't been enough for those hoping that something good may yet occur, the country's biggest egotist, Donald Trump, once again noted that there are many things about the Teabaggers that he likes. He also assured us that if he should decide to run for president he would doubtless be the best candidate for the job and the best president America has ever had . Toto , we're not in Kansas anymore.

Nothing is ever what it seems to be these days. Some observers have noted that Trump's reckless showboating about President Obama's birthplace is merely his way to boost the ratings of his TV show. As one who has fallen into bankruptcy four times,Trump has made a fanciful entry into the birther ranks that represents a fifth bankruptcy, this one a mental collapse into lunacy.

As far as the fight over the Federal budget is concerned, it appears to boil down to an attack on Planned Parenthood and women's health programs, including the end of cancer screening. That seems to be a preposterous way to bring a nation to its knees. But all of those comfortably fed GOP white guys stepping before the cameras to assure gullible Americans that they merely want us to rise triumphantly from deficit are not only lying but also showing little courage to resist the mindless conservative goons who have stripped the House of Representatives from Speaker John Boehner. They are hopeful of pleasing their masters (including the Koch brothers) with servility and dedication to a plantation society.

The Martians have landed on Capitol Hill and we're quickly learning that they are a ruthless bunch of otherworld creatures for which we have found no means as yet to return them to their original planet. They are loaded with cash and insist that God is on their side. At least, for now.

Last night, I withdrew from their scandalous world to listen to the late Luciano Pavarotti on YouTube. He was a remarkable artist whose restorative gifts will be around long after the Capitol Hill mob moves on. It's a reminder that unlike those Martians up on Hill, not all human beings are our enemies

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rand Paul: Think about the poor mine owners, too

Rand Paul, the Tea Party senator from Kentucky, believes there should be a better balance between the costs to mine owners and the real threat of illness and death to the folks who labor in the mines. Paul told a Senate hearing that current mine regulations are actually reducing black lung disease, so there's no need for further burdens on the owners. "There
is a point or a balancing act between when regulation becomes burdensome enough that our energy production is stifled. We have to assess the costs of regulation and whether they save lives." (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health contradicted Paul, saying that in some areas black lung disease is on the rise.)

Paul is a confirmed apologist for the owners and has spoken out against federal regulations for the industry. After 29 miners were killed in the West Virginia mine disaster, he defended the owner, saying::

"I want to be compassionate, and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?".

Having grown up in coal mining country, I do not find the senator persuasive on any count. Indeed, I have revived my Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award for his glib indifference to the welfare of the miners. And we thought Paul's predecessor, Jim Bunning, was nuts!

For the Palins: It's all in the family

I'll HAVE TO give Sarah Palin some credit: if there's a dollar to be made by her or her daughter Bristol, they'll find a way to come up with it. As a teen ambassador for an anti-teen pregnancy foundation in 2009, Bristol, now 20, was paid $262,000 by the Candies Foundation, a division of the Candies clothing company. However, the foundation reportedly only spent $35,000 on actual pregnancy prevention programs. Bristol, a single mother herself, defended the pay , telling the Associated Press: "I don't think anyone realizes how difficult it really is until you actually have a screaming baby in your arms and you're up all night." Hey, Bristol, those of us with kids, know. For heaven's sake,we know!.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When Lincoln Day has no meaning for the new GOP

AS I MENTIONED earlier, I will not be attending the Summit County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night at Quaker Station. Big deal, right?

Let me explain: First of all, as you may have guessed, I am not a Republican. Secondly, I wouldn't want to be keeping company with Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's special guest, Mike Huckabee, who will be signing his book(s), playing guardian angel with all of his well wishers and promising to lead a failing nation away from President Obama's road to perdition.
An evangelical preacher, Huckabee has been spending some time rounding up hundreds of like-minded preachers in an apparent effort to run the table in the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses just as he did in 2008. In Iowa, the former GOP has become a subsidary of the right-wing pulpitistas who are educating people on how to be "Biblically informed" in politics.

Huckabee has left no doubt that he wants to Christianize the nation as he sees fit, and so Akron area Republicans will get a strong sense of his purifying anti-Obama, anti-gay and various other assaults on secular abominations targeted by the social conservatives.

There has been some feeling, I'm sure, that my anti-Arshinkoff pique is soley the reaction to being unceremoniously ejected from his big wingding last summer. Wrong. As a nosy reporter over the years, I've been thrown out of much better places. But the incident at the party's fundraiser fueled my stronger disdain for what little is left of the GOP as a whole. As such, Arshinkoff is merely a local apparatchik for a deranged national party whose marketing message has become the property of Tea Party favorites like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and an army of freshmen senators and representatives in Congress. Don't think so? Ask John Boehner.

In a relatively short time on Capitol Hill and among legislators and governors' offices across America, they have strutted around with weighty chips on their shoulders since the November election. Insisting that their thoughts have been sculpted by "the people who have spoken", they have taken enormous liberty with realities, from huffily condemning environmental concerns about global warming to downgrading the needs of the elderly and the poor. (Goodbye food stamps?)

They have become the new hucksters of the Midway, seeking novel ways to challenge voters on Election Day. In Ohio, where there has been no evidence of serious voter fraud, the GOP is intent on creating new hurdles for voters to prevent, um, serious voter fraud. They have set out to eliminate unions once and for all under the cover of restricting collective bargaining while at the same time denying the public unions the right to strike. By the most rational labor relations gambit, that is still a non sequitur.

They have bashed gays with Falwell-style license ("Love the sinner, but hate the sin" - Huh!) and disagreed with military sources who say ridding the ranks of Don't Ask Don't Tell is not causing any problems. Same sex marriages? Stem cell research? Forget it - this from a party who wants get the government off our backs.

While we're at it, how about their mind control efforts as they rework our text books and darkly monitor what they consider offensive in museums. The evangelical governor of Maine orders the removal of a mural at the state's Department of Labor as being too "pro-labor". (You can't make up such insanity.) In Wisconsin, the Republican Party has demanded to see the e-mails of a distinguished University of Wisconsin history professor who has been critical of the governor. It is purely a fishing expedition.

National Public Radio? It's too liberal - and good luck on explaining that spin. Sarah Palin, the wintry wind from the north, has slammed the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, describing the two agencies as "trivialities". She obviously has no sense of the darkness and dense culture of the Middle Ages. A real case may be made that we are not talking about liberal broadcasting here, which would be hard to prove anyway. Instead, there are religious broadcasters waiting in the wings for spots on the radio spectrum that will be vacated when some NPR stations go out of business..

In their long pursuit of an abortion-free land, these culture warriors otherwise acting as politicians also want to put Planned Parenthood out of business (with plenty of help from the Catholic and Southern Baptist hierarchies).

Sometimes the new arrivals stumble over their own far-fetched ideas. In Ohio, Gov. Kasich wants to privatize liquor sales to please his crony investors even though booze is the only profitable business run by the state. In his haste to serve his own contributors, he has been ready to privatize everything except Lake Erie. But only because the state only owns a slim part of it.

All of the above is at the heart of my scorn of the Republican Party. Arshinkoff's antics merely helped me file it under damaged goods.

It's ironic that the Lincoln Day Dinner may be held on the week end when a Gingrich 2 may be upon us - a government shutdown. And who will be hurt the most by it?

I've decided that instead of giving a $50 dinner fee to the GOP on Saturday, I'll send the money to where reality exists 24 hours a day - the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank's Harvest for Hunger. It will do a lot more good for humanity, don't you think?

Harold MacMillan, the former British prime minister, once grunted to an aide as he was uncomfortably obliged to move into a crowd of voters during a campaign.

"Beastly things," he said. "Elections."

That's where we are today, people.

UPDATE; Arshinkoff has reached farthest to the right for the Ohio congressman who will introduce Huckabee: Urbana area Republican Jim Jordan, former OSU assistant wrestling coach who has won several awards from right-wing groups , including Pro-life Legislator of the Year from the United Conservatives of Ohio. He is now chairman of the Republican Study Committee in Washington, a conservative outfit with no peer. He has joined four other congressmen in sponsoring a bill whose provisions include capping food stamps for all recipients and even denying them to a family if one of its members is on strike. Among his other positions, needless to mention, are limits to sex education, opposition to gay marriage and support of the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Whew! Way to go, Alex, who happily describes Jordan in a press release as a "fast rising conservative star"!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kasich: Awaiting big bad Federal help

MY LATE REPUBLICAN father-in-law and friend used to complain that "figures don't lie, but liars do figure." You have to wonder about whether we've made any progress in figuring out some politicians' figures when you read the Plain Dealer report on how Gov. Kasich arrived at such a lean and rose-colored budget to pay off an $8.5 billion deficit.

I won't attempt to describe his sleight-of-handiwork, whose numbers are as defiant as the solution to pi. Check out the article for yourself and let me know what I'm missing in the proposal of optimistic assumptions, guesswork, hacking, suppositions and downright voodoo.

The story above the article may explain a little about how he wants to begin to connect the budget dots: His hopes of getting relief from the much-hated Feds, who have huge deficits of their own. The guv is counting on the very same Big Brother whom he's condemned to now relieve the state of $193 million in interest on Federal loans. Indeed he's stitched it into his baggage as he gropes to the mysterious light at the end of his tunnel.

Do you remember what Kasich said when he he proudly announced his purported success in balancing the budget? He said something about accomplishing the task "without smoke and mirrors". But he should have added a third element: a forgiving Uncle Sam. The hard work has yet to begin, folks.

The budget hawks are losing their disguises

CONSERVATIVES have long rested their case for nobility on cries to protect the taxpayer from big government. But there is ample evidence that the budget hawks are only cynically putting us on. Like everybody else, they like to have a paying job. Correction: they want a a better paying job than everybody else. Anything they tell us to the contrary is an exercise in public hypnosis.

Up in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker has attacked collective bargaining with the urgency of a hypocondriac reaching for a bottle of quack medicine, the latest contradiction of such deceptions had been uncovered in the Walker administration's hiring of a young man for a job in the State Department of Commerce. He is Brian Deschane, a college dropout in his mid-20s whose profile is said to include no experience other than tripping around Republican campaign circles as a lobbyist , a couple of DUI busts and most importantly, the ability to name his father as one of Walker's big campaign donors.

It gets worse. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that within two months on the job the young man received a 26 pct. raise that upped his annual salary to $81,500, none of which achieved through collective bargaining. (In fairness, we should quote his father, Jerry, the executive vice president of the Wisconsin Builders Assn., as attributing his son's meteoric rise to hard work and a super resume.)

Of course, our own Gov. Kasich reflects the same need for "good people" in his cabinet in defending much higher salaries for them than what their predecessors had received under ex-Gov. Ted Strickland. Fortunately, the public hypnosis for both of these birds of a feather - eh, budget hawks - is already wearing off.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kasich's bark can be as nasty as his bite

GOV. KASICH'S penchant for cutting off questions that annoy him - which means, most of them - usually asserts itself with his three curt words: "Period. Exclamation point!" Considering the finality in his command, it's possible that he's been hanging around at too many dog training demonstrations. One of the companies represented at the training show Sunday at Summit Mall is aptly named, "Sit Means Sit." Got that, reporters?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Down among the not so sheltering palms

ON THIS SPECIAL DAY that we set aside for acknowledging fools, we need to look no farther than the sometimes-sunshine state of Florida. That's where the voters in November elected Rick Scott, a Republican, as governor. It either forgave him, or didn't know any better, for once running a company that morphed into the biggest private for-profit health care company in the nation. On the other hand, Columbia/HCA , where Scott had been forced to resign in the midst of a massive Medicare fraud scandal, pleaded guilty to 14 felonies and paid $1.7 billion in fines. As a candidate, Scott solved the problem by telling the voters that although he was a can-do businessman, he wasn't aware of what was going on in his company. (Some folks down there will believe anything. My father, who lived in Miami, was sure that Florida had such great weather that its inhabitants seldom died. Alas, he wasn't among the lucky ones.)

But more on fools: During a legislative debate in Florida on Republican hostility to unions and regulations that impact on corporations, State Rep Scott Randolph, a Democrat, declared that his wife could "incorporate her uterus" if that's what would it take to keep the GOP from demanding greater restrictions on abortion. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the Republicans were outraged that he had said uterus on the House floor. According to Randolph, he was told by them that they were concerned about young pages hearing the word. (I wonder where the R's think the young pages have been for sex education in their maturing years.)

Finally: Apparently not satisfied that there are more than adequate, if clandestine, channels to political campaign coffers, the Florida legislature recently passed a law reviving an old law that will permit political donors to dump their cash directly into what they call " leadership funds" but are nothing more than old-fashioned slush funds created by the very lawmakers who will benefit from them.. It will be all in the open with no questions asked about the propriety of the scheme. One thing it's sure do: It will clean up a lot of the laundering and lying to disguise the the revenue flow.