Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Romney hits Obama with the F-letter

AS A COLLEGE student, I filled a 24- page booklet for an ancient history essay exam, much of it in frantic gibberish. When the professor, a tall reserved lecturer, returned my work I was shocked to see that he had given it an F with no further assessment. I rushed into his office and demanded: "Wasn't there enough in all of those handwritten pages to merit a D?"

"Oh, there might have been," he said. "I stopped reading it after the third or fourth page. You were writing everything you know and hoping that the right answer was in there somewhere. That told me you were fishing and didn't know the answer."

Hurrumph...! End of discussion.

Which leads me to Mitt Romney, whom many people say is the Hollywood version of a president although he doesn't come close to resembling Michael Douglas, do you think? For one thing, Mitt's mechanics are bad, as when he begins to tell us everything he knows about everything. His head snaps to a fixed position, as his starched open collar white shirt remains motionless. For all of his good looks and studied body language, he's simply not there yet. But it's really what he says that casts him in a B movie. The dialogue is astonishingly weak.

Today, for example, appearing on the Today show, he gave President Obama an F. On everything. National security, foreign policy, leadership. He might have even accused Obama of being obese. I didn't get that far into the Talking Points Memo account. Somebody should mention to him that even though he is better looking than everyone else in the field, he will have to start making a little sense one of these days. Otherwise he will emerge as a handsome political hack to please all of those right-wing folks in Iowa. After that, he will discover that looks aren't everything.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Palin Aboard the Traveiing Circus

INDOOR COOK-IN for hot spring day:

Andrew Sullivan reports in the Daily Dish this fragrant quotable from Sarah Palin at her Rolling Thunder bike appearance in Washington:

"I love the smell of the emissions."

Now that she's found a way for the media to mention her, has there ever been an over the top national politician who has made so much money purposely doing silly things. Next: a bungee jump without a bounce? Or maybe Medea-like, to soar aloft in a magic chariot!

Finally, did you happen to see the the full-page spread on traveling circuses in today's New York Times. The headline told us: No Elephant Left Behind: On the Road With the Circus.

Although I'm sure it was coincidental, the paper's facing page carried a large photo and story about biker Palin's bid to be.... the elephant that wasn't left behind.

Harper's June Index had this report re religiophiles:

Amount of federal money that went to National Public Radio in 2010: $2,700.000.
To Jerry Falwell's Liberty University: $446,000,000.

John Boehner and others in his crowd are complaining that the reason a majority of Americans oppose the wonderful Ryan Medicare proposal is that they don't understand it. Peter the Great had the same problem with his subjects who were not on the same page with some of his ideas, lamenting: "They understand everything erroneously."

Friday, May 27, 2011

When Brennan calls, the Ohio GOP listens

LET ME BEGIN by saying that William G. Batchelder has lied to us.

If I'm wrong, let him deny it.

As the Columbus Dispatch has reported, the Republican speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives has now admitted that he has known all along who wedged in a couple of amendments to the House-passed state budget that are more than friendly to charter school titan David Brennan of Akron. Until that worse-kept secret was confirmed by Batchelder himself, the veteran Medina politician and blueblood conservative had insisted that he had no idea whose fingerprints were on the amendments. And whose fingerprints were they? No less than Batchelder himself admitted they were inserted by the Republicans at Brennan's request. As if we didn't already know!

Batchelder has never impressed me over the years as an operative who left anything to chance. That was truer than ever as he assumed the leadership of the House Republican caucus in Columbus. So if he didn't know, he wasn't doing his job. If he did know, he must have assumed the questions would vanish. Connect the dots: He was lying, and for a pol of his decades of experience, he wasn't very good at it .

The Brennan amendments, clearly bought and paid for, are preposterous: a for-profit charter schools outfit like Brennan's White Hat Management has received $230 million in taxpayer money from the state. Yet his agents insist that because public money was now in the hands of a private company, White Hat didn't have to account for how the money was spent. Make me laugh.

There's more: White Hat would keep the desks and other school equipment that you and I have paid for if the charter school fails. (Can any Republican lawmaker with an iota of honesty defend such reprehensible baseness with a straight face?) Inasmuch as the Republican House passed the entire bill and sent it to the Senate, you need not guess about the dismal ethics of the happy-go-lucky GOP lawmakers who are blithely on the dole. Keep in mind that Brennan is known as the second largest contributor (millions) to the Republicans over the years of his ascendancy as Daddy Warbucks.

Meantime, White Hat is being sued by the boards of some charter schools to air out where the public money has been secreted. However, that trial was oddly put on hold for 60 days by a Columbus judge who asked that the two sides try to work out a new contract.

Among those shocked by the court's delay was Sen. Tom Sawyer, the Akron Democrat on the Republican-dominated Ohio Senate Finance Committee. He said he was "amazed" the court would force a delay while the legislation is being considered and suggested that Brennan has turned his attention to the Senate to sustain his interests. Sawyer predicted a"recrafted substitute" would be drawn in the Senate. Still, the Republicans control that body, too, and there are fewer mouths to feed.

We are witnessing a shameless gouging of the public interest in the halls of the General Assmbly and if it ends up that way it is a sign that the GOP class down there has sold whatever soul it still has left.

The free enterprise system stretches across a wide spectrum. At the high end are a couple of kids with a lemonade stand in their front yard. At the lowest end is how Batchelder and friends are doing business these days and the public be damned.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Latest poll: Kasich would lose by 25 pts!

THE LATEST poll numbers indicate that buyer's remorse has locked on Gov. Kasich. The survey by national pollster PPP (Public Policy Polling) are so dismal for the governor that it would require a turnaround Federal bailout to rescue his effectiveness as the state's chief executive, bombastic sheriff and scowler. Life, I'm sure, was so much simpler for him in the shadows of his Wall Street days.

Now for the numbers: The pollster said that if Kasich were to run against former Gov. Ted Strickland, he would lose by 25 points - 59 pct. to 34 pct.. Of course, he won't be running against anybody but himself for another three and a half years so all of us will be forced to share the burden of having him around to witness his behavior. But Kasich's instant meltdown could have serious effects on other Republicans in the state who choose politics as a means to make a living.

Faced with a rising tide of dissent among Independents and Democrats (and even those disenchanted Republicans who are suffering in silence these days), Kasich is unlikely to change course and refine his blustery style. May I remind you that he's the guy who called a cop an idiot and threatened to run the bus over anybody who disagreed with him?

I will now await any charge from a Republican who believes that I've just wrongly thrown Kasich under the bus. C'mon, you helped put him in office. Shouldn't you now circle the wagons?

Kucinich: Moving chess pieces into place

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH is making the rounds in the Seattle area these days and few observers (including this longtime Kucinich chronicler) could ever be convinced that he is simply on a congressional junket to study the Pacific Northwest's natural wonders. Republican redistricting may accomplish what many of his opponents have been unable to do over the years: strip him of his job. Nobody is more aware of this than Kucinich, a street-smart Democrat whose congressional district in the Cleveland area may be wiped out. The lure of an additional seat neighboring Seattle is the most reasonable explanation of why he's gone west. Dennis, the former "boy wonder" who arrived as Cleveland's mayor at age 31, is usually ahead of the curve.

My experience in tracking him in the toxic cauldron of Cleveland politics is that Kucinich seldom does anything just for the hell of it. As mayor, he tormented the Establishment as well numerous Democrats (including the powerful George Forbes ) with his populism - then and now. With no chance of succeeding, he has run for president. But it gave him the platform to attack the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as a TV guest as well as during the candidate debates. He even tried to have President Bush and Veep Dick Cheney impeached - again to make a point about the war rather than actually believing that he could succeed.

An element of his political durability - in a district less liberal than he! - was that some of his opponents who didn't know him well enough concluded that his diminutive size suggested an absence of muscle. But it is equally true that he was a tireless campaigner who was a lot smarter than many of the opponents who were determined to ridicule him right out of office. He was nobody's fool.

When he successfully ran for mayor the Plain Dealer endorsed his two opponents for mayor without mentioning him in the editorial. But in the general election, it shocked everyone in the gallery when it endorsed him. Publisher Tom Vail explained that the editors became convinced that he had learned so much from the campaign that he was the right guy to advance the city.

So Kucinich is moving his chess pieces again and has doubltess examined every potential congressional district that will be created for the 2012 elections. The Washington district is said to be heavily Democratic and of a mind to support liberals. The planets are lining up. Will he go for it? You tell me!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Heckuva-job Brownie is back, sort of

EXCEPT FOR PEANUTS, I don't pay too much attention to the comic strips in the papers anymore. Don't have to. A casual check of the day's news gives me enough laughs for one day. Which brings me to Mike Brown, who is in the photo with George Bush, the fellow with his arms crossed. The president is praising his FEMA director in the wake of the government's bungled response to Katrina: ''Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job." It still draws a laugh,.

Now, reports ThinkProgress. Brownie turns up at Fox News, the refuge of scoundrels, to complain about Obama's itinerary in Europe as tornadoes pounded the Midwest. Says Brownie: "He went to Ireland for God's sake to visit relatives. It's time to come home...in this case, the perception is that the president is detached. He's more concerned about raising a toast to the Queen. People have died."

As it has been said, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Particularly in Brownie's case. He's not even running for president.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pawlenty casts himself as the truth candidate

THE NEW YORK TIMES reports that Republican Tim Pawlenty mentioned the word "truth" 16 times in his 20-minute announcement that he was officially running president. It was left to our imagination what he might have been thinking the other four minutes.

Bachmann: The view from the plantation

THANKS TO a reader who sent along another candidate for Bartlett's Qu0tations that he labeled: "Finally Republicans unveil their jobs program." Here it is, direct from Michele Bachmann:
"Literally, if we took away the minimum wage - if conceivably it was gone - we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."
(Sorry, that idea has already been tried, Michele. They were called plantations.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kasich bullies lobbyists except when they are pals

THE DAY AFTER John Kasich was elected governor last November, he warned a luncheon audience of Statehouse lobbyists that their day-and-night jobs were about to change. Assuming a divine right of governors, Kasich combatively told all within listening distance that he, not they, would determine what was best for Ohio so they might as well get the message about the new sheriff in Columbus town.

As reported by the Columbus Dispatch at the time,, Kasich asserted in blunt terms that amounted to an ultimatum:
"Please leave the cynicism and the political maneuvering at the door. Because we need you on the bus, and if you're not on the bus, we will run you over with the bus. And I'm not kidding. " He then declared: "And if you think you're going to stop us, you're crazy. You will not stop us. We will beat you. And that's not arrogance."
That was a lot of Kasich's patented hubris to be passing around only hours after he had been declared the winner by a thin plurality. That alone offered a strong clue to what we could all expect from him in the months that followed. Humility and grace are not among his strong points. Maybe I should add intellectual honesty.

If you've read this far , I think you probably know where this is going:

Today, the Dispatch's Joe Hallett reported that three of Kasich's inner-circle advisers are now quite active as lobbyists and enjoying more than average success in their line of work. Wrote Hallett:
Gov. John Kasich's best friend [Donald G. Thibaut] has set up a lobbying shop, signing up a dozen blue-chip companies. His overnight success as a first-time lobbyist is turning heads on Capitol Square - and testing the credibility of Kasich's oft-made promise that friends will get no special treatment. Neither Kasich nor Thibaut see any problem but others wonder whether the governor's close ties to Thibaut and two other lobbyists who are members of Kasich's inner circle of advisers might open the governor to charges of hypocrisy."

But wait. Kasich said he and Thibaut never talk about his good friend's clients when they are together.

So much for that hypocrisy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mitch Daniels: the quintessential family man

IF YOU HAPPENED to be gazing at the southern sky for any sign of the Rapture Saturday night, you might have mistaken a faint earthward streak for a falling star. Actually, it was Mitch Daniels. After providing the pundits with endless speculation that vaulted him as the go-to Alternative in the wacko GOP presidential field, the Indiana governor told us that he preferred his life with his family. Obviously, the thought of being No.1 in the Oval Office just isn't as fetching as it used to be.

You might consider this:
The GOP has Newt, Mitt, TPa, Paul and Cain,
But the polls tell us they're all running in vain.

Oh, yes. Sorry that we overlooked Lady Michele.
But outside of the Tea Party she'd be a hard sell.
The week end also brought us a hysterical gasp from Mitt Romney, who accused President Obama of "throwing Israel under the bus." Fortunately calmer minds prevailed that left Mitt, starchy white shirt and casual Levis, appearing to be a lightweight political opportunist in search of an audience.

Speaking of daring lightweights, how about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is openly defying a state law that grants visitation rights for same-sex couples. The man is driven by right-wing religious ardor and his public support c0ntinues to fall as he attempts to rebuild Wisconsin into a second rate theocratic state. Glad the folks up there are paying attention.

Meantime, for all of the clucking about Gingrich's flip-flops, there may be method to his madness. As soon as he begins denying that he didn't say what everybody else thought he said the media rush to his side demanding that he explain his looniness. All of which means that he gets more national air time. He'a now ahead of Sarah Palin in that game. Didn't hear a peep from her over the week end.

Help: Who said:
"When this group of Republican candidates eventually vanish, they will leave behind no intellectual history"

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Cavs splash to PD and BJ front pages

THE WEEK HAS given us sports news of Biblical proportions: The woeful LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers nailed the top pick in the collegiate draft! We weren't even slightly aware of the importance of this event until the Plain Dealer ecstatically stretched it across large portions of its front pages two days in a row (the Beacon Journal was more reserved, opting for only a single day's Page One tribute that told us HOW THE DRAFT WAS WON, offering us a cutout of a numbered pingpong ball gently held by somebody's hand. There were also photos of promotional T-shirts and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's 14.year-old son, Nick,who was around to represent the team in the draft. The Plain Dealer merely teased us by inquiring, What Are the Odds? It joyfully called the fateful moment a "stroke of luck". Cool.

As a sports outsider who has survived decades of Cleveland sports despair, I am fully aware that none of what I just said will earn me anything but disgrace from the media and the Cavs' other partisans. All the more so because the the draft occurred as the Cleveland Indians have risen from the ashes to dominate their division this spring.

Alas, with all of the good news, it would be another event of of Biblical proportions that would interfere with the celebrations hereabouts. That, of course, would be the Rapture that a California seer has forecast will occur at 6 p.m. Saturday (Just when I got a new computer and learned how to operate most of it.!) But Harold Camping, the 89-year-old zillionaire who has predicted the end of days, staunchly defends the idea that when the violent end comes, everyone will be divided between the saintly and sinful for their next stop.

I have my doubts. And I really don't think God is so vindictive that He would rain on the Cavaliers and Indians parades. Besides if I am wrong who will still be hanging around to gloat, "Told you so!."

On the other hand, if it doesn't happen as planned, we will still have those gloom-and-doom GOP presidential candidates with their daily warnings about America's dreadful end of days under President Obama. As Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann were saying just the other day..,.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New TV sit-com: Everybody Hates Newt

THE AWFUL rain days have driven me indoors to spend more time keeping up with the latest episodes of Everybody Hates Newt. It's a sit-com that's an updated version of All in the Family rolled out by TV's deep thinkers to capitalize on the trials and tribulations of a simple guy we've all known at one time or another in our own workaday lives.

It's all about coping, which so many folks are trying to do nowadays simply to get by. For Newt Bunker, who has trouble expressing himself clearly, it is a struggle for him to have to put up with modernity and a liberal son-in-law that he calls Meathead. But in the new version, the Meathead has been replaced by a character that Newt, the primordial conservative with an unrequited need to be somebody, claims to be the President. It's a stretch, I know, but it's a sit-com, folks, and everybody, except the unsuspecting Bunker, is in this thing for a laugh.

The show's ratings jumped over the top until Arnold confessed on another new series to his macho body- building efficiency in impregnating women - wife, and friend - virtually simultaneously.

Just to show you how quickly times can change in delicious TV success stories, all of the above occurred in the wake of the Donald Trump Saga ,which was abruptly bumped to the History Channel. But we knew it would be short-lived. I didn't see a single teenager who copied his hair style.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The White Hat in the legislative ring

IT DIDN'T TAKE that long for the Kasich Administration and its cupbearers in the Republican House to demonstrate their servitude to people with the deepest pockets. In a shameless reward to the party's financiers the GOP-ruled House of Representatives passed a budget bill that includes a few charter school amendments that were doubtless written by the pale light of the moon. None of this would displease Ohio's charter king, David Brennan, whose for-profit White Hat Management colossus has managed a $230 million return of state dollars for his investment. At this point, it should be further noted that White Hat's record of providing charter-school education has ranked near the bottom in its schoolhouse performance.

About those amendments to the budget bill: They would permit White Hat to operate as sort-of absentee landlords of their charter system without any accountability of how they spend the state money. Brennan's lawyer, Rocky Saxbe, explained that odd arrangement by saying that once public money goes into the private pot, it becomes private money that is beyond accountability.

Nice try - and I'm not a lawyer.

So in the simplest terms, what we are seeing is a one-way street in state expenditures: Give White Hat the money and don't ask what it does with it. The issue is so nettlesome that some local charter school operators have now taken White Hat to court to question what the company is doing with the princely sums from the taxpayers. The Brennans - David and wife Ann - also have their personal PACs and are the sole contributors to them, which serve as additional conduits to provide room and board for their favorite pols.

It's no secret where some of the profits have gone: Brennan has contributed $4 million to his Republican political allies over the past 10 years. Among the recipients of the maximum of $10,000 from each of the Brennans are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, former gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell (in case he would win, which is known as planning ahead ) and House
speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina. And, of course, Kasich wasn't overlooked.

Batchelder, who is a seasoned pol on the glide path with his eccentric right-wing leadership in the General Assembly, has raspishly denied to the media that there is one iota of a connection between his gift from Brennan and the upward course of charter schools in the new year. Still, we would feel more comfortable if someone, including Batchelder , could flat us tell us how the anonymous amendments were wedged into the budget bill that moves to the senate. He says he doesn't know, but we can guess.

All the while, Kasich has been been standing by, if needed, to keep the charter money flowing. He's already told the world what a great thing charters are in the lifeblood of education. And he's made sure they will grow exponentially without Big Brother watching over them.

The guv promised that he would make Ohio No. 1, and with the current proposed legislation, he and his buddies will have succeeded in making the state unique in its lack of accountability for these schools. For the average Ohioan who isn't in the loop, it will be no more than an awful spectator sport for business as usual down in Columbus.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prayerful exits and the lure of personal TV security

NEWS FROM THE post-Huckabee/Trump era:

Rick Santorum, the presidential candidate on the Piety Ticket, has praised Huckabee for praying before deciding not to seek the GOP nomination. But as long as he attributes heavenly guidance to Huckabee's decision, could it have also been influenced by prosperity theology, which holds that God believes the faithful should be rewarded with riches. That said, it's only fair to report that Huck stood to lose his $500,000 job on the Fox payroll if he declared his candidacy.

MSNBC commentator Lawrence O'Donnell took a deserved bow for nailing the exact date that The Donald would drop out of speculated contention. It was the day that NBC would announce its new program lineup, which included Trump's fanciful show. O'Donnell had seen how Trump was gaming the process for months as a pretender to the throne in order to create still more interest in his TV program. Not that everyone of the national pundits caught on to the travesty. Among those who predicted a Trump candidacy were Charles Krauthammer, Time Magazine's Mark Halperin and some other ga-gas on the right.

UNDETERRED BY a few miscues, the national pundits push on to more undiscovered land, raising questions to fill air time and newsprint with ill-authorittive guesses on the likely beneficiaries of the Huckabee/Trump exodus. Michelle Bachmann? Tim Pawlenty? Rick Santorum? Newt Gingrich? Stay tuned - for another year and a half!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The cause celebre of a cow staring at cows

NOW THAT WE don't have Donald Trump to kick around anymore, it's time that we leave the hippodrome and look at what else has been going on that will be of equally minor importance to historians. I would begin with a $2.5 million court case involving proprietary rights over a painting that the New York Times described as a "cow gazing at other cows". Classical art has little to offer in the bovine genre, relying mostly on horses with heroic kings and generals in the saddles.

In this peculiar case, no less an authority than the Metropolitan Museum of Art is suing British art collector Robert Wylde who innocently purchased it from a gallery in 2009 for - right! - $2.5 million. The Museum says it owned 31 pct. of the painting by artist Mark Tansey, who had called it "The Innocent Eye Test". The Met insists on voiding the deal. Let me know how it turns out.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

GOP presidential: Three on base, two out

THE REPUBLICAN presidential field? Let me guess. The number running: 3. The number running away: 2. The number of mentionables: roughly 6. The number of unmentionables: How many bananas are there in a bunch?

So far, it hasn't been a good year for the political pundits trying to tout a mock draft. Two of the potential candidates have now explained their departures in biological terms. Haley Barbour, the Mississippi governor, said he just didn't have fire in his belly. And now Mike Huckabee says it was his heart who told him not to run. In his heart he also knew he would have to give up his Fox TV show.

All this b0dy talk has become the new X-factor for the politicos trying to figure out one party's presidential race in which people are gasping, None of the Above. Will Sunday morning panelists begin to take a more serious look at Donald Trump's hair, not as a helicopter pad, but as a much more decisive element in his final decision? Peoria wants to know.

The official GOP field as we speak includes Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania who was routed in this bid for reelection; Newt Gingrich, who said he has overcome his past sins with help from God; and Rep. Ron Paul, who has just likened Medicare and Social Security to slavery. Should we remind them that they might find their next line of work on craigslist?

Among the unmentionables that leaves us with Michelle Bachmann, who is already said to benefit from Huckabee's heart-felt decision since both are the sort of conservatives who function out of the same shell; Mitt Romney, who was boasting about his health care reforms as Governor of Massachusetts when it was still socially acceptable for Republicans to say so; Sarah Palin, who appears to have peaked in 2008; Tim Pawlenty, who doesn't make a shadow on the sunniest day, and Gov. Mitch Daniels, former director of George Bush's Office of Management and Budget.

Oh, and Herman Cain, too. He's the founder of Godfather's Pizza who will soon make his candidacy official. . There are others, but why bother? I think I'll just hang around until the helicopter lands safely on Trump's unique coiffure.

UPDATE: Saying that his business was his greatest passion in life, Trump today declared his un-candidacy. Fortunately he didn't mention his hair as a factor in his decision. That leaves three who are running and three who are running away.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A how-to guide for a kaput computer

The past three days have not been particularly friendly to a computer-bound writer whose impossible achievement will be to construct a complete sentence without a typo. Actually there were hints of antisocial behavior by my computer more than a week ago. Strange looking lines danced across the screen. Know what I mean? If you have a computer, of course you know. If not now, then later.

Two days ago, home computer No.4 in a series died. I called the emergency squad in the person or our son Rick. No teenager is he, but far ahead of me in knowing what buttons to press while his father is sitting back in sullen panic. There are no how-to books on filling the empty hours when a computer has been prepared for burial. Oh, I did get some stiff advice from Nancy on what a good thing it would be if I took the time to clear out some of the debris in my office. Even a little effort would help the general appearance.

So I started pecking through the piles of printouts, clippings, notes to myself, magazines with paper-clipped pages and 2-for-1 hamburger ads that unfortunately had expired. Sifting through the piles I discovered it to be a much-needed break in the action. Since much of it turned on politics, it was sort of a low-budget romp through Disney World. Buried in the mess, for example, was a complaint by Republican Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin who lamented that he was having a hard time making ends meet on his $174,000 annual congressional salary.

And then we found that delicious James Bond -type report that the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, was accused of pressuring GI's to use psychological operations - psy-ops, for goodness sake - to "target visiting VIPs" to send more troops. Folks, they were talking about getting into the heads of senators like John McCain and Joe Lieberman. It would be a lot simpler and certainly not as messy, if they had just flat out asked these two hawks for the money or credit cards, don't you think?.

There were several tidbits from Rep.Steve King, the Iowa Republican, who is always ready to confound the listeners. King defended the Republican leadership "for having established their integrity and mendacity for years" against wild accusations by their opponents. Mendacity? Is that any way to talk about your side, Stevarino?

Finally I came across this old treasure from former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. He wrote that upon inquiring about why John Boehner would pass out tobacco lobbyists' money on the House of Representatives floor, Boehner Chief of Staff Barry Jackson replied, ever so innocently: "The floor is where the members meet with each other."

Can't argue with that. Really no need for the four-day package to Disney.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Newt Gingrich's dreamy mission impossible

NEWT GINGRICH is driven by the demon of One Notion Under God. So on Wednesday, he will announce his candidacy for president and tell us why his impossible notion of occupying the Oval Office should make more sense to the electorate than anybody else laboring with the Republican brand these days.

Hooray for Newt for his wonderful impersonation of Crazy Guggenheim. In an act of historic self redemption, the guy has thrust himself into the swamp to prove that at 67 he can still rise above the muck of adultery and a reprimand by his congressional colleagues in 1997 for serious ethical violations. To make sure that he got the message, he also was fined $300,000!

But that was more than a decade ago, folks. Since then, he assures us that he has found God, to whom he regularly pays his respects and promises us that he is saved by moral cleansing. In one of the most absurd explanations of his philandering days the New Newt said that he was so driven by his intense dedication to his work ethic that he detoured some of his energy into his sex life. He has now become such a family man that he and his third wife are never more than an elbow apart.

As he sets forth on his next mission, he doubtless will recall that at least one of his colleagues rushed to his defense after he was reprimanded. That was uttered by another pure-of-heart congressman, Tom DeLay, who was heard to complain: "The highest possible standard does not mean an impossible standard no American could possibly reach."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Break up the Pirates before they capture the what?

ALLOW ME to write hurriedly about a celebration, however brief it might be, of the Pittsburgh Pirates reaching the .500 mark on Sunday. What's so great about that? This is the latest in the season that they reached that honored mission since June 11, 2005. The team, such as it has been, has not had a winning season since 1992 and will break the record held by the Phillies if they again finish under .500 this year. (The Bucs obviously learn nothing from the Steelers.) Even the Indians have had the pleasure of losing playoff games during the past 17 seasons. Well, as a long suffering Pirate fan who used to slip into Rosie Roswell's office to watch him recreate games on the ticker, I'm happy. But as I mentioned , I wrote this quickly. They play the Dodgers tonight and could easily fall under .500 again. But I can still say I knew them when...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wisconsin GOP settles on its economic goals. Not.

AN ASSOCIATED PRESS report from Wisconsin tells us that Republican state legislators are in a big hurry these days to enact critical (to them) laws before a possible a Democratic takeover through recalls. And what is more important to these conservative do-gooders now that Gov. Scott Walker has laid out his plan to remove the state budget deficit by denying public employee unions of collective bargaining?

Check this AP summary of the Republican fast-track goals:
"Republicans, in a rapid sequence of votes over the next eight weeks, plan to legalize concealed weapons, deregulate the telephone industry, require photo identification at the polls, expand school vouchers and undo an early release for prisoners."
These lawmakers are the advance guard of a new age of Badger progress! In the idiom of the streets and back rooms, this is known as taking care of business. Still, I'm not sure ID's at the polls or school vouchers, as well as the other items on the GOP's love-in with its donors will create any jobs by energizing the economy. Shouldn't some of the fine print also ask that the servile perps be given IQ tests?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

David Koch: Obama only a bystander in bin Laden raid!

DAVID KOCH, the self-assured co-anchor of the ultra-conservative Koch brothers team, has accused President Obama of being "a hardcore socialist" who contributed very little to the raid on bin Laden's compound. There's not much new in the socialist charge. Back in 1920, Sinclair Lewis' anti-hero, George Babbitt, frequently complained that people who raised questions about fixed community standards were socialists.

But Koch's hollow remarks about Obama's role in the raid is another story. He told New York Magazine that "all that Obama did was say 'yea or 'nay', we're going to take him out. I don't think he contributed much at all." Koch added that the President's decision was easiest of them all."

Suggesting that the hard work was done by the SEALS," Koch regarded Obama as nothing more than a bystander as the plan and execution unfolded. The cheers from the fringe gallery will be energized by such exclusive insights from their leader. With such important news, it's really too bad that there still aren't some presses around to stop.
But it could be said that Obama's critics were not yet schooled on how else to address the terrorist's demise on a Democratic president's watch. Life is so full of surprises! So we must leap from one conspiracy theory to another to find out which one is the most politically productive. The naysayers obviously haven't sensed the public's relief at hearing the news. Instead, on this and many other issues, the GOP pols will keep spilling out of the Koch vending machines with their sales tags still attached to them.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin hisses that the president has been "pussyfooting" in the days following the attack; Glenn Beck called Obama's visit to Ground Zero "disgusting". Nobody has as yet claimed that Obama has driven up his poll numbers with a corked bat. Not yet.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The true value of valued customers

WHENEVER I GET a letter from a big company that begins, "Dear Valued Customer," I know that nothing good will happen after that. Usually I will find encrypted in thousands of words the fact that my charges will be going up - again. So if the company chooses to sweeten the message by informing you that its services are changing to greatly benefit you, don't fall for it. It's not about expanded services. It's about money.

Step 1: There are no better examples around than the companies that operate in the media industry. A recent communication from AT&T illustrates my agony in getting beyond the second paragraph to find out how much it will cost me. The company doesn't tell you in so many words. You'll have an opportunity to check it out when the next bill arrives. Even so, the bill is sliced into so many line items that I'm never sure what I'm paying for. But to be fair about it, I must ask: Isn't the company's motto, Rethink Possible ?

Like its many rivals, AT&T is finding exotic new ways to swell my bill. And they play a good hunch that since I'm not a teenager, I'll have a helluva time figuring out what all of the strange technical gibberish means. (It's been years since I received my Air Force orders, but it was so debilitating of my sense of the English language that it remains the standard for the kind of commercial stuff I get in the mail these days.)

Step 2. If I have any questions there is a number to call. God knows where it might reach a live agent these days. A recorded message courteously pleads for patience. Whether you call at daybreak or midnight, you must understand that the company's agents have been overwhelmed by assisting other callers in a moment of unusually heavy demand.

Step 3. What happens next leads me to believe that the phone traffic is moderate, but that it's terribly important for the company to seize the opportunity to fill so much dead time with commercials about how much they care about you while hiking your bill.

During one lengthy session this morning, I was electronically informed that AT&T U-verse allows me to view over 100,000 movie titles; that I can add a prestigious soccer channel for only $15 a month; that I can buy a "house wiring protection plan for only $5 a month; that by paying my bill with a paperless account I can save 1.8 million trees; etc. etc. etc. There was other stuff about "24 megabytes downstream" and something called smart phones (did I get that right?) After waiting 25 minutes, I hung up, totally defeated .

My next bill could be very interesting - even if I don't understand it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kasich sends a big bouquet to public workers!

BRAVISSIMO TO Gov. Kasich for his courageous stand against the hordes of fools who have been trying to rid Ohio of collective bargaining for public unions. He forthrightly used the occasion of Public Service Appreciation Week and Teacher Appreciation Week to remind everyone that public workers are invaluable citizens who ought to be accorded full respect and honor in their labors to make as us all happier residents of the Buckeye state.

Who else would have risked the scorn of supportive business and corporate donors by declaring his deepest gratitude for public workers with praise for "tens of thousands [actually, 350,000, if you count all public workers, guv] of outstanding teachers for whom it's more than a job - it's a calling. I'm grateful for the work they do, and I encourage every Ohioan to take time this week to thank an educator for their commitment to Ohio's future."

Effusively impressed by the work of these dedicated folks, the governor noted that they are "community leaders and our neighbors...who protect us, care for our most vulnerable, teach our children, and maintain our infrastructure to aid commerce and economic development throughout Ohio." Demonstrating his innate sense of political balance in the reports that I read, he never resorted to linking public employes to dreaded unions.

The man continues to grow politically and intellectually. If you want to do your part, take a public worker to lunch this week. And send an envelope with a contribution to the Republican Party. Be sure to mention Kasich's name, the biggest public employe of them all.

Obama's bin Laden mission accomplished

THE INK ON THE Osama bin Laden headlines had hardly dried before the rehab artists for former President Bush went into action to claim victory for their man. Led by the master of Grimms fairy tales, Karl Rove, if Bush hadn't laid the groundwork for bin Laden's capture, President Obama wouldn't be standing in front of the TV cameras to tell the world that the enemy was dead and gone. Hence, Bush/Cheney's defense of illegal torture was fully justified because that's what opened the way for Obama's follow-up success.

Or so it was claimed, despite more accuarate reporting that said the first clues to bin Laden's whereabouts came through normal interrogation of al-Qaeda operatives.

So be it. Believe what you like, with the understanding that the Rovian side of the Bush family is not giving up it's fictional narrative about its former boss. Here's what super sleuth George Bush said of his role in tracking down bin Laden on March 13, 2002:
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
The film clips show him shrugging off the question in a feathery manner as if to say , stop bothering me with such trivia. Can't you see that we're busy in Iraq?

Nothing demonstrated the stark difference in presidential demeanor between Bush and Obama than the moments of declaring good news. How can history forget a heroic Bush's wildly orchestrated landing in full flight gear on the aircraft carrier (The Abraham Lincoln!) to announce Mission Accomplished? . It was a photo album creation of a boastful unwavering leader who knew how to get it done. (On the other hand, the campaign rhetoric in 2008 warned that Obama couldn't get it done. Dick Cheney had no doubts that America's exposure to terrorists would be seriously heightened under Obama because it's the nature of Democrats to be soft on our enemies. The trash talking continues today among the die-hards.)

For good reason the self-ascending Bush visit to the aircraft carrier didn't become a national holiday. And eight years later to the day Obama , with presidential self-control befitting the office, walked to the microphone to soberly announce the bin Laden mission accomplished - a statement that electrified the world, if not his political enemies at home.

It was an important stop along the way on the war against terrorism. Obama did it without bells and whistles. Bush's version will remain in the hands of the Karl Roves for embellishment.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Obama/Meyers vs. Trump: A Saturday night massacre

IF YOU MISSED THE annual White House Correspondents Assn. dinner Saturday night (C-Span, full coverage), you didn't see the classic putdowns of Donald Trump by both President Obama and Seth Meyers, the Saturday Night Live writer who was the standup comedian for the event. Obama's dart included a cartoon that imagined how Trump would bring change as president. The place would become a hotel/casino with cocktail servers wiggling around in bikinis. The Prex also opined amid rounds of laughter that his release of his birth certificate would allow Trump to show his leadership on such other weighty matters as whether the moon landing was faked.

Meyers, who followed Obama, didn't let up, telling the audience that although Trump figured to be running as a Republican, he was really running as a joke.

The Donald, who was the guest of the Washington Post for reasons that only the paper can explain, witnessed the assault from his table with his third wife seated aside him. He forced a few painful grins, then his inner cave man surfaced with that familiar bullish fright mask. He quickly left the scene with the same demeanor as the cameras followed him through the crowd of 3,000, some of whom who were still handing around when the event ended.

But the day wasn't totally a washout for the nasty billionaire. Earlier, at a luncheon, Sarah Palin (Remember her? She hopes so!) defended him, chirping words that went:

"We appreciate and respect Donald Trump. He's our buddy."

That's one, Mr. Trump. That's one.

Can't ignore Obama's spiked advice to Michele Bachmann, another of his loopy adversaries on the right. He reported that she was born in Canada. And tersely explained how the system allows such nonsense:

"Yes, Michele," he said of his fanciful one-liner, "this is how it starts."