Thursday, March 31, 2011

There are taxpayers - and there are taxpayers

THE FLAWS IN the terribly restrictive anti-public workers union bill that fumbled through the Ohio General Assembly were best illustrated - unintentionally - by Rep. Bill Batchelder, the Republican House Speaker. Describing the massive protests against the bill, Batchelder insisted the workers had been stirred up by "lies" by a"bunch of labor leaders." Oh? You mean the GOP lawmakers didn't, among other things, strip these public unions of their right to strike?

He went on in a Plain Dealer article to defend his party's summary union-busting effort as a necessary tactic to protect the interests of everybody else. Let the speaker speak:
"Today, this House has taken an unprecedented step toward public policy that respects all Ohioans, especially our taxpayers and our hardworking middle class," the Speaker said in a prepared statement.
I find his explanation ludicrous and dishonest in itself. Is he suggesting that the 350,000 public union workers - teachers, firefighters, police et al - are not taxpayers? Nor hardworking? Nor the middle class that evolved from the unions in, say, Akron?

Batchelder's shuffling words are, of course, perfectly attuned to the Republican mantra that only in a union-less country can we comfortably expect workers to, eh, work harder and happily pay taxes. These ideas have permeated the GOP bible for so long that even veteran pols like Batchelder robotically continue to mouth its verses as holy writ. Indeed, the House version of the bill was even stronger than the Senate's. (Scientists who study fat whales say they reach their food sources through something called "echo location", which works for me as a description of the GOP scavengers in the Ohio legislature.)

Still, as it did the first time around , the Republican-controlled Senate passed the House version 17-16. And despite widespread objections to youthful Akron Sen. Frank LaRose's earlier flipflop on collective bargaining, he again voted with his flock for its one-vote victory. He's a rookie in the fickle ways of the electorate, and in a district steeped in labor tradition, he may find himself having to defend himself many times over. If the economy finally improves, he won't even have Summit County Republican boss Alex Arshinkoff at his side to defend him.


ay were

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Classified info: The Brits' selling points

AND NOW FOR a touch of British-style humor. It is taken from a list of classified ads in the UK, sent by a friend:

1/2 Cocker Spaniel
1/2 sneaky neighbour's dog

Worn once by mistake
Call Alison

Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica
Excellent condition, 200 or best offer.
No longer needed, got married, wife knows everything

It's time for DeWine to show us the money

AKRON'S DAVID BRENNAN, the for-profit charter schools baron, once invited me (many years ago) to a private breakfast to hear his special guest who had cutting-edge ideas on remedying the ills of formal education. "I think you'll find it very interesting," he confidently told me.

Brennan is a fellow who has never had an idea that wouldn't impress a listener. Or so he believed. The speaker at his breakfast offered the small group a single thesis: Within a few years - five, I seem to remember - universities would be out of business. No kidding. Indeed, nobody believed that more than our man in the audacious white cowboy hat. It was all part of his overarching plan to privatize education as a profitable business.

Part blustery showman and part political insider, Brennan has commanded attention for his schemes to save society from itself. Of late, his handiwork is surfacing again in the papers. An earlier charge of money-laundering through All Children Matter, a school choice operation in Washington, has tracked Brennan money back to the Ohio chapter of the national group's PAC. From here it went in large quantities to Ohio's Republican politicians who could grease the skids for the growth of charter schools.

So convinced of foul play, the Ohio Elections Commission in 2008 fined All Children Matter $5.2 million for the illegal conduit. So far, the fine has never been paid, and chances are that it never will be. All of the guardians of the public trust in this matter have received generous political contributions from Brennan. Among them are Gov Kasich, whose proposed budget includes an item doubling the state's school choice voucher support and lifting the lid on charter schools in Ohio; Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted.

It would be DeWine's task to pursue those millions that have been in limbo since the fine was levied. It was DeWine, after all, who righteously campaigned last year on clean government under the aggressive protection of the AG's office. The only word so far on this quick-change operation is from DeWine's spokeswoman, Lisa Hackley. She would only tell the Associated Press that the office was, um... working on it.

The odds are against any quick resolution of the problem. There was saying back in my old neighborhood in the Pennsylvania hills that went,

"Them that has is them that get."

I haven't seen any evidence that it's not still true today.

Monday, March 28, 2011

One more giant leap for mankind...and birthers!

ENOUGH OF THE March Madness already!

I'm not talking about the presumed also-rans who have mysteriously overrun the experts' fail-safe basketball elite (Kansas and Ohio State) to land in the Final Four of the NCAA playoffs. Instead, I'm talking about the vacuous political losers who set out daily to achieve another giant leap for mankind. The latest participant, whom I've mentioned earlier, is Donald Trump. His Olympian superiority is overwhelming. Having surveyed the others in the GOP presidential field, The Donald obviously decided that he's far wiser than any of them and is now moving in to defeat them at their own game.

And where else but as the ranting voice to Fox News? Ranting is too mild for his take-down of President Obama's birthplace. No, he had a hysterical mental collapse that apparently was never evident as a couple of his companies fell into bankruptcy. As such, he is sure to be the darling of the birthers. After a half-century of reporting politics I have concluded that if he is to have any chance at all, Trump ought to find a new hair stylist. I'll take that back: He has no chance at all even if Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have worked their way into the Final Four.

Should we next look for a giant leap in Wisconsin? In that once-progressive state, the Scott Walker administration has decided to ignore a court ruling and plunge ahead on its own to implement its new anti-union legislation. The governor, who always impresses me as a deer in the headlights, apparently has no use for court judgments that work against him. The state has already put the new law into motion under the Walker Doctrine that if you don't like a court order, you simply ignore it.

Really, people, I'd like to have my country back!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Des Moines: The fringe's giant leap for mankind

IN MY CONTINUING effort to monitor giant leaps for mankind, I think you should know about the latest gathering of GOP presidential hopefuls in Des Moines. That's the capital of Iowa and serves nicely in the heart of the state as a Sharia-free zone for another round of the show up-and-tell fringe politics of Michele, Newt, Haley, Herman et al. With the state's potential game-changing caucuses on the line next year, only Sarah Palin would get away with ignoring the ultra-conservative forum over the week end hosted by Iowa's thought-free congressman Steve King.

Some of the tone recalled the days when you could get a very nice bedside lamp with Top Value stamps; in the current version of Republican politics, the first test of any candidate is whether he or she subscribes to King's reliance on Judeo-Christian Family Values to pull a country of majority Christians out of its economic depths. Steve King says it better to his audience than I can:
"If we get the culture right, the economy will be right eventually.
Meantime, Newt Gingrich, who has been spreading like crabgrass these days , rose to the podium with more assaults on lefties and the president. Armed with his own mathematical proofs, Newt bellowed: "There is a huge difference between Obama and the left and 80 pct. of the American people." Of course, you never know what American people Newt is hanging out with. Some observers had hoped that he he would satsifactorily explain the huge difference between supporting a no-fly zone in Libya one day and rejecting it the next.

Haley Barbour joined others in promising that tax cuts would produce jobs (unfortunately not for the armies of workers laid off because of shrinking budgets). That audience-friendly proposal is much like the first line of a classic poem without a follow-up line.

But back to values. Michele Bachmann, whose head has become a revolving turret that nails every moving object in Lib-land, told her cheering crowd: "It is the character and the values of our people - that's why I am so confident in our people in 2012".

That is a summary of what we can expect for nearly two years. I confess that I'm never sure what values these people are talking about. But I promise to let you know after I turn on the Top Value bedside lamp and open a book. The lamp is now in the realm of heirlooms. Can't say that the giant leap for mankind in Des Moines produced anything of that lasting value

PS. Oops. Did I forget to mention prexy hopeful Herman Cain's economic dialectic? Or John Bolton's hawkish remedies for Iran? You didn't miss a thing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Haley Barbour's version of kiss-kiss warfare

REPUBLICAN HALEY BARBOUR, THE billowy-faced Mississippi governor who is on course to seek the presidency, says he would reinstate Don't Ask Don't Tell in the military because you don't need any "amorous mindset" among the troops when you're in the heat of battle." Granted, this profound insight into the battleground comes from a good ol' boy who never served in the military. But I must humbly ask whether the guv actually believes - actually believes - that gays will be in a lovers' embrace when the enemy is shooting at them. Alas, the strange level of political discourse by the presidential wannabes has become the only seal of approval avidly sought by the Republican candidate class.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Donald Trump: He stoops to conquer

DONALD TRUMP may have advanced his presidential aspirations on The View this week when he added his name to the list of birthers challenging President Obama to release his birth certificate. And you think that only semi-literates stoop that low? Trump is the biggest egotist in the public arena today, so he may yet dump himself into the GOP race.

That would increase the number or Republican White House wannabes to at least 39 if you count every lightweight with at least a gleam in his or her eye. In fact there are reports that some Republicans are starting to worry about the cumbersome size of the field. My tax exempt solution would be to place each name on a separate sheet of paper and toss them from a skyscraper aerie. The lightest sheet will be the last to hit the ground. The name it bears will be the obvious choice to win the GOP nomination - uncontested.

FOOTNOTES: For a rational view of Gov. Kasich's irrational plan to privatize the state liquor department, check David Hess's comment on my post on the topic. Hess is a former colleague in Columbus and Akron who covered Capitol Hill for Knight-Ridder Newspapers and is the former president of the National Press Club. He usually doesn't take prisoners....Good news this week for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Republican Ken Blackwell, who was demolished in his bid against then-candidate Ted Strickland in the 2006 Ohio gubernatorial race, says he is seriously considering challenging Brown. Could Brown be that lucky?

As Maine goes, so goes the 'pro-labor' mural !!!

NO, THOSE AREN'T young Depression Era Christmas carolers. They are child laborers in one of the panels of a mural that Maine Gov. Paul LePage has ordered to be removed from the state's Department of Labor because it is too "pro-labor". Even in the current era of political kookery, LePage has passed Glenn Beck, Rush Limbuagh, Michele Bachmann and their ilk to embrace the summit of a nation going mad.

Not that LePage is without supporters. He is being congratulated by some constituents for his assault on socialists, communists, lefties, liberals. unionists and the iconic Rosie the Riveter (whose mural image also will disappear.) A Tea Partier, LePage is now the national beacon of in-our-face insanity with his version of rightwing "Maine-ia ." At first glance you want to laugh at this disgraceful act, but mind control is how fascism asserts itself.

LePage spent 15 years as general manage of Marden's Surplus and Salvage discount chain, so he knows something about the value of recycled merchandise to entrepreneurers. He also is said to have a young Jamaican in his household, who is the son of LePage's caddy when he vacations in that island coutnry. Very generous of the governor.

If Lepage doesn't spur national outrage for his abuse of historical truth, we may conclude that all of us deserve the government we get - one that disputes that there were once child laborers and believes that Rosie the Riveter was no more than a liberal myth. .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On labor art, local tax options and the UA Board of trustees

FOR NO EXTRA charge, people, we are pleased to show you another excellent example of how the Tea Partiers are making a mockery of democracy in America. Here, we give you Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a TPer himself, who has ordered the removal of an historic 11-panel mural from the state's Department of Labor because he believes - are you ready for such nonsense in the land of the free? - it is too pro-labor and doesn't reflect a balance with business and industry. The Republican governor has also called for name changes for conference rooms for the same preposterous reasons. So the depiction of Rosie the Riveter will be gone, as well as others who contributed sweat and muscle to industry. Next, across the land with these LePage types in charge, will come removal of WPA art in theaters and other public places. The awesome Diego Rivera mural in the Detroit Instititute of Arts that commands a visitor's attention will probably remain. Tea Partiers have better things to take up their time than anything as trivial as a dying American city like Detroit.

More from Gov. Kasich on the new royalist regimes that have moved into state governments: He has now placed himself in charge of tax policies of local governments, telling the Columbus Dispatch increases in taxes at the municipal level is "not an option" to make up for abundant losses in state revenue in his proposed budget. He says the beleaguered locals can get by on savings from having to deal with public worker unions. He can't prove that, but when you are royalty, you don't have to. His ally, Mayor Don Robart of Cuyahoga Falls, has already placed his seal of approval on Kasich's plan. He told the Beacon Journal with vague certainty that "I'd like to think it's going to balance out." You can tack that one up on your refrigerator.

Finally, Alex Arshinkoff wasn't dumped by the University of Akron Board of Trustees as the newly-hired UA lobbyist. I'm told Trustee Jane Bond raised the issue in executive session but "nothing happened." Why am I not surprised?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ohioans drinking their way to prosperity?

THERE ARE moments when I'm convinced that Gov. Kasich is running the state for his own amusement. His repeated boasts that he's personally changing Ohio's impoverished landscape, no matter how harshly many people will have to suffer, sounds terribly like the puffed up neighborhood bully who is out to prove to himself that he alone commands the streets.

Look, we heard his threats the first time! Still, he has yet to show us anything other than he is a reckless swashbuckler on the loose. He's not the sort of person you would want to negotiate a deal with the Queen of England.

As for changing everything, he hasn't - not when he is forcing the middle class and impoverished to play by rules he hasn't applied to the wealthiest residents of the state. Of course, some of the state's editorial writers are buying into his self-absorbed crusade, arguing that something must be done to wipe out the huge deficit.

We already know that! What we don't know is how his Draconian plans will benefit the state's less fortunate class. Nor increase employment, not when his programs quite likely will put a lot of tax-paying Ohioans out of work.

Just when you think he can't tilt the pinball machine much more with his antics, he is now proposing to lease a highly profitable state operation to private owners - an idea so corrupt in its own arithmetic that we can only guess what Wall Street firm put him up to it. You don't have to know how to add 2 and 2 to challenge the idea of selling the state liquor sales operation to a private agency that he has created. So keen is he on improvising his promise to create jobs that details are strewn on the cutting-room floor.

Go ahead. Look it up and work the numbers yourself. Kasich is basing his case on his evidence that Ohioans are drinking more and more and will provide revenue for all of the partners down the road. Critics like Ohio Budget Watch, however, said the state would end up selling $7 billion in revenue at the fire-sale price of $1.5 billion . Booze is currently earning about $225 million annually.

Kasich's scheme in behalf of his cronies and big donors reminds me of an old short story by Damon Runyon called "Blood Pressure." In it a fearsome bully shoots crap in a hat without anybody daring him to reveal his "winning" numbers.

Skilled in the culture of Wall Street, which paid his salary and bonuses for seven years, and as fact free as his days as a commentator for Fox News, there's little hope that he will return to earth very soon. Maybe it's time for all of us to order another beer.

Will UA Board reevaluate Arshinkoff's contract?

WEDNESDAY could be a critical day in the life and times of Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's $120,000 lobbying contract with the University of Akron. I'm told by a couple of sources that UA's Board of Trustees probably will "reevaluate" the controversial contract in executive session. Although the board could be equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, there are plenty of negative feelings around town by the D's and R's that his continued presence in the subcontracted lobbying mix has not won the University any style points.

One thing is certain : if word of the trustees' possible action has reached Arshinkoff, he will be quite busy lobbying his powerful friends to head it off. A deadlock by the board in executive session would leave his job unchanged, and no more would be said about it in the regular session that followed it tomorrow morning.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Akron Art Museum: Major coup with Escher exhibition

AN EXHIBIT CARD at the Akron Art Museum quotes the artist M.C. Escher as asking:
"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?"
After viewing the 130 works by the late Dutch artist that currently hang compellingly in teasing challenges to your wits, you may conclude that only a person of Escher's extraordinary talent could get away with asking that question. And to his credit, the answer must be yes - or maybe no. One can never be certain that what you are seeing is actually what you are getting from him.

Since the show, appropriately titled Impossible Realities, opened on Feb. 12, more than 10,000 visitors have streamed to the museum to see up front the originals of what they may have only seen on calendars, greeting cards or posters.

The artist has puzzled us with stairways that lead to nowhere and circular imagery that has no beginning nor end.

The art history books have given scant attention to Escher, perhaps because the experts never seem to agree on whether he is an illustrator or a crossover from some other genre. Indeed, you can buy an Escher book at the Museum shop that taunts you by asking, "artist or graphic artist?"

But it doesn't reach far for an answer. If we could sketch the question in as an image on paper, as Escher might, you would find yourself hopelessly at a loss for a clear explanation. (Or, check Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, a strange composition of nudes in bubbles or peering out from odd containers.) Still Escher. who died in 1972, does force one to consider another physical order to the universe which is valid today in the political upheavals and bizarre political rantings that are alien to the many who prefer a saner world.

A good example of how Escher unapologetically disrupts our stream of consciousness is Metamorphose II, inspired by a Italian coastal scene strongly suggestive of Positano. Here, a cascade of white buildings with red tile roofs descends to a castle in the sea. Fair enough, but the castle also represents a chess piece with other pieces beyond it and more - an ever-morphing series stretching to 12 feet! At the same time, the white buildings are illusory. The roofs form stairways. But look again, stare if necessary, and roofs become floors at the base of houses above it. It is optical trickery created by an artist who once described his work as "a game - a very serious game."

Count this show as a a major coup for the museum, which is only the second American gallery to present the Eschers (the first was in New Britain, Conn., home of the Greek owners who stationed them in Athens' Herakleidon Museum, where the collection will return upon leaving Akron.)

From the AAM's director Mitchell Kahan, to its staff, there are circular smiles for the attention the rare collection has gained during its stay here. So much, in fact, says curator Ellen Rudolph, that an extension of the exhibition is being considered beyond the scheduled May 29 closing.

For now the AAM is also showing a collection of Herman Leonard's superb photographs of American jazz artists; and Cleveland artist Sarah Kabot's spacious graphic installations that create "interventions" in human perceptions - optics that change our awareness of what we see.

Hooray for the Akron Art Museum for this once-in-a-lifetime experience! Allow yourself enough time to examine the wonderful Escher drawings to decide how this artist has re-ordered the planet for you. You can look at the commercial reproductions of his work in your more leisurely moments at home.

Friday, March 18, 2011

For a modest $50, you get the Arshinkoff-Huckabee tandem

IF YOU WANT TO spend an evening with a fellow who suspects that President Obama is a Mau Mau, Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff has created an opportunity for you. He's scheduled Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas preacher and governor, to be the guest at the party's Lincoln Day Dinner on April 9 at Quaker Station. It's $50 a plate, and my guardian angel has sternly warned me against going to the event. Besides, what do Arshinkoff and Huckabee have to do with Lincoln?

Huckabee will be in town to sign his new book - whose title is A Simple Government - and help Alex advance his boast of a bountiful Republican spirit hereabouts.

In a review, New York Times Columnist Gail Collins described the book as "one long howl about the Obama White House," where the author finds an A student who is an arrogant nerd, who "can't hit, he can't throw and he can't run." Nice.

By the way, did I mention that Huckabee is running for president if the crick don't rise ,even if George Will dissed him as "implausible"? Still, sitting through a dinner with a Razorback guitar player who autographs books is worth something, I guess, at least for Arshinkoff, whose political skills reside in inviting Southern politicians to his bashes. The vintage list includes Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and now Huckabee.

One Republican who won't be there is indicted auto dealer Tom Ganley, who was enthusiastically endorsed as a leader when Ganley, as a congressional candidate last year, appeared as a guest on Huckabee's Fox TV show. Indeed, Ganley returned the favor by hiring Huckabee's midwest presidential campaign coordinator to be his own campaign manager. Not that it did any good.

Trust me. Alex will be his usual effusive self with Huckabee. For fifty bucks, the steak had better be tender.

A Wall Street bonus for Kasich?

CONSIDERING how proud Ohio's Wall Street-tutored governor, John Kasich, is of his proposed budget - particularly as it provides safe haven for the wealthiest Ohioans - it wouldn't be surprising if Goldman Sachs or Bank of America gives him one of their whopping bonuses.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Wingies are spinning the earthquake

The latest word from Planet Loco:

Glenn Beck says the Japanese catastrophe could be a precursor (my word, obviously not his) to the end of the world.

Bill O'Reilly says the media are guilty of "hyping" the seriousness of radioactive fallout.

Rush Limbaugh used the tragic occasion to to joke about environmentalists.

As Joseph Welch plaintively asked during the McCarthy hearings: "At long last, have you no sense of decency?"

Not then. Not now.

2011 stats for 2012 election!

LATEST FIGURES from Public Policy Polling (PPP):

Sen. Sherrod Brown, 49 pct., Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, 30 pct. Undecided, 21 pct.

Brown, 49 pct., Secretary of State Jon Husted, 34 pct., Undecided, 21 pct.

Brown, 48 pct., Rep. Steve LaTourette, 30 pct., Undecided, 22 pct.

Brown, 48 pct., Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, 32 pct., Undecided, 21 pct.

Brown, 49 pct., Rep. Jim Jordan, 30 pct., Undecided 30 pct. , Undecided 21 pct.

Brown, 49 pct., Drew Carey, 34 pct., Undecided 17 pct.

I know, the 2012 election is still light years away. But haven't you heard? The campaigns are already under way. Ouch!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kasich nose-diving in public approval

FOR ALL OF THE noise that has slammed across Ohio since Gov. Kasich unveiled his budget, has it escaped you that his poll numbers are dissipating as quickly as educational funds? A survey of Ohioans by Public Policy Polling, a reputable national pollster, has revealed Kasich's public approval rating at 35 pct. vs. disapproval of 54 pct! One reason is that voters are now seeing him as a brutish, rough-hewn politician who would have trouble courteously asking a restaurant server for a coffee refill. He has ignored the numbers of his close election that even with a terrible economy failed to give him a clear majority (49-47). Worse yet, of those who voted for him, he's down to 71 pct. approval. That doesn't translate easily into political capital, no matter how boastfully he plays his cards these days. (As Gauguin once asserted: "I am a great artist, and I know it!")

Another reason his fright mask supporting collective bargaining by public unions. The PPP should give him pause:. he's trying to climb a big mountain against unions, as 63 pct. of Ohioans say they support collective bargaining for public employe unions. Up and down the scale, the figures are against him.

You can find a consensus today that our governor is only in the mix for a couple of years because his first priority is to seek the presidency in 2012. Ex-out of touch Wall Streeters tend to regard themselves as larger than life in arranging their days. Problem is that Gov. Scott Walker is said to be aiming for a presidential candidacy, too. Kasich and Walker are political soul brothers, and I would have to wonder whether there wouldn't be a strange conflict of interest if they found themselves on the same stage in the primaries.

But I wonder about a lot strange things in today's weird political climate.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ninja execution at the state board of education!

GOV. JOHN KASICH'S Ninjas have struck again, this time at public education in a way that should shock every Ohio citizen. Here's how the Columbus Dispatch story began today:
"Empowered by a new presence on the state school board, backers of Gov. John Kasich today forced out Ohio's state superintendent of education."
It wasn't clear why the execution of Deborah Delisle was ruthlessly decreed by Kasich, whose state of mind since the election suggests he is a reckless and self-indulgent disciple of slash-and-burn politics. But we might have a strong clue. After some Kasich-ordered tinkering with the board's membership, she was driven out on a 10-9 vote. That followed an earlier ouster of board president Robin C. Hovis, a Republican, also on a 10-9 vote. And here's the telling clue: Hovis' successor is Debe Terhar, described by the Dispatch as a "Cincinnati Tea Party conservative" who founded one of those every ever-incubating non-profit groups that claim an interest in American history and the Constitution. Terhar has been on the state board two months.

Clearly, folks, you can translate this as a payoff to the Tea Party by a governor who strongly courted its support during the campaign. If not, let him deny it.

At the top, public education in this state is now in the hands of Palinesque Tea Partiers who influenced Kasich's attacks on teachers in his earlier bout with the Ohio Education Association, in public union bargaining and now on the state board of education. His new budget has lifted the lid on charter schools (which cost taxpayers $1.4 billion over the past two years), and doubled voucher programs.

May we next expect a Texas-like assault on textbooks to satisfy Terhar's deep interest in the Constitution and the Revolution?

Ohio's voters and non-voters have created a helluva mess that will become a scandalous chapter in Ohio's modern history.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Something the senator didn't bargain for?

From a Grumpy Abe reader, exactly as sent to me. What more could I say?:

Protesters who marched at the home of Wisconsin state senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) were met with something of a surprise on Saturday. Mrs. Hopper appeared at the door and informed them that Sen. Hopper was no longer in residence at this address, but now lives in Madison, WI with his 25-year-old mistress.

Blogging Blue reports that the conservative Republican's much-younger new flame is currently employed as a lobbyist for right-wing advocacy group Persuasion Partners, Inc., but was previously a state senate staffer who worked on the Senate Economic Development Committee alongside Mr. Hopper. Her bio has been scrubbed from the Persuasion Partners' website, but a screen-grab is available here.

Sen. Hopper has worked closely with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to implement the state's new anti-labor laws and enact policies favorable to the interests of big business. Like Walker, Hopper is one of the Republican politiciansnamed in a massive recall effort spearheaded by Wisconsin Democrats.

According to Wisconsin law, state elected officials who have served at least one year of their current term are eligible for recall by voters. Hopper was elected state senator for district 18 in the fall of 2008, making him eligible for recall, whereas Governor Walker will not be eligible until 2012.

Blogging Blue also reports that Mrs. Hopper intends to sign the recall petition against her husband. The petition has already been signed by the family's maid.

Michele's continued state of confusion

WITH ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL election season upon us, it has become more apparent that Rep. Michele Bachmann, the pride of Minnesota's Republican team, can be factually challenged from time to time. But there is no greater evidence of her weakness in geography beyond the borders of her congressional district than her dense understanding of history. So let's roll the tape on her campaign appearance in New Hampshire as she told the folks:

"What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty. You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord."

Help soon arrived. Sensing a disaster for a Republican sister, Sarah Palin twittered Michele to advise her that it was not New Hampshire but Montana.

All of which was a reminder of an old saying that the trouble with political jokes is that they get elected.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When is right thing not the right thing?

MICHAEL DOUGLAS, the Beacon Journal's editorial page editor, treated the reader to a symmetrical essay in his Sunday column about Summit County's newest state senator.

Symmetry? He began in the opening line by telling us that Frank LaRose "did the right thing." He closed with the line that the senator "did the right thing". But in between, the reasoning lost traction and distanced itself from Hemingway's literary classic, For Whom the Bell Tolls, that profoundly began and ended with Robert Jordan lying on the floor of a "pine-scented" forest.

Douglas generously credits LaRose with tempering some restrictions on collective bargaining while offering public union workers the right to negotiate wages - a fig leaf, as it's been called - although workers, in return, would give up their right to strike. The last time that I'm aware of that happening was back in the late 1980s when the Guild foolishly agreed not to strike during negotiations with the Beacon Journal.

Contract negotations extended three years beyond its expiration while salaries for guildsmen were frozen. By the way, the Guild also agreed not to make pay increases retroactive!

In the current fray, unions consider collective bargaining - the only generic issue here - with the same sanctity as big-time executives do with stock options and other perks. Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, the issue could lead the way for right-to-work legislation.

For now, LaRose's mistake that is costing him so much loss of credibility is that he had convinced so many that he was a friend of collective bargaining while he worked to restrict it. Had he sold himself as a garden variety anti-union lawmaker from the beginning there would have been less at issue here. But he set the stage for it with his repeated pro public union collective-bargaining assurances. Yes, there were other Republicans with whom he sided in the 17-16 decision. But his vote was critical to both sides. Had he voted against it, he would not now have to be spending so much time explaining his back-channel efforts to soften the blow to unions. Now he is being held accountable. There is a right way to do a right thing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A letter to update Abe Lincoln

Open Letter to Abraham Lincoln:

Dear Mr. President:

It's been quite awhile since we've heard from you and I thought it might be a good time to bring you up to date on your party (Now old, but hardly grand these days.). Sadly, you would not recognize it, even though local pretenders still hold Lincoln Day dinners in a blatant annual exercise of identity theft. Whatever works for a night out, I guess.

Would it be too much to ask the Lincoln Day hosts what attributes are shared with you today? Yes, I guess it would.

You have been remembered throughout the years - even in a few textbooks in South Carolina and Georgia - as a great leader who kept the Union from dividing. How times have changed! A new generation of Republican governors is now plotting at several levels with plans that not only divide their constituents but divide us as a means of conquering the unions themselves. Rapacious members of your party, from Washington to state capitals, have created such havoc that the deep political wounds to the national interest will linger for many years to come.

I'm sure that you recognize the ninjas among us today with their talk of states rights, nullification and secession that is making the rounds. John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis would have felt quite at home with this gang, right?

But there's more to illustrate that despite your heroic efforts at governance in troubled times, the GOP is giving up its soul daily with scandalous theatrics that have nothing to do with how we live together as the Republic that you saved at your own peril. Yesterday, Rep. Peter King of New York staged a reprehensible McCarthy-like hearing in congress that singled out one group of Americans as the enemies of the people. Peter King, for God's sake, the devout supporter of the IRA across the ocean. The show trial against Muslims was such a pathetic political farce that it should have embarrassed every American while serving to dishonor all of the Tea Party- inspired robots on Capitol Hill.

There was nothing to be gained from it in meeting the challenges of modern terrorism. It was strictly for show, and nothing at all was learned from it. How shameful, don't you think, Mr. President?

You have also missed the clinical madness of several Republican presidential pretenders. Let me update you.

Mike Huckabee, a former preacher mining his audiences along the yellow brick road, has tried to associate President Obama with a Mau Mau childhood. And Crazy Guggenheim (aka Newt Gingrich) ludicrously explained his adulterous married life (on the Christian Broadcasting Network, no less) on forces that were well beyond his control. He said his powerful libido was partly driven by his deep passion for his country. He was standing in front of big American flag when he said it.

And up in Wisconsin, the billionaire-owned governor, Scott Walker, is proudly proclaiming a victory on the backs of public worker unions, fibbing that it was all about budget deficits. From all that I have read about you, Mr. President, I'm convinced you were a sensitive man, quite conscious of the welfare of other human beings. If you were here to see this fellow Walker, you might agree with me that he is a deadpan with motionless eyes who never makes eye contact with anybody else. It's creepy, don't you think?

Finally, since every Scatterbrained Republican on the TV news each night is considered to be presidential (dead) timber, there's a gal up in Minnesota, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has lowered herself to be the queen of the congressional Tea Party Caucus. It is her right of passage to Fox News and other right-wing asylums(and you think you had it bad!) where she can pursue her certainty that President Obama is the capo di tutti capi of a gangster government.

I should leave you for now, Mr. President. It's too depressing to continue. I want to tell you however, that I will best serve your honorable leadership by staying away from those Lincoln Day Dinners. They have become nothing more than show trials, too. Meantime, you and I can both ask of these troubled troublemakers: Is that all you've got?


Abe Zaidan , AKA Grumpy Abe

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The underlying presidential campaign in Wisconsin

GOV. SCOTT WALKER'S muted motive in the ugly spectacle in Wisconsin was finally confirmed by one of his own people: Republican Scott FitzGerald, the state's senate majority leader. Here it is:
"If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you're going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin."
Oh? So its not really about the maligned budget deficit nor collective bargaining at all. but about Barack Obama's chances in 2012! If they could sell cynicism and subterfuge by the pound in that state (and later in Ohio), Walker could wipe out his deficit overnight.

Ironically, despite the polls that show his popularity and that of other GOP Wisconsin lawmakers taking a dive, Walker cannot compromise. His strength remains in the hands of the Koch brothers, multi-billionaires who are measuring his every move for their own interests in the state. And with Walker's missionary zeal as an evangelical Christian and son of a Baptist minister, he will hold his ground, come heaven or hell.

Zeal? Walker supports the pro-life cause to the extent that he would let a mother die rather than allow her an abortion. I mention that only because it's important to see the melding of social conservatism and unlimited cash in the new American political landscape, courtesy of the U.S.. Supreme Court. These are dangerous times for democracy as we've come to know it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kasich's state of the state: Full of sound and fury, but....

GOV. KASICH'S State of the State boilerplate address was familiar to all of us who have witnessed the battle cries of chest-pounding politicians who are obligated to speak to a friendly audience. To his delight, he promptly gained traction with the top-heavy Republican legislature by defiantly promising that he would not raise taxes, an always-productive applause line. I had to go back to Calvin Coolidge to track the genetic origin of such sweet-sounding thoughts. (Silent Cal allowed that taxes were "legalized larceny".)

Having successfully established that story line, Kasich, in his usual pugnacious mode, then went on for more than an hour to tell us a lot of things that, unfortunately, we already know: the state is broken; the best and brightest are packing up their brainpower and leaving Planet
Buckeye; we're being screwed big-time by China; your grandmother is better off at home than in a nursing home.

He also slipped into his extemporaneous comments some gratuitous references to John Kennedy and endurable Democrats, so long as the other side went along with his ideas. Oh, the ideas. The few examples that he offered in leading the state in a new direction would hardly dent the huge deficit.

But for all of his avowed tolerance of new ideas, we heard none. You'd think he would have projected one smashing game changer in his long Rhodes-like narrative besides promising us that he would rise above politics in reforming the way we deal with our problems. You remember Jim Rhodes. A half-century ago he rode into power by promising jobs and no new taxes. Since then, the definition of taxes has changed and are now called "fees". But that's another story .

Well, now we must await the Kasich budget that arrives on March 15. He says it will be a
blockbuster to turn the state around. It might even prod pigs to fly. We'll see. Keep your binoculars handy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Republican attack of "vibrations of weirdness"

ARCH CONSERVATIVE George Will's discovery of "vibrations of weirdness" within the Republican Party is hardly news to liberals who have been scorned for saying the same thing for a long time. He was reacting to presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee's insistence that Barack Obama has evolved from the Zombies that we've been hearing so much about these days. By the way that he continues to make a fool of himself in the media, it's evident that he is increasingly immodest about his credibility....Meantime, Sen. John McCain was back on the Sunday morning talk shows, which is the equivalent of staring into the same cage at the zoo for hours while ignoring all of the other attractions. The networks simply won't allow him to back-pedal into oblivion.

And how about this one: the Republican House Speaker in New Hampshire is upset because hordes of young people register and vote on the same day. He wants the practice to end and there's a Republican bill in the legislature that would do just that. Says Speaker Bill O'Brien of the tads: "They don't have life experience and they just vote their feelings and they're taking away the town's ability to govern themselves." Gee. I thought that's what adult voters do.

Monday, March 7, 2011

LaRose doublethink: "Collective bargaining is essential"

STATE SEN. FRANK LAROSE, the first-term Akron area Republican, says he is being unfairly criticized for his game-changing vote to kill collective bargaining. Indeed, he was sort of for collective bargaining by public employe unions before he was against it. His explanation is hardly clear, which is a good reason for the whacking he's taking from people who will be hurt by the bill if it is also passed by the Ohio House.

LaRose issued a formal statement (which I read on a conservative blog) as a non-mea culpa. I will share with you, in part:
"This bill helps restore balance to the public employee collective bargaining process, while also protecting the rights of our state's hardworking public service employees."
Question, senator: How can you restore balance to a collective bargaining process that won't exist for public union workers once the measure becomes law? And do you really suppose that by adding "hardworking" to the public workers you will salve their feelings? I hope you can see where this is going.

And here's another thought from the young Tea Party-influenced senator :
"My vote was not, and never will be, motivated by political considerations or outside pressure. Anyone who says otherwise does not know me or understand my unwavering commitment to serving the citizens of our community. I am duty bound to do what's best for Ohio, even when it may be unpopular. We must work together to bring prosperity back to the Buckeye State."
Well, Gov Kasich, who is in love with the union-busting bill, wasn't taking any chances. He visited the Senate Republican caucus the night before the vote and you can be sure that it wasn't a casual social drop-in.

While we're at it, senator: You say the bill was improved because strikers wouldn't be put in jail. Fine, although there's doubtless not a soul among your critics who doesn't believe the last-minute amendments actually made it much worse.

Sorry, but I've saved the best for last:
"I opposed the initial version of the bill based on fundamental objections with a few of its provisions. By standing steadfast on what I believed to be fair, I was able to work with my colleagues to protect the essential right of employes to collectively bargain."
You may not have heard, senator, but there will be no essential right of public employes to collectively bargain. Orwell had something to say about such logic. He called it doublethink.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

K-Sick, Walker-loo: Ohio, we have a problem

GOV. KASICH says he will sign a controversial new labor bill without fanfare. My guess is that it will be in his private home in Delaware County. About 2 a.m. With only his immediate political family and the usual sycophants in attendance. After the last newspaper deadline on Saturday night. The atmosphere will be that of a pro football team packing up and slinking out of town in the middle of the night. Kasich says he wants to be respectful of the feelings of the people who will be hurt by the bill. Problem solved.

It's a hit-skip thing. And he's getting good at it. And why not? Eliminating 350,000 public union workers from collective bargaining (really, that translates into about a million folks if you toss in their families) is nothing to crow about if you are planning a long political career for yourself on the public payroll. Up in Wisconsin, where Gov. Walker is trying to pull off the same stunt, the voters have now lowered his approval rating to 40 pct. He and Kasich, bloated with their own right-wing self-indulgence, are engaging in the same alchemy to reduce multi-billion dollar deficits. ( The Badger budget office now projects a surplus in Wisconsin even if nothing is done to the public union workers. )

Some people are even finding a little humor in these dark days, referring to the Wisconsin governor as "Walker-loo". In Ohio, maybe they will begin to refer to the condition in
Columbus as "K-sick".

The angry calls to radio talk shows and letters to newspapers are growing. A friend tells me he has already gotten a recorded phone call against the bill, which the Ohio House will take up soon. As for Kasich, his years as a Wall Streeter and Fox News commentator have obviously divorced him from the needs of ordinary people .

No problem. Just sign the damn bill at 2 a.m. when it comes your way, Guv, and move on to something else awful enough to make the national media evening news.

Ohio, we have a problem.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Time for a GOP presidential round-robin tourney?

AS I WITNESS one potential Republican presidential candidate after another making a vacuous Tea Party-inspired statement in front of a TV camera, I confess my bewilderment over why the job should be so appealing to people who would be a lot better off managing traveling circuses. We are now hearing, for example, a lot of talk about impeaching President Obama, an intrusion that wistful Republicans haven't tried since 1998. The Democrats had a good opportunity to corner George Bush with much graver charges than sexual trysts, but, as is often their brand, they lacked the will to stir up trouble.

Anyway, I think I now know why so many Republicans are running for president: Truth be told, each one has such a low opinion of all of the others that they are convinced that this is their moment to run the table. That will become more obvious when, say, Newt Gingrich officially declares his candidacy. What other reasons can a retread in his late '60s with a thoroughly troubled past possibly have? And Rick Santorum? A religious zealot who was trampled when he ran for reelection to the Senate in Pennsylvania? So far, Newt is ahead in that matchup, but not by much. Mike Huckabee might edge Gingrich if he wasn't in the news each night for one more assault on Obama's legitimacy as a native-born American. He seems to be trailing the entire field in style points. Mitt Romney, a Mormon whose health care reforms in Massachusetts were ever so much like the new Federal law?

We are now past the point of no return, but you can see how this is going down.

I invite you to play this game as well as a sort of vapid round-robin competition that could end up with nobody left standing. In that deferral to democracy, you can at least fill in a blank to the end of the season. So I ask you: Wouldn't it be smart for the GOP to take a cue from the Miami Heat or New York Knicks and rent a name player to pose as a presidential candidate to relieve the party 's dearth of credible standard-bearers?

As of now, my choice would be, oh....Sen. Frank LaRose?

Kasich's Trojan Horse survives by one vote!

IN 2000, by the margin of a single vote, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush, , who lost the popular count by 537,000 votes. On Wednesday, the Republican infantry in the Ohio Senate handed Gov. Kasich his Trojan Horse by approving an historic measure to end collective bargaining by public unions in Ohio - by a single vote. (At least it allowed the state to be first in something!)

From all of this, it is easy to see once again that the victors write the history. (The Ohio House will vote on it, but the battle is over for now.) For the garrulous autocratic governor, the chip on his shoulder will be insufferable for his vanquished subjects. But not resting on his laurels, he has already sent out appeals for campaign contributions for whatever office that might amuse him down the road.

It didn't come easily, as six Republican senators defected to join 10 Democrats to oppose it.
And two of the defectors were pulled from their committees by the GOP leadership to prevent them from casting votes that would have frozen the bill in a deadlocked committee. This is generic hardball.

The biggest surprise was the turn-around by Sen. Frank LaRose of Akron, a young rookie who had convinced a lot of people that he was opposed to the bill. After talking to him at dinner several nights ago, I and a few others at the restaurant table concluded that he would break ranks with the Kasich Republicans and cast a no vote.

After all, he had also told a reporter for the suburban Norton Post that he he wasn't enthusiastic about a ban on collective bargaining, "I think the goal is to accomplish the dual purpose of helping the state, the cities and the counties manage their budgets," he said to reporter Bob Morehead. "But we have to be fair to our public employes. I don't think SB5 [Senate Bill 5] really does this the right way (to reform collective bargaining). You can't reform it by taking away workers' rights."

He then voted in favor of the most critical - and memorable - measure that he will likely encounter as a lawmaker! Firefighters, police, teachers and university faculty have already made note of that as his credibility takes a dive. Not a good way to begin a career in politics - particularly in a region with an historic union culture. Add it to LaRose's learning curve. But it will do little to remedy the damage.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Huckabee's version of Obama's childhood

OUR ALARMIST former preacher, Mike Huckabee, continues to warn his audiences that he is quite concerned about Barack Obama because the president grew up in Kenya. Unfortunately for Mike, his Book of Revelations is erroneous. As others quickly pointed out, Obama never set foot in Kenya until he was more thn 20 years old. On the other hand, Huckabee grew up in Arkansas. Next question, please.

UPDATE: Conceding that he "misspoke" when he accused President Obama of spending his childhood in Kenya, Huckabee said he still considers Obama to be "anti-American". People, there's going to be a rising tide of this kind of make-believe tale as the presidential race roars onward, and if that's all that Huckabee's got, don't invite him to the Republican candidates' debate.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kasich-Walker: Euphoric union busters

"This is the our moment to change the course of history!" - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Those heady words were the governor's boast to a man on the phone that he had been duped into believing was his billionaire benefactor, David Koch. Such hubris has marked those Republican governors and lawmakers who have put on fright masks to alarm the voters that their states will perish unless budget deficits are erased by summarily ending collective bargaining by public unions.

Such fairy tales, however, disguise the real reason that public unions have been targeted with unsupportable math. It's naked union-busting and I would give the GOP gang at the statehouse more credit for authenticity if they came flat out and said so. But that would blow their cover for the longer-range scenario in play. President Obama will be running for reelection in 2012 and his Republican rival will need all of the help he or she can get to fulfill his opponents' goal that has been on the clock since he was sworn in.

Now that we are past the Academy Awards rites, the attacks on mostly Democrat-friendly unions will be one of many top-billed theatrical narratives short of impeachment (but Newt Gingrich may try it anyway). Still worst-laid plans often go awry. Gov. Walker woke up this week to new polls that show him falling into minus-territory with the Badger voters for his Rambo role in this.

It's even worse in Ohio, whose wisdom-less governor and legislature will soon give us an even harsher restriction on public unions. Unlike Walker's gambit, John Kasich has no problems including police and firefighters in the repeal of collective bargaining. By all accounts, he is expected to win this one, if not with the public, at least with his Republican Sugar Daddies. (Walker says he talks to Kasich every day.) This is a high- stakes maneuver, folks. Next on the gallows: closed union shops. Talk of right-to-work is in the air.

Disclosure: Years ago I joined a newspaper staff that had the option of not joining the American Newspaper Guild. Several staffers decided to play nice to impress the boss and didn't join. However, whatever was earned in a new contract by dues-paying members also was awarded to the non-joiners. I didn't think that it was fair at the time, and nobody can tell me why it would be fair now.

I suspect the collective bargaining ploy will haunt Republicans who support it for some time. For younger Republicans with long-range political ambitions they may win the battle today but lose the war in the next chapter of their careers. That's something they might want to consider.

Gates' advice to future defense secretaries

EVERY NOW AND THEN a high-ranking Washington official says something that reminds us that all is not lost in the maze of political gobbledegook. So it was with the words of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his plain talk to a West Point audience. Referring to something said many years past by a famous American general, Gates declared:
"Any defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined, as General MacArthur so delicately put it."
There was no question that Gates was alluding to Don Rumsfeld, who is making the rounds with his new book that relieves him of any responsibility for the many mistakes he engendered during the Bush years. Too bad, Rumsfeld wasn't in the audience. He might have learned something. On the other hand, maybe not.