Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Private Kasich, friend of consultants

THIS MUCH CAN be said about Gov. Kasich's daily vow to create jobs in Ohio: He's a specialist in adding jobs for those folks who already have jobs.

His latest gambit is to hire a third - a third! - consultant to lay out the path to privatizing the Ohio Lottery Commission. The latest move by Private Kasich's team is a search for a gambling consultant to assure a smooth transition from public to private. Or as Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols explained it to the Plain Dealer a few days ago, to provide "top-to-bottom strategic review of the agency to ultimately determine whether privatizing should be considered and how to maximize the asset to the fullest."

Maximize the asset to the fullest? I wonder if that's how they talk among friends after hours when they want everyone to understand them.

The PD tells us that Team Kasich is already paying a Los Angeles Investment firm, Moelis & Co., on gambling taxes and fees. Then, too, it is paying another out-of-state firm,
Spectrum Gaming Group of Linwood, N.J., to "advise the governor on such things as whether Ohio should allow additional gambling beyond the lottery and the four casinos approved by the voters in 2009."

Consultants don't come cheap these days and it's possible that more money will be flowing out of Ohio for these companies than will come in as additional profits if the lottery is finally privatized. One thing is sure: From everything we've seen with Kasich's modus operandi so far for deep-pocketed political contributors and job-enriched cronies, them that have can expect to have...more.

A contract that served as Vick's salve


From the Huffington Post, referring to Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick's new $100 million contract:
Vick thankful for new 6-year contract

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

But Rushbo's lunacy does measure up

The headline in the Burlington (VT.) Free Press told us:

From Waterbury to Wilmington, Vermonters shocked by Irene's Destruction

And the story began:
Vermonters will need weeks to recover from Tropical Storm Irene that killed at least three people and left a trail of devastation from St. Johnsbury to Bennington. That sentiment is reverberating across Vermont, echoed by everyone from Gov. Peter Shumlin to shell-shocked homeowners victimized by the torrent.
Got that?

But here's the expurgated version from Morbidologist Rush Limbaugh, whose secluded studio suffered nary a drop of floodwater:
"I'll guarantee you Obama was hoping this was going to be a disaster as another excuse for his failing economy. If he's out there blaming tsunamis, blaming earthquakes, this one [was] made to order, but it just didn't measure up."
And across the land a couple of million Dittoheads gleefully nodded in approval. .

Nevertheless, from me, via self-acclamation, he will get the non-coveted Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award - as always, with Rushbo derangement, uncontested.

UPDATE; Northern New Jersey has worst flooding in 108 years; hundreds of thousands without electricity; much of Passaic cut off. As a political commentator, you're doing a heckuva job, Rushbo.

FURTHER UPDATE (FROM WEDNESDAY NEW YORK TIMES): "Hurricane Irene will most likely prove to be one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in the nation's history, and much of the damage might not be covered by insurance because so much of it was caused not by winds but by flooding, which is excluded from many standard policies. Industry estimates put the cost of the storm at $7 billion to $10 billion..."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Of hurricanes, locusts and Michele Bachmann

THE REPUBLICAN presidential candidates and their kin have been constructing their own Tower of Babble since Annie Oakley arrived from Alaska to lay waste to the Obama Administration. Sarah Palin and her wondrous reflections on everything not verified by textbooks have sort of been orbiting on the fringes of the current crop of carnivores, but it does lead you to wonder whether there isn't some truth to the peril of peaking too fast.

Meantime we've been treated to the grapes of wrath from everyone else carrying the banner of God, Jefferson Davis, Glenn Beck and Grover Norquist. (I've left some others out, but you surely get the idea.)

Some samples of this political theater of the absurd: The President will declare martial law (Mentioned prez candidate Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican) ; The federal government should be "inconsequential'', hotshot (hot flash?) meteor Rick Perry; Obama is overreaching by encouraging children to exercise (Fox & Friends, presidential "advisors".) Obama is only interested in creating class warfare instead of jobs (House Majority leader Eric Cantor) ; Obama is a Communist, socialist and elitist because he put Dijon mustard on his hamburger. (Ready choir?)

And just now, candidate Michele Bachmann has plaintively lamented in response to the hurricane: "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians."

If you don't mind, Michele, I presume we still have to get to the frogs, lice and locusts. I don't even want to wait for the movie.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Steve Jobs: No focus groups for me

IT WAS GOOD to read that retiring Apple genius Steve Jobs dismissed focus groups as the source of his success. As reported by the New York Times, Jobs said "his own study and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide. When a reporter asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: 'None. It's not the consumers' job to know what they want.'"

Forget the elitist tinge to that remark. When someone was as impressive in his work as Steve Jobs, there's no point in raising silly questions about something as trivial as focus groups.

Allow me to speak from personal experience. In their search for a life raft to the next generation, the media have been inviting groups to sit around in conference rooms to tell the editors how newspapers should do their jobs. It's all very collegial and home-townish that, for all of the confidence in unprofessional newspaper readers, it hasn't changed a thing other than to make editors, for a brief moment, at least, feel like they've done something very positive to connect the paper to the community.

Back in my newspaper days, I made the anti -focus group argument more than once, only to lose it every time. Maybe it came down to ego. I never thought that a group of well-meaning readers could tell me more about my business than a person with a backache could tell a doctor how to treat it. Such special, if never perfect, knowleddge of our trade is why we showed up for work in the news room each day rather than at the local bank or shoe store.

Besides, the focus group's advice was largely anecdotal and we had heard it all many times before: too much bad news , biased political coverage, the paper wasn't always delivered to your doorstep on time, etc. etc. etc. Editors thought it best to hear these complaints at intervals to persuade our invited handfuls of guests that we really cared about what they wanted, even when they often disagreed among themselves about what it was that we should be doing to satisfy them. Largely, it was a feel-good approach with fleeting benefits.

The only daily clue to a newspaper's mission lies in its first four letters: news.. Today the media don't need a focus group to remind anybody that as the papers shrink so do the number of news room employees who are supposed to cover the news. It is a dead-end practice that no focus group can change. Unfortunately there is no Steve Jobs around to be of any help.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Everybody but the candidates are on the dole

IF YOU'VE been following the herd of Republican presidential candidates on their appointed rounds, you might conclude from their words that the only people in America who aren't on the public dole are the candidates themselves, their families and a lot of their cronies. If they all weren't self-made success stories bred in log cabins, they at least understood the virtues of rejecting a helping hand from the government and rose by their own undeniable wits and work ethic, by God, while the rest of us stood in line to eat cake.

Mitt Romney seemed to speak for the others in the field when he declared,
"Dependency is death to initiative, to risk-taking and opportunity. It's time to stop the spread of government dependence and fight it like the poison it is."
As a proven flip-flopping tongue-twister on the stump, Mitt takes a risk every time he utters more than a word or two to demonstrate how responsibly presidential he is.

As J.D. Salinger's dippy and depressed young man, Holden Caulfield, regularly referred to whatever was happening around him, the GOP/Tea Party dialogue is all "crap". And it is being spread around by some people who, whether they win or lose the party nomination, will never miss a meal if their own set of wealthy benefactors have anything to say about it .

This leads me to the latest phenom in the cast, Rick Perry. Here's a fellow , the great denouncer, who may yet find a way to declare the Texas drought to be an Obama creation now that fervent prayers haven't worked down there. Perry has declared Social Security and Medicare and a lot of other Federal stuff to be unconstituonal and, like Romney, believes the money is ill-spent to foster dependency. It is all part of his grand scheme to make the federal government "inconsequential".

A word or two about dependents: As the New York Times editorially pointed out,
"There are nearly 600 boards, commissions, authorities and departments in Texas, many of which are of little use to the public and and should have been shut down or consolidated. They are of great use to the governor, who more than any predecessor has created thousands of potential appointments for beneficent backers and several pro-business funds that have been generous to allies."
In return for Perry's generosity to his friends, they have given "more than a fifth of the $83 million " he garnered for his gubernatorial campaigns. Call it what you like, but I'd say he's living quite handsomely on these princely doles.

And let's not ignore Ohio 's role in cutting the government pursestrings from the people most in need. The most flagrant esxample of late is Gov. Kaisch's dismissal of $176 million in
federal stimulus money to expand unemployment benefits. Kasich, of course, wants you to believe that he is the David facing up to Goliath in his commitment to creating jobs. But as it has been reported more than once, many of the state's new jobs have been awarded to the governor's friends in his cabinets and on boards and commissions (as well as lobbyists).

Meanwhile, while Kasich boasts of his no-tax spirit, the problems of sustaining local services and school districts have taken on a dismal life of their own. In Northern Ohio alone, there will be 112 tax issues on the November ballot alone. That will pit the irresistible force of local costs against the immovable object of the Kasich era.

Unfortunately, nobody has figured out how to pay for the services that people want - but aren't convinced that they should pay for them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

But oil companies don't want to drill-baby-drill!

FROM A READER comes a report via Politico that Michelle Bachmann is promising to lower the cost of gasoline to below $2. Of course, that's her facile way of blaming President Obama for today's gas prices as she she trots around her carefully managed ecosystem as a fully clothed Lady Godiva in pursuit of the presidency.

It was her right of passage into South Carolina's conservative audiences, which were made aware of her unyielding support of domestic oil drilling. But as my source noted:
"Why does Bachmann think the oil companies are interested in investing billions just so they can LOWER the price of gas a buck & a half a gallon? The companies already own thousands of leases on land they're not drilling. For a free market capitalist she has no idea on how things work. Moron.''

Meet Rick Perry, the "miswriting" author

WHEN SEN. JON KYL wrongly accused Planned Parenthood of spending more than 90 pct. of its money on abortion services, he was roundly booed. After all, the Arizona Republican IS a senator and should be expected to know what he is talking about. To make matters worse Kyl's press aide insisted that his boss's words "were not meant to be a factual statement ". As for Kyl, he conceded that he "misspoke" and wanted to move on.

That comes to mind as Texas Gov. Rick Perry is taking another route to distance himself from his pre-candidate book, Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington. It wasn't that long ago that he was out there autographing it for his fans.

His communication aide, desperately reaching for damage control on Perry's treatise, said the book was "not meant to reflect the governor's current views."

Life is short, so I haven't read the book, nor do I intend to. But from others' accounts, I am told that Perry slammed many of the New Deal programs - including child labor laws and Social Security - as being "unconstitutional."

Well, is he now prepared to disavow that? Or has he added a new twist to political missteps by wanting us to believe that as an author, he "miswrote" his vision of what ails America?

Tsk. Tsk. I would say that as a candidate he should soon learn that many folks will soon tire of his illogical rants. But that would assume that he is capable of any logic at all.

After all, he IS a governor.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is the Ohio right-to-work debacle only old news?

MORE THAN a half century ago, the anti-union establishment in Ohio (do I have to name it?) decided it was time to end closed union shops by adding a right-to-work amendment to the state constitution. With an arrogant dismissal of organized labor's bread-and-butter proprietary claim to guard its membership rolls, the pro-right-to-work team propelled the issue to the November ballot.

The result was - or should have been - a defining moment in labor relations in Ohio. The proposed amendment was swamped by more than a million votes (63-37) in what was described by the Plain Dealer at the time as the widest margin of defeat that any ballot issue had ever suffered in Ohio.

The consequences were even more severe for leading Republican officeholders. Among the losers on the November ballot were the governor, Bill O'Neill, who actively supported the amendment; and presumed unbeatable conservative icon, Sen. John Bricker, who opposed it as political suicide. That, too, describes the late Ray Bliss, then-Ohio Republican chairman who saw it as a death warrant for the GOP ticket. (Such political wisdom is absent today in the governor's office as well as at the county level, where the party is managed by alleged Bliss disciple Alex Arshinkoff, a Kasich soldier to the core.)

The defeat of right-to-work was one of the GOP's darkest days in Ohio's political history.

That was 1958. I was a young reporter for the Columbus Citizen and as the results came in there were worried glances among the paper's top editors, and then shock over the overwhelming size of the issue's defeat. Within a day or so, Jack Keller, the managing editor, sent a memo to the city desk calling for greater coverage of the city's unions, from hard news to features. It was a damage-control concession that the paper had been less than attentive to the voice of labor. Other than occasional reports that union membership has shrunk, the media remain indifferent to the workaday world of a unionist on the national TV news panels and the local business pages. (Have I overlooked evidence to prove me in error?)

Well, here we are in 2011 and if the polls are wildly correct, Kasich & Co. - even with enormous resources ready to be tapped from anti-union treasuries from across the land (think, the Koch
brothers) - can expect to lose a rousing battle. The governor is counting on his two favorite newspapers, the Plain Dealer and Columbus Dispatch, to orchestrate the narrative in the coming months in which we will be frequently reminded that it's hurtful to the state to go forward with the Senate Bill 5 repeal campaign after the governor offered a compromise. Lost in the dire warnings is the simple truth that it was the Kasich union-busting culture that created the whole mess in the first place. Whatever else it might have been, it was bad politics. What could he and his legislative buddies have been thinking?

Really, folks - would a brash and self-centered cowboy like the governor be talking about a compromise if he expected the repeal to be a loser in November? It's possible, of course, that he never really expected the leaders of the public-union repeal to the public at large. Or so it might be argued. But, as expected, it's the repeal advocates who are now being accused of playing politics. Please.

A long time ago, a savvy Ray Bliss had it right and his warnings went unheeded. Is there nobody in the governor's office today who comes close to having it right?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kasich: From bluster to, eh, humble servant

WHEN JOHN KASICH stormed into the governor's office last January, he wanted to leave no doubt that Ohio was at the dawn of a Brave New World. He had long studied the state and decided it was not good. A swashbuckler to the core, he warned anybody that dared stand in his way that " If you think you're going to stop us, you're crazy. You will not stop us. We will beat you. ...If you are not on the bus, we'll run over you with the bus. And I'm not kidding."

He also described a cop who arrested him on a traffic charge as an "idiot" Bellowing it a couple of more times for Kasich-style emphasis. Oh, and he demanded an apology from teachers unions - calling for a full-page ad - for what they said about him during the campaign.

It was pure performance art by a blustering new kid on the block who was acting as though he had won the job by acclimation rather than a slim plurality. Having spent the previous 7 or 8 years as a managing director of Lehman Brothers - which tanked - Kasich, a Republican, could not dissociate a steely Wall Street can-do no-questions-asked culture from his new role at the top of the state's political heap.

So it is laughable - a giant political miscalculation , really - that what was good for the Wall Streeters and Fox News, where he had his own show that could not be held accountable for facts, that he is now down on his knees calling for a compromise with a lot of folks who challenged his bus. Yes, a compromise with this guy?

Kasich and his cohorts in the legislature, brazenly stuck a dagger into the heart of public unions without expecting a roaring reaction. With all signs pointing to the November repeal of Senate Bill 5 , the law that severely sheared public employe unions, Kasich is now a humble servant, calling for a compromise before the voters get a crack at 1t. Her said he was only being reasonable for the sake of the state's sanity. He also noted that he was influenced by editorials in the Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain Dealer calling for compromise.
Both papers endorsed his candidacy and were quick to give his appeal heavy coverage. Surprise, surprise.

The governor's second miscalculation was to bring up the subject now. The law's opponents, We Are Ohio , have stood fast with 1.2 million signatures on their petitions to repeal the law. There would be no point in giving him a face- saving escape hatch. As Joe Green, the Hall of Famer of the Pittsburgh Steelers, once explained the route to victory:

"When you got your opponent down, you gotta keep him down."

And Mean Joe wasn't kidding either. But with him, it's not boasting if you can do it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meet Rick Perry, GOP macho traitor-hunter

WELL,THERE HE goes again and I guess we had better get used to it. Rick Perry, I mean, the boastful chest-pounding marauder just out of Texas who likes to remind everybody that they do things quite differently in his state, pardner. That much is clear from his threat that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Beranke was a traitor who would be treated "pretty ugly down in Texas''. You can read a lot of macho in this Lone Star cowboy with an ego twice the height of an oil well.

In some ways he is an expansive innocent abroad in a nation that dwarfs Texas in size and perspective. At the moment he is riding the media-driven fascination with his dashing entrance into the Republican presidential field as the party's latest Mordred, the bad Arthurian knight who disrupted the round table. The TV folks love something new and controversial on the scene. But can he sustain it all of the way to the GOP convention next year? Should we think Donald Trump?

In the meantime he will pepper his remarks with geographical references that "Back in Texas, etc etc. etc." or 'We can tell you that in Texas blah blah blah." Even Karl Rove, no slouch himself at causing mayhem, found Perry's comments offensive and "non-presidential".

But Rove is one guy that the Biblically pure Perry will not pray for salvation.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Super committee: Our gang (dark) comedy

LET'S PAUSE FOR a moment to consider the newly created Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. It is the sort of title that bureaucracies love to name in a way to guarantee that nobody really understands what it is intended to do. In possible deference to the committee members' family and friends, the name has been reduced to "super committee", which is just as meaningless but more readily accessible to anybody who foolishly tries to bring it up in casual conversation.

But there is nothing super about the 12-member bipartisan panel that was created to forestall the Republican-driven track to default. At least until November. By then the six Democrats and six Republicans must work out a bloodless compromise to find upward of $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years. Make me laugh.

Compromise? Need I remind you that all of the panel's half-dozen Republicans, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, have already pledged not to raise taxes. They are the servile lemmings of a fellow that nobody has ever voted for- a rigid anti-tax carnivore with a name right out of a Dickensian novel, Grover Norquist. He is a Beltway operative with mystical powers over pols whose courage is adrift.

It's not a reassuring narrative. Indeed, it's a joke.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finally, the circus leaves town!

THE TRAVELING CIRCUS has moved on from Iowa with the loss of only one of its performers (Pawlenty), leaving behind a big task for the pooper-scoopers. The headlines and talk shows today hail Michele Bachmann as the "Straw Queen", her euphoric moment of conquest of a wobbly cast of low-wire male candidates.

Where-to from here now that the Tea Partiers and social conservatives have had their say (and their way) with what was once called the Republican Party? Who can say ? The elephants are tiring quickly from overwork and the clowns are anything but funny. The only news that came out of the fury was the report that Bachmann left the debate stage during each commercial break to redo her makeup. Oh, and Maureen Dowd insists she saw Mitt Romney's hair move.

As the dismal circus continues well into next year, shouldn't we be asking more pertinent questions for the remaining candidates who seem wedded to each other in rhetoric and vision to the extent that, as it has been said many times, there's not a dime's worth of difference:

*Do you believe that corporations are people?

*Do you believe that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional?

*How much time do you spend each day praying that President Obama resigns?

*Have you ever considered secession for your state?

*Do you believe that water and air can purify themselves without environmental regulations?

*Have you ever voted for, or supported, the raising of the debt ceiling?

*Has your spouse ever described gays as "barbarians"?

*As a a gay marriage opponent, do you know the difference between a napkin and a paper towel? A wet blanket and an empty suit?

*Would it offend you to be called, in Clarence Darrow's term for William Jennings Bryan, "the idol of all morondom."?

*Can you tell the audience what the capital of Des Moines is?

*Are you now, or have you ever been, clinically insane?

Each candidate much answer all of the above questions directly without crib notes.

On with the show!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Carroll's Mad Tea Party Then - and Now

THERE'S A CHAPTER IN Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that Lewis Carroll labeled
'' A Mad Tea Party." It is where Alice encounters the March Hare, the Hatter and the Dormouse, although the latter is usually asleep. Beware. The entire conversation is babble, full of non-sequitors and unforgiving. March Hare offers Alice wine. When she complains that she doesn't see any wine, her host explains that it is because "There isn't any."

They then challenge her with a riddle. When she is unable to answer it, she gives up and asks for the answer. "I haven't the slightest idea," the Hatter replies.

"Nor I,'' says the March Hare.

Insults are exchanged. Finally, the Dormouse, in a sort of stupor, asks: "...did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?"

"Really, now you ask me," says Alice, who is "very much confused."

"Then you shouldn't talk." the Hatter scolds her.

It is dizzying, but the author is toying with adults and one should not read it simply as a children's story.

Mad Tea Party? In today's nonsensical political atmosphere, I can only ask: How did Lewis
Carroll know?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rick Perry's self-styled apostolic vision

SHOULD WE ALL be preparing to don our Sunday Best a day earlier this week to witness the official arrival in the Republican presidential field by America's 13th Apostle, Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Rather than Mt. Sinai or the Alamo, Perry has chosen South Carolina as the honorary center of his universe for his pursuit of the next Enlightenment that has been created by something they call the Texas Miracle. Sorry, but that won't qualify him for sainthood.

Still, for a guy who has talked of secession for rhe Longhorn State, South Carolina is as worthy of his vision as any other place. It was, after all, where they fired on Fort Sumter and declared themselves free of the Feds, if not slavery.

You may expect to hear a lot of crowing from now on about that Miracle - a fiction writer's term to flatter the rise of the Texas economy under Perry, regularly calling attention to the report that Texas has created more jobs than any other state. That, plus the wisdom that Perry says he has received from God, will lead him to take his revival meetings across the land now deprived of milk and honey. But as with most statistics, there is a catch : For starters, Texas, which boasts of scant taxes, has a $4.3 billion budget deficit with a projected downside of upward of $27 billion.

Social services are a disgrace. The neglect is hardly benign.

The Huffington Post recently reported that 37 pct. of the jobs Texas created last year paid at or below minnimum wage. "Texas,"according to a public policy expert quoted by the the Huff Post said, "is tied for last with Mississippi for the highest perentage of minimum wage jobs and Texas by far the leader of residcnts who don't have health insurance " The article added: Dig beneath the talking point and you find a more troubling picture: Rising unemployment, a glut of low-wage jobs without benefits, overcrowded homeless shelters and public schools facing billions in budget cuts,..,."

Having noted all of the dark side of Texas planet there is one other thing to keep in mind as Perry adorns his campaign rhetoric with a Bible in one hand and an elixir of progress in the other: He will be also reminded often by the fact that he was a willing accomplice in the execution of an innocent man - Cameron Todd Willingham, the father of three who was wrongly convicted of arson in the death of his three children. Although Perry was alerted to the faulty evidence against Willingham, he approved the execution - and then blocked any inquiry into the grave injustice as further evidence exonerated the executed man.

And Rick Perry wants us to believe that he is qualified to be America's president.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dispatch SB5 editorial: Playing show but don't tell

The games that some newspaper editorial writers play:

From a questioning report first published by Columbus blogger Plunderbund and circulated in northeastern Ohio by Cleveland Scene, comes word that a Columbus Dispatch editorial on
Sunday shamefully scooped the paper's own excellent staff of political reporters. Here's the summary:

The editorial asserted that two unidentified persons "affiliated" with supporters of the anti-union SB5, including Gov. Kasich., had offered a compromise to unions six weeks ago but, alas,"labor backed away." Heavy back-channel stuff that placed the blame on mulish unions. That was news to even the paper's reporters. And here's the rub:

It turns out that the self-appointed arbiters of the dispute were not anybody from Kasich's office . One was identified as Mike Curtin, former COO of the Dispatch Printing Co., now retired, who continues to speak for the paper. This shabby initiative by an ex-corporate officer without portfolio, not only embarrasses the Dispatch but also undeservedly burdens the reporting staff with the notion that it doesn't know what the hell is going on in somebody's back channel.

By the way, the same editorial board endorsed Kasich over Ted Strickland. .

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Portman works well with Democrats?

Do you have
as much trouble trying to understand today's political reports as I do? For example, I stumbled on this in the New York Times' report on the new members of the destined-to-be- deadlocked (@$#&#) super committee - a feel-good initiative with the impossible mission of a bipartisan attack on the Federal deficit.
In reference to Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman's appointment, the Times reported: "Mr. Portman, a House member from 1993 to 2005 , was White House budget director under President George W. Bush. Throughout his time in Congress, he has worked well with Democrats even as he voted consistently with the other Republicans." (emphasis added.)
Now I humbly ask the deep thinkers: How can you work well with the other party by consistently voting against it? Is that the same as offering the other side a mop after you've spilled the milk all over the kitchen floor. But maybe there will be a revealing side of his presence on the panel.. Would it be rude to again note that one reason we have this economic mess is that he was Bush's budget director when the deficit climbed to over $10 trillion?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When a letter writer is more than a letter writer

TODAY'S LATEST political commentary arrived in a letter to the editor in the Plain Dealer. It blamed Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio for everything bad in today's bleak economy, including the stock market crash. Why? Because Brown is a "career politician" who refuses to focus on the "fiscal health for America and jobs."

The writer accused Brown of being the culprit because he voted for the debt ceiling deal.

And why do I make that much from a letter-writer? It happened to be composed in the twilight zone by another career politician, Josh Mandel. And who is Josh Mandel? He's the Ohio treasurer and is so identified by the PD. But the paper neglected to tell the reader that Mandel, who longs for a new office every week, is also a Republican candidate running against - yep! - Sherrod Brown. He should thank the paper for its extraordinary free pass.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Akron mayoral debate by the numbers

AKRON MAYOR Don Plusquellic, the former city high school football star, likes to talk numbers as he did as a quarterback in his younger days. One of his favorite numerical references in his bid for reelection to a seventh term in September's Democratic primary is zero to 24. That's how he has been drawing a distinction between himself and his serial rival over the years, Mike Williams. Both men posted milestones in their political careers 24 years ago - Williams then entering City Council and Plusquellic beginning his first term as mayor.

Plusquellic repeated the number again at the widely visited three-person luncheon debate in the University of Akron Student Union to a sell-out audience of 400. It was his way of responding to Williams' pestering (and somewhat empty) charges that Plusquellic's long career has been corroded by intemperate detachment from the people he is supposed to represent. And once again, that the mayor travels too much.

The mayor, straining to suppress his well-known temper, asserted that in Williams' 24 years on council, his record of accomplishment has been zero in contrast to the mayor's own fully committed efforts in behalf of Akron. The operative and oft-repeated notion, loaded I believe, is the mayor's absence from The Neighborhood. I can't get more specific than that because Williams doesn't, either. Nor does it make much sense - much of today's political rhetoric doesn't anyway - for a mayor who can cover his office walls with the national and local awards that he has earned for his service to the city. That helps explain why he keeps getting reelected.

I should mention at this point that the third candidate at the podium was Janice Davis, a pleasant-enough rival who was largely candidate-neutral in the collision between Plusquellic and Williams that was sponsored by the Akron Press Club, Bliss Institute and League of Women Voters. But even Davis, with few specifics, said the city needs to "move forward''. On the other hand, Williams was pleased to portray the mayor as the ruthless commander of a
''dictatorship" who neglected young people, ignored the needs of schools and "and lacked priorities for economic development".

There was historic irony in the school issue. Four years ago the mayor spent much of his time supporting a school levy while ignoring his political campaign. It produced a closer than expected outcome on Election Day. At the windup of the debate, Plusquellic unloaded on the unsurprising rush to Williams' camp by the same group who failed a recall attempt against him a couple of years ago. He wasn't gentle, accusing the group of "half-truths, misleading statements and outright lies." The flare-up seemed to be downright therapeutic for Plusquellic as he left the stage.

You have to wonder how far Williams can take this campaign theme song, So far he hasn't
had a great deal of success raising money. His last report said he had come up with about $17,000 in contributions to which he and his family added $41,000. Plusquellic, meanwhile, reported $180,000! Williams veteran state and national campaign manager, Jerry Austin, resigned after a short stint in apparent disagreement with the candidate' s campaign plan and payments to Austin.

The only good thing to report today is the debate, such as it was, is history. Seldom do these highly orchestrated encounters change many people's minds. OK, back to work everybody.

UPDATE: Jerry Austin phoned me this morning to dismiss back-channel chatter that his departure from Mike Williams' campaign was partly prompted by the payment to him for his advisory service. "Money had nothing to do with it," Austin said. Instead, the veteran campaign consultant said he withdrew from the Williams campaign because of differences with the candidate on campaign strategy. Williams' campaign is being fronted now on a part-time basis by Tara Samples, bailiff for Akron Municipal Judge Kathryn Michael.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How I imagined Michele's own "response"

Sorry, folks, but couldn't resist this "exchange" between two of America's leading Christians in which Michele Bachmann turns down Rick Perry's invitation to a pas de deux at the Texas governor's pray-in in Houston. Her dance card is filled these days in Iowa.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bush: Read my lips (taxes)

IN MY UNPAID part-time summer job to clear out some of my bulging old files, I happened to discover a 21-year-old newspaper story that tells us of a Republican president's painful effort to balance the federal budget.

The Knight-Ridder piece that appeared on Page One of the Beacon Journal bore the headline: Bush keeps open mind on options to cut deficit. That's George "Read My Lips" Bush, of course. Here are the first two paragraphs:
"President Bush is prepared to consider a deficit-cutting package containing a national sales tax, new excise taxes, a national lottery or virtually any other revenue proposal short of higher income tax rates, Republican congressional leaders said Tuesday.

"In flatly ruling out an income tax boost, Bush's GOP allies in Congress sought to help the president tackle a worsening federal budget deficit without appearing to violate his "read my lips" campaign opposition to higher taxes."
The projected deficit was estimated to be $180 billion. And the Republicans were prepared to circle the wagons around their president, deficit or no deficit. Among the taxes to be discussed were sin taxes, a one-cent national sales tax , a lottery and taxes on consumer items.

Unimpressed with the potential dithering over the needs, the Beacon Journal's editorial that day (May 9, 1990) concluded:

"Should either party feel that it could be blamed by the voters for a tax increase, chances are it will not be approved. Officeholders wish to avoid being blamed regardless of the wisdom of the step being considered". Bush lost the election anyway, blamed by some for raising taxes to offset deficits. So much for the wisdom of the anti-tax voters.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gov. Perry's pray-in: the church becomes the state

ONE WONDERS: Are we reaching the point where the separation of church and state is no longer a national issue because church is actually replacing state in the corridors of political power? There is no better example of this merger than the one that will occur in Texas on Saturday - the date set aside for Gov. Rick Perry's seven-hour pray-in that is being orchestrated by some of the nation's leading right-wing religious groups.

Perry, who is said to be considering a presidential candidacy, denies there is a whit of politics in the spacious event in Houston's Reliant Stadium. Besides, the guv's partner, the American Family Association, is picking up the tab. The association's shopping list of social concerns not only oppose the usual suspects as abortion and homosexuality, but also has an interesting excursion into the Constitution. The AFA argues that freedom of religion only applies to Christians!

So far, the event has only received 8,000 RSVP's for the stadium that holds 71,000. However it turns out, it will doubtless be a an A-list subject in Sunday's news - which would certainly please the "non-political" governor.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Obama needs a lesson in 'Durocherism'

YOU CAN COUNT me as being among those who weren't happy about the cozy "deal" that President Obama handed the Republicans on the debt ceiling. He still doesn't accept Leo Durocher's warning that "nice guys don't win pennants." So the GOP stalwarts who remain servile to the outrageous agenda of the Tea Party anarchists - even if it means shutting down the government altogether - can be expected to crow for awhile. But the pundits who are already declaring Obama DOA in 2012 ought to be a little more prudent about their credibility.

With 15 months remaining before Election Day (an eternity, really) I will boldly offer my own prediction of what could happen:

Obama could win. Obama could lose. Nothing is set in stone today.

Until then, we will have to put up with the peacocks in our midst.

Romney says he needs a job

TODAY'S PRESIDENTIAL campaign's burning question:

When will Mitt Romney stop kidding around with his audiences that he understands their pain because "I'm unemployed, too." Coming from someone whose wealth is said to be about $200 million, he is a clear choice for the Grumpy Abe Linguistic lunacy (GALL) award.

Mitt, being out of work is not funny - unless you really don't need the money.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The debt limit bill; Boehner's hostage role:

Watching Tea Party hostage John Boehner strutting around with a grin and a victory thumb up blurs the record that he, in turn, held the nation hostage to protect his hide against threats of Tea Party opposition to his own reelection next year. Meantime, anybody who suggests that the winners are laughing all the way to the bank are overlooking an important point: Folks, they
ARE the bank.

Boson, quarks and hadrons for an escapist

I'VE JUST READ a piece in The Economist that was all about the Higgs boson, hadrons and quarks. Don't go away. I was lured by the headline: Enemy in sight?, which is a fitting reference to any story out of the Nation's Capital these days. Happily for me, the magazine article had nothing to do with alarmingly wretched politics but rather it dealt with the 40-year search for something called the Higgs boson. Don't go away.

As I burrowed through the exotic language for an atom of meaning , I finally conceded that for one who didn't do well in high school physics, the tale of the Higgs boson left me at the starting gate. Still, everything has a purpose, I suppose. For me in times like these, it was good to read something that was an unintelligible escape from the otherwise inexplicable folly of our everyday world. To show my appreciation, I may try to work quarks and hadrons into my later posts if I ever figure out what they mean.