Monday, October 31, 2011

For Mandel, transparency doesn't apply

YOU CAN SAY THIS much about Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican who has chosen to challenge U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in the 2012 election: he has no trouble offering us his own version of "transparency", as in, for goodness sake, the official "Treasurer's Transparency Project".

The topic has come up in the wake of Mandel's decision to post online the salaries of all of Ohio's public workers, a convenience for those potential voters on Issue 2 who should be told that such workers are living in Fat City. Trouble is, embarrassing though it may be for the fellow in charge of safekeeping taxpayer dollars, the list is full of errors. In a way it's understandable. Trying to account for so many people's salaries is a lot more difficult than reporting the exact figures of, say, Bowling for Dollars.

Be patient, says Seth Unger, Mandel's spokesman, we'll get it right in due time.

And while you're doing the transparency thing in hopes of making it a national model, Seth, could you remind your boss that he is a half- year behind in filing his personal financial disclosure report for his senatorial aspirations?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Soon to arrive: the GOP's Great Pumpkin Debate

IN THESE SCARY DAYS of the Halloween season, we should all be reminded of the words of Linus van Pelt, the wonderful kid in Peanuts that Lucy prefers to call "stark raving stupid." Not so. As Linus tells us: "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people...religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin." So far, the Republican candidates debating the fate of the nation have ignored Linus on two of the three, politics and religion. But, alas, based on what we've heard so far, we can expect their arguments over the Great Pumpkin to arrive momentarily.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Incidental news from the Republican front

IF GOV. KASICH IS INTENT on creating more jobs in Ohio, he may have to plow ahead without help from Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman. MSNBC is reporting that when Portman joined all other Senate Republicans in killing President Obama's jobs bill, it cost Ohio 40,700 new jobs. Once again, Obama can expect to receive no support from the Republicans on any substantive proposal to help the economy.

* * * * *

I noticed that former State Sen. Kevin Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls has officially withdrawn from the Republican race for the U.S. Senate in 2012. No surprise. Very few people were aware that he was ever in the race.

* * * * *

You have to admire Mitt Romney's balletic manner in pirouetting from one side of an issue to the other. After declaring he fully supported Kasich on Senate Bill 5 (" I fully stand with John Kasich"), Romney arrived in Ohio to declare to reporters that he doesn't get involved in state ballot issues. But within a matter of hours, he asserted that he is "110 pct. in Kasich's corner on Issue 2, the repeal referendum that is enjoying a 25 pct. margin over the law's supporters in the latest polls. He said he was "sorry if I caused confusion." At least you can say this about Mitt: Most politicians staring at those poll numbers would prefer to say something nice about the Cleveland Browns instead and leave SB 5 to its fate. There is a fine line between courage and stupidity.

* * * * *

Among the no-shows for the Akron mayoral debate this week was Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff. History tells us that when the boss doesn't show up to give at least moral support to the Republican candidate, you can bet that he's decided that the outcome has been settled in favor of Mayor Plusquellic.

With SB 5, Mudville coming to Ohio

THERE CAN'T BE much joy in Mudville these days as Gov. Kasich and the Republicans in the legislature face what appears to be insurmountable odds that favor the repeal of Senate Bill 5.
That's the clear message from the Quinnipiac poll released this week showing the new anti-public union law going down to defeat on Nov. 8 by 25 points, 57 pct. to 32 pct. That same poll also shows that Kasich's slight gain in public approval in recent months has reversed, dropping him five points to 35 pct.

The Democrats have only the Republicans to thank for the mulish way the law's allies went after the unions - an astonishingly inept campaign that suggested the Kasich gang conceived of the law as a slam dunk. That's the governor, for you, a humorless, politically righteous fellow who should post on his office wall the words of one of the world's leading philosophers, Pogo.
Said he: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

The governor seems to be taking a more distant approach from manhandling the campaign to defeat the repeal referendum. He has said that he wasn't running the show but thought the managers were doing "fine." Should we mention that Beth Hansen, his chief of staff, is on a leave of absence serving as a media advisor for the anti-repeal campaign?

Was it her idea to pirate some words from a pro-repeal ad featuring an indignant Cincinnati great-grandmother who effectively urged voters to cast a NO vote against retaining the law? Unsurprisingly, when a bit of the film clips showed up in a TV ad that made it appear she favored the law, the sleight-of- handiwork gained wide attention in fetching political shorthand - Grannygate.

Such clumsiness ought to be shown in every political science class in the state as an example of how to be self-destructive in politics.

And these are the same folks who assure Ohioans every day that they damn well know what they are doing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The headline doesn't tell the whole story

Some newspaper headlines grab you more than others, as did this one on the front page of USA TODAY:
1 million shot to save on loans

The topper leads me to ask:

Did the victims inquire about the risk in such loans?

In Akron, debating the need for a debate

THE SECOND AND FINAL (!) debate of the Akron mayoral campaign was a gentle sparring match that left some of us wondering why anybody went to the trouble. Maybe the earlier clash between Mayor Plusquellic and challenger Mike Williams in the Democratic primary convinced most people that the mayor was assured a seventh term when they count the general election ballots on Nov. 8. To the chagrin of Republicans, the mayor is usually decided by the winner of the Democratic primary.

On this occasion Plusquellic is sort of challenged by Republican Jennifer Hensal, an Akron West Sider who practices law in Medina and is said to be hopeful of being appointed to some judgeship when the planets line up for her. In her opening remarks, she advised the Martin Center audience of more than 200 on what a good mayor ought to be doing to lead the city. It was an opening for Plusquellic to respond that his opponent had just described him for what he is already doing.

Later, the mayor accused Hensal of not being a serious candidate while declaring that he is.
Otherwise, the conversation brought up public safety, finances and other matters that came up in the party primary. The real contrast was how both candidates approached the hottest issue on the November ballot: the SB 5 repeal. Plusquellic clearly asserted that he wasn't pleased with the way the anti-public union law was scripted. I wasn't clear on Hensal's response and engaged in one of the shortest post-debate interviews in my years that included too many post-debate interviews.
Q. Inasmuch as SB 5 is a Republican initiative, how do you plan to vote on it?

Hensal: (Without hesitating.) "Oh, I will vote [yes] for it."
Why did I have to ask?

(By the way the event was a nice try - but only a nice try - by the Akron Press Club, the League of Women Voters and the Bliss Institute to promote democracy in action. But it's true that after all of the nonsense spurting from the Republican presidential debates in the candidates' long year's journey into night, the respectful Akron mayoral thing was a much-needed relief.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

SB 5: Vote no on what?

IMAGINE MY shock and awe when I turned to the Plain Dealer's Forum section this morning and was greeted by a big headline on the cover that urged: Vote no on Issue 2 to repeal SB 5

Had the paper suddenly reversed its earlier support of the issue? Do pigs really fly? Can a cow really jump over the moon?

But the mystery was cleared up when I thumbed to the jump on Page 4 and discovered that the piece was not the work of an editorial writer but rather the top officer of the Northshore AFL-CIO.

I can only assume that the fierce reaction to the PD's endorsement of the new law restricting public unions was so intense that the paper's true believers decided to offer a prominent response by the other side.

Maybe the kitchen is getting too hot for the papers supporting the work of their Golden Boy governor, John Kasich, and the GOP-controlled legislature. (Exclude the
Beacon Journal from this gang. The BJ today called for the repeal of the law!)

So as we approach the election on Nov. 8, the repeal referendum is astonishingly coming down to a great-grandma, widely featured in political ads as supporting the repeal, and those incredibly stupid handlers on the other side who pirated her comments for their own purposes and have lived to regret it. If that's all the anti-repealers have to fool the voters, you can guess which side is more desperate to tighten the noose around school teachers, police and firefighters. Hell, it didn't even fool most people just once.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Useful figures for understanding politics 101

WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION little more than a year away, I want to be helpful with a numerical approach to America's cloudy situation today. You can clip and save it as a handy wallet-size digest for people on the go. Here is a random sample of the figures that I've assembled from Harper's Index, the Economist magazine and other sources for which you can thank me at your earliest convenience:

9-9-9 - Herman Cain's strident prescription for America's economic health (as well as that of his book sales) which seems to work much better for piercing effect than, say, nueve, nueve nueve, don't you think?

$98,422 - The amount that deficit hawk Rep. Joe Walsh. Illinois Republican, is in arrears on child support despite preaching that he doesn't want to pile "one more dollar on the backs of my kids" with a greater federal deficit.

5 million - The number of new jobs that Republicans insist will be created with its new plan (which has been described as their "golden oldies"), that includes tax cuts, a repeal of the health care law and a balanced budget amendment.

$100 million - The amount that Fannie Mae spent to secure "lawmakers' affections" from 1989 to 2009.

20 percent - The amount of the nation's wealth owned by one percent of its richest families.

$53.8 million - The court-ordered amount that billionaire hedge fund swindler Raj Rajaratnam must forfeit from his piggy bank. (He's also going to prison for 11 years.)

$7 million - The amount the Cleveland Browns paid quarterback Jack Delhomme when they released him last season after a brief stay. (Not political, I know, but interesting anyway now that the front office is having doubts about his successor.)

5 million-plus - The number of eligible voters that the Brennan Justice Center at NYU says will have a "significantly harder" time voting now because of the harsh restrictions enacted by Republicans in their ludicrous claim that they are targeting voter fraud.

1.2 million - The number of jobs that Rick Perry says will be created by weakening environmental laws (particularly those that are abhorrent to his pals at the American Petroleum Institute.)

$4.4 trillion - The deficit in state and local government pension plans.

10 - the number of constituent letters that President Obama reads from the loads that arrive at the White House daily, often hard-luck stories that Obama reportedly may respond to with personal checks to help a person through hard times.

100 pct. - Chance that Joe the Plumber says his new wife will support his candidacy for congress in Ohio.

Zero - Chance that the Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio will correct the flaws in HB 5 if it isn't repealed in November.

98.7 pct. - Chance that Gov. Kasich will call a cop or two idiots if HB 5 is repealed.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's still DeWine vs. Cordray

OHIO ATTY. GEN. Mike DeWine has official priorities about when to appeal to Congress and when to take a pass. For the purposes of this piece, we are talking about Asian carp and Richard Cordray, the former attorney general whom DeWine managed to defeat - not on relative merit - in 2010 through the essential benefit of a Republican monsoon that swept the state. In that instance it was not an uplifting day for the electorate.

According to Plain Dealer business columnist Sheryl Harris, 37 attorneys general - Republicans and Democrats - strongly recommended the seating of Cordray as the first director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In a letter to Congress from the National Association of Attorneys General, Cordray was described as "both brilliant and balanced." That was hardly a stretch for a person of Cordray's character and talent.

Wanna guess who refused to sign it? Our guy DeWine, of course, who had earlier described Cordray as "highly qualified" and one who would "do an excellent job. As a former U.S. senator, DeWine didn't think he should butt in to tell congressmen how to run their shop. Pure baloney!

I hadn't heard of a excuse like that one for a political no-show. But as he did in his campaign against Cordray in 2010, he will always find a way to rise above the battle, or at least disappear from the radar screen.

As for the Asian carp, Harris reported that DeWine did concede that he made an exception in contacting Congress about the rapacious fish eating their way through Lake Erie.

The only valid story here: The Republicans on Capitol Hill will not seat anybody to the consumers' job unless the consumer protection bureau is gutted. So Cordray will remain a hostage to the roadblock. DeWine is aware of that and will not do anything to discourage his GOP brethren. Maybe somebody will name a carp after him for his service.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jesus and the GOP candidates

IN THE LITTER of the New Hampshire tag team match, popularly described as the Republican candidates debate, the party's primary voters are still left with a game-changing decision: Who among those left standing is God's conservative of choice to sit in the Oval Office?

Rick Perry described himself as the "authentic" conservative in the crowd. His wife, Anita, bristling over attacks on her husband prompted by his avowed Christian identity (another pure believer victimized by heathens!) , said earlier that he is a candidate because God had urged him to run among the lions.

On the other hand, Perry dismissed Mitt Romney as a "conservative of convenience,'' which at some point will demand an official response from Mitt that God had also urged him to run. Whatever works!

Rick Santorum, a sworn Christian regularly on the God Network, has heard all of this before and is unconvinced of their sincerity. He has chosen to call himself the "conservative alternative."

Michele Bachman has used up much of her religious capital, which obviously has not worked to her benefit as she plummets in the polls. . And Sarah Palin,, who once said she was waiting to hear from God on what to do, is not running at all, and may we guess why?

To to keep you fully current, here is 999 Cain, himself an unyielding Bible-referencing conservative, setting the context of the heavenly argument in today's unruly world.

Jesus, he tells us, was the ''true conservatisve."

And why is that , Herm?

Let him explain how Jesus got into the current political argument: "He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick with a government health care system. He fed the hungry without food stamps. For three years, he was unemployed and never collected an unemployment check."

But historians also tell us that slavery was not uncommon in the Roman era.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Unsurprisingly, PD endorses Issue 2

Yes on Issue 2 was the headline on the Plain Dealer's Sunday editorial supporting retention of the law embracing Senate Bill 5. And why should any of us be surprised? Here, after all, was the paper that also urged its readers to vote for John Kasich when he ran for governor - the same John Kasich who is out vigorously campaigning for....the issue restricting the power of public unions. When it comes to politics, the paper has seldom cast aside its predictability in defending its puffy noble causes.

In its Kasich endorsement in 2010, it found a number of reasons to caution the electorate about the volatile ex-Wall Streeter ever setting foot in the governor's office. But in the end, it insisted that he would still be a better choice than the incumbent,Ted Strickland, who happened to be a Democrat.

And so the PD couched its support of the GOP- hustled antiunion issue with endless advice about what to do with the flaws in the law - "imperfect though it may be" - if the repeal referendum is denied on Election Day. What the heck, it told us, those flaws can be corrected later. And good luck on that one. Even the PD conceded it won't be easy, noting:
"Yet whatever voters decide, a middle road that enables needed change without trampling on the dignity of public servants will be hard to find once this bitter political fight ends."
It could be fairly argued, of course, that if the law is that questionable in a number of respects, the same search for a middle road could be applied if the law is repealed and those same Republican lawmakers start all over again from scratch to find the beloved middle road that wouldn't trample on dignity. That, too, won't happen with the wrecking crew operating in Columbus these days under the guise of reformers.

The supporters of Senate 5 fumbled from the outset by slamming it at the public unions without concern for the likely backlash. Else they would not have included police and firefighters in the law's grasp. We are not dealing here with a highly intelligent and far-sighted group of lawmakers, folks. The only remaining question is why the corporate media keeps bailing them out of their disfunctional behavior.

The PD also wanders off to the governor's phony attempts to reach a compromise with the law's opponents before it reached the ballot (one of the true non-stories in the issue's history, induced by Kasich's deep concern that the repeal would succeed and not by any notion of valid compromise). It is now asking him to rise above the battle after election day. "When this campaign ends", the paper said, " Kasich has a chance to be healer. He must not pass it up."

Fat chance, that is, from this governor.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bush's "formula'' for Greece's economic woes

FOR ALL of the worldly concern over the economic meltdown of Greece, it is comforting to turn to the wise counsel of former president George W. Bush to get us through the mess.
Said GW more than a decade ago:

"Keep good relations with the Grecians."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't blame grandma. She didn't flip-flop

WAS THERE A hint of desperation in the "grandma" TV commercial posted by Building a Better Ohio, the opponents of the Senate Bill 5 repeal amendment on the November ballot (Issue 2).? I mean, if I didn't know better, I would say the other side - We Are Ohio - largely inspired the BBO message that has so embarrassed BBO by having grandma appear both for and against the repeal.

The grandma is Marlene Quinn, who appeared in a pro-repeal WAO ad praising firefighters for rescuing her granddaughter from a house fire. In a tricky bit of editing, BBO showed only part of what she said - Fox News style - and led the viewer to believe she was against the repeal. However, it conveniently cut out the part in which she urged Ohio voters to support the repeal. She, of course, is outraged by the piracy, and TV stations across the state have pulled the commercials because of their blatant dishonesty.

Now I ask you: even though TV commercials tend to wander off into terra incognito at times, you understand that it comes with the territory. In this instance, the ad producers created a big negative for their TV money, giving repeal supporters plenty to point out to the public about what was essentially an amateurish slickster's way of making a point.

Two things can happen: Inspired by anti-repeal Gov. Kasich, the repealers could run a film clip of his calling a cop an idiot, inasmuch as safety forces are among the public employes targeted by the new law that is being challenged; or the anti-repealers could fire the blockhead that produced the ad that has now turned up with unintended consequences - which are the worst kind in political campaigns.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

LaRose; the Kasich era is doing just fine

I USUALLY DON'T spend much time reading newsletters from politicians. By nature, they are far more self-serving than newsy. But in a day when the hometown dailies are giving so little coverage to the area's lawmakers, I may have to change my habit of ignoring the home-grown dispatches from Columbus.

For a blatant example, the latest copy of Ohio Senate News from Akron-area freshman Sen. Frank LaRose is full of feel-good stuff about how well Republicans from Gov. Kasich on down are serving the vital interests of Ohioans by eliminating wealth-tilted estate taxes by Jan 1, 2013 (current tax is on estates of more than $338,333). Another GOP perk for the big dogs.

Public education? Says Rose: "No public school district will receive less state aid than they are currently receiving (excluding federal stimulus spending)..."

Ahem, there , Senator. According to the Ohio Education Association and other sources, the budget provides $2.9 billion less in the next biennium.

But for the purpose of this piece, I want to mention LaRose's defense of so-called GOP election reforms. Such notorious tactics are often used as a defense against mythical voter fraud. Republicans are good at defending their reforms in a way to disguise their intention to block millions of eligible voters from voting. That would include minorities, young people and seniors. (They still haven't found a way to disfranchise garden-variety Democrats, who may be none of the above.)

I shouldn't be picking on LaRose, I guess. He's new at his party's sleight-of word. It wasn't that long ago that local county chairmen were referring quaintly to African-Americans as "the Colored" and they cannot change at this late day, even if their guy Herman Cain accuses his brothers and sisters of being "brainwashed."

We've been down this road so many times and each time voter fraud has been exposed as a souped-up myth. The classic example was in 2009 in Cincinnati when the Hamilton County Prosecutor, Joe Deters, a Republican, subpoenaed the records of about 600 voters on suspicion that they were playing games at the polls. It was enough to serve as the searing legislative catalyst for new and tighter voter restrictions. In the end they turned up one case: a man described as a"half-breed Muslim " had been in Cincinnati from Connecticut to visit his sister and cast a vote. One - from several hundred thousand votes that had been cast. OK, you can never be too careful these days, right?

In the name of electoral honesty, the GOP is advancing it's nefarious campaign across the country with the potential of restricting millions of legitimate voters with the notion of voter fraud like the ohh-soo horrible one in Cincinnati. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, more than 5 million eligible voters will find it much harder to vote because of walls erected by GOP politicians. (Ohio did retreat from a government photo ID requirement, but other issues still stand in the way of the voters.)

If Frank LaRose is proud of this, so be it. The rest of us shouldn't be. I'm not.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Debate vs. baseball playoff: No contest

I really tried to be a responsible, well-informed citizen by watching that debate at Dartmouth College. But after several minutes, I decided that the playoff game between Detroit and Texas was a more informative way to spend the evening.

What I did see during my debate-viewing minutes was a group of scripted candidates sitting at a round table as modern knights trying to be as correctly normal as you and I with twitters and grins and outright laughter. Even host Charlie Rose broke up from all of the hilarity. This was not an exercise in advanced gravitas.

Only Newt Gingrich, who is always hanging around, tried grimly to be on prosecutorial message, suggesting that a couple of Democrats ought to be imprisoned. He continues to wonder about two other Democrats, President Obama with Jimmy Carter (now there's a name from the past!), accusing both of subversively trying to destroy America. Wouldn't that be a case of blatant sabotage in the Oval Office? Call in the special forces!

On the other hand, Mitt Romney has now switched to cruise control. His posture and demeanor are reassuringly comforting in a field of lunatics: slight smile, hands clasped, above- the- fray presidential material, wouldn't you say? I once knew a board chairman who was like that, and isn't that what conservatives want? Mitt had arrived in New Hampshire to the tune of "Hail to the Chief," thanks to Chris Christie's endorsement. (Can anybody figure out the New Jersey governor other than he is fiercely committed to making Obama a "one-term" president? Clip and save.)

When Herman Cain fulsomely praised Alan Greenspan as the kind of guy who ought to sit atop the Federal Reserve, that prompted a laugh from Ron Paul, who snarled that Greenspan was "a gangster."

All the while in another hall miles away, the lemming-like Senate Republicans, now in full custody by Grover Norquist, were successfully blocking debate on Obama's jobs bill. Not the final bill, but floor debate, and they were unanimous about it. All of them doubtless were star pupils at the Brave New World's Central Hatchery and Conditioning Center.

Who was it, Newt, who wants to destroy America?

(Did I mention that the baseball game was interesting?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Do the math: Thousands don't go into a handful


Two geezers at a restaurant counter in Fairlawn shouting at a young waitress that the reason people don't have jobs today is that they don't want to work. She valiantly disagreed with them, to no avail.

I wonder if these guys would include the thousands of unemployed who stand in line for a handful of jobs offered by a company.

Probably. And that's too bad.

Is the problem the protests? Or Beck's Wall Street?

IF IT'S NOT ONE thing it's another as conservatives recoil from the Wall Street demonstrations as if colonial America had been peacefully hatched from an ostrich egg. I can tell you the weathiest among us don't like it one bit despite their respectful silence over the rise of Tea Party protests. (We want our country back! Remember?)

So it's not surprising that one of the right wing's leading head cases, Glenn Beck, has assumed his familiar Paul Revere persona by warning his audience of the revolutionary intent of the protestors. Here's what he had to say about it, and if you're not a millionaire, you can stop reading now:
'Capitalists if you think that you can play footsies with these people you're wrong. They will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you."
In his view, what else can you expect from "Marxist radicals"? Or "Robespierre." Whichever comes first, I guess. Actually, Beck was among those who came first in vigorously promoting the Tea Party rallies.

There have been many other warnings from the voices on the right (and middle in some instances) who are clearly troubled by any disruption that would cause Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley et al a good night's sleep. Caught with their free-speech notions down, some of the broadcast chatterers have had no trouble being quite picky about the thrust of the protests. They have complained that there is no defined purpose, no facile organizational structure, no homogeneous leadership - just noise in the streets. It is the media's way of saying Hang on, Sloopy, the protestors will go away. My hunch, however, is that this is more than a fleeting moment of dissent. And I also have a hunch that the movement's worried critics would privately agree with me.

We went through much of this during the Viet Nam protests that eventually dominated the narrative. Good Lord. Polite society then asked, should we be listening to anti-war hippies, Communists, stragglers and the misguided sons and daughters of corporate managers - a gathering that started spontaneously and raised the ante to the highest levels of government. (It forced LBJ to step aside from the race.)

Unsurprisingly, many of the media voices and pols have not said much about the target of the protests, Wall Street's malignant schemes that ignited the great economic dive that began back in the 90s. You don't bite the hand that feeds you, and the corporate media know that better than anybody else. Americans have been slow to respond to the perps of their loss of homes, jobs, income and optimism for a better future. At least they need to see why it turned out that way.

The real problem isn't in the streets, folks.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Need a laugh? Try Cain and Cantor

AS SOME OF you may have noticed, I often regress into delirium and take a serious look at a serious issue. But in surveying the comments by the Republican pols, it is getting harder to keep a straight face. They dodge all questions by saying it is critical to focus on creating jobs. And then they come at you with notions about same-sex marriage, class warfare, Mormonism, abortion and voter fraud.

Are they kidding, or what? For me, it is now like watching one silly squirrel chasing another squirrel up and down the tree in our back yard. For humans, their antics are fun to watch.

We now have Person of Interest #3 or #4 Herman Cain insisting that black Americans have been "brainwashed" to vote for Democrats. An African American himself, he has cast himself as the valid authority on mass brainwashing of minorities. By whom were they brain-washed? He blames Democrats, which is hardly newsworthy since the Republican candidates spend most of their time these days blaming Democrats when they aren't blaming each other for something.
I would tell them that as I recall, the Democrats were responsible for Medicare, Social Secrurity, voting rights and a number of other programs that benefitted the alleged brainwashed blacks in America. But if I did, I suspect Cain would accuse me of ordering the wrong brand of pizza.

I doubt that Mitt Romney would want to take the brainwashing tack inasmuch as it would open old family wounds. When Dad George, himself a presidential candidate, returned from a visit to Viet Nam in 1967, he was repentant in explaining to a radio interviewer why he was no longer a hawk. He said he had been the victim (by the military) of the "greatest brainwashing that anybody can get." Time magazine expressed its astonishment over Romney's explanation, describing it as "inept." Small wonder that Mitt has stuck to less inconsiderate comments like "corporations are people" even though I think that it, too, is a bit inept.

Then we come - again! - to jolly Eric Cantor, who should be pitied rather than censured for trying to be so profoundly above the battle . The Virginia Republican, who is forever in the midst of the battle, says the Wall Street demonstrations are increasingly troubling to him. . He told the the folks at the 2011 Voter Values Summit the past week that the protests by the "mobs" were an example of "class warfare" that is increasingly troubling to him because they are "pitting Americans against Americans."

I would consider him an expert on class "pitting" since the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, of which Cantor is the majority leader, has devoted a lot of its time doing just. But here I go again, getting serious when I thought we were in this for the laughs.

Seen any upbeat movies lately? Otherwise, we'll just have to squeeze s few more laughs out of the squirrelly Republican political class before they start falling out of the trees.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Santorum's guide to pillow talk.

The Republican presidential farce has now reached the slapstick stage with Rick Santorum prepping for his own show on Comedy Central. Here's his latest one-liner, offered at a Value Voters Summit:
"When you look at someone to determine whether they'd be the right person for public office, look at who they lay down with at night and what they believe in.''
But would any of the candidates want a lot of voters poking around in their bedrooms, Rick?

His comments are so bizarre that you can't even bring yourself to mention that his grammar is awful, as in his above comment. To LAY down? (I'll forgive him for "who" and "whom" , which nobody, including me, fully understands.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nicknames in the nick of time?

IT WAS GOOD to see Gail Collins, the delightful New York Times columnist, promoting Butch Otter as a Republican presidential candidate. Among her reasons for supporting the Idaho governor was that he would be the first president to be a member of Ducks Unlimited. Besides she notes happily, his candidacy would give her the opportunity to visit Idaho for the first time.

She has made a good choice. Otter would restore to the American culture the use of nicknames that disappeared from the days when mobsters were best remembered by such colorful references as "Machine Gun Kelly" or, more recently, "Vinnie Carwash", to give you some idea of their line of work.

(Butch means "wisdom" in early German - but good luck on that one in these fluttery days.)

Maybe Butch Otter could do something to bring back nicknames to other fields in the public eye. There was something compelling about calling a pool shark "Minnesota Fats", or crowd-stirring wrestler "Man Mountain Dean".

Ah, baseball was all the more interesting with characters named Catfish Metkovich, Peanuts Lowrey, Hammerin' Hank, the Splendid Splinter, the Yankee Clipper and PeeWee Reese. And how could anybody ignore Ernie Lombardi, whose nose reached first base long before the rest of his body. He was, as everyone lovingly knows, "The Schnozz".

Finally, there were Dizzy and Daffy, and even a "Butch,'" Wynegar, in this case. And if you don't remember it, I know a guy who has his baseball card.

So, on to Idaho, Ms. Collins. Butch Otter does have something to offer and should be rewarded for it. Sorry, Mitt, but that is really your middle name. Between Willard and Romney.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The strange 'nine' factor in politics

TIME NOW TO seriously consider the remaining Notorious Nine who remain ambitiously fixed on winning the Republican presidential nomination, deeply troubling the party establishment who wishes there were one or two others in the room. The Niners, not be confused with that NFL team out West, have resisted their critics' charges of foul play while eagerly seeking the blessing of the most bizarre wing of their party.

Get used to it. They are dedicated cultists, and their strength lies in the fact that cults share the same mystical thoughts, forever dividing good and evil. They meet regularly as a group under the light of television cameras, their only concession to modernity. They engage in secret handshakes and passwords (jobs-killing and tax-cutting), the latter to lure skeptics to their ritualistic realm.

As a homogeneous group, they are Brave New Worlders who have much in common with the products of Aldous Huxley's Central Hatchery and Conditioning Center, and he might be pleased to be vindicated in his literary alert that the world is a-changing in ways that we might not apprecicate.

There is still another dimension to their strange presence. It's the fact that they represent a numeral that has long fascinated mathematicians. There are not six nor two nor eight candidates, but nine. Pure magic, and quite fitting for cultists.

Having taken a 24-lecture on-line math course last year to help me balance my checkbook and figure out a department store's layered discounts, I learned all about the uniqueness of nine. According to the math-minded, if you multiply any number by nine, the sum's digits will always up to nine. No other numeral can make that claim! Example: 9 x 781 = 8829. So, 8+8+2+9 = 27. And 2+7 = 9)

But we were talking about the mystical Notorious Nine, weren't we? Well, yes. But I paid good money for the course and figured that someday the strange nine factor would be useful to politics. Thank God that Chris Christie didn't didn't screw everything up by making it 10. On the other hand, is it cruel to add that these nine cultists don't add up to much of anything?


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ohio GOP's sights on 2016 presidential primary

HOPEFUL OF being first in something other than alligators and flesh-eating beach flies, Florida's Republicans defied the fates and advanced the party's presidential primary to Jan. 31 from Mar. 6. That's next year, of course. The frantic response from other political futurists has been something less than kind.

Hopeful of being first in something other than secession, South Carolina promptly responded by moving up its primary to Jan. 21 and crossed its fingers that there would be no pro football playoffs that week to distract the party's voters.

Not so fast, aggrieved Republican loyalists in other states huffed. There is deep thought in New Hampshire for a possible December primary date. Nevada, possibly concerned with the state's time difference with the eastern media, may schedule a vote between midnight and dawn in November to make the important morning TV talk shows on the outcome.

And there is Iowa, which has a drawn-out layered caucus scheme with roots in the fussy election of a new Venetian doge. Iowa couldn't possibly leapfrog any of the other states unless it began its noble pursuit of respectful public notice on Halloween.

That leaves, I'm sorry to report, 45 other states to figure out their best chances for distinctive national electoral glory.

There are rumors hereabouts that Ohio's deep-thinking Republicans are trying to come up with a plan for a 2016 presidential primary to be held immediately after the OSU game with Michigan in November. Nice try, I suppose, inasmuch as there is little for the state to crow about these days, Gov. Kasich's boasts notwithstanding.


It didn't take more than a minute after Chris Christie's Sherman-like decline of a presidential candidacy to bestir the national analysts to begin probing a post-Cristie era in the Republican field. Much of the Christie story was media driven from the outset despite his repeated denials of interest. It made for millions of analytical comments and kept on the front-burner speculation that surrounds national politics today by the talking heads.

Among Christie's many suitors were media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Henry Kissinger, pundit William Kristol and Gov. Kasich. Maybe the New Jersey governor was aware that with baggage like those guys would add to a campaign, he didn't need the inconvenience. So that chapter should end, but not before Mitt Romney and Rick Perry award Christie the game ball.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Brunner's endorsement of Kasich policies

THERE ARE DAYS when it's impossible to follow the bouncing ball. Take Jennifer Brunner's behavior these days in the political universe, for example. In case you've forgotten, Brunner had become the poster candidate for the progressive women's movement - some of it inspired by her assurances that she didn't mind that distinction at all. Still, it wasn't enough for the former Ohio Secretary of State to defeat Lee Fisher in last year's Senate primary and she headed to her law office in Columbus, apparently to sulk awhile.

Today, the media have been wondering about how she could now be so charitable to
Gov. Kasich's policies. Hey, she says, stop complaining about the guy because he's out there fighting for Ohioans. Or as the Plunderbund blog quoted her remarks at the Columbus Athletic Club after she nodded approvingly during a Kasich speech:

"Not everyone agrees with those [Kasich's] changes, but he's making an effort. You can tell that he cares...[He is] dedicated to reforming Ohio.'"

But wait! Is that the same Jennifer Brunner who Kasich has just appointed to the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission - not a role that will give her many photo-ops. The 12 -member Commission describes itself as a means to look after the "development and performance" of cutural and sports facilities with no power over the expenditure of public funds.

As the Columbus Dispatch twitted the Kasich-Brunner moment:
"Not long ago, Jennifer Brunner said something nice about John Kasich. And today, the Republican governor appointed the former Democratic secretary of state to the Ohio Cultural Commission."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Christie's obesity finally noticed

NOW THAT THE "class warfare' rattle has paused for a good 15 minutes among the GOP presidential candidates, the media have turned to Chris Christie to reinvigorate the narrative. The story can now be told that the ample New Jersey governor Not just obese, mind you. Morbidly obese! That, plus asthma attacks, and you have a non-presidential candidate no matter how much his Republican half-loonies want none of the above who are current.

If I may speak from experience, I'd say that Christie's resistance to a national candidacy is probably the wisest decision he will ever make. As one who has labored through several presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, I will trouble any disappointed Christie fans out there with my doubts that he could survive the merciless grind. As a much younger and able-bodied political reporter, I still ended up in traction and other therapy for months with painful back spasms that forced me to write my columns face-down on the living room floor with the typewriter inches from my chin.

For reporters, such stress, bad food and 20- hour days without week-end breaks still had a slight advantage over the candidates. No one cared whether our clothes were a disaster or whether we didn't trouble ourselves with a comb. Ill-tempered? So were our working colleagues. In other words, we didn't have to look pretty and sound presidential in front of an audience.

A politically incorrect way to describe Christie is that he is just plain perspiring fat. If a tough presidential campaign wouldn't imperil him, a lot of other health issues could send him to the emergency room at any moment on the trail. Let's leave it at that, since he seems to understand that more than everyone in his cheering section. Way to go, governor.