Thursday, May 31, 2012

The billion dollar (!) campaign against Obama

I READ THAT the Republican Voting for Dollars high command vigorously led by the Karl Roves will spend $1 billion to defeat  President Obama in November.  I can't honestly tell you how many zeroes follow the $1.  I spend more of my time rounding off the entries in  my checkbook to the nearest dollar.  But don't be surprised if some mathematician at MIT turns up on Fox News to give us a mental image of $1 billion by reporting that if you laid  $1 billion end to end, they would stretch all the way to the U.S.Chamber of Commerce,   various oil companies and,  of course, the Koch Brothers  before arriving with a new guy in the Oval Office.

The trouble with  billions and trillions is that even the modern financiers who toss around such figures have never really seen them. Nobody ever has.  In that sense, they are abstractions  that filter through the wealthiest levels of society as  imagined over the morning coffee. The mysterious figures are never precise because it is easy enough to round off the  dangling millions to make a billion come out even.

Who can appear as a news show panelist freely talking about $1,297, 082,093.36?  Nobody.  Not even Donald Trump. So if one of Mitt Romney's surrogates mentions a billion here and a billion there,  ask him to be more precise.  That will change the subject.

But come to think of it, if you drop the R from Mitt's last name, the remaining letters are an anagram of  money.  Now I think we're getting somewhere.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Florida: Where a decorated vet is told he can't vote

DO YOU KNOW  the fellow in the picture?

No? If not, you have a lot of company .  The election officials in Florida don't know him either.  That explains why, at the urging of the state's kookish Republican governor,  they have included Bill Internicola in the massive purge of people who want to vote this year in the never-ending GOP quest to smash fraud wherever it exists - or doesn't exist.

Let me tell you about  this designated victim of Gov. Rick Scott's hit list.  He's 91, a decorated WWII veteran (Bronze Star for bravery in the Battle of the Bulge) and  for the past 14 years has voted in Florida.

Not good enough for the state's flawed election bureaucracy - the same one that wiped a lot of voters in the 2000 presidential election  in which George Bush defeated Al Gore in the state by 537 votes  with help from the U.S.Supreme Court.

So here we go again.  While GOP officials scoff at references to their efforts as "voter cleansing", there is no reason to believe them for the Republican-led assaults on voter lists across the country that largely deny blacks and Latinos a visit to the voter booth. There was a time when the party prayed for bad weather  to keep certain voters from the polls;  that, plus poll taxes down south.

Internicola is the second case in this messy plot to reach the Net , largely exposed by ThinkProgress. By the way, it also noted that in the first five months of 2012,  three major newspapers - the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today - failed to mention a word about the scandalous behavior  in the  Sunshine State.  See how easy it is for me to be cynical.

 We mentioned in an earlier blog Maureen Russo, who has yet to be reinstated to the eligibility list  despite her valid profile.  So if your local Republican officials  tell you that there is no plot to deny selected voters their rights with the shopworn guise of good government,  let them scoff and sputter.  But don't believe them.  They are lying - which is one of the few things that they do well.

Fair question for Detroit native son Romney

Yippee!   We can all relax and move on to less important matters.  Mitt Romney has released his birth certificate showing that he was born in Detroit.

Or was he?  Hmmm...

Unlike his good friend Donald Trump, a prominent but  moronic  birther who continues to hound President Obama without stern dissent from Mitt, I will rise above the cursed battle and take the Republican candidate's word for it if he can identify Al Kaline  and Dizzy Trout.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Joe Ricketts: A billionaire out of his league

WHEN WE LAST looked in on Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, he was hosting a plan that would have smeared President Obama  with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright gambit that failed four years ago.  But when the GOP Golden Oldie  was exposed, you'd think he would have turned his attention to his family- owned Chicago Cubs.  It can be easily authenticated that the team that once boasted of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo  and Stan Hack ended  its 12-game losing streak on Memorial Day.  For the Cubs, it wasn't another day at the office.

But for all of their riches, billionaires do get bored.  There is nothing left to satisfy their whimsical illusions.   Who can imagine a guy like Ricketts  fretting about the Cubs like a kid from a North Side Chicago sandlot?  You can't.  So Rickets has now found a new path for his intended destruction of President Obama.  It's a book  called "The Roots of Obama's Rage," written by a far-right polemicist Dinesh  d'Souza in 2010 and headed for a documentary! D'Souza insists that Obama is ready to punish America's colonialism  by supporting anticolonialists around the world.  One line in the book will suffice:  "For Obama, the radical Muslims are on the right side of history - that's why he is so unnaturally solicitous toward them."

Ricketts describes D'Souza as a "respected scholar".

Joe, shouldn't you be spending more time looking around for  some pitchers for the Cubs?

* * * *  *

Speaking of boredom, should John McCain's friends find something more productive for him to do on Sunday mornings?  As we've all known for years, he has been the leading go-to guy for the Sunday morning talk shows .  I don't know why that is.  Certainly not because he makes any  sense. Maybe because he figures no one will again ask him why  he agreed to Sarah Palin as his exciting chaperone on the ticket.   Maybe it's because he's not considered to be as crazy as most of the Beltway Republicans. It's certainly not any profound insights that he brings to the table. Old soldiers like McCain don't even fade away.

I should tell you that I stopped watching  these shows a long time ago.  They are so politically correct with pundits on both sides with George Will forever reading the liberals last will and testament.  Except for Fox News, an outfit  from whom I would never buy a used car.

From what I read, McCain showed up at Fox to denounce Obama  for not solving all of the problems in the Middle East. He thought Obama should have been doing more "stuff" to resolve the issues and that we should stay in Afghanistan for an eternity.  I tire.  Do you think he's still sulking  because as a military hero he lost to some upstart community organizer whose skin color was never acceptable in the Oval Office until 2008?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The winnowing is under way in Florida again

THERE'S AN unpopular fellow down in Florida named Rick Scott who happens to be the  governor.  How he was elected to that job is one of  the great mysteries of our time. I only know that he is the former CEO of HCA Healthcare, which has since paid the Federal government $1.7  billion in fines for Medicare fraud.  That could  be a record in a day when  records are usually  broken every day.  From those closer to the scene, I learned that during the investigation of HCA's scalpel-less handiwork,  Scott took the Fifth Amendment 75 times in a deposition.

Anyway, Scott is the  bell cow for the voter purge in
Florida that heightens  the Republican-controlled scandal that separates the wheat from the chaff, and then gets rid of the wheat.  It's all in the name of good government with savage GOP attempts to reduce voter fraud that they have yet to prove exists. In the 2000  election, the state dumped 7000 voters,  most of whom were believed to be eligible.  The Republicans use it as a an election tool, which I have read is how they do it in some foreign countries run by dictators..

By now, you are probably wondering about the woman in the photo holding a poodle (?). Her name is Maureen Russo, born in Akron, and now in  the dog boarding and grooming business in Ft. Lauderdale with her husband. According to ThinkProgress, she's been declared ineligible because she "wasn't born in this country".   I've lived in the Akron area for many years, and this is a new one on me.  

Actually Mrs. Russo has been a registered voter for 40 years.  But before she can  challenge the state, she has to ask for an administration hearing  that will grind her through the bureaucracy. It's never pleasant.   If were her, I would show up with one of those Goodyear tire ashtrays  as Exhibit No. 1.

In Florida, it will be easier for a Republican voter with a coconut for a head to enter the voting booth than  folks like Mrs. Russo.   It's a shameful way to do business, governor, even if it has nothing to do with Medicare fraud.    But shame is never something they think about when an election is at stake.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ode to returning birther Donald Trump

Humpty Trumpty
Sat on a wall
Humpty Trumpty
Had a great fall
All of Mitt's horses
And all of Bain's men
Can't put Trumpty together again!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Repent - the end is near!

I am beginning to feel that the hysterics of the political and religious fringe this campaign season are an allegory of how the world will end - not  by solar storms, flood , fire or locusts but by shrieks and a torrent of mindless babbling as people discover  that the end is near.  Nowadays, the news cycle is not complete without more reports from one apocalyptic  dead-ender  or another that demons are descending upon our bedeviled planet. And a lot of it  is coming from people once thought to be sane enough to get elected.

From Arizona, for example, came word that the Republican secretary of state suggested he might keep President Obama off his state's ballot unless Hawaii provided irrefutable proof that Obama was not born beyond paradise.  I thought we had been there the last time.  Ken Bennett, the election boss, soon recanted but not before he moved to the top of the most-ridiculed list amid strong competition. The secretary of state, for God's sake!

Folks like Bennett have become desperate in sustaining the moronic  cult of birtherism.  He said he was merely responding to questions from his constituents.  That made no more sense than to revive the old myth that there are alligators sloshing around in New York City's sewers. (They're not?)  Oh, some diehard birthers want us to know in their end of days  scenario that Obama's real father was named Frank Marshall Davis, who, alas,  was a communist.

In Iowa, the so-called Republican Party has prepared a draft platform that calls for proof that a presidential candidate is a natural born citizen.  And they are so impatient to instill purity in the Oval Office they want the proof in time  for the 2012 election. The platform also wants to ban  money for Planned Parenthood, end stem cell research and eliminate all school activities on Sundays or Wednesday nights,  which they contend conflicts with Baptists'  prayer meetings.

(None of this will matter if the planet  disappears before the Republican convention in Tampa. We can hope.)

Alas, there''s more. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.)  questions Obama's  birth certificate; Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) doesn't think  that Obama is American "in his heart". In North Carolina a preacher named Charles R. Worley has topped the list of homophobes by demanding that gays and lesbians  be penned up behind an electrified fence and  left to die, adding that Obama  was a "baby killer and homosexual lover." Other Obamaphobes  more gently refer to him as a "half-breed".

The hate pouring out of some pulpits and along the circuit  today could bend spoons.  No matter.  Who will need a  spoon when the lights go out on all of us, including the Rev. Worleys,  in the land of the free?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roger, he's that fellow in the White House!

Roger Ailes, the president and guru of Fox News, says he has a problem with Barack Obama, as  if we didn't know when the Fox hunters cast come calling.

Ailes complains:  "We still don't know anything about Obama."

You'd think that with Ailes' vast news resources, one of his savvy people would begin to fill him in by whispering to  Roger that Obama is the president of the United States.      

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicago...that toddling town

One of the gems of Chicago lore is the quaint  tale of how the Chicago Cubs  have been a miserable baseball team  for so long because of the "Billy Goat Curse".  As it has been explained,  the curse derived from an unhappy Greek saloon-keeper who had a pet goat in his tavern across the street from Wrigley Field. When he tried to enter the stadium with his goat during the 1945 World Series, he was turned back because the goat had an unpleasant odor. The Cubs didn't win that series and have never played in one ever since.   Sam Sianis,  the goat's owner, is said to have laid an eternal  curse on the wretched Cubs  over the incident.

Other versions of the team's woes  have survived, but  I like this one because it fits  perfectly  into the city's exceptional  trail of colorful characters  - whether sinister, deadly or just your  average Runyonesque  ward-heelers. One of the latter, a Democratic alderman,   once knowingly responded to a complaint that a city project would  tear up too much green space.  "You can have too much grass," he said with a straight face.

 Then there was  alderman  Mathias "Paddy" Bauer, a  friend of former titanic Mayor Richard J. Daley,  who declared early in his spotty political career,"Chicago ain't ready for reform".

Much of the city's political shenanigans was recorded by the late columnist Mike Royko, who rose to journlistic stardom simply by recording what the hooligans were uttering with an unusual writer's eye for detail. (During the  many times that I visited the Chicago area,  I looked forward to watching Columnist Irv Kupcinet on a  TV show with his unique version of the English language.  In one instance, in good form, he came up with  the unforgettable term, "misleading nomers".   Somehow it worked in the context of the Daley-controlled wards.)

Newt Gingrich never  let anyone forget that President Obama was a community organizer on Chicago's South Side where Saul Alinsky held forth for many years.  What he never said was that Alinsky was conservative in some respects, patriotic, ate at the best steakhouses  and included a Catholic priest, businessmen and a member of the Marshall Field department store  family among his many his friends.  (Of course, Newt said a lot of things that weren't true.)

Deservedly,  the Democrats were accused of all sorts of political mischief to sustain their hegemony over Sandburg's  "Hog butcher for the world".  Yet  Chicago also came to be known as the "the city that works."  My late father-in-law, a suburban businessman  with an office  in the Loop, was a Republican who praised Daley.  "I've never voted for a Democrat, but if I lived in the city, I'd vote for Dick Daley," he said.

I should tell you that these vignettes of the lives and times of the impolite  Chicago pols was encouraged by a recent Republican implosion that added another notch to the city's awkward political history,  Meet Joe Ricketts, bloated billionaire, right-winger  and founder of the on-line  brokerage, TD Ameritrade.  It surely ranks higher than a mere dishonorable mention. Although Ricketts  is full of denials, he was nearing the moment when he would put up $10 million  in an advertising assault  on President Obama, described in the plan as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."  (I can't imagine Billy Goat Sianis or Paddy Bauer using a word like "metrosexual," can you?  In their day, it would have cost them tons of support on the street.)

The  key to the attack on Obama would be the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a dumb idea back in 2008 whose sponsors planned to stretch a few more wearying miles.

Funny,  but there may be a link to the Billy Goat Curse here. The Cubs are currently in last place and in an extended losing streak.  At the same time, thre NY Times" exposure of  Ricketts' association with the anti-Obama preliminaries probably has set back  his efforts to haul in $300 million in taxpayer money to rennovate  Wrigley Field,  in which the Ricketts family-owned Chicago Cubs, play -  when they're up to it.

Worse yet, the mayor of Chicago is a feisty Democrat named Rahm Emanuel, former top-ranking member of the Obama team.   When Ricketts called Emanuel after the Times article appeared, the mayor didn't bother to return the call.

Yep, irony of ironies, the same Joe Ricketts who also founded the Ending Spending Fund to reduce government spending.

Mitt Romney tells us to rely on the business world because they know how to do it.

On the other   hand, Mike Royko might have won another Pulitzer  playing with this one.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

From heart-felt Americans on the right

The weekly leftovers:

When Mitt Romney   was asked about Rush Limbaugh's reference to Sandra Fluke as a slut, he cagily  responded that it wasn't "the language I would have used"  without telling us what language he would have used. Little did it prepare us for later mystical utterances that mark the candidate . When reporters asked him about the cabal being cooked up in Chicago  by the billionaire owner of the Chicago Cubs that would revive the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue in the 2008 campaign,  he topped the earlier Limbaugh dust-up. Asked about a comment he made on the Hannity show that the president wanted America to be a "less Christian nation", Romney was prepared for it:
"I'm not familiar, precisely , with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was."
Pinned on the shelf of my office is one of the classic political responses that I've encountered over the years. It was spoken by George W. Bush, and could be of more use to Romney.  Said Dubya to a nosy reporter:
"I would have to ask the questions...I haven't had a chance to ask the questioners the question they've been questioning." 
But with nearly six months to go, there's still time for Mitt  to build on that.

* * * * *

I'm beginning to see attack ads on the Internet against Sen.  Sherrod Brown by Dick Armey's FreedomWorks.  No mention of Brown's Republican opponent Josh Mandel in the ads.  But adding the right-wing FreedomWorks to the American Petroleum Institute and U.S.Chamber of Commerce tells me  why Mandel was repeatedly absent from his Ohio duties tending to his fund-raising needs.  His campaign has already spent millions on TV advertising.  For Mandel, right-wing money never sleeps.

* * * * *

Want a quote that pretty well sums up the dark side of  what is happening in the presidential campaign?  Try this one from Colorado U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican:

'I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America.  I don't know that.  But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American.  He's just not an American."

An odd presumption for a guy who isn't even a cardiologist!

* * * * *

When e.e. cummings poetically mused about the "sound of one hand clapping," he could very well have envisioned the GOP class when it was announced George W. Bush, the economic wizard who financed the budget-busting Iraq invasion on the cuff,  has written a book on how to build a stronger economy. It won't have the slightest potential to be made into a movie.

* * * *  *

Joe Hallett of the Columbus Dispatch reports that Portage County Republican Chairman Andrew Manning has been interviewed by the FBI regarding Manning's charges that he was asked by Gov. Kasich's headhunters to withdraw from the the GOP  State Central Committee.

Manning accused Summit County Chairman Alex Arshinkoff and his sidekick Bryan Williams  of urging  him to resign in return for having a a stronger calling card in the Kasich Administration.  Manning at the time supported State Chairmaan Kevin DeWine to retain the chair in the bitter ongoing clash with Kasich, who wanted to oust DeWine - which he did.

Hallett says Arshinkoff and Williams have denied offering Manning a deal in a meeting  at Portage Country Club.  Where else?  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Renacci bill isn't for, um... all women

FACE IT, FOLKS:  Rep, Jim Renacci, the Wadsworth, Oh., Republican, is a genius at creating his own image on the Internet. He just posted a self-congratulatory statement on his home page boasting that he was a co-sponsor of the anti-domestic Violence Against Women Act  that blasted through the House on Wednesday. Eh, with full funding, too.

Now why would a frugal Tea Party Republican brag about  a bill costing  $660 million annually?  Let him explain:
"As a husband and father I believe it is of the utmost importance that we reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Our bill provides $660 million in annual funding to help prevent domestic  violence and protect victims of abuse.  It also increases our resources for sexual assault investigations, prosecutions and victim services.   We must give law enforcement the tools to prosecute these crimes and victims (sic) the resources they need to get help."
WOW!  That ought to blunt the edge of any women's issues that his Democratic opponent, Rep. Betty Sutton, might raise in the race  that redistricting  crammed into the same district.  Right?  Not yet, maybe not ever with the current right-wing crowd in the House  .

Renacci cited eight points crediting his work with thoughtful legislation.  But what he didn't mention is that the bill's generosity excluded violence against  certain women covered in the Senate-passed version:  American Indians, gays and immigrants.

In politics, it all depends on how you tell the story.

Tim Gorbach: Making so much sense

THE ISSUE  of offering family rates to a gay married couple  at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium can now be hung in Tea Party Mayor Don Robart's office as one of his less distinguished deeds however his surrogates choose to define it.  But the record would not be complete without inserting a definitive  appeal  from another official for passage before a Republican majority defeated it with the mayor''s best wishes.

In supporting a family rate for the couple ( which included a wounded Iraqi veteran) , Tim  Gorbach, the Democratic chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board, addressed the financial cost of changing the rate structure and just as importantly, the inequality of conflicting rates between the Natatorium and Water Works, which has a more liberal policy.

To questions  raised by the discount's opponents, Gorbach said the Natatorium's annual revenue would be reduced by $49,000  - or 1 pct. of the annual budget. As of the end of April, he reported, the Natatorium had net savings of more than $100,000.

"Without reducing any services, we have already more than doubled the amount necessary to account for the projected shortfall, he told the Board.

He  said he was "very uncomfortable" with the conflicting rate structures of the two entities under the Parks board, calling the Natatorium's "discriminatory."   "I think as a board we should be moving at the speed of light to  correct this dichotomy and remove much discriminatory nuances in our Natatorium rate structure as possible.'"

He then struck on a significant element that shaped the issue:   "I   feel  very strongly that we need to apply our discount opportunities more evenly for our membership.  We tout in   all of our literature how we are family friendly.  In fact, our motto  is 'whole fitness for the whole family.'  Well,  I believe we are coming  up short in our discount plan options for this to be true."

I would add that considering the minuscule effect on the budget that so concerned the mayor and Republican board members, you had to look for underlying motives to rejecting the request of  a same-sex married couple.

I  know the Republican majority ignored the board chairman's  plea and for the foreseeable future the issue is dead.  But it is refreshing to hear a public official in the Falls making so much sense on a matter that was so symbolic for a community's openness to today's social landscape.  And for that reason alone,  I've posted this report.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Poll on Romney's boring white guy veep

THE FIRST RESULTS have been tallied  in the NEW GRUMPY ABE POLL  to fit the bill as Romney's "incredibly boring white guy"  as his running mate.

Here they are:

Sen.  Joe Lieberman, 24 pct.

Dan Quayle, 22 pct.

Sen. Jon Kyl, 18 pct.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, 16 pct. 

Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder, 9 pct. 

Republican Chairman Reince Priebus , 8 pct.

Cleveland Browns Quarterback Colt McCoy, 6 pct. 

The Rev. Pat Robertson, 2 pct.

Dick Cheney and George Bush, tied at 1.9 pct. 

Pat Buchanan, 2 pct.

Tony Perkins 1.5 pct.

If the figures don't add up to 100 pct., no matter.  When Republicans are assembled,  their  figures never add up. The poll will run until Romney chooses his veep candidate.   But I should warn you that  he has been known to change his mind quite often.

You won't need a photo ID to vote in this poll.   And if you vote, remember that incredibly boring white guys, like corporations, are people, too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Romney to choose "an incredibly boring" what?

Several media have buzzed a report from inside the Romney campaign that he will choose an "incredibly boring white guy"  as his veep candidate.

If so, that would make two of them at the top of the ticket.  Oh, where are  Herman Cain or Sarah Palin to enliven the ticket?

For Mandel, silence is golden among students

ONE OF THE STRANGEST lines from this season's Senate race in Ohio was from Republican Josh Mandel during an interview with the Youngstown Vindicator.      Follow this,  if you can:
"We must stop student loan interest rates from rising, but I'm not going to say how.  Also, I don't think kids should talk in the hallway."
We have now witnessed a rare unexplored  issue introduced  in the Mandel's Senate race against Sen. Sherrod Brown.  School corridors befitting the silence of a mountaintop monastery?  Good luck on that, Josh. Talk about non-sequitors!  What does student chatter have to do with student loans?  ( The Vindicator also noted that the whiz kid had earlier come out strongly in favor of requiring students to wear uniforms,  without saying who would pay for them.)

Anyway,  it's good to know that Mandel, the Ohio Treasurer, is out and about these days for reasons other  than to raise money.   People who watch more TV than I do say they have yet to see him on a ad attacking Brown. So far Brown has been carpet bombed by more than $5 million in ads paid for by such progressives as the U.S.Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institiute while Mandel focusses on reminding the public that he is an Iraqi veteran.

At least the bit about chattering students is a welcome, if odd,  change in the subject.    

The BJ and PD share a headline

WHEN I LOOKED at the front pages of today's Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer, who could blame me for a seizure of double vision?  The headlines for the opening of the Casino in Cleveland were precisely the same:
With so  many one-source-fits-all news stories appearing in  my daily papers from some other  paper around the state, have we reached the saturation point of similarity?

Oh, it's a nice sunny day so let's be charitable and call the headline a  rare word-for-word coincidence.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Rev. Romney to the pulpit

A HALF-CENTURY AGO - Sept. 12, 1960 - Sen. John F. Kennedy spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Assn. to define his Catholic heritage  to a Protestant assembly wary of his candidacy for the presidency. He wanted to reassure the gathering that his first responsibility as the nation's leader would be to base his decisions on the national interest,  not as a religious advocate.   (This was the eloquent speech that Rick Santorum snarlingly said nearly forced him to "throw up.")

Speaking  honestly and without servility to one faith or another, Kennedy declared:

"I believe  in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish - where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy  from the Pope, the National Council of Churches  or any other ecclesiastical  source - where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials - and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all".

He later added: "Whatever issue may come before me as President - in birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject - I will make my decision in  accordance  with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.  And no power or threat of punishment  could cause me to decide otherwise."

Romney appeared before a group that doubtless included skeptics about his Mormon faith, which evangelicals consider a cult apart from Christianity. Unlike Kennedy, who defined himself as an unbound  leader in terms of a president's decisions,  Romney preached to the choir, casting himself as a heartfelt Christian, particularly on  same-sex marraige, abortion and other social issues.  He spoke of a relationship "with our maker".

"Whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and sick or mercy for  the chid waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action'', he said.

The New York Times described the event as Romney's "most extensive and direct discussion of religion since his 2007 speech about his own father."

In short, Romney, rather than declaring his independence from a  system of religious tenets,  let his listeners know the he was cut from the same cloth. In a pluralistic nation, he was rigidly one of them.  It defined the parameters of a theocratic  governing style, but hardly a profile in courage.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On ex-altar boys, marriage, blah blah blah


From the Youngstown Vindicator, via the Plain Dealer:

"(I am) saddened that the work that I have done to feed the poor, clothe the naked, help cure the sick and to bring an end to the death penalty has fallen on deaf ears.  I guess being an altar boy for six years didn't qualify me for dispensation." - State Rep.  Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown),  after learning that his invitation to be the commencement speaker  at a Catholic  nursing school had been rescinded by Bishop  George V. Murry because Hagan supports abortion rights.

* * * * *

"We've arrived at a point where the president of the United States is going to lead a war on traditional marriage" - Traditional marriage authority Rush Limbaugh, having been married four times himself.

* * * * *

"I'm sorry, I made a mistake and it won't happen again." - King Juan Carlos of Spain, recovering from a fractured hip suffered when he  fell off an elephant  while  hunting in Botswana.

* * * * *

"This is the first time that George Clooney has ever been photo-shopped out of a picture.  Never happened before, never happen again." - President Obama at a Hollywood fund-raiser with Clooney at his side, quipping that Clooney had been  taken out of the Hope poster used by the Obama campaign in 2008.

* * * * *

"If you live long enough, you  get old" - Grumpy Abe 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Same-sex marriage: No kayakers at Falls City Hall

Cuyahoga Falls to tear down two dams next year; kayakers eager to tackle rapids unseen in 200 years  - Beacon Journal headline, December 11, 2011

Unfortunately, there aren't enough public  officials  in the Falls who are eager to tackle more meaningful  matters unseen in 200 years.

I refer to the defeat of a initiative to award a same-sex married couple a family rate at the Natatorium, a modest discount for the spouses, one of whom - if you can imagine that!  -  is a wounded Iraqi veteran
who was prepared to have his head shot off so that the Natatorium and other venues around America could live in peace.

The controversy  has plodded forward for months in what has become Republican Mayor Don Robart's Tea Party Central town somewhere just north of Akron.   It would have passed 6-5 on City Council , with all six Democrats supporting it.  But when the Mayor was heard to threaten a veto, it would have needed 8 votes to override his veto.  There was no hope of siphoning  two from the Republican side.

Tim Gorbach, the Democratic chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board, which oversees the Natatorium, tried various methods to create a compromise that would allow the couple to get the family rate.  But again, when the board met on Thursday, it was was defeated, 3-2, by the Republican majority opposing it.

I talked to two of the opponents on the board, Dick Sebastian and Debbie Ritzinger, both of whom insisted that neither  religion nor the mayor influenced their decisions, although both seemed less eager to preclude the mayor. They agreed that it was all about the money  the city would lose by extending the family rate to a same-sex couple.  But if they were a straight-sex couple, wouldn't the same cost factor apply at the family rate?  Would somebody please do the math for me?

Before your reach for you calculator, allow me to put it this way:  The only difference in the rates ($130 annually) was that one couple was gay.

In his haste to circle his own wagon, Robart first said the state's ban on same-sex marriages prevented the Falls from allowing the discount.  When his own law director said the discount would not be a problem under state law - Akron and Medina, for example would not prohibit equal rates - the mayor then switched to the cost factor.  But I wonder about that, particularly when he nearly soared off the stage at a recent Tea Party rally by praising the Teabaggers as the  "social, fiscal and moral conscience of America." Really,  Mayor?

There is further irony here in that the Falls is revving up for a bicentennial celebration in which there will be a lot of chest-pounding about the  whitewater beauties of the town's history.    Here's what the bicentennial commission has to say about it:
"The mission of the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio Bicentennial celebration is to promote awareness to our rich heritage, encourage citizens and business leaders to plan, participate and sponsor events and activities, recognizing 200 years of the history and growth of  Cuyahoga Falls.
In view of the dismally regressive mentality at City Hall on the Natatorium , wouldn't it be more appropriate to call it a Centennial celebration instead and wait for the mayor's successor to bring the town forward to the 21st Century?  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama the clear winner over North Carolina

CIRCLE THIS HISTORIC week on the calendar for your grandchildren.  It uniquely demonstrated the wide gulf separating those committed to expressing individual liberty in their personal lives, and those who express their liberty as the preferred way to determine the choices of others.

At one end of the spectrum was the overwhelming passage of a constitutional amendment in North Carolina banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. (Curiously, they were already outlawed  in the state).   Their rationale was their need to lock into the state constitution "godly values," as they were described by some supporters.  Taking no chances, their campaign even brought out the 93-year-old Rev. Billy Graham, who said he  was greatly concerned by "moral decline in our country"  and that the Bible was "clear" on the intent of the amendment.

But at the other end of the arc, President Obama, risking political backlash in an election year,  rose to the moment and declared his support of same-sex marriages. His right-wing critics at Fox News and elsewhere  quickly condemned his move as a political stunt rather than  a deliberative act of faith.

I have news for  them: There are more convenient stunts  to impress unsuspecting voters.  From the standpoint of moral affirmation of a free society, I would grade the two widely conflicting events as  Obama...1,  and North Carolina... zero.

It is, after all, 2012.

Hey, Mitt: The Olds died in 2004!

WHEN I HEAR MITT ROMNEY, in a campaign stop in Michigan, lament the demise of the Oldsmobile - the OLDSMOBILE, for God's sake! - in the context of criticizing President Obama'a  bailout of the auto industry, I  can ony recall something that  the New Yorker's late film critic Pauline Kael once said of the sniffy tone of her magazine."They were so superior to the subject that they never dealt with it," the esteemed Ms. Kael  wrote.

Romney, who is tossing around muddled ideas like so many Edsels,  often leaves me to wonder whether he is so above the crowd that he lives in a world of abstractions.  In this instance, he  was either unaware or intentionally deceptive in telling us about the Oldsmobile  that GM phased  out in 2004.  If you do the simple math you will quickly discover that  it predates Obama's election by four years, inconveniently for Republicans that a fellow named George Bush was president at the time.

Don't go away.  Mitt also claimed credit for today's auto industry's success with an obscure explanation   that I won't try to repeat.  He once did say, however,  that the Obama folks should have let the industry go bankrupt.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mourdock leads way as the only way

ARE YOU READY for it,  America?  The Indiana voters, formerly known as Republicans, have pushed the Party of Lincoln over the cliff.  They replaced Richard Lugar, a grey eminence of the old GOP, with a truculent Tea Partier, state Treasurer  Richard Mourdock.  Who?  Never mind. The name could be generic fringe, for all that matters. In the teabaggers ascendancy to power, they have now become the other half of the two-party system with the old GOP gasping in extremis.

That's not as crazy as it sounds.  The remnants of Republican moderates have left the stage and those who haven't  don't dare question anything about the intruders, unless it's by gaslight. Mourdock has already forewarned conscientious objectors on either side of the aisle that the Tea Party mentality is in supreme command with no margin for compromise even, I suppose, on dunking one or two lumps of sugar in the morning coffee. Aglow in his landslide victory, Mourdock was on Fox News charting the Draconian course that he believes lies ahead to Congress. If his ilk prevails,  Congress, which should represent the needs of  America, will be paralyzed by deadlock for years to come.  There will be, in Mourdock's words, no compromise.  None.  A graphic clue:  he opposed the bailout of the auto industry without which an enormous number of Hoosiers would have lost their jobs.

In his concession speech, Lugar  captured the essence of a Mourdock mindset:
"In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party.  His answer to the inevitable roadblocks  he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook.   He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican Party of those who stray from orthodoxy  as they see it.  This is not conducive to problem solving and governance."

The "ultimate cheap shot'' against Betty Sutton

THE NATIONAL Republican Congressional Committee (soon to be replaced by  the National
Tea Party Congressional Committee) believes Ohio Rep. Betty Sutton is a closet supporter of the gang that wanted to blow up  that bridge near Cleveland.  It officially challenged her credentials as a law-abiding citizen because she didn't immediately condemn  the plan.  The Columbus Dispatch called the committee's lunacy the "ultimate cheap shot".  It made us regress to Sutton's last congressional campaign during which the Medina County Republican chairman thought it would be best if she simply returned to the kitchen.  But you will doubtless be drenched with more of this palaver in her showdown with Republican Rep. Jim Renacci - both of whom were snugly deposited in the newly-created 16th District,  whose weird boundaries were created by the controlling Republicans to replicate a Salvador Dali painting.

While we're at it, we might mention another Democratic woman, Elizabeth Warren, who is challenging  Republican U.S. Sen.  Scott Brown in Massachusetts.  Her opponents are wondering about how she might have exploited the fact that she is 1/32 Cherokee to advance her career as a minority.  And so the birthers are up and at 'em in the Bay State, insisting that  she doesn't look like a native American.  Here's how they put it:  She couldn't have a drop of Indian blood because she is "blonde, rich, and most of all, a Harvard law professor."

No matter whichever came first, I presume.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mr. Romney, she said impeach the president!

ONCE AGAIN, Mitt Romney let a McCain Moment pass without a response at a campaign stop in Euclid Monday.  You may recall that candidate  John McCain rebuffed a woman in the audience who asserted that Obama was an Arab terrorist.  But Romney ignored a charge  from a woman in his audience who declared Obama should be impeached.  (Pressed by reporters afterward, Romney said of course he didn't think the president should be impeached. But only afterward. Some things, he once said, should only be discussed in a quiet room.

There also was this line from Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, a Romney Ohio team leader, who warmed up the audience by  describing Obama as a Ronald McDonald  for claiming credit in ridding the world of Osama bin Laden.   (Like, Don't  credit Ronald McDonald for the Big Mac you ate for lunch.   Is Yost trying out for a spot on Saturday Night Live?   Or is he simply enjoying a standup gig as another Buckeye  hack politician?

For the life of me, it doesn't seem to make much sense to go after Obama on this matter since it only serves to remind the public that this president was successful  on his watch - Mission Accomplished  - as contrasted to George Bush, who claimed he had no interest at all in the whereabouts of  Osama bin Laden.

Monday, May 7, 2012

And we thought the dinosaurs vanished...

WE ARE GRATEFUL to RawStory  for  informing us of an odorous  new study published in Current  Biology.  It reported speculation by British scientists that dinosaurs may have warmed the planet   millions of years ago with flatulence from eating leafy plants.

By my unscientific estimates, I'd say there's enough evidence in the Republican House of Representatives that there are ample emissions to show that GOP dinosaurs are alive and well.  Jeez!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Arshinkoff's salute to Josh Mandel

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican whiz kid running for the U.S. Senate, has an ebullient supporter in Summit County Republican chairman Alex Arshinkoff these days.   In a phone conversation, Arshinkoff left no doubt that he subscribes to one of Mandel's recurring  campaign themes that he served two tours as an Iraqi war veteran.

Describing the 34-year-old Mandel as a "decent kid",  Arshinkoff took  it to the next level by citing Mandel's courage thusly:
"It takes a set of balls to be Jewish and fight in the Iraq war."
Huh? Right.

No one should dishonor military service.  But how far can he take his stars and stripes in major league politics? Ask Jimmy Carter,  a submarine officer, who was defeated by Ronald Reagan, who never left California during the war.  Or Al Gore and John Kerry, both veterans who lost to a guy who dodged the draft.  And was there a more celebrated military hero than John McCain?  You know the rest.

If you want to talk  about courage, how can a fellow like Mandel face the voters after pledging to serve out a full four-year term as Ohio treasurer only to change his mind shortly after his election to seek the senate seat held by Sen. Sherrod Brown.  It really shouldn't surprise anyone since Mandel has been a habitual candidate for one job or another.

Arshinkoff says Mandel has a "great future".  National ticket in 2016?  Don't be surprised.  Fair warning.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Romney: Cut unemployment to below 4 pct.

I don't want to be churlish about it, but when McMitt Romney asserts that unemployment should be under 4 pct., the only generously employed group he must have in mind are New York fashion designers who sell Ann Romney $900 t-shirts.  As he put it in his assault on President Obama for 8 pct. unemployment in America, "Anything over 4 pct. is not a cause for celebration.." But as others have  discovered,  we've only celebrated  four times in the last 40 years (The most recent was in 2000 under Bill Clinton - and that was for only five months.)

But anticipating his election, Romney  to the rescue:    "It think it helps to have a job to create a job" - which is a kind of circular reasoning that the guy has often fashioned. The next step is for unemployed college graduates to borrow money from their parents, take risks and open a business.   He told a group in Pittsburgh that he  is confident that he is on the right track because he talks privately with a lot of businessman "in an off-the-record kind of basis".

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Take a number, please.

michelebachmannendorsesmittromney.  next?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

But the t-shirt has a designer bird on it!

When the Romneys showed up at the CBS This Morning program Wednesday, Ann Romney was sporting a $900 "off-the rack" silk designer t-shirt by Reed Krakoff.  It had an audacious yellow bird  diving from shoulder to breast, not the sort of creation you might find on the rack at Target.   Nobody asked McMitt about it, but I would assume  he would shrug and purr,  "Ann has a couple of them, actually."

The Romney campaign has added another marker to what is evolving as his version of prosperity gospel,
retreating to no one about his inspirational wealth.    The campaign slogan should be "if you got it flaunt it."  Ann did: The first  $900 t-shirt.    Should I check J.C.Penney,  too?

An "unfit" but repentant Rupert Murdoch

OVER  THE YEARS, we've encountered countless assaults on the media, including the shopworn sniffy censures of a "liberal" press.  That the media is primarily owned by corporate America  with strong Republican tendencies seemed not to convince critics  that day-to-day journalism wasn't  living in the guest quarters at the Kremlin. As a survivor of a half-century in the field, I  have some nasty red-baiting letters in my files to prove that I know what I am talking about.

As the reach in content of the local media declines, there can be a lot to complain about.  The harsh events that seize the world have been largely marginalized in the eager commitment to "local" news - which is OK to a certain point, but is hardly inclusive at that.  Meantime, huge one-day feature stories (with ample photos) that could be produced in half the size  abound.  But they do fill space.   Except for the comics, humor is scarce - a fact that John S.Knight  lamented even in his day.  You can't count the artificial Romney-like ha-ha's that pass for having a Good Evening in America  on the local TV news programs.  Such feel-good canned cheerfulness has long been embedded in hometown TV's school- yard servings to its audiences, and is there anybody who will volunteer to tell me why?

So,  even for a First Amendment guy, it seems we have at least reached a worthy new level for the state of journalism (a word that is seldom mentioned anymore) when a parliamentary committee probing the phone-hacking scandal in Britain asserted that  Rupert Murdoch was "not a fit-person" to  run a mammoth media empire.

Wow!  The committee declared that Murdoch and his son James showed no interest in unraveling the ugly underhanded affair.    When the committee's report came out, it could not have been Morning in America for Fox News, which is a prominent member of the Murdoch colossus and well documented for its perverse manner of presenting its news commentary.

As for a repentant Murdoch,  he confessed:  "We certainly should have  acted  more quickly and aggressively in uncovering wrongdoing. There is no easy way around this but I am proud to say that we have been working hard to put things right."

But conservatives being conservatives these days,  Murdoch's admission of his NewsCorp's "wrongdoing"  wasn't good enough for the dissenting chairman on the committee, Philip Davies, a conservative  who found the report to be   "ludicrous."  Other conservatives accused the political opposition of cheap tricks. (Fortunately, in England, they have yet to blame President Obama for any of this. )  The Davies response, of course, leaves him little wiggle room on the nature of confessed wrongdoing with the biggest conservative gorilla  in the mix, Rupert Murdoch himself.