Monday, September 30, 2013

Will shutdown cast pall over Summit GOP event?

Are you ready for the government shutdown that the experts are now conceding? No, still not necessary to start storing extra food and water in the basement.  But we are still facing a mess dumped on us by the weird collection of  anarchists on Capitol Hill who insist they only want to do what's best for the American people, imaginary or otherwise.

Easy for them to say.   While a sea of Americans will lose paychecks  and other government services, the laws are so devised that the Capitol Hill gang of Tea Party lawmakers will still get paid, even if their employes will not. To the topside goes the spoils.

And it took not John Boehner but another Ohioan to put the anarchists' self-styled  noble   work in context.    That would be Rep. Jim Jordan, from somewhere down in  central Ohio, a  hard right Republican (!) who believes it's all a matter of "basic civics" to do what has to be done for the people.

"Sometimes I go back to basic civics.  We're the House of Representatives.  We're the body that's supposed to be closer to the people," he said.  "That's why the founders gave a chance for the people to throw us out every two years."

From  his rural Republican-pure district?  He's kidding, of course.

He also s didn't mention that a majority of his colleagues in the People's House would disagree with his sophomoric  civics lesson.

Meantime, a shutdown might cast a pall over  the annual  Summit County GOP finance committee dinner Tuesday night at the Akron-Fairlawn Hilton.  For $300 a plate (or more) the guests will get to hear yet another boast from Gov. John (Ohio Miracle) Kasich.  A big honor for Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, I might add, inasmuch as he's paid $10,000 a month to be the University of Akron's guy to lobby...John Kasich. 

Once again at these annual moneyfests, Alex will get his chance to slam every  titled Democratic leader with scandalous behavior that would even force the late Ray Bliss to blush.  Whatever's going wrong, he will tell them, is the fault of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and such without once mentioning chief Republican/Tea Party anarchist Ted Cruz.

Long ago I chose the wrong line of work to make a good living.

P.S. I would provide you with an on-site report of the event as I did for many years when Bliss was chair. But a couple of years ago Alex  closed the doors to me, thus doing himself and me  a  favor.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A hand for the captive speaker for whatever he cannot do

From the Huffington Post photo:  Note all of the pale faces applauding the speaker that has absolutely no influence on their votes.   Senate must act?  The only acting going on these days is shown in this photo.

The meltdown of Batchelder's words at ice cream social

Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder showed up at the annual Medina County Republican  ice cream social last week - and  let me be the first to say there is nothing untoward about a political leader casually spending  Sunday afternoon schmoozing with his Republican friends and contributors.

But according to the Medina Gazette,  his hometown paper, he didn't let the opportunity pass without damning President Obama on count after count, hitting more of his constituents' sweet spots than a triple dip chocolate sundae.  (The paper reported  60 of the party's disciples were there to greet him,which seems like a spare number in a county teeming with  GOP worshippers.)

Batchelder, a man of considerable wealth who has been  tip-toeing on expanding Medicaid, focused particularly on Obamacare to his crowd, a word that serves as the Republicans' open sesame to everything from the Great Depression to swine flu.

The Gazette said  Batchelder asserted  that the Big O was responsible for massive  cutbacks  at Cleveland Clinic.  "I've been amazed at what happens up in Cleveland,"  he said. "One of the very best medical centers in the world,  the Cleveland Clinic is laying off 3,000 employes because of the impact of Obamacare on that hospital."

Batchelder may have been prompted by something reported on Fox News, whose host Greta Van Susteren, later retracted the story by saying it was possible that her network had taken something out of context.

The Clinic  quickly responded with its own  disclaimer to  Batchelder's empty charge.    Eileen Sheil, the Clinic's executive director  of Corporate Communications, applied the coup de gras to Batchelder's spin by noting to another publication: "We've been working on reducing costs for years...We felt health-care reform was absolutely necessary."

Batchelder is term-limited and said he might return to his 182-acre farm in Medina County.

We can hope.

A giant leap against mankind...

                                                                          Adam Zyglis, the Buffalo News

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fingering the speaker's finger ...

Wrong finger, John! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shipwreck Cruz vs. Shipwreck Kelly

No one is quite sure how Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly, the flagpole sitter,  got his nickname.  The version we like is that as a former sailor he claimed to have been shipwrecked many times. or as a boxer,  he was decked so often that he always seemed "adrift" in the ring.

Every generation has its stunt men, from the daredevils who  roll over Niagara Falls in barrels, to Nik Wallenda's world-witnessed feat on June 15,  2012 of crossing over the Falls on a 2" wire to "fulfill a lifelong dream".

You think of guys like Shipwreck when you get  glimpses of Ted Cruz, Texas' delusional gift to fun-house  madness, filibustering Obamacare in an empty Senate until he can "no longer stand". After 21 hours and 19 minutes without a bathroom break, he gave up rather than suffer the alternative.

Clearly, if we dare use that word in the presence of this  screwy Republican  showboat,  his lost-cause obsession to be a martyred savior   gives us greater respect for  Gen. Custer's foolish behavior.

Cruz is the spectacle du jour.  Sold on his own importance, with or without his Republican colleagues'  endurance, he is turning up on TV more than those tiresome GEICO  commercials. In his latest stand-up role, he compared his Republican colleagues in the senate to the appeasers in Hitler's rise to power.  But he shot a hole in the reliability  of his promises by breaking his word that he would  speak until he dropped  to the floor from exhaustion.

Shipwreck Kelly set a record when he sat atop a flagpole in Atlantic City  for 49 days.    So if anything, Shipwreck Cruz proved nothing more than his cause has earned him Kelly's   nickname, if not his staying power.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Pirates: From eternity... to this very moment

Forgive my sports intrusion, but after nearly a quarter-century of sharing the agony of a hapless team hibernating under the .500 mark, you can understand my joyous moment of success.  When the season began, who knew?  Don't talk to me about playoffs and World Series.  The season has already been richly fulfilled, thank you.   Go, Bucs!!!

Orwell's 1984: Ahead of its time

Thought for the day as the U.S. House lives under Tea Party rule.   From Orwell's  1984:
In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it.  They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never full grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were  not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.  By lack of understanding, they remained sane.  They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A liveried John Boehner doing his thing for Tea Party

It hasn't been a good week for John Boehner, the Tea Party's liveried delivery man in its   stable.  In fact, it has been an awful week for the in-name-only House speaker. He has become the poster child for subservience  to a modern political scourge.

This has been coming on for some time since Mitch McConnell declared five years ago that his first order of business was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.  We all know how that turned out, leaving Obama's (hence, Obamacare) enemies to explain to the white guys how an African-American got into the White House without breaking a lock.

Not that Boehner  will admit his  obsequious dead-end role in the service of the brutal right-wing House caucus.  He needs his old title, and the perks, even if he is forced to blackmail the sane folks with a threat to take down the whole government with him. (He really can't - but at least it will be  shabby performance art that might warrant his survival a bit longer.)

Columnist Dana Milbank refers to the speaker's  abject surrender  to the loonies as "followership" and he is a lot closer to the scene than I  am.  Boehner, southwest Ohio's gift to Tea Party-style governance, is obsessed with killing Obamacare, which he calls a train wreck. In this respect, he's fully supported by the 80 or so Tea Partyers in the House who have the finest health  insurance that they could enact for themselves.

How could Boehner be so obtuse to judge an act that has yet to be tried?  He's not dumb, which means he wants all of us to fear the fictional Wabash Cannonball roaring down the tracks.   As hyperbole, train wreck conjures up bloody messes.

Trouble is, neither Boehner nor  the Tea Party's other minions on Capitol Hill give much of a damn about how history will judge them after their duties in the stable finally come to an end.  In other words, you can't insult, ridicule, blaspheme nor mention how their grandchildren might have to explain them someday. They are short-term historical figures.

But for those hundreds of millions of us who must live in their midst, a government shutdown would be the real train wreck. And that ain't fiction, folks.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Terhar and Smith: Driving education off the page

If you're looking for troublesome  evidence of the right-wing zealots who are attempting to take control of how we educate our kids, look no farther than the Ohio Board of Education.  As the standard-setting camp for public education, it has  two Kasich appointees who wouldn't mind casting  it  into the inglorious dark past of book burning and Red baiting.

In short order,  the board's president, Debe Terhar, called for the removal of Toni Morrison's  The Bluest Eye, from the reading list of high school students.  She said the  Nobelist's book contained a rape scene that she wouldn't want her, or anybody else's, grandchildren to read.

Earlier, Terhar, a devout Tea Party member from Cincinnati, stirred up her Facebook audience by referencing Hitler to President Obama's support of background gun checks.    (Terhar later apologized for spewing such garbage.  But she had already made her point to her fans.)

Meantime, fellow-board member  Mark Smith, president of Ohio Christian University in Circleville, said such books are "divisive" (Its heroine is a black girl who wishes she had blue eyes in order to have a more comfortable fit in a white society.)

Smith referred to the book's genre as having an "underlying socialist-communist agenda...that is  anti what this nation is about."

Talk about divisiveness!

The fear of books by politically or religiously inspired critics  has long created odorous  baggage for society, from Savonarola's bonfires of the vanities, to Hitler's pyres to the red scare of the 50s and 60s when J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and Joe McCarthy's inquisition  tried to twist the public mind into their distorted vision of a free society.  Among the prime targets was Albert Einstein's scientific papers and pacifist letters in defense of others. Hoover passionately but cautiously wanted to deport the world famous  German Jew but worried about backlash.

(As a personal note about the witch hunts of those times:  As a college student in a philosophy class at the University of Illinois, I  and the other students were frequently reminded by the fearful prof that as we discussed the chapter on Karl Marx, we should be aware that they were  Marx 's ideas, not his. He didn't offer the same disclaimers when we turned the pages to John Locke or David Hume.)

Thousands of teachers and others  lost their jobs as questionable patriots from the horrific attacks by Hoover (an obsessive  cross-dresser, and quirky on some other matters) ,  McCarthy ( a blustering  alcoholic)  and various House Un-American Activities committees throughout  the land. The Birch Society even referred to President Eisenhower as a communist sympathizer while others, including Einstein were dumped into the same crowd.   Many of the targets were Jewish immigrants who had found a way out of Hitler's Nazi embrace. And,of course, Martin Luther King, a perfect fit for  Hoover's racist degradation.

Why is this important now?   Well,it wasn't that long ago that America, including the national media, was paralyzed by fear - not of the Commies but of the menace of Hoover and Co.

If Terhar and Smith want to educate high schoolers in the threat of fascists, no better place to leave grandchildren to the rest of us and begin by adding Fred Jerome's chilling The Einstein File,  written  more than a decade ago.

 I had first decided to fashion my own response to Terhar and Smith in a tongue-in-cheek way, dismantling these would-be emperors' new clothes.  But, folks, the subject is simply too serious to make light of it.

But I do want to thank Gov. Kasich for providing me with the grist for this cautionary column.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A defining moment for LaPierre?

We can only guess  how the NRA's Wayne LaPierre might have reacted when he learned of  the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard.  As the fellow who once insisted that the way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns, he caught a TV glimpse of the routinely armed security guards in the building, momentarily froze and yelped:

 "Oh, shit!"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nina Turner is runnning - and not on empty

As we've all witnessed for too long,  Republican operatives have tried to sell voter restrictions with the myth of voter fraud. Their efforts were quite evident in a vain attempt to hand the Buckeye State to Mitt Romney in  the 2012 election.

Among the chief perps of the shrunken voting hours, switched precincts and other ploys to selectively suppress the vote was Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican handiman who spent most of the campaign trying to defend his spurious pledge to defend the integrity of the ballot box. You could depend on more credibility from the cast of mythical characters of the ancient Greek tragedies who intervened in people's lives from on high.

No one who heard Sen. Nina Turner's speech at the Martin Center last  week could have any doubts that Husted's plain-spoken Democratic opponent will zero  in on his role in the voting rights controversy, questioning the motives of those so-called electoral guardians who have yet to demonstrate plausible existence of hordes of voters out there trying to sneak into the system.

  "Immoral" -  she said of the practice, as she condemned the other side in her more temperate description.  She has also accused it of being "arrogant and inebriated with power".

Turner, an aggressive champion of women's rights, can turn a phrase, too, as she did on the abortion issue in the Ohio General Assembly , which grabbed the attention of national TV.  At a Planned Parenthood press conference, the Cleveland senator wore a shirt that demanded , GOP Get Out of My Panties.  (Check the acronym!)

It gets better. As a lawmaker,  she thought it would be a good idea  if her anti-abortion colleagues showed the same concern for their own health as they do about women's  bodies in the abortion fight.  Her  solution:  men ought to undergo psychological tests  before they reach for "dangerous drugs to treat their erectile dysfunction."

None of this kind of in-your-face sass  will play well with the clubby Republicans running the state today. Her critics who will  say that  anybody who, satirically  or otherwise, talks like that doesn't' deserve to be taken seriously. Oh? Just wait.

Nina is  smart, combative and has issues  on her side. Doesn't look like Husted et al can  have any hope of denying her of voting  on election day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Conversion therapy: As posted earlier on Plunderbund

We’re hearing that some southern Ohio Republican lawmakers are so taken by the gays-to-straights conversion therapy idea taking root in the land  that they are ready to try it out in other areas of social concern.  They  would replace food stamps  for a therapeutic conversion that would require food-stamp  recipients to give up eating altogether.
One well-fed lawmaker from down along the Ohio River supported the notion as a cost-saving measure as well as the perfect solution to ridding poor recipients of their nasty eating habits.  ”This isn’t rocket science,” he said, self-assuredly.   “People who don’t eat anything don’t need the stamps. We’re finally getting around to attacking the problem at the source”.

Kasich's hidden basketball trick

No one executes the hidden ball trick - no one - more often  than Gov. Kasich.  From his swift demolition  of former  Ohio GOP chief Kevin DeWine  to bring in  an eco-friendly  crony (Matt Borges) Jobs/ his friendly appointments to state boards without fanfare, the governor has shown there's nothing too politically sticky that can't be explained by his K-squad.

The latest example arrived by way of Plunderbund, which noted that three of his appointments to the Ohio State Medical Board are avidly anti-abortion with some anti-genetic counseling tossed in.  We're not entirely clear on what Kasich would say, for example,  about the so-called heartbeat bill because he has yet to take a position.  He also was no more than a shadowy figure in the run-up to the anti-union vote on House Bill 5.  In that instance, however, he was said to be  exchanging strategy  with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who left no doubt about his opposition to public unions. As we wrote earlier, the GOP high command  is urging sponsors of right-to-work  legislation to remain silent until after next year's election. Cool.

Did I mention genetic  counseling?  It is the purely neutral expert counseling to couples  about any genes in the couple's history that could lead to problems to a newborn. The pro-life people see such counseling as the gateway to abortions, expertise or no expertise. Ohio Right to Life chief Mike Gonidakis, a Kasich appointee,  even wondered during a board meeting whether such counselors could scare couples into making bad decisions.

Meantime, the neutral governor has presided quietly  as the legislature busily engaged in more abortion restrictions.

Kasich's problem is hidden ball tricks are rarely  used in baseball anymore and are not very successful.  His ball is an outsize baskteball that should be apparent anybody paying even casual attention these days.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ohio RTW: Posted earlier on Plunderbund

As you will note elsewhere on Plunderbund, State Rep. Andrew Brenner, a Republican from Delaware County, has been told by GOP brass to cool it on his  three right-to-work bills until after the November 2014 gubernatorial election.  He confirmed  that much on a radio show and referred to his party’s  fears that such  legislation  would hurt Gov. Kasich’s reelection bid.
There would be an extra  benefit to treading water beyond another Labor Day  celebration, too.   That would give Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges a second opportunity to offer profound praise of Ohio’s work force, just as he did this year. Besides, he might not get a third opportunity.

An opening day disruption of a workaday world

The opening day of a new season is quite likely to be a fan's highest  moment of anticipation. No games lost so far. Only 30 pct of the players aching (or worse) from  injuries suffered during the exhibition games. All of the coaches with game faces that disguise their deepest fears that their franchise  quarterback will be flattened on his way to the sidelines by a vengeful linebacker.

Today's Plain Dealer  explained it all in a big front-page spread: "A magic day." A 7-member panel of the paper's sports experts  curated the fans' expectations by unanimously predicting a home-team victory over Miami, if only by a couple of points. Like the team, the writers began the day with perfect records.

The Beacon Journal had other ideas about what was newsworthiest on this day of fantasies.   Its Page One splash covered LeBron James' impending wedding with the usual outsize photos. Somehow, even in a tux,  he looked like he was cut out to be a tight end.

Within 24 hours, of course,  for the Browns (and the eager forecasters),  it all could change.

As a loyal Steelers birther,  I have learned to allow myself far more margin, figuring they could finish in last place - or win the Super Bowl.   With the Steelers, there is always the leading question of whether Big Ben will finish a game on his feet.

If not, consider this:  There's always next year. Are you with me?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

For Tressel, first down, one inch to score?

Are you eagerly into the Tressel Era at the University of Akron?

The iconic ex-football coach seems to be on a lot of people's lips as the looming successor to retiring President Luis Proenza.

Oh, there are scoffers to be sure.  They shrug  off all talk of a Tressel advance to chief executive as, well, you've probably heard the same expletives. But  the dot-connector will tell you that Tressel is on the one-inch line on first down, a breath away from Touchdown Heaven.  "It's a done deal,'' one told me, resigned to the connecting dots.

I haven't  seen any of the big shots on campus in the UA club, including the trustees who are engaged in the pro forma search committee, dismiss the possibility.  And Tressel told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he would be "flattered and interested" if he were offered the job.

The Aug. 28 edition of the Chronicle was less enthusiastic about the idea, noting that Tressel was asked to leave OSU because of the  silent treatment he gave to the sale of athletic memorabilia by several players in return for tattoos or cash.  The Chronicle also declared that he "lacks the traditional credentials of a  college president.  He has earned praise from Akron's president and Board for his work as an administrator, but for most of his career Mr. Tressel has viewed academe through the lens of a big-time college-football coach."

Still, in the current Tressel Era at UA, I have to think metaphorically about that one-inch line to the goal.  And as the school's critics have raised serious questions about the Proenza administration's hot kitchen on falling enrollment, cutbacks on faculty and the plunge into deeper debt, Tressel's name keeps appearing in his role as vice president, marketed by title as  "strategic engagement".

Which brings me to the latest Tressel  initiative that appeared today on the front-page of the Beacon Journal as a a putatively upbeat  sign that UA is trying hard to redefine its image, come hell or high water.

Tressel is promoting a program that will pay part-timers $8 an hour (!)  - 25 cents higher than Ohio's  minimum wage - to work with students to improve their academic chances of staying in school.

But you will need at least  10 years of teaching experience (do x's and o's on the game plan count?)   and it would doubtless help if you had a master's degree. "We're looking for people who want to make difference," Tressel told the BJ.

At their entry-level  pay scale, they would have to be desperate to put food on the table.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Extra! Extra! Ohio GOP loves its workers!

Can't let this special day pass without sharing a soaring tribute to American workers from Gov. Kasich's hand-picked slingshot, state GOP Chairman Matt Borges.  As we all know from the recent  archives, organized labor has never had  greater friends than the governor and Republican-controlled state legislature.  It isn't ancient history, after all, that the lawmakers  conspired to choke the unions with Senate Bill 5 - a measure that was eventually  demolished by the voters.

So on the occasion of Labor Day, Borges grabbed an opportunity to praise  Ohio's  work force in a press release with that logo of a white elephant floating above a barn and silo.

"The ingenuity and work ethic of Ohioans has long been our state's greatest asset," Borges rhapsodizes with words one never heard from Republicans as the union-restrictive Senate bill  flew into law.  "Ohio's workers continue to contribute to the most important innovations leading to our modern way of life.  The talent of Ohio's workers is second to none.  We wish all Ohioans a happy Labor Day".  (If not a closed shop or increase in the minimum wage.)

But Borges actually had something else in mind.  His closing paragraph  cited all of the alleged progress under  Kasich in fashioning an  "Ohio Miracle" with,  among other things, a $12.7 billion tax relief plan.

Curiously, nowhere in Borges' latest self-serving  pro-worker fantasy did the word "union" appear.