Thursday, January 31, 2013

Some people can make these things up


Gayle Trotter, the conservative Washington D.C. lawyer who testified against stronger gun controls at yesterday's Senate hearing, asserted that she merely wanted to defend women against  attacks by intruders and crazed  husbands, even, we assume, if that meant keeping an assault weapon and a few hand grenades under  her pillow.

With the clock ticking on her 15 minutes of fame - and, doubtless  more business from howitzer owners  for her law firm - the soon-to-be whatshername recounted the plight of a distressed woman who was threatened by guys who broke into her house  as she  remained defenseless with a limited supply of bullets. As Lawrence O'Donnell  demonstrated in an interview with whatshername, she couldn't produce a shred of evidence that her scary story was true.  None of it. Pure fantasy.

And now we learn from Talking Points Memo that whatshername has a website called Independent Women's Forum  in which she argued against the Violence Against Women Act. She wrote on her website  that among other things, VAWA  "has the potential to encourage immigration fraud [!],   false allegations of abuse and denial of a rebuttal by the accused spouse..."

OK,  Gayle.  Your 15 minutes are up.

* * * *  *

Next: The past week brought us the three Republican musketeers who were the only senators to vote against the nomination of John Kerry as secretary of state.  According to Ted Cruz, one of the two Texans to oppose the decorated Vietnam veteran, there are doubts about Kerry's commitment to the military that would reveal  U.S. weakness to our opponents.  But we do wonder why Cruz, who was never in the service,  doesn't prove his own commitment by joining the forces in Afghanistan or at least  the Alamo.

* * * * *

Oh, c'mon.  The Plain Dealer reports  that Republican State Rep.  Mike Dovilla  of Berea thinks there is interest in the legislature to revive the photo ID cause before  the 2014 mid-term election.    "We think there is broad support in the public," Dovilla told the PD.    Three problems with that:  Republicans  aren't thinking very much these days,  (2) the idea failed to gain support in 2011 even though it kept the lawmakers off the streets for many long hours debating it;  (3) despite the efforts by Secretary of State Jon Husted to purify the voters with various restrictions, there wasn't any proof in 2012 of the voter fraud that the GOP preaches from high on the mount.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A gelato party is not a political party

The recent  reports of the global spread of "gelato parties"  have tapped a nostalgic nerve for this ice cream lover.  Never a day passed in my many visits to Italy that I didn't  push forward to a gelateria counter and scan  the large open gelato  cylinders that tempted me with countless choices.   I usually settled on a pistacchio cono, drifted to a public bench and let the rest of the world pass by unattended by my thoughts.

Italians are very proud of gelato, as well they should be.  I've found nothing like it in America, although I'm told gelato is available  here and there.  Russ Vernon at West Point Market in Akron once told me that he very much wanted to offer the specialty  at his place but found the cost of setting up the equipment prohibitive.  Our loss!

Gelato recalls to me American ice cream of the more than a half-century ago, when my uncle George would assemble several family members on my grandmother's  porch and send me to Sam Samer's Candyland a  short walk away  to buy Sam's hand-packed pint (15 cents) for each of us.  Memorable is something called White House cherry,which contained whole cherries!

What makes it so different?  Some writers have done the homework and claim it has 35 pct. less air than American ice cream, which  allows our  makers to swell their offerings it to fill a pint or quart container.   Gelato also is said to be made with whole cow's milk from Italian cows eating Italian hillside grass.

But that's getting too technical for me.    If you want to try the real thing, I'd advise you to hop on the next plane headed for Italy. (If you're dieting, I won't tell.)  Send me a card telling me I wasn't exaggerating.  I'll hunt for a "gelato party" - whatever it is - and happily claim another convert.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

With Cordray, GOP haste could make waste

Irony can always find a home in the political world.  When, for example, Republicans on Capitol Hill determinedly stalled President Obama's nomination of  Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren as director of the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,  she finally said, "To hell with it" and went off to Massachusetts to run for the U.S.Senate.

She defeated Scott Brown, the Republican incumbent, which, to the GOP's dismay,  cost it  a seat.  Do you think that in retrospect it would reconsider the trade-off that produced such  unintended consequences?

That Potomac vignette of the GOP's mulish  rejection of Warren could play out with a different setting this year.  The ruling by the all-Republican  three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals  disqualifying Obama's three appointments  to the National Labor Relations Board will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But some observers  are saying that it could also affect former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray's recess  appointment  to the consumer's group after another Republican blockade on Capitol Hill.

If so, in the scheme of things, he would be without a job. It might even encourage him to return to Ohio to challenge Gov. Kasich's re-election bid.  Cordray is a name mentioned in most recaps of the potential Democratic field and, so the reasoning goes, could be the strongest tie-breaker  within his party's field.

I'd say that in the Republicans'  haste  to say no- no- no, they're getting somewhat careless these days  about their own welfare. It has often been shown that haste makes waste.

Note:  My column on the Columbus Dispatch travelogues covering  Kasich in Davos has been posted on Plunderbund

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jindal Bells:Taking sides in the GOP stupidity crises

Bobby Jindal, a potential Republican presidential  candidate in 2016, thinks his party should stop being stupid. That's what  he told the slamfest of the Republican Natiional Committee meeting in Charlotte. "We've got to stop being the stupid party,"  is what he asserted to his stupid audience as the keynote speaker.

His words so stupified some of the stupid committeemen that a couple of them met later over  pitchers  of empowering Gatorade and declared Jindal as being stupid for calling them stupid in his stupid  version of Jindal Bells.

Indeed, one of the members' wives, who tagged along to carry her stupid husband's luggage, even thought it was inappropriate for the stupid Louisiana governor to ruin a nice break from the routine to take some stupid tours of Charlotte - all underwritten by the host city.

One delegate even confronted Jindal, eyeball to eyeball, and blurted:  "You're stupid!'

To which Jindal replied, "No, sir, you're stupid!"

"No,  you're stupid, governor!"

That playground exchange lasted a good 20 minutes  before they thought it would help if they took a break from the hostilities to  slip over to the Gatorade bar for a stupid nightcap. (Real men actually need Gatorade as a cheap high for their testosterone.)

Frankly, we don't know what the fuss is all about.  Two of the party's deepest thinkers tried to rally them with good news.  George Will , who is best remembered for his stupid TV prediction that Romney would win in a landslide, assured stupid Republicans that President Obama's inaugural speech was nothing more than stupid "rhetorical cotton candy - sugary and mostly air''. Conservatism, he argued,. is alive and well - no matter the polls that show Obama and Americans aligned on major issues.

Paul Ryan, the stupid vice presidential loser, was once again upbeat, scrubbing pots and pans that had already been scrubbed, and  declaring that if given half a chance, stupid Republicans will show they can govern despite the stupid outcome of the November election.

When last seen, all of the stupid  committeemen went out and cracked open another keg of Gatorade.

Even Mitt Romney stupidly declared elsewhere that he will be back.

Moral:  Stupid is as stupid does.  Did we really need   Bobby Jindal to tell us that?


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Confirmed: Crocodiles are great swimmers

The New York Times reports that 15,000 crocodiles escaped from a South African farm. Having watched some of the  Republican senators swarm  Hillary at the hearing, I can tell the farmer where some of his missing crocs are hanging out.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fiction turns to fact when all else fails

Once upon a time in the land of Nod,  a Republican  lawmaker - oh, let's call her Cathrynn Brown -  came up with a unique proposal for women impregnated by a rapist.  She even went so far as to introduce a bill in the New Mexico legislature that would help identify the rapist.

As a duly elected state representative, Ms. Brown, as the tale goes,  believed it was her obligation as a public official to add a new dimension to the abortion issue.  So her strange  bill would make criminals of  the victims if they aborted in instances of rape or incest.    Her reasoning, or lack thereof, surprised many law abiding citizens.  She insisted that an abortion would destroy critical evidence that a woman had been raped.  And as any law officer knows,  destruction of evidence is,  well, a crime. 

Ms. Brown made all of the papers in New Mexico, which gave her the platform that legislators never fail to seek, and seasoned colleagues in the great lawmaking universe will tell you that the more perverse the plan, the easier it is to earn a platform.

Our lawmaker  remains steadfast in her pursuit of a just society even if her critics accuse the poor woman of  being nutty.  Alas, there is no moral for this story.

P.S.  I know that the details are wacky, but the event described above is  true - which I need not remind you  - is always stranger than fiction!  Particularly, these days, folks.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

As a matter of fact, Sean Hannity isn't

Fox News host Sean Hannity plays with facts the way that TV ads for Viagra guarantee a lifetime of sexual bliss for erectile-dysfunctional men. His latest conspiracy theory on Hillary Clinton's testimony at the Senate committee hearing on Benghazi went something like this:  Her brief emotional  burst was hardly spontaneous but rather it was a staged moment that had been devised long before the session to win sympathy for her.  Who knew?  And how did Hannity know?

Well, let me tell you:  Sean didn't know, but he is paid well for not knowing a lot of things.  A limp mind is a terrible thing, too.

Note: My column on Gov. Kasich's  reach to give his State of the State speech in Lima has been posted on Plunderbund.   

Lose or lose, the crocs go after (president) Hillary

Having been thwarted in their four-year mission to make Barack Obama a one-term president, Republicans have now embarked on a new mission: Make Hillary Rodham Clinton a no-term president.  If you checked in on Clinton's appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, you may have gotten a whiff of Campaign 2016 even though not a soul has yet announced his or her candidacy to succeed Obama.

Given the chance of the Capitol Hill TV version of Project  Runway to get to the root of the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, the GOP side pounced on her testimony with a story line that Hillary is an incompetent "Madam Secretary" and a phony at that.

Some in the anti-Hillary camp had  accused her  earlier of faking a concussion to avoid appearing before the virile committee that a mere woman could  not match.    And when she teared  up at the beginning of her testimony, that proved  she was following a script to win public sympathy.  At least, that's what Rush Limbaugh raged to his  own audience that nods like wilting sunflowers at his every word.  She did, however, have her strong moments  against the critics on the panel who, um,  were doing the will of the people.

A few of the Republican darts stood out:

Sen. Rand Paul, the airball from Kentucky,  told Clinton that if he had been president,  he would have  fired her.  (The good news: No danger of this guy ever being president.)

Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, in a blustery melt,  repeatedly declared that the American people are frustrated by the lack of  information about Benghazi. (Translation of this mouthful: Some of the  American people from his southern district.  Wasn't he the guy who once described undocumented immigrants as "vagrants and animals?" )

Tea Party Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin accused her of making excuses for not  taking a  hands-on role in the Sept. 11 attack.    She replied it wasn't an excuse but a fact that she didn't want  to interfere with the ongoing FBI's  investigative role.  When Johnson persisted , she angrily replied, her voice rising:

"Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference , at this point, does it make?"

With a 67 pct. approval rating, this special woman proved it would take more than the crocodiles from the other side to tarnish her profile with the American voters.  Of course, we're still four years away from the next election. So what's the point of the new GOP search and destroy initiative?  That's the McParty's problem. It doesn't have any points these days.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today's GOP: a group of leaderless old white guys

The Obama Inaugural festivities are now over and the reviews are in.  While many national pundits  parse every sentence in the president's rousing speech, one thing is certain:  For the grim Republicans and their fellow-snivelers, there is no joy in Mudville.  The Grand Old Party  is neither grand nor a party.  It is rather a chaotic collection of old white guys in vain search of a leader.    Twice defeated by an African-American Democrat  - the latest by  5 million votes! - who has deftly connected with a new generation of voters,  woebegone Republicans have only a beleaguered John Boehner to try to put his House in order in a cave teeming with Tea Partyers.  

Still, there is no evidence that Obama's opponents have learned anything  as they whimper that the "foxy"  Obama  must come out of the chicken coop to meet them halfway in solving the nation's problems.  Of all things, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is demanding compromise - a word that collides with his notorious  earlier mission for his routed party after Obama's first victory:
"The single most important  thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president"
The quote even made page 190 of the Mann-Ornstein best- seller, It's Even Worse than It Looks.  And that was published before  the 2012 election. Can anyone now guess what Mitch's second most important thing is?

Their  post-inaugural chorus was filled out by many of the usual tattered suspects complaining about the usual irritants that guaranteed them a shot at the usual TV cameras.  Sens. McCain and Graham, a couple of tiresome cronies  from past debacles, expressed their displeasure, to name a few.  And Wayne LaPierre, the NRA megaphone, pathetic as he is, isn't going to let anybody forget that tyrannical government is at the doorstep and you can only be saved by even arming department store mannequins.   Fox News, Rush Limbaugh  and the Tea Partyers were heaped among the vanquished.

These folks will never change.   Their work is too profitable. And as  Tennessee Ernie Ford used to sing: They owe their soul to the company store.

They could only deal in playground dares as Obama reeled off his agenda that was immediately described as liberal but dealt with ideas and programs that a majority of Americans support. It's now OK to mention liberalism in polite circles. And about time! 

There was another aspect of the Inaugural that was lost in the excitement:  Mitt Romney's absence from the historic  event.  Few people asked, and most couldn't care less.  Where  was he? We learned that he was at home in California.

Watching the parade as a broadly-grinning Obama waved and Joe Biden sprinted here and there,  I tried to imagine what the scene would have been if Romney and Paul Ryan had won.  It would have been a dreadful setback for a nation whose people would have been  so well ahead of its new team: a presidential  candidate of whom his son asserted never wanted  the job anyway, and a vice president who is a disciple of Ayn Rand. Neither Mitt nor his Tonto had much to say about the dramatic change underway in America because they didn't recognize it.

 To the vanquished go the snivels. And why not?  It's the only thing that seems to make the losers happy these days.

Terhar's Tea Party Links Overlooked in Media

The media reports I've seen  have overlooked an essential asterisk to Bebe Terhar's denial that she intended her reference to Adolf Hitler to point to President Obama in  her Facebook rant against gun control.  As you probably know by now Ohio Democratic Party leaders have called on Gov. Kasich to fire the president of the Ohio Board of Education.

In the wake of a Columbus Dispatch news story regarding her Facebook post, Terhar denied  that she was comparing Obama to Hitler. Still , as I mentioned in an earlier post, Terhar  has boasted of membership in  several Tea Party groups in southwestern Ohio.  Attacks on Obama with swastikas on placards have been common at Tea Party gatherings.  Could that be where she got the ugly idea that she now dismisses?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama really Hitler? Naw, says school board chief

This is how Debe Terhar describes herself on line:   

"I am President of the Hamilton County Republican Women's Club, a member of the Warren County Republican Women's Club, the Hamilton County Republican Club, the Green Township Republican Club and an early participant of the Tea Party Movement.   I am a member of  both the Northwest and Southwest Tea Parties of Hamilton County and the Lebanon Tea Party in Warren County."

Had enough?  Oh, I should tell you that Debe Terhar  was just re-elected president of the State Board of Education by her  associates on the board. I should also add that Terhar posted a picture of Adoph Hitler on her Facebook to protest the Obama administration's moves on gun control.

When asked by a Columbus Dispatch reporter about her posting of the Nazi chief, Terhar insisted it was not a reference to President Obama. (Nor, we assume, were  placards of Hitler and Obama at Tea Party rallies.)

"I'm not comparing the president to Adolph Hitler," Terhar told the Dispatch reporter.  "It's the thought of disarming citizens, and this has happened  throughout history.  What's the true intention of the Second Amendment?  It was to protect us from tyrannical government.  God forbid."

Also disarming  is the thought that Terhar is the head of state school board with majority  support from the other members.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

GOP pol: God is the sole arbiter on gun issue

The NRA's farmhands are leaving nothing to chance.  They have mounted the ramparts with Fox News'  Sean Hannity, whose special training session for rookies blazed  with a special TV episode at an NRA firing range to demonstrate the array of weapons that included the A-15 assault rifle.  There also are reports of conspiracy theorists spreading the word that the massacre at Newtown was actually conceived by the Obama Administration to advance the president's support of gun restrictions.

But let's keep it simple.  Let's turn to Tom Donnelly, the California Republican assemblyman who commented to a Christian radio show that guns are an expression of God's will .

Guns, he asserted, are "used to defend our property and our families and our faith and our freedom, and they are absolutely essential to living the way God intended for us to live."

Time to revive the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award.    The competition is getting stronger every day, but Donnelly earned this one. (What would he say to Pope Benedict, who has endorsed Obama's plan for gun restrictions?)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Meet the new Odd Couple on Fox News

If you're dying to know, Readers, Dennis Kucinich's debut  as a political analyst on Fox News went something like this:

The conservative host Bill O'Reilly referred to the former congressman and Cleveland mayor as a "left-wing nut we know and love (!) from the Congress, right?"

The liberal guest was unfazed by the remark (He's been called a lot worse over the years - a lot worse) and moved on to the discussion.

The conservative host tried to drag his  liberal guest into a rambling discussion about Sen. Al Franken, which didn't really go anywhere,  so they went into a second-level discussion about gun control.   The entire colloquy lasted no more than a few minutes with none of the world's problems remotely solved by the conservative-liberal combine that is already making the rounds as The Odd Couple.

But it did tell us that Dennis has a price and is as street-smart as they come. Fair warning: Better not try to get too cute with him, Bill!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's that? Obama wants another crisis?

The always-amusing Kevin O'Brien, the Plain Dealer's way-over-on-the-right deputy editorial page editor, today joined  those who are bashing President Obama's initiative on the gun issue.  Ignoring the NRA's blitzkrieg  against Obama,   O'Brien's quaint spin is that the president "doing his best to create a crisis" and unsurpsingly for Kevin,  worked in something about Obama's support of abortion.

That's as far as I got before turning to the comic pages to justify my cost of the day's paper. A fair question:  Do you want to believe O'Brien,  or do you want to believe the folks on the other side, including Ronald Reagan, Antonin Scalia, Rupert Murdoch,  Colin Powell and all of those law-enforcement agencies?

NOTE:  My column on the Ohio political races has been posted on Plunderbund

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cornstalker-style Ohio political culture

The Ohio Republican congressional delegation continued to reveal itself on Tuesday as a committed right-wing hit squad  in its near unanimous opposition to the  emergency funds for  Hurricane Sandy's devastation.  The only Republican supporting the relief package was Michael Turner of Dayton.  Speaker John Boehner didn't vote.

That's enough to tell you that Republican David Joyce, the successor to Steve LaTourette,  joined the gang despite earlier hugs that he would be a moderate like Lake County's LaTourette? ( Does anybody recall that LaTourette retired with a condemnation of the partisanship in  politics today?)  Rep. Jim Renacci, who defeated Democrat Betty Sutton in a monstrously  redesigned district that favored him, cast a no vote.  Renacci is occasionally described  in national reports as a "moderate" but you wouldn't know that from the regularity with which he cavorts with his  party's most conservative diehards.

'Twould be refreshing to boast that the Buckeye State had entered the 21st. Century by twice supporting President Obama's election;  but with Gov.Kasich hanging out with the gun  enthusiasts and pro-lifers, and the cornstalkers running the  General Assembly, it would premature to rate the state's  political culture as anything more than clucky.

The new stadium: Brightness at noon?

Now that the Browns' stadium has been officially named FirstEnergy Stadium, there  is a buzz over what it all means to the team's future. Overlooked in  the glitzy fanfare the past few days is the need for a motto that will identify the team's brighter place in the minds of fandom.

Maybe I can help with a few suggestions:

Where there's light, there's hope!
Browns: Cleveland's premier sports outlet!
Our promise for an electrifying season!
The light at the end of the tunnel!
A light-hearted sports experience!
          The team to  socket to 'em!   


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

For Browns: All night games good for business

BujtAfter a wild weekend of Browns' screamers  on the front pages of our home-delivered newspapers, I figured we might now get back to Kim Kardashian or the latest word  on the despair of the Global Awards losers.  Even an update on the birthers' plans to impeach President Obama on an otherwise slim news day might suffice.

Instead, my morning coffee dripped over the Beacon Journal's momentous account  of a forthcoming name change for Browns Stadium to FirstEnergyCorp. something-or-other now that the giant energy provider bought the naming rights. (Since I'm billed each month by the company, I can now boast of having a minuscule stake in the stadium.)

Meantime, I'm told it hasn't taken long for some  FirstEnergy wags to name the company - "Brown out Stadium".   Honest.

Monday, January 14, 2013

PUCO chief: greenies a red plot


Gov.  Kasich appointee Todd Snitchler, chairman of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission,  has no use for the disciples of climate change.  Indeed, he has tweeted that  people who support renewable energy represent "?? 'green'  religion" that is "taking over from Christian religion."

(I'll pause for a moment to allow sane readers a break to catch their breath.)

Snitchler's hostility to "greeniacs"  was revealed by Columbus Dispatch reporter Darrel Rowland,  who combed more than 1,000 comments from Snitchler's Twitter account.  It  bore his  enemies list  and a mention or two of Pravda, which left no doubt that the whole green scenario is a Communist plot.  Who knew?

His tweets revealed him to be in tune with the works of Ayn Rand, Matt Drudge and Fox News whenever  he's in need of  material or a platform for his nutty views. The Christian thing may be of his own choosing.

As Plunderbund asked:  "Should we be surprised that Kasich is appointing climate change deniers to a position that requires him to determine whether proposed major wind or solar facilities are in the public interest"?  Plunderbund notes that the governor has already appointed two anti-abortionist activists to the state medical board  and an anti-public school tea partier to the Board of Education.

Snitchler found his way down to Columbus from Uniontown, whence  he was launched into the Ohio House of Representatives.  A University of Akron Law school graduate, he will as PUCO chairman have a strong influence on energy issues in the state.  Most recently, the commission  turned down a solar-energy project in Southeastern Ohio that would have created 600 jobs, ignoring PUCO's own staff advisories.

Commission member Lynn Slaby of Akron, told me  that Snitchler was "smart" and "conservative."  But he said he wasn't aware of co-Republican Snitchler's apocalyptic tweets.  Oh, Slaby says the project still could be revived with a different set of conditions. But for further details on a possible revision, as in history, alert me to Snitchler's next visit to Fox News.

P.S.  Does Snitchler fashion all of those tweets on company time?   Well?   

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Where there's life (sort of), there's now Coach Chud

As if you might not have already  known it, the Northeast Ohio versions of the Sporting News are massively reporting that the Browns have a new coach. The Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer arrived Saturday with the front pages dominated by the Browns' hiring of their latest find: Rob Chudzinski, to try his hand with the long hapless team.  Beneath his wide angle photo the headline told me that he's "eager to bring excitement back to the lakefront".  Not to be outdone with its commitment to the sports world, the Beacon Journal turned over half of the front page  to report that "new coach enjoys life on cloud nine."

That was just the start  as the photos grew on their path to the sports section.

It was left to Bud Shaw, the PD's always readable sports columnist, to  pull back on the reins of  native enthusiasm with a column  topped by a headline  assessing the climactic event  as, " no drum roll, but a 'process'".  Shaw  verdict;  "Chudzinski  hire brings a minimal 'wow' factor."

I figured that would more than substantially cover the team's latest sports spectacular until both papers arrived on Sunday. A commanding illustration of the "Browns' family" stretched  across the mid-section of P1  to inform us that "Chudzinski embraces loyalty, dedication".  The BJ meanwhile retreated to the sports section with a lead story and another big Chud photo  with the message that he is seen as a   "man of vision".

 Don't get me wrong.  I'm a voracious pro football fan.  But wasn't there more than enough of this hyperventilating when Mike Holmgren was brought in as the wizard who restore the team to respectability?  Yep.  And he's no longer in the front office in the wake of another change in team ownership.

So let's just wish Coach Chud well while keeping in mind the TV commercial that boasts of something "magical" happening at McDonald's.  If that ever happens to the Browns, I can't imagine how the papers - if they're still around - will  display that event.  Is there a Cloud 10?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

For gun enthusiasts, Adolph Obama is just around the corner

A world class right-wing Plain Dealer columnist once warned me  that  if America became a dictatorship,   journalists would be the first to be throttled.   Indeed,  imprisoned or worse. What could I do to calm his fears?  Nothing, really.  He had long concluded that the country was drifting into the hands of oppressors and feared that we are ignoring the threats to our way of life.

There's a lot of that going around today in the debate over  gun control.  U.S. history has suffered through these things before in full technicolor.   There was the Yellow Peril, so vividly covered in Barbara Tuchman's Zimmermann Telegram; the Red incursion  of the McCarthy Era, and now the Black threat, which by extension, derives from the presence of an African-American doing a second turn in the Oval Office.

No stronger evidence of the baloney attached to the ranks of the gun defenders - a sort of mix-and-match catch-all for handguns and assault weapons - than  the shouted fears by such tetchy guys as Matt Drudge, who wants his crowd to shiver from the thought that a reincarnated Hitler or Stalin will be in the Rose Garden before you know it.

 Speaking of shivers, did you see the explosive meltdown of conservative radio host Alex Jones on the Piers Morgan show?  Jones  insisted that assault weapons were critically needed to fight a  sinister  force running the government - when that horrific  day arrives.

I wish I knew what happened to my BB gun that my parents gave me after the docs took out my tonsils when I was 6.  From what they tell me these days, every little weapon will help in the approaching clash between good and evil.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On the networks, look who's talking about climate change

Have I ever mentioned that I  never watch the Sunday morning talk shows?  Oh, I do get a glimpse of one or the other when I happen to pass by a TV set  while  these elitest panels are fussing over the latest crises.  Although Henry Luce is not one of my inspired journalistic heros, I do agree with his view that objectivity is a  "false god."

Talk about objectivity,  a study by  Media Matters reported a remarkable imbalance in discussions of climate change on the network Sunday shows in which Democrats were shut out of any comments.
"In  2012," Media Matters reports, "the Sunday shows did not  quote a single Democratic politician on climate change.  Most of the politicians quoted were Republican presidential candidates, including Rick Santorum, who went unchallenged when he called global warming 'junk science' on ABC's This Week.    More than half of the climate mentions on the Sunday shows were Republicans criticizing those who support efforts to address  climate change."
Among the pundits who have dismissed climate change is George Will.  Of course, he was also one of the gifted thinkers who predicted a landslide victory for Mitt Romney.  And for Republicans, the dark clouds have been gathering ever since Election Day.

NOTE:  My column on the upheaval at the Plain Dealer and newspaper passivity toward key issues has been posted on Plunderbund. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hagel's enemies: The renenactment of Little Bighorn?

You might wonder how desperately low the psychopathic core of the Republican Party would go until you are reminded that it is flailing in a bottomless pit.

That became obvious once again following President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be our next secretary of defense.  On cue, as if on orders from  Gen. Custer,   they angrily surged  before the ever-present TV cameras to denounce the former Republican senator from Nebraska with a series of threats that may yet produce a new swiftboat assault on a decorated war hero.

House majority leader Eric Cantor said he was "profoundly" concerned about the president's choice, declaring Hagel to be an enemy of Israel. (When was the last time that Cantor was profound about anything?)  Sen. Lindsay Graham agreed and called it an "in your face" action by Obama.  Sens. John McCain and Jon Cornyn couldn't find enough words to slam their former colleague.  The sky was falling.

Shame on them, even if they are psychopaths.   All of this nastiness flared just as the final figures of  the popular tally in November gave Obama a five-million vote margin. Oh, and the conservative Log Cabin Republicans came out swinging because Hagel was suspected of being against gays.  You get another whiff of how quickly the "Just say NO"gang mobilizes.

The emptiness of these losers recalls the scene from Cinema Paradiso in which the old film projectionist tells a long rambling  story to his  young companion.  "What does it all mean?" the puzzled boy asks.

"What does it all mean?" the old man gruffily replies.  "It doesn't mean nothing."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Well, Kelly made good copy while it lasted

Foolish me!

Why did I allow myself to be  so gulled by the gushing media reports  all week telling me that Oregon Ducks head coach  Chip Kelly would be on the Browns' payroll in the 2013 season?  I should have known better. This was  just another Browns' failed  gold rush that has encouraged so many previous coaches and quarterbacks to take a sabbatical on Lake Erie.

The Plain Dealer called this spectacle to my attention this morning with the headline on the sports page:

Browns walk away from Kelly; report says he's staying at Oregon.

The reach for gridiron greatness  met the same fate  as John Boehner's Plan B.

So now there will be the usual speculation  over the possible  replacement of the replacement of the replacement, etc.   Even the Plan C second choice, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, went to Buffalo to coach the Bills.

If I may butt in, I would call attention to a large cutout of  former Notre Dame and Akron U.  coach Gerry Faust standing in Summit Mall.  It's  sponsored by the Crystal Clinic Orthopedic Center with Gerry's praise of how well the clinic treated his hip and knee problems.

If the new  Brownsmeisters can find a way to make it worthwhile, Gerry might be available now that he is free of bodily pain.

Better yet, he lives just down the road and there wouldn't be any moving expenses.

P.S. As I noted in the previous post, the Browns are always more interesting after the season than when the team is on the field.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Is another Kelly heading into a shipwreck with Browns?

Did  you notice that the Cleveland Browns are on the verge (if they haven't already done so) of hiring a  head coach, Kelly by name.  No, not Shipwreck Kelly, although with that foreboding nickname it could bear a resemblance in a year or two after the new guy arrives in Cleveland.

This particular Kelly is  Chip Kelly, the  successful coach of the  Oregon Ducks, one of the winningest  and most entertaining teams in college football.  Anybody who has seen the Ducks on ESPN could swear they were recruited from an Olympic  track team.

And so the Browns will begin the 2013 season with their seventh coach since   2000 alone, with the departing  Pat Shurmur following Mangini, Crennel, Robiskie, Davis, and Palmer - if  trivial pursuit is your thing. At the same time, they have started 18 quarterbacks!

Help me. I lost track half way back across the decade.  Let's just say the lineup stretches from Brandon Weeden and Thaddeus Lewis to Doug Pederson, Tim Couch and Spergon Wynn in 2000.

There are more turnovers  in Brownsland than in a giant bakery.  Tim Hagan, the Cleveland politico, once lamented to me after his candidate lost that "in Cleveland it had to be in the water."

I don't know  why I'm telling you this, but we do need a holiday from  the other blood sport on Capitol Hill.

The Browns are all over  the papers these days with the pending news of a  new coach.    But I do have to ask:  Why are they always more interesting after still  another  dismal season than they are when the team is on the field?  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Lieberman vacates a role as most boring person

With the departure of  Joe Lieberman   from Congress,   I've been poking around the honored rolls to settle on someone to replace him as Capitol Hill's most boring person.  The field is so crowded that the choice didn't come quickly.

 I was leaning toward Newt Gingrich until I remembered that during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination I had already tagged him as Crazy Guggenheim, a title that seemed close enough when he promised to fire all  school janitors and replace them with the students.  (He also promised to put a permanent base on the moon during  his second  term in the Oval Office,  but I couldn't convince myself that there would even be a first term for Newtie.)

Then, there was Jon Husted, Ohio's secretary of state, who droned on and on that his voter restrictions were meant to purify the whole system.  Few believed him, but he droned on and on, defending the indefensible.   We haven't heard that much from him  since his class lost, so no need to drag out the story.

You may be surprised, but my choice for the most boring  politician in our midst is Lindsey Graham, the forever whining South Carolina Republican who was usually seen at Joe Lieberman's side as they traipsed through the trouble spots of the world. He's been back on TV a number of times as his party's  Paul Revere to warn us over and over and over that America is  being consumed by the libs. Unfortunately, he remains in denial about the outcome of the November election.  Even in the few seconds that it takes me to change the channel, I feel a headache coming on.

And I didn't even mention Donald Trump, who at least  is always good for a laugh.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

When news becomes news, sort of...

Now  it has been nobly decided that Democrats as well as Republicans will have House Speaker John Boehner to kick around for  still one more term, let's  take a breath and catch up on some real news:

The  term "fiscal cliff" was repeated 2,390,864 times in the media in the weeks leading up to the vote, thereby narrowly  topping the number of shoes that Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel said he wore out campaigning for one political job or another.

If you  felt slightly less significant  from the report that there are 100 billion moons swirling around in the Milky Way, how about the research reported by the New York Times that human beings have a lot in common with jellyfish, chickens, roundworms and fruit flies.  That's the word from the laboratories that humans have no  more than 21,000 protein-coding genes, which isn't  much different from the jellyfish you disrespectfully squish at the seashore.

You may soon add another pill bottle to your medicine cabinet,  the one labeled "effective against bedbugs".   People who ingest the pill, it says here, will exhale an odorous carbon dioxide that will encourage the vermin to bite you - and die.  So your choice will be between bedbugs and red welts from the bites. That's as far as I want to go with this.

As the year ended, we learned of a fresh supply of terms to describe America's folly, among them the insistence by the right-wing loonies that Hillary Clinton had faked a concussion.    Talk of  faked orgasms has  beome so boringly ancient that in Hillary's case, it became something else called the 'Immaculate Concussion".  Former UN ambassador John Bolton, never at a loss to reveal his madness,  started the rant against Clinton with "diplomatic illness" - the term he used to describe her  tactic  to avoid testifying on Benghazi. This much we know: Bolton is not feigning his loopy view of the world.

It wouldn't be surprising if the nation's TV networks had no sense of a recession last year.  The latest round of reports on political advertising in 2012  said TV revenue was as high as $6 billion, an increase over 2008 of 68 pct., according to, the New America Foundation,  thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling to let the money gush.

Isn't it just like nutritionists to rain on the parade of the power-seekers?  Now we are told that all  of those power drinks that give people a kick  have no more punch than a cup of strong coffee. They're caffeine-based and cost more.  Starbucks will be pleased to hear that.

Finally, for the purest  confirmation that the more things change, the more they stay the same:  The cumulative records of the 2012 Cleveland Indians (68-94),  Browns (5-11)  and, currently, Cavaliers (7-26), is  80 wins, 131 losses.  Did you see this first in Grumpy Abe ?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Life on Capitol Hill: Fibber McGee's closet

Considering  the great number of people in Washington who are unhappy these days, you have to wonder if somebody didn't open up Fibber McGee's bulging closet to let them all pour out in a messy heap.

When was the last time that you heard a Republican congressman from New York (Peter King) denounce his GOP colleagues for delaying a vote on Federal funds for his Sandy-stricken constituents?  He even wants to deny them campaign money when they come to New York  to pass the hat.

When was the last time a New Jersey Republican governor (Chris Christie) described the Republican House delay as "inexcusable"?

On the other side of the aisle, President Obama has been loudly assailed from both reaches of the political spectrum - liberal and conservative - for the deal that drew the nation back from the fiscal cliff. (I used to hear politicians say that when you have become the  target of both sides, you must be doing something right.)

President Truman had the clearest insight into Capitol Hill free-for-alls:

"If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."   

* * * * *
Note: My column about the forlorn news publishing industry has been posted on Plunderbund 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Theater of Absurd on Capitol Hill

As we slogged through another day of the Theater of the Absurd on Capitol Hill,  it became clear that there were several levels of interpreting the monstrous action on and off the fiscal cliff stage.

(1) You could try to understand it as John Boehner's desperate attempt to save his speakership as well as his congressional seat, the country be damned.

(2) You could try to understand it as Eric Cantor's wily scheme to succeed Boehner -- Cantor, the modern Cassius whom Shakespeare described as a fellow with a "lean and hungry look" , adding: "he thinks too much; such men are dangerous.".

(3)You could try to understand it as  a new year's toast to Grover Norquist, the unelected anti-tax lobbyist who has a death grip on an army of  Republicans in the House of Representatives.

(4) You could try to understand it as a malignant hatred of President Obama, more so now that he won the election by nearly 5 million votes.

(5)You could try to understand it as unsurpassed,  if foolhardy,  grandstanding  driven by an absolute disregard of how history will remember the participants.

(6)Or you could try to understand it  as  the mob scene of a bunch  of overfed lunatics.

If you weave all of these into the narrative, you can see that we are in deep trouble, folks.