Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lindsey firmly trapped in a bizarro world

Once upon a time when political dissent was only expressed on Capitol Hill by rationally nasty opponents,  we labeled such flareups as high-tempered loyal opposition.  It's different today.  Much different.  There  is a loud and visible gang of elected congressmen who wake up each morning vowing to hate President Obama rather than disagree with him.  It is seeded in the reality that Obama is a black man who has twice defeated politely acceptable Republican candidates that were fully expected to win.  How could this occur in the  white guy's America?  Only people who do the math can offer a persuasive explanation.  That means that if you cannot  defeat Obama on Election Days, you commit yourself to destroying his legacy for generations to come.

So the Masters of Delusion  of the Republican Party remain on the loose on Capitol Hill, just as they were throughout Obama's first term, preparing always for their next visit to Fox News.  And today we have moved Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator and whiner-in-chief,  to the head of that group. His clash with the Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward Flynn at a Senate committee hearing on gun control said little about loyal opposition and quite a bit that he is  becoming more bizarro every day.

Poor, Lindsey.  With the Tea Party and sociopaths on his back, he is left with few options if he intends to win his next election in South Carolina.  Profiles in courage these days are not the stuff of job security in his conservative state.

Hence, Lindsey has described Hillary Clinton as a murderer.  He is adamant against any form of gun control.  His inquisitional  attack on the police chief, which has been filmed-clipped over and over on TV,  was based on his fear that with cutbacks in police budgets, there will be fewer cops on the street to protect folks deprived of their guns.  Speaking from the experience of  law enforcement, the chief riddled Lindsey, not with bullets, but with the everyday knowledge of an officer's life in the trenches.

It got noisy.  But Obama-hate works its ways into all of the president's initiatves from the Masters of Delusion. So may I repeat:  Bizarro!

Monday, February 25, 2013

There ought not to be some laws

Thanks to SALON for gathering up some of the latest gibberish from Republican lawmakers across the country.  It's only when we  see their offerings stacked in a series that we know how far up into the trees they've  climbed. We now have further  evidence that there's an odd  collection of creatures  somewhere up there in the rain forest that grows more crowded each day.

Here is SALON'S  notice that Bobby Jindal's S.O.S to his party to stop being stupid isn't working - not even close:

1. Let corporations vote! - - Montana State Rep. Steve Lavin's bill to let corporations vote in local elections via their chosen company representatives. (Corporations, as Mitt Romney once explained to us, are people , too.)

2. Criminalize gun control --Missouri St. Rep. Mike Leara' s bill  would make it a crime to propose gun control.

3. Birth control is poison --A bill passing through the Oklahoma legislature would give companies the freedom to excise birth control and abortion from a company's health-care plan.

4. Read Ayn Rand or stay in high school -- A bill that its sponsor, State Sen. John Goedde, eventually withdrew from the Idaho senate that would have  required students to read Atlas Shugged and pass a test  to graduate.   He said he was trying to make a point that  Atlas Shrugged  influenced his son to become a Republican.

5. Make teachers question science - Oklahoma Common Education Act (still in the legislature) that would make it illegal for biology teachers to fail students who write papers against evolution, climate  change and any other theory with nearly 100 pct.  approval by scientists.

All of this is merely an extension of what we've been hearing for some time.  For example, last  April, the Tennessee Senate approved a bill declaring that student hand-holding was  "gateway sexual activity" to be  banned in schools.   Of course, Tennessee was also the site of the Scopes monkey trial.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Rand Paul isn't putting me to sleep

Talk about sequester - doesn't everybody? - Sen. Rand Paul, the self-styled Republican economic fortress from Kentucky,  says he can't understand what the fuss is all about.  The cuts would be nothing more than a "pittance", he says,  which is more than  a lot of people will be forced to live on. And a "yawn".  But who can really sleep with this loopy guy on the loose in the corridors on Capitol Hill?

Friday, February 22, 2013

GOP's Ted Cruz, a Joe McCarthy rising star

Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz's  odyssey toward an even more debased  GOP  dropped him off on a stage in Independence, Oh., this week  for the Cuyahoga County Republican Party's annual  in-name-only dinner toast to  Abe Lincoln.  For the evening Cruz received a share of partisan  huzzahs for his cockeyed  mythology and the published reports didn't hesitate to refer to him as a "rising star" in national politics.  That destined-to-be ephemeral title seems to be catching on at least with his bug-eyed gang, which tells you how easy it is today to be an acclaimed  star if you traffic in saying a lot of crazy things.

In Cruz's  case, the freshman Texas senator has slandered  Chuck Hagel by questioning whether the decorated war veteran and nominee for Secretary of Defense was on the payroll (maybe $200,000!) of  America's worst  enemies, say, Iran and North Korea.  He couldn't prove it, but that's part of Cruz's mystical  M.O.  It would have made more sense if he had accused Hagel of spilling spaghetti sauce on his new necktie or not lowering  the toilet seat.

Cruz also tossed in his world-view that Iran praised the Hagel nomination - which it didn't.

The rising star - `Whoops, now I'm saying it -   is drawing a lot of attention for being a reincarnation of Red-baiter Joe McCarthy for his questioning of his targets' patriotism.  Writing  on the New Yorker's blog, Jane Mayer recalled that Cruz,  a Harvard law school man as was Obama,   once  declared in a speech that Obama would have made a "perfect president of  Harvard Law School"  because there were  a dozen Marxists on the faculty.

Well, the GOP has had a series of rising stars that immediately come to mind. Sarah Palin.  Tim Pawlenty. Bobby Jindal.  And the party ended up with the likes of John McCain and Mitt Romney at the top of the tickets.

So I'll stick with the big Thermador kitchen appliance ad in Smithsonian magazine that says:  "Some stars burn brighter than others". It's also true that, conversely,  some stars are not very bright at all.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

OSU speaker not a Dispatch favorite

The announcement that President Obama will be Ohio State University's commencement speaker on   May 5 could hardly  have uplifted the editors of the Columbus Dispatch to a state of chest-pounding hometown pride.  No paper in Ohio worked harder to defeat Obama in last November's election with its editorial endorsement of Mitt Romney, a candidate it credited with  possessing "real-world experience to lead nation out of economic malaise".

As for Obama, the paper complained that he had traveled in the "left  lane" all of his life, had no real-world experience and was an absolute failure in correcting the national economy's dismal course during his first term.   The president's health care plan, it declared, was nothing more than a " ham-fisted power play".  When it comes to attacking Democrats, the paper always adds a lot of etc. etc. etc's.

Well, as history will show, the paper's home county of Franklin was hardly persuaded by the Dispatch's  eternal struggle against Democrats and voted for Obama anyway.

So now, with the kindly attention of OSU President Gordon Gee, who invited him, Obama will arrive as the national five million vote victor over the wealthy what's-his name opponent in the last campaign.

I don't mean to be churlish or anything about the Dispatch, but I did want to point out that the Obama visit will present itself more as a Mayday for the paper's deep thinkers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Will there be life for Kasich's big ideas after Lima?

For a day or two, Lima, Oh.,  dressed itself up as the proud center of the universe to welcome the governor.    From the reports I read,  the Kasich-led  assault on the town with a mobile army of politicians, media and curiosity seekers from Columbus had to be the biggest quake since  a ruptured crude oil line sent 77,000 gallons into Lima's sewers, with the ensuing explosions and fires forcing the evacuation of 7,000 residents. That happened in the days of Gov. Jim Rhodes, no shy huckster himself even though it never occurred to him to move the State of the State address out of the state capital to, say, Jackson  County, his childhood home..

That makes Kasich, who doesn't mind  reminding you with his own steely rhetoric,  an even bigger thinker than Rhodes.  As he told us in a speech I watched on TV in the security of home,  "We must not fear big ideas".

Before he uttered that  challenge, everybody seemed to have had a grand time in town.  The Lima News  reported that he had  "enjoyed a quick Kewpee Burger"and his wife Karen delightedly bought a new outfit while  shopping at Nitza's, which I'm guessing is one of Lima's iconic women's stores.

We also learned from the hometown paper that  state officials, including Ohio Board of Regents Interim Chancellor Stephanie Davidson,  sat down to lunch prepared by the Apollo Career Center culinary arts students and ate well.  (State officials always do.)

Once everyone made it to the Veterans Memorial Civic Center amid the big photos of the governor stuck to  every Lima News  coin box, most of the thrill of an out-of-town junket  seems to have worn off when they settled into their seats.

Oh, they managed polite applause for each saber-like thrust  from the the governor's jutting lower lip and rocking shoulders, but  you must remember that they had heard all of the words in the earlier reports leading up to Lima.  In this soaring moment, they were merely hearing the music and clapping to the beat.

Kasich doesn't deal with anything unless it is in brusque hyperbole.  Europeans are so impressed with Ohio's progress, he told us, that some will be arriving along the Olentangy River soon to start  building stuff.   That's if they get to the Buckeye State before all of the real estate is bought up by eager companies  from other states who want to call Ohio their home. Once again, there was no mention in the closing credits of the Obama administration's bailout of the auto industry that is the mainstay of rising employment health in the state.  Instead:

Jobs are increasing faster than Ohio's State's grid victories and he's proud to be in the forefront of this great economic revival that will permit him to cut taxes,  reform education and fix bridges.  His enthusiasm has never been in doubt for his "big ideas".

Of course,  the governor's big ideas are already driving some nervous Republican conservatives to the seclusion of the legislative cave.    And that's not his only problem:  There's an outfit called the Ohio Liberty Coalition - Tea Partyers,  if you haven't already guessed - that has threatened with extinction  any politician who supports the governor's expansion of Medicaid and sales tax base.

As we've seen in other states, Teabagger -invaded Republican primaries can create a helluva mess for any incumbent  trying to escape the consequences. And there aren't enough people living in Lima to save them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Israel honors Obama, but not from under a bus!

Although Mitt Romney is somewhere off in California looking after his investments, including the car elevator at his  homestead, he's still suffering some blows to  his futile campaign rhetoric.   We can all remember that he and his allies  accused President Obama of being "disrespectful" to Israel  - and in his words "threw Israel under the bus".  ("The beginning of  the end, as we know it for the Jewish state," huffed then-Rep. Allen West, of Florida, who later  lost in November, too.)

Alas, among the many who didn't  take Mitt seriously was Israel.  Israeli  President Shimon Peres announced that Obama will   be honored with the "Presidential Medal of Distinction'"  when he visits in March  for his "unique and significant contribution to strengthening the State of Israel and the Security of its citizens."

The medal compares with France's Legion of Honor.  Better that you stick to car elevators, Mitt, things that you know about.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Valentine evening with local Democrats!

The annual Summit County Democrats' Valentine Party is a modest family reunion of officeholders and staffers for a couple of hours of schmoozing over  finger food and whatever the bar will allow. This year's $25-per-person event at the Tangier also offered the locals a glimpse of one and maybe two state candidates on the 2014 ballot,  

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, one of the party's  fresher faces, made the rounds , clasping welcoming hands and offering a brief talk on the ills sprouting from the  Kasich administration from taxation to school district funding.  It's the sort of thing he's been saying all over the state in weighing his  own decision on whether to challenge the governor.

He told me afterward that he will decide in March on whether to run.  The big question, of course, is whether he can be encouraged by the campaign cash that will be available.  That won't be a problem for Kasich, who's isn't likely to be flying tourist class between now and election day.

If anything is certain at this stage it's that State Sen. Nina Turner, a Clevelander,  is already making her presence felt as an energized  candidate for Secretary of State.   She became a frequent guest on national television during the presidential campaign as a leading critic of  Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted (he, of the Husted Hustle)  who was dead set on restricting the turnout in November.    His mission, he said, was to eliminate fraud - a chestnut that a few other Republicans conceded was a not-so-sly  effort to elect Mitt Romney.

Turner has also placed herself on national TV as in  the most outspoken vanguard for women's rights.   She didn't hestitate to tell the Democratic Valentiners that she's just getting started.  Cheaters, she insisted,  should never win.  With her on the stump, it won't be a campaign for the faint-of-heart.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meet the "moderate" Rob Portman

Remember Rob Portman?  Ohio senator.  Republican. Former Bush budget director. The guy who was always hanging out with Mitt Romney in the presidential campaign while some pundits were sure he would be the perfect complement to Mitt in Ohio as his running mate.

Oh.  That Rob Portman?  Right.

I know it's hard to keep track of him unless you're a political junkie.  As an un-showy Mr. Plain, he prefers  to remain below the radar. Ohio's doting newspapers seldom report his votes  on major issues, which is doubtless why even the national media have described him as a political moderate, or a "center-rightest''.  All of which gives the senator cover to act while he's still locked in to his days as a congressman representing his conservative district in Southwestern Ohio.

Whether it's gun control, abortion rights, a constitutional amendment barring  same-sex marriage  and a host of other way-over  issues, you'll find him voting with the extreme right.  Just this week he voted to hold up  Chuck Hagel's  nomination.  Portman says he wants more facts on Benghazi.  That, of course,  joins the Republican fishing expedition that merely delays an up-or-down vote.

Moderate?  Centrist,  when the Party of No needs to pull away from the fringe?  Show me.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

GOP: Obama socialist, communist, Hitler,Stalin, or what?

There's nothing more effective in advancing the  Republicans toxic mental breakdown than a speech  by President Obama.  An occasion such as the annual  State of the Union address, first administered by Obama in 2009,  has been  the party's proven emetic ever since, although the response  seems to have gotten  even worse this week.  Struggling to find something imaginative to say, Fox News' iconic analysts even questioned the news value of a 102-year-old woman's efforts to vote in Florida.

You sense a pall of desperation over the GOP brood as they resort to their familiar assault weapons as a means of replacing serious policy with quackery.  Even before the speech, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina referred to Hillary Clinton as a murderer and threatened more nastiness on the Benghazi issue.  We should probably excuse this sorrowfully whining  guy because it is being widely reported that he could face a stiff challenge in the Republican primary  from a Ron Paul libertarian loyalist.

Some other expletives  from the Right:

"Dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Obama" (Limbaugh).

"A Castro-like-speech" (Conservative author Mark Levin on Fox)

Obama's gun-control efforts a "disaster":  (Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe)

Obama nominee Chuck Hagel may be on  the payroll of overseas radicals (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz)

Obama is against free enterprise (read: dictator) obsessed with raising taxes (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio)

But none of this rises to a higher intellectual level than Fox News Psychiatrist (honest!) Dr. Keith Ablow,  who unpleasantly accused Obama of being "psychologically predictable".

"He does not surprise." Ablow   opined.  "Having been abandoned as a boy by his father and then his mother, only to then learn that his grandmother feared people of his race, he seems inherently to distrust initiative and intention and to place his trust only in the collective."

Sounds a lot like a reference to a socialist or communist to me.   I wonder how much they pay Ablow to give Fox News such a much-needed soaring sense of panache.  I also wonder whether they'll get around to having him do the 50-minute hour on the  couch for Limbaugh.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dick Cheney: From chicken hawk to military expert

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, he of the robotic heart,  had some bizarre things to say the other night about President Obama's choice of cabinet members.  Speaking to a friendly audience  of about 300 Republicans in Wyoming, Cheney asserted that Obama has appointed "second-rate people" who can be expected to degrade the U.S. military.

The timing of his cheap shot  left no doubt that he was referring to John Kerry, the new secretary of state, and Chuck Hagel, who is awaiting confirmation as the secretary of defense. Huh?

As the record will show, both of his targets are war veterans who served well while Cheney preferred to comfortably sit out the battlefield with several deferments.  And as a strong infuence in guiding the U.S. into an invasion of Iraq, he demonstrated his profound understanding of warfare by assuring us the conflict might not last for more than several weeks. I needn't tell you  the rest of the story.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The governor's food for political thought

Privately run prisons, as the New Yorker  recently described the TV series "Girls," has become a "trending topic".  That's because Gov. Kasich, determined not become privatized himself  when the voters head out to the polls in 2014, has found still another way  to downsize the government he manages with swagger each day.  He wants to turn over food services at  Ohio's prisons to the non-elected  entrepreneurial class  that swells with each new opportunity for its investments.  He says it will save the state maybe $16 million a year.

Like so many of  his "bold'"  initiatives, once the headlines fade into yesterday, you have to pay more attention to second opinions.  Privately run prison services   have a history of failure that equal the inmates they're supposed to contain.

Cost savings for taxpayers? As Paul Krugman has pointed out,  a study by the U.S. Department of Justice has concluded that such savings in other states "have simply not materialized.''

"So let's see," Krugman wrote, "Privatized prisons save money by employing fewer guards and other workers, and by paying them badly.  And then we get horror stories  about how these prisons are run.   What a surprise!"

Reviewing earlier  consequences, Plunderbund reported an audit by former Republican State Auditor Jim Petro  of privatized food service at the Noble Correctional Institution in Caldwell, Oh.    The audit showed Aramark, the company involved,   "failed multiple sanitary inspections and was unable to provide   acceptable portion sizes as agreed upon in the contract. What's more, Plunderbund said the audit revealed that "Aramark ended up billing the state for millions of meals it never actually served resulting in $2 million in overpayment being made to the company."

Never mind, the Kasich people contend,  we're looking at $16 million in savings even though a transfer to private hands would eliminate 456 state jobs.  Oh, it says here, the private operators would hire some of these people.

And now we come to the real bottom line.  Kasich, who has no use for unions, would eliminate that many jobs covered by Civil Service.  Christopher Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service  Employes Association, is already preparing for a brawl. "This is unfair, unsafe and hurts us all and we will not stand for it," he told the Columbus Dispatch.

From the standpoint of purely practical politics, after being drubbed in his fight against public employe  unions with Senate Bill 5, is Kasich really prepared to provoke labor again in an election year?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Smithsonian Magazine:The myth of split infinitives

There was some good news in the February Smithsonian magazine for those us who have labored over typewriters and then computers for so many years.  According to the experts, you won't go to Hell  if you split an infinitive.   And you won't suffer in purgatory if you, as I just did, begin a sentence sentence with a conjunction.  What's more, there's no shameful abuse of grammar if you end a sentence with a preposition.

A periodical of Smithsonian's worthy standards has now reassured us that all of the above transgressions are myths  That's right, myths that should in no way intrude on clearly written texts..  Indeed, it goes still farther by telling  us:
"But perhaps the biggest grammar myth of all is the infamous taboo against splitting  an infinitive,  as in "to boldly go'".  The truth is that you can't split an infinitive,  since 'to'  isn't part of the  infinitive, there's nothing to split."  If that gets a little technical for you, don't bother.   Go back to the part that says infinitives aren't divisible and move on with a clear conscience.
Smithsonian also quotes some notable sources to free us from our guilty conscience.  There were the comforting words of Katharine Hepburn, who once observed:
"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun."
Then it closes with the outburst of an angry Raymond Chandler when a copy editor at the Atlantic Monthly messed around with the author's  prose:
"When I split an in infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will remain split."
That works for me.

NOTE:  My column on Kasich's budget and the pizza twirlers in the Ohio General Assembly is posted on Plunderbund.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rove returns to slay the vampires!

Good grief!  Karl Rove, one of the big losers in the November election, is unapologetically back to slay the GOP's no-longer-welcome intruders. He's prepared to offer  a daring new see-through Spring Collection for his winless lot of hapless candidates. Editorial writers would describe the plan as "bold". You could say that, too, as in "desperately bold". Everybody in the political world is talking about it.

Rove has  created a new Super PAC that he calls the modern Conservative Victory Project to halt the Tea Partyers in their tracks.  And if you think that will finally bring peace,  harmony  and a little sense to Rove's party, you haven't followed the modern saga of the more distressed right-wing crowd that finds something to hate in government every hour.

Rove has always been something of a behavioral therapist, leading  George W.Bush's through more reflective moments as "Bush's Brain."  But now, even though his money machine, American Crossroads, was unable to elect a single conservative candidate on his personal list, he's decided to charge into the deepest quarters of his natural habitat   for what he clearly intends to be a game changing moment on the national runway.

Simply put, if that's possible, he wants to protect moderately conservative candidates from primary challenges from the horrific people who call President Obama a socialist born in a rain forest and say profoundly stupid things about women who have been raped.

Not that a man of Rove's towering presence  in the GOP hasn't managed to open a new front in the political wars.  The right wing that has guided the party through four-plus years of Barack Obama  is flapping loudly.    Their gurus are assailing him as a turncoat feeding at the Potomac trough and have begun to re-enlist their battered forces from the past campaign.  The torpedoes from the Club for Growth, the treasure house for political rightists,  are making the rounds on Fox News  and other sympathetic outlets to condemn Rove's plan. Names are being called on all sides.

From FreedomWorks, where Dick Armey reigned until recently, comes this troubling thought:  The Republican Party would be sapped of the energy and wisdom of guys like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Pat Toomey and Mike Lee if Rove's designated hitters drive them from competitive races.

When they put it like that, I may find myself reluctantly agreeing with Rove on a one-time basis as he wanders into his familiar  divide-and-conquer comfort zone.  Do I really have a choice?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Remember when Twinkies were simply Twinkies?

We can all sleep well tonight despite our 15-cent monthly bank interest  on savings.  I'm here to report  an exploding entrepreneurial spirit in America that would certainly merit the highest respect  even from folks who have car elevators attached  to their homes.    It is churning up a tidal wave of speculators who cleared the  food market shelves of Archie Bunker's favorite sweet sponge  just as its maker cast its fatal shadow:  Twinkies! for God's sake.

I do not exaggerate  the wild investment phenomenon by the profit-conscious who are ignoring  Wall Street to head for the other Big Board -  eBay.  At last count, there were more than 2,400  Twinkies offerings ranging from under $10 to $200,000 (shipping included).    A bid of $7.55 was drawing a lively response for a goody called a Hostess Twinkie Coffin, "a great gift for a mourning Twinkie lover!"  And $40 would win   "Newly listed Hostess Twinkie 2 boxes."

Twinkies lovers will tell you that the treats never spoil. But one dealer turned up a collectible rotten one and it passed $24 - as is - which may be the out-of-the-box steal of this systemic madness.

 Before bidding, you may want to consult your Twinkies broker to determine whether the boom has peaked or whether there will be even more cream for you dough.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Bowl: The King of Beers pays royally

If you are the curious sort when you tune in the Super Bowl game,  prepare yourself with a stopwatch and calculator.  The New York Times reports that sponsors will pay CBS  up to $133,333 a second for their ads.  In some cases, the cost for a 30-second spot could rise to $4 million and maybe some change.

Imagine dropping those numbers on your boss's desk with your personal expense account.  The biggest spender is Anheuser-Busch, the Times says.   Small wonder that all of the giddy,  slap-happy people in the beer commercials are forever whooping it up. Their companies' payouts  are challenging the speed of light.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kasich: Repent "liberal nihilists" who oppose me

There are days when it's  hard to separate Gov. Kasich from
Elmer Gantry.  That's when he berates inquiring reporters and critics in general about a lawsuit filed by ProgressOhio against  his economic development JobsOhio plan.

To a question asked by Gongwer News about the interest rates on the bonds that would pay for his privatization plan, it wasn't enough for the governor to refer to "liberal nihilists"  - which doubtless sent some of his own people to their dictionaries.  He became even testier  and warned that his critics were "going to have to answer to a much higher power than me."

Well, now.  For those of us who have been led to believe that there is no higher power than Kasich, this came as a revelation. As Plunderbund helpfully recalled,  it was the same pulpeteering Kasich who was quoted in the New York Times back in September as believing  that he had been sent by God to save the  state.

Why do Republican pols  consistently play the God card and say things like that as though they are so insecure about going it alone?  One comes quickly to mind: Sarah Palin, and where is she today?  

If I were to be a candidate against the governor the first words out of my mouth would be that I had also talked to God and  He reassured me that the governor had shamefully quoted Him out of context.