Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Alas, life on the NFL track

America  lost its worldly authority as a humane, civilized, peace-loving nation with the arrival of Monday Night Football.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The mentoring Gospel, according to Kasich

Reposted from Plunderbund

'If Gov. Kasich's coy notions about a presidential candidacy continue on the current track, he will doubtless confirm his grandiose national  plan from atop preacher Rex Humbard's abandoned tower in Cuyahoga  Falls.  As you may have noticed, Kasich has been injecting his contract with God into every stop these days, claiming the Creator has placed a decisive hand on him.  

You don't need to be for this religion or that one  -  or have none at all -  to start worrying about politicians who want you to join them at the altar on Election Day.   We think of all of the presidential candidates in 2012 who said  they were told by God to seek the Oval Office.  The law requires only one achiever, whether by God or the Supreme Court, to take the oath of office. We  think of the wise caution expressed by  then-candidate Barack Obama when asked about the office still occupied by George Bush:  

"You  can only have one president at a time."

But in today's crowded free-for-all that is even  worrying hefty Republican donors that there won't be enough millions to go around, keep an eye on the spiritual flow through the candidates who equate the presidency with their personal heaven.

The governor isn't  taking chances. As the Plain Dealer reported this week, his $10 million plan to staff Ohio public schools with mentors has a "surprise religious requirement - one that goes beyond what is spelled out in the legislation authorizing it."

Surprise,  surprise.

The hook in the legislation?    

"Any school district that wants a piece of that money must partner with both a church and a business - or a faith-based organization and a  nonprofit set up by a business to do community service. No business and  no faith-based partners mean no state money."

I'm not a lawyer , but  isn't that discriminatory against kids who could use some mentoring without those  grant-enriched "partners" in spending public money?  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A hacker's strange claim against Cheney

The FBI reportedly has more than a casual interest in  the claim by a precocious Montana schoolboy  that he hacked Dick Cheney, tracking the monstrous ex-veep's DNA all the way back to Caligula, the maniacal Roman emperor who appointed his horse to the Senate.  "We're not ready to say that  the kid's boast is true," an investigator cautioned.  "But with the hardware that Cheney is wearing, anything is possible."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Abolish Christmas? Abolish the thought

A seasonal thought from The Economist:

"Abolishing Christmas would not make an ounce of difference to retailers.  They would simply create a new 'celebration of shopping', such as Black Friday.   The sector that would suffer is the food-service industry as Christmas provides the perfect excuse to overindulge in food and drink." - on "How Black Friday hit Britain."

Friday, December 12, 2014

The bestial words of Dick Cheney

I should apologize for being grumpier than usual today during the season's Holiday Magic,  but Dick Cheney is fondly defending every incriminating trace of the CIA's uncivilized torture and I, for one, won't let him get away with a word of it.   Besides, it confirms my suspicion that he may be the  most depraved man in America today.

He blows off complaints about the sadistic Nazi-like treatment of the detainees with the question of whether we should have kissed them on both cheeks.  The ex-veep and hawkish draft dodger -  the latter exercise a  planned escape from duty that remains a lasting default in his John Wayne image -  puffed himself up with "I'd do it again in a minute."

Well, now. That's not exactly what we should want the world to know about us  from the former No. 2 man in the government that has long sold itself as a model of civilized  humanity.   Instead, he came down like the ghouls  who stick live kittens in Microwave ovens for the hell of it.

He would be a perfect fit for Dr. Caligari's cabinet with a his curled lip, spooky  certainties and a taste for the pain or proxy murder of others.  The ancient German black-and-white silent film was eerily at the heart of  modern torture  - a word that Cheney wisely refuses to precisely define.

He should be placed in a military uniform and shipped - mechanical heart and all - to a hot  war zone in the Middle East to dismiss doubts  that he is more than a lunatic who  takes joy in Microwaves.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

And now, a down-to-earth mission for Curiosity

There are said to be leaked classified reports that NASA's scientists are throbbing with so much confidence after finding possible ancient life on Mars during its Curiosity rover mission that there is already talk of setting up the next more challenging  mission:  Sending Curiosity over the cratered U.S. House Representatives in hopes of detecting life forms.   "That would be  a huge undertaking," said one spacey source. "But
think of the size of the benefits  in behalf of all Americans if it worked".  
Reposted from Plunderbund 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Money not only talks, it buys big things

I went Christmas shopping over the week end.  Not among the mall crowds that are  more bruising this year than ever  by so many people texting while oblivious to my shoulders and limbs as they drift past me. Nope.  I chose the rarified ads in the New York Times that swept into a higher universe while I was seated safely at home.

Right off, I will say that escapism is too slight a word to describe what I found in the Season for Giving, particularly for recipients who  not only have everything  but always pretend to be duly shocked upon opening the box.

 There was the usual assortment of sports memorabilia ranging from a Mickey Mantle signed baseball ($1,075) to a game  sock (gamey?) worn by Derek Jeter($409). But the notice warned that you had better hurry because the sock would never appear in the bargain bin.(Investment hint:  Worn athletic socks are cool ideas this season. I don't even want to think about where they will reach next for  an athlete's more discreet game togs!)

For the truly desperate, The Times offered a "unique" gift of novelty gas pumps "perfect for the home" ($290 each).  I must tell you that I spent  a little more time perusing  a  collector's box of infield dirt from 30 ball parks for $259.

A wooden model ship of the U.S.S. Constitution, fully built,( $975). How do they  dare pack   those delicate items?  When I worked nights at a Columbus morning newspaper, I used to build  those ships from kits  after midnight to settle my nerves.  But I eventually lost interest.  They take hours to dust.

In the workaday world for us commoners, nothing seems cheap anymore.    Just glance at these Times' headlines on the business page:

"British Hedge Fund Titan  Ordered to Pay Ex-Wife $531 million."

"British Property Developer Files $3.5 billion Claim over Iceland Bank Inquiry'.

(Article) " Google potentially faces a fine of $6 billion..."

"Big Law Firms bringing back hefty Bonuses for Associates...Average top payout $40,000 higher than last year",  some reaching seasonal tidings of $150,000.

Finally, if you like big numbers, Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's chief financial officer, happily reported that his staff had discovered  hundreds of millions of Euros "tucked away"  in  church accounts that it didn't know it had.

"It is important to point out", the cardinal reassuringly wrote in the institutional  Catholic Herald magazine, "that the Vatican is not broke."

Even the Vatican will tell you that at this time of the year, the more there is in the vault,  the merrier.

But first, I must renew by $25 Panera's  gift card..  

Friday, December 5, 2014

The insane blowback in the Eric Garner case

In the wrenching days after the Grand Jury chokehold decision that  even deep conservative Charles Krauthammer described as "totally incomprehensible," the case dramatized the racial ignorance of  some  public figures eager to be pathetically  seen and heard on camera.

That Eric  Garner died with a chokehold clamped against his throat while his head was pressed into the sidewalk was not proof enough for the doubters that he died of something more than natural causes.  Nothing short of a beheading would stand a chance of removing  their glacial skepticism.  But we sell America around the world as a civilized  society with benevolent leadership.   Unfortunately, our credibility sank with  the digital age videos.

Over at Fox News, Bill O'Reilly insisted that Garner would still be alive today if he hadn't  "resisted" the cop's grasp.  If you saw the film, that's a new one!   Suspicion clarified.(As the author of books on famous people dying, will Bill's next effort  be about  Eric Garner?)

Rep. Peter King of New York joined the chorus by defending the police action, asserting  that in this particular case a chokehold was not "Illegal".  Oh.   But he died anyway, Peter, so what does your opaque logic mean?

King,  who may very well be a totally mad peacock, also bounded into the narrative of the Ferguson swamp and defended Darren Wilson,  the cop who gunned down Michael  Brown. He said it would be "very helpful" if President Obama invited Wilson to the White House to thank him for "doing his job".  Meantime, Rudy Giuliani settled on calling New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a racist for not mentioning that blacks kill blacks.

Some commentators  lamely tried to explain a chokehold beyond its widely  accepted meaning.  Perhaps we should tell them about the horsecollar  tackles in football that, unlike Garner's fatally administered deadly tackle,  at least draws major penalties.

More about Ferguson: After MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell raised serious questions about the instructions to the Brown grand jury based on outdated law,  Missouri Atty. Gen. Bob McCulloch admitted that the jury had been misinformed about the elements involved in using  deadly force.

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that O'Donnell nailed it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It doesn't meet in St. Louis...nor elsewhere

For the millions of words that will be dedicated to finding solutions to America's racial problems, I doubt that there will be a more profound expression than the non-spoken simplicity of the current New Yorker cover:


When I glanced at  the front page of my Beacon Journal this morning over coffee, it quickly became apparent that the paper's editors decided to ignore the biggest story across the country's media:  the grand jury decision in the chokehold case. But we did get one more column about the Browns' quarterback controversy (Choosing Hoyer all about Manziel) .  And still one more story, again with photos,  on the sports page,  where it belonged. (Faith put in Hoyer). But must be fair:  I found the story on Page 4.  I'll begin on that page the next time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Redistricting: From scandal to true reforms?

In an earlier column this year,  I huffed that the Republican legislative schemers  had drawn and quartered the Summit County congressional district into four  unintelligible pieces.  Some would call their handiwork a scandal of Biblical proportions - and that would include me.  The once identifiable  14th district with Akron at the center now appears as a jagged splotch on  the map with a handgun pointing at Youngstown.

Without remorse, the most recent district lines  were cynically gerrymandered by a party with one thing in mind: Drain the Democrats' strength from the old 14th District. It's something the  local Republican boss had supported to vengefully rid the District of  sole Democratic congressmen like John Seiberling and later, Tom Sawyer.

Now, thanks to the GOP redistricting after the  2010 census, the county has absentee representatives from Geauga County, Youngstown, Cleveland Heights and Wadsworth.  If you don't know their names, it proves the point of the divide  between congressman and voter.

And if you want to argue that both parties have been guilty of gerrymandering when  their turn arrived after each 10-year census,   it doesn't explain how the Akron area elected a Republican congressman, Bill Ayres, to 10 terms  before he gave way to Seiberling. Such political ruthlessness that embraces the entire state  can easily be demonstrated by the numbers; although the state's voters  have twice supported a Democratic president, the line-drawers have also guaranteed that Ohio  Republicans have a 12-4 advantage in Congress.

That has strongly fashioned a rural culture in the mindset of Buckeye politics with the urban areas ghettoized for the four Democratic congressmen. Something ain't fair here, folks

So count me among the those who believe that we are well past the time for the perps to show less commitment to political supremacy and more respect for a reasonable accounting to the voters.  I know. How naive can one be?

State Sen. Tom Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, has been in the forefront of balancing the books.  He and Republican State Sen. Frank LaRose of Fairlawn have teamed up with proposals to find an equitable way to rearrange the boundaries. It's a Sisyphean challenge to ask the rurals to give up any of their safe congressional land.  But party leaders are at least  starting to talk about such reforms.

It will be as complicated as Rubik's cube.   There will be proposals and counter proposals.  And the fact that the House plan under discussion is the brainchild of Rep. Matt Huffman, a Republican from Lima, should give any true reformer the jitters.   So whatever turns up next may not still be on the table in the spring.  It may not be  fun to watch.  Still, it won't cost anything to be mildly optimistic now that both sides have agreed to ante up. Sort of.

When will all of his happen?  Before the 2016 election?  Hmmmm.....

 Sawyer is hopeful that an acceptable plan will be ready for the May ballot next year.  But even he offers a cautionary note.  As he once wrote in the Beacon Journal:

"History has taught us that the closer we get to to the drawing of new district lines, the more resistant one party or another becomes to reforming the system".

You learn that from years of political experience.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The rightwing era of the NoBamans

Reposted from Plnderbund

As we're sure you're  aware of by now,   the White House is in the merciless throes of  the NoBama plague that has had everyone on edge.  For six years, the president has faced assaults from the NoBama GOP that will feverishly  grow  for another couple of years.  Even the party's newly minted African-American Democrat-turned-Republican , Ben Carson, a doctor from South Carolina of all places, has added to his  conservative star power  by accusing Obama of presiding over worsening race relations,which takes a lot of white guys off the hook, right?

Keep an eye on him.  He's an author, essayist and opponent of Obamacare who figures to get royal treatment  by his party.  There's already a "Run, Ben, Run" national presidential  draft movement under way .

But if you've been too busy to notice the rise of the NoBama phenomenon,  the right-wing pundits will hammer it into your consciousness.  Up in Cleveland, for example, a VIP Plain Dealer  editor/columnist showers NoBama thunderbolts from his aerie high atop the Ivory Tower.

Oddly enough, NoBama Kevin O'Brien's  column this week  led the reader over a path of direct orders to the NoBamans in Congress to stonewall the president's proposed appointments unless he cancels  his immigration plans (as if this crowd hasn't thought of it already!).  He wanted to punish Obama for "posterity".  I'm sure he knows his own choir well.

But wait, he is only warming up, and what comes next is an astonishing leap of  logic from a guy who is  offended by a president trying to execute  immigration reforms that have long been stalled in the Republican  Tea Party House.  For this disconnect, he singles out Congresswoman Marcia  Fudge, Democrat    from  Northeastern Ohio, archly accusing her of being "irresponsible"   for saying that Ferguson was a "miscarriage of justice".

From his perch, he didn't know how Fudge could possibly reach that conclusion from  her district 500 miles from Ferguson.

But since we're only talking about distance here and not of the right or wrong of the grand jury decision, I suspect your draconian dictates to Congress, Kevin,  have little force inasmuch as you live 363 driving miles from Washington.  So I am a tad impressed by such Palin-like  powers that enable you to see Capitol Hill from your front porch.

'Tis the season to be hustled

If you happen to be reading this, it means you have survived Black Friday in precious time for Cyber Monday.  That means some lucky retailers can celebrate Phenomenal Tuesday,   and all that follows. Humongous  Wednesday? Happy-Go-Lucky Thursday? Friggin' Friday?

'Tis that time of the year, so we ought not to crab  about the annual madness to inspire folks to line up in frigid pre-dawn queues to achieve the Golden Bargain.  At least, that's what I've been told.

Personally, I  have never outgrown  my small-town's  modest seasonal awakening when the handful of shop owners  on Main Street strung tinsel and lights on their windows and  then laid out their goods as if it were still July.

But then, we didn't have Santa showing up in TV commercials to sell cars in November  nor shopping malls piping the air with  Rudolph and his  red nose.  I'm jolly well ready to scream.

Life in a Retail/Master Card Society has been in overdrive this year.  Some stores eagerly opened Thanksgiving  night, a thankless task  for the workers that I once suffered with a morning newspaper.

Meantime the media reported such frenetic  hustling as...jingle cash,  BOGO, sale of a lifetime, doorbusters, sale to end all sales, bonus savings, three-days-only offers, special financing, instant savings, and the inducement  that required pocket calculators: 30 pct.  off  50 pct. off original ticket,  and second purchase half-off. Most of these were stressed with exclamation points! )  You tell me.

Naively, I only wanted an Italian ice cream cone with no down payment and 30 years to pay.  Come to think of it, I loved by hometown.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

GOP congressmen to respond to Obama with room and... board

Reposted from Plunderbund

My unimpeachable Republican underground source at the next table at  Wendy's discreetly told me of a new GOP scheme to shatter  President Obama's "royalty" before   millions of American TV viewers.   "They're calling it the gold standard of character  destruction," he said as he washed  down a cheekful of cheeseburger as well as every other syllable.

It would happen at Obama's State of the Union Address in January.  Here is the  plan:

Seated behind him with tall pointed hats, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, both stone faced,  will link their cones  with a wire that suspends the U.S. Constitution.

All of the other Republicans in the magisterial chamber will arrive  student-style in fixed  pace to  Pomp and Circumstance,  each crowned with a mortarboard clearly  inscribed with  words trashing  the president.  Some random examples my friend mentioned to me follow:

Sen. Lindsey Graham's will be "Garbage" which is how he described the Republican House Committee report that cleared the Obama Administration of wrongdoing in the Benghazi attack.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, often blankly nodding to the gallery,  settled on  "Impriesh"  (He didn't know how to spell impeach.)

On Rep. Mo Brooks'  board:  "FELON"  to support his call for Obama to be jailed for five years.

You'll identify Sen. Ted Cruz  easily with his satanic smile and "Varmint" on his board.

Rep Steve King will feature a cantaloupe with the words  "Illegal alien."

Taking a cue from Gov. Kasich's quaint reference to Obamacare,  Rep. Jim Renacci will show "Hillarycare" upside down on his board.

Scattered among the proud innovators  in the chamber will be boards that read "Kenya," "socialist',  "traitor",   "monarch." "dog-eared," "Watermelon,"  and "Uppity" with a rapt gallery and TV audience looking on.

Oh, not to be disrespectful to the King of Ohio (after LeBron),  the GOP caucus will tap     Kasich, a self-described evangelical Christian, as chaplain pro tem  to give the invocation as well as the benediction.

After some agitated discussion,  a congressman from Mississippi will  be denied  a place in the somber procession after showing up with his board containing  the N-word.)

So mark your calendar:  These marvels want you to have a cameo classroom view of the White House occupant, complete with  the words that point to all of the country's ills In an hour or so.   Better than a month  at Harvard, you might agree!

Almost forgot to mention:  The R's will be pretending to twitter and remain silent when Obama arrives.   It will be a further contribution to their inglorious history.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Let me have a word with you, Mr. Speaker


Dear John:

Permit me to interrupt your howling at President Obama for his action on immigration reform. Your darkest views on releasing millions  of illegal immigrants from the bondage of practiced anonymity have reached into my own ancestry.  And as the President reminded us, they didn't all cross borders but came by planes and ships, too.

Mine came on ships from the Mediterranean (that's the enormous freshwater sea, John, that provided some of the routes for the tidal waves of  immigrants seeking a better life on our shores - although many were deceived by the cynical transporters and debarked instead in the West Indies and South America!).

My parents were born in a relatively short span  after their parents arrived from a small town near Beirut.  To be perfectly up front about it, I was too young to learn whether they ever became American citizens, nor did I care much about it  as I grew older  and they had passed on.   In fact, I only got to know my by dear siti, my father's mother.  My paternal grandfather, Abe - surprised that he and my father had the name that Dad passed on to me? - was a burly bald man who  died when I was quite young.   He opened a small fruit market in the tiny coal-mining town of Mt. Pleasant, Pa.

Dad said he didn't know why they chose to finally settle there, and it really didn't seem important enough to the family to find out.  On my mother's side, her parents took root in Conemaugh, a gritty attachment to Johnstown (where I was born).  They died before I met them.

So that left siti, a gracious woman who never learned to read nor write English, but managed to speak enough  to get by while she read her Arabic newspapers and burned tiny pyramids of incense.  We lived a block away and on Saturday nights  I would escort   her to a nearby restaurant  for her favorite treats: a hotdog and a Coke for a quarter. She would smile with each bite and say, "Good".

I also shopped for her groceries, careful that the canned goods had pictures of peas or beans on the wrappers so she would know what the can contained.

So here's the best part of the story, John.  She  had five sons and a daughter. Dad and his brother George  opened a small garage where they sold a few cars each month but spent most of their time as grease monkeys .  Together  they built our  house 25 feet from the garage, separated only by a small side yard and a slick path where they dumped drained crankcase oil. (An outhouse across the street from our house absorbed the awful smell of the oil.)

As life  and wallets improved, the brothers became pool sharks and opened a dingy smoky pool room in a dungeon-like setting under a food market  and took on all drifters bearing  cuesticks. It was not the type of ordered existence that would impress most  of your donors, John. But it did work out  reasonably well for Dad and Uncle George.

Two other sons, one with  assistance from  Uncle Sam, went on to become quite successful surgeons. Aunt Della and Uncle Dan each ran small restaurants and did quite well. Aunt Della's husband George (there were at least six Georges in the family)  began in Altoona with a hotdog grille facing his sidewalk window where passersby  couldn't  resist stopping in for a 10-minute  lunch and maybe an hour's worth of fussing.

That was a long, long time ago, John,  and what I've told you is as best as I can remember it. Attention to the details of family history was not something any member  of this tribe cared about.

But these folks were all success stories, Mr. Speaker.  And I unapologetically remind you again that whether the grandparents became citizens, which I doubt, they produced the American dream without being familiar with that overused term.

Successful in America, John!  Wouldn't it have been a bloody injustice  if my grandparents had been deported?   So I ask:  How cold-blooded can you be in the interest of your own political schemes?

Abe Zaidan, grandson

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Benghazi: Bipartisan House committee said what?

Not a good day  for all of those  conservative Facebookers who stuck "Benghazi" on their names to scandalize the Obama Administration, particularly Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, on the hollow charges that she was at fault (cover-up conspiracy!)  in the bloody 2012 attack on the U. S. diplomatic mission.   Republicans had already filled several silos with fodder to diminish Hilary on the trail to 2016.

But I see in the Plain Dealer  (Benghazi theories debunked) an  Associated Press report  that, well, here is the opening paragraph to tell you where this is going:

A two-year investigation to the Republican controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly{in its response} and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Game, set, match?  Not quite.  Superhawk Sen. Lindsey Graham  still has doubts and is pushing the idea that the Senate ought to investigate, too.  And Fox News  suggests it isn't satisfied that all of the facts were turned up in the long bi-partisan House study.

For these fringies, they will have to delay  their  schemes to blame Obama for  the six-foot snowfall in Buffalo.

P.S. Why wasn't the  Benghazi story in the BJ, too,  for the benefit of those folks who read nothing else?   Hurrrummmppph!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Roll in the U-Haul for these GOP crocks

You needed a U-Haul to deliver all of the crocks that  Republicans have exported to the public to slander President Obama for one reason or another, especially after his immigration rollout.  Both Lords of the Fleas - McConnell and Boehner - were at the top of the batting order in swinging wildly at Obama's decision to rescue millions of illegal  immigrants from non-personhood.   As if they hadn't already  done enough to cripple the government that pays their salaries anyway.

The anti-Obama Republicans in Congress have already filed costly suits savaging Obamacare.  Rep. Steve King of Iowa wants to impeach Obama. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama proposes to jail the president for five years, vaguely referring to authority in a federal statute that he can't cite.  Joe Arpaio , the nototorius Arizona sheriff , sued the president before Friday sunrise.

Etc.etc.  Folks, these guys are so much smaller than their shadows. It's awful  to realize that the dumbed-down version of the Laurel and Hardy hijinks, McConnell and Boehner, will plague us for two more years.
Although I seldom find much reason to agree with John McCain, I do think of his snarky assessment of Republicans that was reported in Game Change, the virtual diary of the 2006 presidential  campaign by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

In one of his darker moments on the trail, McCain blurted:

"Why would I want to be the leader of a party of such assholes?"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fussy McCain trusts next congress to do something

 John MCain, the dyspeptic senator from Arizona, had another bad day on Wednesday in his response to President Obama's immigration plan.  Why, he fussed , couldn't Obama have waited until the new session of congress next year to see what it planned to do?


What Congress would do?  History tells us that group would have as much positive force as simulated sex.

McCain has  never gotten over the fact that he was vanquished by Obama in 2008.  And I have never gotten over the fact that he placed this country at awful risk when he chose  Sarah Palin, a woman he hardly knew,  as his running mate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kasich may be heading for his own megachurch

The frequent photos of Gov. Kasich with outstretched arms suggest that he might consider one of those megachurch arenas for his base before he wanders into the wilderness of a presidential campaign.  Voters would be expected to respond not only to the  preachy profile but also to  his recurring references to how he and the Lord  get along so well.  As he told us on election night, God had put his hand on him. 

In the old days, ii was called mysticism, a one-on-one conversation with God.    Today it woudn't be a stretrch to say that more politicians than ever are finding it quite convenient to bring their God into the reverential sphere with voters.

Several presidential candidates  in the last election tried to convince us that they were running with the best wishes of the Lord as well as the Tea Party.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry of Texas even went so far as to claim that God told him to run.  So did Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain. Earlier,  George W. Bush was certain that God had wanted him to be the commander-in-chief.

And so there he was, of all things,  on the aircraft carrier decked out as a military pilot, declaring MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Today's practitioners of the religious art are so much less imaginative than the days of dog rentals as props for the candidates.  Edwin O'Connor  gave us a lively account in The Last Hurrah of the role of a rented Irish setter as a homey prop by Kevin McCluskey against Mayor Frank Skeffington to complement the billboard and   painting  of the Pope for the eyes of the Catholic electorate.

There.  Religious outreach as well as that big irish setter. Oh, and the infancy of TV ads that captured the warm relationship between the candidate and the hired  Irish setter.   He won!

Have yet to see Kasich with a rented dog.  But it's early.

(Re-posted from Plunderbund )

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ohio's two Republican apostates on same-sex marriage

If you've heard of situation ethics, allow me to add a slight twist:  Situation morality.  That occurs when a member of one's family is the decisive element in shaping the moral code of, say, a prominent politician against the restrictive social universe of conservatism. As in same-sex marriage.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, for example, a Republican, has nothing good to say about the state's ban on same-sex nuptials. Oh?  Well, he has a lesbian daughter   who, with her partner,  have two children.  In an interview with the Associated Press, Pfeifer clearly explained the dilemma imposed on his daughter and all others by his party, asserting:

"Gay and lesbian couples who sit down,  plan to take on the awesome responsibility of having or adopting children,  go see a lawyer and draft up all of the documents you can think of,  they still don't  establish parenthood and they can't because of the constitutional prohibition."

He's the second Ohio Republican, where most social guidelines are  defined for political convenience.  You have to take a deep breath in the false hope that the party still is tolerant enough to forgive an apostate or two.

Sen. Rob Portman, who describes his ideology as "constructive conservatism," has broken faith with his party on same-sex-marriage, explaining that he has a gay son. Good for Dad!

Interesting don't you think,  when so-called moral choices come down to the personal level of familial concerns?   Situation morality?        

Friday, November 14, 2014

The electorate didn't rise to morning in America

When America's electorate finally awakens from its slumber, it may be surprised  to discover what it left to the historically low turnout to decide for all of us.

No later than the fading hours of Election Day did the wingnuts in control of the Senate and House  gather as though it was Walpurgis Night to whoop it up.  With both chambers and the committee chairmen in their hands, there will be no limits to their misguided arrogance of power.  What seemed painful before the polls opened is now confirmed to be an irreparable paralysis all the way to 2016.

The Affordable Care Act, environmental concerns, immigration - you name the issues for which the Koch brothers spent nearly $40 million to protect their interests in both houses.   Can you imagine guys like Mitch McConnell or John Boehner, the two soulless old Republican warhorses,  changing their gait  in 2015?

The first signs of their servility to Big Money  arrived  virtually within the hour of President Obama's  announcement of a climate change agreement with China.

Boehner quickly denounced it as "job crushing"    - his standby cliche without ever rolling out his own jobs plan during Obama's tenure. He charged that it was another  example of the "president's crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle class families."

As for McConnell, he growled that it was  Obama's latest move in his "war on coal".

And how about Sen. Jim Inhofe. who will turn 80 on Monday, being seated as the new chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.  He's on record as describing climate change as a "hoax" and said it's a deception of  " environmental-liberal conspiracy."  That's a perfect fit for his oil-rich state of Oklahoma.  Like McConnell and other climate change deniers, Inhofe  warned  he won't sit still until his side kills the EPA.  McConnell couldn't agree more.

When the GOP now speaks of creating jobs, the mixture of their wheezing hot air with other pollutants  will be the  growth industry  for those masks  that the Chinese are already  wearing.

Reposted from Plunderbund

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The newer universe of billion-dollar transactions

Did you ever think that the day would arrive when "billion" became a common household word?

...When an Oklahoma oilman would pay a nearly  $1  billion settlement to his ex-wife in a divorce case?

... When five global banks would be fined $4.25  billion for deceptive practices?

...When Warren Buffett would buy  Duracell  batteries from Proctor & Gamble for $4.7 billion?

These lofty Midas-like  events are regularly showing up as just  another day at the office.

But when Harold Hamm, the  CEO of  a big oil company, Continental Resources Inc.,  lays out his golden fleece to settle  a  divorce, even  People magazine decided to put it in context, noting that  Donald Trump only paid Ivana $25 million to send her on her way.  Tiger Woods' divorce cost him $100 million. In today's business world, beer money.

In an email to People magazine, Hamm, who is said to be worth $14 billion (as of this afternoon, commented, seemed quite pleased with how it all turned out.   "This is a fair and equitable  outcome to the case, " he wrote.  "Out of respect for my family we have no further comment on the matter."

So drill, baby,  drill!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

GOP: Remembrances of things that never happened

The latest Smithsonian magazine tells us of the ongoing research into the implanting in your brain  memories of things that never happened.  At MIT,  a pair of neuroscientists prompted a fearful reaction by a terrorized mouse to a false memory of electrical shock. The key to this was the manipulation of the brain to cause the poor rodent to wrongly remember the pain of a similar event that never happened.


With all due respect to  MIT and another laboratories working on these experiments,  the past election proved that it's possible to manipulate the voters in the same way. The Republicans made you believe that President Obama was the villain who prevented unemployment from dropping to zero.  Keen practitioners of Plato's noble lie, they made up a lot of traumatic things that  led the voters to blame the president for inspiring President Bush to cause a serious recession.

Candidate Mitt Romney said it very well when he contended that the economy was improving but Obama made it worse. Even if it weren't true, never happened, it sank into the  voter's memory lanes so that a worker  at a plant gate could fume that he would have had a job today  if Obama hadn't single-handedly bailed out the auto industry.

And when Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, an out-of-the-starting-gate critic of the Affordable Care Act predicted that it would soon bloat health care costs by 41 pct.,   it had a worse than chilling  effect on many voters.

There is even existing today  a False Memory Syndrome Foundation in Philadelphia that tries to be helpful in these matters, telling its online readers that "the professional organizations agree: the only ways to distinguish between true and false memories is by external corroboration."

We think a remedy lies well beyond that.  As  John Hay,  Teddy Roosevelt's secretary of state. once glumly advised his boss:  "Dealing with people to whom mendacity is a science is no easy thing."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fourth down and many yards to go


America's claim to democratic ideals will only proudly enjoy maturity when the old confederacy, to which Ohio drifts ever closer, accepts ordinary blacks with the zeal that it recruits African American  college athletes to win football games on Saturday afternoons.

Figures don't lie for GOP goals: Fewer voters, fewer cases of voter fraud

Ohio Republicans are effusively claiming success in several ways following last week's election.  Among the achievements, they say, is the low turnout by voters.  A source in  Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted's office, which strongly supported restrictions  on voting rights; said:  "I'm not a mathematician, but with fewer voters casting ballots,   the better the chance to reduce the opportunities for  voter fraud, which is something we've been  trying to accomplish all along."

(Reposted from Plunderbund)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crime writer Dan Moldea back home for a lecture

Although I seldom use Grumpy Abe to post  events around town, I am obligated to mention an important date  to recognize an appearance in Akron by an old friend who once volunteered to paint our house.  Free!

That can only  be Dan Moldea -  Akron native, fearless investigative crime author, rebel  and  in younger days,  Viet Nam war protestor, and all around pain  not only to the mob but also to the genteel class in polite society.  I can relate.

He will be speaking in the Author! Author!  series at Our Lady of the Elms High School on Nov. 25 about his latest work, Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer: Adventures in the Jungles of Crime, Politics and Journalism.  

There will be a reception at 6 p.m. before his lecture and book signing afterward.  Tickets are $20 per person and $10 per student  and he will contribute his fees to the school.   Call Peggy Smith, 330-752-2509.  

We have since moved to another place since Dan's offer of a paintbrush, but might use this occasion to mention that a section of our basement wall is flaking.

Friday, November 7, 2014

More on the case of that NEOMG disappearing video

The Plain Dealer finally took an official but less than persuasive  step toward  explaining why  it pulled a video of the gubernatorial candidates' group meeting with the editorial board of the Plain Dealer and the Northeast Ohio Media Group.(NEOMG)

In a long and painful la nostra culpa today, Ted Diadiun, NEOMG's reader representative,   courageously led the reader along a  bumpy path to the cut-and run    decision that lay squarely in the hands of Chris Quinn, NEOMG's vice president of content.  But soon after the video's brief appearance on, Quinn turned to damage control as  the shameful inexplicable  maneuver went virile on social media as well as that of Columbia Journalism Review.

That produced some panic, as though  someone had been caught with his hand in the news jar.  Panic?  Quinn even harshly threatened to sue Plunderbund   from  posting some clips  from the original video.  (A Cleveland TV station even flashed the quips, which is where I saw our casually attired govcrnor  turning his head away from Ed FitzGerald and Green candidate Anita Rios with a satanic laugh.

We later learned that he never bothered to answer the board's questions nor fully acknowledge the other two candidates.  That, my friends, was the full, nasty Kasich that we have come to know as a guy entirely without  social skills.  Even a football coach whose team has been thrashed by the other guys will push onto the field to meet the victorious coach.

According to Diadiun,  Quinn, now the veep of discontent,  had realized that he hadn't  informed  the candidates that the session would be released for public consumption.

"When the governor's staff saw the video on, they were chagrined, and contacted NEOMG,"  Diadiun wrote.  Quinn's explanation:  He had "gotten busy as the candidates and board members arrived in staggered groups, and he never followed through."

Diadiun said Quinn's reasons for pulling the video were a matter of fairness and defensible.  But he did write that Quinn's delay in explaining it were "indefensible."

The reaction to the messy wake was guaranteed.   Diadiun  noted that the mystery  led people - including me - to believe ''something more sinister was  afoot than the obvious,   people began advancing crazy ideas, such as that  Kasich had ordered the video to be deleted, or that it was taken down because it made the endorsed candidate look bad."

Quinn said  nobody had asked him to remove the video.  Oh?

I am among those who believe  that Kasich played a role  in the disappearing act. As one who organized and moderated Akron Press Club debates for several years, I can tell you that the  panelists always wanted to know all of the rules, which were either sent to them or explained at the site.   That's how you do these things.  There were never to be any surprises.

I simply can't - and won't - believe that Kasich, who spent  much of his  campaign dodging reporters and refusing debates, didn't know all of the rules well ahead of arriving at the PD and demanded that the PD cool it, or words to that effect.   The rest of the details have the appearance of Reddi Wip.  .

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dispatch rapid-response team fuels presidential speculation


Well, it was just a matter of hours before the Columbus Dispatch set all of us on the right track for the 2016 presidential election with whoopie speculation about  two of its favorite Republican Buckeye politicians, Gov.John  Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman.

In a long front- page piece, the story began by describing Kasich's "smashing" win and Portman's "key role in helping the GOP take control of the Senate".

Smashing?  But only if you merely consider the raw numbers  after the governor ran up the score against  Ed FitzGerald's  posthumous  campaign to a cheering section filled with huge donors, media accolades and those practiced in convenient references to the Lord.  You may recall that Kasich went to Nevada and cast God's blessing on casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, in a blatant appeal for Big Money.  On Election night, caught up in the reverance of the moment, Kasich told us that God had placed a hand on him. That doesn't leave much hope for Portman.

To speculation about his future,  Kasich stayed in form by coyly dismissing  the question. He said  he's not "thinking about the future''.  As for Portman, his chief of staff told the Dispatch that the senator is "going to meet with his family about this issue over the coming weeks" and then with "trusted advisors",  a process that could take  months. That has always impressed me as Portman's normal speed.

Meantime, let the speculation roll.

Political experts quoted in the story  agreed that both would make "viable" candidates - but as President Obama once said, "You can only have one president at a time" in deference to the fact that George Bush still had a few weeks left  in his tenure following the 2008 election.

 A cautionary footnote:  The Dispatch poured out its heart to elect Mitt Romney and its home county of Franklin  went for Obama.

* * * * *

More Grumpy style Meet the Press: The  Beacon Journal, as is its wont to be kind to   spoiled victors, described Kasich as '" governing from the center". Oh?  With hefty right-wing pals like Adelson and the Koch Brothers looking over his shoulder?

* * * * *
While we're at it, might as well note that Armond Budish, a Democrat, defeated  his Republican opponent, Jack Schron,  for Cuyahoga County Executive rather handily despite the paper's endorsement of Schron.  The paper accused Budish of being " too partisan".     And for years I thought that partisanship  was high up on the to-do list of a politician!

* * * * *
Finally, we turned to Huey Long's immortal words for the benediction on Tuesday's nightmare:  "One of these days  the people of Louisiana are going to get good government and they aren't going to like it.":


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Democrats woefully surrender any hope of sharing morning in America

When I got up this morning I had to tell myself that the polls were right.  It wasn't morning in America.  And for that dismal condition, both parties must share the blame.

As I sifted through the debris of the Democrats' train wreck, I jotted down the big winners of midnight in America, namely:

The Koch Brothers, Fox News,  climate deniers, George Will, Big Oil, Big Pharma, health insurance companies, Wall Streeters, closet racists, pro-lifers,   David Brennan's charter schools, gun enthusiasts, GOP stonewallers in Congress,  one percenters with wallets as fat as Rep. Steve King's cantaloupes, corporate lobbyists, anti-gays, religious fanatics, older white guys  in  baseball caps.

I may have missed a few, but these were enough with a compliant press to convince the electorate that America could resolve all of its problems if Barack Obama  would just go back to where they believe he came from. Never in my many years in the political trenches have I witnessed a greater operating fantasy by either party.  

Among the losers were those fearful Democratic candidates who distanced themselves from the president to please  their audiences, many of them losing anyway.   They might have stood up and proudly cited the positive things  that Obama has done:  Turned the Bush recession around into a recovering  economy, lowering unemployment, providing  against all odds millions of people with health insurance coverage, showing humanity  where people were in desperate need, supporting a hike in the minimum wage (and  strongly supported in states where it was on the ballot) trying to be the good guy against the terrorists  in the GOP caucus.

The passive Democrats in these instances acted disgracefully,  as did Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky who refused to say whether she voted for Obama.  She was destroyed by Mitch McConnell.  The object lesson: Running and hiding doesn't pay off, so you might as well show some courage.

In earlier days when I was the guest speaker  to various groups around the area that paid me with a coffee mug and maybe a light lunch,  I had a line that I used repeatedly: "Republicans have no conscience and Democrats  have no guts."

That was especially true in this election when we were continually told that the voters were angry.  The economy was on their minds; others sadly let out their subtext of the color of Obama's skin, a major catalyst in how they perceived some of his faults that didn't exist.

 Republicans are rejoicing in Ohio, too, with a clean sweep.  But an electorate that can return Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel to office can't be taken too seriously. Meantime, every Democratic office, headquarters and hangout should post a sign from Pogo:

"We have met the enemy and he is us." 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Anybody know what really happened to PD video?

If further proof of the media's loss of credibility  with disjointed editorial endorsements during this  election season was needed, the Plain Dealer's shameful stunt in removing a video from its online page will serve nicely. Since the video of Gov. Kasich's abysmal  true-to-life performance with two challengers seated before the NEOMG/Plain Dealer editors was inexplicably pulled,  the story has traveled widely.  Columbia Journalism Review associate editor  Greg Marx filled the blank darkly by describing it as "weird".

Still worse has a been the stonewalling of the decision as inquiries, including mine , were flagged to others on editors' row, where it's possible that the janitors were told to close  all of the blinds.   Calls and  emails  from a number of news outlets were  ignored, or  shoved up the ladder to Chris Quinn, vice president of content.  Nick Castele of WCPN reported that Quinn "politely declined" to explain the story behind the story.

My hunch is that the decision was made to protect Kasich, who made such a mess of himself  with his casual campaign slouch, ignoring Ed FitzGerald and Anita Ruiz and shunting  editors' questions. It was Quinn, after all, who threatened a lawsuit against Plunderbund, which posted some clips before the video vanished.  (Next day, the PD endorsed Kasich.)

But here again was Kasich's M.O. throughout the campaign, and with considerable help from FitzGerald's missteps,  friendly newspapers and millions in campaign money, we will have to live with him for a while longer.

 When he arrived in office four years ago he dismissed the press - said he never read newspapers and seemed to be the perfect model for former iconic  film critic, Pauline Kael,   who once twitted  the  New Yorker's debonair critics for being "so superior to the subject that they never dealt with it".

Hardly debonair,  Kasich,  rough edges and all, still seems to fit that description quite well.

What's that? She's too busy to answer a question?

The closing days of the election madness concluded with a stark reminder that  those who play for your votes may be too busy to answer a few important questons.  The Republican state ticket, from Gov. Kasich down,  waved off any effort to  bring them into the consciousness of the voter  (excluding the Betty Crocker type TV ads fashioned to sweeten your palate).

A survey by NewsOutlet/Beacon Journal, a collaborative operation,  on whether charter school assets belong to the  private owners or to the public that paid for them, enjoyed only partial success. .

Rep. Marilyn Slaby, a Summit County Republican challenged by Democrat Tim Crawford, was among the majority of Republicans who didn't respond.  She  said she was too busy to answer the question. She said what?

The reluctance of some politicians to step up on a question about charter schools can be traced to the fact that they are well maintained in the White Hat  Management charter kingdom of its founder, David Brennan.  As we all know, he's a major GOP political financier who leaves no legislative vote that would affect his  enterprises unguarded.

And it works!   The state has channeled more than $900 million into charter schools, nearly $775 million to the Brennan domain.  The Plain Dealer reported  that Brennan has "poured more than $4 million into  the coffers of Republican candidates in Ohio during the last decade."

You won't need a calculator to see that $775 million for a $4 million investment is a damn good return.

 Not that these schools have served as  a White Hat  cure for  the ills of the public school system.  There are loads of dropouts from the charters -  more than the number of students who showed up on a average day. Indeed, there is nothing in any of the studies that would confirm charter success.

And, of course, the state's generous charter funding has to come from somewhere.  Yep.  Stretched-out  public education,  which could stand a few more dollars in its budgets.

But for now, the prophetic  words of Simon Cameron, Abe Lincoln's Secretary of War, are very much current today:

"An honest politician is one who , when he is bought, will stay bought.".

Monday, November 3, 2014

When an Ohio Supreme Court justice turns partisan

For all of the alarm over government spying,  the fear is  obviously  less than  skull deep for those politicians who have yet to pick up on the modern digital age. In short, there is always somebody  listening... somebody recording... somebody filming - and they're not the nosy government. The whole scheme to hold you foolishly accountable largely derives from a small device with James Bond potential  that many people grip in one hand in shopping malls, football games, political meetings and anywhere else where the "real" you could be exposed.

Let's call it the Romney Matter-over-Mind Moment  when - you still remember, don't you? - he was secretly recorded and filmed by a bartender as he spoke at a fund-raiser in Boca Raton.  Yep, his awkward 47 pct.  theory about the electorate! A forever vigilant  media cried "yippee!" and soon shot it across the nation's tv screens, providing  his opponents  with more riches-to-rags contrasts from the GOP warehouse.

Fast forward to the current nightmarish campaign season and an example  of how loose lips might sink judgeships. It was produced in  an appearance by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French in her introduction to Gov. Kasich before a friendly Republican group.

Here  are the comforting partisan words that  the Republican justice, supposedly a non-partisan candidate  to return to the bench, had to say, as widely reported:

"Whatever the governor does, whatever your state representative, your state senator does, whatever they do we're the ones that will decide whether it's constitutional.  We decide whether it's lawful. We decide what it means, and we decide how to implement it in a given case.

"So forget  all those other votes if you don't keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative."

Heavens! Does it sound like a call to  support  a justice who arrived on the bench  after she was nominated by Gov. Kasich to fill a vacancy and now faces formidable oppposition from Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell, a Democrat?

Oh. she said her  remarks were misinterpreted  and not what she had in mind. But the political universe is filled with reports that the speaker didn't mean to say it the way it sounded. But you know how those things go.

On those occasions when Romney's words came out wrong, he said he hadn't spoken elegantly.  I would think a Supreme Court Justice would also know better.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

McConnell steps up to ban sexual intercourse

In an 11th hour move to seal his hold on Kentucky celibates, a beleaguered Sen.  Mitch McConnell reportedly will announce on Monday that his first step if he is re-elected will be to declare a one-year moratorium on sexual intercourse in his state, except for horses and cows.  "I'm not a gynecologist," McConnell says, "but there is no better way to reduce the scandalous number of abortions than to attack the problem at its source by eliminating sex altogether for at least a trial period."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bluff and Gruff Kasich headed for second term - for awhile

Re-posted from Plunderbund

Gov. Kasich's boorish behavior during  his so-called appearance before an editorial board collection from the Plain Dealer and NEO Media Group emphasized once again  that his ego has placed strict  limits on even mildly deferring to the media and his political opponents.  He likes his own rigid vision of governance in an open society.

Sort of name, rank and serial number. He even felt it was unworthy of his unique status to return a questionnaire  from the League of Women Voters of Greater  Cleveland as he slouches toward Election Day.

From video clips, I caught a few glimpses of his shadowy performance with the editorial board on  Cleveland TV with  Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate,  and Green Party candidate Anita Rios. With his huge lead in the polls, he should have led the discussion while extending gentlemanly courtesies to FitzGerald and Rios.   But not even a fist bump.

That has always been the governor's raffish disposition.  As the self-anointed Blue Collar Kid, he remains in his old schoolyard stance daring the other kids to annoy him.

Although his rise in politics has been well documented, it still is interesting to see how his various career tasks have shaped  the odds and ends of his political bravado, from earlier elected offices to his works as a Fox News host and as managing director of Lehman Brothers in Columbus,  the Wall Street outfit that collapsed in 2008.

He began to lay the foundation of his career with a 3-year hitch  as the administrative assistant to   then state Sen.  Donald E. Buz Lukens in 1975.  Lukens, a poster child for hard-right conservatism, died in 2010  in disgrace with a rap sheet that sent him to jail for propositioning a young elevator operator n Washington; he  also was  later convicted of bribery involving two Ohio businessmen.  The New York Times' obit  described him as a "scandal-tainted lawmaker".

A modern Machiavellian,  the guy never knew when or where to stop. A dashingly handsome operative  from Middletown, Oh., he left a trail of questions, many unanswered,  about his public and private moves that spanned his campaign expenditures and other wrong turns.

But his biggest political gambit  came against Gov. Rhodes,  who was going to run for the U.S. Senate,   a job that Lukens also coveted.  Life magazine entered the Ohio landscape with a piece that accused Rhodes of misusing campaign money.

When I wrote a long story in the Beacon Journal shifting some of the curse to Lukens' hand in the piece, he blew up, held a press conference in D.C. and referred to me as a liar and a "kid" (Didn't I wish!).  But my repertorial equilibrium was  restored by a Lukens aide who later confided to me that Buz  was furious that the story was so accurate  that it clearly was leaked to me by somebody  on his staff.

So now I won't insist that with Kasich hanging out earlier - from 1975 to 1978 -  with then State Sen. Lukens as his administrative assistant,  he learned all of his  current bad habits. But at the least, some seeds  could have been planted in an easily ipressed  young man with his own soaring career goals being etched in stone.

Although the governor's current spate of comericials have rebranded him as a born-again Mr. Nice Guy,  there has been little evidence of that beyond his carefully honed TV claims.

Ohio, we have a problem.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hey, Guv. Where are Ohio's wackadoodles?

Broken news for Gov. Kasich:  Did you notice that the team from the state that you have scorned as the home of "wackadoodles"  won the World Series for the third time in five years?  Yep, the San Francisco Giants claimed the high honor while you were probably busy trying to convince the voters that you should be re-elected by acclimation.   I'm only sorry that Ohio's wackadoodles  aren't ever able to thrust the Indians into the playoffs.    Wouldn't that be  a more convincing affirmation of your "Ohio Miracle"?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

update: corrected version Pepper for Turner

Can we talk?
As some of you surely know, much of my professional career plunged me into the printed word - newspapers, magazines, books, some crabby letters to editors and now the digital offspring, blogs.  I say this only because some of you may be wondering why I' ve been picking on newspapers so much during this dreadful election year for which they must accept some of the responsibility for its odor.

I do want to say that the decline of newspapers, which is now  past the point of no return, gives me no joy. Still too much printer's ink in me.    Nor would I deny that newspapers have their rights to  endorsing  whatever candidate they find in their comfort zones.  But this year they seem intent on dwelling in conflicts of interest with themselves, thus costing them more  ounces of credibility. That hurts.

The most blatant recent example derives from a story in the Columbus Dispatch,  in which Republican endorsements  have been grandfathered  since Gutenberg. (Good grief!  Josh Mandel won the paper's approval?  )

Still the Dispatch published a piece reporting that during Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine's four years in office, Ohio has filed 53 amicus curae (friend of the court) briefs, at taxpayers expense,  with the  U.S. Supreme Court on out-of-state  cases.  Unsurprisingly, many of them satisfy his need to demonstrate his support of social conservative issues -  his long-held opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control, ObamaCare.etc.

You might say, as others have pointed out, that he has converted his office into a chapel.
The defining paragraph in the Dispatch story confirms that.

He was asked about  his defense of Hobby Lobby 's denial to employes of health insurance coverage that  includes  birth control.

Did he base his decision on these matters  simply on his opinion or what's best for the state?

"It's both, really," DeWine replied. "Do my principles, do my beliefs in what is right, impact it?  Well, sure."

OK, he's made it clear on women's issues.  Not only in the Dispatch but whenever he has been asked about the access to hospitals  by abortion clinics.

But about the time that the Dispatch was parsing his positions, the BJ's editorial page, a pro-choice advocate, bore a column  by Michael Douglas, the editorial page editor, pointedly  complaining  about the anti-abortion obstructionists.

Douglas wrote: "Gov. John Kasich  and the Republican legislature have embarked on a mission to all but eliiminate abortion rights in the state" -   without mentioning DeWine as one of the perps.

 He  concludes by disapprovingly asserting:

"The fight over abortion in the courts and elsewhere won't end soon.  Yet, for now, one thing stands:  Abortion is a right, and those exercising that right deserves to be treated accordingly."

But shouldn't the treatment be applied accordingly to DeWine, too?  The paper has maintained a cozy attitude with the AG and even endorsed him despite his closed-fist activism against abortion.  In so doing,  it rejected DeWine's opponent,
David Pepper,  a pro-choice Democrat and aggressive campaigner.

Don't spend too much time trying to follow the bouncing ball, folks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Plunderbund threatened with suit by Plain Dealer

Plunderbund  reports that the Plain Dealer/Northeast Ohio Media Group has threatened to sue the blog for publishing a short clip of a 40-minute video that the  paper had shown online - and then removed.

The flap involved the PD 's editorial board's  group interview of Gov. Kasich, Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald  and Green Party candidate Anita Rios.

Plunderbund reported a letter from Chris Quinn, vice president of content of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, demanding the removal of the clip from the blog, accusing it of " illegal use" that "entitles us to statutory damages,  which can be quite steep".  In other words, criminal copyright infringement.

I saw a few stray (?) clips that found their way to  Cleveland TV telling me that Kasich was not taking the interview with aplomb.  With FitzGerald trying to say something, the governor turned his head  away and laughed.

(His dodge-em campaign  mode recalls the TV commercial in which a car makes crazy   turns while a squib warns the viewer that it is  a " professional driver on a closed course. Do not attempt".)

Plunderbund said the governor "slumped in his chair, refused to acknowledge the other candidates and ignored repeated attempts by the PD staff to answer even basic questions about his policies and programs."

That insufferable imperious attitude  convinced me that  he should satisfy his ego  and run for president, as he did once before.  Unshielded by the friendly Ohio media, he would find a much different reaction (and distraction) from a national media that would soon become impatient with his bullying style  and short temper.

So guv, as you have said, this is halftime in the governor's office so go for the big one in
Washington.  That would be painful to watch.  But we're getting used to painful politics in Ohio.

GOP's new class of "i'm-nots..."

Re-posted from Plunderbund

Republican strategists  reportedly are ecstatic over their new fail-safe response to critics of the party's climate-change deniers.  Their candidates have now resorted to "I'm not a scientist" to shrug off  questions about their dismissal of environmental issues.

  We can now look for the same pattern of self-denials on other issues as their gang backs away from such  delicate matters as ebola.  Chris Christie, who is coming to Ohio to campaign for his buddy John Kasich as the comic relief,   is already dodging a flap over quarantining ebola victims.   "I''m not a doctor," he booms.  Atty Gen Mike DeWine  might choose "I'm not a gynecologist" to reject his pro-life defense.

Any day now, we expect Secretary of State Jon Husted to defend his voting restrictions that effectively  reduce  the number of minority voters with  "I'm not a mathematician."
Neither is the governor,  despite his Wall  Street references to "metrics" to define his positions.    But you can bet that he is already counting the days until he can leap into the national presidential wars.

Do you think the  seeds were planted when Richard Nixon faced the TV cameras and pleaded, , "I am not a crook"?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

To the BJ: What's that you say about DeVitis?

When the Beacon Journal endorsed Republican Anthony DeVitis over Paula  Prentice, his Democratic opponent for the 36th Ohio House District, it conceded that it agreed more often with Prentice on policies.  But it turned to DeVitis anyway because it believed he was a moderate who could have an influence on  the conservative (or Hoofbeat Republicans  - my word) in the House.

The paper ignored his loyal support of his side of the aisle on key issues in its erroneous vision of him as a potential game changer.  Folks,  it's only a two-hour trip down I-77 from downtown Akron to the spooky legislative chambers in Columbus, but still long enough for an Akron-area Republican to change political style and tone from a local editorial board interview upon his arrival among his political caretakers.

As a reporter who once  hung out with the pols  before and long after legislative business, I saw it happen more than once.

That brings me to Friday's follow-up editorial from the BJ tower that sounded more like regret from a teachable moment than considered re-approval, of the endorsee. Clearly, the paper's voice rose to a shout in condemning the ugly TV commercials   -  bought and paid for  lies, really - under the headline: DeVitis and pals, again.

A couple of points raised by the editorial: A commercial acidly accuses Prentice, a Summit County councilwoman, of not filing campaign contributions.  But the paper noted:  "Technically she did not fail to report contributions because she didn't receive any - none."

Or how about this whopper from a mailer by the Ohio Republican Party, which the paper said "grossly" inflated DeVitis' "record of pulling Ohio's economy out of a hole, quite a feat for a guy in his first full term".

Oh, did I mention  that the Devitis, temporarily the moderate, says he doesn't condone negative campaigning, but silently accepts the benefits? "Tarnished his image", the BJ concludes.

Not quite a conclusion, I'd say.   When a paper can post a political rap sheet like this one, the next logical  step would be to withdraw its endorsement. Other disillusioned  papers have been known over the years to do so.

Scroll down in the  redemptive teachable moment. You should find it somewhere.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When these pols prove to be dumb and dumber

The following squawk probably won't go down well with some of my Republican acquaintances but, by golly,  I know my First Amendment rights! So you can quote me as saying that ...

Many Republican politicians are either  intellectually corrupt - or dumb. Or maybe even both.  

Two late entries for your consideration arrive from GOPers with homes on the range.

Of particularly density is Rep. Jason Chaffetz, of Utah.  He  raised hell because President Obama didn't, as he put it, choose the surgeon general to serve as ebola czar instead of Ron Klain, who had gained respect in managing the stimulas.  Pure hackery, Republicans declared.  But David Gergen, a Republican analyst, described him as "strong and very tough".

In his meltdown, Chaffetz overlooked an undeniable fact.  There is no surgeon general.   Republicans have blocked Obama's nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, since February because the NRA objected to Murthy's support of  expanding background checks.   Hey, Jason.  Pay attention.

The other late entry is Republican Sen. John Barrasso, of Wyoming, who assailed Obama for discussing  ebola with the World Health Organization and not doing enough on our own  to protect Americans from the virus. Are you aware that Ebola is solely an American calamity that spares the rest of the planet?

Yep.  Intellectually corrupt and ignorant. Or both.

The Hawkeye State alreeady beckoning the wannabes

Rick Santorum has been running for president for at least  50 or 60 years and is back to the lodestone of such candidates:  Iowa.  This time he's out there campaigning arm-in-arm with Rep. Steve King, the sociopathic Hawkeye congressman-of-faith  who will  forever   be remembered for identifying immigrant kids  because their calves bulge like cantaloupes from smuggling drugs across our border. He's assailed  Planned Parenthood for promoting "ghoulish, ghastly and gruesome" practices! His latest: He said that if he gets to Heaven he doesn't expect to meet gays.

Once  again, Santorum isn't reluctant to cast stones against his own perceived villains despite his holiest avowal  to be true to his purified faith by joining guys like Steve King.  It's the divisive religion of whatever works  suits him just fine.

And once again, as Republican politicians, from Gov. Kasich to  the other  anti-unionists  who campaign in work clothes  to prove  their everyman's ties, there's Santorum  bumping around Iowa's 99 counties in his " Chuck Truck" - a Ram 1500 pickup. We must assume that it is the rough-rider's image of choice to secure his role as a circuit rider in a common dirt farmer machine.

Iowa is the Valhalla for a lot of pols who see the 2016 presidential election as occurring tomorrow.  Along with Santorum, Texas Rep.Louie Gohmert, always a challenge to linguists, will be joining the parade before the GOP altar.  Oh, and Donald Trump, too.  And Chris Christie, all of them approving of Steve King as the man who  represents the core values best suited for their party.

Kasich made it to Iowa as a presidential candidate in 2000. And although some media people are trying to hoist him into the 2016 campaign, he left a muddy footprint on a comment to the Youngstown Vindicator  editorial board that would not sit well  in that state.

"Honestly, I just don't see it," he said to the board of any plan to go for it again. "I tried  it once.  You come with me.  You can go with me out to Iowa.  You wouldn't believe it.  You'd never go there again...I don't expect anything.  I don't even think about it."

(As an aside:  Kasich  is so sensitive to events he can't control, he refused the paper's request to vidoetape the interview - which the Vindy said was the first time a candidate had rejected such a request.)  

As for Santorum and King:   I'll just turn them him over to the Roman poet Petrarch, the father of humanism, who wrote for the ages:

"The climax of all evils is when a man rooted in some false opinion, grows fatally persuaded that his cause is right."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The inexpert ebola experts take over

Were you surprised to learn that  there were so many ebola experts living in our midst?
 Hardly a moment passed that one or more of them weren't hustled to a TV camera to tell us that everybody was badly out of step in responding to the plague; everybody, that is, except the one doing the scolding.   Even George Will, the forever ponderous pundit, scolded the medical professionals who assured us that the virus was not transmitted by air.  With his usual sober profundity of a cleric performing last rites,  Will asserted they were all wrong, that you can indeed breathe ebola killers. So there!

 There were long discussions by the same newly minted experts of whether a travel ban would relieve the perils.  That's how I was again reminded that I'm not an expert - on travel bans, breathing or a lot of other things that go bump morning and night  these days.   But we  live at a time when expertise is cheap,  when TV beams it into your living room because that's what  it does to stay current, amid the heavy traffic of auto commercials.  A  New York Times article described the free-for-all as, "wild misinformation, political opportunism and  garden variety panic".

I would also add that it represented flock strife among the peacocks.  For all of the give- and-take, some of it not amounting to much more than loose talk,  nobody really knew for sure what the hell was going on - and you don't  have to be an expert to suggest that they still don't.


  .   .  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mandel playing pattycake with Tea Party founder

How do you define political desperation?  .  Well, with Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, it's warding off evil spirits with a  homophobic Tea Party guy who believes same-sex marriage will produce wedding cakes  adorned with  phallic symbols and genitalia.

From Joseph at Plunderbund comes  notice that Mandel will be joined at rallies across the state with Tea Party Nation Founder Judson Phillips on Thursday. .
It was Phillips, Joseph writes, who warned all of us  that 'small business owners would be  required to create a cake for a homosexual wedding that has a giant phallic symbol on it'  or to 'create pastries for a homosexual wedding in the shape of genitallia [sic].'"

Good grief!  Penis cakes?  Are there no limits  on  how Republican candidates like Mandel are trying to screw the public?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What's with all of the missing nicknames?

In a fit of nostalgia I googled my childhood hometown weekly, the Mt. Pleasant (Pa.) Journal,  for reassurance that it has survived the world's catastrophic problems, not to mention the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It's now in its 141st year  as the paper of record for the townsfolk who were dutifully reported in its chatty columns to have "traveled over hard-surfaced roads" to visit friends,  or of  families whose kids were off to college.  The paper had a calming spirit about it upon its arrival at our house, reporting all that was not libelous, prurient  or seriously divisive in the town that  bordered the Standard Shaft coal mines within walking distance of our back door.

But the mines are down now and other changes have taken over, including the replacement of the  high school football team's nickname of Bobcats with Vikings.  The team, we learned, must be a powerhouse, having most recently destroyed Charleroi 71-14.  But more interesting to  this visiting reader were the names of some of the players.   Shockingly to me,  their first names were Trevor, Josh,  Brian and Aaron.

A long time ago, those  would have sounded quite bizarre.  The boys were best known, for starters,   as Peck,  Cheesie, Bib, Hicker, Toomek, Kushbug,  Fuszju, Scroogie,  Peeny, Scratchy, Isher,  Ziggy and, brutally, Shakey.  Some of my contemporaries mockingly  referred to me as Boozite in homage to a  disheveled geeezer  who sat on his stoop and glared at us  as we passed his way edto school.

That said, I've always wondered why none of the girls had nicknames. They remained Mary, and Evelyn, and Peggy and Thelma from sunup to bedtime.  A couple of the girls who were kicked out of summer camp for misbehaving after hours  soon earned names that you couldn't repeat in front of your mother.

As for Boozite, I never complained.  Most of the other kids were bigger than I, and the nickname was sort of a rite of safe passage to their club.


Friday, October 17, 2014

From Kasich's Wackadoodles to National League pennant

We're confident that you've  heard by now that the San Francisco Giants  won the National League pennant with one of those walkoff things -  a 9th inning  home run on Friday after a walkoff error a game before.

If you don't understand the joys and heartbreaks of walkoffs, it's not the purpose of this blog to explain them.  Rather, I'm also confident that many of you learned in grade school that San Francisco  is in California.  That's the West Coast state that our Gov. Kasich, in one of his trademark moments of hubris, knocked  as the  "wackadoodle Californians".

If so, shouldn't the Cleveland Indians spend more time wackadoodling instead of hopelessly trying to upgrade their  players into better fielders, Guv?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The PD's home run for Nina Turner over Husted

Re-Posted from Plunderbund

Even in these shrinking days before the November election there are still a few surprises left in the media world.  I refer to the Plain Dealer's full-page endorsement of
Democrat Nina Turner over her Republican opponent, Secretary of
State Jon Husted.   The paper's statement was more than an act of altruism for a hometown candidate, although her residency in Cuyahoga County couldn't hurt.

No, Turner is an aggressive, extremely savvy  state senator - the kind of spirited person you would  want to have on your side in any confrontation with the enemy.  In a state buttoned down by a Republican dynasty, she represents a healthy start toward the political equilibrium that the state so desperately needs.

The issue that the PD recognized but eludes the Beacon Journal's editorial page  is what I've called the Husted Hustle for his tactics of talking one game plan while executing another.   For too long he's been a leader in stirring the GOP witch's brew with a Boy Scout's honor to make voting easier and eliminate (non-existent) cheating.  Amazing how many of Husted's media cheerleaders have bought into that notion at the expense of their own credibility.

But the PD knows something about the demographics of  Cuyahoga County, whose population is nearly one-third African American. It is obviously aware that Husted's mythical protection of every voter's rights  is at the expense of the minorities. Two federal courts have ruled his scheme unconstitutional despite the Ivory Towers who were inexplicably offended by their decisions.

As the PD asserted:

"Husted, 47, strongly defends his decision on early, in-person voting as stemming from a 'bipartisan' consensus  of the state's election professionals.  But the state's chief election officer must protect all Ohioans'  voting rights and not narrow those rights unequally.  Under Husted, those rights have frayed,   including through his directives to restrict hours and days for early in-person voting an to deny local boards the right to set their own hours."

By now Cleveland has had plenty  of experience with the wreckage of past elections, from the purchase by elections officials of voting machines that didn't work, to tabulating  errors to the general torture  of citizens trying to vote.   This time it wants  to begin  with a clean slate in Columbus and not an illusionist.  Hometowner Turner's spirited attention to the system's inglorious flaws as proposed by Husted was convincing.

Come to think of it, maybe the PD's choice  wasn't surprising after all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Must read: Dyer's sizzling series on Angley

Shall we all raise a glass to Beacon Journal reporter Bob Dyer for his  sizzling X-rated series exposing Ernest Angley, the cultist tactile preacher with a fascination for hands-on   (HEAL! for God's sake)  salvation, leeches and the size

Angley,  slicked coal-black wig  and all,  has been  the mega-star attraction for 20 years at Grace Cathedral, the huge saucer shaped man-made  hillock  in Cuyahoga Falls with an unfinished  tower that was to serve as the modern version of Jacob's ladder topped with a restaurant.

What is it  about televangelists who claim to render unto God what is God's and to  themselves what is royally theirs?  Several teleministries, as enriched as they were, have seen their leaders dismissed in sex-related scandals.  Jimmy Swaggert comes to mind.  And there was Jim Bakker, whose significant other ended up in full unclothed view of Playboy scanners.  There have been others of more recent vintage.

Bakker is a narrative worthy of a how-to manual.    He recently returned to public scrutiny for his venture in "End of the World Biscuits" - and please don't think I'm kidding.   He is asking TV viewers to prepare  themselves for  the Apocalypse  by laying in survival kits that include  heavy clothing for sunless days.

Maybe he and Angley  can crack a deal that would sell the critical end-of-days foodstuffs at the top of that tower. With this preacher, as Bob Dyer has forcefully reminded us,   anything is possible.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Ohio newspapers launch their creative endorsements

re-posted from Plunderbund

It's been a dreary election season, folks.  No  debates that invited the public to see the contestants going at it eye-to-eye. No gubernatorial contest.   Gov. Kasich shoveling soil in his confident high definition mode as though he were needlessly digging up more campaign cash.   The  media  in Cleveland, Akron and Columbus tacking, as always,  to Republican candidates.  Inventive endorsements that  pardon their choices for glaring flaws.  Not a good election season all around.

A prime exhibit  was the odd word salad in which  the Beacon Journal endorsed  Republican Ohio House member Anthony DeVitis over his Democratic opponent, Paula Prentice, a  veteran Summit County Council member.

The paper opined that although the "editorial page agrees more often on policy matters"  with Prentice,  it  believed that DeVitis was a moderate (which he isn't) who might be able to influence the nutty Republican hoof-beaters in the legislature on key issues.  Fat chance.  The R's are mired so deeply under water that one could not reach them in a bathysphere. You'd think that people who write editorials would know that by now.

Then there is the bewitching  stuff  that both the Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer conjured up to make nice for Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine, a deeply entrenched social conservative on all counts.  Not that they agree with him on such matters as  women's issues, same-sex marriage, abortion, charter schools and such.  Nor spending taxpayer money charging off to other states to join those who share his gospel.

I've written several times that when you think of Mike DeWine, you think of his version of warm and fuzzy goodness. But it does work in editorial offices and on the stump even when he's scandalizing the idea of the Affordable Care Act with promises to get rid of it.

The disconnect between the attorney general's active policies and the papers' own year-round gospel  does make the friendly editorialists  uncomfortable and forces them to concede that Mike is a million-dollar pay-to-play artist.  A recent example is the word that he replaced a veteran debt collection agency with one that literally  walked into his office with the seal of approval of Summit County GOP boss Alex Arshinkoff, a former DeWine payroller,  and walked out with a lucrative contract.

And what did the  BJ say  about Mike's widely reported cookie jar  schemes?

 "No question, DeWine has stumbled at times," the editorial noted.  "He talked about a system for bringing transparency and accountability to awarding contracts, only to find himself struggling to explain a local episode that carried the odor of pay to  play."

Odor?  That alone would have qualified DeWine's Democratic   opponent, David Pepper,whom the paper credited with running a "pointed, vigorous and worthy [!]  campaign.

 The PD pattered over the same problem

These papers have a lot of transparency after  they sit down to make endorsements.   You have to have  quite a problem  as a Republican to lose their support.  Sadly, creative writing is one of their few remaining claims to relevance.