Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bank of America: Balancing a $4 billion error in the checkbook

If you're like those of us who have trouble balancing  our checkbooks,  the news from Bank of America may help ease the pain of long hours of trying to figure out where you went wrong.  The bank announccd this week that it has $4 billion less than it had recorded.    What's more embarrassing, the bank's accounting error had gone on undetected "for several years," the New York Times reported.

"The error also raises questions about the quality of Bank of America's own accounting employes who are supposed to present an accurate financial picture of the bank's sprawling operations to the public and regulators each quarter," the Times said.

Now, about the matter of whether you remembered to subtract the $10 overdraft fee on your last bank statement...

Monday, April 28, 2014

At sea among the marvels of the digital age

Well, we survived it.  The technological scourge that  was to  produce the amenities of an informed rational life.

The DVD-VCRs, I mean.

The flat screen TVs and their multiple remotes, I mean.

The IPads, I mean.

 And, of course, the laptop computers, I mean.

Where to start?

About the DVD-VCRs:  For months - maybe years -  ours seldom functioned.  Embarrassed,   I couldn't even explain the problem  to  the techies at the electronics stores.   Have you ever seen their faces as they begin with annoyed tolerance, "Did you...?"  "No,  I didn't", I interrupt before they get another word out.  "Look, they don't work."  

Finally, a happy ending. Found a a sympathetic caregiver who sent one of his insiders to our  house at a  reasonable price (it pays to comparison shop) to correct the problem.    Although it takes three remotes (Who knew?)  to  activate discs or tapes on the thing in the family room, it's working  - so long as I  refer to my notes.

About the IPads.  Nancy's worked with anemic sounds as though she were listening to the Met opera from the next state.  It was a problem after experts installed a new operating system in her ancient laptop (wiping out her email addresses and music she bought from ITunes) - a failing age, the techies reminded  us,  while discreetly wondering about anybody who would keep a computer around the house for more than a decade.  We learned that computers age in dog years.

 But a happier ending.  Our son Rick set up a wireless Bose speaker that amplified the sound.    Good.  I didn't even know such equipment existed.

Oh, about the Tivoli radio in the kitchen. Talk about powerful sound.    Stand back from the piece when changing stations. Otherwise  you will suffer sympathetic vibration   from the roar of static as you turn the dial.

Did I mention the hollow thump from beneath Nancy's teen-age car?   We took it to the auto shop this morning.  Several other cars on  hoists.  Sort of a nice feeling to know that we're not alone.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Kasich bash: Life among the GOP dollar signs

 Re-posted from Plunderbund:

 Leaving nothing to chance, the Ohio Republican Party staged the operatic version of Gov. Kasich's  personally created Valhalla this week that reportedly will raise  upward of $800,000  for his reelection campaign. Indeed, the Columbus Dispatch described the mosh pit in Columbus as the 'biggest fundraiser in  Franklin County history."

In a piece that typically gasped in awe over the guv's skill in  attracting largesse from the corporate world, we were told of guys elbowing around the high-rolling dinner guests with hard hats (translation:  Ohio is on a mighty path with "Kasich Works") and a "mock construction zone on the speaking platform''. (Translation:  See how John runs among his fellow bulldozers.")

We can only wonder why somebody didn't think of having the production sent to the voters by the Metropolitan Opera's live transmission to a theater near you.

It should be obvious by now that the story of the Kasich  campaign begins with a fortissimo show of cash-on-hand to intimidate his Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald.
As a politician whose treasured word is "metric', which he doubtless acquired in his days as an exec of bankrupt Lehman Brothers, we can expect the money thing to come up often as the only valid  test of competency in determining your vote.

My former colleague, Dave Hess, who covered Rep. Kasich as a  Capitol Hill correspondent for Knight-Ridder newspapers, recently described him to me.
"He's opportunistic," Hess said. "And misguided - and an advocate of plutocrats".

In Kasich's trumpeting of his own great deeds about the Ohio economy, there has been no mention of how the federal economic comeback has greatly girded his  boasts.   The Plain Dealer reported the other day, albeit  back on page 18 next to a Macy's bra ad, that Ohio is getting $18.17 million from the U.S Treasury  to expand creditworthy small businesses.  "Yet," the story noted, "Ohio's announcement  made no mention of the federal  government's role - namely, that  it is  providing the money".

There was a time, when Kasich was opposing Federal  steps to enliven the economy, including the critical auto baleout.  (He later did one of his  jujitsu acts on national TV  by saying he didn't think it helped that much anyway.)

But there we go.   Talking about money again. That's what the state GOP bash was all about.  Not policy.  Not ideology.  Not an outreach to minorities  and "the others" down the ladder.  But cash.

It reminded one of something Oscar Wilde once said:

"No man is rich enough to buy back his past."


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kochs leave one zoo to claw at another

In case you think you've heard everything there is to know about Team GOP - - you haven't.

The billionaire Koch brothers, the biggest gorillas in the room these days, have extended  their claws  into a hometown  issue that is pathetically  marginal to their grandiose right-wing schemes to control the whole political universe.

Plunderbund has a piece reporting how the Koch enterprise, Americans for Prosperity, has barged into a 1.25 mill replacement levy for the Columbus Zoo. Although the brothers have plenty of experience as congressional zookeepers,  they are opposing the levy on the May 6 ballot  as just one more nasty way the government is taking your money. To this end, Plunderbund reports that Americans for Prosperity is sending out anti-levy mailers to voters across Franklin County.

It might help if the zoo had its own gorillas. But not much.

* * * * *

There's more about the  hyperactive folly on the right:

Rand Paul, the pre-season presidential favaorite among Republlcans, may be  reconsidering  his  fervant support of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who is armed and defiant of the government's effort to rid federal lands of his cattle.  The New York Times reported Bundy's racist comments at a news conference, which defines him.  Charging that blacks willingly seek federal assistance  by turning to dependency, he declared:

"They abort their young children,  they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.  And I've often wondered, are they better  off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are  they better off under government subsidy.  They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

Seems to me, Bundy has already decided that they should be "doing things".  Rand Paul now says he found those remarks offensive.

* * * * *

Staying on the angry right:  Republicans in the Missouri House want to impeach Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon for, among other things, supporting joint tax returns from same-sex couples legally married in other states...GOP state Rep.John Becker, from Union Twp., near  Cincinnati, wants  to impeach U.S. District Judge Timothy Black for ruling that Ohio must recognize out-of-state gay marriages...In Latta, S. C.,  Mayor  Earl Butland stirred up a storm by firing the town's popular first female  police chief, Crystal Moore, because she' openly gay.  He said he would prefer to have somebody who drinks too much instead of a gay person being around  children.

* * * * *

Finally, the old birther is back.  Donald Trump, I mean.  He has now found another way to denigrate President Obama.  Trump doesn't like the way Obama exits Air  Force 1, "hopping and bobbing all the way."  He says it's so "inelegant and unpresidential".

Which also describes Trump's presence in politics.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Robertson: Planet will shatter, maybe by Thursday

The Rev. Pat Robertson has issued another apocalyptic warning:  The world will end, possibly as early as Thursday.  His knowledge of Biblical prophecy tells him so. A massive meteor, bigger than Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the Great Pumpkin combined, will slam into the planet , the preacher says, wiping out everything.  That won't give us much time to get all of the screens up, but it wouldn't help  anyway.

It would be the worst global catastrophe in 66 million years. Experts  dubbed the last one the "Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction" - a brain-twister that you don't have to remember because of that Thursday thing.  The CPE did, however, wipe out three-fourths of planet life, including the marauding dinosaurs.  Well, not all of them, if you look around the halls of Boehner's Congress today.

Fair warning.  I'm heading out for a double banana split, which I've
been guiltily putting off for months.  If not now, when?

UA still hunting for new president - or maybe not

And so, dear reader, we begin a new week with the University of Akron Board of Trustees still unsure of the identity of the school's next president.

Presumably the gestation period began back in August, 2013, when President Luis Proenza announced that he would move on.    You can find more than one person on the campus who believes the required institutional "search" for Proenza's successor ended in 2011 when the school hired dethroned OSU football coach Jim Tressel and put him on
a fast-track career projectile that would seat him in the president's office when it was finally vacated.

The Board's  game plan appears to be drawn from the playbook of another OSU icon, Woody Hayes, known widely for a  grinding  offense relying on "Three yards and a cloud of dust". The trustees must have read about it somewhere.

The search, such as it has been,  has been  a pro forma exercise that finally drew a dozen and half or so applicants with Tressel prominently among them after a  series of coy responses on whether he was actively seeking the job.  Not only that job.   It has since been revealed that he has applied for the presidency at Youngstown State University. Has  the situation now opened to auction bidding for his services between the two schools?

There's been little coming from the Board, although I'm told that three Republican members, and maybe more,  are solidly behind hiring Tressel for the  top job.  That group is led by Jonathan Pavloff, Board vice chairman and chairman of the Summit County Republican executive committee.

Meantime, the next  president may have to demand hazard pay. He (or she?) will quickly be challenged by a projected $15 million budget  shortfall, a four percent decline in enrollment and a two percent increase in tuition. Tressel would find the challenges much greater than defeating Michigan.

College, anybody?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ohio GOP moves Obamacare down yellow brick road

Re-posted  from Plunderbund

 One of the cautionary notes as the Kasich/Taylor campaign  burst crazily into spring  is that it's folly for the  governor's opponents to  make things up  to discredit him.   The Kasich team has already demonstrated beyond doubt that  one of its perfected specialities is selling him to the voters with little regard for reality even if you allow  for the routine
 embellishments of political  engagement.

Just arrived, for example, is a paean from Ohio Republican Headquarters with a toast to the daring wisdom of Lt.  Gov. Mary Taylor, who also heads the state  insurance department, in her most recent assault on Obamacare. So far, that wouldn't surprise us.  Taylor apparently will be the governor's reality star on the Affordable Care Act that he would just as soon not talk about himself. .

We read no farther than the first couple of sentences  that Mary will be quite the contrarion in the campaign to do the governor's bidding.  Here are the opening lines of the GOP release just to show you we wouldn't dare make this up:
"Subscriber, yesterday Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor traveled to Washington to stand up for Citizens against Obamacare. While the President continues his weak [!] attempt to convince Americans that Obamacare isn't a disaster, our Lieutenant Governor is doing everything she can to fight back against this destructive law..."
Disaster?  Destructive?  There about eight million reasons why we might doubt that.

 The release is is signed by Matt Borges, the Ohio GOP chairaman, but I'm not sure why anyone would put his name on this fairy tale.  I recall that Kasich said he doesn't  read newspapers. But shouldn't the janitor or somebody else on his staff inform him that the ACA has just passed eight million enrollees, was earlier passed by Congress and ruled constitutional by the U.S.Supreme Court?

If this is how the governor plans to get reelected then it's OK for some us to report that 50 million more Americans will be enrolled by Memorial Day.

That's quite s stretch, you say?  Oh?

P.S. We added Taylor's photo for the millions of Ohioans who have never seen nor heard of her.  


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Student newspapers: In sports, timing is everything

Most folks in the industry as well as the readers would agree that America's newspapers are in serious trouble. But when a college newspaper scoops the mainstream paper in its town, the New York Times could not ignore it.  Maybe not  a newsworthy shaggy dog story, but at least one that's of a tail wagging the dog.

It happened in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the university's  student newspaper, the Michigan Daily,  revealed the  unseemly absence of news coverage  involving the Wolverines'  senior place kicker .  It came to light after he was "permanently separated" from the college for violating the student sexual conduct policy back when he was a freshman in 2009. He remained on the team until the current football season ended,with the sexual assault charge long hidden from public view.  It's difficult to win some games without a place kicker.

"It's unclear why sanctions were not decided  in this matter until recently," the Michigan Daily reported. Indeed.

The the New York Times  accepted the cue in its own piece this week, reporting:

"It was a shocking revelation for a university town that has a population of 116,000  and a football stadium of nearly the same capacity.  But almost as surprising was the origin  of the report: The story was not broken by the local professional news organization, the Ann Arbor News.  Instead it was uncovered by The Michigan Daily, the university's independently run student newspaper."

The News is owned by Advance Publications, which also owns the Plain Dealer  and other papers. In 2009,  it installed its plan to cut back daily print editions to two days a week in favor of a web-first model.  The student paper is now the only five-days-a week print paper in Ann Arbor.

The student paper's aggressive reporting reflects the growth of campus dailies as well as news sources via other media.  The Times noted that the University of Kansas has started a wire service and covers the legislature. Arizona State now has a Washington Bureau - the state's  largest in the nation's  capital.  It is  staffed by students who receive college credit. (The University of Akron suspended its student paper for lack of able young bodies to run it.)

Meantime, don't you wonder about priorities  when a football player remains at a school four years after he is accused of sexual assault until after his last season has ended and he's no longer useful as an athlete?   Fortunately, they didn't stop all of the presses in Ann Arbor.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Employers told to fire all women to end dispute over unequal pay

Reposted from Plunderbund:

With the rise of pay inequalilty for women looming as a strong political issue, a new Republican organization called Americans for Pay Disparity is reaching out to companies to counter the challenge with a simple response:  Fire all of the female employees on their payroll.  According to a recent advisory to companies, unequal pay for women would not be  a negative issue if all of the workers were men.

Hooray! Times are changing in Cuyahoga Falls

We knew it would happen, despite the earlier resistance by former Mayor Don Robart and his Republican naysayers on the Cuyahoga Falls  Park Board.  The board has now approved a family rate for same-sex couples at the Natatorium that it turned down a year ago.

Robart, who was ejected as  mayor in last November's election, had argued, rather lamely, that a change giving married gay  couples the lower family rate would be too costly for the city.  Besides, he insisted the city was bound by state law that didn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Considering that the Natatorium has upward of 12,000 annual members , how many newly recognized married couples do you think it would take to break the bank?  Secondly, a Federal judge in Cincinnati reportedly is prepared to order the state to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.    Time marches on!

Can we now say that the Falls has taken one more step to join the march? Now,can we ever persuade Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine, who has been zealously injecting his office against  gay marriage around the country, to join the march?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Yorker mag shows us Obama medicating McConnell.

The New Yorker has often used its cover for satirical  illustrations, but none more clever than the latest depicting President Obama spooning a dose of healh care to  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In lower right (not a pun, but could be)  is half of Speaker John Boehner's face.   ENJOY!  I did .

The Beacon Journal's staff will shrink even more.

The latest word from the front is that the Beacon Journal  may lose some of its veteran reporters who have applied for buyouts. I'm told the group includes Jewell
Cardwell, Dave Scott, Jim Carney and Bill Lilley. Others may decide  to leave an already depleted staff. Popular food writer Lisa Abraham has resigned to  accept the same job at the Columbus Dispatch and won't be replaced.   The paper has said  it will accept five buyouts that includes a year's paid salary. If more than five apply for the buyout, I'm told, the paper's top editors will decide which ones to accept.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do we really want government as a business?

Heard somebody say the other day that government would be a lot better off if it were run like a business.  That mythiness  has been going around for years, through the collapse of one business after another. So again, government as a business?   You mean like Lehman Brothers, the defunct Wall Street firm and Gov.  Kasich's old employer.  Or how about General Motors,which is taking a lot of heat for its long simmering ignition problems?  Or the countless businesses that die off each year from mismanagement,right?  .

Sunday, April 6, 2014

With the Koch brothers, like father like sons?

Reposted from Plunderbund

  Did somebody hurt  Charles Koch's feelings? You know, the CEO of Koch Industries, a  vast enterprise big enough to be its own country with a hand-picked servile Republicans managing the system.  

It certainly seemed that the politically active billionaire felt bruised by villainous opponents as he spoke out hurtfully in the op-ed piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal. Let him explain:
"Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents.    They engage in character assassination ( I should know, as the almost daily target  of their attacks).   This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously  advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously  practiced.  Such  tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society - and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers."
Hold it right there, Charlie.

I have a few probems with his mythiness on how government has cramped  the swarming dollar-style of economic freedom and liberty, particularly as it arrives courtesy of a fellow who has done quite well amassing a fortune under the present oppressive government.

 First, what would the right-wingers  do without mentioning Saul Alinsky, the South Side Chicago organizer, in grossly unflattering terms that  stray so far from the true Alinsky profile that they  are of no further use than to stir up disdain among folks who have no idea who Alinsky was.

We can only refer you to Nicholas von Hoffman's  book, Radical,  that described Saul as a patriot and in many ways a "conventional  middle class man who did not come to destroy tthe social order but to perfect it."  Also in Alinsky's favor was that he was a  "committed" White Sox fan. Von Hoffman, a former Washington Post columnist, knew the man as well as anybody, having once worked with him as an organizer.

In rewriting history, Koch didn't mention that Alinsky was a fastidious dresser who  drew financial support from the deeply rooted anti-Communist Catholic Church.

We now turn to that  mischievous  word, collectivist,  a code word  by the more genteel slanderers for communist.

Some of Koch's screed  comes directly from the Birch Society's Blue Book, the serpentine field guide that Robert Welch put out in the late 1950s and early 60s in his self-assigned mission to rid the country of subversives.   Charles and his brother David, after all, are  the sons of the late Fred Koch,  a founding member of the Birchers who also founded Koch Industries, from whom the sons' cascading  blessings flow today.

 Welch was a Boston candy-maker who quietly but determinedly aspired to the American presidency as a premier red-baiter.

His trajectory called for merciless guilt by assocation of suspected commies, recklessly using McCarthy tactics, infiltration of public organizations, school boards, church groups  and all facets of the media.  He conceded that his way was  "dirty" but necessary..

"We would organize fronts - little fronts, big fronts, temporary fronts, all  kinds of fronts"  and other devious means which Welch described as his "practical" game plan that  even led to Birchers calling President Eisenhower  a  "comsymp."

I once interviewed Welch on the back porch of a  Columbus physician, an apostle motivated by rallying  fear of socialized medicine. I can only tell you that while repeating some of the awful stuff in his book, he left me dazed.

I would think that the Kochs of today, thriving and willfully  spreading so much money around to influence politicians ($30 million against the Affordable Care Act) were great students of Dad and know a helluva lot more about character assassination that brother
Charles is now weeping about on the pages of the Wall Street Journal without any "good answers".

Friday, April 4, 2014

But he did know where to find Capitol Hill

 Remember the old question  that asked whether you knew where your kids were at such-and-such a time?  Now Indiana voters can be reasonably asked where their senator was at such-and-such a time inasmuch he didn't know himself.

That can only be a reference to Sen. Dan Coats, the right-wing Republican from Indiana who drew a lot of attention from congressional watchers by sitting down  to question a witness at an Appropriations subcommittee hearing.   It must have been a little awkward for everybody as he began his inquiry until his aide sent him a note  alerting Coats  that he had chosen the wrong hearing.  "I've got the  right room number," he then abruptly explained, "'but  the wrong hearing".

That one, folks, surpassed a snafu  during the last presidential campaign in which Sarah Palin's robocall began, "Hello, Texas.  I'm Sarah  Palin."

Problem:  The calls were all sent to Kansas.

And John McCain wanted her to be our vice president!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

UA's crisis: Was it ignored for years?

The published reports from the University of Akron campus continue to tell of a school still in recession.  Proposed cutbacks in 55 academic programs.   Declining enrolment.  Heavy debt. An unimpressive list of applicants for the presidency to succeed  Luis Proenza. Sinking faculty morale.

 There's a growing sense that the winner will be iconic former football coach Jim Tressel, whose career track has been pointing to the job since he arrived on campus from an  awful put-down at Ohio State University.  Tressel, now a  university vice president, is probably the only one on the list who  can tell you where you can find the student center.

These sad conditions don't happen overnight.  I've been told  by former UA executives  that the administration was warned years ago that dark days lay ahead for the budget.   Such warnings were shooed away.

Today, where's the accountability?  Dr.  Proenza?  The apparently passive Board of Trustees?  By now, does it really matter?  Sadly, the University, an important fixture in the economic and academic life of the city, is in crisis (despite its new football stadium,  a team that continues to pile up losing seasons, a couple of celebrity coaches on campus).

Accountability?  Where, indeed?

* * * * *

 Boy, was I wrong!  I had a strong hunch that Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff would haul  in Gov. Kasich as his speaker for the  annual Lincoln Day Dinner, though  nearly two months later than Abe's birthday. (Not mine!!!)   I did get the month right.  On May 3, the party will host U.S.Rep. Pat Tiberi, of Columbus, who was  on Kasich's staff when the governor  was in Congress.  "His good friend and mentor", Alex wants you to know.  "A real treat". That's what we all need.  More treats from Republicans.

There's one thing  you ought to know, too. I don't know much about the congressman from the safe GOP haven of Columbus,  but I do know that  Tiberi opposed the stimulus bill until it passed.  He then applied for money  provided by the bill. He also wants a full repeal of Obamacare.  Maybe the dinner audience will be asked whether  they would support that position in one of the locals'   annual straw polls.  The outcome won't be surprising.  In 2012, the poll revealed that a top-heavy majority of the  dinner guests supported Rick Santorum, the prize speaker for evening,  for president.

* * * * *

Well, Columbus didn't make the cut for the Republican presidential convention.    Cleveland and Cincinnati remain in the mix. So does Las Vegas.  Sorry to sound cynical.  But do you think Kasich's billionaire buddy, casino titan Sheldon Adelson, will be in the cheering section for his  gambling Mecca out west?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A terrible Honeymoon in Vegas for Kasich

Reposted from Plunderbund

Well, the reviews are in for Gov.Kasich's headliner role in a reprisal of the movie Honeymoon in Vegas. Not good!

Headliner?   Kneeliner  is a better fit for his groveling performance to impress  Sheldon Adelson, the Midas-like figure whose riches are based on casinos. Adelson spends hundreds of millions promoting politicians who would be expected to protect his gambling empire.  Of late he's in a huge campaign to block on-line gambling that he fears would nibble at his casinos.

Allow me to quote New York Times columnist David Firestone, who wrote:
"It's hard to imagine a political spectacle more loathesome than the parade of Republican presidential candidates who spent the last few days bowing and scraping before the mighty bank  account of the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.   One by one, they stood at a microphone in Mr. Adelson's Venetian hotel in Las Vegas and spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition (also a  wholly owned subsidiary of Mr. Adelson), hoping to sound sufficiently Pro-Israel and pro-interventionist and philo-Semitic to win a portion of Mr. Adelson's billions for their campaigns.
"Gov. John Kasich of Ohio made an unusually bold venture into foreign policy by calling for greater  sanctions on Iran and Russia, and by announcing that the United States should not pressure Israel into the peace process (Wild applause)  "Hey, listen, Sheldon, thanks for inviting me," he said.  "God bless you for what you do."

Two points:  There is no evidence that Kasich has ever been a foreign policy expert.  Nor that God is at all interested in blessing billionaire casino owners.

Kaisch's  shameless pandering even exceeded  that of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who humbly told his audience that he puts a menorah candle next to his Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, in what was clearly an eager  foray to build goodwill and a new bank account for his  presidential run after his own presumed reelecton in November, Kasich brought no honor to his office by relinquishing his soul, nor to the people of Ohio. Funny how we have long suspected that he was that kind of guy.

Maybe it wasn't Honeymoon in Vegas after all, but another Vegas movie:  Indecent Proposal.