Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Religious freedom? Ohio nearly went over the cliff

Reposted from Plunderbund

As hell was breaking loose over Indiana's "religious freedom"  law,  Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine was busily doing what has come naturally to him in his mission to keep Ohioans, eh... morally straight:  He filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that  same-sex marriage had "no fundamental right" in the Buckeye State.

As we all know by now, DeWine is passionate about warding off trending  human relationships.  It is further evidence that the AG as well as other conservative politicians in Columbus serve at the pleasure of the religious right, beginning with the guy at the top:  Gov. John Kasich.

If it hadn't been for Arizona, the Ohio legislature was on the verge of passing a bill similar to Indiana's a year ago.  But it was withdrawn despite its many co-sponsors  because of the potential havoc that led then-Arizona governor Jan Brewer to veto her state's law.

With the reminder of the proposed Ohio law's potential for havoc,  State Rep.Bill Patmon, a conservative Cleveland Democrat, and Rep.Tim Derickson, Oxford, Oh., Republican, withdrew their sponsored bill.

The co-sponsors included former Akron Rep. Zach Milkovich,who was defeated in the 2014 Democratic primary, and Cleveland Rep. John Barnes.   The political careers of this pair have been marked by unrelenting attacks on other Democratic leaders.

Milkovich has been a thorn in the side of Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic.  Barnes has been warring against Democratic leaders, once filing a defamation suit against the Ohio Democratic Party.  An African-American, he even refused to join the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.   In a suit filed by Barnes' Republican lawyer, Donald Brey, who was a repeat complainant  against the Ohio Elections Commission, Barnes accused the party of racism.

You have to wonder how he didn't recognize the official exclusion of  same-sex couples, gays  and   others caught up in a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. .

We should all send thank you notes to Arizona for saving Ohio from itself.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pence OK with changing law to keep it the same

Reposted from Plunderbund

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has been fumbling around in the swamp ever since he crossed the Rubicon by signing a discriminatory  anti-gay law.  Julius Caesar had the good sense that his rash ill-fated decision would not go well and declared "Alea iacta est" - the die is cast. But with a trapped look, Pence has been in a full damage-control mode to insist he meant no affront to gays  when he set out to protect religious liberty with his approval of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ( Who thinks up these titles?).

Whether warding off direct hits on  ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning by dodging George Stephanopoulos' questions or treating his hometown press to non-answers, the governor didn't hesitate to blame the media and others for the "misunderstanding" over whether a private business owner could refuse to serve a gay customer, no matter that 
it was a glass of wine or a wedding cake. 

If there was anything clear about the tempest that he set off that stained the Hoosier state's image,  it was the erupting reaction from big companies, organizations, celebrity athletes and others who believed he was badly mistaken.  And if you want to grab a politician's attention, just mention that the cash flow in the state has been dampened.

Oh, he did say that if a revised bill would be handed to him, he would sign it, but only if it didn't change the law. No, I didn't leave out any clarifying words in the non-sequitur.  

"This is not about discrimination," he asserted on TV.  "But we're - not going to change this law."

You must remember that religious conservatives say homosexuality is an abomination, which incites them to condemnation and cries for their own religious liberty. Still, we keep waiting for Pence to assure us that some of his best friends are gay...but...

One hometown radio host even went so far as to say  the protests are a "frightening appeal to fascism."

On the other hand, The Indianapolis Star, never  known to be fond of liberals, was among the mourners, declaring: "It was a difficult , painful week in our state.   Our Indiana....The law was unneeded and destructive." 

Still unclear to me is how the highest ranking political leader in the state could be so dense, dumb, numb, or out of touch with modern reality that he wouldn't sense the trouble he would set off with his signature.  But standing in the midst of it today he should finally be honest and lament, "The die is cast. I screwed up."      

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tyson: The truth about scientific truth

In the continuing assault on science by right-wng religionists, we turn to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to set the record straight.  Tyson,  who will be speaking  at E.J.Thomas Hall on May 6, offered these words:

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe in it or not."

Gay drinking fountains, too?

Now that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has signed a bill giving business owners the right to discriminate against gay and LGBT customers on "religious liberty" grounds, he is facing a heavy rebuke from the state's major employers and a lot of others who don't think his action will help the state's welcoming image.

Pence says the bill is not discriminatory, but a means to protect religious freedom.

Next question, Gov:  Where does religious freedom end and the true meaning of religious tolerance begin? 

At least he could be honest about it, a virtue in itself, and admit that he's pandering to the Religious Right in his state.  Will the next step be separate drinking fountains for straights and gays?

Kasich says he's now aware of people's problems

Reposted from Plunderbund

Reporters who have traveled with Gov. Kasich on his national stand-up stage tour have quoted him as warming up  to  "people's problems".  Here's how Kasich, a practicing born-again, explained his new concern for the less fortunate during a stop in West Virginia:

"For some reason the Lord has made me more aware of people's problems.  And I take that awareness seriously."

Kasich often reminds us that he's a blue-collar kid from Western Pennsylvania, so you have to wonder why it has taken all of these years to recognize the needs of others.  As a sort-of black-collar witness of the coal dust - the mines were within short walking distance from my home - I couldn't miss the miners, their faces and hands blackened from a long day burrowing into Standard Shaft, as they slumped past my porch on their way home .  Talk about problems!

I didn't need the Lord to tell me about them. But I wasn't thinking about running for president.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Plusquellic facing more sharks?

As we await Mayor Don Plusquellic's official word on his decision to seek an 8th term, Democratic Party insiders who know him best say there is a troublesome element delaying that decision.  It is his concern about the growing faction on City Council with its roots firmly planted in opposing his agenda.

Some of that anti-Plusquellic opposition has shown itself in  failed primary election challenges to him.  The most recent one was from Councilman-at-large Michael
Williams, a Democrat whose ambition to run the city from the mayor's office has not waned.  Since then, others have  been seated in City Council who share their personal disdain for the mayor.  Among them:  Councilwoman-at-large Linda Omobien, Ward 6 Councilman Bob Hoch,  Ward 4 Councilman Russel C.Neal Jr, Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples, and possibly another.

The faction, I'm told, still doesn't add up to a majority on the 13-member council, but it could stymie the mayor in his talks with companies interested in doing business in the city by weakening his image as a leader who can deliver what he promises

"The issue is what keeps him up at night," one source told me. Nevertheless, the source, as well as others,  all agree that he will seek office again.

Over the years, Plusquellic has effectively demonstrated his ability to ward off all comers, and would do so again. As with Williams, a dissenting Democrat is likely to turn up in the party primary.  (Republican challengers never make a dent.)

 My hunch  is that he will eventually call in the media and declare his candidacy because he's not one to run from a fight.  And at 65, he's still defiantly young enough to step back into the ring. We hope so.  There remains a need.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mayor Plusquellic: a worthy choice for an 8th term

Has an entire generation passed since Don Plusquellic was first elected as Akron's mayor?  Remarkably, it has.  But who's counting? For the record, it happened in 1987 and has been happening ever since to the chagrin of his political foes as he surely plans to seek an 8th term this year.

Although the teetering maxim is that familiarity breeds contempt, in Plusquellic's case it has made him more secure in a high-risk job that can only  create some enemies along the way.  From potholes to hiring policies, from snow plows to budgets, from whispering campaigns to failed recall efforts, an  urban mayor's lot, like the policeman's in the H.M.S. Pinafore, is not a happy one on many days.

He has been called a bully, sometimes deservedly earned because of his  short temper and reputation as a single-minded visionary.  But what his opponents have never quite accepted is that someone who is looking at an 8th term has repeatedly won convincing support from voters who have found a lot to admire about their mayor.

And why not? The simple answer:  enlightened stability.  Cities can only survive as livable places if they offer  a reasonable amount of continuing day to day guarantees  of what is best  for their citizens.  Not an easy challenge.  But Akron has stood out in a disheveled modern urban environment thanks to Plusquellic's steady hand. Veteran Plain Dealer poliltical columnist Brent Larkin aptly put it  this way:
"Plusquellic is as ferocious and passionate a defender of his hometown as any mayor I've ever encountered.  Even some of his most outspoken detractors - not an especially small group - admit to harboring private fears about  the city's future when he is no longer mayor."
Detractors?  The mayor (read:the city) has had his hands full fending off the assaults on his policies by Federal Judge John Adams, a beneficiary of the mayor's biggest critic through the years, the frustrated and frustrating Republican chairman,  Alex Arshinkoff.  Time and again Adams  has slammed down the mayor's programs, only to be criticized for his decisions by higher courts. (The Beacon Journal accused Adams of an "absence of reason" and "mean spirit". That's a start.)

Adams has fairly well planted himself in the dark corner for  judicial decisions and it's likely to go on, at great expense to the city's taxpayers for the foreseeable future.  As you know, federal judgeships are cushy lifetime political jobs.

Finally,  any doubts that Plusquellic,  at 65, will go for the gold again have little standing on the streets or among  Democratic Party officials. When asked whether  the mayor will be back on the ballot this year, Party Chairman Jeff Fusco doesn't hesitate:  "I'm confident that he will be."

On the other side, Arshinkoff says he will again challenge the mayor , telling the BJ that it  will be some yet-unamed person.

Does the pool include former mayor Roy Ray?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Benghazi: GOPers ignore their own committee


Now that the Republican pols have returned to Benghazi as their equivalent of raising the Titanic with the sniffing of Clinton's emails., you might find  interesting  this Associated Press report earlier this month which didn't make much , if any, of a splash in the hometown papers. It began:
"The two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence  Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials.
"Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team,  no missed opportunity for a military rescue and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria."

So what the hell are these mind-locked conspiracy theorists thinking about when they can't believe their own committees?

And with the McCarthy-like Ted Cruz officially in the  race, it can only get worse.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Found this gem peeking out from human arms at the pet show at
Summit Mall Sunday:


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jordanites accuse Boehner Republicans of cannibalism

Republicans  who will be laying down $50 or more for the Summit County party's annual Lincoln (!) Day dinner Saturday night will be treated to an upfront look at the guy who has dedicated himself to tearing the national party into oblivion.  I refer,  of course, to the local event's prized speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana, a fringe conservative who  has  been leading a poisonous  assault on Speaker John Boehner  & Co. through Jordan's House Freedom Caucus - one of those wacko far right outfits that lean more toward anarchy than to whatever might be left of Republican centrism.

Anyone attempting to digest dinner at Quaker Station won't hear any of the negatives that night because the way Chairman Alex Arshinkoff has put it in the  invitation, his guest is a national recognized conservative and "second to none watchdog of President Obama's failed...(fill in the many blanks) policies."

As has been evidenced many times in the past, The Boss can get absolutely hysterical when he starts damning the people he doesn't like.  But does Jordan represent the new norm for the county   party's more sober days under the late Ray Bliss, who never encouraged a raised voice against any other Republican?

On the other hand, Jordan has close ties with Rep. Steve King of Iowa,  who seldom lets a week go by without saying something stupid, and enjoys doing so from his outpost somewhere out in Iowa.

Jordan and King were among those  maddening congressmen who condemned Boehner for not  agreeing to shut down  the Homeland Security Department in the fracas over Obama's immigration policies.   Their scandalous motives have so enraged the Boehner side of  wealthy influential Republicans that the latter staged a $300,000 advertising campaign  accusing Jordan and a couple of his congressional buddies on national TV , including Fox News, of  placing America's "security at risk."

That peeved King, who described the ads as party "cannibalism," or as King went on to explain:

"It looks like cannibalism by leadership to me.   I mean when you go after your own people, what else would you call it?"

Well, I would say it's a lot like what the anti-Boehner crowd  in the party has been doing to the Speaker.    (Trust me: I do not speak as an ally of Boehner, either.)

So, isn't it fair to ask whether the Summit gang under Arshinkoff has stooped to a shameful new norm in a party that once was known for centrism and quiet reflection by Ray Bliss?

Keep that in mind, Republicans, when Alex lights the fuse after dinner to introduce Jordan with a flood of compliments.  When you stop to think about what the chairman won't tell you -  as I just did -  you'll know what I'm talking about. And it didn't cost me fifty bucks.

P.S. Jordan sent out a release thanking Benjamin Netanyahu for speaking to Congress as a man who wants  to secure Israel from its enemies.  Homeland Security for Americans?    Apparently he'll think about it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Boehner goes to Israel as our wandering gentile

Well, the world has just learned that John Boehner, America's latest gift to Israel, will be  winking eyeball-to eyeball with Benjamin Netanyahu on the Israeli leader's home turf.  It will be a foreign policy quid pro quo to renew their maniacal plan to  undermine the nuclear talks with Iran with the U.S. House Speaker's unspeakably self-assumed  role as president.

Whenever two crazies get together on taxpayer's money, you never know what to expect other than it will be a wretched spectacle.    Will they next meet at Downton Abbey with pheasant feathers all around?  

My guess is that after exchanging fist bumps,  Boehner will try  to impress his host with the collegiality of one who is out to prove that he fits in among foreigners as  once a kid from southwestern Ohio.   He may even begin with a Jewish expression or two. Maybe the ever popular,  "Solomon I-like-him, Mr. Prime Minister."     

Some experts are already saying that although the meeting will darkly cover the nuclear negotiations,  other matters will be on the table.  There doubtless will  be talk  about finding a three-state solution for Israel, Palestine and the U.S. to replace
Bibi's one-state solution.  They may also set a date for Netanyahu to speak at Disney World. Unless, of course the Boehner and Bibi Act manages to start a nuclear war.

Meantime, "Solomon I-like-him, Mr. Speaker".

Friday, March 20, 2015

O'Reilly, with Hearst, Welch , Beck and Schock


The pushback by Fox News on Bill O'Reilly's gilded  memoirs that claimed (finally!) he witnessed the war zone from photographs recalls an earlier day when  war was the big story  in the newspapers.    It was the time of the Cuban revolt in the late 1890s when William Randolph Hearst was in the thick of a circulation battle with Joseph Pulitizer. Hearst, forever the show-biz publisher, sent Frederic Remington, a renowned artist,  to Cuba to decorate the articles in the Hearst  papers. His memorable instruction to Remington:

"You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."

* * * * *

As President Obama's policies are forever bashed by a vengeful Republican congress, you have to wonder whether the  day will ever arrive when a gentle Boston lawyer like Joseph Welch at the Army-McCarthy hearings will  go at the villainous Sen. Cruz et al  with a plaintive plea, coaxing:

"Senator, have you no sense of decency?"

* * * * *
Glenn Beck wants America to know that he's abandoned the Republican Party. Right out the door!  Not  a dime more will he contribute to the GOP.    Believes Republicans are too soft on Obama.  "They are not good,": he pontificates.   But isn't he a bit presumptuous to think that most Americans give a damn about what he is?  So, Glenn, we can only add:  "Don't let the door slam you in the ass."

And while Beck's  out, Donald Trump says he's  in .  As a presidential candidate with an exploratory committee.  Is his business that dull that he needs more excitement  as one of America's elite egotists?  Maybe.  After all , here's what he says about a candidacy:

"I am the only one who can make America truly great again."

* * * * *
Not a good week for rising Republican stars, past and present.  If you saw my earlier piece on rising stars, those bright gaseous objects in the heavens, you'll know that I have an amateur astronomer's interest in rising political stars that never made it.  Here are the latest to add to the list:

Aaron Schock,  the young Illinois Republican congressman who resigned after POLITICO   outed his extravagances in mileage reimbursements as well as furnishing his office in the Rayburn House Office Buiilding (including a bust of Abraham Lincoln and  pheasant feathers )  to create the ambiance  of Downton Abbey. Said POLITICO:

"Schock's resignation marks a swift downfall of  one of the GOP's most promising young stars and prolific fundraisers." Back to earth at age 33.

And then came word of  a return to prison of former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut on corruption charges. The New York Times reported that the 57-year-old ex-governor was first "elected to office at age 23 and was soon hailed as one of the Republican Party's brightest stars."

No soft landing for either of these guys.

(For some reason, Democrats don't produce as many  rising young stars.  The one who comes most readily to mind is a former Illinois senator who, as he will tell you, "won both of them". ) 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Button-down woes for digital dummies

Buttons.  That's what our lives are all about in the digital age.  When we mention  our digital  crisis with buttons to friends, they all can go one better (although one did concede that now that the electronics are finally working in his house he still has water leakage problems.   Don't ask.

We've just gone through weeks off finding the right buttons, or combinations thereof, to make things work.

Television?  Five visits by ATT. And  Nancy has  been back to the Apple store several times to find the right buttons to make her iPad  work.  She's ready to put  up a few bucks to find one of those old TVs that you simply plug into the wall and learn to live with the ghosts on the screen. Add to this a new TV because a DVD wouldn't play on the older one.  Or the TV signal that disappeared every 30 minutes or...don't get me started. Every day a new digital adventure.

The latest:. The TV in the bedroom had been working fine until it lost the sound through the sound bar.  Didn't know there was an  off-on button on the sound box.  Even so, with numerous experiments and a new battery,  I still could not get the remote to control the volume.  (That  problem is discussed in Lesson 14 for Dummies in the manual which I don't have).  It's also my loss that I don't understand  the directions that go like this on some of these digital novelties:

Hold down the ACTION Button for 15 seconds while pressing the ACTIVE button and if that doesn't work trying holding your breath for a minute before you do something you will regret

  Oh,  I was told by a technician that there are buttons on the side of the TV that could solve the problem and if that doesn't work get the serial number of the sound bar and feed it to the TV set while holding the tiny remote between your teeth while taking care not to bite  it.

If you played "Button,button, who's got the button" as a child, you'll know what I'm talking about.  It could at least discourage you from paying $99 for a service call. And give you a lot more misery to share  with your friends at lunch.  And there's still a glimmer of hope as depicted in this timely carton from the New Yorker as the wife screams to her distraught husband:

"They fixed the printer"

Monday, March 16, 2015

They're crawling into infamy

As I got a glimpse of  Mitch McConnell puffily damning and scandalizing  the Democrats on TV yesterday as he insisted he will further delay a vote on Loretta Lynch as attorney general, I keyed on his expression long enough to recall what my nephew  near San Francisco said of the majority leader.

"Mitch  is a turtle," Jack Conway told me matter of factly.    "Yep, a turtle."

Jack is a musician, orchestral arranger, poet, philosopher, existentialist and above all, a free spirit.  He doesn't make  judgments without serious thought.  So when he said Mitch was a turtle, I had to gaze longer at the Republican  leader's face craning out of his  collar. Yes, I can see a resemblance.

It's chilling to know that guys like McConnell and John Boehner are crawling around looking for still one more enterprise to embarrass the president.  McConnell promised that he would do that on the day that Obama entered office.   We are seeing the dreadful evolution of McCarthyism into McConnellism. You may be aware that he says clean-air advocates are "extremists".

But don't turtles have to breathe, too?

We're getting there...

Please welcome the return of the crocus!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Foreign policy by Perfect Snowstorm?

Reposted from Plunderbund

The forever peevish Republicans on Capitol Hill have added a wicked new twist  to our conduct of foreign policy.  It's called the Perfect Snowstorm, which is how Sen. John McCain excused himself and 46  other GOP  senators  for their lack of deliberation  in signing the notorious Iran letter.

"It was kind of a very rapid process,"  McCain said, inartfully.  "Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm, I think we probably should have had more discussion about it, given the blowback that there is."

McCain was even more diplomatic when he was first confronted about his signatory  role. "I sign a lot of letters," he replied in a feathery response.

That part about the blowback was  even understated as the clumsy escape from a snowstorm produced  a broad sweep of condemnation, even from some  normallly  friendly other Republicans.  I could only ask how these seasoned Masters of the Universe could allow themselves to accede to a young Harvard novitiate  now in his earliest weeks  in the Senate.  (The Hill Republicans are a religious order, my friends.) Sen. Tom Cotton, the letter's 37-year-old author, will now have something to boastfully tell his grandchildren someday as he rises to the task of  moving the goal post to Fox News, where we will soon hear that he is presidential material.

Nobody suffered more bruises than Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who somehow found his way out of the shadows of his apparitional career to sign the letter.  From Cleveland to Cincinnati the editorials denounced his thoughtless action.  "Shameful!" the Plain
Dealer  cried.  "Careless!" asserted the Beacon Journal.  "A mistake!" declared the Cincinnati Enquirer, usually a Portman ally. The senator's Democratic challenger this year,  former Gov. Ted Strickland, promptly called it "disgraceful."

The opening that the senator gave to his critics was a mile wide because it shattered  his image of a blandly reflective moderate who could always be counted on to do the businesslike thing without hurting anyone's feelings.   Not so, now that an unthinking partisan has stepped out to reveal himself.

Portman, who was Dubya's budget advisor, hails from southwestern Ohio. It's the  home, too, of another loser; John Boehner.  The speaker,  in similar haste to humiliate President Obama, was the tour guide  for Benjamin  Netanyahu's so-called nonpolitical speech to Congress.  In fact, Bibi literally rolled his host with his own sly tactics.

Non-political speech?  The word from Israel is that Bibi's handlers  injected film clips of his congressional  speech into his political ads.

We'll leave it at that as the house lights dim in the Republicans make-believe ballroom.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


John McCain flees Washington prepared for snowstorm after signing the Iran letter

Friday, March 13, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

With Jordan, county GOP swings farther to extremes

We might have guessed.  The Arshinkoff Party, lightly known as the once-moderate Summit County Republican Party, has poked deeply into the conservatives'  prized  Speakers  Bureau  for its Lincoln (!) Day Dinner on March 28.  I refer to Ohio Rep. kris who represents the  Fourth Congressional District that weirdly stretches across Ohio from Lima to the lake.  (See the district map sheltering a Republican congressman that was sculpted  with the precision of Leonardo's David.)

Jordan is the chairman of the House Freedom Committee, and when you see the word freedom in a title,  no further explanation is needed to define its hollow purpose among right-wingers. Suffice it say that he's considered one of most conservative denizens in the hallowed halls of Congress with a perfect score from the American Conservative Union.

His appearance in Akron - complete with a drumrolled shoutdown of the Obama  "trainwreck" -  with the county party's blessing reminds us again that the locals have moved to the extreme right from the days of Ray Bliss.  Indeed, as recently as 2008, George H.W. Bush was the speaker, a moderate in today's terms whose date in Akron is still the main feature of the county party's home page.

Since then, there has been a steady procession of wingers, including the memorable arrrival of Rick Santorum as Arshinkoff's guest that included an in-house  straw poll that cast Santorum as the presidential favorite.  Really?  What does that tell you?

A generation ago, my boss, Jack Knight, used to press me to write another  analysis of what was wrong with the county GOP.  If he were alive today, he'd still be asking that question.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cotton: a down to earth theory about rising stars

However the nuclear talks with Iran turn out, the media are reporting that the  Republicans  can at least boast of a new "rising star" in their family.

He is Tom Cotton, a 37-year-old freshman senator  from Arkansas, who wrote the notorious letter to Iran shared by 46 of his GOP colleagues. Cotton has launched his career to stardom by embellishing an idea from Speaker John Boehner to eliminate one of the three branches of government; that is, until a Republican someday settles into the Oval Office.

The national media love "rising stars".  It gives them fresh and provocative content to fill the news columns and TV hours,  as they will certainly do for Cotton, a young Harvard man with a lean and hungry look in his new job.

That doesn't mean Cotton is assured of any lasting celebrity in his party's estate.  There have always been rising stars for the  party that continues to sulk after losing "both of them" to Barack Obama.

It has paraded out unsuccessful  performances in its responses to Obama's State of the Union addresses, soldiers  like Joni Ernst,  Bobby Jindal and thirsty Marco Rubio.    Earlier we witnessed the meteoric rise of , um...Sarah Palin.  Couldn't miss  in her claim to lead the party into the future, albeit under the wing of John McCain. There were a few observers who even cast Herman Cain as a promising voice in the party's broad tent. And who could  ignore the photogenic former Virginia Gov.  Bob O'Donnell  before...well, you probably know the rest.

Even Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was once ballyhooed in the national media as a rising star with the sky the limit.(Read: Presidential candidate)

On the Democratic side the only rising star who made it big was Barack Obama.  Years ago, I watched for the same status to be accorded Dennis Kucinich.  But the hometown media considered him to be a nuisance  and let it go at that.

*  * * * *

It's always painful for the local prints  to have to  suggest that one of their  own in the   political stable was a bit brash.  So it was when the Plain Dealer rightly hissed editorially    about the Iran letter but gave Ohio Sen. Rob. Portman , who signed it, a soft landing.  It assured the reader that Portman is "usually rational".  Problem solved.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

GOP street gang strikes again in Iran Letter

Well, the party of cranks has struck again.  If your interest took you past Apple's new watch, you may have discovered that 47  Republican senators sent a letter  to Iran's leaders that warned of the fragility of any arms deal with the U.S.  after President Obama leaves office.

Not that any of the senators, who make up a white guy street gang these days,  would honestly believe their letter would in any way influence Iran.  Rather, it was the cranks' way of dismantling the presidency of Barack Obama, with Benjamin Natanyahu firmly in their corner.

Among the hooligan signers was Ohio's Tag-along Republican senator from Cincinnati, Rob Portman.  His unthreatenng profile has made him the darling of Ohio's media, particularly in his hometown where he's known as a confidant of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Tag-along?  Well, surely you happened to see the gaunt figure traipsing after Mitt Romney across Ohio in 2012 in neighborly Levis' and casuals.    It was widely believed that he was a natural to be Mitt's runningmate inasmuch as Ohio was so important to the GOP  He didn't get the nod, which led me to wonder what the dark reason was for Romney's snub of his loyal tag-along.

So now, with his own reelection campaign warming up, Portman   has decided to dive into the Obama smack-down.  Politically speaking,  he was hanging out with the recent American-Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting,  from whom many bles$$ings could flow.

His chief Democratic oopponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, is showing some life with party endorsements.  More importantly, the Ohio GOP apparently is not taking him so lightly when you see  how quickly they  have begun to assail him.   For whatever it's worth, Portman and Strickland are neck and neck in the latest statewide poll.

Portman may also be trying to bridge the  schism that opened with the state's evangelicals, who were furious that he supported same-sex marriage because his son was gay. The evangelicals represent a broad pro-Israel Republican base in America and don't anybody forget it.

The Iran letter also drew attention to the Logan Act of 1799 that forbade anyone but the President from conducting foreign policy.  But as the Washington Post quickly bannered,  "Republicans are beginning to act as the though Barack Obama isn't even the president."

If the letter  represents a major if illegal action to undermine Obama's authority,  a move that could lead to war, some of Ohio's newspapers found other things to feature the day-after.  The Beacon Journal trivialized the import by sticking the article (yawn) on page A7, just above the Cadillac ad. Front page honors went to a half-page piece and photo about the local Rubber Ducks minor league baseball team. In the trade, it's called "hyper-local" as the rest of the world dangerously spins by.

Friday, March 6, 2015

PD's O'Brien: No escape from the fringe's lunacy

Kevin O'Brien, the Plain Dealer's deputy editorial page editor, wrote that  U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder "lives and breathes racial politics" and that the Justice Department is "racially obsessed".    These wicked insights from the leaning ivory tower of Planet PD were sent to the reader  in O'Brien's screed about the clearance of Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

And whose investigation cleared the officer of guilt?  Oh.  The "racially obsessed" Justice Department!

I must tell you, folks, when weirdness and non sequiturs are permitted by press freedom - which I stoutly favor - you must grudgingly defend O'Brien, a fringe columnist, for being a reckless fool in disseminating his op-ed page crap.

There have been a number of occasions when I've been tempted to respond to O'Brien's right-wing notions simply because they in no way qualify as worthy of serious  discussion in the biggest newspaper in the state.  But journalism has many faults today, so I've backed off to leave  other offended readers to gasp at one of the PD's higher titled editorial page writers.  I used to think he performed only as the court jester , but I've concluded that the guy really believes everything that he writes.  Even when he personally warned me back  in my days as a newspaperman that when America's powerful enemies reached  our  shores journalists would be the first to be seized. Or, on another occasion,  that an uninspected  major bridge collapsed because we gave the feds too much to do.  And today we shiver when somebody mentions that  Louie Gohmert is  in our midst.

So I can only report that his long rant against what he considers to be racially based injustices against white police officers failed to tell us of the feds' documented instances of Ferguson's  institutional racial bias:   Blacks  stopped in traffic without cause; the top court clerk (since finally fired)  sending emails casting President Obama as a chimpanzee or giving a black woman an award for crime-prevention for having an abortion.  Or official indifference to higher traffic fines levied on blacks,   and other evidence  of an imbalance in carrying out the system of justice.

What about it, Kevin? Will that be included in your next column?.

As one who married into a fine Irish family, I can swear that the elders knew something about bias,  too. Like signs  that said "Irish need not apply".  Or another that I remember:  "Machine Gun Kelly was not an Italian."

In O'Brien's own city, the anti-Irish feeling was rampant in my days of covering mayoral elections there.  As a couple of bar stoolers complained to me, there are too damn many Carneys, Feighans, Hagans and Corrigans thriving in the shadows of the Mother Church and running the city!

 Funny,they didn't mention O'Brien. Sorry Kevin, you didn't make the cut.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Her purse more than a drop in the bucket?

As if the oddly-produced action from the podium wasn't  enough to chill your soul,  Bill Moyers reported this weird off-camera  cameo from the Congressional gallery during Speaker John Boehner's Netanyahu  festivities.  Seated next  to her husband Sheldon Adelson, whom Moyers describes as the Godfather of the Republican Right, Miriam Adelson dropped her purse to the floor below, striking a Democratic congressman.

Was that a symbolic reminder that Democrats would again be targeted by  the billionaire casino owner's boxcar-size wallet?    Moyers would only say that the purse  achieved "metaphoric glory".   But it does seem that the wifely purse, fashioned by America's leading supporter  of a Netanyahu-led Israel,  was the real thing, not a metaphor. The message from the GOP Godfather has always been quite clear

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bibi came but hardly conquered

 So what did we learn from the  gaudy Netanyahu road show on Tuesday?

Despite his contrite assurance that he meant no disrespect to President Obama, his presence at the podium did exactly that.    You had to assume in the end that he didn't love the president, which is how Giuliani would have rated it.

When Bibi said  he "deeply regretted" that his appearance was interpreted as a political event, you sat back and waited for his flim to head into his flam.  It was fair to consider that the  prime minister is up for election in a few weeks and he was fully prepared to ambush  American nuclear talks with Iran - an in-your-face insult to Obama & Co.  The scheme, as we know, was worked out with Speaker John Boehner, Bibi's scheduler and event planner who doesn't love the president, either.  As such , Bibi,  playing the role of Horatio, was a perfect fit, not only for Republican wingers but also for Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino billionaire and Israel lobbyist who vainly spent $100 million to defeat Obama in 2112.

As he puffily elevated himself as the the protector of  Israel's welfare against an evil enemy, Netanyahu did manage to ignore the fact that his country has around 100 nuclear warheads ready for any funny stuff by his country's enemies.

Netanyahu is a slick politician who  is running neck and neck with his opponent in the Israeli election so who can doubt the politics of it all?  Ot that  the prime minister is  not a very good liar.  

The Huffington Post, one of a host of media forces that shriveled the speech, described it in a single-word headline:  Bupkis. 

His audience was largely  Pavlovian, instant partisan responders to his word, gleefully pumping themselves up and down.

And considering that his date with Congress was worked out by the light  of the moon with Boehner without a hint to the White House, therein bared  the scandal because we already had learned what Bibi was going to say anyway.

Nice try.

* * * * *

 Stop me as  I lose it and how a little mercy to Boehner, who lost a second time on the homeland security issue. (That would allow Obama to repeat that he won both of them).    On top of that is an Ohio colleague, Rep. Jim Jordan, the head of the Republican fringe group House Freedom Caucus, which has been in Boehner's face to wrest control from the speaker.    Ohio! Why  does the Buckeye State contribute  so much nonsense  in the House?

* * *  *

Did you see Gov. Kasich working the crowd on the House  floor, good naturedly shaking hands and looking like he's ready to move on to New Hampshire.  He was part of the family reunion of former congressmen who turned up.  Kasich said,  of course, that he was a long time foreign policy student,   thus resolving the issue of his qualifications by what he might offer to New Hampshire.   Enough excitement  for one day, folks

Monday, March 2, 2015

The multi- con job of conservative politicians

Celebrity Republicans continue  to search for conservative indentities that hoist them above the others.  Jeb Bush defines himself as a "reform" conservative. As he embarks on his path to the presidency, he wants us to believe that he is not crazy.  Ohio Sen.Rob Portman. who is not a a candidate for the high office, calls himself a "commonsense" conservative, which,  I suppose, is how he thinks a guy should be in the wake of George W.'s failed "compassionate" conservatism.

There have been references to economic conservatism, an old standby;  social, paleo, fiscal,neo,  religious ...Sorry, need oxygen here.  But I will offer ambitious Republicans a term that might provide clarity to the confusion:    Existential conservatism.  Can't fail. It sounds too impressive.    It will work because nobody on earth knows what it means, even many  existentialists who won't admit that much.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Do some political parties age better than others?

Former Gov. Ted Strickland's decision to challenge Sen. Rob Portman, Republican "commonsense conservative," as he sees it, has drawn mostly yawns from Ohio's media stallions who  argue it is a dramatic  sign of the Democratic Party's pathetic  lack of youth and energy. (Strickland is 73).

I would agree that the party needs a younger profile.  But for the articles and editorial pages to fret over the Democrats' creaking bones is a rare sign of  Ohio's Republican-leaning newspapers to fret over the general welfare  of the  "other party".

Young or old, it usually doesn't make that much difference who shows up on the state ballot as a Democrat.    Don't take my word for it.  If age is a factor, here are some engaging figures from the 2014 vote:

Of the five state offices on the ballot, only one posted a Republican younger than his opponent , Treasurer Josh Mandel, 37, big deal(!),  who was younger than his opponent Connie Pillich, a lively and competent 54.

In the other four, Republicans were the greybeards - none  more pronounced than the attorney  general contest that pitted Republican incumbent Mike DeWine, at 68  against Democrat David Pepper, 43!

As long as these many years that I've followed DeWine's career, I've never figured out how he maintains his Rasputin-like grip on editorial writers leading them to such contradictory endorsements.   The Plain Dealer produced not a single negative word about Pepper, a Cincinnati lawyer who had ably served as a county commissioner and city councilman.  The PD however, did go on distressfully about the lengthy downside of DeWine's tenure as the state's top lawyer, from questionable awards of state contracts to other matters that led him "astray'' by "insulting Ohio's voters for refusing"   to debate Pepper.

So what will it be?  Sayeth the lords of the Cleveland newspaper world:

"DeWine is a work in progress.  But his flaws and blind spots are more than outweighed by his energetic and effective advocacy on behalf of all Ohioans on a range of issue" thus earning him a approval for a second term.  

A work in progress at 68? Better hurry.

The PD lined up six of its opinion writers to record the  event.    Elizabeth Sullivan, the opinion director of the Northeast Ohio Media Group,  expressed her sorrow over the old folks party thusly:  Strickland's  return is "another sorry statement about the dearth of  viable Democratic candidates for a statewide run..."

Then, my old paper, the Beacon Journal, concluded that although DeWine "has stumbled at times"  the record also showed that he ''has been a much better attorney general than  Pepper allows" and deserves a second term.

Jarring, too, is DeWine's active  agenda that has been at odds with the paper's position on several major  issues dominating everyone's lives, from the Affordable Care Act to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

With the yawners, I guess, it depends what party is creakily on the ballot.

So for the Dems,  would it improve their chances  if they sent in a teenage  candidate for an endorsement interview?   You might grow old waiting for a reply.