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.