Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday chats. Kasich 2016 and other absurdities.

                    One decent thing about the Holiday Season is reconnecting with people you haven't seen for awhile.

I had a quick chat with a GOP political guy I know. He some how defied odds and came out of College as a "conservative". I enjoy our little meetings and getting under his skin. This is the guy who told me that Mitt was going to take Ohio by 5 points and Sherrod Brown would be a one term Senator. He also considers Drudge as a legitimate news source.

Now, it's the old Mitt wasn't conservative enough. That argument always makes me smile. As if a Rick Perry or Michelle Bachman could have drawn enough votes to overcome the progressive statement made by a diverse cross section of real Americans in 2012.

He also now says Josh Mandel was a flawed candidate who alienated voters by running for Senate from the moment he took office as State Treasurer. In early 2012, I was told that would not be an issue. The fact Mandel also was hammered in the debate by Senator Brown who had massive support from The Fraternal Order Of Police,(Which usually backs GOP)helped show the disdain Mandel was held in. Josh's support of the Union Busting attempt in 2011 didn't endear him to voters either. Of course my friend and I disagree over thee impact of Issue 2/SB5. He feels it's not an issue. They simply needed a better candidate.

Finding a not Tea Party enthralled Candidate is going to be a problem for the GOP in Ohio for the foreseeable future.The Moderates who held Ohio's top offices from the 1990's into the 2000's are gone. They are left with the New Ohio Republican. The one's who redefined pregnancy and enacted awful abortion regulations with glee. Or opposed Medicare expansion to the point of suing to stop it now that the Governor did an end run to do it.The kind of Ohio Republican that cuts the income tax for the wealthy and increases the sales tax as they also expand it. The kind of Republican that pushes people of of SNAP and toys with Right to Work legislation and ballot measures. Because 2011 was a fluke.

The candidate pool here in Ohio has been poisoned by the runaway theocratic, reactionary national GOP mindset. And that has worked out so well for them. The Democratic Candidates for State Office are already performing better than expected a year out from the election. Well enough to engender a ray of hope.

Our conversation turned to 2016 where he informed me that the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, would be our next President. Had I not been drinking some pricey Scotch I'd have done a spit take.

He is convinced  that Kasich's down home, unpretentious style would send Hillary or any other Dem down in flames. He actually believes that A) Kasich could survive the Primary with the current far right mindset of primary voters and B) John wouldn't lose his temper and self destruct in front of the national media. That is a real possibility. Check YouTube for his rant about getting a ticket on State Route 315. He repeatedly called the officer an idiot. This little mini-meltdown happened as the fight over crushing the Public Sector Unions was heating up    

The very fact he's talking Kasich 2016 means the worst kept secret in Ohio is even less of a secret. John has no prayer of beating out the Tea Party favorites like Cruz, Paul and to a lesser extent Rubio and Bush. He has expanded Medicaid which is a hot button, conservative credential issue. On the plus side, he's anti-union and signed reprehensible abortion regulations into law. Kasich recently started a push for a Federal Balanced Budget Amendment. He's trying to be a northern Rick Perry at times.

Now one advantage he does have is his former employer Fox News. On every recent appearance they are tossing him, even for them, softballs. Kasich had his own Fox show and subbed for Hannity and Billo. This is no where near enough of a help for Kasich to get the Nomination. The field lining up is on the whole is farther right than 2012 and not quite as sane.

There is also the question of Kasich being reelected. The Public and Private Unions want his head. The Police unions are likely to sharpen the ax. Ed Fitzgerald is in better shape than most expected of a Dem challenger this far out. There is no primary opponent so he'll be coming into the battle unwounded. Kasich has a problem in polls with single women. I wonder why?

The best way to derail a White House bid for John is to make him a one and done Governor. Even so he could still run. After all Santorum had his ass handed to him as he lost his Senate seat and ran hard and close in'12.

Kasich has an arrogance that bleeds through his nice guy persona. He has a temper. His handlers have problems keeping him on script. Anytime he opens his mouth they cringe in fear of what may come out. Kasich has almost no chance of getting the 2016 nomination. His biggest enemy is himself. The likely Democratic Nominee, Hillary Clinton would eviscerate him on the Campaign trail and in debates. It would also split the Tea party/Republican vote here. Once Kasich goes hard right he has problems even recognizing where the center is.

Well, this election season is looking interesting. We, the voters have a chance to right the ship of state. Or at least throw a monkey wrench in John's plans for higher office. It's time to see if we can stop Ohio being a laughingstock. It's time to at least take our best shot at restoring sanity here. Let's roll.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ohio's schizophrenic political landscape.

              I grew up in a State that was seemingly sane. Most of that feeling came from living in Columbus most of my life. As the Capitol of Ohio, home to one of the largest Universities in the nation along with some excellent small Liberal Arts Colleges and a well educated population Franklin County is rather reliably Blue. In 2004 John Kerry beat President Bush by about nine points. Al Gore also carried the County in 2000, in spite of suspected shenanigans by Republicans in Ohio during both elections. More often than not, Columbus and Franklin County have gone Democratic.

The city of Columbus and County Governments have been under Democratic control for years. However the two US House Districts have been in Republican hands, except for a couple one term aberrations, forever. The US Twelfth and Fifteenth Districts split Democratic Franklin County in half. Both them stretched out into the surrounding rural counties far enough to keep those seats Republican. After every census, the sprawling Districts grew as did Central Ohio. For a couple decades Central Ohio has been the only part of the State showing real population growth.

In 2009, as the Tea Party reared it's ugly head the legislature was fairly evenly split, with a Republican majority. The GOP also held all the Statewide offices throughout the Nineties into the Twenty-first Century. Due to term limits, the Republican office holders played musical chairs. They would swap offices and one would run for Governor. If the timing was right the Governor would then run for Senator. A political farm system.

On the whole, these people were sane establishment politicians. They weren't all competent, but they weren't zealots. Bob Taft is a good example of limited competence. As always there is an exception. Ken Blackwell.

Like the Taft's, Blackwell was a product of Cincinnati. Southwestern Ohio is likely the most conservative part of the State.

At one time there were no strip clubs in Cincy. Hell, you couldn't even buy a copy of Playboy. They outsourced their vice across the Ohio River to Newport and Covington, Kentucky.The staid German influences flourished well into the latter part of the Twentieth Century. Larry Flint helped loosen them up a bit. At least you can buy tacky magazines there now.

Most of Ohio is rural. The population is concentrated in the larger Cities like Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, and the Youngstown/Canton/Akron corridor. Except for Columbus the other cities were the manufacturing hub of the Midwest. Cars, rubber, glass and about anything else you'd want. A strong blue collar union counterweight to the rural, small town outlook of the rest of the State.

In contrast to the big cities, the rest of Ohio is mostly white and very conservative. It was a hotbed of Klan activity in the Twenties.There are fundamentalists there that make the Southern Baptists look like Unitarians. Even before the rise of the Radical Republicans, it was getting weird there out in the sticks.

Ken Blackwell was the Ohio Secretary of State in 2004.HE brought voter suppression out of the closet and made it mainstream. He rejected voter registration forms that weren't printed on a certain weight of paper. For some Democratic Counties and areas there was a shortage of voting machines. This, in a record setting turnout caused immense lines.The Ohio election was a template for suppression. Ballots were shredded. A terrorist threat kept observers out of the Warren County recount. Blackwell was the poster child for the brutal, vicious Karl Rove playbook.

Outright theft was denied by all sources. That would be the worst case scenario in our electoral system. We turn a blind eye of denial to all but the most egregious examples.That is Chicago, not Ohio. People forget Hubert Humphrey stole Cleveland from McGovern in the '72 primary. So, attempts to prove nefarious motives here in 2004 were doomed to be concealed behind smoke and mirrors to preserve our needed illusions.

Blackwell did not make it easier by being Blackwell. He has a propensity for outrageous ideas and statements. He was a Tea Party bomb thrower before there was a Tea Party.

Following 2004 Blackwell started his run for Governor. In the Primaries he defeated the moderate, favorite State Attorney General Betty Montgomery and hijacked the nomination. He proceeded to alienate nearly everyone in the State and lose badly to a Democratic progressive populist, Ted Strickland. So, a massive majority voted Democratic.

Then came the Republican Radicalization. The inmates took over the Asylum as they took the Legislature and all Statewide offices. It got crazy in Ohio. The Tea Party here made Ohio look like Texas and Mississippi. We looked like a venal cliche of reactionary whack jobs.

After the rise of the Tea party John Kasich, a self aggrandizing product of the US House, Wall Street and Fox News won the Governorship by a very slim margin. With his cohorts in the Legislature He embarked on trying to make the State a conservative nirvana.

Restrictive abortion regulation was attempted but not quite pulled off. This after Ohio had a fetus testify in committee. War was declared on Public Sector Unions that was rejected 68%-32%. Unions were defended in a State that full batshit crazy had taken over.

The Republicans gerrymandered the State within an inch of it's life ensuring political dominance for the next decade in the Legislature and US House. A safe Dem District was set up in Columbus as a bone to Dems and keep the 12th and 15th safe from occasional insurrections.

Ohio gave President Obama a large margin of victory in the state as the Legislature went further right, thanks to creative redistricting. Sherrod Brown, a huge target of the right, crushed his opponent coasting to reelection. Once more a large victory for a Liberal Democrat in the midst of a sea of red.

Contradictions. Gotta love them.

Following the 2012 election the new Tea Party Legislature went off the rails by deciding the electorate's rejection of the conservative social agenda didn't happen. Ohio enacted  the most restrictive abortion regulations in the nation. They went after Planned Parenthood and elevated Evangelical Pregnancy "Crisis" Centers. Rape Crisis Centers are defunded if they even mention abortion as an option. Food stamps were cut. They refused to expand Medicaid. Cut taxes for the wealthy and are going after unions. The State Board of Education is stacked with RWNJ's.

So in this sea of contradictions there is hope tempered with despair.  Te Democratic candidates for State Offices are showing unexpected strength this early in the election cycle. The Democratic candidate for Governor is overcoming name recognition issues and closer to Kasich than he should be a year out. No one expects to take the State House or Senate though a few seats may be turned. It is possible the Legislature may push a Right to Work bill through, but not likely. The Republican Party does not want a replay of the fight with labor from 2011. That wish though is not deterring the Tea Parry and others from trying to put it on the ballot which is the sane Republicans worst nightmare.

A Right To Work Ballot measure would ramp up turnout and redouble Labor's intent to push Kasich out. So, to lower turnout, the GOP is doubling down in voter suppression laws. There are bills to gut early voting.

So as usual, Ohio's schizophrenic political landscape will at least be interesting. The coming election will be vicious and contentious. John Kasich's dreams of the White House will be on the line. The Secretary of State is in for a fight from a progressive firebrand, Nina Turner.

All of this is a warm up for 2016. Ohio again will be ground zero for the Presidential Campaigns. The elections are never easy to call here as we have no clue which Ohio is voting. It's always a surprise. So, if the GOP goes with the far right this time around the same Ohio that supported President Obama should come to the fore. If too many of the State GOP Party leaders get too close they could get burned too.

We can only hope reason returns to our politics once more. We were once sane and reasonable here. Not a laughing stock. Time will tell. Till then, survival mode.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Right Wing in Ohio just doesn't get the message. Or they're proof of string theory.

               When John Kasich came to power as Governor in 2014 he made the same miscalculation George W. Bush did in 2004. Like President Bush, Kasich saw a one percentage point and change victory as a sweeping mandate.

Bush went after Social Security and had his ass handed to him. The more he stumped for privatization, the more unpopular it became.

Governor Kasich decided to pick a fight with Organized Labor. He cloaked an attempt to crush Public Sector as a way to close an overstated budget hole.The Legislation shot through the Legislature as fast as Wall Street can pick your pocket. He did this as massive protests surrounded The Ohio Statehouse for days. After shenanigan's in committee the bills passed and were signed into law.

Union members, both public and private, turned out to bring home their opposition to these measures. The private sector Unions knew if this attack stood, they were next.

Petitions were circulated and a record number of signatures were gathered to put a repeal measure on the ballot in November 2011. The GOP fought back by trying to force confusing language onto the measure. When that was slapped down by the courts they went to plan B. They tried to break the ballot measure into multiple issues, hoping to salvage something. That idea crashed and burned also.

In an off year election we saw massive amounts of money rush into Ohio both pro and con. The opponents of repeal waged a vicious, fact challenged campaign. and they lost. The repeal passed 62%-38%. In 1958, the Ohio Republicans tried to pass a Right to Work ballot measure that failed by nearly identical numbers.

The reason Kasich and company tried this, thinking it would work is, in my opinion, they overestimated anti-Union sentiment. As Public Sector Unions were vilified as budget killers, they forgot Union Members are people. Neighbors, friends and relatives.

In their haste to break the Unions and eliminate a staunch ally of the Democratic Party the Republicans underestimated the strength of Labor in Ohio. There is still a strong manufacturing base in this State. True, it's not what it once was. However in the urban areas, there are a lot of Public Sector Union Members. Those areas are full of people that grew up in a union household. These areas are where the bulk of Ohioans live and work.

Even in the rural areas there are Public Sector Union Members. Police, Firefighters and teachers. The Guys that plow and repair the roads. Those who maintain Public buildings. Not exactly a bunch of wild eyed radical brigands and thugs.

A GOP political guy told me it was only a matter of educating the voter. Once they were shown the light, the repeal would fail. This was the same guy who told me Romney would carry Ohio by five points and Sherrod Brown would be a one term Senator.

Something Unions are very good at is getting out the vote. They can organize and put boots on the ground. They staff phone banks and knock on doors. They understand blue collar issues because they are blue collar.

The landslide was humiliating for about five minutes.

Almost immediately there was talk in the House of pushing Right to Work. Assorted, Tea Party infused outside groups started making noises about putting a Right To Work measure on the ballot. For some reason they figure an assault on Private Sector Unions is different. During 2012 we didn't hear much about it.

During 2013 Right To Work Bills were introduced in the House and Senate. Signatures are being gathered to put Right To work on the ballot for November 2014. This sends chills down the spines of the establishment Republican Party. The last thing they want to do is pick a fight with Labor as all the Statewide offices come up for election. The last thing they want is energized opposition bringing people to the polls. People who would likely vote Democrat. The Statewide races have the potential to be tight as the GOP hold all of the offices. Labor has vowed to make Kasich a one and done Governor.

This summer the Right To Work supporters in the Legislature were urged to hold off till after 2014 so as not to annoy the electorate. There is still a lot of anger over the 2011 debacle.

The bills have stalled as leadership puts the breaks on. However the ballot proponents are undeterred. They continue to collect signatures. They currently have about 100,000 of 385,000 needed. They are determined to see it on the ballot in '14.

Already the AFL-CIO is pushing back. There is already a campaign to inform voters of what's at stake. As the political season heats up one can expect a full court press to kill Right To Work in Ohio.

What is forgotten is Ohio was a leader in the Labor movement. The AFL and the United Mine Workers Of America were both founded in Columbus Ohio. The result was a strong union presence and tradition here. This continues even after the decimation of our manufacturing base.  Union power is far less than it once was but is still a force to be reckoned with in Ohio. Kasich discovered this in 2011.

Now this push to do Right To Work only reinforces the idea the Right Wing activists in Ohio reside in an alternate universe. A place where they can blithely crush unions and reap a laurel wreath as a hero of the State. They seem to feel that Right To Work is a winner. Do they not think Labor will once again unite to defeat this? Their confidence seems based on willful ignorance and an unfounded arrogance that they are right.

This is another instance where the Right feels they can impose their will in spite of political reality. They are in for a fight. Ohio can not afford to be another Michigan, Indiana or Southern State. Our history is entwined with the Labor movement. As is our future. These Republicans don't realize arrogance is not power. And an over reach can cost you an arm. If they lose this battle it could be the beginning of the end for the radical Right here in Ohio. If they win, God help us all.

Something to ponder though. The attempt to kneecap Unions lost 62%-38% in 2011.
The Right To Work ballot measure lost 63%-37% in 1958. The more things change.....

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The day America lost its way. 11/22/63

               It was my eleventh birthday. A Friday. I had conned my Mother into letting me stay home from school. I had pulled a con on her the details of which are long forgotten. My Father was working second shift at North American Aviation here in Columbus Ohio. He was home on that early afternoon.

I was upstairs in the room I shared with my younger brother who had not been thrilled I was staying home and he wasn't.

I was probably reading when I heard my Dad call out for me to come downstairs. I tried to remember if I had done something to get in trouble. I couldn't recall anything and headed downstairs to the bedroom that had become the TV room.

Dad was in his easy chair, a lit Pall Mall in one big hand, a cup of coffee in the other. The smoke from the cigarette and steam from the coffee mingled and drifted off. He was leaning forward, attention fixed on the black and white TV. Mom was standing next to him, clutching a dish towel like a lifeline.

Dad looked at me and said,"Tommy, the President has been shot."

Even then I was an incurable smart ass and said something only I thought was funny. His glare told me I'd best pay attention. I looked at the TV to see Walter Cronkite talking about shots fired at the motorcade in Dallas.The only time I'd seen my parents that concerned had been in October of 1962 as America was bracing for a likely nuclear war with the Soviets. I parked my skinny ass on the floor and watched as confusion and shock played out from the CBS newsroom.

Cronkite removed his horn rimmed glasses,appeared to wipe away a tear and told America that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of The United States of America was dead.

Mom and Dad were silent. Maybe in shock. Jack was only a couple years older than my Dad. Mom and Jackie were about the same age. She was also Catholic.

Like the rest of America we were glued to that big 19" B&W TV. About 2;30 Dad headed off to his shift building Naval Aircraft. I never heard him talk about how work was that day. My sister, seven years younger than me, was wondering around being the pain in the ass sisters are when we're that age.

We need to remember this was before Cable news, hell it was before cable. Print was still King. There were three networks. All had broken into programming with continuous coverage. That was a first.

That was a time when NBC. CBS and ABC had vibrant news divisions.These news divisions were staffed by actual journalists, not news readers. Not talking heads. Many had started in print and cut their teeth covering WWII. CBS was the best.They had Murrow's Boys. In spite of what is now primitive technology, these men gathered facts, first hand and reported the news. They did this in spite of their shock, grief and disbelief this could happen here. Sure they reported a few things wrong because of the confusion and shock in official Dallas.

A young Dan Rather reported from the Dallas CBS affiliate. The phone lines in Dallas were jammed by traffic without computers to reroute calls.CBS, NBC and ABC would stay on the air covering the story for the next four days. There would be no Bonanza. No Ed Sullivan. No commercials. Just TV and America trying to come to grips with what had happened.

In these days before the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the instant media we relied on Newspapers, Radio and Television to try to put the pieces of our shattered reality back into a semblance of order.  This quite possibly may have been TV news' finest moment as it groped and floundered to find it's way. Just like the rest of us. Through the chaos of that awful day the firm, resonant voice of Cronkite spoke to the soul of a reeling nation. He later said it was ,"a running battle between my emotion and my news sense."

Over at NBC Chet Huntley and Frank McGee helmed that Network's coverage. Huntley was more out spoken than Cronkite and said, with righteous indignation and bitterness, he spoke of ,"Pockets of hatred in our country and places where the disease is encouraged, you have heard those who say,'Those Kennedy's ought to be shot'...It seems evident that hatred moved the person who fired these shots..."

All the networks showed the shock, grief and confusion of the people. It was as if we were all together mourning the unimaginable. A nation united in mind numbing sadness and soul deadening misery. Clips of people in tears unable to express the depths of their shock and sorrow were shared. It showed us all we were not alone. The people of The United States were stunned into a grievous, pain filled silence. Lost. Immobile.

ABC aired film of JFK's arrival at Love Field and his reception in Fort Worth that morning. Kennedy was welcomed by excited throngs. Jackie was wearing her Pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat. A suit that was burned into the collective memory of that day.
She carried red roses with her, a gift. Later the red of those roses would be replaced by the crimson of her husband's blood. She was still wearing that suit as her Husband's coffin was loaded onto Air force One and Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office.

 She stood there in elegant grief as LBJ took the reins of power while her husband's body lay in the hold, ready for it's last trip on the Presidential aircraft. Johnson ordered the plane into the air and back to DC. America calmly transferred power in the midst of tragedy. That in itself helped to allay the nation's fears and show a sense of purpose as reality attempted to bleed back in as no one knew at that time why this had happened.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk who was en route to Japan had his plane turned around over the Pacific and headed back to Washington. No one was sure if there was an attack coming or not. The military scrambled aircraft and SAC's B-52's went on high alert. Fidel Castro put the Cuban Military on alert also, expecting an invasion as America roiled in grief looking for something to do. Something to lash out at, right or wrong.

The 707 lifted off from Love Field and flew back to DC carrying the body of the 35th President and the newly installed 36th President.

There were statements from the powerful across America. Harry Truman extolled JFK and reassured the nation LBJ was quite capable of doing the job.Later Ike would say he was shocked, dismayed and indignant that such a tragedy occurred. Americans had common sense and would not be bullied or stampeded.

TV showed the crowds outside Parkland Hospital. They showed photos of the bystanders going to ground in Dealy Plaza as the shots rang out. We saw the Texas School Book Depository. We heard from witnesses to the murder.

General Douglas MacArthur said JFK's death,"Killed something in me." Adlai Stevenson, the old liberal who rocked the Russians back on their heels at the UN in '62 said,"All men everywhere who love peace and justice and freedom will bow their heads. He also said,"It's too bad that. in my old age, they couldn't have spent their violence on me and spared this young man for our nation's work."

Air Force One touched down at Andrews Air Force Base a bit after Six. We watched as the coffin was moved off the plane by fork lift. It was placed into a Cadillac ambulance by a full dress Honor Guard. Jackie stepped out. She would never be far from Jack during this. She still wore the blood stained Pink Chanel suit. An aide assisted her down off the lift. She was elegant and serene in her sorrow. Bowed but not broken by tragedy. She was given the compassion we are capable of at our best.

As the ambulance drove off LBJ and Lady Bird exited the 707 to the flashing strobe of the press. He made his first public statement as America's 36th President.

"This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that can not be weighed. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help, and God's." At 6'4" Johnson was an imposing figure there on that tarmac with that symbol of Presidential power, Air Force One in the background. He struck the perfect tone to help soothe our frayed and shattered collective psyche.

The news broke that a suspect had shot and killed a Dallas Police Officer, J.D. Tippet. Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24 year old former marine and political dissident was arrested inside the Texas Theater. A rifle and sniper's nest had been found on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository.
Oswald was paraded into custody. A Detective held the rifle aloft as if he were wading a stream. Information of Lee's past began leaking out. The press learned Oswald had defected to the USSR and had married a Russian before returning to the States. Lee claimed he was not involved and was a patsy. This all played out on TV giving us a ringside seat to the circus that was Dallas.

The afternoon papers had hit the streets using type that was reserved for national tragedies such as war. We discovered that the print media could not keep up with TV. Print was stale as soon as it came out passed by televised updates. Late Friday night Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the murder of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.                                                                                                                                                       
 It was not a Federal crime in 1963.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             On Saturday the coverage continued. The unblinking eye of television cameras caught everything. Held it.

The Dallas Police produced the mail order firearm bill of sale for the Carcano rifle. It was ordered in the name of A.J. Hidell an alias that was linked to Oswald. Lee had demanded an attorney, asking for the counsel of the American Communist party or an ACLU lawyer.The Communist Party Lawyer was out of town and Oswald repeatedly refused representation by local counsel. During interrogation on 11/22 and 11/23 he gave statements with significant differences. 

Meanwhile in DC, early Saturday morning, John Kennedy's body was laid in state in the East Room of the White House on a catafalque similar to the one that held Lincoln's casket nearly a century before. At ten-thirty the local family attended a private Mass in the East Room. 

Later the VIP's started arriving. Presidents Eisenhower and Truman. President Johnson and other members of Washington's and America's power elite. They were joined by military leaders, members of both Congressional Houses and close family friends.

President Johnson conferred with Secretary of State Rusk and then Defense Secretary McNamara. It showed America the Federal Government was functioning. 

We heard from world leaders. The TV images were beamed down by Telstar and the other few telecommunication satellites.

We witnessed images of Pope Paul IV praying that " the death of this great statesman may not damage the cause of the American people,but rather reinforce it." Soviet Premier Khrushchev paid condolences in person at the American Embassy in Moscow.

We saw the grieving crowds outside the Embassy in London, the French,Germans and Italians weeping on camera over the death of a uniquely American head of State via satellite. The world shared our devastating sorrow over the loss of this Irish American. We would never see such an outpouring of universal despair again.

General Charles DeGaul of France announced he would attend the Funeral. He was joined by 19 other heads of State, three Monarchs and Prince Phillip of The United Kingdom.

Richard Nixon spoke praising the man who denied him the Presidency in 1960 and called for an end to the hatred behind his death. I make no judgement on the sincerity of Nixon or sworn enemies George Wallace of Alabama and Ross Barnett of Mississippi. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, his presumed opponent in '64 praised Jack.

There were comments from the other side also. China announced there would be no regrets expressed by them. There was the usual typically American hateful, ignorant remarks. An unnamed caller from Little Rock Arkansas told Chet Huntley, on the phone, on the air, to drop dead.

We watched it all non stop in black and white. 

On the twenty-third President Lyndon Johnson declared Monday November 25,1963 as a National Day Of Mourning. The Dallas Police said they had the evidence to convict Oswald of killing Jack Kennedy.

 The next day in Dallas, Oswald was being moved to the County jail. Live on TV we watched in horror as a man pushed out of the crowd of press in the garage of DPD HQ and shot Lee Harvey Oswald to death. Ruby denied us the trial we so desperately needed to close the book on this horrific event. We never got the answers from the only man that had them.We never got the overworked concept of closure.

 Ruby's summery execution of Oswald spawned the conspiracy cottage industry.

Jack Ruby, a Dallas strip club owner with very marginal ties to the mob was subdued and arrested. It seemed the blood would never stop. The horror seemed unending.

That same day President Kennedy was moved to the Capitol Building to lie in State in the Rotunda. 

The procession was about to start as Lee bled out on a Dallas garage floor. He was pronounced dead in the same ER as Jack. It was all televised. 

The procession started down Pennsylvania Ave. Jackie, hauntingly regal and composed in her despair. The children. Bobby, looking as if his world had collapsed around him. His pain and despair was stark. A nation of 180,000,000 shared his pain.

The route was lined by mourning citizens. The riderless horse Blackjack. A horse drawn caisson.  The clatter of hooves on an asphalt avenue. Martial music. Pomp and circumstance.

In the Rotunda the coffin rests on the catafalque that held Lincoln. Jackie, in her serene sadness takes her place. Young Caroline is by her side.The Honor Guard takes their position to guard and honor their fallen Commander-In-Chief.

We watch through the camera, seeing all. Senate Majority Mike Mansfield speaks. Then Chief Justice Earl Warren. House Speaker John McCormack.

We see Bobby standing there mourning the loss of his brother, his grief and despair palpable.

LBJ follows a soldier who places a wreath on the coffin for him. The former First Lady, along with her young daughter, kneels, kisses the flag, as does Caroline. They then withdraw. President Johnson speaks to Jackie. Then it's over for them for the moment. The long river of Ebony limo's flows away into the depths of DC.

Now, America says farewell to Jack.The line eventually stretches five miles, farther than the omnipresent camera can see. An estimated 250,000 Americans pass through to bid farewell to John Kennedy. A cross section of this diverse nation. African Americans in a city that is still not friendly to them mourn lost promise. Men. Women. White, black. Nuns and laymen. America weeps, it's soul shaken. Waits were as long as ten hours to pay respects. None seemed to care about time. It stood still in the marble silence.

Dignitaries begin arriving at Dulles and Andrews.

NBC stayed on the air all night as we mourned what might have been.

On Monday the twenty-fifth, the cortege, a full Military Funeral procession brought John Kennedy to the White House for the last time.

At 11:13 the new President, VIP's, world leaders and assorted dignitaries started the long walk to St. Matthew's Cathedral. The camera and America strides along in solemn unity.

The Low Pontifical Mass is said by Cardinal Cushing. A 180,000,000 Americans knelt along in prayer.

Outside, as the coffin appears, John-John salutes his father. A moment that melted the heart of a great nation. A now iconic sight and memory etched into our collective consciousness.

At Arlington national Cemetery, the Irish Guard stands at Parade Rest by the yawning grave. It seemed our hopes and dreams were buried along with that young, visionary that day.

Those four days fifty years ago changed this Nation in ways we only now understand. The rise of TV as our cultural touchstone. The now instant access to the world was rising then. Tragedy after tragedy was slammed home over the next decade with the force of a historical tsunami. The nation nearly dissolved in the sixties as divisiveness rent our institutions. And the camera caught it all.

To those of us of a certain age those four days are a break point between then and now. 

Fifty years later we stand before the judgement of history falling so short of what Jack Kennedy saw as the American potential. Equality. Freedom. Dignity, not based on your social status or checkbook. A nation where those born to privilege knew there was no higher calling than public service. Enrichment at the expense of the nation's well being was not what JFK saw as he challenged us to excel.

He believed in our innate goodness, our potential to lead the world to a better future where people are lifted out of poverty and ignorance. Where one citizen's vote carries the same weight and value as any other vote. 

Something broke in our spirit that day. 

Today the virulent hatred directed at Jack Kennedy is seen as a mission from a God none of us seem to recognize anymore. The Government devised with the blood of progressive revolution to throw off colonial oppression is seen by some as a holy war to preserve the status quo. Some seem to want a return to far less enlightened times. They wish to impose their narrow, uncharitable views on all of us. Far too many have lost the ideals and promise JFK extolled replacing it with a venal theocratic, oligarchic world view.

Listen to what Jack said. Listen to the power of belief in a brighter future he spoke of. He challenged us to do better. We have failed. Reduced to fighting the old wars anew. Battling to save hard won freedoms.

One can only imagine what we lost that day.

One can only weep for what should have been. 

And dream of Camelot.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ohio and John Kasich. A special kind of crazy.

                In 2011 the newly elected Ohio Governor, John Kasich moved quickly to push his agenda into reality. Like George Bush in 2008, Kasich felt a less than two point victory was a mandate to burn down the status quo and build a conservative utopia.

Kasich and the Tea Party dominated GOP ran on Jobs. Obviously Ohio's economy tanking during the worst financial crisis since the Depression was the fault of Ohio's Democratic Governor. It was as if we existed in a bubble apart from the rest of the nation and if we imposed GOP slash and burn policies all would be right with the world.

Kasich hit the ground running. His first budget gutted the social safety net and education spending.It slashed State support for municipalities. He eviscerated the State payroll. They cut taxes. Kasich and the Legislature then went after the main reasons Ohio suffered through the massive recession. Abortion and Public Sector Unions.

On March 31,2011 Ohio Senate bill 5 was signed into law about two months after the GOP took over. Very fast work on such a sweeping and unprecedented bill. Both Houses slanted testimony in Committee,  and ignored or vilified the sea of opposition outside the Statehouse. Ohio, like Wisconsin became a hub of push back by emboldened Tea Party/Republicans. SB5 garnered national attention from the press, It became a cause on both sides of the political spectrum. 

So as not to seem like an over reaction let's look at the GOP's "common sense" bill.

SB5 gutted the bargaining rights of Public Sector Unions that had been recognized by both sides for decades. Public Safety employees (Police and Fire), could no longer bargain over safety issues, health care, pensions, raises, sick pay and the grievance procedure. It forbade strikes and eliminated the mediation process. Basically if no compromise could be found, the last offer by the employer was adopted. So much for good faith bargaining. It also eliminated deducting union dues from payroll. It changed the rules for decertifying a Union.  


It did the same to teachers and added other items prohibited from bargaining. Like, class size, leave, compensation, educational standards and practices. 

This bill essentially made traditional bargaining illegal for Public Sector workers.

The Republicans were so sure of their power they actually thought starting a war with organized labor was a good idea and winnable. It was a blatant attempt to kneecap the Ohio Democratic party by eliminating a major ally.

Labor was ready. All during the run up towards the bill there were huge protests at the Statehouse. Members from all over Ohio attended and lent their voices in opposition. The day the bill was signed a petition drive was launched to for a repeal by ballot.

The Unions put all their muscle into this fight.The petitions were delivered to the Secretary of State with 1.3 million signatures, far above the number needed. There was immediately an attempt to rig the vote by trying for very confusing ballot language.Secretary of State Husted quashed that attempt as did the courts.They tried to break it up into three separate ballot issues. That also failed. 

Kasich and company were sure they could portray the Public Sector Unions as takers crushing government with exorbitant pay and benefits.Thugs holding the public hostage. What the forgot in their gleeful hatred was nearly everyone knew a teacher, a cop, a firefighter. They were friends, neighbors and relatives. People realized these were hard working people and not union thugs bent on ruining Ohio.

Massive of amounts of out of state money flooded in to fight the ballot issue.GOP Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry came to Ohio and supported Kasich. The usual right wing groups poured millions into the State. A GOP lobbyist I know told me defeating the the Ballot issue was only a matter of educating the electorate on how it was needed and reasonable. He told me this as polling showed a massive loss coming the GOPs way.

In August of 2011, looking at polls showing a major ass whipping on the horizon, Kasicih tried to negotiate The answer was a resounding no. Thus we saw ads and talking points about the liberals refusing to negotiate. Sound familiar? A seemingly standard Republican response anymore.

In 1958 Ohio Republicans tried to get a Right to Work ballot measure passed. At the time Ohio was a manufacturing powerhouse and very unionized. The Republicans got their asses handed to them. 63%to 37%. In 2013, with union power down Ohio defeated Issue 2 (SB5 repeal) 61%-39%. 

While this was happening Ohio Republicans also tried to pass the Heartbeat bill to challenge Roe v Wade. It died in the State Senate. 

2012 ended with President Obama bitch slapping Mitt romney and Ohio handed PBO another term. So, Ohio decided to pass some of the worst anti abortion laws in the nation. They slid them through in a budget bill to avoid another ballot embarrassment.There is also an attempt to make Ohio a Right To Work State. Kasich wants that to wait till after his reelection in 2014. He isn't in the mood to have another brawl with labor.Everyone who opposed SB5 knew unions were the target and another attack would come.

So, in spite of everything Ohio seems determined to try to out Texas Texas as if that is a laudable goal. Kasich is trying to reel in the Tea Party so as not to derail his presidential aspirations in 2016.Since John has expanded Medicaid he is under attack from the Right.We Ohioans can expect more attacks on women and the poor as he prepares his run. 

Ohio wants to be Texas North. We are in the press too much as a home of voter suppression, subjugation of women, attacks on education and all the attempts to establish a Tea Party utopia.

Ohio wants to be special. We are just misguided and not the sane, moderate State we once were. I miss that Ohio.

Monday, November 11, 2013

John Kennedy was not a conservative. A recurring RWNJ delusion.

               In the war on history being waged by the GOP and right wing wackos, alike I see recurring themes. There seems to be a rhetorical desire to defame historical figures by cherry picking a quote, policy or action and casting liberal icons as actually being conservatives. When I see these pitiful attempts I have a true Scooby-Doo moment.

Jack Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy. Martin Luther King. All three have been cast as conservatives. Wrongly. You have the right claiming the mantle of Dr. King on Civil Rights. They say the Democrats were the party of Jim Crow. And in the Twentieth Century until the last half a strong case is possible for that .

Southern Democrats were the champions of Jim Crow. They also broke away as the Dixiecrats in '48, uniting behind Strom Thurmond to oppose mainline Democratic moves on Civil Rights, such as President Truman desegregating the US military. These politicians from the Old Confederacy were Democrats only because Reconstruction was led by the 19th Century Republican Party. Thus, they shunned and rejected the party they saw as occupiers following the Civil War.

These Republican revisionists ignore their party's progressive stances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ideas that are anathema to modern conservatives were established by progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt. They went after monopolies. They established the FDA to protect Americans from unbridled capitalism that threatened their health and safety. The National Parks, American jewels, were established to protect them for future generations.

In this conservative fantasy land, Jack Kennedy was a conservative. It doesn't matter that JFK repeatedly called himself a Liberal.

JFK proposed Medicare, stumping hard for it. He was opposed in this by conservatives. Their paid spokesman, Ronald Reagan warned of socialized medicine and creeping statism. A plot to make America socialist, if not communist.

Conservatives note Kennedy's proposed tax cuts as proof of his conservatism. Kennedy proposed to cut the top rate of 91%(under Ike)to 65%. This, under conservative hallucinations was supply side. Interesting since that theory didn't exist till the 70's. Jack's economic advisers were Keynesian. The tax cuts were designed to spur spending and grow demand to boost the economy. There was no trickle down.

Kennedy nationalized the Steel Industry to stop what was seen as excessive price hikes which would devastate the economy. Yep, that is so conservative.

These right wing hacks claim JFK's stances on communism and defense were conservative values. They also do so with the usual dismissal of historical context. 1960 was the height of the Cold War. One could not hold positions which would make you "soft on commies" and get elected to anything. At the time Kennedy was attacked for not being strong enough on stopping the Soviet Union.

There was the Bay of Pigs.

This was an invasion of Cuba devised, planned and pushed hard by the CIA under the Eisenhower Administration. Jack walked into the Oval office and right into that buzz-saw. Jack, Bobby and Teddy had to carry their Father's actions as Ambassador to Great Britain prior to WWII as luggage. Joe Kennedy was vilified as an appeaser. By the conservatives who opposed America becoming involved in a European conflict. For simple political survival the Kennedy's were staunchly anti-communist as were everyone else in public life.

Jack was pushed into the Bay of Pigs fiasco by CIA Director Allen Dulles. This was a poorly planned CIA devised mission that relied on faulty intelligence and overestimation of the chances of a popular Cuban uprising. The CIA also withheld critical information from Kennedy. Once JFK saw how badly the invasion went he refused to commit the US military in a doomed plot. Needless to say the Joint Chiefs were angered. As was the CIA. Kennedy, in spite of the fact most of the planning took place during the previous Administration, and he was not briefed as a candidate, took responsibility.

The Bay of Pigs solidified Castro's hold on Cuba, drove them deeper into the arms of the Soviet Union and set up the eventual installation of nuclear missiles precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Conservatives claim Kennedy reformed welfare. Well, he did. He expanded it. Aid to Dependent Children was expanded to become Aid To Families with Dependent Children. The Food Stamp program was started. The School Lunch program was expanded. Social Security Benefits were increased. Kennedy pushed hard for the creation of Medicare which languished in Congress until after his Assassination. He fought to get the minimum wage increased. He got a 13 week temporary extension of unemployment benefits. There was investment in urban renewal and home building.

Conservative? I think not.

Some have cited the fact John Kennedy was a religious man. He was, nominally. Jack was Catholic and attended Mass. There was a massive distrust of Catholicism that was in the open prior to Jack's election. Many felt an American Catholic President would be a tool of the Vatican. Kennedy addressed these beliefs in a speech to protestant leaders in Houston Texas. He confirmed his belief in the Separation of Church and State as a bedrock principle of American Government.

Kennedy's Catholicism is touted as making him an ally in the anti-abortion fight. I doubt it though I can't find any comments from JFK. Abortion was not a political issue in the early Sixties.With Kennedy's stances on rights and Teddy's views I don't see JFK as some kind of Catholic conservative opposing pro-choice.

Now actual Catholic conservatives like the head of the Torquemada wing of the Tea Party, Rick Santorum blame Kennedy for running religion out of public life. Santorum said the Houston speech made him nauseous.I think that reasoned, nuanced political views do that. OK conservatives, you can't have it both ways.

A true conservative would have went with Curtis Le May, the Joint Chiefs and CIA during the Cuban Missile crisis. We would have nuked them, plunging us into a nuclear apocalypse. We would be living in a Mad Max world .

Kennedy brought us out of that without a shot fired by us. Curtis Le May called it our greatest defeat. Trust me, Curtis Le May was a conservative.

Kennedy, according to Bobby, had no plans to expand our presence in Vietnam and was thinking of a pull out. He had no desire to wage a war on China's doorstep. Hawks had to wait for LBJ to plunge us into that tragedy.

Jack moved on Civil Rights introducing the Civil Rights Bill to Congress. With the CONSERVATIVE opposition it took Lyndon to push it through to become law.

If you compare John Kennedy's positions, statements and actions to the conservatives of the era, no rational person can say JFK was conservative. William F. Buckley railed against the Kennedy's. Barry Goldwater led conservative opposition in the senate to JFK's progressive policies.

John F. Kennedy as a conservative is nothing more than taking a beloved American and twisting his views into something he would have been appalled over. They have done this with FDR, Truman, King and the Founders.

So, listen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy WAS not a conservative. He was a pragmatic progressive and a product of his times. Got it? So, shut up.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

LAX was terrorism. Period.

          He walked into Los Angeles International carrying a civilian version of the M-16. An M&P(military & police) style weapon which Smith & Wesson aggressively markets to the public at large.

In his pocket was a note describing himself as a "Pissed off Patriot". He wanted to kill TSA agents for trampling the Constitution. His "Manifesto" hit many of the Militia/Patriot/Tea Party hot button issues. The New World Order. Fiat Currency, DHS and tyranny. It seems he was a fan of Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. The gunman in his note made homophobic, racist and sexist remarks as he mentioned former DHS leader Janet Napolianto.

Paul Ciancia walked into LAX with an AR-15 style, legally purchased, .223 caliber, high powered rifle in a duffel. With that he opened fire on unarmed TSA employees. Paul asked bystanders,"TSA?" When they said no, he moved on. Within 60 seconds police arrived and took him down.

The description from the media focus on a "Lone Wolf" man who hinted at suicide to his brother. As he was lighting up LAX Terminal 3, the LAPD were at Ciancia's apartment to check on him. The shooter's Father had notified local law enforcement back home in New Jersey of concerns. They in turn contacted LAPD who had arrived very shortly after his departure. Paul's roommates reportedly said everything was fine.

What we have is a man espousing far right wing conspiracy notions waging an assault on an arm of the Federal Government constantly vilified by people like Beck and Jones.

Glen Beck, Alex Jones and their ilk are always reminding the tin foil hat battalion that DHS, through FEMA are building concentration Camps. These will be used to inter those who resist and survive when the Feds seize all firearms in the United States. These RWNJ Pied Pipers rail against the TSA for trampling Americans rights by aggressively seeking out firearms that gun owners are attempting to carry on board Aircraft.

On the Far Right radio shows the TSA is attacked for detaining people who forget they have a firearm in their luggage or on their hip. It is terrible an American exercising their Second Amendment rights should be treated like a potential hijacker.

So far the number of people forgetting they're armed has grown 30% during the first six months of 2013.  In Huffington Post Travel (see link below)we see a rise in gun related violations in America's Airports.

The gun culture has morphed into a belief that one should be allowed to go anywhere, anytime armed to the teeth. The "I forgot" excuse is common. Even in cases where the weapons are hidden or disguised. Basically they are saying I forgot I was smuggling a loaded firearm concealed in a bags lining or disguised as a permitted item. Seriously, is there anyone in America that doesn't know that a loaded weapon is prohibited in a commercial aircraft cabin?  I think not. It is this attitude that gun rights are God given and patriots are morally correct to ignore or evade any regulation that deny's that right.

Add into this mix that talk radio is always babbling about tyranny and domestic enemies. A true believer may decide to strike back at the traitors trying to take his life and liberty. These people always see themselves as true patriotic soldiers defending the American way of life. They feel a moral obligation to act before it's too late to warn the sheeple of impending subjugation. They invariably realize alone there is no chance to impose salvation on the citizens. The cabal is too strong and too entrenched. They are compelled to focus attention and anger by an act of terror. But, they call it a blow for freedom. As usual one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

They hear Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz spout rhetoric of godless tyranny destroying America. So, expecting to die they select a target. And they try to not be taken alive as they feel destined for martyrdom. These ideas are everywhere. Radio and the web. Fox News. There is a constant bombardment of the position we are on the verge of revolution. We are under attack by those who despise America. LBGT, Liberals, Socialists and heathens are joined with Islam to rule the world.

Every time there is a shooting in a public place the NRA and others push the idea it's a mental health issue. The shooter was nuts. You never see this in a situation where right wing political distortions of reality are involved. That would imply those positions are crazy. We can't have that.

The talking heads constantly spew hateful, violent rhetoric. When something happens, they deny any culpability. O'Reilly saying Dr. Tuller should be killed. He is. Then Billo does desperate damage control. Sarah Palin puts Democratic office holders in cross hairs then Gabby Gifford and others are shot at a political event. Not her intention, she says. On and on it goes. These commentators refuse to believe words have power. When inflammatory views are expressed as undeniable fact people act. They soak a situation with gasoline and toss a zealot a book of matches. Since Palin and others didn't strike the match, they know their hands are clean. If they had a conscience it would be clear.

Already Alex Jones is yelling False Flag citing conflicting eye witness statements and news reports. Eye witness testimony is very unreliable. Fifteen people seeing the same thing will give fifteen different statements as to what they saw. These days news outlets put unvetted statements out trying to scoop every one. Not a good basis to base an argument on. Well, facts will never stop a good Jones rant.

Had Paul Ciancia been Islamic or brown we would see Fox and their cohorts screaming terrorism. We would see the mainstream media doing the same. That seems to be lacking at the moment. The right is loathe to call Timothy McVeigh a terrorist. I see the current charges being amended to include terrorism. It has to be as that is what it was. Simple domestic terrorism. Hannity, Coulter, Beck, Limbaugh should be proud. Someone is listening to them. And believing.