Jim Renacci defeated John Boccieri last month in a loud, ugly campaign for Congress. Residents of Cuyahoga County were forced to view countless negative commercials for candidates that weren’t on our ballots. At best, we got to pretend that we rejected both of them.
Mr. Renacci is now accepting cash payments. Let me explain. Congressman-elect Renacci’s campaign raised $1.1 million from individuals and $317,000 in donations from political action committees. You know that that there were more than a million and a half in awful TV ads. Who or what was the source of the other money? Jim Renacci! In what is now a common practice, the candidate loaned his own campaign money, $750,000. The Renacci for Congress campaign spent over $2.2 million.
Jim Renacci is now hosting fund raisers in Washington D.C. He is meeting with PAC’s and lobbyist in an effort to retire his campaign debt. But his campaign debt is owed to one major benefactor, him. If you donate $5,000 to help retire the debt, you are, in fact, donating $5,000 to Mr. Renacci.
Giving money now assures you that your donation will actually go all the way to the target.
Let’s be fair. This practice of legal bribery is common and well publicized. Rich Democrats are just as likely as rich Republicans to loan money to their campaigns. Loan not give. And, this isn’t reserved for federal office seekers. Terri Hamilton Brown, a recent candidate for the new Cuyahoga County Executive, loaned $50,000 to her campaign.
We have established that this practice of lending money to your own campaign is legal, common, and performed by both Democrats and Republicans. May I add that it is also reprehensible?
Loshon hora, or evil speech, is strictly prohibited in Judaism. We are taught, as children, that Loshon hora hurts not just the subject of the gossip, but that harm is also done to the person who utters Loshon hora and the person who hears it. Truth is not the issue. Speaking poorly of someone, even a simple, factual recitation of an individual’s most spectacular failures, is wrong and should be avoided.
Three victims – the speaker, the listener, and the subject. It is easy to be victimized by Loshon hora in 2010. I was last night.
The red light was flashing on my Blackberry. I had missed a couple of calls during dinner. One even left a voice mail message. I quickly checked the voice mail. What I heard was a conversation between two guys. At least one of them has yet to learn how to lock his smart phone.
My golf buddy, Karl, “ass dials” his family and friends all of the time, often while he is on the course. These two guys were in a far more private setting. They talked about many of their mutual friends and all of it was clearly recorded on my voice mail. I knew that it was my responsibility to erase the conversation, but I couldn’t do it. Like much of gossip, it was banal, self-serving, and boring. Yet I listened.
Three victims – the speaker, the listener, and the subject.
Were they hurt by the Loshon hora? Yes in that we are harmed by anything that leads us away from being the best people we can be. Me? I was both a listener and a subject, a victim who listened long enough to hear my own name mentioned. I have no one to blame other than myself.
I can’t tell you what they said about me. The voice mail ended soon after I became the subject. And the truth is that it wouldn’t matter. The harm was already done.
Roger pushed back from the table, buttoned his jacket, and adjusted his hat. He was ready to storm out of my office. His wife, Sonya (both names changed), hadn’t moved, so he just stood there, scowling and shuffling his feet.
“I just won’t have any insurance,” he said.
“You get a little money and they want to take it away from you,” Sonya added. “We’ll go without insurance.”
They were really mad. I didn’t say a thing as they harrumphed their way past my secretary. I just listened to them bitch.
Door closed? Are they in the hall?
It’s Not My Fault! Seriously, it is not my fault. I am honestly tired of listening to people who blame everyone and everything for their screw-ups. Yelling at the insurance agent doesn’t replace personal responsibility. I can’t solve everyone’s problems. I can’t solve anything without cooperation.
The refusal of this couple to accept responsibility for their actions was typical of the people who have visited this month. Roger took a buyout four years ago at age 53. Instead of using his new found wealth as security, as an investment, or as the seed money to open a business, Roger retired. He hasn’t worked a day in four years. Sonya continued to work at a factory, which provided their health insurance, right up till her non-work related injury.
They are two fifty-seven year olds that either can not or will not work. He thinks that it is my fault that his health insurance, the same coverage I have, will cost him $350 per month due to his pre-existing conditions. Shame on Dave Cunix and Medical Mutual. Roger deserves free insurance.
No, he doesn’t.
While I am ranting, let’s talk about honesty. Rates and insurability are determined by underwriting. The insurance company evaluates the risk. I try to get as much info as possible, up front, to provide realistic quotes and to match the prospect with the right company. Even if the client “forgets” to tell me something, the insurer will find out. This usually results in the client’s policy being declined and me being embarrassed and aggravated.
I called Monday to push on the underwriter. I had been told that the doctor had mailed Mrs. Carter’s medical records last week. Can we get her issued? My contact at the Home Office told me that they were sifting through over 350 pages of information. Option 1 is that he was exaggerating. Option 2 is that there were undisclosed conditions. Your guess?
The underwriter, herself, called me Wednesday morning. The case had to be declined. Mrs. Carter had neglected to tell me about five other medical conditions. FIVE. How do you forget five conditions? Why would someone believe that they were going to trick a multi-billion dollar corporation?
Hours of research, follow-up, and meetings – all wasted. Mr. and Mrs. Carter will come in next week. Like others before them, they will rail about the system, the insurers, and a former employer. They would never believe that their actions, their planning, and their honesty were contributing factors.
The inability of these people to qualify for insurance causes me immeasurable stress and eats me up inside. Their inability to get insurance doesn’t bother enough to tell me the truth and to work with, as opposed to against, the system.
Personal Responsibility. Honesty. Ok, I’m done ranting. We will now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.
By the way, pertinent details have been changed to make the subjects of this piece unrecognizable to you, their families, or even the business people they aggravate.
Ready or not, it is time for one more election wrap-up. Mine. I would like to start with Jimmy McMillan, Vietnam War veteran, private investigator and recently defeated gubernatorial candidate. Not Ohio, New York State. You saw excerpts of the debate. You remember the gloves, the voice and the incredible facial hair. Yes, Jimmy McMillan wanted you to know that Rent Is Too DAMN High. Even Carl Paladino got more votes. But I smile every time I hear Jimmy say “Rent Is Too DAMN High”.
I have a couple of thoughts about last Tuesday’s election results and how we got here. And there is a good chance that you may disagree. Really disagree. When you do, I want you to say, out loud, “rent is too Damn high” (ritDh). I don’t care if you are on a bus or in a quiet library. Out loud. Rent is too Damn high. People will smile. You’ll make new friends. And, you’ll stay calm.
I have a friend who is righter than right and usually wrong. His prognostications are based on equal parts wishful thinking, Fox News, and talk radio. He rushed to predict on Wednesday that Nancy Pelosi, the biggest loser on Election Day, would resign, not just her leadership position, but from Congress. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but I didn’t believe that this was one of his moments. It wasn’t. Speaker Pelosi announced on Friday that she wishes to be the Minority Leader. (ritDh) Even those of us who aren’t huge Pelosi fans have to admire her courage and determination.
The Democrats can’t choose their leader based on his/her approval among Republicans. Of course, that works both ways. The presumptive Speaker of the House is John Boehner, the punch line of countless jokes before he has done anything more than say “Hell, No”. Let’s see how loved he is two years from now.
At the risk of infuriating Jill Miller Zimon, Pepper Pike Councilwoman and author of the insightful blog Writes Like She Talks, I think the whole Republican tsunami narrative is vastly overstated. The problem in Ohio may have been Jennifer Brunner.
Take a deep breath and say it out loud – rent is too Damn high. Better? Some of you may need to repeat.
Jennifer Brunner has been an excellent Ohio Secretary of State. The votes are now counted without incident throughout Ohio. Cuyahoga County is no longer a national joke. This is not an indictment of her job performance, just her political judgment.
Car Dealer Tom Ganley wanted to run for the Senate. The Republicans were able to convince him to run for the House which gave Rob Portman a clear path. Jennifer Brunner would not be deterred. She was strong enough to deliver body blows to either Lee Fisher or Rob Portman, but incapable of scoring a knock-out. Lee Fisher was forced to blow millions of dollars in the primary. Weakened and way behind in cash, Fisher never had a chance in November.
Money is the issue. According to Nielson Co., the Cleveland television market led the country in political ad saturation. 23.4% of all ads aired locally in October were political. Many of these ads were courtesy of Karl Rove and his secret money. Lee Fisher was at a huge disadvantage, so much so that the Republican money could be shifted to the governor’s race and the hideous Renacci–Boccieri slugfest.
Turn back the clock. Run Fisher against Portman straight up. Does Fisher win? No, but he would have been far more competitive and the rest of the ticket may have fared better. We will never know how much money was spent in support of John Kasich. We just know that it took every penny.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Rove’s American Crossroads may have millions to funnel into campaigns, but there are limits. Would Ted Strickland have prevailed if Jennifer Brunner had sought reelection as Ohio Secretary of State? Who knows? I think he would have. I firmly believe that Ms. Brunner would have easily defeated the highly partisan and overly ambitious Jon Husted. That would have put Jennifer Brunner perfectly positioned to be our next governor in 2014.
The Richard Cordray – Mike DeWine Attorney General contest was even closer than the gubernatorial election. Winnable? Again, possibly. No amount of money would have saved Kevin Boyce from Josh Mandel’s slime. Eric Brown and Mary Jane Trapp, running for the Supreme Court, were doomed to failure.
The election is almost over. The write-in votes will, one day, be counted in Alaska. The assorted recounts and law suits around the country will be resolved and/or settled eventually. And Cleveland television will again be the home of inane replacement window commercials.
But until then, which will be just about time for the 2012 presidential campaign to begin, I leave you with the immortal words of Jimmy McMillan. Rent Is Too DAMN High.
It was a Christmas Pageant! It was not a holiday show. It wasn’t a December musical. It was a flat out, Jesus loving, 1950’s, Christmas pageant. I was fuming. We, my then wife and I, were in the auditorium of a Westside PUBLIC school to see her young daughters, my step-daughters, perform in the annual program. She was beaming. Me? I was filling scraps of paper with notes. I wondered, silently, how not one student or parent in the entire North Ridgeville school district was Jewish, or Muslim, or an atheist, or even an agnostic. None. Hard to believe. My displeasure did not go unnoticed and she neither understood, nor appreciated, my position.
I wrote last week that we “can spend our time counting and categorizing our differences, or we can learn to appreciate people for who they are, We could easily miss such attributes as honesty and shared values if all of our attention is drawn to our dissimilarities.”
Last week’s post, in general, and those sentences, in particular, elicited at least one person to remind me that I may extol the virtues of being non-judgmental, but I have a history of being quite the opposite.
And I remembered that long ago night of December 1989.
Guilty. I would like to hope that I am both a better writer and a better person than I was twenty years ago. Some posts and some days I am. Some days I fail miserably.
I have been writing for a very long time. I have notebooks and files dating back to high school. I periodically review poems and newspaper columns that I have published. And, as someone who has tripped down the aisle a few times, I have more than enough personal successes and failures to replay in my mind. It is easy, in retrospect, to attribute certain victories to good fortune. It is even easier to point to my own personal shortcomings as the cause of my disappointments.
All of that would, in part, be true.
I would like to hope that I have not repeated the same mistakes again and again. I would like to hope that I am making new mistakes. But, that may be a goal beyond my reach.
I have certain weaknesses. I hate to be taken for granted or to realize that anyone is taking advantage of me. My second biggest hot button is to see some one I love used and abused.
I am opinionated, judgmental, and, at times, a pain in the ass. I once said that I was an acquired taste. My point last week was that we should keep our eyes and minds open. I was noting that we shouldn’t prejudge people who are different than us. I asked my readers to observe and listen. We need to be open to others, but we don’t need to relinquish our core beliefs or values. The acceptance of others doesn’t equal the diminishing of ourselves.
So, I agree with the reader who noted my guilty past. Was she being judgmental? Perhaps, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
They were still here! I had hoped that they would have gone down another aisle, stood in a different line, exited from some other door, but, they were still here! I had watched this couple, normally about five to ten feet in front of me, since we hit customs. And now, we appeared to be heading for the same plane. My concern was hardly rational. I didn’t stare at them, but I knew where they were at all times. We boarded the aircraft, a big plane, one that took awhile to fill. And then he fell ill. The couple was escorted from the plane. I approached a flight attendant to verify whether their luggage was going to be removed from below. I had already made up my mind that I wasn’t taking that flight if the luggage wasn’t retrieved. United was one step ahead of me. They were searching the cargo hold for the suitcases. We were delayed awhile on the tarmac. The rest of the flight was uneventful.
The above paragraph is totally true. The date was May 2000, a year plus before 9/11. I was coming back from an Alaskan cruise. The couple in question was French Canadian. Fight or Flight. It is smart to be aware of our surroundings and to trust our survival skills.
Juan Williams, former NPR commentator and now $2 million Fox News martyr, confessed last week on Bill O’Reilly’s show that he is perpetually afraid. A major fear of his is Muslims. “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams said on the “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday. “But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” That admission got him fired from NPR.
There are three problems with this:
1) This is the United States. You have the G-d given right to stick your thumb in your mouth, roll into a fetal position, and cry for your mommy whenever you encounter someone different. We may be the home of the brave, but bravery isn’t a requirement for citizenship.
2) The Muslims that hijacked the planes on September 11th, like Timothy McVey, the murderer who engineered the slaughter at Oklahoma City, dressed like average Americans. They looked like everyone else.
3) “They are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims”? Priests self-identify as Catholics. Nuns in habits, too. What about Orthodox Rabbi’s? Do these people make Juan nervous?
A huge contract not withstanding, it would really suck to be Juan Williams. You can not live your life afraid of everyone who is different than you and your family.
My son got married last Friday. Rabbi Susan Stone conducted a lovely ceremony for Phillip and Allison in the Japanese Garden of the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Unless her family had rented Fiddler on the Roof, most of my new daughter’s family and friends had never seen a Jewish wedding. When Phil broke the glass, they all shouted “Mazel Tov” as per Rabbi Stone’s instruction.
My son doesn’t love just Allison. He is friends with her brother, Clayton, who introduced them and he respects and admires her parents, Anita and Bill. We, however, are strangers. Before last week we had had one dinner in Marietta, where all of them live, and talked once or twice. We are very different and we lead very different lives.
This is not a value judgment. In fact, during the reception at Hiroshi’s Pub, Anita and I were talking about self-reliance. Where I am comfortable hiring people to do physical labor and skilled tasks, they learned how to do a number of things well. Anita’s mother made an intricate three layer wedding cake. Anita is skilled at floral arrangement. The corsages and boutonnieres were beautiful and imaginative. I expressed my hope that Phil would learn how to find the joy in accomplishing new tasks.
But, as I said, they are different.
The dinner reception was about over and Bill was given the check. He tried to hide his shock as he passed it to his wife. They turned to the waiter and said that there must be a mistake. The waiter replied that it was correct. Bill and Anita were visibly shaken. They passed the bill across the table to me.
I expected to see some mistaken overcharge. I feared that I would see the correct amount, but that it was more than what they had anticipated even though I had negotiated the price with my client in advance. No, the check was ridiculously low, about one third of what it should have been. I instructed the waiter to go back and get a corrected statement.
The waiter returned a few minutes later. Both Hiroshi, the owner, and Mike, the general manager, were out of the restaurant. The assistant manager confirmed the total amount due. Again, Bill insisted on a corrected check. He would not take advantage of an obvious error. I sent the waiter back with instructions to call Mike. Five minutes later, the waiter returned with the correct check.
Like Juan Williams, you may fear and distrust the Other, the people who aren’t like you. But you are the Other to them. It’s a long trip and you shouldn’t be scared all through this journey of life. We are different, Bill and I, you and I, all of us. We can spend our time counting and categorizing our differences, or we can learn to appreciate people for who they are. We could easily miss such attributes as honesty and shared values, if all of our attention is drawn to our dissimilarities.
My son has married into a new family and I couldn’t be happier.
The waitress was bringing in a beer as the happy couple posed for pictures by the wedding cake. Sally turned, caught the waitress off guard, and the glass crashed to the floor. The entire room yelled “Mazel Tov”.
“If anyone calls, tell them I’m at the Club”, I told my secretary, Felicia, as I left for my tee time.
OK, I said nothing of the sort. I’m not the country club type. At least, I don’t see myself that way. But, I did recently enjoy a round of golf as part of a lovely afternoon at Canterbury Golf Club.
The Beachwood Chamber of Commerce holds two networking lunches each year. One is in March. The other was last month. I was facilitating one of the tables. Jane Clarke, the new Membership and Marketing Director of Canterbury, was at my table.
Canterbury is a long-time and active member of our chamber and a respected member of the Beachwood business community. I have been to the club for chamber lunches and attended the 1996 U.S. Senior Open and last year’s Senior PGA Championship. Canterbury has an incredible course and a recently renovated facility. I told Jane that I was a big fan. I also confessed that I had never played Canterbury.
I received an email from Mrs. Clark the next day. She thanked me for welcoming her to the chamber and for leading the networking at the table. And, she invited me to tour the clubhouse and, if I’d like, to be paired with a member for a round of golf.
The email conversation went something like this:
I’d love to play a round at Canterbury, but I didn’t think a country club had hazing.
It wouldn’t be right to force one of your members to play with me.
We’re not that kind of club, Dave. You just have to like golf. You don’t have to be good at it.
Well, I really do like golf, but I normally shoot around 100 at a good course. I’m sure my score will be higher at Canterbury.
Her solution? She invited me to put together a foursome. Not just me, now it was me and three friends about to experience one of the top 100 golf courses in America.
Putting together a foursome was easy. I invited Karl, a website developer, Barry, an attorney, and Dan who owns a software development company. We arrived early to warm up on the putting green and tour the clubhouse. Jane met us in the pro shop.
I won’t go into the gory details about the golf. We all had a few good shots. I even had a couple of pars. The course was in terrific shape. The layout is challenging, but fair. The greens were fast.
The golf, though fun, was not the best part of the day.
I was surprised by Canterbury’s warm welcome. My friends and I were invited to be a part of Canterbury. There was none of the stuffiness that I had experienced at some of the other clubs in Greater Cleveland. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. Several people bragged about the number of families with young children.
After golf we had a drink with Pat Sedlak of the membership committee. It was obvious that he and his family, we met two of his kids, really enjoyed everything the club has to offer. He made sure that Jane had given us membership packets and asked us to consider joining.
I’ve got the membership packet in my office. How much does it cost? I have no idea. I truly enjoyed my day at Canterbury. The course. The caddy. The clubhouse. The attitude. It was great. The issue is me. I can’t see myself as a member of a country club. That may change one day. If I ever change, if I ever become open to the idea of belonging to a country club, I will open the packet. Because if I was going to join a club, it would be Canterbury.
My ballot arrived with Thursday’s mail. It was not a good mail day. One bill, a couple of ads, some oversized political postcards, and a ballot – nothing I wanted to see. I opened the bill, but I put the ballot aside for a couple of days. I can accept responsibility for my expenses. I refuse to believe that our awful choices are my fault.
President Obama is worried that Democrats, like me, are experiencing an enthusiasm gap. He wishes. Mr. Obama and the national party have managed to squander a huge lead and an incredible amount of good will. Add to this a still struggling economy, the debacle in Afghanistan, and a campaign of unparalleled mudslinging from both parties and you have all of the ingredients necessary for voter antipathy. It was fitting that Jimmy Carter spent a couple of days here last week. If I may borrow his term, many of us are feeling “malaise”.
I’ve got to vote. It is my civic duty. Some of the choices are easy. The affable Nina Turner is unopposed. Also unopposed, but vote worthy, are Paul Pfeifer, Jose Villanueva, and Peter Sikora. A few of the contested races are also slam dunks. Lance Mason has received good reviews as a judge. Anyone running against Bridget McCafferty should win by acclamation.
The next couple of races aren’t too difficult. Rob Portman has yet to tell Ohio why we should vote FOR him. Advantage – Fisher. I have never voted for Mike DeWine. There is no reason to end that streak today.
I have given the new County Executive position a lot of thought. The only person with enough experience, connections, and integrity to take the reins and have a chance of success may be Tim McCormack. I don’t know if he will win, but at least I’m not embarrassed by my choice.
The rest of the races are not that easy. Competency, ethics, and judgment come into play. Dirty campaigns, exaggerations, and flat-out lies are sprinkled throughout. I darken the little ovals. I do not cast a straight ticket ballot.
I have saved the worst for last. Item 16 is the income tax increase for Beachwood. For or Against? I have been putting off this decision. Do I reward bad behavior and incompetence? NO! I can not vote for the levy. Do I deny Beachwood the money it needs now that the city has blown through the millions it had in reserve? NO! I can not vote against the levy. I abstain. Since the tax is designed to be paid by people who work in the city, but can’t vote, as opposed to the people who live here and can, it should pass easily.
I am careful to seal the envelope before I either change my mind or simply tear up the ballot. I am just one more guy wandering around the bottom of the enthusiasm chasm. Will the major parties find us in time for 2012?
A recent Quinnipiac Poll shows former Congressman Rob Portman ahead by 20 points over Lt. Governor Lee Fisher. Other polls show Portman with leads of about 10 points. I take no pleasure in reporting these numbers. I have voted for Mr. Fisher lots of times. I will probably vote for him again in November. My vote, like approximately 45% of the ballots eventually cast, will be in vain. Mr. Fisher is destined to lose. Mr. Portman will be our next U.S. Senator.
The polls and recent Ohio elections lead me to one conclusion. Lee Fisher will run in 2012 or 2016 to be our next President.
A stretch? I don’t think so. Let’s review Mr. Fisher’s last couple of campaigns. After serving 12 years in the Ohio legislature:
1990 – Lee Fisher won a close election for Ohio Attorney General earning the nickname Landslide Lee.
1994 – Defeated in his bid for reelection by Betty Montgomery.
1998 – Eschewed the opportunity to challenge Ms. Montgomery, Lee Fisher ran for Governor. He was defeated in a close election 50% to 45%.
2006 – Elected Lt. Governor on Ted Strickland’s ticket.
2010 – Defeated (projected) in his bid for the U.S. Senate.
2012 / 2016 – President Fisher?
His previous defeat led him to run for a higher office. We are running out of offices. All that is left is the presidency.
Please don’t take any of this a knock on Mr. Fisher’s efforts. Lt. Governor Fisher was the state’s point man for economic development. I bumped into him several times in my capacity as President of the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce. He was engaged and active. Was he effective? In a recession? In a state that lost bidding wars to Georgia and others? I don’t know if anyone could have done any better.
Was he good enough to get promoted to U.S. Senator?
Rank and file Democrats didn’t have much of a choice. Fisher or Fisher wanna-be, Jennifer Brunner. Having served one tumultuous term as Ohio Secretary of State, Ms. Brunner refused to attempt to defend her position and bolted for the Senate race. Ohio voters chose the familiar, overly ambitious Fisher instead of the upstart, overly ambitious Brunner. What a shock.
Lee, my old neighbor, if you are reading this, know that I really wish this current race would end more successfully. And, I pledge $18 (Chai / Life) toward your inevitable Lee Fisher for President campaign. Just let me know where to send the check.
A pastor in Florida wants to burn some Korans and the world is outraged. Which part of the above sentence is more surprising? Are you shocked that a Christian minister would want to be the #1 symbol of hate and intolerance in this country? Or, are you amazed that a man leading a congregation of less than fifty people, many of whom are his relatives, could cause an international frenzy? (I will not name him. I will not link to him or any story about him.)
This isn’t even the first time a Christian fringe group has publicly burned or threatened to burn the Koran. It won’t be the last.
I was sitting in my synagogue, surrounded by fellow Jews, observing the second day of Rosh Hashanah earlier today. I thought about this trouble-maker, this man so sure of his cause that only a sign from G-d could deter him. Would it matter if he was stopped? It is not possible to stop every Christian pastor out to display his hate for others or feed his need for attention.
And then I thought about the Kristallnacht.
November 9, 1938. Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. The Storm Troopers attacked the Jews of Germany. 7500 businesses were destroyed. 177 synagogues were gutted. Torahs desecrated. 91 dead. There was no outrage. The world didn’t notice. The world didn’t take action.
There is no reason to burn the holy books of someone else’s religion. But, unless one of the TV cameramen bumps into a print reporter, no one will be hurt by this hateful protest.
So, maybe we have advanced as a society. If the mindless assault on ideas gets international attention, then maybe we can begin to eliminate the mindless assaults on people.