What If You Couldn’t Read?

What would happen if you couldn’t read? What adventures would you miss? What worlds would have gone undiscovered? If you couldn’t read you would never know the real joy of Tolkien, the adventures of Harry Potter, or even the simple beauty of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry.

But you can read. But what if you never read a newspaper? No Wall Street Journal. No New York Times. No Plain Dealer. Where would you get the news? In Cleveland we have local and national television news and opinion shows, talk radio, the internet, and, as of yesterday evening, the telephone.

My home phone rang just a few moments before 7 PM. The only reason I have a land line is for clients to find me during an emergency. Those calls come once or twice a year. Otherwise, if the phone is ringing it is someone violating the Do Not Call laws or a politician looking for cash and sympathy. This call was from my Congresswoman’s office.

The recording invited me to a telephone town hall meeting. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge was going to address health care issues, specifically Medicare. All I had to do was stay on the line. I was already agitated from a long day at the office. What the Hell, I figured. Let’s see what Ms. Fudge had to say.

I have no idea how many constituents were participating in this meeting. A press aide came on the give us the ground rules. The Congresswoman would deliver a brief introduction. We would have the opportunity to ask questions. A few minutes later we heard the familiar voice of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.

Ms. Fudge thanked us for participating and assured the audience that health care in general, and Medicare in particular, were her top priorities. She then asserted that Medicare didn’t cost money, it saved money. She then stated as fact that Medicare had been far more successful at controlling medical expenses than the private sector. Next she quickly dismissed Senator Lieberman’s recent proposal to move Medicare eligibility to age 67.

WOW. Déjà vu. It was spooky. This was all so familiar. I was silently trying to solve this mystery when my phone went dead. It was as if the Congresswoman’s office had realized that they had dialed a wrong number. Disconnected. I put the phone back on its charger, turned on the Indian’s game, and picked up the Plain Dealer. The paper was open to page A7, the Opinion page. The main article:

Medicare Saves Money by Paul Krugman

Point by point Paul Krugman regurgitated all of the arguments, many roundly rejected, that he had put forth during last year’s health care debate. And Ms. Fudge’s intro was nothing more than an attempt to paraphrase this column! Now in fairness, the call was prematurely disconnected. I may have missed a whole section of original thoughts from my Congresswoman. I may have also missed Beetle Bailey and Judge Parker.

We don’t need to read the paper. Congresswoman Fudge will now be calling us to deliver her favorite column of the day. But I like to read. And more importantly, I read both the writers who support my positions and the ones who don’t.

So until Ms. Fudge can help us do the Sudoku over the phone, I’ll keep my subscription to the Plain Dealer and skip the next invite for one of her telephone town hall meetings.

Scenes Witnessed or Experienced In The Last Year


They were made for each other. He was capable of romanticizing the way a waitress touched his hand while returning his change. She calculated potential property settlements during a first kiss. Yes, in a dystopian parallel universe kind of way where the trains crash on schedule, they were made for each other.


Overheard at Corky’s…

“Here’s the deal. I knew where I was, where we were, and most importantly, where they were on this issue. The problem isn’t that they weren’t prepared two years ago. The problem is that two years later, they are still unprepared.”

“So why are they still in office?”


Work then home. Work then home. Sometimes he broke up his pattern and had dinner with his mother. Then he would go home. “Cleveland’s a terrible place to be single”, he told a co-worker. Work then home. There is no life insurance coverage for the terminally single.


He believed in Intelligent Design. He created his universe. He was the Lord and Master. He was bathed in light and warmth. But his universe was shrinking. The wife moved out years ago. The kids were hanging around till the checks stopped. The eclipse is imminent.


We complain when people are silent and accept things as they are. We complain when people protest and make a scene. We don’t like it when the politicians veer too much to the left and are scared when they take the big turn to the right. So we live in our own version of the moderate middle, alone, and wondering why no one else sees our truth.

We are not so different. David Ackles was right. “They suffer least who suffer what they choose”.

The Politics of Blogging

Bismarck noted that politics is the art of the possible. Everything is political. This is the politics of blogging.

Even something as free-form and spontaneous as blogging has its own internal logic, rules, and regulations. This is particularly true for Again? Really? There is an unwritten style book. There are reoccurring characters. There are facts that are fungible and facts that are sacrosanct. Feelings may be explored and expanded, but they can never be faked. And I never, ever, throw the first punch.

Thankfully, I have an entire cadre of volunteers to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Sally is my #1 sounding board and the person assigned to protect me from myself. Since I tend to write these at home, in long hand, while enjoying a cigar, she is normally a couple of feet away watching TV and waiting for me to get some idea on paper. I prefer to have my stuff read aloud. If they ever create a “Blogs on Tape”, I would rush to be one of the firsts. A look from Sally can quickly kill a post.

My daughter Jennifer has also served as editor-in-chief. She is far too busy to fulfill that role now, but I value her input when given. She is about to launch her own blog, Jensfoodadventures.wordpress.com. The initial posts are terrific.

Jeff, my business partner, and Felicia, our secretary, are the last two members of the home team. Both are very good at letting me know if a little more detail or clarification is needed.

I expect Sally, Jeff, or Felicia to understand the cultural references and to appreciate the humor. If I am too obtuse or fail to entertain any of them, it is time to rework the post.

Since many of my characters are drawn from real life, some of my readers search each post for a reference to them. A couple are capable of finding themselves whether I meant for them to be there or not. This usually sparks a lively exchange of emails and private messages on Facebook. Others, like Beth Bryan, know that just mentioning them by name improves any of my posts.

I am also blessed with kibitzers. Captain Grammar checks me for typos, word usage errors, and other failings. She is very fast. Some of her emails have resulted in immediate changes before any one else has had a chance to notice my mistakes. There are those who might consider having someone standing over their shoulder a nuisance. Not me. I find having an extra editor invaluable. I also appreciate Sergeant Spell-Check. His only problem is that he is sometimes wrong. He is always entertaining, just not always right.

Putting together Again? Really? and Health Insurance Issues With Dave takes a lot of time. All of these posts have numerous links. Having readers suggest topics and issues helps tremendously. The feedback, nudging, and comments, even those that are kept private, significantly contribute to the final product.

Today’s post is designed to thank the people who help bring you Again? Really? and Health Insurance Issues With Dave. I couldn’t do it without them.


There are two types of reckless drivers. Some manage to never have an accident. Their cars have no scratches or dents. Unfortunately, they leave in their wake death and destruction as others are affected by their actions. The other type of reckless driver is more familiar. The daily news features stories of people texting right up to the moment that they slammed into the parked car or school bus.

My Republican friends used to accuse Democrats of hating George Bush. I never met anyone who hated our most recent president. They didn’t like him. They certainly didn’t respect him. But George Bush was too insubstantial to generate hate, a strong emotional reaction. What I often perceived was resentment. People resented Mr. Bush’s ability to go through life oblivious of the affect of his actions, untouched by his mistakes, and seemingly unaware of his place in history. While others stressed about the human condition, George W. Bush appeared to be the living embodiment of the expression that Ignorance is Bliss.

Then there is Sarah Palin. As I am writing this, a young woman, a Congresswoman, is fighting for her life in a Tucson hospital. Eighteen people were shot. Six have already died. One of the fatalities was a nine year old child. One of the fatalities was a federal judge. I can only hope that no one else will have died by the time you read this.

Why did I mention the former Alaskan governor? Up to an hour or so ago, Mrs. Palin was “targeting” Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other elected officials. Targeting is the correct word. Her site featured a map with bull’s-eyes. Her rhetoric, inflammatory.

There is a campaign to take back our country. This assumes that someone or some group took our country from us. It idealizes some imaginary world, circa 1950’s, where everyone, or at least everyone that mattered, was white, Christian, and middle class. Mom stayed home and wore dresses. Dad went to work. The U.S. was #1 and the biggest question was who made the best cars, GM, Ford, or Chrysler.

That time never existed!

The United States has been a dominant country throughout much of its existence. We are a world power. We can be a beacon of hope. We have also suffered the stain of slavery, Japanese internment, and unequal justice. In many respects, we are a better country today, January 8, 2011, then we ever were before. And we have plenty of room for improvement.

We can not move forward as a country by targeting those who disagree with us. The U.S. Constitution is a living document that has been amended twenty-seven times. It will be amended again as our country’s needs change in the future. We can no more return to 1954 then we can relive 1854. Nor should we want to.

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. There are 100 Senators. It is probably easier for you to name a half a dozen with whom you disagree, six that you would like to see replaced, than five that you always support. That’s representative government.

You don’t point guns at people. No targets. No bull’s-eyes. No bull shit. Swimming pools have adult only time. We have come to a point where it has become necessary to declare an Adults Only time for public discourse.

We have suffered too long from the actions of the reckless. It is time to escort them from the public stage.

Now Is The Time To Bribe Jim Renacci

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?

The Enthusiasm Chasm

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?

Lee Fisher For President

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.

Choosing Sides

David’s frustration was not feigned. My friend’s confusion was very real. Why wouldn’t I become a Republican? He could not understand my reluctance to change sides. With my occasional bouts of logic and my appearance of reasonableness, I didn’t fit his image of a Democrat.

Before this goes much further, I should probably note that my friend’s name really is David. Get a bunch of Jewish guys of a certain age together and you will inevitably have several David’s, Marc’s, and Jeffrey’s.

David happily listed some of the Dem’s shining stars. He flung names like Pelosi, Reid, and Waters like accusations. I calmly told him that when Republicans refer to a person of color, they usually mean John Boehner. I think I got in an Agent Orange joke, too.

This wasn’t the first time we had had a conversation like this. It won’t be the last. David admitted that the Republicans did have some members on the far right, but he felt that my experience in the 90’s of leading the New Democratic Policy Council would lend a moderating influence. And at that I said, “No thanks”. I can stay where I am and help my own party find the sensible center.

I am, officially, a Democrat. But in truth, I really belong to a party that has only one member and I’m sometimes at odds with him. I don’t think I fit neatly into any particular box and I’m always amazed by those people who do.

Some of you may think that this is a perfect segue to a discussion of the church closings in Greater Cleveland and the one group that didn’t meekly go away. It is not. I thought the letter to the editor published in the Plain Dealer from Reverend Kenneth Chaulker was out of place. I prefer to leave the discussion of Catholicism to Catholics.

A month of so ago the Democratic Party ward clubs of several eastern suburbs were going to have a candidates’ night. The purpose was to gather all of the Democratic candidates for the new Cuyahoga County Executive position. The average voter would have an opportunity to hear their platforms and ask questions. Democracy in action.

The Party squashed the event. Since the Party had already endorsed Edward FitzGerald, there was no reason for us to meet with any of the others. Mayor Gorden and the other ward leaders had conveniently done our thinking for us. The primary is just a formality.

I have already mailed my primary ballot. I sincerely doubt that I will vote, come November, for that person again. Two of the Independent candidates are in the running for my vote. I’m more intrigued by either of them than I am with any of the candidates running as Democrats or Republicans.

I am represented in Congress by Marcia Fudge, someone who schedules community meetings on Rosh Hashanah. We appoint our Congressional representatives for life in this district. Unless she chooses to run for the U.S. Senate, Ms. Fudge will be there in Washington, for me, until death or wanderlust takes one of us. Will I vote for her? I have, and depending on who my choices are, I may again. I reserve that right. I also reserve the right to skip that race on the ballot if I find all of the choices abhorrent.

David shouldn’t waste his time attempting to craft more persuasive arguments. I can’t switch from being a Democrat to identifying myself as a Republican, because I am unwilling to give up what little independence I have left. I may not be much of a Democrat, but I’m more than enough for me.

A Glimmer Of Hope

My friend Donna Miller, the woman responsible for the excellent blog Read Any Good Books Lately, was concerned.  She thought that I might be getting bored.  Beth Bryan felt that mentioning her birthday, April 12th, would improve both this blog and my disposition.  My guess is that I am simply frustrated and disillusioned.

I  would like to think the best of people.  Yes, Ambrose Bierce is one of my favorite authors and I always have two of his books in my briefcase, but I really am, at my core, optimistic.  Damn near Pollyannaish.   That is proving to be more difficult.  No matter how many times I lower my expectations, our leaders still fail to deliver.  I am not Catholic, so I am only aware, but unaffected, by all of those issues.  I am thinking about our political leaders and that seems to be all that I can handle.

My frustration has been building for thirteen years.  It began with the bloodless coup d’état the Republicans staged in 1998.  I can’t tell you which bothered me more, the incredible hypocrisy or the naked power grab. 

The Clinton impeachment gave us the Bush presidency.  Eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney did nothing to restore my faith and confidence in our government.  We are still learning the full extent of their incompetence, their avarice, and their total disregard for the rule of law.

The last year or so have not been much better.  Different, but not better.  Democrats.  Republicans.  Not much to choose from.  Certainly no heroes.  I have been involved in politics and government, on the local, state and federal level, since 1972.  I’ve met and talked with senators, presidents, and world leaders.  Our current group doesn’t measure up.  And I am frustrated.

I was at Moxie’s yesterday evening for the annual Shoes and Clothes for Kids fundraiser, Fool’s Frolic.  My friend Seth Briskin of Meyers Roman is on the host committee of this terrific event.  Of course, how hard is it to throw a great party when you’ve got wonderful food, an open bar, and some of this area’s most interesting people in the room.  I was having a good time even before I met Mamie and Mark.

Mamie J. Mitchell is the Councilwoman for Cleveland’s Ward 6.  Mark A. Schneider is the State Representative for District 63 which includes Mentor and the surrounding communities.  My conversations with the two of them left me with the feeling that all is not lost.  Do me a favor, if you are aware of any information that would prove that these two people are no better intentioned than all of the other politicians I’ve encountered lately, keep it to yourself for a couple of days.  I don’t need to be disappointed today.

Mamie Mitchell is deeply connected to Ward 6.  She speaks as positively about the new Juvenile Justice Center at 93rd and Quincy as she does about the trendy shops and restaurants of  Larchmere.  She was a manager for BP before she went to law school.  I appreciate how she has managed her life and has sought to control her own destiny.  It is that toughness that she brings to her current job.  We agreed on some issues affecting her community.  We agreed on some political issues.  But not all, and I was happy to listen to her views on all of these subjects.

Mark Schneider has a real sense of what works and what doesn’t.  Ten minutes with him convinced me that there are practical, realistic people in our government.  We spent most of the time discussing a topic of mutual interest, business incubators and the point where private and public interests intersect.  He has been a Cuyahoga County prosecutor and is now affiliated with a Lake County firm where he practices probate and estate planning law.  I think he has a terrific future.

No, I don’t think either of these people are our next president or even senator.  That isn’t the point.  We need a government.  We need qualified leaders, people with both the moral and intellectual capacity to lead effectively.  We should celebrate those moments when we encounter those politicians.  It is the rarity of the moment that makes it so unusual.  It is our need for more such moments that makes this so important.

Spitting in the Wind,The Further Adventures of a Moderate Democrat

I was three pages into this blog (long hand!) when I realized how much I hated this post. I was writing for my other blog, Health Insurance Issues With Dave, but I was tired of facts and statistics. No one wanted to read one more well researched lecture that poked holes in the preconceived notions of Congressmen from both sides of the aisle. It didn’t matter. And the truth is that I found the whole exercise depressing. I tore it up.

It was 10:26 PM, moments before the big vote. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was still talking. Minority Leader John Boehner was the next to the last to speak. As an act of both patriotism and masochism, I had listened to and watched much of the last 10 hours of process and debate. I was on overload.

The Republicans, who adamantly refused to participate, bemoaned the fact that the bill wasn’t a bipartisan effort. The Democrats trotted out a collection of fairy tales and hyperbole that surprised and sickened me. It wasn’t frustrating to be a Democrat. It was frustrating to be an American. It had been that kind of day.

My day began with coffee at the Panera in Solon with two Republicans. Phil is in the army reserve. His issues tend to be centered around military defense and taxation. My friend David, a borderline Libertarian, delights in noting the foibles and failures of every Democrat. If you had overheard our conversation, you might have thought that I was Nancy Pelosi’s neighbor and Eric Massa’s oldest friend. I, in turn, asked David about his good buddy John Ensign. It was all good natured fun until we got to the health care bill.

It isn’t an act. There are a lot of people who really fear President Obama and Speaker Pelosi. They are afraid that our country is going down an irreversible path to ruin. Don’t ridicule them. It isn’t right. How many of us felt the same way about the last administration?

It was easy to mock George W. Bush. I still have my copy of Shrub. It was easy, but it wasn’t productive, unless you consider feeding the base your goal. It was hard to fear W. Dick Chaney? That was a different story. But W, with his broken English and aw shucks mannerisms, was too easy to dismiss. Obama is an entirely different story. Where many of us may have underestimated Bush, the Republicans have overestimated his influence. They built him up so high that he actually succeeded just by showing up. Think about this. After months of benign neglect, Obama got his bill passed this week with a minimum of arm-twisting and an executive order on abortion funding that is more about good faith than law. He couldn’t have done this without the Republicans unwitting help.

My Republican friends, sensing my frustration, have sent engraved invitations to join their party. I can’t. The other side doesn’t look any better.

My problem is that I really do appreciate facts. Any semblance between the vast savings this new health care bill will yield and the WMD in Iraq is strictly coincidental. I’m tired of 1 + 1 = 7. I’m tired of the disingenuous stories told to motivate us to move in directions we, as a country, should not go. I’m tired of the lies. And I’m frustrated with myself that I keep hoping for better from people who can not, and will not, deliver.

This isn’t a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. It is an American issue. We were sold two wars on the cheap. We are being told that we can increase the number of people covered and the type of health care coverage we are all getting, and that it will save us money. NO IT WON’T. And I don’t care, at least not about the money. I care about the lies.

Tell us the truth. We can handle it. At the very least, we can learn to handle the truth. We are going to have to. The US is becoming the confused bank customer, facing a barrage of bounced checks, dumbfounded because there are still checks in our checkbook. How can we be out of money? We still have checks. We refuse to grow up. We have expressed little interest in becoming adults, responsible for our spending.

And so I find myself lost again in the middle, a political orphan, homeless and alone. I am certainly not well represented by my current Congressional delegation. Our state budget, though nowhere near as bad as some, is less than a year away from a major shortfall. I would be hard pressed to name ten politicians I truly admire and respect.

So my question is, “am I truly alone, or are you, too, spitting in the wind?”