Friday, February 5, 2016

Scarborough on rebranded ropes at UA

The high hurdlers  of the University of Akron Faculty Senate expressed their deep concern about UA President Scott Scarborough's troubled leadership on Friday with a near-perfect 50-2 no confidence vote. So near-perfect, in fact, that it would be hard for Scarborough or the Board of Trustees that has shielded him during months of campus upheaval to dismiss the gravity of  this tenure.

Bursting  into his job as a self-satisfied Mr. Goodwrench from Toledo University, where he had been provost,  less than two years ago, he eagerly rebranded  the school as a polytechnic academic model  while shrewdly talking a good game as a business executive.     But despite the unofficial welcoming committee from the city and the local media,  it soon  became obvious that he had little awareness of how to handle the task ahead, nor the importance of growing faculty and community reaction.  In short, he was making a bad situation worse by   stonewalling his critics as he pushed ahead with his notions of how to eliminate the school's debt - whatever  it is - and remedy falling enrollment.  (He once blithely assigned complaints to nitpicking by those who didn't understand his fail-safe plans.) .

Many on the faculty soon picked up on his  lone-wolf tactics  that ranged from shrinking or even closing some departments, to ending the school's baseball team  and shattering  the iconic cultural presence of E.J. Thomas Hall. At the same time, with the comatose consent of the trustees,  he went  on a spending binge  with  private contractors. When objections to his detached  management style increased  from educators, alumni  and townspeople,  he reached into his bag of metrics to counter that it  was much too early to judge progress.

It all funneled into Friday's  no-confidence resolution. The dissent is palpable. And it will not vanish.  The conditions suggest that his only option is to resign.  When the
Cleveland Cavaliers decided that  its coach had lost the confidence of its players, it fired the coach.  Such action is not unusual in sports or corporate offices.  How much longer can the trustees that hired him, a clubby jury that has proven to be useless as  gatekeepers, tolerate the  facts?

There was no indication  following the vote that the board will do anything .  Chairman  Jonathan Pavlov, a political appointee who owes his seat to the Summit County Republican Party, said in a prepared statement that the board fully concurs with Scarborough's initiatives .  To which I would add:  "come hell or high water".  In  insulting words  he said it was more important for the faculty to work with the administration for shared governance.  But that's what the other side has been advocating all along to no avail.   Who writes his stuff anyway?  

Meantime, Team  Scarborough has rounded up some local businessmen too advise him on call. .

That leaves me with a big question:  Why does a man whose half-million- dollar salary and perks  need someone to tell him how to do his job?


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Brotherly love

The unimaginable will occur in South Carolina on Friday with a new Jeb! TV commercial that will feature Dubya.  The former president who presided over  the  unspeakable invasion of Iraq and appeared in pretentious  pilot gear on an aircraft carrier asserts in the commercial  that the first responsibility of leadership is to protect the country.  He then assures us  that Jeb!  is the very leader who can do just that.  It's all in the family, folks,  even though it's doubtful Jeb! will call for a second invasion of Iraq. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A survival kit of the presidential primaries

By midweek before the Monday primary, I had retreated into sullen denial.  No more "breaking news" of the latest polls.  No more expert political analysis speculating and rehashing of everything that had been said  before.  No more car commercials merging with constipation ads.   No more oft-broken news strung across the bottom of the screen.

Been there.  Done that.  Read any good books lately.?

Everything pointed to the media- driven showdowns in Iowa on Monday night when many of  us were looking for ways to get some sleep.  Certain that the joyful moments would come upon awakening Tuesday, the satisfaction that there were no more Iowa polls and nasty candidates calling each other awful names, I discovered that  things aren't  quite that intelligible in today's politics.  And  Politics 2016 was still erupting as if the media messengers were reporting the home stretch of the Kentucky Derby,.

Trump was of no help.   He lost.  That left us in the morning-after mode to consider the dreadful possibility of Ted Cruz as the Vader-like leader of the free  world.  Am I getting way ahead of myself? Am I still  thinking about the nation's flirtation with a catastrophe in 2008 when John McCain agreed to choose Sarah Palin as veep candidate.  My desperate hope at the time was that if he were elected, he would live in a capsule  free of any peril  to his life.

Fortunately, Barack Obama spared us of the drama queen, for which he gets too little credit.    We can only wonder what McCain now thinks about it in his private moments recalling, as others have put it over the years,  "shooting craps with history." .

I am still in denial.  For the past before-and-after  week  I found escape in Puccini's Turandot at the Regal, a  greater interest in Johnny Manziel's  deconstruction as a NFL QB, Seinfeld reruns, the well-done PBS documentary of James Garfield's assassination and, cheerfully, a bowl of popcorn watching several Great Courses DVD lectures on a tour of Italy.  (Still have more than 30 to go that I have reserved for New Hampshire.)

If you have any interest in those solutions these days, begin by not setting the alarm.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

With Kasich, where have the 'good people' gone?

One of the memorable comments from the latest Republican debate - aka  Grim Fairy Tales -- was  uttered by Gov. Kasich  when he was asked about the poisoned water calamity in Flint.  A Houdini in slipping nooses, Kasich said he didn't know enough about the details to comment on what most school children probably know.    But he did assure his audience as the absentee landlord of  the Buckeye state,    he was proud to hire good people who would be  "on top of any problems that arose in Ohio."  (Sebring is still a  work in progress.)

Yep, the pick of the litter.  A few examples will suffice:

Rick Hodges was plucked by Kasich from  his job as director  of the Ohio Turnpike Commission  to become director of the Ohio  Department of Health.  The position had been filled by physicians, or as the state law required, "someone with significant  experience in the public health field."  Hodges  wasn't qualified to give you an over-the-counter aspirin.

And how about  Debe Terhar , the Tea Party activist who was appointed to the State  Board of Education while adding a Hitler graphic to her page  doubtless aimed at President Obama.  ( She advanced to  board president!) She worked with Kasich to drive out her predecessor, Deborah Delisle.

Then we come to Mike Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life and registered pro-life lobbyist,  who  was appointed to the the State Medical Board, which is supposed to assess the qualifications of physicians,  which he isn't.

As Plunderbund once pointed out, Kasich added a climate change denier to  the Public Utilities Commission  of Ohio.

Oh, and a former utilities lobbyist and VP for American Electric power to the Department of Natural Resources.

There's more, including the privatization of the now secretive  JobsOhio.   But  don't get me started. Is this  how he chooses foxes for his chicken coops?

When Kinky Friedman , the cowboy songwriter, humorist and  radio guest of Don Imus ran against Rick Perry for governor (and lost) , he had some words of assurance to the voters:

"Trust me,'' he said, with  mock sincerity.   "I'm  Jewish. l'll hire good people."

Kasich has yet to meet that goal for his honor roll .

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Happy Days are here again!

It's getting spooky.

That constant starry-eyed Kasich grin, I mean.  His rapturous  references on the stump  to  his partnership that has peaced-him-up with the Lord.

Headlines refer to him now as the Happy Warrior..  The national media, having sought in vain to change the subject from their own partnership with all things Trump, have bought into the idea that the Ohio governor is gleefully standing at the Pearly Gates these days.  It's not the guy we have come to know back in Ohio.  But here comes another story  from New Hampshire that the voters have a Happy Warrior moving around in their midst.

The smiley-face  logo for a presidential campaign was seeded in 1928 when Al Smith, the four term New York Democratic governor chose to upgrade his  career  by seeking the presidency.

The Happy Warrior, he was called. But it didn't work out happily for him.  He was beaten  by Herbert Hoover, of all people..

 The defeat was largely attributed to the notion that although Al was happy, he was  thought to be a Papist.  Sort of  like  Obama being called a Muslim, don't you think?

A born-again, Kasich is smiling at every opportunity .  The other day his response to a reporter on TV was a burst of  joy that  jumbled his words.

But in his more reflective moments running 20 points behind Trump,  Kasich  oddly conceded at a town hall meeting a few days ago "if I get snuffed out in New Hampshire,  it's ballgame over."  On  caucus day in Iowa, Kasich willl  be in New Hampshire  for another of the more than 85 town halls where he's preached  for votes.And if he loses.he will have to come back to Ohio and  the mess he's left behind.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

GUEST COLUMN: Ohio Education Dept. Scandal



A classic television game show that premiered in the early 1950s, and was revived a few times for new audiences, might have booked Ohio Gov. John Kasich in a heartbeat. The show was called I’ve Got a Secret. 
It featured celebrity guests with something to hide. Panelists would ask questions and search for clues to guess the secret. 

Gov. Kasich has a secret. He hides it well as he peddles his plain-spoken, real-deal, son-of-a-mailman sales pitch as a Republican presidential candidate in New Hampshire.
The secret is secure with Kasich loyalists. Mr. Kasich is mum about the details, but a left-leaning blog with an emphasis on Ohio and national politics is on the right track. Plunderbund suggests “a scandal begging to be born” is bubbling in the governor’s home state.
Out-of-state media are oblivious to the disgrace at the Ohio Department of Education. Team Kasich has effectively kept the story under wraps on the campaign trail.
But there’s no excuse for the largely apathetic in-state coverage of all the dirt swept under the rug by the Kasich administration to hide education fraud at ODE. Top officials at the department — handpicked by Governor Kasich to advance privatization of public schools — presided over illegal activities last summer.
Former ODE school choice director David Hansen, the man in charge of charter school oversight, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to boost the evaluations of some charters. Mr. Hansen, whose wife worked as the governor’s chief of staff until she left to manage his presidential campaign, admitted scrubbing data on failing online and dropout recovery-charters to improve their standing in the state.
Some outraged state school board members charged Mr. Hansen with breaking the law and demanded an impartial investigation. Team Kasich quashed that notion and contained the political damage.
Then-state superintendent Richard Ross professed no prior knowledge of the fraud perpetrated on his watch by his subordinate to promote an administration mandate. Unexplained is why Mr. Ross forwarded Mr. Hansen’s falsified data to the U.S. Department of Education for funding, despite the controversy over his cooked books.
ODE’s discredited charter czar quietly resigned from the department, followed by the retirement of the superintendent months later. The department that had allowed the data scam to proceed in a calculated move for public dollars — without regard for educational accountability — vowed to enact internal reforms. No need for outside scrutiny.
Chagrined state lawmakers who were previously in no hurry to pass charter school reform, finally approved legislation to take the heat off Mr. Kasich. The changes will only be meaningful if they are implemented by the Kasich people running the ODE.
Public education advocates aren’t holding their breath for wholesale reform of the charter school industry in Ohio, which is fine with the Kasich administration. It pushed a potential political liability off the radar to let Mr. Kasich spin on the campaign trail without distraction.
But the candidate is trying to hide other dirt. The Kasich chiefs at ODE, who were required by law to judge charter school sponsors with the same academic and administrative performance criteria used for traditional public schools, broke that law. The GOP power brokers who control Ohio lined up to protect the governor and let the ODE fraud slide.
From State Auditor Dave Yost, one of Mr. Kasich’s campaign co-chairs in the state, to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who prosecuted similar data scrubbing in Columbus City Schools, top Republican officials are reluctant to pursue acknowledged fraud at the highest levels of the state education department.
To do so might compromise political careers and ambitions in a crucial election year. But Prosecutor O’Brien has no reason not to initiate a grand jury investigation of the ODE affair.
Providing cover for partisans caught in the political crossfire, instead of holding them accountable for violating the public trust, does not serve justice. Mr. Kasich has political insurance that insulates him from the fallout of a corrupt charter school industry that has thrived under his leadership, and forfeited the futures of thousands of poorly educated children.
New Englanders may not know the candidate’s secret, but it’s out in the open here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Local Democrats: a group that stayed home

That was a shorthanded audience (about 85)  that lacked local officeholder beef  for Ted Strickland's Akron Press Club appearance on Monday.  Although the former Democratic governor is now on the circuit in the U.S.Senate race, the party's achievers decided to snub his speech in deference to their unofficial-official endorsement of Strickland's youthful primary oppnent, P.G. Sittenfeld,  a Cincinnati councilman.

With a huff and a puff, that's showing Ted! It told you more  about the state of the Summit County Democrats than about the relative merits of the two candidates, which is is not what this column is all about.   A boycott of a candidate  for a major federal  office was awful political wisdom and a terrible display of hometown manners.   Asked about  the division, Strickland showed a little more class.  If County Executive Russ Pry or State Sen. Tom Sawyer asked to meet with him if he is elected senator, he said he would  be glad to accommodate them.

 Sawyer's name keeps popping up in various conversations around town - from his brief presumptuous effort to jump into the 2015 mayor's race as "the adult" in the room, to his reported probes to land a job in  Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan's administration.

The stated reason for the boycott is that Strickand is too old   at 74, as against Sittenfeld's 31.  Trouble  is, even though nobody disagrees that  the Ohio party's cave-like   existence for many years should recruit new blood (Republican Party, too), it's not likely to be solved in 2016 and could come at the expense of a U.S. Senate seat held by tag -along Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

In his Press Club talk, Strickland slammed Portman, issue by issue, that cast the incumbent as a solid native of the GOP's hard right on abortion, minimum wage, jobs ,  and various other matters dear to the hearts of the Republican base   The thread throughout the talk wove in his vision of better lives for the working class and less profits for the super rich.

The Ohio Democrats' biggest  challenge this year will be finding a way to dump Portman.
At this point, it seems doable.  The local Dem leaders will have to face up to which candidate they believe will be more able to accomplish that. Boycotts of someone in your own family are school yard chest- pounding for a  political aggregate that more often than not acts as self-satisfied elected individuals than a cohesive force.

If you see me after the November election, I'll tell you whether the locals guessed right.   But  for now, a smattering of  courtesy, even in politics,  couldn't hurt.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Trump: the Christian straight-shooter

The secular world is all agog today over the lengthy reports that Donald Trump, a GOP   specialist forever reciting Grim Fairy Tales,  went to church in Iowa on Sunday and dropped two "crisp $50 bills" in the collection plate.  Gasp!

Was this the same good Christian  who told his audience hours earlier that he could shoot someone and not  lose a single vote?

We wonder about his M.O. these days.  My only question:  Is $100, newly minted,  enough to cover a gambling license that would allow him to install slot machines in the basement of a Presbyterian church?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

No end to the Cleveland sports saga

The bad news is the Cleveland Cavaliers suffered another ugly loss to a top rated team Saturday night in the debut of their new coach as the hometown crowd booed.

The good news is the coach,  Tyronn Lue,  wasn't fired after the game.  Not being an intense  basketball fan, I am at least aware that Lue  could become  the next  guy added  to the merciless list of Cleveland managers and coaches of  the Cavs, Browns and Indians  who stopped off in the city.  History is not on his side.

Meantime. could the Cavs be the first team to fire the coach while the team was leading its division by a lot? And will it be the first team to be led by a player-coach?   LeBron James,   I mean?  Most insiders are  not sure, or even deny, that LeBron held the winning hand in ousting David Blatt .

But as an outsider, I am grateful that the Cleveland pro sports teams continue to grab  my attention in the moments when Donald Trump isn't boasting that his fans are so attached to him that even if he shot somebody, he wouldn't lose a single vote.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hey, pundits. There's a darker side to Kasich

Have you  been following the transition of John Kasich  from crabby governor to   mild and mannered presidential candidate to  hardscrabble evangelical preacher to  a boastful human ode to the common man?

Probably not.  I haven't noticed that the hometown papers nor the national pundits have picked up  on his slick morphing to gain ground as a  blessedly  good white guy in the wilds of New Hampshire.

All things being relative,  Kasich is now being heralded  by some writers as the lone civilized carom away from Donald Trump and  some other guy named
 Cruz.  In the modern media-driven age hurriedly built on fresh material to satisfy viewers and readers, his newly created style points have projected him as a  "moderate".

A moderate?

And so, dear  readers,  I  must move more deeply into the confusion by asking whether a moderate would pledge to defund Planned Parenthood "like  crazy" or put it entirely out of business if possible.

Or  massage  workers in  Bow, N.H., by asking whether a blue- collar kid like him as the son of a mailman would be more sympathetic to workers than to "rich people"?

That one's  easy:  the rich people, of course. .As POLITICO reported:  Some of the biggest supporters to his Super PAC have relationships with him  that  have generated ethics complaints.

 Among the biggest donors are companies doing business with his administration, including mining interests. That  might be more than a clue to why he said at an energy conference "we are going to continue to work on cleaning coal, but I want to tell  you, we are going to dig it, we are going to clean it and we are going to burn it  in Ohio and we aren't going to apologize for it."

That arrives  at the same bullying latitude as when he openly called a cop an idiot  for pulling him over on a traffic stop.  Or when he referred to Californians as wackadoodles. Or when he warned that  anybody who didn't go along with his policies would be  run over by the bus.

They said  he is  fully  at peace with himself  because  the Lord is now in charge of  his campaign to lead him to greater heights.(Not a pun!)

With that sacred rite of passage, if this guy should ever  be sworn in as president, the ceremony might   be staged in Ernest Angley's Grace Cathedral in Cuyahoga Falls..

 On election day the smoke rising from the chimney would  not   match blue collars but the starchy white of the big board rooms.  Shouldn't the swooning pundits get off their butts and find out some of these things for themselves.?