Thursday, May 28, 2015

Have you noticed that the old John Kasich is now the new John Kasich? Right.

The snap and bite in his words have disappeared. So have the swagger and metallic self-confidence. No more “bustin’ chops” with his friend Chris Christie before the awful bridgework. No more ill-humor that led to a blistering attack on a cop in a traffic stop. No more warnings to lobbyists that if they’re not on his bus they will be run over. No more assaults on unions (he says he’s only against those unions that “don’t make things.”) He doesn’t ‘even feature his loony balance-budget talk scorned by experts. The hard edge, folks, is gone.

Instead, thanks to careful grooming by his image-makers for his current “presidential maybe” campaign, he is a good guy with an ear-to-ear grin, even a big laugh, with neatly combed hair and a neighborly goodwill that cheerfully reveals him as South Pacific’s “Cockeyed Optimist”. As he glowed to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, “I’m increasingly optimistic”. He said he was “very pleased” with what he ”found on the ground’ in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan on his missionary visits. And he truly loves New Hampshire.

(Mitt Romney only mentioned that he loved the trees in Michigan because they are “just right height.”)

Optimism? Of course. The Oval Office requires deep experience, he says, and he has it like nobody else. Foreign policy: Can the problems of the Middle East be solved? “Absolutely,” he says, with a coalition of allies, that included American boots on the ground.

Meantime, he’s not going to fuss with those Republican candidates who want a more direct approach with U.S. troops. He says he loves Marco Rubio and is not going to go after him. Nor will he settle for veep. “Forget it. Forget it. Forget it,” he crackles, the old chutzpah returning. He simply won’t settle for second place.

But wait. As Plunderbund just reported, the big Koch Brothers outfit Americans for Prosperity will stage its American Dream Summit in Kasich’s base of Columbus in August with a galaxy of conservative headliners. Kasich wasn’t invited. That could only mean that the Kochs don’t believe our governor will be much of a draw by then.

Maybe the guv should have said something nice about the trees in New Hampshire.

Reposted from Plunderbund 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

But he left out Zoroastrians and radical Cathars

In a bizarre reference to American colleges and universities, presidential candidate Rand Paul declared: "You and I shouldn't leave the next  generation of leaders to  be brainwashed by America[-hating socialists and Marxists.  Noting it in his New York Times column, Andrew Rosenthal  labeled it  as "just right-wing propaganda."   Still, Mr. Paul our coveted Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award,  just eking out such recognition from all of the other GOP presidentials.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Revere attacks charters' huge red schoolhouse.

We should all be enormously grateful that the five-member  Revere Board of Education is taking the charter schools issue directly to Gov. Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly.    Joining other charter critics, the Board unanimously passed a resolution signaling its deep concern about the threat to public education by the charter behemoth that is cutting into state revenues with the billion-dollar  tax supported private charter industry in Ohio.

Evidence abounds for the indictment of the charters,. The board called for the end of the proliferation of  charter schools, certainly including the under-performing ones .   One figure noted by the board is sufficient to tell the story:  The state sends to Revere $398 for each  student.  a charter school receives $6,099  for each Revere equivalent.

Although there have been  more or less pantomimed moves by the governor and lawmakers for greater charter accountability, I wouldn't rely on the outcomes. For happier results, the Revere Board  must attach a check to the governor 's or lawmaker's treasury along with the resolution.

That's  how the charters  grew, and grew,  and grew... right out of the White Hat owners playbook.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

GOP hawks playing Selfie, Selfie in their mirror on the wall

As we headed into  Memorial Day to honor the dead of our countless wars,  the mournful  moment -  if we stepped back from the patio grills  and mall sales counters to  think about it -  didn't discourage those prominent  Republican Rambos who  crazily called for America to send another 10,000 troops to Iraq, some of whom would be remembered next year among the dead.

It 's largely a guy thing in which nothing of conscience will shut them up. After all, Barack Obama is still the president and didn't he mess up foreign policy to  create ISIS when he wasn't screwing up everything else for the country?  Seasonly adjusted, they awkwardly towed their ideas into the public arena, often self-conflicted.

Well, no he didn't.

But ever since Obama moved into the office, his Republican critics, particularly the garden variety presidential candidates, have desperately tried to scandalize him.  Regarding the Middle East nightmare,  he was their  only safe  option  for disgraced failure  since the record will show that George W. Bush was  the perp who was one of them with Dick Cheney at his side. .

So now as we look ahead to the 2016 plague,  chest-pounding Rambos like Sen. Lindsey Graham, the impossible dreamer, is reaching for a  higher altitude by asserting: "I believe
I'm the best qualified of anybody on our side of the aisle to offer an alternative to a failed  foreign policy of Barack Obama."

 As evidence of his godly insights, he proposed sending 10,000 troops to Iraq and Syria.

 Next came Rick Santorum, who declared: "There isn't anybody else considering running for president that has the experience that I have."  We could only take that silly thought to mean his experience in forever running for president. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Meantime, the Columbus Dispatch reported that its probable candidate of choice,
Gov. Kasich, backed away from the troops issue, saying he wouldn't have supported the Bush invasion  "KNOWING WHAT WE KNOW NOW" for God's sake. (He's still waiting for word from God on his next move.)

Dubya based his rationale for the war on weapons of mass destruction.   Not much mention of that now, unless the GOPers decide to hold their first  presidential debate in
Baghdad, themselves appearing as living and breathing WMDs aimed at America.

(P.S. Other than those 10,000 troops, not one of the Rambos has expressed a clue to how to carry out their plans.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Life on the polytechnic fast track...




of, relating to, or offering instruction in a variety of industrial arts, applied sciences, or technical subjects;  A polytechnic institute.  

Now that the University of Akron is already redefining  itself in its ads  (See West Side Leader Akron Roundtable  ad) as "The University of Akron /Ohio's Polytechnic University", it left us with no choice but to pitch out the nine old-fashioned dictionaries in our house and wait for the new updated ones issued by UA. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

From UA: Take that, John S. Knight

OK, class.  Whose dumb idea  was it for the University of Akron, a public enterprise, to withhold information from the media (read: public info)  about  the rebranding studies by four consultants  paid from  an unrestricted   foundation grant bearing the name of the late John S. Knight?

For the enlightenment of the campus newcomers on the block, no one was more  aggressive about press freedom than Knight, but  the $111,000 from the grant did just the opposite.  How ironic.  How dumb. (And we didn't even mention those four presidents of northern Ohio public universities who strongly criticized  new UA president Scott Scarborough for references to Ohio State University and Miami University of Ohio as the the standards to achieve  his lone wolf  "repositioning"  plan!)

Let the symposium begin.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Baseball, politics work well for Plusquellic

So there, dominating the BJ's front page this morning,  was a smiling Mayor Don Plusquellic shaking hands with Ken Babby, the owner of the AA RubberDucks, as they announced that the Eastern League all-star game would be played this summer at Canal Park in downtown Akron.

Great news for business, right? And it firmly caps his history of promoting the construction of the new stadium and bringing a new team to the city.  Not the first  good deed for the mayor as he navigated enough rough moments  by local pols  and armchair critics, the latter of whom saw the man not as an honest  cheerleader and doer for his city but one who had "cooked up" a reason for retiring this year.

On the other hand,  some of the town's achievers thought the positive upside deserved far more attention.  In full-page ads, folks like Babby and Elizabeth Bartz sought to emphasize the mayor's great value  during his 28 years in office.   In all of those years covering the mayor, we've had some disagreements, but  I've never  known him to cook up anything.  And it was possible for the truth to hurt.

But that was then.  Print journalism wasn't performed from a foxhole but on the sidewalks, the union halls, the restaurants and watering counters where the local pols had lunch,  and in the crowds at the Labor Day parades without benefit of cell phones. I'm well aware that it's another world today,  but hardly a better one.

Plusquellic's departure is already causing alarm among  his hometown  Democratic friends.   Although they see positives in Council President Garry Moneypenny's rise to fill out Plusquellic's unexpired term,  they are also concerned  about the sort of candidate who might emerge to oppose him in the party primary.  Councilman Mike Williams, for example, who ran against Plusquellic before, reportedly is telling people that if he becomes mayor he would fire everybody at City Hall and only accept legislation advanced by his own faction on City Council.

There will be no end to reprisal politics in the stretch to the November election  (primary on September 8).   If Democrats are running scared today, they should be.  As for the Republicans,  Chairman Alex Arshinkoff may be working out a name in his meetings at the Diamond Grill  with his  wealthy cronies at the University of Akron.  Either that, or finding a way to gossip that Moneypenny will be indicted for some unknown  crime, as  the GOP Boss foolishly did so often  in trying to take down Plusquellic.

To end the nonsense, do you think Moneypenny should invite Arshinkoff to throw out the first ball at a RubberDucks game  in Canal Park this summer?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scarborough: Technology serves the humanities, too

Technology  has become such a schoolyard word  at  the University of  Akron that it led me to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, a usually reliable resource, to check out my long  indifference to what it means.  Being a humanities kind of guy, I had never  before looked up the meaning, figuring that I wouldn't understand it anyway.  But since I went  to the trouble, here's what I can report from Mirriam-W:
"The use of science, engineering, etc. to invent useful things or to solve problems. (2)A machine, piece of equipment, method, etc., that is created by  technology."
My stiffly postured Victorian novel Professor Secord, who precisely timed every session with a pocket watch, doubtless would have  been offended to be called a technocrat (except for that damned watch!)   But that's where they're headed these days at UA., which historically has largely appeared as a passive community in deference to   the more refined society that  dined at Portage Country Club.

The school's new president, Scott  Scarborough, made a valiant effort in his Cleveland City Club speech to defend his plan to send off the school in a new direction by affixing the idea of a polytechnic institute  to the formal name.   He referred to it as "respositioning",  a rebranded  public university to meet  its modern challenges.  And challenges they will be as the new CEO on the block attempts to prepare for whatever was left undone by the old CEO.

Think: $487 million debt,  declining enrollment, a surging Architectural Age  plan since the early 2,000s that sprang up 24 new buildings  to re-face the campus.  And sagging faculty morale in the neighborhood of the humanities.    Add to all of this the  state-of-mind of  cost-cutting legislators,  many  of whom are overfed hacks and dead-enders.  Gov.Kasich issued the order of the day: Cut the fat, which serves more as another  terse budgetary threat from Columbus than  a serious problem solver.

Yes, Scarborogh's presence has already met with the approval of the establishment as well as the Beacon Journal, who always kindly welcomes a new prez in UA's revolving door.("The name won't' change, but much will," the hometown paper advised us on the editorial page. The paper itself has already repositioned its type face for headlines, a cosmetic facial to attract more readers.  But that's another story.)

It would be a labor of love to parse Scarborough explanation of the symbiotic   relationship between  technology and the humanities.  My hunch is there won't be many people on Main Street who don't think that refers solely to UA's strength in polymer research.

Meantime, the loneliest faculty members will be waiting for more shoes to drop in the humanities classrooms  no matter what the new fellow tells us.  Departments have already  been depleted or abandoned and its costly new football stadium to lure fans and well-paid celebrity coaches still  has the look of a ghost-grid.

But that, too, is another story.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jeb Bush, the multiple-choice candidate

In case you've been distracted by  less critical matters, I should tell you that the national media are reporting that George Pataki may run for president.

George Pataki?  As Gail Collins scolded her readers in the New York Times, how could you not remember the guy who was New York's Republican  governor for 12 years, though not the last eight? He says he will announce his plans on May 28.  That would be the day after Rick Santorum, a quadrennial candidate who's never been governor of New York, reveals what he says will be a "major" announcement.  May we guess?

Still more dramatic will be  Donald  Trump's "exciting" announcement in June. After all, he says, the country is going to Hell.

And even still more dramatic, Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a presidential wannabe,  brashly called on the Pope to keep his nose out of politics.  Sadly for him, Bobby has yet to regain his focus since he fizzled in his response to President Obama's State of the Union address.

But the most consuming news these days has been about the Brothers Bush. Jeb, media-projected as the chosen one by the GOP establishment because he was the least craziest in the field,  has emerged as the multiple-choice candidate for giving us four answers about whether he woud have, as did his brother, ordered America into the Iraq war. Jeb's family-values response was that was had great respect for Dubya and wasn't about to throw him under the bus.

Well, how about dispatching some of his brother's hawkish advisors who are now working for Jeb.    He can begin with Paul Wolfowitz, who was quite comfortable with the war and even predicted that Iraq's enormous oil profits would pay  for the country's reconstruction within three years.  That would be the financial payoff  from Dick Cheney's prediction that Americans would be greeted as liberators.

For now, we must live with Jeb's multiple choice responses. (Will No. 5 be, "None of the above"?)  They recall my days as a freshman in a world history class at the University of Pittsburgh.  I had filled all 12 pages in answering the single essay question. But when the professor returned it a few days later, it was graded with an  "F".  I confronted him and argued that I had filled all 12 pages.

 "I know",  he said, calmly.  "The correct answer was in there somewhere, but you obviously didn't know what it was."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Former White Hat takes important reins at UA

As if matters weren't edgy enough on the University of Akron campus under a new president on the block, there's even more faculty concerns for a campus in some sort of transition.  It's the appointment of a new vice provost and executive dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology to oversee President Scott Scarborough's. "repositioning'" the school from a traditional academic mission that allows for the humanities  as well as technology. As the question arose on whether  the school would change its name - which Scarborough  finally dismissed as nothing more than rumors - some faculty members figured he would at least see to it that UA would have "Technical Institute" attached to its legal name.

But the new science and technology guy who will doubtless work  in close quarters with the president is  Todd Rickel, who brings a resume that notes he was once the "Chief Learning Officer"  of White Hat Management.

You haven't been around these parts   very long to not recognize White Hat as David Brennan's charter school behemoth.  Which leads us to wonder  how his self-appended expertise as an "education futurist" will play on a  campus where departments are either being eliminated or downsized in what Scarborough refers to as "disinvestment.".

That  futurist stuff  is also how Brennan has seen himself .  Years ago he invited me to a private breakfast to hear a fellow, whose name I've long forgotten, who predicted the imminent demise of universities.

As Steve Dyer of Innovation Ohio, a progressive issues group,  wrote:  "While I'm not opposed to changing things, I deeply question how [Scarborough] could put so much faith in Todd Rickel'' while telling us that Rickel also has served as the Executive  Vice president  of the White Hat's  Distance Education Group - ''overseeing Ohio's worst online school..."

While Rickel was at White Hat,  Dyer wrote, " the company was receiving $110  million a year, on average, from Ohio taxpayers.  Meanwhile the school's performance - for which Rickel was directly resposible - was dreadful."

For those of us who see UA as a significant partner in the city's future,  we can only hope  that things don't turn out the same way on the downtown campus.