Sunday, May 31, 2009

THE RECALL: Plain Dealer slaps Mendenhall

MYTH-SLINGER Warner Mendenhall's decision to take his caravan to Cleveland in search of a more hospitable editorial voice (than the Beacon Journal's )  simply gave his many opponents something  more to cheer about.  Dissecting his hollow case against Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic that has prompted a recall election on June 23, the Plain Dealer on Sunday editorially accused Mendenhall's effort as "sour grapes" and urged voters to reject the whole notion. It noted:
"In Plusquellic's long record, there is not the least whiff of crime or scandal.  A recall is, therefore, out of place." 
Obviously, Mendenhall's attempt to argue his wacky position in a visit to the paper's editorial offices failed to impress anybody. The paper accused him of leading a "reckless and costly" campaign.  It twitted him for arguing that his attacks on Plusquellic were not "personal"  (one of Mendenhall's more bizarre "defenses" of his actions, I'd say)  and concluded:
"Mendenhall, a lawyer who has filed many lawsuits against Akron, swears it has nothing to do with  any desires of own to be the mayor. (And the revelation of $169,000 in IRS tax liens probably has slammed the door on the notion, anyway.) 

"He cannot credibly deny, though, that this battle has become personal - or that it is a huge distraction to a city caught, like many, in the throes of a worldwide recession."
I doubt that the PD's  editorial reprimand will lodge in Mendenhall's obsessed idea of democracy in action, but at this point he is no more than a willful hell-raiser riding a limping horse to the finish line.  More importantly now to the health of the city's future is how many of his  opponents' words will find their way into the voters' collective conscience. 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hanks' inane spaghetti western

"THE MOVIE IS set in Rome," Nancy said, "so maybe it will be interesting." To a couple of Romanophiles who have spent several  happy times in the Eternal City,  it seemed like a decent antidote to a rainy afternoon.   So here  we were at the Regal Theatre  in Montrose rationalizing that even a Dan Brown-inspired pratfall like Angels and Demons could not demolish  a Roman travelogue.  But it didn't take more than a couple of minutes to realize that we should have stayed home with our photo albums and guidebooks if we wanted to relive our Roman experiences .

The film, an urban spaghetti western with a lot of gunshots and wild scenes,  required more than Coleridge's "suspension of disbelief."  It wanted to indulge us in a haphazard plot in an attempt to make us actually believe  it happened in real time.  In a single  day it spirited us  from the Hadron Collider in Switzerland to a swimming pool  at Harvard, where we picked up Prof.  Robert Langdon (a symbologist who will become a Dan Brown regular as a tech-age Sherlock Holmes)   to the jammed speedway streets of Rome in search of a murderer and a vial of antimatter that will blow up Vatican City while unfortunately leaving the film itself unscathed  for future generations.  

Tom Hanks is the academic sleuth (descending intellectually from Forrest Gump)  and the only convincing thing about his role is the fixed pained expression on his face that tells you he would rather be doing something else.  Accompanied by Ayelet Zurer, the fetching Israeli  actress who covers miles of cobbled city streets and ancient underground passageways in designer high- heeled boots, Hanks quickly concludes  that the clue to finding the terrorists in their midst lies in the"four altars of science" - earth,  fire, air and water. And as the chosen tracker, he lays out a path that leads him to four churches , the church-banned Galileo manuscript in the Vatican archives that had been denied him as an academic for 10 years,  the conclave of cardinals meeting to choose a new pope, and finally ...a hint of travelogue here, the Piazza di Navona with the glorious Bernini fountain sculpture depicting four rivers.

And be sure to stick around for the daredevil sky-diving priest who parachutes into the mass of humanity in  St. Peter's Square  as his chopper blows up.  (If I've given the plot away, I intended to. Even if you see it you will have to wonder about this Houdini feat.) Besides, things were always turning up unexpectedly in the grand square.  When Langdon sets out to  find a telling marker in the huge expanse trampled by a sea of spectators awaiting the white whirl of smoke symbolizing agreement on a new pope, it takes him no more than a minute or two to look down and report its discovery under foot!  And after the sweaty hours of dashing about the city, he somehow turns up in a freshly pressed shirt and necktie as Zurer joins him wearing a veil.  

Everything was said to have happened in a few frantic hours. It seemed more like an eternity to me.  Buona sera, Roma!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Goebbels Gang rants at Sotomayor

THESE HAVE BEEN  noisily frantic days for the Goebbels Gang in the Republican Party.  On cue, the gassier ones pounced on Sonia Sotomayor as an evil dragon lady created in President Obama's secret laboratory to fatally pollute their Gem of the Ocean.  For some reason, the attacks lacked spontaneity but rather suggested a well rehearsed twittered ambush  by the Gang's  generals and seasoned line officers who have performed so ignobly since the run-up to Obama's election.  (The Inquisition  even raised questions whether her Hispanic food tastes  might seriously affect her judicial decisions! You see where we are on this.)     

The effusive propaganda has been aimed directly at charming its captive audience, the Republican Base, a rather truculent minority that responds to right-wing hysterics with Pavlovian froth.  The trick is to keep the base fully mobilized to become a coherent force to recapture the GOP's "core values" with a third of the electorate. The inspiration may lie in a late poll of by a conservative website managed by  lobbyist Richard Viguerie, an influential Beltway  tax cut pest. The survey indicated that 91 pct. of the nation's conservatives believe that Obama belongs in one of four anti-American categories: Socialist, Marxist, Communist or Fascist.  Some of the dumber respondents will argue that he is all of the above. 

So you can see that the Goebbels Gang needs little encouragement to slander Sotomayor, of Puerto Rican descent,  as a stupid off-white woman   - this, from a party without a single African American in the House or Senate and an embarrassing one on the U.S. Supreme Court who reportedly hasn't asked a single question from his loft in three years.  

Before we reach again for the aspirin bottle,   let's tune in on Karl Rove, who was clearly not impressed with Sotomayor's superb academic distinction of Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton  who went on to preside over the Yale Law School Journal.  Rove needs a rest after he huffed:  "I know a lot of stupid people who went to Ivy League Schools."  In fairness, it was a busy day and he could be excused for overlooking his former boss. 

There's more.  "She's a bigot!  She's a racist," ranted Rush Limbaugh.  "She should be stopped,  She's a horrible pick!'"  Pat Buchanan, MSNBC's omnipresent Archie Bunker with a track record of demeaning immigrants, Jews and other minorities ,  impatiently  accused her of being  "not that intelligent".   Pat Robertson came out of mothballs  and  hastily concluded that Sotomayor "was the worst of them all."  Newt Gingrich flat out called her a racist - imagine that from a guy who cut his ideological teeth in Georgia.  Liz Cheney was quite disturbed that Sotomayor would make judicial decisions based on her "heart or empathy" adding, '"I think that's dangerous."
Whooa, there Liz.   Don't you remember that President George H.W. Bush, in nominating Clarence Thomas, described him as  a "delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."

Empathy?  It's something the Goebbels Gang never had - and never will.   

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mendenhall:Recall charades; Obama's choice; Norm Coleman

WHY DOES Warner Mendenhall, the unelected recall leader,  repeatedly insist, as he did in the Plain Dealer, that he does not have a  vendetta against Mayor Plusquellic  and then go on to assert: "This man is a danger against the community."?    Doesn't that connect the dots?   It sure does, and for that , I will give him a Grumpy Abe  Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award.  He also buzzed that he would be happy with anybody but Plusquellic at City Hall.  Question: How do you act out vendetta in charades?   Warner, you should have first paid up your tax liens to Uncle Sam before spending  foolishly on a white horse.   

                                                                * * * 
Keeping up-to-date:  From the June issue of  Harper's (magazine)  Index:
  • Rank of Texas among states with the nation's highest teen-pregnancy rates: 3
  • Percentage of Texas public-school districts that teach abstinence as their only form of sex education: 94.     
                                                                 * * * 
Sweetness from Norm Coleman, who has obtusely held his state of Minnesota hostage for seven months while refusing to concede  his defeat in last November's Senate race by Democrat Al Franken.  He has issued a statement saying that when he is "re-elected" he will be fair in judging President Obama's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor!  All of this nonsense despite polls showing  about two-thirds of Minnesota voters want him to pack up and head for wherever losing senators go.   

                                                                 * * * 

With the certain uproar from the right's Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and the GOP's backup crew of choristers over Obama's Supreme Court nominee,  it would be well for him to recall the words of  Joe Greene, the fearsome all-pro Pittsburgh Steelers tackle, who once spoke of the pathway to success:  "When you have your opponent down, you keep 'em down." The president's critics need only to do the math from the November election.      


McClatchy Bureau and Cheney: No contest

AS THE NEWSPAPER universe continues to shrink, you need only to look to the widely respected McClatchy Washington Bureau to be reminded of the value of professional reporting  in sustaining the life of a free (and informed!) society.   With a handful of reporters the bureau  continues to challenge the iconic New York Times and Washington Post in delivering incisive reports   on stories that might have died on the major dailies'  cutting-room floors.  The McClatchy team was virtually alone when it dug in against the Bush Administration's  virtual free ride in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.    Belatedly, the mainstream media giants  confessed they should have been more attentive to the fine print in the Bush story-telling. But by then, the brief war promised by the White House fiction writers had gone far beyond Donald Rumsfeld's  mere "shock and awe" skirmish in the sands of Iraq to a deadly encounter with unseen opponents that continues to this day. Thank you, McClatchy bureau, for your vindicated effort to warn us.

But here we are six years after the fact and we find Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz touring the network and cable media microphones with their version of how President Obama has made America less safe in contrast to  Bush, Cheney et al who made us more secure.  Cheney, of course is trying to cover his own rear end while looking for a big bankroll publisher to offer him millions in a book deal.   And Liz, it's now being reported, is thinking about running for public office.  In other words, they're just a couple of ordinary folks out to make a living.  

Not so fast,says the McClatchy Bureau. Responding to Cheney's speech to the American Enterprise Institute,  a right-wing outfit that is Cheney's choir for his sermons,  the McClatchy reporters  Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel simply destroyed Cheney's fantasizing about torture and the White House's self-absorbed image of a humane interrogator. The reporters meticulously cut away many of Cheney's statements at the AEI as outright lies.  In example after example, Cheney was shown to be in serious conflict with military authorities, the FBI and other high level sources.  

For instance, in defense of waterboarding and other messy forms of torture, Cheney declared such measures "prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people."  And he quoted Adm. Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence,  to that effect.  But Blair actually said he wasn't sure whether other means  could not have obtained the same  information, adding: 
"The bottom line is that these techniques hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."
There are many others that you can find on the McClatchy Website that show Cheney to be no more truthful than  a sidewalk shell-game artist.  But you must be careful:  He's still at-large, armed with wacky ideas and should be considered dangerous. 

It would be best to rely on the wisdom of Jim Van Nostrand, the McClatchy Web editor, who once told a reporter of how the bureau goes about its honored  business:  

                                "You just have to trust your sense of smell."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The RNC's mindless "Galore"

WELL, THE REPUBLICAN National committee has decided to go Hollywood again after years of waiting for Ronald Reagan to return the party's phone calls.   The latest gambit is an R-rated RNC video attacking Nancy Pelosi,   likening her to the old James Bond anti-heroine Pussy Galore.  POLITICO reports that although the B-movie comedy writers at the RNC didn't actually use the vulgar reference to Pelosi's  anatomy, what else could you conclude when they ran her picture next to Pussy's, and  if you needed further coaching, noted here were two Democrats "Galore."  I'm not sure that Honor Blackman was a Democrat in 1963 when the Bond movie "Goldfinger"  came out  - RNC often takes license with stray notions for shock effect -  but I can hear the guffaws and back-slapping by the inmates at the RNC for coming up with such a  cute way to suggest that a woman might have a certain physical  advantage on Capitol Hill.

Whew!   Has this gang not yet  heard that  the Democrats captured the majority of women's votes last November?  And how embarrassing it might have been to some Republicans when a woman in John McCain's audience referred to Hillary Clinton as "the bitch"  - a reference that occasionally pops up on right-wing talk shows.  Isn't there anybody else minding the store but  RNC chairman Michael Steele,  who is burned regularly for some of his mindless comments?  The Democrats aren't angels, but they don't have to be so long as the RNC takes care of its business by vulgarizing  women.  

Friday, May 22, 2009

A big mop for Wacko America


  Although it would be an insult to serious forensics, do you believe that if Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell debated, they would both lose? 

                                                                        * * *

A salute to the GOP fixer pro tem, Dick Cheney,  for having a practical response to the right-wing furor over President Obama's socialistic teleprompter.  If you saw the former Veep's  talk to the American Enterprise Institute, you'll note that he dispatched the hated teleprompter the old-fashioned way.  With head down and nose pointed down to the lectern,  he read every word from his printed text.  Or was it a hidden conservative  teleprompter? 

                                                                       * * * 

       The roar of the anti-global warming crowd (read: anti-science)  continues unabated, raising the specter of soaring fuel costs managed by that tyrant, President Obama.   The fuel cost warning isn't new; the alarmist slandering of Obama on the environment by the hard core Republican base on the right went into high gear with his election last November.  As vitriolic as the attacks on environmental concerns might be, some spectators are also reduced to sophomoric cutesy pie humor.  Examples abound.  But the most convenient one unfortunately arrived on my breakfast table yesterday from Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O'Brien, an apparent firm believer in church but not state.  Complaining about Obama's projected fuel-efficiency standards, O'Brien blithely  opined: "Obama likes the idea because it is  his."  
         Kevin, my boy, where have you been?  Obama's "idea" of fuel conservation  has been around for a long time with variations on the same theme.  A friendly reminder:   You like the thoughts in your column because they are yours, and I like the thoughts in my blogs because they are mine.   That is hardly something I learned in my high school science class.   By my standards, it's a tested evolutionary theory, if you know what I mean.  
                                                                   * * * 

With nearly a month until the Akron mayoral recall election, brace yourself for a furious assault on Don Plusquellic with the sort of reckless statements that appeared in a letter to the  Beacon Journal from Warner Mendenhall's neighborhood pal.  Among the badly aimed shots was a new one to me:  That Plusquellic was responsible for a public  school system  that is a "sham, "  thereby forcing "good citizens" to pay "exorbitant fees above their property taxes to send their children to private schools."  Excuse me, but when did the mayor become the CEO of the public school system that has always been the responsibility of the system's  superintendent and duly elected school board? Folks, we're in for a siege of revisionist history, I'm afraid.   

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Steele's GOP renaissance

Michael Steele, the gabby chairman of the Republican National Committee, never fails to amuse. One could fill pages of his deepest jaunty insights into President Obama's shortcomings,  and his own party's return to credible parity with the Democrats on the nation's problems.   We look for his words each day to brighten the otherwise  sustained gloom of  political discourse.  For that reason, I can't overlook another opportunity to give him the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award for his optimistic outlook for the GOP, declaring:        
"Our renaissance has begun."
 Funny.  He was contradicted by the latest Pew Research Center poll that now gives Democrats a 53-36 advantage over Republicans in voter preferences.  Seven years ago it was 43-43. Renaissance?  Michaelangelo rolled over in his grave.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dick Cheney: A chicken hawk out of the coop

TO THE INEVITABILITY of death and taxes, shall we make it an even gloomier threesome by adding Dick Cheney?  In my own naivete about despotic rulers I had talked myself into believing that a humiliating public approval rating would slip Cheney into a safe vista out West to spend his leisure hours admiring his hunting rifles.  But Cheney is obviously a student of English  King Charles II who found a way to restore his throne after his most  despised royal father was sent to the block to have his head severed.

And isn't that where we are with Cheney and his handful of allies, including his daughter Liz? He's been making the rounds as the GOP's Hood Ornament of the Month warning talk show audiences that we should be terrified  by President Obama's neighborly attitude toward terrorists.  Let me get this straight:  a fellow who obtained multiple deferments from military service because, as he put it, he had "other priorities,"  now is proud to warn us that we are less safe than when George Bush was a heartbeat away from the presidency.  His cut-and-run  is an unchallenged fact that should be highlighted with an asterisk by his name every time he rises before a hawkish  conservative group to declare his version of caveman masculinity.

A second unchallenged fact, at least  by coherent individuals:  9/11 did not occur on Obama's watch, did it?  It happened when George was whatever he was in the White House. And it happened after a memo arrived  on Condi  Rice's desk (in August prior to the attack!)warning  that it could happen and was somehow lost in the White House list of things to do that day.

Cheney and Liz also are trying to deflect the burden of the torture memos - an issue that  will not go away no matter the perps' attempt to run  out the clock.  So what is their game here with  Liz Cheney, with her "superior" credentials on international security, attacking Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff,   for being an also-ran, adding" "Nobody talking about this in the press has any real knowledge."  Obviously, that includes her.

The best review of the Cheney cha-cha on waterboarding, however, came from Jesse the Wrestler - former Minnesota governor Ventura.  Appearing on a TV show, he said:
     "You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."
Note to the Cheney gang:  Jesse is not  a person you would want to confront up close.  Your fantasy world might be less secure. 


Monday, May 18, 2009

Plusquellic's forces girding for battle

THE 15 SUBURBAN mayors who joined  to oppose the recall of Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic  were another indication of the riptide that's emerging against Walter Mendenhall's ill-conceived notion of democracy in action. Letters supporting Plusquellic by prominent Akron area achievers are appearing regularly in the Beacon Journal and it's looking more like a non-partisan effort to wave off the recall crowd.  I have a hunch this is only the beginning of the counter-attack that will grow in visibility as the recall election day approaches on June 23. (The glaring exception to the mayoral group was Republican Don Robart of Cuyahoga Falls who said he didn't see any "upside" in the united action.  No surprise there.  Unlike some other Republican mayors, Robart has created his own universe in the Falls, thanks to the ineptitude of Falls Democrats to defeat him at the polls.) 

Plusquellic's  forces have already shown that they  will be a lot more aggressive than the lackadaisical 2007 Democratic primary  campaign against former city councilman Joe Finley that produced a low turnout.  It  gave his opponent an opportunity to show up better than anticipated and an opportunity for City Hall to reflect on the  political adage that nothing should ever be taken for granted. 

As for those 15 mayors,  I'm sure it occurred to some of them that this nonsensical recall effort could encourage similar costly and disruptive initiatives against any of them down the road for the dumbest reasons. As for Mendenhall. I was amused by his comment to the BJ that he was pleased a date had been set for the election.   To quote him as he envisioned the 6-term mayor being led to the gallows:  "After 22 years the city has  a chance of getting a new mayor." 

Wrong!   The voters have that chance every four years on election day.    

Two veeps better than one?

THANKS TO some responses to  my previous blog on the University of Akron Board of Trustees and its "two-veep" pecking order,  here is how it was explained:

At some point in his position as assistant secretary of the board, Russell Sibert prevailed upon then-trustee Rainy Stitzlein to have the board add  vice president to his title.  He thought it would add lustre to his resume if  he went job hunting, which he did from time to time before arriving at the Board of Trustees.   She managed to make it happen, which put him on a higher salary track.  Not much was made of it for public consumption at the time, although Sibert's rapid rise at the board raised some eyebrows within the UA family. Bizarre, for a public university,  but true.    For more details, read the earlier blog. 


Thursday, May 14, 2009

They're playing Monopoly around UA stadium

"THE BOARD IS FRUSTRATED. There's real concern over this.  But the only person who can take him out is the governor."

And so it is with the University of Akron Trustees who are now uncomfortably stranded on an academic island with board member Atty. Jack Morrison.  "It's a real conundrum," a trustee told me, sort of apologetically, "not only for the board but for the University's reputation as well."

Well, at this point my advice to the trustees is, Get used to it.  Jack Morrison isn't listening to appeals that  he step down  from the board.   However, he did give up his chairmanship of the finance, fiscal policy and investment committee.   

Should you need a little more information on this fellow, whose case  has been rehashed in the media more than once, he is under indictment for seven misdemeanors on ethics charges  involving his alleged interest in his son's purchase of property on land the University had intended to buy around a new football stadium.  Let's get more specific:

According to a response to Morrison's lawyer for continuances on pretrial and trial dates, the bipartisan Ohio Ethics  Commission investigation  has advised the court of the paper trail turned up by its lawyers that revealed much more than Morrison has been willing to admit. 

"Since 2005," the Commission lawyers wrote, "defendant has provided his son and/or Braymor Development (his son's development company) with a total investment of at least $156,400 to support his son's real estate ventures   in the University area..."

There's more in the same document:
  • The son, Jack, Jr. "began buying property in the University of Akron area on Dec. 29, 2005."
  • By June 2007, he owned 19 properties in the University area. By February 2008, he owned "24 worth nearly $1 million."
  •  Finally, Dad never revealed that he had "an overall and continuing series of investments in his son's property acquisition and rehabilitation business over more than two years."
  • Had enough?   And so there is an old  house still standing near the new stadium that UA had offered to buy for $75,000 but is frozen in place as the five- month-old case drags on. The least that Morrison could do is to respect the sensitivities of the University and his fellow-trustees and find some investments elsewhere  to keep  him busy in the meantime. 
And while we're on the subject of the Board of Trustees, I do find it curious that the board's work is managed by two vice presidents, one reporting to the other.   I refer to Ted Mallo, vice president and general counsel  and board secretary....and Russell D. Sibert, another vice president,  of board operations,  and assistant secretary to Mallo.  Sibert clocks in at $150,748, Mallo at $194, 123.   In these lean economic times, particularly for higher education,  I'm sure there's someone who can justify having two vice presidents elbow to elbow for nearly $345,000.  But until somebody tells me, I won't know, will I?  



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The White House Poetry Jam

HOW NICE!  Nice to read the reports on the White House Poetry Jam after eight years of a lackluster  response to the arts as cold as the Eve of St. Agnes. The "jam" brought together the President, Michelle, some national artists and students from nearby universities for poetry readings and music.  The event, Obama said, was to "celebrate power of words and music to  help appreciate beauty and also to understand pain."

Sooner or later we may expect to hear from Limbaugh and Hannity with some hissing disgust that a president would be fooling around with the arts when he should be giving bonuses to CEOs and bombing Kabul.   Will they refer to the president  not as a socialist but rather as a Marred Bard?  Will they accuse him of inviting a jazz musician to the session to mislead the public into thinking he was an upbeat leader?   Will they accuse him of ignoring  America's greeting card poets  whose jobs are vanishing with the rise of e-mail?

OK, so I'm having a little fun today.  But that should not distract us from acknowledging a president who is putting in a good word for the arts.  Bill Clinton's saxophone notswithstanding, we can go all the way back to President Kennedy  to find such a commitment.  It also reminds us of a world where very little rhymes today.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Meet John Yoo, newspaper columnist!


The Philadelphia Inquirer, a leading multiple Pulitzer Prize newspaper in the days of owner John Knight, is now so desperate to bestir its feeble circulation figures that it has added John Yoo to its op-ed contributors for a monthly column.  Yoo is (sounds ungrammatical, I know)  the culprit who helped write the memos authorizing torture and further noted that if the President ordered this sanitized policy it wouldn't be illegal.  He remains in the cross-hairs of several investigations into his cold ruminations on lawlessness  and could, at a minimum, be disbarred.  

That the Inquirer would have him on its payroll now is causing some serious concern among old-school journalists who, as do I,  believe that even in the interest of reporting both sides of an issue newspapers ought to hold their walk-on  columnists to the same standards that it does its reporters.    The New Y0rk Times , for reasons that defy logic,  hired William Kristol, but later finally gave up on the slick Neocon  after several embarrassing misstatements in his columns.

One doesn't have to dig deeply to understand the clubby Inquirer-Yoo synergy.    The paper's publisher is Brian Tierney, a self-promoting public relations man with some top clients, including the Roman Catholic Archidiocese of Philadelphia. He's a blueblood Republican who was the elder George Bush's director of Catholic outreach and has been active in other campaigns, including those in Ohio.  He became something of an assailant of the paper's previous staffers  by making much of his complaints that the paper was biased against the Diocese.  

Since Tierney took over the paper with promises to return it to glory, the Inquirer  has continued to shrink with staff cutbacks and other cost-saving devices.  It is now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

Dave Hess, a former colleague and  Knight-Ridder White House and Capitol Hill reporter, says he's not a bit surprised that the paper has fallen into misery under Tierney.  Noting that Tierney has a "longstanding reputation as a Republican activist," while moving the paper farther to the right, "he's lived up to his credentials while dismantling the staff and reputation of what was once one of the five leading newspapers in the nation." (Among the  beneficiaries of Tierney's generosity is former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who reportedly is  paid $1,750 for a single column by a bankrupt newspaper!  One of the reasons that Santorum was knocked out of office is that voters couldn't find a hint of coherence in much of what he said.)
So if you connect the dots, you'll find a political blood line connecting Tierney and Yoo that will allow Yoo to rant in his first column Sunday against Barack Obama as the "great empathizer"in selecting a Supreme Court Justice.   He insisted there would  not be anything "more damaging"   to the rule of law, ignoring, of course, that torture was instituted by his fake rule of law. 

Back to Tierney:  As a marketing stunt, he once wrapped a giant hoagie around City hall to promote some food markets.    But that hardly measures up to his decision to wrap his arms around Yoo, a man whose name comes up when rational constitutional lawyers talk about war crimes.  

Monday, May 11, 2009

Don't wait for the Morrison trial, et al...

WEEKEND LEFTOVERS:  Take a deep breath but don't hold it.  Once again the pretrial  (May 11, today) hearing and trial date (May 26) for Atty.  Jack Morrison Jr. have been been delayed on motions by  Morrison's lawyer, Paul Adamson.  New dates were not set at this writing.  Morrison, a University of Akron Trustee and advisor to the Summit County Republican Party, was indicted on seven misdemeanor charges arising from his son's purchase and profitable sale of a house on University property that was designated for use in the area that was being cleared for a new football stadium. The case is five months old.   Morrison has ignored calls for him to step down from the Board of Trustees, including one from Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut and the Beacon Journal.  Watch for an update around  Christmas.....

Dick Cheney has made it official:  He prefers Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell as the inspiration for the Republican Party.   Have you noticed that Cheney is much more visible today as the GOP's spiritual leader on talk shows than he was as a  shadowy veep who spent some of his time in a real cave?  He's an old non-soldier who won't fade away...But something else appears to have faded away:  the aggressive PR effort to rehab George Bush's image has fallen silent.  One practical explanation:  It wasn't working.... 

Let's hope that the recall election for Mayor Plusquellic is set for the earliest possible date so that the city can get on with the important business at hand.  The effort by Warner Mendenhall and his pickup army to throw out the mayor will be one of the darker moments in the city's history, Warner's defense of "democracy in action" notwithstanding.  win or lose (he will lose this one) he will have gained some strategic information on the city's demographics should he decide to run for mayor himself.  But at what price to the city itself?

It is amusing to hear the right-wing "profiling" of an imaginary Supreme Court nominee that President Obama has yet to select.  I'm waiting to see protesting GOP  billboards rise with fill-in-the-blank nominees to be named later. 

Finally, does anybody besides Sean Hannity and  his ding-a-ling disciples care that Obama ordered a hamburger with  "elitist" mustard  instead of catsup?  There are days when I wish I could be president for eight hours.  I would  give Hannity an eternity of eyebrow raisers with my exotic Middle Eastern  palate. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

When readers are converted into chatterers

IS THERE ANYTHING  more that one can add to the endless eulogies that are being intoned for the sadly imminent demise of the newspaper industry?   Probably not, although there is still talk in the front offices that somehow your daily newspaper will indeed survive.  But there is less clarity on what the survivors will look like.

Such were the guarded opinions of three Northeast Ohio editors who occupied the dais of an Akron Press Club luncheon program in the Martin Center on Thursday. And, I regret to note, there wasn't much said that suggested full confidence in the industry's future.   They agreed bravely and with collegiality that there would be a future, as well as agreeing on everything else that infected the revenues of their dailies - the Internet, the recession, the shrinking ad bases as well as the shrinking news room staffs that can only mean shrinking news coverage. And that budgetary retreat, of course, will fray the papers' tight ropes even more. 

The panel included Bruce Winges, the Beacon Journal's editor and vice  president (the veep title comes with the territory); Susan Goldberg, the Plain Dealer editor; and Jeff Gauger, the executive editor of the Canton Repository.   Unsurprisingly, they gave a lot of attention to electronic editions and home pages that prompt comments  in what is now the  buzzword of the new media generation - reader conversations.   As a later arrival in the blogging business after 40 years  in the newspaper world,  I suppose I should concede the benefits of readers chatting with each other, and even getting vulgar at too many times, although I'm not sure what they are.   And someday we may learn more about how electronic comments sold more print newspapers. 

I would agree that today's newspaper editors are being held hostage by faraway corporate owners who read dollar signs better than the stuff in news columns.  Even the great media Midas, Rupert Murdoch, has taken some major hits to his pocketbook with his overzealous aspirations of owning the entire industry.  Did he misread Wall Street's tea leaves?

The essential question today is how did the industry get to this swampy point.  Recession? it hurts.  Electronic media? Of course it had a role.    But you must roll back the tape for a quarter century to find the   beginning of the end. 

 I was happy to hear Goldberg suggest that newspapers simply weren't paying attention - not yesterday, nor last year - but a couple of decades ago when, as she put it, they were making profits of "20-30-40 pct."  and weren't motivated to be innovative. (The media and General Motors must have been sharing trade secrets on how to stand pat.)  But Wall Street was still dissatisfied with those fat profit margins and one of the marquee owners,  Tony Ridder,  from his richly provided outpost in California,  represented the corporate thrust to freeze hiring at the Beacon Journal for many months at a time to assure still greater profit margins.  It's been all downhill ever since.  (The staff was always assured the cutbacks would not hurt the product! Fat chance. )

Too bad.  We are now being told that even with lean news rooms the remaining readers will get the full measure of local coverage, investigative journalism and even some stories about the arts.  That's a nice try, but newsroom production requires people, not robotic efforts to join every paper in Ohio with single story sources.  The habit-forming  charm and consistency of the daily newspaper are no longer in play.  Competitive  reporting among newspapers is history.  And so the reader is the loser.  If reporters are limited to clinging to their jobs and not jumping out of bed at dawn to see whether he or she  was beaten by a newspaper up the road, the assembly-line stories become increasingly lifeless.  Will that be the price of survival? 

Journalists have been ridiculed over the years as "trained seals".  I used to laugh it off to disguise my bruised feelings.   Today I believe it would be fair to apply the term to the publishers who have presided over the decline and fall of their papers while being taken to lunch by their brokers.   


Thursday, May 7, 2009

GOP: The family fight grows louder

THE GOP's Doomsday Clock moved ahead a couple of minutes this week as internecine warfare broke out in force between the defenders of the party faith and, well...the defenders of the party faith.  I mean, when the party's social conservatives start attacking true believing conservatives like Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia , you know that you are in for advancing the end of days.

It recalled the days of medieval battles between the Guelphs, who supported the papacy, and the Ghibellines who supported the the Holy Roman Empire, which historians have keenly noted wasn't at all holy, Roman or an empire.  You have to be  just as careful today in assuming too much about names.  The current trouble began when Cantor and John McCain decided  it would be a healthy  sign of progress to form a new group to  save their benumbed post-Whig Party, daringly calling it the National Council for a New America.  

There was really nothing abhorrent about the effort.  People are forever creating new groups with patriotic forward-looking titles to replace similar patriotic forward-looking groups  that somehow never worked. quoted McCain's description of the council's goals as an effort to attract moderates and "like-minded Democrats" to a series of public forums around the country.  You may recall that McCain regularly challenged Barack Obama during the past campaign to join him in a series of town hall forums throughout the land. I suspect that his failure to lure Obama into these stuffy compact halls has not discouraged the Arizona senator from his obsession to talk up close to people, particularly those who voted last November.

But it didn't take the party's every-present social conservatives very long to slam Cantor and McCain as abandoning such golden oldies as same-sex marriage,  immigration and abortion.

POLITICO drew this remark from Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who sneered: "The moderates have been saying the same thing all these years and now they're just seeing a renewed opportunity to push their  ideas," which he abhors.

Others jumped into the fray, including the Family Research Council, which also rose to protect "family values" and reminded  Cantor/McCain that Mike Huckabee (hope I spelled that right) was creating "such excitement in the conservative base" while the Republican establishment doesn't draw a crowd.

It was at this point that our old buddy from Ohio, Ken Blackwell, who is quite active in Planet Family Values despite his blistering defeat as a gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, complained to POLITICO  that the Cantor/McCain group does not "reflect a basic reality".   He would know about such realities.

Finally, Rush Limbaugh put his authoritative imprimatur on the anti-National Council for a New America crowd.  He modestly called the council a "scam."

With that, I'm calling upon the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,  which measures approaching catastrophic destruction of the globe with its Doomsday Clock, to move the GOP an additional minute or two toward its own denise.    

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A diversionary Ohio poll on a rainy day

ALTHOUGH THERE are still mega-miles ahead in the major 2010 Ohio races, you can bet your rusty Wendell Willkie button that insiders from both parties will be carefully digesting the latest Quinnipiac poll for beneficial spins.  At this stage of the long journey,  polls tell us very little - unless, of course, they come in handy to influence the big early donors that their generosity would not not be forgotten.

The Q poll for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican George Voinovich, shows Lt. Gov Lee Fisher with a comfortable lead over Republican Rob Portman, 42 pct-31 pct, while Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who is competing with Fisher in the Democratic primary, is ahead of Portman, 40- 31.  Both also have double digit leads over State Auditor Mary Taylor,  who is not expected to run at this point.

Gov. Ted Strickland has a 51-32 lead over former Republican congressman Republican John Kasich.   More important than the one-on-one matchups is the context in which Ohio politics is currently being played out.  President Obama has a 62-31 approval rating in the Buckeye state; Strickland, 52-37.  

The Democratic senate primary remains the focal point among the party's movers and shakers, with a back-channel effort by some  inside chess players to persuade Brunner to withdraw and run for the Ohio Supreme Court instead.  You might keep an eye on that opening gambit.

A strong word of caution:  A year before the 2008 presidential election in Ohio, the Q poll reported that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani (!!!!) were in a virtual tie.    We all know how that turned out on Election Day.  


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The historical Warner Mendenhall

WEDNESDAY IS the big day when the Overland Mendenhall Express arrives on the city's sidewalks with the latest crop of petitions to recall Mayor Plusquellic. Very soon we will know whether he will be successful in sending the issue to the ballot where the obsessive Akron lawyer will be consigned to history. If it gets that far, he will lose .

History has a short memory, if any at all, for such minor political figures as Warner Mendenhall, particularly when their ambition carries them over a cliff. Twenty-five years from now, the story will be something like this as two guys, Jake and Fritz, settle into the Country Manor Restaurant for the first time for their morning coffee:

Jake (looking up to a faded photo on the wall), asks the server: "Any idea who that person in the picture is? He looks like he was rather in a hurry. Just curious. "

Server: "I heard somebody say once that his name was Warner or Walter Munhall or somebody. I don't know for sure. He was a good friend of my boss."

Fritz: "If I remember my Akron history, I think it was Mendenhall....Yeah, Mendenhall."

Jake: "Some memory you have, Fritz. Why would you remember something as obscure as that? "

Fritz: "Dunno. Unless I'm mistaken, I think he tried to kick out the mayor with one of those recall elections. Hell, that was a good 25-30 years ago."

Jake: "Did he succeed?"

Fritz: "If memory serves, don't think so. Never happened."

Jake: "Walter Mendenhall, huh? Interesting. You know, I do have a vague idea of what you're talking about, now that you mention it. Sort of..."

Fritz: " I seem to remember that it was Warner, not Walter."

Jake: "Refresh my memory. Why did he want to throw out the mayor?"

Fritz: "Only the Lord knows. I don't think they even knew at the time."

Jake: "So did Walt -eh, Warner - do anything else after that?"

Fritz: "Not that I'm aware of. He just sort of faded out of the picture - except for that one on the wall. There are a lot of people like him around on any day of the week. One-shot artists who make a big splash of paint and then drop out with a lot of bills to pay for their dumb schemes."

By now both men were losing interest in the whatever-happened-to-Warner story because there wasn't much else they could add to it. Moreover, they figured that in this instance the picture on the wall was hardly worth a thousand words.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mitt romney: A revolutionary in a monarch's clothes?

MITT ROMNEY,  one of the GOP's hood ornaments still searching for a car, is going around telling people that his party is the home of "revolutionaries" while the Democrats are "monarchists".  I'm not sure how that works in everyday language, but when I think of revolutionaries,  guys  like Giuseppe Garibaldi, and his 1,000 red shirts,  and Thomas Paine, who went to prison for his radical beliefs,  come to mind.   

I never met either of those two stormy troublemakers, but I've seen pictures and can assure you that Mitt is not one them. Not even close.   Romney ran a failed presidential campaign with Hollywood looks, stationary hair and freshly pressed suits that must have cost more than even Sarah Palin's wardrobe.   As for the Democrats being monarchists, have you seen Michael Moore lately?  Until Romney came along to sort out the current political brands, some of the social stylists in his party were grumbling about  how unimpressed they were with Michelle Obama's shamefully  bared arms on public occasions.  Hardly something that would go over famously at Buckingham Palace in the royal entourage. 

Some advice, Mitt.  Do you think your insights  would be more productive trying to figure out why zebras have stripes?  


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Miss Cal's "best possible light"

WHENEVER I happen to come across the words "beauty pageant"  I am stricken by unpleasant thoughts.  Anita Bryant and, oh...Sarah Palin, for example. But for pure public attention, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, is creeping up into third place.   Within moments of her runner-up selection in the Miss USA (!) pageant, she  has  become the queen-ette o f the National Organization for Marriage,  and will be appearing here and there for the organization's programs to protect heterosexual marriage against the intrusion of the same-sex marriage supporters in our national life. The options of day jobs for beauty contestants who finish second are somewhat limited, I'd guess. 

But there is now a second dimension (Ok, read it as a pun, if that  is where your mind leads you) ) for Miss Prejean's , eh, public figure.   She was competing in the pageant with breast implants paid  for by the pageant, which now defends its action as being rather common in the retail beauty business.  I have no reason to doubt that.  But shouldn't we sort of liken it in public deception to steroids for professional athletes to give them greater competitive  advantage?  

So whatever the pardons  for Miss Prejean, I have little choice but to give my Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy award (GALL) to Keith Lewis, the co-director of the Miss California pageant,  who explains:
"We assisted when Carrie came to us and voiced an interest in having the procedure done.  We want to put her in the best possible confidence in order to present her in the best possible light on the national stage."

Of the several definitions of pageantry, I choose the third one:  "Colorful, showy display".  
Sounds about right. Keep in mind the next time that...

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