Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Niam era: Great while it lasted!

THE PASSING OF Gerrie Niam at 85 evokes happier memories of a tiny restaurant on Locust Street that was long the pulsating roundtable for Akron's lively sports crowd . It was a unique eatery that lured Runyonesque characters to debate the eternal truths of winning and losing athletic teams. Niam's Parkette (the modest name suggests it was not on the Mobil Travel
Guide's 5-star list) served as the bully pulpit, earthy gridiron textbook and proud recruiting site for the late Eddie Niam, hometown football scout and Gerrie's combative but usually lovable husband.

But as Eddie held forth on his incisive wisdom on Las Vegas point spreads, an area high school halfback's chances of donning a Notre Dame uniform, or angry doubts about an official's game-changing decision in a game played eons ago, it was Gerrie who nobly tried to maintain a near-normal restaurant business from a cramped grille behind the counter.

Her days were tortuously long - down to the restaurant by 5 a.m. to prepare for the breakfast patrons, on her feet for endless hours, managing the menu for the next day, and carefully trying to make her offerings - from hot dishes to hamburgers and salads - tasteful for all. Much of the time, she was forced to ignore Eddie's booth-hopping to diagram the plays that Notre Dame drew up to defeat a powerful rival the past week end.

Notre Dame? For Eddie, it was the natural progression of loyalty to his former high school buddy, Ara Parseghian, from Northwestern coach to the Fighting Irish, which, from birth, neither Ara nor Eddie ever were. No matter. The clientele soaked up the lore seated underneath Notre Dame game balls and posters and other reminders of Eddie's solid dedication to a campus that he had never attended as a student. The audience included cops, dentists, businessmen, jocks, urologists, journalists and even some Amish folks who did their best to ignore the special ambiance of the place.

In Gerrie's life, not enough attention was accorded her as the sturdy enabler of Eddie's treasured role in the restaurant. She accepted it as her unyielding duty to keep the doors open and the grille hot. And I had the feeling that she proudly found reasons to suffer it as business as usual. She did not take vacations and only once did she join Eddie on a a trip to a post-season bowl in Texas, where he, a collector of everything, brought back a huge sombrero and respectfully tacked it on the wall of their home amid the clutter of his other memorabilia.

She even resorted to some pained humor in their existence. "Funny," she once told me, "that Eddie can remember the score of a particular football game, but can't remember my birthday."

No matter, Gerrie. This piece is how I fondly remember an Akron institution that belongs in any historical account of noteworthy Akron families that offered the old rubber town a unique dimension. Now rest in peace.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Boehner, Jordan: the hermit crabs are back in the shell

THE LEADING VILLAIN in John Boehner's failed attempt to resolve the debt ceiling issue is one of the House speaker's Ohio Tea Party colleagues - Rep. Jim Jordan , a former national wrestling champion. As such, Jordan has maintained a death hold on any Boehner compromise by means of Jordan's chairmanship of the outlandishly conservative House Republican Study Committee. The Tea Party-inspired gang operates much like Robespierre's Committee of Public Safety in its rule over France's perceived enemies.

Jordan, who lives with his family on a farm near Urbana, Oh., has done nothing but issue ultimatums to anyone less sacred than he in matters of his preference. From much of what he's said, he wants government to be run with family values. And maybe no government at all with all of the chickens running wild in the coop.

But wait. As the Republican congressman from Ohio's rural Fourth District that abuts Boehner's Eighth District, Jordan's no-holds-barred behavior has irritated some Ohio Republican lawmakers who will be playing a decisive role in congressional redistricting. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Jordan's "disloyalty" to Boehner has put Jordan in "jeopardy of being zeroed out of a district."

The paper quotes one of its sources as putting it this way:; '"Jim Jordan's boneheadedness has kind of informed everybody's thinking." In wrestling terms, it would mean taking Jordan to the matt. It's technically called the "guillotine," and described as a "pinning move" that is a "combination of leg riding and an open side hook."

I'm not sure what all of that means, but an expert informs me that if executed properly, Jordan would be on his way back to his farm.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Booze leading another state rep to the dock


First,we recently learned of the sinful behavior of ex-State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, the holiest-of-holies Republican from the Dayton area who resigned in the wake of a deadly combination of booze, a young female stripper and Viagra , as discovered by an Indiana (for Heaven's sake!) state trooper.

Now, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting that one of Mecklenborg's very conservative colleagues, Rep. Jarrod Martin (R- Beavercreek) has fallen victim to the spirits. He was arrested on charges of drunk driving and child endangerment, having had two children in his car that was spotted weaving in and out of traffic. The Dispatch said today that it was the very same Jarrod Martin who was discovered passed out in the Statehouse garage last year - so intoxicated that he could not be immediately revived.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not picking on Republican lawmakers. Alcoholism, I've learned over the years of hanging around with these sturdy representatives of the people, is non-partisan. But hypocrisy is something else. When the God-fearing pretenders in the Republican ranks want us to believe that they have the only sure route to the great beyond, it's good to be reminded every now and then that hypocrites seldom practice what they preach, sober or inebriated..

Meantime, the blessed Ohio GOP lawmakers are doing something to themselves that the minority Democrats are incapable of accomplishing: laundering their ranks. Good for them!

UPDATE: As long as we're talking about hypocrites, how about the world-class example being reported about Chicago-area Tea Party Republican U.S.Rep. Joe Walsh, who ranted on TV against raising the debt limit because he didn't want it to be on the backs of his children and grandchildren. It now turns out, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, that his ex-wife has sued him for being delinquent on paying more than $117,000 in child support for their three children.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

McCain is for and against the Tea Party

BOY, DID JOHN MCCAIN fool us. I, for one, had been preparing to say something nice about his gritty attack on the Tea Party and its ilk in Congress. Next thing I know is, there is our hero on hands and knees on the Sean Hannity show praising the Tea Party. As Tea Party apologist Hannity bore in relentlessly on the teetering senator, McCain responded ever so defensively, purring:
"I admire, respect and appreciate the Tea Party, and they're the ones that gave us a majority in the House of Representatives so that we can get something done."
With that, the white flag went up in the face of a stern inquisition by Hannity and the Tea Partyers who had expressed anger at the senator from Arizona.

You never know about McCain anymore. He took some shots from Hannity with a Mona Lisa smile on his face, hoping to salvage the moment. Meantime, I would ask the senator to head up to MSNBC to explain what "something'' will be done by the TPers on Capitol Hill. Aside from creating havoc, of course.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Limbaugh: Heat wave is government plot!

JUST AS I WAS beginning to feel a little more comf0rtable with the moderating July heat wave, my upbeat mood suffered a setback when I learned that all of the past scorching days were a government hoax to appease the global warming crowd. That late word comes from Rush Limbaugh, himself a hot-air savant whom I have been trying to ignore in recent weeks. Rush says the temperature is hardly as awful as what we think it is because the government has created a heat index to make your neighborhood seem to be hotter than it really is by a couple of points. We have long known Rush to be a denier of climate change because he denies anything that is anathema to the mindless right-wingers in his dittohead audience. For the extremes that have created an unabated record draught throughout the south, floods, tornadoes and other awful things, Rushbo says you must consider how phony the temperature index is (particularly in his air conditioned den) and the Feds are responsible for your discomfort for raising the index beyond the true reading. (Why they would go to this trouble to fool everybody, I'm not sure.) Well, being the curious sort, I checked the reported temperature on the computer's weather page and it registered 82.6 degrees. The index in dispute was a non-inflated 82! So I would have to rate his comment as they do on PolitiFact: pants on fire.

Mary Taylor "clearly" befogs health care reform

L.T. GOV. MARY TAYLOR is bursting out these days as a vigorous opponent of the Obama Administration's health care reform law. That's not really surprising in the anti--health care reform crowd. Taylor, who is also director of the Ohio Insurance department, wrote a letter to the Beacon Journal to express her opposition, declaring: 'Let me be perfectly clear: I oppose the Affordable Care Act", and then went on, as a BJ follow-up editorial pointed out, to befog the various elements in the law.

Assuming that she doesn't intend to be stranded in a state job the rest of life, could this be her opening salvo to enter the U.S. Senate race next year against Democratic Sen Sherrod Brown?Recent polls indicate he is ahead of the leading Republican challenger, Ohio
treasurer John Mandel, a serial candidate who never saw a higher job that he didn't immediately love. Taylor could be the GOP's go-to candidate if Mandel decides to leapfrog the senate seat to run for U.S. president, or British prime minister if the job opens up in the always shaky European political market.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Soros: Not sure democracy will survive

GEORGE SOROS' incisive, if not entirely optimistic, essay in the June 23 issue of the New York Review of Books ought to be read - and reread - not as the incidental passing commentary of a billionaire liberal activist but as a provocative survey of the global mess in which America is deeply mired.

(I will pause at this point for all of Soros' right-wing critics and Fox News perps to turn blue at the very mention of his name.)

The Soros opus, which appears in the June 23 issue and is available on line, covers a broad field of trial-and-error government and spares neither side of the aisle. The guiding force of Soros' piece might be summed up in this wistful warning by the author:
''The United States has been a democracy and open society since its founding. The idea that it will cease to be one seems preposterous; yet it is a very likely prospect." [Italics added]
An essential attribute of a faltering society, he believes, is its inability to face reality - the unpleasant burden that all of us in a free society must necessarily share.
"Already the reelection of President Bush had convinced me that the malaise of an American society went deeper than incompetent leadership. The American public was unwilling to face harsh reality and was positively asking to be deceived by demanding easy answers to difficult problems. The fate of the Obama presidency reinforced that conviction."
Asserting that the Republican narrative thrived in a propaganda machine - Orwellian Newspeak - he says the party advanced its own game plan that the "government cannot be trusted and its role in the economy - both regulation and taxation - should be reduced to a minimum."

That sort of mindless political hogwash plays well with a public that doesn't want to hear the bad news, particularly from the politicians on the stump. And quite likely it will stay that way in our lifetime.

Soros says he has spent more than $8 billion creating a global network, the Open Society Foundation, to explore "new frontiers" in searching for solutions to make the globe more livable but wonders about its viability and continued work once he passes from the scene.

. The essay is not recommended for patio reading while waiting for guests to arrive at any moment. But it brutally reaches to the core of where we are today and why we are not anywhere near Camelot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Boehner only negotiates what belongs to others

"What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable"
(Boehner's attempt to sustain parity with President Obama fell to a new low when he reportedly did not take four phone calls from the White House. It was an abominable snub, not solely to the President - whomever he could have been - but to the very office itself. At this point, Boehner is looking more like Icarus, who, despite warnings, flew too close to the sun, fatally melting his wings.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Right! Bush indeed shaped it

"Americans should not fear our economic future, because we intend to shape it."
Or how about this one:
"Our economy is healthy and vigorous, and growing faster than other industrialized nations...Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural disasters, the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of the world."
No fair. You peeked. The good news came from President George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech, Jan 31, 2006.

Unfortunately, the Republican congress went gently into the good night and, by golly, Bush did shape it. With tax cuts. You know the rest of the story.

The Washington Spectator, which carried segments of the speech in its Feb. 15, 2006, edition, had another take on Bush's euphoria, warning:
"Don't believe the hype. Our 'Healthy' Economy is heading for trouble.'"
But really, folks. How could anyone take a liberal publication seriously?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wall Street's booming "bare" market

FROM A READER COMES a Reuters report of the indictments Wednesday of 17 people charged with running a "high-end prostitution ring that catered to Wall Street clients." The customers reportedly spent as much as $10,000 a night. Despite the downside of the economy, the ring was prospering, said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. "The business of high-end prostitution is enormously profitable," he said, adding that clients often spent more than $10,000 in a single night.

And why not? The ring was called High Class NY and like some pharmacies and supermarkets was open for business 24 hours a day, which was quite considerate of clients who had to stay at the office after hours to help pay for their mischief. Fees ranged from $400 to $3,600 an hour for the ring's services. Hynes called the Wall Street clientele "all high-end customers coming from the financial markets. People with nothing but money." Still, we have to wonder about how the $3,600 sex investors figured to write off their high-end action as therapeutic business expenses.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A media deal from hell - and then some

THE PEOPLE WHO BRING us the news are now making much of the news.

There is, of course, Rupert Murdock's News Corp. hacking scandal that has spread from London to New York as investigators continue to turn over rocks that were disguised by moss over the past decade. The last issue of The Economist magazine, taking stock of a badly wounded media industry, arrived at my mailbox with a 14-page special report on the"future of the news" in a cyberworld that has created a Disney World for newspapers as they engage in a roller coaster effort to survive. For American newspapers, the magazine observes, the U.S. is the "worst case" crises of the malady that is occurring in various degrees of helplessness on other continents.

Not that there is much new in such news. For years a rash of books and trade publications has been taking up the topic without any clear conclusions of where we go from here as advertising and readership continue to shrink. The decline has ripped at news room staffs, cutting tens of thousands on their rosters out of jobs. Meantime, the worriers in the front office have discovered - at least for public consumption - there is nothing to be gained by twisting their handkerchiefs in their hunt-and-peck guesswork about solutions to counter the Internet, particularly Google. Just as well perhaps. There are many instances where their solutions were worse than the problems. More about that later.

I have just read a compelling account of the troubled media world with two once-great newspapers as the victims. It is James O' Shea's book, "The Deal from Hell'', subtitled "How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers." It represents the back-room dealings of greedy wealthy investors who might have been conditioned by working in a sausage factory. O'Shea is an insider. He served as an editor at both media giants - the Tribune Company, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and the Times Mirror Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times. When the Chandler family, owners of the Los Angeles Times, clandestinely decided it was time to cash in on their estate in 2000, the Tribune Company bought it for $8.3 billion in a deal largely orchestrated by Wall Street bankers. The so-called merger was supposed to have guaranteed a healthy future for both papers (read: stockholders) while the new guys were counting their pocketed millions with little attention or concern about the quality of their product.

It didn't quite work out that way and by 2007 the papers were back on the market. More trouble. That opened the door to Sam Zell, a mega-rich real estate man who was described in a book review in Columbia Journalism Review as "arguably, America's most ill-suited media mogul." That was being kind.

The stories that have emerged from his ownership should be shielded from any young journalist with stars in his or her eyes. He and his front office operated as a goon squad with expatriates from radio - favored as folks who were so hip that their conversion of the Tribune evolved into a print version of the culture advanced by modern shock jocks. Into the hallowed halls of the Tribune's late owner, the storied Col. Robert Rutherford McCormick, came jukeboxes and pinball machines and other edgy cultural upgrades. There were soon staff complaints about crude jokes, "boorish" behavior and sexual harassment. Back in Los Angeles, frustration was expressed by a a three-story banner at the Times Building that asserted; ZELL's HELL.

All the while, thousands of jobs were being abolished at both papers (Where else do you cynically go these days to look for cost cutting?). The Tribune has been in bankruptcy for three years and Zell is said to have lost $316 million in the deal. So much for the well- nourished Wall Street experts.The arbitrary corporate grafting never charmed the staffs at either paper. It deteriorated into what A.J.Liebling once called the merger of the Columbus Dispatch and Columbus Citizen: Two hermit crabs living out of the same shell.

This is not a fanciful Hollywood tale of space aliens taking over the media.. Rather, it's about real people, sort of, that O'Shea sees as "monumental egos, fallible souls, larger than life characters and cultural clashes' in the collapse of newspapers.. Nor is he convinced that the decline was inevitable. Rather, he says the new owners were totally unprepared to deal in serious journalism - a word foreign to their interests - but chose to be servants of the Wall Streeters who advanced their own ways of gaining profits. As O'Shea writes:
"By joining the ranks of stockholder-owned companies [by going public] Tribune executives and newspaper owners across America fell under the thumb of Wall Street. In the process, they agreed to be measured by different yardsticks, not just journalism prizes and civic pride but also profit, efficiency, shareholder value, cash flow, and the price of a share of stock. From 1983 on [when the Tribune went public] the industry would answer not just to readers but also to shareholders with their eyes fixed on the bottom line and Wall Street analysts....The quality of newspapers degraded and part of that is due to going public."

As one who lived through some of the same conditions at the Akron Beacon Journal before leaving in 1991, there is little for me to dispute in O'Shea's brutal look at the industry. The great house that John S. Knight built began to crumble in the custody of the board in Miami as he grew older and less in command of the newer generation in control. Knight Newspapers was essentially in the hands of Ridder ( the latter group of much less distinction but with essential control over the entire hyphenated operation.) Knight was not pleased with the new landlords and once told me that he considered the merger the worst thing that could have happened to his papers.

In the new regime, editors arrived in Akron from far-flung towns and cities with little or no understanding of the area's unique culture. And none of them seemed to have any intention of hanging around that long, even though such ambitions were occasionally thwarted by the big brother in Florida (and later San Jose). Unfortunately, each brought his own idiosyncratic style of management to the paper's mission of improving its profit margin. Some of those fixes amounted to little more than tweaking.

One executive editor who arrived from Philadelphia imediately banned italicized headlines in the paper (too hard to read!) as well as eliminating occasional artist sketches to dress up a light-hearted story. Focus groups were in; columns by beat reporters were out. Favorites were chosen; many others were left out of the loop. Most of the preferred treatment went to the new arrivals from the corporate computers, while those who had been around before the hurricane struck were left to fend by their own survival instincts. The size of color photos grew while text dwindled at the same pace. The daily paper was supposed to be pretty, if not read. (Department editors debated the width of a thin black border that framed a photo. as if it really mattered to the reader.) Meetings overlapped. The blurry direction even drove out one intelligent department head, who said she simply didn't know what her boss wanted anymore. There was tension among the top editors and eye-rolling when the "old man" in the corner office, Jack Knight, was mentioned.

One example of how the ill-considered response to shrinking circulation occurred when the managers decided to open up a bureau in Canton to challenge the Canton Repository. It couldn't be successful because the BJ didn't offer two of a newspaper's precious assets to the Canton area readers - movie times and obituaries. The bureau was short-lived as a costly bad experiment. The Plain Dealer repeated an ill-considered expansion by opening, with much ballyhoo, a big bureau in Montrose (where I landed as a part-timer) to capture more Akron- area readers. The expensive commitment slowly eroded and the bureau staff was moved to Medina, and eventually closed altogether. A single reporter was assigned by the PD to cover Akron, an idea that had a short life span, too.

The man at the top of the heap as the Knight Ridder CEO was Tony Ridder, who had a hankering to spend as much time as possible with his advisors on Wall Street. And when the time came to unload (remember the Chandler family?) KNR was sold to the McClatchy Co. in 2006 for $4.5 billion, with the gentleman's agreement that McClatchy would sell off only a handful of the KNR 's 32 newspapers. What a ruse that turned out to be - but business is business. Within a month or so, McClatchy sold off at least a dozen of the papers , the Beacon Journal to the Black Press of British Columbia. Ridder said he was "disappointed" that it had come to that. Oh?

With new editors and new owners at the BJ in a relatively short time, it was not easy to remember names and owners and places. Still isn't.

With the BJ's staff now reduced to a skeleton of what it once was. it's safe to assume that the paper is still making a profit. There is no Columbus bureau or Washington bureau, and reporters are given assignments from a daily pool. A couple of floors in the proud BJ building are being rented out. It is what it is because that's how the owners want it to be. As for the readers and remaining cadre of older reporters, there is little for them to cheer about. It's gloomy, to be sure, and it will remain that way as the industry's dynamics are controlled by Wall Street. Or as O' Shea acidly writes:
"The lack of investment, the greed, incompetence, corruption, hypocrisy, and downright arrogance of people who put their interests ahead of the public's are responsible for the state of the newspaper industry today."

Murdoch's media friends circle the wagons

WELL, THE ANTICIPATED rush to circle the wagons around Rupert Murdock is now in full throttle, from Rudy Giuiani to CNN host Piers Morgan to the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal and, of course, Fox News. As mayor, Giuliani had been in Murdock's protective custody; Morgan had been the editor of Murdock's now-shuttered tabloid, News of the World, and later the Sun. In an astonishingly servile editorial, even for a paper owned by Murdock, the WSJ suggested that most of the boss's problems are caused by his critics. The common theme in many of these defense arguments: He is an honorable man and should not be subjected to a "witch hunt". Murdoch the victim?

Thanks to this fulsome scandal, we are learning something new about modern journalism every day. The Washington Post, for example, hissed that Britain's tough libel laws had forced the media to engage in hacking and other forms of antisocial misbehavior. Wow! Would you believe Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli had been an editor at the Wall Street Journal under Murdoch? Since Brauchli's arrival at the Post the once-liberal paper has taken some mystifying editorial positions, but none more obtuse than its defense of Rupert Murdoch.

Sometimes, pedigree is everything in the news business.,

Kasich's poll numbers continue to slide

IN CASE YOU ARE keeping score, here is the latest poll on Gov. Kasich's public approval rating:

According to the Quinnipiac University Poll, only 35 pct. of Ohioans' approve of Kasich's performance, 50 pct. disapprove. That indicates a drop from the pollster's numbers of two months ago, 49-38. (Notice that 15 pct. in the new poll either don't know who the governor is, or don't care!)

What does this mean? We report, you decide.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kasich: I won't privatize Lake Erie, folks

IT WAS GOOD to see Gov. Kasich veto the Lake Erie water drainage bill passed by both Republican chambers of the Ohio legislature. Given his past track record, one would have expected him to include on his wish list the privatizing of Lake Erie. But he finally accepted the strong objections of two previous GOP governors, George Voinovich and Robert Taft, as well as many others, to rebuff the initiative by the legislative cornstock brigade and its melange of strict party enablers - including Akron 's Republican senator, Frank LaRose, a co-sponsor of the bill - who now dominate the agenda of lawmakers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The GOP's midsummer night's dreams

All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players...
--- Shakespeare

Of all of the charades being played in politics today, the leading entry must be the right-wing Republican choral group on Capitol Hill that is demanding a vote on a balanced budget
constitutional amendment before any agreement with President Obama on a plan to avoid default. Guys like Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell may be foolish, but they aren't stupid on their better days. You do have to wonder, however, how they intend to continue tilting windmills right up until the last seconds before the nation defaults from Wall Street to Beijing.

To remind you of the formidable task of adding an amendment to the Constitution:

It requires a two-thirds vote to pass in both houses, which would make it DOA in the Senate.

It requires the approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures.

The bad news for most of the Boehner-McConnell Republicans is that they wouldn't be around long enough to see it happen. Nor, for that matter the Ol' USA as we have come to love it. No matter. All 47 Republican senators are supporting this long day's journey into night - and many nights afterward.

So what's the point of this political theater of the absurd? There isn't any point aside from politics while the nation is held hostage.


While we're on the subject of charades, I loved Gov. Kasich's official reason for not attending the forthcoming Ohio Republican Party's royal outing of the year in Cleveland - the annual dinner - coming on Friday. He has, it says here, a "scheduling conflict" in southwestern Ohio, his aides explained with a straight face. It's the most hackneyed explanation for a political no-show that the pol didn't want to attend anyway. Even in the day of Jim Rhodes, he was always out of town during civil rights programs in Columbus. He even showed up at a place where he wasn't expected.

Kasich's snub of his party, immediately set off hisses among Republicans that it again demonstrates the icy feeling between the governor and State Chairman Kevin DeWine dating back to the November campaigns. This could get interesting in a matchup of egos over who is really running the state party - or running away from it.

By the way, Kasich's sidekick, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, will be skipping the dinner, too. Another scheduling conflict. The state and county Republicans continue to look south for their after-dinner speakers. This year's state dinner will feature Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. It will be his second coming to Ohio for a free dinner. He's already appeared in the lineup of southerners who have become regulars on the dais of the Summit County GOP dinners.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday that Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general, will be nominated by President Obama to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau scheduled to open this week. But wait. The congressional Republicans have already caused Elizabeth Warren , a Harvard law professor, to withdraw from consideration for the j0b even though the bureau was her idea in the first place. Republicans stopped short of calling for a Constitutional Amendment to abolish the bureau to satisfy objections from America's financiers on Wall Street.

Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown expects Cordray, among the Democratic Party's brightest stars, to be confirmed. Cordray was defeated by Mike DeWine in last Noember's Republican near sweep in Ohio as the economy played the major role.

P.S.: a GOP Constitutional Amendment against the consumer affairs bureau may still be in play.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mike Williams, Point 41: 50 free tickets for his side

A FEW WEEKS AGO, Mike Williams, the candidate who wants to unseat Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, proposed an astonishing 40 points that he believed would carry him to victory in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. Somehow, it didn't include his demand for 50 free seats for the scheduled Aug. 8 debate with the mayor and a third candidate on the ballot, Janice Davis.

That 41st point arrived this week and the combined sponsors of the Akron Press Club and Bliss Institute delivered on his request. At $20 a head for a program series that raises money for college scholarships, that comes to a $1,000 gross gate, even if the freebies would not include lunch. (The seat could have been sold to paying guests.) The event is already sold out at nearly 300, so the hosts agreed to move the event from the traditional Martin Center ballroom to the more accommodating Student Union. The freebies will await their entry until lunch is served before arriving at a specially designated section of the room.

How nice. And with a huge crowd, it could be a seating and parking nightmare. But I'm sure that a room with a view was all that Williams had in mind. I was told that he first asked that everybody get a free ticket in a public spectacle. The Plusquellic forces were left with little leeway to respond to the 50-ticket request, the first of its kind in the many years that I once served as the program chairman.

The response is as puzzling as the Press Club's preferential treatment for then Republican congressional candidate, Tom Ganley, in his losing campaign against Rep.Betty Sutton. When he refused to debate her, he was offered a free pass to appear alone (She spoke at another time). Ganley's solo appearance also was a club first in a series that called for a debate. But in the latest retreat, there was no explanation as to why a minimum 50 free-seat package was included in the deal.

This shouldn't be a big problem for the mayor. He could settle the issue by asking for 50 free tickets for his side, too. Fair enough, Mike?

UPDATE: David Cohen, the University of Akron political science professor and Press Club board member who is handling arrangements for the mayoral debate, has contested my report that Mike Williams was solely offered 50 free reservations for the event. Cohen insists that the 50 freebies for folks who will not be eating lunch will be open on a first-come first serve basis to Williams, Mayor Plusquellic or any public spectator as long as the supply lasts. He did confirm, however, that Williams had first asked that all of the tickets be free for the debate at a venue big enough to accommodate the anticipated crowd. The event has now been moved from the Martin Center to the UA Student Union. The seating assignments dividing the payers and non-payers may still be complicated when the crowd presses forward.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eric Cantor: Boehner 's Dick Cheney

WITH SO MUCH media attention directed at Rep. Eric Cantor's back- channel influence on House Majority Leader John Boehner's teetering debt policy, it's reasonable to suggest that Cantor , the House whip and No.2 man under the speaker, has evolved into Boehner's Dick Cheney. Cantor, who has praised the Tea Party as the "surge protector" against big government, is getting cozier each day with the teabaggers in his hard line against compromise with President Obama. Still, as an overreaching zealot he is more troublesome to Capitol Hill Republicans than he is to the president, who happens to be much savvier than Cantor and will take the Virginia congressman to school in the the current debate.

Cantor has been here before. A rabid Zionist, he didn't hesitate to publicly endorse Israeli hardline prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter arrived in Washington to express his deep differences with Obama on Middle East policy. Cantor told him: "I'm with you, not my president" and promised that the majority House Republicans would "serve as a check on the administration."

He's probably guaranteeing the Tea Party the same allegiance in his attempt to guide Boehner away from any kind of deal on raising the debt limit. In his own misguided way to keep Boehner in tow, he's making life miserable for a lot of people in and out of government. But in the end he will find that life can get just as miserable for opportunists scheming their way to the executive suite. Even conservatives like David Brooks and the editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal are finding little to cheer about in the mess that the Republicans are creating for the country. It's a bit premature for Cantor to take a bow for his own self-absorbed work on Capitol Hill to educate his colleague John Boehner in the demands of the Ranting Right.

A restaurant responds to misbehaving kids!

I AM PLEASED TO announce that I have a new hero. His name is Mike Vuick. I've never met him. He owns a restaurant in the Pittsburgh area and a recent news report told me something that I've been waiting to hear for years: Mr. Vuick, brave soul that he must be, says he has a new policy in which he he won't allow kids under age 6 in his restaurant. With so many doting parents proudly showing off their cranky kids in public venues, Vuick risks a parental backlash. But as he puts it:

"There's nothing wrong with babies, but the fact is, you can't control their volume. " He says with no special insight that it disturbs his other customers who would enjoy a peaceful night out for dinner. He says even if kids are the center of the parents universe, it's not the universe of people paying for a good meal in golden silence.

As a couple who dine out quite often, we have encountered an increasing number of moments when we have changed tables (or restaurants) or asked for ear plugs. Kids have driven past our table in Kiddie Cars, or wrestled their friends to the floor or danced on padded seats while shrieking to no one in particular while their parents submitted to the havoc with a aren't-they-the sweetest-little-devils smile. Cute, huh?

Some people are already said to be complaining to Vuick that his new policy is offensive. Hold it right there, people. Try dinner on the town sometime without the brats. You might like it. And so would I.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Murdoch in London: Not having a very good day

THESE HAVE NOT BEEN the best of times for world media colossus Rupert Murdoch. The hacking scandal in London has forced him to regroup with one less newspaper - the scoop-driven tabloid that had been the biggest English-language newspaper in the world. You don't get that way without juicy peekaboos of the rich and the famous. And you don't get shut down by owner Murdoch unless he is in the greatest damage control mode in media history. Few, if any, outside the Murdoch empire are inclined to weep.

The ugly slop that Murdoch's News Corp. is trying to ooze out of specifically centers on the company's News of the World, whose sneaky intrusions reached as high as the country's beloved royalty to various other victims along the way. It now embraces private investigators, politicians, the prime minister , bribed police and anyone else that the paper found useful in titillating its readers. It has been going on for a decade, which shows you the depths of tolerance and benign neglect that some public officials exercised in the paper's behalf.

But it wasn't until the scandal sheet hacked the voicemail of a girl before she was found dead that people started to take the paper's unlawful tactics seriously enough for officials to respond.

Team Murdoch, which presides over Fox News in America, reacted to the perilous news about its gossipy ways to set up funds for potentially explosive law suits that would get quite monstrously costly.(By the way, Media Matters is reporting that the gang at Fox News has largely ignored the nasty cause celebre. Are you surprised? Wouldn't think so.)

Murdoch, his son James and his top editor, Rebekah Brooks have now been asked to appear before Parliament to to explain the paper's bad habits.

The scandal couldn't have come at a worse time for Murdoch as he is deeply engaged in a multibillion dollar takeover of BSkyB, Britain's largest pay TV provider. (Murdock never thinks small.) There is growing disaffection for the deal by Parliament as well as for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been described as a close friend of the Murdochs. It was Cameron, after all, who hired f0rmer Murdoch editor Andy Coulson, as Cameron's press spokesman. A few days ago Coulson was arrested and charged with, um, "inappropriate' payoffs to some police who were in on the deal.

More damage control: Cameron now stands with those who oppose the Murdoch TV takeover. Makes sense to me, in a survival sort of way


Monday, July 11, 2011

Republican theocracy rising again in Iowa

THE QUESTION WE face, Dear Friends, in the next half-year is not whether the nation will survive the Zombie-like creatures that inhabit the political Right (Wrong?) and close down state governments, but whether we can survive the rampant madness of the Republican presidential candidates heading into the Inquisitorial Iowa caucuses. The Christian Crusaders, on the march for a theocracy, have now elevated homosexuality and same-sex marriage to first place in their dire predictions of how we are all going straight to hell. And when we flinch upon hearing of Morals Police in other countries whose religious insistence leads to unthinkable abuses, let us turn to fanatics like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum for our wackos.

Having been a political writer and editor for many years, I concede that such reporting would be better satisfied today solely by religious writers prepared to sort the nonsense from the nonsense. We have now reached the point where Santorum, the modern version of Savanarola in a business suit, has gone to public confession to tell us about his wonderful relationship with his wife, if not yet the Iowa Republicans.

Here's what he owned up to:
"I pledged personal fidelity to my wife when I was married to her. And pledged the same, that I would not involve myself in any other relationship with anybody else who is married. So that's a pledge I've taken and I take every single day when I - as a married person and feel very comfortable making that public statement."
Good for you, Rick. But why should anybody but the saints and sinners who will be evaluated in Iowa care, particularly those souls who spend most of their time trying to make ends meet or looking for a job?

Did I mention that Santorum's confession was part of his attack on same-sex marriage in a pledge circulated by an Iowa outfit called the Family Leader. Among the things the Santorum/Bachmann agreed to , if president, were bans on "all forms of pornogrphy and prostitution, infanticide, abortion, and other types of coercion stolen innocence."

Oh, in an article posted by Raw Story, they also promised to appoint conservative judges.

That, of course, would guarantee that the circle would be unbroken.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

13 million? Soon we will be talking about big money

13 million...Dollars that is.

Remember that number and paste it on your refrigerator.

13 million.

Add the figure to your song in the shower.

13 million.

Stick it in the beginning, middle and end of your evening vespers.

13 million.

Repeat it to the clerk at the checkout counter.

13 million.

Write it on a blank greeting card to your Republican state senator.

13 million.

Enter it on your Facebook page.

13 million.

Post it on the door of the headquarters of your Republican county chairman.

13 million!!!!

That's the quaint payoff by Team Kasich to a New York consultant to close the deal in cash-poor Ohio on those casinos in Ohio - a deal, which the slickest of governors described as a "win for all involved". However, I would caution you that it was a deal that seems to have involved no sweat equity. Although the figure has been reported in the press many times, it was Brent Larkin's column in today's Plain Dealer that again reminded us of its folly . It was the sort of work, Larkin wrote, "that a bright , well prepared fifth grader could have performed as a homework assignment."

13 million.

Once you move beyond Kasich's boasts about the brutal budget-balancing slashes in the state budget, there's an entirely different universe out there. In Ohio it's known as megacronyism in which no expense is spared to serve the opportunists who show up at the governor's door each day.

Even the casino deal enriched the four casino owners at the state's expense as they were given more than they were prepared to argue for. That, too, brought puffy huzzahs from Kasich. It's how they add two and two to get five on Wall Street, where the governor spent too many impressionable years.

In early Rome, tradition called for honoring military heroes with something called The Triuimph, in which the honorees often in bejeweled robes and fancy headresses were paraded through the streets for two days to the cheers of the citizenry. A few more boastful triumphs by Kasich and the hour will be upon us to watch him paraded through downtown Columbus to the cheers of his personal melange of beneficiaries.

And when one of his friends steps forward to propose a marble statue on the statehouse grounds, there will soon be a statue.

In his own gruff way, Kasich is nothing if he can't boast of phony triumphs - this from the fellow who is trying to convert a small plurality in last November's elections to victory by acclimation.

13 million.
I can't explain it; maybe your Republican county chairman, who is reaping the rewards of being an enabler in Team Kasich, can.

But be sure to mention...

13 million.

P.S I neglected to mention that you can be a charter member of my 13 Million Club. Unlike the schemes of the money-changers in Columbus, this transaction won't cost you a dime.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

OSU's goal line stand backfired

PLANET SCARLET AND GRAY is becoming mostly gray these days as the collegiate sports world is sparing few acts of reprisal against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The reaction to the scandalous goal line stand offered by OSU's big shots to escape further punishment for their sins records another ugly chapter in the modern excesses of intercollegiate athletics. For the almighty Buckeye gridiron powerhouse in Columbus, it is now simply the case of the bigger you are, the harder you fall.

The epic began modestly enough by today's porous standards. Some first teamers, including the team's ballyhooed quarterback, were outed for selling off some of their collectibles to a tattoo parlor owner in returned for tattoos. What followed was a frantic goal line stand by the team's iconic freshly-groomed coach, Jim Tressel - a prayerful Mr. Clean - who had been respectfully esteemed as a Michigan beater as well as the way his teams clobbered a lot of other opponents.
It's a messy departure from the standard press box image that has led to player suspensions, reports of Tressel's use of ineligible players and a lot of seesawing by OSU President G. Gordon Gee, who couldn't quite find the proper words to make the issue go away. To make matters worse, OSU agreed to convert the $3.5 million coach's resignation into a normal retirement and drop Gee's avowed plan for a $250,000 fine while setting up a $50,000-plus retirement "bonus" for the besieged coach - the last month of his base pay. .

The current fallout will leave lengthy scars. Last season's winning season, including its Sugar Bowl victory, will be purged from the record books. There there will be other penalties when the NCAA issues its verdict in August. But that may be a good thing. It would be a healthy improvement, not only for Big Daddy OSU, which dominates all of Ohio's collegiate sports, but for other schools where sports have taken over the campus brand, by hook or crook.

That's probably wishing too much. But it's a thought that a few schools may try to live by to avoid the disgrace that attends Scarlet and Gray. How easy it would have been for the OSU front office to escape the worst consequences if Gee, Tressel and their enablers would have honestly taken charge of the situation at the outset instead of trying to run out the clock. After all, real pros don't panic.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Orrin Hatch: The wealthy are being unfairly abused

IF YOU'VE ever been t0 Utah, you would agree that it offers the visitor some dazzling sights like the other-worldly Bryce Canyon. But, alas, it continues to offer us a 77-year-old stiff-collared Republican senator named Orrin Hatch who carefully chooses his words with tweezers. He's also a conservative's conservative who never met a billionaire that he didn't like (Nor a TV camera, but that's another story). His latest foray into the twilight zone of taxes asserts that the upper 1 percent of wealthy taxpayers are getting screwed by paying 38 pct. of the total federal income tax. On the other hand, he believes that the poor ought to pay more to help us balance the budget. In his view, expressed on the Senate floor, the poor and middle class get a generous benefit from Social Security while ''the top 1 percent of the so-called wealthy pay 38 pct of the income tax."

So-called???? Until now, I and a lot of other folks had figured millionaires and billionaires to be unequivocally wealthy without wondering why anybody would decide to qualify it.

Correct me, but the reason the high rollers pay a larger volume of the total is that they make more money than people standing in line for employment today. But it's easy to dismiss the fellow for standing up for his crowd. He's been wrong before. None other than Justice Clarence Thomas has noted that it was Hatch who was responsible for his appointment to the bench.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mike Williams: a 40-point mayoral campaign!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS' 40-point litany aimed at Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic doesn't quite match Martin Luther's 95 theses. But 40? It has to be some kind of record for a mayoral contest. And when you reach that far for an opening salvo against your opponent it suggests that you're hoping that at least a couple of them will stick as the race moves on through the heat of summer to the Sept. 13 Democratic primary.

Still, for all of the ground it covered, the Big 40 offered no surprises. Williams built his case on what the mayor's is opponents have been saying for years while taking a swipe at Plusquellic's well-known differences with the leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police. But Williams already seems assured of getting those leaders' support without emphasizing that as mayor you will be kinder to cops. It didn't work as a wedge issue against Plusquellic in the failed recall campaign against him.

In 2011, with much of world struggling to survive dismal economic numbers, there is really only one issue in a campaign within the boundaries, in this instance, of Akron, Oh. It is the troubling employment numbers. But here again, the city 's challenge is the same as in every city in America. Rhetoric won't solve the problem. So I was particularly interested to find Williams again fussing over Plusquellic's well- recorded and reported travels beyond Akron. (I'm sure the mayor will have much to say about the benefits of seeking new investors from abroad - even, for Heaven's sake, Finland! - when you are competing with every other city in the country to lure jobs to your hometown.)

Williams suggests that a mayor's inescapable noble obligation is to have a strong presence in the "neighborhoods" - whatever that's supposed to mean. But neighborhoods don't produce many jobs. Luring fresh money from outside of the community does produce the jobs that benefit the citizenry in all of the neighborhoods. All of which means: No mayor can dedicate his or her career to being a stay-at-home. Not in 2011, nor forevermore.

Now, about the other 39 points, I may save them for a rainy day.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day: Religion, parades, politics

Independence Day weekend notes:

We read that the high priestess of the Tea Party was fully occupied with her business at hand: Speaking from her space station high above the usual political crowd, Michele Bachmann soared into the pages of the Biblical Chronicles as she urged the worshippers at two evangelical churches in Iowa to get right with the Lord . According to the Des Moines Register, Bachmann, a Republican presidential candidate, drove home her message with her scriptural route to salvation for America. She assured her audience that "if we do as Chronicles tells us, if we humble ourselves, and pray and confess our sins, and turn away from our wicked ways, and ask an almighty God to come and protect us and fight the battle for us, we know from his word, his promise is sure. He will come. He will heal our land. And we will have a new day."

Tall order, even for God.

Meanwhile, we also have read that Michele's husband, Marcus, who refers to himself as her "strategist', operates a Christian counseling service in Minnesota largely directed at making homesexuals "ungay". Indeed, he believes that gays are ...well here's exactly how he has put it:
'We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined.''
The quadrennial tent revivals in Iowa, otherwise known as the Republican caucuses, can't come soon enough.


We spent some time as spectators Monday at the annual Fairlawn Fourth of July Parade. It is an annual Tootsie Roll shower and horn honking blast, the latter exercise as a means to liven up the pageant. I'm a sucker for Sousa marches but this parade has only one marching band in a mile of firetrucks, classic cars, politicians, martial arts and landscaping promoters. Well, the kids got pocketfuls of candy and loved it.

One surprising entry was Michael Williams, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic's chief adversary in the Democratic primary. It isn't every day that a candidate in one city tries win favor in one of the suburbs. Meantime, Plusquellic was at Lock 3's big Fourth of July rib festival to introduce the Akron Symphony Orchestra performance and later the fireworks. It's where I should have been to hear the missing Sousa marches.
* ********
Less surprising in the series of weekend events was the unanimous nomination of Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff to the Board of Elections - a seat he had held before he was unceremoniously thrown out by former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. When he is reappointed by Jon Husted, Brunner's Republican successor - not IF - he will succeed Brian Daley, Arshinkoff's early choice to keep the seat warm until the boss was able to return with the changing of the guard in Columbus. But as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. After his nomination on Saturday, Arshinkoff was full of humility to return to doing "the people's work," as he described it, and spent the rest of the time slamming board member Wayne Jones, the county Democratic chairman. Here we go!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ohio lawmaker: the Photo ID of Viagra man

OK, FOLKS, what we have here is still one more apologetic penitent who was arrested back in April while he was on a toot in Indiana. In his other life he is State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, a Cincinnati area Republican who is a sponsor of the Photo ID bill that, it says here, would be a firewall against voter fraud in Ohio. But on the night of his arrest by an Indiana state trooper, according to a report by Talking Points Memo, the family values-conscious pol (wife, three kids, Zorba's "whole catastrophe") was charged with drunk driving after failing three field sobriety tests.

There's more. The cops noted that he had a 26-year-old woman in the car and it wasn't because her car broke down and she needed a ride. She reportedly had emerged from a nearby strip club. He had Viagra in the car and , a later test revealed, in his system.

Remorseful, Mecklenborg did what these guys always do on cue.. He apologized and said he had caused "great hurt" to his family as well as his loyal constituents. But maybe we should forgive him. With or without Viagra, he is merely intent, in his oddly noble way, on protecting the public interest from the handful of slippery folks who try to vote twice in an election.

However, if he succeeds in that mission, , do you think the above photo will show up on his own ID card?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Minnesota: a state in a state of chaos

JUST ANOTHER day of political infamy.

This one shut down the government in Minnesota as Republicans again drew a line in the concrete separating reality and taxes. But what are the anti-taxers to do when it is their only ideological weapon to prove their worth as pathetic single-passion political leaders?


Every summer camper in a state park was forced to pack up and leave as the parks closed.

All highway construction projects were abruptly shut down, laying off a lot of people and suspending their wages.

Twenty thousand state workers were laid off.

The state's hotline for senior citizens, which assisted 30,00 people last year, was turned off.

There was dislocation and instability throughout the state.

The Republican-controlled legislature rejected Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's proposal to raise taxes on the state's top one percent of the wealthy. The St. Paul Pioneer Press noted that it would have only affected Minnesota's 7,700 millionaires. They won't be expected to miss a single meal during this chaos.

And unsurprisingly, the presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, the former governor, showed up to stand tall with his GOP brethren in this hour of political depravity as the lights were turned off on social services that were created for humane reasons.

The Republicans are flashing sharp swords in their anti-tax romp. Eventually they may be forced to fall on them.



Kasich's boast of "new day" arrives with an asterisk

ON SOME DAYS, the newspaper headlines offer the best insight into Gov. Kasich's hoopla over his no-new-taxes state budget and the realities of trying, say, to get a college education in Ohio. At the top of the Plain Dealer 's front page, the headline declared:
Kasich signs $112 billion budget, marking a 'new way and a new day'
Settle down, guv. It's not a new day for everyone. Here's what the front page of the Beacon Journal told us on the same day:
KSU to increase fall tuition 3.5%
The story cited "declining" revenue from the state as a reason for the increase. That has been the old way of paying the bills.

As rising tuition at state schools has steadily increased, I have frequently asked, without getting a reasonable answer, why a tuition increase isn't a new tax on students. To broaden that question, with drastic cuts in state assistance to school districts and local government ($2 billion) in the Kasich budget, we will doubtless find local leaders across the state seeking new revenue (taxes!) to pay for the services that people not only need, but want.

When you boast of "a new way and a new day", guv, what am I missing in the translation?