Sunday, June 30, 2013

Brennan and Gonidakis: Akron hometowners well rewarded in budget!

What a terrible coincidence!

 Two of the biggest winners in the state budget signed Sunday by Gov. Kasich are from  Akron:  businessman David Brennan, and  Ohio Right to Life president Michael Gonidakis. 

 Brennan, a longtime major patron  of the Republican Party,  is the pater familias/owner of White Hat Management, Ohio 's largest charter school system.  The budget handsomely favored his schools ($1,400 more for each school choice student in addition to the bountiful amounts - many more millions upon millions from the state at the expense of public schools. Just another day at Brennan's office, I'd say. )

Gonidakis, an aggressive legislative  anti-abortion activist, earlier appointed by Kasich  as a non-medical member of the Ohio Medical Board, parlayed a daily double: defunding of Planned Parenthood and opening the door to one of the nation's strictest  anti-abortion  measures, including the use of ultrasound in birth control exams.  It also prevents Planned Parenthood from sending critical abortion cases  to public hospitals  for emergency  care. "Stupidity," as Albert Camus once wrote in The Plague, "has a knack of getting its way."   The governor obviously decided that well-informed women will cast a meaningless vote in his re-election bid.

Frankly, the Akron area is far more progressive than what these two richly rewarded hometown guys  represent.

* * * * *

And while we're at it.  How odd as the Kasich Sound Track rolled out his boastful  budget signature Sunday: State Republican Chairman Matt Borges arrived on-line with exuberant praise of the governor's action well before it was even reported by the Ohio media. Is he scoop-conscious or what?   As for Kasich, he quickly announced his moment of grace for Ohioans  and departed without answering any questions. Call it the tunnel at the end of Borges' light.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

An unpleasant week, and it ain't over

Weekly mop-up of chaos and unpleasantries:

Some Plain Dealer  non-union support staffers lost their jobs last week in what they will surely remember as their 90-minute date with destiny.  That's how the PD's front office arranged their painful departure from the payroll.  The company had told a hand-picked group of uncertain numbers to sit by their telephones for 90 minutes and await a possible phone call.  If the phone rang, the staffer was informed  he or she had drawn the unlucky straw in Newhouse's Advance Publications' mission to  "realign " the workforce.   The owners are using the same torturous  tactic at its other papers.  I'm told the next cuts  will come by Aug. 1 as the paper nears the launching of a  three-day home delivery plus a Saturday "bonus" in early August. Not much  else is known about the PD's game plan. Guild President Harlan Spector says he's told very little by the company, and doesn't even know how many people got pink slips in the latest round.  Anybody recall the newspaper crowd's faux Scout motto to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted"?

* * * * *

It's been mind-blowing  to see the wingers' reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court 's decision to widen democracy's space for same-sex marriages.  Justice Scalia,who dissented, said the 5-4 decision was "jaw-dropping", which for him, is a lot of jaw to drop.  But the most stupendous non-sequitur from the gallery came from forever hyperactive  Bill Donahue, the head of the Catholic League,  who accused the court of engaging in an attack on "religious liberty" while fuming that the ruling was a "malicious effort to  punish people of faith".  Religious liberty?  Until now I had thought that such liberty was the accepted  catalyst of so many different faiths in America.

* * * * *

Poor Justice Clarence Thomas, the morose  silent majority of one on the hard right who doesn't even speak when spoken to.   Here's a beneficiary of affirmative action who once again voted to keep blacks in their place when he joined the white guys on the bench who shot a big hole in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Do you think he  ever has a sleepless night?

* * * * *

Still reeling from Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican  who asserted  that fetuses can start masturbating  in 15 weeks. Who knew?  

* * * * * 

 July's Harper's Index  reports that the highest paid public employe in 37 states is a sports coach.  Note to parents: Do you really want your kid to study to be a doctor?

Monday, June 24, 2013

The flags at half-mast for James Gandolfini. an extraordinary talent

They lowered the flags to half-mast in New Jersey on Monday to honor an iconic actor whose  51-year-old life ended in Italy last week not as a bullet-riddled mob boss but rather as a soft-hearted human being in real life.  Acknowledging the deep impression that James Gandolfini has left on the viewers of the TV series, The Sopranos,  Gov. Chris Christie defined him as "a fine actor, a Rutgers alum and a true Jersey guy."

I'll leave it to the voluble governor to tell us more about  generic "true Jersey guys,"  but we do know this much: It is quite doubtful that America's unwavering fascination with the mob as art will ever find a more compelling character than Tony Soprano.  Unlike so many of his predecessors in the mob genre, the role expanded the dimensions of gangland dons to give us a ruthless killer, who also was on Prozac,  hallucinated,  sat uncomfortably through sessions with his shrink and came home each day to an often contentious wife and a couple of unruly kids who drove him nuts as a father who wanted so much more good from them.

The New York Times found Tony to be a "complicated actor who made a complicated mob boss indelible."

Alessandra Stanley noted in her TV Watch column that Tony had said of the role as a "more violent version of Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners".

Those of us who followed Tony's monstrous moments (even the lighter times)  in the TV series were never sure that we could explain our own addiction to the man.  I had to tell myself that, after all,  I was pulling for a murderous mobster.  Tony, with a superbly-drawn script and an outstanding cast, all came together in our living room, some of the scenes so vividly explosive and bloody that we were never prepared to consign them to  fiction.

As one who  considered the first  Godfather film as the gold standard for mob art, a comparison with Michael Corleone (piercingly played by Al Pacino) was inevitable.  To a point.  Michael was forever sullen and sinister.  Even believed that his brother Fredo had to go.

With Tony Soprano, there was a an occasional merry glint in his eye, an attempt to be a regular guy, a boyish grin, an impossible yearning for his psychiatrist who fearfully strained to maintain her professional task in her sessions with Tony.

These were the facets of character that we didn't find in Michael Corleone, who single-mindedly obsessed about klling his enemies and nothing else.

 I will miss Tony,  and not apologize for it.  It's never right to dismiss such unique talent in a human being. The series led us on with squeamish suspicion that something awful was about to happen at the next turn. With James Gandolfini gone, there will be no more scary plots arising with this gang, nor a quick smile from a bear of a bully.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jim Allen: the ex-county chairman won't be playing in Farmersville anymore

Just when you wanted to believe that with the Rush Limbaughs, Glenn Becks and Michele Bachmanns still on the loose  in full voice, nobody could top them with dumber-than-dumb political trash talk.  Well, someone just did, and so much for the career of an Illinois  Republican county chairman named Jim Allen of the unheralded village of Farmersville, Ill. (pop. 723) in downstate Montgomery County. (If you've just pulled out your Rand McNally road atlas,  Farmersville isn't that far from Divernon, Ill.)

Allen, beset by troubled reaction from GOP higher-ups, including National Chairman Reince Priebus, resigned in the wake of his comments that Erika Harold (shown here), a former Miss America running for congress in the Republican primary,  was a "street walker"  supported by her "pimps" among Democrats and moderate Republicans.

Limbaugh settled for "slut" in recklessly ill-defining Sandra Fluke's off-hours behavior.

But when guys like Priebus are so openly annoyed by  one of the party's official enablers that he called Allen's behavior "inexcusable'" and "not to be tolerated, you know that the ex-county chairman exceeded what's left of the levels of decency for the party's alleged brand. Allen recanted with an apology, but you know how those things go these days.

But Allen did earn a  citation from Grumpy Abe otherwise known as the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award. Somehow,  I still don't feel it fits the slanderous crime by this party operative.

Oh, Allen also accused Harold of being a notorious "RINO" - a Republican in Name Only.  But as they genuflect  to a Tea Party culture,  isn't it a bit of a stretch to refer to any of them as a Republican?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The WMD slamming down at the Plain Dealer

The anticipated Wholesale Moving Day (WMD) at the Plain Dealer has begun.

Scene Magazine is reporting today that layoffs will begin this evening.  Eventually it will slice a third of the staff that has  already shrunk from past cutbacks.

Here, in part, is s how Scene reported it:
 "For now, non-newsroom employees are affected (advertising, marketing, finance, IT, etc.).  They've been told to wait by the phone for a call from management.  The dice have been rolled..
  "Newsroom employees were told to dread a  'later date,'  though earlier reports have those layoffs coming sometime before Aug 5.  One third of the newsroom will be laid   off.
  "As the Save the Plain Dealer Campaign relays the news, this is being billed as "realignment of the workforce' and 'redesign of our operations'. Those losing their jobs tonight were preemptively wished 'all the best for their future'."
 Realignment?   Redesign? A telephone standby for your fate?

This is the sort of empty  jargon  that we used to call editorialese.  So allow me to pick up the theme by wondering how the folks losing their jobs can, with a straight face,  be wished the best for their future.

For further editorialese, it bears watching. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BJ: Beware of tax exempt profitable non-profit telemarketers

Back in the '90s, I visited  the splashy InfoCision headquarters on  Springside Dr. for a Plain Dealer story on what the huge telemarketer was all about. Passing by the offices and caller modules I was fixed on the posters that had nothing good to say about the Clintons.  No one could ignore the politics in the air.

I was reminded of that experience by Bob Dyer's two-part series in the Beacon Journal that turned up a lot of  negatives about the InfoCision  policies from his interviews with former employes who had engaged in a class-action suit against the company.
There were complaints about working conditions, pay policies and deceptive tales told to prospective donors about fairy-tale matching grants.   As Dyer reported, the suit was "settled quietly" last year before it went to trial.

Although InfoCision has many clients that add up to the second largest telemarketer in the country,   it is also true  that it has raised money tilting toward  conservative religious groups, which, in turn, are head over heels into political mischief.    There is an invisible line between religion and politics these days, and if Pat Robertson's organization enjoys InfoCision's fund-raising talent as a client, it is fair to raise the question of the silliness of tax exemptions  to the giant telemarketer as well as to all other tax exempt enterprises that operate under the guise of charitable social work. From that standpoint, the "scandal"  over the government's targeting of some major non-profits should be a blessing in disguise.

Unfortunately, the controversy will not need a long recuperative period for the offended non-profits.  The reason, as usual, is that we're talking about big money here.  And much of the establishment is perfectly content, with a wink and a nod,   to take what InfoCision raises for the public "good" - as with the Diabetes Assn. - or the naming of the University of Akron's  new football stadium thanks a $10 million gift from the late Gary Taylor, InfoCision's founder.

Good job, Bob Dyer.  But until you are able to raise that kind of money, you can have no hope that anything will change in the definition of an elephantine tax exempt   political and religious handyman in charge of the cash flow.

Friday, June 14, 2013

From the new world of Portmania - terrible spelling

I should have known.  No sooner had I posted a lament about the abuse that my misspelled surname had suffered over the years, a letter from Sen. Rob Portman arrived to Nancy Zardn. She had prompted the attention of the Ohio Republican's office by writing to him with a complaint about Sen. Poutman's opposition to background gun checks.

In a standard form letter  rejecting her plea for sanity, Sen. Porter repeated all of the things that he has been saying publicly to defend his troubled position, i.e., background gun checks are useless and we need instead to do more research on gun violence.

Like all of the others in the grasp of the National Rifle Assn.,the good Sen. Portnoy  has yet to calculate the number of new victims of such gun violence will claim in the years - if  ever - that it will take for the best minds to find a clue to societal mayhem.

But  he did want Nancy to know that he has supported amendments to make sure that the mentally ill will get treatment. He didn't say how we will know who they are if they are not checked before they buy a gun?

Sen. Poorman does show more concern for the deadening effect of gun laws on "most private sales and private transfers of guns".

Huh?  All the while Portmania is setting in with the friendly Ohio media for a divine
soft-spoken Republican who looks like a Republican to seek the presidency in 2016,  even if he nearly always sounds like a mild-mannered open-collar public information officer of the Tea Party.

I mentioned earlier that one pundit even wrote that Sen. Portals  had a "strong resume".

But it remains to be seen whether his mimeograph machine will ever be updated to learn how to spell people's names.  By the way, Sen. Poobah, it's Nancy Zaidan - as in Zaidan. .

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Send Congress to Broadway to amuse theater lovers

These are not the best of days for Broadway.  As Patrick Healy wrote in the New York Times, the theater lights are vanishing in what he called a "weak Broadway season defined by unusually long vacancies."  It is getting so gloomy that an apparent new booking that showed up on the St.James Theater marquee was actually a fake. (Alas, it was part  of a movie shoot!)

If the angels need  a new tenant to nourish the box offices,  we have a candidate: The U.S.Congress.  It would guarantee an extended stay, because political plots are never  played out in three acts. For example, the Republicans' tireless effort to destroy Barack Obama is now in its fifth year (that I can remember) with no denouement in sight.

Where but on Broadway's make-believe circuit could you stage 37 or 38 revivals of
Kill Obamacare  as the House of Representatives has chosen to do with moronic pratfalls only to revive its childish  histrionics  after each defeat.

And where, as the New Yorker has noted, would a script call for a serious debate over  the proper number of eligible Tibetans to be admitted in the immigration debate as a subplot line - even for a comedy?

The saner customers in the seats would be rolling in the aisles.

Such dark theatrics , of course, is not a new idea.  It has been called the theater of the absurd.  And since all of us must chip in to pay these B-rated thespians,  there should be nothing  paid to the cast while it is appearing in this special road show. Other than to amuse us, they are accomplishing nothing in their chosen line of work.  So, yeah, cart them off to Broadway to be a little more useful. Who couldn't use a good laugh these days?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Is the best-in-state award the Plain Dealer's last hurrah?

You may have read that the Plain Dealer was named the best newspaper in the state by the Cleveland Press Club.  The front office should have the award  bronzed as the paper's final claim to that distinction.  The PD is moving to a three-day-a-week delivery in August and it may only be able to compete with its contemporaries if a new award is created for a thrice-delivered  paper.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The word from the GOP aspirants: Satanic yoga

Note to Crown Point Ecology Center and Fresh Air Yoga:

Noticed a squib in the Beacon Journal that you are hosting outdoor yoga clesses, starting Tuesday, at 3220 Ira Rd.

Have you seen the report that the Rev. E.W.Jackson, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia, has warned that yoga can invite Satan to enter your body and soul?


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cuyahoga Falls diplomas: What's in a misspelled name?

 Yeah, I wondered about it, too.   How could the hometown of a Cuyahoga Falls high school graduating  class be misspelled on the the jackets of 348 diplomas?  The u was  changed to an a.  And then I recalled that when Moses Cleaveland founded the city on the lake in 1796, the surveying team later misspelled it on the map as Cleveland, banishing the first a to the nitpickers  of historical accuracy.

Could that have been the long lost a that returned  to replace the u in the Falls?

 As one whose name has appeared in print in various malfunctions, I began to understand that correct spelling is not everybody's priority. (Even today, a promotional sign on  Walgreen's lot on West Market St.  tells us of a specially priced cereal  named Kelloog's.)

In my case, my name has been misspelled over the years  as Zaiden in bylines as well as in other references, some of which fell prey to  phonetics as in Zidan, Zaden and Zyden.  But spelling , folks, has been only half of my painful journey through the pages of time.
In letters that arrived on my desk as a reporter, magazine editor and newspaperman,I have been addressed on the envelope as "Rev. Zaidan,"  "Dr. Zaidan,"  "Herr Zaidan," "Comrade Zaidan" (usually in red ink) and...well, I had better stop there.

There's more. Some members of my family pronounced our name to rhyme with Biden (my father fell into that category). Two of his brothers pronounced it to sound like laden, and my dear grandmother gave it a strong French accent, which Aunt Della attributed to grandma's early years growing up under French influence in the Middle East.

Once in Ireland, a grizzled fellow I met in a countryside pub asked about my name.  In awkward confusion, he said: "That not be Irish, be it?"

"No," I said. "Lebanese."

He drew back in obvious horror.  "Do you know Khadafi?"

"The world isn't that small," I told him.  Not that it mattered that much although we did have one thing in common.  Nobody could spell his name, either.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hey, Republicans finally claim a minority

It occurs to me that the Republicans have achieved a major break-through in their ancient mission to broaden their  base  by engaging minorities.  They are now, in fact, reeking with Tea Partyers - a minority that polls tells us  is hardly more than 30 pct. of the electorate.  Way to go, GOP.  Persistence finally paid off.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Portman collecting style points in...New Hampshire

SAVE THE DATE. Friday, June 14.  ( Flag Day.)  Where: Salem, New Hampshire. What: Republican Party private fund-raiser.  Time:  After sundown.  Cost: $250 a ticket. Celebrity guests:  Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.  New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Let the speculation begin on connecting the dots.  Or as the Columbus Dispatch told us  about its favorite senator, Portman is "considered a possible presidential hopeful."  Or not.

It gets better, but not much.  A Portman spokesman said his boss "reached out"  to Ayotte to tell her he would be in the state for a Dartmouth College reunion.   So she asked him to host the fund-raiser. For the Ohioan, a fund-raiser is one way to collect good-buddy style points when dreaming  of a better job.  Particularly in New Hampshire, which breaks the ice for the remaining presidential campaign.

Portman and Ayotte's most recent collaboration saw them both voting against the background check gun bill. Up, up and away...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

From Woody Hayes... to Gordon Gee's woodshed..

When OSU icon Woody Hayes nastily slugged a Clemson linebacker  who had intercepted a pass in the 1978 Gator Bowl (in full view of a national TV audience),  he was fired.   When OSU president Gordon Gee verbally slugged Notre Dame and Catholics - only jesting, he said  - the school's Board of Trustees, decided it was time to send him  to class remedial behavior sessions.

For Gee, whose annual pay with compensation is nearly $2 million, it could get worse.  The board has warned him that it doesn't expect to be ambarrassed by his childish humor again and quite likely will fire him if he doesn't shape up.   Meantime,  the Board has set a regimen for him that is weirdly not fashionable for the modern  breed of university officials .

 For example, it's not every day that a board of trustees orders  the campus president to work with professionals to clean up his act with a "more targeted selection of the most  appropriate speaking engagements and appearances."

It also wants him to enlist professionals in "revisiting your personal communications and speechwriting processes..."

Those and other behavioral conditions just don't seem the sort of  things you have to tell a multimillion-dollar president of a mammoth university. Even if they have to be told to him.

As long as the trustees are at it, they should also remind him to never run with scissors.