Monday, February 29, 2016

Another searing letter from Scarborough critics

The op-ed letter in the Beacon Journal Beacon on Sunday  revealed no signs  that the resistance to UA President Scott Scarborough is weakening .  It bore the names of 15 of the top tier  faculty, each having been recognized for distinction for their academic achievements .  And it was a  dark accounting  of how things have gone so terribly wrong under  Scarborough with the consent of the Board of Trustees that hired him. .

The group had asked the Board for a meeting to discuss the concerns that later led to a no confidence resolution in his imperialistic and incompetent management. But  adhering to its Code of Silence, the board ignored the request. Meantime, the negatives have drawn national  interest.

( You can read the entire letter online on

We can only ask the trustees how much longer they will permit Scarborough  to run the school in a hostile environment that will impact the trustees when they walk off the campus.  Surely they must have some concerns about their own reputations that will suffer from the ongoing decline of the school.

* * *

UPDATE:  Following my earlier column referring to an unnamed source who twice described Scarborough as "toast" he emailed me to contend that he may have misled me. Inasmuch as he contacted another blogger   and signed it with his name for anybody to see - Duane Isham, a lawyer  - I can  no longer  cover for him. I had received the same text earlier in which he said, in part:

"When I said Scarborough was 'toast'  I was paraphrasing what local business leaders were telling me and what it seemed their feeling  was as  to whether it was too late for Scott Scarborough to turn the situation around and remain in the picture. I was not saying that the Board of Trustees or the Chair, John Pavlov (sic) had reached a decision that Scarborough had to go."

OK, he was quoting   some business leaders (who are quite active behind the scenes in this epic)   without saying so .And we all know that in common parlance, "toast" means that a person has no further hope for a  bright future. But in our conversation there was nothing to suggest that Isham was merely the conduit.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Chris Christie's wacko endorsement of Trump

By all accounts, the piecemeal Republican Party and ratings-driven media were stunned by Chris Christie's endorsement of Donald Trump. But I'm here to ask  what does it matter when one loser steps into the ring to support another loser?

Still,  when a phenomenon unfolds to elect the leader of the free world it is quite natural  in swampy. unnatural conditions to inquire  about motives and as the servant of Grumpy readers, I will dare to inquire on Oscar weekend

Christie descended into the muck and mire of Trump's x-rated bid to be exceptional  because...

(1) unlike Ohio's John Kasich,  the New Jersey governor's father was a spirited Ocean City surfer triumphantly riding the surging waves  and not a sidewalk-bound mailman.

(2) unlike Ted Cruz, his father washed dishes instead of  building kitchens  in five-star  hotels to provide  sub-minimum-wage jobs for Democrats.

(3) Trump promised to erect a new hermetically sealed Atlantic City boardwalk protected with a 50- foot wall from rising climate-changed  ocean levels  and require Delaware to pay for it.

(4) the bombastic billionaire would  rename  the historic elephant hotel in Margate City from Lucy to Christie  and provide it with slot machines that can  survive any rising coastal water.

(4) Trump would give  Christie a major share in the  traffic cone industry that  equipped him with instant iPhone control over blocking the road to the George Washington Bridge.

(5 Lindsey Graham so despairingly put it,  Christie is simply as" batshit crazy"'  as    what's left of the Republican Party of Lincoln.

 Way to go Chris!  I must wonder whether you are really trying to assure yourself  of making the cut in the back-page footnotes of  this year's sloppy mud-deep march to the sea.

But Christie, now  the philosopher, may have been cryptically describing himself when he said of Rubio:   "Desperate people do desperate things."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Graham's numbing benediction on debate

The only sensible comment on the Republican presidential candidate debate in Houston arrived from Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former GOP candidate himself.  After witnessing the freak show on stage, Graham concluded:  "My party has gone batshit crazy."

Actually, the  Fab Fivers were  merely polishing their roles for  Saturday Night Live.   Have you ever...?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Scarborough departure in the works - finally

The vise on University of Akron president Scott Scarborough's tenure is closing.

"He's toast!", a reliable source close to the unraveling conditions at the downtown campus told me, adding that an exit strategy is the next step for the Board of Trustees in the wake of the recent  Faculty Senate no confidence resolution. He said the final chapter will take a little time to work out the details for the transition at the top.  But he assured me they will be worked out.

Speculation of a Scarborough departure grew as the trustees scheduled an executive session within two weeks of its last meeting  even though the  board customarily meets every two months. Also, the meeting sent the board to the DoubleTree in Fairlawn rather than the far more convenient Student Union on campus.  It was believed to have been moved  to avoid possible protestors who have been actively campaigning against the embattled president.

Board chair Jonathan Pavloff has-been quietly making the rounds of  business leaders for their assessment of UA's rocky future with Scarborough still on board and their verdict convinced him the  school couldn't labor on much longer with Scarborough in command.  

As late as midweek, a board staffer  was denying that the DoubleTree closed session was no more than a routine sit-down even though the elements didn't add up.   Oh?

My source, not given to exaggeration, unhesitantly  broke out the "toast" comment without mentioning Scarborough's name.  But his reference  couldn't be mistaken.


Kasich advice on a diverted money stream

A wary glance  at the TV screen  yesterday reminded me once again that the only folks having any fun with the cyclonic disarray of the Republican candidates are Donald Trump and the cable news hosts. We no longer live in the era of talking heads.   They have morphed into maniacal heads with MSNBC's Chris Matthews leading the sky-is-falling pack.

When you have so many hours to fill in front of the camera, repetitious  broken breaking news serves the commercial interruptions very well to relieve the viewers of all of the deadly  things that can happen to you  if you choose a new drug without first talking to your doctor. (Some otherwise healthy people are known to become ill from simply hearing of the potential threats.)

But it  all adds up to a  sort of received wisdom that you can't buy in a bottle across the counter. For example,  we happened to see John Kasich shrugging off a reporter's question  about how he would deal with the other candidates.  No way,  he said, would he get involved in their campaigns.  He had his own campaign to run!

But as he was getting some free TV time, his campaign strategist  John Weaver  was releasing  a memo describing Marco Rubio's fund-raising as  wildly beyond the tether.

According to The Hill, the memo said:  "Contrary to what his campaign is trying to portray,  Senator Rubio just endures another disappointing performance [in Nevada].
 Republicans are now left to wonder whether investing in Marco Rubio is throwing good money after bad."

Clearly Kasich was out to discourage contributors from joining wallets in behalf of the Floridian. The Ohio governor  didn't want to be  the bottom-feeder in the race.  How could he be running his own campaign if his money - good or bad -   was diverted to Rubio?  How, indeed?

As we used to ask impatiently when my dad was driving the family south, "Are we in Florida yet?"  

Kasich Ohio's Man of LaMancha

Ever since John Kasich piled up a 60 pct. landslide victory over  Donald Trump  (3 votes to 2) in Dixville Notch, Coos County,  N. H. in the flagship round of the Republican primaries, there's been no dimming of  the Ohio governor's   moonbeams  in his good-will journey of boasts and  Bibles.

Moonbeams?  Even as  he finished dead last in Nevada and a new poll showed him behind Trump in Ohio,  his cup-bearers  have concocted a new commercial called "Never Give Up" to be aired in Vermont for Heaven's sake. It's heroic thematic line:  "Like the people who make America great, John Kasich never gives up".

How nostalgic for those who can still  hum "Moonlight in Vermont," don't you think?

The ad reviews his life of surviving adversity in a rusty  Pennsylvania steel town to losing parents in a car crash.  "He had faith to carry on."  It also reviews his good deeds as congressman to balance budgets.  Still his flagging campaign has produced Ohio's Man of LaMancha, tilting all windmills along the way with senior advisor John Weaver serving as his dutiful Sancho Panza.

"The best is yet to come," the ad tells us.  But with a guy like Kasich, it would be too much to expect a little sunlight to filter  through the boasts.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The enigmas of Rob Portman

Aside to Rob Portman,  Ohio's tag-along Republican senator:

Dear Rob:  In your lame attempt to explain your opposition to President Obama nominating a successor to Antonin Scalia  you said:

"I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment   that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations."

A majority of Americans  have already weighed in, twice, by electing Barack Obama.  It was in all of the papers.

Will UA play its ITT card?

Thursday's University of Akron Board of Trustees off-schedule  private meeting has led to further speculation by the school's many critics that it might show further  interest in buying into the online  for-profit  teaching company, ITT (for Technical institute).    There's been little question of President Scott Scarborough's obsessive interest in  privatizing whatever is within UA's grasp - and whatever isn't - to convert the school into a national power.

Trouble is, as he has set out to do  it, his woefully ill-managed thrust  has disrupted  the  university's basic academic mission to  send its graduates  into the world knowing a lot more than when they arrived.   The leadership's confidently expressed  game plan has shrunk faculty, depressed morale and created a national spectacle of a campus gone awry  The latest indictments,  of course, was both the 50-2 no confidence Faculty Senate resolution and a  painful peep from the once hospitable Beacon Journal that has called for his "transition" .

But the ITT enterprise would  draw more public attention to a  private national operation   that the U.S.  and Exchange Commission  has charged, along with two top-tier executives, with fraud in  dealings in two student loan programs.

Pop quiz:  Will the trustees ignore ITT's current legal problems just as they did in hiring Scarborough with his troubled academic career path?

Hold the applause for now, please.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

UA Board schedules "routine" Thursday meeting at DoubleTree

With few details available, the embattled University of Akron Board of Trustees has scheduled a meeting at  3 p.m.  Thursday - two weeks after the board had met at its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 10.

The board normally convenes every two months in the Student Union.  When I asked a member of the board's staff about the schedule change  (it doesn't appear in the online schedule)  he  huffily responded that it was a purely routine meeting.

However,   some  critics of the. board and President Scott Scarborough  are speculating that the  board could be  moving on something far more consequential than routine business.

Will there be some form of action against Scarborough, who has suffered one defeat after another at the hands of the faculty academics?   The Senate Faculty recently passed a 50-2  no confidence resolution.

In response to my questions about the meeting, UA  spokesman Wayne Hill released a statement confirming the meeting, at the DoubleTree in Fairlawn,   adding that the Board's Finance & Administration committee will meet  "for the purpose of conducting an Executive (non-public)  Session...The committee meeting will be followed by a previously announced special meeting  of the Board for a dinner and information  session at 6 p.m."  Hill said "no formal actions will be taken".

There's been plenty of talk that Board chair Jonathan Pavloff has been meeting with a number of heavy hitters around town in the  wake of the waves of reaction against Scarborough's board-sanctioned rebranding and  other measures that passed  uninterrupted before their eyes.


Monday, February 22, 2016

After Kasich, we can again eat in

Ever  since John Kasich decided  that he'd rather be president than governor he's been delivering all of us decades into his past:  the blue-collar kid  from  Western Pennsylvania   whose father was a mailman;, the former chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee who singlehandedly (the way it sounds in his current speeches) balanced the federal budget; the former member of the Armed Services Committee who opposed the B-52 bomber:   the can-do politician who insists that he is "surging"  in the presidential race even when he's not.  In his long history in Ohio he's assured us that he can accomplish everything short of sending the Cleveland Browns to the Super Bowl

And now, he's  stepped into it when  he told a group of women in Virginia that  he won a  state senate seat 37 years ago at  age 26 when,  bless 'em, women left the kitchen to work for his campaign.

Pure macho surfaced again.   As the National Memo put it, that recounted  story of his youthful political vigor  "showed how culturally dated he can still be." (Did women dutifully return to their kitchens  after he was elected that year?)

Throughout his political  life, Kasich has been a Zelig figure.  You know, the Woody Allen fictional character who could evolve quickly from one identity to another as the situation required. He once was branded as a snappish, tough-talking being who showed no mercy to his rivals.  That was the residue of his earliest political existence as an aide to  Ohio State Sen. Donald "Buz" Lukens, who could  always widen the the goal  posts  to please an audience.  Lukens once explained to me that he could speak on  liberal college campuses because "I know how to fuzz it up a little."

Alas.  Lukens, a handsome lady's magnet from southwest Ohio   whose  conservative  style points eventually tumbled down in disgrace with his involvement with a woman too young to be involved.

Once in office, Kasich set out to be the arch conservative, with jobs as a Fox News  commentator, a crack at being district manager for a Wall Street company that failed  and a developing Good Humor man, macho or not, as a contrasting candidate to Donald
Trump et al.

But as we see from  his kitchen comment, John Kasich hasn't changed from his days  in another era.  He just heartily signed an anti-abortion bill passed by the legislative hoofbeaters in Columbus that  defunds Planned parenthood.  The talk, all along, was that  PP was selling fetuses, as " exposed " by a discredited video that an official probe ended with indictments of the film's two producers;   for Kasich and his cheering section, there will continue to be references to the PP's  "scandal", ignoring  the probe as non-productive to their fictions.

That parallels the fiction of  John Kasich, if you want to take the time to review of how, for his sake, he briefly liberated  women from their rightful place over the kitchen stove.

The lame post-Scalia hacks.

Did you ever think there were so many hacks and quacks among us from still-breathing Republican politicians to, say, Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O'Brien, who want to prevent President Obama from replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia?

Claiming constitutional insights that escape many of us, they insist that a lame-duck president should not do what the U.S. Constitution requires him to do.  It's their tiresome assault on Obama from the first day he stepped into office 7.5 years ago.

Never mind.  It's a big leap  from  lame-duck Obama to the lame-brains on the right.  But a democracy guarantees rightists safe, if silly,  passage for it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

In politics, be aware of unthreatening threats

When I started clearing some of the clutter on my desk, I happened to find an old New York Times clipping from last September.  Its should be an alert to anyone who is unaware of the  ephemeral day-to-day existence of presidential politics.

The story began:

"The best way to see the threat that Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor,  poses to Jeb Bush in the Republican presidential race is to  look at Mr. Walker's donors"

It went on to  cite the big conservative donors, from casino giant Sheldon Adelson to Richard DeVos, the Amway co-founder , who were lined up behind Walker.

 Since the story of the GOP's two powerful contenders appeared, one a "threat"  to the other, Walker dropped out  and Jeb!,  staggering with no sign of equilibrium, cashed in his chips after another awful finish in the South Carolina primary.  (He did, however, finish ahead of Gov. Kasich.)

Oh, the headline above the article said: "To Grasp Walker's Power, Look at his Donors"

There are threats, and there are threats which I |never grasped.

* * * * *

Still riding a mythical high is Kasich's campaign. After finishing next to last in South  Carolina, even trailing Jeb!, the governor's campaign strategist, John Weaver, whipped out an upbeat press release declaring the GOP field to be a "Four-Person"  race, excluding only Carson.  Weaver said there was a good reason to validate Kasich as a candidate  because "only four candidates have top-three finishes in the early states (alas,  Kasich finished fifth last night) and he will now be campaigning in states that favor him. Kasich has boasted that he can land an airplane.  He had better do it quickly with much of his campaign cash left behind in New Hampshire.

* * * * *

P.S. I've never covered a race in which 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes are called victories. My older metrics are no longer of use.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Team Scarborough's war of attrition

It now seems certain that the Scarborough team at the University of Akron has settled on a war of attrition to outlast its critics.  No matter that  the latest reports from the front reveal a  university  president who has retreated from public dialogue.  We only know that Scott Scarborough has turned over the exposition  of the authorized script to trustee chair Jonathan Pavloff's  less than definitive utterances.

There's an irony here.  Although Scarborough once argued intensely that the school is setting out to acquire a national audience with its rebranding, UA is in fact achieving that goal,  not as a success story but rather as a school locked in it's own worst image in the national social  and academic media.

In a piece I just posted, Ellen Wexler of Inside Higher Education wrote of UA's current chaos with surgical precision. When I asked, she told me that she had attempted to talk to Scarborough but her request came  back with a statement from UA  vizir Larry Burns. No word from the ventriloquist.

I could also mention the board of trustees, a  UA auxiliary unit gifted  in doing what it's  told with full confidence that it  will remain in-sourced as Planet Scarborough reaches out for  further privatization. But don't get me started.

Akron, you have a problem.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The demoted establishment of Gov. Kasich

A few days ago, Gov. Kasich delivered another whopper to the swamp of this year's presidential  races. Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe", Ohio's contribution to demonic lore said in all seriousness but with his trademark smile that
"Guess what?  The establishment is afraid of me."

He even cited cyclical  history that the establishment  was afraid of Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, for whatever value he perceived in being part of that mix. The mailman's son boasted that he doesn't take orders from anyone, which makes the well-heeled Big E "nervous".

Did he say establishment? So, to borrow one of his favorite rhetorical lead-ins,  Guess what?

The fearful establishment has fingerprints all over his campaign treasury as the biggest donors.  There's the Schottenstein Management Co., for example, the  company that once signed his paychecks, gave New Day for America,  Kasich's super PAC, $1 million, POLITICO reported.  AVI Foodsystems and Richard L.Bowen & Associates, each having had state contracts,  donated $100,000 each, POLITICO  said. And coal mine operator  Murray Energy gave $250,000.

There's more - a lot more  - L Brands, Crown Equipment Corp., and Worthington Industries came up significantly  from the big guys that   Kasich doesn't call the establishment. Worthington's  John P. McConnell and Peter Karmanos served on the board that once had a seat for Kasich  and each  chipped in at $500,000 to the super PAC.

Saving the best for last, POLITICO reported that Kasich's favorite initiative was the creation of JobsOhio, a private operation that replaced the state's development department.
The first president of JO was Mark Kvamme,  POLITICO noted.  He persuaded then Ohio State University  President E. Gordon Gee too invest $50 million of the school's money in Job/Ohio.   (Is anybody wondering how that money is doing today?)

Well, this is the tip of the Kasich dollar sign.   Not bad from  all of those nervous folks who no longer qualify as the establishment.  Did I say whopper?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Not a good day for UA

Is the University of Akron setting a new path for its controversial rebranding that includes  the tagline of  "Ohio's  Polytechnic University"?  That was at least suggested by Board of Trustees chair Jonathan Pavloff in a wide ranging interview in
the Buchtelite that will leave you still wondering where UA is going from here..

In a detailed Q&A, Pavloff, the sole authorized voice on the board where the other trustees are required to be seen but not heard,   cautiously responded    to a question by reporter Kristina Aiad-Toss   by conceding that the tagline  "may not work",  adding the leadership  did a bad job defining it.

The rebranders were so proud of their  dash into the future that the new tagline quickly appeared on T-shirts, printed materials and, for all that I know, President Scott Scarborough's bagel napkins  at Panera's .

Other takeaways from the interview:  The board speaks as a  single voice; he has no reaction to the  Beacon Journal's call for Scarborough to be "transitioned" (fired or forced to resign); questions about reducing tenured faculty exist on every campus; he can only  offer official measured neutrality on whether Scarborough is a good fit other than to say the board supports the decision that's made "collectively".   And on and on with few specifics on dealing with the campus chaos that has led me to suggest replacing polytechnic with "Ohio's pyrotechnic university.".

The interview is on line.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, you might want to read another reflection of the school's problems  in an online piece headed "University of Akron struggling regional, hopes to expand worldwide."

It's written by Ellen Wexler for Inside Higher Education.   Although she quoted Scarborough's speech to the university in October in which he talked of his vision of a university with world-wide notice,  she observed that he has "done little to elaborate on his plans" other than to say that the school is working with outside companies.

Such secrecy is another example of privatizing and wearing  the corporate cloak of business as usual. First you must privatize, then vaporize  from public view to protect all parties.

Clearly, the UA brass is eager to outsource with national entities offering online education to the students.  It's a growing medium these days and does have some benefits for schools with heavy debt.  But there is a downside to directing kids away from live teachers. As one who has taken numerous DVD courses from Great Courses, I have done so because the half-hour  lectures are superbly taught in any course you might choose.

But there are moments when the professor has referred to something in the materials (which come with a manual in 24 to 36 lectures) when I would like to raise my hand about a point that needed more clarity for me.  Online, you can't do that.

Summing up the travail at UA, Wexler writes:

"Outsourcing isn't uncommon.  But on top of the general turmoil at the university, there is the fear that core university functions will be outsourced to for-profit companies without input from the community.  One of Scarborough's first changes was too outsource dining, a common move at many colleges.  But then he began outsourcing other functions, like freshman advising.  And now, faculty members  are worried  sbout being  thrust into a nationwide for-profit partnership."

They are on to something that has no use for ivy covered walls.

There was a time when you could buy  modest house plans from a Sears catalog.  I have a crazy feeling that there's where outsourced college education is heading.  And Scarborough, who has left other campuses under a cloud, is just the guy to do that.

May some theories rest in conspiratorial peace

You can forever count on a group of frowning Americans who love conspiracy theories.  Back in 1993, its was the suicide of  White House deputy counsel Vince Foster, a victim of depression, that led some misguided   theorists to the doorstep of Hillary Clinton as the perp when Bill was president. Some of the talk even reached the Summit County  Republican high command.

And what of all of the books and articles by those theorists who believed that there was much more to John Kennedy's assassination than the mainstream press would ever dare  tell you?  I got it from one of these  birds first hand in a guarded interview with a national doubter  in a Columbus hotel room.

Elvis Presley?  Dead at only 42. Was it really a cover-up of his drug addiction when an autopsy strongly  suggested that he died of  constipation.

And now we must deal with the conspiracists in the wake Antonin Scalia's demise in the utter privacy of a   Texas ranch.  If Barack Obama's fingerprints were not all over the justice's passing, then surely Hillary had provided  the poison. No autopsy?   Well, now.

  Is he really dead?  Careful, there.  After it was widely reported that Ernest Hemingway had died in a small-plane crash in Uganda,  Time magazine told us that the macho author popped out of the jungle with a "bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin." Way to go,  Papa!

Theorize how that was possible,  theorists of the world!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Republicans of Abbott and Costello routine

HACKDOM, n, --- A maddening  collection of semi-adult hacks driven by two humiliating defeats by an African American;  a disturbed kingdom without a king; a group of banshee-like doomsayers who never find time to go to the bathroom;  a wailing  herd of Mitch McConnells with open mikes on TV.

Take your choice, readers.  The noise of revisionist history is getting to me as constitutional hacks invent the ghost stories in the troubled wake of Antonin Scalia.

You've heard it all by now.  The fanciful repetition of denials that Barack Obama, the fully constituted elected president of the United States, is allowed to nominate a Scalia successor in the last year of office.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not a  constitutional scholar.  I only know what the legal experts -  not the hacks -  are telling me.  Obama can, and will,  with the sacred U.S. Constitution  secured in his breast pocket.

For now, I should only remind you in an election year that our Gov. Kasich and our tag-along  U.S. Sen. Portman are dismissing the experts' full understanding of the issue while insisting that a lame-duck black president should shut up and go to his room.

 Labeling himself  as a  "commonsense conservative fighting for Ohio, "  Portman asks us to  descend more deeply with him into hackdom as  an ill-chosen convenience to appeal to his so-called base.

Base?  It's  getting so these days that the word  gives us a new sense of  confusion   derived    from the old Abbott and Costello  skit when a frantic Lou didn't have a clue to what Bud was talking about regarding the phantom base runners.

Sorry, folks.  But when these hacks are bitching about a mysterious nominee whose image can't  even show up on an Etch-A-Sketch pad,   the Abbott and Costello routine is the clearest signal so far  that commonsense is hardly in play in the kingdom of Hackdom.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dick Celeste: The true happy warrior

Dick Celeste, the former Ohio governor, breezed into his home state for a few days last week with an itinerary that included endorsing  Democratic Senate  candidate P.G. Sittenfeld.   That bit of political business aside, he called me for a friendly  chat while riding to Cleveland from Columbus.

At 78, he's still engaged in several missions after his nine-year presidency at  Colorado College that ended in 2011. Earlier,  he had been a two-term governor, Peace Corps director, ambassador to India.  (I may have missed six or seven along the way. )

Forever accessible in office as a casual upbeat guy with a broad smile,  wit, and overwhelming formal intelligence, Celeste is now busy in a project to lure the Winter Olympics to Colorado.  "We've raised $50 million of our $80 million goal,"  he says with his always present optimism. With his tireless presence on the team,  I figure they'll reach the goal.

He's also working on  his memoirs that could fill several books  for  his path of successes.  Joe  Hallett, the widely respected Columbus Dispatch political columnist, now retired,  once wrote of Celeste that the Cleveland-born, Yale-educated Rhodes scholar  was "one of the most-accomplished and consequential Ohioans of the past half century".  As one whose job was sustained coverage of Celeste, often like catching a whirlwind, I can easily agree.

Our brief conversation a few days ago, no more than several minutes long, reminded me of how the  state let a person of enormous ability get away. As the University of Akron's troubles continue to grow, I can only speculate how it might have had a happier narrative if the school's managers had somehow convinced him to take the job  back when presidencies  lasted a lot longer than they do now.   He had been a finalist for the president's office at Case Western Reserve in 2002, but the story at the time was that a person with designs on the  job in the Oval Office might just stay a few years before returning  to the political arena.

So he's back in Colorado Springs.   Meantime,  any other highly qualified academic whiz who might have a taste for the top job of a public university as  a Democrat would have a tough time getting past the boards burdened across the state with Republicans.

The University of Akron is no exception.  It's been rebranded with a new name, so to speak, with a president safely sheltered in the mix.  But with so many sparks flying on the  downtown campus today, wouldn't it have been more appropriate  to label UA as "Ohio's Pyrotechnic University" instead of the current techie one?

Sorry, the Celeste Effect is that after a few moments on the phone with him, we are left with regressing into what might been.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Time for Scarborough to break the silence

Memo to President Scott  Scarborough, University of Akron:

You are the CEO of a public university.  Or at least it was the last time I checked.   That being the case,  your salary plus other overhead items are paid by the public.

Aren't you obligated to respond  directly to the taxpayers about your plans during this period of  great campus stress instead of turning everything over to the head of the Board of Trustees? A lot of people around town are talking, particularly since the daily newspaper has now called for your "transition".  Shouldn't  you be talking, too?

I'm told your faculty critics will publish an unanswered letter to the board to break the silence.

Your turn.

A routine day on the election front

Within microseconds of the report that Justice Antonin Scalia had died you could hear crackling bursts of jerking knees from the six dwarfs  vying for the Republican presidential ring.  Each tried to engage the hyper-conservative South Carolina audience with a brief, hastily gathered tribute to the fallen justice, mostly repeating the others' mournful words as respectful American mortals  grasping  the coattails of one of their earlier heroes,  Ronald Reagan.    But it hardly rose to the classic poetry  of Mark  Antony's paean to Julius Caesar in an appeal for a loan of Roman ears.

Indeed, from that impromptu  point on, the debate stopped just short of fisticuffs in which there were few moments  when somebody wasn't making a damn fool of himself.  As such, it was hard to  shift the harsh story line to the paid commercials in which a constipation cure interrupted the breakdown of sanity. (When I hear some of these guys, I recall the warning of Adlai Stevenson: "In America, anybody can become president.  That's one of the risks you take.")

Ohio's Gov.Kasich, who  is craving to be the newly honed adult in the GOP platoon,  gasped with  a pained smile:  "I gotta tell you.  This is just crazy, huh?  This is just nuts, OK?  Jeez. Oh, man." But even he fell into lockstep  with the  script that President Obama should not, for God's sake, nominate a successor to Scalia.  Cruz later said he would "absolutely" filibuster any move in that direction by the president  Obama. "

Here we go again.

None of this would qualify as anything but one more stonewall that has been raised by Obama's Republican enemies since he entered  office more than seven years ago.   But it will rise well above an annoyance  in the coming months with the contenders on the right  continuing to kick up rocks and mortar to strip a twice elected president of his constitutional right.

The Senate races, including the one in  Ohio, have risen to towering importance for the Democrats;  The country has too many enemies around the world to have to put up with this ad hoc batch of white collar Republicans.

Oh, a couple of takeaways:  Rubio asserted  Bush "kept America safe."  The night before, Ana Navarro, a CNN contributor and Jeb! supporter, became angry on the Bill Maher show when Dubya  was criticized by some others for the high human cost of the Iraq war.  Her defense:  George had been quite helpful in providing for the returning wounded veterans.


Friday, February 12, 2016

A second strike against the governor

It's not unusual for good news in political life to be  quickly followed by bad  news. Gov.  Kasich's rise to second (!) place in New Hampshire earned him celebrity status in the national media and the Republican establishment frantically groping for   an escape from  their captivity by billionaire demagogue Donald Trump.

On that score, Kasich's shifty stance on many issues  in which he avoided menacing talk with a fixed smile  worked in his favor.  But it comes at the price of closer media attention, at least until  somebody  more palatable can be found on the practice squad.

So, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Washington Post burst out of the soundproof media  box with a strong accounting of the  education "mess" in  Ohio on the governor's watch.  It included a dissenting voice on the management of charter schools that Kasich  is fondly supporting.

That was the first volley.  Today, 24 hours later,  the often-friendly Plain Dealer recalled Kasich's viperish description of a  cop that stopped his car as an "idiot".  It said the "ill-advised" comment is now going viral on social media.  The impetus for the revived story is coming from police organizations even though it happened in 201l.

 That incident  has then reminded everyone that Kasich had just taken office and was in a snappish mood  about anything that he didn't like. - including public unions.  His unpopular support of union restrictions landed on the state ballot  and was crushed.

He's tried to overhaul his bullish  behavior for his presidential run.   But things have a way of catching up.  As Oscar Wilde once wrote:

"No man is  rich enough to buy back his past."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

ABJ: Time for a UA transition

Friday morning, Beacon Journal readers will find an editorial suggesting that beleaguered University of Akron President Scott Scarborough ought to be replaced.

With its patience running out about the turmoil on the campus, the paper declared:

"The expectation was, the president eventually would rise to the full job.  Unfortunately, that is getting harder to see.  The trustees must begin to think hard about a transition.  The university is too important to the city and region."

Kasich school system gets an 'F' from Washington Post

it didn't take   long for Gov. Kasich's free ride as a presidential wannabe to get stomped by a national newspaper. As  we have recently pointed out, the national media, from the New York Times to MSNBC, were so taken by his alleged moderate conservatism that they hopped on his bandwagon and said some nice things about his  right- of-center  confections without checking out his record back in Ohio.

The Washington Post stepped up with some of it own background research and concluded the  issues confronting Ohio public education added up to a "mess".

The bedsheet list included a "scandal-ridden charter school sector" while public schools suffered cuts in the state budget as Kasich pushed, and won, increased funding for the charters. And then there was David Hansen, the state charters boss, who resigned after it was discovered that he was cooking low charter scores to make them look better.   (Hansen's wife, Beth,  is Kasich's campaign manager.)  There are other blots on his school records,  the Post reported, from   controversial state takeover of failing schools  to  a "questionable teachers evaluation system."

Now that Kasich is claiming celebrity status on the national circuit, the cork is out of the bottle.  It's better late than never.

A wakeup call to UA Board of Trustees

A letter to University of Akron Board of Trustees from Louise Harvey, president of the UA Women's Committee

As a 10-year UA retiree and a native Akronite, I have watched and listened to the horror stories from within The University of Akron.  PLEASE stop listening to Scott Scarborough and his team with their  prepared narratives of explanation.  Talk to the faculty, staff and students who are dealing with the ramifications of poorly planned and questionable changes and are demoralized as they watch one person "destroy a great university."  Those are the words of a highly respected, long-time faculty member/administrator.  Inability to accept change is not the issue.  Universities change constantly. Ask anyone who has worked under more than one president.  It is the manner in which the changes have been implemented without regard to the effect on students or faculty and often with total disregard for the human factor. 

I just read the official BOT response to the vote of no confidence and to the letter from the school directors and department chairs. It is a canned response, and I can only hope that it is your cover for behind the scenes negotiations.  You have run a company or organization, and you surely know that without the support of your employees or constituents, you will not succeed.

Scott Scarborough has demonstrated many times over that he does not want to listen or work collaboratively with any constituent group. It is not the "others" who will not work with him.  Scott Scarborough has lost his credibility and respect on almost all fronts.  Once lost, regaining one's credibility is long road.  Is that not one reason that you rejected Jim Tressel's bid for president?
You are facing a decline in students, a decline in contributions, and very soon the loss of many of your most talented and effective faculty members and administrators.  It will be very difficult to attract good people in all those constituent groups as the reputation of the University diminishes.   

The resolution is simple:  tell Scott Scarborough that he is not a good fit for The University of Akron and allow everyone to move on before the university is destroyed for good.  If the univerfsity is destroyed,  you will be known as a member of the Board of Trustees that killed a fine institution just to avoid admitting you have made a significant mistake in your choice of a president and refused to listen to the voices of many who have tried to explain their concerns.  

 Louise M. Harvey

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

It's not a halo, folks

Half a look at Kasich

On the morning-after of the New Hampshire primary the CNN website  bore a commanding headline that asked:  "Who is John Kasich?"

Funny that a world news organization would  now ask.

For many tortured months the media merely tracked polling numbers while finally coming around to CNN's provocative question. Meanwhile, the mainstream media ,  reduced to tricklestream  reports these days, seemed fascinated by the rise and fall of candidates: Ted  Cruz was beginning to soar before he stopped  riding to the hounds.  Marco Rubio was the latest fantasy of the gurus before his glow was dimmed in the snows of New Hampshire. And Donald Trump lost momentum in Iowa that he regained in the Granite State.  Most were sound bites captured as "breaking news" .

And now, we are left with CNN taking notice of Gov. Kasich, whose campaign spent more than $11 million in the tiny state while he demonically visited 106 town  hall meetings to convince voters that being the nice-guy  son of a  mailman is all that it takes to win an election.

Actually, as well as we must know, he took a victory lap while finishing second, 19 points behind Donald trump. At that, he went to his spirited crowd Tuesday night with the self-satisfied demeanor of someone arriving  at the pearly gates. What we did hear about his soul was quoted by a New Yorker writer last November:  "We need to live a life bigger than ourselves,  life is not just about me, me, me, me, me"  adding that he gives grace every day.

Not much help.

The late Jack Knight, my former boss, used to complain about the superficiality of some  political gurus who look at campaigns as little more than fodder  for picking a winner at the track   It's  worse today with, say, the  instant buffoonery of Chris  Matthews,  breathlessly spraying us with words like "I like Kasich" without saying why.

Those who know him best in Ohio wonder why he isn't asked about by his support of restrictions on public employee unions - a notion that was trounced by a million votes on the ballot.  Or   by his  pledge to defund Planned Parenthood "like crazy."     Or maybe why he'd opposed the stimulus and auto bailout  while denying  they did much good.

Let him enjoy his bizarre victory lap  after losing  to Trump by 19 real points in New Hampshire.    Shouldn't the tricklestream media get around to telling him that "Guv,  it's  really about you, you, you, you. you."?

Monday, February 8, 2016

UA's code of silence

We still must wonder why University of Akron President Scott Scarborough chose to deliver his standard denial of  a churning  campus before the Faculty Senate, in a near unanimous vote, convincingly pointed him to the gallows. I've been told there was nothing new in the one-hour talk when  even he must have known that his fate was sealed in a 50-2 no-confidence resolution.  Was it no more than an  act of damage control?

Since then, several days have passed so quietly that you could have heard a diploma drop.  When I checked UA spokesman Wayne Hill, he emailed that the school's official position was stated by Board of Trustees Chairman Jonathan Pavloff shortly after the faculty meeting finished its work. He's the only privileged trustee  entitled to talk.

With incredible indifference to the outcome, Pavloff  sniffily released a prepared statement  that treated the faculty's dissent as a peasants' revolt.  The school, he said, needed a cooperative faculty to come together with Team Scarborough to  work out a  game plan for shared governance, an unfulfilled  matter that's been  at the heart of the faculty's goal all along.

Furthermore, he declared the trustees were fully in support of Scarborough and will remain so. Need I go further into the official deflecting posture that the vote was tied to the faculty's  anger over a standoff in  negotiating a union contract?

Since then, the administration and trustees have  remained  chained to a code of silence. You would think that these sheep were human adults  politically appointed because they were mature enough to think for themselves and be concerned about the future of the university - a public university.

For Pavloff, however, it appeared to b e another day at the office, behavior he doubtless honed  from his six years as the Summit County Republican  Party executive committee chairman with the blessings of the guy who put him there - chairman  Alex Arshinkoff.  (Pavloff has since been succeeded by Bryan Williams, ex of the Ohio Board of Education where things didn't go well for him).

The  only break in the code appeared today in a letter to the editor of  the Beacon Journal from Neil Sapienza, UA associate dean of fine arts,who extolled the virtues of how the arts are serving  the campus and  community.  I suspect there will be more names on the school's roster who will be telling about the goodies in letters and columns.

Meantime, we can also wonder whether the BJ's editorial page has accepted  the code. Not a word from the editors  in the four days following the faculty vote.  Perhaps they've simply decided to let Sapienza (Italian translation: "wisdom")  do the talking.

Over at Team Scarborough's headquarters, you can imagine the UA's CEO saying, as he once did about the need for professors to  pick up trash:  "Will somebody please pick up the diplomas?"


Sunday, February 7, 2016

The return of the nerds

The final Republican debate before Tuesday' s New Hampshire vote forced the TV viewer to endure an old movie in which John Wayne arrived just in time  to restore order against a villainous assault.   In the two hours of pitched battle defining  good and evil, the candidates reaffirmed their heroic  arrival in the Granite State.

In a mere two hours,  they again manned up against President Obama, unmasking him as a do-nothing incompetent, then returned to their porous  narrative of the critical need to cut taxes,  and  (2) destroy ISIS with pinpoint  air attacks that would kill terrorists hiding in the kitchen without  harming the innocent folks in the dining room.

Another candidate, Carly Fiorina, was missing in action, having failed to make the cut.  Too bad. It would have been  a perfect modern version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  

Although none of the on-stage combatants had ever worn a  military uniform - at least Dubya had found a pilot's get-up  to  authenticate his daring  landing on a  carrier -  the machos sought earnestly to  convince us, by, God, that they knew what they were talking about. Chris Christie, for example,  insisted that we know he was  once a prosecutor and Gov.Kasich, anchored in his first-draft campaign mode , boasted that he was once a congressman who could balance federal and state budgets.  Ted Cruz, explained carpet bombing and Marco Rubio, an "establishment candidate", merely sputtered as the GOP's newly-crowned young valedictorian.

There is an absolute in political warfare that divides  the populace into four parts: (1)those who are passionately committed to one side; (2) those who are passionately committed to the other side; (3) those who thrash about in the middle and (4)the great mass who, through Election Day,  never heard of it.

P.S. For all of the GOP wannabes hootin' and hollering' ,  their model President Reagan's   executive orders have more than doubled Obama's.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Scarborough on rebranded ropes at UA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Brotherly love

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A survival kit of the presidential primaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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