Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'Disneyland Dream' lives on

I had never heard of Robbins Barstow until Frank Rich wrote about him in his New York Times column this week.

And Rich admitted that he had never heard of him until he came across Barstow's obituary in the Times last month.

Barstow is noteworthy because of a home movie -- "Disneyland Dream" -- he made in 1956. He and his family entered a Scotch brand cellophane tape contest that promised winners a trip to Disneyland, which had opened to great fanfare in Anaheim, Calif., the year before.

According to The Times, little 4-year-old Dan Barstow submitted a winning entry: “I like ‘Scotch’ brand cellophane tape because when some things tear then I can just use it.”

For most Americans -- and I would think especially those who lived east of the Mississippi -- a trip to Disneyland was out of the question. In 1956 one-income American families were chasing the dream of home ownership first and amenities second.


"When the ship comes in," my mother would say in answer to her children's verbalized wants. (I was never sure whether the ship was in the middle of Lake Erie or the Indian Ocean.)

Barstow, who with his family resided in Connecticut, saw the contest as an opportunity to deliver the Disneyland Dream and his movie chronicling the process and subsequent trip was admitted to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress just two years ago.

It captures the spirit of "Ozzie and Harriet," "Happy Days" and "Father Knows Best" and, well, you get the idea.

"Disneyland Dream" might seem rather dorky to Generations X and Y but for us Baby Boomers it epitomizes the Davy Crockett period of our youth.

(The Barstow family sports Davy Crockett coonskin hats and jackets during their trip. Full disclosure: I had a Davy Crockett coonskin cap and my own Davy Crockett dinner plate.)

Rich's essay asks if the Disneyland Dream is dead. I don't know about that. Maybe it is. Maybe we killed it willingly. Let that debate carry on elsewhere.

I think "Disneyland Dream" is worth watching if for no other reason than to really feel America the way it was. According to The Times, the Library of Congress called the Barstow film “a priceless and authentic record of time and place.”

Thanks belatedly, Robbins Barstow, for sharing.

* * *
Don't forget: You can find me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter (cappy1898).

Monday, December 20, 2010

What about those annoying online comments?

Got this e-mail from Scott Robinson, director of the Tuscarawas County United Way and longtime broadcaster:

"Would love to hear your take on the new (T-R online commenting) policy? How does it take a signature to get a letter to the editor published but people can hide behind a nickname of their choosing while trashing people, organizations, etc. all with no consequences. I'm all for the first amendment. Just make people use their real name. Can it get any simpler than that?"

Suffice it to say that allowing anonymous comments on published stories and commentaries is the bane of news sites everywhere. Simply put, they're a pain in the ass.

Still, they help drive traffic to a content provider's site and to not allow them probably would have a terribly negative impact on the number of page views, etc. So, they are a necessary evil, I guess.

Requiring commentators to sign their real names seems simple enough, but verification is nearly impossible and therein lies the problem. When the T-R first began taking e-mail comments from readers we required real names. But it didn't take long before an imposter, who sent a seemingly innocent e-mail for publication under someone else's name, forced us to dump the idea.

When we started "30 Seconds" back in 1991 or 1992, we knew that careful editing of the called-in comments was a key to its success. Certainly there were comments that slipped through the cracks, but for the most part, the vitriol so apparent today online never marked "30 Seconds."

So, the problem, I think, lies in the editing process. Most online content providers allow a free-for-all on their sites by online commentators. The really bad ones aren't stricken from the record until after they are posted.

And the T-R is not the only violator -- so are most other sites.

Connie Schultz, the Plain Dealer's award-winning columnist, takes heat from online commentators even when she's writing about something as innocuous as "Why the food bank needs our help."

As she notes in the comment section, "A number of comments were removed because they had nothing to do with the topic. Hunger is a nonpartisan issue, so please let's keep it that way in today's online discussion. This is not the forum to attack various politicians, or one another, in the comments."

Perhaps the key for news sites is to follow the New York Times' lead. The Times reviews every online comment BEFORE they are posted and then singles out -- highlights -- the more thoughtful posts. And the English language is not damaged in the process.

But that would require, of course, additional staffing, which most online sites, especially those whose core business is putting ink on paper, are not willing to do.

And on the T-R site, there is a least one online commentator who uses his real name. But that fact doesn't necessarily guarantee thoughtful and insightful commentary. Under a discussion of calamity days, he concluded that they are "nothing more than unscheduled paid vacation days for teachers."

Intolerant for sure and wrong to boot.

* * *
Please feel free to leave comments on my Facebook page. I know the commenting process on the blog can be tedious.

And, isn't it rather ironic that the immensely popular Facebook wouldn't work if people didn't use their real names?

* * *
It's going to get hectic here momentarily. So, before I forget, merry Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

By golly, Sarah and Kate go camping

Given the vast wasteland of what is Sunday night television programming, the fact that I was footballed out, and that I am a curious sort, I tuned into "Sarah Palin's Alaska" to see what the noise was all about.

I was not disappointed. Well, not much anyway.

Sunday night's episode featured Palin hosting Kate Gosselin and her tribe of eight little ones for a little camping in the wilderness. Both women are reality TV stars who work for The Learning Channel, which used to feature educational programming. Apparently, the only thing it teaches now is narcissism.

But I'll admit I learned a few things.

-- Sarah Palin, dressed in a camouflage, truly is a frontier woman. She'll shoot a bear between the eyes to protect her family, something those of us in "the lower 48" apparently don't get. Sarah also kind of likes the smell of gunpowder. She designated herself camp protector. Todd, who spent most of the show fishing, was showing absolutely no interest in interacting with the reality stars. Can't blame him.

-- Palin really does have an annoying voice. Fingernails on a chalkboard.

-- Sarah, however, seems more likable than Gosselin, who did nothing but complain about camping in a cold rain on an isolated sandbar in the wilderness with bears lurking everywhere.

OK, "bitch" is probably a better word than "complain."

Kate's kids, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy camping and eating s'mores and throwing wood on the fire. (Full disclosure: I hate s'mores.)

No, matter.

Kate, who had had enough of the Palins and their darn outdoorsyness, asked her children if they wanted to be Palins or Gosselins -- they knew they had to pick the latter -- and then herded them off to a rescue boat or plane or something to get away from that horrible place so apparently they could check into a Holiday Inn Express in Wasilla. Kate was not about to sleep in bear-infested wilderness and I don't blame her. It didn't look fun to me either.

What, expect Yogi at 3 a.m.? It would be my luck that I would be ... never mind.

Conclusion: It's OK that Sarah Palin quit the governor's job to make some money -- a lot of money. But she doesn't have any more business seeking the nation's most important job than does Kate Gosselin. Oh gosh, by golly, gee, keep your day job, Sarah. It becomes you.

* * *
Ohio's new Republican Gov. John Kasich will deliver at least one thing when he takes office next month -- news.

I like that.

Already he has put the kibosh on the proposed high-speed passenger train that would connect Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and points in between. Big waste of money, he said. And with that, Ohio forfeited its share of simulus money that would have helped get the project going.

Seriously, he's probably right on that. I did an informal poll of Clevelanders not too long ago and asked them if they'd consider taking a train to Cincinnati. Got a lot of smiles with that one.

Clevelanders generally don't go to Cincinnati and vice versa unless there are relatives involved. And Columbus by car is only two hours away from Cleveland.

High-speed trains elsewhere in the country seem to make more sense especially in those congested cities along the eastern seaboard. A high-speed train linking Chicago and other Midwestern cities also has possibilities.

With the rail project apparently a dead issue, Kasich and friends are questioning other government givens such as the 1983 law that allows public safety forces unions to ask for arbitrators in the wake of a contract impasse.

While the law forbids safety forces from striking, it allows a third party to call the shots in a labor dispute, potentially costing taxpayers thousands (millions?) of dollars above and beyond what the municipality can afford. Or should afford.

The Columbus Dispatch offered background on the issue in a story published Monday, Dec. 13. You can read it here.

Here's a prediction. By Jan. 31, John Kasich will have just about everyone in this state fired up about something. And a few months later, we'll have a pretty good clue whether his thinking was right on the money, or seriously flawed.

One way or another, he'll be making news.

* * *
Clearly my use of Facebook to announce new posts is working. Readership of this blog continues to grow to about 300 page views a week.

That's why I'm now adding Twitter to the mix. You can follow me -- cappy1898 -- and I'll tweet when I've posted something new.

Yes, I'll be tweeting.


For God's sake.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stop the outrage, Dems -- you lost

UPDATE, Friday, Dec. 10 -- Outgoing U.S. Rep. Zack Space said today he supports the Obama compromise.

"I agree with Dick's blog," he said. "(Obama's) not just steering toward the middle but he's exhibiting a much needed willingness to work across the aisle. Added benefit: he openly proclaims his independence from liberal extremists -- something he has to do to have any chance in 2012."

Earlier post below

* * *

Congressional Democrats, and I'm including our own U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in this group, continue to amaze me.

The liberal Democratic agenda was trounced in the election last month and so it's the Republicans' turn to call the shots. That's what prompted President Obama to quickly compromise with the GOP, obtaining a deal which will keep the Bush tax cuts across the board for another two years and at the same time extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Obama is being pragmatic. He knows that Republicans won't do a deal without the across-the-board tax cut extension. Should the rich be taxed more? I suppose. Warren Buffet thinks so. But let's argue about it another day as we try to get this economy going again.

As Obama pointed out, large portions of the middle class will benefit from the compromise. And if the Democrats stand in the way of that compromise, they will be hurting those whom they claim to serve.

I hope outgoing U.S. Rep. Zack Space offers support for the Obama compromise. I will update this post when I learn of his intentions.

* * *
I was in the Post Office when a clerk asked a woman how she was doing with her packages.

"First-time military mom," the woman replied. Her statement required no explanation.

This is a tough month for mothers (and fathers) whose adult sons and daughters are serving our country in places far from home.

First-Time Military Mom did a nice job putting the season in perspective for me. Good luck to her.

* * *
I've been asked by any number of people about certain aspects of Kent State-Tuscarawas' new Performing Arts Center. I'll answer as best as I can.

Q. How did the bat get in there and is it still there?

A. The bat got in there apparently during an equipment move-in or move-out. Attempts were made to catch the bat, but to no avail. It has not been seen recently so there is a belief that maybe the bat flew the coop, so to speak. The bat did not have a negative impact on anyone's viewing experience, so I'm left to conclude that it was a bat out of heaven rather than that other place.

Q. How does a theater troupe like the “Cats” troupe travel to the show? By bus? Or do they find their own way?

A. The "Cats" troupe arrived in New Philadelphia on three buses. The "roadies" and equipment were delivered by four tractor-trailer rigs. Equipment was unloaded beginning at 7 a.m. on the day of the performance with the help of some 50 people provided by the theater. By late afternoon the stage was set and the actors went through their rehearsals.
Q. Where was the orchestra during the “Cats” show?

A. Orchestra members were off-stage and took their cues from high tech monitors. Neat, eh?

The Peforming Arts Center at Kent State-Tuscarawas

Q. Has anyone figured the local economic impact of a “Cats”-like performance in Tuscarawas County?

A. The "Cats" troupe booked scores of local hotel rooms. Theater patrons are packing area restaurants before the performances. Over the course of the year, the PAC arguably could generate tens of thousands (millions?) of dollars in revenue for the community.

Q. How does pricing work? Do shows come with a set price and then ticket prices figured so as to provide the PAC with enough operating revenue? What say does the performer have regarding the setting of ticket prices?

A. Suffice it to say that setting ticket prices is a very complicated process. Setting up for the one-man Jim Brickman show is less expensive than having to unload four tractor trailers for "Cats." Remember, the theater has to be self-sustaining. But, yes, shows come with a price tag and related expenses. It's all factored in.

Q. What’s the reaction from performers about the new PAC? About the audiences? Different from big cities? Any artists want to return?

A. The simple answer is that, yes, the theater, the audiences and so on passed the professional test. PAC management will have to determine what artists/shows have the power to replicate the interest of the first time around -- so many things to consider. It's safe to say that PAC management already is working on the 2011-2012 season.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Obituaries a victim of newspaper contraction?

As newspapers shrink newsroom staffs, consolidate operations and move obituary collection to third-party online sites, the issue certainly can be raised that perhaps the art of obituary writing is yet a dying sub-section of journalism.

When I first entered the field at the age of 22, the Obituary page was there for older folks. I'm older folk now. I get it.

Flashback 10 years ago: Funeral home director calls local newspaper to report a prominent death in the community. Local news person responds that he/she is certain newspaper files have plenty of information of decedent and will compose a worthy obituary. Family is relieved and proud, community is informed and funeral director is happy.

Today: Funeral home calls local newspaper, but gets obit desk in out-of-town city.

"Who?" replies obit desk person. "Who?"

There are many aspects of the business that newspapers really had no control over. How do you fight free online classified ads on craigslist? Or the move to shopping for real estate, automobiles and even groceries online? And how do you sell a TV book that people under the age of 60 don't need anymore?

People still turn to newspapers for obituaries. But in their effort to save money (make money?), newspapers seem to be relinquishing that role as well.

I defer now to James Naughton, an outstanding journalist who served as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and later as editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote a piece for obit-mag.com that underscores the issue -- A Death Notice for Obituaries.

* * *
Two of my sources for this blog are Harry Liggett's BJ Alums blog and the PD Alumni News blog. Harry cut his teeth at the old Evening Chronicle in Uhrichsville and moved on to the Akron Beacon Journal, where he spent the rest of his career.

With a nod to both of those blogs, we've created a T-R Alums blog. We suspect that there are lot of T-R alums who don't know the blog exists. If you or someone you know worked at The T-R at some point, please accept our invitation to participate or pass the word along. Thanks.

* * *
The flu bug, starting with the twins, infected their father and both grandfathers, but somehow avoided bothering the girls.

How do you figure that?

Anyway, it was ugly and kept me from caring about this blog until today.

And by the way, did you notice there are no LeBron links?

In case you forgot, here's what LeBron said during the post-game interview:

"Seven great years loved every part, loved every moment, from the growth when I was an 18-year old kid to a 25-year old man. We tried our best as a team to bring a championship to this city and just try to play hard every night. I got the up most respect for this franchise, the up most respect for these fans and you know just continue the greatness for myself here in Miami and try to get better every day."


Good grief. Cure cancer, LeBron. At least win something. Then we'll talk about your greatness. Dip.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mid-week update (3)

OK, here's one last LeBron link and then I'm retiring from my role as his aggregator.

I'm done. Finished. No more caring about James, or his buddies in Miami or Cleveland.

Take away the fans and what you had at the Q last night was a lovefest, not a basketball game. I thought teams were supposed to go at each other, not kiss and hug and sing "Kumbaya."

The Cavs looked like they were coached by the laugh-out-loud Derek Anderson. What, me care?

No "I" in "team"? For goodness sakes, it's all about the "I."

And the players don't seem to get the fans.

But we get them.

You had us for a moment, Cavs. And now you don't.

On to more important things...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mid-week update (2)

Andrew Wright, editor of the sports website, SB Nation.com, perhaps offered the best summation of what has transpired since what's-his-name took his talents to South Beach.

In an opinion piece, Wright argues that LeBron James, not Drew Brees, ought to be the Sportsman of the Year 2010.

He wrote: "So as you think about the Sportsman of 2010, ask yourself: Who has given us more to cheer about than LeBron James? Yeah, Drew Brees may have united a fallen city. But LeBron, by abandoning a fallen city of his own, united the whole goddamn country.

"Whose 2010 will you remember more?"

Good point.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mid-week update

In my job as aggregator of LeBron James-related stories, I would be remiss if I didn't give you the link to the terrific story -- "Believeland" -- by ESPN.com's Wright Thompson. It's a long read, so give yourself some time to digest.

Thompson takes a deep look into why Clevelanders hurt so much in the wake of  "The Decision" by "The Player Who Left."

And it's the kind of story only an outsider could write. Excellent piece of journalism.

* * *
I have no insight into why Jill McCartney was fired as director of the Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce.

Jill was/is a prolific Facebook poster and has more than 1,000 "friends." Many of those "friends" offered her support and encouragement in the wake of her job loss. Nice of them.

I suspect she will find out that some of the "friends" she thought were "friends" when she held the Chamber post won't be such good "friends" now. I'm quoting the word "friends" because I'm referring to the Facebook version of such, which is a somewhat phony representation of what a friend should be.

It's been my experience that you have Facebook-type "friends," which can number in the hundreds and, I guess, even thousands, and you can have real friends, which you can count on a couple of hands.

Jill's no dummy. I bet she's already figured this out, based on who did and who didn't respond to her post that she had joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Anyway, good luck to Jill. And good luck to the Chamber.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

From 'Cats' to Heat this week

I'm probably sounding like a broken record...

We attended "Cats" at the new Performing Arts Center at Kent State-Tuscarawas and came away overwhelmed.

To see Broadway-quality theater minutes from home, with the car parked only steps away for free, well, this was a treat.

I am fascinated by the logistics involved with moving a show like "Cats" from venue to venue. Perhaps most theater-goers didn't notice that there were four tractor-trailer rigs parked behind the center. It takes that kind of firepower to haul the sets and equipment from city to city

If you're curious where the "Cats" troupe has been and where it's going, check out the show's 2010-2011 itinerary here.

And don't forget to get tickets to an upcoming show at the PAC. Go to something. Anything.

* * *

I feel the need to finally acknowledge the work of Robyn Martins, whom I coaxed into doing some writing for The Times-Reporter a few years ago and who now is as much a face to the newspaper as anyone.

Robyn also is an accomplished musician and is a member of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic. She recently offered some thoughts on the Philharmonic's performance last Saturday night at the new PAC. You can access her blog here and I encourage readers of this blog to bookmark "Just Sayin'."

One benefit is the multi-talented Robyn occasionally offers her recipes. You're probably not going to find recipes on this blog.

* * *
I'm looking forward to watching LeBron James' return to Cleveland on Thursday. I pray that Cavaliers fans won't do something really stupid, although I do hope that LeBron really feels the heat. So to speak.

* * *
Here are this week's must reads:

Greater Cleveland getting older, smaller, poorer, Brent Larkin, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Cleveland, don't turn LeBron into sympathetic victim, Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com National Columnist

King James wants Spoelstra to bow to him, Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports

And one from the Sports Illustrated vault (courtesy of my son, Chris, who doesn't want anyone to forget):

Higher Education, Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated (March 2001)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

They don't pay me enough

If this is Sunday, it must be time for Dick.

Farrell, that is.

Many of you have told me how much you miss reading my Sunday commentaries in the paper and for that I am humbled. I truly am.

But readership of this blog is about what it was a month ago. That means that those of you who are reading this blog are not telling your friends about it. Otherwise, I'd have ... I don't know ... 500 readers by now. Maybe 1,000. Maybe a million.

Instead, I'm averaging a little less than 200 page views per blog entry. Ahem. That is humbling, too.

For the record, dear readers, I DON'T GET PAID FOR THIS.

I tried to participate in the Google Ads program initially but they -- Google People -- got angry at me for some reason and won't let me play. And, no, I wasn't clicking on the Google Ads. That's a huge no-no with Google. Blog owners are not supposed to click on the Google Ads that appear on the site. That skews the results of the actual click-throughs. (Don't ask.)

Anyway, I woke up one day and Google had sent me an e-mail, telling me the gig was over. Heck, I never thought I was going to get any kind of a hefty payday with Google Ads. It's a lot like credit card reward programs that really pay off only if you're buying Gulfstream IV jets.

Did I tell you that I DON'T GET PAID FOR THIS?

I need your help. Tell your friends where they can find Dick. The easiest thing to do is to Google "dick farrell blog." (Remember the correct spelling of "Farrell." There's an "a" in there -- not an "e.")

OK, enough of that -- onto this week's offerings...

* * *
My wife and I were among the few hundred who attended the dedication Friday night of the Performing Arts Center at Kent State-Tuscarawas. Among those offering remarks were KSU President Lester Lefton, U.S. Rep. Zack Space and other elected officials and their representatives.

Dr. Gregg Andrews, dean of the campus, took on the project earlier this decade with the full support of the Board of Trustees of which I am a member. The board knew that if anyone could get this project done, it was Andrews. And he did it with the help of his very capable staff and with generous contributions from members of our community. The Performing Arts Center is a testament to the goodness of Tuscarawas County.

Photo by Greg Spitzer
The campus' new Steinway piano graces the stage of the Peforming Arts Center.

For Andrews, the construction project was anything but a walk in the park (especially when the flytower superstructure collapsed in March 2009) and there remains finishing work before the building is officially accepted. But it's safe to say that the mission has been accomplished.

This is a jewel among jewels, folks, and rivals any theater you've seen anywhere, including the glitzy ones in Las Vegas.

Opening weekend is coming up and a public open house is set for early December.

You can access the PAC's home page here and from there you can purchase tickets to any of the shows. There's not a bad seat in the house. Trust me.

* * *
Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen was among those offering remarks at the PAC dedication and slipped me an envelope containing an invitation to last week's two bridge dedications in his city. The envelope also contained two pieces of ribbon, marking the ceremonies (see photo below).

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with his thoughtfulness and now feel badly that I missed those events.

And clearly, Homrighausen is watching taxpayer dollars, or at least pennies. He saved 44 cents by hand-delivering the invitation to me, albeit a week late.

* * *
What in the name of God are the congressional Democrats thinking about?

Nancy Pelosi again?

Are they nuts?

I could expound on this issue, but what's the use? It's almost like they didn't pay attention to what happened on Nov. 2. I'm really tired of giving Democrats advice. Maybe after the holidays...

* * *

To be fair and balanced...

I wholeheartedly agree with Barbara Bush.

Sarah Palin ought to stay in Alaska.

* * *
In a recent post, I asked former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney to weigh in on the history of the new Dover interchange. He's communicated with this blogger before so I thought maybe he could shed some light on how the interchange came about.

Since then, I've found out that Ney is in India, studying and meditating with Dalai Lama devotees.

Actually I know that because former Copley Washington Bureau Chief George Condon wrote a story about Ney for the National Journal.

The Copley bureau serviced The Times-Reporter during the years of Copley Press ownership (read: Good Old Days). Condon is a journalist's journalist and has interviewed seven sitting presidents.

Ney, Condon reports, has lost weight, quit drinking and is in the process of reinventing himself. You can read the story here.

I'd like to add that, because Ney is studying with the Dalai Lama, well, he's got that going for him, too.

I couldn't resist.

* * *
This week's LeBron/Miami Heat link: Stories of LeBron and sportswriter intertwined, tangled

* * *
Have you heard about the 8-year-old Jets fan who was tackled by a drunken Cleveland Browns fan in the Muny parking lot last week?

You'll have background if you read this story on Bleacher Report.

I have questions.

-- If the incident happened as the kid's mother says, why wouldn't the family take up the Jets on their offer of an all-expense trip to a Jets home game? For an 8-year-old, wouldn't that be something to remember forever?

-- Why didn't the kid's father write the letter to the editor rather than the mother, who wasn't there? Could it be that the kid's father didn't want the mother to write the letter? From personal experience, I know that sometimes one parent will overreact when his/her child has been wronged (for whatever reason). It's human nature.

-- Callers to talk shows seem to confirm an incident, but don't agree that the kid was "tackled." How about this: Drunk has trouble walking. Drunk falls on kid. Kid falls down.

Sometimes, just because something has gone viral in the media, it doesn't mean that it's true.

I know.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

World has gotten way too complicated -- QE2?

In my first quarter of my first year in college, Economics 162 almost did me in. It was a required course of nearly every freshman -- a flunk-out course, if you will. And, boy, was it boring.

I'd like to say I could draw from that class in explaining to you QE2 which stands for "Son of Quantitative Easing" or something like that. But I can't.

In effect and as I understand it, Treasury Secretary Ben Bernanke said a couple of weeks ago he would print $600 billion and throw it at the economy in an effort to keep it all moving. Oh, it's not that simple, I know, and Bernanke never actually said he was firing up the printing press.

But I think that's what it means. You know, the bottom line.

Suffice it to say, that none of world's top tier economies -- known collectively as the G20 -- favor the U.S. QE2 move because it will fuel inflation, weaken the dollar and because it just might cause a global economic crisis. They're cool with whatever ideas they had to solve the world recession but are now taking aim at the U.S. for being, well, the U.S.

After reading pieces by a few economists, QE2 is the reason we're paying higher prices for gasoline and other commodities lately and why the stock market has ticked up over the last couple of weeks, although the market faltered somewhat in the latter part of last week. And QE2 could cause inflation, but maybe not. Depends who you listen to.

Until someone tells me otherwise, I'm not going to lose any sleep over QE2 even though the pundits at CNBC are all atwitter.

* * *
Congratulations to the Dover Tornadoes on their victory over Sheridan on Saturday. The Newark Advocate has a decent "gamer" on its website if you're looking for a story of some length on the game. You can access it here.

* * *
I exited I-77 via the new Dover interchange on Saturday and was quite pleased with the experience -- at least until I got stopped by the traffic lights on Schneider's Crossing Rd. By the time I got to N. Wooster Ave., it became unclear whether I actually saved time over if I had chosen the Strasburg or Dover-Sugarcreek exits. Entering the freeway from the new interchange was convenient.

By the way, I'd like to invite former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney to set the record straight on how the interchange came to be. There's been a lot of misinformation out there, including the infamous sign that touts the federal economic stimulus program.

* * *
My favorite LeBron/Miami Heat stories last week:

Can't Stand Heat? Avoid Miami -- Wall Street Journal

Heat folding under weight of season -- Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports

Miami’s Big Three Stumble Along -- Lynn Zinser, New York Times

* * *
Amanda Wolfe, who cut her journalistic teeth as an intern for The Times-Reporter a few years ago, wrote a poignant story for this month's Ladies' Home Journal on her mother's battle with ovarian cancer.

Amanda is now a senior editor with the magazine and resides in New York City. Her mother, Janice Wolfe of Dover, died earlier this year and was well known throughout Tuscarawas County for her work as a physical therapist.

Janice used to call me regularly at The T-R to keep me updated on Amanda's career. My heart goes out to Amanda and her sister, Audrey, on the loss of their mother, who obviously loved them very much.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Some pundits are right on the money

In the aftermath of the election, I believe by now that at least 16,784 pundits have weighed in with their take on the results. I haven't been able to read all their pieces, but I have consumed more than a couple.

I'm awarding the gold to star to Alan D. Mutter, who regularly writes about the state of the newspaper business. I have followed his blog for sometime.

Mutter singles out the press for failure to focus on the primary issue that seemed to be lost on the Obama administration -- the economy.

"In the thrall of the brainy and self-assured Obama," Mutter writes, "the press largely failed to ask the hard-edged questions that could have sharpened the president’s understanding of the terrifyingly deteriorating economy; sharpened his agenda by emphasizing jobs, jobs and more jobs, and sharpened his elbows for combat with the tough political customers whose singular – and brilliantly fulfilled – agenda was to make the president look like he was out of touch with the growing pain on Main Street.

"Instead, it was largely business as usual for the media, as journalists busied themselves immediately after the 2008 election with such inside-baseball matters as picking the winners and losers in the new Obama power structure. Once the president took office, the myopic press stuck to covering the inside-the-Beltway story of the day – health care, Afghanistan, Supreme Court picks – instead of zeroing in on the things that really mattered to all but the very wealthiest Americans."

* * *
In the wake of John Kasich's election as Ohio governor, it appears that school districts will be faced with cuts in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 percent, starting in the second half of 2011. And Kasich has promised that he won't be raising taxes anytime soon to make up for the projected $8 billion budget deficit.

He could, however, get cute with some of the fees Ohioans pay for various services. How about a $200 fishing license?

Just saying.

Anyway,  Kasich has put lobbyists on notice that they had better get on the bus or, if they don't, get run over by it. I think Kasich wants people to know that he means business. To his credit, he is trying to save a couple of thousand American Greetings Corp. jobs in Cleveland.

American Greetings has threatened to take the work elsewhere because of the tax burden in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn and presumably in Ohio.

I will happily applaud him if he is able to keep the jobs here.

* * *
In an earlier post, I said that as editor of The Times-Reporter, our endorsements of candidates or issues were not made on the basis of their probability of election or passage. In other words, we were not attempting to gauge the popularity of a particular candidate or issue.

We endorsed based on the merits of the candidates and the worth of the issues.

I stand by that statement.

There is evidence out there today -- and I mean Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 -- that some editors endorse or don't endorse based on projected election outcomes. I find that sad.

* * *
Greg Bedard, writing for the Boston Globe and its online site, boston.com, wrote this following the Browns' thumping of the New England Patriots (You can skip to No. 3):



1. The Patriots are still (sort of) tied for best record in NFL: They’re tied with the New York Jets at 6-2 in the AFC East, but the Jets won the first matchup between the two teams. Rematch is set for Dec. 6. Patriots are also tied for the best record win the NFL with the Ravens, Falcons, and possibly the Steelers, Colts and Chiefs (depending on their late or Monday night games).

2. Woodhead and Hernandez: We’ll have more on this in the next section, but they were the Patriots’ offense. Aaron Hernandez was targeted a team-high nine times and led with five catches, 48 yards and two touchdowns. Danny Woodhead had 54 yards on nine carries, and 38 yards on two receptions.

3. They left Cleveland. Always a positive.

Was that necessary? Why the cheap shot, Greg?

Why would you be so mean to an entire city and region of good, hardworking people who can't seem to catch a break lately, what with the recession, LeBron's talent long gone to South Beach and another lousy winter in the offing?

Well, the Browns kicked your Patriots' butt all over Cleveland Browns Stadium today, didn't they Greg?

So, we got that going for us.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Obama's fault

It's 10 p.m. on Election Night and it looks like the Democrats are taking a beating in Ohio, including Reps. Zack Space in the 18th House District and John Boccieri in the 16th.

As President Obama reflects on the election tonight, he perhaps should prepare an apology to his fellow Democrats tomorrow for the huge losses in offices on every level in every state. Cap and trade? Health care insurance overhaul? Reckless stimulus spending?

It was all about fixing the economy, Mr. President. It wasn't about overhauling every aspect of our lives, which apparently you wanted to do. Good Lord, I wanted you to succeed. And you blew it in two short years.

Space is going down to defeat (understatement) in his home county of Tuscarawas, which should be enough for challenger Bob Gibbs to claim the seat. Boccieri is being defeated by Jim Renacci in the mostly Stark County district.

Space and Bocierri are two good men who wanted to do right by their consitutents and by their country. But they got caught up in the machine that meets and greets rookie congressmen upon their arrival in Washington. And then they were lobbied hard by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and even the president himself. Space's pushback on the health care issue didn't help him either. His "no" vote announcement came too late and voters smelled conspiracy. There wasn't one.

It was just too late. And he had already cast a "yes" vote on cap and trade -- a terrible, terrible idea, the people claimed. And no one countered.

And no one forgot.

* * *

10:16 p.m.

By my count, Ohio likely will have five Democrats in the the U.S. House of Representatives and 13 Republicans.


* * *
11:30 p.m.

OK, let's assume at this point, it's a Republican sweep in Ohio's statewide offices. Let's assume the Republicans control the U.S. House and that the current administration has been repudiated.

What's the message to Republicans?

I suspect they will believe that the American people want smaller government -- much smaller government. And that will mean massive job cuts in government. School districts will be among those feeling the brunt because the majority of people have no personal stake in the schools and won't fund them with property taxes. So, we'll have more school districts in financial trouble sooner rather than later. I'll bet on that.

We will take some steps backward here.

With future stimulus money in question, infrastructure construction probably will taper off and we will have to hope the private sector will add jobs with assurances from the Republicans that no new costs (taxes) will be imposed. Those question marks have to be removed if the private sector is going to add jobs.

Free trade? Fair trade? Who knows the answer to that? We have to be able to trade with China and India going forward. Too many consumers to ignore. But they continue to dump cheap products and services on us, costing American jobs. A dilemma for sure.

As for the health care legislation, look for the GOP to attempt to repeal some, if not all, of the aspects of the legislation that cost so many Democrats their offices. But allowing pre-exisiting conditions -- like genetic defects -- to affect an American's ability to be insured seems un-American to me.

Look for initiatives for "green" energy to more or less dry up in the short term. We'll be committed to fossil fuels in the near future.

Maybe this is the right way to go. Goodness, I hope so. We're in for further tough times here in America as we try to figure it out. As for President Obama, well, I think he will still shoulder blame in 2012. I don't expect him to win a second term as it stands now, but, of course, it depends on whether the Republicans can find another Ronald Reagan.

And for John Kasich? Chill, big guy. Don't let that temper affect your ability to lead. You worry me.

Good luck to all the winners. They'll need it.

Now, about the stock market...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rambling, mumbling, wondering

I've heard it from the critics of the current party in power over and over:

"Quit wasting our money!"

Sounds like the consumer reporter on Channel 5, who intones at the end of every segment, "Don't waste your money!"

Like fingernails on a blackboard.

In fact, it seems this country has whipped itself into a frenzy over the government spending OUR money to save us all -- get this -- from another Great Depression. Maybe, the correct tack would have been to let the financial institutions go belly up, let General Motors and Chrysler work out their own fates (die), and let those without jobs stand in soup kitchen lines.

We could have just pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps -- the American way.


With the Republicans poised to retake power on Tuesday in at least one of the and probably both houses of Congress, it's a pretty good bet that we'll see that kind of strategy in place in the near future.

I hope it works, because I can’t imagine what would have happened had all of the above been the reality.

Economists (I don't know what political party they belong to) say the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008 -- TARP -- actually worked and ultimately won't be nearly as costly as the initial price tag of $700 billion. Is $50 billion more palatable? Maybe not for some folks but then $50 billion is a lot of money to wrap your arms around especially when your private sector employer cut the match for your 401(k).

(By the way, George Bush was president in 2008.)

But back to the election.

The Republicans say they are not about compromise or working toward solutions with their more liberal Democrat colleagues in Congress. They will work, they say, to see to it that President Barack Obama is a one-termer. Compromise be damned.

Obama certainly isn't without blame here. Though he promised conciliation and compromise, we got a mostly liberal agenda that was pushed through in parts by one or both houses of Congress by the party in power. Compromise be damned.

Meanwhile, the next phase of the Great Recession is about on us. It's the government and health care phase. Both institutions -- if that's the right term -- are being crippled by falling tax bases and if you think Ohio's going to be a fun place to live in over the next few years, well, wait and see.

If the federal government turns off the stimulus spigot, it means Ohio will face the impending $8 billion deficit all by itself. And that means massive cuts in services, including our public schools and state universities. Meanwhile, hospitals are going broke providing services to people who can't afford to pay or don't have some kind of private insurance. And doctors? Well, they don't to want to service Medicare patients because the program's payments don't cover the cost.

It's a lot more complicated than that, but you get the point. Things aren't going to improve immediately just because we throw this set of bums out. In fact, it might get a lot worse before it gets better.

Just don't be surprised.

* * *
If Zack Space wins in Tuesday's election, he might want to take Constitution Party candidate Lindsey Dean Sutton out to dinner. Sutton promises to play spoiler in the election by siphoning votes from Republican challenger Bob Gibbs.

In other words, Space could win a plurality of votes on Tuesday, which would give him a third term in office. If that happens and the House turns to Republican control, Space then can have a little fun. (I think it's safe to say he is not having fun now.)

He can concentrate on constituent services, criticizing Republicans and, of course, attend a few hundred chicken dinners.

* * *
A certain former mayor of a certain city near Dover in Tuscarawas County seems to think that the editorial board of a certain local newspaper endorses candidates based on whether the street thinks certain candidates will win. That way the paper looks really good and powerful if the endorsed (popular) candidate wins.


I can't speak for the current regime, but that certainly wasn't the case under my watch. If I thought long and hard, I'm sure I could produce a sizeable list of losers endorsed during my 19-year stint. We endorsed after considerable thought, back-and-forths with editors and reporters, feedback from constituents and colleagues of the candidates, and after direct conversations with many candidates.

If we endorsed a candidate, it's because we thought he/she deserved it. Or we thought the alternative was unacceptable. In some cases, we thought both candidates were acceptable and said so. And both candidates subsequently vilified us for being non-decisive.

There is an exception in the process. Presidential (and sometimes U.S. Senate) endorsements usually were dictated by the paper's ownership.

* * *
I am fascinated by at least two people who have nothing to do with politics.

One is Bill Simmons, ESPN.com's "Sports Guy." I think Simmons is a fabulous writer and I have to thank my son, Chris, for hooking me up with Simmons' body of work, which includes some hilarious pieces on his trip to Las Vegas with buddies.

The other person is LeBron James, the world's most misguided narcissist who is a favorite subject in Simmons' columns. Simmons offered his view of James' debut with the Miami Heat last week. Here's the

* * *
Addendum: Scout asked in the comment section whether newspapers should endorse candidates. I'll answer that with a question: Should newspapers champion any causes in a community?

 I think a good newspaper ought to lead in any number of ways.

It ought to make sure its community is creating an atmosphere of progress and prosperity. It should campaign for decent health care, housing, jobs and infrastructure. It should applaud the arts and support its schools. And it should attempt to uncover wrongdoing on any number of levels.

Should a newspaper examine candidates for political office and then offer its view on the races? On the issues? Yes, it should, in my opinion anyway.

That's not to say other publications, such as the Bargain Hunter, play a role. Certainly they do. But they don't lead.

Can a newspaper be unbiased in its news columns and still lead on its editorial page? Good ones do.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sometimes you just have to do what's right

One of the toughest tasks I had as editor of The Times-Reporter was signing off on election endorsements.

Endorsements are something I think a newspaper should do for its readers because a good newspaper has a better handle on candidates and issues than the average Joe because if it's doing its job, it is asking questions that the average Joe doesn't get to ask. It sees the big picture, or should. And it ought to let the readers in on the deal.

Under my watch, the local newspaper was a strong supporter of local school levies even in hard times. I always believed, and I guess I owe a lot to my father for my thinking, that as a community's schools go, so goes the community.

For the most part, my father and mother believed in Catholic schools for their children. The younger children in the family, yes, including me, finished their high school educations in the public schools, but only after more than 10 years under the guidance of the sisters of St. Joseph or the brothers of Holy Cross.

But my father, never a man of great means, never voted against a public school levy despite the fact that he forked over tuition so his children could attend Catholic schools.

In our area, in this general election, four school districts -- Claymont, Newcomerstown, Conotton Valley and East Holmes -- are asking for approval of additional levies. Because we are in the Great Recession -- I don't think it's over either -- it would be easy to tell voters to just say no.

And that would be wrong. At least in my mind.

Three of those districts -- Claymont, Newcomerstown and Conotton Valley -- are among the poorest districts in our area. Their effective tax rates tell part of the story, but not all of it:

Claymont -- 26.27
Newcomerstown -- 31.10
Conotton Valley -- 30.16

For comparison sake, here are the effective tax rates for Dover and New Philadelphia:

Dover -- 36.09
New Philadelphia -- 28.98

Dover long has had the reputation of having the best school system in Tuscarawas County and this is no knock on New Philadelphia because perception may or may not be reality. But there's a reason why Realtors tout Dover Schools in their advertising.

Look at the effective tax rate. It means that you will pay more in taxes in Dover than you would on the same home of the same value in New Philadelphia. It's also an indication that homes in Dover have a higher value than elsewhere and that its citizens value public education.

(When you compare the effective tax rates in and around Tuscarawas County, they're all a bargain. Move to a Cleveland or Columbus suburb and your taxes will effectively double or triple.)

Now, the knock on school levies is that they place an unfair burden on property owners and that the state needs to fix the way it funds education. I agree. But this assessment has been going on since the '70s. And when someone tells you the state needs to fix education funding and you believe it will happen in the near future, and therefore vote against your school levy, you run the risk of wrecking what you have.

Think long term here. Let's take Newcomerstown, for example. It's a poor school district. The state kicks in more per capita to educate Newcomerstown kids than it does Dover kids because of that. But it needs local help to maintain its mission. And frankly, what would happen to Newcomerstown if its school system went into the big dumper? Would you want to live there?

I know. I read the comments posted underneath stories on newspaper web sites. Some people can't figure out why they have to fund the schools when they have no kids. Others say the state needs to totally fund the schools and spare property owners. And still others blame public schools' staffing -- too many administrators, they say. Too many guidance counselors.

"They ought to run school districts like a business," is a common refrain..

Well, it's not a business. It's a school system that is charged with the responsibility of educating children in the very complicated 21st century. Good Lord, we don't know what jobs will be around in 10 years but somehow we have to prepare the children to be ready for them.

Think that's easy?

Add to the equation that a significant portion of the population probably ought not to be parents and they send their children to school every day with the scars of emotional abuse and/or neglect.

So, now we want to tell our school districts -- our poorest school districts -- to do more with less because, we'll, we're in a recession. OK, easy way out.

I'm just saying if ever there were a time to support the schools, this is it. And yes, let's hope the state figures out a better way to fund public education.  But don't forget, it can never do it without your money. You're naive if you think otherwise.

For goodness sakes, support your schools.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some things I know that are true

Every writer needs some kind of feedback and that includes me. Since I re-energized this blog a couple of weeks ago, I've received a couple of comments, but not enough to make me happy.

I'm not making a lot of money doing this, folks. Actually, I'm not making any money. So my payment comes in the form of feedback. And I'd really like some.

To make it easier for people to leave comments, I tweaked some of the settings for commenting. One no longer needs to retype a computer-generated word. Every time I'm confronted with one of those, I usually type it in wrong. Then I get another word and get that one wrong, too. Ever notice that those computer-generated letters are hard to decipher? Anyway, you just have to leave a comment now. At least that was my intention.

* * *
OK, some things I know to be true:

-- Facebook can be a dangerous place. I'm amazed how many people on it offer their whereabouts to the world. I'm not sure it's a good idea to tell the Internet that you're vacationing out of state and won't be home until a week from Tuesday. Perhaps people who do that have excellent home alarm systems.

-- I think a lot of Facebook people irritate their "friends" unknowingly by weighing in on the side of an issue that might be offensive to someone in the Facebook food chain. I did that once and now I'm a little gun shy about responding publicly to an issue. Unintended consequences and all that.

-- I don't think voters can necessarily trust the polls this year or any year for that matter. I remember getting inside exit polling numbers from the Bush-Kerry election that indicated a clear victory for John Kerry. Obviously the polling didn't tell the whole story. Kerry did well in large cities across the country and George Bush killed him in rural counties and communities.

-- The Republicans will control the House of Representatives following the election and then the onus will be on the GOP to solve all of our problems. As the New York Times points out in this story, that might be good for President Barack Obama.

-- The former Dover Elks Lodge still is standing after all these weeks. My guess is that the ghosts that inhabited the building are a little confused. Where do ghosts go after their haunts disappear?

-- Newspapers that haven't endorsed candidates by now are probably too late. I voted last week by dropping off my ballots at the Board of Elections.

-- If you're dropping off ballots at the Board of Elections, do not park for even a minute in one of the judge's parking spaces because a sheriff deputy will threaten you with a citation. Your tax dollars at work.

-- The Plain Dealer lost its editor, Susan Goldberg, to Bloomberg last week. She'll be developing Web "content" -- not news, mind you. A few weeks ago, the PD's excellent Cavaliers beat writer, Brian Windhorst, left for ESPN.com. And the Chicago Tribune is in turmoil after the ouster of its CEO and a vice president because of bad behavior in the executive suite. Is the print side of the news business in trouble?

-- In the first season of "Boston Legal," James Spader's character pointed out that Fox News and all the other news media outlets are competing for ratings. They are giving us "content" that they think we want. He was right, of course. Fox News speaks to a particular demographic. So does MSNBC, NPR and all the others. It's OK to consume the content if you remember that it's all about ratings.

-- Meet the Candidate forums are a good thing. It's too bad they're so boring. I spent a little more than 2 1/2 hours at one a couple of weeks ago and at times had trouble staying awake. I also got the impression that most of those in attendance were partisans and not members of the general public. I still think they're a good thing.

-- Yahoo Sports says the Cleveland Cavaliers will win only 12 games this season because, well, we know why. I think they will be better than that. Perhaps now they'll play like a team and not stand around waiting for The King to shoot. Still I don't think they will win more than 30 games. Wait till next year.

-- I think the Cleveland Browns are a lot more interesting this year. They don't look so hapless. They still won't win more than a couple of games. Wait till next year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Excellent stories on Strickland, Kasich

The Columbus Dispatch on Sunday offered two excellent stories -- profiles on Gov. Ted Strickland and his opponent John Kasich.

You can access them here.

And an op-ed piece by Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown on the inequities of trade with China. The column appeared Sunday in the New York Times.

Recommended reading.

Let me know if the links eventually go dead.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Limbach's expertise still in demand

I know I promised some fresh reading for Sundays but this one is coming a little early. Ironically, I'm writing this on Friday morning, which I used to devote to writing those Sunday commentaries that appeared in the local newspaper for 19 or so years.

* * *
New Philadelphia resident Joanne Limbach, who served as tax commissioner under Gov. Richard Celeste, was among experts who participated in a panel discussion recently at the Columbus Dispatch. The topic was the impending $8 billion deficit the state is facing and the discussion served as fodder for a story in the Dispatch last Sunday (Oct. 10).

I turn to Limbach often for facts and figures on the state budget. Among them: A penny increase in the state sales tax would generate about $1.3 billion annually. So, you can kind of figure out what it would take to fix the deficit if the Legislature decided to go that route. Tuscarawas County's rate is 6.5 percent.

The Dispatch story is here.

* * *
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, whom I met a long time ago when he first launched his political career, is becoming something of a rock star. He was the subject of a story recently in the New York Times for his role in the foreclosure crisis.

Cordray, endorsed by this blog, is an unassuming individual who once appeared (and won) on the TV game show "Jeopardy." He's extremely bright.

I'm interested in watching the impact of the foreclosure freeze in all 50 states. If I understand it correctly, banks can no longer sell homes in foreclosure until there's a resolution of the attorney generals' lawsuits. Ultimately, it could cost banks billions. Their stocks are taking a hit.

Hindsight will tell us whether the Cordray-led assault was a really good idea or a really bad one. I suppose, though, that if a bank is going to foreclose on a homeowner it ought to review all the fine print before it pulls the trigger. There is a lot of evidence to suggest the process was not only flawed, but downright fraudulent.

Says the Times in another story: "As the furor grows over lenders’ efforts to sidestep legal rules in their zeal to reclaim homes from delinquent borrowers ... banks insist that they have been overwhelmed by the housing collapse. But interviews with bank employees, executives and federal regulators suggest that this mess was years in the making and came as little surprise to industry insiders and government officials."

I'd also add that some homeowners brought the mess on themselves by ignoring the simple rules of housing affordability.

* * *
The only thing that surprises me about the Twin City Hospital Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it didn't come much sooner than this.

It was apparent for a long time that the hospital could not pay its bills. In late spring, it owed $1 million to the physician group that staffed the emergency room.

The biggest problem TCH faces is that it operates in an impoverished area with a large percentage of Medicaid patients. My bet is that the hospital emerges from bankruptcy eventually but not without a controlling partner.

* * *
No debate here that Tuscarawas County is a great place to live and work, but we do have our share of nut cases. Most recent nut case in point is the arsonist who was at work the other night, setting fires in Strasburg, Beach City and Brewster.

Perhaps our communities need to take a cue from the big cities and begin to install security cameras at strategic points.

Anyway, I hope law enforcement (Walt? Orvis? You there? I'm counting on you guys!) nabs the culprit quickly. My guess is that there are a lot of nervous property owners along the Rt. 21/250 corridor.

* * *
Rob Burch of Dover has emerged from the shadows. Apparently some local Democrats met up with Burch at a local watering hole after the recent "Meet the Candidates" night at Kent-Tuscarawas. Burch was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1994 and was trounced by Republican George Voinovich.

Even Burch's hometown newspaper, The Times-Reporter, didn't endorse him.


Burch, who was informed that blogger Dick was at the "Candidates" session, replied: "I will pi-- upon his grave."

It's good to know that Rob still has that sense of humor.
* * *
I recently got a sneak peek at the Performing Arts Center at Kent-Tuscarawas and it's something else. When theater/concert patrons enter the stage area for the first time, they will be overwhelmed by its beauty and majesty. There are no bad seats.

I am understating the experience. You have to see it.

I normally don't get excited about such things. But this is different. I am excited.

And thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.

Check out the upcoming shows here. The center's grand opening weekend starts Nov. 27.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Strickland, Portman, Space

Let's forget, for a moment, the noise that has overwhelmed this year's general election. Let's forget the TV commercials that generally speak to Americans' prejudices and ill-informed views on the issues. Let's forget the annoying robo phone calls and the oversized "screaming" post cards that feature color photos of the favorite candidate and his family and black and white photos of his evil opponent.

Let's just forget all that.

Most candidates are decent, law-abiding citizens who really do want to serve the public. But the handlers and political machines transform them into supermen or bogeymen. A lot of that has to do with the unbelievable amount of money that is funneled into our campaign process.

With all that in mind, this free-to-everyone blog offers the following endorsements, for what it's worth:

Governor -- Democrat incumbent Ted Strickland.

OK, so Strickland's not the most exciting guy in the world, but there have been some bright spots in his first term. His administration has been a friend to economic developments in our area, including the new high tech park in New Philadelphia

His biggest task is before him. The state is facing an $8 billion deficit in the next fiscal year and Strickland, if re-elected, will have to deal with it immediately.

The Republican opponent, John Kasich, scares me. He wants to eventually eliminate Ohio's income tax, which in 2009 numbers would amount to about $8 billion a year. How would he make up the revenue shortfall? Well, he's a little vague about that, and says that eliminating the income tax will be good for business and as a result everything will be fine.

Yeah, right.

There's also this about Kasich. It's his way or the highway. Excitable? You bet. And people who've seen him in action say he is not above making his point by jamming a finger into an adversary's chest.

The former congressman also lined up on the side of those who advocated privatizing Social Security.

A month or so ago, polls showed Kasich with a double-digit lead over Strickland. That has changed and the race has tightened significantly. Thank goodness.

U.S. Senate -- Republican Rob Portman.

This blog has liked Portman for some time and believes that had Portman been selected by John McCain as his running mate, McCain might have won the White House.

Portman's list of accomplishments is long. Among them:  He was elected to Congress in 1993; served as U.S. Trade Representative in 2005 (a cabinet post) and subsequently as director of the Office of Management and Budget (another cabinet position).

If Portman wins the election, Ohio will have as its senators a conservative Republican -- Portman -- and a liberal Democrat -- Sherrod Brown. I rather like that check and balance.

Attorney General -- Democrat incumbent Richard Cordray

Cordray took over the attorney general's office in the wake of the Marc Dann scandal. Cordray is squeaky clean, maybe a little nerdy (so what) and is endorsed by law enforcement throughout the state. His challenger, Republican Mike DeWine, is looking for a post-retirement-from-the-Senate job.

State Auditor -- Republican David A. Yost.

Yost is the only CPA in the race. And this blog thinks the state auditor ought to be a CPA.

Secretary of State -- Republican Jon Husted

Treasurer of State -- Democrat incumbent Kevin L. Boyce

18th District U.S. Representative -- Democrat incumbent Zack Space

Has Space had some missteps? Certainly, but his stand on the health care bill -- he voted against it -- proves he is not in lockstep with the Democratic machine in Washington. After Space made his decision on the Thursday before the weekend vote, he was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one with President Barack Obama.

Talk about pressure.

He didn't cave. He voted against it at the risk of irking not only the machine but also his base, including labor. And labor has not disappointed, making robo calls in the district and urging voters to cast ballots against Space. So labor wants to punish Space by electing a conservative Republican? Huh?

Does anyone see Republican challenger Bob Gibbs voting for the Obama health care bill? Anyone? Anyone? That just goes to show you how silly the whole process has become.

And, by the way, Tuscarawas Countians, having a native son serving you in Congress is a lot better than having someone from Lakeville. Anyone know where that is? Anyone? Anyone?

96th Ohio House District -- Republican Al Landis and Democrat Josh O'Farrell

Examination of both candidates has left me in a quandary. They both favor job creation (so does every other candidate, including Supreme Court justice candidates) and both would like you to know that they're OK with you owning guns, at least according to their Web sites.

Let's face it, folks, Landis and O'Farrell are newbies to the process. Neither has held elective office and it will take a few years before they really understand how the legislative process works. I mean how it really works.

It boils down to this: Are you more comfortable with a well-educated young Democrat representing you in the Legislature, or do you prefer a conservative, older Republican?

Don't look for either candidate to solve the state's impending $8 billion deficit without a lot of help from legislative veterans.

This race is a "pick 'em."

Tuscarawas County Commissioner -- Republican incumbent Kerry Metzger.

This one's a no-brainer. Not going to waste cyberspace to explain it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mudslinging pols are cheapening the process

A friend of mine who has observed the election process up close like I have for many years commented last week that he had never seen the campaigns get as stupid and mean as they are this time around.

I had to agree.

Indeed, the candidates want you to vote for them because all hell would break loose if their opponents somehow got elected.
Pity guys like Republican Tom Ganley, who is running for Congress and who happens to be a very wealthy automobile dealer in Greater Cleveland. His opponent, incumbent Democrat Betty Sutton, would like you to know that Ganley "IS A CROOK!" and has found disgruntled car buyers to prove it. And that's why you should vote for her.

Give me a break.

At least one newspaper in Ohio -- the Plain Dealer -- is cutting through the crap with PolitiFact Ohio, which seeks to sort the truth in candidates' statements and commercials, using a "Truth-O-Meter."

OK, maybe the title's a little lame, but then we're talking about a goofy election. Somehow, it fits.

Both of our 18th Congressional District candidates -- Democrat Zack Space and Republican Bob Gibbs -- have starring "Truth-O-Meter" roles as do many other politicians.

Check out whose pants are on fire.

* * *
Here's the problem with Congress. We generally send good and decent people to its halls (yes, I think Zack Space and John Boccieri are good and decent people). But something happens when they arrive in Washington for the first time after winning elections.

The machine gobbles them up and spits them out. Their first job, the machine says, is to raise money for the next election. And they are told that they need experienced Washington insiders to help run their offices. They are immediately subjected to the pressures of their respected parties. That means if you're a Democrat, you vote the way Nancy Pelosi wants you to. Or President Obama. Or any number of other Democratic power brokers in Washington.

When the young congressman bucks the trend, he is ostracized and threatened by the machine. Maybe with subtlety, maybe not. The pressure is enormous.

Meanwhile, there are constituent issues to deal with and chicken dinners to attend. (And in Zack Space's case, there are 15 counties in the sprawling 18th. How does one man cover a territory the size of a small state without suffering at least a mild case of exhaustion?)

What irks the American people is that most every issue in Congress is defined by partisan politics and that the public good takes a back seat to the political power play.

If they asked, I would advise Space and Boccieri to step away from the machine and if re-election is damned, well, so be it. Both men survived before they served in Congress and they will do so again. The sun will come up.

Should they win re-election this time -- and I think they will by small margins --  they should re-assert themselves as the managers of their offices and campaigns. They need to be in charge, not the machine and not the kids who come knocking for campaign jobs every two years.

Doug Applegate, who held the congressional seat for almost two decades, didn't worry too much about having to attend every chicken dinner in every corner of the district. And he was happy in his non-power role, excelling at helping constituents.

But the citizens and press didn't see him much. And it didn't seem to matter to voters. They elected him nine times.

But let's get back to the election of 2010. Every negative commercial that airs on behalf of sitting members of Congress serves to cheapen their roles and character. And their opponents aren't much better.

Isn't it a shame that we've turned over the election process to political Mad Men, whose strategy is always to beat up the opponent, using half-truths and innuendos?

I feel dirty just talking about it.

* * *
The New York Times has a good story on Nancy Pelosi and her bid to get Democrats re-elected. The Times acknowledges that Pelosi is not very well liked. No kidding.

You can access it here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bullies not just for middle school

Writing a blog allows the writer to set his own limits. In the old days, writing for a newspaper of general circulation meant that I'd have to watch my language. There were certain words I couldn't use.

I'm not about to become a foul-mouthed pundit, but there are a few news stories that make me mutter The Word as in "What the ----?

One such story came to the surface last week.

Two Rutgers University students outed a gay classmate by streaming across the Internet live video of a sexual encounter with another man in his dorm room. The victimized student subsequently committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. His body was recovered from the Hudson River.

Tyler Clementi, 19, a talented musician, now belongs to the ages. We think of bullies as roaming middle school playgrounds. Obviously, they are all around us -- from dorm rooms to board rooms -- and of all ages. They always have been, of course, but now they've turned to the Internet and technology to attack and embarrass.

What the ....

OK, I won't use the word. But I'm thinking it.

* * *
It appears Atwood Resort & Conference Center is on life support. A story last week didn't offer much hope that it could be saved without a large infusion of money.

Let me ask this: Would the lodge have been a good project for federal stimulus money? Would the masses (read Tea Party) have gotten really angry over using public money to fix a resort and save jobs and tax base?

One other question: Would the lodge's fortunes have been better had it been built on the water rather than on a hill overlooking Atwood Lake? You know what they say about hindsight.

* * *
The only reason I mention this next item is because the few people I've mentioned it to have been surprised. I am by no means an expert in such matters.

Did you know all of the Columbus network-affiliated TV stations are available on Time Warner Cable in the Dover-New Philadelphia area? So is Cleveland's PBS affiliate, WVIZ. But you can't get them if you use a cable box or have an old TV set. You need a newer HDTV that can access HD channels such as 25-1, 25-2 and so on.

If this is important to you, get yourself a digital two-way splitter, inserting one coax feed from the splitter directly into the back of the TV. The other feed can go into the box, which should be connected to your TV via HDMI cable. That way you can have the best of both worlds.

The Columbus channels and WVIZ are not available through the box. Press the TV button on your remote, then find the menu and rescan for the available cable channels. That process can take a few minutes, but when it's done check Channels 97-38, 97-41, 97-42 and 97-43 for your Columbus connection.

I don't know why Time Warner is currently carrying those channels or how long it will continue to do so. But it's been that way for awhile. The Columbus channels, incidentally, are in standard definition.

If you have questions about this e-mail me. I don't want to spend a lot of time on this because it is really boring stuff for a lot of readers. And to those readers I apologize.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I just don't get it

You know, maybe it's because I'm getting old or something, but I'm finding a lot of things/people unfunny that other people think are hilarious.

"Saturday Night Live" comes to mind. With the exception of Tina Fey's Sarah Palin last year, I think the skits are generally dull. I watched the premiere Saturday night and can't say that I had any LOL moments. (See, I'm hip.)

Then, of course, we have Stephen Colbert, who was a guest of Congress last week. He testified in character about immigration.

One might ask, "What the hell was Stephen Colbert doing testifying before Congress?" Actually, Megyn Fox, er, I mean Megyn Kelley, of Fox News asked that question to a Republican guest.

I found that funny. But Stephen Colbert? No, I don't get such a kick out of him, although I do like his mentor Jon Stewart. Colbert is too contrived for me. He makes me wince. Stewart's gig is more straight forward. I like that.


So, what the hell was Colbert doing testifying before Congress? Maybe next they'll invite Charlie Sheen to testify about how women are mistreated in the Middle East.

Oh, Congress. You don't seem to be paying attention. And that's not funny.

* * *
When I was writing for the newspaper, I was pretty much assured that someone had my back. When Copley Press owned The T-R in the early part of this decade, we had 24/7 access to attorneys on retainers and they were experts on media law. If I had a legal question or needed advice on a story or column, they would gladly provide it.

Copley Press believed in pro-active reporting and commentary and stood behind its publishers, editors and writers.

This blog writing is somewhat different because no one has my back now. Ted Diadun, an old buddy of mine from The T-R's Horvitz Newspapers days, writes a terrific column for the Plain Dealer as the newspaper's reader representative. This week's column is about how "citizen journalists" are being held liable for what they write. And that includes the folks who leave those nasty messages on newspaper websites.

I encourage all of you who occasionally chime in with your thoughts to read Ted's column here.

* * *
Another Ted -- Ted Strickland -- is catching up in the polls.

From Sunday's PD: "(John) Kasich, a former congressman, Wall Street executive and Fox News personality, leads the state's top Democrat, Gov. Ted Strickland, 49 percent to 45 percent, according to a Plain Dealer/Ohio Newspaper Organization poll of 852 likely voters."

Last week, you'll remember, I said Ted Strickland was toast. That was way back when the polls said he was almost 20 points behind. That's just more evidence, I guess, that you can't trust the polls. At least not totally.

* * *
We watched a movie over the weekend that I thought was only a couple of years old. But there was something strange about the props in it.

All the telephones had wires or were those old clunky wireless home phones that you had to hold with both hands. One of the characters used a pager, for goodness sakes.



OK, I didn't really get upset about the movie's technological shortcomings. But it was interesting to note that the movie was made in the year 2000.

We've come a long way, technologically speaking, in the short span of a decade. Consider: In 2000, there were no iPods, no You Tube and Google wasn't used as a verb. Most people accessed the Internet via a dial-up connection. Computer users did not use flash drives to store large amounts of data. They used Zip drives.

I won't belabor the point. If you care to learn more about how our lives have changed in 10 years, check out this Wikipedia link. And keep in mind that you should not cite Wikipedia as a legitimate source of information if you are in high school or college because teachers and professors get really angry about it.

* * *
Former Dover mayoral candidate Chris Penso is now a referee in professional soccer. I have to give Chris props for his ability to reinvent himself what seems to be numerous times over his relatively short life.

Sportswriter Roger Metzger has authored a nice piece about Chris in The T-R. It's nice to read about the successes our kids are experiencing outside Tuscarawas County.

Congrats, Chris.

* * *
See you next time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hey, you there? I'm here

I apologize for not updating this blog more frequently. You can help motivate me.

Talk to me. Leave a comment. Agree or disagree, but let me know that you're reading. Send the link of this blog to your friends, neighbors and relatives.

I can track readership because of a special Google Analytics code on this page, so I know how many visit on a daily basis. If readership grows, it will motivate me to leave something here so you can at least have something to read on Sunday morning.

* * *
Several readers have asked for my take on the Dover Police Department's Frank Alesiano saga. Alesiano resigned after allegations that he improperly accessed the state's criminal computer database, apparently in an effort to mine for dirt on whomever.

What disturbs me more than anything is the city's inability to come clean with bad news. The story apparently came to light after "the street" heard rumors of a situation involving longtime officer Alesiano. The powers at City Hall apparently were asleep for this past summer's public relations disasters, including the BP oil spill, and were of the mindset that if  "we don't talk about it no one will find out."

Thankfully, the local newspaper pursued the lead and asked questions. If it hadn't, the citizens of Dover still wouldn't know of Alesiano's shortcomings as a police officer.

To be fair, there are plenty of communities in Tuscarawas County that hide bad news.

Ever notice there's no crime in Sugarcreek?

Going forward, my fear is that as the press weakens in Tuscarawas County -- economics already have had an impact obviously -- government oversight also will suffer, opening the door to Cuyahoga County-like corruption. That's not to say that dirty deals haven't already been done.

And we know now that someone at city or village hall, or your local school board or on any level of government will try to keep bad news from going public.

I think most -- if not all -- of our county officeholders are honest, decent people. Perhaps a strong press has kept them that way. Former County Auditors Matt Judy and John Beitzel come to mind as exemplary public officeholders. They were good watchdogs of your money.

We've been lucky because we've had plenty of decent candidates (and our fair share of not-so-decent slugs). But in four, or eight or 10 years, there might not be a hard-hitting reporter to interview the candidates, or even pay attention to their backgrounds or qualifications, allowing a Frank Russo or Jimmy Dimora to slip unchecked into power.

As for Alesiano, well, he is but a small player in the scheme of things. He's just not that important.

Keep your eyes on the people you elect.

* * *
A friend was complaining the other day that his supervisor was addicted to managing by e-mail. It brought back memories.

I had a manager like that. He sat in his office and fired off e-mail after e-mail to subordinates, all of whom were located steps from his office. Open-door policy? Hardly. In my mind, he became the poster child of bad management.

If you would rather fire off an e-mail to your employees rather than talk to them face-to-face, you should resign your position and admit to higher-ups that you, indeed, are further evidence of the Peter Principle and do not deserve to be placed in a position of authority.

* * *
This week's Slow-As-A-Turtle Award goes to the contractor who is tearing down the old Dover Elks Lodge on N. Wooster Ave.

This week's Thank-God-For-New-Business-In-Dover Award goes to the pawn shop on N. Wooster Ave. at the bridge.

I will take nominations from readers for additional, future awards.

* * *
Least enviable political position to be in right now: Incumbent Democrat in Cuyahoga County.

Second least enviable political position: Incumbent Democrat anywhere.

Third least enviable political position: Incumbent anything anywhere.

I sense the voters have a throw-the-bums-out mentality right now. This is not rocket science.

* * *
Some things I believe right now (subject to change):

-- The Bush tax cuts should be extended.

-- The Great Recession remains great.

-- Savers are being penalized; spenders are being rewarded.

-- Good financial strategy includes preserving principal.

-- Sarah Palin wants to be very wealthy and has found a way to do it legally.

-- Obama tried to do too much too soon and therefore accomplished little, leaving vast amounts of uncertainty in the minds of employers. Result: No new jobs.

-- I think Gov. Ted Strickland is toast in the upcoming gubernatorial election. (See above.)

-- Tea Party supporters are very angry people.

-- Cutting Medicare payments to health care providers is not the answer.

-- People post a lot of nonsense on Facebook (but I still look at it).

See you next time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Still trying to save Twin City; LeBron's clues

   Maybe it's the stress of the times, or something, but I find it incredible that a consulting firm -- American Healthcare Solutions -- would communicate directly to the public after severing ties with a client -- Twin City Hospital.
   If you missed it, AHS president and CEO Jan Jennings slammed the Twin City Hospital Board of Trustees in a statement, saying that the board failed to take its advice, which was to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

  You can read Jennings' letter here.

   Jennings perhaps took a cue from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who certainly said what was on his mind after LeBron James bolted for the Miami Heat.
   OK, so if you're a hospital in trouble and you were looking for a consultant to help you get out of a mess, would you hire AHS now, knowing that the firm might come back to bite you?

   All of this, of course, is academic. The bottom line is that Twin City Hospital is in deep trouble. Its civic-minded Board of Trustees know that whatever decision it makes will have long-lasting implications and it will make a game-changing decision soon. It has to.

* * *
   After last week's post, I received an e-mail from a man who clearly is angry about the state of Twin City Hospital. Here's part of it:

   You are wrong this time. A man from Pittsburgh is trying to model TCH after an "average hospital" for this "average community." There is nothing average about either. Open the books and follow the money. Outsiders are selling the community down the drain. JUST INVESTIGATE WHERE THE MONEY WENT...

  ...I went home this week, sat in the TCH waiting room, and when I was asked what I wanted, I replied that I wanted to report a murder…..SOMEONE KILLED THE HOSPITAL?
    I have been an actuary for over 30 years. I have offered to audit the books for nothing. I HAVE HAD NO REPLY.
   A man opens a clothing store. The 1st customer is 2 foot tall. The 2nd customer is 10 foot tall. He calculates his average customer to be 6 foot tall. The owner orders all shirts, pants, and suits to fit his average customer. ...6 foot tall! The first 6 letters of customer spell CUSTOM. Outsiders are telling the board who their customers are and they are just supplying bad information.

   Certainly there is enough blame to go around. I think Twin City Hospital's best bet is to quickly align itself with a larger institution. Is that institution Union Hospital? Who knows, but if I was on the Twin City board I'd be talking to Union's board.

   Affixing blame at this point seems to me to be an exercise in futility. My guess is that along the way a lot of people screwed up.

* * *
   LeBron James has for years been providing clues that he didn't want to be part of the long-term future of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As fans, we didn't want to pay attention to them, figuring that a kid from Akron would pick his hometown team over all others no matter what. Here's a sampling of clues:

   -- Wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap.

   -- Hanging out with the Dallas Cowboys at a Browns game.

   -- Never, ever saying that his favorite NBA team while he was growing up was the Cleveland Cavaliers.

   -- Continually referring to himself in the third person, obviously believing that he was "The King."

   -- Never mentioning his love of the Cleveland area or Cavaliers during his MVP award get-togethers in Akron.

   -- Tattoos on his body that speak volumes about his narcissism, i.e. "Chosen 1" and "Loyalty." Obviously the "Loyalty" was to himself and his entourage.

   -- Tanking in Game 5 vs. the Boston Celtics. Winning a championship in Cleveland would not aid his free-agent getaway. How does he use the excuse he wants to win if he wins in Cleveland? He wanted to play ball with his buddies in South Beach.

   -- The dust in the air, the pretend-picture taking, the dancing... this is not what winners do. Ever see Kobe Bryant do any of that stuff?

   -- Failing to shake hands with Orlando Magic players after the Cavaliers were defeated in the 2009 playoffs, clearly underscoring his immaturity and lack of character.

   I'm sure there are plenty of other examples. It's just not worth it to go on. The day after James made his announcement, the sun came up and life went on. Funny how that works.