Friday, February 29, 2008

Political Suck-Up

Tick Tick Tick...only hours, really, as the campaigns try to convince us they are our only hope. I'd normally says this is what separates the men from the boys but that's a tad bit outdated...

Chelsea brings a busload of Hillaristas to the University of Akron campus to showcase the "Women for Change Tour", all the big guns they can muster for that one last push in what is geographically the center of the Northeast Ohio war for the Democratic Presidential Nomination (DPN). It'll be interesting to see the contrast from Obama's six-thousand strong standing-in-the-cold crowd a week ago at the convention center named after Akron's most illustrious First Amendment journalist. Will it showcase his best appearance to win the hearts and minds on a campaign built on our jobs and wallets?

Bill Clinton came through the area today as part of the DPN push for Hillary; the campaign won't admit it but it is clear to the naked eye his contribution has been better relegated to smaller, more intimate events -- or they just wanted to avoid any repeat of South Carolina or that quickie quote ABC's Charlie Gibson pointed out a week ago, telling Hillary supporters Obama hasn't really been part of anything good in the recent past. Today the FFH (future or former First Husband based on how the vote turns out Tuesday) visited Wayne County and New Philadelphia as part of his tour along Routes 224 and 30 through the Heart of it All; four days to go and the best the ex-President gets is south of the voter-heavy snowbelt? What a difference three months make since those snows of Iowa...

Obama is holding another Town Hall meeting, of all places in Parma, a city with a rick history of not seeing there really isn't a difference between black and white on so many levels. It is a hotbed of Democrat politics (to be a Republican in Parma is living in Seven Hills) and Hillary's best support has some from older Democrats, according to some of the demographic analysis of Ohio voters we've seen. Will he outdraw the First Daughter and FFH?

Best voting bribe so far: Eat'n Park is offering free coffee to anyone sporting an "I voted" sticker Tuesday. A voting stub will work, too if you remember to ask for one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Back Home -- And Voting

Yes, it's been an extended hiatus away from the blog keypad for yours truly, as my friend Diana Keough in Atlanta (formerly The Plain Dealer) so kindly reminded me over pasta and salad during lunch last week. Those newspaper people -- deadlines, always deadlines! I must note, however, that Southern living agrees with her; she looks younger!

Random thoughts:

- I took advantage of the early voting in Summit County today (it would be cheating to say who) but one thing struck me as potentially confusing for some: when you cast your votes for your favorite Presidential candidate, note you are choosing delegates to the national convention. It isn't exactly rocket science to figure it out but I wouldn't be surprised if some were distracted because they're just looking for a "vote for this candidate for President" line instead of choosing delegates to the convention.

- that said, what a Godsend early voting is! At last report over the weekend 15,000 were expected with 10 days to go and folks at the Board of Elections (all smiles and helpful, by the way-- good job!) told me they figure the crush will really be on when the weather gets better and more people figure out they can do their duty today without worrying about a week from now.

- flying into Atlanta last week I was struck by all the empty truck shipping depots on the arrival into the airport runway zone, but of course the rest of Atlanta seems like an orgasm of construction cranes, highway expansion and economic development. How unlike Northeast Ohio.

- three days away from the phone where every surrogate, public interest group or soul with an opinion has been calling to pitch their piece of wisdom on WAKR. It is a wonderful reminder of how incredibly narcissistic one must be to run for office, or at least their campaigns. That old practice of making sure there was a slave in Caesar's carriage whispering how fame and fortune are fleeting should be required personnel for any candidate.

- speaking of why you aren't hearing the former Deputy Assistant Undersecretary for Development of Underwater Resources on the air waxing poetic about Hillary/Barack/John/Mike, it's been our practice to require candidates to actually speak for themselves first before we open the floodgates to all those well-meaning folks who want to speak on their behalf. This has worked well in limiting the "spin" on our station to real voters with an opinion rather than the professional campaign apparatus. In 2004 John Kerry was the only candidate to speak with us; maybe that's why the others just send invitations to these canned photo ops posing as a campaign voters can use.

- watching all the fervor of this week's TV ads (and hearing them on the radio as well) reminds me how wimpy we've become as a nation when it comes to truly hardball politics; Hillary goes off on Barack because he says she loved NAFTA once but now scorns it because she's running for President this time (instead of her husband, who followed up Bush 41's lead and got NAFTA passed way back before it became organized labor's rallying cry.) This is hardball? This stuff draws tears, sharp breaths, and angry fist-shaking? Too bad Andrew Jackson's not around to recount suffering bigamy charges, Grover Cleveland's to recount smears over his alleged illegitimate child, or even Ohio's Warren Harding to discuss the Shadow of Blooming Grove whispered racial lineage to show 'em some real dirty politics.

What's really counting for me on this eve of what we hope will be the final Democratic Presidential Debate: the YouTube vote. Obama Girl's got it running away, more than six million views to Hot4Hill's less than 1.3 million.

Here's what you've been missing from the pro-Hillary video:

And with that I figure Diana will be glad the next time I go two weeks without a post.

Friday, February 15, 2008


The pundits will now move on, the center ring slowly emptying outside the Stark County Courthouse as the snaking cables from live trucks are rolled back into their hiding places, ready to unfurl at a courthouse or crime scene to be named later. Bobby Cutts, Jr. is guilty.

The questions most of us will ask the jury will likely center on just what
they talked about during their 27 hours of deliberations -- about half as long as the total testimony they heard inside Judge Charles Brown's courtroom. How did they decide against finding for aggravated murder in Count One, the murder of Jessie Davis? Was is Bobby's tears or did they find plausible attorney Fernando Mack's opinion that the death was a horrible accident, the intersection of a powerful elbow and soft tissue?

What plays loudest in the follow-up to the State v Bobby Cutts, Jr. is the apparent view of jurors forged by what seems to have been a lifetime behind closed doors, a dozen people charged with deciding life or death: the adults in this tragic play were held to a different standard than the one player who never had a voice to speak her side. Baby Chloe's only story could be told through the evidence, gruesome photographs simply too graphic to show on TV or the web. It was in consideration of her, two weeks shy of entering this world, that the jury found murder was more than just murder, it was enough to call aggravated and now triggers the next step.

The gag order continues for the lawyers and family members; no commenting, please, despite the calls coming in from New York to feed the media hunger when tonight's viewing audiences watch the evening after Nancy shared tragedy of school killings, OJ's girlfriend and other cases with her babies in the studio to spend some of Valentine's Day with mom. The so-called penalty phase will determine the measure of justice for Bobby Cutts, to be spelled out by the still promise of his unborn daughter.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pimping For The Truth

A sad day indeed as reporters walk on eggshells and contemplate acting as robots watching the news unfold because political campaigns are much better at using words to cynically manipulate the press. The issue: just when does "pimping" come into play?

I ask this question as Chelsea Clinton is scheduled to take a stage and podium (and likely a microphone, too) to campaign for Mom at the University of Akron. We've all seen the hue and uproar stemming from MSNBC's David Shuster unfortunate slip of the tongue in describing the use of Chelsea to make support phone calls to fat cats as "pimping", and Hillary's camp wrapping themselves in the flag of protective political motherhood to protest such a term being used to describe young Chelsea. It was a fine display of a political protection order, cowing the Ohio media lest we lose the 18th debate between Hillary and Obama. Leave my little girl alone!

At 28.

Double standard here because the Clintonistas are much better at bullying the debate than others? After all, most of us had a snicker or two at Billy Carter's beer belly in the 70s, Mama Carter's occasional pronouncements, the derring-do of Bush 41's progeny (including now-43) and Roger Clinton's occasional snorts with the law. The media, for the most part, leaves the children of Presidents alone with a few exceptions (such as boozy Bush daughters employing the typical rites of passage that come with college life; Chelsea herself had a few run-ins along those lines as well with the British tabloids) but for the most part the rule has been under 18, keep it clean.

Happier days in the big house

But Chelsea's not 12 anymore, the age when Dad moved the family to 1600 Pennsylvania; she's not in college anymore, as the Bush twins were; she's earning her own living, making her own way, and stumping for Mom like there's no tomorrow.

Except when she's treated like an adult, and then it's hands-off my daughter!

Just what IS the definition of pimping for political purposes? Let's be honest: these candidates and their families know full-well what comes with putting everyone on the platter for public consumption during the obligatory "we are family" moments. Spouses and children are part of the display, part of the show, part of the sell to convince voters that O, and H, and J, and B are all regular folk with regular family lives.

But they aren't. Your kids, most likely, aren't part of the process when you make a presentation to your boss or board of directors. Unless I miss my guess most kids aren't calling big donors and appearing on candidates behalf at fundraisers and business events. Families take pains to keep those worlds separate, and for good reason: this is rough trade, asking for our votes. We expect campaigners to talk with us, answer questions, and make the case on why we should vote for Mom or Dad.

John Kerry's kids did it four years ago; the Kennedy's do it so much we take it for granted; the Bush nieces and nephews and grandkids do it on camera during national conventions; McCain's daughter has a running blog that drives his buttoned-up campaign staff crazy.

It's time to acknowledge a truth in this campaign: Chelsea isn't a teenager anymore, she's just like us: an adult, pushing a product, trying to get us to love that product enough to vote for her March 4th.

Welcome to politics, where one puts another on display to gain a benefit. To sell or not to sell, still the question.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Not A Good Night's Rest

The jury heads home for the night -- as long as you consider home a hotel paid for by the State, a location where they've set up dinner for everyone at the same time. No side trips to the Bell for a quick burrito, no slipping out to Rockne's even for a Firestone salad.

Chris Keppler has an excellent sidebar posted on AkronNewsNow on what it's like for the men and women making up the jury hearing the murder case against Bobby Cutts, Jr. It's no picnic and it is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives regardless of what their verdict is.

Right now the decision is of guilt or innocence; the jury could accept the manslaughter charge, it could find aggravated murder or it could even acquit; these things are never the guarantees the pundits expect them to be. How many times have you turned on those programs and gotten an earful of "wow, what a surprise!" from the experts?

Tina Kaufmann was clearly exhausted after all the adrenalin of courtroom coverage the past seven days; last night she was on Fox with Greta, tonight she's on CNN Headline with Nancy. Eric Mansfield tells me MSNBC has been calling him as well and I know Phil Trexler's phone has been also ringing off the hook at the Akron Beacon Journal during his coverage of the story. I believe the local reporters have done a credible and responsible job reporting what's been happening in the courtroom, and note the public interest in this case hasn't hijacked the coverage to the point where we've seen a Judge Ito moment (or a Cochran or Clark moment from the lawyers, either) and justice seems to have been served well by the broadcast and webcast coverage of the trial. Even the usual suspects have been keeping their eyes on the ball and presenting the story in fairly straightforward terms and tone.

Another day of deliberations start bright and early for the jury and given tonight's forecast they can at least be thankful someone else is taking care of their ride into work tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Will Tears Work?

In a stunning reversal of strategy the defense team for Bobby Cutts, Jr. put their client on the stand to plead his own case to the jury considering the capital murder case against him.

Fernando Mack's thoughts may have been the testimony in the prosecution's case may have been so damning last week that the defense had only once chance to keep Cutts out of the death chamber, and that was to make the jury feel sorry for him. After five straight days of graphic testimony and images surely seared in the brains of the jury will this afternoon's tears be enough to put the benefit of a death-row doubt in their hearts?

Cutts painted a confusing picture of Jessie's last night on earth, complete with another woman and claims he accidentally killed her when his elbow caught her in the throat. He could barely answer questions during the defense testimony without breaking down and crying but now that the prosecution is asking questions he's noticeably guarded in responding to the State. As a cynic I question the changing mood, but also admit he may simply be emotionally drained at this point after two hours before the cross examination begins.

If it was the decision of the defense team to put Cutts on the stand -- what a risky move. Just about any defense attorney you speak with will note the absolute worst thing most defendants can do is open their mouths, especially with the chance for prosecutors to take aim and come after their target and that's exactly what is happening now with a question on whether Cutts had a cold because prosecution lawyers really didn't see any tears. That may be enough to plant the seed in a wavering juror's mind to question what he or she has just witnessed as to whether it was sincere and the truth. If no, the strategy backfires in the worst possible way but then many question whether Cutts has anything to lose.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ethics Question: When Is It Enough?

Quite a bit of discussion this morning in the newsroom on the graphic testimony from Dr. Lisa Kohler, the Summit County Medical Examiner, on the condition of Jessie Marie Davis' body when it was discovered after nine days of exposure. This is coverage you will not hear on our radio stations, and that's our choice.

The audio from today's testimony in Stark County Common Pleas Court in The State v Bobby Cutts, Jr. is very specific and not at all atypical of what any Medical Examiner or Coroner would testify to on the condition of a body and resulting autopsy procedure; anyone who's watching any of the CSI programs can figure that out. The difference is real versus Hollywood, and whether it really matters that those of following the Cutts case through broadcast reports (radio and television) should hear this testimony.

We will not use the graphic, disturbing autopsy audio on our broadcast reports. This material (condition of organs, viewing of Jessie's unborn child, etc.) doesn't leave much to the imagination and for the purposes of the official court record that's a good thing. For the purposes of reporting the case to the general public outside the courtroom, however, I'm not sure it is appropriate.

The testimony, while necessary for the jury, can be paraphrased for the sake of an audience that doesn't have the ability to control whether or not they hear or see it. If you are monitoring the case through online reports, you are in control of listening; when you are in the car a "...this graphic audio may be disturbing..." with a two-second warning to hit the switch offers little if in fact no choice at all for the listener.

The key issue in Kohler's testimony is not the condition of the body; we get that. If you don't, wait until summer and perform your own experiment by leaving dinner outside for nine days. The key issue is just why it has been so difficult for the experts to pinpoint the exact cause of death, and those questions can be answered in a fashion that doesn't require us to have advanced medical degrees or a lust for the excessively disturbing. It's a criminal trial, not another episode of the SAW movies.

Bottom line: if you want to hear it, you choose to click on the link; if you are in the car, washing the dishes, or listening at work we don't need to invade your space with the nitty-gritty. The content depends on the context it is presented in this case, and our judgment is to err on the side of the listener.

That difference of control is paramount.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Akron's New World of Politics

Everybody has an opinion. Why not share it?

The experiment continues on's The Point political blog which raises questions on just what the role of blogging is and what should it be this election cycle? Even though half of the team is operating under editorial restrictions because of "old media" ethical considerations, just when does the "new media" part kick in?

Mind you, I freely admit on my blog I hate the term "new media"...because I don't consider blogging "new" by any stretch, and much of what's new comes out of "old media", AKA mainstream media. The field of commenting on politics is hardly new; Thomas Paine figured it out hundreds of years ago. Thank Gutenberg for the first giant leap toward making the media the business we can all share in.

The only thing remotely fresh here is the use of a new platform (the Web) in spreading the ideas and words to a broader audience.

LINK to the AkronNewsNow blog with audio of this morning's interview

When we were setting up this morning's interview segments with Ben Keeler and Kyle Kutuchief on WAKR's Ray Horner Show part of the fun was the ongoing discussion with both Ben and Kyle on just what's going on here; do we consider the Web and projects such as The Point and even's defunct Wide Open competitors?

My response: no. As noted before, you don't add to a discussion by subtracting voices and ideas. Adding alternate viewpoints to the political mix in Akron can only be healthy, especially given the one-party rule of the City and what looks increasingly like one-party rule of the County as well with the exception of a handful of offices.

What I find fascinating is the simple power of blogs to stimulate thinking; even with the restrictions posed by Ben's candidacy for the Summit GOP Central Committee, Alex Arshinkoff's objections and's ground rules after the flap he's still able to articulate his views on his own website The Keeler Report; Kyle certainly has the same opportunity to handle his opinions both on as well as his own independent website The Chief Source he administers with six others. It's the free flow of information that drives the American political process, and what the web had clearly done is to take the flow from the fingers of the few and expanded the reach more democratically.

It powers Senator Kevin Coughlin's attempt to unseat Arshinkoff with his New Summit Republicans site, allowing him and his supporters greater reach. Arshinkoff supporters have the same opportunity with their Keep Summit County Republicans Strong site but now instead of limiting the debate to those who can finance the printing presses and broadcast transmitters anyone can utilize the technology to make a difference, no matter what their perspective may be.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sitting On The 50

While Nature Girl and I sit on the couch watching the Super Bowl -- she's scanning cookbooks, I'm surfing the Internet and both of us are thinking: we should send Rupert Murdoch a nice note thanking the network for scotching any political ads the rest of the nation's 20+ states with primary and caucus votes coming up next week are likely watching.

The rest of our conversation in this spousal communication:

- What's the difference between a sack and a knockdown? Sack is when you still have the ball; knockdown is when they want to make you pay for getting rid of it a half-second earlier.

- Go online and see why the Danika Patrick video was too much for Fox to run! It isn't because of anything -- or lack thereof -- when she unzips her jacket. It has to do with the beavers the other models are showing and yes, I mean beavers (see the photo, left) in context with Ms. Patrick's observations on the charms of

You might also want to take a moment to check out the director's cut of the White Light GoDaddy commercial as well; I'm over 50 but must admit those ads make me feel like 14 was worth it.

- Nature Girl's favorite commercial in the first half: when the Budweiser dog helps Hank the Horse reclaim his rightful place leading the Clydesdales hauling beer over America.

- Nature Girl's least favorite commercial in the first half: the Doritos ad where the guy sets a mousetrap and snacks on chips while waiting, only to have a man-sized mouse come out of the hole and beat the snot out of him. "Too violent," she says, but she didn't seem to think watching Tom Brady go down under a pile of Giants was too violent. She did like the GoDaddy beaver commercial, however, because they are cute.

- Where's Jerrod the Subway Guy, she wants to know? What kind of Super Bowl ads are these?

- I really liked the $40,000 commercial for the University of Akron; it was cool watching Luis Proenza toss around lightning bolts like he was auditioning for a Highlander sequel.

- FINALLY a halftime show worth a damn. The sound was a bit hollow -- and Tom Petty looks a bit too much like Gregg Allman with that beard for my taste -- but at least we didn't have to worry about middle fingers (Kid Rock) and Tom's jacket coming off.