Monday, March 30, 2009

Is Uncle Sam Turning Into Big Brother?

President Obama went public today with what leaked out Sunday; the boot of the CEO of General Motors came by leg extension all the way from Washington, D.C.

I'm of an age where it worked the other way around; the engineer of the Vietnam War during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations was Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary via Ford. When President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex taking over the business of the nation it was the big corporate giants such as GM he had in mind; companies with deep ties in the government and big business where the line was easily blurred.

Now, thanks to the devil's bargain of taking bailout money from Uncle Sam, the once-mighty General Motors now finds itself at the mercy of a government that can't seem to rein in it's own spending, enforcing it's view of how to run a business. The top government official helping to make this call is an investment banker, not a manufacturer. How did those investment banks do recently?

Only in America?

There are reasons to worry about this development, going far beyond the expected cheers of Michael Moore-types who are only satisfied to see executive blood run in the hallways of corporate power to make good for the blue-collar lives left on the sidelines of plant closings. It was interesting to see union leaders and rank and file take note they are troubled when the government decides who runs a private company -- even when it comes with boatloads of public dollars.

The Ford strategy of keeping arms length away from those billions seems to be a good decision for the managers and owners of Ford, and maybe the taxpayers too since GM and Chrysler now appear headed to where they should have gone in the first place: the protection of bankruptcy to reorganize and reinvent themselves.

This is all early enough to trigger warnings and bad feelings among those with a more libertarian bent but is fed by the populist notion that any business now becomes the people's business. When it is executives at AIG (even those who worked for a buck understanding they would see a bonus for millions that were generated in profitable divisions) it is popular to bang the drum for heads to sit on a pike at the city gates, a warning to all of those who ignore the bonfires inside the walls. But at some point the "them" becomes the "us" -- and who is left to root for what's right when we've all given up the power to address what's wrong to a handful of bureaucrats in Washington who seem to be better at singing songs of blame that orchestrating solutions?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Why Police Have A Problem

Did you see the video making all the rounds on the news channels? A Houston Texans player -- Ryan Moats -- is stopped for blowing through a red light. He's stopped after pulling into Baylor Medical Center in Plano, Texas with his hazard lights blinking. He explains to the officer that he and his wife are at the hospital after getting a call his mother-in-law (her mother) is dying and they were called to her death bed.

The officer ignores him despite visits from hospital security and nurses who plead with the officer to let Moats into the hospital. The officer threatens Moats with arrest and towing of his vehicle. "You busted through a red light" replies the 25-year old officer. "Do we have a problem?," asks the cop. Moats again explains his mother-in-law is dying. "Shut your mouth," replies the officer.

Even the officer's chief of police admits he felt sick to his stomach when watching this video.

"If my mother-in-law was dying I'd be upset, too..." says the officer, who then takes even more time to talk about going through the light. "Shut your mouth and listen...if you want to keep this going I'll put you in handcuffs and take your vehicle...because state law says I can do that...I can screw you over, I can do that...your attitude sucks..." and even threatens to charge him with fleeing. (dashcam photo, left, of Moats wife from Dallas PD)

WATCH the full dashcam video HERE from WFAA-TV Dallas

Thirteen minutes later, with Moats getting written up and waiting for his ticket, when security again tells the officer the mom is dying, the officer lectures Moats on his attitude and insultingly adds if Moats had explained the situation he would have probably let him go with a warning. Watch the video -- isn't that what Moats, security guards and nurses tried to do?

Watch the full video as the officer and security guards laugh later and the officer admits in the past three years he's had only ONE traffic stop turn into a chase. One can't make the argument that the officer is operating from the position of prior experience chasing motorists breaking the law left and right.

The department apparently had the same thoughts: Officer Robert Powell's on paid leave while under investigation.

WATCH WFAA-TV report: it's unlikely Powell will keep his job and the Chief apologizes

Note Powell has seven internal affairs complaints, mostly for sick leave issues. When meeting with the brass, Powell reportedly showed no understanding of why this was causing such an uproar and wouldn't acknowledge any mistakes. He was just doing his job.

- - -

I remember a case in Cleveland a few years ago when an officer pulled a similar stunt with a man speeding on I-480 on the way to the hospital, where a family member was dying. The officer -- whom even fellow cops privately noted had his own attitude issues -- refused to let the man go. He missed those last moments.

I also remember a story my brother-in-law tells of rushing to a hospital; when he explained the situation to the officer, the cop told him he'd get a ticket after the officer personally escorted him safely to the hospital.

The case of two mindsets, from three officers.

- - -

There is no denying most people, watching this in the safety and comfort of hindsight, will judge this officer spending more time on the process of protecting a traffic light than the policy of service. It bears mentioning officers get a rash of excuses all the time, ranging from the lame to the unbelievable, from motorists trying to get out of a ticket. But in this case, flashers blinking on a vehicle pulling up to a hospital entrance, shouldn't it have been obvious to the officer that circumstances warranted a different approach? Is it proper to offer the officer exercised poor judgment or is that much easier in hindsight watching and listening from the safety of your desk and couch?

- - -

It also bears mentioning the officer is white, and Moats is black. I thought about this when viewing the video, and the problems the Akron Police Department have in their relationship with Akron's black community following the Vinson and Stephens shootings. I watched this video and felt anger toward this officer, so blindly focusing on writing a ticket that he apparently forgets where he is, what his subject is telling him, and the service element of his job.

Most police officers I know are acutely aware of the strong emotions negative interaction with police leave behind. It's a big reason why traffic stops are among the most deadly for officers; one only has to remember Officer Josh Miktarian lost his life last year in Twinsburg after pulling over a motorist.

What's the answer here?

- - -

It is interesting to note that while it took Dallas PD some time to sort things out, the Chief stepped up and issued a public apology, and is taking very public steps in addressing the case -- including releasing Powell's photograph and details of his interviews with top cops after the incident. It is a lesson worth remembering on both sides of the case: actions and deliberations taken in the open can lead to the confidence that justice works on both sides of the thin blue line.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

LIVE WEB Red River Rising

Technology is a wonderful thing, bringing the far to the near as shown by one local newspaper's work to help us see just how severe the historic flooding in North Dakota really is.

Watch live video from Grand Forks Herald on

The Grand Forks Herald makes use of Justin.TV for their own streaming video and chat channel showing the rising Red River of the North. I've visited Fargo and it is a delightful town despite all the jokes, but anyone with the pleasure of ever being there knows just how vulnerable Fargo and it's Minnesota neighbors are to the raging currents.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I've Got The Database Blues

Too bad I can't play the harmonica, otherwise there would be a soundtrack to accompany this posting. Then again, given the level of music talent I possess, that's likely a good thing.

We had catastrophe strike here in the ol' computer center a couple weeks ago. A database had the sniffles and our use of a backup version became entangled as our attack on the problem from two different directions left us back online but without access to the database we built for subscriptions to our daily newsletters and breaking news headlines.

Major embarrassment and it's taken this long to get it fixed so we can start from scratch, not at all fun for the web guru of all things db but necessary. Without getting into the deep specifics the mea culpa, maxima mea culpa should suffice for now but it would be helpful if you would visit this Tiny URL re-subscribe if you'd like to see the newsletter ever again.

Gee, sounds like we're holding it hostage, doesn't it?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Google Is Not The Enemy

It is quite popular these days to condemn all things massive; the federal government taking bigger chunks of our money, big banks getting big bailouts, financial institutions too big to fail, the big three's a big list.

Very common to include big media on that list, including perhaps the biggest media company on the face of the planet these days. Google clearly has supplanted big TV, big radio, big newspapers, big magazines and in many cases even the used-to-be big Ma Bell as the top example of companies and organizations.

What makes Google so unique is the way it organizes and shifts the distribution of ideas not only on the web but also for print, broadcast, and mobile.

The Radio Television News Directors Association and Foundation recently honored Google , along with Cokie Roberts of ABC/NPR, Susan Grant of CNN, and the Knight Foundation (represented by Alberto Ibarguen) with a First Amendment Award; it was, behind the scenes, a call that took some courage because some in the old media think they still own freedom of speech. They don't.

Here's what Dr. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said about independent voices for newspapers in particular but also in general how getting to an "accurate truth" is something all of us own.

Post viewing: is it just me or does anyone else find it amazing that as every 60 seconds goes by there are 15 HOURS of video uploaded to YouTube? Wow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tooting Our Own Horn

The news department of the Rubber City Radio Group (WAKR-AM; WONE-FM; WQMX-FM and has been recognized as finalists in twelve categories by the 2008 Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Awards. The finalists will learn the actual finish in the awards (first or second) during the OAPB annual convention on Sunday, June 7, 2009 in Columbus, when finalists for Outstanding News Operation will also be announced.

Among the Medium Market – Radio categories where judges awarded either first or second place:

Best Web Site: News Staff, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron “”
Best Spot News Coverage: News Staff, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron “Fallen Officer Josh Miktarian”; Jim Michaels, WKBN-AM Youngstown “Youngstown Fire”
Extraordinary Coverage of a Scheduled Event: News Staff, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron “2008 Election”; News Staff, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron: “Not Too Fat To Die: Richard Cooey”
Best Continuing Coverage: News Staff, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron, “Bobby Cutts, Jr.”; Tana Weingartner and Gary Scott, WMUB-FM, Oxford, “Windstorm Aftermath”
Best Investigative Reporting: Tina Kaufmann, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron, “Bungalo Five”; Cynthia Sperberg-Hart, WYSO-FM, Yellow Springs, “Springfield Strays”
Best Enterprise Reporting: Tina Kaufmann, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron, “Bungalo Five and Hot Spots”; Gary Scott, WMUB-FM, Oxford, “Sewing for Soldiers”;
Best Anchor: Larry States, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron; Tana Weingartner, WMUB-FM, Oxford
Best Reporter: Tina Kaufmann, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron; Tana Weingartner, WMUB-FM, Oxford
Best Regularly Scheduled Sports: Joe Jastrzemski, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron; Brian Deitz, WOBL-AM/WDLW-AM, Oberlin
Best Sports Broadcaster: Joe Jastrzemski, WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron and Brian Deitz, WOBL-AM/WDLW-AM, Oberlin
Outstanding Sports Operation: WAKR-WONE-WQMX, Akron; WOBL-AM/WDLW-AM, Oberlin; Sports Staff

“We are especially grateful for the judge’s consideration of individual hard work and reporting by Tina Kaufmann, Larry States and Joe Jastrzemski as well as recognition for our entire news staff and operation,” said Rubber City Radio Group Vice-President for Information Media Edward L. Esposito. “Despite much consternation that news may not be valued by our audiences, the strong showing by our news department and excellent work as shown by honors for our colleagues at WKBN, WMUB, WYSO, WOBL and others in the smaller and larger radio markets reflects the continuing commitment of local broadcasters to serve their communities.”

The Rubber City Radio Group news and sports departments also won recognition by the OAPB as Outstanding News Operation in 2006, 2007 and 2008. was honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award in 2008 as Best Website – Broadcast.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Now Something Completely Different

Let's get off the bonus bus for awhile now that Congress has shoved the nose of the government under the tent flaps and fully into our wallets by taxing bad bonuses. Here's crime McGruff can sink his teeth into...thank God there are lawyers to explain all of this for us.

This is a quick rundown provided by the Ohio Supreme Court ahead of cases to be argued next week. On next Tuesday's docket: an item claiming to raise important constitutional issues.
A cynic would observe the fact the appellant was wearing body armor at the time he shot two people during a home invasion, and his admission on appeal he shouldn't have even had a gun in his hand to begin with thanks to previous convictions, should signal pretty clearly another 30 years in the Big House wouldn't be a bad idea...

Does a Criminal Defendant Waive Sentencing Error By Failing to Object at the Time Sentence Pronounced?
State of Ohio v. Baker
case nos. 2008-1094 & 2008-1304 9th District Court of Appeals
In criminal prosecutions brought under state law in which establishing the defendant's status as a prior felony offender is a required element of a crime with which he is currently charged, must Ohio courts follow the U.S. Supreme Court's 1997 decision in Old Chief v. United States by allowing the defendant to 'stipulate' (admit) his status and barring the state from presenting the jury with other evidence providing details of the defendant's prior criminal history?
When a trial court imposes a sentence that is contrary to law for one or more charges or specifications on which a defendant has been convicted, does the defendant waive (forfeit) his right to later appeal the sentencing error if he fails to enter an objection to it at his sentencing hearing?
In cases where a trial court improperly imposes multiple sentence enhancements for firearm and body armor specifications when the underlying robberies were committed as part of a single incident, does the trial court's failure to merge those sentences constitute "plain error" that must be reversed even though the erroneous sentences were ordered to be served concurrently, and their elimination would not shorten the defendant's actual prison term?
BACKGROUND: Jermaine Baker of Akron was convicted on multiple felony counts for his role in a home invasion robbery of four persons and the non-fatal shootings of two of the victims. He was sentenced to prison terms totaling 32 years.
Baker appealed his convictions and portions of his sentence to the 9th District Court of Appeals. Among other claims of error, Baker argued that the trial court violated his fair trial rights and ignored the ruling in Old Chief by allowing the jury to be given detailed information about his three prior felony convictions rather than allowing him to stipulate that he had a qualifying prior conviction and therefore was barred from possessing a gun.
Baker also argued that his sentence should be declared void because the trial court improperly increased his sentence on each of four counts of robbery by two years (adding a total of eight years) based on the fact that he wore body armor while committing those crimes when state law requires that multiple body-armor specifications arising from the same incident should be merged into a single two-year sentence enhancement.
On review, the 9th District Court of Appeals denied each of Baker's assignments of error. The court of appeals ruled that Ohio courts are not required to follow the holding in Old Chief in criminal cases involving violations of state law. The 9th District also held that Baker waived any appeal of his multiple sentences for the body armor specifications when he failed to object to those sentences at the time sentence was pronounced.
While noting that an appellate court can correct a sentencing mistake despite the absence of a timely objection if that mistake rises to the level of "plain error," the 9th District declined to find plain error in this case on the basis that Baker's multiple sentences for the body armor specifications were ordered to be served concurrent with his sentences for other crimes, and therefore the unmerged sentences did no actual harm to Baker because eliminating them would still leave him with a 32-year sentence.
The 9th District subsequently certified that its ruling on each of the issues detailed above were in conflict with rulings by other Ohio courts of appeals. The Supreme Court agreed to review each of the questions of law to resolve the conflict among appellate districts.
Attorneys for Baker cite rulings in two other Ohio appellate districts holding that Old Chief is controlling precedent that must be followed by Ohio courts when hearing state law criminal cases. They contend that, similar to the facts in Old Chief, Baker was willing to stipulate as a proven fact that he had a prior conviction for a violent or drug-related felony that barred him from legally possessing a firearm, and the trial court committed plain error by allowing the state to introduce documents informing the jury about irrelevant details of his past convictions that were likely to predispose jurors to improperly presume his guilt in the current case.
Baker's attorneys point to courts of appeals decisions holding that, when a criminal sentence is contrary to law, the sentence is a nullity and a court of appeals has jurisdiction to vacate it or correct the error whether or not the defendant raised an objection to that error at the time he was sentenced. They also urge the Court to reject the 9th District's reasoning that a clearly illegal sentence does not constitute plain error simply because of the coincidence that the years improperly added to the defendant's sentence were to be served concurrently with his sentence for other offenses.
Attorneys for the state point out that the ruling in Old Chief addressed a question of federal law, and assert that no Ohio court has ever held that a trial court's failure to allow a defendant to stipulate to a prior conviction constituted plain error requiring reversal where the defendant did not object to the introduction of other evidence of his prior offenses at the time it was proffered. With regard to the issue of a defendant's waiver of a defective sentence, they point to this Court's 2007 decision in State v. Payne holding that Ohio defendants who failed to object to judicially enhanced sentences at the time of sentencing following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Blakeley v. Washington had waived their right to later dispute their sentences on appeal.
Arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, March 24 in Columbus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dodd: Yeah, I Did It

Flip flop on the Hill again -- but this time at least one of 'em admits that yes, he did put in the language that seems to have opened the door for the AIG bonus babies.

Under normal circumstances politicians love getting their mugs on programs such as CNN's Situation Room, but given the last 72 hours in AIG-land the last place Christopher Dodd would have wanted to be was with Wolf Blitzer and company.

Especially after feigning outrage over the AIG bonus plan he helped pave the way for, then deny but now admits a fashion.

My question remains: how do ANY of these guys still have a shred of credibility?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG, Loopholes & Defending Dodd

What short straw did Akron/Youngstown area Congressman Tim Ryan draw in doing TV duty defending Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd's handpicked language allowing the AIG bonuses?

Ryan was front and center on Fox Business Channel talking about the AIG bonuses which have sparked such widespread outrage, from the White House to your house.

He says Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is in a position to fix the problem as head of the Senate Banking Committee. Fox's Stuart Varney is quick to point out the very loophole that lawyers say not only allows the bonuses to be paid but stymied plans to stop them came from Dodd -- who ranked #1 in the AIG political contribution hit parade.

The Fox Business Report is likely to get plenty of web hits today thanks to feature posting on the Drudge Report as well -- fodder for the Republicans, who we should point out were also asleep at the switch when President Bush and then-Treasury Secretary Paulson were busy handing out billions in bailout money last fall.

Plenty of finger-pointing and blame all around, yet amid all the positioning, posturing and promoting (including Barney Frank saying he found all of this "disgusting", despite also writing all of these bailout bills) there's still damn little real accountability.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WARNING: Bathroom Humor Ahead

I must admit there is nothing that makes me laugh more than ANY joke about passing gas; that said, it is with community pride that I point out this YouTube video claims to show a session of Medina, Ohio city government in action.

I'm from Medina, so it is with special pride I note we've killed two of Ed's birds with one stone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Breakfast Buffett

No, not another pancake war -- although our retirement accounts look more like pancakes these days after another round of drops in the markets.

Talk about must-see TV, and it started at six in the morning Monday on CNBC with Berkshire Hathaway icon Warren Buffett, live from the home furniture base in Omaha, Nebraska, chatting over the economy and taking questions.

This is the guy both sides would have liked to have had as Treasury Secretary but opted instead to play advisor to Obama, helper to others and overall sage for our times. In a nutshell, it's far from over; we'll be OK years from now but not right now; there are plenty of good values out there and even spectacular opportunities if you have the stomach for the roller coaster ride and the political bashing of people who work hard to make great amounts of money is foolish.

Worth a look...

CNBC may have already yanked the video feed; if so a transcript is available at to read his remarks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More Eating Goodyear

Among the joys of heading west for a taste of desert baseball is the taste of real Mexican food. Ray Horner and I got a tip from the Tribe's Bob DiBiasio on "Raoul & Theresa's" just south of Goodyear Ballpark (make a left coming out of the park; south on Estrella, then left on MC85 then about 100 yards on the right after crossing Litchfield) for some seriously good eating.

Other culinary notes: there's a nice gift shop off I-10 and Bullard that has a sign asking visitors to have an "ass-kicking day" -- of course, with a burrow in high rear kick. They've got a pretty decent selection of hot sauces so yes, it will do that.

The Goodyear area has plenty of decent places to eat, most of the chains included. There is still plenty of land to develop around the area and visitors this year will note the economy hasn't left the West Valley of Phoenix unscathed with plenty of empty storefronts and some of the restaurants already up for lease. Nearby Glendale probably gets more of the higher-range dining choices but you won't have any problems getting a good meal after the game.

As noted in the Pancake War post, the Black Bear Diner off I-10 & Dysart in Avondale (southwest corner south of the interchange) piles on the food at very affordable prices. I don't know what lunch or dinner is like, but for breakfast the grub is very good. One nearby table had a chicken-fried steak so huge it looked like part of a truck tire. Don't take your cardiologist to this place or else you'll get nothing but lecture through the whole meal.

If you survive.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2009 Pancake Throwdown: Alcorn v Rosey

This started in 2008 when WEOL's Tim Alcorn and Indians broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus faced off at the Winter Haven Perkins. Alcorn won, but some considered it an ugly win. Those of us in attendance, for the most part.2009's title bout same in the Black Bear Diner, Avondale Arizona. Once again this pair duked it out, trading fork for fork, even eating away at the corners. But unlike 2008, this one includes video.

Warning: scenes of breakfast gluttony may not be suitable for young children.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Indians Build For The Future

A quick and behind-the-scenes look at the new practice set-up for the Indians; they call it the "development center" for a reason, as it sets a standard for not only treating the big-leaguers as if they're in the majors but really gives the up and coming talent a taste of life in the promised land.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Greetings From Goodyear, AZ

Sorry it's been awhile...really busy but that's no excuse. Starting a thread here with notes from Goodyear, Arizona where WAKR's Ray Horner and I have been broadcasting the morning show during Wahoo Week.

It's the first season back in the Cactus League baseball season for the Cleveland Indians after 16 years in Florida (Homestead south of Miami and Winter Haven between Orlando and Tampa) and they're in the brand-spankin' new Goodyear Ballpark.

The Indians will share this playing field with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010, but for now it is all about the Tribe. More coming up in another post on the state-of-the-art player development facility (used to be called "clubhouse" but it is WAY more than that) in another post.