Monday, March 14, 2011

Blogging again, just not here

Hi to everyone who still hasn't purged me from their RSS feed or otherwise checks in here occasionally.  Yes it's still up and mmmaybe I'll blog here again sometime.  There is, after all, a mayor's race afoot.

In the meantime, I have started a new project.  I have a blog built around my Akron Legal News column and shares its name -- Cases and Controversies.  I'm hoping to also post original content as time permits.  In the meantime, if you haven't been able to read my column in print, check it out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stop me if you've heard this before, but Michele Bachmann is nuts.

Earlier this week the House of Pho got a robocall from Rep. Michele Bachmann. Somehow we are on some right wing list, even though neither of us have done anything remotely right wing within memory.

So admittedly my attempt to get back into blogging this summer hasn’t gone well. (In related but better news, my house painting is nearly done.) I’ve been looking for something to get me excited about the blog again and if Michele Bachmann robocalling can’t do it, I should just quit. Hell, if Bachmann bringing the crazy to my personal answering machine can’t get me excited, I should check my pulse.

As Bachmannalia goes, this is fair to middlin’. To the good, it turns a basic policy disagreement into a vast conspiracy – a circle of money no less. To the bad, no one is accused of being a Communist or a U.N. spy or even un-American.

But the real crazy here is the call itself. It violates every rule of campaign communications, runs like mad for a full two minutes and ends up no where. I’ll try to get this hosted somewhere because there is no substitute for actually hearing her drone on interminably. In the meantime, here is a transcript, with some notations.

Hi I’m Michele Bachmann and I’m sorry that I missed you.1 As you might know Speaker Pelosi has taken the unprecedented2 step of calling all 435 House members back to Washington DC today for the purpose of spending $26 billion that we don’t have.3 The members were out on a six week hiatus, they’ve scattered to the four corners of the Earth4, and I think the reason Speaker Pelosi is bringing us all in today is because her members are in political trouble and she knows they’ll need the financial support of the public employees unions. 5

This $26 billion represents a circle that works like this. Take $26 billion out of the productive private sector6, deposit it in the U.S. Treasury. Then Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat majority will vote to send this money from the Treasury7 and to politicians all across the country8. Then state and local politicians will give this money to employees of the public employees unions. The public employees unions will skim their share off the top of the workers check first in the form of union dues.9 Part of the dues will be funneled into the union’s political action committee which in turn will be spent on political TV, radio, internet and print ads as well as union boots on the ground.10

Tonight we’re calling one million households.11 We’re telling them what the Speaker of the House is doing and we’re asking the people’s opinion on this cash for Democrat reelection program.12 Please come to my website MicheleBachmann.com13 for more information at

Speaker Pelosi has targeted me for defeat this fall15, so please go to my website MicheleBachmann.com16 and please do all you can to help.

This is paid for by Bachmann for Congress. My campaign can be reached at XXX-XXX-XXXX.17

1I know this it pro forma, but it kind of creeped me out. Like if we had been home, Michele would have wanted to chat. Or ask if I harbor anti-American beliefs.

2Stopping here would have been good. Stopping here I would have respected. George Will is fond of saying “X is a good idea but we cannot afford all good ideas.” It's a damned persuasive argument. But Michele Bachman is dispositionally incapable of stopping at a good, persuasive argument.

3Unusual but not unprecedented, even over the recent past.

4Seriously, I’m supposed to feel sorry for legislators who are called upon to legislate?

5Here comes the wacky. Congress isn't sending aid to the states because laying off thousands of teachers and cops would be a bad thing. No, it's all a big conspiracy.

6Again, do you really want to go there? The private sector is currently producing what exactly?

7No idea why this business about into and out of the Treasury is in here. Unless she thought that a robocall of 1:40 just wouldn't do.

8Last I checked, the Tea Party believes more than anything else in the wisdom of state and local governments. They believe everything went wrong when the Federal Government grew more powerful to the detriment of the states. Hell, the baggers even want to repeal the 17th Amendment and go back to states appointing Senators. But when state officials think that it might be nice to have enough money to fulfill basic state functions, they are no longer the noble defenders of liberty, they are (make a face when you say it) politicians.

9Mind you this never ever happens when the private sector gets Federal money. For instance White Hat surely has never spent a dime of state money on behalf of the legislators who guarantee it a healthy slice of the education pie.

10When corporations support Republicans, the Bachmanns of the world insist that it's not because they expect legislative favors, it's because those are candidates who support free market principles. That same logic could apply here. The public employee unions support politicians who don't make it a campaign plank to screw them over. But no, in Bachmann's world Republicans are noble defenders of the rich and powerful, but liberals are liberals only because they are corrupt and evil.

11This blows my mind. I can't imagine one million robo calls on this issue being cost effective, especially since all but the most rabid Bachmanniacs have hung up on this thing by now. But when you raise crazy money, you can do crazy things with it, apparently.

12So at this point I'm expecting a big finish. I'm expecting some sort of call back option or online poll or something, but I get. . .

13Really, that's it? Go to my website is it? This is all about getting hits on the website? And by the way that website doesn't mention any of this. Admittedly I got to it a day late, but still that's not an unexpected response time.

14Syntactically flawed repetition of the website sic which, along with her increasingly agitated tone and the runon length, makes me wonder if she had a script or was making one million extemporaneous robocalls.

15DCCC apparently has her opponent Tarryl Clark on their “Red to Blue” list, but I doubt they intend to do anything more than make her spend money on her own race. She's in an R+7 district, raises incredible jack and it's not our year. And while Bachmann raises lots of money for her side, she does pretty well by our side as well. In any event, it's a stretch to say Pelosi has "targeted" Bachmann -- certainly she hasn't in the way that Bachmann has targeted Pelosi.

16Note that Bachmann's name is spelled idiosyncratically – one “l” in the first name and two “n's” in the last. Anyone who knows this probably doesn't need a robocall from her. And neither “” nor “” refer you to her actual website. Didn't most web pros learn this stuff like ten years ago?

17The phone number is on the website as well, but no one who reads this blog would do anything wholesome with it and phone pranks can get quickly out of hand. I will be no party to that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DeWine: Vote For Me Because Cordray Hasn't Fixed Betty Montgomery's Crime Lab

Apparently Mike DeWine is going to make an issue of the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI), known colloquially as the state crime lab. Here he is talking to the Vindy:

    When asked about Cordray, DeWine said the Democrat has been unable to improve the productivity of the state’s crime lab, which has had problems with a backlog of processing evidence, such as DNA, for criminal cases.

    “Richard Cordray did not create the problem, but he’s not really solving the problem either,” DeWine said.
OK, first off you have to admire DeWine's instinct for the capillaries. These days when a Republican admits that his opponent faces problems he inherited it's so refreshing you almost want to vote for him.


What DeWine doesn't mention is that the crime lab has never lived up to the hype given it by Betty Montgomery. She oversaw the expansion of BCI and touted it as an accomplishment when she ran for reelection. But it has labored under severe case backlogs forever. When I was in the Summit Prosecutor's Office in the early '00s we had to wait weeks for drug test results and months for DNA in any but emergency cases. I had left the Stark County Prosecutor's Office where they have a county lab and few delays.

So what would DeWine do to actually fix the problem?
    “I can’t tell you exactly what the problem is, but I know what the results are, and the results are the crime lab needs to be run more efficiently.”
Excellent. He doesn't know what the problem is, but he's sure he has a solution to it. Mike is tha man. Well let me offer a possibility.

At one point we had a tour of the Richfield lab. It was vacuous. Desolate. Sepulcrous. In a word, empty. There was a staff of criminalists there but also many many empty work stations.

In other words, they built out a crime lab system, but didn't fund actually staffing it.

In this economic climate, you are unlikely to hear either candidate say that what we need to do is spend more money. But the fact is, a serologist can only process so many polymerase chain reactions at a time. There comes a point at which you need more serologists.

I look forward to DeWine continuing the "I can fix the problem without knowing the cause" strategy. For one thing, Cordray says he has made the labs more efficient, and hopefully he has the numbers to back it up. For another, it has always irked me that Montgomery ran on being the crime lab AG when in fact it was a job half done. Any opportunity to correct the record is welcome.

So Apparently There Was Another Elephant War and Apparently It Is Over

The ABJ carries the story today of local GOP Chair Alex Arshinkoff being unanimously reelected. The story suggests that there was another New Summit County Republicans attempt to win enough central committee seats to vote him out, but the effort stalled in February.

It is difficult at this remove to see exactly what the point is. In the first Elephant War, Arshinkoff's opponents could point to a few bad cycles, but the Republicans pretty much cleaned up in 2009, winning two Akron Muni judgeships over appointed incumbents and the Barberton Muni clerkship. Summit is a Democratic county, so winning positions like this has always been the measuring stick for the party's success.

The once well-populated New Summit Republicans website has devolved into a political blog that is A) a mess to navigate and B) exceedingly nasty even by the adjusted metric for evaluating right wing political blogs. With regard to Arshinkoff himself, the only substantive attack is the rehashed charge that he keeps losing, notwithstanding his recent successes. Aside from that, it's all fat jokes and gay slurs. Classy.

Bottom line, Arshinkoff knows how to win in unfriendly territory and how to rake in piles of cash. As long as both things are true, he is an effective party chair. As a Democrat, I'd be happy to see him replaced but it's not happening any time soon.

* * *

So it's time for another of my pathetic comeback attempts. Once again something happened that took me out of the game -- computer issues this time -- and once again the loss of momentum made it ridiculously difficult to get back in. The other stuff on my plate has been mostly cleared away, so hopefully more blogging from here out.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Right Wing Attempts to Make Ohio's Constitution Unconstitutional

The Tea Party-backed effort to put an issue on the ballot "nullifying" the health care reform's individual mandate is in the news because its supporters aren't getting enough signatures. The even wackier "Ohio Sovereignty Amendment" is not in the news, presumably because it is doing even worse.

If they passed, neither of these amendments to the Ohio Constitution would actually accomplish much, other than pulling the state into Federal litigation that it would lose.

The health care amendment states that no Ohioan can be required to purchase health insurance. The Sovereignty Amendment goes farther, purportedly restricting the Federal Government's jurisdiction in Ohio and therefore its ability to enforce any number of laws.

But the states can't do that. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution includes the "Supremacy Clause" which states:

    "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."
Sounds pretty definitive, doesn't it. If state law contradicts Federal law, Federal law wins. Every time.

It is odd that the news coverage of these amendments does not mention this problem. It isn't a big deal at this point, given that they are no where close to getting either amendment on the ballot, but even when the amendments first made news, the supremacy problem has generally received scant attention. If either amendment unexpectedly grows legs, it would be a good thing for the media to start paying attention to the fact that neither actually accomplishes what the proponents claim.

The supporters of both amendments answer that they can nullify Federal laws when the national government has overstepped its authority. The short answer to this is that it's still the Supreme Court that has the final say over whether the Federal government has exceeded its jurisdiction, not the states.

Take this as my first post in a promised series regarding the Sovereignty Amendment. The longer answer to the jurisdiction question will be upcoming.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Now Posting at Cleveland Examiner

The Examiner web platforms let people sign up to write on specific topics for (mostly) exposure and (a little) cash. I signed up to be the Cleveland Church and State Examiner. The spot was open and it's one of my strongest interests. And rather than bore all of you and the Akron Legal News audience with church/state all the time, I have a new platform for that stuff.

So here's the deal. Pay, such as it is, is based on traffic (the site carries ads, especially of the smoking hot news reader telling you about Acai berry sort.) I will be posting links to my Examiner pieces here, plus my other social media stuff. It would be a big help if you would surf over and check them out. It's a great way to feed a starving blogger and (hopefully) be entertained and informed as well.

So far I have this piece looking at how Elena Kagan might view church/state controversies as a Supreme Court justice, this take on the Parma sex education controversy and, just up, a law wonkish piece on what we are talking about when we talk about Establishment Clause -- and other legal terms.

UPDATE: Links are fixed now.

Closing Tabs and Random Ten

This has not been a stellar blogging week as I've been working on a couple of projects. Actually that sounds more impressive than it should -- mostly I've been painting my porch.

I have been trying to keep up with stuff but haven't had much time to write. But here's what's clogging my browser today.

I've been remiss in failing to acknowledge Tim Russo's post at Plunderbund welcoming me back a couple of weeks ago. Tim and I have had our differences and probably will continue to do so, but his post was very kind.

I've been glued to the Rand Paul story. Ezra Klein (unsurprisingly) does the best job of explaining the enduring importance of his objection to an otherwise entrenched piece of legislation. BTW Rand's poll numbers are tanking.

Most of the faculty at my alma mater -- including some fairly outspoken conservatives -- signed a letter against the Virginia Attorney General's fishing expedition against a climate change scientist.

A double WTF from the Dispatch yesterday. Yes I was also puzzled by Jennifer Brunner's criptic email to supporters last week. But why was it news a week later?

An EdWeek blogger offers some vague and unsatisfying thoughts about the advantages of for-profit companies in education. Here's a question: If for-profit education can work, why doesn't it work in the one area where no government funds are involved -- high end private schools. When someone successfully establishes a for profit to compete with the likes of Old Trail and Western Reserve, I'll start to believe.

Happy to see California -- the other education superpower -- taking steps against the new Texas Christian Right Curriculum.

Interesting piece in The Straight Dope of all places about how some middle class neighborhoods in Chicago have rescued neighborhood schools.

Two pieces that attempt to sort out the hash Facebook has made out of its privacy settings.

Save the Internet has the breakdown of who in the Ohio Delegation signed the pernicious letter to the FCC against net neutrality.

Finally, Justice Scalia for one would be happy to have a new justice who had not been a judge -- well as happy as Scalia ever is.

Now here it is, your Moment of Ten:
  1. "I Know," Dionne Faris
  2. "Opinion," Nirvana
  3. "The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness," The Feelies
  4. "Discovering Japan," Graham Parker
  5. "Po' Boy," Bob Dylan
  6. "You Belong to my Heart," Old 97s
  7. "Every Morning," Keb Mo
  8. "Dippermouth Blues," King Oliver and the Creole Jazz Band
  9. "Again," Alice in Chains
  10. "Rocker," Miles Davis