Friday, September 30, 2005

While I Was Out, Pt. 3. The Cleveland Webloggers Meetup

OK, one more of these WIWO things, then I will get back to the news cycle for good.

I attended my first Bloggers Meetup last Wednesday. If you check out this photo, I'm in the striped shirt. The official report is on Organic Mechanic.

This post is purely about my take. IT WAS GREAT.

I sheepishly admit to being a bit starstruck. It's like this. I like, for example, sports and music, and admire athletes and musicians. But my real heros are intellectuals and writers. I could meet Jim Thome and be cool about it, but if I were introduced to David Foster Wallace or Michael Frank I would gush like a little girl. I've been lurking Ohio blogs for about a year now and have come to idolize somewhat a number of local practitioners, all of whom were in attendance. In everything I do here, I stand on the shoulders of giants; these are my giants.

I sat down and realized I was between Jeff Hess and Jaclyn. Over my right shoulder was George Nemeth. In front was Bill Callahan and off to my left was Mary Beth Matthews. It was kind of like making what you think is a pretty cool model airplane, going to an aviation convention and finding yourself sharing space with Wilbur Wright and Howard Hughes.

So that was cool. What is not cool for me is logistics. I can't leave Akron before maybe 6:30. Kid T, my 3-year-old, needs me to put her to bed, preferably by about 9:00. This leaves time to drop in late, stay for maybe an hour and leave when things are just getting good. I overstayed last week and heard about it when I got home.

So I'm thinking maybe an Akron meetup would be better. I wouldn't be able to rub elbows with my giants. But we have a pretty good mass of bloggers here and building up the community is a valuable pursuit. I'll send out emails soon to guage interest, but in the meantime, if anyblogger from Akron is reading, drop a comment and tell me what you think.

Habeus Corpus

From yesterday's BJ: Nathaniel Lewis gets paid.

Nathaniel Lewis, a former University of Akron freshman whose rape conviction was overturned because of passages written in his accuser's diary, has received a record settlement from the state.
The wrongful incarceration settlement approved Tuesday in the Ohio Court of Claims pays Lewis $662,000 for the five years he spent in prison before his conviction was overturned in 2002.

This story provides a good lens for considering a bill before congress that would limit criminal defendants' access to federal courts.

The BJ story recaps the underlying facts fairly well: an acquaintence rape prosecution, the victim's diary sent to the defendant, statements in the diary that suggest a motive to lie, the trial judge refusing to admit the diary.

A couple of legal points to fill in the gaps. The trial judge relied on Ohio's rape shield law which excludes evidence regarding the victim's past sexual history:
Evidence of specific instances of the victim's sexual activity, opinion evidence
of the victim's sexual activity, and reputation evidence of the victim's sexual
activity shall not be admitted under this section unless it involves evidence of
the origin of semen, pregnancy, or disease, or the victim's past sexual activity
with the offender, and only to the extent that the court finds that the evidence
is material to a fact at issue in the case and that its inflammatory or
prejudicial nature does not outweigh its probative value. § 2907.02(D)
In the proffered evidence, the evidence of past sexual history was inextribably enmeshed with the motive evidence. The judge excluded it and the conviction held up on appeal up to the Ohio Supreme Court.

So end of story, right?

Not so fast. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution includes a right to put on defense evidence: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor . . ." After the state appeals were exhausted, Lewis's defense team filed for Habeus Corpus relief in the Federal courts. The Sixth Circuit found that the rape shield law, as applied in this case, violated Lewis's compulsory process rights.

Coincidently, Congress is currently considering legislation that would restrict Federal Habeus jurisdiction: "[t]he Streamline Procedures Act only allows for federal review of convictions based on new proof of what the bill calls 'actual innocence.'"(emphasis mine.)

Under this law, from what I can see, Nathaniel Lewis wouldn't have an opportunity to challenge the Constitutionality of his conviction. Aside from the three people left on the planet who think he's guilty, no one can feel good about such a prospect.

Habeus reform is a hot topic because of the death penalty. Defense attorneys admittedly game the habeus system to drag out appeals and keep their clients, you know, alive. Setting the question of capital litigation reform aside, in noncapital cases no one games the system. The object there is to get your client out as soon as possible. Restricting habeus access outside of capital litigation is dangerous nonsense.

Friday Random Ten

Oh. Oh Oh Oh, Oh Oh Edition

1. "Look Inside America," Blur
2. "This Time Darlin,'" Social Distortion
3. "GG Train," Charles Mingus
4. "D'Yer Mak'er," Led Zeppelin
5. "Baby, Take a Piece of My Heart," Kelly Willis
6. "What Went Wrong," The Moldy Peaches
7. "Poor Flying Man," Sleeper
8. "New Feeling," Talking Heads
9. "John James," Toots and the Maytals
10. "Lover, You Should've Come Over," Jeff Buckley

So does everyone know the meaning and pronunciation of "D'Yer Mak'er?"

My first encounter with the song was my friend Sean (who had an older sister) explaining authoritatively that it was pronounced "DI er MAK er." We were maybe twelve.

About ten years ago, in the midst of Tribute Album Mania, Sheryl Crow covered the song. In an interview she said it was pronounced "Djer MAK er." She said it was a crude British guy-ism asking after a friend's amorous success. The equivalent of "did you get any?" from my day, or the current "did you git with that?"

Right pronunciation, wrong etymology.

Some time later I saw an interview with Robert Plant. He says it comes from an old joke based on a blue collar British pronuciation of "Jamaica." As in:

"The wife and I went to the Carribean on holiday"


"No, her idea."

Plant went on, "so since then I get these American kids coming up to me saying "I really like DI er Maker."

Now if only he would tell us what to call that fourth album.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Someone Who Gets It.

Another player wants to keep young professionals in the NEO. Indians co-owner Paul Dolan has forged a plan to encourage young college grads in the area by -- wait for it -- getting them jobs. Actually internships with local companies during college. And he's raising the money to do it.

It'll cost me as a taxpayer less than bike racks on buses and carries to potential for actually working.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Chinks in the Arshnikoff Armor

It's a real trick to spend three plus months blogging Akron politics without mentioning Alex Arshnikoff once. For the uninitiated, he is the machine-style party boss of Summit County Republicans. Alex has his hands in everything he can. His favorite tactic is to get his hooks into an office and hand out jobs as chits for future political favors. The classic Alex tract is the Scene article that sketches out his tactics and, oh yeah, compiles evidence that he is deeply closeted. A follow-up gives an up-to date example of Alex at work.

Today's BJ carries a story that three judges have signed affidavits that he tried to improperly influence their oversight of Oriana House. Again some background, if you need it. Oriana is a nonprofit that contracts with the county to offer an array of alternative programs for low-level convicts. Oriana contracts with a couple of for-profit companies that are affiliated with Oriana's President, Jim Lawrence. Arshnikoff has been after Oriana. For. Ever.

He claims it's because the arrangement between the nonprofit and for-profit branches of Oriana is corrupt. I've yet to hear him raise similar concerns about the nearly identical relationship between White Hat Management and its charter schools, but that's just me.

There are those of us who suspect that Alex's discomfort with Oriana has more to do with the passel of potential jobs to give out. It doesn't help that Lawrence is an active Democrat and has a number of activists working for him. Christine Higham, the current Executive Director of the Summit County Dems came directly from Oriana.

In his quest to safeguard the taxpayers' money he has insitgated an audit by the State Auditor's office that has dragged on without revealing irregularities. Now the principles are in front of the Supreme Court arguing whether Betty Montgomery can subpoena records of the for-profit arms of the enterprise as well as Jim Lawrence's personal records.

Which brings us back to the lawsuit and the affidavits. Judges Jane Bond and Mary Spicer and retired judge Ted Schneiderman have alleged that Arshnikoff tried to influence, then intimidate them. The surprise in this mix is Schneiderman. Bond is a Democrat and fiercely independent. Spicer's seat is comfortably secure without the money Alex provides (and proved it when she beat his neice running as an independent in the last election). Schneiderman, on the other hand, is working as a visiting judge. This is a great gig for retired judges, but depends on assignments. If Alex still has juice in the majority-Republican Common Pleas Court, he can staunch Schneiderman's supply of Summit County appointments. Schneiderman deserves major credit for standing up.

This is probably the high-water mark for Alex haters. From the looks of it, I have little faith in this lawsuit to change anything about how he does business. But on the day Tom Delay got indicted, it feels like anything is possible.

Disclosure: in addition to appearing before Judge Bond, I know her socially.

While I was out Pt. 2: War Is Not the Answer. Neither is A.N.S.W.E.R.

If you missed it, there was an anti-war rally in Akron to echo the rally in Washington. I missed it. Although I am active in the lead organization -- Summit County Progressive Democrats -- sudden family obligations kept me away.

I checked out the BJ front first thing Sunday for coverage. Most disappointing. If you read the story quickly you may have missed the mention of the Akron event altogether. The two references:

War protesters from Akron and across the nation gathered Saturday near the White
House to send what the Rev. Jesse Jackson called a message of hope, not fear.

Local protesters said they are tired of the war and the Bush

"I believe in peace and not violent conflict,'' said Cat Givens of New
Franklin. "This Iraq war was wrong in the beginning. It's obviously wrong now.
It needs to end.''

The Rev. John Beaty of Akron, a retired United Methodist pastor, said the
war is ``the most blatant example of the incompetence and the arrogance of the
Bush administration.''

From these passages, you wouldn't necessarily know that a separate event occurred here in Akron. It sounds like the reporter just tailed Akronites in Washington.

On the other hand, that may not be an entirely bad thing. The march, it appears, was a honey trap staged by International A.N.S.W.E.R. ANSWER is, at the least, an old-style international socialist organization that has been accused of sympathizing with such luminaries as Slobodan Milosovich and Kim Jong Il. Rather than hash out what others have accused ANSWER of, just check out the announcement of the march on their website:

Thousands will march on
Saturday, September 24 in Washington DC. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition urges the
antiwar movement to come together for a united demonstration to say
Stop the War in Iraq
End Colonial Occupation from Iraq to Palestine to Haiti
Support the Palestinian People’s Right of Return
Stop the Threats Against Venezuela, Cuba, Iran & North Korea
U.S. Out of the Philippines
U.S. Out of Puerto Rico
Bring all the troops home now
Stop the Racist, anti-Immigrant and anti-Labor Offensive at Home, Defend Civil Rights
Military Recruiters Out of Our Schools and Communities

Let's look at a few of these, shall we? Speaking of the the "colonial occupation" of Haiti -- in fact a UN peacekeeping mission attempting to end decades of political slaughter -- equates any US action with colonialism. Support for Palestinian Right of Return is tantamount to calling for the destruction of Israel. Stopping the threats against criminal regimes in Iran and North Korea would be criminally irresponsible. One can debate the merits of the current mix of sticks and carrots, but only a radical pacifist or a radical socialist would argue against any stick at all. This is old-school America hating on a level that would give Howard Zinn pause. Jeane Kirkpatrick wasn't wrong about the existence of a blame-America-first crowd, she was simply wrong in locating them in the mainstream of the Democratic party.

ANSWER is a viral organization. It publicizes rallies like that in DC as against the Iraq war, hiding its broader radical agenda within. Sure enough, the event stage was site of hard left America bashing and little else. Predictably the right-wing blogosphere is all over it. I won't bother to link to specific sites, but check out a Technorati search of "International A.N.S.W.E.R."

On the Left some good posts -- one before and one after the event -- on Daily Kos called ANSWER on its crap. The resultant comments are depressingly mixed, reminding me why I no longer frequent the site. Liberal Hawk Christopher Hitchens predictably glosses the entire protest based on the ANSWER affiliation, but honest debate left his building long ago.

The point is we need to say that no tent is big enough for mainstream liberals and the likes of ANSWER. They are not against war; they just like the other side better. I got over that "America is the greatest oppressor" crap in college. The left as a whole needs to do the same. Unconvinced? Check out some sage advice from George Will:
If liberals think that such flirtations with fanaticism had nothing to do with their 2004 defeat, they probably have nothing to learn from what conservatives did four decades earlier. But for the record:

In the 1960s, just as conservatism was beginning to grow from a fringe tendency into what it has become -- the nation's most potent persuasion -- it was threatened by a boarding party of people not much, if any, loonier than Sheehan. The John Birch Society, whose catechism included the novel tenet that Dwight Eisenhower was an agent of the Kremlin, was not numerous -- its membership probably never numbered more than 100,000 -- but its power to taint all of conservatism was huge, particularly given the media's eagerness to abet the tainting. Responsible conservatives, especially William F. Buckley Jr. and his National Review, repelled the boarders, driving them into the dark cave where today they ferociously guard the secret of their size from a nation no longer curious about it.

One of Liberalism's greatest strengths is its respect for diversity of opinion, but we can't let that be our undoing as well. Next time ANSWER calls, put away the ten-foot poles and just walk away.

While I was out, Pt. 1. Who is DeAndre Forney?

Ah, the internet. The blogosphere. Now that I'm back on, my hands have stopped shaking, the talking lizards have gone away and I can taste food again.

Meanwhile, a few stories I desperately wanted to blog during the downtime will not be denied.

The BJ ran a facinating, slightly disturbing story Saturday about DeAnre Forney, a young upstart who challenged longtime councilwoman Renee Greene in the primary. He lost by a whisker, as it turns out, but put together a hell of a campaign.

The Saturday story, which is as much a profile of Forney as an election update, details his smart, efficient and nearly effective ground campaign. Given the current disparity between the Republicans and Democrats at the grassroots, we would do well to learn the lessons of his run. For a primer in ground organizing you could do much worse. Read it.

I have no beef with someone taking on an a sitting D, even an institution like Renee Greene. Competition is good for the party and demonstrating new tactics can only make everyone smarter and stronger.

But I did say the story was slightly disturbing. Two items shouted out at me. The first comes from Forney's political biography. He was born in Akron, then moved to Tennessee where he grew up. He came back to care for his teenage sister (his mother has . . . issues).

In Tennessee he ran for county commissioner as a Republican and lost badly to the Republican incumbent in the primary. According to the story, after he moved here "[h]e . . . became active in Akron politics, realizing that his beliefs aligned more closely with the Democrats than the Republicans."

Does this make sense? He thought Tennessee Republicans were OK but found Ohio Republicans unacceptable? Bill Frist is reasonable but George Voinovich is a rightwing wacko? Huh? NEO Republicans look a lot more like Tennesse Democrats than like Tennessee Republicans. So is this a true political conversion? The BJ doesn't discuss his political philosophy (this is the BJ after all), but this party switch looks an awful lot like bending to the prevailing political wins.

Disturbing point number two. Late in the story we learn that

Forney got slimed too.

A letter from the ``Citizens to expose fraudulent Forney'' sent to Ward 4 residents a few days after the primary accused Forney of being an opportunist with a ``parasitic personality'' and took shots at his mother and 15-year-old sister.

This smells funny. "Citizens to expose fradulent Forney" is a name guaranteed to hit the SwiftBoat button on any Democrat. Potshotting someone's mother and teenage sister is nearly guaranteed to provoke a backlash. In my experience, the African American community takes a particularly dim view of attacking someone through his family.

So I have to ask if something Rovian is at work here. The letter connects the most salient criticism of Forney -- the appearance of opportunism -- with lame cheapshots. Anyone who wants to take him on, now and in the future, will have to contend with that link. I'd bet a year's salary (chuckle) that in the next campaign his reply to charges of opportunism will start something like "My opponents have tried to attack me and my family like this before . . ." Don't forget that the very real allegations about Bush's National Guard service were staked in the heart when the 60 Minutes memos turned out to be fake.

The one point against Forney or an ally being behind this is the timing. Coming after the primary, the letter wouldn't produce a backlash that actually affected the election. On the other hand, the letter wouldn't backfire, but would create that link.

I have no additional information about all this, but I do not like how it looks.

I probably would not find this slightly disturbing if I had not recently read facinating and extremely disturbing New Republic piece about the kidney-punching, eye-gouging fight club that is the campaign for president of the College Republicans. The story reads like a morality play in reverse. Bad people emerge victorious and the virtuous are punished. Karl Rove and Lee Atwater cut their teeth there. And tactics like the letter sent in this campaign are all part of the game.

We need to be aware of the tactics that Republicans use. The people who emerge from that Hobbesian jungle are not good people who happen to have different ideas, they are bad people in single-minded pursuit of power. On the other hand, we need not adopt such tactics.

Meanwhile, DeAndre Forney is an up-and-comer to watch. Carefully.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Back Again. Again.

My internet connection, which had been dicey for a couple of weeks, finally died over the weekend. RoadRunner couldn't schedule a service call until today, so I have been out of the game.

I had fully intended on raining brown stuff all over RR, but in fact the service was impressive. The cable guy showed up right at the appointed hour, replaced some connectors and got me back up an running. I'm not used to saying nice things about cable companies, but credit where it's due.

Meanwhile, I have a backlog of stuff I'm trying to get posted.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Random Ten

Agriculture and Religion Edition.

"Teclo," P.J. Harvey
"That's All It Took," Gram Parsons
"It Ain't No Fun to Me," Al Green
"Voodoo Farmer," The Twistoffs
"Go on Ahead," Liz Phair
"The Yee-Haw Factor," Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
"The End of Medicine," The New Pornographers
"Red Hot," Bill Lee Riley
"The Needle and the Damage Done," Neil Young
"Superstar," Sheryl Crow

For those peering in from outside Akron, the Twistoffs are a local band. High energy retro rock with a horn section and inconguously punky nasal vocals. But somehow it all works. I'm not Local Music Scene Guy, but they play some family-friendly venues. We saw them at CityFaire back when Akron did that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Don't Call It a Comeback

I hate making excuses for myself. I also hate being absent from the blog for almost a week without explanation, so here goes. My sinus has again reasserted itself. The cold was unpleasant, but now I have an apparently raging secondary infection in my recently serviced maxillary sinus. Trust me, the less detail on that, the happier you are.

Surprisingly, the effect has been to actually dampen my desire to blog, as opposed to simply my ability. Surprising because since I started all this, the need to blog has usually been borderline physiological.

Now I'm waiting for the antibiotics to kick in and feeling the need again. Depending on my energy level (and how much time I spend at the Cleveland Webloggers Meetup) I will hopefully be back up to speed in a day or so.

Loretta Haugh's Competing Interests

Akron School Board member Loretta Haugh has a new gig; working for Charter School organizers Summit Academy Management. The BJ story hashed over the arguments about whether this constitutes a conflict of interest, with the weight of opinion appearing to say that it is not. I'll admit to wavering at first. But I believe her duties to the school board conflict with her duties to her new employer because the two are in competition.

It's true that Ms. Haugh's new employment does not conflict with her duties as a school board member in the classic sense. The standard-issue conflicts for government officials are either about self-dealing or some entanglement with a business that the official is charged with regulating. The first of these would not apply unless APS were to hire Summit Academy -- unlikely in the foreseeable furture. The second doesn't apply because the School Board doesn't regulate charter schools. You already knew that because nobody regulates charter schools.

So this is not the sort of conflict that traditionally gets government officials in trouble. But the charter school movement is all about challenging the traditional role of government and subjecting it to competition. Charter proponents -- and education privatization proponents in general -- advocate turning education into a competitive market. They talk about running schools like businesses. Setting aside the questions about whether any of this is a good idea, it surely militates in favor of reframing the debate. The question is not whether Haugh's arrangement violates government ethics, but whether it violates business ethics.

I won't profess to be a business ethicist, but verifying that working for two entities in market competition is a conflict of interests takes only a basic Google search. Summit Academy's niche is educating kids with ADHD and Asperger Syndrome. What happens if APS considers opening a new boutique school for this population? Or expand existing programs in existing schools? What happens if they decide to aggessively market to parents of ADHD or Asperger kids? What happens if nothing like this ever gets on the agenda because Loretta Haugh is able to kill it?

Summit may argue that it is not a business in competition but is a nonprofit. The distinction is significant, but not sufficient. Summit and APS each have vested interests in their continued existence and educational mission. Gaining or losing students is crucial to that continued existence. The peculiar economics of education are such that the marginal cost of adding one more student is extemely low (as opposed to the marginal cost of one more class of 15 or so students, which is the cost of an additional teacher). As a result, adding one more student to Summit Academy is $5000-7000 in free money. Losing one more APS student costs the school district a similar amount, without comensurate savings.

The irony, then -- and it's the sort of PoMo, double-backflip with a twist irony that would make an Ally McBeal writer tingle -- is that the conflict is generated by the new paradigm advocated by charter school proponents. Charter proponents would probably rush in to defend Ms. Haugh, but they should be the first to cry foul.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back to School Monday (on Tuesday): Local School Funding

Technical difficulties and, erm, other difficulties, prevented me from getting this up yesterday. I dock myself a letter grade.

This will be the last really boring post for a while. Starting next week we get into the fun stuff, i.e. the truly scandalous elements of Ohio's school funding system. Last week we did the basics of the state aid formula; tonight we have to look at how local school districts raise their own money.
Local school districts are creatures of statue and, as such, have only those powers confered by statute. The primary power confered on school boards for raising money is the power to levy property taxes.

Property taxes are expressed in mills. A mill in one tenth of one percent, that is, each mill raises a tenth of a percent of the taxable value of the property. For residential property, taxable value is, on average, 35%.

A school district can impose up to ten mills without a popular vote. These are inside mills. Any additional tax imposed as a result of a vote are outside mills. For reference, Akron has 4.2 inside mills.

In addition to residential property, a school district also, for the time being, taxes business personal property. This can include inventory, business machines, that sort of thing.

This gives you the basic information to follow the next couple posts. Next week: House Bill 920 and phantom revenue.


The tax levy law is R.C. ch. 5705
As always, I'm indebted to the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign for making sense of it all.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday Random Ten

Law School Soundtrack Edition.

1. "Lucky Number Nine," the Moldy Peaches
2. "All Your Love," John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
3. "She Talks to Angels," Black Crowes
4. "God Bless the Child," Billie Holiday
5. "No No Never," Del Fuegos
6. "Back of a Car," Big Star
7. "Territorial Pissings," Nirvana
8. "Chapel Hill," Sonic Youth
9. "Walkin' Away," Clint Black
10. "Baby, Now That I've Found You," Alison Krauss

One problem with my R-10s is the bias toward that which I have on CD, which is basically law school (late 80s early 90s) on. Black Crowes, Niravana, Sonic Youth, Clint Black and Alison Krauss are all law school music.

During law school I went through a country music period. Or, more accurately, country music went through a period in which it did not relentlessly suck. A crew of new traditionalists took country back to its roots -- which were also the roots of the rock music I cut my teeth on. Eschewing string sections and sappy backing vocal choirs, these singer-songwriters embraced an almost DIY asthetic. A key member of that vanguard was Clint Black and "Walkin' Away" was the song that won me over. A wistful but optimistic meditation on lost love, it highlighted an entire album informed by a real-life breakup. To this day, it's the best cryin'-in-your-beer music I've ever heard.

And think about it -- Clint Black was an anonymous wannabe star whose girlfriend dumped him. He wrote a bunch of songs about it and now is a superstar married to former Dynasty vixen Lisa Hartman. Wonder where that old girlfriend is now?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

First Class Education and Second Class School Employees

The BJ editorializes today against J-Ken's "65 percent" proposal. The editorial correctly calls it a budget gimick. It is, but the proposal has a real agenda behind it. I suspect the agenda is saying "fuck you" to school employee unions.

Shifting money to the classroom necessarily requires cutting administration and reducing costs in transportation and custodial services. Thanks to the General Assembly's increasingly stingy education budgets, most districts are cut pretty close to the bone. What's left is privatizing services like custodial and transportation. This idea is explicitly laid out in First Class Education's website.

All of which is not entirely wrong-headed. Custodian's unions have long gamed the system, much to the frustration of teachers. That benevolent misfit who pushes the broom around often makes more than half the teachers and has work rules that guarantee him tasks that he need not complete. All this may help explain the Ohio Federation of Teachers taking the idea under real consideration.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Back to School Monday

OK class, settle down. I'm Mr. Pho, your teacher for Intro to Ohio School Funding.

We are offering this class because of the difficulty posting education news at House of Pho. Whenever something comes up, the resultant post seems incomplete unless it restates large swatches of basic material. This class will be about clarifying the basic school funding concepts, then trying to come up with some unifying themes. We will meet here every Monday, some days earlier than others.

This class will give you a comprehensive survey of all the major topics in school funding; DeRolph, No Child Left Behind, House Bill 920, Reform Proposals and more.

Yes Mr. JeffisAngry, we will be covering privatization, but we need to understand the context first.

A word about class materials. Each lesson will have footnotes at the bottom discussing specific sources. Links will be embeded where they exist. In addition, we will be working on an index of the lessons for folks coming in late.

Lesson One: Ohio's School Funding Formula.

You can't understand much without understanding the state funding formula. The formula has existed in one form or another for decades. The General Assembly changed it fairly profoundly in the last budget cycle, so we will start with the formula as it existed prior to 2005. We will discuss the changes that are about to go into effect in a couple of weeks.

The funding formula, set by statute, determines how much state aid each school district gets. In other words, the state budget doesn't contain a line item for money to Akron Public Schools, another for Clevland, etc. Instead, the budget contains whatever tweaks are proposed to the state formula.

The formula is per-pupil aid. Other chunks of money may go flying around, but the real meat of the thing is the per-pupil formula.

Finally, by way of introduction, the formula is aid for operating budgets. The capital funds are a whole other thing.

So, the formula starts with a base amount -- the amount of aid for each student attending school in a district. In theory this reflects the legislature's determination of how much it costs to educate one student for a year. In 2004, the base amount was $5058 per pupil.

Step Two: The previous formula had a Cost of Doing Business Factor that reflected the reality that it costs more to operate in some counties than others. The foundation amount is multiplied by the CODBF.

Step Three: For each district, determine the Average Daily Membership, then multiply the Foundation Amount, as adjusted by the Cost of Doing Business Factor. This is the basic aid for that district.

Step Four: The State then subtracts from the basic aid amount the local share charge-off, reflecting the property tax base of the district. This is derived by finding the total recognized value of taxable property in the district and assuming a 23 mill levy.

The budget contains some add-ons as well. Chief among these is Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid, which is based on the percentage of kids in the district who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This will become important in a week or two.

Other add-ons include vocational education aid and aid for educating students with disabilities. Some gap-filler programs called "Equity Aid" and "Parity Aid" have been around for a few years to help the poorest school districts. None of these is a substantial part of a school district's budget.

In summary:

State Aid = Foundation Amount x CODBF x ADM - (Tax Base x 23 mills)

Next Week: How local school districts fund themselves.


The statutes setting down the formula are found at O.R.C. Ch. 3317, esp. § 3317.012.

One good source for a layperson's explication of the funding formula is the study guide published by Ohio Fair Schools Campaign.

A second source is the Report of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Financing Student Success.

9/11 Changed Everything

The day after four years after is as good a time as any to reevaluate that phrase. How many times have we heard it? How many times has an administration mouthpiece, or pseudo-mouthpiece or camp-follower trotted it out to justify some outrage? How many times has a lazy copywriter regurgitated it?

Try Googling "9/11 changed everything." 25 pages in, the results are still on topic. The phrase has embedded itself on the national consciousness like "I am not a crook" or "Ask not what your country can do for you . . ." or "A day that will live in infamy." (Probably not a fluke that this time the phrase defining a generation was not the President's coinage.)

And yet, as has been said many times elsewhere, the white-hot lessons of 9/11 were insufficient to overcome cronyism, incompetence, off-target priorities and bureaucratic infighting in the Departments of Homeland Security. The Katrina aftermath showed how little we learned from the 9/11 aftermath.

My brother, The Other Pho (dude needs a better nickname. Pho2? Pho-5? K-Pho?) flagged and BFD linked to a post by noted security blogger Bruce Schneier. His thesis: our homeland security money is misdirected at preventing "movie-plot threats" and should be redirected toward intelligence at disaster preparedness.

I wouldn't go as far as he appears to about spending outside those two areas. Ramping up port security would make it harder to move large quantities of materiel into the country and hardening chemical and nuclear plants would make two major disaster scenarios less likely. I would also add that despite the everything that 9/11 changed, this administration remains determined to operate on the cheap. But his prescription is at least a shift toward the right direction.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Blogweek Ohio

An improvement over the previous title for the weekly meta-post.

Needless to say, Katarina is still a favorite discussion topic, though with little new that you can't find in national blogs. One exception is at Callahan who was the man this week. In addition to providing links for tech-specific help for the displaced, he personally has been at work setting up connectivity for the on-again-off-again Ohio arrivals. Follow his work here.

Susan at An Age Like this has continued her Grover Norquist watch through the disaster aftermath. Here she notes the deafening silence from the Norquistas as the need for something more than TINY GOVERNMENT became increasingly apparent. Here she recounts his eventual partisan blast which incidently does nothing overcome the mounting evidence that having a competent, fully funded disaster recovery agency would come in handy about now. Personally I think the avatars of TINY GOVERNMENT are laying low but quietly rejoicing. Since the long-term strategy of the Kill-the-Beasters is to bankrupt the government, the opportunity to run up additional tabs without the means to pay for them suit Grover et al. just fine.

Locally, big doin's at Brewed Fresh Daily. George acquired an apparently secret document detailing a multi-pillar plan to make Cleveland attractive as a tech mecca. This prompted an intense discussion during which the author of the plan dropped in and got grilled by Democracy Guy for her troubles. The effort, titled Red Room Revolution for reasons that escape me, is spearheaded by the law firm of Thompson Hine and Panzicka Investments. You can follow the later discussions here and here

The attention the discussion drew prompted Democracy Guy to hypothesize "The BFD Effect," the short form of which is that posts on BFD prompt sufficient discussion to draw in the principles.

My take on the whole thing is 1) I am skeptical about any attempt to create a tech mecca, they seem to be happy accidents, 2) the one determinant that humans can actually effect, high quality higher education is nowhere in the plan and 3) it't not clear to me that trying to create a tech boom based on 1990's era business models makes sense in a flat world.

Still and all, it's a better development plan than al fresco dining.

Speaking of She Who Got 80G's to Read Back Issues of Wired and Stuff, Mary Beth Matthews, an inner-city Cleveland teacher, writes a great post about taking three of her star students to see a Rebecca Ryan speak at the Cleveland Excellence Rountable. One of her students spoke up about the folly of trying to make Cleveland more attractive to outsiders but ignoring the problems in the schools. The response of the participants was something like "sgrgp gaeeb aierbaf ytpurhbh. ereu?"

HypoSpeak has been his anonymously indespensible self this week, mostly about RON, but also hitting on Petro's woes, the press coverage of the upcoming antiwar rally and windfalls car dealers are getting in the upcoming tax reform. I won't bother to link to specific posts, this is the one blog you have to take in in toto.

I've spent more time than usual on the Chief Source this week. You get what you get on national blogs -- reliably liberal takes on nation issues followed by lively discussions. But the pool is somewhat smaller so one doesn't feel so lost, plus there are a couple of fairly reasonable conservatives who make things interesting. I do feel they need to adopt a corrolary to Godwin's Law; whenever Jeff is Angry calls people he differs with "socialists" he should be deemed to have lost the argument.

Who's the Opportunist?

The subtext of my Hurricane Predictions post was the multiple forms of post-disaster opportunism. While the rightwing dismisses criticism of the shoddy relief effort as opportunism, they use the disaster as a hook for rolling back environmental protections and pursuing more and more tax cuts.

Such opportunism can happen in many forms. And can happen here. The BJ Local section fronts a story about the latest skirmish between Mayor Plusqellec and the police union. Evidently the president of the union sent Hizzoner a letter asking some questions on behalf of members of the force headed to the Gulf. The questions, as reported, are the sorts of questions union presidents are supposed to ask. Understand that if a union fails to protect the rights of a member, that member can file a complaint with the relevant Labor Relations Board. This isn't optional.

Nonetheless, the mayor is aggrieved."The tone of the letter was sickening," Plusquellic said. Well maybe it was; we don't know because the letter is not reproduced in the story. But regardless, why is the mayor talking to the press about the tone of a letter? Unless it is an opportunity to splash brown stuff on the union.

Understand that the contaminated flood waters of covering New Orleans are nothing compared to the toxic stew that is labor relations in APD. I hold no brief for the union -- their business is their business. But it is curious that this story got out. Plusquellec's point appears to be that the union is more concerned with CYA than helping. Well, there is room to do both. And playing this virtue game with a tragedy is no less opportunistic than what ever tone-based sins the union may have committed.

Black Square, White Square

This item in a Jewel Cardwell column caught my eye:

"Hats off to Akron's Highland Square neighborhood, which had the generosity of spirit to host a special Labor Day weekend salute for Fire Station No. 9.

"'It was our first block party,' Benita Gadsden said of the party that included neighbors from Dodge, Payne and Byers avenues."

This surprised me at first since I live about one neighborhood removed from Highland Square, I'm there a couple times a week and I frequent two Square-centric websites. Indeed, neither CPFA nor RubberBuzz mentions it.

The answer of course is that this is the "black" part of Highland Square. It's no secret that as you walk south from West Market you cross from young, artsy, predominantly white Highland Square to blue collar black Highland square. Generally the two don't mix, except in line at Walgreens (now that Starkle Markle has closed.)

It's no one's fault that the white twenty somethings running web portals didn't know about the party, any more than it's the fault of the party organizers didn't think of bringing in the broader Square community. It just is. That's life in America in the '00s.

In my experience it takes a singular personality to pierce the membranes that separate the white and black bubbles we live in. Not me; I'm Square White Guy incarnate. But we can only hope that someone of that description can come and bring some mix to the place. We would all be richer for it.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Clarifying How County Council Runs Everything

The battle of Summit County continues. A political pie fight is always a great entertainment; unless it's this one. The problem is the legal technicality of the wrangling. Anyone want to read a post about attorney-client privilege and the public records law? I thought not.

The latest salvo has the same problem. County Council has put a charter amendment on the November ballot. Today's BJ editorial gropes around for what it all means. I can take a stab at breaking all this down, but I have to inflict legal minutiae upon you. I will endeavor to be entertaining at the same time, but consider yourself warned.

According to the papers, the preamble of the ballot issue reads "Shall the County Charter be amended to clarify the respective powers and duties of County Council and the County Executive in county government?” The actual proposed changes are:

The proposed amendment would change the "Powers and Duties of County Council" to

  • add a provision that Council has "policy making" power as well as legislative power.
  • delete a provision stating that Council's power is exercised "by ordinance or resolution."
  • The amendment would add to the "Powers and Duties of the County Executive" the proviso that the Executive is “responsibility for the day-to-day running of the departments, offices and agencies of county government under his or her jurisdiction or control.”

    Not included are earlier proposals to strip the Executive of veto power and the ability to propose legislation.

    Now here's a problem for anyone trying to analyze this; the Summit County Charter posted on Council's website is predominantely offline. Only a few (nonrelevant) sections are up. I will try to get hold of an actual copy or hector the webmaster to fix the thing and give some further analysis. In the meantime, a couple of observations.

    First, the additions don't really add anything in that they pretty much track the state statutes that authorize forming a charter-style county government. So in one respect, they don't clarify anything. It's kind of like a doctor charting that your body is made up of cells. Well yea doc, thanks for the info, but why does it hurt when I pee? Just reiterating what's in the authorizing statutes doesn't clarify whatever is currently unclear.

    On the other hand, based on what the amendments emphasize and on the accompanying rhetoric, McCarthy has a legitimate fear that Council is trying to geld the office. The key concept is "policy making." This is a clunkily vague term without any traditional legal significance, but for some reason it appears in the state statutes. Council is indeed the "policy making" body.

    But an executive with any real power is necessarily a policy maker too. What law types really talk about when we talk about executive power is "rule making" and "discretion." "Rule making" is what executive agencies do to regulate something after being granted that power by statute. "Discretion" is the ability of an executive to decide how to go about the job, including adopting informal procedures.

    The County Executive is short on rule making but long on discretion. The policy maker language seems an attempt to cabin the Executive's discretion. It sounds from comments like Council doesn't want an Executive so much as an administrator. But an elected administrator makes no sense. If the person in that position doesn't decide how to do his job, he needs to be answerable to someone -- in a more immediate sense than facing the voters every four years. In non-charter counties, the administrator serves at the direction and at the pleasure of the Board of Commissioners. Summit opted for an elected executive, not a mere functionary.

    So . . .

  • It's hard to understand how parroting statutory language will clarify whatever murk currently obscures the roles of Council and the Executive.

  • It looks for all the world like Council wants to move to a weak executive with limited discretion

  • A weak elected Executive isn't likely to produce an effective government.

    If you got though all that, be proud. Let's all hope for a real dust-up at the next meeting so we have something fun to talk about.

  • Breaking: Ken Blackwell Goes to School

    GONGWER (no link available) reports that 1) Ken Blackwell has approved on Ken Blackwell's Citizen's for Tax Reform's TABOR amendment for the 2006 ballot. In addition, J. Ken is taking up the cause of a group seeking to reform school funding.

    "Blackwell and a national group called First Class Education announced plans for either a citizen-initiated statute or ballot issue for 2006 that wouldrequire that two-thirds of every dollar a school district spends be used for"in-the-classroom" instructional costs."
    You can also read First Class Education's
    press release about J.Ken's endorsement.

    First Class Education, judging by the website, is not entirely evil. Apparently a side project of the founder, the group seems genuinely dedicated to getting money to kids, forcing schools to cut overhead, encouraging fiscal accountability, what have you.

    There are five basic components to the First Class Education proposal:

    1. The goal is for each school district in a state to spend at least 65% of its operating budget on classroom instruction as defined by the National Center for Educational Statistics.

    2. If a school district is currently spending less than 65% on classroom instruction, it would need to increase that amount by 2% or more per year until the 65% goal is reached.

    3. If a school district felt special circumstances prevented it from reaching either the 2% annual increase or the 65% goal, it could ask the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (or the state's highest-ranking elected education official) for a renewable one-year waiver.

    4. The State Superintendent would have the sole authority to grant-in-full, grant-in-part or reject the school district's one-year waiver request.

    5. The State Legislatures will be specifically left the task to set penalties to encourage compliance to the measure.

    While the proposal itself is school-positive, it could, like NCLB and the Blue Ribbon Task Force before it, be used as a club to beat traditional schools down further. Given J. Ken's anti-public school bent, I want to see the fine print in any legislation.

    Of particular concern; will the provision apply to charter schools? If so, how will it be enforced?

    Stay tuned.

    Why Did God Smite New Orleans?

    The Columbus Dispatch runs a story (behind a paywall, sorry) today surveying Christians who believe New Orleans is flooded because God is angry. This was predictable and predicted. They agree that the hand of God is at work, but have different opinions as to why:

  • Because America allows abortion. "Steve Lefemine, an anti-abortion activist in Columbia, S.C., was looking at a satellite map of Hurricane Katrina when something in the swirls jumped out at him: the image of an 8-week-old fetus.

    "'In my belief, God judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion,' said Lefemine, who e-mailed the map to fellow activists across the country."
  • It's about Isreal. "In Israel, Christian journalist Stan Goodenough was struck by the juxtaposition of Jewish settlers being removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip and Americans being forced out of their homes in New Orleans.

    "'Is this some sort of bizarre coincidence? Not for those who believe in the God of the Bible...,' hewrote in a column for the Web site Jerusalem Newswire. 'What America is about to experience is the lifting of God’s hand of protection.'"
  • It's the gays. "In Philadelphia, Michael Marcavage saw no coincidence, either, in the hurricane’s arrival just as gay men and lesbians from across the country were set to participate in a New Orleans street festival called 'Southern Decadence.'

    'We take no joy in the death of innocent people,' said Marcavage, 'But we believe that God is in control of the weather,' he said. 'The day Bourbon Street and the French Quarter was flooded was the day that 125,000 homosexuals were going to be celebrating sin in the streets..'

  • Aside from the obvious problem with all this -- that these folks are engaged in preliterate, Old Testament, magical thinking -- the Katrina disaster doesn't even look like God's retribution should look.

    Recall that Katrina made a beeline for New Orleans, only to veer to the east at the last minute and head for Mississippi. You know, Mississippi that has among the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Mississippi that has banned gay marriage since '97 . Mississippi which has among the highest rates of church attendence in the nation. Mississippi that has been reliably red since the Dixiecrats bolted. That Mississippi.

    This is like God raining fire and brimstone down upon a colony of ascetics so that some splashed onto Sodom and Gomorrah. Is God's aim always so bad when he's really pissed? He could have sent a small but powerful hurricane a la Hugo to innundate New Orleans, then head due north from there with enough reserve to flood the Clinton Library. But no, He nukes Mississippi instead.

    If ever we needed proof that fundamentalists are allergic to critical thinking.

    Friday Random Ten

    1. "Black Cadillacs" by Modest Mouse
    2. "Bad Luck" by Social Distortion
    3. "Tryin' to Get to Heaven" by Bob Dylan
    4. "Break it Up" by Patti Smith
    5. "The Tourist" by Radiohead
    6. "The Lonely 1" by Wilco
    7. "Roll on Buddy, Roll On" by Bill and James Monroe
    8. "Have You Seen Me Lately?" by Counting Crows
    9. Phillip Glass's "String Quartet No. 3 'Mishima': November 25-Ichigaya" by Kronos Quartet
    10. "Shoot out the Lights" by Richard and Linda Thompson

    Yea, the Kronos Quartet thing. I've been wondering when that would come up. I'm not a big classical music fan, but sometimes it's good background. I loaded the Kronos CD for this reason. Since it's Phillip Glass and therefore sounds contemporary, it actually works sometimes. The effect certainly isn't any weirder than second-wave punkers Social Distortion sharing space with bluegrass demigod Bill Monroe.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Katrina: Beyond the Big Easy

    A few things have happened lately reminding me that Katrina only grazed New Orlean. She in fact saved her greatest fury for Mississippi, and brutalized the Alabama gulf coast as well. I thought about this when Rick "Analfroth" Santorum suggested penalizing people who rode the storm out despite mandatory evacuation. I wondered if he was aware of the nice Republican Mississpians who had made the same decision as ne'er-do-well black Democrats in New Orleans. Conversely, when Al Franken talked today about the effect of the bancruptcy bill on the poor in New Orleans, I wondered aloud about the poor in the other gulf states.

    Then this afternoon, I spoke to a recent acquaintance who moved her from Mississippi this summer. She said they are still without power. Bottom line, even factoring out the disaster in New Orleans, Gulfport and Biloxi, Katrina' damage is still huge. But New Oleans has overshadowed everything.

    To that end, I've pulled together some links to a few major newspapers along the storm's path. They have a good perspective on what is happening in the other Katrina disaster areas, though frankly they are hitting New Orleans as hard as anyone.

    Biloxi SunHerald

    Jackson Clarion-Ledger

    Mobile Register

    Hattiesburg American

    One great pull quote from a forum in the Hattiesburg paper. Q: Governor Haley Barbour says that complaints about the Federal response come from the media and a few enemies of George Bush. What do you think?

    Unless the countless people I have talked to while standing in lines at
    Walgreens, Lowes, and at the shelter I have volunteered at are members of the
    press or part of this small group of enemies of George Bush, then no... quite a
    few people feel quite a bit of anger at the federal response or lack thereof.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    BJ: Not Working on Labor Day

    The Sunday teaser should have been the tip-off: the front page of the business section devoted to the business of asking union members to describe the future of the labor movement in America . . . in one word.

    Oh, of course. Because political discourse isn't sufficiently watered down yet. Bumper stickers and Limbaugh soundbites can run on for as much as ten words. How is the modern American expected to wade through all that? Get prognostications about a multifacted institution with a hundred year history down to one word -- much more economical.

    Anyway. The Sunday "story" teased a Big Story on the labor movement in the Monday paper. And the stories today? A couple of interviews framing a paint-by-numbers sketch of the labor landscape. Union numbers are down! Labor is challenged by offshoring! Employers cheat!! Interestingly, no discussion of Wal-Mart, no discussion of the effect de-unionization is having on wages, only perfunctory treatment of the AFL-CIO split. If you know nothing about the slings and arrows pelting labor, reading the duo of articles today will get you maybe a third of the picture.

    This frustrates me because the course of labor weaves in and around the course of politics in this State. Why has Ohio gone from motled purple to deep crimson? The decline of organized labor is a key component. But the paper that can devote a week's coverage to a single gruesome case of domestic violence takes on the future of labor and phones it in.

    The BJ also offers readers the opportunity to go online and provide their own single-word divinations about the labor movement. As disheartening as the whole exercise has been, perhaps we can salvage something here at House of Pho. I've never been one to beg for comments. I run this blog as an outlet to preserve my sanity. My readers -- both of you -- are a bonus. But maybe the BJ is on to something with the one-word poll idea.

    So in the comments section, please give your one-word description of the BJ labor pieces.

    I get to go first. "Lame."

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    The Week in Ohio Blogs

    Natually, Hurricane Katrina, its aftermath and the molasses pace of the recovery effort have been lead topics in a number of blogs.

    A few relief notes to pass along. Callahan notes that Technology for All -- an agency that provides tech hookups to lower income folks -- has a post-Katrina project going. Liberal Bloggers for Hurricane Relief is up and running. MoveOn has set up Hurricane Housing where folks can sign up to house refugees. Don't forget the local Red Cross -- donating there will support their effort in the region, but also keep their coffers flush for local work -- a win-win for Akronites.

    Susan at An Age Like This, who tends to hit a lot of national news, has a number of good posts on the disaster. I especially like this one that questions rebuilding New Orleans. Before Hastert publicly questioned the wisdom of rebuilding and became Symbol of All That Is Evil and Republican, I wondered the same thing. One tenet of liberalism is sustainable development. Building a metropolis twenty feet below the surface of an adjacent lake is less than sustainable.

    I've been wanting to blow kisses in Susan's direction for some time. She reliably posts well thought out arguments that often deviate from stock liberal talking points.

    Hypothetically Speaking has been all over Jim Petro this week. If Petro is done, HypoSpeak wielded the fork.

    Joe at RubberBuzz swung at the Rebecca Ryan report and took it out of the park.* As Joe says, the issue is jobs. All the hipster amenities in Greenwich Village won't bring twentysomethings if they have no place to earn money for bubble tea and triple lattes. Read his posts here, here and here.

    Jeff at havecoffeewillwrite has proposed a Wal-Mart toothpaste boycott. The idea is that even people whose economic circumstances compel them to shop at the W can buy toothpaste elsewhere. It's a compelling idea; I hope ACORN and others who work with low-income people take it up.

    Pre-landfall the 'sphere saw a spirited debate about who the Democrats should run against DeWine now that Brown is out. I already covered the hateburgers hurled at Tim Ryan. The other prospect getting attention is Paul Hackett. MyDD endorsed him and Democracy Guy -- in his Democracy Guy way -- tore the idea apart. This week, the aftermath. Seven Cent Nickel and Callahan both weigh in.

    My feeling: if only there were some sort of election to pick the nominee. An election before the general election. You could call it the First Election. No that doesn't sound right. The Initial
    Election. No, that's not right either. OK the First or Primary Election, it doesn't matter.

    Seriously, the questions about nominees are what the primaries are for. If Hackett can win the primary, he has a shot at DeWine. Personally, I like Hackett's politics a little more; I like Ryan for experience and electability.

    Callahan also wrote some dead-on posts about the Cleveland No Longer Most Impoverished story.

    I will try to do this at least every Friday night or Saturday morning (depending on urchin compliance.)

    *I have in the past snarked at and argued with Joe. Then yesterday I emailed the site about something and got a link for my troubles. Rest assured that this post was in the works before all that happened.

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Friday Random Ten

    Easily the most ridiculous so far:

    1. "The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," by Ella Fitzgerald
    2. "Grey Eagle," by Bill Monroe
    3. "Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/La Mer," by Patti Smith
    4. "Don't Worry 'Bout Me," by Billie Holiday
    5. "Mine's Not a High Horse," by The Shins
    6. "Same Fool," by Dwight Yoakam
    7. "Alarm Call," by Bjork
    8. "Lonesome Day Blues," by Bob Dylan
    9. "Porcelain," by Moby
    10. Elvis Presley Blues," by Gillian Welch

    I should mention that I have tweaked the methodology somewhat. If the top ten contains a duplicated artists, I shuffle again until a completely diverse list pops up. This time it took five shuffles. Usually the duplicate is Dylan, as I am something of a Bobhead. In fact, since I started all this, we've had but one Bob-free list.

    Some Changes at House of Pho

    In case you haven't noticed, I did some redecorating on the sidebar. The links are divided into categories, some links added and one or two dropped. The divisions are somewhat arbitrary -- if only I had the HTML chops to pull of a links Venn diagram. RubberBuzz, for example, is both a blog and a DIY Akron portal. Cool People from Akron is somewhat bloglike, but more of a portal/BBS. And SCPD is both activist and Akron-based. But all in all the divisions make the links easier to sort through.

    I've added the Seven Cent Nickel as its author has reinvigorated the site, giving it some group blog capabilities. Ditto Ohio Watch, which also has a new URL (now posted). I put up a couple Akron portals and government sites in the Akron section. And I added to the Activists the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign -- the most grassroots of the education activist groups.

    A second change to anticipate is a slight amendment to the blogging philosophy here. Some bloggers are quick-hit link posters. I tend more toward long essays with bunches of embedded links. I will continue posting the latter, but want to start doing some of the former as well. A fair swatch of the audience here, from what I gather, is friends of mine who are not blog junkies. I want to start giving you folks some idea of what is going on in other Ohio blogs. The format will be much like the Katarina Links post just previous. Some internet connection problems have me behind on intended posts, so the first of those posts probably won't see the light of CRT until tonight.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Katrina Links

    Many people are glued to their TVs these days; I am glued to my laptop. Here's the best of what I've found.

    Slate has posted a must-read article about how New Orleans came to exist as a below-sea-level punchbowl. Many other excellent stories including this scary piece about how devastating Katrina gut-punch to the economy may be.

    My first exposure to the concern about NO's vulnerability to a catastrophic hurricane was this 2001 Scientific American article that they have helpfully moved out of the archives. Aside from the worst-case casualty estimates that assumed no real evacuation before landfall, the article is spookily prescient.

    A Newsweek piece asks an interesting pair of questions: if Bush can run the country from his ranch, why did he cut his vacation short? If he needed to be in Washington, why did he wait so long before going?

    Daily Kos is all over the failures of the response effort, of course. The best post is "Category Four Hurricane Determined to Hit the United States", regarding the efforts to "de-politicize" the issue -- what Joshua Micah Marshall calls the "accountability-free movement."

    The best story about the budget cuts to the levy-improvement project is a series that appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune before the storm. I haven't found a link to that story outside the paper's pay wall, but a Chicago Tribune piece reprises the key points. Meanwhile, the Times-Picayune's web posting has moved here.

    If you want to survey blogs, including liveblogging, the Technorati search for "Hurricane Katrina" is here.