Friday, December 23, 2005

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I'm blogging from the lobby of the Elizabethtown, PA Holiday Inn Express (give me complimentary internet access, I give you a free plug.) We are on the way East to visit Prof. W's family for the holidays. I will be pretty much internet in communicado for the week, so this is my sign off and, in case I don't make it back on before 2006, a year-end benediction.

This thing started six months ago simply as my personal howl at the moon. I expected nothing more than that I would write stuff that mattered to me, exorcise the rants rattling my brain and exercise a mind addled by full-time child care. Nothing more. I fully expected to fly under the radar -- hence the cryptic early title.

When I first heard of blogs four or more years ago I thought "Uh-oh. I could get lost there." Little did I know. Being less than a paragon of mental discipline, I thought perhaps I would play at this a bit, then decide it was too much hassle. In fact, it is generally an exercise in mental discipline not to blog. The Akron Pages run about a 2:1 ratio in topic ideas generated versus those that make it to post. I made a big deal out of my 100th post. This is 201.

Meanwhile, quicker than I would have thought possible, I was discovered, blogrolled and blogged about by NEO bloggers like George Nemeth and Bill Callahan. I went to meet-ups and MTB events and have met some good and talented people with the same passion for this wild new medium.

And I have readers. Somewhere between 50 and 70 on typical weekdays; about 45-65 more than I expected. I've struck up email correspondences with two law students who read the PhAQ's and limned Prof. W's -- and my -- identities. The Horses at Psychobilly Democrat and the Akron Pages have founded a burgeoning mutual admiration society. While Mount Laurel New Jersey has stopped reading, a quick shout-out to Harrison County Hospital in Phoenix AZ.

So thanks to everyone. Whether you are a blip on my SiteMeter or a frequent commenter, you have kept me going and made this project a source of pride. Thanks especially to Jill and Daniella for your encouraging comments, to Bill for the early links; to everyone who blogrolled me, but especially Tim who has driven more traffic to the site than anyone; to David Abbott and mystery man John Galt for providing comment grist for my blog-making Voices and Choices posts; and especially to George, the center of gravity of the NEO community that so generously has taken me in.

To my friends, my readers and my lurkers, I wish a very joyous holiday season to you and your families. Unless you are a War on Christmas theorist, in which case I wish you a Most Blessed Winter Solstice.

Couldn't resist.

Happy Holidays.

-scott piePHO

It's Official! Steve Hoffman is Ignoring the Blogosphere.

I noted ABJ editorialist Steve Hoffman's blog and his curious obstinancy against acknowledging that anyone else anywhere on the planet is also blogging. Well, if there was any doubt that his project would remain sealed off from the blogosphere, its over as of this week.

The two big stories on the blogs this week were the catastrophic ODP election and the did-he-or-didn't-he Sherrod Brown encounter with Tim Russo and Pounder. Hoffman's treatment of each is instructive.

Four bloggers gave first person accounts of the ODP fiasco; Tim Russo -- who liveblogged it -- Palehorse from Psychobilly Democrat, BlueCollarBaby at Live from Dayton and Pounder at Buckeye Senate Blog, who also posted audio. Hoffman's sources for his story on it? Newspapers. Not people who were there. Not activist Democrats blogging their disgust at the travesty. Not even a link to a site with audio of the actual event. Sad.

His discussion of the Sherrod Brown controversy is even more striking -- he doesn't have one. His other big story this week is Jerry Springer not running for Governor. Thanks for that. At last, a newspaper writes a story on the house that didn't catch fire. Meanwhile, the liberal blogosphere is buzzing like mad on the week before Christmas and Hoffman doesn't mention it.

Is anyone reading? Hoffman's comment fields are even quieter than mine. We know only that John Ryan reads. I stop by only for the sport of seeing how far Hoffman will go to pretend we don't exist. The utter dispensibility of Hoffman's blog is so patent it has cleared common ground between this blog and The Boring Made Dull. No mean feat, that.

A Real Live Journalist may posit that Steve is just being cautious about his sources. Some guy just banging on his computer can't be fact-checked, linking may be an endorsement of content, deep pockets for a libel action, blah blah blah. That's why I find the failure to blog to BSB's audio post particularly damning. What ever you think about Pounder -- myself, not much -- we're talking about primary source material. The decision not to point a reader to it betrays a mind mired in old media thinking.

The BJ is apparently trudging though a deep economic swamp. Can a blog save a newspaper? Generally speaking, I don't know. I'm confident this one won't save this paper.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Utter Weirdness from Sherrod Brown

As I've said, the Akron Pages are more or less on hiatus for the next couple weeks. Unless of course, something really juicy comes up. Something like, say, Sherrod Brown going Bobby Knight on a couple of bloggers and his internet staff guy issuing a nondenial denial.

Both Tim Russo and Pounder tell tales of Brown accosting and berating them at the ODP holiday party. Well, Pounder is an unapologetic (though not entirely upfront -- Buckeye Senate Blog indeed) Hackett fan and, from watching Tim and Hackett at MTB, it's safe to say there is an affinity there as well. So maybe things got exagerated a bit, no?


One of the Horses from Psychobilly Democrat saw the Brown/Russo encounter and pretty much backs up Tim's version of events. From my email contacts with these guys, they are not Hackett honks.

Meanwhile, I'm on Brown Internet Organizer Phil deVellis's contacts list. So I get an email today adressed to myself and Bill Callahan (who almost never does horserace politics) with a denial about a third alleged Brown blowup, as described on Buckeye Politics and beyond. This one supposedly involved a non-blogger who may or may not be in her eighties. Here is De Vellis's email in its entirety:


You probably have been sitting back and watching the Russo & Russell show about last night's encounter. Since you are both fair minded, I wanted to make sure you saw this.

One great character reference and an eye witness account:

John Ryan, Cleveland AFL-CIO says:
I’ve known Sherrod Brown well for over a dozen years. I’ve seen him confronted by folks, including some young aggressive folks at the WTO demonstration in Seattle when Sherrod was standing with us against free trade. Besides his strong views to protect issues like social security and good American jobs, I like Sherrod because he is respectful to folks even when they do not show the same level of respect.
It’s going to be a long primary season, evidently. I would hope that we would focus on issues on not try to melt down before the primary is over. I’m interested to hear what Mr. Hackett has to say about the issues and hope that all of us who Blog try to focus more time on that.
John Ryan, Cleveland AFL-CIO

ratdg1 says:
I was standing about two feet away when all this happened, talking to Connie Schultz about her new book that’s coming out next April (a collection of her Pulitzer-winning columns, btw).
A guy who had harassed Sherrod at a UAPA event a few months ago came up and wanted to get a picture with Sherrod. Sherrod agreed, and the guy brought the woman into it as well. While they were waiting for the picture, the guy started into Sherrod about “You split the party. You split the party.” Sherrod stayed pretty calm during all this; he only waved his arm once as a sort of “What?” shrug/gesture. After the picture was taken, Sherrod tried to disengage from the conversation, which was when the woman grabbed his arm. He disengaged and rejoined Connie.
Eric at Plunderbund got a different email which also talks about the woman who grabbed Brown's arm. That email claims that "Connie and Sherrod stood a barrage of curse words and hostile language quite calmly — albeit with confused looks on their faces," though it doesn't describe the conversations with Tim Russo or Russel/Pounder.

Meanwhile, anyone who has read Al Franken's Lies or heard him talk about Bush and cocaine has heard his analogy to the Pepsi Syndrome sketch. In a bit where reporters ask about Jimmy Carter growing to gargantuan proportions (read the script) the following exchange takes place:
Female Reporter #1: Yes, is it true that the president is 100 feet tall?
RossDenton: Nooooo! Absolutely not!
Male reporter #3: Is the president 90 feet tall?
Ross Denton: No comment.
This is how the de Vellis email feels. Did Sherrod Brown tee off on an octagenarian activist? "No! Absolutely not! We have a witness. Sherrod was a perfect gentlemant." Did he get in the face of two unfriendly bloggers? "No Comment."

What's really sad about this is how unnecessary this is. I can't believe anyone who's not already a Hackett honk takes Pounder's shots at Brown seriously. Russo commands somewhat greater respect, but his payola obsession has hurt his credibility on things Brown.

Didn't I say Hackett would be the one to pull a DeanScream? My bad.

As to Ryan's comments: I'd love to live in a world where elections are won or lost solely on ideas and incidents like this are of no moment. I'd love to live in a world where my children study the brilliant presidency of Edmund Muskie. But I live in this world. And in this world, Sherrod Brown can't afford to make many more mistakes like this one.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Light Blogging for the Holidays

The holidays are always crazy because of all the stress of celebrating peace on earth and goodwill toward man. On top of that, my Precious Ankle-Biters are on break, making my blogging windows very narrow indeed. Finally I will be heading off to the in-laws' either Wednesday or Thursday and pretty much internet inaccessible.

All of which puts my hard-fought Slimy Mollusc status in grave jeopardy. *sigh*

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Latest MTB News

Jill's post on MTB/Paul Hackett is up. As billed, she is somewhat more ambivalent about him. An interesting discussion is brewing there.

George posts on BFD about the future direction of MTB. Cost is becoming a consideration and the enterprise will at some point need to rely on either donations or ads.

MTB itself has podcasts of an interview with Brian Flannery, also known as "isn't he running for something?" Sherrod Brown is scheduled for January 14.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Random Ten

1. "Why I don't Know," Lyle Lovett
2. "What You Need," The Fall
3. "Lake Charles," Lucinda Williams
4. "The Rainbow Down the Road," Patty Loveless and Radney Foster
5. "Beatbox," Roni Size and Reprazement
6. "Little Wing," Derek and the Dominoes
7. "Right on Through," Son Volt
8. "The Book," Sheryl Crow
9. "Time Will Tell," The Black Crowes
10. "Doo Wop (That Thing)," Lauryn Hill

Latest Additions to the Sidebar.

I've been joking with folks that I run the most important liberal local politics blog in Akron -- because it's the only one. Well, no more. One of the proprietors of Psychobilly Democrat introduced himself and the blog by email. I'm grateful to have company. Now when I want to skip the latest County Council blow up I can just link to you guys, right? Their link is now nestled in the Stark Summit list.

I've also added a new list for indispensible Republican/Conservative blogs. Indispensible in this case is based more on info than opinion. Since the Boring Made Dull guys are both Akron-based and conservative, I've given them a link in each.

Also I've embedded a link in the profile to a FAQs (or PhAQs) post from a while back. If you're new and want to know more about this Pho guy, it's there.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Market for Bad Education

I've mentioned before my hypothesis about the continued ability of unsuccessful charter schools to attract students. It goes like this. Good education is hard. If done right, it is hard for the students and the parents. Charter proponents claim that market forces provide all the accountability we need for charter schools. If the schools aren't educating kids, the parents will move them elsewhere.

All well and good if the parents and kids want good eduction and the hard work that goes with it. But not everyone is so virtuous. Some kids -- especially some older high schoolers -- and some parents are more interested in getting through school with a minimum of inconvenience than a maximum of effort and resultant knowledge. If I were unscrupulously pitching a substandard charter school, I would drop hints like "we don't believe homework helps kids any and it creates a burden at home, so we don't assign it."

An interesting hypothesis, but no evidence to back it.

Wait, yesterday's BJ has something. Just maybe . . .

Here's how Stephen Staats spends a typical school day: an hour in a traditional class, followed by three hours at a computer studying English and math. One 15-minute break.

A teacher monitors his progress on a computer screen and is on hand to answer questions and provide encouragement. There are no lectures.

Stephen, 17, likes the short school day. He's out of the building at noon.

``There's no homework,'' he said. ``That's pretty cool, too.''

Pretty cool indeed. What's not cool is the credulousness of the rest of the story.

The story is about Schnee Learning Center, anew charter school sponsored by Cuyahoga Falls School District to try and tap into the alternative high school market David Brennan has thus far cornered. The school set up sounds suspiciously like the Life Skills schools. Fine. But here is a Cuyahoga Falls official explaining the reason behind the school:
Like other charter schools, Schnee is free from some state regulations. It can
offer a shortened school day, which gives students more flexibility for work.
``That's a biggie for many of these kids,'' said Schnee Executive Director Jeff Harrison.
-Really? Teenagers like having less school? Ya think?

Harrison said some have fallen ``through the cracks'' because they don't do well in big schools. Others simply learn better on their own, he said.
-Still others do better not learning on their own but pretending they are.

The article contains neither a critic questioning these rationales, nor any skepticism on the part of the reporter. Katie Byard at one time was considered the go-to education reporter. Stories like these may be why Oplinger and Willard appear to have taken over much of the beat. They at least know how to make a call to Tom Mooney.

Here's how simple it is to cast some doubt on all this. Try this thought experiment. You are arguing with a public schools critic. You mention a new program being tried in Berkely. Students pace themselves at a computer three hours a day. The only drawbacks -- it costs the same as traditional schooling and the graduation rate is only 20%. Your adversary dies laughing at your wooly-headed liberalism.

Actually, that's Life Skills. School districts may have economic reasons for emulating it. But it's hardly a pedagogical innovation we want replicated.

OH-13. Then there were three

Attorney John Wolfe has announced his candidacy for the open seat Sherrod Brown is vacating.

Um. Never heard of the guy. He's 79. He's running as an anti-war progressive. I'll ask around.

The more crowded the field becomes with Summit County hopefuls, the more likely a single Lorain County candidate will stroll through the primary with enough unsplit homebase votes to win going away.

UPDATE: As I was posting the above, an anonymous commenter planted Wolfe's website in comments to the Betty Sutton post. Wolfe gets one vote.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bloggers Meet the Marine [UPDATED].

Again, I blog this cold. I'll look at the other sites when it's time to add links.

I went up to Cleveland for Meet the Bloggers; Paul Hackett. I nearly didn't meet him at all. An accident -- another one -- on 77 stacked up traffic so badly it took two hours to make the trip. I saw, maybe, the last twenty minutes or so and asked the very last question. He and his campaign coordinator stuck around afterward for a cup of coffee, so I stuck around to get a better measure of him.

I kind of hoped to see some reason not to support him. I like Sherrod Brown. He's my Congressman and has been a strong advocate for working people in NEO. People I respect respect Sherrod. I'd like to be able to make that call.

The bad news, is my decision in the primary will be very difficult. The good news is that we will have a strong candidate regardless of the outcome.

Paul Hackett may be a political neophyte but he is a born campaigner in that he has an inate ability to work a room. He speaks fluidly, looks you in the eye, engages the questions directly and argues his points well. His blunt, direct manner will draw comparisons to Howard Dean and John McCain, but the pol he reminds me of most is Joe Biden. He can voice his disgust at the excesses of the Bush administration without sounding shrill and can discuss the intricacies of the health case system without sounding wonkish. Add to this his military service biography and not-from-NEO geography and we have a formidable package. Pre-existing name recognition and money are the only things that make the contest interesting.

Notwithstanding his website uncontaminated by policy positions, he does have opinions -- strong ones -- about every issue that gets thrown at him. He's also not afraid to buck conventional Democratic wimpery wisdom. One of the first things I heard walking into a health care discussion is "Big government doesn't get everything wrong. The Democrats have made a mistake conceding that."

While I say he's a born campaigner, he doesn't come off as slick. He sounds like a well-informed neighbor talking politics over a beer at a block party. For anyone who agrees with me about the lingering effects of Clintonism, he's that no-nonsense guy you've been pining for.

Sherrod Brown is due to meet the bloggers next month. Hopefully I'll get a better sense of how the two stack up against each other. And hopefully I'll get there in time.

LINKS: The liveblog is up on Meet the Bloggers; podcast to follow. Adam wrote up his impressions -- and he was there from the beginning. Also attending were Jill, Bill and Brian, so watch their blogs. Tim and George have already mentioned without further comment.

Also today, Paul's wife Suzi spoke to bloggers on a conference call. Liberal Common Sense and Plunderbund have impressions.

UPDATE: The podcasts and transcript are up. Brian posted a must-read assessment of the qualities he observed. Tim noted one interesting exchange about funding for the Iraq war. Jill has teased a somewhat more contrarian post that will be up soon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Those Crazy Kids and their Blogs

The NEO 'sphere is buzzing about a pair of overtly anti-blog editorials recently appearing in the PD. Dick Feagler and Ted Diadiun each have pieces that conflate Wikipedia with the blogosphere. The Feagler piece in particular has been subject of much, much, much, much blogging. I can't add a lot, except to say that the Feagler piece really has to be read to be believed. Feagler has been running the same "Old Fogey out of touch and proud of it" schtick for at least 30 years now. Still, his piece is far more ignorant, far more condescending, far more wrong that you'd think possible. If you've just read the blog critiques, you still Have No Idea.

All this comes on the heels of the PeeDee's well-documented squeamishness about the URL "" (now that would be a Feagler column worth reading) and a self-appointed blog expert showing up on Diane Rehm last week. So we seem to be in a new "Blogs vs. MSM" cycle.

I'm not a die-hard MSM basher nor a blog triumphalist. Bloggers frankly need the MSM both to provide the first draft and offer a door to push against. The MSM should embrace the blogosphere as an extended conversation about their product. Both are battling for attention from a world that just doesn't read much any more; both can bring people back into civic engagement.

Here in Akron, the attitude of the local paper is not one of contempt but of co-optation. The Beacon website is lousy with new blogs. In addition to Libertarian cartoonist Chip Bok's blog, we have blogs by sports writers, the movie reviewer and the TV critic. The latest addition is Steve Hoffman 's politics blog Road to Bexley. I've held off on commenting on it to give Steve some time to get aclimated to the form. Now it's time.

Road to Bexley is basically a collection of web-only Hoffman columns. What you get is his take on information from either media outlets or campaign websites. He does not in any way engage the blogosphere. Thus far I haven't seen a single link to either a national or Ohio blog. He hasn't even acknowledged MSM-linked blogs like The Fix at the Washinton Post or Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly. Nor did he acknowledge recently getting love from HypoSpeak. The internet outside and its cousins seems not to exist.

He also doesn't do much reporting. That is to say, he doesn't report on calls with campaigns, inside dirt from sources or background from his experience in the business. All in all, Hoffman's blog, like the BJ blogs before it, are geared toward middle-class, middle-aged, middlebrow users of the website.

All of this makes me feel like the BJ is saying "don't pay attention to that crazy blogosphere. If you want to be hip to this blogging culture, just stay here within the cozy confines of safe, stable paper you've always known."

Which is a pity. As I said, blogs can help re-engage people into civic life -- to the benefit of both blogs and mainstream media outlets. But Hoffman's project won't grow legs in the blogosphere as long as he pretends the blogosphere doesn't exist.

Now it may sound like I'm whining about The Akron Pages getting no respect. I'm not. I'm not talking about this blog. I know my place in the world and own it.

But the Ohio blog world includes well-connected operators like Tim Russo, Michael Meckler and Hypothetically Speaking; experts sharing insights borne of years of experience like Bill Callahan and Mary Beth Matthews; and writers of craft and vision like Jeff Hess and John Ettorre. Mainstream outlets ignore blogs like these to their peril.

In Hoffman's case, he has missed all the information on Meet the Bloggers. He missed yesterday's discussion about Sherrod Brown's internal poll (a story either broken by bloggers or planted with bloggers, depending on your level of cynicism.) The information appearing in blogs is neither insubstantial nor unreliable. But so far Hoffman won't go there.

Steve, if run across this, come on over to Brewed Fresh Daily and have a cup. You will be a better blogger and newspaper man for it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Death of Democracy Is Greatly Exagerated.

Make no mistake, Sub. H.B. 3 -- the "Election Reform" legislation due for vote in the Ohio Senate tomorrow -- is not a good bill. It creates a bunch of bureaucratic hoops to solve a voting fraud problem that doesn't exist. It creates rules that could be subject to Election Day abuse by overzealous poll workers. And it comprises the sum total of election reform we can expect from the legislature in a state that sorely needs real reform. It shouldn't be law.

But the sky is not falling.

Some fairly hysterical claims are circulating about this bill. Typical is this piece at written by Stolen Election alarmists Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman. "A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor." Mercy. The article quickly wanders away from H.B 3 to revisit oft-told tales of '04 Election theft. They also reiterate the newish charge that the RON election was stolen -- some time when the hour is not so late I will explain why this is the Stupidest Conspiracy Theory Ever.

I've spent the better part of the day trying to track this bill down. Common Cause Ohio outlines the legislative history up to now. The Ohio Legislature website has a bill analysis of Sub. H.B. 3 as passed by the House. Whatever amendments the Senate Committee introduced aren't anywhere I can find. Here is the page from containing links to all things Sub. H.B.3, if you want to follow along. I'd recommend the Bill Analysis as passed by the House, rather than the actual 400+ page bill, but it's your life.

The chief objection to the bill is the Voter ID requirement. HB 3 as passed by the House requires ID only of first-time voters who registered by mail and did not provide a prescibed form of ID with registration. Republicans in the Senate committee amended this to include every voter every time. The Beacon story today describes the rancor within the Committee hearings, but unfortunately doesn't note that the bill was amended at that time. We can only hope that with a real grassroots lobbying push while the bill is in conference (to reconcile the differences between the two) we can push back and settle with on the original House version. I fear however that the left wing groups screeching about the Death of Democracy will not join in an effort to lobby for a compromise.

Even with the Senate amendment, the ID provision is unfortunate, but not The End of us All. What irks me is that we will have to engage in some serious election protection every November to make sure all the rules are followed and that voters -- especially the most vulnerable voters -- are respected.

The other provisions that supposedly make democracy moot simply aren't as onerous on inspection. I should caveat that again the Senate could have amended the bill worse, but I doubt it. One provision that has been subject of bumper sticker sloganeering is that under this bill "You can't contest a Federal election! Ever!! Just like that, they just, just, just eliminate election contests!!!!"

Anyone who has spent a tender moment or two with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution knows that can't be true. In fact, the bill merely requires people contesting Federal elections to do so under Federal law. It eliminates a State law governing such a contest. The ins and outs of this I don't know -- it may well be that Ohio had a friendlier standard, though again that would rub up against the Supremacy Clause. The point is, contesting a Federal election isn't impossible, just different.

Similarly, the new rules for registration drives aren't as bad as advertised. Did anyone really think the Ohio Restoration yahoos -- who are all about registering new wingbats -- would let the GA seriously crimp their plans. The rules apply simply to compensated registration drive workers. If the left wants to put volunteers together for registration drives, I can't find anything changing their rules. If someone wants to hire vagrants for the drive, things get much more difficult. Similarly, the provisions regarding petition signature gatherers will only really effect paid signature gatherers.

Look, all this is a pain, to be sure. But if the left wants to start winning in Ohio, we need to put together real grassroots networks anyway; the sort of networks that can engage vulnerable populations with voter education and protection efforts, and register voters and circulate petitions with volunteers. If viewed as a challenge instead of a death knell, H.B. 3 could end up as a boon to the left.

By all means, follow Eric's advice and voice your objections to the bill. (Since my Senator is one of the sponsors -- Kevin Fucking Coughlin -- I'll save my dime.) Especially call in if we can reverse the Senate amendment in Conference. But democracy will still be here when you get back.

UPDATE: An Anonymous commenter (see below) says that no Federal law exists under which Federal elections may be challenged. I don't have time to check the sites now, but have a look. I stand provisionally corrected.

Hackett/Brown Goes National

I'm blogging this cold -- without checking my thoughts against what' on other blogs. I'm sure this is the hot topic of the day.

First off, we have an article in today's PD about the national interest in the Hackett/Brown race. Most of the usual suspects are represented. In Hackett's corner, Bob Brigham of Swing State Project:

Brigham, who followed Hackett around southwest Ohio during the last week of Hackett's congressional campaign, said he repeatedly saw Republicans come up to Hackett with a two-part message. The first part, he said, was, "I don't agree with you." The second part was, "But I'm going to vote for you."

"They respected him as somebody who was going to tell it the way it is even if it ruffled feathers. He's not your typical cautious, poll-driven, finger-in-the wind politician," said Brigham, who lives in San Francisco. "That sense of conviction is something voters can smell."
Across the ring, Brown's cut man, David Sirota:

"Members of Congress and elected officials everywhere are going to look at this race as proof of whether there are political rewards for taking risks for the progressive cause," said Sirota.

Sirota concedes that Hackett is charismatic, but he rejects flatly the idea that a Hackett-Brown matchup pits a bold, refreshing leader against a conventional establishment politician. He said Hackett strikes him as erratic, "extraordinarily impulsive and out of control." Brown, he said, is no wimp.

"Sherrod Brown is not a typical weak-kneed, [finger]-in-the-wind Democrat," said Sirota. He cited a sharp exchange at a congressional hearing in 2004 between Brown and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, during which Brown infuriated Powell by suggesting that Bush "may have been AWOL" when he served in the Air National Guard.
That's pretty much the debate. I've wondered out loud before about Hackett's attraction to the same liberal bloggers who fulminate against the "Move to the center" conventional wisdom in Democratic circles. To the extent we know what Hackett's politics are, they look pretty centrist. In fact, I can't help but wonder if that's why he has kept his policy positions under a bushel this time around.

The answer, I think, is his directness. Liberals -- well this one anyway -- remember the pain of trying to justify Bill Clinton's waffles legalisms and spin. We are hungry for what the Republicans have -- someone who means what he says and says what he means. (Of course it turns out that Bush just means for us to believe what he says despite the extant evidence, but that's another post.)

Sirota's point is a good one and is the reason I started sleeping better after Brown entered the race. Hackett isn't merely direct, he's reckless. A few more "Bush the coke-snorting president" blasts and the Hackett mystique will start to unravel. We want at least to have a backstop should that happen.

Meanwhile, Sherrod apparently discussed an in-house poll at a conference and saw it in a blog a few hours later. Phil de Vellis sent Ohio bloggers an email detailing the poll results:
Representative Sherrod Brown currently wins a majority of the vote in the
Ohio Democratic primary for United States Senate, besting Paul Hackett by a
better than two-to-one margin. Including those who lean towards a
candidate, 51 percent of Democratic primary voters support Brown, 22
percent prefer Hackett, and 26 percent are undecided. Excluding leaning
voters, 47 percent of voters support Brown and 20 percent prefer Hackett,
while one-third (33 percent) are undecided.
...Methodological note: This
poll of 600 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted December 6th
and 7th, 2005, by professional interviewers. Respondents indicated they are
likely to participate in the May 2006 Democratic primary election. The
margin of error is plus or minus 4.0 percent.
Phil spends a fair amount of time justifying the bona fides of the poll, which is a bit behind the point. The problem with internal poll results isn't that they are slanted toward the candidate by a pollster he pays -- the candidate, after all, wants accurate information. The issue is that we generally only see the happy results from a campaign. So if, for example, a internal Brown campaign poll shows Hackett kicking DeWine's ass and Brown even, we'll never hear about it.

Finally, a little closer to home, de Vellis called the House of Pho this weekend and we had a wide-ranging chat for about 45 minutes. He gave me a couple interesting tidbits that I need to check the blogability on.

I am less scandalized by this contact than some of the bloggers to the north. It strikes me as analogous to Editorial Board meetings candidates have with newspapers. Brown is thinking -- accurately, I think -- that political blogs are important opinion makers and need to be tended much like traditional media. How true that is for a wiggly worm like me remains to be seen, but the cost is relatively low, so it's simply smart campaign strategy.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friday Random Ten

1. "Joy," Lucinda Williams
2. "Lover, You Should Come Over," Jeff Buckley
3. "Rag Mama Rag," The Band
4. "Violet Eyes," Meat Puppets
5. "Here She Comes Now," Velvet Underground
6. "Pulled Up," Talking Heads
7. "The Employment Pages," Death Cab for Cutie
8. "Yet to Succeed," Dwight Yoakum
9. "Maybe Angels," Sheryl Crow
10. "Muskat Ramble," Louis Armstrong.

Last week's post notwithstanding, I do keep my ears out for new music. So a quick shout-out to my friend Jen for turning me on to Death Cab.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The NEO Bloggers Nimble Minds Carnival.

Speaking of NEO bloggers getting together, Jill organized a "carnival" hosted by Brewed Fresh Daily. She invited NEO bloggers to submit blog posts that showed "nimble minds at work." The carnival has been running all week. I apologize to my dear readers and to Jill for not plugging it earlier. A particularly nonsensical oversight since mine was the kickoff post. You can catch up with the Thursday post which also has links to the previous three. Go see the great minds at work in the NEO.

Meet the Bloggers Update

Sherrod Brown has gotten off the fence and agreed to a session "sometime in January." Paul Hackett is on for next week -- probably Wednesday. You can submit questions at the MTB site. No fair lifting "do you have any policy positions outside the Iraq War?" That's mine.

Meanwhile, Eric Fingerhut met the bloggers today. George liveblogged it again. In what seems to be an emerging tradition for MTB newbies, Jill Miller Zimon and Jim Eastman each blog the experience.

The Miseducation of NEO Pt. 2: PD on 65%

The PD redeems itself somewhat with this story about the Blackwell-backed 65% Fairy Dust proposal to fix school funding once and for all. I've blogged 65% before. My rundown of the background and specifics is here, this post notes the threat it poses to the cushy gig non-teacher employees have and this one covers a secret strategy memo showing that 65% is basically a political strategy masquerading as a serious proposal.

The PD piece treads much the same ground. The hook of the piece is the fretting by the non-school employees unions about the axfall that 65% will bring. Since we now know that the essense of the strategy is dividing and conquering the public education constituency, we will now see a united front against it, yes? No. "While Hatch panned the idea for being bad for his union members, the Ohio Federation of Teachers likes the proposal because it could mean more jobs and higher wages for teachers." Nice.

The PD also cites a recent study showing that 65% has no effect on what we should actually care about: student acheivement. What flaming liberal outfit put together such a study? None other than the unreconstructed pinkoes at Standard and Poors.

Meanwhile, I heard at a meeting Monday that Title 1 funds don't count toward the in-the-classroom 65%. It's not clear that Department of Agriculture school lunch grants count against it, along with state and local nutrition spending. But all in all, this is looking like more of a sham every time I look at it.

The Miseducation of NEO, Pt. 1: The PD on NCLB Tutoring

Yesterday's PeeDee ran a doubly disturbing piece on the business of tutoring kids under the No Child Left Behind Act. To reset: Under the NCLB, a school district that has failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress three years in a row must pay for tutoring for students that want it.

The NCLB leaves it to states to establish the rules for tutoring. Disturbing factor #1 in the PD piece is the snippets of information indicating that Ohio is adopting a Wild West model:

Mangan's employer, Education Recovery Clinic of Indiana, pays teachers $125 an hour to tutor up to five students per session. Because competition is stiff, her company offers $100 to each student who finishes all sessions, which is between 20 and 30.
Don't we usually call that a kickback?

Elsewhere we learn that:
Not all tutoring is face-to-face. A quarter of the companies registered in Ohio work with students online.

One is Tutorial Services, an online business started by Tom Allor, a Detroit high school teacher. He came to Ohio partly because the Michigan education department turned down his application to tutor there.
Which leads me to the second distubing aspect of the story: The PD's inability to fill in blanks and connect dots. Are Ohio's tutor regulations looser than in other states? If so, why? Does it have anything to do with the election year generosity of David Brennan, Concerned Citizen who, as it happens, has a computer heavy NCLB tutoring business of his own? Bear in mind, this is a long shelflife story. The PD had no reason to rush it to print as underreported as it is.

I have boxed the BJ's ears on this blog and will do so again. But it has excellent education coverage, mostly thanks to the work of Doug Oplinger and Dennis Willard. They didn't cover this story, but when they get to it, count on a richer backdrop.

Towel in; Haugh out.

Yesterday School Board member Loretta Haugh shed ties with one of her two masters by sending an open letter to media outlets. She sites her health and family as reasons, suggesting that she has read at least Chapter 1 of Resigning for Dummies. The ABJ notes that she did not notify the Board ahead of time.

Her resignation comes on the heels of her clean bill of health from the Ohio Ethics Commission. As I noted previously, Ohio Ethics Law doesn't consider the ethical implications of holding dual employment in a world where the government competes in the marketplace. Haugh, of course, considers the Commission opinion a vindication:

This past week the Ohio Ethics Commission released its legal opinion, an opinion
I requested to help further clarify the questions surrounding my employment with
Summit Academy while serving as a school board member, and specifically to
resolve the issue of any conflict of interest. The Ohio Ethics Commission was
unequivocal in its support of my position, namely that my new employment created
absolutely no conflict of interest. After the unprofessional antics of many, it
is most rewarding to be so validated by the Ohio Ethics Commission, the
appropriate legal body with controlling jurisdiction on this matter.

Unprofessional? Like dragging this controversy out until your "vindication" then taking your ball and going home? Like resigning through an open letter, without any contact with the Board? I'm unaware of anyone -- anyone professional anyway -- who handled the controversy unprofessionally.

What Haugh doesn't appreciate is the precedent set by her actions. If the Board treated her dual employment as perfectly fine, it would be only a matter of time before a White Hat shill ran for the Board. Haugh does indeed have a long record of service to the children of Akron. If she is able to improve Summit Academies, she will improve the lives of scores of additional children, and good for her. But serving in both positions was inappropriate and her refusal to acknowledge that reflects badly on her.

So who replaces her? Probably recent Board member and unsuccessful City Council candidate Mary Stormer and near-miss Board candidate Kirt Conrad are frontrunners. Personally, I would like to see Allan Markey, an accountant who would be an asset to the Board, but whose suffer-no-fools bluntness hurt him in the election.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Brown's Internet Strategy; Hackett's Substance

Sherrod Brown has some internet savvy. He started a website, heavy with blogginess that allowed registrants to post and billed itself as a portal for progressive organizing (never mind Blue 88 on the web and a half-dozen less web-intensive organizations doing the same thing). He hired Tim Tagaris whose web knowledge is so extensive he got hired away by the DNC. Tim did all the right things, including posting comments on blogs that linked to the site. Despite my lukewarm post, he was studiously upbeat in his comment.

So Browns recent blog-based missteps have been downright puzzling. First, there was his ill-advised "neutralize the blogs" comment in an In These Times interview. Now he is waffling on an invitation to Meet the Bloggers. At the same time his staff has been, well, meeting with bloggers. (For the record I am on the campaign's email list for press releases but haven't been personally approached by the campaign, despite actually living in his district.)

Granted, participating in the free-for-all with nonprofessional journalists that is Meet the Bloggers violates any number of classic campaigning rules. But a refusal would clash garishly with the progressive organizer/new media guy image he tried to grow on GrowOhio. Meanwhile, GrOhio itself has devolved into another tiresome campaign blog. Sure Sherrod, I want to read 1200 words on your latest campaign swing. Just let me finish this self-inflicted root canal first.

So do we think Paul Hackett will Meet the Bloggers? Oh, indeed we do. MTB is just the sort of all-in move he's built his loose-lipped candidacy on.

On the other hand, an interview with bloggers might require Hackett to formulate actual policy positions. His website is still devoid of any indication of what the man stands for. How does he feel about making Bush's tax cuts permanent? Cuts to food stamps and Medicaid? Drilling in ANWR? Your guess is as good as mine. He hasn't even been mentioning his pro-choice stands on abortion and guns in this campaign. His entire platform is "Look upon my war record, ye mighty, and despair."

I seem to remember some guy running a Presidential campaign like that once. I'll look up how he did and get back to you.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More on the Anti-Wi-Fi Lobby.

Today's Progress Report from the Center for American Progress offers a well-research and link-heavy piece on telecom providers lobbying against locally established broadband and wi-fi networks. As I noted in an earlier post, local Wi-Fi efforts elsewhere have been stymied by companies lobbying states for preemptive legislation.

The Progress Report pegs the piece to BellSouth renegging on a humanitarian donation because New Orleans is installing municipal broadband network (a story our own Jeff Hess also blogs.) From there they run down the most egregious instances of telecom rent seeking. They also link to this action alert from calling for support for the Community Broadband Act -- a counterproposal to Big Telecom's Community Broadband Hosing Act.

As I said previously, it's God's own miracle we haven't seen this nonsense in our General Assembly. But then, they are awfully busy with prosteletizing license plates and all.

Make that the Summit/Stark Blogosphere

After George's comments to my earlier post, I thought a lot about exclusion and geography. I still think having a group of our own is valuable as an adjunct to the NEO MeetUp. But I want to avoid being a dick about it. So I've expanded the blogroll a bit. I've included current blogs from Stark and will include anyone from Summit or Stark or communities reasonably in the sphere of either.

The 'roll itself is a fairly eclectic mix. A couple of Stark blogs that didn't make the list for wont of recent posting would have pressed me on the "it must not suck" thing.

Though I generally eschew campaign blogs, I'm making an exception for Jeff Seeman since he does so many thought pieces independent of the campaign.

I've also expanded the Ohio list a bit. I've added some important blogs that I had scandalously omitted (Plunderbund, Meckler), and some good local blogs that are blogrolling me (Now That's Progress, Word of Mouth). I'm caught up now, but will probably be out of date again within the week.

In the meantime, if you know of a Summit/Stark blog or someone blogrolling me whom I have omitted, please let me know.

If you are a blogger on the list and haven't contacted me yet, I plan on getting in touch this week. If I don't have your email, I'll drop something in you comments. I'm gunning for a meetup after the holidays.

OH-13 Betty Sutton Is In

From today's BJ:

Former state Rep. Betty Sutton, a Democrat who for eight years represented the
Barberton area in Columbus, has announced her candidacy for Congress from the
13th District.
Sutton, 42, was in the Ohio House from 1993 through 2000. She
left office because of term limits.
She now lives in Geauga County's Munson
Township, in the 14th District. Congressional representatives are not required
to live in the districts they represent.
An attorney, Sutton has worked as a
labor lawyer since leaving office.
* * *
Sutton has been a member of
Summit County Council and Barberton City Council.
Betty Sutton has been out so long that she's almost impossible to research on the web. 2000 was about half a century ago in web years. She was in the Ohio House at a time that most of my political attention was concentrated on Stark County, so I don't know much about her.

Her labor lawyering has been on behalf of teachers' unions, which may steal Sawyer's one possible sector of labor support away.

This could get interesting.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Voter ID Coming to Ohio

What hath RON wrought? According to today's Columbus Dispatch:

Sen. Jeff Jacobson, a Vandalia Republican and leader in crafting changes to
the measure, said it would impose the same identification requirements at the
polls as those adopted this fall for voters casting absentee ballots.

Voters could provide any number of documents, including a driver’s license,
paycheck, utility bill or bank statement. Voters also could sign sworn
statements declaring their identities or submit the last four digits of their
Social Security numbers, but that would allow them to cast only provisional
ballots, which are counted within 10 days after the election if deemed valid.

The proposal is far better than the photo ID proposal that died in committe earlier this year. Whether the Amish Problem was part of the change is unclear. Pegging it to the Issue 2 preemption legislation was a nice touch -- try to reform things and we will hit you with voting barriers.

Still, this is a decent compromise to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Republican supporters still peg these proposals on their fear that Dick Hertz and Mike Hunt will actually show up and vote. They say it with such sincerity that I genuinely don't know whether they are being stupid, or if they just think the rest of us are.

Meet the Bloggers: Ted Strickland

Ted Strickland sat down with a group of bloggers yesterday for a revealing interview. The podcasts and transcript will be up atthe Meet the Bloggers site when they get some technical glitches ironed out. George's liveblog of the interview is there now. Adam at Now That's Progress extensively blogs his impressions.

Strickland is in the midst of a NEO swing. In addition to MTB, he spoke in Alliance yesterday. His website notes a number of upcoming NEO appearances. I've been invited to a fundraiser Sunday; if I make it, I'll post some impressions.

Not only do I dislike viral blogging (see post below), I generally like to know where people are coming from on these races. Just so you know, I'm now a Strickland guy.

Plunderbund Takes on Viral Blogging [UPDATED]

"Viral Marketing" is the ad industry term for sending regularly looking folks into the market to generate buzz for a product -- a manufactured hipster ordering the cool new vodka, for example. Lately the blogosphere is seeing more and more viral blogging. People log on with a point of view supporting one or another candidate, but don't identify themselves as actually working for that candidate.

This and other candidate-related controversies has prompted Eric at Plunderbund to advance Ten Rules for Online Campaign Organizers. He pretty well covers all that is annoying in blog-focused campaign tactics. If the blogosphere succeeds in reaching concensus on and enforcing (in the form of flaming, outing, dropping support) these rules, no doubt new obnoxious tactics will crop up. But it's a good start.

UPDATE: Eric has received input from a number of quarters, most notably Kossacks. He has now moved the 10 Rules to a separate page as a work in progress. This may someday be something. Go contribute to the discussion and you can say you were There at the Creation.

Friday Random Ten

"Not Modern at All" Edition

1. "Secondary Modern," Elvis Costello
2. "Out of Nowhere," Charlie Parker
3. "Hesitating Beauty," Billy Bragg & Wilco
4. "I Walk the Line," Johnny Cash
5. "What a Crying Shame," The Mavericks
6. "Eat at Joe's," Matraca Berg
7. "I Wish You Knew," Jim & Jesse & The Virginia Boys
8. "Bye Bye Love," Wylie and the Wild West
9. Philip Glass, "String Quartet No. 5: III" Kronos Quartet
10. "Smokestack Lightning," Howlin' Wolf

Once we get past Elvis, the balance of the list hearkens back a half-century or more. Whether genuinely old recordings like Parker, Cash and Howlin' Wolf; covers like Billy Bragg's rescue of lost Woody Guthrie lyrics or Wylie's traditional country take on an Everly Brothers chestnut; or ccontemporary takes on old-school songwriting like the Mavericks country weeper or Matraca Berg's stroll down Tin Pan Alley, most of the list world be perfectly comfortable in a 1957 jukebox.

The one notable exception is the Philip Glass piece commissioned in the late 80's.

Friends who read this blog may have heard me carry on about the sad state of popular music today. Do I listen to new music? Sure. Check out this string concerto.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

OH-14: Two First-Timers Vying to Take on LaTourette

Lake County Dems have a blog up on their website which is the best place to keep tabs of this race (as well as the latest dirt on LaTourette.) Right now two political neophytes are battling in the primary. Meteorologist Palmer J. Peterson is a friend from Summit Co. Progressive Dems. Professor Lew Katz teaches at CRWU School of Law.

This all underscores the carpetbaggery of a rumored Capri Cafaro race in OH-13. It's one thing not to take on a popular incumbent like Tim Ryan in what may or may not be your actual home district. It's another thing to jump into a safe district and leave a venal and vulnerable Congressman to newbies.

I get perturbed about this. Akron's Congressional representation was watered down badly when we got split up in the redistricting. The idea of someone not from the district at all jumping in really sticks in my craw.

More Games on the Court.

This week's West Side Leader has the latest salvos in the Battle of Summit County Common Pleas. (I missed the BJ editorial last Friday.) Now seven of the eight judges have signed off on a plan to push the bulk of civil litigation back to wade through their criminal case loads.

The breadth of the defections is a serious mutiny in Lord Alex’s fiefdom. While the Democrats – Bond, Shapiro and Stormer – have never hesitated in telling Alex to pound salt, and Mary Spicer has long asserted her independence, Murphy and Unruh have generally stayed on the reservation. Now only Judy Hunter remains. She was deep in Alex’s pocket even before she lost her seat on Juvenile Court and was granted a second chance with a General Division appointment.

Alex’s latest cover story is that he will “allow” – bear in mind, no one elected him to anything – allow the Common Pleas add-on to go forward, but wants an additional judge in Cuyahoga Falls Muni and in the Juvenile Division.

Though the Leader story doesn’t say, presumably Democrats in the GA are balking at the new add-ons. The Common Pleas judges are agnostic on whether to add onto CF Muni and Juvenile Division, they simply ask that the issues be considered separately. A reasonable enough position, but apparently not reasonable enough to prevent State Rep. John Widowfield (R-42 ) from calling it "hypocritical."

Hypocritical? Let's review recent history. Back when Judy Hunter was Juvenile Division Judge, attorneys practicing there begged for a new judgeship. General Division judges agreed. Alex didn't. Why risk a Democrat being elected and split control over all those patronage jobs. Then Hunter lost to Linda Tucci Teodosio and Alex's position changed hilariously quickly. Meanwhile, Judge Teodosio streamlined procedures, appointed good magistrates and got the docket under control. She says she no longer needs another judge. But of course another judge is Alex's only chance to get his hooks back into Juvenile Division.

Clearly, Summit will only have new judgeships when Democrats control a majority of the existing General Division seats. Let's work on that.

Akron Moving Toward City-Wide Wi-Fi/Wi-Max

From today's Beacon:

Akron has chosen NeoReach, a subsidiary of MobilePro Corp. of Maryland, to
install a pilot wireless network near Fulton International Airport. The test
area will serve city workers and could become the seed for a citywide
network open to residents and businesses.

NeoReach also has initiated a pilot program in Cuyahoga Falls. If both
pilots are taken citywide with NeoReach, residents could have access to the
Internet from either city with the same account.

As always happens when a city heads toward wireless, we've caught a lot of attention. You can get a more technical discussion of the plan here. Meanwhile, wireless enthursiasts note another step in the march. Other cities wring their hands about falling behind.

Not being a tech guy, I don't have opinions about NeoReach. If I see anything elsewhere in the NEOsphere, I will link to it. I did run across a Slate piece about Wi-Max vs. Wi-Fi.

The political dimension of wireless, I do have opinions about. In other states city-wide wireless has kicked up considerable dust and inspired rent-seeking lobbying by cell phone companies. Pennsylvania where a Philadelphia public/private wireless plan inspired a $3 million lobbying campaign by Verizon, has been paradigmatic case.
As this Slate piece notes:Companies like Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and SBC don't want citywide wireless broadband because they'd much prefer the wireless market to look like the cell-phone market. Instead of wireless becoming something akin to a public utility, the telecom companies envision a pastiche of providers divvying up the market much the way cell-phone providers have carved up the United States. If you want wireless broadband, you may have to subscribe to a local phone service or accept a slew of services you don't want. And even if the country is blanketed with wireless, you might have to pay roaming charges to access competitors' networks. In the end, you'll probably end up paying more than with muni broadband, not to mention that emergency responders crossing from one network to another won't be able to communicate as efficiently.

As the Slate piece notes, the controversy has inspired dueling Federal bills to either restrict municipalities from establishing networks or letting them be. Both bills appear stalled in Committee.

Suprisingly, given the General Assembly's fealty toward business interests, Ohio hasn't seen an effort like Pennsylvania's. Whether the cell companies are concentrating on the Federal legislation or taking another tack, I can't determine.

Limiting government "competition" against private concerns has been an active front in the rightwing war on the private sector, and the subject of proposed legislation here. This bill is not as draconian as another proposal that would simply disallow the government from offering any service that could be supplied by a private company. And of course, none of this touches Rick Santorum's disgraceful campaign against the Weather Service. All of these are less about free market economics and more about hosing citizens for the benefit of private corporations.

So we need to keep an eye on whether NeoReach's pilot works. We also need to watch whether either the State or the Feds try to tell Akron that it can't offer these services to its citizens.