Friday, February 17, 2006


I've been holding off on fully blogging about the High & Broad controversy until now, because my feelings on the matter varied depending on who I believed to be the elusive Model500. Model and I had something of a mutual admiration society going, so I feel somewhat astroturfed by the whole affair.

If you haven't heard, Chris Redfern acknowledged last night at Meet the Bloggers that Model is in fact John Kohlstrand, Communications Director for the Ohio House Minority Caucus. Jill recounts a conversation with John in which he denies actually denying his identity to Michael Meckler and falls back on his “What the definition of ‘is’ is” response to Psychobilly.

Most of my take is pretty standard issue, but endure it anyway. I'm all about transparency. The internet and the rise of blogs make anonymous mischief easier, making it all that much more important that people are who they purport to be. As I noted in comments, I’ve been scrupulous about disclosing my newly-acquired tiny pecuniary interest in school funding reform. I have in the past faulted Pounder for using the apparently objective title “Buckeye Senate Blog” as opposed to something more accurate like “I [heart] Paul Hackett Blog.” I’m certainly not giving Model a pass for pretending to be just some guy.

Like any sort of human interaction, the internet depends on mutual trust. If a reader can’t trust the sincerity of high-profile blogs, the whole enterprise will grind itself to powder.

Model’s subterfuge is a pity because, when he engaged in argument, he was good. I felt in particular he laid out good cases about the danger of Hackettphilia and the usefulness of some MSM-affiliated blogs. Of course I can’t link to any concrete examples now . . . The point is that he could have simply put some ideas out acknowledging at least his connection to inner-circle ODP and at least some of us would have found them intrinsically valuable. Instead, everything he said is now easily dismissed by people who need to take it seriously because he hid who he was.

I’m also put off by this latest manifestation in what I see as an elitist arrogance in Democratic leadership. The attitude seems to run along the lines of: “if you have money, we will listen to you. If you are just some schlump who cares about issues, you should vote for our candidates once or twice a year, but otherwise sit down and shut up.”

I’ve been sufficiently active to have found myself in rooms with established Democratic pollsters and message people. This elitism is the most noxious and dangerous in their hands. Try to raise a complex or nuanced argument and you are immediately hooted down. As a former trial attorney, I understand the need to keep things simple.

But I’m also aware that Republicans have spent the better part of 40 years publicly discussing some fairly heady philosophies about the role of government in society and we have throughout that period avoided engaging them because, darn it all, our answers would just be too complicated. And I’m aware that Democratic politics as usual has exiled us to the political hinterlands. All this goddam caution and simplicity has earned us one-third of the General Assembly and precious little else.

Which brings me to a small but significant interchange between this blog and H&B that I let pass when I thought Model500 was just some guy. In my first (hopefully not last) Blackwell post I faulted J. Ken for misleadingly referring to a one-cent-on-a-dollar increase in the state sales tax as a 20% tax hike. Model, in an otherwise complimentary discussion of the post, said of the sales tax hike something like “all due respect to Pho, it was a 20% tax hike.”

Yes, you can accurately describe it as a 20% increase in that 6 cents on the dollar is 20% more than 5 cents on the dollar. I maintain that most people hearing “20% hike” think the tax went up 20 cents on the dollar. More importantly, since you can accurately describe it as either a 20 percent increase or a one cent on a dollar increase, why wouldn’t you do the latter. Back when I coached debaters, I didn’t need George Lakoff to tell them that if you let the other side dictate the terms of the debate, you will lose.

The fact that the Communications Director for the Democrats legislative caucus would even think about using Blackwell's typology has to rank high on the List of Reasons Why We Keep Getting Our Asses Kicked.