Sunday, April 30, 2006

Wondering about Betty Sutton and Marijuana?

I've noticed lots of people finding the blog by Googling candidates. Over the next couple days I'll do what I can with whatever crap is flying around.

Tonight's topic is Capri Cafaro's allegation that Betty Sutton favors legalizing marijuana. ( H/t Ohio 13 Votes) The truth is that Sutton once proposed a medical marijuana legalization bill. Whatever one might think about medical marijuana -- I haven't seen the science to support it yet -- support for medical marijuana is not the same as a support for wholesale legalization.

A Cafaro flak says that because Sutton proposed legalizing up to a half pound, the effect would be the same as legalization. Two things. First, there is a difference between intent and effect. The ad says that Sutton favors legalizing marijuana. That is plainly untrue -- her intent was only to legalize medical use. I believe that Cafaro's SAW plan would engorge the deficit and crash the economy, but I wouldn't proclaim that "Capri Cafaro wants to engorge the deficit and crash the economy." To equate a possible outcome with intent to cause that outcome is fundamentally dishonest.

Second, the half-pound thing must be understood in context. I haven't seen the bill or been in contact with Camp Cafaro about this, but I can fill in the blanks. I assume that Sutton's bill would have legalized possession of misdemeanor quantity -- 200 grams or .44 pounds. (R.C. 2925.11(C)(3)(a-b) for those of you keeping score at home.)

If it's news to you that possession of that much bud was that low level, welcome to the wacky world of Ohio's marijuana laws. Up to 100 grams is a minor misdemeanor. If you smoke more than 100 grams of pot in a year, that's pretty impressive. Depending on quality, you are getting righteously baked 2-4 times a week. That's a Live-in-Mom's-Basement level of usage. But if you are carrying that much marijuana at one time, your offense is literally no more serious than a speeding ticket.

From 100-200 grams, possession is a 4th degree misdemeanor. If you have 199 grams of weed and get caught shoplifting a lighter to fire up a blunt, you are in bigger trouble for the lighter (M1) than the dope (M4). The real question for Betty is why bother to legalize medical marijuana when partytime marijuana is for all intents decriminalized.

But of course, all this is too complicated for any discussion outside BlogWorld. Not only is this a sleazy distortion, it's an eleventh hour sleazy distortion, giving Sutton little time to set the record straight. And since it appears in a commercial that has to have been in production for longer than the EM-List mailers have been going out. And whatever distortions lie in the EM-List mailers, they do not out and out lie like the Cafaro ad.

Those looking to Cafaro as the "positive" candidate may want to reevaluate.

Friday, April 28, 2006

EMILY's List and their Sticky Virtual Fingers

If you haven't heard the story yet, the EMILY's List generated anti-Cafaro flier I posted yesterday featured a photo lifted from Scott Bakalar. Scott had gone to the trouble to obtain and post a Creative Commons license, so lifting without attribution was definitely uncool. What's more, I don't want future MTB subjects to be reluctant to participate because photos may be lifted to make them look bad. I *cough* *cough* I *gag* agree with Pounder (in comments at the 'Billy) that if the Sutton camp had approached me for using the photo, I would have declined. Well, I should have -- would've depended on my mood and the proximity to Cafaro lying about me on air . . .

Like George, I notified the Sutton camp about my concerns and am waiting for a reply.

Here's the thing. The EM-List flier was sent in their independent 527 capacity. My understanding is that in that capacity, EM-List can't spend money in coordination with Sutton's campaign. That's why the disclaimer that "it's not endorsed by any candidate."

I don't think Sutton should hide behind this fact, but she has to be careful of it. If she were to issue a statement saying that her campaign made a mistake or even that she takes responsibility for the unattributed use of the picture, it could be read as an admission of illegal coordination. What she needs to do at this point is give the issue to an election lawyer to draft a statement saying essentially that she's sorry people advocating for her but on their own dime did something that infringed on the rights Scott reserved. I sincerely hope this is happening, but fact is it will take time and the Sutton campaign is busy with . . . what's the word . . . campaigning.

Of course, the best outcome would be an abject apology from That Girl's Group with the Stupid Name* for both the insult to Scott's CC license and the embarassment to the Sutton campaign. Given the constant arrogant tone emanating from Chez EMILY, I am officially not holding my breath.

*Good for 10 PhoPoints.

Meanwhile, today's mail brings a second anti-Cafaro flier with a second picture lifted from Scott.

Plus -- bonus! -- the fake Cafaro newspaper with its fake endorsments page as reported by Ohio 13 Votes:

I need a bath.

Random Ten

"Heavy Rotation, Week 2" Edition

1. “Marching Band,” Death Cab for Cutie
2. “Girl in the Way,” Josh Ritter
3. “I Am Damo Suzuki,” The Fall
4. “Factory,” The Vines
5. “Stormy Weather,” Echo and the Bunnymen
6. “Hurt,” Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre
7. “I Love to Boogie,” T. Rex
8. “Love Train,” The Woodentops
9. “Fadin’ Away,” Green on Red
10. “Though my Door,” The Muckrakers

Part of the Heavy Rotation project is getting acquainted with bands I’ve been hearing about for years, but haven’t heard much by – Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, Woodentops and Green on Red, for example. The liner notes of my Green on Red best of quote a Guardian critic proclaiming them “The second best bar band in the world.” Setting aside the absurd hyperbole as applied to G on R – maybe they crack the top 50 – it got me wondering: Who’s # 1? Who’s the best bar band of all time?

Some guidelines so the discussion doesn’t just become Best Rock Band. To me the fundamental characteristics of Barbandedness are first, rough edges. The Beatles could never be called a bar band, at least not after Stu Sutcliffe left. Second, a degree of amaturishness in instrumentation and/or vocals. Richard Thompson is almost a cartoon of grittiness, but is entirely too fine a guitarist to be in a Best Bar Band. Third, a sound that fits comfortably in a confined, smoky, sticky-floored setting. In researching this post I found a blogcritic citing Cheap Trick as the Best Bar Band. No. Cheap Trick are arena rock incarnate.

I’m still working on my candidates. I have one in particular in mind, but am wondering if they are too good or too BIG for bar bandage.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

In Which the Ohio 13 Campaign Wears a Hole in My Soul

I got a break today from EMILY’s List-sponsored anti-Sawyer attack fliers courtesy of . . . an anti-Cafaro attack flier. This one was pretty well done as these things go and if it doesn’t prompt a lawsuit we will know that Betras’s threat was empty. What’s new in this is the reiteration of the charge leveled by AP last week that Cafaro's testimony that she donated money to candidates and was then reimbursed by her father may have violated campaign finance laws.

So yesterday was the City Club debate. Was she asked about it? If she was, the papers didn’t make note. Kucinich gets off his usual “if you did nothing wrong, why did you get immunity” jab, but evidently either doesn’t read the papers or didn’t bother to update his act.

And did anyone point out that Cafaro’s SAW plan would spend $55 billion before accomplishing anything? Well, that’s just a silly question. This is a political campaign; the last thing we want to do is talk about issues. How ‘bout more of Sutton and Sawyer bitching about when is a junket not a junket? Now that’s a campaign.

I like Betty Sutton but Lord am I hating on her campaign. She’s a good person with loads of potential. She deserved better than a beltway hackjob campaign that makes her look like a nippy, yappy toy poodle.

Meanwhile, the BJ’s Carl “Puffathon” Chancellor gets early consideration for this year’s Pot/Kettle award with this lede: “What the noontime faceoff of seven of the eight Democrats vying in the 13th Congressional District lacked in drama, it made up for in predictability.” Well Carl, back atcha. Maybe you want to ask just one difficult question next time you interview a candidate.

And the big news of the night is the new WKYC poll showing Sawyer, Sutton and Cafaro all tied. The only thing potentially more depressing than the possibility that Sutton’s remote-controlled campaign-by-numbers might lose her the primary is the possibility that it might win.

Pho in Dead Tree Media

OK, actually my alter ego, but you all know the real me. The Beacon Journal runs my op-ed on Issue 1 today, and I get a mention in the Events sidebar on the front page of the West Side Leader teasing the school funding Town Hall tonight.

Hope to see you all the meeting. I'll pretty much be grinding out the presentation today, so don't expect to see me here.

Have a good one.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Quick Hits and Fazed Cookies*.

I’m really tired tonight, so don’t look for a lot of depth.

-If you are the very last blog reader to hear about the Bill Ritter/Stonewall Dems/Ohio Blogosphere donnybrook, let me be the first to tell you all about it. On second thought, let Brian and Tim. I was on the road all day, so didn’t get to participate, but high fives all around.

-Some time ago I reported that the General Assembly had passed legislation allowing for a license plate bearing the legend “One Nation Under God.” The first chapter of the inevitable Constitutional challenge was penned this week when the Sixth Circuit upheld Tennessee’ “Choose Life” plate. I posted a question in comments at PrawfsBlawg. The first one in answers pretty much right on, though I still think there’s something to my “repurposing” argument from the original post.

-If you didn’t hear over the weekend, the Sixth Circuit also found punch-card ballots violate the Equal Protection Clause under the reasoning of Bush v. Gore. How Appealing has a useful set of links, and the actual decision is here. I’ve been skimming through it for my edification – using the odd lexicon under which reading fifty page appellate opinions is deemed edifying.

-The other day I saw a guy putting out an Issue 1 sign and removing his Blackwell/Raga sign to the garage. It’s morning again in Ohio.

-Speaking of neighbors, a family on my block is moving. Mrs. L. told me today that her Smythe Cramer realtor says that no one is house hunting in Akron these days – they are all waiting to see if the levy passes. If you have property in the city, it’ll cost you some extra taxes if the levy passes, but it will probably cost more in lost property values if it fails. If you live in Firestone or Ellet – the two highest performing clusters – you paid a premium that will be lost with all those “extras” the mouth-breathers against the levy rail against.

-The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!*. This week’s Carnival of Politics is up.

-Ohio Citizen Action has a handy page up with analysis of campaign contributions to the four major party gubernatorial candidates. Blackwell stands out with over 90% in small contributions. Is there any way to find out how many of those were coordinated by Patriot Pastors?

-The Democrat’s Net Neutrality amendment died in Committee. The Senate appears ready to take up issues of broadband access and muni wi-fi.

*Finally, I announce a new feature here at the Akron Pages. The more hip and observant among you have notice the odd obscure pop-culture reference. Well, I’m going to start rewarding the spotters. From now on, I’ll offer PhoPoints on certain drops that go to first commenter to ID the orgin.

I’ll keep a running tab and report standings. For now, only bragging rights are at stake, but I make come up with something like a Random Ten of one’s own as a prize if the thing catches on.I expect a righteous tilt between Grandpaboy and 54Cermak, with Redhorse and k-pho as dark horses. Interactivity is our watchword here at House of Pho. So, 20 PhoPoints for the title of this post; ten for the “phone books are here” tag above. You're on your honor not to Google.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pho Endorsements: Ohio 13th.

OK, is anyone shocked that I'm endorsing Betty Sutton in Ohio 13? The only real surprise is that it's taken this long.

I was actually considering a post calling for no preference between Betty and Whoever Can Beat Cafaro. I'm feeling a little more confident after the last poll. Honestly, if a last poll comes out this week showing Cafaro looming at the finish line, I may vote for whoever looks in best position to keep her out. For now, Betty Sutton has my vote, has a swatch of my lawn for her unfortunate sign -- Hell, she has a fair amount of my money.

As to why, basically I liked her message from the first time I saw her. You can read that first post to catch up. I like that she's talking about running the government well instead of proposing a Unified Theory of Everything as a legislative agenda. I think that her "Who's Minding the Store" theme meshes well with the campaign themes that would work best for the Democrats this fall. Also, check out my MTB post that highlights more of what I like about Betty.

By way of additional explanation, and perhaps disclosure, I've spent a total of a couple hours with her, including an hour long coffee which consisted mostly of me talking about education policy and her and her researcher taking notes. A cynic would say that she was trying to work over an influential blogger. A realist -- like one who sees my SiteMeter reports -- would say there are easier ways to get at the handful of voters that make up my audience. I love you all, but there just aren't that many of you. I found her to be genuinely curious about what I had to say, much like her inquiry of George during MTB. She had me at "Tell me about that."

Having said all that, I could live a long happy life without reading the words "Tom Sawyer" and "junket" in the same sentence again. I'm sure the EM-List hired DC gurus could show me focus group data and internal polls showing that this is a wonderful strategy. And I would still think they are wrong. I think she should have done in Lorain with Capri what she has done in Akron with Sawyer. The strategy worked temporarily at least as an attention-getter, but it's gone on at least three mailers too long.

But I get that it's politics and I can deal with it. Within the past five years I walked away from a promising State Senate campaign because the candidate sent out a mailer that was bullshit. And it was, but I was wrong to walk away. It's politics. It would be wonderful if political discourse happened even at the modestly high level of this blog, but it doesn't. I can live with that now; I can live with the decision to go after Sawyer, even as I feel the need to disinfect my hands after reading the latest mailer.

Campaign strategy aside, I believe Betty Sutton would be a solid candidate in the General and an excellent Representative. I am endorsing Betty Sutton for the Democratic nomination in Ohio 13th.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Upcoming Events for Education Advocacy

My organizing client, the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, is working to raise the profile of funding reform in the state. We are organizing a series of small-group discussions on school funding at various venues. If you are outside Akron and interested in participating, you can still sign up on the Fair Schools Website.

If you are in Akron, I am hosting the conversation as a TownHall on School Funding this Thursday at 6:30 at the Akron-Summit Main Library. We will talk about the problems with the school funding system and relate that back to the current fiscal straights that have necessitated the levy campaign. We will also talk about possible solutions and seek input from participants about possible changes in the system.

I am combining the Fair Schools campaign's continuing effort to get citizen input into negotiations seeking to draft a school funding ballot issue with Akron's own do-or-die levy campaign. As I've said before, skeptics are more than welcome to come to these events or just raise concerns in the comments. Make sure you know all the facts before you vote.

Ohio Fair Schools is also recruiting participants for a Conference and Lobby Day in Columbus on May 10. Whether or not you can attend one of the discussions, you can sign up for the lobby day. If you are in the Akron area, you can contact me through the blog for more information as I am coordinating the area delegation.

More directly tied to the levy campaign, a group of parents is organizing a Vote for Our Furture Rally to be held Friday, April 28, 2006 4:30 pm
at Cascade Plaza. We'll be there for an hour or so with students, parents, High School band members and a few VIPs. If you are an APS parent, bring your kids down. It should be a fun, energizing time. Again, I'll take queries through the blog email.

Meanwhile, the podcast for the Meet the Bloggers session with School Board members Kirt Conrad and James Hardy is up. We had some citizen input thanks to Redhorse's enterprising PR work, and Tim and Gloria came down to help. Thanks as always to George on the boards.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

TEL Me Another One

The pattern is now set for debate on J. Ken Blackwell’s TEL Amendment from here on out. First, opponents of the amendment will point out a feature of the amendment that will cause problems. Then J. Ken will lie about it. He will not mislead or obfuscate or distract or spin. He will lie, baldly and forcefully. He will decry the lies his opponents tell about his beloved amendment – lying with a ten point degree of difficulty. If TEL opponents succeed in getting it knocked off the ballot, freeing him from the obligation to defend it, expect to hear at some point, “I did not have relations with that ballot issue – the TEL Amendment.” We are talking about that level of lying.

Today’s topic is capital expenditures. The Columbus Dispatch talks to various public officials about TEL constraining efforts to buy new equipment, build things, what have you. Then they ask J. Ken for his take:

A key point of disagreement is whether the limit would apply to capital
improvements by cities and other local governments. Blackwell says it would not
because such spending is not mentioned by the amendment and money could be set
aside in separate accounts for projects.
Even when confronting lies that so patently defy apparent facts as to insult the intelligence of the audience, papers can dispiritingly fall into the false equivalency trap of reporting “on the one hand, but on the other hand,” and leaving it at that. Ken’s lie in this case is too much the hanging curve ball for the CD let the pitch go by. Instead of settling for the arguments of those cited up top, they interview lawyers, Michael Coleman and Barry Poulson, one of the last True Believers in the Colorado TABOR amendment. All say J.Ken is full of it.

Finally, they excerpt the amendment itself. Since we can play with a little more space, here’s the entire section defining “Aggregate State Expenditures:”
"Aggregate state expenditures" means the sum of all state expenditures, except that "aggregate state expenditures" shall not include expenditures of moneys (a) received from a revenue source other than taxes, licenses, permits, fees or sales, (b) received from the federal government, (c) for refunds of any kind, or (d) made pursuant to a bill which (i) authorizes temporary expenditures for the sole purpose of providing relief directly related to an emergency, (ii) specifically identifies by appropriation item the amount and purpose of each temporary expenditure and the specific source of the revenue necessary to fund that expenditure, (iii) limits the temporary expenditure to the amount and
specific purpose identified in the bill, (iv) provides for the expenditure of
all federal or other moneys earmarked or otherwise designated for general
emergency relief, and then the entire budget reserve fund, before any other
funds shall be expended for the emergency, and (v) receives the affirmative vote
of not less than three-fifths of the members of each house of the general
assembly [emphasis added].
“All,” Ken. Your amendment says “All.” Your “it doesn’t name capital expenditures” argument isn’t an alternative interpretation, it’s a hang-your-head-in-shame lie.

No news story will flat-out say a public figure is lying. If you want to see how close a paper can come without actually doing so, check out this story.

WSJ on How Blogs Will Destroy Us All

I’m really much to busy to spend time on this, but I can’t help it. One of my favorite hobbies is collecting examples of conservatives worrying about the latest cultural phenomenon that threatens everything. These always tend to be Rube-Goldberg contraptions that required snapping rubber bands, flying ping-pong balls and leaps of logic before the End of All We Hold Dear payoff. My favorites are Alan Bloom’s chapter on rock music and a mid-90s column demonstrating how Fleet Street’s obsession with Royal scandal would bring down British democracy.

So it is with The WSJ's Daniel Henniger's Friday column on blogs. He starts with a sensationalist case, reassures us that he’s not blaming that on blogs – oh no, not at all – then walks through the wackier provinces of blognation before his big leap:

A libertarian would say, quite correctly, that most of this is their problem, so who cares? But there is one more personality trait common to the blogosphere that, like crabgrass, may be spreading to touch and cover everything. It's called disinhibition. Briefly, disinhibition is what the world would look like if everyone behaved like Jerry Lewis or Paris Hilton or we all lived in South Park.
OK, let’s stop there. “Disinhibition” has been conservative bugbear at least since Elvis Presley. Does he honestly think blogs up the risk over, say, the Springer show?

But here’s my favorite:

Then there's politics. On the Huffington Post yesterday, there were more than
600 "comments" on Karl Rove and the White House staff shake-up. "Demoted my --- the snake is still in the grass." "He should be demoted to Leavenworth." "Rove is Bush's Brain, and without him, our Decider-in-Chief wouldn't know how to wipe his own ----."

From a primary post on the same subject on the Daily Kos, widely regarded as one of the most influential blogging sites in Democratic politics now: "I don't give a ----. Karl Rove belongs in shackles." "A group of village whores have taken a day off to do laundry."

Intense language like this used to be confined to construction sites and corner bars. Now it is normal discourse on Web sites, the most popular forums for political discussion. Much of this is new. Politics is a social endeavor. The Web is nothing if not "social." But the blogosphere is also the product not of people meeting, but
venting alone at a keyboard with all the uninhibited, bat-out-of-hell hyperbole
of thinking, suggestion and expression that this new technology seems to release.
Is he kidding me? This has been going on in venues all over society forever. Blogs cause this? Lefty blogs in particular cause this? Has he read nothing in the comments of Free Republic or Little Green Footballs? Can anyone possibly take an argument like this seriously? I mean it’s a total fucking . . . I mean it's a goddam . . . Wait . . .What’s happening to me?


Noooooo! That's not my style! I can't help myself!!


Oh NO! He’s right! It’s affecting me . . .


Must . . . stop . . . reading . . . blogs . . .

Montgomery's Odd Legal Research

Auditor Betty Montgomery wants to know if she can audit White Hat Management's books. Actually, she probably doesn't want to know. She's pretty much avoided knowing up until now. But put against the wall on the issue, she has pulled one of the oddest manuvers I've seen in government law.

First the background. While she relentlessly pursued for-profit management companies for Oriana House at the behest of her political ally Alex Arshinkoff, Montgomery has avoided until now doing the same thing to White Hat -- run by Concerned Citizen and Republican uber-benefactor David Brennan. This week Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) made a second request for an audit of White Hat's books. Montgomery has been publicly fretting about a very real difference in the statute that authorizes oversight of for-profit management companies of alternative corrections facilities like Oriana and the one that authorizes oversight of the constellation of entities that make up the charter schools system.

Several observers, including House Speaker Jon Husted who authored the charter oversight bill – have said the difference isn’t significant, that she has clear authorization. So now, in an apparent Friday afternoon move – she has requested legal guidance . . . from Husted.

In all my years of working in government and following government law, I’ve never heard of an official seeking legal guidance from a bill’s author, especially when that author isn’t even a lawyer. The law allows any public official to ask for a legal opinion from the attorney general’s office. Such an opinion would be what is called persuasive (as opposed to controlling) legal authority if the issue is litigated in court. Basically it means that the court can rely on the opinion if it chooses to, but isn’t bound by it.

Ohio law specifically disfavors relying on evidence of legislative intent – evidence that the lawmakers wanted the bill to mean X. Courts are supposed to adjudicate based on what the law says, not what the authors hoped it would say. And generally when a court considers evidence of intent, it’s evidence generated at the time the legislation is proposed, not evidence from much later. I can’t imagine a court admitting Husted’s opinion, much less giving it weight.

So, why Husted? Presumably because she doesn’t trust an opinion from Attorney General Jim Petro – Petro hates Arshinkoff. I don’t know the precise relationship between Arshinkoff and Brennan, but given Brennan’s Republican largess, AA can’t be happy about an audit.

It worries me that the fix is in. While Husted has previously said he thinks the law supports an audit of White Hat, he said after the latest development that he will talk to Montgomery before speaking publicly. Normally SOP, but he’s already spoken publicly. Does he think he’s going reach an “understanding” with Montgomery about what his law means?

Meanwhile, today’s PD runs one of the more tone-deaf election stories I’ve seen in some time on the AG’s race – already declaring Montgomery the winner in November. Dann and Chandra have so much ammo stockpiled on Montgomery they could run out a presser a day for the first month. She will be running as the Republican establishment’s darling in a year when the Republican establishment is mud.

This latest move should confirm to anyone concerned about charter schools that she can’t be trusted to oversee them. One more reason to vote for a change.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A New Ohio 13th Poll Makes Me Wonder

A few items of note recently have made me say . . . hmmm. My usual Friday night is surfing on my laptop in the TV room while the ladies in my life watch “What Not to Wear.” Last night I surfed in search of a few answers. Didn’t find any, but the questions remain fascinating.

The first is the poll released today by EMILY’s List. Redhorse, Jill and I apparently got the same memo, with Redhorse first in. The results are sufficiently different from that which came before that we should look at the available poll results together:

The first, most obvious conclusion is that Cafaro’s Zogby poll is definitively proven to be a big steaming pile. Not that is was seriously in doubt, but Capri was still flogging it as of her Joe Finan appearance. The wild swings, coupled with the “message polling” methodology pretty much put the kibosh on that. It’s up there, but ignore it. The first Goodwin Simon Victoria was all about name recognition, so doesn’t much resonate now

So we are looking at the recent WKYC/SurveyUSA poll vs. the GSV commissioned by EMILY’S List. I’ve was reading Mystery Pollster posts all night to try to figure this out, to little advantage. Much of what he writes is about general elections which 1) are two person races and 2) bring in differences between Dems and Republicans as variables. So much of this is talking out my butt; bear with me.

There’s an apples and oranges thing with these two polls because the GSV poll shows a much higher rate of undecideds. The low undecideds finding in Survey USA gave me pause at the time. Reading MP, I note that “house effects” can significantly influence that finding. I also wonder if the difference may in part be due to differing methodology in screening likely voters.

In an attempt – probably invalid – to compare the two polls, I’ve normed the polls to show the proportion each candidate gets of the voters who have decided:

Sutton’s move screams out now. She’s the only candidate who has moved out of the margin of error. So it’s time for the caveats. I can’t find the methodology for the poll anywhere – loyal MP readers know that as a big red flag. On the other hand, I haven’t found anything untoward about the firm in a Google search. Finally, I note that Sutton is on the front page of the EMILY's List website, so no inside information is causing them to shift focus.

That out of the way, let’s pretend the results mean something and try to figure out what. Interestingly, Sutton’s move doesn’t come at the expense of Sawyer, despite the attacks on his junketeering. Instead, she appears to be making major moves on Cafaro and whittling support from everyone else.

One factor for Cafaro’s drop may be backlash from her “Sue the Bastards” strategy. The news of the On Notice letters broke on the 11th – halfway through the SurveyUSA polling period. Allowing a few days for the news to percolate and the inevitable editorial pans, the GSV certainly gives a more complete picture of the effect of the news. If that's the case, it gives me pause; it may be a temporary effect. Certainly it's not enough by itself to turn the tide.

Another factor may be Sutton's visibility campaign taking hold. If that is the case, it's happier news for Sutton as she's only getting started. Her campaign ad didn't even go up on the website until the 17th -- the polling period for GSV II (and no I'm not in it; check out the production stills on the website to see why).

The gradual erosion of support for the basement dwellers is to be expected. This is the time in a multi-candidate race where voters who want their vote to count start reconsidering support for someone trailing badly. The key for the candidates at this stage is to be considered a contender. This poll puts Sutton in that category and makes Kucinich look like he’s falling out of it.

All of which makes it difficult to place blind trust in the latest poll. A poll with no posted methodology that just happens to say all the right things about the candidate supported by the outfit who bought it and just happens to show that candidate with a singularly strong move will never win more than two cheers. Maybe one and a half.

Finally, if there is a strategy message in the numbers we have been alloted, it's that Sutton should shift focus away from criticizing Sawyer and toward either criticizing Cafaro or simply making the case for herself. That squares with my observations on the ground. A lot of people following the race are voting ABC -- Anybody But Cafaro. After the SUSA poll, people who had been for Cafaro started making nervous talk about voting for Sawyer. If this poll is to be believed, Cafaro is safely back and a vote for Sutton has at least a chance of really counting.

I for one don't blame Sutton for going after Sawyer. It was hardnosed politics, it looked at the time like Sutton and Sawyer were competing for the same votes and it got her some earned media at a time when the ABJ was dolling out Betty ink with an eyedropper. But she better be done because, on the ground here, it's having a negative effect.

So maybe Sutton is surging. If EMILY’s List and the Sutton campaign want bloggers and other political junkies to fully embrace that narrative, they need a little transparency.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bob Ney: A Different Kind of Burn Rate

As they note on the 'Billy, this is MoneyDay in the Campaign Decathlon. Today TPM Muckraker reports that Abramoff golf partner Bob Ney is spending 40 cents of every campaign dollar on legal fees. Not only does Ney have to worry about getting indicted, Republicans must be concerned about donor fatigue.

I get emails from the campaign of James "Broadside" Harris who is running against Ney in the Republican primary. He routinely turns phrases like this:

I am pro-liberty, pro-owner and pro-growth, and I am opposed to
crony-socialism. Too many Democrats want to tax us more to make obese institutionalism even bigger, and too many Republicans slide down a slippery slope into institutional temptation.
I disagree with most everything he says and it sounds like he's running his campaign out of his mom's basement, but he talks a hell of a game. I can't help wonder if R3C people are asking Ney to step aside before it's too late.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Joe Sulzer has moved from Ney's rearview mirror to the sideview (from a campaign email):
Sulzer raised $111,419.12 in the first quarter of 2006, with 94 percent of
contributions coming from individuals. Of his 512 contributions, 88
percent of those were from through-out Ohio, highlighting Sulzer's broad support
amongst Democrats from within the district and across the state. Sulzer's
figure keeps pace with Ney's $140,000, despite the fact that 68 percent of Ney's
contributions came from PACs .
Figuring in Ney's legal fees burn, Sulzer has to be about even.

Nearly Random Ten

"Quick, Let's Bury the Sawyer Post!" Edition

1. "Helicopter," Bloc Party
2. "Make War," Bright Eyes
3. "Sleeping In," The Postal Service
4. "Pills for Sara," Winterpills
5. "Game for Pricks," Guided by Voices
6. "Academy Fight Song," Mission of Burma
7. "Much Better Bets," Loudon Wainwright III
8. "I Will Follow," Death Cab for Cutie
9. "Greenday Massacre," Dean Gray
10. "Murr Murr," Mugison

I've put a bunch of stuff into heavy rotation that I've either recently bought or acquired once upon a time and never really gave a chance to. So instead of the usual 4000 song play list, we are down to about 10% of that.

Like Redhorse, I've gone music hunting lately. Unlike Red, I like a fair amount of what Square Records stocks. I'm paying a premium there, but if I can pay extra to eat organic, if I can hate on Wal-Mart, I can certainly shell a little extra to keep a local business going. The latest purchases there have been Mission's Signals, Calls and Marches; Neko Case's The Tigers Have Spoken; and Greatest Hits packages by Yo La Tengo and Guided by Voices.

Yes to Black Keys honk who keeps commenting; I tried to pick up one of their EP's but, get this, no disc inside. Right now Square's stock of Keys is pitiful. I'll try again in a week or so. Meanwhile, if you have a particular disc I should check out, drop it in comments.

ON EDIT: I erroneously labeled #9 as a Green Day song. It's in fact from American Edit mashup artist Dean Gray.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Tom Cousineau, candidate for Brian J. Williams’ seat in the 41st House District, has carefully chosen a yard sign that proudly proclaims his qualifications for elective office:

Yes, nothing says “I was a famous athlete: Elect Me!” like putting up your signs in the Scarlet and Gray. Query: if it is relevant that Cousineau was an All Americanat at OSU, is it equally relevant that he never made a Pro Bowl?

I know Tom, but not well. Frankly, he don't say much. He certainly isn’t the kind of guy with whom one would start a conversation with “Don’t you think section 23 of House Bill 347 is subject to ERISA pre-emption?”

I have no idea if Tom is getting out of the primary. He is, by report, a favorite of the state party, but his opponent is from Twinsburg. The 41st is overwhelmingly a suburban district, suspicious of all things emanating from the centra city. I’m not privy to Republican event schedules, so I can’t guage who is out and what people are saying about the candidates.

While I make fun of the sign for its transparent invocation of a past that says nothing of his prospects as a legislator, it is a hell of a nice sign. Using a long narrow sign to accommodate his longish name is a brilliant stroke, giving the sign a unique, eye-catching look. The unusual shape probably wasn’t cheap either.

Most of all, you can read it a mile off. It’s clear that some candidates do no check how well a sign reads at distance. Some signs just turn into blobs of too much color until you get right up on them.

And who picked this unfortunate color scheme?

*Sigh* With everything stacked against her, Betty really needed to run a perfect campaign to have a chance. This campaign has been less than perfect.

Meanwhile. Blackwell/Raga signs are popping up here and there, and the design is creeping me out:

I’m hoping it’s just my liberal paranoia, but doesn’t that thing under the names look like an Ohio flag morphing into a hobnail boot?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Weekly Reader 5

I’m a buried in work work, volunteer work and house work. I am, really, working on my thoughts about the Tom Sawyer MTB, but it’s not going well. My Always Delayed, but Rarely Missed "Weekly Reader" post will have to do for now. I’ll be away from the blogosphere for most of the day, so discuss among yourselves.

Vouch for This

The expansion of Ohio’s voucher program is now law. Students from Academic Watch schools can now participate as well. It’s easy to take a wait-and-see attitude since no Akron schools are affected. If anything, it may give families an alternative to charter schools that aren’t really an alternative.

Failure to Educate

If you wondered what I meant in the previous post about Oplinger and Willard’s ability to make school policy understandable, check out this AP story for a counterexample. The article makes it sound like the scores of minority students are not reported at all, are not considered at all in determining whether a school or district meets AYP. Not so. But there is a population requirement before a school is judged separately on whether it fails a subgroup.

The idea is to make sure you have a valid sample size. As the article notes, the size varies from state to state. You can quibble about the population cut-off in Ohio, but it’s wrong to use words like “excluded.” The scores of minority students are never excluded. They just might not count as a separate criterion. If you say “excluded,” you are misleading readers; if you mislead readers, you aren’t a very good reporter.

More Diners, Same Pie

A Central Ohio news service ran a happy talk piece on home-schoolers taking advantage of e-schools. I get the argument that folks to homeschool pay taxes, that they should be able to take advantage, blah blah. But the argument ignores the financial tension brought on by this development. While it may be advantageous to provide taxpayer-supported help to everyone, it’s also more expensive. The General Assembly has been expanding the number of students served by the public school system, has been doing it in a way that does not create economies of scale, and has not been providing the funds to make up the difference.

Support or Oppose? Rosa Won't TEL

Today’s Plain Dealer has a piece on Rosa Blackwell’s roaring silence about the prospective impact of TEL on schools. Rosa is the Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools and the wife of candidate and TEL pusher J. Ken Blackwell. Given how evil Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson think public schools are, does it give them pause to support the husband of such a person? Yet another question unasked.

Room to Teach

A Dispatch editorial on Columbus Public sponsored charters gives some glimpse of the non-evil, non-profit motive for supporting charter schools – cutting through the bureaucracy caused by union-negotiated work rules. I don’t hate the teachers unions and I don’t believe teachers are overpaid. But pretty much everyone hates the ever-thickening layers of work rules. If charters and vouchers can give the push needed for schools – and unions – to free themselves of the work rules morass, they aren’t all bad.

A Better Yardstick

Last Week the US Ed. Department signed off on a number of state growth model pilot programs. “Growth Model” is the name given to a testing regime under No Child Left Behind that would follow children and measure their progress, rather than base a school’s success or failure on the snapshot results of each class. It’s a clunky term, but superior to last year’s iteration – Value Added Testing, which described school children in the same terms as, say, a ton of bauxite. Ed Week has details on the latest moves nationally.

Ohio has been putting together a pilot proposal, but I can’t find anything on the status. The issue came up when we interviewed Tom Sawyer. He criticized NCLB for the snapshot approach, but he didn’t know about the growth model pilots. It’s a somewhat arcane issue, but it just goes to show one of two things: 1) Reading Pho’s Akron Pages is essential to anyone running for office, or 2) Pho is just such a weinee.

How to Pick and Keep Teachers

The education world has been buzzing lately over a paper by the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project on teacher quality. The basic themes of the paper are 1) that credentials are a poor measure of teacher quality, 2) student test scores are a better measure and 3) the best policy is to delay tenure to allow schools to evaluate teachers and don’t allow schools to tenure teachers whose classes score poorly.

Policy watchers on the Right are giddy that someone from the Left is talking in these terms. Many of us on the Left are breathing a sigh of relief that we are able to.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Christocrats School BJ Reporters

So here I go after that entreaty, biting the hand that will not feed me by talking junk about the BJ. I read Saturday's Oplinger and Willard piece on the Reverends Russell Johnson and Rod Parsley. I scratched my head. I read it again. I scratched my head again. Yesterday morning I pulled a quote out of it for part of a church service and looked it over again. I just don’t get it.

Oplinger and Willard are my favorite BJ reporters. In their education pieces they routinely break down the complexities of the school funding system accurately and understandably which, trust me, is a daunting task. They have consistently provided the best education reporting in the State for as long as I've been following the issue.

So I'm wondering why the Parsley/Johnson profile is so lame. It sounds exactly like the piece they would like to see; like the piece their PR firm would try to plant. It reads like the two subjects weren’t asked any questions, but just given a tape recorder to talk into. Why did the BJ need to charge two of the its star reporters with transcribing it? It’s almost like they’ve read Boring Made Dull’s criticisms and thrown him a bone. But we know that wouldn’t happen.

It’s not like the portrait is all warm and fuzzy. In fact, I found some of the quotes quite chilling. But they were able to be only as harsh as they wanted to. They were not confronted with their most outrageous statements – Parsley’s claim that Islam is a cult borne of a demon’s deceptions of Mohammed, for example. Though Parsley has repeated it all over the place, his Christocrats gloss doesn’t appear anywhere. Didn’t focus group test too well, Rod?

They also weren’t pressed on where all this ends. One of the most disturbing quotes to me this one on Johnson:

He blames America's bad behavior on three groups: the secular left, the religious left and passive Christians who are more interested in ``being loved'' than speaking truth.
As a card-carrying member of the Religious Left – and one with secular leanings at that – I wonder if my family I have a place in Russell Johnson’s ideal world. And if not, how far would he go in trying to wedge me into the place I don’t fit? Does he ultimately believe in a return to blue laws? To heresy trials? He believes in “God in the schools.” Who gets to teach my daughters about God? Who writes the prayers they have to say? If he gets all the laws passed and there is still “bad behavior” (which he’s never forced to define, by the way), what then? Can he promise me that this ends somewhere short of Christian re-education camps?

And most importantly, why aren’t these questions being asked? These guys take on one issue at a time and the media act like that’s it; win or lose they'll be quiet after this. They mention Intelligent Design, but we all know they aren’t satisfied with ID. They want schools to teach Young-Earth Creationism exclusively. Why aren’t they forced to admit it?

Most of all, why aren’t they pressed on their anti-gay agenda? After all, we have in the gay marriage an example of an issue from which they have moved on. 2004, gay marriage ban. This year, gay adoption ban. Where does this end? Responsible journalists should have asked.

Parsley and Johnson also have free reign with the facts. They both get to wrap themselves up in the First Amendment, without anyone from the groups that filed the IRS complaint getting to point out the sophistry of the argument. Parsley claims

And after spending billions of government dollars on welfare for 40 years, he
said, ``there are more poor Americans than ever, there are more disadvantaged
than ever, there are more of our children going to bed hungry every night than
Two minutes on Google later and I find this:

But Parsley's personal fact sheet is the only source in the story.

Fred Clark at slactivist is my favorite blogger anywhere on any subject. A liberal Evangelical Christian, he frequently raises the point that journalists generally know little about religion and therefore report it badly. That’s clear here. Not only do they fail to press these guys on ID vs. Creationism, they never ask about End-Times theology.

A vein of thought runs through Evangelical America that, because we are living in the End of Days, there is no need to improve living conditions here on earth. In fact, some say that Christians should be working to secure the conditions set forth in the prophesies and bring on the final conflict. That’s why, for example, they are so exercised about Isreal’s withdrawal from Gaza. These guys are influencing elections and advising candidates. Shouldn’t we know where they stand on this?

As I read the above, it sounds alarmist. Frankly, I’m alarmed. But if Johnson and Parsley actually respect my rights in some way, Oplinger and Willard did them a disservice by failing to press them on ultimate questions so that those reassurances came out. In any event, they certainly did a disservice to the rest of us.

MTB Is Blowing Up

Meet the Bloggers made its first mainstream media jump this weekend with a feature story in the Lorain Morning Journal (tip to Scott for alerting us all.) The writer, Alex Parker, did most of this thing right. A beat writer on the Ohio 13 race this year, he saw the chatter on the blogs and decided to investigate. He interviewed the bloggers writing on the race, including Redhorse, Scott and yours truly, learned about MTB, and interviewed George, Tim and I believe Bill. This past Saturday he attended the Tom Sawyer session. He interviewed Sawyer about the experience and Foltin about why he won’t sit down with us. Anyone following the growth of blogs in shear numbers and influence should read the story.

It’s always amusing to be inside a story and see the little goofs. For the record, Brewed Fresh Daily is Cleveland-based, Momus was closed for Easter weekend and opened specially for MTB and I’m a newbie at education advocacy, not a veteran. I wonder if George accidentally got his first name wrong or if it’s a sly comment on the minor errors.

For someone who has been honking about MTB, this moment brings a satisfactory glow. I only hope some of the other MSM outlets follow suit and give us some ink. More than that, I hope they use the interviews to research election stories. The truly great moment will come when some part of the Q&A breaks mainstream, and helps inform the broader electorate about a candidate, for good or ill. That’s ultimately what we’re in it for.

That’s what we’re it in for, but we don’t mind the possibility of making a little money in the process. After all, we’re not Communists. To that end, George and Tim are putting together a Meet the Bloggers ad network. The Pages will be participating along with many, many other state blogs, so you will probably be seeing some ads somewhere. I never, I mean never, imagined I’d make a dime off this thing, so the actual take can be pretty modest and still exceed expectations. They are looking to make it as big as they can, so if you have a blog and are interested in participating, contact George through BFD. MTB also has sporty new logo.

Isn’t this a great time to be alive? It just seems like the possibilities of this new technology are endless and nothing can spoil . . . Oh Bill! Way to throw a wet blanket on things.

Meanwhile, I’m completely verklempt over how to write up the Tom Sawyer interview. I need a moment. Tom Sawyer or Becky Thatcher for Congress – discuss.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Forthcoming Study: White Voters and Black Candidates

An item by Washington Post columnist Richard Morin (who I didn't know before running across a link in Slate's Today's Papers) may have implications for Ohio’s gubernatorial race. It concerns a forthcoming paper by Ebonya Washington at Yale. According to Morin:

In fact, white Republicans nationally are 25 percentage points more likely on
average to vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP hopeful is
* * *
White independents are similarly inclined to vote for the white Democrat when there's a black Republican running, according to her study of congressional and gubernatorial voting patterns between 1982 and 2000, including five Senate races in which the Republican nominee was black.
Before you don your Mantle of Moral Superiority, White Democrat Person, note also:
Democrats also desert their party when its candidate is black, Washington found.
In House races, white Democrats are 38 percentage points less likely to vote
Democratic if their candidate is black.

Blogging about race and politics can be dicey. It’s not Give an Award for the Blackest Sorority Member dicey, but dicey nonetheless.

Regardless, let me raise a few questions. This blurb of a column – actually one-third of a column – doesn’t say whether the data are disaggregated by region. In English – is the effect more pronounced in the South? I would wonder especially with regard to the Democrat effect. There are, reportedly, still clutches on Dixiecrats who didn't jump ship in the 80s. If the effect is sharper in the South, it may have sterner implications for J. Ken Blackwell than, say Barbara Sykes. J.Ken’s base in Southern Ohio which has a fair amount of, well, southiness to it. Southern Ohio is basically an Appalachian state.

Sykes’ base is in northern, especially Northeastern Ohio. We have our southernish charm here – that canard about Akron being the capital of West Virginia? Not so far off. But the white Democrats tend more toward the bland, Midwestern, farmer-descendent variety like yours truly.

A second question I would have – and one that potentially gets White America off the hook a little – is whether the study in some why controlled for the ideology of the candidate. As I was thinking about this article it occurred to me that African American candidates of either party tend to run on the far edges of their respective wings. I’ve been racking my brain, but Barak Obama and Colin Powell are the only Black national political figures who can actually reach across the aisle and shake hands. Everyone else seems on one extreme or another.

It would make sense that moderates Whites might cross party lines in favor of a more moderate candidate on the other side than the extremist their party nominated. That’s certainly what those Liberals who want the wingnuts to nominate Blackwell are hoping for.

It’s supremely depressing to think that this still happens. Not that I thought racism had gone away. But I thought that, because overt expressions of it now earn social opprobrium, people are less likely to engage in consciously racist acts. In fact, I had shared with Subodh Chandra my theory of The Good Minority – that a fair number of white people who harbor consciously racist thoughts feel sufficiently guilty that they search for Good Minorities to support, so that their dislike of other people of color becomes in their minds all about how those people are acting and not how they are.

My point to Subodh was that his ethnicity may actually be an asset because Indians are the very definition of a Good Minority. Ken Blackwell, I thought, benefits from a Good Minority effect. This research casts that theory into question – not the first time I had a perfectly good theory run aground on the shoals of actual data. And of course we need to see more details about the study to be able to talk seriously about what it means.

In the meantime, it is, as I said, depressing to think that this still happens. More depressing still to think that, come November, I may be rooting for it to happen.

Notes on MTB Tom Sawyer

Cafe Momus, the home now of MTB/Akron, is closed for Easter weekend tomorrow. The woman who schedules the back room took pity on us and, because she was scheduled to be there anyway to bake, is opening the cafe for our group.

Two points. First, for any bloggers coming to the session, don't freak out if the place looks closed. She will open it up around 10:30, but the parking lot will look unusually deserted. We'll be there, come on in.

Second, Cafe Momus has been good to us in a mutually beneficial way up until now, but this is above and beyond. If you follow this or other blogs involved in MTB, if you enjoy hearing the podcasts and reading our write-ups and if you find yourself in the Akron U area, stop by Momus, pick up a cup of joe and tell them Meet the Bloggers sent you.


MTB: The Akron School Levy

Hats off to Redhorse who organized a Meet the Bloggers session with James Hardy and Kirt Conrad of the Akron School Board to discuss Local Issue 1. Red and I have each heartily endorsed the levy, but we invite levy skeptics to come and pose the hard questions. I'm talking to you, Summit Lunatic.

The Basics
-Saturday, April 22
-Cafe Momus

Random Ten

"Coincidence is God's Anonymity" Edition

1. “Get Free,” The Vines
2. “Bonny,” James Monroe and the Midnight Ramblers
3. “Chapel Hill,” Sonic Youth
4. “Christ for President,” Billy Bragg and Wilco
5. “The Buzzard Song,” Miles Davis
6. “Darkening of the Light,” Concrete Blonde
7. “Down to the River to Pray,” Alison Krauss
8. “Roll over and Die,” Bob Mould
9. “Line Up,” Elastica
10. “Mood Indigo,” Charles Mingus

The Billy Bragg/Wilco song just showed up for Good Friday. Works for me.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Breaking: Ohio 13th Poll

WKYC has a new poll, just up, including numbers on the OH-13 race (hat tip to k-pho):

If the Democratic Primary were today, and you were standing in the voting booth right now, who would you vote for? Capri Cafaro? Bill Grace? Gary Kucinich? Tom Sawyer? Betty Sutton? Or some other candidate?

21% Cafaro
10% Grace
15% Kucinich
24% Sawyer
13% Sutton
10% Other
8% Undecided

Asked of 498 Likely Democratic Primary Voters
Margin of Sampling Error for this question = plus/minus 4.5%

A couple of observations. First, the big winner here is Cafaro. Unless Sawyer has a big stash of money somewhere that no one knows about, he's not going to be able to hit the airwaves. Cafaro can which presumably will help her numbers. The only other candidate with the known ability to make noise for two weeks is Betty Sutton who trails badly.

Second, the undecided vote looks tiny for a primary contest that has been visible only to political junkies until the past week. I can only speculate that the self-selection of "likely voter" has something to do with that.

Third, k-pho was on the lookout because he was one of the 498 polled. He says it was an automated poll that listed each candidate with the number to push if you planned to vote for that candidate. He wondered if the person listed last suffers in such a poll -- the person listed last is Sutton. I have no idea, but if anyone with poll wisdom wants to comment, we'd love to hear it.

In Which Pho Takes to the Air

Against all rational judgment, I subjected myself to Capri Cafaro’s interview on the Joe Finan show. First off let me say that Cafaro was masterful. I’m starting to see method in the “I’ll sue your ass” madness. She can speak well about the immunity issue and can win the argument. By issuing the threat letter, she has diverted the discussion to one she does well on. Now I may be importing my general disdain for the issue, but it sounded to me like she did well with it and I was frustrated that so much of the interview was focused on it. The election shouldn’t turn on the fact that she didn’t break the law. If she didn’t break the law, she's simply on par with everyone else in the race.

All that came later. Early on, Finan asked about the Victoria Gotti comment she reprised during the Chancellor interview. Finan just finds that abhorrent. Cafaro told the story, but omitted a key detail that prompted me to call the show. She said someone forwarded her a blog post and in it she found the VG insult. Then she met the guy at an SCPD event and they had a substantive discussion.

Capri, if you get this post forwarded to you, mark this well: It. Wasn’t. Me. It was a commenter. If you insist on tagging me with this, can I hook you with the guy who called me a dork, or the guy who accuses me (incorrectly as it turns out) of being a couple inches short in the shorts?

But she doesn’t care because what it's about is generating sympathy. It’s hard for a multimillionaire to play the underdog, but it seems to be the play. After all, far more people have heard the comment from her mouth than ever read it online. "My opponents are misrepresenting my past." "Mean bloggers are disparaging my ethnicity." "It's an insult to Italian-Americans; Vote for me."

And it sounded like it worked on the show. It also baited me into spending time I don’t have trying to call in to the show.

Understand something about me. I generally don’t get nervous speaking in front of people. I do all sorts of public speaking and almost never get nervous. This is maybe the fourth time I’ve tried to do talk radio call-in and every time it’s been a knee-weakening, heart-pounding, hand-shaking terror. I don’t get it, but there you are. So I had one major message to deliver – that contrary to the impression one might get from Cafaro’s story, blogs in Northeast Ohio are places overwhelmingly dominated by substantive discussion, not gratuitous insults. Didn’t say it. D’oh!

I did talk about the difference between the blog and comments. I did acknowledge leaving the comment up, but also noted that I leave up plenty of pro-Cafaro comments, including those that personally insult me. I did mention to Joe that he’ll find me criticizing him which led the two of us to exchange faux-threats – a leading candidate for Moment of the Week. I did get in a plug for Meet the Bloggers. But the whole reason for calling in -- forgot it.

I’ll leave it to those who actually heard the show to call it on how I did. Any time I do something like that, the aftermath is always dwelling on what I would do better if given a Mulligan.

In the end, Joe asked me to email him, which I have. In my previous Joe diss, I called him the anesthetist of the air. In retrospect, that was inaccurate. I could never sleep listening to Joe because I spend most of my time yelling at the radio “Make! YourFreakingPoint!! Joe!”

I have said privately, but not here, that the good of having Finan on the air is that it shows 1350 has at least some commitment to local programming. I worry about homogenous media turning every place into The City of Townsville, so that’s a glimmer of hope to me. I just wish it was better and I wish that we didn’t have to miss the first hour of Al Franken for it.

I’ve also wondered why, if 1350 is interested in creating a radio community, they haven’t reached out to grassroots groups like SCPD or local blogs. Maybe this will be start.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pho Endorsement: For Local Issue 1

OK, is anyone who has read the Akron Pages for more than a week surprised that I'm endorsing the school levy? Of course not. I am in fact volunteering quite a bit for the levy campaign. This is one of those voluteer efforts that feels less like good works and more like personal self-defense. I have one daughter in APS and another a year and a half out. I'm a property owner. I love this town. All of these things are threatened by Akron Public's looming budget crisis.

I've gone over most of this before. Phantom revenue, adverse changes in the funding formula, elimination of the tangible property tax, a charter system that hollows out the districts and replaces them with nothing good. If you wonder about all that, surf over the the campaign website (paid for with donations, so don't get started). They have financials up. You can see, for example, how the loss of the tangible property tax eats up almost the entire the increase in state aid in 2007 and generates a net loss starting in 2008. This isn't a matter of the budget not growing fast enough; district revenues are projected to begin shrinking in 2008. Costs aren't projected to start shrinking.

So that's the head part of the post. Here's the heart.:

My friend Amy helped a bunch of kids at Kid Z's elementary school make posters. I promised them they would be on the internet which had an effect something like promising a bonus Santa visit in April.

Yes, it's a cliche to say it's for the kids. It also happens to be true. I say it over and over, but here it is again: Akron Schools educate kids and, for a lot of them, do so magnificently. Kid Z is having a great experience at her school. She has hard working teachers, great programs in visual arts and music. It's pretty much everything we would want her to have, and in an egalitarian environment. Believe me, there's no charter in town that comes close.

So I wonder what happens if the levy fails and the cuts happen. As good as Z's school is, families left two years ago when APS cut teaching positions and the class ratios went up in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades.

If Issue 1 fails, I fear a downward spiral. People who can afford to will send their children to private schools. Each child who leaves is another $5000 plus the school loses from the state. And the school doesn't save any money by that child's absense. It doesn't cost any less to teach a class of 29 than to teach a class of 30. Such are the odd wrinkles in education economics.

One argument I've heard that I would like to put the kibosh on right now: That we should reject the levy to "Send a Message to Columbus."

I may write this up for the BJ, but you get the preview. If I thought that would do the trick, I would join the argument. It's compelling. I've written about how the GA has been shifting the burden of school funding back on to local taxpayers, and it's a disgrace.

The problem with sending a message is that the recipient won't interpret it the way you intend. When legislators see levies go down, they assume it's because people don't believe the schools are worth supporting. The way to send a message is to call, write, email with the message: FIX SCHOOL FUNDING NOW!!!. That message is far harder to willfully misinterpret.

Meanwhile, we have these great, enthusiastic kids who love their school enough to stay after and work on posters. This one is Kid Z, by the way. Her talents extend beyond portraiture. We have meetings at Firestone HS. Kids are hanging outside the front doors telling every adult who walks in to vote for Issue 1.

Akron is necessarily moving away from true neighborhood schools as the population thins. It's a shame, but for now the schools remain true community assets. I make connections with my neighbors as a result of sending my kid down the street to school. I can't help but wonder how many community institutions like this we can continue to lose and remain a community.

I haven't said it in a while, but I welcome comments from people who disagree with me. That is, people who disagree and want to engage in a conversation as opposed to just calling me a dork.

In this case, I really want to hear from the people who disagree. This is a crucial vote for the future of our community. If you have misgivings about the levy, let's hear them. Maybe you'll help me sharpen my argument for the undecideds. Maybe I can even convince you. If you don't want to post here, go to the levy website. They welcome emails with questions, criticism and arguments. They have promised to respond if asked.

The vote is in less than three weeks. Let's talk about this.

Ohio 13: Who's Got Mail?

With Cafaro's campaign apparently imploding, the Ohio 13 race gets even more unpredictable. I'm interested in collecting field reports from within 13. What contact are you getting from the campaigns? What ads are you seeing? Are any yard signs popping up?

Let's try to harness the collective intelligence of the internet community to take some snapshots of the campaign. Drop your observations in comments or an email. Be sure to tell me where you are so we can guage what campaigns are doing where.

So far, I'm just hearing from the Sutton campaign. I've gotten three mailings -- all bearing a disclaimer from the Ohio affiliate of EMILY's List. I've also gotten two E-List robocalls.

I've seen Sutton signs outside her Akron HQ, but nowhere else so far. I'm also seeing David McGrew signs, especially closer to Firestone HS (not to be confused with Firestone Park.) I've been watching very little TV lately, so I can't guage the air war.

Other than that, it's been pretty quiet in the real world. In the earned media/internet sniping world things are jumping, about which I may blog later.

I am, if you didn't know, in the West Akron/Merriman hills area.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Musical Posts -- An Explanation

If you start a post, save it as a draft, write a different post, then finish the first post, Blogger posts them in order of when they were started, not when they were finished. Last night I started the Issue 1 post and foolishly continued adding text as I was uploading pictures. Inevitably, I had a "Blogger Sucks" moment, lost about a half hour of work and went to bed. I finished it after posting the spur-of-the-moment quickie about campaign monitoring. Since the Issue 1 post is near and dear, I wanted it up top for a spell, so I copied, pasted it into a new post, hollowed out this one and viola.

As long as we're chatting and all, I'll mention the latest changes to the blogroll. I added the Issue 1 website to the top of the Local Campaigns section. Also, I recently found some more blogs that roll me for the Phriends section. Eric Fingerhut has been up for some time, but I hadn't noticed The Pages on the roll 'til now. The Donkey appears to be a UNC student originally from Lake County. From the NEO to the ACC -- I can relate. Leave Us Alone is a left/libertarian blog -- always an interesting perspective. Dude, WTF is a young woman who blogs about life and baseball. Kindly don't tell my wife there's a young woman nearby blogging about the Tribe. Not that she doesn't trust me, but . . .

UPDATE: Just added the Voices and Choices blog to the Phriends list.

Stop by, say hi, tell them Pho sent you.

Free Legal Advice

I want to be done with Capri Cafaro. I honestly do. But she keeps waving these big red capes in my face.

From Ohio 13 we get a link to the actual threat to sue letter and to the Lorain Morning Journal article about how this whole thing started. Apparently Gary Kucinich runs a newspaper primarly about . . . Gary Kucinich. Per LMJ:

Strongsville Democrat Gary Kucinich, also a candidate for the seat, posted
a column in the April edition of the Ohio Community News that says Cafaro should
make public the reason why she was granted immunity from federal prosecutors.

In the column, Kucinich states, ''Ms. Cafaro has repeatedly denied
wrongdoing but why did she receive immunity if she didn't do anything wrong? ...
Democrats cannot afford to nominate anyone that is concealing

Cafaro's lawyer, one David Betras threatens to sue Kucinich if he "hands out one more of those." Kucinich replies essentially "As if," so odds are this little rumble will generate at least one more news cycle before the last man is standing.

God only knows how much Cafaro has paid to Betras. She might have saved her money and done a Google search. She would have found this handy article on defamation on ExpertLaw or this one from West. She would have learned that defamation requires "a false and defamatory statement concerning another."

I'm hard pressed to find a false statement in Kucinich's piece. The only statement of fact is the last one: That the Democrats can't afford to nominate a candidate who is (can't speak for his word choice) concealing something. True enough. Aside from that, he's calling on her to account for the deal and asking rhetorically how she could get the deal if she did nothing wrong.

To the extent you can find a factual assertion in the statement it's inextricably bound up in opinion. In popular legal mythology, you can say anything you damn well please as long as you end it with "In my opinion," or, a la Kathy Griffin, "Allegedly." Not exactly, but close. The excessively lawyerly West article explains it best:
A published opinion is not defamatory unless it conveys to the recipient a
provably false assertion of a fact or facts. Whether such an interpretation was
conveyed is a question of fact. If such an interpretation was not conveyed, the
expression or statement, though published, does not constitute defamation.
Now the worst words a defense attorney can find in legal research are "it is a question of fact." That means it usually goes to the jury, or at least the the case gets past summary judgement and you have to try it. But first you have to get the fact testimony on the record. That is, you have to bring in people who will testify that they actually believed that Kucinich was telling them Cafaro is dirty. Again, I'm hard pressed to find any opinion other than that maybe she's dirty and she should come clean so we know. It would be hard for Cafaro to put on the credible fact testimony she needs for this lawsuit to fly.

The most important free advice Cafaro passed up was this from ExpertLaw:
While people who are targeted by lies may well be angry enough to file a
lawsuit, there are some very good reasons why actions for defamation may not be
a good idea.

The publicity that results from a defamation lawsuit can create
a greater audience for the false statements than they previously enjoyed. For
example, if a newspaper or news show picks up the story of the lawsuit, false
accusations that were previously known to only a small number of people may
suddenly become known to the entire community, nation, or even to the world. As
the media is much more apt to cover a lawsuit than to cover its ultimate
resolution, the net effect may be that large numbers of people hear the false
allegations, but never learn how the litigation was resolved.

Another big issue is that defamation cases tend to be difficult to win, and damage awards tend to be small. As a result, it is unusual for attorneys to be willing to take defamation cases on a contingent fee basis, and the fees expended in litigating
even a successful defamation action can exceed the total recovery.

Another significant concern is that, even where the statements made by the defendant are entirely false, it may not be possible for a plaintiff to prove all of the
elements of defamation. Most people will respond to news that a plaintiff lost a
defamation lawsuit by concluding that the allegations were true.
Hard to find a better summary of the damage Cafaro has done her campaign with this move. Kucinich's statement was little different than the puffball question she answered from Chancellor. Not much worse than the planted questions in the Cafaromercials. But it comes from an opponent and she goes all Al Davis on his ass.

As I've said, I think the sort of handwringing Kucinich engaged in is crap. I think her attorney negotiated an immunity deal because that's how high-priced suits justify their high prices and she got the immunity deal because she was either completely clean or so tangentially involved as to not be worth the effort. If I was OK with a district-shopping candidate touting a sackful of bad ideas, the immunity deal wouldn't be a problem for me.

But dropping the lawsuit bomb over a statement as innocuous as this shows such a lack of understanding of fundmental political strategy that does give me one more reason to vote against her.

Cafaro's Lawyer Can Beat up Your Lawyer

When I had my encounter with Capri Cafaro, she mentioned somewhere in her machine-gun verbal onslaught that she would sue people who misrepresented her past. I thought at the time she was talking about heading off whisper campaigns, getting her lawyer to send cease-and-desist letters in response to actual charges, what have you. I did not think that she would actually issue a broadbanded threat to sue. Hilarious. And no, I didn't know enough to preempt a personal lawsuit when I posted last night.

This is a horrible idea for at least five reasons. More after lunch.

1) It puts a nonissue in the news cycle. In case Capri didn't notice, no one is bringing up the immunity deal except her. It's not in any of the correspondence I've gotten from campaigns. I haven't heard it in anyone's stump. In and eight-member field, everyone is just trying to get noticed (except Sawyer whose apparent strategy is to surprise voters with his appearance on the ballot on election day.)

2) It underscores her political inexperience. There's a reason you haven't seen this before. Nobody ever does it. Kerry could have sued at least some of the Swift Boat Veterans who told actual lies. He didn't because it makes a candidate look weak. Not only does she look week, she looks young.

3) The media will turn. Whether leaning right or left, the media are united in despising any attempt to squelch speech. Kyle in comments mentions that the Beacon Journal seems to like her. I'm pretty confident they won't like this.

4) It makes her look like she has something to hide. It would be one thing if someone had dropped an actual mistatement. It's another to look like you are trying to scare people off the issue altogether. People are going to think some sort of fire is lurking somewhere in all that smoke.

5) It gives her rivals a chance at sympathetic ink. Kucinich and Sutton both get press for reasonable responses to her threat. Not the sort of contrast you want to generate.

NEOBabble is calling her campaign dead based on this. The Chief Source is similarly unimpressed. Dare we say, Kamikaze move?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Weekly Reader # 4

Much delayed and somewhat truncated, my attempt to summarize education news that is flying at us fast and furious.

The ECOT Decision

The final outcome of the audit of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow wasn’t pretty. The final bill: $263,000 owed to ECOT. The Boring Made Dull asks rhetorically if he is missing something. In fact, yes.

First off, the audit didn’t exactly give ECOT a clean bill. ECOT was found to have overcharged over $600,000 from 2001-2005, but having been underpaid over $800,000 in the 02-03 school year. It’s not clear how all this went down, but rules for tracking students were considerably looser a few years ago. It may be that students were in the school as defined by statute, even though they wouldn’t have been earlier.

Second, the real scandal – or at least investigation – is ECOT violating the rules and setting up a brick-and-mortar school in violation of the rules. Given how minimal the requirements for setting up a school are, it’s a real trick to violate them.

So Naturally, We Need to Loosen the Rules.

From today’s CD, the budget corrections bill apparently pushed back one year a new requirement that new charter schools or those in continuous improvement or worse give additional tests. Games like this don’t generate a lot of confidence in our supposed new charter accountability regime.

No, What We Really Need Are Some Unfunded Mandates.

The two most popular politicians on the planet – George Bush and Bob Taft. – have similar ideas. Both want to improve science instruction in high school just by wishing it so. Bush wants to add accountability for science scores to the No Child Left Behind law.

Meanwhile, Taft has submitted his "Ohio Core" proposal for a new curriculum including four units of science and two of foreign language. Students who do not complete the curriculum would not be eligible to enroll in state four-year colleges, but would have to state in two-years.

Two questions. First, do either of these proposals offer any means to pay for the new mandates? I thought not.

Second, do Republicans really want high schools to graduate competent science students?

Suburban Politics.

Two stories in the Beacon Journal today highlight some of what passes school funding reform these days. The first is the new law allowing local option for growing levies. I discussed this last week and, yes it might help a bit. It also shifts yet more of the burden on local taxpayers. And as the Center for Community Solutions notes, at the same time, the General Assembly is offering new tax breaks to businesses.

Meanwhile, proposals are being floated to allow local impact fees under which fast-growing suburbs can assess fees to developers to help build new schools.

Neither of these ideas is horrid. But each is geared to solve the most pressing problems of suburbans school districts, peeling them off the constituency for true comprehensive reform.

One last note:

I'm not ignoring the intersection of the Oriana ruling and the White Hat audit. I want some time to try and go through it all and do a comprehensive post. Looking at my schedule

Absolutely Sweet Capri

Three items relating to my very very favorite Congressional candidate came my way to day. Please allow me to share.

Powerpuff Girl

The Carl Chancellor Puffathon continues today with Capri’s turn in the dock. The format appears to be following the candidate for some part of a day with some time for direct questions. Cafaro talks Medicare with seniors where she lets loose a truly memorable unfortunate metaphor:

"This is precisely why you need somebody in there fighting for you like a kamikaze bomber."
Even pre-9/11 this would be troubling. If someone promises to fight for me in Congress, I want some assurance she can do so more than once. Of course, given my misgivings about her prospects in the general, blowing up, causing grievous damage and never being heard from again may be about right.

Needless to say, she isn't asked how she will pay for the SAW plan, how our trading parters will react to junking three decades' worth of trade agreements. No MSM jump here. But wait, Cafaro reprises the Victoria Gotti blast from my comments section. I feel so relevant.

Elsewhere she talks about the Traficant trial which is one area where she and I are cool. I for one don’t condemn her for testifying under immunity. In a white collar prosecution, any halfway-decent defense attorney is going to negotiate an immunity deal if he can. The laws are complex, the facts are complex, it’s too easy to say one thing that leads to another. Frankly, the fact that she got such a deal indicates what a small fish she was in the whole scheme.

I have plenty of reasons to vote against Capri Cafaro. I don’t need murmurs of corruption.

Capri Pizza

I received the following, via the County Party:

Yes, for fifteen bucks you can have Suds and Za with Capri.

Two things about this are excellent. The first is Cafaro, whose previous addresses include Central Park South -- trying to be just folks. That will be funny no matter how many times it happens.

The second is the public acknowledgement of several local D heavy hitters – notably Party Finance Chair Wayne Jones, non-accountant fiscal officer John Donofrio and former County Council President Tim Crawford – supporting her. Support from such quarters has been rumored, but this is the first time I’ve been able to post it. People like Jones haven’t yet been questioned about why they are supporting the one candidate who stands a real chance of losing. Now they are out and hopefully someone somewhere will ask.

The Price We Bloggers Pay

You may or may not enjoy my ranting about Cafaro, but you should know it comes to you at great cost. When I post about her, I inevitably get email from the “Traficant Wuz Framed” camp. These folks make people who natter on about World Trade Center Building Seven look well-grounded. Sometimes they are clear that I'm anti-Cafaro, sometimes it eludes them. No matter, the enemy of my enemy is not my friend in this instance. I’ve been reluctant to post links to their websites up till now because it just encourages them.

Apparently in Feburary there was a town hall on Youngstown’s favorite Federal inmate, as reported by the Vindicator’s blog. The Traficant Tinfoil Brigade is in fine voice in the comments sectiom. Toward the end someone drops links to the post-Capri MTB posts which is how I found it. If you want to share my pain, stop by and have a look.