Friday, June 29, 2007

Time Flies

Damn. As cool as the Beacon Journal write up was, I missed a little fact that made it that much cooler. It appeared on the second anniversary of Pho's Akron Pages.

I'm sure it means something that I let the day sail past and didn't thing of it till now. I'm not sure what, but it means something

I'll finally hit 1000 posts in another couple weeks. We can party then.

Random Musing and Random Songs

This has been an especially good week for comments. Thanks to everyone who contributed to a couple of lively discussions and apologies to those I didn’t directly respond to. A special shout out to I’m a Big Pussy who picked me up in the special ed voucher discussion when I was occupied with kids.

Generally it’s getting more difficult to get posts up as the full summer schedule takes effect. To everyone who continues to stop by for increasingly slim pickings, thanks for your loyal support.

Today is iPhone day. Tomorrow at midnight is the quarterly fundraising reporting deadline, so the candidates are wearing out my phone lines and filling my inbox. Also this weekend in the Boston Mills ArtFest. Hopefully no devastating flood this year.

I got my first bit of blogger swag – a comp copy of Abe Zaidan’s Portraits of Power. If you are unfamiliar, Zaidan was something of a doyen of Ohio political reporters from mid-century on. Now he and John Green have compiled a collection of his best pieces with some extra commentary. I’m reading it to do a full review. Though that wasn’t a condition on the comp

Anyway, in honor of the week’s events, I’ve skipped ahead to the transition from Kucinich to Voinovich in Cleveland. I’m reminded how crucial Voinovich was to turning Ohio from purple to red. It’s ironic to see the right throw him under the bus this week for having the nerve to speak obvious truths.

Speaking of local authors, I was just at Borders on other business and didn’t see Connie Schultz’s book anywhere. The computer catalog said it is “probably in store,” but it wasn’t displayed among the noteworthy new books, the political books or local authors. Odd.

I don’t get Springsteen’s live album. It’s basically a live version of the album of folk standards he just put out which itself sounds pretty much live in studio. Why would I drop $25 for an album I already have, with some redo’s of Nebraska songs thrown in?

I’m addicted to Top Chef and am in the market for people blogging the show well. If anyone has seen a particularly good Top Chef blogger, drop it in comments. TIA.

Now here it is, your moment of ten:

1. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot
2. “Becuz,” Sonic Youth
3. “Delia’s Gone,” Johnny Cash
4. “Strange Loop,” Liz Phair
5. “Make Love to Me,” B.B. King
6. “Cretin Hop,” The Ramones
7. “Dance Hall,” Modest Mouse
8. “Field Day for the Sundays,” Wire
9. “Talk About Suffering,” Greg Graffin
10. “Black Wind Blowing,” Billy Bragg and Wilco

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Nikki Giavasis Cares

Earlier this week the papers revealed that Bobbie Cutts, Jr., the suspect in the Jessie Davis slaying, has a daughter by one Nikki Giavasis who lived in Stark Co. and went to Malone College Walsh University there. It turns out, Ms. Giavasis is now an actress/model/author/former fitness competitor and generally Z List celebwannabe. She has given interviews saying that Cutts abused her.

Now she has a new tag to add: Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate. According to the Google page, on June 26, a couple days after her link to the case broke, her website became the site for Nikki Giavasis, Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate. A site whose sole functionality as of
this writing is to refer the reader to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Here's the Google search result:


And here's how Nikki's page looks tonight:



Well, thank God. Now that the woman who played "Spectator" in Tin Cup is on board, we'll have this DV thing solved in no time.

Now some cynics may look at the fact that Ms. Giavasis hired an attorney and a PR firm to handle interview requests and conclude that she is using her role in a crushing tragedy to promote a career that currently is stalled at off-off lead pictorial in FHM. Oh, for shame people. She's taking time out of her busy schedule to make sure the papers spell her name right and all you can do is pick.

By the way, she's also got ties to NBA'er Shawn Kemp and to the WWE where the wrestler who killed his family and himself performed, but I'm so not going there.

As Eric Mansfield points out today, Nikki shares an uncommon surname with Phil Giavasis, the Stark County Clerk of Common Pleas. Actually, two Stark Co. officials share the name, Phil, and his brother Plain Township trustee Lou. I started down this sordid road because I've worked with both Phil and Lou in the past and was curious whether there was any relation with Nikki. As far as I can tell, it's a coincidence.

Shinking City

We don't really need newspaper stories about census estimates to tell us that Akron is getting smaller. It's enough to just drive around the city a bit and see houses like this one.

Part of it is the burbs. When I go to my dad's house near Wadsworth the farms I used to bike by are now sprouting McMansions like toadstools.

Part of it is that families are simply smaller these days. We lived for a while in a three bedroom bungalow that a generation earlier housed a family with six kids.

Part is people simply up and leaving for where the jobs are. And not just private sector jobs. The DDN pointed out earlier this week that when teachers get laid off, the often head out of state Meanwhile class sizes go up, which means more people want to move out to the burbs, which means less money and more layoffs . . .

Intertwined with all this is the simple fact that cities like Akron don't attract young families much anymore. Our population is aging and, not to put too fine a point on it, dying off. And fewer young people are moving in and having babies to replace those folks.

Mayor Don Plusquellec is stubbornly optimistic. I don't know enough about "smart shrinkage" to know whether we need to follow Youngstown's model. But if we get to that point, it's an open question whether the administration would be willing to do so, or whether Plusquellec would fight it as somehow giving up.

For all of that, I still love this city. I still see great things happening and great potential. Part of that is measured by the fact that our shrinkage rate is well below that of the other northern cities.

Budget Watch: Strickland Likely to Veto Special Ed. Vouchers

The budget passed its floor vote with a unanimous-minus-one vote last night. Still not definitive word from Strickland about special ed. vouchers, but word seems to be that he will veto. Last night Jill noted a quick mention in Openers that Strickland said he would "almost certainly" veto the program.

Then this morning, this in the Dispatch story:

    A key item likely to be excised is a proposed voucher test program for special-needs students. The program would offer about 8,000 students with individualized education programs up to $20,000 apiece toward the cost of private-school tuition.
No source is given, but it looks like Dispatch reporters are hearing murmurs. All of this is consistent with the grapevine hum I'm hearing. Rest assured, special ed. vouchers will come up again. This is the second go round; Sen. Kevin Coughlin proposed much the same bill last year, and he's nothing if not persistent.

It's entirely possible that at some point we will have a special ed vouchers bill. This one is as bad as a proposal can be -- basically a new middle class entitlement. Even voucher supporters should think twice about it.

Hillary Set to Go Negative

The Leftysphere is buzzing about revelations that Hillary Clinton's pollster is testing negative messages against primary opponents in Iowa. Daily Left put me on to the story as it appeared on Talking Points Memo. Among other things, the negative messages tested include flogging Edwards' $400 haircut.

Political consultant and newly minted Ohioan Craig Schecter weighs in with a body slam on Mark Penn, the Clinton consultant behind the attack strategy. Craig has worked with Penn and doesn't like him -- at least that seems to be what he is trying to convey by comparing Penn to anal leakage. He also refers to a Nation story about Hillary's advisers, including Penn. Here's a taste of that:

    It's difficult to tell where Penn's corporate life ends and his political one begins. Most Democratic consultants do some business work--it's the easiest way to pay the bills. Yet nobody wears as many hats--and advises as many corporations--as Penn. "Penn and Schoen have displayed a thirst for corporate work, often in conflict with the policy agendas of their political clients, that has long set the bar among Democratic pollsters," wrote Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal on his blog recently. Furthermore, few Democratic consultants so consistently and publicly advocate an ideology that perfectly complements their corporate clients. Every election cycle Penn discovers a new group of swing voters--"soccer moms," "wired workers," "office park dads"--who happen to be the key to the election and believe the same thing: "Outdated appeals to class grievances and attacks upon corporate perfidy only alienate new constituencies and ring increasingly hollow," Penn has written. Through his longtime association with the Democratic Leadership Council, Penn has been pushing pro-corporate centrism for years. Many of the same companies that underwrite the DLC, such as Eli Lilly, AT&T, Texaco and Microsoft, also happen to be clients of Penn's.
And by the way, thanks to OhioDave for putting us all on to Craig.

This story speaks for itself, and Democrats should demand that Hillary answer for it. One interesting sidebar is how the internet makes life difficult for consultants working on the seemier side. The network of blogs pretty much guarantees that message polling will get a public airing, and that amoral mercenaries like Penn will be outed. How widespread the information gets disseminated will depend on MSM pickups and how effective opposing candidates are at using it.

Certainly any time Hillary uses one of these attacks, Edwards or Obama can sneer "You are only saying that because your big business consultant tells you to," or some variation. It doesn't end the attack, but certainly takes the edge off. In a week in which the Supreme Court appears on a glide path toward overruling any and all campaign funding regulations, it's good to know that at least some counterweights to the big money exist.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Widowfield Challenging for Cuy Falls Muni Clerk

What becomes a term-limited legislator most? Running for Muni Clerk of Courts apparently. Rep John Widowfield (R-42) has filed to run against appointed incumbent Democrat Lisa Zeno Carano. Widowfield is being a good soldier here. With his business experience and now ties in the Statehouse, he could do much better, but as the Beacon Journal story notes, there are a lot of patronage jobs at stake.

At first blush this looks like big trouble for Carano. Widowfield is, after all, the anti-Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls. He's a nice guy, true moderate, bipartisan lawmaker who supports public schools and just wants the government to spend money wisely. But looking at the maps, I'd say it's Carano's race to lose.

The district of the Cuy Falls Muni Court comprises all of Widowfield's district, give or take a few precincts. In addition, it includes Tallmadge, Twinsburg, Northfield, Sagamore, Boston Heights and Peninsula, plus the surrounding townships. In last year's race, relative newcomer Paul Coloavecchio came within 1100 votes of Widowfield. He's not untouchable, or at least wasn't last year.

Meanwhile, the areas outside his legislative district but within the court district favor Carano. Tallmadge of course, is D country and Carano's base. Eyeballing the results for Governor and Attorney General in the last election, the other towns and townships generally trended D. If it again is a Dem year, Carano can certainly come up with more than an 1100-vote net return in the areas added to Widowfield's field of play.

At any rate, it's as close as we will have to an interesting race this fall.

Saddam Had WMD and Rod Parsley Can Prove It. So There.

From the Revealer (h/t Faith in Public Life):

    Rod Parsley, a rising star of charismatic fundamentalism who's had a heavy impact on national politics, features on his "Breakthrough" program tonight Dr. Perry Stone, an apocalypse scholar who claims top national security sources and Israelis assure him that inspectors discovered enough WMDs in Saddam's bunkers before the war to destroy the world three times over. Why didn't he? Because he wanted to give them to his mortal enemy of Iran, using special airplanes -- with the seats torn out to make room for more nukes!
As the Revealer post points out, this gets scary because Parsley has a sizeable flock of real people who believe him when he flogs this garbage.

And by the way, I'm sure it's entirely a coincidence that he runs out something this splashworthy at the same time he has a new book to plug. His promo campaign for the book gives some insight into how he lures people in. Here's the blurb from Amazon:
    Parsley exposes the failure of the current generation of believers to engage the culture, present a relevant gospel, and lead/influence through service - and paints a vivid picture of the cost and implications of that failure.
    Parsley explains how the culture wars have entered a new, critical phase for the U.S., and discusses the areas in which this war is being fought (Cultural, Scientific, Geopolitical, Media and Academia). He presents an understanding of the paradigms, assumptions, and values that animate the humanist, secularist and neo-pagan enemies of Christianity in America and offers a strategy for winning this "war" - what he calls a New Great Awakening - and how evangelism, social action the engagement of culture fit into that plan.
Well. Sounds either confrontational or hopelessly dry depending on whether you focus on the "winning the war" part or the "paradigms, assumptions and values" part. But look how he plugs it on his site:
    What bothers you about America? Is this the country it should be ... or are you troubled by what it has become? A land of Red vs. Blue. Left vs. Right. Political actors. Acting politicians. Exhausted soccer moms, overworked dads and scared kids. A country where addicted athletes and violent hip-hop artists swagger through million dollar mansions dripping with “bling,” while teachers who sacrifice their lives to educate the next generation call a first-floor apartment home and sell their jewelry for textbooks.

    “The minds and hearts of this generation have become the theater of conflict. It is a war of competing, mutually exclusive ways of viewing the universe and man’s place in it. It is a clash of paradigms, of value systems, and of visions of the future.”
    From the East Coast to the West, and all the “flyover” states in between, America divides itself. The dichotomy is so great, in fact, that many can describe themselves using one of two words: Liberal or Conservative. And they all have an opinion. Ask anyone you meet on the street, however, and most will agree on one thing: We’re witnessing our nation’s demise.
That first paragraph would fit comfortably in campaign lit for either Edwards or Obama. And if not them, maybe Jim Webb or Jon Tester -- some Democratic economic populist in other words. Parsley was deeply free market through the last election. Now suddenly he's Jim Hightower. Some might argue he knows which way the wind blows, but I suspect a bait and switch.

Elizabeth Edwards on Why She Bothered with Coulter

Since I'm on the Edwards campaign mailing list, I got an email "from" Elizabeth Edwards. While all campaign emails should be taken with some dose of skepticism, I liked this one and choose to believe it reflects Ms. Edwards' thoughts:

    Last night I had an important talk with Ann Coulter and I want to tell you what happened.

    On Monday, Ann announced that instead of using more homophobic slurs to attack John, she will just wish that John had been "killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

    Where I am from, when someone does something that displeases you, you politely ask them to stop.
    So when I heard Ann was going to be on "Hardball" last night, I decided to call in and ask her to engage on the issues and stop the personal attacks. I told her these kinds of personal attacks lower our political dialogue at precisely the time when we need to raise it, and set a bad example for our children.

    How did she respond? Sadly, perhaps predictably, with more personal attacks.

    John's campaign is about the issues—but pundits like Ann Coulter are trying to shout him down. If they will not stop, it is up to us cut through the noise. [Emphasis mine.]
I like it. I like the notion of Elizabeth Edwards as the genteel southern lady trying to talk reason to Coulter's gum-snapping floozy. Of course, Coulter isn't actually foul-mouthed down home trailer trash, she just plays one on TV. Still, as dramatis personae, I find it agreeable.

But since I'm not a genteel southern lady, I have to ask: Just how f*cking batsh*t crazy do you think our friends on the right would go if, say, Cindy Sheehan had publicly fantasized about George Bush meeting violent death? I think so too.

Budget Watch: Whither Special Ed. Scholarships?

More than anything, as the budget end game plays out, I'm looking for indications about what will happen to the Special Ed. vouchers proposal. On WKSU last night they aired a piece about Gov. Strickland's appearance before the Cleveland City Club yesterday. Kevin Niedermyer's intro says that Strickland and the GA have made enough compromises that he expect to "avoid any vetoes." Of course the piece also said that he would sign the budget last night, which was way off.

The Toledo Blade reports that the budget sailed through the conference committee with yet another unanimous vote. According to the Blade, the special ed. voucher proposal is still in the bill.

Dennis Willard writing in the ABJ today outlines the steps taken to rebalance the budget after the dip in projected tax revenue. He also notes some changes made to the new health insurance expansions, and some failed attempts to impose some order on school privatization schemes.

The Governor can line-item veto the program and, given the close split in the House, I doubt they can override. My concern is that he's so taken with the happy, shiny budget process that he won't want to buck the trend with a nasty veto. In a PD story about the budget, they quote him at the City Club predicting that the signing will be "joyous."

On the other hand, he set out his principle in his speech -- voucher programs, to the extent they are acceptable in compromise, must have some means test in them. The special ed. voucher program is universal, and will pay people who are already sending kids to private schools.

When I testified before the Senate Finance panel I went off script based on the testimony before me. I argued that once an education program is in place -- whether it's a brick-and-mortar school or a funding program or a virtual school, that program gains a constituency and
becomes extremely difficult to change or eliminate. The GA has taken no care in crafting this program and it's basically the Trojan Horse's nose under the tent.

Strickland should veto special ed. scholarships, Kum-ba-ya be damned.

Carnivale

Jill has Number 70 71 posted. I'm up again next week.

All in all a successful run through the first cycle. More folks are coming in with links and the team is humming.

I will note that on the running blogroll of folks to have contributed, righties outnumber lefties 11 to 6. There's plenty of fine work out there left of the dial. Let's get those links in.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Around the Horn

Not surprisingly, I came home to plenty of high-quality blogging. Here's the best of what's out there.

  • Redhorse and I are charter members of the Eric Mansfield Blog Fan Club. If you read nothing else about the Jessie Davis case, read Eric's behind-the-scenes diary of covering a nationalized story as one of the local guys. I especially love how he outs the callousness and incompetence of the national broadcast outlets. He does it mostly by simply laying out the facts, but oh what damning fact they are. So far he's dished on Greta Van Sustern, two of the network morning shows and the CNN crawl.
  • It's hard to blog about the revelation that Dick Cheney believes he is bound by essentially no rules whatsoever. It was such a combination of "WTF!?!?!" and "Well, I guess we knew that." Nonetheless, Dave at ProgressOhio has posted some interesting material, including a plan by Rahm Emmanuel to defund his office and links to the WaPo story about Republican efforts to show Cheney the door.
  • Yesterday Jerid posted his one-on-one interview with far-end-of-the-stage Presidential candidate Chris Dodd.
  • BlogginRyan, erstwhile NE Ohioan, has some tough words for BSB and Plunderbund. The points he raises are worth considering.
  • OMW has been following the huge media story. No, not Jessie Davis. That Clear Channel has put five NEO radio stations into trust for eventual sale. They broke the story Friday and have a Monday post up speculating on what it all means.
  • Religion Clause notes that a Hindu chaplain will deliver the opening invocation before the U.S. Senate.
  • John Ettore comments on a new list of 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know. A list like this is generally good mainly as an argument starter. Personally, I would have put a plug in for "crepuscular." If James Lipton ever asks my favorite word, that's definitely in the running.
  • Finally, a heartfelt farewell to Chris Adams at Ohio 2nd. He and Mrs. Editor have moved to Philadelphia and, while Karen promises to post from time to time, I assume the commute to the Second District will be a bit much for Chris to keep up with the day-to-day. Chris wrote the book on blogging one race as he followed to Ohio 2nd special election, then parlayed that into a dual track blog, keeping one eye on the Second and the other on the rest of political happenings. We have been poorer for his diminished activity since the election, and will be poorer still with his absence. Best of luck to the Editors in their new venture.

See comments

Akron School Board Member Paul Allison Resigning

Posted today on Ohio.com, Board Member Paul Allison announced he is resigning effective Saturday.

    "Right now, I feel we've made a lot of great strides,'' said Allison, who became emotional during Monday's board meeting, which will be his last. ``We're in a period of growth and calm. I thought that, for me, the timing was good to make the announcement."

    Board President Linda Kersker admitted that she tried to talk Allison out of stepping down, while Superintendent Sylvester Small asked him to serve as his "senior adviser." The two of them, along with the rest of the board, thanked Allison for his service and wished him well.
* * *
    Allison said he didn't want to leave the board until a levy was passed -- which happened in November 2006 -- and three new school board members had the chance to get up to speed on the issues facing the district.

    "When I think about the Akron Public Schools seven years ago, the skies were cloudy," he said. "Today, we're having partly sunny days. I pray there are sunny days ahead."
* * *
    Allison, 53, has been on the board since March 2001, when he was appointed to fill the seat of late, longtime board member Helen Arnold. He served as board president in 2005 and was re-elected to a four-year term that November.

    The school board must choose a replacement for Allison within 30 days of his resignation. To keep the seat, this person would have to run in November, when three other board members will be up for re-election.
As I understand it, the Board is taking resumes from people interested in the position.

Home Again

We actually got back to Akron Sunday night. Since then I've been decompressing, catching up, keeping the kids in line and finishing the mindless potboiler beach read I started in Va.

So I'm still not feeling my blogging legs under me yet. I've got some ebag stuff to dump on you and a Scenes post full of half-formed ideas. Lots to talk about, but my mind is still on vacation. Hopefully I'll be back in full form in the next day or two.

Scenes from the Road: Surging from Ohio

Driving out on the Turnpike we saw a flatbed carrying a tanker truck obviously destined for the Middle East. Not only was it painted a uniform flat desert tan, the “Flammable” sign was written in both English and Arabic. A few ticks down the road we saw what looked like a C-130 in the air, then another. These were most likely headed to Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, home base for the Air National Guard’s 910 Airlift Wing. Among others, State Sen. and Congressional candidate Maj. John Boccieri flies for the 910th.

All of which got me reflecting on the surreality of this war we are in. Here we are, almost five years into an honest to goodness U.S. vs. Someone Else war and it still doesn’t feel like it. The one thing the Bush Administration has done well is insulate the American people from directly feeling the effects of the war. Much of this they did by kicking the costs down the road.

One gets the sense that the original plan was to preserve his own popularity, not that of the war. After all, post 9/11 when the whole country was rallying together, Bush didn’t ask for shared sacrifice, he told people to go shopping. Still, the ultimate effect of hiding the war from ourselves was to dampen criticism for months.

Now we are feeling it, though military families are still bearing the costs and we still go on with our lives with only the news and an occasional highway intrusion to remind us that we are a country at war.

A Day Without Internet Radio

A number of internet radio stations are going dark today as a "preview" of what might happen if the Copyright Royalty Board's ruling on royalty rates is allowed to stand. This email from FreePress explains:

    In March, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) rushed through a decision at the urging of music industry lobbyists. Their ruling -- which increases fees by up to 1,200 percent for online radio stations that stream songs -- will go into effect on July 15 unless Congress acts.

    If implemented, the CRB's draconian rule will shut down many noncommercial and independent Internet radio outlets, leaving the Web with the same cookie-cutter music formats that have destroyed commercial broadcast radio.

    The bipartisan "Internet Radio Equality Act of 2007" would reverse the CRB decision in favor of a balanced structure that supports artists without putting webcasters out of business.
OMW has a rundown of what is happening with some local webcasters. Kent's Folk Alley has been working the royalty issue on their website. They don't go dark today, but if you listen, they are heavy with PSA's asking people to contact representatives and lobby in favor of the proposed legislation.

Blog Against Theocracy, Redux.

Got an email from BlueGal, the founder of Blog Against Theocracy. She's at it again:

    I wanted to let you know we are doing another blogswarm from July 1-4 and you are welcome to participate. The "theme" is "separation of church and state is patriotic" but let's face it this is blogging and no one is trying to limit anyone's creativity. Blog about separation of church and state, against theocracy, and you're participating.

    One new feature of this blogswarm is that you will be able to email a link to your blogswarm post and have it appear at the Blog Against Theocracy website right away. I will be sending and posting instructions on this right before the blogswarm.

    Watch the Blog Against Theocracy website for details.
If you recall, I participated in the first BAT swarm basically by criticizing the direction of the venture (and also erroneously crediting/blaming DefCon). I still feel the same. I like the idea of blogswarming church/state issues and hate the "Against" part of it. If I had BlueGal magnitude juice, I'd consider a Blogswarm Against Calling It Blog Against Theocracy.

But instead, I'll contribute, kvetch a bit about the name and leave it at that. Ohio folks should consider getting involved as well. Whether or not we actually fear theocracy, religious liberty is a fine thing to blog for.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sherrod Brown Is Sorry

Got an email from Adam Green, MoveOn's "Civic Communications Director." Apparently progressive activists and bloggers are quite excited about Sen. Sherrod Brown's mea culpa about voting for the "torture bill" when he was a Representative running for the Senate last legislative session.

The vote caused lots of hand-wringing in the lefty sphere last year. I was offline working for Tom Sawyer at the time and in fact, the kerfuffle confirmed the wisdom of my decision to refrain from blogging while I was working there.

My take on the controversy was somewhat contrarian, you will be shocked to here. I was confident that Brown would have voted against the bill had his vote mattered. As it was, he was in a position where his vote would have been a protest vote on a flawed bill that nonetheless carried some important national security provisions. The bill was written so that anyone who voted against it would be attacked as soft on terrorists. In other words, the Republicans were playing partisan games with security again, to the surprise of no one who mattered.

I was pleased that then-Rep. Brown refused to fall into the trap. The vote on the bill was wired and he did not give DeWine ammunition just for the warm fuzzy feeling of a protest vote. On balance the world is better with Senator Brown than Senator DeWine.

Plus it was worth whatever damage his vote might have done to higher principles to see the stumbling response of the DeWine campaign. DeWine's handlers clearly expected Brown to vote against the bill and had the attacks ready to roll. The campaign's reaction to Brown's "yes" was like a big guy throwing his shoulder against a door, not knowing it was unlatched. DeWine lurched into the room and tried to assume an "I meant to do that" posture.

At the time all this was going on, I was in contact with the Brown campaign seeking help in a couple of areas. Brown had already allowed Tom to share the stage at a campaign rally his campaign had organized and we were looking for a little more here and there. If I had been blogging, either I would have refrained from commenting on the biggest campaign story of the week, or I would have made the case above.

Either way, I would have put myself in the uncomfortable position of having an opinion that cut against the prevailing current and was friendly to the candidate that my candidate was seeking campaign help from. Maybe no one would have found out about the entreaties to the Brown campaign, but regardless, it was a lesson in conflicts of interest -- real and perceived -- that political bloggers face when we move beyond blogging.

Back to the leftysphere's reaction to the Brown apology, Adam Green sent the following links. Apologies for font chaos and long, unembedded links -- I'm doing this on the fly:

Transcript - Sherrod Brown on The Young Turks

Politico.com: Brown Cops to 'Bad' Vote
Huffington Post: Sherrod Brown Now Opposes the "Torture Bill"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ari-melber/sherrod-brown-now-opposes_b_52775.html
Daily Kos: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Admits Military Commissions Act Vote Was Mistake
Agonist: Sherrod Brown Admits He Was Wrong to Vote For Torture
http://agonist.org/ian_welsh/20070618/sherrod_brown_admits_he_was_wrong_to_vote_for_torture
DownWithTyranny: Sherrod Brown Comes Clean and Promises to Make Amends for His Vote For Torture Bill
http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2007/06/sherrod-brown-comes-clean-and-promises.html

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ohio News Follows Me Wherever I Go

It's not like blogging and the attendant news obsession were things I was trying to get away from in going on vacation. Which is fortunate because it hasn't happened. Forget keeping up with my RSS reader. All I have to do is turn on the TV or read the complimentary copy of USA Today to have Ohio on the mind. And going through my email? Googlymoogly.

The most obvious bit of Ohio news that has followed me here is the ongoing and sure to end badly saga of Jesse Davis. The nation's latest obsession with a missing woman is focused on North Canton, Ohio. Walking through the hotel lobby tonight, none other than True Crime Paperback Made Flesh Nancy Grace was flogging the story. BTW, if you care about the story more than I do, the Beacon's interview with a local profiler is probably the best place to go for factoids not covered everywhere else.

Up to that point, I had managed to more or less avoid direct exposure to the story. Happily, while the cable nets can't stop talking about it, the papers have other matters to deal with. Like Ohio's gay marriage ban. USA Today runs three stories on the effect that anti-gay marriage amendments are having on real people. The cover story gives a general round up of states' efforts to cut same-sex domestic partners from receiving benefits when one partner works for the state.

The other two stories include discussion of Ohio's ban. Ohio Rep. Tom Brinkman is suing Miami University to prevent it from providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Making life difficult for your constituents simply because you don't like them is a part of the job of state representative I was previously unaware of. And a third story highlights the ongoing court battle about whether the gay marriage amendment creates a loophole that excuses defendents accused for abusing unmarried intimate partners of whatever gender.

Last week I got email inquiries from Politico about the strange YouTube campaign against a Stark County Commissioner. I wasn't able to help much, but the story is now up. A figure as obscure as Commissioner Todd Bosley has found himself on the national radar screen partly because the volume of attacks from an anonymous critic -- over 100 videos posted by reporter Ben Smith's count. But the story is also a story because the poster(s) bait-and-switched some videos, making them look like responses to the Obama/Mac/1984 ad. One commenter to the story called "BosleySupporter" goes on a breathless rant taking three screens worth of space without a paragraph break. Once a baiter always a switcher, apparently.

Also in my inbox FreePress likes Bill Callahan's essay on the impending success of S.B. 117. So do I, for that matter. I thought that having a post selected by FreePress was quite an honor until it happened to me at which time, well it can't be that big a deal. Nonetheless, Bill's piece is a must read.

Finally, my SiteMeter tells me that Julio Pino is in play again. Sure enough Mike Adams, Pino's own personal Inspector Javert, has a new piece up on TownHall. The impetus, aside from the fact that it pulls in readers, is a letter to the editor Pino apparently wrote to an "Akron Paper." Adams doesn't actually link to the letter as he uses it to rip Pino apart, instead he embeds Pino's KSU address every time he mentions Pino's name. The title of Least Classy Guy on Townhall isn't easy to come by but Adams makes a strong case for himself.

I'm no Pino fan, but if you are going to criticize someone's writing and that writing is on the web, link to it. As it is, I can't find it anywhere and have to trust that Adams is accurately representing it. Trust a guy who has said that Pino should be taken outside U.S. Territory and tortured. And setting someone up to get spammed like that is simply dickheaded. With any cosmic justice, Pino and Adams will find themselves roomies in their Sartesian hell.

I've been spending most of my free time catching up on recreational reading and watching the changes here on the island. Lord knows what I would be hearing about Ohio if I was actually paying attention.

Carnival

Number Seventy is up, thanks to LisaRenee. Next week Jill completes the first cycle with the new team. Surf on over, read up and, most importantly, let us know how we are doing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pony Town, Day One

We got into Chincoteague yesterday afternoon. The place has been changing a lot just in the four years we've been coming here.

We've settled into a bit of a first day ritual. After checking in, we buzz the beach a bit. On the way there, a band of ponies was close enough e nough to the road to allow me to take a crappy backlit picture.

From the beach we decamped to our favorite restaurant in town -- Saigon Village. Restaurants in Chincoteage are less than spectacular. For the most part the cuisine is broiled fish, fried fish and Virginia crabcakes, about which the less said the better.

But Saigon Village is a treat -- an authentic Vietnamese restaurant on Main Street by the drawbridge that provides the the only automotive ingress to the island. Someday I'll dig in to how a fishing island turned Eastern Shore tourist spot came by Vietnamese cuisine but for now we just enjoy it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Scenes from the Road: Starbucks and the Regular Joe

Standing in a Pennsylvania Tollway rest stop waiting for the ladies to finish up in the bathroom, I notice a guy loitering with intent outside the Starbucks stand. His shirt reads “Born to Party/Forced to Work.” From the first he looks – and this is horribly judgmental and I beg forgiveness of my readers and the rest of the universe – but he looks like a guy who drinks too much and has three ex-wives and consistently votes Republican.

I distract myself with something until, a couple minutes later, he has wandered randomly by me having now begun a cell phone conversation. He’s telling a story: “So there’s these Marines in Afghanistan and they like Starbuck’s coffee and the write and see if they can have some coffee donated and shipped over and Starbucks says ‘Go to Hell.

“Yeah, ‘Go to Hell.’ They say ‘We don’t support the war and we don’t support you so go to Hell.’

“Yeah, so forget Starbucks.”

At this point two of my three impressions now have some evidence behind them.

The Starbucks story seems more than a little off. Unless the Starbucks corporate hierarchy has been overrun by agents of International A.N.S.W.E.R., the company that seems bent on putting a kiosk on every corner probably wouldn’t respond so harshly to members of the Armed Forces.

So I did some quick Googling at the next opportunity. And happily, Starbucks hasn’t been taken over by crypto-Stalinists. Snopes as usual comes to the rescue; you can read Starbuck tale of woe here and what they've done to turn it around here. It’s interesting that this one actually gets traced back to some guy who thought it was true. And it’s a measure of Starbucks sensitivity to PR surrounding the Armed Forces that they simply talked to Sgt. Wright as opposed to suing him into a fine powder.

Stories like this one take hold because of the Right’s regrettably potent stereotype of anti-war activists – wooly-headed, Birkenstock-wearing, latte-sipping and soldier-hating.. Granted, the anti-war movement could have worked harder to not be that movement, but I doubt it would have made a difference. The Republican noise machine had too much vested in discrediting critics of the war, and people like Born to Party Guy aren’t willing to think any more deeply than Rush tells him to.

Road Report and Random Ten

I've snuck off to the Brew HaHa! in Trolley Square for a little online time while my family sleeps off our nephew's wedding yesterday. Free wi-fi and 25 cent refills. I'm all over that.

We have one more day here with limited access, then to Chincoteague tomorrow where the main constraint is time.

I'm touched that the anonymouse in the last post was distressed at my being away, but this honestly is the first roadie since January. You all will survive without me, I promise.

Meantime, the road has offered a little material that's in the works.

Now here it is, your moment of ten:

  1. "Days and Days," Concrete Blonde
  2. "Divine Intervention," Matthew Sweet
  3. "Changed Your Mind," Chris Isaak
  4. "Dirt Road Blues," Bob Dylan
  5. "Folsom Prison Blues," Johnny Cash
  6. "New Spanish Two-Step," Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
  7. "Walking by Myself," Jimmy Rogers
  8. "Sir Duke," Stevie Wonder
  9. "Southtown Girls," The Hold Steady
  10. "World Where You Live," Crowded House
There's a recurrent bit in "Southtown Girls" at the beginnings of the verses where the singer recites directions local to his native Twin Cities: "Take Lyndale back to the Southside/Take Nicollet out to the Vietnamese."

Surely Akron would lend itself to something similar. "Take Memorial up to North Hill/Take Archwood out to Firestone Park." Of course we don't have anything called Southtown, so we have to change the chorus.
    Kenmore girls won't blow you away
    But you know that they'll stay.
Indeed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Road Trip

It's time for the House of Pho's annual pilgrimage to our favorite Mecca of middle class indolence. We are starting in Delaware for a family wedding, then spending a week in Chincoteague, Virginia.

There will be wi-fi along the way and therefore some sporadic posting, but don't expect much. The next few days in particular probably will be Pho phree. I'll be back at it full time June 25.

Until then . . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bryan Williams to Become Akron's Joe Scarborough

Term limited state rep and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Bryan-with-a-Y Williams is slated to be Akron's newest radio talker. Openers reports he has a deal for a one-hour show on WHK on Sundays.

Williams is every inch a Republican partisan so the choice feels a bit off at first blush. But since the alternatives for political talk in town are co-Neanderthals Bob Golic and Howie Chizak, Williams can hardly help but elevate the tone.

By the way, it's not easy to pull up any research on Bryan Williams given the common name. Google converts Bryan to the traditional spelling, meaning you get tons of hits about Brian-with-an-I. And by the way, the Summit Co. Republicans Website is offline tonight.

Arkansas FRC Affiliate Putting Gay Adoption on Ballot

The New York Blade carries the AP story. The ballot issue will look like an adoption ban defeated in the Arkansas legislature last year after the state Supreme Court struck down the legislative ban. h/t FiPL.

Because they are responding to a state Supreme Court case, the ballot issue is a constitutional amendment preventing either gays or unmarried couples from either adopting or serving as foster parents.

The Arkansas group is a "State Policy Organization" of the Conservative Christian political group The Family Research Council. If all that sounds familiar, Phil Burress's Citizen's for Community Values in Ohio -- they of the proposed stripper law -- is similarly affiliated with FRC.

The way these things go, Arkansas's proposed ban will probably also look like the bill that went nowhere in the Ohio leg running up to the election last year. It's conceivable we could see this in Ohio next year in Ohio in time for the Presidential election. If it goes down in Arkansas, probably not.

But it's that much more likely if Burress is feeling it. For instance if someone tries to take to the voters the issue of whether patrons should be allowed to touch strippers and Burress is able to hand them their heads. Just in case you wondered why I was so irate.

Over Two-Thirds of Republicans Reject Evolution

According to a new Gallup poll, while the country is essentially split 49/48 on evolution vs. creationism, 68% of Republicans do not believe in evolution. When three candidates raised their hands in a debate indicating that they do not believe in evolution, Jon Stewart snarked, "It was good knowing you." In fact it's a pretty solid position to holds

Even among people who believe in evolution, a significant number nonetheless believe that God created humans in essentially their present form about 10,000 years ago. Overall, 63% of Americans agreed with that statement versus 49% who answered that they believe generally in evolution.

While the Intelligent Design crowd and for that matter the young-earthers at Answers in Genesis put a sciency gloss on their arguments, the fact remains that this is all about religion. When creationists were asked for the most important reason they hold their beliefs, only 14% said because the scientific evidence is lacking. The bulk of the responses went to reasons like "Because I am a Christian" or "Because I believe what's in the Bible."

All in all, good information for opposing ID or "Scientific" Creationism as science, but a distressing set of findings overall.

H/t to Faith in Public Life which led me to a poorly-written story in Christian Post which led in turn to the article on Gallup.

Carnival of Politics

Number 69 is up.

A little better turnout, but still the usual suspects on the left side.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Milling about in Akron

According to Ohiodotcom posted today the University of Akron may be buying Quaker Square. I'm trying to figure out how this makes sense. But since the decision is being made in the context of a $50-120 million football stadium, making sense may be too much to ask.

Here's what the paper says:

    University of Akron trustees may take two steps at their meeting on Wednesday to help pave the way for a long-awaited stadium.

    One would be to purchase Quaker Square, including the Crowne Plaza hotel and meeting complex, on the north edge of campus.
* * *
    Acquisition of the hotel, shops and surrounding land would open up more coveted parking spaces for UA students and would allow the university to put its hand on hotel rooms that could be transformed into residence halls.

    Those rooms would take the place of four residence halls that would be lost to the wrecking ball north of East Exchange and east of Brown streets, where the stadium would be built.
Buying Quaker Square for the parking? No, just not feeling it.

Meanwhile, a second breaking Ohiodotcom story outlines plans to create a historical park at the site of Ferdinand Shumaker's Cascade Mills -- F. Shumaker also being the guy who built the mills that became Quaker Square. Whether these two stories have anything to do with one another or just an odd, mill-based coincidence is not clear. Once the stories are edited for print, things may gel.

Boccieri Round-Up

State Sen. John Boccieri faces a number of challenges in his quest to unseat Jurassic-era Representative Ralph Regula. Among them is being heard over the din of the Presidential race. Starting early is part of his strategy to overcome that hurdle and so far, it seems to be working. As BSB noticed, the NYT ran the CQ Politics post I found last night. In addiiton, ABJ and the Stark Co papers, the Canton Rep and the Massillon Independent.

Blogwise, YellowDog has his post up including audio and video. Canton area blogger Kevin Fisher at The Daily Left was also there and has video up. I hadn't run across Kevin's blog before. I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Kos himself on The Daily Kos also wrote up a post with many Kossaks joining the party. They are familiar with the seat because of Jeff Seeman's famously net-savvy insurgent campaign. Having worked internet communications in a blog-friendly campaign I can tell you the Kos mention gets the hit counter (and the ActBlue account) humming.

And Boccieri will continue to get press thanks to incumbent Regula playing Hamlet. Every story about whether it will be him or Schuring or possibly a Republican primary will remind people that the Dems are running Boccieri, period.

The B-W Education Poll -- Found

Well, actually I didn't find it so much as project investigator Tom Sutton dropped a comment in the original post giving the address. He had been alerted to my post by Ryan of BlogginRyan (formerly based in SummitCo, now in Atlanta.) And in retrospect I should have written to Tom before kvetching about the lack of online information. I was irate after like ten different searches failed to dig up either the report or the Center website, but no excuse. Bad blogger! No coffee!

So, the website for B-W's new Public Interest Research Center is here and the report pdf of the actual survey is here. From the latter we find that the question about the GIRFOF was:

    15. A coalition of education groups is trying to put an amendment to the Ohio Constitution on the ballot in November. If approved, the amendment would require the State Board of Education to determine the cost of a good education for every student in Ohio, and then require the state legislature to provide the funding. The proposal also includes a cap on the level of property taxes paid by senior citizens. What is your opinion?. . .
Which is a pretty solid summary of the proponents' description of the amendment. It doesn't mean GIRFOF fans should breath easy. Given the aforementioned KnowledgeWorks findings that few people have heard of the amendment, this is an indication that when pitched in this way, you get 63% approval at first hearing.

A "No" campaign will take that as a starting point and come up with ways to either move people off the belief that the amendment will do that or move them off the belief that a system like that is a good idea or -- and this is the biggie -- make them nervous about the details. Think about how likely it is that come election day, everyone is going to go into the voting booth thinking only that the amendment is as described in the question above. Now you understand why I say that 13% isn't much room to fall.

The poll itself covers far more ground than just the issues raised in Stephens' article. If I find anything else interesting as I dig around, I'll post.

McCarthy Retires, Reminds Us Why We Wanted HIm To.

Finally. County Executive James McCarthy finally announced today what everyone with ears has knows for months -- that he is retiring. His last day will be June 30. This all happened in a previously announced press conference this morning. ABJ has the story, along with posted audio and video.

This could have been a time to reflect on his many accomplishments -- restoring some measure of trust in the office after Tim Davis's troubled tenure, keeping Summit County solvent in challenging economic times, overseeing projects like the new county courthouse and economic development deals like Bass Pro Shops.

But no, this was a time to remind people of another element of McCarthy's management, his political tone-deafness. ABJ reports that McCarthy said:

    [A] "pretty big incentive for me at this point" is that he has accrued enough service to receive about 91 percent of his salary upon retirement. "I thought, 'That's a pretty good number,'"he said.

    His current pay rate is about $114,357.
If you think that sounds bad, you're right. If you think the ABJ cherry picked something to make him sound bad, you're wrong. In fact if you listen to the announcement he spends at least a minute talking about his pension -- how he bought this time and that time and got 34 years of service up to 40 years of credit. At least a minute on that, though it feels like an hour.

What's more, at the beginning of his announcement he explains that he's been no-commenting the rumors of his retirement because he wanted to make sure that his benefits would continue first.

Jim, on behalf of everyone who argues that government used wisely is a powerful tool for making life better, thanks for making the effort that much harder. Yes, your bit about public service being a high calling was nice and all, but after telling the world about how lucrative that service has been and will continue to be for you, it falls a flat.

Whether it was dubious hires or weird development ideas or his high-profile fights with County Council, McCarthy has always shown a talent for making even his supporters shake their heads in wonder. We will see whether he passes the office off to good hands, but certainly Jim tin ear for public sentiment will not be missed.

Ohio Senate's Unanimous Omnibus Budget Amendment Includes Special Ed Vouchers

Just got a copy of the Omnibus Amendment. The House version of the budget bill included a voucher program for special education students. At the beginning of Senate consideration the program was taken out in favor of a "study" of special ed. vouchers. But now it's back in the Omnibus Budget Amendment that Senate Finance just voted out unanimously. I haven't done a line-by-line comparison, but the essentials of the proposal are unchanged. (The proposal starts at section 3310.51 of the House version, for those of you following along.)

The Special Ed Vouchers Scholarship is another step in the road to universal vouchers. This time, the legislation makes no attempt to make voucher eligibility contingent on need. If a child has an Individual Education Program (IEP), the child can get a voucher, period. Never mind if, for example, the child's family is wealthy and already paying for private school. And never mind if the child's home school runs an excellent special education program. The proposal before the Senate would allow any family to receive money regardless of need. And without the unpleasantness of attending the public school for a couple of months.

Governor Strickland tried to draw a line regarding school privatization by zeroing out EdChoice and putting stronger controls on charter schools. The Special Ed. Scholarship proposal strides defiantly over the line. While he could do little when the legislature removed his proposed language that would have eliminated EdChoice and tightened charter school accountability, he can do something about this. He should use his power to line-item veto special ed vouchers.

DISCLOSURE: The organization I contract with -- Ohio Fair Schools Campaign -- has been lobbying on the budget bill including the various "School Choice" provisions. I personally have been researching special ed vouchers as part of my work and this post reflects some of that research, though I did not bill for writing this post.

Hey Mama, Weer All Crazee Journalists Now: Scott Gant on Diane Rehm.

I caught Diane Rehm halfway through an interview with attorney Scott Gant who has just written a book called "We're All Journalists Now" about how the law should accommodate citizen journalists. From the Publisher's Weekly blurb:

    Adamant that journalism is an activity undertaken, and not a profession practiced, Gant invites us all to join the ranks of the press. He argues that the media's role as a check on government depends on both the expanded category of journalist and the unfettered freedom to report without fear of government reproach. Using specific landmark constitutional law cases, as well as contemporary examples, including the Valerie Plame case and the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who uncovered the BALCO scandal, Gant makes the case that the health of our democracy requires a press clause that entitles journalists to constitutional protection from revealing their sources.
What I heard of the program, the guy is worth checking out. I probably don't go as far he does in advocating for press shields, but he makes a solid argument and one bloggers should keep track of.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Boccieri Kick-off by Pho and CQPolitics

That was fast. The kick-off rally for State Sen. John Boccieri's campaign for the 16th Congressional district ended at around 4:00. CQ Politics has their article up now, at 8:15.

The CQ piece notes Strickland's appearance and the Senator's admonition that the troops should be brought home "safely, honorably and soon."

A few other observations from the day. In addition to Stickland, State Treasurer Richard Cordray and Stark County Dem Chair Johnnie Maier helped introduce him. In addition to them, state legislators Capri Cafaro, Steve Dyer and Mark Okey were there. And many of the usual Stark County suspects: Clerk of Courts Phil Giavasis, Canton Law Director Joe Martuccio, North Canton Chief of Staff Earle Wise and staff reps from the Stark County Prosecutor's office also attended.

All of which is to say, yes this is the hot race of the moment.

Back to the CQP article. They are cautiously bullish on Boccieri's chances:

    The district in which the two seek to run is located in northeast Ohio and includes the city of Canton. Though the region has a long Republican tradition, it is not quite an overwhelming GOP stronghold these days. District voters favored President Bush in 2004, but his 54 percent to 46 percent edge over Democrat John Kerry was fairly modest.
So how did Boccieri do? His kick-off speech was OK, but just OK. It included a few problematic word choices and the Hoover backdrop was a less-than-perfect fit for his fair trade/economic populist message.

I got to listen in on press availability time and he was stronger there. A reporter asked if trade was the reason for the Hoover closing and he laid out a reasonable case that trade policies are indirectly responsible.

Working the room afterward Boccieri hit stride. As someone who has trouble working the room at his own birthday party, I'm always amazed to watch someone do it well and Boccieri is a pro. If Regula stays in the race, Boccieri will run him from one end of the district to the other and will make friends at every stop.

I'm having digital camera issues. If I got decent shots I'll post them. If not, not. Also, keep an eye on Ohio Daily as YDS was there.

GIRFOF News Part II: The Polls

As I teased last week, a Scott Stephens story over the weekend regarding a poll by Baldwin Wallace showing strong support for the amendment. As you may guess from the story, I got wind of it when Stephens called the Exec. Director of the agency I contract with last week. You may have caught the AP pickup running in today's ABJ. Stephen's piece is the most detailed explication.

Detailed being a relative term. Trying to limn the significance of the result from the news reports is more than a little frustrating. First off, the actual number I heard is 63 percent in favor. Stephens only say “More than two-thirds.” Meanwhile, the poll itself is available no where online. The B-W Public Interest Research Center as yet has no online presence. It apparently is new, but now much work does it take to host a pdf on the College website? And as of now, there is nothing on GIRFOF Central.

Without the poll, it’s hard to evaluate the results. Issue polling is considerably more tricky than candidate polling. The first question to ask is whether the poll summarized the amendment and asked the respondent for an opinion or whether it just referenced the Getting it Right amendment.

Probably it was the former. According to Stephens only about 20% of respondents said they had no opinion. A KnowledgeWorks poll released at the end of May found that a whopping 46% of respondents had neither read nor heard anything about the amendment proposal. If the pollsters just asked for opinion about the amendment it’s unlikely they would get 20% “Don’t Know.”

It’s also possible that B-W just filtered out the people who hadn’t heard of the issue. That being the case, the sample gets much smaller – probably around 400. And by the way, we have no MOE or confidence interval either.

Assuming the 63% figure is solid, it doesn’t leave GIRFOF proponents much room to fall. Recall that the minimum wage issue polled in the high seventies before the launch of the No campaign. And that’s an issue that people understood before the yes campaign, and that is fairly easy to get a brain around. The proposal itself was considerably less complicated than GIRFOF.

With all that, support for the minimum wage dropped around 20% during the No campaign. GIRFOF supporters will need a hell of a Yes campaign to hang on to enough of that 63% to win.

GIRFOF News Part 1: The Signature Collections

Team GIRFOF made the papers last week with a public disagreement about whether the proposal is likely to make the ballot this year. The signature campaign has racked up about 100,000 signatures so far. That’s actually not bad for an all-volunteer effort, but it’s about a quarter of what they need and since the conventional wisdom says you want to overshoot by fifty percent, they have a long way to go.

As a result, some leaders are saying the issue may not hit the ballot until next year. Others say they are still OK for this year. What hasn’t been discussed publicly is how much they are willing to put into paid signature gathering, and how much they will have left for the campaign.

If they are to have a prayer to pass this thing, GIRFOF proponents absolutely must get it on the ballot this year. Otherwise, they will be competing for earned media with a once-in-a-century Presidential campaign and a knock-down, drag out fight over control of a closely divided Congress. They will be buying time during the most expensive campaigns in the history of the planet.

Meanwhile, the opposition will have a year to slowly make the case against the amendment through word of mouth, op-eds and existing social networks. Think that doesn’t matter? Ask Ken Blackwell.

Know Pho

So, there it is. The call came in early last week that the ABJ was looking to profile me for their "Q&A" feature. The idea was for find someone who fits a theme for the Monday before Father's Day, this being a Monday feature.

I don't put a whole lot of my actual self out front here on the Pages. I have various reasons, mostly some version of "I am the least interesting thing I can think of to write about." But if you want to pay attention to the blogger behind the curtain, now is your chance.

And since I'll be on the road when it actually happens, Happy Father's Day in advance.

Skill, Secrecy and the Games Gamblers Play

Today’s Dispatch runs a lengthy, info-packed story giving background to the ongoing “skill games” controversy.

Briefly, gambling industry is trying to skirt the laws of the states that don’t allow casino gambling by making games that allow payouts based in the “skill” of the players. One company took Ohio to court arguing that their games aren’t gambling devices

Attorney General Marc Dann reached a settlement agreement under which a pre-selected consultant will evaluate whether or not a given machine’s operation is “51% skill.” The consultant’s word is final.

To throw a little more political drama into the mix, the righty blogs have been on Dann for making the decision after taking campaign contributions from skill machine manufacturers.

Then late last week papers started requesting the consultant’s reports under the public records laws. The one skill game maker that has submitted machines for evaluation moved to block disclosure of the reports. The company argued that the report includes information that is proprietary and that would enable people to break the machine. Dann has suggested that if the reports are not released, the settlement is off:

    Attorney General Marc Dann might call off a deal to legalize wagering machines in Ohio if their manufacturers succeed in their bid to keep reports on the machines' operations private, a Dann spokesman said yesterday.
This plugs into something I was wondering about “skill games” – how do the makers and operators stay in business without house odds?

The basic business model of a casino is set up games whose odds favor the house. There will be losses but statistically speaking, over the long haul the house will come out ahead. If a skill game truly has a skill component, presumably that means that a good player can consistently win. And if someone consistently wins, that person can make tons of money at the expense of the game parlor.

But this from today’s Dispatch story caught my eye:
    Last year, then-Attorney General Jim Petro issued a ruling opposite Dann's. Petro concluded that the games' outcome is "largely by chance rather than a player's skill," making them illegal.
    He hasn't changed his mind as an attorney in private practice.
    Petro said the machines are manufactured so that players, no matter how skilled, can't win every time. A governor controls the number of times the machine can have a winner, he said.[emphasis added]
I’m wondering about that bolded part. If Petro’s reference to a “governor” is another way of saying that the skill is impossible, it’s one thing. But if the machines include a true governor – a component that keeps track of payouts then makes further payouts impossible, that’s, well, cheating.

Meanwhile, the reports have to be public. They just do. How these machines work is a matter of public import. If someone can end run around state law then hide information about how they did it behind a veil of trade secret, they will set a precedent that will spill all over state regulation, particularly where environmental regs are concerned.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Teaser

If all goes according to schedule your favorite Akron blogger will be in tomorrow's Beacon Journal. More when it happens.

Some Programming Notes, Plus Ten Songs Randomly Selected

Summer is upon me. Kid Z had her last day Thursday and Kid T will have her last day of pre-school ever on Wednesday. And then we go on vacation for a week and a half.

Which is to say I’m in full time child care mode, so posts will be down over the next couple of months. And I probably won’t be getting to my computer midday much at all, so look out for posts late night or very early morning.

Now here it is, your moment of Ten:

1. “A Million Ways,” OK Go
2. “In the Dark,” Toots and the Maytals
3. “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?” Mothers of Invention
4. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” Jerry Lee Lewis
5. “What’s the Use of Getting Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again)?" Louis Jordan
6. “Home Sweet Home,” Bela Fleck
7. “Split Kick,” Art Blakey Quintet
8. “Brothers,” Death Cab for Cutie
9. “The Lonely 1,” Wilco
10. “Time Has Told Me,” Nick Drake

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Summit Co. Executive Race Is On.

Redhorse said it first: the jockeying to succeed Summit County Executive Jim McCarthy will be high family drama within the local Dem party. Now we know who two of the dramatis personae will be. Attorney and Summit Co. Dem Chair Russ Pry and County Council member Tim Crawford.

I've watched these contests before. It's basically about hearts and minds of the Exec. Committee and the precinct chairs. Nothing for a blogger to do but get the popcorn and sit back and watch.

Stark Raving Ambiguity UPDATED

Questions about next year's Congressional race in the 16th District are turning into a soap opera. Last night Admin at BSB found a Google hit for a Canton Rep. story entitled "Regula Running After All." The link is dead. Admin is working to track it down.

Meanwhile, the morning papers clarify how murky the picture is. Schuring says he is setting himself up to run if Regula decides to retire. From the Rep:

    Running for the office is "something I would consider if Congressman Regula does decide not to run," Oelslager said. "I am patiently waiting to see what he wants to do. He's done a great job, and I respect the work he's done."

    Schuring said he told Regula of his plans to form a committee.

    "The congressman knows we're doing this and gave his permission," Schuring said. "I am running in concert with his making a decision. If he decides to run, I would take whatever political apparatus I have and fold it into his."

And just in case you a blogger trying to read the tea leaves:
    Schuring said there is no hidden message suggesting Regula should retire.

Still not convinced? Here's Schuring in the ABJ:
    Regula, who turns 83 later this year, is undecided about running for re-election, according to Schuring.

    Schuring has registered with the Federal Election Commission to establish a congressional exploratory committee for the 16th Congressional District, which includes Stark, Wayne and portions of Ashland and Medina counties.

    "It is important that there be a candidate and an organization in place to run for the seat in the event the congressman decides to retire," Schuring said in a prepared statement.

It's just about being ready. Nothing against Ralph. Really. OK, Mr. Skeptic, check out the Massillon Independent:
    “I’m a big supporter of Congressman Regula,” Schuring said. “The purpose of this committee is to do the exploratory work to prepare for a potential campaign if – and it is a big if – the congressman decides not to run.”

    Schuring said he has been in communication with Regula and the congressman has not made up his mind yet about 2008.

    “The 2008 election is a presidential year,” Schuring explained. “The primary has been moved up from May to March. That means the filing deadline is less than six months away. That is why it is important to form this committee now – to build a strong grass roots network of support.

    “It is important that a candidate and an organization be in place in the event the congressman decides to retire.”
It's up to Ralph, OK. They love Ralph. They want Ralph. They just need to be ready in case. Really.

Meanwhile, Schuring is preparing for a bruising primary if Ralph does retire. A likely opponent is Schuring's friend and GA colleage Scott Oelslager. Again from the Rep:
    Like Schuring, state Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, has long had an interest in the congressional seat Regula occupies, but Thursday he said he had "really no reaction" to Schuring's announcement.

    Running for the office is "something I would consider if Congressman Regula does decide not to run," Oelslager said. "I am patiently waiting to see what he wants to do. He's done a great job, and I respect the work he's done."
* * *
    If Regula doesn't run, Schuring expects a primary battle costing more than $1 million.

    "The simple fact is congressional races are not cheap," he said. "I have a team of individuals who are respected and well-connected. We have a good message and will run on all eight cylinders.

    "I'm about to embark in turbulent waters. Elections these days are a blood sport. It's a shame. There was a time when elections were conducted on principles and policy. Now it's about politics and personalities."

Meanwhile, Team Boccieri is feeling it. I emailed for comment last night and got referral to the Google image, plus a couple great lines:
    John is not in this to represent the special interests of the wealthy and powerful, who are trying to strongarm the GOP into running the candidate of their choosing. John is committed to representing the PEOPLE of this area, whether working, disabled or retired; young or old, students to senior citizens. We're going to wage an effective, aggressive campaign --no matter who runs on the other side.
* * *
    [I]t is fair to say that a certain C-130 pilot is already shaking things up, eh?

This is going to be a sweet race.

UPDATES. First off, I omitted the link to the BSB post. Apologies to Admin. Second, a new post on BSB explains the rogue headline.

Stark Raving Ambiguity

Last night Admin at BSB found a Google hit for a Canton Rep. story entitled "Regula Running After All." The link is dead. Admin is working to track it down.

Meanwhile, the morning papers clarify how murky the picture is. Schuring says he is setting himself up to run if Regula decides to retire. From the Rep:

    Running for the office is "something I would consider if Congressman Regula does decide not to run," Oelslager said. "I am patiently waiting to see what he wants to do. He's done a great job, and I respect the work he's done."

    Schuring said he told Regula of his plans to form a committee.

    "The congressman knows we're doing this and gave his permission," Schuring said. "I am running in concert with his making a decision. If he decides to run, I would take whatever political apparatus I have and fold it into his."

And just in case you a blogger trying to read the tea leaves:
    Schuring said there is no hidden message suggesting Regula should retire.

Still not convinced? Here's Schuring in the ABJ:
    Regula, who turns 83 later this year, is undecided about running for re-election, according to Schuring.

    Schuring has registered with the Federal Election Commission to establish a congressional exploratory committee for the 16th Congressional District, which includes Stark, Wayne and portions of Ashland and Medina counties.

    "It is important that there be a candidate and an organization in place to run for the seat in the event the congressman decides to retire," Schuring said in a prepared statement.

It's just about being ready. Nothing against Ralph. Really. OK, Mr. Skeptic, check out the Massilon Independent:
    “I’m a big supporter of Congressman Regula,” Schuring said. “The purpose of this committee is to do the exploratory work to prepare for a potential campaign if – and it is a big if – the congressman decides not to run.”

    Schuring said he has been in communication with Regula and the congressman has not made up his mind yet about 2008.

    “The 2008 election is a presidential year,” Schuring explained. “The primary has been moved up from May to March. That means the filing deadline is less than six months away. That is why it is important to form this committee now – to build a strong grass roots network of support.

    “It is important that a candidate and an organization be in place in the event the congressman decides to retire.”

It's up to Ralph, OK. They love Ralph. They want Ralph. They just need to be ready in case. Really.

Meanwhile, Schuring is preparing for a bruising primary if Ralph does retire. A likely opponent is Schuring's friend and GA colleage Scott Oelslager. Again from the Rep:
    Like Schuring, state Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, has long had an interest in the congressional seat Regula occupies, but Thursday he said he had "really no reaction" to Schuring's announcement.

    Running for the office is "something I would consider if Congressman Regula does decide not to run," Oelslager said. "I am patiently waiting to see what he wants to do. He's done a great job, and I respect the work he's done."
* * *
    If Regula doesn't run, Schuring expects a primary battle costing more than $1 million.

    "The simple fact is congressional races are not cheap," he said. "I have a team of individuals who are respected and well-connected. We have a good message and will run on all eight cylinders.

    "I'm about to embark in turbulent waters. Elections these days are a blood sport. It's a shame. There was a time when elections were conducted on principles and policy. Now it's about politics and personalities."