Thursday, November 29, 2007

Julio Pino in the News Again

In today's Beacon:

    The head of Kent State's history department was relieved of his duties for approving a professional leave to the United Arab Emirates for a faculty member who has contributed material to a jihadist Web site.

    John Jameson was fired because he didn't follow university protocol in granting the fully paid leave for Julio ''Assad'' Pino, a Muslim convert and associate professor. Jameson remains a tenured professor.

    Kent State spokesman Ron Kirksey said the university would have taken the same action with other department chairs in similar situations.

    He said Jameson should have approached the interim dean of the college, then the provost's office instead of authorizing the leave on his own for the Nov. 1 conference.

    Jameson said the reason for his firing was more subtle.

    Some administrators and faculty ''were upset because Assad was going to this area of the world'' and didn't want any more bad publicity about him, Jameson said.

Here is where it gets interesting:

    Pino said he was eager to take part in the six-week program on Arabic language and culture sponsored by the Zayed House for Islamic Culture in the city of Al Ain. Some American imams are taking part in the program, according to news reports.

Pino is there now, but jumping on the next flight back because he can't afford to take the time unpaid.

This is the latest example of Pino's odd arrogance. Instead of acknowledging that he holds a minority view that makes people uncomfortable, he sticks it all in people's faces and dares you to tolerate him. Instead of acknowledging that he shouldn't have gone near Global War and explaining carefully what he did and did not contribute there, he wraps himself in the First Amendment, deepening the suspicion that he was the jihadist blogger and not just a source.

And now. Any rational person would understand that a radical Muslim logging time at a Mideast Islamic Center would raise questions. So do Pino and his chair makes sure everything is done to spec? No. He gets oral authority to travel on the taxpayer's dime and jumps on a plane. And now we are all shocked shocked that the chair lost his position.

Further reaction from Puddle Pirate.

Earlier posts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mike Moran's Rollout for House 42

Democratic Hudson City Councilman Mike Moran formally announced his bid for the Ohio House 42nd District in an invitation-only press conference in Cuyahoga Falls today. The 42nd is currently held by Republican John Widowfield who earlier this month badly lost an election for Cuyahoga Falls Clerk of Courts.

As the list of attendees made clear, Democrats are targeting this race to be one of the four pick-ups needed to win control of the House. Moran was introduced by Minority Leader Joyce Beatty (that's the two of them at the podium in the photo). Other Representatives in attendance included Brian Williams (41), Steve Dyer (43) and Matthew Szollosi (49). Also in attendance were Stow Mayor Karen Fritschel, Common Pleas Judge John Quinn, three members of Cuyahoga Falls City Council, and of course, Lisa Zeno Carano, the woman who took the shine off Rep. Widowfield.

Also attending were officials from the House Democratic Caucus, several members of Summit County Progressive Democrats PAC, blogger Jeff Coryell and yours truly. And Moran's wife Barb and their two young daughters.

Mike Moran is an impressive candidate on several levels. First off, when I posted about his race and signed up for email updates on his website, I had a personal email message within two hours thanking me for the post and inviting me to the presser.

Moran is one of those rare finds -- a guy with a gaudy resume and political skills to effectively make the case for himself. He has degrees in civil engineering and law, experience as a big firm lawyer, a sole practitioner and a manager in the legal publishing business. He works the room with barely contained exuberance -- it's not for nothing that his publicity still shows him laughing. He keys it down significantly -- maybe a little too much -- from the podium.

His stump concentrates on core Dem issues: Education, health care, jobs. As the son of a doctor with siblings also in the medical field, health care is clearly his driving passion.

I was most impressed by our conversation afterwards. I asked if he had any specific policy ideas. He said his main focus is on getting past labels -- i.e. pro and con "universal health care" -- and instead study the system to find where improvements can be made.

He may get grief for not "having a position" but I find this refreshing. While he explained this in the context of talking to an insurance executive who spoke to his Rotary club against universal health care, fact is progressives are as bad, if not worse, about this sort of health care orthodoxy. Aside from his fits of clownishness, it may be the trait Kucinich and his supporters share that I find most grating. If a health care proposal offers anything less than a total single payer universal system that wipes out all that came before, the proposal is given labels like "corporatist" and the candidate is accused of riding in the pocket of the insurance companies.

This is bad politics and nuking the entire system to replace it with something new, huge and untried is bad policy. Moran talks about working toward goals -- efficiency, affordability and access. I'll pass up grand schemes and liberal orthodoxy for a hard-working policy nerd working for incremental improvement any day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marc Dann Coming to Akron

Since Marc Dann is the hot topic today, it's as good a time as any to publicize his upcoming appearance at the Akron Press Club. He will be here Friday, November 14 at the usual 11:45. Details.

He will speak on "Looking Back, Looking Ahead," which for no other political figure in Ohio would sound so loaded.

C'mon down, Jerid and see your big bear. Holla!

Updates from All Over Akron

The ABJ carries three pieces today updating stories previously featured here on the Pages. First, the proposed new downtown parking garage that caused the Federal judges such consternation has been redesigned to cross Dart. Ave.

    The five-level addition will be constructed across Dart Avenue with a tunnel added for the thoroughfare to continue between Main and Market streets.

    * * *

    The new addition would be farther from the federal building than the existing Superblock garage, located behind the Akron Centre complex on South Main Street. The expansion would run west across Dart Avenue.

    The judges have signed off on the revised plan.

    ''They are not opposed to what we are doing over there,'' said James Weber, a construction division manager for the city.

    Construction is to begin in March and take about 14 months. Dart will be closed during con
    struction, reopening when the project is complete.

Also finalized are plans for Portage Path Elementary. Portage Path became a point of particular contention in Akron Public's construction plans when earlier iterations had the school taking up space currently occupied by the Highland Theater.

Finally, a sidebar buried next to the reefer of the parking deck story (not the more logically connected Portage Path story) we learn:
    Akron has contacted grocers across the country about a long-promised grocery store for the Highland Square area and now has a ''good prospect,'' Adele Dorfner Roth, an economist for the city, said Monday.

    ''It's about getting the right thing to work there,'' said Roth, who gave the Akron City Council's planning committee an update on the project. ''We don't want to just throw something together.''

    Council members, who have been deluged by e-mail from residents frustrated by the empty corner at North Portage Path and West Market Street, asked Roth to provide a list of the grocers the city has talked to and why they rejected the prospect.

And here is my favorite part:
    Council members asked Roth to find a way to better communicate with residents about the progress of the search.
Good luck with that.

On the Latest Kucinich Kraziness

As funny as it was to hear that Dennis Kucinich is "thinking about" Liberpublitarian Ron Paul as a running mate, the puzzled reactions are hilarious. Yes, I understand why people think they couldn't run together. After all, Ron Paul wants to abolish every governmental department in the name of "liberty" and Kucinich's signature issue is establishing a new cabinet-level Department of Peace. Yes, it seems odd.

Until you remember that nothing is more important to Dennis Kucinich than making sure that people are talking about Dennis Kucinich. Notice that we have been talking about him the past three days? This despite his infinitesimal chance of becoming President?

Mission accomplished, Dennis. Now promise to make Britney Spears a U.N. Envoy. Good for another couple of days.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Sources on the Chief Source

Akron-based group blog The Chief Source just got a little bigger with the addition of two new bloggers Chandra and Annie. I've gotten to know Annie over the last couple of months and look forward to watching her move into blogworld. You can read Annie's inaugural post on the Ohio-5 special election and Chandra's on providing affordable birth control.

Always good to have new perspectives in the blogosphere. Welcome and good luck to both.

Judge Eve Belfance Running for Court of Appeals

Municipal Court Judge Eve Belfance is running for the seat on the Ninth District Court of Appeals being vacated by Judge Lynn Slaby. Judge Slaby must retire under Ohio law, having reached age 70 during the last term.

Judge Belfance told me she was considering a run when we bumped into one-another recently. Word is now out that she is in and I was trying find an email contact for the campaign to get confirmation -- an odd exercise given that she lives a block away, but . . . Anyway, confirmation came in the form of a fundraiser invite, so safe to say she is in.

Given the recent allegations of Court of Appeals decisions being influenced by party politics and campaign donations, this election should interesting, for a Court of Appeals election. If elected Judge Belfance would be the third Democrat elected in as many tries after years of Republican hegemony on the Court. It is her second try at this level, having run a good but unsuccessful campaign in 2004.

Currently she has a website,, set up for her campaign this year for a full Muni term and never fully constructed after it became apparent that she was unopposed. It's unclear whether she will run on that site or get a new url for the Court of Appeals race -- I think she can run as Judge Belfance but it's one of those picky areas in judicial election rules.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mike Moran Taking on John Widowfield for State Rep.

Hudson At-Large City Councilman Mike Moran has announced that he is seeking to unseat Rep. John Widowfield in the Ohio 42nd House district. In the 2005 city council election, Moran was the top vote-getter in a six person race for three at-large seats.

According to the ABJ:

    Moran, a Democrat, filed a complaint in September about a group of female independent candidates crowding the ballot for Falls clerk. He alleged it was an attempt by Republicans to draw votes from Lisa Zeno Carano, the Democratic candidate. The independents were thrown off the ballot because they missed the filing deadline.

    Moran, 43, a two-year councilman, said the independent-candidates issue — and Widowfield running for another seat — prompted his challenge.
I talked one party insider who flagged this race as a chance for a pick-up as ODP tries to take back the Ohio House. Widowfield, who never had a reputation as a world-beater, took a serious blow to his credibility by getting creamed in the election for Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Clerk, despite significantly outspending his opponent. And of course Widowfield's recent designation as Ohio's Laziest Legislator will be part of the entire campaign as opposed to just the last weekend of campaigning.

You can learn more about Councilman Moran on his website which is currently focused on the City Council position.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Offline (Probably) for the Weekend

We are off on our usual Thanksgiving pilgrimage east to visit Prof. W’s family. The route is a little different this time, so we are in the Germantown, MD Hampton Inn as opposed to our usual Harrisburg or Elizabethtown stopping point.

I won’t say posting this weekend is impossible because sometimes surprising opportunities arise. But looking at the schedule, it is highly unlikely.

In the meantime, the 92nd Carnival of Politics is up. I compiled this week, thus the lack of posting yesterday. Tuesdays and Thursdays generally have been bad for the blog this semester – they are heavy days here at the House of Pho.

Finally, the following happened sometime early this morning:

Some entirely anonymous reader was logged as the 100,000th visitor to Pho’s Akron Pages. Yes, plenty of blogs have reached that milestone in less time than this one, nevertheless, I am humbled by your continued support.

Have a great holiday, everyone.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies, and Crime Rankings

Both Daily Bellwether and Ohio Daily posted about the new crime stats ranking four Ohio cities as among the nation's "most dangerous," and both have mentioned some criticisms of the list. NPR's On the Media covered the story over the weekend, including a campaign by criminologists against using the FBI stats to rank cities. As the OTM guest noted, the FBI website on which the statistics appear warns against using them to rank cities. Click to access the crime data and you get a popup bearing the following:

    Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment.
The popup links you to a more detailed set of cautions about the data.

As Bill Sloat notes in his post, whatever cautions the number crunchers put on, the fact remains that four Ohio cities are listed among the likes of Oakland and Compton California, Camden, NJ and Gary IN -- all cities synonymous with urban turmoil and failure.

But the most important caution offered on the OTM segment remains salient:
    The harm is that people use the information as if it were conveying something important about their risk for crime. But knowing the city a person lives in tells you nothing about the, quote, "danger" they may face. Knowing the neighborhood a person lives in might tell you something more important about their risk for crime. And, in fact, differences in crime risk across neighborhoods, within any city, tend to be much greater than differences between cities in crime rate.

    I also think that uncritical media attention compounds the error, and the city and its residents suffer as a result, I should say, especially the downtown areas of those cities. When people read about the city they're not already familiar with, they often associate the crime risk with the downtown area of the city, the place that people visit, stay in hotels downtown, visit cultural attractions, and so forth.

    In fact, of serious violent crimes that occur in the city, four to five percent of them tend to occur in the downtown area. When you consider the, you know, effective population of downtown areas, all the people who work there, who recreate there during the evenings, that's a very, very low percentage. But you'd never know about that from the crime rankings.

Dennis Kucinich Doesn't Know the Name of His Party

From the New Republic blog The Plank:

    Dennis Kucinich, the candidate we all might love if only he didn't happen to be loony, demonstrates with a press release that showed up in my inbox this morning entitled:


    * * *

    As the Washington Post has put it, "The missing '-ic' has a long legacy. Dick Armey was fond of saying 'Democrat Party.' Commie-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy even used the phrase half a century ago." Dennis, I know you feel aggrieved these days, but ... Dick Armey and Joe McCarthy! You really want to go there?

The "it," by the way, is his impeachment resolution which bears the distinction of being the least sucky/least crazy idea The Koosh has had in the past 18 months or so. Still, beating up ones own party with a favorite winger dig is a bit much even for Dennis.

But if you are still not convinced that he is more interested in being a Party of One than actually accomplishing anything, by all means come primary time, pull the lever for Dennis Kucin.

Young Americans Reading Less

This seems like at least an annual event -- a study showing that Americans -- particularly the up and coming generation -- aren't reading. Today the National Endowment for the Arts released a meta-study examining data from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources finding that leisure reading is declining, especially among late-teens and twenty somethings. The guts from WaPo:

    The NEA reports that in 2006, 15-to-24-year-olds spent just 7 to 10 minutes a day voluntarily reading anything at all.
Bad, but here's what's really disturbing:
    It also notes that between 1992 and 2003, the percentage of college graduates who tested as "proficient in reading prose" declined from 40 percent to 31 percent.

Here's how it's happening:
    The percentage of 9-year-olds who say they "read almost every day for fun," the NEA report notes, rose slightly, from 53 percent to 54 percent, between 1984 and 2004. During roughly the same time period, average reading scores for 9-year-olds rose sharply. But the percentage of 17-year-olds reading almost every day for fun dropped from 31 percent in 1984 to 22 percent in 2004, with average reading scores showing steady declines.

That, by the way, tracks school proficiency data generally. American kids are generally doing well in K-5, then start to lose their way in middle school and lag behind peers in other countries in high school. And why is this happening? We can't say definitively it is the obvious culprit, but:
    Iyengar emphasized that the NEA's data can show correlations but cannot prove a causal relationship between reading decline and, say, the proliferation of electronic media.
The other obvious discussion point is -- what of the internet? The NEA has been criticized in the past for not acknowledging online reading. Two problems this go round. First, the decline in reading proficiency is a problem no matter what the platform.

Second, electronic communications in the late 2.0 era are less conducive to practicing reading -- and writing for that matter. This Slate story confirms what I've been noticing; that kids are not surfing and emailing so much as IM'ing, chatting and texting. The latter are basically electronic versions of verbal conversation, not actual writing and reading of what anyone would call prose. A couple friends of mine teach remedial writing to college students. They have found it necessary to teach their students that it is not acceptable to spell "you" as "u." OMG its FUBAR. Thz kds CUS.

BTW, I don't remember who to h/t -- Publisher's MarketPlace dropped it in their Lunch email, as has area blogger Keith who suggests the solution is more David Drake. At least one other non-primary source referenced it. I tip my hat to you all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ohio's Crappy Charter School System, Exhibit 4395

. . . is a story in today's Dispatch that millions in charter school start up money cannot be accounted for. Specifically, $2.55 million in "planning grants" went to schools that were never actually set up.

The Ohio Charter School system was set up to act exactly like a free market. OK, a free market in which the government pays for the "customers" and paid some of the set up costs of the "businesses." That kind of market. An Iraq reconstruction kind of market.

Charter school advocates try not to talk about Ohio. In other states charter schools actually work -- so much so that liberals like the purveyors of EduWonk and Quick and the Ed like them. But in Ohio the system yields one failure after another. That's why an editorial in Minnesota about charter school accountability notes that, "Ohio seems to have more problems than other states, but it is a good reminder that we need charter schools to be accountable."

So what can we learn from this? First, we can learn that the pure free market model does not work. In particular, during late-nineties and early 00's, the guiding philosophy was to let anyone who could fog a mirror set up a charter school and let the market sort them out. That has given us dozens of chronically failing schools that thus far can only be shut down when they run out of money.

And now we have another problem. Ohio apparently gave money out without vetting the recipients. Exactly no one familiar with the history of Ohio charters is surprised.

By the way, a second problem with the free market model is the cost of letting the market do its magic. Businesses in a market don't automatically succeed because they are in a market. A market works by forcing bad businesses to close. That's fine when we are talking about, say, electronics stores. When Fretter and Sun closed up shop, they did little permanent damage to the polity. But when a school closes down, it causes considerable disruption to the families involved and to the public school system that has to absorb children who have not been receiving a decent education. A third is that changing vendor involved considerable transaction costs. And a fourth is the Market for Bad Education.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Carnival of Ohio Politics #91

Jill has the goods. For whatever reason, people respond well on her weeks so we have 19 contributors this week. I'm up next week; maybe we can maintain the momentum.

It's Bush's Fault I Have to Listen to Troothers.

Loved this from Kevin Cleary on The Quick and the Ed:

    This just shows one of the unfortunate side effects of the Bush Administration--over the last two or three years, a whole lot of intellectually lazy and half-paranoid conspiracy theories about things like warmongering and destruction of civil liberties and what have you turned out to be more or less true. Which gives credence to other facile theories that aren't true. I realize this isn't nearly as problematic as the actual foreign policy fiascos, assaults on the Constitution, etc., but it still makes my life difficult.
The subject is a new push for standardized proficiency testing to evaluate and "reform" higher education. The idea itself is, I think, a dozen kinds of silly. Among other things, we should first get the testing/reform thing down in K-12 which we clearly haven't yet. Still, there is no shortage of paranoid raving about the plan. In addition to the conversation Cleary cites, check out this on Schools Matter.

And of course Cleary's rant can be applied to Troothers and, yes, Stolen Election Guy. Every time a voting machine goes screwy, certain factions cut immediately to a scene of Republican operatives manipulating code in a hundred thousand precincts from an undisclosed location. Thankfully, cooler heads occasionally prevail, like this piece from Cindy on AOG which notes a problem, proposes a solution and calls for vigilance.

I'm all about vigilance. But just because they are out to get you doesn't mean it's OK to be paranoid.

What I'm Doing These Days

Those of you who have been following the Pages for a while have also followed my search for some sort of gainful, satisfying and compatible with stay-at-home-daddage employment. You've watched me try community organizing, political consulting and part-time academia. This last is still going on -- I'll be teaching again next semester at least.

And I've been working on something else. For some time some people, sufficiently impressed with what goes on here, have been encouraging me to try writing. And now I have. I just started putting my name out when my first couple of contracts landed on my doorstep. Catalyst Cleveland -- a nonprofit magazine covering urban education -- has expanded to statewide operation as Catalyst Ohio. I was aware this was happening and had spoken to the editor, Charlise Lyles as they were planning the move and was planning to get in touch once my ducks were reasonably lined up. As it happens, she found out I was freelancing and got in touch. My first piece will appear in the next issue and I'm working on the second now.

Let me add here that this is not the usual path for a beginning freelancer. The usual path involves lots of rejection and self-doubt and wondering when you will ever get your first paying job. I understand how fortunate I've been thus far.

The new career move will mean a couple of changes for the blog. First of all, I plan on blogging education a bit more than I've been. I noted before that being employed by an advocacy group made me uncomfortable about taking nuaced positions on things like charter schools. Not that Ohio Fair Schools ever tried to constrain me, but I did voluntarily constrain myself. You might notice the new My Game Is Ed category on the blogroll. Look for that to get more heavily populated and for my opinions about what goes on in the education blog world.

It also means that posting my at times be spotty, particularly as deadlines approach. I'm hoping things will be a little better next semester as my class is a little less labor intensive, but of course if I get more writing jobs, things may be more hectic.

I'll also mention here for anyone interested in retaining the services of a lawyer-turned-writer with expertise in education, politics, local government and criminal law, my email is pho197[at]hotmail[dot]com.

Finally, a plug for my new client. I've been reading Catalyst Cleveland for a couple of years. Now that it is Catalyst Ohio, the magazine will hopefully be an indispensible resource for anyone concerned about urban education, or education in general. The magazine strives to examine issues objectively, giving time to all sides. And best of all, subscriptions are free. Surf on over and sign up.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Half-Good Idea for Veterans Day.

State Treasurer Richard Cordray has recently been softening the ground for a proposed ballot issue to benefit veterans. Someone has posted about the plan on the community section of Progress Ohio.

Cordray's idea is a ballot issue to allow Ohio to issue bonds so that we can pay out bonuses to returning war veterans. Helping veterans is hard to argue against -- men and women who have seen combat have endured hardships and seen horrors most of us can't imagine to keep us free and safe. Still, I have some reservations.

First and foremost, an idea this popular should be paid for. Issuing bonds may make sense for development projects that, in theory at least, will pay for themselves in the form on economic growth and increased revenue. Then you can at least pretend that the result is a net gain for the state. A program like this on the other hand should be paid for up front. If the people of Ohio want to benefit veterans, we should, but we shouldn't be adding to the debt to do it.

I also have reservations generally about the state making up for Federal shortfalls in veterans benefits. It's a familiar refrain by now -- the administration claims they support our troops while in theater, but has little interest in providing them sufficient resources when they get out. It's a tricky stand to take: I wouldn't want to thwart political will to benefit Ohio's vets just based on the Bush Admin's dereliction, but at the same time, I bristle at the thought of letting them off the hook.

Notwithstanding the above, thanks to all who serve and have served in our armed forces, and a very good Veterans Day to you all.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rev. Tracy Lind Not Nominated to Be Bishop

The Rev. Tracy Lind, Dean of Cleveland's Trinity Cathedral, was in the running to be elected the second openly gay bishop in the American Episcopal Church. Today the Chicago diocese selected another of the eight candidates after two rounds of voting. Rev. Lind finished fourth on both of the ballots.

The Episcopal Church has been struggling to resolve the controversy between liberal and conservative factions over gay clergy. As a result, Rev. Lind's candidacy has received national media attention. Had she been voted in by the Chicago Diocese, she would have had to pass additional hurdles and her candidacy certainly would have heightened the controversies in the church.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fingerhut: NEOUCOM Rootstown Campus Will Stay

In his most strongly worded statement on the subject, today University System Chancellor Eric Fingerhut stated today before the Akron Press Club that the Rootstown campus of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine is an "important institution" that will remain in place. The status of NEOUCOM's current facility in Rootstown has been the subject of speculation for some time. Fingerhut's statement appeared aimed in part at resolving those questions.

Fingerhut was in town to discuss the University System of Ohio. The System is working on a ten-year Master Plan to reform the system to encourage collaboration and to improve efficiency and capacity. Since talk of possible mergers broke, the Chancellor has been saying that all ideas are subject to discussion.

As he began his speech, Fingerhut aknowledged "the kangaroo in the room" and assured the audience that "Zippy is safe." Previewing the end point of the speech, he said that the goal is to expand the both the teaching and research capacities of schools in the University System. The overall goal is to increase the number of students in the university system by 230,000 in the next ten years. At the same time, Fingerhut spoke of individual schools "thinking in a collaborative way" instead of competing with one another.

Aside from the reassurances about Rootstown, Fingerhut offered little specific information about where the process might be going. He said that Ohio will not copy a university system model from another state, but will "create a new prototype." He also said Ohio will not create a new bureaucracy and will not "abandon the commitment to local governance."

With regard to NEOUCOM, Fingerhut said that students at the Rootstown school might benefit from expanded opportunities to study in Akron or Cleveland, but that the Rootstown facility will remain.

Referring to discussions of possible mergers, Fingerhut said that they are examining every idea as it is advanced. The philosophy of the university system is to "stop putting individual institutions and cities first." When asked why mergers are necessary, he stated that he doesn't know that they are, but that all options are being considered. He also suggested that mergers should be a last resort.

Fingerhut spoke a great deal about the importance of state universities attracting more research grants, particularly in engineering and medicine. At the same time, he said that every university must provide a comprehensive education, including liberal arts, so no university will be without humanities and social sciences departments.

The University System is now posting components of the Master Plan as they are developed. The Master Plan Forum also includes fields to allow users to leave comments. The deadline for submitting the Master Plan to the Governor and General Assembly is March 31, 2008.

A Lighthearted Sign-Off to the Wide Open Debate

My last post hopefully exhausts what I can add to the debate. Except one thing; we need to add to the Urban Dictionary. Since MSM organs are adding bloggers, this probably won't be the last time this happens, just like doocing continued long after the first blogger was dooced. So we need a name for it.

Technically, this was not a doocing. Jeff didn't get fired from his job for posting about his job. Blogging was his job and he got fired for . . . well that's the subject of the controversy, I suppose. He got fired because ownership was uncomfortable with the mis en scene in some way, we know that.

So what to call it? The term "dooce" comes from the name of the blog of the first dooced blogger. Well no part of "Ohio Daily" will work for a slang term. Similarly, Jeff's name doesn't really work.

Then it came to me.

I proposed that any time a blogger is fired by a mainstream media outlet because the blogger somehow stepped outside management's comfort zone, we say that blogger was "sammied."

Again We Go, Into the Not-So-Great Wide Open

Really, I'm trying to steer clear of the Wide Open flogathon, but the PeeDee spin on the story can be ignored only for so long. And apologies in advance for being a language nudnik. It's my nature

BuzzMachine via Bill Sloat highlighted this column by PD reader advocate Ted Diadun about why the paper fired Jeff, causing the wheels to come off. Here's what rankles:

    Any reporter knows that giving to a political campaign is prima facie conflict of interest.
* * *
    But that's the way things work in the blog world: "Yellow Dog Sammy" rejects the ingrained ethics of the newspaper world, preferring to read editors' minds and create his own reality. Other bloggers pick that up and repeat it as gospel, and suddenly we begin getting questions from all over the country about why we're letting Steve LaTourette run the newspaper.
Diadun is conflating "conflict of interest" with "bias." The two are intertwined, but nonetheless separate and distinguishable. A conflict of interest occurs when a journalist (or blogger) has some stake in outcome of a controversy that prevents him or her from exercising independent judgment. Bias means that the journalist/blogger has a pre-ordained inclination toward one side or another.

To use an example, I have a strong pro-chocolate bias, but not because I own a stake in Nestle. On the other hand, I have a personal stake in the outcome of whatever university restructuring might take place because both I and my wife work there. I also have a bias that would be there regardless because I think the University of Akron is a more solid institution than Cleveland State. A conflict of interest creates a bias but not every bias is the result of a conflict of interest.

A political contribution does not generate a conflict of interest. Contributing $100 to Bill O'Neill's campaign did not give Jeff a pecuniary interest in the outcome of the election. On the other hand, the contribution does offer overwhelming evidence of bias. It makes sense that PD reporters are not permitted to contribute to candidates because they are supposed to report objectively. Contributions would undermine their claims of objectivity. (And before you hoot and holler, remember that both political sides insist that PD reporting is hopelessly biased for the other side.)

To be fair to Diadun, much of the discussion of the WideOpen controversy had melded bias into conflict of interest, and it may well be that journalists are not terribly careful about distinguishing the two. Which is a problem, because they have different implications and should be subject to different rules.

In the case of Wide Open, bloggers should be held to the same standards as journalists with regard to conflicts of interest, but not with respect to bias. If a blogger has a true conflict of interest he/she either shouldn't write the post or at least should disclose the conflict. On the other hand, as has been noted throughout this discussion, the bloggers were hired because of their biases. Unlike reporters they should under no obligation to either consciously overcome their biases or to refrain from making them manifest.

Finally, this post from Jill points up the unacknowledged stake a newspaper has in reporting on elected officials -- access. I doubt that LaTourette exerted political pressure -- after all, what can a politician do to a newspaper -- but it has been reported that he threatened to stop talking to the paper. Cutting off access is the one real threat that a public official can credibly make to a news organ. Given the selective application of the "no contributions" rule, it certainly seems credible that LaTourette's threat at least figured into the decision.

Would that the paper had the courage to follow the example of WaPo sports writer Thomas Boswell. Boswell once wrote something about the Baltimore Orioles that so angered Manager Earl Weaver that the legendarily cranky skipper refused to speak to him for weeks. Finally one day Weaver went up to Boswell and told him that his wife had a dream in which God said that Weaver should talk to Boswell again. The reporter said, "That's great Earl, but I don't have anything to ask you right now."

Akron Attorneys to Demonstrate in Solidarity with Pakistanis UPDATED

Attorneys, law students and law faculty will gather in front of the Seiberling Federal Court House today at noon for a peaceful demonstration in solidarity with the attorneys and judges of Pakistan who are standing up for the rule of law. The event is being organized by the Akron Bar Association and the University of Akron School of Law.

As the Law School says in its press advisory:

    Pakistani lawyers and judges, at personal risk, are demanding the government restore the legal system. Lawyers and judges around the world have voiced support for their colleagues in Pakistan in support of rule of law. The University of Akron School of Law and Akron Bar Association encourage lawyers and non-lawyers to demonstrate their solidarity with the lawyers and judges in Pakistan by joining in a peaceful show of support.
If you are a lawyer or not, if you can come out and lend support, please do.

DISCLOSURE: My wife works for the School of Law. That is, in fact, how I got wind of this.

UPDATE: ABJ has video of the event up.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Carnival of Ohio Politics #90

Is up, thanks to LisaRenee who postponed the deadline a day to catch election reaction posts. With those, plus post-Wide Open reaction, it's a lively piece. Thanks to all who participate and publicize.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Coughlin's Election Night Response, With Response

As expected, State Sen. Kevin Coughlin has come out firing in light of the election results.

    "I congratulate all the candidates who put themselves before the voters this fall and look forward to working with them to better our region and our communities.

    As chairman of the Summit County Republican Party, Alex Arshinkoff has a record of 6 wins and 42 losses over the last four years. Tonight's results did little to change that trend. While many consider him a clever campaigner, I have always questioned Chairman Arshinkoff's tactical skills and knowledge of how elections are won. He is a strong fundraiser, but a poor field general.

    I have been even more troubled that Chairman Arshinkoff's poor standing in the community is an anchor weighing down capable candidates for office. Nothing illustrates the need for a new party chairman better than the defeat of John Widowfield for Clerk of Courts. Despite superior name identification, well over $100,000 spent, and an unknown opponent, Representative Widowfield suffered a loss that may have a lasting impact on his political future.

    After this unfortunate outcome, I hope that Alex Arshinkoff finally realizes just how harmful he has become to Republican candidates and offieholders. When a party chairman becomes such a liability to the candidates of his own party, it's time to move on."
Some thoughts. First, Coughlin sells Lisa Zeno Carano short. She was hardly "unknown." She was a popular Councilwoman in Tallmadge, a significant part of the muni court district. She's been in place since late spring and has done a good job of getting her name out. And she ran a smart campaign on a relative shoestring.

Also, Coughlin has set himself up in a no-lose situation by alleging that this race was part of a multi-player deal between the parties. If Widowfield had won, Coughlin could crow "See, I told you." Now that he's lost, Coughlin is jumping on him for losing a gimmie. Much as I personally dislike the man, I sit in awe of his political acumen this morning. He has played events with the skill of a Romulan.

All that said, the loss certainly pokes A2 in the eye. He secured insane money for the race from major donors and ran hard. While the late-breaking news that Widowfield is Ohio's laziest legislator certainly didn't help, Coughlin is probably also right that many people voted against Alex. Not only are people tired of the act -- this cycle played out in the psuedo-independent candidate drama -- but they are increasingly reluctant to give him access to a passel of patronage job slots.

And this wasn't a loss, it was a beat-down. A liberal Dem winning by ten points in northern Summit? If anyone saw that coming, they had access to internals.

Add to that Bob Keith winning handily in Akron 8th, and it seems clear that Arshinkoff has indeed become a liability. He needed wins badly in this election to counter Coughlin's criticisms and did not get them.

The contest from here out turns on a tipping point. If the matter were put to a secret ballot in the Republican rank and file, whoever Coughlin's candidate might be (hey, I hear John Widowfield might be available) would win in a landslide. But it's not a secret ballot. It's about turning precinct and central committee chairs and counting the heads. Right now nobody wants to cross Alex unless they have a reasonable expectation of success. It will be interesting to see if any high-profile electeds or patrons jump ship as a result. Because at some point, enough people will line up behind Coughlin that the rest of the party will see his side is heading toward victory. Then the rats don't so much desert the sinking ship as rush to the other side.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Now Appearing on Ohio Daily

Since it happened during my recent hiatus, I haven't mentioned Jeff Coryell's recent upgrade of Ohio Daily Blog. It is now a community blog on the Drupal platform. Anyone can add "forums" and Jeff is tapping front-pagers to supply posts.

I finally used my account today to post a preview of the Summit County elections. It's my rundown of the broader potential implications of the three races in the county.

Jeff, as usual, has been going above and beyond this Election Day. He spent the day traveling through Ohio's Fifth Congressional District to check in on the special election primary there. Earl, another front-pager, has posts up keeping tabs around the state. The upgrade offers an even better one-stop shop for political junkies.

Internet Usage up to 80%

According to a new Harris poll:

    The survey, which polled 2,062 adults in July and October, found that 79 percent of adults -- about 178 million -- go online, spending an average 11 hours a week on the Internet.

    "We're up to almost 80 of adults who now are online, or are somehow gaining access to the Internet. That's a pretty impressive figure," said Regina Corso, director of the Harris Poll.

    The results reflect a steady rise since 2000, when 57 percent of adults polled said they went online. In 2006, the number was 77 percent.
The page on Harris Interactive includes plenty of additional data, including this tidbit -- 97 percent of those who use computers are now internet users as well, also an all-time high.


The latest on some stories I have blogged about.

Ida Wells Community School says that it will close for good tomorrow. It is one more charter school to close because of financial mismanagement. The number of Ohio charter schools that have closed due to academic underperformance remains at . . . zero. See previous Ida Wells stories here.

Myisha Ferrell has pled guilty to charges arising from the murder of Jesse Davis. She will get a two year sentence, and the state will not oppose a motion for early release after a year. Most importantly, she will testify against Bobby Cutts, which probably means he is done in the guilt phase of the trial. The penalty phase, on the other hand, will be very interesting indeed.

Utah's first-in-the-nation universal voucher program is up for a public referendum this election day. We'll keep an eye on that one.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Blasts From My Pasts

It's been that sort of few days. First it was running across a Sarah Posner piece that worked in an already-planned post. I discovered her new home blog, linked to it and somewhat clumsily acknowledged that she and I knew each other briefly in law school. What happened next has happened enough I should no longer be surprised -- she traced back the link and emailed me. Her email was basically "Who the hell are you?" so clearly she made a stronger impression on me than I on her.

Then, and more significantly, a friend from high school contacted me through the blog. This is the first time it has happened and, given that I graduated with about three and a half friends, odds are the last. (I did run across one Russ Childers in a ProgressOhio discussion, but this is the first time someone found me solely through the Pages)

Somewhere in there a college alumni mag came which is always an odd experience. Why is it everyone I thought would end up incarcerated is fabulously wealthy now?

Anyway, the topper came yesterday when David Giffels profiled area native Brad Warner. Brad and I were best friends in middle school. We were not friends by the end of high school due to a traumatic series of escalating fallings out.

Thanks to Giffels article I've tracked Brad to his blog, and to his regular column on Suicide Girls. (Be warned that SG is an edgy softcore site. The link is reasonably SFW, but the URL not so much.) Reading up on Brad is surreal. It's like visiting the classroom of a beloved teacher twenty years later and finding out that the pictures on the wall are all the same. It's like discovering that the walls of the elementary school gym have been painted but the climbing rope really was that high.

In other words, I recognize things in Brad that I would not have guessed were still part of him. He was a kid of obsessions -- Mad Magazine, Japanese monster movies and rock music among them. He currently works for a Japanese monster movie studio and is coming to the area to plug a documentary on the Cleveland area punk scene. And he's titling blog posts along the lines of "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions."

And Brad was always an iconoclast. Brad wearing his hair in defiance of hardcore convention is so utterly Brad little more need be said. Other than I remember him saying how much he liked Randy Rhodes.

The part of Brad that is different is his practice of Zen Buddhism which is the primary focus of his writing.

As I said, Brad is in town for a series of events around publicizing his documentary, but he is also some Buddhism-related talks. I copied the following itinerary from his blog. Any or all of these should be worth your time:

Sylvester Small Retirement Announcement

As expected, today's press conference at the APS admin building announced Dr. Sylvester Small's retirement as Superintendent of Akron Public Schools. Dr. Small also sent out an email to APS employees this morning which ABJ has posted.

Dr. Small will work through July 31 to help the transition to a new administration. The Board of Ed. has begun the search process and is working on a fairly tight timeline with the goal of putting the new Super in place August 1.

Current President and outgoing board member Linda Kersker has tapped Linda Omobien to lead the search, with Rev. Curtis Walker as her assistant. The Board has agreed to contract with the Ohio School Boards Association to administer the search. Their timeline holds the board to finishing the recruitment brochure November 20, start advertising the search December 14, and closing the applications January 25. Interviews are scheduled for February and the Board is to decide on their first choice the week of February 25.

According to the press release, "The community will be asked to participate in the selection process." The timeline includes interviews with staff and community groups to be completed January 8.

After the press conference, Board President Kersker said that the search will be nationwide, but she anticipates most candidates will be from Ohio. She also says the Board hasn't discussed whether members are inclined toward an internal or external candidate.

The press conference included board member plaudits for Small. Kersker assured the audience that Dr. Small has a complete vote of confidence from the Board. Board members recounted his accomplishments -- moving from Academic Emergency, setting up the building program, improving community participation in the district, among others. Of course the trolls on Ohio dot com are happily piling on, without knowing what they are talking about and with barely concealed racist motivation.

Dr. Small apparently had promised board members that he would give them plenty of notice when he decided to retire. That's what is happening. It's now in the hands of the board, new members and all (both of whom are friends of mine, BTW.) This will be interesting to watch.

John Widowfield Needs a Vacation

John Widowfield had a very bad weekend. It's the kind of weekend that could turn an election if it hadn't happened two days before the vote. As it is, his swat-a-fly-with-an-anvil campaign for Cuyahoga Falls Muni Court Clerk will probably prevail in a Republican-leaning court district. And then, apparently, kick back and take it easy.

It all started last week when Columbus Monthly published the results of a poll of legislators and other insiders in the General Assembly. The results are tabulated according to categories both weighty (most knowledgeable, best orator) and fluffy (best hair.) Widowfield beat all comers for Laziest.

Widowfield has enjoyed a reputation for legislative indolence for some time, but this is the first time that consensus has been quantified and entered into the permanent record.

And since some folks like to accuse me of knee-jerk partisanship, let me say that the prospect of electing a lazy guy to a court clerk post is troubling, no matter what one's politics. This is an administrative job whose focus is making sure (Generally my partisanship leads me to just remain silent on such things when it affects my party -- like during a certain race for State Auditor last year.)

WAKR's Ed Esposito got the Monthly piece and posted a .pdf of it, along with a write-up on his blog. He also discussed it, along with some late breaking fliers warning that a vote for Lisa Zeno Carano is a vote for Cindy Sheehan.

Then yesterday, ABJ ed page editor Michael Douglas threw it all together is a Sunday column cataloging all things wrong with Widowfield.

Again, this may well be too late to matter. Widowfield has grotesquely outspent Carano, aided by five-figure donations from Alex-friendly benefactors like David Brennan. He has high name recognition in a district that leans R. Still, if the race is close an enough people have heard the poll results, this could tip it.

And then John can really take a break.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sylvester Small Retiring?! UPDATED

Akron Public Schools announced a press conference Monday during which "board members and Superintendent Sylvester Small will 'discuss the future direction' of the district. According to the ABJ story, people have been speculating when Small, who is 60, would retire.

Interesting. Dr. Small is not a figure of imposing leadership, but he has presided over Akron rising to become the premier urban district in the state. He has benefited from a number of other people and institutions
stepping in to help, but he has also effectively managed what could have been chaos. While dumping on him is a popular sport among trolls, the district's record during his tenure has been impressive.

Don't like Dr. Small? Scoreboard.

All of which is to say that if the district is looking at a superintendent search, a great deal rides on it. The district should offer attractive opportunity for qualified candidate. But with two new members on the Board of Ed and no small level of political disagreement among members, a change at the top is probably not precisely what the district needs.

UPDATE: Eric Mansfield ran down sources and has the exclusive -- Dr. Small is definitely retiring. Serves me write for failing to check Eric's blog.

More Ida Wells Woes

Ida Wells Academy, Akron's troubled-but-still-not-closed-but- really-really-close-to-turning-it-all-around-we-mean-it charter school, is in more trouble. Again, the focus is on financial difficulties -- and the Lighthouse Academy -- sponsored by the same organization and worse on state tests -- remains status quo. As it has always been.

When Attorney General Marc Dann filed lawsuits, the school privateers howled in protest. How did they justify opposing efforts to shut down failing charters? They noted that Ohio has a new law that will shut down chronically failing charter schools starting after July, 2008.

Well, maybe. The statute says a school that has been in academic emergency "shall be permanently closed." The new law doesn't specify how that will happen, but appears to put much of the onus on sponsors. The Ida Wells experience doesn't give much

Which is why the AG's lawsuit is important. For one thing, there's no reason not to start closing chronically failing charters now. For another, Dann has signaled that he is taking charter oversight seriously -- something that hasn't historically been true of elected executive officers. When the time comes to apply the new closure law, we won't be relying on sponsors who historically haven't lived up to expectations.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Evangelical Crack-up and It's Discontents.

Every day the Faith in Public Life newsletter carries at least one story about ideological strains within the Christian Right. So it seemed inevitable that 1) some organ of record would run a story declaring evangelical schism a fait accompli and 2) a spate of "Not so fast there" stories would appear. "The Evangelical Crackup" appeared in this Sunday's NYT Mag and now the push-back stories are going up.

Sarah Posner, who writes extensively on the Christian Right gives five reasons why liberals shouldn't be celebrating just yet. To be fair to David Kirkpatrick, author of the NYT piece, he sounds that note just at the end. As Posner notes (and I should mention we were casual friends in law school), the infrastructure of the Christian Right is extensive and its base is easily mobilized.

The larger question is how well the Christian Right is able to influence the mainstream. For instance, the latest Pew poll shows that "God gap" -- the tendency of more religious people to support Republican candidates -- is narrowing among evangelicals and disappearing among mainline Christians.

The bellwether for the evangelical right will be a Hillary Clinton candidacy. The received wisdom is that, thanks the Right caricaturing her as a dangerous ultra-liberal, the evangelical vote will mobilize against her, regardless of who the Republicans nominate. If that happens, the movement may or may not have staying power. If evangelicals cannot keep Hillary out of the White House, we can safely say the movement has waned.

No Bass Pro in Akron

Missed this yesterday:

    The outdoor sporting goods company, based in Springfield, Mo., has decided not to invest here, Summit County Executive Russ Pry said Thursday.

    "It's nothing against the area," he said. "They were re-strategizing where their development would be."
* * *
    Bass Pro spokesman Larry Whiteley said the area didn't meet the company's needs. He declined to comment further.
You can find archived posts about area attempts to lure Bass Pro and Cabela's here.

Carnival of Politics # 89

With all the excitement I forgot to mention that Ben compiled this week's compendium of linky goodness. We may need to have a special Carnival of Wide Open Fiasco Reaction next week. Anyway, enjoy.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Yellow Dog Bites Back and Other Observations

Jeff "Yellow Dog Sammy" Coryell has recorded a video message about his experience with the Wide Open blog and, well, how he would totally like Rep. Steve LaTourette to eat it. Jeff is far too nice to put it that way, so I'll let him do the talking:

That url again is
It occurred to me even before seeing the video that Jeff's undivided negative attention is something nobody wants. He is soft-spoken and polite and possessed of a gentle manner, but like many people of that description, can obsessively haunt a person who has crossed him. LaTourette may end up wishing he left well enough alone.

Oh wait, LaTee says it wasn't him. Or at least Bill Sloat's double-secret sources who may or may not include LaTourette staffers, the Honorable Gentleman denies that he did anything but make a "remark" to ed page editor Brent Larkin about Jeff having made contributions to O'Neill.

I reiterate that Jeff has been telling me about LaTourette's machinations for a few weeks now. This isn't just something he came up with after he got jammed up. I believe Jeff in this because he has been consistent in his chronology and because he's the kind of guy I trust and because LaTourette is by reputation exactly the kind of guy who would throw his weight around to silence critic.

As far as the PD's action in this, I did come up with a benefit-of-the-doubt explanation. If, as we assume, LaTourette was wearing out editors about Jeff's employment, the PD was in a quandary. If they ever publish something negative about LaTee, he could be counted on to play the bias card and point to Jeff's employment at Wide Open. While there were other options, it made some sense for PD leadership to think they needed to protect a perception of fairness.

That doesn't forgive -- nothing forgives -- changing the rules mid-game. The worst part of all this is the was Jeff got jammed up because of things he did in the past, including posts he wrote two blogs ago.