Thursday, January 31, 2008

Elephant Wars: Debating a Debate UPDATED

ANN pulled a presser off the front page of the New Summit Republicans website in which State Sen. Kevin Coughlin challenges Alex Arshinkoff to a debate. Citing Arshinkoff's various Board of Elections machinations, the New Repubs argue that "Arshinkoff has done everything he can to avoid a fair up or down vote on his leadership later this spring."

Clever that, and good strategy. Team Coughlin's big challenge is getting rank-and-file Republicans to pay sufficient to the dispute that they a) side with the Coughlinites, b) figure out who their Coughinite candidate is and c) work down the ballot and vote. A debate would generate the kind of earned media they need to help make this happen.

Plus, much like him or not, Coughlin is a fine campaign debater.

For his part, Arshinkoff has a not-half-bad response reported in the ABJ: he says if there is to be a debate, it should be with whoever will run against him to be party chair.

UPDATE: ANN has audio of Coughlin.

Carnival 102

It's here. Fine work by Ben. Both he and Jill are plugging the Carnival to the left side of the sphere. Remember; we take all comers. If the thing seems out of balance it's because of the submissions we get (or don't).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

But Will Hillary Sleep with Matthew Broderick?

Hillary Hilarity from Slate:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Still More SOTU Reactions.

A few you might have missed.

Betty Sutton's is up on her campaign website. Right now it's on the frontpage, not a page with a dedicated url. So surf over while it lasts. What you would expect -- criticisms focusing on SCHIP and trade.

FactCheck has done their usual fisking. They don't find any out-and-out untruths, but they find the half-truths, misdirections and spin. Here's a bit I was not aware of:

    [Bush] talked tough about pork-barrel spending, saying he'd issue an executive order for agencies to ignore more Congressional "earmarks." But he delayed the effect until November, rather than making it effective with the current fiscal year.

Finally, an interesting linguistic treatment of the speech is treated in a Slate piece. A computer program calculates which words in the speech were the most "influential." The results: "new," "year," "leader," "Congress," "agreement." The conclusion -- this was the year of Legacy Bush.

Monday, January 28, 2008

One More Guy Liveblogging the SOTU

Did I see Jean Schmidt get W's autograph as he walked in? Maybe she is a Bush Republican after all.

I'm reminded how much I dislike Wolf Blitzer; especially his refusal to allow five seconds to lapse without treating us to the sound of his voice. I switch from CNN to NBC.

And we're off. Approximately seven second in for the first smirk.

18 seconds in for the first slouch.

Seven years in for the first indication that he knows what bipartisanship means.

52 straight months as a record? Really? Of course he only broke even a quarter or so before the 2004 election, so maybe I'm thinking net instead of trend.

Did I mention bipartisanship? Nope. We're shoving the tax cuts in the Dems faces again. Oh, a veto threat for a new tax bill. That's a bold stand.

He's had seven years to cut the budget and now he's found 150 programs to cut or eliminate. Nice to know he's been on the job.

We've been running this theme of trusting people to make there own decisions. It kind of runs aground when we get to the test-happy NCLB.

Interesting that Ted Kennedy and Obama didn't respond to the NCLB applause line.

Do we really want a trade agreement with Columbia? The best argument for trade agreements is that they build a middle class, and therefore export markets, in other countries. But the experience in Mexico suggests that the economy and political system need to be open for that to happen. Columbia is far more corrupt and oligarchic than Mexico could dream of being.

An agreement to limit greenhouse gasses? Sounds bold. Sounds like a departure. Oop. Wait a minute. There's the escape hatch. The agreement must include all major economies. So if China and India won't play, he'll put it off on them.

All human life must be treated as sacred. Except the human lives in Guantanamo.

We're in immigration now. His applause line for a guest worker program is the most tepid of the night so far.

Foreign policy. "We've seen stirring moments in the history of liberty." Yes, stirring moments among really awful years and months.

Listening to Bush talk about "principles of hope and decency" is like listening to Britney Spears talk about personal responsibility.

The Iraq piece is entirely insulting. It's now all about Al Qaeda. Jesus God, Al Qaeda in Iraq is a small part of the story. Most of the Sunni insurgents have nothing to do with them and the evidence of real links between AQ in Iraq and AQ proper are dubious. Last year the surge was supposed to give space to the political process. This is all cowboy stuff. Hee haw, we got the terrists on the run. Never mind that most of the success is predicated on Iran-friendly Al Sadr standing down.

I count three sentences about the political process. Oh, yeah, reconciliation and all, but that's boring. Did I mention we got the terrists on the run? Hee ha!

The Iran piece is nice and vague.

Uh oh. Here comes FISA. He calls for renewal, but he did not reiterate his threat to veto a thirty-day extension.

Hey, I just realized. He didn't say "The state of the union is . . ."

Suddenly he's throwing an awful lot of money around. $30 billion for AIDS in Africa, more for veterans. An hour ago he said his budget puts us on a glide path to a balanced budget. by 2012.

And done. Nothing bold. Some warmed-over Republican talking points. The major piece was what the NBC guys are calling "a full-throated defense of his Iraq policy." Yes, but not a defense that is in any way defensible. The very last thing we need is a return of Bush's Wild Bunch rhetorical style.

Ben and Kyle are Back

The ABJ staff were true to their word. They worked with Ben Keeler and Kyle Kutuchief to get The Point back up. Ben and Kyle have done the right thing -- they've posted detailed accounts of the negotiations on their home blogs. Ben here and Kyle here. For its part, the ohiodotcom version is here.

The main sticking point is Ben's run at the Repub Central Committee on behalf of Team Coughlin. He's steering clear of the Elephant Wars on The Point (though we implore him to offer whatever he can on the Keeler Report.)

The resolution is about right. Unlike the PD's conflation of bias and conflict of interest, Ben running for party office comes closer to an actual conflict. The paper needed to do something to cure the conflict but, given the nature of political blogging, the conflict is curable. The main point is that ABJ neither imposed draconian rules, nor did they demand that bloggers be other than bloggers.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

You Make the Call: Does Obama Sound "Presidential" or "Black?"

If you are just waking up Sen Barack Obama won huge in South Carolina. Doubled up Hillary Clinton, won 55% of the vote, confounded the polls. Big time.

Last night CNN righty political pundit Bill Bennett noted that his victory speech sounded not only "presidential" but even Reaganesque. At around the same time a Volokh blogger posted similar thoughts in even stronger terms:

    A citizen can disagree with governmental policy proposals of Barack Obama, just as a citizen could disagree with the the policies of Ronald Reagan. But there is no reasonable doubt that Reagan did an excellent job in his role as Head of State. A patriotic American can appreciate the good work of a President as Head of State, even while disliking much of the President's work as Head of Government. Senator Obama's victory speech in South Carolina suggests that he too might be an outstanding Head of State.
Many of the commenters voiced supporting sentiments.

This is similar to Caroline Kennedy's somewhat more partisan endorsement of Barack as a politician "like [her] father."

The contrasting narrative is that Barack is now tarred (pun intentional) with the label "The Black Candidate" and therefore "won't win another state." Michael Graham ran that out in NRO. (h/t Keeler.) Redhorse's latest entry in his brilliant The Day in Billary series catches Team Clinton flogging the same meme.

Memo to the Clintons. When you say "The Black Candidate" can't win, you don't only acknowledge racism in the electorate you imply that it's OK. We expect to bring us down, not you. Let's leave the race-baiting to the professionals.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Lonesome Death of Shawrica Lester.

This week's Scene includes a heartbreaking take on the heartbreaking murder of Shawrica Lester. Shawrica was an innocent bystander killed during a gang shoot-out in an all-ages club parking lot. The cases against most of the gang member who fired the shots that killed her went south as witnesses recanted or refused to cooperate.

I've tried to write about the case before, but always ending up sounding like Bob Dyer's ill-advised "caveman" column. Having a better internal editor that Dyer, I always hit "delete" instead of "publish."

The article is pretty solid, focusing mostly on Shawrica's mother as she tries to move forward after an unspeakable loss and nearly equal injustice. The reporter also interviewed police and some of the neighborhood people. The hook for the story is that the gang involved -- the V-Nots -- ruthlessly implemented "Don't snitch" to keep most of their members out of jeopardy.

The one piece missing is the piece that has been missing throughout the story -- outrage in the larger black community. Shawrica was a young black woman with some promise who died senselessly. Blacks (and some far lefty whites) had no problem mobilizing over the dubious Demetrus Vinson shooting but have remained largely mute about this case. Sadly, mobilization among black conservatives is more occupied with gay baiting than affecting meaningful cultural change.

The culture that allowed Shawrica's killers to escape justice is eating away at cities like Akron. Unless respected leadership stands up and channels community energy toward changing that culture, thugs will continue to push out anyone who can leave until only a shell of a city remains. If Shawrica's death cannot prompt the necessary outrage, I fear nothing can.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Electricity Deregulation and Net Neutrality

I took in the Press Club panel about electricity deregulation or re-regulation or whatever they end up doing. Depending on how the weekend plays out, I may or may not post comprehensive summary of the program. But one quick line from the day deserves close attention.

The essential issue is whether it is possible to create a genuinely competitive market for electricity. Everyone agrees that because of the particular qualities of the electricity market, creating a competitive market means more than just lifting regulations, it means ensuring that a number of conditions are met.

According to the panelist from First Energy, one of the sentinel qualities of a competitive market is open access to transmission. That is, each competing provider must be allowed access to the lines to the homes of electricity customers. And that makes sense. The market can't be competing grids, it must be competing providers on one grid, even if one of the competitors owns the grid. Remember, this is the industry

Which is exactly what net neutrality advocates argue for. A truly competitive market for internet content must allow free access to transmission. With cable and phone competing, we have a less ironclad monopoly of the end of transmission, but we have the same barrier to perfect competition -- companies seeking to compete can't simply put up a new transmission grid. If the market for internet services is to remain competitive, content providers must have open access to transmission.

Arguments against net neutrality tend to use "regulation" as a boogeyman and/or argue by metaphor. That's smart tactically because in fact net neutrality regulation seeks to preserve a status quo that has worked pretty well so far. Up until now, net neutrality was guaranteed mostly because the technology didn't exist to allow network owners to discriminate based on content.

Now the technology is coming on line and network owners appear increasingly inclined to use it. Recently the usually prostrate FCC bowed to pressure and is investigating allegations that Comcast is blocking peer-to-peer traffic. And AT&T is considering monitoring traffic, purportedly to block protected intellectual property. In fact the move makes little sense except as a pretense to dismantle net neutrality.

Sometimes progressives favor regulation because we believe a competitive market brings unwanted side effects. But this is a case where regulation is needed not to blunt the effects of competition, but to ensure that the market remains truly competitive.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Possibly Penultimate Post about Kucinich

A post with this title has been in the works for some time now. It seemed time to climb off Dennis even before he announced that he is quitting his Presidential bid. Yes, making fun of Kucinich may keep the terrorists from winning, but face it, Openers pretty much has the franchise locked down.

OK a parting shot. In his embarrassing plea for money, Dennis notes that he has served in Congress "with honor and dignity." That from the guy who did this:

I still will keep an eye on the Tenth district race. Joe Cimperman Meets the Bloggers next week, so we can see if he has any ideas beyond clever ways of demonstrating that Dennis is not at home. But I'm done with Dennis's antics. If he wants to tell people that "corporate interests" are behind the primary challenge, so be it. Someone else will have to point out that corporate interests have little to fear from a rigid ideologue whose legislative portfolio consists solely of impossible dreams and protest votes.

I will, however, write one more post. At some point either Kucinich will debate his opponents or it will become clear that he will not. At that time I will either acknowledge being wrong or once again castigate his hypocrisy.

The Point Is Sheathed for Now.

The only new entry on ohio dot com's new blog The Point explains why the blog is on hiatus after day one:

    In his effort at full disclosure, Keeler explained that he is a candidate for the Summit County Republican Party's central committee on the slate that would unseat Chairman Alex Arshinkoff. He also explained why.

    We're concerned that the explanation as to why – while meant in good faith – left this perception: is paying a blogger who is using the Web site to promote a change in party leadership.

    Alex Arshinkoff called and shared the same concern.

Etc. The blog is on hold until they work out the parameters.

h/t Redhorse who includes some thoughts as well. I agree that the MSM/blog mixing is fraught with problems. On the other hand, I do think there is a difference between supporting one candidate or another versus running for an office and talking it up in a paid MSM gig. Yes, even an unpaid party office. The ABJ was right to be concerned, but why then weren't they concerned before the launch?

If MSM outlets are going to hire bloggers the first thing they have to do is lay out sensible ground rules ahead of time. Why that didn't happen here is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Carnival 101 Is Up

Anything would be a come-down after Jill's magnum opus, but still a healthy sized Carnival -- close to forty posts from twenty different bloggers. I was particularly happy to see three Akronites in addition to myself.

Keeler and Kutuchief Now Blogging for ABJ

Ben Keeler announced today that he and Chief Source administrator Kyle Kutuchief have been hired by the Akron Beacon Journal to blog about politics on a new web-only politics page: The new politics section also features the recently activated but heretofore unannounced Blogwatch blog. Ben and Kyle's blog, The Point, offers posts from each labeled as "Liberal" or "Conservative" perspective.

Ben's first commenter rolled in with the obvious questions -- are they being paid, do they have full editorial control and what will happen to their home blogs? I'd add another -- have they and the ABJ worked out the boundaries of political involvement that scuttled the PeeDee's Wide Open attempt? And I think Kyle and Ben would both do well to answer the questions as transparency bolsters credibility.

In the meantime, congratulations to both and best wishes to them and the ABJ in the new venture. The Ohio Politics introductory essay notes that the state has one of the most vibrant state blogging networks in the country. Indeed, and we're gratified to see the Beacon publicly take notice. If a formula for marrying credible blogging with mainstream journalism exists, I hope they can find it.

1Note that the link currently takes you to a url called "ohioverticals" That appears to be a beta sort of address. I'm expecting the site to reside at the address soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On My Other Blogs

Much belated, but Jill delivered a double dose of Carnival goodness in honor of the 100th Carnival. Check here and click through to Part I.

I am up for this week by the way. If you want to get involved but aren't on the mailing list, you can contact me and I'll get you on.

I've put up two posts in as many weeks on my church blog. Woot. This one is about The Story of Stuff, an eco-minded video screened after church last Sunday.

Is it time to declare GABB dead and gone? Probably.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Early Pho Endorsement: Ben Keeler

Local righty blogger Ben Keeler announced today that he is a candidate for Republican Precinct Captain in Bath Precinct F. He is running against Deborah Owens Fink, late of the State Board of Education (and in abundant disclosure, I was paid staff in Tom Sawyer's successful campaign against her last year.) Though factional designations aren't official, Ben is running on behalf of TeamCoughlin while Ms. Fink has long been an Alex Arshinkoff supporter.

Generally a choice between Coughlin and Arshinkoff is choice between a toothache and a headache. Arshinkoff has been fun to run against over the past couple of cycles, but his heavy hand over the various Alex fiefdoms exacts corrosive effect on good governance. TeamCoughlin will be more difficult to beat in elections, but might offer better governance -- they certainly couldn't do worse.

All that said, I unhesitatingly endorse Ben in this race. Though I haven't met him in person, I've read his thoughtful posts for some time, and have gotten to know him via email as a co-contributor to the Carnival of Ohio Politics. He's always been easy to work with, even as the only righty among the four of us. While we agree on little politically, he's a guy I have no trouble getting behind.

In addition, I have to give credit to anyone who lines up against Arshinkoff. There's no reason to believe that Arshinkoff's penchant for destructive retribution will stop at bloggers. Ben is putting his ambitions and any hope for access to the local party on the line for what he feels is the good of the party. It's no small thing and I salute him for it.

So I urge all my Republican readers in Bath (knowing chuckle) to vote for Ben Keeler for precinct chair.

ABJ Introduces Blogwatch

In the past I have lamented the fact that the ABJ staff tend to be fairly blog-friendly but blogs get little love on Yesterday a new blog appeared in my RSS reader -- Blogwatch. As the name implies, online editor Val Pipps will post links to blog posts she he likes. [apologies]

I'd be happy about this even if the Pages didn't get the first post. And I liked particularly liked this point -- one another major Ohio daily apparently missed:

    Note: The blogs I will be reading are all partisan. The writers bring their perspectives to the political discussion, which is why people read them. Whether readers agree or not, these men and women often bring ideas to the table that are not covered in traditional media.
As of tonight, Blogwatch doesn't show up in the sidebar along with the other blogs. Time permitting tomorrow I'll try to run down what the plans are. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what BlogWatch finds interesting.

Obama Steps Up

Over the past couple of days, Barack Obama has emphatically answered any doubts about his ability to survive a general election. For anyone worried that his "new politics" style would be to happy-face to respond assertively to attacks, he has hopefully put that to rest.

First off, his masterful speech before Ebenezer Baptist Church yesterday on the eve of Martin Luther King Day counterpunched a number of times. The whole speech is worth a listen if you haven't already. If he doesn't ultimately win, it will be but a footnote. But if he does win, this speech will no doubt be studied for years as a turning point in the campaign:

Every line in the speech has a purpose, making a full review prohibitive. But two particular points bear noting. Early in the speech he references Dr. King just before the Montgomery bus boycott as black people weren't sure to believe in themselves. A clever response to those African Americans who may be reluctant to support Obama because they can't be confident he will succeed.

Then there was his exigesis on "hope." He specifically calls out Hillary Clinton for her "false hopes" accusation in the debate. It was a poor choice of words at the time and he serves those words up to her here. Hope, he says, is not simply sitting passively and "hoping" things will get better. Instead hope is why people struggle against impossible odds.

On top of that, Obama hit back at the man himself, fmr. President Bill Clinton, for his attacks on Obama. Bill has been serving as Hillary's Meanie Surrogate du jour, though one she cannot fire for once. Obama went after Bill for statements "that aren't supported by the facts." The full AP story does a nice job of running through each Clinton statement and comparing it to the Obama statements on the record. You make the call, but it certainly looks like Clinton is awfully fast with the truth. Of course, that depends on what your definition of "is" is.

Unfortunately, a number of outlets are posting a truncated version of the story that merely goes through a Bill says/Barack says cadence without any detail.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Elephant Wars: Bring on the Lawyers

At this point the question isn't whether the A2 tilt will inspire a lawsuit but how many. In yesterday's ABJ article on the Elephant Wars, points up new potential legal causes of action, including:

  • An elections law complaint against Team Coughlin for not registering as a political organization.
  • The Party trying to track down the proprietor of the Pink Site, claiming that it is "illegal.
  • Charges and countercharges alleging each side is sending embarrassing communications under in the other side's name.
  • Coughlin pulling phone records to search for evidence that Alex and Co. are doing Party business on BOE time in contravention of orders from SoS Brunner.
Add these to the extant possibilities -- Coughlin attempting to remove A2 based on the Party charter and the competing legal challenges to each side's petitions. It's certainly a lucrative time to be a Republican lawyer.

On the other hand, the collateral damage to the Republicans and their chances in the Fall are just starting. The Party is spending time and energy and, above all else, money on this fight instead of actually gearing up for the election.

And this is only the beginning. At some point a winner will emerge -- then what? If Alex wins, there's no question he will go head-hunting for the people who turned on him. Much of what Coughlin claims against Arshinkoff is off-base, but his penchant for revenge -- even when it hurts the party -- is legendary. We've already seen the start of this. I can't track down what exactly Louise Heydorn did to piss off Alex, but John Widowfield running against her in the primary has Alex's fingerprints all over it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Checking In

No, I didn't write anything yesterday. Or the day before that.

First week of classes with two classes going turned out to be a hell of a lot of work. Add to that other events over the last three days and, well, you see the lack of results.

So here I am letting you know that I'm still alive. I'm mostly trying to get some stuff around the house done and get on top of my classes. But if I do well enough, I should be able to get a couple posts up as well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dennis Debating? Don't Bet on It.

Reading the latest Dennis Kucinich wackiness, it occurred to me that he has no intention of debating his primary opponents, no matter what he says.

First to reset Dennis's recent shenanigans. Openers reports that Dennis sic'd Homeland Security on primary opponent Joe Cimperman because Cimperman was filming inside a government building while doing one of his "Where's Dennis" pieces. In addition Dennis is opening an office for his presidential campaign in Massachusetts. Because you recall how aiming to win New Hampshire did wonders for his campaign.

And in the midst of that, he launched into a tirade about how NBC kept him out of the Nevada presidential debate because of parent company GE's nuclear power business. Oh, and he implies that that the lack of media coverage he gets is the reason his campaign is nowhere:

    "The corporations are really in a position where they're using the broadcast media to rig presidential elections by determining who's viable based on who gets coverage; in the advent of an election, who goes on the news shows and who is getting their contributions from their executives," Kucinich continued. "This is a real serious matter."
At this point at least one of two thing must be true. Either Kucinich is completely delusional, or he assumes his supporters are. We expect candidate to proceed with a certain amount of pretend optimism. It's part of the dance we call democracy. So when John Edwards says he'll stay in the campaign even if he loses South Carolina, we know it can't possibly be true but we also know it's part of a complex social contract with his supporters that he does so.

But false displays of optimism for a guy polling in the mid-teens is one thing. A new campaign office for someone barely in the single digits is simply out of touch with reality.

And that's why he won't debate. He doesn't want to get called out on his stuff in a debate that potentially matters. As Kevin Drum points out (talking about Paul this time) it's no great thing for a fringe candidate to cast himself as a truth-teller. What a candidate says with something at stake that measures the man.

So that's Dennis's disincentive to debate. His opponents will call him on abandoning the district for his quixotic presidential campaign, on his inability to accomplish anything because he won't compromise, on the fact that the numbers don't add up for his national health insurance plan or any number of other uncomfortable subjects. He does not want to tell the truth about any of it.

When he was interviewed after announcing that he would seek another term in Congress Kucinich insisted he intends to debate his opponents. He was kind of an ass about it too, saying "Of course I'll debate," as if he hasn't refused in past elections. But he has an escape hatch. Supposedly his campaign is talking to the City Club about dates. In all likelihood the dates won't quite work out.

Because he has this presidential campaign, see.

In fact I'll bet a post on it on it, to the first blogger who somehow still remains a Dennis fan and takes this up. If Dennis debates his primary opponents, you can have one post to brag, sing his praises, whatever. If he doesn't, I get a post on your blog to rail against his hypocrisy.

Anyone game?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sixth Circuit Rules Against O'Neill; Grievance to Continue

The Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals has ruled against Judge William O'Neill in a case involving his campaign for the Ohio Supreme Court in 2006. The Sixth Circuit ruled that a state disciplinary proceeding emanating from that campaign may continue, reversing a trial court ruling.

The case could ultimately have implications for O'Neill's current campaign for Congress in the Fourteenth District, depending on the outcome of the grievance procedure.

According to the court opinion, after the Supreme Court campaign, Cuy. Co. Republican Chair Jim Trakas filed a grievance with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and office within the judiciary that investigates and disciplines judges and lawyers. Trakas' complaint alleged as follows:

    The grievance alleged that O’Neill’s campaign literature (1) failed to disclose the court for which he was a judge, in violation of Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 7(D)(2) (prohibiting a candidate from “[using] the term ‘judge’ when a judge is a candidate for another judicial office and does not indicate the court on which the judge currently serves”); (2) wrongfully identified his political party affiliation, in violation of Canon 7(B)(3)(b) (“After the day of the primary election, a judicial candidate shall not identify himself or herself in advertising as a member of or affiliated with a political party”); and (3) wrongfully attacked the credibility of the Ohio judiciary.

The first two points allege violations of technical election-type regulations. The last one is where it gets interesting. According to the court:
    As to this last allegation, the grievance alleged that O’Neill’s campaign statements “viciously malign the fair, unbiased and impartial judiciary” without specifying any canon that O’Neill violated. O’Neill and the district court, however, inferred that O’Neill was accused of violating Canon 7(B)(1), which requires judges and judicial candidates to “maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office.”
This arises from Judge O'Neill's campaign for reforming judicial campaign financing:
    [O'Neill's] campaign theme was “Money and Judges Don’t Mix.” To that end, he supported judicial campaign finance reform and refused any donation over $10. In addition to the “Money and Judges Don’t Mix” slogan, O’Neill’s campaign website included the following statement: “The time has come to end the public’s suspicion that political contributions influence court decisions. The election of Judge O’Neill is the best step toward sending the message: ‘This Court is Not For Sale!’”
Upon receiving notice of the grievance, Judge O'Neill filed an action in Federal court alleging that the judicial Canons at issue violate the First Amendment and seeking to prevent the Disciplinary Counsel from enforcing them. The District Court found in O'Neill's favor, but the Sixth Circuit reversed.

The Circuit court found that Judge O'Neill's suit runs afoul of the Younger doctrine which is a more lawyerly way of saying "Don't make a Federal case out of it." At least not yet. Generally Federal courts refrain (or abstain as the favored term of art) from hearing a case arising from a state legal proceeding until that proceeding is complete. The court found that the grievance constitutes such a state proceeding, that state proceeding started when Trakas filed the grievance and that the state didn't waive the argument based on Younger.

The waiver argument gets technical and tedious. What you need to know is that it was the basis of the dissent on the three-judge panel.

As noted above, Judge O'Neill's opponents, both primary and general, may try to use the grievance as an issue, depending on the outcome. In the short run, the judge has a couple of options. He can ask for a rehearing in front of the entire Court of Appeals as opposed to the customary three-judge panel (a rehearing en banc). He could also conceivably petition the Supreme Court to hear the case. Given the 2-1 split, he may have a decent shot at a rehearing.

If he fails to persuade the full court of the Supreme Court to take the case and rule in his favor, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel proceeds with the grievance. And if he is found in violation of the Canons, he can start all over again with his First Amendment claim. Such are the joys of the abstention doctrine.

I contacted the campaign which has no official statement on the decision. A campaign spokesman also said he was unaware if the judge had decided what to do next.

Akron Press Club Panel on Electricity Pricing

The Akron Press Club (I'm now a member of the Board, blah blah) presents "Electricity Restructuring in Ohio," a panel discussion regarding energy regulation and deregulation.



Michael Douglas
Editorial Page Editor
Akron Beacon Journal


Janine L. Migden-Ostrander
Consumers’ Counsel
Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel

Mark R. Shanahan
Energy Adviser, Office of Governor Strickland
& Executive Director
Ohio Air Quality Development Authority

William A. Spratley
Executive Director
Green Energy Ohio

Leila L. Vespoli
Senior Vice President & General Counsel
FirstEnergy Corporation

Date: Friday, Jan. 25
Buffet Lunch: 11:45 a.m.
Program: Noon
Location: Martin University Center, 105 Fir Hill, on the University of Akron campus.

Click through to the Press Club website for information on making your reservations.

For a little more background, here's Dennis Willard in Sunday's ABJ on the proposals in the legislature, participants FirstEnergy and the Consumer's Council disagreeing here and here. Should be a lively discussion.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Let Them Eat Links

Today's the first day of class. As mentioned before, I took on a second class in a fit of temporary insanity. I'll be teaching a comparative criminal law class MWF and the section of constitutional law covering the Bill of Rights TTh. Somewhere in between all those preps I'll continue to write for Catalyst and continue to beat the bushes for additional work.

Oh, and blog a little.

I think.

In honor of how ridiculous the schedule is this semester, you have to make due with some links unless I get some unexpected burst of creative energy later tonight.

Poll watchers must have been waiting for this. An article on Pollster attributing the anomalous New Hampshire primary results to likely voter screens.

Jill has drawn compiling the 100th Carnival and has put out an APB in an attempt to get 100 posts. Surf over and contribute.

Rasmussen: Romney and McCain are neck and neck in Michigan; Giuliani and McCain are in a dead heat in Florida. If Romney and/or Giuliani pull these out it's a genuine three or four candidate race for the foreseeable future Republicans will find it hard to pull the party together with four winners in the first six primaries.

Closer to home County Executive Russ Pry has his re-election web site up. So-so design but great content. I especially like the pdf of his first 100 days. It doesn't literally include an entry for each day, but problably 60-70 of them. Makes you realize how well the guy got up and running.

YDS has a fairly complete candidates list up. He's going state/district-wide, so no common pleas judicial candidates. That list you can find here. More to come on that.

Ed Morrison on BFD linked to a cool EdWeek map tool that color-codes school districts by graduation rate. Some surprises in Summit County and nearby. Just plug "summit county ohio" into the search field.


Voter ID in the Supreme Court: Postgame Analysis.

The Supreme Court heard argument last week in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the case challenging Indiana's voter ID law. Dahlia Lithwick has a devastating critique of the argument in Slate. Also, she and Slate editor Emily Bazelon dish on the case in this video:

According to Lithwick the Court won't release the audio of the oral argument. You can find the transcript here.

The case wasn't terribly well litigated on either side. On the plaintiff's side, they launched a facial challenge to a law that probably can only be challenged in the best circumstances as applied.

OK, let me translate that. A facial challenge argues that a law is so patently unconstitutional that we don't need to wait for in instance in which someone is harmed. A plaintiff can raise a facial challenge by arguing that in every conceivable scenario a law violates the Constitution. For example, a law saying only native-born citizens can vote would be facially discriminatory.

When a plaintiff challenges a law as applied, he or she waits for a case to arise in which a person suffers some detriment, then litigates that case, arguing among other things that the law was applied in an unconstitutional manner. The infamous Kelo case would be an example. States have had eminent domain laws for as long as they have been states. The Kelo plaintiffs weren't arguing that state eminent domain is unconstitutional per se, only that in that case when the state used eminent domain to acquire property for a private developer.

The plaintiffs in this case were arguing basically that 1) the law burdens a fundamental right (traditionally a no-no, but this is the Roberts court, so "meh" on that sort of tradition) and 2) that the state has no reasonable basis for imposing that burden. This last is the rub and has been the main focus of Democratic arguments against the laws. Republicans have tried without success to demonstrate the need for such laws and now fall back to arguing that maybe there is voter fraud, so why not prevent it.

This has all been pretty frustrating to watch. We know that some people are going to lose the right to vote because of ID laws. Even if the scenario is a working single mom with exactly thirty minutes in the day's schedule gets to the front of the line, realizes she doesn't have her ID and doesn't have time to get it and come back, it's a loss of a vote. No one is going to die because of it, but we have burdened one of the most fundamental rights of citizenship to prevent something that apparently doesn't exist.

As bad as all that is, Lithwick argues that the Court may use this case to severely limit facial challenges or eliminate them altogether. If that happens, it will be a serious blow to the ability of citizens to guard liberty through the courts. And few non-lawyers will realize it has happened.

UPDATED: The intro sentence got left off the original post. Also I added a couple of links and corrected a couple of typos.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Elephant Wars: Coughlin's New Gambit

Ed Esposito reports that A2 may have inadvertently given Coughlin more ammo to use against him:

    I spoke with State Senator Kevin Coughlin, who called to ask me about a conversation with long-time county chairman Alex Arshinkoff. I reported last August on a Saturday morning call when I asked about some of the charges Coughlin and the New Summit Republicans leveled at the current GOP leadership. Of particular interest was Alex's comment on why he didn't field a candidate to challenge Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, then-running against fellow Democrat Joe Finley with clear sailing ahead in the general election.

    I thought Alex's point was well-taken, that he didn't push a Republican challenge because Akron would benefit with Plusquellic in a position of influence with Columbus statehouse executive offices under Democrat control and a strong likelihood the White House would see a change in power as well. That bit of honesty may cost Arshinkoff, however.

    Coughlin wanted to let me know the report -- in addition to similar comments made to others -- could form a basis of a challenge to remove Arshinkoff from the county executive committee.

    Here's how it would work: the anti-Alex camp believes he violated the county party's by-laws, as filed with the Secretary of State's office, over language that calls for members to get the boot for supporting candidates who don't have the party's official stamp. That would certainly be Plusquellic, and in an ironic twist they say it's exactly the same strategy used by Alex years ago to have former Fairlawn Mayor Pete Kostoff removed (for supporting Wayne Jones' bid to unseat Republican incumbent Don Robart in the hotly-contested Cuyahoga Falls Mayor's race) from the GOP Executive Committee.
In an email correspondence with Ed last night, he said the Coughlin believes he can use this to remove A2 even if he doesn't have the votes. I doubt it. I'd have to do some research into nonprofit law, but I doubt it. I suspect that such a bylaws provision would empower the precinct chairs to remove someone with a special vote, but that it wouldn't empower an outside entity to affect the removal. In any event, removing Alex on this theory would inevitably result in a long, ugly court fight.

My comment on Ed's post was as follows. The deep irony in all this is that Alex's statement to you is most likely a lie. The record is replete with examples of Alex either doing things or threatening to do things objectively detrimental to the community because they benefit the party and by extension him. If he indeed left Plusquellec alone for the sake of Akron it may well have been the first time he put community ahead of party.

But in fact Alex more likely left Plusquellec alone because he didn't want to waste the resources on a hopeless race. Alex went after the Mayor with everything he had in '03 and got crushed. Early last year the Mayor looked similarly invulnerable. It was only after an ill-considered tax hike proposal that people got restless, and that probably wouldn't have been enough to overcome the kind of year Republicans had generally.

But Alex couldn't admit weakness, so he came up with this implausible excuse and the excuse could hang him.

Some trims and ends. Arshinsquellic's blog, which Elephant War watchers had been glossing "The Pink Site," is down. (Click here for the 404 message) The site was dedicated to resetting all the New Summit Repub talking points plus crassly accusing Alex of being gay. The best bet is that Team Coughlin figured out who the blogger is and let him know he was more a liablity than a help. I've helpfully copied the last few particularly crude posts from my reader in case any disputes arise as to whether the site existed in the first place.

Esposito and Eric Mansfield each reference a crude YouTube video that reprises the gossip about both Coughlin and Arshinkoff. The Arishinkoff piece is pretty much lifted directly out of the Scene article. The Coughlin bits have been flying around but no one has gone on the record.

Arshinsquellic (dude gets around) comments on YouTube that the Dem Party is behind it. Doubtful. The author is probably left of center, but the piece itself is badly done and fairly pointless. Plus the author mispelled Alex's name "Arshnikoff" in the tags (that's how it's pronounced for those of you unfamiliar) making it hard to find. It's not worth embedding, but it's here if you want to see what someone who is not particularly good with Adobe Premier can accomplish.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jacobs Field to Be Renamed Progressive Field

The Tribe announced fairly quietly last summer that Dick Jacobs' naming rights to the stadium had expired and that they were shopping it around. Cleveland dot com reports that Progressive Insurance inked the deal. The stadium will henceforth (for at least fifteen years anyway) be Progressive Field.

I'm OK with it. Given the grim reality that a big company was going to buy the rights, this is probably about the best we could hope for. It's a solid company, firmly rooted in the area. More importantly, the name shortens into a memorable nickname.

"The Prog."

Get used to it.

Elephant Wars -- The Latest Skirmishes

The battle between Alex Arshinkoff and State Sen. Kevin Coughlin over control of the Summit County Republican Party gets uglier (and consequently more entertaining) by the minute. Earlier today Arshinkoff ally and Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart took to the air on ANN to declare victory and declare Coughlin "nuttier than a fruitcake."

    Despite Coughlin's claims that he has enough petitions filed to boot Arshinkoff, Robart thinks his numbers are wrong, "Alex has the support. Kevin said he was going to file about 300, but he filed 170, it's hard work and I think he doesn't understand that. (Kevin's) never had a real job. You know, being in the Senate, that's not a job."

    Robart ended saying, "I just think Alex is going to win and as I've said all along, I think Kevin is nuttier than a fruitcake and he's just out for his own gain."
Then tonight the fight spilled over into the Board of Elections. Dem (and future county party chair) Wayne Jones accused Republican Bryan Williams of instructing Board employees to scrutinize the petitions for Coughlin's people more closely than normal. Alex didn't take it well and wackiness ensued [from the ABJ]:
    Wayne Jones, the board's Democratic chairman, called county GOP chief Alex Arshinkoff an "asshole" and "crazy" and slammed his hand down on the table.

    Arshinkoff, one of two Republican board members, accused Jones and his law firm of being behind the attempt to oust him as the Republican party chairman.

    "You've been behind this whole thing!" Arshinkoff shouted.

    "I could care less!" said Jones, the county Democratic party's finance chair.
It could be that Alex is really that paranoid, but that paranoia hasn't been manifest in his public persona before. Ruthless, conniving, self-dealing, nasty, brutish and fat. That's what we've seen of Alex before; not this sort of, well, fruitcake-like nuttiness. But it could be that Alex is accusing Wayne of being "behind it all" in part to deflect criticism that he is too cozy with Democrats.

In the meantime, some web notes. Past commenter Arshinsqullec has set up a blog that aims for a new low in political attack. The blog, Keep Summit County GOP Strong clumsily rips off the pro-Alex Keep Summit Republicans Strong. It's infrequently updated and less frequently substantive. Usually it's just anti-gay invective. Click through if you dare.

The pro-Alex blog has been quiet of late. The latest post from about a week ago flogs the same line about Pete Kostoff being Coughlin's pick for Finance Chair and that the firm Roetzel and Andress is behind it all in an effort to "capture" both parties that touched off tonights BOE fracas.

The most recent news on New Summit Republicans is last Friday's claim that Kevin has 314 votes, assuming all his candidates in contested elections win. By the way, ever notice how the NSD website contains no images of the current Republican President? It shows Lincoln, Reagan, T. Roosevelt, and H. W. Bush. They even have a picture of Gen. Sherman (don't let your Southern brothers hear about that), but no Shrub. In 2004 Coughlin acted as a local spokesman for Bush's reelection campaign. Now, nada.

Things will just get better from here. This is like watching the Steelers and Ravens play just before each appears on the Browns' schedule. Just sit back and root for them to beat the snot out of each other.

UPDATE: Redhorse's take. He tends to give more credibility to the theory about the Wayne Jones/Pete Kostoff/Roetzel and Andress Axis theory than I. He also breaks down the numbers for you. Bottom line, Coughlin winning would be a Hillary-in-NH level of political surprise at this point.

WH 08: Richardson Endorses No One

After Bill "The Resume" Richardson told supporters in Iowa to vote for Obama as a second-choice candidate, some folks (OK, this folk) expected he would endorse Obama once he dropped out of the primary. I just received his Good-Bye/Thank You email that did no such thing. First, he offers a nice fortune-cookie-sized appraisal of each candidate:

    Senator Biden's passion and intellect are remarkable.

    Senator Dodd is the epitome of selfless dedication to public service and the Democratic Party.

    Senator Edwards is a singular voice for the most downtrodden and forgotten among us.

    Senator Obama is a bright light of hope and optimism at a time of great national unease, yet he is also grounded in thoughtful wisdom beyond his years.

    Senator Clinton's poise in the face of adversity is matched only by her lifetime of achievement and deep understanding of the challenges we face.

    Representative Kucinich is a man of great decency and dedication who will faithfully soldier on no matter how great the odds.

    And all of us in the Democratic Party owe Senator Mike Gravel our appreciation for his leadership during the national turmoil of Vietnam.

Then he makes explicit his decision not to endorse:
    Now that my time in this national campaign has come to an end, I would urge those who supported my candidacy to take a long and thoughtful look at the remaining Democrats. They are all strong contenders who each, in their own way, would bring desperately needed change to our country. All I ask is that you make your own independent choice with the same care and dedication to this country that you honored me with during this campaign. At this time, I will not endorse any candidate.

Some Links Before I Go.

Two syllabi, a week of classes and a couple of classes to prepare, so I'll be off until tonight. Until then, enjoy the following:

Briefcase Radical pretty much nails the Ninth District's ruling against the state law banning residency requirements. SCOhio reads no substance into local home rule and don't much care for big city mayors. Let the residency requirement death watch begin.

Speaking of death watches, Richardson is out. After Iowa I got a "Never say die" email from the campaign. I figured he was done when I hadn't gotten the same thing post-NH. In any event, it's probably good news for Obama heading into So. Carolina.

If you've been following the controversy in Richfield over the proposed Sree Venkateswara Hindu temple you might be interested in this post on my church blog. A bunch of us turned out yesterday for what turned out to be a non-hearing on the matter.

Geeking Akron notes that CompUSA is liquidating, but a few stores may remain. FWIW I was at the Fairlawn store the other day. They have clearance signs all over (but not great deals as a result.) The check-out guy said they are closing but some regulation prevents them from saying so at this point. Presumably that is something arising from the bankruptcy case, but it may be the result of ongoing decisions by the company's receiver about what to do with the bricks and mortar.

Some non-traditional political analyses. Ed Esposito on how Obama has the best widgets. Chief Source on the smart money moving to Obama. Limerick Savant's take on Hillary's win.

Some more traditional analysis. Rothenberg on why Obama v. Huckabee is the Dems dream match-up. MCDAC on why Hillary's win is nothing to cry about.

TBMD flagged this story about corporations lifting people's online photos. We've dealt with this repeatedly with political campaigns. It's a higher level of awfulness when huge companies who aggressively guard their own intellectual property do it.

Finally, xkcd on the nature of Ron Paul supporters. Hilarity.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

SummCo Dem Chair Russ Pry Stepping Down Early

Democratic county Chair Russ Pry announced to a packed house at party headquarters that he will step down as party chair two months before the end of his term. Pry, who was appointed County Executive last July, originally planned to serve out his term. When he saw that Joe Finley is running a primary challenge against him, he decided to step down early.

In the party press release Pry notes that, “Quite frankly, it would not be fair to me or my opponent. I plan on running a very strong race in the next 50 days, while continuing to give over 100% to the people of Summit County as their Executive. . . Leaving the job as Chair just 6 weeks early will not jeopardize any of the work I have done.” In addition, he stated at the press conference that Finley's challenge "Raises issues that can harm the party." Stepping down now protects the work he has put into the party.

The press conference was an opportunity to review Pry's accomplishments as party chair. He helped organize a Young Democrats organization, reached out to other Democratic organizations and recruited quality candidates. At the podium, he placed the biggest emphasis on his first decision as chair -- recruiting Wayne Jones to be Finance Chair. The presser notes that at the time he took over "the party had only $700 in the bank."

Russ's legacy of accomplishment is undeniable. As noted elsewhere, much of the strife in the Republican party is thanks to him. Through the nineties the Dem party was a hollow shell. The party had taken union support for granted and, as the rubber factories shuttered, found itself gutted. Ten years ago, most Dems wouldn't know where Dem HQ was, much less be able to pack it on a Wednesday afternoon. In this environment, Republicans took for granted that they would outperform their numbers and that Alex Arshinkoff was the reason. Now that the Dem party is a power again, winning isn't as easy and Alex is getting the blame, though his tactics haven't changed.

Party Vice-Chair Madelyn Bozelli will serve as the Chair through the end of the term. She states that she has no interest in taking over the Party Chair after that. (She also hadn't heard the word "blogger" before I talked to her so probably a wise move, that.) Wayne Jones is planning to run for party chair and will certainly be the favorite if there is a challenge.

Once Pry had the party business out of the way, he spent the rest of the conference making his case to be kept as County Executive. He ran through his accomplishments -- resolving the fairgrounds dispute and helping to keep Goodyear in Akron, among them. Council President Nick Konstandaras and Council Member Cazell Smith spoke from the podium on his behalf. If their testimony is any indication, among Russ's accomplishments is establishing better relations between the Executive and Council after the at times fractious tenure of James McCarthy.

More coverage
from ABJ.

Apologies to Russ for continually recycling this horrible photo from Election Night '06. One of these days I'll remember my camera and get a better one.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Watching New Hampshire

It's 9:50, the results are half in and Hillary is bouncing between a 2 and 4 percent lead. With that, CNN is not calling the race. I'm guessing the network's exit poll shows Obama winning. Given the sea change, though, it's hard to put much hope in polls.

Changing the media's favored narrative, but here's a try. Hillary as the Comeback Kid is ridiculous. She was SUPPOSED to win New Hampshire. Bill Clinton is wildly popular among New Hampshire Dems and has been camped there for months. Two weeks ago, and almost without exception before that, her lead was double digits. That lead evaporated. She wasn't down, then prevailed, she blew a lead and (to some extent) recovered.

Jeffrey Toobin on CNN raised a good point -- Dem turnout was huge, Repub turnout was down. Dems are in good shape for the general, though I still question whether Hillary is electable in the general.

10:45 CNN is reporting that AP is calling it for Clinton, but that they are "unprepared" to do so. I can't wait to see their exit poll results.

I never considered Arkansas part of the "deep south," but Huckabee referred to it as such.

10:34. NBC just declared for Clinton. And Chris Matthews calls it a "stunning upset." If UNC falls behind North Carolina A&T, then ekes out a win, it's not a "stunning upset." It's a close call for a heavy favorite.

All that said and notwithstanding the asinine media narrative, tonight certainly let Hillary off the matt. It would be nice if someone could dig into how it happened. Did the Clinton campaign turn out the vote better? Did the "likely voter" panels wash out people who ended up showing up? Unfortunately, it's now an accepted fact that Hillary won by tearing up at a diner yesterday. Move on to South Carolina where the winner will be the candidate who says the nicest things about low country shrimp or some such.

Will Richardson bow out now? Edwards says he's in it to the end -- translation: he's in it until he gets blown out in So. Carolina.

10:46. CNN finally calls it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hang On, Sloopy

There is but one reason for optimism about the Buckeye's chances in tonight's BCS title game against LSU: The fact that they have no business winning it.

First, let's establish that last statement. This was supposed to be the year that the Buckeyes settled for a second-tier bowl and were happy about it. College football teams don't have "rebuilding years" per se like the pros do, but certainly there are expected down years when the core of a great team heads off campus to play Sunday football. Such was supposed to be the case this year after losing Smith, Gonzalez, Pittman and Ginn, Jr. OSU contending for, not to mention winning, the Big 10 championship was in itself far better than rational observers expected.

Second, they got into the title game by winning in arguably the weakest BCS conference. Certainly the conference bowl records have borne out that season-long impression. Meanwhile, both the SEC and Big 12 were so talent-soaked that no one team could emerge from their fratricidal conference schedules with fewer than two losses. .

Add to that the special circumstances. LSU is playing at home. Having been to New Orleans the last time LSU played in the Sugar Bowl I can tell you, it's as crazy as you would expect. Moreover, OSU had their customary epic, spirit-killing break while LSU played more recently by two weeks.

As a result of all of the above, an overwhelming majority of non-Ohioans have declared LSU the clear, if not prohibitive, favorite.

All of which may be just what Jim Tressel needs. When OSU swapped out the John Cooper for Tressel, they traded the consummate big game underperformer for the consummate big game coach. Time and again Tressel has pulled out improbable wins in pressure situations. The last time OSU was declared an underdog this definitively was 2002 when they were supposedly overmatched by Miami. We all have happy memories of how that turned out.

If Tressel has one Achilles heel, it may be letting up when the odds are in his favor. The last game Ohio State lost was to an inconsistent Illinois team that clearly caught them looking ahead to Michigan. Last year's BCS embarrassment was to an equally talented team, but the magnitude of the ass-whoopin' suggested a team that read too many of its press clippings.

Which is why the odds against OSU improve the odds for OSU. Tressel seems to work best when the hour is darkest. He has the talent to beat LSU which is a better team, but not overwhelmingly so. If the big game, backs-against-the-wall, the-tough-get-going version of Jim Tressel shows up, we have a real chance.

So everyone in the blogosphere has been saying versions of "Go Bucs!" I say "There is no chance! All hope is lost!" It seems to work better.

Rep. Jay Goyal: Indian-American Prez Candidate in Ten Years?

State Representative Jay Goyal (D-Mansfield) stated in an interview in his native India, the land of his ancestors* that "Within 10-12 years, you can expect an Indian American to be in the US presidential race. I won't be surprised when it happens." Goyal was in India visiting family and friends over break. The interview was apparently conducted in Hindi (there's a reference to his American accent), with an English language version carried on India eNews.

Goyal sites two factors for his optimism. On one hand, Indian Americans are increasingly interested in politics as a profession:

    "With the second generation of Indian Americans, there will be a significant increase in the number of young members of the community proactively participating in US politics," he said while referring to the spectacular success of Bobby Jindal, who won the election on a Republican platform to become the governor of Louisiana last year.

    This interest in politics stands out in dramatic contrast to the 1970s and 1980s when Indian Americans were not sure whether politics was the right choice for them.

    "It's changing now. Indian Americans have always chosen safe professions in which they can succeed financially. Politics was looked at in a different light. Now of course all that is changing," Goyal said.

On the other hand, Indians are generally assimilating successfully and racial prejudice against them is waning:

    "Racism exists. Racism exists everywhere. My family too has faced discrimination and snide comments like you don't belong here. This attitude became slightly more pronounced after 9/11," said Goyal.

    "But an overwhelming majority of people looks past that. They look at your values and actions. And the Indian and American values are identical in terms of emphasis on family, education and hard work."

I can't find who first pointed it out, but at the recent Democratic debate, John Edwards was the only white male. It's true that Americans are getting increasingly comfortable with racial diversity, though comfort with cultural diversity or religious diversity seems to be lagging. It is unlikely, for example, that America is ready for a Hindu presidential candidate. And an Indian candidate would be questioned (unfairly or not) about his ability to objectively handle foreign affairs in South Asia.

Still we can dream: President Subodh Chandra.

Image from

*CORRECTION: Rep. Goyal was born in the U.S.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

On the Road Again

We are heading back to Ohio today. All in all it was a good trip. We saw sites, met up with some old friends and showed the kids a good time. Among other things, I was able to attend a session on law faculty blogging. I hope to have that written up some time in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, here's the view from the breakfast room at our hotel, looking up toward Central Park on a foggy winter day.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Blogger/Soldier's Posthumous Farewell

Obsidian Wings contributor Major Andrew Olmsted died in Iraq Thursday. He left a with a fellow OW blogger a final post which is up now. It's long, befitting such a final testament, and is worth reading in it's entirety. This plea for restraint is particularly moving:

    I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

As is this observation of the costs of war:
    [O]n a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

And this attempt to reconcile the two sentiments:
    This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not. Sometimes going to war is the right idea. I think we've drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I'm a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you're to hold onto what you hold dear. But in making that decision, I believe we understate the costs of war; when we make the decision to fight, we make the decision to kill, and that means lives and families destroyed. Mine now falls into that category; the next time the question of war or peace comes up, if you knew me at least you can understand a bit more just what it is you're deciding to do, and whether or not those costs are worth it.
The whole thing is a heartbreakingly brilliant final statement. Sympathies to Maj. Olmstead's friends and family.

h/t Volokh

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Caucus Night Musings

As I write this (10:10 p.m.), CNN is projecting Obama winning for the Dems and Huckabee winning handily on the red side. I've only had half an ear out this week, but with that caveat, a few thoughts on What Comes Next.

Is Richardson now on Obama's Veep Shortlist? YDS reported that Bill "The Resume" Richardson urged his supporters over to Obama. One has to wonder if Richardson contacted Obama ahead of time and if an unspoken understanding exists there. With Richardson polling at 5% his support meant a lot tonight. This is premature, but Richardson on the ticket would vest an Obama administration with his experience and talent and blunt the likely impact of his oft-rumored baggage.

Needless to say, no such understanding exists between Kucinich and Obama. The only deal one makes with Kucinich along these lines is, "Well, OK Dennis but you supply the ten-foot pole"

Edwards is in deep fertilizer. He's been campaigning in Iowa since around Nov. 10, 2004. If this had been his night, the money would finally have started coming in. Instead, this looks to me like he's topped out at around 30%. The big money is likely to think so as well. In any event, if he doesn't pull out a win in South Carolina, it's a two-person race.

Who will be the next Dem out? Fourth place was a weak 2% from Richardson. The entire second tier is on death watch from here on out. Taegan Goddard notes a Politico report that Dodd promised to quit if he lost, and Jerid notes evidence that Dodd isn't participating in Ohio.

The most interesting bit of exit poll data will be where the second tier votes go. Koosh aside, there's close to 15% up for grabs there. My impression is that those votes are looking for Hillary alternatives.

Mostly that's my impression because it's the case with me. I was pulling for Biden up 'til now. Yeah, I know. Richardson lost me when he started promising to bring the troops home next week. I've always liked Biden and think he has the best foreign policy mind in the field. I didn't hope for much -- just a strong fourth. Now that he's done, I'm all about Obama.

Is Fred Thompson really quitting? MCDAC notes a report that he is. OK, he finished a distant third, but he did finish third, and above the surging McCain. New Hampshire is between McCain and Romney, but Thompson could conceivably sneak into a win in So. Carolina. Novak reported some time ago (can't find it just now) that conservative Baptists say Huckabee is on the wrong side of that chuch's civil war. I suspect, based on little more than gut, that more of the SC evangelical vote is Baptist and more of the Iowa evangelical vote is non-denominational. If the Baptist vote is split, who to they run to?

Add to that sort of indication that Huckabee's hold on evangelicals is less than complete the fact that the Club for Growthers will now pull out the long knives. Oh, and the fact that the Republicans never nominate mavericks. Huckabee race is nearly run.

The only thing we know tonight about Giuliani's strategy of giving up on the early states is that the giving up part had the expected effect. Leading the national polls and getting less than 5%? Brutal.

A New Year, A New Ohio Carnival

Ben compiled our first post-break carnival. A good selection with nice variety and balance. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Joe Finley Wants to Be the New Boss

Joe Finley is running for County Executive to save us all from bossism. Not that he’ll tell us what the hell that means:

    Finley, 58, said he wants to end ''bossism'' in the county. He lost in a closer-than-expected primary last fall to longtime Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic.
    ''If anybody understands bossism in Summit County, it's Joe Finley,'' he said.
    He declined to comment further, other than saying his primary results were encouraging. He said he would make a full statement Friday afternoon when he files campaign petitions with the Summit County Board of Elections.
Oh, just can’t wait for that, Joe.

By “bossism” it’s fair to assume that he refers to current Executive Russ Pry having been Democratic Party Chair. And when he says that he understands it better than anyone, it’s safe to assume he’s referring to the party backing Mayor Plusquellic in the primary last fall.

Opposing bossism in this formulation isn’t in itself a bad thing. Certainly it is within the political experience of most Americans that bosses don’t necessarily work for the common good, often working instead for their own. And I have had my disagreements with Pry who has not always been friendly to grassroots involvement in the party process.

That said, simply running against bossism isn’t a platform. And just like in the last election, Finley is unlikely to offer either workable ideas of his own or a record of accomplishment. He will only be able to criticize his opponent. Worse, his criticisms will likely be an incoherent and knee-jerk as before.

Worse still, he’s not running against Plusquellic’s personality this time. Instead, his opponent is a genuinely nice guy who has made many friends and (within the party anyway) few enemies. And he just played a big part in inking the deal to keep Goodyear in town – a deal Finley will no doubt run against. And unlike the last primary, Finley can’t count on either taking advantage of a low turnout or urging Republicans to cross over to vote for him.

If Finley’s success was anything other than a vote against the Mayor’s sometime abrasiveness, now’s the time to show it. But here’s the thing about bosses: They tend to get in those positions because they know stuff and have done stuff. Whatever the vices of bossism, it just won’t do to replace it with hasn’t-done-sh*t-ism.

Introducing No Trash Guy

NPR ran a piece on yesterday’s Day to Day about one Dave Chameides, who resolves to throw nothing away for a year and, of course, blog the experience. It has the ring of being the No Impact Man of 2008 (tho NIM’s experiment is still in progress.)

While it’s easy to be cynical about the green bandwagon, this one isn’t rubbing me wrong. For one thing, it’s a good way of demonstrating the practical effects of living in our current consumer culture. At the end of it all, Dave will tote up everything reused, recycled and composted, plus the stuff “in the basement.”

It also seems somehow more plausible than NiM. By that I may mean simply that it’s less guilt-inducing than NiM, I haven’t decided. No Impact Man set such an impossibly high bar my defenses fly up every time I try to read it. Thus far 365 Trash seems more like set of practical steps everyone could take, though maybe not to Dave’s extreme.

House of Pho Roadie in Progress and a Few Other Updates

We were in Delaware for the past week and a half. Oh, by the way. My wonderful mother-in-law broke down and got wi-fi’d,1 so the blog stayed reasonably up to date. I still had family obligations and vulgar quantities of football to watch, so posting has been slow, but hopefully I’ve kept things interesting.

Now we are in New York City for Prof. W’s law school conference. We are, as usual, in a business hotel so internet access costs money, as opposed to the hotel’s downmarket “family” brand where it is free2. Happily we have more access than usual, but it’s less reliable. That, plus the fact that I will have the kids most of the time means posting will be spottier still.

Meanwhile, my early Christmas present was a new digital camera, so I’ll have non-blurry fotos to share. So far I’m good for this view out our hotel window. We went out last night to two of NYC’s monuments to twenty-first century consumerist excess, M&M World and the Toys R Us off Times Square.

In addition to a handful of posts over the holidays, I spent a fair amount of time cleaning up the sidebars. I’ve also fixed some computer issues that kept me from easily updating the account. I’ll post more about the blogrolls later. For now, suffice it to say that if you have a blog I’d be interested it and/or are interested in trading links, now would be a good time to bring it up.

BTW, the coming semester will be a challenge, blogwise. In addition to some long-overdue work to build on my early freelancing success, I’ve taken on a second class at the U. Now I will be teaching the civil rights section of the undergrad Con Law class, in addition to the comparative criminal law class already on the books. I’m thinking through how to accommodate the blog in all that, which may include tweaking the way things are done around here.

1This may seem fairly extraordinary when you learn that my mother-in-law just turned eighty. When you learn further that she is still teaching high school English and this after having raised twelve kids and securing an advanced degree, it should be clear that in fact my mother-in-law is extraordinary and the wi-fi is just business as usual.

2Thanks to reading Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist I know that the Hilton family of hotels is engaged in a business-savvy practice of price discrimination, but that doesn’t make it less irritating.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ohio 16: One Mystery Resolved and Another Close

Jill pointed out an item in the Canton Rep. that answers one of the questions posed in the Worst Blogpost Ever. The question was what was State. Sen. John Boccieri talking about when he said that Republicans were attacking his military record. The Rep. opinion piece notes that the anonymous blog Stark Politics ran an item criticizing Boccieri for missing votes -- votes it turns out that he missed because he had been called up. The original Stark Pol. piece also accused Boccieri of cynically using his military service for political gain.

As Jill points out (follow her links), the post has been purged of its most egregious attacks. Which sheds a little light on a second mystery. I've had a couple of conversations with folks in Stark Co. about who Stark Politics is. If you haven't had the pleasure, it's an anonymously written blog that occasionally lauds Republicans but spends most of it's content on bashing Democrats. It does so with such petty and picayune snark that feelings of nostalgia for Naugle creep in if one reads for too long.

The theory I've heard is that Stark Pol is run by someone fairly well connected with the local party. The cleansing of the blog certainly suggests the same. In the Rep. story Schuring is quoted as condemning the attacks. And the blog magically throttles back it's attack. It sure looks like someone got word to the blogger and he was a good little soldier.

As for Jill's post. She wonders aloud how to resolve the problem of state legislators who get called up for active duty. In the context of the Stark Pol. post, it seems a little beside the point. The post wasn't about addressing the problem, it was about political attack. But I see Jill working.

My inclination is to allow the situation to persist. Much of the political strategy of the administration has been to insulate the bulk of the electorate from the costs of the war. I agree that having state legislators unable to discharge their duties is a problem. But it's also a problem that those same men and women can't be with their families or work their day jobs. Absolutely anything that reminds Americans that we are at war and that there are consequences to being at war is a Good Thing.

It is not fair to the citizens of, say, Josh Mandell's district that they functionally have no representative. But much of war is unfair. And everyone should think about that and all the other attendant consequences to going to war before supporting candidates that do so recklessly.

Did Strickland Just Play Himself Out of the Veepstakes?

Huh. At the end of his Best Year Ever, Ted Strickland makes a rare political misstep. Strickland spent the weekend in Iowa campaigning for Hillary Clinton, his choice for the Democratic nomination. Yesterday the Dispatch broke a week-old interview with the Governor in which he publicly questioned the Iowa caucuses:

    In an interview with The Dispatch last week, Strickland said the Iowa caucuses make "no sense." He called the GOP and Democratic caucuses "hugely undemocratic," because the process "excludes so many people." Anyone who happens to be working or is sick or too old to get out for a few hours Thursday night won't be able to participate, Strickland said.

    "I'd like to see both parties say, 'We're going to bring this to an end,' " Strickland said, adding that he has no problem with the New Hampshire primary Jan. 8, because "at least it's an election."

Possibly worse, he dissed the state of Iowa as a whole:
    "Iowa is not an attractive place to be in the wintertime," Strickland said, adding that Iowa "is not a representative state and the caucus is not a fair way to register public opinion, in my judgment."
Ted's penchant for speaking his mind, damn the politics, is admirable whether one agrees with the statement or not. Sometimes what he does aggravates me (reinstituting the Nativity scenes, offering to sign whatever the NRA wants) sometimes I'm happy about it (vetoing special ed. vouchers, taking a chance on H.B. 117). But it's always felt like he is governed more by what he thinks is right that political expedience.

The Iowa flap is similar. Strickland believes in democracy, he doesn't think the caucuses are democratic. So he says so.

All well and good, but this isn't the way to endear himself to the most hyper-controlled, message disciplined campaign in the cycle. Hillary spinners quickly distanced the campaign from Strickland's statements:
    "Sen. Clinton believes that Iowa and New Hampshire play a unique and special role in the nominating process, and that process should be protected," spokesman Issac Baker said. "We're proud to have Gov. Strickland's support, but on this issue they disagree."
Time will tell whether the statements cause even minor damage to the Clinton campaign. But the campaign has to wonder if bringing Ted on board is worth1 the risks of his steroidal independent streak.


Jerid noted the incident. Bill Sloat updated a post speculating that the Iowa swing was a form of Veep try-out. Law and More runs a narrative that misses wide right -- that Strickland has no sense of timing. To the extent anyone picks up on it, this needs to be squashed like a bug. Reaction from Newsday's blog and from 2008Central. And keep an eye here for Iowa blog reaction.

1And by the way, Strickland isn't much of an asset as a Veep candidate in any event. Yes, he's popular, but he's popular because people hope he will turn the state around. He doesn't have a record of accomplishment. Worse, we Ohioans are as likely to be hacked off at the campaign for taking Ted away in the middle of the job as happy to see him as Veep.