Monday, March 31, 2008

Fingerhut's Soft Sell

Chancellor Eric Fingerhut of the The University System of Ohio delivered his Strategic Plan as scheduled today. The result is a painfully cautious document with many laudable goals (increased enrollment, more STEM degrees, improved quality) but few of the hard choices necessary to achieve them. You can find the Plan, along with a separate downloadable Executive Summary at the U System website.

As one example, the Plan spends considerable time examining the situation here in Northeast Ohio. We get an accurate, unblinking view of the landscape:

    Yet questions about the missions of the distinct
    universities do arise in Northeast Ohio. The reason
    is plain – the state has four public universities in
    four contiguous counties (Cleveland State in
    Cuyahoga, Kent State in Portage, the University of
    Akron in Summit and Youngstown State in
    Mahoning), plus one of the last free standing
    medical schools in the country, the Northeastern
    Ohio Universities College of Medicine
    (NEOUCOM), in a region that has seen its overall
    share of the state’s population decline over the last
    several decades. The close proximity and the lack of
    population growth have made the schools
    intensely competitive, a competition which has not
    served the best interest of the state or the region.

Acknowledgment that no on can be happy with the current situation:
    Had we started with a blank slate, we would not
    have drawn so many competing institutions in
    such close proximity to each other.

And a firm, decisive plan to . . . keep talking about it:
    To that end, the Chancellor will
    convene a public session of the trustees of the
    four public universities and NEOUCOM at least
    annually to review the progress toward
    improving quality, increasing mission differentiation,
    increasing collaboration, increasing the
    contribution of the institutions to the regional and
    state economy, and decreasing competition
    among the institutions.

The report as a whole pretty much follows that pattern. We now have goals and a promise that Chancellor Fingerhut will follow up on those goals, but as yet only faint suggestions that the Chancellor or the Governor are contemplating bringing any big wood into the game.

Given Ohio's historically entropic universe of public institutions, simply assembling a document suggesting a single vision is itself an impressive accomplishment. This report would not have been possible were it not for the Governor's success in organizing a single system under an executive appointed Chancellor. Still, assembling the Strategic Plan is a simple matter compared to actually implementing it. One measure of how difficult this will be is the calculatedly inoffensive tone of the document. It's a soft sell. Now we see who buys in.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Expelled Update: More PZ Myers, More Sub Rosa Spin and a Promise

First off, thanks to the commenter who linked to my first Expelled post, and welcome FDLers. It's my intention to continue monitoring the story on the science blogs and offer a conduit between that blogosphere and the Ohio left.

The big development this week was a PZ Myers' questionable participation in a conference call presser the Expelled producers put on to let journos talk to Ben Stein. Because of course, the person journalists should speak to about evolutionary science is a finance expert with a droll speaking

The good part of the story is 1) we know the main thrust of both the movie and the PR campaign -- that Darwin is responsible for the Holocaust, and 2) that Myers offered the journos an opposing view and a source when odds are they would have simply stenographed the story.

The bad part of the story is Myers learning how to unmute his phone and interrupting the call.
The ethics of all this have been a hot topic on the Panda's Thumb thread. The ethical arguments are essentially in equipoise. Certainly what Dr. Myers did was not nice, but it doesn't somehow make up for the problem on the other side that they are pretty much making up the case that Darwin is responsible for Nazi horrors.

(There's a broader question about whether one can be an activist atheist without simultaneous being an obnoxious dick. It seems too often one goes with the other, though Village Green has partially restored my faith in the faithless. Still, it's not always easy finding oneself on the same side with the Myers/Dawkins/Hitchens axis.)

Back to Expelled and the Nazi argument. Much of the scientific argument against the film's premises is beyond the knowledge of this blogger. The arguments about the interaction of science and policy, that's social science, an area where your blogger finds himself on somewhat firmer ground. As noted in my previous post, the film draws battle lines. While it postures itself as an argument for intellectual freedom, it is in fact a broadside by religion against science. Consider for example this quote from auteur Stein, courtesy of Stranger Fruit:

    I believe God created the heavens and the earth, and it doesn’t scare me when scientists say that can’t be proved. I couldn’t give a [profanity] whether a person calls himself a scientist. Science has covered itself with glory, morally, in my time. Scientists were the people in Germany telling Hitler that it was a good idea to kill all the Jews. Scientists told Stalin it was a good idea to wipe out the middle-class peasants. Scientists told Mao Tse-Tung it was fine to kill 50,000,000 people in order to further the revolution.
At times, the IDers behind and in front of this film will argue that they aren't against science, they are only for equal time. Imagine if they really believe the above. They certainly wouldn't be for equal time. They would be working feverishly to purge that evil science from the American landscape. And it appears they are.

In the meantime, I'll be working on the historical arguments against Stein & Co.'s thesis. Remember that the movie erupts into the mainstream on April 18. You can find out where on their theater locator page.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lecturing Team Hillary.

OK, I'm NOT talking to Hillary herself. Because we all know that it's wrong to blame Hillary for the trash her political allies talk, even as Obama is called out about anyone who's had a cup of coffee in a campaign office. Because that's just fair.

So I'm not talking to Hillary, but some apparently misbegotten campaign allies have been trotting out the argument that Barack Obama dishonestly stated he served as a Constitutional Law professor at University of Chigago Law School when he in fact was a lecturer.

No really.

Chicago's press release debunking the silliness should put this to bed. But Juan Williams, who is determined to squander all traces of credibility to be NPR's resident Hill Honk, insisted that the school was "just splitting hairs."

The context of Obama invoking his teaching experience is generally along the lines of "I've been a Con Law professor, so unlike the President I understand and respect the Constitution." In my experience, the primary difference between a lecturer and a professor is that a lecturer is paid relatively little. If someone says "I can afford that 5 Series because I lecture about Con Law," that's probably overclaiming. If someone says he has credibility about things constitutional because he's a law school lecturer, it's legit.

Every time I think the Hillary campaign is settling into a groove of merely harsh campaigning, they lower their own bar. This latest spasm of fratricidal zeal mimics that right wing noise machine the attacks on Al Gore. The methodology in 2000 was to take some statement Gore made about his accomplishments, deliberately misread it, and generate a narrative that he was a serial exaggerator. Seeing that particular flavor of slime thrown on a Dem by a Dem really hurts.

Scrying the net for news of all this, I ran across a post on the U of Chi Law Faculty Blog from October 2006 written by the estimable Cass Sunstein. Bear in mind that this is long before anyone questioned whether Obama was a real member of the faculty.

    There is a lot to say about Senator Obama and his time at the University of Chicago Law School. (He remains affiliated with the law school, and he has an office on the fifth floor -- though the list of faculty members notes, in a way that seems at once proud and forlorn, that he is now "out of residence.") He was, and is, widely admired by students and faculty alike -- and entirely across political divisions. How well I remember past elections in which faculty members, who disagreed on a great deal, agreed that Obama would be a magnificent addition to the United States Congress. I think their agreement resulted from Obama's character (he's a genuinely wonderful guy), his evident ability and sheer excellence (for example, he's a terrific teacher, and we tried to convince him to join the faculty full-time on several occasions), and his independence and unpredictability (he toes no party line; he knows how markets work, and how government can make things worse).
For those of you not in the know, a write up like this from Sunstein is tantamount to Michael Jordan saying you got game.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Little Administration Who Cried Wolf at the Door

Eric Lichtau, one of the NY Times reporters who broke the story about the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, has written a book about the experience which is excerpted in Slate. This graph stands out:

    For more than an hour, we told Bush's aides what we knew about the wiretapping program, and they in turn told us why it would do grave harm to national security to let anyone else in on the secret. Consider the financial damage to the phone carriers that took part in the program, one official implored. If the terrorists knew about the wiretapping program, it would be rendered useless and would have to be shut down immediately, another official urged: "It's all the marbles." The risk to national security was incalculable, the White House VIPs said, their voices stern, their faces drawn. "The enemy," one official warned, "is inside the gates." The clichés did their work; the message was unmistakable: If the New York Times went ahead and published this story, we would share the blame for the next terrorist attack.
Sound familiar? This is exactly the parade of horribles Bush marches down Pennsylvania Avenue when Congress considers renewing the program. As Lichtau notes later in the article, none of these things proved true about the Times' story. There is every reason to believe that the administration alarmist rhetoric about the renewal debate generally and the supposed national security imperative of telecom immunity in particular is similarly specious.

Want to know why liberals suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Exhibit A. The administration plays up fears, politicizes crucial national security issues and lies like most people breathe.

Learn More about Norka

I traced an odd hit through SiteMeter and found a post about Norka Orange Soda in response to a Dooce post from one Lady D in Pittsburgh. Anyone who subtitles her blog with an obscure Ren and Stimpy reference is going to get some love here on the Pages. Though I had to let her know that I am by no means a hipster.

As longtime readers are aware, the blog was originally Pho's Norka Pages in reference to the longstanding Akron tradition of branding by spelling the name backwards. After attending my first blogger meetup at which George and company asked "What the hell is a Norka" the title changed but the url remains.

I believe there is more Norka memorabilia at the Lock 3 museum, which also houses the Toy Marble Museum and the Lighter Than Air Society Museum. It might be worth a field trip.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Intro to Expelled

Folks, there's a new weapon in the Creationism/Intelligent Design arsenal, Ben Stein's new movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie purports to champion academic freedom on behalf of those who have been, in the words of the press kit, "persecuted" for believing in Intelligent Design. And the ground work is being laid now, out of public view.

The company marketing the film also marketed Mel Gibson's How the Jews Killed Jesus The Passion of the Christ, and are going about it the same way. They are offering free screenings throughout the country to conservative Christian audiences to generate buzz and keeping both critics and mainstream reviewers out. And anyone not a Real True Christian gets in, they launch a defamatory PR campaign to discredit the critic.

The most amusing and celebrated of these incidents occurred in Minnesota where producers expelled (yes, they really did) biologist, blogger and activist PZ Myers, but overlooked another member of his party, Richard Dawkins.

All of that helped make Gibson's pestilent passion play critic proof, though it's a harder sell when the premise of the movie is intellectual freedom. If, as Stein insists, the argument is about allowing access to all points of view, he and the producers can't justify keeping the points of view against the film out of the theater.

So far the best resource on all things Expelled is "Expelled Exposed" a website maintained by the radical, leftwing National Center for Science Education.

The story thus far raises some concerns in addition to those raised above. Among them:

  • There is considerable evidence that the producers misrepresented themselves to scientists who agreed to be interviewed on camera.
  • The movie as a whole recasts the intelligent design debate as one between people of faith versus atheists. This is a change of tactic for ID proponents, and one that attempts to divide people of science from people of faith, despite the fact that many people embrace both.
  • Stein heavily plays the Nazi card -- claiming that Darwinism is responsible for the Holocaust.
  • Meanwhile, on the science side, some are questioning the utility of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins as spokepeople against the film, given that both are atheist activists, playing into the "religion vs. atheist scientists" frame the film producers want.
  • Oh, and let's not forget that the whole ID project is a bunch of crypto-fundie hooey.
Each of these is worth at least a post in its own right, but who knows what I will be able to get to.

In April the movie opens to mainstream premiere. People who care about maintaining the integrity of science education would do well to keep abreast of what happens between now and then. Right now the debate is happening, but only one side is invited.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Finding Racism: It's In Vogue

    Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
              -Sen. Barack Obama
Well the Bogus Claims Police (who, as Obama intimates, are just as strident and annoying as the Racism Police) will have a field day with this one.

LeBron James is on the cover of this months Vogue Magazine, along with model Gisele Bundchen, for what is apparently an annual "shape" issue. Some members of the Racism Police apparently don't like the shot Vogue used for the cover because LeBron looks "aggressive" and "savage."

People paying attention to Obama's speech last week were reminded that, above all else, race is complicated. The difference between benign and racist depends on history and context and above all else, intent.

In this case the "savage" LeBron is, well, LeBron. Anyone who has been a Witness recognizes the look immediately. It's that LeBron intensity we love. As he said, he was "just showing some emotion," and it's that emotion (along with crazy skills and preternatural court sense) that makes him great. I recall seeing a pre-betrayal Carlos Boozer slam a put-back, and LeBron rise from the bench, with that exact look on his face, to chest-bump his teammate. LeBron doesn't play every game like it's the NBA final. He plays every game like it's the high school regional final against Walsh Jesuit, which is far more important.

Criticizing LeBron for looking "savage" carries the troubling implication that a black man can't look intense -- or for that matter can't be himself -- just because he's black. That's not the post-racial goal we should be striving for. What we hope is that someone can see LeBron be LeBron and understand that it's LeBron, not Every Black Man.

While the racial message isn't troubling, I'm less sanguine about the gender message. The issue is supposed to be about "great bodies," but the man's body is great because he can do great things with it. The woman's body is great because it makes a pretty ornament.

During some catchup blog reading between marathon grading sessions, I recently ran across this from comic, blogger, erstwhile Clevelander and Bill Callahan daughter Carrie Callahan,.
    I have a joke where I ask the audience to call out a female celebrity who is known for having a great body. I've told it three times, once someone said Jessica Alba, the other two times people said Angelina Jolie. The joke is designed for anyone you call out, but I have been tempted to respond to that suggestion specifically. Angelina Jolie has a good body? By what measure? Her body has to get surgery every 7 years to replace her implants. If you met Angelina Jolie in a dark alley, the temptation to knock her over and take her purse would be insurmountable, because her body doesn't give the slightest physical suggestion that it could defend itself. She's too tall to run fast, she's too thin to withstand a blow, and if she fell off a bike her hip would break. I don't know what kind of sex she and Brad have, but I expect it's exceptionally gentle.

    Look, I have known very very skinny women who were beautiful. Skinny is not ugly. But skinny and weak-looking and surgically enhanced is weird. If she's the ideal, I'm done with you people. My body is way better looking than Angelina's.
Gisele isn't as emaciated as Jolie, but I bet Carrie could take her too.

Mystery of the Elephant Queen

With much fanfare The New Summit Republicans promised to announce who their nominee for County Chair this afternoon. And the nominee is . . .

Carol Klinger.
. . .
. . .

Yeah, that's what I thought.

She is an at-large member of Cuyahoga Falls Council and apparently a Goodyear exec. Not that I have connections in GOP politics, but the name was no more than vaguely familiar. Comments around the blogs are confirming that she's not a big name within the party. In fact, she lists nothing political in her LinkedIn profile (though, cough cough, she's in my extended network along with 354,000 other close friends.)

She's certainly not someone with a demonstrated history of electoral success to fit with the NSR's promise to turn the county party's fortunes around. And it doesn't appear that she's a person who brings a number of supporters with her.

So now talk turns to speculation about What It All Means. Ed Esposito notes that Klinger is a political ally of Arshinkoff stalwart Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart. Ben Keeler crows that Ms. Klinger's resume makes her a tough beat.

Eric Mansfield notes that Kevin Coughlin didn't attend the press conference, but left that to go-to face guy Don Varian. Coughlin may be trying to take himself out of the equation and make the contest Carol v. Alex. On the one hand, it's a smart way to side-step the allegation that Coughlin's effort is all about him (or Roetzel and Andress) taking over the party.

On the other hand, given the dynamic of the election Coughlin stepping into the background is probably a bad thing. As noted before, the key to unseating Alex is convincing enough of the people who fear Alex but don't like Alex that someone can beat Alex. Otherwise, A2's storied penchant or petty revenge makes jumping too risky. It's not clear that picking an obscure pol with a demanding day job meets that imperative.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just the Right Amount of Black

ver the course of the week we’ve had Obama’s speech on race, and the reaction to the speech and the reaction to the reaction to the speech, and now we are starting to boil down to some meta-points. My first blush reaction was that the speech was so on target, so uplifting, that any attempt to denigrate it would be simple-minded partisan hackery. I blush to admit my naiveté, but I was genuinely shocked at the level derision directed at Obama, post-speech.

While there has been plenty of reaction that is mere hackery1, the near broadly negative reaction on the right can’t simply be dismissed out of hand. Rather, reaction to Obama’s speech on some level is something of a Rorschach for how people view race and racism, which follows something of a left-right divide.

People who felt the speech fell short tend to believe that a white expression of racism toward blacks is exactly the same in all respects as black expression of racism toward whites. A lot of comments fall along the lines of “what if a white candidate had attended a church where the preacher preached segregation . . .?”2 Obama’s speech begins with an assumption black racism3 is not the same as White racism, and appeals more to those of us who take a more nuanced view.

Under the latter view, racism expressed by blacks is wrong, but of carries less moral and practical consequence than white racism. black racism, as explained by Obama arises from the long history of racial oppression – three centuries during which people were kidnapped from Africa to be sold as chattel, followed by another century during which their decedents were assigned to the bottom rung of a racial cast system.

White racism on the other hand perpetuates a legacy of hatred in service to centuries of oppression, oppression that for most of those centuries materially and psychically benefited the oppressors. One is a form of human weakness, meriting approbation but nonetheless understandable. The other is a legacy of, and perpetuates, a great evil.

The practical consequences of black vs. white racism are also different. Make no mistake, black racism has dire consequences. One of my classes will soon be reading Wisconsin v. Mitchell in which the state applies a hate crimes statute to black defendants who assault a white man simply because he is white. But those consequences are several orders of magnitude lower than the consequences of white racism which, again, seeks on some level to perpetuate the oppression of black Americans.

Both the black racism expressed by Rev. Wright and the racism-as-equivalent model embraced by much of white America offer facile sound bites for discussing race. In truth, the question of race in America is far more complex, historical, layered and nuanced than the bumper-sticker level discussions too prevalent among both blacks and whites. Obama’s speech was special because, in the context of a political campaign – a context in which nuance is generally considered a deadly sin – he embraced all that complexity and spoke about it with heartbreaking eloquence.

It’s less of a surprise then that the speech failed to touch people, especially on the right, who believe that racism is racism. If that is your model – if Rev. Wright and Bull Connor are equivalents – the only solution for Obama is to cut him loose. And in fact, Obama probably can’t redeem himself even with that extreme move because he already tolerated the intolerable for too long. If a listener is unwilling to acknowledge the complexity of race in America, exploring that complexity seems like so much artifice.

A few weeks ago NPR reported about how Second City is satirizing the primary. In one skit a white man explains his attraction to Obama with the line I’ve appropriated for this post4. Like all great political satire, the line works both as a funny-as-hell punchline and a profound truth. Personally, it doesn’t bother me that Obama is just the right amount of black. It doesn’t mean he’s inauthentic. It means he’s more authentic – embracing what is good about his community, but refusing to fall into the easy radicalism that afflicts so much of that community.

Among the most appalling things Rev. Wright said were the accusations that the government developed AIDS to kill blacks and that the government is behind the traffic of drugs into black communities. As appalling as those views are to middle class white folks like myself, the fact is, a large percentage of the Black community holds those views to one degree or another. No black politician could be a part of the community and not have close associates who share similar views.

Simply saying “That’s wrong” isn’t enough to move people off of ultimately such self-destructive dogmas. Simply deriding such ideas as the lies they are is not enough. It will take leaders who are willing to both understand the history and pain in which they are rooted, then offer alternatives. What alternatives? Some might call it hope.

The Rev. Wright controversy has hurt Obama terribly. As of now, it’s not clear that the speech helped enough. Obama may be just the right amount of Black for me; time will tell if he’s too much black for America.

1One oft-made point that should be dismissed as hackery is the allegation that Obama joined Trinity in the first place for black street cred. For example a comment to LisaRenee runs it here and Blumer approvingly sites a righty making that point here. And it’s crap. In the first place, it is always a dicey proposition questioning the sincerity of another person’s faith. Generally it’s an accusation anyone can level and no one can disprove. But in this case, we have evidence that points to the opposite conclusion. Obama wrote of his conversion experience in his first book, long before he sought elected office. And lest anyone argue that he had long term plans to do so, remember what else is in that book and what he was doing at the time. Working as an inner city community organizer and simultaneously writing a memoir admitting adolescent drug use is not part of anyone’s long term plan for political success.

2 Which would make this whole discussion very interesting indeed if either Romney or Huckabee were still in the race, given the racist pasts of their respective churches.

3I’m using the term “black racism” to describe racial animus expressed by blacks toward whites generally. Black animus toward other racial groups or Jews or gays or women adds yet another dimension to the whole discussion.

4Incidentally, the report noted that Mr. and Mrs. Obama saw the show and liked it.

Elephant Wars: Tim Grendell's Limbaughian Brief

In case you were afraid that l'affair Arshinkoff would fail to sully absolutely everyone who comes in contact with it, we now have State Sen. (and attorney for the SummitCo Repubs) Tim Grendell's brief to peruse. And oh, it's a document.

The open question here is whether anyone in this controversy will perceive the narrative at work against him or her and take pains to avoid confirming that narrative. Let's review. Alex Arshinkoff is under fire in his party in part for bullying party members who won't get in line. So he uses his position on the Board of Elections to bully employees to put Team Coughlin's petitions under a microscope (allegedly) Arshinkoff accuses Wayne Jones of spearheading the drive to get rid of him, so naturally Jones stick his nose into Alex's reapointment. The ORP has been accusing SoS Jennifer Brunner of being "hyperpartisan" since the day she took office, and she utterly fails to handle the process with the delicacy needed to avoid the label.

Our next contestant is Tim Grendell. He's a high profile conservative Republican. The natural narrative is that he is using the lawsuit to embarrass a Democratic elected official. Does he treat an elected official with due respect in deposition? He does not. Does he write a sober treatment of the facts and law before the Court? No, he writes this:

    Secretary Brunner's mistreatment of Section 3501.07 and her powers and duties there under threaten the delicate balance statutorily designed by the Ohio Legislature to provide for a fair and balanced elections process in Ohio. That bipartisan balance is totally destroyed when the Secretary of State is allowed to conspire with members of the opposing political party, her party, to defeat the recommended competent appointee of the other political party based on anonymous, secret, unsigned, unswom [sic], unverified, or hearsay-ridden materials invited for submission by the Secretary of State and solicited and submitted by the opposing political party.

    In this case, the extremely competent former TRW, Inc. Director - Finance, Mr. Brian Daley, is the victim of such political chicanery, guilt by association, politics, and Secretary Brunner invited political witch hunt. Like Mr. Alex Arshinkoff, Mr. Daley fell prey to Secretary Brunner's manipulation of Section 3501.07 and the predafory, [sic] political assassination efforts of the local Democratic Finance Chairman, Wayne Jones and other Democrats, which actions were taken, at Secretary Brunner's specific invitation and with her blessing. But, the political chicanery did not stop there. As Secretary Brunner freely admits, Democrat Finance Chairman Wayne Jones, not the Summit County Republican Executive Committee, recommended Donald Varian for appointment to the Summit County BOE Secretary Brunner did no even contact the Summit GOP Executive Committee. Secretary Brunner and her staff also did not scrutinize Mr. Jones' recommended appointee, Donald Varian, in the same way that they investigated Alex Arshinkoff and Brian Daley. Secretary Brunner appointed Democrat Wayne Jones' personally recommended appointee, thereby obliterating the bipartisan and political party balance of the Summit BOE prescribed by Section 3501.07.
Holy thesaurus, Batman! Daley isn't just competent, he's "extremely competent." Brunner isn't merely accused of violating statute, but of "obliterating" it. Not just political assassinations. Predatory political assassinations. Clearly this is the most super egregious, horribly wrongnessful, extra mega bad thing ever. Good God, there are guys on Little Green Footballs capable of prose more cogent and less overwrought.

This is not merely the bad writing that lawyers tend to do (satirized in one of the post labels below.) This is bad political ranting and to see it in a brief before the Supreme Court of Ohio is an embarrassment.

And what's best, it worked. The Beacon ran excerpts of the brief in today's story on the case. Will they do the same with Brunner's reply? We'll see.

Voinovich's Red Cape

Did Sen. George Voinovich just announce that he will retire after this term? What he said is:

    "We're going to have to raise more money in this country. Did you hear me? We're going to have to increase taxes in order to do the job," Sen. Voinovich said. "Anyone that tells you that's not the case isn't being truthful with you. They're not being intellectually honest with you. [From an ODP presser quoting Gongwer]
But in the modern Republican Party, that's tantamount to declaring you no longer want to be an elected official. Voinovich is waving a red cape in the face of the dominant economic conservative wing of the party, begging for a primary challenge. The sound you hear is a hundred right wing Ohio electeds stampeding to get on the phone with Club for Growth and ask for their blessing.

Take the Catalyst Ohio Poll

As regular readers know, I've been writing for Catalyst Ohio, a nonprofit magazine covering urban education issues. The magazine is now conducting an online survey about how people get education news and information. Just click here

The goal of the survey is to ascertain how Catalyst can use new media to serve our audience. Whether you have read (or heard of) the magazine or not, I'd appreciate if you could take five minutes or so to take the survey.

Note that some browsers give people problems with the last question. If it only lets you pick one, pick the most important one.

A New Ohio Poltics Blog

When I first started reading Ohio blogs -- well before I started blogging myself -- the landscape was far different. Ohio had no real "big boys" like BSB or ODB, and few individuals who stood above the rest. Callahan, BFD (though then as now not much party political), Tim Russo's original Democracy Guy and The Chief Source are among the few political bloggers at work then and continuing to this day. Others included HypoSpeak (whom I fear is no longer with us) Seven Cent Nickel (whose rusted hull continues to roll about on the waves), Ohio Watch and Power to the People (both of which have been taken down.)

And there was Bring Ohio Home. BOH went through a couple iterations, eventually giving way to founder Paul Ackerman's day job as a political consultant. Now Paul and business partner Ryan Fissel are back at it. The blog has a great look and a good run of posts. Wish them well.

Carnival is Up

I was in the barrel this week for #109.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jennifer Bruner Videos Are Everywhere.

Make no mistake, the videography of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in itself had a political component. When a case is being decided on motion to the court like this, standard procedure is to simply depose a witness and provide a written transcript to the court. A video dep is generally taken when a witness can't make trial. The video is shown to the jury in lieu of live testimony.

On the other hand if your witness is a statewide elected official from the opposite who happens to sit on the apportionment board and may have stepped in brown applesauce, it's nice to have commercial-ready footage.

The media has been working to get the video released, and now they have it. The ABJ posted exerpts on YouTube and ohio dot com. Akron News Now has their own video embed up, with more detailed commentary.

Here's the Youb of the juiciest bit, where State Sen. and counsel for the SummitCo Republicans throws documents at Secretary Brunner. For some reason the sound is out of sync with the video. Hey, no one accused the ABJ of being television people:

If you don't want to wade through a bunch of video, here's a second key excerpt from the deposition. In this we learn that Dem Chair Wayne Jones first let Brunner know "there were problems" with the Party's second choice Brian Daley, and that he suggested attorney and Coughlin supporter Don Varian as an alternative. This starts on page 46.

    Do you know how Mr. Varian's name came to Mr. Farrell?
    MR. COGLIANESE: Objection. Answer if you can.
    A. Yes.
    Q. How is that?
    A. I suggested it to him.
    Q. And how did you come to know Mr. Varian?
    A. Several ways. Wayne Jones had indicated that he would be a good board member. I also saw his name on the list of the executive committee for the Republican Party in Summit County. And I also independently knew of him to be well thought of in the legal community in Summit County.
    Q. Well, let's back up. Mr. Jones, Wayne Jones, is a Democrat, right?
    A. Correct.
    Q. You're -- it's your testimony that you've seen a roster of the Summit County Republican Party Executive Committee with Mr. Varian's name on it?
    A. I believe it was in the information that both Scott Sigel and Mr. Simon sent to me that we received on the 29th or the 28th. And it --
    Q. Was Mr. Varian being on the executive committee important in your decision to name him to the --
    MR. COGLIANESE: Before you answer that question, it sounded like --
    A. I started to say --
    MR. GRENDELL: I'm sorry.
    A. -- and if I'm mistaken, it may be that he was on the central committee list. I'm not -- I'm not positive.
    Q. When did you talk to Mr. Jones about Mr. Varian possibly serving on the Summit County Board of Elections?
    A. I think it was when -- yes, it was when I was in Akron for a voter forum on the 27th of February when he indicated to me that he thought that there were problems with Mr. Daley's recommendation.
    Q. So you had a conversation with Mr. Wayne Jones in which he indicated to you that he thought there was a problem with Mr. Daley's recommendation two days before you notified the Summit County Republican Party Executive Committee that you were disapproving of Mr. Daley for the appointment to the board of election?
    A. Senator, that question was exceedingly long. Could you re –
    Q. Well, let me back it up. You said you talked to Mr. Jones on the 27th of February.
    A. Correct.
    Q. And you know you sent your letter to Mr. Arshinkoff on the 29th of February 2008, advising him that Mr. Daley's recommendation was being disapproved. I just want to get the dates right. Mr. Jones on the 27th disapproved; Mr. Daley on the 29th?
    A. Sure. The nature of the discussion with Mr. Jones was that he thought that Mr. Daley had a lot of problems, that there would be information coming to me. And, of course, my response was, well, if -- if I can't appoint Mr. Daley, meaning if there are enough problems with him that I don't feel that it's appropriate to appoint him, I'm running out of time. What other Republicans are there?
    Q. But you never bothered to talk to Mr. Daley about Mr. Jones' concerns; isn't that correct?
    A. Well, Mr. Jones really did not get into any specifics with me about Mr. Daley.
    Q. Well, you just said that he told you there was issues about him and problems. I mean, did you bother to call the person who Mr. Jones was making statements about --
    A. Well --
    Q. -- to verify if it was true?
    MR. COGLIANESE: Objection to the form of the question and to the argumentativeness of the question.
    Q. I'll withdraw the question that way and try it differently. Mr. Jones talked to you on the 27th. It apparently affected your decision to appoint Mr. Daley; is that correct?
    A. No, that's not correct.
    Q. Okay.

They then wander off into a thicket of paperwork together and don't re-emerge for a hundred pages or so.

Ed Esposito has a reaction post up. As Ed notes, the upshot of all this is it makes Brunner look like the hyperpartisan the ORP has tried to paint her as. Up to now the charge didn't fly beyond the righty blogs. But she's going to take a hit on this one, and the bleeding is just starting.

All in all, not a great week for a Profiles in Courage victory lap.

Cuyahoga River Flood Warning

Ohio dot com carries the Weather Service's flood warning for the Cuyahoga River:

    for the Cuyahoga River at Old Portage in Akron's Merriman Valley from this evening until further notice.

    Minor flooding is forecast.

    The river is expected to rise above flood stage by the evening and crest near 10 feet Thursday morning.

    At 7 a.m. today, the river was at 7.3 feet and rising. Flood stage is 9 feet.

    At 11 feet, floodwaters begin to affect areas along the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Falls and Munroe Falls near Kennedy Park.

You can keep up with developments on Weather dot com.

I took these around 1:00 p.m.

The water looks to be four feet or so below this truss. The towpath is already underwater.

This generally doesn't happen in the Valley. We get flash floods from water screaming down the sides during a summer gulley washer (recall this), but generally the Cuyahoga behaves around here.

Let's be careful out there.

Fed Government May Ease NCLB

From the NYT:

    The Bush administration, acknowledging that the federal No Child Left Behind law is diagnosing too many public schools as failing, said Tuesday that it would relax the law’s provisions for some states, allowing them to distinguish schools with a few problems from those that need major surgery.

    “We need triage,” said Margaret Spellings, the secretary of education.
    * * *
    Under the new program, the federal Department of Education will give up to 10 states permission to focus reform efforts on schools that are drastically underperforming and intervene less forcefully in schools that are raising the test scores of most students but struggling with one group, like the disabled, for instance. The No Child law, which President Bush signed in 2002, was intended to force states to bring all students to proficiency in reading and math by 2014. In six years it has identified 9,000 of the nation’s 90,000 public schools as “in need of improvement,” the law’s term for failing, and experts predict that those numbers could multiply in coming years.
This is a potentially big deal. While Spellings is for now proposing a pilot this could move as quickly as the "value added" pilot which is now pretty much the norm. One measure of the bigness of the deal is that edblogs have already given it a jargony name: differentiated consequences.

Digest this for now; I'll be back with more later.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Heller Thoughts and Predictions

Just finished listening to my DVR of the argument. First off, some logistical notes. CSpan has been playing the argument throughout the day. For whatever reason I haven't becen able to pull it up on the CSpan site, but I've been having computer issues with media files generally so you might have a better chance. Also, Ben pointed out what I didn't, the SCOTUSBlog Wiki page about the case which gives you as comprehensive a listing as you could want.

Now on to the argument. own as one of Walter Dellinger's best, though it is understandable. Dellinger has a solid textual argument that the amendment is entirely about guarantying the continued viability of state militias. Unfortunately, it's an open secret that a majority of the Court is prepared to find an individual right and not worry too much about its militia-relatedness so for the most part he is in damage control mode.

Even more explicitly working damage control is Solicitor General Paul Clement. He is taking the Bush side in the Bush/Cheney split in the case, arguing for an individual right, but cabined to allow reasonable regulations including all those currently on the Federal books.

Alan Gura arguing for Heller sounds a fairly conciliatory tone regarding reasonable regulations. For all the anger in Gunnutistan over the possibility that the Second Amendment may be less than perfectly absolute, the debate over regulation is disappointingly peaceful.

By my count five justices will find an individual right and not tether it to the purpose of protecting militias. They are Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Alito and Thomas. The first four made their positions clear in oral argument. Justice Thomas, as is his custom, uttered not a syllable in argument, but telegraphed his position ten years ago in a concurrence in Printz v. U.S.

Justices Breyer and Stevens also seem inclined to find an individual right, but tie it to the militia clause. Justices Ginsberg and Souter seem to be leaning away from finding an individual right at all.

Scalia and Roberts appear inclined to uphold the DC Circuit opinion. Roberts says at one point that the gradated standards of review are extraconstitutional "baggage" that some rights have picked up along the way (it would be a separate post to explain it, but let me say that's the most chilling utterance of the day.) He would be happy deciding this case on its merits without offering a test to guide future courts. Scalia is inclined to apply the strict scrutiny test as the DC Circuit did, under at least some readings.

Alito and Kennedy spend the most time talking about self defense as a core value underlying the individual right. In Alito's case he spends a great deal of time discussing the implications of the DC handgun ban for self defense, and seems especially concerned with a provision mandating trigger locks for long guns. Kennedy has the oddest take of the day, arguing that the second amendment must have been past to guarantee that settlers on the frontier have the right to weapons to defend themselves against "grizzlies or whatever" -- a concern he apparently would transplant to the wilds of Anacostia.

What I didn't get is a reading on what sort of standard of review Kennedy might apply. He's the key vote on that issue. Probably Thomas will side with Roberts and Scalia in establishing the broadest, strictest right. Quite likely Alito will as well. Kennedy once again finds himself in what passes for the middle on this Court and, if history is a guide, will tread carefully. Probably his opinion will closely tie the right to self defense and probably his standard will be somewhat less than strict scrutiny -- something like the intermediate scrutiny advocated by Clement.

That's the legal predictions. I'll save political and policy implications for another day.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Heller Cheat Sheet, Pt. 2: The Issues

The Heller case offers an obscene array of issues for Con Law wonks. Some are obvious to the casual observer; some that are a little more obscure.

Here's a basic summary and a couple of predictions.

1. Is there an individual right? This of course is the core argument. The Second is singular Constitutional amendments in providing its own preamble. The first clause of the amendment gives essentially the reason for it's existence (because a militia is necessary "to secure the security of a free state"), then concludes with what sounds like a prohibition on prohibition. As Lithwick notes, the Court's last statement about the Amendment essentially said that part two isn't really necessary for part one.

2. What extent of regulation is permissible? While the amendment says "shall not be infringed" all but the most nutty libertarians will concede that such absolute sounding prohibitions aren't really absolute. The First Amendment's statement that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging freedom of speech" nonetheless allows Congress to make lots of laws abridging freedom of speech given the right circumstances. As an extreme example, conspirators on trial for their statements furthering a conspiracy can't seek refuge behind the First Amendment.

So the question is open which government interests the will court deem acceptable exceptions to whatever individual right they find. This is related to the issue discussed in Charles Fried's piece on SCOTUS Blog: what is the standard of review. As Fried notes, the most fundamental rights are subject to "strict scrutiny" which the Court states means the government needs a "compelling purpose" and must use the "least restrictive means" to achieve that purpose. For other rights, the court might apply the "rational basis test" (basically a straight face test -- can you say with a straight face that the government has a rational basis for its action) or something in between.

3. What gets weighed against the government purpose? Part of the Court's methodology is weighing the governmental purpose against the individual interest. Sometimes, in particular in the Court's cases about free exercise of religion, the Court never states why the right exists, making it very difficult to weigh individual versus government interests. Hopefully the Court will offer some finding regarding why the right exists. If they follow the wording of the amendment, they would presumably weigh some reduction in security against the government interest. If the Court reads that more broadly -- a right to self defense, for example, the weighing is different.

4. How much will the Court defer to legislative determinations. This is the essence of Dahlia Lithwick's piece. At some point the most activist courts say that they will defer to legislative findings. Deference is particularly salient in this area. The government purpose in regulating firearms is public safety. Given the proliferation of somewhat dubious social science purporting to find that gun access deters crime, a court could always strike down gun laws by holding that the laws won't improve safety. That level of judicial activism would make the Warren Court squirm a little.

5. Will the Second Amendment be incorporated against the states? This question won't be answered in this case, but it will raised in later cases. The Bill of Rights as originally written applied only to the national government. Then the nation ratified the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War and, over a number of decades, the Supreme Court held that the due process clause of the amendment incorporates certain fundamental rights against the states.
Because the case involves the District of Columbia -- essentially a political subdivision of the Federal Government -- the question of incorporation isn't on the table this time.

D.C. Gun Case Cheat Sheet, pt. 1

Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument in District of Columbia v. Heller. The case promises to be the first case finding an individual right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. I've been telling my Civil Rights class all semester that when they started the semester there was no recognized individual right in the Second Amendment and by the end of the semester in all likelihood there will be. It's not often we get to witness a new right being born. It's kind of like the end of 2010 when the planet Jupiter turns into a mini star.

The actual decision probably won't be rendered until near the end of the term. Nonetheless, the oral argument will offer the next step in the process. The proliferation of monoliths, if you will. What follows is a guide to the issues, plus a partial glossary to the many, many documents available.


I always tell my class to start with the text we are interpreting. So here it is:

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Court has promised to release oral argument pretty much immediately. C-SPAN will be airing it around 11:00 and Oyez should have audio on demand around the same time. SCOTUS blog promises to liveblog the argument and currently has two preview posts up by a couple of Harvard Law profs.

Several battalions of amicus (friend of the court) briefs have been deployed by both sides. WaPo has a set of excerpts running today.

For pro-gun types, there's no better resource than libertarian law prof. Eugene Volokh. More or less on the other side (but not nearly so obsessed) is Yale prof Jack Balkin's blog. The estimable Dahlia Lithwick has a nice piece up arguing that the case is a "natural experiment in judicial restraint (more on that anon.)

Elephant Wars. First Gleanings from Brunner's Deposition

The news even filtered down to me in the basement -- the GOP sued SoS Jennifer Brunner about appointments to the SummitCo BoE, they deposed her over objection and she did her best to get the depo sealed. It all came out Friday and it's not pretty. The bottom line -- Summit Dem chief Wayne Jones was a major source of the information Brunner used in making the decisions to refuse to reappoint Alex Arshinkoff and to refuse the GOP's second pick, Brian Daley.

Surprisingly little has been written on the blogs so far, probably because few partisans can be happy with the results. The GOPpers are pretty much aligned against Alex and the lefties aren't anxious to see one of our '06 heroes in a train wreck. So far Ben has weighed in with the accurate take that Jones' actions against Arshinkoff probably raise his stock in the broader battle to remain Summit County GOP chair. Local newsers Eric Mansfield and Ed Esposito have been doing the bulk of the commentary.

So far I'm about halfway through the 169 page depo. Like I said, not pretty. I'll post the juiciest bits over the next few posts, then we can talk. Depositions aren't always nasty pitch battles between posturing attorneys, but as it happens, this one is. It doesn't help that politics is layered atop litigation, with State Sen. Tim Grendell is representing the party. Anyway, this is the first discussion of Jones' involvement in the decision not to reappoint Alex:

    Mr. Jones indicated to me that there were problems at the board of elections. I had worked very closely with Mr. Williams, the director of the board of elections. He had done a very good job for me on the voting machine study in which I recruited 12 directors or deputy directors of boards of elections to assist me in reviewing the reports that came in from our experts on the security, performance, configuration, and -- of the voting machines, and the board of elections internal operations controls and procedures. Mr. Williams had actually spent numerous days in Columbus working with my office in reviewing the reports and helping me craft recommendations, and I found him to be quite knowledgeable.

    I -- I volunteered to Mr. Jones that I did not -- that I hoped that the board would -- that the Democrats would not vote against Mr. Williams because I did not want to be breaking a tie vote on that. That I thought Mr. Williams had done a good job. At that point, Mr. Jones said, well, then you should not reappoint Alex Arshinkoff. And I said to him I cannot simply not reappointment him. If there's evidence, you would have to send that to me. And that was the nature of our conversation.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Having more or less survived another crush, I'm ready to start back here again. I find getting back into blogging to be a bit of a challenge, so this is my Ben Hogan waggle to get back into the swing.

When last I posted it was to provide a few links and acknowledge being a bit busy. But then we had the blizzard which pretty much killed all plans to get work done last weekend. And the rest of the week went like that.

But now, it's Spring Break. Not much of a break really, so much as change in work load. In one week I have to grade 30 quizzes, 30 papers and 60 tests, plus finish the last half of a writing assignment, plus get on top of a church volunteer project plus cross an item or two of the honeydo list. In whatever time all that leaves, I plan to blog copiously as well.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I'm Back, and I've Brought Gifts

For now the cable grid seems to be working again. Yesterday calling Time/Warner yielded a message along the lines of, "The ice storm in Ashtabula (??) is still causing disruptions in service. There is no need to speak to a customer service representative about this as we are working hard to restore service."

Thanks to losing the day I have an unusually full plate today. Here's a couple things to munch on while I'm gone.

The Carnival of Politics is up. I've just started sampling the links. Thanks to Lisa Renee who agreed to compile yesterday so that we could capture Crucial Tuesday reaction.

The Beacon posted a story yesterday about the Ohio 16 race and their early call. The story answers some questions (Stark County totals got counted last) and raises others (why would the ABJ call the race with Stark Co. counts outstanding when it makes up 60% of the population and is Schuring's geographical base.)

Speaking of, what newspaper are we talking about here:

    I think [new owner] believed what he said when he bought the [paper], called it Knight Ridder’s “jewel in the crown'’ and promised to make it an incubator of innovation. But, saddled with massive debt from his misguided newspaper purchases, and facing a horrendous industry downturn/restructuring/implosion, he can do only one thing: slash and burn. It’s what he does best.
Yes, sounds like the plight of the ABJ, but it's actually the San Jose Mercury News.

Of all the Crucial Tuesday reaction I've read, this one by Jonathan Chait at TNR is the best He runs down why Hillary's strategy is a) doomed to failure and b) destructive. Here's the nub:
    Clinton's path to the nomination, then, involves the following steps: kneecap an eloquent, inspiring, reform-minded young leader who happens to be the first serious African American presidential candidate (meanwhile cementing her own reputation for Nixonian ruthlessness) and then win a contested convention by persuading party elites to override the results at the polls. The plan may also involve trying to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations, after having explicitly agreed that the results would not count toward delegate totals. Oh, and her campaign has periodically hinted that some of Obama's elected delegates might break off and support her. I don't think she'd be in a position to defeat Hitler's dog in November, let alone a popular war hero.
But please click through and read the rest.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Temporarily Offline

My internet connection at home is functionally disabled. I can get dribs, but it's impossibly slow and all but the most basic web pages time out before loading completely. On the way to school I had to detour because of a large tree whose ice load had brought it down across a road, cutting a wire and cable tearing path. This may well be related to the problem, but in any event, I won't be posting from home until things are resolved.

And by the way, if your route somewhere takes you down Aqueduct, you may want to rethink.

I'm off to class. Later.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Team Obamas Take, a Couple Thoughts, and Some Programming Notes

Got an email from Obama Campaign Director David Plouffe entitled "The Math" (which sounds unsettlingly familiar.):

    Our projections show the most likely outcome of yesterday's elections will be that Hillary Clinton gained 187 delegates, and we gained 183.

    That's a net gain of 4 delegates out of more than 370 delegates available from all the states that voted.

    For comparison, that's less than half our net gain of 9 delegates from the District of Columbia alone. It's also less than our net gain of 8 from Nebraska, or 12 from Washington State. And it's considerably less than our net gain of 33 delegates from Georgia.

    The task for the Clinton campaign yesterday was clear. In order to have a plausible path to the nomination, they needed to score huge delegate victories and cut into our lead.

    They failed.
Which is true as far as it goes. The problem for Obama is that he can't win simply by playing out the string. As we all know by now, neither side can amass enough committed delegates to win. To make up the deficit in superdelegates, Obama has to prove something more.

I agree with the take that Clinton does not suddenly have Momentum. True, but neither does Obama. And while Texas was not a comeback win for Hillary, Ohio most certainly was. The first poll of what could be called the Ohio race -- post-Wisconsin when Ohio the next big race on the horizon -- had Hillary up by 56%. Then she dropped in successive polls as Obama gained. Then the trends reversed again and we ended with Hillary at 54%.

Though perhaps that's not a Hillary comeback so much as an Obama stumble. He closed the gap in both Ohio and Texas, but couldn't close the sale.

I'm still digging out from my blizzard of work, but daylight is seeping through. I'll try to post some more comprehensive thoughts later tonight.

Ohio 16: Schuring's Near Miss; ABJ's Bad Call

Ohio dot com still (at 8:56) has Matt Miller beating Kirk Schuring in the GOP primary for the 16th Congressional District. The SOS site shows that Schuring pulled well ahead, apparently sometime in the night, 47%-42% (if you would rather add than scroll down, the county breakdown is here.) Canton Rep. also has the correct results.

A Miller win would have been a major blow to Republican prospects for holding onto the seat. Schuring is a nice guy moderate with cross-aisle appeal throughout Stark County. Miller is a hard right conservative who vowed to run on immigration as "the biggest threat America is facing" in a heavily agricultural district, no less. Also, Schuring is a Stark County native. While Boccieri represents part of Stark County as State Senator, he is from Mahoning.

So it looks now, notwithstanding the ABJ's miscall, that it will be Boccieri versus Schuring as we all expected.

Meanwhile, a funny thing happened after Mary Cirelli announced for the Democratic nomination -- absolutely nothing. She raised negligible money, campaigned hardly at all and mustered an anemic 36%. One would be tempted to speculate that she entered as a stalking horse candidate to allow Boccieri to get his name out, especially outside Stark where he campaigned pretty hard. One be tempted to, but Mary Cirelli is not that kind of team player. I've worked with her before and she is an irascible contrarian, often at odds with her party.

It's doubtful Cirelli was trying to help Boccieri, but help him she did; he netted more votes than the top two Republicans combined. Given the asymmetric campaigns on the top of the ballot, that's not much of a portent, but it does demonstrate how valuable having a primary contest can be.

UPDATE: No sooner did I hit "post," but Ohio dot com ripped down their erroneous story. Here's the screen shot of the original:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Just Got a Hillary Robocall

From herself saying that the weather is crappy (thanks for the update, Hill) and turnout is down (??? maybe from lofty expectations, but not down overall from what everyone is saying) so go out and vote for her. This follows a relatively generic Barack robo this afternoon. It's particularly interesting that the Hill campaign put an updated (tho almost surely wrong) robo into the mix this evening.

View From the Ground -- West Akron

First off, coming home from class and not finding a half dozen mailers in the box and four robocalls on the message machine was a pleasant change of pace.

I voted around 8:30 this morning in a school gym hosting three precincts. The lines were only a person or so deep for each. We've been using optical scan machines for three cycles now, so it's old hat for us. It worked fine.

I ran into a friend in line who said she was still making up her mind.

A friend of a friend reported yesterday that the Summit Co BoE was packed with early voters -- an hour wait or more.

I pass Hillary HQ on the way to and from school. They've been doing honk-and-wave visibility there. I got an email from Obama state HQ calling for all hands on deck for last minute GOTV canvassing. If you have an interest, click here. As I'm writing this, I get a robocall from Barack himself urging me to vote. Got it covered, big guy.

The whether positively blows. Not only is it cold and rainy the rain is freezing the roads already and will no doubt render everything a sheet of black ice when the sun goes down. It reminds me of the general in 2004. I was working election protection and things were humming along through the day. As the sun went down and the rain came, the voters disappeared. By 6:30 the radio stations in Akron were echoing the Cleveland reports of long lines but in Akron the polling places were essentially empty. (Bob Fitrakis is still investigating how Bush ordered that freezing drizzle.) Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that voting is pretty much done by 6:00 or so.
I'm frustrated with how this is playing out. I was hoping for resolution today, even more than hoping for my guy winning. I suspect a split in the states -- Hillary wins Ohio by a couple points and RI big. Obama wins Texas by a couple of points and Vermont big. Nothing resolved and the shit sling continues. Most frustrating of all -- Hillary is starting to see some advantage in going negative, so she will continue to do so. To me she feels more and more like the high school mean girl -- she's nice enough to Barack when he's in the room but trashes him as soon as he leaves earshot. I also wonder in the final analysis whether the NAFTA strategy was the right play in Ohio. In any event, I'm sufficiently weary of NAFTA posturing after enduring the Ohio 13th primary. I'm heading out soon for the usual kid schlepping and errands. I'll try to get something up tonight.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

View from the Ground and a Few Notes Before I Go

pportunities abound to get involved in the Obama campaign before Crucial Tuesday. Surf over to the
Akron group and find a way to get involved.

Alas, I will not be joining you. I've been trying to clear enough of my plate to do something down the stretch, but it's not happening. Bad semester for the Most Important Ohio Primary Ever to happen.

It's been surprisingly quiet here at the House of Pho. The only robocall over the past couple days was Tom Sawyer for Obama, but he just reminded us to vote early. The only canvassers visible in my neighborhood were a group of alty twenty-somethings that looked like Obama supporters but on closer inspections are Paulinas.

We got a weird robocall from Working America, an AFL-CIO political arm, simply reminding us to vote. Ah, thanks for that.

I have a bold prediction. Whatever happens Tuesday, Stolen Election Guy will once again use the Dispatch's outlier poll as evidence of voter fraud. Seriously, how many times does the Dispatch poll have to be embarrassingly wrong before the paper stops using it? To see how out of step it is, check this from Taegan Goddard.

I suspect that some pro-Obama national bloggers are going to miss the Hillary campaign when it's gone. They outdid themselves this weekend, with two monumental embarrassments in one conference call. First, they can't follow up their 3 a.m. ad with a single instance in which Hillary gained the experience we apparently want in the person who answers The Phone. Then they try to adjust expectations by giving Obama a laughably high bar. The posts just write themselves.

Ann "Breast Monitor" Althouse once again sees things no one else can see. Kevin Drum's response is really all you need.

Speaking of post writing themselves, did McCain not see the Dem debate before accepting John Hagee's endorsement? Forget renounce versus reject, just embrace the bigot, damn the consequences. Strong work, John.

Political Science 216 ran a fascinating post merging the Ohio Dem party's rococo rules for awarding delegates with personal predictions. Hillary could actually win the popular vote, but come up short on delegates.

Meet.the.Bloggers and WKYC are once again teaming up, this time for Crucial Tuesday coverage. And again the Highland is open for a watch party.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

FactCheck Takes on Ohio 10

Apparently because Dennis ran for President Annenberg's FactCheck dot org takes on Joe Cimperman's claims against him in the Congressional primary. I'm not convinced by their argument about Dennis's relative effectiveness, but the fisking on FactCheck is a better place to start than comparing the campaign lit from either side.

Not that it matters. As a veteran observer recently told me, 40% of the Democrats in his district would vote for Dennis's corpse.

Elephant Wars: Brunner Rejects Alex Clone

Yesterday Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner rejected local Republican boss Alex Arshinkoff's hand-picked successor for the Board of Elections. Brunner declared that former Hudson City Council President Brian Daley would not be "competent." From the ABJ:

    Brunner, a Democrat, said in a letter to the county Republican Party that she received information leading her to conclude that Daley wouldn't be a ''competent'' member of the board. She referred to an October Akron Beacon Journal editorial that described Daley as a ''bully'' on Hudson council. She also pointed to information she received from Mike Moran, a Democratic Hudson City Council member, who said Daley ''tries to intimidate others with a loud voice, and sometimes threats.''
A bully who intimidates others with a loud voice and sometimes threats. Sound like anyone we know? The "competency" determination comes from statute.* Generally the party gets its pick unless. . .
    The secretary of state shall appoint such elector, unless he has reason to believe that the elector would not be a competent member of such board. In such cases the secretary of state shall so state in writing to the chairman of such county executive committee, with the reasons therefor, and such committee may either recommend another elector or may apply for a writ of mandamus to the supreme court to compel the secretary of state to appoint the elector so recommended. In such action the burden of proof to show the qualifications of the person so recommended shall be on the committee making the recommendation. If no such recommendation is made, the secretary of state shall make the appointment.
The ABJ story says A2 & Co. may take legal action. They appear to have a case. First off, they can challenge Brunner's determination. Second, the statute says the party gets to make another recommendation.

Instead of waiting for that recommendation, Brunner picked attorney Don Varian. I know Don and he's a good guy. He's being called an Coughlin supporter apparently because he represented Coughlin in some of the many BoE hearings. Whether he's fully on board with the Dump Alex movement isn't made clear.

*I was a bit hasty in my earlier declaration that the SoS has broad discretion in these appointments. I didn't read the next code section, a mistake considerably more embarrassing than a mere misspelling.

The First Blog Strike?

It had to happen some time. From Free Press, citing CWA:

    Honolulu Advertiser workers fighting for a fair contract at their Gannett-owned newspaper made union history last week when reporters staged what’s believed to be the country’s first “blog strike.”

    Their action and a landslide strike vote a few days earlier combined to push management to back down from its “last and final” contract offer and agree to new talks next week.

    For three days, members of The Newspaper Guild-CWA Local 39117 refused to post to the paper’s online blogs, including an especially popular sports site. Many writers left messages for readers explaining their absence. Reporters, photographers and artists withheld bylines and credit lines from the print edition, a more traditional form of protest among Guild members. [Emphasis and embedded link added]