Friday, February 27, 2009

Return of the Randomness

In my ongoing attempt to get back to regular blogging, I'm trying to bring back things that worked in the past. Longtime readers may remember the Friday random ten posts -- ten songs randomly shuffled out of my MP3 player, along with some similarly random observations. So here goes.

1. Arcade Fire: “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”
2. Beck – “Minus”
3. Bela Fleck – “Jamie Lynn”
4. Charlie Parker – “I’ll Walk Alone”
5. Meat Puppets – “Flaming Heart”
6. Bob Dylan – “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”
7. Clint Black – “Nothing’s News”
8. Mothers of Invention – “Take Your Clothes off When You Dance”
9. Peasall Sisters – “In the Highways”
10. Patti Smith – “Kimberly”

Of all the discs I picked up during my Nashville country phase (and Nashville country's early-90s period of not absolutely sucking), by far Clint Black's first two discs have best stood the test of time. They were informed by the real-life break-up of a long term relationship. Then Clint met and married D-list actress Lisa Hartman and his music went sappy and predictable. Lisa Hartman, the antimuse.

Some other stuff.

Of all the badness of Bobby Jindal's Republican reply to pseudoSOTU, one bit that got relatively little attention was his mocking of "Something called 'volcano monitoring.'" You would think that if any governor would understand the importance of monitoring potential sources of natural disasters, it would be the governor of Lousiana. But then he seemed to think that the sum of Katrina was all the government's fault.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne was in town this week for an Akron Roundtable appearance. He did a dispatch-from-the-heartland thing for his column previewing pseudoSOTU.

I'm working finally bringing the sidebar up to day. I've dropped attempts at a comprehensive Akron blogroll and am keeping that list (labelled "Locals") to people who I read fairly regularly. Along with the new linkety goodness, take away a favorable review to Blogger's newish blogroll feature. It's easy to use, easy to import feeds from my Reader and you get updates about the latests postings on the blogs listed.

I've been watching Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse." I think it's fatally flawed. Whedon's great strenghts are developing compelling characters, giving them great dialogue and watching relationships among them ebb and flow. Hard to do all that when the show is about people whose personalities get wiped and rewritten every show. Whedon in interviews enthuses about the episodes in the can, so maybe he's found the solution to the problem. Wait and see.

Top Chef wrapped up its season this week. SPOILER ALERT. Hosea edged out heavily favored Stephan for the title. Carla was going strong, but Casey from Season 3 was her sous chef and gave her bad advice which she unfortunately followed. Casey is now the first chef to choke away two titles. Imagine if Carla had asked her to chop some onions.

My best Google search referral this week -- and best in a long time -- "crocodile racing proponents."

Browns Officially in Rebuilding Year #10

The Cleveland Browns announced today that they are trading tight end Kellen Winslow to Tampa Bay for "undisclosed draft picks." Coupled that with the news that Pro-Bowl D-lineman Shaun Rodgers wants out and it's safe to say that the team will be contending for nothing other than high draft picks in 2010.

In a terrible offensive year, Winslow was arguably the Browns' most important offensive weapon. He had his public spat with team management about the pr over his staph infection, but with Savage gone the impetus to trade him didn't seem so sharp. Given Braylon Edwards' penchant for dropping passes, Winslow was at least reliable when he could get free without drawing an offensive flag.

Anyway, it's a new regime and they are not going to finish what Romeo and Phil started. They apparently are going to set of bombs in the locker room and building from the ground up.


Meanwhile, an off-the-beaten incident today illustrates just how much rebuilding there is to do. Today o-lineman Rex Hadnot was a guest on the Jim Rome show. (He is Rex #12 in the show's current "Rex streak" -- consecutive days interviewing someone named Rex. Yeah, well the period between the Superbowl and March Madness is a tough one for sports chatters.) Hadnot learned of the trade from Rome in the course of the interview. That is to say, a Browns player was scheduled to appear on a national sports talk show and team PR didn't prep him regarding huge team news. Sloppy, sloppy work.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Mayor Recall Begins Now . . . Okay, NOW.

For a variety of reasons -- some of them good -- I've been off the blog for another protracted period. And for a variety of reasons -- some of them good -- I'm still not ready to give all this up. I've found that when getting back into the blog, the best strategy is to take on some low-hanging fruit. Go after some person place or thing easy to criticize, deride, snark about.

So let's check in on Warner Mendenhall's effort to recall Akron Mayor Plusquellec.

This week, in conjunction with the Mayor's State of the City address, Mendenhall rolled out release 1.2 of the recall effort. Last November the Mendenhollers set up a (now nearly static) website and promise to work at recruiting volunteers. This week however many folks they have are supposedly beginning the petition effort. Warner robo-called to invite me to a meeting about the whole thing, but unfortunately I had some important dishes to wash.

Aside from the fundamental argument that the city is broke and therefore needs to spend another $160 grand on a special election, the fundamental silliness of all this is captured nicely by Mendenhall's response to the State of the City address itself:

    Mendenhall, who watched the speech on the Web, said Plusquellic addressed several partnerships but not the one with the community. He said the mayor doesn't listen to or solicit feedback from citizens, especially when it's critical of him.

    "We need to hear from people: 'What is the state of the city?'" he said. "It's not for the mayor to say. It's for the citizens to tell him."
O great Warner Mendenhall. How wiser you are than James Madison! Those foolish founding fathers thought that the executive addressing constituents about the state of the nation was a good enough to enshrine in the Constitution. Fie on their folly.

This sort of knee-jerk contrariansim has marked Mendenhall's political career -- particularly his running fire fight with the Mayor. He offers little other than the immediate objection to whatever Plusquellec has proposed. Well, that and sucking up to city employee unions. The recall group has offered some reasonable critiques, but are hard to take seriously packaged with this venom and goofiness.

Which is the real tragedy in all this. The city could use a serious minded critic of city government. One-party political environments rarely produce good government. (*cough* Cuyahoga County *cough*). That Akron has stayed afloat as long as it has without any serious threat to the power structure in itself speaks highly of that power structure. But it's far from perfect and legitimate loyal opposition would be welcome.

That Mendenhall has been able to maintain his practice as well as whatever power base he has through all his political adventures disproves the adage that you can't fight city hall. Unfortunately he has yet to demonstrate that he can fight city hall without acting a fool.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Yes, the Apportionment Board Matters. A Lot.

A Jill post from yesterday points to a Mark Naymik column about the looming primary fight to go after Sen. George Voinovich's soon-to-be vacant seat 2010. The column focuses primarily on the possible battle between Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the nomination. One objection to Brunner's nomination is the fact that leaving her position makes it harder for the Democrats to hold on to the office, also up in 2010, and that she sits on the apportionment board. This is, for example, why I don't want her to run, even though the prospect of listening to Lee Fisher stump speeches for an election cycle is horrifying.

In response to the apportionment board argument, Naymik notes the following:

    [Brunner] and others correctly argue that the power of the Apportionment Board may be overstated - as evidenced by Democrats' success last year in House districts last drawn by Republicans. (Democrats, though, performed badly in Ohio Senate districts.)

    Also, if Democrats deliver on their promise to pass election reforms, those reforms are likely to include changing the apportionment process. Computers can redraw the lines without partisan politics, eliminating the need for board seats.
OK, let's take these one at a time. First, while it is correct to say that the Democrats did well in the Ohio House the last cycle, it isn't correct to say that the power of the Board is therefore overstated. Yes, in the year of a Democratic tsunami, in which a popular Democratic Presidential nominee poured a gazillion dollars into state organizing and turnout efforts, Dems did well in Republican districts. That's not the same as saying the districts don't matter, just that they matter less in an outlier year. Unless those factors will be repeated every two years, this one cycle doesn't alter the power of the Board.

Since 2000 Ohio has been close to 50/50 in Presidential elections. In that same time span, until this past election, the Ohio House and Senate have each been split around one-third Dem to two-thirds R. That's in large part thanks to the very effective map drawing the Apportionment Board did when it was composed of one Dem and four Republicans.

Moreover, the just-wait-till-last-year argument ignores how the Republicans draw districts -- they concentrate Dems in a few very strongly Dem districts, then draw Republican districts with relatively small but fairly stable margins. Sitting at home I don't have access to PVIs for the Ohio House districts, but a look at the Congressional districts (just scroll down to Ohio. There you go) illustrates the principle. Of the six districts drawn blue only one -- the Sixth, Strickland's old district -- has a PVI under D+6. One is at six, the rest are eight or above. In contrast, only four Republican districts are above +8, two more are R+6 and the six are +4 or lower. Those relatively low R+ PVI districts are the ones in which Dems did well last year, but before that they provided a strong enough margin to maintain Republican hegemony in the Statehouse.

As for the second argument regarding redistricting reform. First off, no one hold their breath. At this point we haven't heard a serious reform proposal since Dems started looking strong again. Moreover, any proposal has to get past the Republican dominated State Senate. At this point Republicans have an incentive to agree to real reform. If they think they will retake the Apportionment Board by winning a vacant Secretary of State position, there is that much less incentive.

Jennifer Brunner needs to honor the promise she made to serve out her term as Secretary of State, plus a second, assuming she is reelected. She needs to do so, not only because she is an effective Secretary during a time when election adminstration is seeing significant upheaval. She also needs to stay because her party needs her to hold onto the seat for reapportionment.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Remembering Buddy Holly

Fifty years ago rock pioneer Buddy Holly died when his plane crashed in an Iowa cornfield. The media retrospectives have reprised Don McLean's "Day the Music Died." I for one am not a fan of McLean's allegorical whine against Sixties rock, so it's just the day Buddy Holly (and Richie Valens and The Big Bopper) died.

Most noteworthy about this sad day is the remarkable extent to which Holly's music didn't die. By his death at 22 he had created a body of work that changed rock forever -- mostly thanks to legions of reverential Brits who started Invading five years later. Everything from early Beatles to todays would sound much different -- and probably poorer -- if he had never picked up a guitar.

The iconic Holly video is the Crickets performing "Peggy Sue" on Ed Sullivan. I found this video of the band on Arthur Murray Dance Party on YouTube. The video and sound is better than the Sullivan kinescope and the intro is hilarious.

Rest in peace, Buddy.

And thanks.