The offer came in this week -- get comp tickets to a Cleveland Orchestra performance and "blog about the experience." When our schedule cleared up for Friday night, I accepted the offer and took Kid Z along. I assume the offer came to me because I participated in a similar outreach by Opera Cleveland last summer, which in turn happened as a result of knowing that organizations communications director through her blog. These things can happen when you blog.
Despite being mostly a rock fan, I've seen quite a bit of the Cleveland Orchestra. In fact before we became parents Prof. W and I had a Severance Hall subscription. Not to say I can tell you why the orchestra is generally acknowledges as among the three or four best in the world. I just know they are and that they sound great.
Let's think a bit about Cleveland being home to one of the best orchestras in the world. Face it, one reason we are collectively gripping about the possibility of LeBron James leaving town is what it says about Northeast Ohio. He grew up here following the team and has been embraced as a hometown hero, and the team will be able to match whatever another team will pay him. And yet he might leave. If he does we are left with yet another bit of evidence that this is just not a place where people of excellence wish to live.
We're concerned that if he leave, the team will suck; we're really scared that if he leaves, it means we suck.
But we do have our pockets of excellence, and few if any are more excellent that the orchestra. It seems almost impossible that lowly, perennial joke-butt Cleveland could have anything, much less a highbrow cultural institution that ranks so highly.
Of course once you go you are reminded where you are. We have a world class cultural institution, a jewel of a venue in Severance, and perfectly abysmal parking. So the first part of the experience was getting there just in time, which meant that everything was parked up and we would be late.
So we followed winding roads to, I think, Parma, laid in provisions for the trek back to Severance and set out. As a result we got there midway through the first movement of Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B Minor. Watching from the wings was nonetheless impressive. Again I know tiny bits about string playing (mostly from watching my kids take lessons) but soloist Alisa Weilerstein gets truly impressive sounds out of her instrument.
Once that piece was over, we were seated. The Orchestra apparently likes bloggers as they gave us seats on the floor three or four rows back. Viewing and listening from this distance is a whole new experience. First off you see things. Like everyone dresses in all black, but up close you see that some men wear tuxedo pants, some where regular dress slacks and one of the first violins wore ratty black cargoes. Who knew?
But more than that, the sound is stunning. Premium seats at the orchestra won't set you back much more than nosebleed seats at an aging rocker's Retirement Villa Tour at Quicken. But instead of muddy sound and dubiously tuned instruments you can hear what precision playing sounds like. I still listen to mostly rock and jazz at home, but increasingly classical is what I want to see live.
From that vantage we listened to Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra." You know the first section better as:
The piece starts with basses rumbling so low they set up vibrations in your diaphram before you hear them. And of course the piece has far more to it than the now-cliche opening.
After the orchestra's performance internationally renouned percussionist Jamey Haddad set up shop in the lobby with a band of his students from Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin Conservatory, playing polyrhythmic jazz pieces deep into the night. The real treat of that portion was Ms. Wallerstein sitting in.
Like everyone else, the orchestra is hurting economically. And as noted, it is a can't miss gig. They never show up half in the bag and play half a set. And they won't turn free agent at the end of the season. Check them out. And if you can get away tonight, they are playing the Dvořák, which you really want to see.
The orchestra has a blog with tons of pics from last night. The PeeDee's review of the concert is up.
(Image from the Cleveland Orchestra)
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.
-Justice Robert Jackson, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
The Vindy (h/t ABJ) reports today about an Ohio high school student who was disciplined for not standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance:
- Roxanne Westover, 17, of Elmwood Drive, had been reprimanded by the school for refusing to stand during the pledge, which is recited each morning. She said it contradicts her beliefs and she elected not to participate.
“I’m an atheist, and I believe the pledge isn’t something toward our nation,” she said. “It’s more like a religious oath, and I believe that if I stand I’m still participating in it.”
Westover said she had been written up and sent to the principal’s office multiple times for her refusal over the course of the past few weeks. The ACLU sent a letter requesting the school to stop requiring students to say the pledge.
In fact the question of compelling students to recite the Pledge was resolved back in 1943 in the Barnette case cited up top. The school is listening to the ACLU and in fact have discovered that school policy says students aren't required to recite.
All of which points up why civil libertarians work so hard to hold a strict line on attempts to introduce anything religious into schools. The pro-school prayer folks wonder ingenuously what could possibly wrong with a voluntary teacher-led prayer. This is what could -- and almost certainly would -- go wrong. Here is a school violating not only a decades-old Supreme Court precedent, but their own school policy. But we are supposed to trust that teacher-lead school prayer would never coerce non- or different believers.
Conservative Christians who pen thumb suckers about being oppressed. In fact they are angry that they can't use the mechanisms of the state to evangelize. That's not oppression. The plaintiffs in the Barnette case were Jehovah's Witnesses. Their children were expelled from school and their homes picketed. In other communities Witnesses were assaulted for their beliefs. That's oppression.
What Roxanne Westover experienced is hardly comparable to some of the outrages Americans past have experienced, but she did suffer real consequences just for believing something different than the majority. Happily we have a First Amendment to protect Roxanne -- and the rest of us.
Posted by Scott Piepho at Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
What with the health care death match moving into the Senate and ongoing dramas over the budget, it's easy to miss the small bills floating around Congress. For today's column I flag one such bill, HR 1147, the Local Community Radio Act. The LCRA expands the authority of the FCC to issue licenses to non-profit low-power FM radio stations.
These 10-100 watt stations essentially cover a neighborhood -- imagine a radio station for Highland Square. Um, one not run by the Highland Square Neighborhood Association, preferably. In one article about low power FM the range of a rural station is described as having a 20 mile radius -- city clutter would cut that down.
Both commercial broadcasters and NPR have been lobbying against the proposed new rules for fear that the signals form low power stations would interfere with there signals. Given the current state of corporate radio, that sounds like an advantage. But in fact the FCC commissioned a study that indicates that the expanding LPFM will not interfere with extant radio stations.
Despite the technical reassurances and despite bipartisan co-sponsorship versions of the LCRA have failed in two Congresses so far. The House version is supposed to be heading for a floor vote in the next month or so.
Blogging is a big deal because a diversity of people were able to gain wide exposure with essentially no entry costs. LPFM isn't that good, but the entry costs are a fraction of starting up a traditional radio station. The effect of blogging on traditional news gathering has been undeniable. The effect of LPFM on commercial radio is likely to be slower and more subtle, but then commercial radio can't go anywhere but up.
I heard about the issue from getting on Free Press's email list. Here's their take on it. Free Press also lobbies for net neutrality.
One of the lead players in the lobbying effort is the Prometheus Radio Project. Here is a HuffPo piece from a Prometheus spokes person.
A map I reference showing LPFM stations in the U.S. is here.
The FCC is pretty much pro-low power. Here for example is a fact sheet from the agency answering a bunch of the objections. And this page contains links to a number of publications the FCC has put out as the controversy has worn on.
The essence of the Act is to allow third adjacent channel stations -- that is stations that are three channels away from an extant station. Here's a more detailed explanation of that.
If you are interested in following the progress of the bill, check out the Open Congress page.
Posted by Scott Piepho at Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Jill asks about the back story of this ABJ story last week. The city of Akron is posting regular daily updates of income tax receipts. I have some things to say about a few comments from the interweb now that I'm back on top of things. Might as well start with a friendly one.
This is happening because of a) the fiscal crisis every city is experiencing b) the deep distrust of the Mayor on the part of the public safety unions and c) the highly vocal anti-Plusquellic minority.
It goes like this. Because tax receipts are way down, the city has to make deep cuts. Ultimately those cuts include laying off a number of firefighters. No one is happy about this. We who live in the city really want to have confidence that our houses won't burn down. But a deficit is a deficit.
As unhappy as the residents are, the firefighters are extremely unhappy, and they accuse the administration of not doing everything they can to prevent the layoffs. The antipathy between the Mayor and union leadership cannot be exaggerated. They actually believe he would endanger residents in order to screw over the union.
The debate has taken on a surreal turn as the Mayor's various antagonists have claimed that the administration isn't forthcoming about the city's finances. This echoes the debate throughout the recall effort. Every time the Mayor would answer a charge about city finances, his critics would move the goal posts again.
Jill ventures into the dark place of madness and despair that is the Trollhio.com comments section. Needless to say the denizens are unimpressed. Jill is right about the limited capacity of regular folks to objectively interpret information like that being posted. What the posting does offer is the Mayor's critics the opportunity to find someone who does have the chops and have at it.
Not that they will. It's far more enjoyable to just sit back and bitch. Hell, a certain Akron attorney has practically made a career of it.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Work of a guerrilla musical theater group that infiltrated a national conference of the health insurance trade group AHIP. Thanks to the friend who passed this along. Enjoy.
Apologies for any Ohio bloggers who may have hit this first. I have, as noted, been out of the loop.
Tom Ganley spoke before the Akron Press Club in early October and, yes, I'm just getting to it now. It's been a trying semester. Sue me.
Anyway, with Ganley running the first ad in what looks like a media-heavy campaign and the ODP increasingly working to pump up the NY23-ness of the Republican primary, it's worth revisiting that appearance. In a separate post I'll offer my views on what threat, if any, he is in the race.
The first thing we learned about Tom Ganley is that he's sufficiently interested in the race to spend money recklessly. He hired a crew to assemble a stage for his presentation -- raised platform, blue drapery background, teleprompters, all for an audience of maybe forty.
The second thing we learned was that Ganley fancies himself a populist. A thin line exists between conservative populism and ugly xenophobic nativism, but it doesn't matter how thin because Ganley vaults himself well into nativist territory.
For much of his 15 minutes or so of prepared remarks Ganley hit on traditional economic conservative themes -- lower spending, lower taxes, smaller government. But he hit on some odd themes as well, particularly decrying the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio. Since most of those jobs have gone overseas and pro-business conservatives don't necessarily see that as a bad thing.
Ganley's one specific policy proposal is a job creation tax credit, given for recalling laid off workers, creating new jobs or repatriating jobs that have gone overseas. Hmm. There it is again.
The other strong theme in his brief stump speech is that Tom Ganley is a businessman. That he is a successful businessman cannot be denied. He started with a Rambler dealership when he was twenty something and has built that into the highest volume dealership group in the state. Recalling the Rambler my parents had when I was wee, parlaying that dealership into anything better than Chapter 11 is a significant accomplishment.
But Ganley oversells the business angle. Why does everyone who runs for Congress as a successful business person think he/she is the first to do so? In Ganley's mind, no one in Washington understands business and everyone who understands business can understand government. He says that when he is elected he will bring eight or so Senators together and teach them all there is to know about running a business. Then charge those eight Senators with teaching their colleagues. And that will fix things in Washington.
No really, he said all this. Like a freshman Senator will be in a position to "teach" senior Senators anything. It's so darn cute you just want to hug him. It might be worth sending him to Washington just to see the inevitable hazing.
If you haven't been to a Press Club event, the usual drill is a half hour or so speeh, followed by Q&A from the audience. Among other things we're trying to fill the one hour slot we have for cable rebroadcasts. Ganley's people knew this, but nonetheless he gave his fifteen minute stump and looked increasingly uncomfortable as the questioned dragged on. He derides "professional politicians," but the sooner he learns there is an actual skill set to appearing before and adapting to a crowd, the fewer days like this he will have.
It was in the Q&A that we really get that populist, er, nativist streak in Ganley's thought. When pressed to differentiate himself with Portman specifically on trade, he made overtly protectionist noises. He said as a threshold matter that he would not have voted for a trade deal with China, and that he does not believe in negotiating trade deals generally. He also had favorable things to say about recent measures to protect the domestic tire industry.
But of all his positions, none got him more animated that illegal immigration. To his credit, he would "come down hard" on the executives on companies that hire illegals. But he also made ugly noises about the "millions who don't belong here." He's clearly not in favor of any reform that would involve a path to citizenship. And when asked a tricky question -- what should we do upon finding an undocumented family with a child sick with H1N1 -- he said indignantly that if they are illegal, deport 'em.
So while populism generally aims at channeling grassroots energy at challenging the power of establishment institutions, Ganley seems more interested in channeling it at alien others. Depending on where he goes with it, this could devolve into a nasty, shower-necessitating campaign. And that bit about deporting a sick kid for one will make a nice sound bite against him.
Grumpy Abe has been attending and writing up the Senate events as well. You can read his take on Ganley here.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Some weeks ago I argued that the vituperative criticism of Obama from the right was not, as some suggested, driven by racism but was the result of the right wing being nuts. Not nuts in the sense that they disagree with me, but nuts in that they increasingly subscribe to paranoid fantasies untethered to the real world as anyone else perceives it.
During my long illness I got an email from Democracy Corps, the polling firm co-owned by James Carville, linking to a report that reaches the same conclusion based on at least semi-scientific investigation. They ran focus groups of older white non-college educated conservative Republicans in Georgia, asking about Obama, health care, the economy and other basic issues. And as a control they ran similar focus groups with independents with similar demographics in suburban Cleveland. This second group they identify as the most conservative swing voter bloc.
The first finding they emphasize is that the participants persuaded them that race is not the basis for their nearly universal loathing of Obama. You can question this study based on the bias of the investigators, but this is a hard conclusion to dispute. After all, the easy and advantageous (for Dems) conclusion would be that anti-Obama conservatives are just a bunch of unreconstructed bigots. That they find the opposite certainly is a credible finding and gives extra credence to the project generally.
The more significant finding is that the ultraconservative Republicans live in a different world from the rest of us -- even from the conservative independents from Cleveland:
- The self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party stand a world apart from the rest of America, according to focus groups conducted by Democracy Corps. These base Republican voters dislike Barack Obama to be sure – which is not very surprising as base Democrats had few positive things to say about George Bush – but these voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism. While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country’s founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail.
My personal favorite -- because it's so counterfactual -- that Obama started the road to socialism by bailing out the banks. Yes Obama is so diabolical that he orchestrated the bank bailout before he even took office!. Scary.
As I said in my previous post, it's a manifestly bad thing that some twenty percent of the electorate is bonkers. Additionally, I think its incumbent on us non-crazy, reality-based folk to continually point this out.
The media coverage of the ravings from the right repeatedly falls into the false equivalency trap -- let's find someone nutty on the left for balance. (The occasional blogger will fall into this as well.) But the nutty left doesn't affect the course of the Democratic party. Hell, we're lucky if they vote.
The hardcore right described in the report comprise the grassroots foot soldiers of the Republican party. They are the ones who do things like run party moderate out of elections -- and the party. As such, the crazies in the Republican party have real influence on one of the only two real parties in our democracy.
Monday, November 09, 2009
In 1984 I was on a study abroad program in Yugoslavia. One night we met up with some German students and sampled a great deal of the local malt beverage and got talking about politics. I (clumsily) brought up the idea of reunification and they shrugged it off. A pipe dream, they said. Maybe in our lifetimes, but there's no sign of even a glimmer of possibility.
Five years later, and twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall came down, and the dominoes fell in reverse. Having visited Czechoslovakia, I confidently predicted to my friends that whatever happened elsewhere in the Warsaw Pact, Czechoslovakia would remain stubbornly communist. Then the Velvet Revolution happened. (I related this story to an international law prof who told me he said the same thing. Took a little of the sting out.)
Today I teach young men and women who have never lived in a world with a Communist bloc. Perhaps one reason political adversaries are so careless with charges of communism is that it's been so long since we've seen the real thing.
A dance club we frequented back in Yugoslavia played David Bowie's "Heroes" pretty much every night. It is to this day one of my favorite pop culture indictments of Soviet totalitarianism. The song is about lovers trysting by the Berlin Wall, but Bowies singing transcends the specific narrative to capture the universal yearning for freedom.
The tasteful graphic above is from the Ohio Democratic Party website today. The link leads to a release riffing on an ABC News story about the Republican Senate Campaign Committee assuming a neutral posture in contested primaries in 2010. The presser notes:
- COLUMBUS - National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Senator John Cornyn pledged yesterday that his committee would not spend a cent in a contested Republican Senate primaries or open seats as part of an effort to "ease some of the anger being directed at the party establishment."
By making this statement, Cornyn declared that national Republicans will not interfere in the contested U.S. Senate Republican Primary between architect of the Bush economy Rob Portman and wealthy Cleveland-area businessman Tom Ganley.
Still and all it's fun to see the party trying to stir up trouble. And with this I declare this week Senate Campaign Week here at the Pages. Which is to say, I am hoping to finally write up my impressions of the three candidates who have thus far appeared at the Akron Press Club (Ganley, Portman and Brunner) and prognosticate a bit about the race.
Friday, November 06, 2009
So, kids, you know how the public health folks are saying that you can get reinfected with H1N1. Well, they speak the truth. Happily the second time through has been shorter. And BTW I took the kids in for Akron's free immunizations yesterday. A well run operation and the kids have shown no ill effects.
Of course I could be part of the Obama-led conspiracy to overclaim the pandemic. You never know.
A few things I've been watching in between naps:
The courts considering the Rifqa Bary case have done what I consider the right thing. She is back in Ohio in CSB custody and living in foster care. Needless to say, the nutters watching the case are not pleased. In fact they have scheduled a rally in Columbus for next Saturday. If you want to see the minds behind Atlas Shrugs and Jihad Watch live on on day passes, there you are.
Buckeye State has been going through some interesting changes. I've had more than my share of disagreements with various proprietors of the blog (though not much with current head BSer David Potts), but I can't imagine the Ohio lefty sphere without it. I'm glad David is carrying on and ask that you continue to patronize his bloggage.
There are a lot of navel-gazing pieces like this about Whatever Shall the Republican Party Do? around -- have been since 06, really. And most of them follow the WMD logic that the thing that got Republicans into trouble is that they stopped being defined exclusively by orthodox conservatism. As a Democrat I should be happy to see such stuff, but as someone who believes first and foremost in political pluralism, I'm not. If Republicans define themselves solely in terms of conservative dogma they will remain a regional minority party. As such they will not provide much of a check on the inevitable excesses of liberalism. That's not good for anyone.
Oh, and they will be that much more destructive when they do take power.
I thought Akron had the gayest election ever last Tuesday, what with an out Lesbian city council person and an out gay muni judge elected. But apparently we were just part of a broader trend. Though the vote in Maine didn't go as well as hoped, it's pretty amazing that sexual identity was essentially a non-issue for so many candidates.
While I was out the crew at CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) dropped an email about their state-by-state database of government corruption. Here's Ohio's page.
I enjoyed the spectacle of Minority Leader John Boener (R-Darque Zone) claiming he was reading the preamble of the Constitution when in fact he was reading from the Declaration of Independence. OK, yea people make mistakes. But. 1) He hasn't sworn and oath to uphold the Declaration. 2) He has freely accused Obama of subverting the Constitution despite his apparntly limited familiarity with the document. And 3) If he HAD read the the preamble of the Constitution in the course of criticizing the health care bill, he likely would have choked on the part about promoting the general welfare.
OK, a few tabs closed. Now here's your moment of ten:
- Alison Krauss and Union Station, "Bright Sunny South"
- Dwight Yoakum, "Please Please Baby"
- Bjork, "It Is Oh So Quiet"
- The Beatles, "Lovely Rita"
- Cibo Matto, "White Pepper Ice Cream"
- Gorillaz, "Double Bass"
- Matthew Sweet, "Winona"
- Horace Silver, "Nica's Dream"
- U2, "Desire"
- Lucinda Williams, "Words"
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Today's Akron Legal News column hooks on the Wednesday after Election Day being, for us politics junkies, the official beginning of the 2010 election cycle. From that I take on a personal bugbear.
Based on what we're hearing from Republican candidates, the narrative is likely to be 1) Strickland has dithered on the economy, hence the lousy economy, and 2) the Republican's positive, innovative, not-just-hatin' proposal is to update Ohio's antiquated business tax system. Rob Portman, for one, was talking up these themes (with a dose of Obama criticism of course) when he visited the Press Club last week. He said that Ohio's tax system was designed for a traditional heavy manufacturing economy with little competition from elsewhere.
So this is what really pisses me off. That was a compelling argument six years ago, and in response Ohio revamped the system. This under a Republican administration and with Republicans in charge of both houses of the legislature. And now Republicans pretend it never happened. Drives me right out of my tree every time I hear it.
So if I have one wish for the coming election season, it is that Republicans who continue to mine this trope get called on it. Specifically I'd like to see a reporter, at least once in a while, ask why we should Candidate R's tax reform to solve all of Ohio's economic challenges when the last reform was sold the same way. And needless to say, economic utopia has not arrived in Ohio.
Of course advocates for tax reform could argue that it worked. For example, Ohio keeps going up in the Site Selection ratings. But that would obviate the rationale for a new reform. But if you argue that the old reform didn't work, your back to square one. What's a tax cutter to do? Apparently pretend that the past reform didn't happen.
Here's the pdf Fact Sheet on what's left of the corporate franchise tax from Ohio Dept of Taxation. Another pdf from Ohio Tax, this one showing how the old taxes are being phased out (09 is the last tax year for both the business personal property tax and corporate franchise.)
Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Jennifer Brunner will make her case to Akron tomorrow, with a series of events. Tomorrow morning she is appearing on the Ray Horner Show on WAKR at 8:30.
Then at 11:45 she appears at the Akron Press Club. I am scheduled to introduce her because the usual guy is out of town. Spaces are still available. Check the website for the reservations email.
Immediately after, at 1:30, she meets with Students for Brunner at the University of Akron Student Union, 303 Carroll Street.
I'll try to get some thoughts up, though I still have stuff from the Ganley and Portman events in the queue.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Yes it's mid-term, but that means you will be in and out quickly. So first and foremost, VOTE!
Since this blog is based on the increasingly tenuous assumption that people care about my opinions, a few thoughts/recommendation about the ballot.
Of course I will be voting for Sandra Kurt for City Council Ward 8 tomorrow. I'm not wild about a one-party monopoly on Council. But Sandra is such a good candidate I'll happily
pull the lever fill in the oval for her.
For School Board I'm having trouble getting excited about any candidates other than Jason Haas and Lisa Mansfield. There are some OK people in the race, but none have distinguished themselves. I may vote only for Jason and Lisa just to strengthen those votes.
For Akron Muni I will be voting straight Dem ticket which I don't usually do in judicial races. Steve Fallis is a family friend and a smart guy. Jerry Larson is well thought of and has run an impressive campaign. I've expressed my doubts about Orlando Williams in the past, but have expressed far graver doubts about Katarina Cook. On second thought I don't really have any doubts -- she's just not judge material.
As for the issues. I'm voting down the three Ohio issues. I've covered 2 and 3 already. Not good ideas in their own right with bonus idea badness adding political flotsam to the Constitution.
As for Issue 1, I'm annoyed. If the thing is so rightfully popular, why don't we vote in a tax to pay for it now as opposed to adding to the debt load.
Closer to home we have Issue 4 which would convert the Engineer's office to an appointed position. I don't know about you, but I have no idea who should be the County Engineer. As such, I always feel a bit guilty about voting for the office. The issue has generated ungodly levels of handwringing in the name of democracy. Well, Summit County has appointed a medical examiner for years and democracy has survived.
On a blog/personal level, it appears that my health issues have abated, so hopefully this marks something close to a full-time return to blogging.