Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Virtual SOTUS Party at The Chief Souce

Akron-based, left-leaning national politics blog The Cheif Source is hosting a chat room during the State of the Union Address. TCS has three contributors plus a pretty good cast of regulars commenters, so it should be a lively discussion. I don't know if I'll make it -- bedtime duty. But if possible, I'll be there.

The party starts at 8:45, but try to get there early as the site takes a while to load.

Monday, January 30, 2006

In Which Pho Meets Capri Cafaro

As noted, a number of candidates attended the Sherrod Brown event, including Capri Cafaro. She was chatting with SCPD members outside the auditorium afterwards while I was in a long discussion with the very nice young man who is running against Kevin Coughlin.

Finally I could delay it no longer, so I went over and introduced myself as "that mean blogger." She knew who I was immediately because she fired back with "I hope you are satisfied with meeting Youngstown's Victoria Gotti." Assuring her that I didn't write or approve of the Victoria Gotti comment didn't immediately placate her, but eventually she settled down and asked if I had any questions.

The ensuing discussion was, well . . . I read an Op-Ed recently in which the writer deftly analogized his subject to an episode from Dickens. Would that I was well-read enough to analogize from great literature. Instead, take it JK:

"Are you sure it's a real spell?" said the girl. "Well, it's not very good, is it? I've tried a few simple spells just for practice and it's all worked for me. Nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it's the very best school of witchcraft there is, I've heard -- I've learned all our course books by heart, of course, I just hope it's enough -- I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?"
She said it all very fast.
Yes, Capri Cafaro is pretty much a policy wonk version of Hermione. I'd be curious to know if anyone has an actual conversation with her as opposed to watching her pinball about from topic to topic, eventually slowing down long enough for a flipper of a question to send her pinging away again. Meanwhile, my virus-compromised self was about done for the night, so I certainly wasn't going to break in.

All of which would make me absolutely love her if I wasn't so put off by her not actually living in Ohio until it suited her.

I first posed the question "Why," then immediately replaced it with "Why not take on LaTourette again?" For that I got a long tale of what she thought about doing after 2004 and maybe she would run in this seat in '06 and set her self up for that seat in '08 but then this union guy called her and that person set up this thing, but meanwhile she was dealing with actual issues that are important to her, but then someone else called and much much much later we came to why she was running for Congress.

Me: "So the answer to why not run against LaTourette is . . . that you were recruited to run here?
Cafaro: "Well, yeah."

By appearances Cafaro is a wonk's wonk with a heart of gold, extravagent command of the issues and a burgeoning collection of endorsements, including some from people I respect. I wish to Hell I could like her.

You never know, though. If we end up battling a Mountain Troll together, it could all work out.

Sherrod Brown in Akron

I made it to the Sherrod Brown Forum tonight and got the Q&A more or less down on my laptop. What follows is a little bit of my impressions and my best effort to replicate what happened. It’s very long and pretty much all policy discussion in response to questions from a very friendly crowd. No one asked about Paul Hackett or the circumstances surrounding his getting into the race or bloggers or plagiarism or his wife. So no fireworks.

Anyone not interested in wading through all this should wait a little for the next post which is a good bit and has Capri Cafaro in it.

SCPD had set up question screening, but Rep. Brown decided to answer questions directly from the audience, so replicating some of the questions is a challenge. Also, as happens in direct question sessions, we were subject to a fair amount of speechifying by audience members who, apparently, ran the full spectrum of mental function. Also the post is replete with abbreviations and probably quite a few typos.

I got to the Library with about 5 minutes to spare, got my question into the SCPD screeners and met Phil Develis in person. Then I staked out a decent spot in the auditorium, near an outlet in case the laptop battery gives out. Then we all are asked to move down because he wants to work without a mic. So I moved. Meanwhile my laptop is taking forever to pull up Word. One item on my Don’t Get Me Started list has popped up and we haven’t even begun.

SCPD's President Ingrid Kunstel starts off acknowledging the candidates and VIPs in the audience. Tom Sawyer and Capri Cafaro running in the 13th, Palmer Peterson running in the 14th, Kevin Griffith, running for Kevin Coughlin's seat, plus one elected official, Tallmadge Councilwoman Lisa Zeno Carano. Then Ingrid introduces Rep. Brown glowingly who returns the favor. He describes her as a premier progressive activist. He says he's going straight to questions, but actually ends up talking for about five minutes first. Almost immediately, the jacket of his standard-issue charcoal grey suit is off, his sleeves rolled up. His scratchy voice sounds like it’s gotten ample work recently.

Of course, he could have the same cold I’m battling.

He says he likes it that we call ourselves Progressive Democrats. He delineates the difference between “liberal” and “progressive” along the lines I’ve heard before – liberals stop at social spending, progressives work to counter corporate power. He doesn’t run from the “liberal” label as he believes in what liberals believe in, but he seeks to go farther.

More or less a quote: We don’t want the government to run everything, but do want stong environmental regulations, worker protections [something else.] We want a strong federal government to face down corporate power.

He also talks about his canary pin which symbolizes worker safety. In 1900 baby born in the U.S. had a life expectancy of 47 years. Reason it’s longer now is what progressives have done through the years starting with food safety laws. It happened because people pushed the government to do these things, always over the opposition of the privileged powerful people (e.g., food safety laws, Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, etc.) When you look at this progress, it makes me proudest of my country.

Problem is since Tom [Sawyer] left Congress. Privatization, laws that roll back protections for the environment, worker safety. The prescription drug bill is exactly that. They kept the roll open, etc, Tried to bribe one Representative from MI. Congress was lobbied by drug companies; this bill wasn’t written w/seniors in mind.
Every proposal you can think of, written by affected industries. On issue after issue, government has been turned over to powerful interests. Abramoff scandal is just the worst example. Drug bill will be another 160 billion in profits to drug industry. The public isn’t at the table, only these interest groups.

That’s what 2006, 2008 are about. Winning Governor and Senate races in Ohio will start everything.


Q: From your standpoint, how do we take govt back?

A: Expose it every chance you get. When Sherrod sees a letter to the editor, he writes letter to the writer. Tells a story from the campaign about talking to a civil rights veteran. In the forties and fifties, this man asked himself every day “How can I embarrass segregation today?

Abramoff is the worst, but Bob Ney, Mike Dewine, etc. all benefited. Gotta embarrass these people.

Q: Where is the outrage by democratic leadership?

A: Don’t know the answer. Prez has a big microphone . . .

Q: [same person interrupting] but nobody says anything.
A: I dunno. One example, some Democratic Senators want more troops in Iraq. That’s not helpful. I want to be Howard Metzenbaum. I don’t want to be President, I want to be in the Senate.

Part of it is too much K Street money to Democrats. Corporate money to Dems is “go away” money. I don’t think we need to raise money from groups like that. [applause]

Q: Patriot act – will it be extended or changes?
A: Parts will be extended. The administration has problem. Partly the wiretap scandal. Also have divisions in their party. The easiest Rs to work with are conservatives b/c they stand for something. R moderates could run things but they just cave.

Issues I care most about are Iraq, Medicare bill and CAFTA. Most R votes against drug bill were conservatives. One moderate. Similar on CAFTA.

Far right has problems with the Patriot Act. We’ve had amendments to Patriot that have had interesting coalitions.

Q: Chevron profits. What would you propose?
A: Don’t know. Some sort of excess profits tax, but its hard to do. Congress passed an energy bill that was a giveaway. Need to get rid of that. Oil companies want to limit refining capacity to keep prices up. Gotta punish them for limiting capacity.

Q: [incoherent crotchety guy]
A: Not an expert in faith based initiatives. Prez has used it to buy political support. To people of faith on the right, it shows “I’m with you. “

I’m, concerned with the imprint with his political appointees. Most divisive administration ever. Discusses illustrations of how closely divided the country is. But they govern from the far right. They don’t make any real effort to be bipartisan.

Q: [More incoherence from the same guy. This is why you answer screened questions]
A: Lots of longterm optimism.

Q/comment: Dems have allowed Rs to frame the argument. Environment is environment vs jobs. Havent’ heard a Dem talk about jobs dependent on environment.
A: I agree. Renamed estate tax death tax and convinced 60 percent of people that they would pay it. Don’t get help from newspapers.

Someone proposed an amendment to raise exemption to 100 million. Defeated by party line vote. [laughter]

Should link it to public health. Public may believe it to an extent, but link it to public health.

Q/Comment [same guy]: Its straightforward. Another example is Kerry saying he voted for it before against it. Explain in simple English.

Q: Bush admin down to one winning issue 9/11. Afraid it will carry again. What can dems do?
A: What do you think?

[a couple responses from the audience]

Think we go right back at them and say were not safer for going to Iraq. 2000 dead, survivors have worst physical injuries ever

Meanwhile, not protecting ports, rail, nuclear plants, water systems.

Word about Alito [as an illustration]: Won’t be on the Judiciary Commitee. But on the Senate floor, you’ll here me talk about every judge and record on regulations protecting workers. Safety, minimum wage, discrimination etc. that’s how you reach the public. That should have touched off a filibuster.

Q: What are your favorite progressive labor unions? What would you like to be more prog? E.g. I heard the president of AFL-CIO and he doesn’t seem to have fire in the belly.
A: Sweeny is not electrifying speaker.
Easy answer, get me off the hook answer: My daughter is an organizer for SEIU.
Seriously, we are seeing new life. Steelworkers have dynamic new leadership.

Percentage of union households voting has gone up over last three elections. Organizing Wal-Mart – what that would be. In the developing world, what unions can do will decide how the future will play out.

Q: HB 2830 [Pension protection bill]. You had amendments. Did it pass?

A: It’s slightly better. I was gonna vote no and its slightly better. Companies aren’t doing what they promised to do. Not a day goes by that don’t have a retired steelworker come in to a local office, pension slashed, losing health benefits. What are they supposed to do?
Congress has to change how this thing works. Employer-based health care isn’t working.

Wages gone up 12 percent, health care costs up 49 percent. The whole Bush speech tomorrow night won’t be about bringing health care costs down, it will be about bringing costs down for corporations.

Ohio is one of two states were state min wage is lower than fed. He has a minimum wage bill in which the COLA will be tied to increases in CEO pay and Cong salaries.

Q: Dems seem fragmented, Rs seem together. Dems response doesn’t seem to bring everything together. [questioner making speech about iraq] Do dems have something strong to say about Iraq? Or anything else?

A: Looking for ideas. Hard to do.

Q [butting in, no hand up.]: Not your fault. [speech about Republicans are the worst terrorists. Ahh he’s a 9/11 conspiracy nut. Building 7 went down due to internal demolition. This is two minutes of my life I’ll never get back. We were going to screen questions, you know. Why oh why did you subject us to this Sherrod?]
A: Next?

Q: Odds of budget reconciliation bill passing.
A: High but not certain. The way they do things, they call vote when they are within 5-10 votes and call vote in middle of the night, hold it open until they twist the arms. [BTW, I heard John Dingle on Diane Rehm today saying the same thing.]

Q: Why did MSM not say debate was still going on?
A: People don’t want to read about process. When I talk about this I talk about the times [i.e. middle of the night] these bill passed. That’s when room gets quiet. People can’t believe it.

Q: Rs have done so much wrong. What is your first priority?
A: Health care. Like to slide toward universal coverage. Expand Medicare to 55, allow buy-in. Gotta bring down drug prices.

Trade issues. Will be D point person. Shift in trade issues is coming. There’s a ripple effect –machine shops go down when factories move to China. That demographic currently trends R.

Q: Thanks for doing a great job. Why can’t Bush be impeached.
A: Republican congress. Same reason he’s not being investigation. If Dem house or senate, there would be so much information press would have to covcer it. Not really enough evidence, but could be if there was real investigation. Karl Rove is terrified of Dems taking either house. They know Waxman going after these guys

Columbus is terrified of Democratic AG or Auditor.

Q: People say the Dems against everything, what are they for? How do wee reach out to the people?
‘A: Gonna sound like I’m complaining, I’m not. Can’t get press coverage of Democratic proposals. E.g. I wrote a model bill governing how we should trade with Central America. I could tell you how to bring drug prices down w/o hurting innovation. If you have ideas, they aren’t not covered. ABJ doesn’t cover my stuff. Not , I’m just saying that I’m trying. I’ll continue to try.

Q: How do we protect election integrity?
A: Two ways. One, Strickland and I win by big margins. Second, we are starting early talking about election monitoring, talking to lawyers. Reprises Blackwell in 2004. Party and campaigns will have this set up.

Q: Used term health care a lot. I’m a nurse so I’m interested/excited. When you go to campuses, hope you talk about health promotion. It’s an undervalued concept. Hoping nureses become Federal employees. Nurses are educators. Hope you utilize health promotion and talk about nurses.
A: Govt response isn’t this. No money in health promotion.

All in all, Sherrod Brown doing what he does best -- taking policy with a crowd happy to swim in process minutiae. It was fun to watch, but questions about his ability to relate to regular folks on the stump remain unanswered.

Jim Petro's Very Special Counsel

Yesterday the PD ran a bombshell story alleging that gubernatorial candidate Jim Petro gave out special counsel assignments quid pro quo to law firms that contributed to his AG campaign and took work away from firms that supported his challenger in the AG race. I missed this during my chaotic weekend (two preschool birthday parties, helping with a Sunday School megaclass and a head cold. Amazing I'm still standing), so hats off to High and Broad and Psychobilly Dems for flagging it.

As usual, being woefully late to the party won't keep me from making a few observations.

First, it sucks to be the BJ. How did they get scooped on this? I fear we can expect them missing more important stories as they shrink the paper down to pamphlet size.

Second, Jack Morrison is one of the most respected attorneys in the county of any poltical stripe. He's and active R and, yes, Alex Arshinkoff's retained counsel, but he just isn't the political hack Camp Petro wants desperately to make him appear. For the first and last time I approvingly quote Alex: If Jack Morrison says it happened, it happened.

Third, it explains a great mystery: why Alex switched his declared allegience from Montgomery to Blackwell. Alex doesn't generally go for hard-right moral-police firebrands and they generally don't approve of his foul mouth and alleged closethood. I assumed he was riding the prevailing winds that are blowing in J.Ken's direction, but it now appears that he and Petro have some history.

Fourth, the Petro flak's claim that the firm switches were the result of Amer Cunningham and Renner, Kenner being close to Alex is laughable. Roetzel is wired into politics on both sides of the aisle. In Summit County being wired into the Republicans generally means breaking bread with Alex. Amer may be closer (it is after all David Brennan's alma mater), but Roetzel surely has its share of Alex friends.

Fifth, query what Petro's real break with past practice was. Was it that he awarded special counsel fees as payback, or was it that he was explicit about it?

Sixth, this is a devastating allegation against Petro. It backs up previous similar allegations with some true heavy hitters. More importantly, it plugs right into the criticisms of special counsel fees that both Democrats have been making. In a year when political fortune will be dictated by a candidate's distance from the Culture of Corruption®, this may be the last nail for Petro.

Finally, it also hurts Betty Montgomery. Dann and Chandra have both staked out positions that the AGs office farms out excessive special counsel work. Both can promise to cut down on special counsel contracts, saving Ohioans money. Chandra has an edge in this regard as he actually slashed special counsel spending at the Cleveland Law Department. Montgomery's best resume line is tightening procedures and spending in the Auditor's office. If Dann or Chandra can point out where she failed to do so as AG, they have a potent campaign issue.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

You Say Cafare-o, I Say Cafaro

. . . but unfortunately, we can't call the whole thing off.

I try to keep discussion here at the Akron Pages fairly high-toned. It's not that I don't engage in sheer tirades -- my real-life friends could disabuse you of that. And it's certainly not because I am at my core a nice person who hates meanness (like, say, Jill). At my core I'm pretty much a bastard, I just filter it well most of the time.

The tone here is primarily the effect of my boredom with blogs that are pure rant. I wanted something more substantive. That's what you find on the blogs I roll and it's what I try to deliver here.

But certain topics bring out the worst in me. Some things I can barely discuss without slipping in to profanity-laced invective and little more. Call it my "Don't Get Me Started" list. It includes:

-The New York Yankees
-Microsoft Word
-The Ford Expedition
-Going Dark in August
-Carlos Boozer
-9/11 Conspiracy Theorists, HIV Skeptics and Other Lefty Loonies
-The Service at the Kinko's on Exchange
-Casey Blake's Batting Average in the Clutch
-People Who Think Fox News Really Is Fair and Balanced

To this list (only sampled above) we must regrettably add Capri Cafaro Running in Ohio-13. It's beyond a rational disagreement -- this campaign simply vexes me no end.

So the tone in the Cafaro discussion has, shall we say, dropped a few levels, both in my observations and in the comments. It plummeted in this post, and only came up a little in this one. It's bad enough that other blogs have noted it and Cafaro fans have flamed me. (Though it should be noted that the first one was apparently Saving Ohio from Arlington, Virginia. Thanks for helping out, dude.)

Let me make a couple of things clear. First off, my ire isn't about the young lady herself, it's about this campaign. It's easy to hate the pretty rich girl for being pretty and rich, just as it's easy to like the pretty rich girl for being pretty and rich. Those are opposite sides of the same low-denomination coin. I've really tried to avoid that.

Cafaro herself is obviously intelligent -- Jill's misgivings about her child prodigy narrative aside, Stanford undergrad/Georgetown grad school doesn't spell "dummy." She's obviously industrious. And she's appears to genuinely live her social conscience. Given the magnitude of her jack, she could be doing the vapid socialite thing, or she could be doing something more about making money and less about making things better.

Furthermore, I have yet to hear a policy position with which I strongly disagree. I'm guessing her stance on trade is different than mine, but we probably agree on the issues 90-95% of the time.

I just don't like this campaign. I might not mind if, post-1994, she set up shop here in NEO, then moved into the 13th when the seat opened. Instead, she immediately heads off to New York for a year and change, and only comes back here to run. She had a house in the 14th, purchased, it appears, for that run, and now has apparently opened up the trust fund to buy in the 13th.

It seems so cravenly cynical that, even if it isn't, she is the only Democrat running who would be truly vulnerable in the general. She will either buy the nomination and struggle in the general or she will lose in the primary, but only after forcing her opponents to spend heavily to defeat her.

Can someone tell me why this is a good idea? Can someone please explain why she is so fantabulously better than Betty Sutton on anything that it's worth burning through hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Dems -- contributions you may have noticed that aren't exactly in overfuckingabundence? Can someone show me one goddam scenario in which the Dems lose this seat other than Cafaro's money getting her the nomination and her biography pissing off enough independents and Dems to lose the general? Can somebody explain how she is so fucking great as to be worth that risk? WHAT! THE! FUCK!?!?!?!??!!?


OK. We'll get that tone back under control eventually.

In the meantime, a few guidelines for myself and my commenters. We will not denigrate Cafaro's intellect or accomplishments. We will not gleefully note the proximity of her name to insults generally hurled by misogynists. I think snide remarks about her father's business (and, erm, conviction) skirt the line and would rather not see them here. I simply want to beat the drum that a person who wishes to represent Ohio in Congress ought to care enough about the place to live here as an adult.

On the other side, Cafarofan can comment until blue in the virtual face about how wonderful she is on labor issues, but until you can explain to me why I should vote for a person who wants to call herself my Representative without first calling herself my neighbor, you just won't persuade me.

REMINDER: Sherrod Brown in Akron

Rep. Sherrod Brown will appear at a town forum tomorrow night (Monday) from 6:30-8:00 in the auditorium of the Akron-Summit Main Library. All are welcome and he is planning to take questions. Summit County Progressive Democrats are sponsoring.

I'll be there with my laptop. Since I'm having trouble with wireless hookups outside my home network, I probably won't be posting a real-time liveblog, but expect something -- hopefully an as it happened post -- to be up once the Small Creatures are in bed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The 10

"Snuff Juice Everywhere" edition

1. "Dark as the Dungeon," Johnny Cash
2. "You Won't Be Satisfied That Way," Bill Monroe
3. "Annie," Elastica
4. "Stephanie Says," Velvet Underground
5. "I'm Not Angry," Elvis Costello
6. "What is this Feeling," Al Green
7. "Wang Dang Doodle," Howlin' Wolf
8. "Two Janes," Los Lobos
9. "My Heart ," Louis Armstrong
10. "Harry, You're a Beast," Mothers of Invention

Another mostly retro list.

"Wang Dang Doodle" is about my favorite Howlin' Wolf song. Not that it's a great song. It's a lightweight party anthem, the sort of Wille Dixon fluff that Wolf hated being forced to record. In lesser hands it would have been instantly forgettable. But Howlin' Wolf seems to channel years of frustration at not being allowed to record his own material. He spits out the guest list and describes the festivities with such menace and foreboding, you just know something terribly bad will happen to someone before the night is over. And that everyone it didn't happen to won't care much because, after all, he probably had it coming and that stain on the floor will wear off eventually, and besides the joint was rockin'. And your gut tells you that Wolf knows all that, yet growls out his invitation to a doomed evening with remorseless glee. Anyone can make "Forty-Four" or "How Many More Years" sound scary. Doing it with a mindless jukebox number like Wang Dang Doodle shines a different light on Wolf's genius.

Just a Word Before I Go

I'm declaring another Step Away From The Blogosphere Day and I have a pile of volunteer work to do and need to plan a much-belated birthday party for Kid T. A couple items first.

I Suck. I have consistently forgotten to plug the Meet the Bloggers fundraiser tonight. Truth be told, most of my readers are either Summit Co. folks unlikely to go or BFD regulars, so I don't know how much was lost. But given how much I've gotten out of MTB, it's fairly unconscionable this is my first mention. Details here. If you can't make it to the fundraiser, consider a contribution.

Subodh Schmubodh. The big news is the MTB prequel posted by Jill in which Chris Redfern essentially dismisses blogs as a political force. Reaction by Ohio2 and BSB. This one will be Topic A for a while.

A Capri Post in the Works. The Capri Cafaro discussion has clearly gotten away from me. I'm working on a post to try and clean up the mess.

Have a good one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My Roller Coaster Ride with Subodh Chandra

I went into the MTB interview with Attorney General candidate Subodh Chandra with high expectations. An acquaintance from the Kerry campaign invited me to a fundraiser for him; a friend from the RON campaign is working for him. I respect both of their opinions and their opinions are high.

I also know what it means that he gets accolades for cleaning up the Cleveland Law Department. I worked with a refugee from the Mike White-era Law Department. As troublesome as the environment was in the office where we met, he said his previous gig was so much worse it didn't faze him. Trust me, that was saying something.

I also went in with an above-average appreciation for importance of the AG race. I worked on the Lee Fisher campaign when he lost to Betty Montgomery. I worked as a prosecutor throughout the Montgomery administration. I remember how hopeful my bosses were by her engagement on criminal justice issues and how disappointing she was as she politicized the office. I also fumed as she ran for reelection as the woman who revamped the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, but failed to advocate for the resouces to fully fund it.

So like I said, high expectations. Unfortunately, Chandra started to lose me early on. In a discussion of H.B. 3, he says that it's unconstitutional and his instructions to Board of Elections would be not to enforce it. Here's the thing. The AG's job includes defending State laws from challenge. When Richard Cordray ran for AG on a platform of not defending the State's position in the DeRolph case, I felt he was grandstanding and he lost my vote. (No I didn't vote for Montgomery. I wrote in my wife.)

Chandra believes that the AG's job in the first instance is to be "the people's lawyer." Because he swears an oath to uphold the Constitution, he has no duty to "defend the indefensible." At the farthest margins, this is persuasive (though at least arguable.) The problem is how the AG makes the determination.

I believe Chandra would agree with me that an AG's personal belief that a statute is unconstititional, with nothing more, is insufficient. At the same time, I believe he is is saying that he would be willing to declare a statute indefensible even without clear controlling authority. How that middle ground is sliced up is everything in this discussion and, unfortunately, working through that methodology would take the better part of an hour in itself. I certainly didn't get a satisfactory answer to the two questions I asked to get at it.

Also giving me pause was his pledge to take public entities to court for failing to comply with the law. He mentioned specifically taking Blackwell to court for he registration form shenanigans during a hypothetical Chandra administration and at least threatening to take the legislature to court for failing to comply with Derolph.

Again, this runs afoul of the traditional view of the AG's office as the attorney for the public entitites he is threatening to file against. Generally the law frowns upon suing one's own clients.

My view of Chandra bounced back up during a discussion after the recording period. George wanted to limit the time for practical reasons, but Chandra was willing to talk further. I followed up on the notion of suing statutory clients, which led to a wide-ranging, highly technical discussion which you all are mercifully spared listening to.

The upshot is that Chandra understands the thorny issues confronting him and will proceed cautiously. That's all I ask. I agree with him on the issues, but as a lawyer, I don't want any elected official overreaching his authority.

Meanwhile, I couldn't help but be impressed by his intellect, his encyclopedic knowledge of Attorneys General throughout the U.S. and his smooth but unassuming conversational style. He is a formidable candidate who understands the untapped potential for good in the Ohio Attorney Generals' office.

Feeling a Lot Better About Barbara Sykes.

I've been looking for audio of Barbara Sykes' official announcement for Auditor. I heard it on WKSU last night, but they don't have it up. The ABJ carries the money quote:

Sykes struck an unusual tone for someone hoping to win a campaign by first
explaining that she'd still prefer to walk away from elected life.
In a year when most Democrats are pointing fingers at Republicans caught up in the
corruption scandal, Sykes then said Democrats, including herself, were part of
the problem.
"I haven't seen any solutions come from the Republicans nor the Democrats," Sykes said with a few dozen House and Senate Democratic colleagues standing behind her at the Statehouse.
"Since I'm a Democrat, and proud to be one, I'm part of the problem," Sykes said. She added that she would be an independent voice in the auditor's office.
Without blinking, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern - a prominent critic of Republicans caught up in the scandal - said Sykes has always spoken her mind. "It takes a great deal of political courage to point out that Democrats in the past have made their share of mistakes, and that Republicans today continue to make mistakes," Redfern said.

Time will tell whether this candor will resonate with voters, but it shows a fundamental understanding of the limits of simply running as a Notrepublican. So it resonates with me.

Feeling a Little Better About Hackett

On my way to MTB I got held up by the last-minute demands of Kid T, ran into traffic and made two wrong turns. In other words, Situation Normal. As one effect, I was able to hear about 15 minutes of the Paul Hackett interview on WCPN.

Right out of the box he was asked about the Bin Laden question. He is hewing to the same strategy I discussed when the comment first broke. He says he stands by "every word" of the statement, then spends two minutes talking about Pat Robertson's more incendiary comments without mentioning Bin Laden again. When I cited the reference in the Time piece, I should have acknowledged that Klein isn't clear on whether Hackett is running out the entire Bin Laden line, or just the modified, slight-change-of-subject version. And Mea Culpa Week continues here at the Akron Pages.

If he is going to work this angle, I'd like to hear him talk about Rod Parsley, particularly when confronted, as he was in this interview, with the fact that Republicans distance themselves from Robertson. Here's my suggestion, permission granted [to everyone] to use it without attribution:

The War against Terrorism is first and foremost a fight for the hearts and minds of the Islamic world. We will never be safe as long as mainstream Muslims fear the West. In a time like this, high-profile politcal leaders embracing a man who calls Islam a cult emanating from the deceptions of a demon threatens our ability to win those hearts and minds.
FWIW, I also heard him answer a question about gun control. He trotted out his "that's an incredibly complex question" preamble yet again. That's wearing -- it's starting to sound more and more like "This job is hard," to me. He does talk about the right frame -- people in favor of gun control want to be safe from gun violence. It's a good way of disagreeing on guns without flinging poo on pro-control folks. His solution is adequate resources to enforce existing laws.

All in all, more of Hackett being Hackett. I could practically see the testosterone oozing from my radio.

I still have concerns about substance. My concern is whether he knows enough about enough issues. I agree with Redhorse in the comments; a list of particulars is not what I'm looking for. Even I got tired of John "I Have a Proposal" Kerry. The question is whether Hackett can master the depth of understanding he needs to keep up with Dewine. Klein says his illegal immigration blurt appeared to be arise from a want of understanding the issue. (Hint Paul: It's complex.) Can Dewine bait him into similar constituency-splitting snafus with say, anti-salting legislation? He needs to prove he has the chops to avoid such a trap.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Alas, A Hackett/Brown Post

It's supposed to be a favorite of political junkies, but I'm finding the Hackett/Brown tilt increasingly dispiriting. Here's the latest.

Time Magazine's Joe Klein is making a late bid to elbow out David Sirota as the Hackettphile's Least Favorite National Commentator with a column on the race this week. Bottom line: he likes Sherrod and finds Hackett's grasp of the issues thin.

More than Hackett's grasp of the issues, the Klein piece troubled me with it's passing reference to Hackett reprising the Bin Laden line at campaign stops. When I said he deftly spun his Bin Laden gaffe, I hoped that he realized it was a gaffe. If he is comparing Parsley to Bin Laden on the stump, nothing good will come out of it. Much of what I would say on that, High and Broad has already said, so read it there. One point to add: I can't help but wonder if Hackett will be spurred to more extreme heights of rhetorical excess by Harry Reid's recent capitulation to Republican criticism.

As to Hackett's substance, I've blogged on it before. Having reviewed once again the MTB transcript, I can see Klein's point. Hackett has obviously made a study of the health care crisis and his discussion on that topic sounded good at the time. Reading the transcript again, I'm at a loss to explain why. Hackett seems to have a ten-word-or-less answer for everything. Health Care? "Look at how Europe does it." Iraq? "Bring them home now." Education? "Equitable funding across the board." I confess that I was taken in by style over substance. It doesn't happen to me very often, but it did at MTB. (And this seems to be mea culpa day at the Akron Pages.)

On the other hand, style matters in a political campaign and Klein's piece reflects the problem with Brown's:

"Anyone who calls me a demagogue on trade knows about one-tenth as much about
trade as I do," [Brown] said as we wandered through southern Ohio. I joked that
he was more an "ambulatory anachronism" than a demagogue, which occasioned a
passionate blast against media elitists like me and a terrific argument about

Klein's headsnapping next line: "What can I say? We hit it off."

Klein's affection apparently arises while watching Brown engage in the kind of personal retail politics that has consistently kept him in Congress. Problem is, more people will hear him or read about him in the media than meet him. And reading, for example, the blockquote above, most folks will take him for an arrogant jerk.

Exhibit B in that case comes (via Plunderbund) from a recent stop in Athens. In responding to a question about Hackett, Brown couldn't resist whacking the blogger hornet nest again:
He added, though, that while he likes Hackett, he is upset at the actions of
some of the people commenting on blog Web sites about the campaign. These
bloggers, Brown said, are "basically trying to get my wife fired" from the
Cleveland newspaper.

Brown added that he has talked more about Hackett in
response to that question than he has throughout his campaign, and he intends to
focus his campaign on DeWine and the Republicans.
As someone who likes Sherrod Brown, ya just wanna grab him by the lapels and say "Geez Loueeze Sherrod, do not mention the word "blogger" again until this campaign is over. Ever."

Meanwhile, the second paragraph from that quote closely tracks the line of "party officials" who are talking to National Journal's William Beutler. In a post clarifying an earlier reference to ODP officials unhappy with Democratic bloggers (a clarification occassioned by Jill), he notes that
not a few OH Dems are less interested in agonizing over whether the eventual nominee is Rep. Sherrod Brown or Iraq vet Paul Hackett. They would rather focus on making plans for how to unseat Sen. Mike DeWine (R). We heard this concern from a Dem Party official, and from a neutral observer who happens to be a blogger as well. We also heard that the Dec. race for OH Dem chair was more acrimonious this time around. At the very least, blogs raised the volume.
At this late hour, it's hard to repond to all the ways in which this is wrong. Suffice it to say, this is not the only indication lately that the ODP would like the blogs to stay on the reservation. Um. Doubtful.

Finally, Hackett is scheduled for 90.3 at Nine tomorrow. I plan to be Meeting Subodh Chandra at that time, but hopefully some one else can liveblog it, or maybe even get some audio up. No doubt it will give Hackett Mancrush victims more to cheer about and Brown fans more to fret about.

Horserace 2006 Roundup

Governor. Only readers for whom the Akron Pages is their first stop on the internet have failed to hear that Betty Montgomery is out. Ohio 2006 has the best news list, RAB has a roundup of righty blog reaction, High and Broad has the most thoughtful lefty analysis. Swing State also notes the story.

A Betty Montgomery candidacy gave me deep worries about winning the election - polls be damned. But I did feel that Montgomery winning would at least put the state good hands. Montgomery was what she was on the issues, but she was an excellent administrator.

And oh by the way, if you missed Michael Douglas's Sunday Editorial about Eric Fingerhut, go back and read it now. Compelling thoughts. Democrats seem to have parallel races in Senate and Governor -- one candidate better at electioneering and another with better prospects for success in office. And both good in each category. Let the wild rumpus start.

Auditor. Local State Rep. Barbara Sykes is running. No word on what she brings in the way of auditor-relevant experience. My lamentation about losing Betty Montgomery as a candidate applies here. Auditor is arguably the most technical and administratively challenging statewide post after Attorney General. A good candidate needs to point to experience in running more than a State Rep. staff office. CORRECTION: As Paul points out in the comments, I missed the reference in the ABJ story to her time in the County Auditor's office.

Ohio 44. Barbara Sykes' husband Vernon has reportedly taken out petitions to run for her seat. The 44th State District is a "safe" Dem spot, so the winner of the primary probably strolls into the office. Sykes runs against young veteran campaign staffer William Green. African American politics have a dynamic all their own that white guys like me find hard to grasp. But know this: the 44th this year represents one of those "Young Turk challenging the Olde Guard" races that always makes for an entertaining contest. You can catch up with William Green on his blog.

Monday, January 23, 2006

TABOR Troubles

I’ve been blogging about TABOR for nearly (within 2 days) as long as I’ve been blogging. At the time I started the Akron Pages I was the volunteer Summit County Coordinator for the Coalition for Ohio’s Future. So I was, needless to say, pleased when the PD ran a story about the threat TABOR poses to the Ohio State athletic program and the myriad blogs that picked up the story.

A couple items have sufficiently piqued my interest to be worth a post. The first is the novel interpretation offered by one of the TABOR drafters. According to the PD:

David Langdon, the Cincinnati lawyer who helped write the
proposal, acknowledged the TEL's impact on Ohio State's athletic revenue was not
specifically considered when the language was drafted.

He said, however, that he does not believe use of the
money is an "expenditure," in the technical budgetary sense, and therefore it
wouldn't be restricted.

"We would suggest that that's
a poor interpretation," Langdon said after researching the matter for several
days. "To just go to Webster's dictionary and pull out the definition of
'expenditure' would be the wrong approach."

He’s talking about how to interpret the engine of TABOR, Section A:
The general assembly shall not enact or otherwise authorize an increase in
aggregate state expenditures for a fiscal year that exceeds the aggregate state expenditures for the previous fiscal year by a percentage that is greater than the sum of the rate of inflation plus the rate of population change.


(B) As used in this section:
(1) “Aggregate expenditures” shall include all expenditures made by the political subdivision,
As it happens, Webster’s dictionary is easily accessible online. From it we learn that expenditure is essentially the nominalization of “expend.” Expend means: “to pay out :
SPENDSo how this simple dictionary definition gets TABOR off the hook eludes me. Under TABOR, if a political subdivision increases revenue more than the formula allows, it cannot spend it without jumping through the TABOR hoops.

The second remarkable aspect to the story is the response of the pro-TABOR camp. Thus far, there isn’t one. I already noted that Blackwell seemed to be shopping for ten-foot poles for dealing with the issue. Indeed, TABOR has sunk to two levels down on his campaign website. The official TABOR campaign group – Citizens for Tax Reform – has a website that is growing virtual cobwebs from disuse. They still have the petition information up, and no updates since November.

So that’s official TABORdom, which has been showing signs of buyer’s regret for some time. What about the true believers? Ohio Taxpayers Association has nothing. In fact, their site is also out of date – it still bears a flash about the pro-TABOR robocalls, with nothing about the Dewine bashing, ANWR oil loving robocalls of a couple of weeks ago. OTA Poohbah Scott Pullins has nothing on his blog, nor does rumored Pullins side project Right Angle Blog. The sound of crickets from TABOR land is deafening. It’s hard to believe they are ready to pull up the stakes at this time, but also surprising that no PD-trashing post has appeared anywhere.

Finally, another plug for the current effort to invalidate enough of the remaining petitions to get this train wreck off the ballot. Note that I corrected the original post on the matter when some additional information came my way. Meanwhile, I also have contact information if anyone in the Columbus area wants to help. If you've got time this week, call or email Cathy Johnson at COHHIO.

Friday, January 20, 2006

What Little I Can Do for a Sick Friend.

I've been wrestling with this post -- whether and how to write it -- for a few days now. As the subject matter appears to be interfering with my blogging, it appears I need to do this. I am breaking format here. Not only am I writing about a national issue, I'm writing about something personal.

Earlier this week I got some terrible news. M, the wife of D, a friend from college, has cancer in both breasts that has matastisized to her lymph nodes. I'm getting all this second hand, so details are a little scarce, but this doesn't sound good.

And for some reason, since hearing this, I've been unable to write without blocking. Part of it is standard-issue emotions. I've wrestled with the "I'm knocking on middle-age's door and mortality is knocking on mine" emotion and the "I'm worried about my friends and their two young daughters" emotion.

And, heavily, the "injustice of it all" emotion. Look, no one deserves to go through something like this. But when a couple like D & M get hit, it's tempting to say "God, now you're just being a dick." These are wonderful, positive people in love with life, with their God, with their family, with each other. That something like this happens to someone like that and not, say, a certain underacheiving Doubting Thomas misanthropic blogger from Akron never fails to baffle me.

And finally, we have the "I just want to fucking do something" emotion. As to this, I'm pretty much stuck as D&M live a couple of time zones away. But then someone sent me an email bearing one of those God-is-seriously-screwing-with-you-now coincidences. Right now, Congress has before it HR 1849 and S. 910, the "Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2005."

The bill would require health insurance plans to cover a minimum of 48 hours hospitalization following a mastectomy. Apparently, women are now being discharged in as little a 24 hours against the wishes of their doctors. Having gone through relatively minor surgery last year, I can't imagine being ready for home a day after major surgery.

This is the fourth time Congress has considered such a bill. Each of the three previous Congresses let the bill die in committee.

So what little I can do about this personal crisis involving far away friends is exhort my readers to lend their voices to this legislation. Lifetime is collecting signatures on an online petitition. For those who want a little more direct action, you can contact members of the relevant subcommittees. In the House the bill currently sits in the Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Boener and Tiberi are the Ohioans sitting on it. In the Senate it's in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions which includes Mike Dewine. You can click through the links to the committee homepage and follow the links their to member websites with contact info.

Thanks everyone for helping out with this, for putting up with my sullen silence and, while we're at it, for supporting the Akron Pages.

Random Ten

1. "L.O.V.E. - Love," Al Green
2. "Heroin Girl," Everclear
3. "Somethin's Gotta Give," Ella Fitzgerald
4. "Souvenir," Benny Carter
5. "There She Goes Again," Velvet Underground
6. "Got My Mojo Workin'," Muddy Waters
7. "This Old Porch," Lyle Lovett
8. "Lucky," Radiohead
9. "Dean's Dream," Dead Milkmen
10. "Late for the Sky," Jackson Browne

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Introducing Reform Roundup: A Blog-Friendly Reform

Since reading Josh Marshall's piece and posting The Question, I'm utterly taken with the idea of Democrats running on a reform agenda. No matter how disgusted people are with the excesses of Republicans, Democrats will not win if the electorate believes they represent nothing more than changing the cast of crooks.

I am attempting to take on the task of tracking the specific proposals for reform in Ohio. The national proposals are flying thick and fast and better (and better funded) people than me are toting them. I'll drop links if I see interesting pieces on national reform proposals, but for the most part, I'll keep it Ohio. If I get enough reponse to these posts, I may start a reform-oriented blog. Doing so wouldn't be all that much extra work and would give the online policy wonk community a chance to hash things out and perhaps try to drive the debate some.

Let's start the ball with a little-heralded proposal I heard about over the weekend that should warm the hearts of the blogosphere. Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D, 93) has introduced a HB 323 which would require the General Assembly to post on its website the votes of each member on each specific bill and list each member who failed to vote.

It may surprise you to learn that this information is not readily available. The votes are public record, but, from what I hear, are only kept in the Journal of the GA. Online it is a PDF that has each of the GA's actions for each day listed in the order they occurred. Compiling the votes on one bill generally takes upwards of an hour.

HB 323 would make the legislative process that much more transparent and accessible. According to the fiscal analysis, it would require one staffer's time for two months, and that's it -- no additional costs after that.

Since being introduced in August, House 323 hasn't moved from committee. Rep. Garrison has most of the Democrats on the Committee and one Republican signed up as co-sponsors. A little pressure from the blogosphere may get this moving. The Republican Committee Members are:

Steven Buehrer (R-74)
Chuck Blasdel (R-01)
Jim Carmichael (R-03)
Larry Flowers (R-19)
Arlene Setzer (R-36)
Tom Patton (R-18)
Kathleen Walcher (R-58)

If you are not sure which district you are in, here is a zoomable pdf map, and here's a database list linking to detailed maps of each district. If you are near a relevant member, an email wouldn't hurt. Just click through the link above and you will find the Representative's official page with contact info and an email link.

If anyone gets an interesting reply, write it up in the comments section.

Update: Thanks to Reclaim Ohio and Lisa Renee for linking to this.

Capri Cafaro Can Feel Your Pain from Afar

From today's ABJ story on Carpetbaggette running in the 13th:

Cafaro spokesman Vic Rubenstein said Cafaro has a home in Hubbard but recently
moved to the Lorain County village of Sheffield to live in the 13th District.
Until recently, Cafaro had been living in New York City.
No wait, here's my favorite part:

"Her No. 1 motivation for running is her desire to provide public service,''
Rubenstein said.
Oh, of course. That's what she's been doing in NYC, right? She's been working with the Northeast Ohio Service Committee. I believe their offices are on West 25th.

It's bad enough that someone wants to run her life's ambitions out of my district, does her flak really need to insult my intelligence in the process?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rod Parsley Backgrounder

The complaint filed by liberal Christian groups against Rev. Rod Parsley et al., has travelled well beyond the Ohio blogosphere. Blogs on the left and right have been covering it, the Rightwing blogs have been firing countercharges, the leftwing blogs have been debunking them . . . it's alot to keep up with.

For my late-to-the-party take I'll start with a little background on what came before things hit the fan this past weekend. The IRS has investigated other nonprofits for purportedly improper political activity during the 2004 election. IRS investigated the NAACP for Convention speech Bush-bashing by Board Chairman Julian Bond, and a liberal California church for a sermon allegedly giving Kerry the edge if Jesus debated Bush and him.

Parsley has been whining for some time about not being allowed to endorse candidates. In the CD profile he wrapped himself in the First Amendment (with the Establishment Clause excised, presumably) and declared himself a martyr. Martyrdom seems in fact to be a theme with Parsley. Christians are persecuted, they are oppressed, they are denied equal rights. Parsley embodies the odd phenomenon of Christian Triumphalists apparently uncomfortable with actual triumph. If they aren't underdogs, they seem not to know what to do with themselves. Maybe something of the Beatitudes sunk in after all.

But I digress. Parsley has been an outspoken advocate for the extreme minority view that churches should be allowed endorse candidates and otherwise engage in partisan political activity. Yet, when I have visited his websites, he is strangely silent on the California case. The Center for Moral Clarity runs constant updates on other "values" issues like gays and, well, gays. (To be fair, they don't like abortion either.) For as long as I have been stopping by, I have yet to hear Parsley say "boo" about either case. But when it happens to him, it's persecution. I guess this is what he means by "moral clarity."

The complaint against Parsley and his cohort is not entirely positive. First, as the commentators I cited above regarding the earlier cases argue, the IRS may do a great deal of mischief in drawing the line between permissible advocacy and partisan activity. Furthermore, it could give a needed push to a long-proposed and consistently thwarted Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which is as bad as it sounds.

Which was probably the intent from the start. The line between permissible and impermissible political activities of tax-exempt organizations is admittedly hazy, but Parsley's stated intent is to obliterate it. If his current activities had been insufficient to draw a complaint, he would have pushed harder.

This isn't despite all the protestations, about churches. It's about tax-exempt entities. It's about organizations that are de facto subsidized by you and me. Parsley can speak out as much as he wants. He can politically organized Christians. He just can't use funds from tax-exempt organizations to do it. Tomorrow, he and his fellow Patriot Pastors could march down to Ken Blackwell's office -- I believe they've met -- and file papers to form a Politcal Action Committee.

But for currently unfathomable reasons, that's not enough. The rules apply, apparently, only to us benighted souls. In Parsley's world, the Annointed get a pass.

Stuff and Nonscience

Blogger and frequent Akron Pages reader judeandelise comments in reponse to my ID post:

People like you and Jill amaze me. I am sure you are for comprehensive
education in other areas but when it comes to this subject you aren't. It
really doesn't make sense. I read your blog and I do enjoy the current events
but you make me laugh.
Well, here at the Akron Pages we are all about bringing the funny, but I don't think that's what JAE meant. The ID debate has long been off-topic for this blog and is one of those things you can read about many other places. Nonetheless, I have often been tempted to break with my usual blogging philosophy and take it on. Now is the time. This is mostly a thought piece based on lots of long-digested reading, including this recent article in The New Republic and Talk.Orgins, an excellent one-stop shop for things evolutionary. The Dover decision also has a nice backgrounder on the evolution of the ID movement.

JAE's comment doesn't say much, but I know the debate well enough to glean her meaning. She is raising the "teach the controversy/don't suppress ID" shibboleth that has been part of the ID PR package for at least the last decade. The implied question: "If evolution is true, why not teach it side-by-side with ID and let students decide?"

Fair question. Many answers.

Let me note at the outset that one can conceptualize an Intelligent Designer in a couple of ways. One is to say that God intelligently designed a system of evolution and let it go. That a truly omniscient God would know that this mix of chemicals and that source of external energy would lead inexorably to world we know. In this concept, the “teaching” of Intelligent Design as part of a science curriculum is meaningless. The story of evolution doesn’t prove or disprove God, whose existence remains a matter of individual faith.

The second conceptualization is that evolution by itself is insufficient to have created the natural world and that God must have perceptively nudged it along. This is the concept I’m arguing against.

I want to concentrate on two of the many arguments against side-by-side teaching -- one about tactics and one about the nature of science.

The tactical argument is basically a slippery slope argument. As a wag in my law school class observed, there is a slippery slope to using slippery slope argument; that is, you can ultimately prove anything will cause anything. But in this case we don't just have a slippery slope, we have a well-organized, well-funded cadre whose stated intention is to shove American society down that slope. The advocates for ID don't want equal time. They want ultimately to eliminate evolutionary theory from the science curriculum.

How can I say such a thing? Well for one thing, because they say so. Some time ago a document from CampID surfaced. The document outlines a strategy for destroying "scientific materialism" by applying ID as "the thin edge of the wedge." The theory, apparently, is that ID proponents will start by advocating teaching the controversy, then ID by itself, then creationism. If you read the Dover court decision, you see discussion of what has since been known as the Wedge Document.

I also believe the ID motive is more than side-by-side instruction because it's consistent with the strategy we've seen. Anti-evolutionist are like water under pressure, finding any gap to flood through. In the previous post, I quote Lawrence Krauss discussing how they used a seemingly innocuous statement – on that reflects the nature of science -- a wedge to try to slip in an ID curriculum.

They do the same thing with the actual science. For example, this week's West Side Leader runs a letter in response to something -- either a letter or an article -- discussing a "study" that purported to show that radiometric dating is worthless. The letter is a perfect point-by-point refutation of the previous argument. The headline -- a creationist researcher tried to use an isotope with a half-life of 1.26 billion years to age rocks 25 years old. It's kind of like saying "this ruler can't measure this paramecium. Rulers are worthless!"

When I hear a group proclaim that teaching evolution is a Great Evil that they want to erode, then destroy and when I see them dishonestly use genuine scientific argument and disingenuous flawed studies to do so, I don't believe that what they want is an honest and fair debate on the issue in the schools.

The second major objection I have to ID is that it isn't science. It is, in fact, Anti-science. This is about the nature of science, a topic on which I have only an armchair observer's knowledge, which is kind of the point. If I can point out fundamental flaws in the structure of ID science, it doesn't belong anywhere near a science curriculum.

In a way I find idea of teaching creationism side-by-side less offensive from a scientific perspective because it is in a way science. That is, creationists advance a testable hypothesis (the Book of Genesis) and marshal evidence (the Book of Genesis) to support it. Creation Science is Bad Science in that its hypotheses are easy to disprove. For example, if the story of the Great Flood is literally true, why are there kangaroos in Australia and no where else? Did Noah drop them off (along with platypuses, echidnas etc.) on his way to Mt. Ararat? Did he do the same with lemurs on Madagascar? OK, too easy, I'll stop now.

In contrast to the Bad Science of Creation Science, Intelligent Design is Anti-Science. Creation Science has something to argue against. ID is like wrestling with a cloud. Its hypothesis -- an intelligent designer -- isn't based on evidence; it's based on the lack of evidence. That is to say, ID proponents point to gaps in scientific knowledge and say that's where God is.

Teaching evolution includes discussing where the gaps are, the current hypotheses about how Creature X evolved from A to C, and how scientific investigation seeks to find evidence to validate or invalidate those hypotheses. In contrast, the logical conclusion of ID is to leave the gaps be; after all, fill in the gaps and, by the ID logic, you disprove God.

So in the side-by-side teaching model, one of two things happen. Teachers disposed toward ID begin to actively discourage scientific investigation lest they begin to disprove God, and teachers disposed toward evolution teach that they are disproving the existence of an Intelligent Designer.

As I noted above, belief in evolution is not a ipso facto a disbelief in God. Christianity survived the discovery that the Earth revolves around the Sun. It survived the discovery of thriving non-Christian civilizations. It can survive the discovery of God’s recipe for creation.

That I have spent the time this post required illustrates one of the frustrations with the argument; responding to the bumper-sticker slogan “Just teach the controversy” requires a small treatise.

So, JAE, that is my response. I doubt you were persuaded, but if I made you laugh again, it was time well spent.

[NOTE: Edited for some unusually egregious typos.]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Quick Note from my SiteMeter Report . . .

. . . Someone found the blog by Googling "Capri Cafaro Slut."

Just knowing that makes me happy.

Read and Discuss

I need to step entirely away from the blogosphere today and get some backlogged work done. A pity since so much is happening. Before I go, some suggested reading for the day.

If you have an insatiable need for blogosphere reaction to the Paul Hackett/Bob Bennett flap, Buckeye Senate Blog has a rundown. An insight into the blogging life: I finished my post around 1130, then worked on posts about Intelligent Design and Rod Parsley (neither of which is done yet, dammit) and packed it in around 12:20. Before turning in, I checked around and found out that BSB already had my comment linked. There is Something Very Wrong with us.

Bill Callahan has a post about what the coal industry could do to make deep coal mining safer. Meticulously researched, intelligently argued, passionately written, it's the very best post-Sago Mine essay I have seen in any medium. One measure of a great post is the IWIWT Factor -- "I Wish I Wrote That." (Could also be called the Oscar Wilde Factor.) Callahan routinely averages an IWIWT of around 8, but this is a ten.

Buried in today's Washington Post (via Slate's Today's Papers) is a tragic story about an Ohio soldier who apparently was killed by friendly fire from Polish troops in 2004. The Bush Administration and the military were less than diligent in pursuing the truth:

Family members say they were not told Jesse was killed by "friendly fire," though the Army later said they were. They did not know that Polish soldiers with Jesse's unit may have fired the fatal shot and that his death had the potential to cause a rift with a coalition partner right before the 2004 presidential election.

The New York Times published a long, disturbing piece about how East Asians are highly susceptible to developing Type 2 Diabetes when exposed to the American diet. Perhaps not disturbing to most of you, but as a father of an Asian child with a ferocious sweet tooth, let me tell you Prof. W and I have talked about little else.

I've been meaning to do a follow-up to my previous posts on the telecom industry lobbying against local government wi-fi networks springboarding off a piece in The Washington Monthly about the US lagging behind Asia in access to broadband internet. At first I was skeptical about the fears expressed of losing competitiveness as a result of not having broadband -- in every office I've worked in, access to the internet hasn't exactly enhanced productivity. But then the Columbus Dispatch ran a story a week ago Sunday about farmers missing business opportunities for want of access to broadband. And today's Beacon Journal runs a story about hosptals setting up wi-fi networks. And no, I'm not much impressed by a Heartland Institute study finding that public sector investment is "unwarranted." Heartland Institute research "discovering" something like that is Dog Bites Man territory.

Speaking of this month's Washington Monthly, don't miss the profile of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga -- the Kos in DailyKos.

I've been meaning to veer off-topic and write on the James "Million Little Lies" Frey saga. I may still enter the frey to tease out some Big Ideas, but in the meantime, Seth Mnookin -- who knows from hardcore drug addiction himself -- has a good piece on why it all matters.

Finally, a ZD Net piece on the Department of Homeland Security's grant program to harden open-source software leads to yet another discussion of the government and the internet.

The comments field is yours. See you all tonight.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Paul Hackett's Quick Recovery

Once upon a time I said that Paul Hackett's candidacy made me nervous because maverick newcomers like him are gaffe-prone. I'm on the verge of getting over it.

Over the weekend, the Columbus Dispatch published a column based on Hackett's interview with four CD reporters. In typical Hackett style, he danced along the ridge dividing refreshing candor from loose-cannon crazytalk. On one occasion he tumbled down the far side:

Hackett called DeWine a "professional politician" who "is all over the map on
issues," and who’s afraid to stand up to the "radical religious fundamentalists"
controlling the GOP. At that point, Hackett’s candor went on steroids.

"The Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious fanatics that, in my
opinion, aren’t a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden and a lot of the
other religious nuts around the world," he said. "The challenge is for the rest
of us moderate Americans and citizens of the world to put down the fork and
spoon, turn off the TV, and participate in the process and try to push back on
these radical nuts – and they are nuts."
I gave you the whole quote to be fair about context. Much of what he said is spot-on, but the comparison with Bin Laden is over the line. What I find admirable in all this is how the Hackett camp handled the gaffe, but let's get one thing straight: it was a gaffe. Notwithstanding Buckeye Senate's many many many protestations, it was a gaffe.

Comparing Americans to Bin Laden has elbowed out comparing them to Hitler as the ultimate hyperbolic, Godwin's Law affirming, argument-stopper. Comparing conservative Christians to Bin Laden is radioactive for a Democrat. Republicans can paint such a statement as soft on terrorism and anti-Christian without breaking a sweat. For a guy who claims he has the pulse of the downstate electorate, it was a reckless statement.

Gaffes happen. Few campaigns are mistake-free. When he gaffes, a candidate has a variety of options; he can spin, he can retract, he can dig in, he can deny.

Or he can deflect. Hackett chose the last, and his performance was masterful. According to the press release in today's email, here is how Hackett responded to the flack:

"The Republican Party has been hijacked by religious fanatics, who are out of
touch with mainstream America. Think of the recent comments by Pat Robertson - a
religious fanatic by any measure - that the United States should assassinate a
democratically elected leader in Venezuela, and that Ariel Sharon's stroke was
divine punishment because Sharon wished to trade land for peace."

"Since the Republican Party has been utterly unable to stand for something positive, they have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, and have pandered to
religious fanatics not to vote for something they believe in, but to vote against their fellow Americans with whom they disagree. Those among us who would use religion and politics to divide rather than unite Americans should be ashamed."

First, the statement is not an obvious retreat. A retreat could disasterously alienate the netroots fanbase that is fixated on his well-chronicled candor.

Now look at what the second statement doesn't say. It says nothing about Bin Laden. It says nothing about terrorism. Nothing in the statement justifies the comparison between religious right leaders and Islamic terrorists. Instead of "religious fanatics who are just like Bin Laden," the Republicans are now in the thrall of "religious fanatics who are out of the mainstream."

The message is: "Hey, you only think I gaffed. Listen to me again. Hear how reasonable and moderate I am?"

Beautiful. Time will tell if it worked.

[EDITED] Did I really write a post about a gaffe and spell "gaffe" as "gaff" throughout? What a gaffe!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

TABOR Opponents Challenging the Petitions [UPDATED]

Word comes that the next front in the battle against TABOR (a constitutional amendment to shackle growth in government spending to an artificially low rate) is challenging the petitions collected to put it on the ballot. TABOR supporters filed only about 1300 extra signatures. Generally the ballot campaigns I've been involved with shot for 10-25 percent overage. 1300 would represent less than one percent.

Apparently some of the paid petition circulators didn't fill out the validation forms correctly. TABOR opponents are looking for volunteers to go through the petitions and find undotted i's and uncrossed t's.

The thin margin of success in the petition drive may have been one factor that scared Blackwell off the front lines. Recall that, by all appearances, Blackwell's plan was to raise his profile by campaigning for TABOR last fall to prime the GOP faithful for his primary campaign. It seemed that the Blackwell-orchestrated decision to file a day late, ensuring that the issue would be on this year's ballot, not last year's, was borne of a desire to avoid campaigning with a mouldering TABOR albatross necklace. But the lack of confidence was puzzling. Sure, some early polling didn't give TABOR much room to fall, but other poll results were sunnier.

Perhaps he wanted to distance himself from the issue when he saw how close the signature count was. Under this scenario, he saw that they didn't have enough signatures to cover the shrinkage that CW says you always have. (Dick Tracy doesn't just register to vote; he also signs petitions for paid circulators.) He didn't want the issue to crater immediately on the heels of his enthusiastic endorsement. So he bought himself some time to move away from TABOR and maybe find a new issue to champion.

Blackwell still has to face up to this if the issue does indeed get scotched. And he will have to deal with the unlovely picture of his office passing judgement on the viability of his baby his redhedded stepchild.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in helping with the effort, get in touch with Organize! Ohio which is coordinating the NEO volunteers.

UPDATE: The first couple of action alerts I got on this were misleading. Apparently, TABOR supporters managed to collect about 500,000 signatures, but with a shrinkage rate of 36% once the Secretary of State's office went through them. So now they are above the threshold by less than 1300 signatures.

Who Do Ya Blogroll?

I'll take time out from the issues of the day and the long-form thought pieces in the works to talk a bit about the sidebar. As promised, I have once again revamped it.

I have thought, probably more than any sane person should, about the philosophy of the blogroll. Originally I saw it as a service to my readers, most of whom were non-blogjunkie personal friends. I simply created a list of the most informative liberal blogs in Ohio at the time.

Then things got complicated. I started meeting people in NEO with great blogs that didn't fit snugly in the Ohio Political Blogger category. I started the Akron, er, Summit/Stark project (which, by the way, is at about Square 1.1. Anyone interested? Contact me. I'm not Creepy Internet Stalker Guy, I swear.) That raised issues. I also started getting blogrolled, again by some blogs that either don't cover Ohio politics/public policy at all or only tangentially. Finally, I had some good arms-length interactions with conservative bloggers that made me think that rolling them was in order.

For the most part, I still see the 'roll as a service to readers. To make it as user-friendly as possible, I've done lots of categories. The Ohio Progressive Blogroll is what I see as the essential liberal Ohio political blogs. By Ohio blogs I mean that well over half the posts are about local or Ohio (as opposed to national) politics and by "political" I mean a similar hedgehoggedness regarding subject matter.

With regard to that list, a few blogs have been dropped because they have either disappeared completely or haven't posted in a couple months (Susan! Where are you?!?!) A few more have been added. I gave the Psychobillies a spot there because they have been tearing it up lately and because if I did that for Boring Made Dull I should do it for my political compatriots.

Then we have the Stark/Summit blogroll. It is of course incomplete. I'm still interested, but frankly discouraged at the general lack of interest. One of the Boring guys emailed me and I've been in pretty constant contact with Redhorse, but aside from that everyone seems content to do their own thing. That's fine, but frankly folks are missing out. MeetUps are much fun and the info sharing is genuinely helpful. For folks around here who can't truck up North once a month, a meetup around here would be worth your while. Again, if you are interested, post a comment or email pho197 AT hotmail DOT com.

Meanwhile if anyone drops a line about their local blog, I will roll it as long as it does not suck. Or if I'm worried that if I say it sucks the blogger will jump off the Y-Bridge, in which case I'll puppy out and roll it anyway.

I want the first list to be folks who make some attempt at objectivity and who are fairly broad-spectrum. So I made a separate category for campaign blogs; either blogs by candidates (and their staffs) or blogs concentrating on certain races. Oh-2 is causing me some postmodern headaches by branching well out beyond Oh-2, but ultimately hands were thrown up and Oh-2 took up incongruous residence with GrOhio and the Sherrod blog. I'm way behind in populating that category. I'll take suggestions, but I'm only interested in blogs, not campaign web sites.

So then we come to bloggers like Jill and Jeff who represent a problem in that, while they hit Ohio politics/policy extensively they are, as Jill proudly proclaims in comments to the previous post, eclectic.

So I created new categories for them. "Phriends of Pho" are blogs that blogroll me and don't fit neatly into another category. The last catchall list is for local blogs I like that aren't heavily political (and that don't *ahem* roll me), national political blogs, some online journals and other miscellany.

As of right now the Phriends of Pho blogs are all quality blogs. I have a long thought piece in the works about blogging philosophy and blogger ethics all full of promises of integrity and diligence and independence. That's for the blog. On the sidebar, I'm an abject blogroll slut. If you roll me, I'll roll you (within some limits, so don't get cute ideas Male Enhancement Blog.) But I don't want to water down the quality of the Phriends of Pho and create perverse incentives to stay in the ". . . And" category. I'll have to cross that bridge if it comes. For now, I happily refer you to anything on the sidebar. Enjoy.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Jill tagged me with a meme which made me think about the milestones in the life of a blog.

-First Comment
-First Link
-First First Blogroll
-First Flame
-First Meme

As to the last, this is my first. Of course we political bloggers [Voice of Gravity and Importance] don't go in for such things. But Jill tagged me, Jill is my buddy, I will do this for Jill.

The meme goes like this:

1. go to your archive
2. find the 23rd post
3. find the 5th sentence
4. post the text of the sentence in a blog entry along with these instructions
5. tag 5 other people

So I went to my 23rd post and it's this post which was a milestone in it's own right. It was the first time folks in the NEO 'sphere showed an interest, led to my first meetup, my first blogroll (don't know if Callahan or George was first) and pretty much everything that has happened since.

The fifth sentence -- assuming the list is subsumed into the third -- reads: "I would read The Chief Source more often, it being Akron-based, if 1) it didn't take so infernally long to load and 2) they would write up a local story at least once in a while."

*Sigh* Still true today.

So I tag:

Whichever Horse at Psychobilly Dem gets this first
El Jefe (can you count posts at your site?)

Friday Random Ten

"How'd that get in there?" Edition

1. "Ode to Earl," Bela Fleck
2. "I Thought I Held You," Wilco
3. "A Long December," Counting Crows
4. "Straight A's in Love," Johnny Cash and the Gene Lowry Singers
5. "Lady Love Your Countyside," Sleeper
6. "Thought it Would Be Easier," Shelby Lynne
7. "Glory," Liz Phair
8. "Brown Eyed Girl," Everclear
9. "Metric Lips," New Grass Revival
10. "Spiral," John Coltrane

Ever since I read this post from Peppermint razzing the Transiberian Orchestra and copping to affection for Barenaked Ladies, I've wondered: Why do pop culture snobs (of which I'm one) revel in low culture and recoil at America's middlebrow tastes? Why do I envy my friends' Wacky Packages wall art, but Thomas Kinkade sends me wretching from the room? Why can sit through entire Roger Corman movies but not the "Tell me I'm a good man" coda from Saving Private Ryan?

And why do I proudly acknowledge the presence of Johnny Cash's cornpone dirty joke number in my MP3 collection, but feel like I need to make lame excuses for the Counting Crows song? After all, its a fine, well constructed tune and the line about "the way that light attaches to a girl" is one of the few genuinely poetic flourishes in mainstream rock over the past few years. Yet rock snobs reading this are snickering to themselves, "Dude has two song with Bela on them, but that Crows song is soooo pathetic."

And let's not even mention Everclear's middle-aged-punk-lite update of "Brown Eyed Girl."

Ohio 13th Dish.

My hopes for a Clair Dickenson campaign were finally extinguished with the announcement this week that he is running again for the court of appeals. Unfortunately he and John Quinn -- both excellent candidates, will be burning their resources in the primary.

As the Ohio 13 guys note, Betty Sutton got the Emily's List endorsement. I had gotten the email as well -- now I know who from Washington has been lighting up my SiteMeter with "Betty Sutton" searches. *waves*

That's good news because apparently a Capri Cafaro run is inevitable. Oh 13 notes that she has been shopping herself to unions and has the love from the UAW. John Ettore has the unofficial "official" word that she is indeed running.

I try to approach this blogging thing with a certain amount of balance, but I'm not concealing my contempt for this idea. Let's see how many reasons I can find for hating on her campaign before allegations about the family business come up.

1. She not from here. It's easy enough to say Tom Sawyer and Betty Sutton aren't either. That would be wrong. Sutton and Sawyer are from Akron, the city of the southern end of the district that the political bosses partitioned in the last redistricting, effectively depriving Akron of real Congressional represention. We already have a Representative from Youngstown purportedly representing us. Frankly Akron and Lorain have more in common with each other than either has in common with Y-town.

2. She opens the door to a Lorain Co. candidate. With three Summit Co. candidates splitting the vote, the stage is already set for someone like Ted Kelo sweep the Lorain County votes and take the primary. It may well be that, absent a Lorain Co. candidate

3. She will not be representing Akron or Lorain. Everything about Capri Cafaro, from her DC intership resume to her Tour of Districts not Held by Tim Ryan screams "Washington Insider Wannabe." If we send her to Washington, we'll never see her around here again.

4. She should be running against LaTourette. If she is a viable candidate, she should run again in the 14th. I'm increasingly convinced that 14th may be the most important Congressional race. Sure Ney and Pryce are looking more and more sullied and therefore vulnerable, but are in much more solidly red districts. Moreover, a good 14th race has a spillover effect. The Democrat in that race isn't just running against LaTourette, he/she is running against the entire corrupt Republican Congress. Given the importance of NEO in the statewide races, spillover from media buys in the 14th will help Democrats generally.
The fact that she doesn't run against LaTourette says something. It says I'm right about her being a wannabe. It says she thinks her personal ambitions are more important than the party. But mostly it says that people are right that she pissed off too many people in the 14th to run there again.

5. For the foregoing reasons, she could actually lose. Under the worst case scenario, Republicans run a Lorain Co. candidate who appeals to regional loyalty and runs against Cafaro's Washingtonienne ambitions. I can't think of a losing scenario with any other candidate.

There we go. Five good reasons a Cafaro campaign is a bad idea and I didn't even mention prison artist James Traficant.

I Have a Question

I do Meet the Bloggers. I do candidates night and town halls and even call into the occasional radio interview with a candidate. And I know that political staff people read this blog.

As much fun as it might be to draft the ultimate "gotcha" question, my position with regard to the above gives me a chance to try something better -- I can try to nudge the political conversation in an important direction. I'm putting out a question that will be my first question to every candidate I come into contact with from here out. The answers will be compiled here and (hopefully) discussed.

Here, then, is The Question:

In light of the scandals surrounding Republicans here in Ohio and nationally, Democrats have an opportunity to make real gains analogous to the opportunity the Repbublicans had in 1994. I am convinced that Democrats cannot win simply by running as the Notrepublicans. The Republicans ran on a reform agenda in 1994. Democrats need a similar reform agenda -- whether campaign finance reform, lobbying reform, government reform or a combination of all of the above. Do you have any reform ideas aimed at stopping the corruption we see?
If this sounds familiar, I touched on the issue in a windy omnipost about a week ago. I've been doing what I can to research the issue (in between vacuous posts about missing bloggers, of course.) In particular, I've been following this thread at TPM Cafe.

BTW, a couple of candidates have been asked an earlier version of The Question and, apparently, misinterpreted it. You now have The Question. Be prepared next time.

If someone notices my absence at a Meet the Bloggers session, feel free to ask The Question, but if I'm there, kindly get your own damn Question.

Hopefully, this will get candidates, bloggers and readers thinking about a reform agenda. Such and agenda would be good for Democrats and -- far, far, far more importantly -- good for the State and the Country.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Whither Russo?

Tim re-emerges, but only to tell us he's done with Buckeye Politics. Many questions are and will probably remain unanswered about what happened. It also remains to be seen whether Tim will blog or be involved with the community again, George is pessismistic.

I will miss Tim for his insight, for information gleaned from contacts and for his tirades which were quite enjoyable if I agreed with the target. I also am somewhat depressed because Tim had found the Holy Grail -- a way to get paid for blogging (cue music.) Seeing it snatched away from him -- days after he celebrated it himself, no less -- makes my dream seem that much more ephemeral.

So the blogging world has turned from wild-ass speculation about where Tim is to . . . wild-ass speculation about what he will do next. Live from Dayton's idea that Tim may catch on with the Hackett campaign raises an intiguing possibility. My sources tell be that former Coleman operative Bryan Clarke has signed on with Hackett. Clarke and Russo tilted a couple of times before Coleman tossed it in.

The strange-bedfellowship of Clarke and Russo on the same campaign raises all kinds of possibilities -- probably too backroom to be blogged, but a guy can hope.