Sunday, February 26, 2006

MTB Comes to Akron [Updated][Twice]

Betty Sutton, candidate in Ohio-13, for Met with the Bloggers on Saturday at Cafe Momus as planned. Redhorse, Scott Bakalar, Kyle Kutuchief, McKee Stewart and I were there representing the 13th District. George Nemeth and Tim Ferris came down from Cleveland, and Karen Kilroy, a progressive webmaster, also attended. A liveblog is up at the 'Billy.

I have written before about my connections to the Sutton campaign and my high hopes for someone to support who actually lives in Ohio. So when I say that Betty Sutton rates high on intangibles -- charisma, speaking ability, likeablity, whatever you want to call it -- take that with whatever quantity of seasoning you deem appropriate. I was predisposed to like her; I like her.

Independent of the superficial stuff, I saw a number of reasons to feel good about her candidace.

Purple Pride

Betty Sutton is a native of Barberton which lies entirely in the 13th district. When asked why she now lives in Chardon, she explained that she got married to a man who worked out of an office in his home in Chardon. They made the simple calculation that it would be easier for her to move to his home. She in fact kept her house in Barberton and they are planning to move back.

She sincerely loves her hometown. She says it gets in your blood which, Wadsworth native that I am, sounds like it might be the chemicals from Clorox Creek as much as anything else. Kidding aside, her deep roots in Barberton give me confidence that, if elected, she will not forget the people who sent her to Washington. What's more, to the extent the Republicans mount a real challenge to the seat, I would rather field a candidate who bleeds purple (Barberton High's color) than one who lives her only when she's running for something.

Why Residency Matters.

When Scott Bakalar asked her about Lorain County, she replied that the great thing about campaigning is meeting people in the district, which segued into a story about meeting Roy Church, President of Lorain Community College. She concluded with palpable excitement at the prospect of “bringing people together who are working toward the community we want,” a refrain we heard a couple more times before the interview was over. That is her vision of leadership for Northeast Ohio.

I like it. I like the thought of my representative fighting for my interests in Congress, but also returning here to leverage her leadership position into a focal point for region-wide collaboration. I trust Betty Sutton to do that; I don’t trust Capri Cafaro to return any more than she absolutely has to.

The Narrative Arc.

While a political campaign doesn’t necessarily need a strong narrative, it certainly is an asset. For this election Betty Sutton couldn’t have a better for a Democrat. She is the daughter of a blue collar family. She swam against the tide of the establishment Democrats when she ran for City Council. She made a career of fighting the good fight against the majority party when it would have been easier to be part of the club.

Understanding the Facts on the Ground

One of the vignettes that impressed me most was her answer to “What was your greatest legislative accomplishment?” She cited patient protection legislation she proposed that went no where in the General Assembly. She gave two reasons for naming legislation that would normally be deemed a failure. First, it made the bill eventually passed by Republicans better and, second, people who she promised she would advocate for saw that someone fought for them down to the last second before the bill was signed.

I like having a candidate who is realistic about what she faces. Capri Cafaro can float ambitious proposals with scary names all she wants, but she isn’t getting anywhere with them and she knows it. Betty Sutton will advocate for a similar legislative agenda, but knows how to get the most out of the Congress we have, not the Congress Cafaro wants to have.

Not Afraid to Ask.

At one point a discussion of McCain-Feingold morphed into a discussion about broadband companies trying to restrict access to premium customers. Apparently not versed in the topic, Sutton turned to George and said, “Tell me about that.” After the session she told me that what she liked best about it was the flow of ideas back and forth. No one candidate will know everything about every issue – not even Hermione Cafaro. I like someone who is willing to ask for information instead of just faking it.

Necessarily in a one-hour session, much is left unasked and unanswered. The session was somewhat light on specifics but gave indications – particularly in her discussion of the finer points of the patient protection legislation – that she has the chops to engage in the debate of specifics.

For the sake of the blog as well as my own sanity, I strive to keep an open mind. But someone is really going to have to hit one out to move me off of supporting Betty Sutton.

UPDATE. As usual, I blogged the event cold. Posts are now up at Word of Mouth, Psychobilly Democrat and The Boring Made Dull. BTW, we think that McKee at TBMD is the first bona fide conservative political blogger to attend an MTB event.

UPDATE # 2. Kyle Kutuchief has his post up. The audio is up at MTB as well. Ohio 13 blog wrote up impressions -- mostly positive -- based on PSD's liveblog. Also, if you didn't catch it from the embedded link above, Betty Sutton's website is up. Look for a permanent link coming to a sidebar near you.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Shouting Campaign

From Boring Made Dull I learned Instapundit’s aphorism that criticizing Maureen Dowd is the bunny slope of blogging. To brutally extend the metaphor, blogging about Paul Hackett has become the equivalent of Heliboarding – dropping from a helicopter to snowboard freshly fallen slopes. You know you will trigger and avalanche, you just hope not to get caught in it. And just as some boarders risk suffocating death to carve virgin powder, I can’t keep clear of Hackett. If you’ve had enough of the subject, surf over to the recently rechristened Ohio Happy Fun Time Blog and check out the puppy pictures. Or read on if you dare.

So Paul Hackett is not happy. A cynic might suggest that he’s unhappy about being the one chosen to wear the dunce cap, but he says it’s something else. He says he’s angry at Sherrod Brown for starting a whispering campaign that he committed war crimes in Iraq and that there are photos. Open reports that he went off on Brown at a Dem event in Cincinatti when asked if he could support Brown for Senate:

"Not in my lifetime," Hackett said. "He spread rumors about my service in Iraq that were absolutely bullshit.
Open quotes the Brown campaign’s helpful chronology of Hackett’s recent statements on the matter: that the whispers didn’t bother him, that it was all about money, that he supports Brown for Senator. I would add this from Cincinnati Enquirer:
“Whatever personal emotions I have about Sherrod, if he asks me to help in some
way, and I can help and it doesn’t interfere with my own life, I will do the
best to help him,” Hackett said.
So what happened over the last couple of weeks? I had hypothesized that Hackett was reading too many sympathetic blog posts. Two of Hackett’s self-appointed blog pit bulls have been worrying the chew toy of swiftboating allegations pretty much nonstop since he quit the race. But aside from that, no new information has come out. This feels for all the world like Hackett got goaded by his supporters into launching into Brown.

Paul Hackett cannot prove that he did not commit war crimes in Iraq. Oh sure, he can show Harry Reid the pictures he has, he can dig up After Action reports, but he can’t account for every hour of his time there. That’s why it’s vital he be given the benefit of the doubt. It’s the essence of the American principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. And everyone I have read has given Hackett that benefit of doubt.

Of course, he hasn’t returned the favor to Sherrod Brown. Thus far the evidence that Brown was behind the whisper campaign is one Brown loyalist allegedly saying that Hackett has stuff in his past he doesn’t want out. (The individual denies the claim.) This is a thin reed for such a serious charge.

If Hackett has real proof that Brown swiftboated him, he needs to show it. Hell, if he has proof, I’ll volunteer for the Draft Hackett as Independent movement. Until he can prove what he suddenly has decided he believes, he’s just hurting the cause of everything he says he believes in.

The Hackett Brigade loves to remind us that Hackett getting run out of the primary has alienated his supporters. True. Hackett's subsequent actions have alienated those of us on the fence about him. He better be happy that his political career is over; he’s pretty much burnt down what’s left of it.

I’ll be at Meet the Bloggers in the morning, then busy with the kids the rest of the day, so the comment avalanche will have to go on without me. I don’t know how much snow to expect, but surely there will be a few flakes.

Ken Blackwell vs Everybody

Party primary endorsements are a mess. Inherently. While the left-of-center blogs have burned with analyses and criticisms of the Ohio Democratic Party endorsement process, the Republicans have had their own problems with their gubernatorial primary.

Today’s PD reports that ORP’s Northeast Ohio Regional Director Karl Raszewski quit in a flurry of emails claiming that ORP has stacked the deck against J. Ken Blackwell and for Jim Petro. In particular, he accuses the party of squelching a straw poll of Central Committee members that ended in a landslide for Blackwell.

While the initial reaction to all this for a Democrat might be joy, or at least solace, it worries me. OK, pretty much everything about J. Ken worries me. In this case, it’s because information like this bolsters J. Ken’s case that he is the One True Republican, running against both Democrats and diluted, corrupt, revisionist Republicanism. What’s more, his travails against the Republican party may capture the imagination of African Americans who see the Petro/Blackwell tilt as a white/black thing as opposed to an electable moderate/loose cannon extremist thing. That’s certainly Cincinnati Black Blog’s slant.

All of which means that Blackwell remains well positioned if he wins the primary. A Petro campaign will have to defend the indefensible – the sorry state of the State after a decade of Republican hegemony. He may still win on “The Democrats would be even worse,” but it’s a long steep hill to climb.

Blackwell on the other hand will run as the savior of both Ohio and Conservatism. And the love he gets from the national conservative press continues to grow. While up till now it has come in the form of hagiography from obscure righty publications like Human Events, this past weekend, establishment conservative George Will sang Blackwell’s song.

Last summer the received wisdom was that running against Blackwell was the best shot for Democrats. At the time I agreed but also felt that the stakes were so high and the Democratic party so moribund that it felt like going all in with a Queen High. Now it looks more and more like Blackwell is the stronger candidate.

I’ve never been more tempted to change registration to Independent and take a Republican ballot this spring.

MTB Reminder

Akron Bloggers: Don't forget tomorrow is the inagural session of Meet the Bloggers in Akron. Betty Sutton, candidate for Congress in Ohio 13 will meet us at Cafe Momus. We will start at around 9:30.

Anyone with a blog is invited, not just political bloggers. And if you have a blog, I'd appreciate a plug.

Given the proliferation of candidates, the best bet for a campaign interested in participating is to contact me rather an wait for a call. Just so everyone knows who we're talking about (and so campaigns Googling their candidates maybe find this) the declared candidates are:

Capri Cafaro
Norbert Dennerll
Bill Grace
Gary Kucinich
Michael Lyons
Tom Sawyer
Betty Sutton
John Wolfe

Paul Burtzlaff
C. J. DeLorean
Craig Foltin
David McGrew
Joe Ortega

I'll try to arrange things when I run across contact information, but I'm happy to field offers: pho197 (at) hotmail (dot) com. Note that four candidates were removed from the ballot for failure to collect sufficient signatures (hat tip Ohio13), so we have a mere 13 left.

See you all tomorrow.

Non-Random Ten

"Happy Birthday Kid Z" Edition

I dedicate this week's Ten list to my older daughter's ninth birthday. Z had a dance party, so in lieu of standard-issue goodie bag plastic junk, she and I collaborated on burning a couple of CDs of her favorite music. Here are her favs of favs:

1. "Sweet Surrender" by Sarah McLachlan
2. "Maps" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
3. "Come On Come On" by Smash Mouth
4. "White Chocolate Space Egg" by Liz Phair
5. "Mine's Not a High Horse" by The Shins
6. "It's Oh So Quiet" by Bjork
7. "Sunny Came Home" by Shawn Colvin
8. "Do You Realize??" by The Flaming Lips
9. "Letting Go" by Suzy Bogguss
10. "In the Highways" by The Peasall Sisters

It's popular when reflecting on a milestone like this to say "it seems like only yesterday." Not for me. Kid Z's birth seems like a lifetime ago. I can barely remember life without her. She kicked through doors to rooms of emotion I couldn't have imagined entering, much less inhabiting. I held her in my arms, looked into eyes baffled by their first encounter with light, watched her tougue work her lower lip and leaned a new definition of love.

What does seem like yesterday is Z as a silly little girl. I look now at a self-possessed little lady on the cusp of adolescence and wonder where she came from. And where she's going. Ah, there's the rub.

Z truly combines the best of my wife (intelligence, industry, musicality, empathy) and me (green eyes, good hair.) And she possesses traits -- artistic ability and neatness -- that are clearly her own.

Happy Birthday, Darlin'.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Scenes from a Blogging Life

People find the blog. People find the blog and contact me. The first dozen or so times it happened, it was a thrill, but I thought I was getting jaded. Then Monday I got an email from Kellie Patterson. She is a recently elected Cuyahoga Falls School Board member who started a blog last month. She complimented me on the blog -- even this post that questioned CFSD's new faux-Life Skills charter schools.

Because of the new gig, I emailed back, hoping to set up a meeting. I also Googled her, finding this ABJ article on her insurgent campaign and upset victory, and this School Board page with a picture. I didn't get a reply before heading to bed.

So yesterday I went down to Columbus for an all-day PTA event about charter schools. I got there late, settled in, started listening to Brian Williams. And I notice that sitting three rows up is . . . Kellie Patterson. The event was mostly about hearing folks talk, so she and I only conversed briefly.

Kellie's blog is very new and fairly edgy, describing behavior of the Board she sits on that flirts with violating the Sunshine laws. I'm not sure where her blog will take the reader, but it promises to be a interesting trip. So I've added her to the Stark/Summit blogroll.

In addition you can find new Akron blog Peanut Butter Knife which has 'rolled the Pages. I'm working on a category of law blogs and adding some new campaign sites, so keep an eye out for that.

And if you want to have a conversation about school finance, drop me a line. We may meet up sooner than either of us thinks.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Good Soldier

If you thought the Hackett/Brown saga couldn’t possibly be more dispiriting, I give you today’s Toledo Blade. “Someone” from Camp Hackett leaked an opposition research paper recounting votes Brown has cast purportedly against intelligence spending.

In a normal world, this would reflect horribly on Hackett, but the politics of Hackett are far from normal. After all, his followers are nothing if not fanatically loyal. The prospect of someone leaking the information against his wishes seems a stretch. If it happened despite his wishes, it raises questions about his leadership of the campaign.

I’m hoping to do some research on the particulars of the “list.” It sounds an awful lot like similar lists that the Bush compiled about Kerry’s voting record. Recall that the Bush campaign took Kerry votes against bloated defense budgets and listed popular programs contained within as programs Kerry voted to kill. They counted in their lists peace dividend bills that Cheney voted for.

To the extent this “list” contains similar distortions, the leak is unforgivable. Hackett has made noises about wanting Brown to win and being a team player.

Meanwhile, reactions from the Hackettphile blog sector predictably range from minimization to jusification to frankly gloating.

I enjoy playing “what if” as a way of exposing right-wing hypocrisy, as in “what if Al Gore won in 2000 and spent seven minutes reading The Pet Goat? (A: Fox News puts the video on a continuous loop.) So ask yourself, if Sherrod Brown quit the race and complained about the circumstances, then oppo research mysteriously ends up in the hands of a newspaper. Hackett fans would Go. In. Sane.

In the phrase of the moment, I am now Blaming Hackett. Well in this case, it’s pretty easy to do since Hackett is quite clearly to Blame. I can’t help feeling that his followers are as well. By demonizing Brown and lionizing, nay canonizing, Hackett, they have done as much to pollute the political environment as the Brown campaign has. They talk about Brown needing to reach out to them, but they move further and further out of range. Somehow this apparently makes sense.

Programming Notes

I'll be in Columbus all day tomorrow, so don't look for much from me. I'm sure opinions will be expressed about a Hackett post about to go up, but you'll have to live without my response.

Meanwhile I'm doing research for a series of more in-depth takes on the Blackwell blog. That, along with the new gig is eating up a lot of time, so posting will be a little lighter than usual this week.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor: Fair Schools Campaign Survey

For anyone who hasn't heard about my new gig consulting for the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, you can catch up here and read up on the organization here.

Since I'm an organizing consultant and my charge is to use all the tools at my disposal to organize grassroots support for public education funding, expect to see plenty of updates and announcements here. I won't pretend this is the OFSC blog -- it's not. But like all things of concern and value to me, you will see it here.

So here's the latest. We are running an online survey looking for opinions about how best to fix Ohio's school funding system. The survey is not a scientific poll but a conversation starter. It gives us some starting points for discussing where to go next and interactively gives the survey taker some basic ideas about the choices available.

At the end of the survey you have an opportunity to provide contact information to continue the conversation. If you give your information, you will be contacted by the campaign, possibly by one of our field organizers. Possibly by me.

You can take the survey here.

Bloggers who want to link to the survey should cut and paste this link:

If you are in NEO and want to start a conversation about school funding, feel free to contact me: pho197 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Thanks in advance.

Remains of the Week

Trims and ends from an eventful week. [Edited to add some omitted links]

Hacked Off

Naturally the big story has been Hackett’s withdrawl from the race. Bloggers upset on behalf of Hackett are easy enough to find. A few contrary opinions float out there, most notably Bill Callahan and Kyle Kutuchief. Political writers in the papers have been scratching their heads over the brouhaha.

I’m most upset at the Dem leadership’s tone-deafness. I don’t need to repeat my feelings about Hackett’s actual chances, but DSCC needs to understand that sometimes you have to suck it up and let the primary happen. And oh, by the way, it’s the DSCC, not ODP, with fingerprints on this one.

Yesterday's PD carries a story about the “internal pressures” that may have helped scuttle his campaign. Pounder is not amused. Please read the article; there’s an awful lot of information there. I had been wondering to myself why a Marine had such a problem with rules and hierarchy. I don't know the Marine culture. But I do know the legal culture and Paul Hackett is a solo practitioner trial attorney in spades.

Finally, Mother Jones ran a by-now famous story about the controversy. That made me think; wasn’t there an earlier MoJo story? And didn’t Hackett come up with the bizarre theory that the Democrats should emulate the Republicans’ party discipline and take Sherrod Brown out of the race? And wasn’t there a blogger who suggested that if the Democrats were to force someone out of the primary it wouldn’t be the untested novice. Oh yeah, that was me. Hackett needs to be more careful what he wishes for. He may not like the look of the Democrats’ discipline, but ORP chair Bob Bennet is envious.

Racing Form.

Thursday was petition day, so our fields are now set. You can find ABJ's various candidate summaries in this search and a revised list here. A few notes

-William Green is out in House 44. He explains why in his blog. He promises to keep blogging. I hope so. Blog world could use the diversity.

-Jeff Seeman is in, despite alleged money problems.

-I’m at a certain age – an age when contemporaries are running for office. I personally know three people in the legislative races.

--Tom Mason, a friend from college, running for Congress in the 16th.
--Christine Croce, who worked at the Sheriff’s Office when I was a prosecutor, running for Representative in House
--Tom Cousineau (not actually a contemporary) running for Rep. in the 41st.

Getting their Bok up.

With all the blog drama, few have noted the controversy over this cartoon by ABJ’s Chip Bok. MedPundit, doesn’t see the big deal. The big deal, if you haven’t been paying attention, is showing any disrespect to the Prophet Mohammed. Bok was clumsily satirizing CNN pixilating Mohammed’s face in the infamous Dutch cartoons. Which CNN did to show respect. So Bok is satirizing an attempt to show respect, but means no disrespect. Gotcha.

If Bok was going to do something this insensitive, pity he couldn’t at least be funny.

The context with Bok’s many cartoons about Muslims doesn’t help his cause. I’m sure Bok would say that he doesn’t equate Islam with jihadism, but his word is the only evidence we have.
My point is not to justify the rioting that the Dutch cartoons touched off. Nothing justifies that. But as Slactivist notes, the overreaction to the offense doesn’t negate or justify the offense. The fact that we don’t understand the degree of the offense doesn’t justify it either.

Meanwhile, stepping away from Medpundit and Bok, I’m amused that many of the people who are appalled by Muslims’ intolerance for free expression, who cheer on all those who continue to publish the cartoons, are the same people who organized boycott’s to kill off The Book of Daniel and who criticize the media for publishing Abu Graib photos. In some contexts, apparently, they understand to difference between “can say” and “should say.”

Friday, February 17, 2006


I've been holding off on fully blogging about the High & Broad controversy until now, because my feelings on the matter varied depending on who I believed to be the elusive Model500. Model and I had something of a mutual admiration society going, so I feel somewhat astroturfed by the whole affair.

If you haven't heard, Chris Redfern acknowledged last night at Meet the Bloggers that Model is in fact John Kohlstrand, Communications Director for the Ohio House Minority Caucus. Jill recounts a conversation with John in which he denies actually denying his identity to Michael Meckler and falls back on his “What the definition of ‘is’ is” response to Psychobilly.

Most of my take is pretty standard issue, but endure it anyway. I'm all about transparency. The internet and the rise of blogs make anonymous mischief easier, making it all that much more important that people are who they purport to be. As I noted in comments, I’ve been scrupulous about disclosing my newly-acquired tiny pecuniary interest in school funding reform. I have in the past faulted Pounder for using the apparently objective title “Buckeye Senate Blog” as opposed to something more accurate like “I [heart] Paul Hackett Blog.” I’m certainly not giving Model a pass for pretending to be just some guy.

Like any sort of human interaction, the internet depends on mutual trust. If a reader can’t trust the sincerity of high-profile blogs, the whole enterprise will grind itself to powder.

Model’s subterfuge is a pity because, when he engaged in argument, he was good. I felt in particular he laid out good cases about the danger of Hackettphilia and the usefulness of some MSM-affiliated blogs. Of course I can’t link to any concrete examples now . . . The point is that he could have simply put some ideas out acknowledging at least his connection to inner-circle ODP and at least some of us would have found them intrinsically valuable. Instead, everything he said is now easily dismissed by people who need to take it seriously because he hid who he was.

I’m also put off by this latest manifestation in what I see as an elitist arrogance in Democratic leadership. The attitude seems to run along the lines of: “if you have money, we will listen to you. If you are just some schlump who cares about issues, you should vote for our candidates once or twice a year, but otherwise sit down and shut up.”

I’ve been sufficiently active to have found myself in rooms with established Democratic pollsters and message people. This elitism is the most noxious and dangerous in their hands. Try to raise a complex or nuanced argument and you are immediately hooted down. As a former trial attorney, I understand the need to keep things simple.

But I’m also aware that Republicans have spent the better part of 40 years publicly discussing some fairly heady philosophies about the role of government in society and we have throughout that period avoided engaging them because, darn it all, our answers would just be too complicated. And I’m aware that Democratic politics as usual has exiled us to the political hinterlands. All this goddam caution and simplicity has earned us one-third of the General Assembly and precious little else.

Which brings me to a small but significant interchange between this blog and H&B that I let pass when I thought Model500 was just some guy. In my first (hopefully not last) Blackwell post I faulted J. Ken for misleadingly referring to a one-cent-on-a-dollar increase in the state sales tax as a 20% tax hike. Model, in an otherwise complimentary discussion of the post, said of the sales tax hike something like “all due respect to Pho, it was a 20% tax hike.”

Yes, you can accurately describe it as a 20% increase in that 6 cents on the dollar is 20% more than 5 cents on the dollar. I maintain that most people hearing “20% hike” think the tax went up 20 cents on the dollar. More importantly, since you can accurately describe it as either a 20 percent increase or a one cent on a dollar increase, why wouldn’t you do the latter. Back when I coached debaters, I didn’t need George Lakoff to tell them that if you let the other side dictate the terms of the debate, you will lose.

The fact that the Communications Director for the Democrats legislative caucus would even think about using Blackwell's typology has to rank high on the List of Reasons Why We Keep Getting Our Asses Kicked.

MTB Coming to Akron

I've spent much of this week organizing the first of what I hope to be many Meet the Bloggers sessions interviewing the comically crowded field in Ohio 13. Anyone with a blog is invited to come meet the candidate and ask questions.

If you haven't visited the Meet the Bloggers site before, please do so prior to coming so you have some idea what it expected. The sessions to date have seen their share of close questioning, but the tone has been respectful and professional. I expect no less from Akronites.

The Details:

Candidate Betty Sutton
Saturday, February 25, 2006
9:30-11:00 a.m.
Cafe Momus
491 Brown Street
Akron, Ohio

Yes, Cafe Momus is the site of Hackett's Last Stand. In the absence of a more central location, I felt it was bloggerly appropriate. It's also a good room.

As I said, all bloggers are invited. If we have a huge crowd, we will try to give some preference to residents of Oh-13 asking quetions.

I've made contact with Cafaro and Sawyer but promptly lost their contact info. Sutton is first because her campaign started emailing me -- before I found out a friend was working for her, actually. Campaigns can contact me and others can direct feed back to me: pho197 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Random Ten

"Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Bluegrass" Edition.

1. "The Valley of the Rogue," Bela Fleck
2. "On the Bus Mall," The Decembrists
3. "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer," Johnny Cash
4. "This Heart of Mine," The Artistics
5. "Natural Anthem," The Postal Service
6. "Never Enough," The Cure
7. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," Elvis Costello
8. "Betterlove," Lewis Taylor
9. "Slim Slow Slider," Van Morrison
10. "Field Day for the Sundays," Wire

As it happens, what's new (The Decembrists, Postal Service) was also borrowed (from k-pho and Jen, respectively.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Meet Betty Sutton

Tuesday night SCPD PAC played host to a number of Democratic hopefuls. We saw two of the three running for the Ohio Senate in the 27th District -- Kevin Griffith and Judy Hanna (Hanna, OK; Griffith needs work). Court of Appeals candidate John Quinn spoke. Subodh Chandra headlined and brought the house down, as usual.

Aside from Subodh, the breakout performance was from Betty Sutton, running in Ohio 13. She has the goods -- smooth speaking style, pleasant voice, tall thin and attractive, she exudes an effortless charisma. What really struck home, though, was her message.

Following an unspoken de facto format, she started with a sketch of her bio. As she recounted her early run in a Barberton City Council special election, she mentioned beating establishment Democratic candidates (Barberton is old-school blue collar D) by going door-to-door and meeting the people. She had a similar story about her run for the statehouse.

The highlight of her brief speech was her discussion of her time in the Statehouse. She has not only seen the backroom deals between the majority party and special corporate interests, she claims experience bum-rushing the back room. She illustrated the point with a story about a meeting between a committee chair and insurance industry lobbyists held literally in a back room and in which she literally walked sat down.

I'm all for a legislative agenda, but let's be realistic. We are at least two cycles and some favorable redistricting before we can even think about retaking Congress. When I hear grand schemes for spending money the State doesn't have on programs that Republicans will fight against with all their might, it feels like so much smoke up my butt. I need to know that my Representative knows how to fight, even in the minority. Betty Sutton not only promises to do that, she's done it before.

I'm interested in hearing more about Bill Grace, but for now, Sutton is the most intriguing candidate to me.

UPDATE/DISCLOSURE: A friend of mine is working for the Sutton campaign and Ms. Sutton is a former student of my wife. If you will recall, when an actual friend of mine gave a poor stump speech, I trashed him for it. I've let my friend in the Sutton camp know I'm going to call it like I see it. I went into the event hoping she would impress me (to provide a legitimate challenge to Cafaro, if nothing else) and, as it happens, was not disappointed.

Your One-Stop Shop for All Things Cafaro

OK, I promised to climb off Capri Cafaro. But that doesn't mean that I won't cite others who are blogging about her. A reader passed on a link to a post on Fired Up America outlining every charge the Republicans will level against her. People supporting her candidacy should read it carefully and think about how she can respond to all this.

Everyone else should read it because it's damn funny.

New Years Day William Safire was on Meet the Press talking about 2008. When the subject of Hillary Clinton came up, he noted that when Henry Clay ran for president, his primary opponents ran on the slogan "Henry Clay Can't Win." His advice for Hillary's opponents is to run on "Hillary Can't Win."

Here, the situation is not so extreme, so the germaine slogan is "Only Capri Can Lose."

That would fit nicely on a bumper sticker. You wouldn't even have to pay me royalties.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Highly Disappointed

This was going to be a blogging day off for me.  Lots to do, etc.  But recent events compel me to donate my two cents to the cause.

As someone who likes Sherrod Brown and whose feelings about Paul Hackett ran from ambivalence to deep skepticism, you might think Hackett’s departure from the race would make me happy.  In fact, I’m plenty upset about it.

Schumer and Reid are now denying putting the arm on either Hackett or his followers, but there’s no question that Rahm Emmanuel went to the press to call him out to drop out.  I’m hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which Hackett’s run ended happily – he either would have lost to Brown’s war chest or come out of the primary broke and bloody.  But I’m harder pressed to imagine a worse, more destructive end than this.  Emmanel did to Hackett essentially what the Bush administration did to Gen Eric Shisecki.  Not a good way to go.

I don’t know how damaging this will be because I don’t know how much support Hackett had outside the netroots.  All of this stinks of the Democratic Party’s disdain for grassroots politcs, but around here offline progressive grassroots activists strongly prefer Brown over Hackett.

What is lost is the possibility for a broad realignment based on Hackett’s no-bullshit personality, his war record and his conservative stance on guns.  Still today, I’m not convinced that Hackett would have avoided cratering, but now we will never know.

What distresses me the most is the damage done to the Ohio blogosphere.  The entire Brown/Hackett campaign has badly damaged this community that I love.  Plenty of fault lies on both sides for that; rather than play the blame game, better to acknowledge what has happened and try to clear the wreckage.  

I fear for example that the adjunct controversy over whether the author of High and Broad is a paid ODP staffer is just the beginning.  Whether or not he was, I still maintain that his takes were well thought out and had contrarian value.  But the controversy over his identity has made life harder for those of us who resist e-groupthink.  Thank God Tim Russo has met me or I might be next.

All of this, everything that has happened, is why I’ve resisted party politics in favor of issue advocacy for much of my adult life.  But unlike Eric at Plunderbund, I can’t go back that way.  Something -- presumably the combined politics of self-interest and the politics of fear of eternal flames – keeps Republicans from fracturing under similar strains.  McCainiacs support Bush despite far more despicable behavior than that alleged in the current instance.  

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has indeed been hijacked by extremists who mean to do harm to everything I hold dear.  Once upon a time, activism was a matter of conviction; nowadays it feels more like self-defense.  Activism in this case means more than just combating to the corruption and incompetence of the Republicans, it also means confronting corruption and incompetence within our party.

If you are with me on that point, have some time over the next couple of days and want to take one small step, consider this.  Tomorrow is the deadline for turning in petitions to run for precinct captain.  Each true progressive who wins as precinct chair is one more vote for those values in the local party.  Each local party with grassroots-friendly leadership is one more vote for those values in the State party.

Yes, people will cry that the whole structure is so hopelessly corrupt that none of this will make any difference.  As Russo said in Armenia:  What the fuck else are you going to do?

[I’ll update all this with links when Blogger lets me.]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

About the Previous Post . . .

I still can’t get into the Blogger dashboard, but I can post directly from Word for Bloggger. Unfortunately W4B doesn’t respect HTML tags. Fascinating. With the Blogger plug-in, Word has found an entirely new way to suck.

Anyway, sorry for the visible tags and lack of linkage in the previous post. When I can get in, it’ll be fixed. Update: it's fixed now.

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

I write this with no idea when you will actually be able to read it. If you haven’t noticed, being a blogger on Blogger has pretty much sucked of late. Two Sundays ago they had an announced outage for an upgrade and things haven’t been the same since. Trouble uploading posts, trouble getting into comments, unannounced outages, multiple outages announced at the last minute and viscously slow downloads at all times. Not only has it been difficult to post in a timely fashion, it’s been nearly impossible to keep up on what my favorite Blogger bloggers are doing.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about a recent post on keng’s blog about his experience working at Mapquest back when they started moving onto the internet. This passage in particular caught m eye:

. . .Gopher . . . Usenet, e-mail, and so on. Most of these concepts were quickly forgotten in rapidly changing maelstrom that the internet quickly became. It was a fun era fraught with copyright litigation (such as the Barbie Doll satires or the proliferation of scanned Dilbert cartoons) that I suspect was a lot like when radio was first taking off in the 1920s.

It feels to me like we’re in the waning days of the similarly wild-and-wooly rise of the blogosphere. As Jeff Hess recently noted, estimates on the blog population approach thirty million. The blogosphere has seen its share of successes – regrettably primarily on the Right – but the end of the Hackett campaign is if nothing else symbolic of the limitations of blog power.

Meanwhile, we increasingly see astroturf blogs, viral comments, accusations – true or false – of Astroturf or virus, blogs as adjunct to mainstream media properties, blogs from establishment figures.

And I wonder about the future of Blogger as part of all this. Can Google continue to offer it free and keep it viable? If it goes to a pay service, what then? Few have found a way to blog for profit. Certainly, millions of bloggers will fold it up. And the fact is, a huge part of the audience for blogs is other bloggers. Will the blogosphere collapse under its own weight?

Only a fool would predict what happens next, and I’m feeling oddly unfoolish today, so you are left to ponder and, if the comments function happens to be working, discuss.

And while we’re sorting all this out, I helpfully suggest a new marketing slogan:

Blogger: Worth Every Penny.

Monday, February 13, 2006

At the Races

A few updates on a variety of political decathlons.

Paul Hackett got some good ink over the weekend for his Café Momus stop. He also got coverage on the Cleveland NBC-affiliate local news program Saturday night. Then tonight, Chris Cillizza the Washington Post politics blogger, reports that Hackett is getting a full-court press to drop the Senate campaign and run against Jean Schmidt again. Friday Cillizza dropped Ohio’s Senate Seat from 3rd to 4th on his regularly-updated Line of seats most likely to change hands. And OPEN notes that Hackett cancelled a scheduled appearence on Hardball tonight.


Eric Fingerhut folded up the tents over the weekend. Only Bryan Flannery stands between Ted Strickland and the nomination. AP coverage or no, this one is pretty much over.

Jim Petro has his turn on Open Mike this week. Today is Biography Day, and therefore fairly snoozeworthy.

Ohio 13

Word of Mouth reports that Republican Lorain Mayor Folitin has joined the increasingly crowded field. Ohio 13 Blog is unimpressed. Let’s pause for a moment and consider a Folitin vs. Cafaro match-up in November. Always a close call whether voters are more put off by sex corruption or money corruption. Blogger is acting up again, so I'll update with a link later.

Ohio 13 Votes notes the recent Hoffman post about Capri Cafaro and chimes in with a theme I repeated back when I blogged about the race (and still repeat in real life):

The Republicans can’t beat Grace, they can’t beat Sutton, they can’t beat Sawyer (if he gets in) and they probably can’t beat Wolfe. Go find a Republican who’s in the know, get two drinks in them, and they’d tell you.

But the GOP would beat Capri Cafaro like a rented mule.
I’m not sure that I go so far as to say that Cafaro is automatic dead meat in the General. But I challenge anyone to come up with a scenario with any other candidate in which the Democrats lose in November. Anyone can win it, but only Cafaro can lose it. I also think that if Cafaro is the Representative in 2010 and the Republicans still control the redistricting process, they will target the 13th. All they have to do is make it competitive and Cafaro would be hard pressed to survive. Again, I wonder why good people think this is a good idea.

Meanwhile Betty Sutton has gotten the endorsement from the Akron Education Association. Longtime readers already knew that would happen.

Ohio General Assembly

I’ve heard confirmation of the rumor posted on OPEN that former pro football player Tom Cousineau is running against Brian Williams in the Ohio House 44. I know Tom and he’s much much bigger than me, so you won’t hear too much about this race here.

I’ve heard that one Judy Hanna may be running for the Ohio Senate in the (against Kevin Griffith in the primary; Kevin Coughlin in the general). The name sounded only vaguely familiar. A Google search suggests that she may be a field organizer for Common Cause Ohio.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

New on the Sidebar

Thanks to Model500, I now have Debbie Phillips' website. Currently a bio/mission statement with more to come. (Debbie was supposed to tell me when it was up but, in retrospect, probably decided not to mix her campaign with my new employment.)

I have to give Model some love. It's one thing to be an iconoclast and therefore a blogger. It's quite another to be an iconoclast among bloggers. Model dares to go where few go, with such against-the-current opinions as: Sherrod Brown is not the Devil, the MSM sometimes does not irredeemably and Ken Blackwell might know enough about election law to avoid taking an illegal campaign contribution.

Model has in particular gotten heat for liking the Plain Dealer's OPEN. He has added it to his roll, and I'm finding it sufficiently compelling to do the same. On OPEN you get lots of gossipy, inside-baseball breaking stories, but not much in the way of analysis. And OPEN put me on their blogroll so, well, you know. . .

Model also likes Steve Hoffman's blog which, though it is still maddeningly uncontaminated by references to other blogs, has improved. If for no other reason than this post about Cafaro, I begrudingly add it as well. But of course, he is not yet a Phriend.

An Ohio blog first -- two blogs focusing on one Congressional race. Ohio 13 Votes is a bi-partisan view-from-the-armchair blog on my home district.

NixGuy is a conservative blogger from the Cincinnati suburbs. He liked the post on Jim Petro's week so much he blogged about it and added me to his blogroll. His is the sort of conservative blog I can respect -- thoughtful, thought-provoking and non-rabid -- so I'm happy to add him in turn. As you know, at the Akron Pages, blogrolling is logrolling.

I've been reading Crooked Timber when I get the chance. It's a group blog by an eclectic collection of academics. You never know what you will wander into.

The Strategy They've Adopted

Today was supposed to be a day for celebrating adoption. Kid T and I attended a Tet celebration at the Vietnam Orphans Relief Fund(for those of you who haven’t read the PhAQs, Kid T was adopted from Vietnam). VORF grew out of our adoption agency during a 2 ½ years when Vietnam was closed to American adoption. In addition to celebrating Tet, we were celebrating Vietnam recently reopening to adoption and celebrating VORF being certified by Vietnam as an adoption agency. Meanwhile, we saw the facilitator from our trip to Vietnam, met some people looking to adopt and reacquainted ourselves with some local adoptive families we haven’t seen in a couple years. I came home feeling as warm and fuzzy as I ever do.

So I was particularly distressed to learn that the Ohio far right is seeking to ban LGBT’s from adopting or serving as foster parents. Outrage echoes over the left side of the blogosphere. Jill was the first blogger I saw discussing the matter (after seeing the CD story ($$$.)) You can click through her links, but special kudos to Michele guestblogging at Word of Mouth for her touching personal testimonial.

According to the press reports, Speaker Husted is agin it, says it’s DOA. Great. But what happens next? Ted Strickland predicted at Meet the Bloggers that the far right would put a gay adoption ban issue on the ’06 ballot to mobilize the far right. One procedure for putting an issue on the ballot is to take it to the legislature first. Or, they may just be looking at it as a stalking horse. In any event, I've been waiting for this.

Blackwell still brags about strategically using the anti-gay marriage strategy in 2004 which, hateful as it was, undeniably worked. It passed by a spectacular margin, and did especially well among African Americans. It did well despite the objection of nearly every Republican leader. It may well have boosted turnout among conservative Christians, giving Bush the edge in Ohio. It was the issue Republicans used to motivate Amish and Mennonites to vote for Bush, despite that war thingy that they generally oppose.

Blackwell gives the issue credit for Bush’s relatively strong showing among African Americans and may be right. From that rhetoric, I surmise that Blackwell sees gay rights as a wedge issue to peel African American support away from Democrats.

Doing some research on the matter, I ran across the anti-gay-adoption game plan. They will site the rigged studies purporting to show children raised by gays have difficulties. They will overclaim the lifestyles of the licentious swatch of the gay male population, including couples with open relationships. They will quote at length the writings of fringe queer theorists. I won’t give the bastards the benefit of linking to the sites, just Google “gay adoption research” and you will find it. A page from the Family Research Council is particularly helpful.

The gay adoption issue will be, if anything, more potent with the African American community than gay marriage. Black people, in the aggregate, are very sensitive to what happens to Black children in the system. For years, trans-racial adoption was forbidden or discouraged throughout most of the country, primarily due to advocacy from Black activists. That ban has been lifted – a happy consequence of Republican rule. The specter of, not only white, but white and gay people raising Black children will send Blacks running to the polls.

And what will we do? First off, we understand that the legislative battle is just the prelude. It’s important to raise our voices, though probably more important that moderates raise theirs.

Second, the Democratic candidates need to call Blackwell and Petro out. They need to step up, condemn this legislation, and call on Blackwell and Petro to do the same. If nothing else, Blackwell’s actions will give us a preview of what is to come.

Third, we start – NOW – working on messaging for the big show in November. The messaging has to move beyond simple appeals to fairness. They don’t work for reasons I don’t quite understand. Because too many people see homosexuality as a choice on some level or something. In particular, those appeals do not work with the African Americans who see attempts to draw parallels between their struggle and the gay struggle as diminishing their experience. (Exceptions exists, and I give belated big ups to George Thomas at the ABJ for drawing that parallel on 90.3 at Nine last week.)

As I play with it, ideas about, irony alert, the sanctity of the family keep popping up. As an opener to the discussion, I submit the following: In our society, we treat the parent-child relationship as sacred, even when parents do things that studies say they should not. You can find studies saying that spanking is bad for kids, but we don’t take children out of homes for mere spanking. You can find research saying that feeding kids a diet high in sugars and fats is bad for kids, but we don’t take kids out of homes for that. You can find research – embraced by the same people who advocate for this ban – saying that kids in single-parent households are at greater risk for a variety of bad outcomes, but we don’t take kids away just because they are being raised single parents. To invade the sanctity of the family based on a few studies – particularly studies as flawed and biased as these are – sets a dangerous precedent.

Suggestions welcome.

Meanwhile, George at BFD has wondered out loud whether Blackwell and Petro will sit down to Meet the Bloggers. If Blackwell does, I have some questions for him. Like:

-Does he have any figures on how many marriages have been saved so far by the gay marriage ban?

-Does he have any other legislative ideas about gays? Mandatory employment discrimination? Mandatory Christian counseling?

-Does he have a Final Solution to the Gay Problem?

-Does it involve boxcars?

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Because blogger kept crashing this week, I kept either forgetting to post this or remembering when the blog was down. Two events this afternoon if you are in the area looking for a politics fix.

Paul Hackett in Akron. Hot off his drove–into-the-wall, Sherrod Brown-trashing performance last week, the blogosphere’s favorite Marine is penetrating deep into enemy territory. Hackett will be at Café Momus from 3-5 tomorrow, February 11.

Ted Strickland HQ Opening. Strickland and inexplicable running mate Lee Fisher will attend the opening of their Northeast Ohio headquarters, also tomorrow, from 4-7. The HQ is at 1400 W. 25th St. – corner of Detroit and W. 25th.

For myself, it is unlikely I'll make either as Kid T and I have a Tet celebration to attend.

Friday, February 10, 2006


I've signed the contract and we have our first conference call meeting today, so it can be told. I'll be working 1/4 time for the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign. I say this so people know where I'm coming from. The opinions on this blog are mine. They are not necessarily the opinions of Ohio Fair Schools any more than they are the opinions of SCPD or the PTA or any other group that I belong to, volunteer for or sit on the Board of Directors of.

As a result, I'll be working around a couple of concerns on this blog. The first is 0ffending people who the Fair Schools Campaign seeks to lobby. That doesn't mean I won't be going after people -- witness the recent Blackwell post. But I'll pick my targets a little more carefully. Blackwell has pretty much written off public education, so if he's elected we're screwed no matter what I say in the blog. On the other hand, you've probably read my last anti-Cafaro post. She told me that if elected she wouldn't hold the blog against me if I approached her with a constituent concern and I'll hold her to that. But I'm not going to push my luck.

A second concern is blogging about education. No matter what I say about "this is me not my employer," I have to be careful not to publicly contradict positions of the Fair Schools Campaign publicly. Right now we agree on at least 99% of the platform, so it won't be too much of a problem, but there will be some third-rail topics I will conspicuously avoid.

One problem I hope not to have is readers accusing me of taking a position on the blog because of my employment. I've made my position on education issues well known here. I'm working for Fair Schools because I believe in the organization, not the other way around. Besides, if you know anything about public interest organizing, you know about my pay level. I'm not saying I can't be bought, but I don't come that cheap.

Having said all that, I refrained from held back on a couple of Fair Schools-pimping while the job decision was pending because it just seemed wrong somehow. Now that you know exactly what I'm doing and that I'm doing it out of conviction, it seems OK.

First, you can support the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign by buying a bumper sticker. The stickers are the winning designs in a statewide contest among public school students. You can choose between the winning elementary school design:

Or the winning high school design:

You can get them through the Fair Schools Campaign website or, if you are someone who sees me around, flag me down. I carry a supply around in my green laptop backpack. They are doing the "suggested donation" thing at $1, but I'm trying to get at least five. Everything I get goes to the Campaign. You can also go on the website and donate directly to the campaign. You will be supporting a great organization and, indirectly, a beloved blogger.

Second, Debbie Phillips, the Executive Director of the Campaign is someone who in the past I called "a valuable resource," "a colleague in school adovcacy," and "a friend." Now I call her "boss." As it happens, she is running for State Rep. in the 92nd District. In addition to a career in public interest advocacy, she currently serves as a member of Athens City Council. She's experienced, bright, progressive and passionate about education. She has a real chance at picking up a Democratic seat in the Legislature and would be a great Rep. When she gets her website up, I'll be posting it and adding it to my sidebar.

I would do it even if she wasn't signing my checks.


"Stalked by Tragedy" edition

1. "I'm Just Lonely," Kelly Willis
2. "I Ain't Got No Heart," Mothers of Invention
3. "Cold Shot," Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
4. "Grace," Jeff Buckley
5. "Wicked Rain," Los Lobos
6. "I'm Set Free," Velvet Underground
7. "Couldn't Get Ahead," The Fall
8. "Rudie Can't Fail," The Clash
9. "Johnny Ryall," Beastie Boys
10. "Come as You Are," Nirvana

The mode today is Artists Who Died in their Prime. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain, all gone with so much left unsaid. Add to that Frank Zappa and Joe Strummer each dying relatively young, and the list is pretty much a downer.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Blog by Blackwell

The hot topic around the ‘sphere this week has been J. Ken Blackwell’s blog on the new PD Open Mike page. A number of bloggers tried to drum up controversy, saying it was an illegal campaign contribution. I tend to agree with High & Broad that it isn’t. I haven’t bothered looking up election law because the PeeDee has a stable of well-paid lawyers to do so. Unless they serve high-strength Stoopid Flakes in the employee’s lunchroom, it’s highly unlikely Open Mike represents the clear violation of elections laws some have claimed. In the latest development, George at BFD notes that the PD has posted a schedule of which candidates will blog when.

Personally, I’m glad Blackwell blogged this week. He got into the spirit of the thing, with far more freewheeling posts than campaign CW will generally allow. And that’s a good thing, because now we can pick through what he has said.

Curiously, no one has done much of that. Jill asked him a couple of questions which he then answered. Someone somewhere asked some pertinent questions about his lease-the-turnpike proposal, and now I can't find it. But that's about it.

I’m hoping to get more in-depth with some actual research, but we can start by pointing out some breathtakingly disingenuous rhetoric, some out and out distortions, a couple of borderline fibs.

Reading Blackwell is something of a time warp. It’s 1979, all is bleak and all can be laid at the feet of tax-and-spend Democrats. We’re in a nationwide malaise and it’s all the fault of the other party.

But of course, this isn’t 1979. It is 2006, going on ten years since Democrats controlled anything in the state. The economy is moribund with no end in sight. We are in statewide malaise, all the fault of, apparently, Republicans who aren’t Republican enough. Given Blackwell’s professed love for Reagan, it’s not surprising that he’s running a Reagan-style campaign, but I didn’t realize until watching this race how much Reaganism required a foil.

Blackwell’s solution to everything is tax cuts and spending cuts: TEL amendment, slash personal income tax and “reform” business taxes. Here’s where we get into some less than honest dealing. Take this snippet:

I fought Bob Taft’s 20% sales tax increase and his CAT tax increase (a new tax on gross receipts).
Let’s take each of these. The “20% tax increase” is from Blackwell’s Greatest Hits and is a good example of how to mislead with statistics. A person reading that line, with no knowledge of the history, would think the tax rate went up 20% -- from say 5% to 25%. In fact, the “20%” is the percentage increase in the tax rate. The tax rate went from 5% to 6% -- what most people would call an increase of one percent.

Even more misleading is the reference to Taft’s CAT tax “increase.” A reader knowing nothing of the last budget cycle would think that Taft raised the overall tax burden on business by slapping the CAT tax on everything else. In fact this past spring the General Assembly eliminated two entire classes of business tax – personal property taxes and corporate franchise taxes (the latter was Ohio’s version of corporate income tax) – and replaced the latter with the Corporate Activities Tax. While no one is sure precisely what CAT revenues will look like, projections from both sides of the aisle showed an overall drop in business tax revenue. (Rather than find a discrete link for each of the points above, I'll just direct you to this page of the Ohio Department of Taxation website.)

All of which brings us to the most questionable statement in the blog – the point at which Blackwell, what’s the word, disassembles?
Without spending reform, we can’t have tax reform.

Imagine a Democratic politician in 2000 saying “with Republicans in control, Congress cannot pass Federal education reform legislation.” That would be an opinion. A wrong one, as it turns out. Now imagine the same politician saying the same thing today. What do you call that? Like it or not, the No Child Left Behind Act was comprehensive Federal education reform passed by a Republican Congress. Hypothetical 2 is just a lie.

And so is Blackwell’s statement. The General Assembly passed sweeping, once-in-a-generation corporate tax reform last year, without spending reform as defined by Blackwell. He may want more reform – his proposal to eliminate the CAT would mean Ohio would have essentially no corporate taxes – but saying that tax reform can’t happen without his precious TEL simply isn’t true. If he doesn't believe Republicans can commit tax reform without him, he should read this piece in the Columbus Dispatch about how school districts are scrambling to replace revenues from the now extinct personal business property taxes.

It’s understandable that Blackwell would want to run against Bob Taft, universally reviled as he is. But it’s bizarre that he refuses to acknowledge the legislative accomplishments of his Republican Party. But then, it makes sense when you look at the state his party has put Ohio in. He knows he can’t acknowledge that his platform is a more intense version of what has come before. If a teaspoon of medicine almost kills the patient, he won’t be persuaded to take a tablespoon next time.

In the end, Blackwell sounds less like the heir to Reagan and more like one of those sad Reagan-era Marxists who dismissed the repression in Communist bloc countries because those places never really tried Marxism.

Some Catching Up To Do

I’ve been unusually busy the past few days, so not much posting. My readers have responded by . . . continuing to log on in increasing numbers. So much so that I’ve decided not to write off the week, but instead to work up some of the actual content that people have come to expect here.

First off a couple of notes from the blogosphere. BlueCollarBaby at Live from Dayton has put the blog on hiatus while he works for Stephanie Studebaker’s Congressional campaign. He will be missed. Not only did he post strong analysis, he is the only liberal blogger I am aware of in the Dayton area.

Another great loss, and under far more dire circumstances, is the medical leave announced this week by Hypothetically Speaking. Hypo has been blogging Ohio politics far longer and with far more experience, knowledge and insight, than just about anyone else. His was the first Ohio politics blog I found and reading him taught me much of what I know about how to do this. He has disclosed that he is battling prostate cancer. Stop by and offer your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Akron Politics Potpurri [Updated]

State Rep. and Auditor candidate Barbara Sykes is apparently looking at an investigation for voting in the wrong precinct. The whole thing is a head-scratcher. Her husband Vernon apparently changed his address in January 2005, but Barbara didn’t change hers until January 2006. Her story, that she had two houses and voted in the precinct containing the old one, doesn’t fit well with the timeline. She didn’t gain anything except perhaps the right to vote when she had failed to send in a change of address. It would be a shame to see her candidacy scuttled for something so trivial, but it could happen.

In the 13th, Ohio 13 Blog reports seeing Capri Cafaro television ads. I haven’t seen them, but I’ll note that her website is up. [Update: I forgot the link last night. It's in now]

Betty Sutton, meanwhile, is collecting union endorsements and shouting about them. OH-13 reports the endorsement of Laborers Local 310 and I get word via email that Ohio Firefighters have endorsed her. This last gives her a good homeland security hook. From the press release:

As a labor lawyer, Sutton fought to maintain sufficient first responder manpower
levels and services for the community, while preserving fair wages and
family-sustaining benefits. Previously, Sutton served eight years in the
Ohio House representing part of Summit County, where she championed such crucial
issues as health care access and pension protection.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

House 44: Patrick Bravo Is In

Word comes (via a fundraising invite forwarded by county Dems) that one Patrick Bravo is running for the Democratic nomination to succeed Barbara Sykes in the 44th House District. I've been trying to run down information about him. Bravo's website doesn't tell us much. He's apparently had time to write position blurbs, but not a bio. What I've heard so far is that he's young and . . . white.

Conventional wisdom says 44 is not only a Dem seat, it's a Black seat. As it happens, I attended a meeting tonight about tweaking the conventional wisdom on race and politics in Akron, but this is one instance where I expect it to hold. Nonetheless, Bravo appears to be more than just testing waters: his fundraiser is scheduled for Feb. 16 -- the day petitions are due.

The field now swells to three: William Green, Vernon Sykes (Barbara's husband) and Bravo. This may turn out to be an interesting contest after all.

All In

Ken Blackwell is looking at a pair of tens and thinks he has the nuts. By picking State Sen. Tom Raga as his running mate, he is saying that Ohio is pure conservative country. He’s saying he can win running a polarizing campaign that will alienate independents and give moderate Republicans pause. And he’s saying he can write off Northeast Ohio as hopelessly blue and win with a southern strategy.

And really, what else could he do? Blackwell’s strategy for neutralizing the Scandalocracy is to palm it off on Republican insiders and pretend he isn’t one. His strategy for dealing with a state economy moribund after a decade of ironclad Republican rule is the same. Blackwell isn’t just running against Democrats, he’s running against a Republican establishment that he describes with the kind of special disgust Leninists reserve for the Liberal Bourgeoisie.

If Petro is smart, he will counter with the Arshinkoff factor. By aligning himself with Alex, Blackwell jumped with both feet into the deepest, smelliest Republican cesspool in the state. Petro started down this road with his impassioned op-ed defense against the Jack Morrison charges. Really, hearing Blackwell say that he and Raga are “a team that will shake up the status quo," is pretty laughable after an Arshinkoff being Arshinkoff moment like last week. But Petro pulled up short of linking Arshinkoff to Blackwell

The pitfall for Petro is that training a search light on Arshinkoff also illuminates the pay-to-play allegations emanating from Summit. And while his denials were impressive, I still have my doubts. I’ve been asking around and indeed, lawyers are still saying that if Jack Morrison says it, they believe it. Not to say that Jack’s role in this is completely honorable, it’s not. But straight up lying just isn’t his style, especially considering that this would be a lie that would run messily afoul of the Rules of Professional Responsibility.

The one move Petro could have made was to join the call for a Grand Jury investigation. Personally, if someone was spreading lies about me and I knew they were lies, I would want that person to be compelled to swear to it under penalty of perjury, especially if the person involved was a lawyer for whom perjury could be professional death sentence. Petro held that chip back. He’s still testing the odds, for whatever reason. But now Blackwell has pushed everything into the pot.

Mr. Petro, the bet is yours to call.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Change Is in the Air

I am currently in the final stages of negotiating a contract to do part-time organizing for an advocacy group that I've thus far volunteered with. Inevitably, this will change things somewhat here at the Akron pages. For one thing, I anticipate far fewer posts candidate-centered politics and more about public policy -- less naming names and calling people out and more discussion of what is to be done. For another, I may need to rethink how I blog about education issues.

I say this as a heads-up, but also as a plea for advice. As I think this through, I'd love to hear from people with experience navigating between a professional and a blogging life. You can start a discussion in comments or email me at pho197 (at) hotmail (dot) com. TIA.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Selected Reaction to the Blue 88 Forum

I've been crying in my root beer all weekend that I didn't make it to Columbus for the candidates forum sponsored by Blue 88 and a host of others (including Akron's own SCPD.) Prof. W came down with the grunge going around so I could not bail off to Columbus and leave her with two rambunctious, cabin-fevered urchins.

Yesterday I attended long training session with SCPD folks, many of whom were in Columbus. Rather than read all the blog accounts and (if they exist) news accounts and come up with an out-of-my-butt analysis, I'm just going to give you the filtered impressions of the people I talked to. These are very liberal activists who, as it happens, don't read blogs very much. This isn't a large or representative sample but, if I can contribute anything to this particular conversation, it's adding a little perspective from outside the blogosphere.

The consensus in the group was, first and foremost, that Subodh Chandra stole the show. People were also impressed with Richard Cordray, candidate for Treasurer.

On the other end were Marc Dann and Jennifer Brunner who didn't show. People were not happy about that. And then there was Paul Hackett who got booed for talking trash about Sherrod Brown. Based on what I heard, reading favorable blog posts may be the Aughts version of reading one's own press clippings. In other words, I wonder if Hackett went in with unrealistic expectations of how an anti-Sherrod speech would go down.

Fact is, most liberal activists, like most people, don't read blogs. They don't know how great Paul Hackett's run in Ohio 2 was, they haven't heard the story about how Sherrod Brown came into the race, they are unfamiliar with the plagairism scandal, they actually think his wife is pretty cool.

Maybe Hackett can win the nomination without appealing to the non-wired liberal segment of the party. He better hope so. He isn't going to appeal to them with a winking acknowledgement of Sherrod's sins against the blogosphere.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Science of Willful Blindness

[Edited to fix bone-headed mistake]

Gov. Bob Taft is pretty darn sure that the State biology standards don't actually have any intelligent design to them (irony intentional) and he just can't figure out how pro-ID folks got on the State School Board:

The governor also said he should have asked his previous appointees to the State Board of Education more questions about their position on the controversial issue, and that he will be asking about it before making future appointments.

"There were cases in which I didn’t ask the right questions, in some cases where I supported someone for election or appointment," Taft said this week when asked about the issue during a meeting with Dispatch editors and reporters.

"I’ll be asking that question now, I can assure you."

Gov. Bob Taft says that although he’s convinced the state’s 10th grade biology teaching standards do not include intelligent design, there should be a legal review of the companion lesson plan to ensure Ohio is not vulnerable to a lawsuit. (From the Columbus Dispatch ($$$). The online version is messed up so I reordered the text.)
The Governor really ought to review this week's Free Times cover story -- a lengthy, extensively reported history of who tried to get ID into the science curriculum, how they compromised on the current standards and what they are trying to do shove through the gap those standards create. By way of disclosure, the article is sourced in part to Steve Weeks of the UA Biology Department, a friend of mine. As you read the story, Taft's mealy protests ring false. Or maybe he was on the links when all this went down.

When the latest ID decision came down, I tried in vain to find a backgrounder like this one. The papers alluded to the history of the "critical analysis of evolution" provision, but none took the time to reset it. I don't go completely squishy about alternative media, but this is an example of the good of having diverse news sources (on the other hand, this week's Scene cover is about an incident of alleged police brutality, but you didn't need me to tell you that.)

Meanwhile, our Ohio-grown new House Speaker Majority Leader John Boener is apparently an ID guy (among his other charms.)

Shuffling for Ten

Monstrous Mash Edition

Thanks to everyone who sent kind words about the Jim Petro post. It's amazing what comes into your head when most of your fiction reading consists of bedtime stories. Anyway, I had so much fun putting that together, I forgot the Friday ritual. Here it is with 30 minutes to spare:

1. "Wafflehead," Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
2. "Bonnie," James Monrow and the Midnight Ramblers
3. "Always Late (With Your Kisses)," Dwight Yoakum
4. "Marjorine," Joe Cocker
5. "Peaches and Cream," Beck
6. "Natural Blues," Moby
7. "Boulevard of Broken Songs," Dean Gray
8. "Rapxodi so 2 (Rhapsodie No. 2.)," Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra
9. "Women's Prison," Loretta Lynn
10. "Sail Away," Neil Young

A couple of debuts. Dean Gray "American Edit" is a mashup of Green Day's "American Idiot." "Boulevard is one of the best-realized remixes in the collection, merging Green Day, Oasis, Aerosmith and a rapper I can't place. "Making Boulevard of Broken Dreams" just listenable is an accomplishment in my book. A blogrollee/comment contributor who will remain nameless posted American Edit on his site a while back and yes, I'm as shocked at his blatant disregard for copyright laws as you are. I just downloaded the entire thing because I was collecting evidence. Anyway, it's not there anymore, but you can probably Google "American Edit." Or if you're local and into some vigilante copyright enforcement of your own and need a copy of the evidence, I suppose something could be arranged . . .

The Hanoi Orchestra piece is from a disc I picked up when I was there to get Kid T. Fitting for that to show up, this being the season of Tet.

MoneyGoRound Pt. 3 -- Let's All Get Off

The previous posts lead to my ultimate point: Eccch to all of it. The scandals are the inevitable result of an irredeemable campaign finance system. Democrats need to take the leap and run on a proposal to fundamentally change the system -- some sort of public finance plan.

I say this for two reasons. First, the Republicans are too smart to leave the reform agenda to the Democrats. Already they have proposed nibble-around-the-edges reforms and will continue to do so. They've also thrown in a number of nonreform items into that stew. Tuesday night, Bush tried to reanimate the long-dead corpse of the line-item veto -- as a reform. Ohio Republicans are patting themselves on the back for passing House Bill 3 -- as a reform.

Now you know and I know that neither expanding the uncheckable power of the Executive nor insulating politicians from voter accountability is likely to prevent future scandals. The point is that by proposing some relevant incremental changes and falsely labelling other proposals as reforms, the Republicans have something to say. And if the Democrats offer only a different set of incremental reforms, they are left to bicker about whose reform is bigger, diluting the potency of the corruption issue.

I also say this because a radical restructuring of the system is the only thing that will work. For most of its participants, the campaign finance system in this country is one of decriminalized graft. Reform proposals that tighten up this disclosure requirement or that contribution limit are point-missing crap. Does anyone really think that an above-board, fully-disclosed $10,000 contribution to the Attorney General from a regulated industry has any less effect on his actions than a below-the-table $10,000? Don’t be silly.

What’s more, violations of these proposals can look ridiculously technical, eroding respect for the whole system. The case against Tom DeLay is essentially that corporations gave $X to a party organization which then turned around and gave precisely $X to DeLay’s TRMPAC. There undoubtedly was a way to accomplish the same thing without creating a clear paper trail, but there was probably a way to accomplish the same result legally, if sleazily. If DeLay had been more patient and less arrogant, he wouldn’t be indicted, but the end product would be no less disgraceful.

So the more I read reform proposals since getting on this bandwagon, the more convinced I become that anyone really interested in cleaning up the system should get behind a system of public campaign financing.

The best single site I've found on the subject is Public Campaign. They lay out the basic principles -- public financing for candidates who choose it, matching funds raised by those who don't. They also critique piecemeal reforms, round up the state success stories (Arizona and Connecticut, so far) and post lobbying horror stories.

Unfortunately, the only Ohio contact on the state list is Ohio Citizen Action which hasn't moved beyond the hippie do-gooder PIRG model. Their hearts are in the right place, but it's not the organzation to lead a broad-based charge. Reform Ohio recently sent me a letter promising to rise from the ashes; perhaps they could look at taking up a real reform.

Another example is a proposal Paul Begala and James Carville are shopping around in their new book. They offer an excerpt in the current Washington Monthly.

While not everyone is enthused by Carville and Begala's book generally, seeing a public finance proposal in a book that's being skewered for its relentless Clintonista centrism is a good thing. If we can get Liberal and DLC Democrats on board with the basic principles, this could go somewhere.

If we will see drastic campaign finance reform in our lifetimes, it will come in response to the current scandals. If the progressive community really wants to leave behind a better country for our children, we should be beating on our representatives and candidates to get behind this.

Personally, I think it’s a better use of the blogosphere than My Candidate Can Beat Up Your Candidate.

Jim Petro and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week.

Apologies and hat tip to Judith Viorst.

I might have tried too hard to get campaign contributions or something from a lawyer and now there's pay to play allegetions on my campaign and all I did was what Betty did but that doesn't help me because I already said what a good AG Betty was and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

My party did a poll and I agreed to it except that I didn't agree to the results and it showed that I was the guy who could outrace Ted, except that it didn't, and the pollster asked nice questions about Ken before asking people if they like Ken or me better and they said "Ken." People said I was whining about the poll, but I wasn't, I was just explaining that it was really really really really really really unfair.

I think I'll run for Governor of Australia.

I picked Joy to run with me because a gun group likes her but they said that Joy is their best friend and Ken is their next-best friend and Ted might be their third-best friend and they endorsed Ken, so all that happened when I picked Joy was that everyone remembered how Phil left my campaign and that she had been mean to Terry.

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

I could tell because we turned in our money reports and they showed I was ahead of Ken but people only talked about how Ken is raising money faster and that Ted has more money than either of us. My fundraising consultant said we'll do better next quarter.

Next quarter, I said, I'll be running in Australia.

The newspapers talked to Marc about his plan to fix special counsel spending and talked to Tim about his plan to fix special counsel spending and talked to Subodh about why he thought their plans were silly, and they quoted everyone about what I had done wrong. "I'm having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week," I said, but nobody quoted me.

The left wing blogs made fun of me for pay to play.
I hate the left wing blogs.

The right wing blogs made fun of me for complaining about the poll.
I hate the right wing blogs.

The party wants me to drop out, the moderates think I'm a wingnut and the wingnuts think I'm a pandering RINO. My ex-friend Tom Noe is still out their somewhere and people want to know why I didn't investigation the Bureau of Workers Comp. Ken's friends are saying mean things about me to Bob.

It's been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

My campaign manager says some weeks are like that.

Even in Australia.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

MoneyGoRound Pt. 2: Scandalocracy Survey

Lets start our survey with the recent allegation against Jim Petro. Yesterday the PD reported that ODP Chair Chris Redfern called for an independent investigation of the allegations. I've heard from Subodh Chandra's campaign that he issued a similar statement.

Unfortunately, this scandal, big as it might be, has yet to grow legs. The Redfern statement prompted the PD to extend the news cycle, albeit reluctantly -- the story devotes as much space to Petro's running mate selection as the scandal. Nothing appears in either the Dispatch or the normally reliably scandal-sensitive Toledo Blade.

The BJ is also silent but, get this, Steve Hoffman is not. In his blog, Hoffman discusses the scandal. In a long piece about the new funding reports Hoffman devotes a graph to the scandal. He doesn't provide any links -- apparently he won't give the PD any love either -- but does run out the following analysis:

Arshinkoff's hatred of Petro is legendary. As soon as Betty Montgomery dropped
out of the governor's race, Arshinkoff jumped on the Blackwell bandwagon as a
campaign co-chairman. The next thing, Morrison was suddenly remebering all these
conversations he'd had with Petro.
I'm afraid I hadn't heard the Legend of Alex Hatin' Jim before this, but yes it does all make sense. I lauded Jack Morrison in my previous post on this and stand by that -- Morrison is too smart and too honest to make something like this up. On the other hand, I fear he won't come out of this with a whole shirt. Lawyers are required to report misconduct with other lawyers (DR 1-103 for any legal types needing to brush up.) The rule says "report," not "report when it will most grievously politically harm a political adversary." That Morrison waited a couple of years and dropped the bomb the day before Petro announced his running mate doesn't "maintain the integrity and competence of the legal profession," it just smells bad.

So generally, how will this play out? Well, for starters, it depends on whether the matter is investigated and who does the investigation. Second, will Blackwell use it? Presumably Alex cleared all this with his new endorsee, but given Alex's penchant for vendettas, not necessarily.

Finally, some evidence suggests that Ohio voters aren't yet ready to slap the scandal label on the Republicans. Hoffman writes up news of a survey purporting to show that voters blame R's and D's equally. And he links to a blog! OK, it's the GOP blog, but it's a start:
While 32 percent associated scandal with Republicans, 30 percent linked it to
Democrats. More, 36 percent, put the blame on both parties without
distinction. And a majority (52 percent) said political scandal
doesn't affect the view of government.
Unlike the GOP blog, I think this just shows the Dems what they have to do -- shine light on the scandals whenever, wherever.

One Democrat on the job is Paul Krugman. In a piece about bias and balance in media, he tosses out this chestnut about Republican claims (and media echoes) that the Abramoff Scandal is "bipartisan:"
over the past few weeks a number of journalists, ranging from The Washington Post's ombudsman to the "Today" show's Katie Couric, have declared that Mr. Abramoff gave money to both parties. In each case the journalists or their news organization, when challenged, grudgingly conceded that Mr. Abramoff himself hasn't given a penny to Democrats. But in each case they claimed that this is only a technical point, because Mr. Abramoff's clients -- those Indian tribes -- gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans, money the news organizations say he "directed" to Democrats.

But the tribes were already giving money to Democrats before Mr. Abramoff entered the picture; he persuaded them to reduce those Democratic donations, while giving much more money to Republicans.
(courtesy of a DailyKos Diary, thanks to NYT's paywall.)

It's like what Sherrod Brown said about this Monday night: We have to embarrass these guys again and again and again.

Coming next: What do we do about it?