Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My Memorial Day Weekend, Pt. 2; A Regime Change Too Far

Monday was pretty much about a cookout at the House of Pho, my continuing quest for the perfect recipe for babyback ribs and generally hanging. Monday night either TCM or AMC ran a war movies marathon including one of my all time favorites “A Bridge Too Far.” One of the many odd aspects of my character is that I’m a peacenik liberal who loves military histories.

Watching the movie reminded me of reading the book two summers ago as the case for weapons of mass destruction was unraveling. A favorite phase at the time was “largest intelligence failure in history.” Cornelius Ryan’s history demostrates that the Allies' disastrous Operation Market Garden certainly outranked it. Still, I was struck by the parallels between the Market Garden failures and those in the run-up to Iraq.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Wiki has a pretty thorough rundown. Among the many problems with Market Garden, the allies dropped 10,000 troops in Arnhem, Holland unprepared for the two Panzer divisions already parked there. The allies had a fair amount of evidence that German tanks were in Arnhem. They ignored it. The obtained aerial reconnaisance photos of tanks in the viscinity of Arnhem. They dismissed them. The Dutch resistance had information not only about German positions, but also the difficulty of the terrain and the poor prospects for the success of the mission. Allied commanders looked elsewhere for intelligence.

No one involved in the Market Garden planning was being evil. But they believed they knew the truth – that this was the best plan for advancing the Allied lines – and selected those bits of intelligence that supported their point of view. I don’t need to believe that Bush cooked the intelligence and invaded Iraq to benefit Halliburton. It’s enough for me to know he wanted to invade Iraq because he believed it was the right thing to do. Everything else followed as it has before. The Bush Administration fell into the same trap as others -- arguably their betters -- had before. That the missteps of Market Garden have been so well documented makes the Administrations refusal to critically appraise the intelligence in Iraq that much less forgiveable.

The final lesion of “A Bridge Too Far” is the unmitigated hubris of the architects of Market Garden. At the end of the book, Ryan quotes Field Marshall Montgomery from his memoirs:

In my prejudiced view, if the operation had been properly backed from its
inception, and given the aircraft, ground forces, and administrative resources
necessary for the job, it would have succeeded in spite of my mistakes, or the
adverse weather, or the presence of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps in the Arnhem area.
I remain Market Garden's unrepentant advocate.
I shudder to think what we will get from Bush’s ghostwriter.

Developments on GABB

Note to self: first days of summer are not the optimal time to start a new blog.

Nonetheless, the members of GABB have been contributing and the posts are picking up steam. Over the weekend Kyle and Terra from The Chief Source checked out the Hickory development and dropped a preview on GABB to their longer post on their home blog.

New member PeppermintLisa gives us a GABB exclusive update on the Highland Square redevelopment. Peppermint is heavily involved with the Highland Square Neighborhood Association, so she brings some real juice to Team GABB.

Meanwhile, I've added a few new blogs to the blogroll and will drop a post about them in the next day or two. Remember that the GABBroll is about area bloggers. If you are or know of anyone in or around Akron running a blog, let me know and I'll add him/her.

My Day Job Last Night

One reason -- among many -- for the sparse posting lately has been a flurry of activity in my part-time gig as a contract organizer for the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign. Last night we held an organizing meeting to get an Akron-based school advocacy group off the ground. We got some pretty good press in today's Beacon as well as a preview piece last week. Channel 23 was there with a camera rolling, but since they didn't stick around to get stand-ups, I'm not sure we'll make it to air.

I'll be posting updates and meeting previews from here on out. We also hope to have some sort of bare-bones, rudimentary, geeks-will-abuse-it, website up in the near future. At that point I'll have a link up.

I set my sites on having the core organizing folks, plus maybe five new people. We had eighteen people in the room, not counting me and press. People are getting energized about this issue.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How UUs Do Memorial Day

My real celebration of Memorial Day qua Memorial Day was Sunday at my Unitarian Universalist church. A young man named Jamie gave the guest sermon. I had met Jamie before at the afternoon service, but didn’t know much about him. Thanks to his sermon, I found out that he is gay and that he is a veteran. I also found out he’s a blogger. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Anyway, celebrating Memorial Day isn’t a simple thing for a church whose congregation is overwhelmingly liberal. While UUs are not doctrinally pacifistic like, for instance, Quakers, war is fundamentally inconsistent with our principles. Support for the Iraq war is a minority view in our church in the same way that opposition is a minority view at World Harvest. When the Empty Boots display stopped in the area, it did so in our parking lot.

So for a congregation such as ours, holidays like Memorial Day have a certain edge. I feel it, though not as sharply as the pacifists among my fellow congregants. It has basically two levels. First, celebrating those who went to war can feel tantamount to celebrating war itself. Even a “good war” like World War II was a tragic waste of life and spirit. I thank God for The Greatest Generation, but not for the crucible in which they earned that title.

The other level involves the concern that someone else will project their jingoism on my expression of patriotism. I feel sometimes like the flag flying from my house should have an asterisk so the viewer doesn’t assume I’m an American triumphalist. Some folks at my church are sporting bumper stickers with some variation of “God Bless All Nations, No Exceptions.” That’s about it for me. I love my country in the first instance because I love the planet it sits on.

For Jamie the tension is personal in a way that it is not for me. His sermon addressed the tension beautifully and made a compelling case for its resolution:

I believe that when we say that we wish to reach out to those lost and lonely,
those in search and without a home, we must include that 19 year old private,
and the 26 year old Sergeant, and the 45 year old Major. Are they less important
because their profession and their paths differ from our own? Again the dilemma,
our desire peace should not put us in conflict with the men and women who serve.

. . . I hope that in the future we may be able to show that even though
we may disagree with the conflict, that we can love the soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and marines who are involved. That we can show them compassion and
honor, and that we can even respect the choices they have made.
So this is the first post where I’ve specified my religion. I’ve mentioned before having a faith and perhaps even going to church. It’s been a back and forth thing, mostly because the Akron Pages has been more about Big Ideas and less about the personal life of Pho. But recently I’ve decided to start blogging more overtly about my church life and, as it happens, this was the first church-related issue that struck my fancy since making the decision. Originally my first post was going to be a reply to this post on Centerline, which may come soon, or not if things get busy.

LaTourette Named in Abramoff-Related Criminal Trial

Hat tip to Al Franken show guest Melanie Sloan and the crew at CREW.

Today in the trial of former White House procurement officer David Savavian, the star witness was Neil Volz, Bob Ney's former chief of staff who has pled guilty to felony corruption. From the stand, Volz named names of members of Congress that he "received assistance from" when he worked for Abramoff. The list includes Ney, but also Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH).

LaTourette's involvement with Volz over renovations to the Old Post Office in Washington is old news. It's not clear from the wire story whether La T. got anything in return from Volz. La T claims he wrote letters in support of Volz's position because he agreed with it. Still, as Sloan pointed out, it's not a good day when your name is mentioned from the stand in a criminal trial. The drum beat on the lefty blogosphere is starting.

No reaction so far from La T's November opponent Lew Katz.

Monday, May 29, 2006

No Love the Gays in Today's ABJ

I always giggle a little when conservatives go off on the liberal bias of the Beacon Journal. My short answer is to assure them that we liberals take no comfort in the Beacon’s reportage. My longer response is to cite something specific like today’s fronter on Federal anti-gay-marriage amendment.

I read it. I read it again. It sure seemed like the article tilts heavily for the ban. It’s not just that the article gets to the third graf after the jump before proponents of gay marriage get a turn to talk. It isn’t just that the article begins and ends with long quotes from gay marriage opponent Bishop Johnson. The weight of the thing seemed for the amendment and against gay marriage.

One of my problems with the “Liberal Media” meme is the lack of rigor. Conservatives often either fulminate without specifics or cite isolated passages from articles before crying “Aha!” Happily, this article gives us something to test. It’s supposed to be a balanced description of the two sides. So I used highlighters to mark the passages quoting anti-gay-marriage activists (orange) and pro-gay-marriage activists (blue.) Unmarked text is descriptive material that’s essentially neutral.

Here’s the marked front:

And the jump:
If it looks like a lot more is orange, you are right. It measures out to about 15 column inches for the anti’s against nine for the pro’s. And that’s counting as neutral the block marked in green that describes the history of the Alliance for Marriage’s efforts to pass a constitutional anti-gay-marriage amendment. Think area conservatives will thank the BJ for giving them two-thirds more coverage? Neither do I.

Not only is the coverage weighted, the sourcing is uneven. Collette Jenkins, the ABJ religion writer responsible for the piece talks to Bishop Johnson for the local anti-marriage/pro-amendment side, but a couple of citizen activists as counterweight. She acknowledges in sidebar that a faith-based coalition is working against the amendment, but interviews no clergy for the story. I know my minister would have talked to her – indeed she participated some time ago in a forum in the BJ with, among others, Knute Larson from The Chapel. Clergy are available, but this piece makes it look like simply people of faith vs. we heathen unless you bother to follow the jump and read the sidebar.

Happily, the comments on the website trend more for gay marriage than against. If the BJ thinks they were playing to the crowd, they may have been mistaken.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cilizza on the Ohio House Races

For newbies, Washington Post politics blogger Chris Cilizza posts a "Friday Line" each week, examining the most compelling races. He cycles through House, Senate and Governor races and ranks them by the liklihood that the seat will change hands. This week he's looking at house races.

In his list to the twenty seats most likely to change hands, he ranks Ohio 18 (Bob Ney vs. Zach Space) number 4, up from 5 and Ohio 6 (Charlie Wilson vs Chuck Blasdel) number 10, down from 2.

On the map of all that interests Cilizza, these are the only two Ohio House races. So far he appears interested in neither of the independent candidate driven melodramas -- Ohio 13 and Ohio 15.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Traci Kennedy, the Sequel

Before writing the previous post, I called Traci Kennedy. I wanted to get a sense of what her campaign was going to look like, what her policy positions in part to get a read on how serious her candidacy is. I didn’t get the former, but did come away with some data for the latter. It went like this:

Pho: “Hi, I’m a blogger in town and I’ve been following the Ohio 13th race and wanted to talk to you about your--.

TK: Before you talk any more, from 8 until 5 I am the supervisor in the Criminal division of the Clerks office and I do not talk about personal business and I do not talk about anything that’s not about the Municipal Clerk of Court’s office. You can speak to me after five.

P: OK, what’s your number?

TK: 330— tell you what. You give me your number and I’ll call you.

P: [gives number.]

TK: And your name is?

P: [gives that]

TK: [Terse goodbye]

(It will shock you all to learn that she never called tonight)

Impression #1: Props for not running a campaign out of the Clerk’s office.

Impression #2: Wha? I don’t know if you catch it from the words, but the tone is a truckload of attitude. Lady is running for the United States freaking Congress. People are going to want to talk to her about it at the only number readily available. And she’s pissy that someone has the cheek to call her?

So I don’t get the read that she’s feeling the whole political candidate thing. She didn’t know if I was D or R or I, but she bites my head off over the phone like I was polling about her sex life. It would be bizarre if she was any kind of real candidate.

Three lessons from this. First, Arshinkoff is still Arshinkoff. Despite the hopeful comments by anonymous Republicans on this blog, fact is he still has game and this is the game he has. This is better than running his niece as an Independent against Judge Mary Spicer for not toeing his line on Oriana House. It’s at least as fun to connect the dots here as it is to go from Katarina Cook’s run at Bryan Williams in the Mayoral primary to her appointment as Traffic Court Magistrate.

Vintage Alex. This is Exhibit 56873493 in the case of his intellectual and ethical bankruptcy. On top of everything else, he’s using sleazoid tactics to once again throw Ohio 13’s representation to Lorain Co. The only real question going forward is whether Kennedy will be his go-to splitter for as long as she works in the Clerk’s office or whether he’s finally tired enough of Edna Boyle losing judicial races to appoint a new black Republican woman.

Lesson two: The power of media. Republicans can do this sort of thing with a degree of impunity not available to the Democrats because the Dem’s don’t have a dedicated partisan media – no the BJ doesn’t even come close. If the local Dems tried anything remotely this craven and transparent, Bob Golic and Howie Chizek would talk about it every day for a month. WARF had an Aeros game on so we don’t know if Joe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Finan . . . . . . . . .will mention . . . . . . .it. If he does, at least the five people still awake at the end of the segment will be outraged.

Lesson three: how long will the local Dems put up with this crap before they change the way they do business? A: At least as long as the current leadership is in place. They can’t rely on the Beacon to expose this nonsense, and they certainly can’t leave it the BJ’s circulation to get the word out. I’m on the Summit Dems email list. Did I get flash email from HQ with a link to this story? No I did not.

More broadly, I am part of a network of center-left bloggers working the Akron beat. Have I gotten so much as an e-mail from anyone on Grant Street. Oops, I nearly dumped my laptop laughing at the very thought. After all, that would assume that someone runs the party for reasons other than getting jobs for relatives.

ABJ Outs Kennedy as Spoiler in Ohio 13

I earlier reported on the curious independent candidacy of Traci Kennedy in the Ohio 13 Congressional race. Some time later I was talking to a fellow blogger and mused that it is unusual to run against a incumbent, then find yourself working for him. But indeed Kennedy now works for Jim Laria, the guy she ran against last year for Muni Court Clerk. Unusual in most of the world, utterly unheard of in Alex Arshinkoff's fifedom. I wondered if something was up. I put it on my to-do list to look into things.

Today's Beacon Journal has the scoop with a clever article juxtaposing Kennedy's spoiler candidacy with the independent run of Charles Morrison against Deborah Pryce in Ohio 15 which has prompted Republicans there to file to disqualify Morrison.

The ABJ apparently dug up Kennedy's petitions:

In fact, [Muni Courts Clerk Laria was one of a long list of local Republicans who circulated Kennedy's petitions, including numerous Republican employees of the Summit County Board of Elections.

When asked about her role as designated spoiler, Kennedy plays shocked, shocked :
Kennedy said she was not aware that she was being used as a splitter. She maintains that despite being a registered Republican, she has a legitimate interest in running for office free of party affiliation so that she can represent all people's interests.

I'm digging now. More as this develops.

(BTW, if you missed the article online, the headline on the homepage links to a different article -- or at least did as of noon today. It looked like the Kennedy story, so I ran a search and found it.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Top Ten Reasons I'm Not TELlin'

In comments to this post, my friend (and phriend) Jill pleads for "a clear, concise, layman's version of what TEL says and what it means." Whll here at the Pages, we'll take a stab at clear, though we never do concise. I've been studying TEL for over a year now. One reason it doesn't admit of "clear and concise" arguments is that the TEL proposal has so many defects. Happily I can fall back on the old saw in politics a voter doesn't need to accept all the arguments against an issue to vote no; only one. So here are my ten favorites.

(Unfortunately my main source, the Coalition for Ohio's Future apparantly is having website problems. I'll update with links when things are back up.)

1. Inflation is not inflation is not inflation. The TEL formula restricts spending to the percentage in the consumer price index, plus population growth (or 3.5%, whatever is greater). Problem is, the CPI is based on the “basket of goods” that consumers buy, not the one that governments buy. In particular, little in the basket reflects the rapid rate of cost inflation in medical services and pharmaceuticals. Over 20% of the state budget is Medicaid. A substantial proportion of what’s left also involves providing medical services, whether in the form of health insurance for employees or medical care for people in state custody. The 3.5% growth rate allowed under TEL is a fraction of the 10-20% inflation in medical expenses that can be anticipated in any given year. This flaw in the formula is responsible for much of the mischief TEL causes. If TEL proponents have an answer for it, I haven’t heard it.

2. The TABOR trainwreck in Colorado. Coloradans – not exactly a wild group of lefties – released the state from the bonds of TABOR for a reason. It was bringing hell upon Colorado. Not only did TABOR require cuts in programs the middle class could ignore like childhood immunizations, it affected core areas like K-12 education and road and park maintenance. And despite what TABOR proponents claim, Colorado’s growth rate during the TABOR period was no better than the surrounding states.

3. The stated rationale is not true. Blackwell claims we need TEL to give “space” for reforming the tax code. Wrong on both counts. We don’t need to reform the tax code – it was reformed last budget cycle, though J.Ken pretends it wasn’t. And the GA didn’t need “space” for that reform.

4. Slashing funding is a dubious growth strategy. When the government cuts taxes and cuts spending, it is putting money into the economy (the tax cut) but is also taking money out of the economy (less spending) Not to put to fine a point on it, a government job is a job. While the public sector work force has been declining the last few budget cycles, we haven’t seen a commensurate rise in private-sector employment. I don’t advocate putting the world to work leaning on shovels, but pretending that the government is a nonplayer in the economy is equally na├»ve.

5. TEL doesn’t allow growth in non-tax revenue without offsets. Sometimes the government does things that pay for themselves directly – a new program at a University, for example. TEL doesn’t allow the growth of fee-for-service programs without offsetting costs elsewhere. Ironically, one of Blackwell’s real accomplishments as Secretary of State was to shift the costs of business registration from taxpayers to the businesses that benefit. Blackwell claims TEL wouldn’t affect such programs. He’s lying.

6. The Reverse Robin Hood Effect. Under TEL if the government takes in more money than it can spend, it must give back the excess pro rata based taxpayers’ income tax rates. But much of the money may be from sales taxes. We know that poor people pay a greater percentage of their income in sales taxes and we know that people who pay no income tax nonetheless pay sales tax. TEL would take excess revenues, including sales tax receipts, and distribute them only to people who make enough to pay income tax. No one knows how big the redistributive effect is, and certainly it’s not large. But if redistributing money from rich to poor raises philosophical quandaries, doesn’t redistributing from poor to rich simply tar a system irreparably?

7. A litigation bonanza waiting to happen. TEL lets pretty much anyone sue the government for not following its mandates. Given how poorly worded the provisions are, a dozen or more court cases will be necessary just to hash out what it all means. Even after that, plaintiffs have a low bar to bring a lawsuit.

8. Saving money by wasting money, pt. 1 special elections. Anytime a local government bumps up against the TEL ceiling, it must go to the voters for a special referendum to allow it to spend above the cap. Mind you, they must do so even if they have the money. Running an election isn’t free. Coloradans voted on over 1000 local ballot measures over the life of TEL.

9. Saving money by wasting money, pt. 2, the TEL bias against modernization. Modernization of any sort requires a capital expenditure. That is, it requires spending extra money over time to bring up to date the computer network or climate control system or bridge or whatever it is. The reason for doing it is obvious; the new whatever is better, more efficient and saves money. Conversely, if you can’t modernize because the TEL won’t let spend anything beyond basic operations, you can’t save the money over the long run.

10. That crappy ballot language. Again TEL proponents claim otherwise, but the language certainly sounds like it requires a majority of the registered voters to vote yes in a local election to exceed the spending limits. By claiming that it doesn’t, Blackwell at least admits that would be a bad thing. But he won’t admit that a court could go that way given how TEL is worded.

Breaking: New Legal Challenge to TEL

From a Coalition for Ohio's Future press release:

A new legal challenge against the proposed tax and expenditure limitation
(TEL) amendment to the Ohio constitution was launched today by the Coalition for
Ohio's Future. It contends that TEL petition circulators did not list
petition management companies and other independent contractors as their
employers. It is based on a recent court decision in Franklin County. Ohio
law requires circulators to include employer information on all petitions used
in an initiative petition drive.

The protests will be filed later this week by the law firm of Bricker &
Eckler, newly retained to assist the Coalition with this challenge.
Initial protests will be filed with Boards of Elections in six counties,
Cuyahoga, Franklin, Summit, Hamilton, Montgomery and Stark. More counties will
be filed afterward.
Notwithstanding the fantasy I articulated earlier about Blackwell being stalked by a deligitimized but still animate TEL Amendment, the best solution would be knocking it off the ballot with a legal challenge. The best of the best would be a successful legal challenge and Taft using his line-item veto on BabyTEL.

The Coalition presser lays out the legal analysis:
On May 4, 2006, Judge David Cain with the Franklin County Court of Common
Pleas ruled that Ohio law requires paid circulators to accurately list the
person employing them on part-petitions for a statewide initiative petition. In
that case, a number of paid circulators listed the entity which funded the
petition drive (the American Cancer Society) as their employer. However,
petition management companies and other independent contractors actually
recruited, screened, hired, trained, and paid the circulators.

The Court concluded that since the circulators were actually hired by an
independent contractor, it was fraudulent not to list the independent contractor
as the employer on the challenged part-petitions. As a result, every
part-petition where the circulator listed the wrong employer was

I haven't read Judge Cain's opinion so I can't predict how likely the Ohio Supremes will be to uphold it, but certainly the Coalition is right that it applies with equal force to the TEL petitions:
"Following a review of this recent court decision, and re-examining the TEL
petitions, we found that they instructed circulators to list 'Citizens for Tax
Reform' as the employer on every petition and it appears that every circulator
did exactly that," said Johnston. "Our examination of the petitions shows
that a petition management company hired most, if not all, of the circulators
who submitted TEL part-petitions. As such, almost every single part-petition
submitted by Citizens for Tax Reform contains the exact same defect that was the
subject of the May 4th Franklin County case."

Unlike the earlier challenge, this one sounds likely to knock off so many signatures that the TEL camp couldn't make up the difference in the truncated time they have under statute. Full text of the press release should be coming soon to this page.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

TEL: I’m Not Dead Yet

What could be worse for Blackwell than killing off the centerpiece of his agenda? Admitting he needs to kill it, but being unable to.

As I noted earlier, it’s not at all clear that even the TEL issue committee can get it off the ballot. Now doubts about the deal itself are surfacing:

Gov. Bob Taft, who would be required to sign any legislation passed, won’t
evaluate the proposed spending law until he gets a written commitment from the
TEL issue committee that it will withdraw the amendment from the November
ballot, Jon Allison, Taft’s chief of staff, said yesterday.
* * *
Akron businessman David Brennan, a member of the committee that put the amendment on the ballot, said yesterday that he would be reluctant to seek its removal without assurances that legislation would achieve the same goals.

But Brennan conceded that the portion of the amendment limiting local government
spending "has become a liability to the issue."

Bob Taft can certainly think of worse outcomes than no BabyTEL and a big TEL millstone hanging around J. Ken’s neck through the campaign. Taft and Blackwell weren’t friends even before J.Ken started running as if Taft were a Democratic incumbent.

What’s more, BabyTEL pretty much spells doom for Taft’s last-ditch attempt at a legacy – the Core bill. While a number of moderates have signed on based on the dubious promise that the money would be found somewhere, only a fool would think the State can take on an ambitious new education initiative with a 3.5 ceiling looming overhead.

The biggest line items in that part of the budget covered by BabyTEL are K-12, higher ed. and Medicaid. Cutting Medicaid is a double-whammy since the state can lose Federal dollars in the process. That leaves education.

What’s more, the BabyTEL drafters are reportedly talking about exempting Local Government Funds and property tax rollbacks from the law’s provisions. In other words, they are falling over themselves to make nice with local governments steamed over TEL, as well as cuts to Local Government in the last budget. I have to wonder if they are considering some version of TEL’s ban on unfunded mandates. That would render Core unfeasible legally, as well as politically.

All in all, the TEL deal has too many moving parts to be considered done. And I’m enjoying the thought of Blackwell flogging his other grand schemes on the trial while TEL stalks his campaign like a policy revenant.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Press Club Forum on the Future of the Press

It was billed as a forum on the future of the Beacon Journal, but today's Akron Press Club event was light on specifics about the ABJ, long on musings about where journalism in general is headed. The event was a panel discussion with ABJ columnists David Giffels, Diane Evans (who is currently on leave from the paper) and Bob Dyer.

We got no new information regarding the topic of the day: the ultimate ownership of ABJ. Diane Evans's line: No news is no news. Dyer noted that worst case scenario is a private equity firm buying paper to slash staff, jack up the profit margin and sell it off.

That out of the way, the panel turned to discussions about the business of newspapers and how technology will shape journalism in the future. On the business side of things, Evans had the most to say. She made the argument that the news business is not compatable with a publicly traded company. She noted that when she started and John S. Knight "was in the corner office" she never heard him utter the phrase "profit margin." As someone who has fretted about the how stock market pressures deter healthy behavior in other industries, I'm sympathetic to her point.

On the other hand, her takes on the online world were a little pat. She seems to see online vs. print as the only story -- two competitors in a zero sum game. I've said it before -- both print and online journalism are competing less with each other than with forces driving people away from news consumption generally. To the extent I consider myself competing with anyone, its Nintendo.

We did get some glimpses into the future of the newspaper. Giffels says it is an exciting time to be in journalism as the industry learns to adapt to new technologies. Happily, this event took place after the Lockheed Airdock fire -- subject of's best new media coverage yet. The panelists were clearly-- and justifiably -- proud of it. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. The video feed alone is worth the time. Thursday afternoon they were getting written stories and photos up practically in real time. Lockheed people were getting their updates from

I was late -- because I'm always late -- so Giffels saw me come in. When an audience member asked about blogs, he noted my presence in the audience. He calls blogs both and exciting opportunity for print journalism and a challenge to print journalism. As he said later, I had a walk-on part in the event.

Evans chimed in that she doesn't see bloggers as journalists. We're more like ham radio operators. I don't agree with what I think she means by this, but it has a kernel of truth. A blog is a communications tool. Like a ham radio, it can be used in many different ways. I think people are using blogs in more different ways than anyone has ever used shortwave radios, if for no other reason than there are more of us. Are we journalists? Some are; most aren't.

More generally on the subject of news and technology, Evans noted the industry's urgency to figure out how to deliver the news online. Dyer noted that the primacy on to getting information up quickly on a website and keeping it updated can interfere with doing journalism good journalism in the field. Giffels says that the Beacon is in the process of redesigning the newsroom to do more with putting stuff on the internet.

I asked a question about advertising. I think the future of communication on the internet is inextricably tied to advertising, which is a challenge. I mentioned that I couldn't recall seeing ads on the BJ website. Upon returning home I realized that's because the ad blocker on my Norton Security Suite really works. Bad on me, but it supports the point -- it's hard to get advertisers excited about virtual ad space when commonly available software prevents readers from seeing the ads at all. (I've turned it off now, it a show of good faith to MTB Network advertisers.)

After the discussion, as has happened so often in the past, I met a number of people who read me. This challenge of new media fascinates me. I have a number of other thoughts on it that may make it up sometime this weekend. But now the kids are up and will want to play outside, so don't look for me here until tonight.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Random Ten

"A Friend Writes" Edition

1. "Sunshinin,'" The Vines
2. "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to Be Loved)," Bright Eyes
3. "Love Affair With Everyday Living," The Woodentops
4. "Keep Your Hands off Her," The Black Keys
5. "You Never Phone," Loudon Wainwright III and Martha Wainwright
6. "Naked, if I Want To," Moby Grape
7. "Grass," XTC
8. "Positive Tensions," Bloc Party
9. "Break it Down Baby," Robinella
10. "London's Burning," The Clash

Based on a reader's comments, I went out a got a copy of The Black Keys' new disc Chulahoma. It's a 6-Song tribute to bluesman Junion Kimbrough. No, I hadn't heard of him either.

First off, if you are a duet calling yourselves The Black Keys, you should at least consider renaming yourselves Flatt and Sharpe.

But seriously, they play an extremely dense, bottom-heavy blooze rock. Mountain thinks they need to lighten up. As such, it took a few listenings to get into it and I'm still working on it. Bottom line so far: like it but don't love it. No doubt, these guys are talented and have a deep reverence for their material. But it's missing . . . something. Something to make it a little less like slogging through a difficult passage in a history book and a little more fun.

Dare I say it -- a little cowbell?

No TELlin'

No more TEL. No more albatross. No more easy puns.

What a difference a year makes. Last year this time I was driving regularly to Columbus to attend meetings of the Coalition for Ohio's Future, dedicated to fighting something called TABOR. The coalition, strong and growing as it was, ran scared. In early polls TABOR was getting approval ratings in the low seventies. TABOR proposals were popping up all over the country as hard right conservatives planning ’06 runs on a radical TINY GOVERNMENT agenda used their sponsorship of TABOR to build name recognition and grassroots support. Word was Blackwell was doing the same thing here. We were bracing for a hard, multimillion dollar fight. We were dreading the double-whammy of TABOR in ’05 and Blackwell in ‘06. Prof. W. and I didn’t just talk about moving out of state, we were actively looking.

Then, miraculously, Blackwell blinked first. Republican leadership, which wasn’t at all happy with TABOR was genuinely scared of RON. They convinced J. Ken to file one day late to put it on the ’06 ballot. J. Ken made with the brave face, but it was pure retreat.

As has been true of retreat through the ages, the TABOR retreat gave J. Ken’s adversaries the advantage. First, voters in Colorado, the only state with a budget cap like TABOR, voted to release themselves from its grip for five years. It was a rebuke so firm that the previous “TABOR or if you prefer TEL” nomenclature changed forever to just “TEL.” J. Ken pretty much ignored TA-, er, TEL throughout the postelection fall, save for the occasional tap with a 9 ½ foot pole. It was bad enough that the Ohio Taxpayer’s Association, one of TEL’s more ardent supporters, ponied up for robocalls to light a fire under Blackwell.

Meanwhile, anti-TEL forces were regrouping and seeking reinforcements. The delay meant more time for the Coalition to talk to local government groups about what a disaster TEL would be for them. More groups came out against it, newspapers constantly denigrated it, and Jim Petro made opposition to it the centerpiece of his primary campaign.

So now it is gone. Maybe. I still haven’t seen legal authority for anyone to remove it from the ballot. Supposedly if the issue committee agrees unanimously it will be removed. All well and good, but if anyone farther out there than Blackwell on taxes and budget wants to sue to reinstate it, it’s an open question whether they will succeed. A lawsuit by the Coalition to knock it off the ballot on technicalities may succeed, but again another group may intervene to defend TEL, leaving it all an open question.

So what does this mean moving forward? For Blackwell it means a radical change in narrative. J. Ken’s story so far was that he was the One True Republican. He was the authentic heir to the Reagan mantle with W’s “Decider” persona layered on top. The economic straights of Ohio were to be blamed, not on the Republican theory of governance, but on pretenders unworthy of the letter R. All of this put Blackwell on the outs with the Republican establishment, which is where he wanted to be. He ran as much against his own party’s lite conservatism as against Ted Strickland.

Oh, um, do-over. Blackwell the decider has now decided his centerpiece is no longer worth pursuing. Blackwell the keeper of the conservative flame has extinguished his most conservative proposal. Blackwell the outsider has now made a backroom deal with the party whose legacy of failure he now inherits.

Republicans are calling this a victory – kind of like the poker player who folds after a bad bet congratulates himself for not chasing his opponent’s raise. True, no TEL is better for J. Ken than TEL. But he’s in a far weaker position than anyone would have dared dream a year ago. Strickland is predictably crowing about it and is hopefully devising strategies to remind people that J. Ken had one idea and has admitted it was a stinker. If Strickland is sufficiently deft, he may be able to taint J. Ken’s other dubious proposals – 65%, leasing out the turnpike – as equally defective products of Blackwell’s policy mill.

Meanwhile, times will be tough in Ohio under Baby TEL. Blackwell’s one victory in this is perpetuating the Ohio’s “Out-of-Control Spending” meme. As someone who has worked with and/or has ties law enforcement, health care, K-12 education and higher education, I can’t see where all that out-of-control money went. If anyone is getting fat outside the bad investment industry, I’d sure like to hear about it. With a rebounding economy and reformed tax structure, things were looking up. Now BabyTel will keep the legislature from replacing what they have cut.

I’ve been digging through the various factoids used to perpetuate the spending meme and will report sometime in the future about what I find. It’s an article of faith among Democratic political consultants that government spending is indefensible. Maybe. But Republicans have spent decades changing the conventional economic wisdom on the government’s role in the economy (and not all for the bad – price controls anyone? I thought not.) Democrats need to devise ways to talk about government activity that go beyond winning the next election or parroting the last focus group. Republicans are winning because they trained for a marathon where Democrats keep running sprints.

I must admit to some pangs about TEL’s demise. The issue was one that prompted me to get into blogging in the first place. My second post ever was anti-TEL. I had planned to blog the hell out of it over the summer. But now, we may be able to engage in a more measured discussion about what we want out of government and what it can provide.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Everybody Loves a Good Rhubarb

This feels like Darryl Strawberry acknowledging the Fenway bleacher creatures, but I’ve been asked to reset my feud with, well, someone . . . about, well, something. I’m still trying to figure all this out myself.

It started with someone calling himself Dave Hickman taking umbrage with a RussellPounderStaff post and beginning an email spamathon about it. Hickman is a Stolen Election Guy. I’m not fond of the Stolen Election guys. Another Stolen Election Guy dropped a non sequitur comment under the handle “abdrissa,” echoing much of what Hickman said. I ignored it.

You have to understand Stolen Election Guy. Grassy Knoll Dude thinks these guys are overzealous. Acknowledging them is like Staw tipping his hat to the fans chanting “DA ruhl DA ruhl.”

Sunday I wrote a post going over the BSB post that started all this. I mentioned the substance of the initial emails long enough to give it the hand. So I get angry posts from the aforementioned abdrissa taking issue with me. Fine. Then abdrissa goes somewhere else.

There’s this Central Ohio political consultant named Bryan . Bryan had his moments in the blogosphere last year, engaged in some sharp dealing, mixed it up with some people including myself. Some of it got outed and some got exaggerated. He has moved on, acknowledged mistakes. Bottom line, he’s a tough adversary. He and I patched things up long ago. He’s a frequent reader and occasional commenter. Bryan and I are OK.

Bryan has apparently earned the ire of Stolen Election Guy. Hickman’s rants go after Bryan. After a couple go ‘rounds, and apropos of absolutely nothing, so do abdrissa’s.

To me, this vaults over a line. I’ll put up with any manner of crap dealt at me here. I’ve had comments telling me (and the world) that I’m angry, that I’m frivolous, that I’m stupid, that I'm ignorant, that I’m a lousy father, that I’m a plant for various campaigns, that I have a small penis. (For the record, I do not have a small penis.)

While I have a high tolerance for insults directed at me, I feel differently about scolding on my readers. And hijacking my comments to direct nastygrams toward someone who isn’t even part of the discussion is completely out of pocket. It’s an abuse of my hard work here and it’s unfair to expect people to search comment fields for libel.

I deleted a couple of abdrissa’s anti-Bryan posts and explained why. Ab came right back with another post doing the same shit and I declared him/her banned. First time I’ve done it. I’m not censoring abdrissa in the sense of deleting posts because the content bothers me. The posts have been aimed at me and are occasionally witty. I’m deleting them because abdrissa is banned from my blog.

Unlike Fenway Park, I don’t have a bunch of off-duty cops to escort the crazies out the door. All I have is my ability to delete comments, so I do so. As of now, abdrissa's posts get deleted when I see them, whatever they are. If he/she posts the cure for cancer, better get it fast.

That’s the story. I’m happy to entertain a discussion about the ethics of banning commenters and deleting their comments if they won’t leave. Well, a discussion among people not logging on from abdrissa’s URL. Be forewarned, Kid T's behavior was completely off the hook today, so I've been dealing with tantrums on and offline. I'm a bit testy now.

A Great Way to Greet the Morning

Mail Account
Function: Search
Search for: Hickman
Check All
Do I Want to Delete These Files? Oh yes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Over on GABB

I have the first really substantive post up. It's a breakdown of a law review article about libel in the blogosphere by Glenn "Instapundit" Reyolds. Check it out. I've added GABB to the Akron blogroll on the sidebar.

Speaking of sidebar, the Blogrolling powered sidebar on GABB is working -- an easy way to see who has updated recently. I haven't gone hunting for Akron area blogs in a while, so if anyone knows of one or has one, let me know and I will gladly add it.

And finally a reminder that GABB is not for lefty blogs or political blogs, its for everyone in the area. If you are either a blogger or a blog consumer, its for you. If you have great ambitions to expand your readership or just maintain an online journal for your friends, its for you. Give it a look.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Few More Ohio Gov Numbers

First off, Bryan -- whom I am embracing as my new best friend solely to piss off his annoying troll -- has a post up at BSB crunching crosstabs numbers from a Zogby pre-primary poll (Evidently he is a Zogby Gold subscriber). It shows that Blackwell's strength is not with African Americans, but with whites and Hispanics. Interesting, happy news. We will need to keep an eye on those numbers.

Second, in following up my research about the previous post, I noticed a curious trend in the SurveyUSA primary numbers. Results among Black Republican likely primary voters shift sharply in the couple weeks leading up to the election:

Date: 4/22/06-4/24/06
Blackwell: 42
Petro: 51
Undecided: 7
% of Likely R Primary Voters: 3%

Date: 4/28/06-4/30/06
Blackwell: 64
Petro: 14
Undecided: 23
% of Likely R Primary Voters: 4%

A couple of factors may come into play here. The first is that the numbers are small, so a shift of only a couple of voters skews the results. Here are the numbers for the two polls where n is the number of likely Republican primary voters and n(aa) is the number of likely Republican African American voters:



After all, the MOE for the poll as a whole is a mesomorphic 4.8%.

But a possible second factor is the recruitment of African Americans as Republican primary voters. As I noted, the buzz around town is that the BOE noticed a high number of blacks picking up Republican ballots. Only Blackwell was reportedly trying to do that. Because the numbers are so tiny, a few recruited primary voters could throw them off.

Getting the canvass for Summit County is on my to-do list. It will be interesting to see if Republican primary voters spike in the predominantly black wards.

2006: A Race Oddyssey [WITH CORRECTION]

For about 25 years, the conservative line on race has been 1) Racism is dead in America and 2) Blacks and white Liberals are obsessed with race, which is in itself racist. This year they are adding two new ingredients to the stew: 3) Blacks will vote for our guy because he is black, and 4) Liberals hate Blackwell, not because he’s conservative, but because he’s a black conservative, which is racist.

Welcome to the colorblind society.

This question of Blackwell’s ability to pull black votes based on his race has been the subject of much blogging the past week. RussellPounderStaff set the tone by calling the argument “bullshit.” That got Fitrakis minion Dave Hickman spamming us about it. Hickman’s emails quoted this post by Nate at Cincinnati Black Blog.

Until there are data sets to crunch, all of this talk tends to be out the speaker’s butt. RussellPounderStaff’s source is apparently RussellPounderStaff. Hickman makes the argument that Blacks are so angry about the Democrats’ “silence” over vote suppression in 2004 that they will vote for they guy who allegedly masterminded the vote suppression. I suppose congratulations are in order; Team Fitrakis’ claim that the RON election was stolen was once the dumbest political argument ever, but they may have bested themselves.

CORRECTION: An Ohio Honest Elections staffer emailed to tell me that Dave Hickman isn't on staff and didn't write the paper linked. As noted in comments, I acknowledged this argument only long enough to dismiss it, so I didn't read the piece carefully. I regret the error. In any event, Hickman makes the argument and links to the piece. At this point I don't know what his affiliation is. I just want to stop getting his emails and comments from his number one fan.

(Then, apparently because no one actually physically assaulted him, Hickman apparently decided we all wanted to know everything he had to say about voter fraud. Four emails in three days and finally people told him to step off.)

Nate Livingston goes Nate Livinston, which is to say it’s all about race – he’s mad because the whole Dem world failed to line up behind Coleman. Whatever, dude. I heard plenty of scuttlebutt that Coleman’s campaign was in chaos, but surely that’s Chris Redfern’s fault as well.

Hopefully at some point some publicly available polling will permit a data-based discussion. Until then, a few points based on what we know. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of an unusual number of African Americans pulling Republican ballots in the primary. Folks who did the Fifty State Canvass in black neighborhoods around here reported that black voters were very interested in “That Black Guy” running for Governor, but it wasn’t hard to talk away that support by telling people what Blackwell actually stands for.

As for actual data, I can’t find a Blackwell/Strickland poll for which crosstabs are publicly available. (I love you all, but I’m not paying for Rasmussen Gold until I find a way to make money off all this. PhoGold – think about it.) The last SurveyUSA poll of the primary shows Blackwell winning big among African American Republicans, but his number among Black Republicans is only ten points higher than among White Repblicans. Also interesting is the canvass of the 2002 election in which Brian Flannery killed Blackwell in Wards 3,4, and 5, but Blackwell did slightly better than Taft in those wards.

One of my former bosses taught me that in politics you run scared or you don’t run at all. In this race we run very scared. My take from the information available is that the African American vote is in play. Stickland can win strong Black support, but he will have to work his ass off to get it. He will have to hone his message on education – vouchers bad/funding good won’t do it. He will have to make the case that TEL would devastate inner cities. Making that argument understandable to average folks isn’t easy, but it has the happy virtue of being true. He also will have help from Black punditry.

Meanwhile, Blackwell will almost certainly win more Black support than a White Republican would, making Independents and moderate Republicans crucial to the race. Playing strong both to inner-city Blacks and White moderates isn’t an easy balancing act. Strickland needs to have as much game as his supporters say he does to pull this off.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wednesday in Columbus

One of the great challenges to organizing for public school advocacy is that the target demographic – parents of school-aged children – is made up of people with no spare time. Wednesday's Ohio Fair Schools Campaign Conference and Lobby Day felt like evidence of turning that corner.

We ended up with over a hundred people, including teachers, students, activists and – parents. Attendees included three from Akron, one from Copley-Fairlawn. The kids provided inspiration – a skit on school funding by a social studies class from an inner-city Columbus and winners of this year’s OFSC essay contest.

The long term project is a statewide network of mobilized grassroots activists. Short term, the General Assembly is getting into mischief with our schools, so we have some specific legislation we are watching. The big topic is legislation enacting Taft’s Core initiative – an ambitious effort to jack up high school requirements. The GA has taken it up in H.B. 565 and S.B. 311. Legislative Services compares current and proposed requirements with a handy table:

It’s an idea with arguable merit in the abstract, but here on earth, the legislature isn’t providing any money for it – just unfunded mandates. While Taft has proposed spending money on more teacher training, that money isn't in this bill. What's more, without some fundamental reforms in the school funding system, schools will continue to go through the cycle of levy failure, program cuts, student loss and more funding crunches. Core requirements like foreign language instruction and science labs are hard to fund on a shoestring.

In addition, the real trouble comes when the charter lobby and their friends in the legislature get last-minute amendments. Sorry to sound like conspiracy guy, but it doesn’t take long, before you start looking at everything in terms of “how will this tilt the field more for charters?”

Second up is H. B. 431, which would set up “special education scholarships;” in other words vouchers for special ed. students. This is a wholly unnecessary bill. Currently, a parent can enter mediation to secure a private-school placement. Parents are successful 93% of the time. H.B. 431 allows private schools to take in Special Ed. kids – and the money that goes with them – with no real accountability. This time we don’t need to wait for the last-minute details. This is patent screw-the-schools stuff.

We met with Rep. Brian Williams' staff (D-41). They told us about some of the Republican monkey business including this story the day before it broke. Bottom line: Democrats are essentially shut out of any real decision making.

But we're working it. Every year we get more people involved, more people learn how the system works and how the deck is stacked. The question remains whether public schools can survive the constant assaults from the Right long enough for state momentum to shift, but we're on the case.

MTB Voices and Choices: The Road to Nowhere.

This past Saturday was a different sort of MTB. George, Bill, Jill, Tim, Tim, Gloria and I met for a Community Conversation for Voices and Choices.

Revisiting Voices and Choices was like old home week. My involvement with Voices put me on the blogging map. Without intending to, I ended up the only blogger in the all-day marathon session at U. Akron and wrote up my observations and reservations. Bill, George and Tim all linked to me, Gund Foundation Exec. Dir. David Abbott and the elusive, psuedenomenous John Galt commented. As has been the pattern since, hit counts not only set a new record, they spiked to nearly double the previous high. George personally invited me to Meet the Bloggers with David Abbott.

This was the point at which this venture changed from me sharing opinions with my brother and three friends to understanding how to generate original content and bring a real audience to the blog. Having done a faux reminiscence recently, this Satuday provided an opportunity to genuinely reminisce about how this blog became what it is now.

My original post was pretty critical of the V&C process, as were two subsequent posts -- all named after 80's alt-pop tunes. I was determined to play nice this time. After all, V&C had approached us. The were providing the space and some financial help with the transcript. In addition, I now work for an organization significantly funded by Gund.

What’s more, digging through the materials revealed that V&C took steps to address many of my original criticisms. First and foremost, they now provide fact sheets which source the facts. I had pointed out that the discussion of high tax burdens in Ohio didn’t acknowledge the extensive tax reform of last year; now they do. I noted that the evidence regarding the supposedly fragmented local government was weak; now they acknowledge that. I happen to know that my posts, the reader comments and hopefully some of the posts in other blogs were sent around the V&C staff. Now that the latest hope for blogs having a political impact appears dashed, I take solace in thinking we may have improved this process.

But for all of that, revisiting V&C revisted my misgivings about the process.

It’s not that V&C is a bad thing – far from it. Certainly the mission is a laudable one. Engaged is better than disengaged, informed is better than misinformed, seeking input is better than imposing top-down solutions. But I think at the end of the day that a bunch of regular folks sitting around talking is unlikely to reach solutions to complex problems. If a camel is a horse designed by committee, what does a horse designed by a committee of hundreds look like?

But then, I noticed something as the MTB session wore on. While we didn’t arrive at a unified theory of everythiing, I for one came out far better informed and siginificantly more engaged in the process than before.

Years ago I was a member of my church’s Board of Trustees. One year our president hired a church member as a facilitator to write a mission statement for the Board for the approaching year. At first, the whole idea seemed like a colossal waste of a Saturday. A mission statement? Please. But the process of talking about what we wanted to do for the year revealed the tensions among our goals, taught us how our personalities interacted and generally got us heading down a productive path.

So when I considered an alt-pop title for this post, the Talking Heads' made sense. Voices works, not as a route to a destination but as a journey with good in it's own right. While it's unlikely that the organizers are looking to settle for this sort of zen-lite outcome, I find myself at piece with it.

You can hear the podcast of the lot of us on the road now.

Carnival and GABB

This week's Carnival of Politics is up.

So is the Greater Akron Bloggers Blog. Redhorse has joined as a contributor. Any interested Akron bloggers should drop a comment or send me an email. Come GABB with us.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sidebar Updates, Reader Shout-outs and Coming Attractions.

More Scenes from the Blogging Life.

Last Monday I noticed a first-ever comment from someone registered on Blogger. Because I had a ton of things to do and absolutely no time to be mucking about in cyberspace, I naturally clicked through to the commentor's profile. The commentor, MaryBad, lists as her location "Akron." She also lists four blogs. I click on the one that doesn't have a million co-bloggers discover she's in her first year of teaching English Lit and poetry at Akron U. As I scroll down, I see her kid -- who I've seen before. Sure enough, that day as I was picking up Kid T from preschool, there is Mary picking up her daughter from the same class.

"Mary, right?"

[Hesitantly] "Ye-e-es."

[Hand out] "Pho."

Mary's blog, the Word Cage, is on the side bar. Lyrically wry observations about her life. I'm not much into personal journal blogs, but it's well written and personal without being embarassing. She also drops in academic posts, like this one about Disability Studies. I've only talked to her a couple times now, but she is sufficiently cool that I'm willing to overlook the U. Michigan license plate bracket. Surf on by and have a look.


I've moved Ohio 13 Votes to the "On Hiatus" list since he/they have declared an end, but I'm not willing to accept it. I actually missed O13V at the Sutton party by like two minutes. A couple staffers told me they had just met him, but by then he was gone. No, he didn't work for Betty. Yes, he has a thing against Cafaro.

I finally got around to deleting GrOhio, not that anyone's been tempted to use the link in forever.

Tim Russo is done serializing his book and is blogging current events again, so he's in. I also added Mystery Pollster to the "Everything Else" list. I may have mentioned that already.

If you haven't heard yet, Cindy, Jill and YellowDogSammy are regular guest bloggers on American Street, so I added that as well.

Attention Akron Area Bloggers

Once again I am trying to organize a meetup. I also plan to set up an Akron bloggers blog on Blogger. If you got an email from me today, you are on my list. If you aren't and want to be, email me: pho197[at]hotmail[dot]com.

To My Readers -- The Nice Ones

Finally, I am bad at responding to comments and worse at responding to complementary comments. I've been getting quite a few of those lately and want to tell you all they are much appreciated. Few are as bad at accepting complements as I, and it appears to hold true even online where you can't see me blush. Don't think I didn't notice and I'll try to do better in the future.

Off to bed. I'm up early tomorrow as I will be in Columbus all day for an Ohio Fair Schools Conference and Lobby Day.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Random Ten

"Not Exactly Friday" Edition

I had great ambitions to post my Top Ten Bar Bands on the R10 with detailed arguments, but it's one of those So Much to Blog, So Little Time periods, so the belated list will have to do.

1. "Pioneers," Bloc Party
2. "Nobody's Business," The Believers
3. "You've Been Good to Us Clouds," Half-Hearted Cloud
4. "So Good Today," The Woodentops
5. "All World Cowboy Romance," Mission of Burma
6. "Cryogenic Sleep," Milemaker
7. "Brand New Colony," Postal Service
8. "Westchester County," Loudon Wainwright, III
9. "The Nocturnal House," Pretty Girls Make Graves
10. "Make War," Bright Eyes

Night of 1000 Nerds: Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Dinner [UPDATED]

Welcome. You have accessed this page over the internet – a network of computers that communicate using a Transmission Control Protocol. No doubt, you are viewing my writing on a computer that uses a dynamic random access memory. Quite possibly, the data that makes up this page traveled over fiber optic cable on its way to you. Scroll down and you will see some low-quality digital photographs. Tonight I shared a room with the inventors of all of the above and more.

While I gave kudos to Peppermint for her Issue 1 endorsement, I take issue with her post title; Akron does not suck. One thing that definitely Does Not Suck about Akron is the National Inventors Hall of Fame and one thing that Does Not Suck about my life is Prof. W’s connections that get us tickets to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Tonight the inductees were Willard Boyle and George Smith, who invented the charge-coupled device, a light-sensitive microchip that forms the basis for digital photography; Vinton Cerf and Robert Khan who wrote the Transmission Control Protocol; Robert Gore of Gore-Tex fame; Ali Javan whose helium laser is used in optical fiber telecommunications; Robert Langer who has over 300 patents for medication delivery processes and Julio Palmaz, inventor of the cardiac intravascular stent. Presenters included inventors of fiber optic cable and random access memory. MC was NPR alum and current XM talker Bob Edwards.

I ran into David Giffels before dinner which bears a mention to give him a hat tip for the title. He noted that Akron has made moves to be “cool,” but this highlight of Akron’s year is a celebration of nerds. My reply was that nerd is the new cool, so it works. This is literally a black tie, red carpet event celebrating the smart folks.

The Hall of Fame Induction defies hyperbole. The [mostly] men and women that make up the inductee class and returning members are truly among the brightest and most accomplished people in the world. The sit atop the ultimate meritocracy where the only measure of success is making something that works that no one has made before and that changes the world. That’s all you have to do to get in. Oh, and secure a U.S. Patent for your trouble.

At the same time, one message that comes through in the speeches inductees give is the power of serendipity. Gore was trying unsuccessfully to carefully stretch heated Teflon when, in frustration, he gave it a yank and stretched the stuff to he full arm span. Prof. W once met at one of these the inventor of PVC and bubblegum. He called PVC and bubblegum his two biggest mistakes in the lab and concluded, “The lesson is: Patent your mistakes.”

A second lesson is the necessity of failure. George Smith said that the philosophy he shared with Boyle was that if their projects worked 90% of the time, the weren’t being adventurous enough; they should fail 90% of the time. Langer said of one of his early projects that he discovered “200 ways to get this not to work” before finding the way it does.

We live in the time of the cult of data-driven decision-making. While I’m all for following the data where they point to a clear decision, we have to admit the limitations of purely quantitative analysis. I can’t but wonder if in today’s bottom-line, stock-price-driven business climate if a 90% failure rate is tolerated in our corporate research laboratories. One of the dangers of an overreliance on quantification is devaluing those aspects of life that cannot be quantified. Creativity defies quantification. No standardized test can tell if a curriculum is opening or closing a curious mind.

By now the internet junkie who wandered in here by Googling “Vinton Cerf” is getting impatient to hear what he had to say. The answer is: not much. For an “Internet Evangelist” he didn’t much seize the opportunity to evangelize. The format for each induction is: Introduction by some connected eminence, a short film with a narrated description of the invention and its significance intercut with interview quotes from the inductee(s), then an acceptance speech. In the film and after, Kahn did most of the talking. Cerf’s was pretty much an Oscar speech, with this chestnut in the middle: “This is a technology that has no boundaries. Software has no limits . . . we hope to see an outflow of continuous innovation.”

Vinton Cerf and Robert Khan receiving their medals from National Inventors Hall of Fame President Teresa Stanek Rea and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director Jon Dudas.

Terrible picture of the monitor when Cerf was speaking.

Kahn picked up that theme in his speech. First, he talked a little about how their work came to pass. The story that the Department of Defense wanted its research facilities to be able to communicate and contracted for the Arpanet is familiar enough that even a tech minimalist like I have heard of it. It sounded like Kahn was lead on the project and asked Cerf to join him, though the partnership was essentially equal. He also said that together they did far more than the sum of what they could have accomplished solo.

Somewhat better shot of Kahn on the monitor.

Hitting on another theme echoed by other speakers, Kahn said that people didn’t see their work as valuable at the time. In fact, colleagues told them they were throwing their careers away working on networking.

Then he spoke about the nature of the internet. It’s essence, he said, is its open architecture. Just like America is more than the dirt and buildings and people within its borders, the internet is more than the hard and the soft* that makes up its architecture. “It isn’t just what Vint and I created, but what everyone has created on it.” Why, you’re welcome, Bob. But more than that, thank you.

It’s practically a Congressional mandate that you can’t talk about these two guys being fathers of the internet without an Al Gore reference, and Bob Edwards dropped one as Kahn and Cerf were leaving the stage. It must cause them some distress as they felt sufficiently moved during the 2000 campaign to issue statements acknowledging Gore’s importance in providing legislative support to the growth of the internet.

The event will be broadcast on 45/49 on May 26 at 10:00 p.m. It’s not the same as being their live, but it’s worth catching. At some point, streaming video will be available online. Keep an eye out, its worth a look.

UPDATE: Giffles quotes me in his story on the event. My quote is at the very end. We didn't plan it, but the two stories complement each other nicely with David more completely describing the vibe of the evening and me running down more of what was said.

*Also, I forgot to mention that 40 PhoPoints are available for anyone who can identify the source of "the hard and the soft," (20) and the name of the character who says it (20). Sorry k-pho, you aren't eligible for this one.

Friday, May 05, 2006

2006: Let the Wild Rumpus Start*

Less than a week from the primary, I get my first message poll aiming at the looming election. I think just maybe this was commissioned by State Sen. Kevin Coughlin. Read the questions and see what you think

1. Ohio right track/wrong track
2. Governor’s race
3. State senate race
4. Aware that Ohio schools spend an average of 57% in the classroom?
5. Support 65% proposal?
6. If I tell you 65% would put another $1 billion in the classroom without raising taxes, would you support 65%?
7. If a candidate supports 65%, would you be more likely to support him/her?
8. Kevin Coughlin supports 65%, does that make you more likely to support him?

No surprise Coughlin supports the latest scheme to wreck public schools. I’ve heard two different stories in which Coughlin told school teachers that the entire problem with school funding is that teachers make too much. He also thinks that support personnel make too much. I know he thinks University employees make too much. His general anti-union stance suggests he thinks blue and pink collar workers make too much.

Ultimately I think Kevin Coughlin thinks everyone makes too much money except 1) guys named Kevin Coughlin and 2) people who give money to guys named Kevin Coughlin.

Judy Hannah has her work cut out running against 65%, but she better do it. She doesn’t have much chance in the general election, but at least she can make the case that 65% is a fraud. But it’s going to be difficult, and may require defying conventional political wisdom. On the other hand, if she can make the case that 65% is a fraud, she may be able to work it to her advantage. Hanna needs to make the case that Coughlin is too far right for the 27th and that she isn't too far left. Taking a reasonable stance on a bread-and-butter issue like education can do that.

If you need to read up on 65%, check out the links in my previous posts on the subject.

*5 PhoPoints

Old Soldier, Not Fading Away.

Not content to retire from politics as an elder statesman with some small swatch of his dignity intact, Tom Sawyer seeks to alienate what’s left of the local party by filing an FEC complaint against Ohio 13 nominee Betty Sutton and EMILY’S List, alleging illegal coordination. Those of you doing a better job than me of keeping up with Lorain Morning Journal’s political reporting would have seen this coming:

Noting that the mailing addresses of Ohio Women Vote and Sutton's campaign use
the same Akron UPS office, Sawyer has suggested that the two may be more
coordinated than allowed by law.
''We are actively investigating a complaint,'' said Bill Burgess, an adviser to the campaign. ''We wouldn't be doing that if we didn't think there were grounds.''

I didn't know Burgess was working on the Sawyer campaign as well as Issue 1 in Akron. Good to know they are toiling so hard to keep their streak going.

It isn’t the first time EM-List has had to defend such a charge. This case in Florida actually provided more compelling facts – EM-List ran ads where the candidate did not. The FEC dismissed that complaint. I’ve found a total of four complaints where EM-L is a respondent. All have been dismissed.

In this case, the Occam’s Razor explanation is actually noncoordination. The mailings were ham-fisted, over-the-top riffs on statements Sutton had been making. Those of us who like Betty hated the mailings because they weren’t a reflection of her character. That’s what you would expect if a 527 was watching the race and developing materials based on the candidate’s platform. My read on Betty, based on the times I’ve talked to her, is that the mailings would have had a different tone if she had anything to say about them.

The complaint is not yet available. Presumably the factual allegation among the most compelling is the P.O. boxes. That issue is particularly silly. The UPS store in question is in Wallhaven, a retail/office district with lots of available space and plenty of coffee outlets – a prime spot for campaign offices. It’s about a block away from Sutton’s HQ in the Chem Workers building. Not much of a coincidence that OVW bought a mail drop there. If they had office space, Wallhaven would be a likely choice. If they didn’t, that UPS store is pretty much the best option. It’s cheaper than the Post Office, you can rent shorter term and the Walhaven location is convenient to everything and has ample parking. If they were trying to hide illegal coordination, getting a box across town would be the obvious move. Hell, if they were in any communication with the Sutton camp, they'd keep their mail drop as far from Betty as possible.

Past complaints give some indication of how EM-List goes about their business. In particular, check out their response to a complaint in Florida. EMILY’s List, the Washington office gives money to the candidate, provides training, what have you. Meanwhile, EM-List’s “project” Women Vote – and not clear if this is a subsidiary organization or an affiliate or a d/b/a – sets up shop in the jurisdiction in question as [State] Women Vote! and do whatever independent advocacy they deem appropriate. EM-List puts procedures in place whereby staff of EM-List proper and staff of Women Vote! don’t communicate.

I don’t know the extent of actual staffing for Ohio Women Vote. Based on a Google search, it doesn’t appear to have existed before the Sutton campaign. I know EM-List/OVW had people working in Akron because I ran into their canvassers Monday night in my neighborhood (who were nice to me even when I identified myself as Pho.)

Having had quite a throwdown with RussellPounderStaff over this issue, I see some value in Tom’s complaint. The FEC will investigate. If a preliminary investigation shows a reason to believe that the parties violated the law, the Commission will issue what I would have called a probable cause finding, but they oddly call a Reason to Believe finding. After that, a full-blown investigation, but I suspect this case (or Matter Under Re view or MUR)won’t get past the preliminaries.

EMILY’s List knows they wander the political landscape with a bullseye on their back. While I take serious issue with their tactics in this race, I don’t believe they are stupid and reckless enough to endanger their rep and a candidate’s viability by illegally coordinating. They have procedures in place to stay on the good side of the law and I expect they follow them scrupulously, just for the sake of survival.

I’ll try to follow the case, at least online, and report developments.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Akron School Levy: Pay Anyway

My friends Brant and Marie, who are much gentler souls than I, have a wonderful idea for channeling their disappointment over the defeat of the school levy. I'll let them explain, then add some points.

In our house, we've decided not to be depressed about the failure of the Akron school levy, Issue 1. We've decided to pay anyway. We are making a donation to the Akron Public Schools in the amount that we would have paid had the levy passed.

The way we figure it, we voted for a tax that we would have had to pay, and the schools need the money whether it comes in the form of tax collections or donations. A donation will be tax deductible, so the tax consequences are the same. We will be in the same position financially as if the levy had passed.

As to the objection that this isn't fair because the family down the block won't be paying their share, we've decided not to care about that. To us, part of the reason we're in this mess is that we have all become too concerned with looking out only for ourselves, for our own children and our own pocketbooks. That's also why we've chosen not to just direct all our giving to the school our child goes to, or to give less because one of our kids goes to a private preschool. For us, the point is to help the Akron Public Schools, not just our own child.

If you would like to do likewise, the Akron Public School District has a form you have to fill out to make a donation--it is available online here.

You can calculate how much tax you would have paid if the levy had passed by using the following formula:

[Market Value of your home] x 35% = Taxable Value
Taxable Value x .0079 x 87.5% = Amount to Donate

As we understand it from talking on the phone to the District Treasurer's office, the .0079 is the millage (7.9/1000), and the 87.5% reflects a credit for payments from the State.

We are writing our check and sending it in. If you are planning to do likewise, it might be fun to keep track of it by sending an email to lawprofsr[at]gmail[dot]com. Also, if you like this idea, please forward this along to others who might be interested.
I can hear the Anonymice tuning up now. "It won't help. You can't raise enough that way. It will be counterproductive."

The last point first. I do worry that some people will say that this is such a great idea that we should only fund schools through private donations. I expect some will make this argument, but that they will prove to be the sorts of asshats that stretch anything into a reason to oppose a levy. And on the other hand, we may be able to put together a list next year of people who are showing their support for the schools in more than word.

As to the first two points, true enough. If this really catches fire, if everyone emails it around, if people talk about it and get excited about it -- if we get 200 donors, that would be huge. And 200 donors at $250 per would raise $50,000. That would be enough to save maybe one teacher.

That’s not the point.

The point for me is that this is a viable Plan C. Plan A was visiting the guy on Rhodes who posts a homemade “Vote No” sign every levy campaign and beating him into a coma. Plan B was renting a sound truck and driving the streets of Ellet and Kenmore, reminding the residents what a bunch of mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, redneck morons they are. After reflection, each of these has the potential to be truly counterproductive.

So Prof. W. and I have voted to raise the millage on our own home. If you feel similarly compelled, drop a comment or an email so we can keep track of it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ohio as viewed from the Beltway.

If you are a politics junkie and you don’t regularly read Chris Cillizza’s The Fix at the WaPo site, you are missing out. Even if you don’t find his analysis compelling – I usually do – he offers a view from the beltway which is as necessary for us to consider as the ground view is for the beltway jocks.

According to Cillizza, Ohio’s primary was among the most fascinating in the nation, both because of the number of contested races and because we’re At the Heart of It All. He posted a preview story, a post-election analysis and a bonus story on competing polls in the Senate race.

I immediately scrolled down the first two stories to takes on the 13th race. In the preview he called it as Sutton vs. Sawyer, with Sutton surging, Sawyer fading, and Cafaro as the potential spoiler. In both pre- and post-election stories, he repeats statements from Republican strategists that a Cafaro would have prompted an all-out assault on the district. He hasn’t updated with R takes on Sutton’s victory.

In the comments to the first story, at least one NEO resident complained about he EM-List fliers. I heard the same thing tonight from some SCPD people. What I hear consistently is 1) Everyone hated the tone and surfeit of anti-Sawyer mailers, and 2) Even people with a fairly sophisticated level of political awareness tag both Em-List and the Sutton campaign. If Betty doesn’t think this is a problem or if she thinks she can just overcome it with “It wasn’t me,” I worry for the campaign.

Finally, Chris breaks down two polls in the Ohio Senate race, Mason-Dixon showing Dewine over Brown 47-36 and a Diane Feldman poll commissioned by Brown showing them essentially even with Brown ahead 45-44. The methodological comparison is pretty heady – real Mystery Pollster stuff. In the end, a case can be made for each poll and neither means much at this point in the game. Still, it’s nice to see something more sophisticated than “Brown commissioned the poll; it must be fixed!”

[Reverie] Capri Comes Full Circle

posted Nov. 5, 2014

It was a hard-fought campaign, but Capri Cafaro is your Representative in the 13th District. Ironically, she succeeds Betty Sutton who beat her out for the nomination eight years ago in a bitter contest. Unlike that contest, this year when Betty stepped down to become Pres. Bayh’s Dep. Sec. of Labor, the open seat didn’t prompt a mad scramble among Democrats. Everyone knew Capri would be the nominee.

As the founding member of the Hate Capri blog brigade back then, it falls to me to recount how we got here. Back then I had no use for Capri at all, but some friends thought she at least had potential – most notably Jill (BTW, congrats on the Bestseller List).

I would have bet the farm that when she lost the primary in ’06, she would be on the next plane back to NYC, only to resurface two years later in a tempting Congressional district. The first step in her road back to political credibility was staying in Lorain Co. and setting up shop there as a nonprofit consultant. By all accounts she did real good there and helped me with the School Funding Reform Amendment in ’07.

Let’s stop and think about that. Kid Z is now in her Senior year at Firestone in the Visual Arts program. Kid T is tearing it up at the Math/Sci middle school at Inventure Place. As I was reading my ancient Cafaro posts to prepare this one, I was reminded that the same election Cafaro lost, Akron lost a levy by less than a point. Back then, we didn’t even know if APS would survive. I barely remember life before growing mills and enforceable state funding levels.

Anyway, Capri’s stay in Lorain seemed to soften her in a good way. Whether it was living with regular old Midwesterners or being truly independent from her Dad, she became far more likeable. I was actually one of the last holdouts. Mostly it was Scott Bakalar who brought me around. And check it out, Scott and Michelle’s latest disc is #27 on Amazon.

Two years making contacts in Lorain Co. made Capri a credible candidate to take on a freshman Republican in Ohio’s House 58. That was a hell of a fight in a Stone Republican district. She benefited from Gov. Strickland’s gaudy poll numbers and brilliantly showed how her opponent was helping obstruct his most popular policies – rural broadband and universally available pre-K. The NRA endorsement didn’t hurt any in that district.

She had some luck getting in, but her success as a legislator was all her. She cemented her rehabbed rep as a strong independent leader by taking the point on redistricting reform. When her erstwhile union allies objected, she gently reminded them that she had the resources to get by without them, thank you very much, and oh by the way did they really want her to fight for coal gas plants in Lorain? They fell in line and the rest was a done deal.

Now some of you are still pissed that the D’s didn’t get the chance to fully stick it to the R’s in the 2010 redistricting. I still maintain that if the D’s were able to gerrymander a 60/40 advantage in Columbus, they soon would become as indolent and corrupt as the Republicans were when Ted took over. Trust me, it’s better this way.

From there, Capri was able to work on what lit her fire – Senior care, health care, help for displaced workers. In short, she became a shoe-in for the 13th. Of course, if she hadn’t worked so hard on redistricting reform, she’d have had a much easier time of it, but she used that to her advantage in the General.

I was able to sit down with her last week. We laughed about that ’06 race, about the barbs we hurled at each other. Hard to say which of us hated the other more. I told her I was proud to know her. I told her she wasn’t just a better legislator, she was a better person. And I told her I always knew she’d look better as a brunette.

Best of luck in Washington, Capri. Don’t forget where you came from and where you have been.

Meanwhile, Prof. W. is looking forward to retirement and we are still unpacking from our summer in Chincoteague. Hard to put myself back in that 2006 election, before George started syndicating MTB all over the place, before he sold during Internet Bubble 2, making all of us shareholders obscenely grateful. Who’d have thought back then it would end up like this?

Pre-Decision 2006 Postmortem, Pt. 2

A few more random observations from last night.

More than one observer called Ohio 13 a last-chance test for organized labor. In the end I’m not sure, given the ephemeral Sawyer campaign. But it certainly was a victory for the more reasonable wing of the labor movement. Among the reasons I was happy about the result is that the UAW’s extremist “trade be damned” stance got the beatdown it so richly deserved. God knows if UAW can internalize that lesson, but we can hope.

While people seem to love talking down Betty Sutton’s intangibles, I don’t see it. One measure of a candidate’s force of personality is the level of enthusiasm and loyalty she inspires in her campaign staff and volunteers – call it the I’d Take a Bullet factor. People at the party last night went absolutely nuts for her. High ITB numbers.

The school levy went down because of a lack of a concerted ground game on Election Day. In particular, the levy committee needs to put real effort into GOTV in Wards 3, 4 and 5. The reliance on each cluster to do its own work is a fatally flawed strategy, and must be seriously amended in November.

BTW, thanks to all who have stopped by to offer their condolences on the levy. Generally I encourage people to post comments taking issue with me. Not on this one, not at this time. To paraphrase Ron White, if you have a thought against the levy, just let it pass. I can’t engage in civilized debate on this right now. If you post, I’ll likely cut loose with a torrent of vulgarity so foul it will blister your screen. Nobody needs to see that.

One of the big lessons generally in this election is the danger of the blogosphere bubble. I’d have swore the Chandra campaign was competitive, that Joe Sulzer would win in the 18th and that Sutton was in trouble. This last was because of the distaste for the EM-List campaign among my friends as well as the ‘sphere. In each case, facts on the ground proved different.

The hit numbers were pretty amazing Monday and Tuesday as people found me by Googling "Capri Cafaro" or "Betty Sutton." Even more amazing are the numbers today as people are doing the same thing. It's been a long time since the NEO saw a Congressional race that so captured imaginations.

Pre-Decision 2006 Postmortem PT. 1: Ohio 13

It’s terribly late, but as soon as I go to bed, I will be stricken with anxieties about what the levy failure will do to my city, so I’ll blog for a bit more.

I went to the Sutton victory party after the declaration of unvictory at the school party. I’ve never been to a post election victory party that was actually about victory, so that in itself was refreshing. I tried to get an interview with Betty, but believe it or not, the Akron Pages is not first in the media line. We started, then she got called away. I talked to her campaign manager for a while, but when we got to the tricky stuff, she wanted some time to think and, you know, actually sleep a while.

What we were talking about in a minute. First, the wherefores.

One question I did get to ask Betty was “Just like you planned it?” She laughed, thought then said, “Yes. We knew where the votes were and went out and got them.” In other words, this was a victory about ground game. Sutton's beat Cafaro's and Sawyer didn't have one.

So why didn’t the person with the money to spend win the ground game? Some time ago someone, I believe it was Redhorse, averred that Cafaro had hit her peak. That was when she was at about 23 points. And indeed. Capri Cafaro just isn’t a terribly appealing candidate. I’m not the only one whose bullshit detector goes off when she speaks.

For anyone with deep misgivings about the result, consider this: With the money she laid out, the media she bought and the staff she should have been able to hire, she should have won going away. The fact that she couldn’t win against a fallen soldier with no war chest and a nearly unknown running a flawed campaign gives the final proof that she was the weakest candidate for the general.

So back to my line of questioning. As I went through the day, it occurred to me that, given the last couple weeks of this primary, I would be writing one of those Let the Healing Begin posts. And it occurred to me that it would be hardest to write such a post if Sutton won. Like Redhorse, I find the EMILY’s List mail campaign difficult to defend. As such, it’s much harder for me to say “Gee, let’s put it all behind us now,” than it would be to say “Well, you won fair and square and I’ll put it all behind me know.”

So I posited to both Betty and her manager that she has some work to do to build credibility with the sorts of people who live around me, hang out with me and read my blog. While politically sophisticated Democrats might not be the most important demographic in the race, our offense is reflected, among other places, on the newspaper ed-boards. What can bring folks like my friends around is also what can garner a few endorsements in the primary.

The one definitive I got was that the campaign would not distance itself from EMILY’s List. I get that, but it puts Betty in a difficult position. I don’t think much of what Betty herself did was that offensive, but pretty much only political junkies will draw a distinction between a campaign and a 527 campaigning behind it. And frankly, I don’t want it to be any other way. As much as the 527’s trouble me, I hope campaigns get burned a few times and learn to keep them at a distance. I’d just rather that didn’t happen to campaigns for people I like.

I’ll be interested in hearing more from the Sutton campaign about how they go about Letting the Healing Begin, especially here in the Merriman corridor. At one point it was pointed out that the people I’m talking about are particularly sophisticated. Exactly. That’s why I do this – so people who think like this have a place to find this sort of discourse and someone who’s in the position to press for answers to these sorts of questions. Stay Tuned.