Friday, June 30, 2006

Betty Sutton's Campaign Manager Leaving

As reported by Open. I'm trying to run down the backstory. Anna's statement -- that she has another job opportunity -- has a ring of truth. First, she's an East-Coaster and out-of-towners who come here to run campaigns tend to spend their time with one foot out the door. *cough*lauriedepalo*cough*

Second, it's likely the campaign professionals believe the hard part is over. And possible that they are right. It's a solid D district and Betty is polling extremely well.

Random Ten

1. “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?” Billie Holiday
2. “The Artists in America,” Ornette Coleman and the London Symphony Orchestra
3. “Get It Hot,” AC/DC
4. “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry,” Cowboy Junkies
5. “Sister Ray,” Velvet Underground
6. “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” Blood, Sweat and Tears
7. “Like a California King,” Everclear
8. “You Look Good to Me,” Oscar Peterson Trio
9. “These Dreams of You,” Van Morrison
10. “All Neon Like,” Bjork

Alex Arshinkoff -- Good Government Guy

Summit County Republican Boss Alex Arshinkoff has proposed two ballot issues to clean up county government. Because he’s all about clean government. This from a guy who hasn’t met a Republican so underqualified that he doesn’t rate a politically motivated appointment.

Here’s the best part:

    County Republican Party leader Alex Arshinkoff said the changes to the way employees are hired and the formation of a commission that is elected rather than appointed would make county government less susceptible to influence.
Some jokes don't even need to be made.

The proposal to elect the charter commission is just ridiculous. The McCarthy v. Everyone war has generated competing proposals to turn the Charter Review Commission into a ghost legislature, drafting proposals to be voted on directly by the people without any input from council. Arshinkoff’s proposal goes one better, making seats on the Commission elected.

This is typical Alex. When he holds an office – like the Court of Common Pleas General Division – he fights any attempt to water it down. When he’s out of power, my God we need an elected position. Best example – when Republicans held the Juvenile Court judgeship Alex fought mightily any attempt to add a new judge. When Linda Tucci Teodosio won she had barely moved in when he changed his tune. As it happens, the whole story is reset in today’s BJ.

I haven’t found the language online, but I bet the proposal makes the election nonpartisan. When party affiliations don’t show up on the ballot, Democrats lose their numbers advantage and the Republican’s organization advantage kicks in. Why do Republicans enjoy an organization advantage? Go ask R—s P-y.

The nepotism proposal, divorced from political context, at least looks good based on the ABJ description. The details of the written proposal are of course key, but at least if it reflects standard-issue anti-nepotism laws it should be a net plus.

The context, of course, is that Alex is trying to divert attention from Republican macrocorruption – Noe, Ney, Worker’s Comp – to Democratic microcorruption – hiring relatives of elected officials. Presumably the law will neither prohibit hiring relatives of party contributors nor prevent hiring people who have done miscellaneous political favors.

Handicapping, the anti-nepotism proposal is a no-brainer. If Summit Dems are smart – and that’s an open question – they will just suck it up and let it happen. Unless the proposal contains some poison pill flaw, campaigning against it would be political self-mutilation.

Probably the Arshinkoff version of the Charter Review reform proposal wins also. Americans are in the throes of one of their periods of fetishizing elections, making this hard to run against. And it doesn’t help that this is a riff off of James McCarthy running a weeniethon of his own.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Blackwell Education Plan Panned by Reaganites

J. Ken Blackwell is certainly compiling an impressive list of policy proposals so bad that even Republicans hate them. Along side the TEL Amendment and soon to be joined by the Turnpike lease-financed New New Deal is his 65 Cent Solution for education. A group of education thinkers including Reagan's former Education Secretary Bill Bennett and a number of other Reagan-era DOE veterans has trashed the plan.

To review, the so-call 65% Solution is a law that requires schools to spend 65% of their operating budgets on in-classroom instruction. Administrative costs, plus other costs like food service, libraries (sometimes) and transportation count in the 35% limit on non-classroom spending.

Proponents claim it will free up money for classroom instruction without raising taxes. And it will, just like No Child Left Behind saying that kids have to pass tests has made that happen. That’s how life works – the government says that something will happen and *zap* it does.

As you can tell, I’m not down. I’ve covered the 65% proposal’s limitations here and here and the discovery that it is a fraud aimed to divide and conquer public education advocates here. You can also check out Strickland's press release and the Strickland blog.

If you don’t want to click through the links, here’s one example of the proposal’s poverty of thought. Consider two Federal programs that grant money to schools – Title I of the ESEA the school lunch program. In the 65% formulation, Title I monies, which funds programs aimed at economically disadvantaged kids ,are not included. That is, you subtract all these funds from the amount schools spend in classroom despite the fact that these funds are overwhelmingly used for classroom instruction.

On the other hand, all monies spent on food service are counted as out-of-classroom. All monies from the school lunch program – which feeds economically disadvantaged kids, but also has a considerable constituency as a subsidy for the food industry – count against the school district. Those moneys cannot be diverted to classroom instruction, but no matter – 65% says you have to offset that spending. This is just one example of how 65% stacks the deck against schools.

The bipartisan chorus attacking 65% is doing so for a reason – the shiny new 100% Solution proposed by Thomas Fordham Foundation, a free market think tank. The idea here is that 100% of the money “follows the child.” So when a kid moves from one school system to another, all the money associated with that kid – basically the budget of her home school system divided by the census – goes with her. I have a deep skepticism about the idea and will write up my misgivings at another time. For now, I’m interested in how this plays in the Gubernatorial campaign.

J. Ken campaigns hard on his ideas – ideas that would radically reshape the state. TEL was so widely repudiated that he had to agree to a legislative bailout to get it off his back. Now his only idea about education financing has been roundly condemned from right and left. He can’t just palm this opposition off on greedy teachers unions – indeed 65% was intended as a bone to lure the unions out of the education lobby fold. Instead William Bennett, the number one critic of teachers unions on the planet has signed off on a competing plan.

What’s more, the 100% plan is identical to Blackwell’s plan for higher education. Blackwell wants state higher ed funding to “follow the student.” On the one hand, he can hardly advocate for one plan for higher ed, then say it’s not the solution for K-12. On the other, he can hardly afford another reversal on one of his core platform points.

How should TED respond? So far so good. In the CD article he has a nice quote against 65%: "we ought to stop using our kids as ways to fight our political battle. This is a proposal that I think could be quite harmful. … Not everything that’s important to education necessarily happens within the four walls of the classroom."

I humbly submit some suggestions for how to handle this going forward:

  • Emphasize the broad bipartisan repudiation of 65%. Taunt Blackwell that he can’t come up with an idea that won’t get tossed over the side.

  • Put some numbers together about how 65% would disproportionately hurt schools serving poor urban kids. Those schools rely more on Title I monies and get more school lunch subsidies, both of which artificially drive their out-of-classroom costs above the threshold. To make ends meet, those schools will have to slash school counsellors, transportation, etc.

  • Declare some first principles. My favorites are:

    • Creating stable funding streams to allow school districts to plan.

    • Reducing inequities among districts

    • Building an accountability regime for both traditional schools and charters that goes beyond simple market accountability.

  • Go slow on 100%. This looks like a Trojan Horse proposal assmebled by charter honks. If Blackwell jumps on board, swamp the discussion with the complexities of 100%. It sounds simple, but unlike 65%, I believe the complexities are easy to make manifest. First and foremost, you tell voters that under this proposal kids open enrolling out of district take with them local property tax money.
Finally, what's Blackwell's response to all this. Apparently that Strickland wasn't in DC to vote for something that passed unimously. Damn that's rough.

POSTSCRIPT. Alert readers will notice that I've let Ted out of my personal doghouse. Probably at some time someone high profile will really piss me off and take up residence. For now I need a placeholder. Who better than local party boss Russ "Allergic to Grassroots" Pry? Or I should say R--s P-y.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kosola Katch-up

Over a week later, the allegations and recriminations about DailyKos haven’t died down. Apparently the issue has found enough oxygen.

Last week, rightwingers at DonkeyCons trying to mountainize the molehill cited three Ohio bloggers (including this one) in one post. Generally speaking, Ohio not down with Kos. Two reasons why: 1) Tim Russo has been knee deep into Kos since ’04 and 2) Kos’s odd switch from endorsing Paul Hackett to endorsing Sherrod Brown. Tim has come out of his bunker to post a sKreed against Kos recounting Issue 1. That followed an admirable chronology by Staff recounting Issue 2.

Center/right blogger Mickey Kaus used the BSB post as a jumping off point for a post spinning out the four possible Kosola scenarios. If you read the scenarios, I tend to believe a modified version of 3 – call it scenario 3.5 – in which Armstrong tells Kos he has this client who is really good and, oh by the way, his client is in the position to spend heavily on internet advertising. As Kaus points out, this is hardly illegal and pretty much Washinton SOP. Of course, Kos is supposed to be an antidote for Washington SOP, so that hardly serves as a defense.

Kos himself posted a perfect object lesson in How Not to Kill a Scandal – an unintentional self-parody of a rant that equates criticizing Himself to joining the right wing. A pity, since a number of his friends and even a couple of his enemies have effectively refuted the latest TNR Plank allegations. If not for Kos himself, TNR would probably be letting this go.

Finally, we should remember that whether or not the fix is at Kos, the man himself remains a politically tone deaf insider wannabe with neither moral center nor demonstrated facility for serious policy discussion. In a Newsweek article out now, he talks frankly about wanting to take over the Democratic party. Talk so fundamentally out of step with reality should give us all pause. He might want to actually win an election first.

When we spoke to John Green the discussion of course rolled around to blogging. He noted that one failure of blogging thus far is its inability to forge connections across ideological divides. I would go a step farther and say that blogs tend to accentuate those divides. The DKos/MyDD axis embodies the ethic to a distressing degree. Kos’s TNR rant is an example of the overheated rhetoric that gets bounced around there – disagree with a consensus progressive position and you aren’t merely wrong, you are a soulless right-winger.

Ultimately Kossacks, like members of other progressive groups, fail to recognize and accept what they are – faction within a party. A faction that can sometimes win, will sometimes lose, and can hopefully nudge the debate in the direction they want. Ironically, the more they embrace that role, the more influence they are likely to have. If Kos was truly the just-win-baby pragmatist he pretends to be, he’d get that.

GABB gets BFD Love

I posted a piece yesterday about a flash flood at Boston Mills ArtFest that wiped out a number of the artists showing there. GABB has been especially sleepy lately -- summer, tight schedule, etc. -- and the post was in keeping with the politics-at-the-door vibe we're trying to cultivate. Of course, on GABB few people see it.

Happily George did and found it compelling, so GABB gets its first mention on Brewed Fresh Daily. Thanks to George for picking it up. For the rest of you, the post is pretty good and the information wasn't covered in the media, so go there now.

Ohio 43 Vernon Sykes Catches DUI charge

As reported in the ABJ today, former State Rep. and candidate in Ohio House 43 Vernon Sykes got caught in APD’s DUI checkpoint this weekend. On advice from his "wife and lawyer" (not clear if they were one and the same), he refused the breathalyzer. So we know he wasn’t too intoxicated to follow SOP for politicos in the situation. He has caught an automatic suspension for his troubles, but he’s avoided headlines saying ”Vernon Sykes blows X on a Breath Test” and generally preserved his deniability.

My guess is that this doesn’t matter much. Sykes is in a heavily African American lockdown Dem district and enjoys broad popularity. In general, urban black constituencies, like other affinity groups, tend to be pretty tolerant of imperfection in their leaders. Conservative Christians in Georgia won’t hear a bad word against Ralph Reed and thousands of Italian Americans still believe James Traficant was railroaded. A little bitty DUI charge won’t make much of a dent in Sykes’ support.

By the way; if you didn’t catch it, the checkpoint was a shot across the bow of would be ID4 revelers. Be careful out there this weekend

And yet again, I'm filling in for YellowDogSammy. Who knew the Ohio legislature races would be so active in his absense?

OH Sen 27: Judy Hanna Is Polling

NOTE: Revised to fix the chronic misspelling of the candidate's name. Apologies.

I got polled last night by the campaign of Ohio Senate 27th longshot Judy Hanna, so my unintentional role of substitute for YellowDogSammy will continue into at least one more race.

I assume it was a Judy Hanna poll based on the assymetry. After the preliminaries -- right path/wrong track, likely voter screening, governor's race (will I vote for Tim Strickland?) -- they startd into the questions about the 27th race. First they start with the positives for Hanna -- basically her position statements. Then -- and this was new for me -- they run through the oppo research on her. Three bad things about Judy and will they make you more likely to vote against her.

Then, when they get to Coughlin, it's all oppo. None of the good stuff. Of course it could just be that there's nothing good to say about Kevin, he said snarkily.

As best I can recall (I was wrist-deep in cooking dinner when the call came) the oppo on Coughlin was:

  • A sexual harassment allegation that chased him out of a university teaching job.
  • Voting for an income tax cut that went overwhelmingly to wealthy Ohioans.
  • Missing the vote on last year's Third Frontier Issue 1 because he was on "an all-expense paid trip" (not clear who paid all the expenses)
A couple takeaways. First, Judy Hanna has enough money to put a poll in the field. Given her long odds and early missteps, that's fairly impressive in its own right.

Second, the anti-Coughlin pieces were pretty well-framed and very direct. Hanna won't be shy about going after him, though presumably she will look at how the negative messages poll.

Hey, in apparent influx of resources and sharp-elbowed attacks. This couldn't have anything to do with her EMILY's List endorsement, could it? Doing oppo research on oneself is also an EMList hallmark.

Finally the poll shows that Hanna is at least aware of the disaster that is her Inaguration Day blog. How she will handle it remains to be seen.

For example, she might want to put something her blog. Well, she might want to tap someone to ghost a response. Or she might want to shut the blog down completely since the one post there is similarly disasterous. She's written a single post, that one about a March peace rally, which is no help at all. She probably loses a debate about Iraq in the 27th, and if she wins it doesn't help in a state election. What's more, the post shows the same cavalier attitude toward syntax and word usage that make the Inaguration Day post such an -- erm -- interesting read.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Meet Thomas West

As I mentioned, Thomas West (and apologies for getting his name wrong in the previous post), Canton City Councilman and candidate in Ohio’s 29th Senate District also spoke at yesterday's Sherrod Brown media event. That's him listening to Sherrod.

Since YellowDogSammy is on vacation, and West was willing to be interviewed, it fell to me. So what's he like? West is one of those guys that party leaders love, but drives certain policy wonk bloggers a little nuts. He is a smooth speaker and a monster in the meet and greet. He has an admirable resume, having worked for years in social service agencies, then started a successful small business. He has the goods to be a successful politician.

As a guy in a policy discussion, he falls a little short. Good on talking priorities, low on specifics. West isn’t unique in this manner and of course talking about an ambitious legislative agenda sounds foolish for someone who is running for membership in the minority caucus. For the record, his priorities are jobs, education and healthcare. More than anything, the conversation reminded me why I so like Betty Sutton’s watchdog platform.

I always ask about the nuts and bolts of the campaign, but never expect much but happy talk (Tom Sawyer being a notable exception.) In Ward’s case he says he's part of a combined campaign and we be there for the ground war, getting the vote out in November.

We had an interesting discussion about Blackwell. I mentioned my concern that his Lease the Turnpike plan is part of a Buy the Votes strategy. As I feared, this issue is flying somewhat under the radar even for politicos. Let's keep an eye on that ball, people. On the other hand, he says that reciting Blackwell's history of supressing Black votes is resonating in inner-city Canton.

West is running against incumbent Senator Kirk Schuring. According to YellowDogSammy’s estimable list of candidates, Schuring's opponent got 42% of the vote in 2002. In fact, Schuring is heavily entrenched. He's also a poster boy for the failure of term limits to create "citizen legislators" and get rid of career politicians. When I worked in Canton in the mid-90's he was a representative and Scott Oelslager was a Senator. Now they have pretty much swapped places. Not that things would be better if term limits did that. Both Schuring and Oelslager are moderate Republicans and capable legislators.

All of which makes for a mixed bag for West's chances. The district is all of Stark County. Dems can win county-wide. It's not a place with strong ideological divides. In 2004 it went for Kerry by about three-thousand votes. But Schuring is well-liked, well-financed and universally known. The wild card is whether Stark Countians pin the Republican's troubles on him.

He has a website under construction: I'll try to drop an update post when it goes live.

Finally, you can check out the press on the event yesterday in the ABJ and Canton Repository.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ken Blackwell's God, Pt. 2.

If it were merely a gaffe, I’d let Blackwell’s Godsmack go with one post. But this now week-old story isn’t about an aberration, it’s about something fundamental. Plus I hate writing a Pt. 1 without a Pt. 2 following it.

My Part B on the subject was originally to be a point-by-point refutation of campaign blogboy Matt Naugle’s “Is too!” post. Eric at Plunderbund pretty much nailed that, so instead I’ll make this a little more personal.

Yes, it pisses me off that Republicans paint all Dems as Godless, but that’s not what really bothers me. First off, admittedly, Democrats have a lock on the atheist/agnostic/don’t really care vote. It’s obnoxious to conflate atheists voting for Democrats with Democrats being atheists, but this is politics – obnoxious is to be expected.

What’s more, I wonder if anyone who matters – that is independents and moderates, really buy this. The Republicans’ holier-than schtick can devolve into self-parody as quickly as moneychangers get chased out of the temple. I still haven’t figured out whether I’m supposed to be impressed by the cross Ann Coulter wears on her new book cover, or her prominently featured breasts.

What really troubles me about this is what it says about the Blackwell campaign and a Blackwell governorship. A couple of weeks ago my minister said from the pulpit that she fears a movement to make this a Christian state. While Conservatives laugh off charges that they are advocating theocracy, incidents like this are the only evidence we have of their intent

    • Strickland voted against a measure that permitted the public display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings. (Vote 221 6/17/99)
    • Strickland voted against protecting the Pledge of Allegiance from attacks from liberal judges. (Vote 467, 9/23/04)
    • Strickland voted against a constitutional amendment to guarantee every citizen’s right to pray and express their religious beliefs on public property, including schools. (Vote 201 6/4/98)
    • Strickland voted against allowing faith-based organizations compete for federal housing program grants. (Vote 109 4/6/00)
    • Strickland even voted against allowing government-funded religious organizations to use religion as a factor in hiring. (Vote 175 5/8/03)
In other words, Strickland believes in a separation of church and state. Apparently Blackwell believes . . . well, what exactly. He’s apparently in favor of all of the above, but where does this end?

At the Meet the Bloggers session I asked Dr. Green what Christian Conservatives believe about the First Amendment – do they believe that there should be an establishment clause, and if so what do they believe it means?

His answer is that they believe in the Establishment Clause, but believe that it only means that the government should be non-sectarian. That’s the answer I would have expected. Two problems with it: 1) the line between sectarian and non-sectarian government endorsement of religious belief is really doesn’t exist, and 2) I kinda don’t believe it.

Number one will wait for another day. This post is about #2. When people like Blackwell declare that God, not government solves problems, what does that mean, exactly? I think it means much the same as when people say that this country started going downhill when schools could no longer lead students in prayer. Or when they say that belief in evolution leads to social ills. Or that we need to post the Ten Commandments because society will be better served if people live by them. Or that ours is a Christian nation.

The inevitable conclusion to these observations is that government should be in the business of persuading people to believe in God. And since these same people believe that the only way to know God is to know Jesus, inevitably the government’s religious advocacy will be Christian advocacy.

So here’s the personal part. I’m a Unitarian Universalists. We believe – well first of all we believe that our church shouldn’t be saying what “we” believe. Ours is a non-creedal, non-dogmatic faith. Practicing our religion involves what we call “finding our own path” or “creating our own theology” and our critics call “making it up as we go along.”

It’s not easy to offend a UU, but one thing that usually does the trick is Christian exceptionalism. It’s certainly the case for me. I reject the notion that salvation can only come through a belief in Jesus as the Son of God. Too many good people have led exemplary lives pursuing other faiths for me to accept this.

So my wife and I are trying to raise our children in this faith. It’s not easy. We see the Christian message pretty much everywhere. And as they get older and understand what those fish on the cars mean and their Chapel-going friends get more into evangelizing, it will be that much tougher. We live with that. What we do not need on top of that is the government using its vast resources to preach to my children. I accept that we are a small, minority religious community, but I will not accept my family’s faith being marginalized by our own government.

So it is important for me to know what Ken Blackwell thinks of all this. Does he think I have the right to practice my faith in peace? Or does he think it’s the government’s job to tell me I’m wrong? He has said, one time, that he has “a healthy respect for religious liberty and religious pluralism.” But he says a lot more about wearing down the "Secular State."

Warning! UU Ahead!

You can expect more posts like the one above. Not lots more, but basically what I can manage on my already ridiculous schedule. This will not become a Unitarian Universalist blog, but remain a policy/politics blog that dabbles in religion on occasion.

The first time I wrote about my faith, I received mixed reviews. Mostly I received roaring silence, but a couple folks from my church – including a former charge from my youth group advisor days – rolled in to say they liked the post.

Another reader emailed in to say NOOO! His/her concern was that the Pages not devolve into a personal blog. The email said something like, “First this, then you’ll be posting pictures of your cats.” Fair enough concern; no one needs to see this:

But I’ve decided to post more about being a Unitarian Universalist for a number of reasons. In no particular order:

  1. Religious liberals tend to believe – as my emailer does – that religion is a private matter, so we don’t talk about it much. This is one reason that conservatives feel free to paint us with the Godless gloss. In point of fact, most of my friends are Christian, are more religious than I and more liberal than I. Barak Obama addressed this, but I’ll go one further: Conservatives have put us in a corner so we no longer have the luxury of keeping our faith to ourselves.

  2. Blackwell may talk about believing in religious pluralism, but UUs live it. In my congregation we have Christians, Jews, pagans and animists as well as people who embrace Unitarian Universalism as a faith in itself. We live the constant challenge of keeping the congregation together. As such we can and should witness to the challenge and the joy of true religious pluralism.

  3. I love my faith, but not many people know about it. In fact, “Universalist” isn’t in Word’s spell check dictionary – kind of like “blogger” except without the excuse of newness. I’ve admired Jill’s “What Jews Do” project. Dropping a little “What UUs Do” knowledge on my readers seems a worthy goal for this blog.

  4. One of my "interests" is religion and politics. My take on role of religion in society is colored by my religion. Talking about religion without discussing my faith feels a little like talking about race without mentioning that I’m white.

  5. We UUs have an admirable blog network. Not surprising – a old joke says that given the choice between “Heaven” and “Talking About Heaven,” UUs invariably pick door #2. I’m into communities and hope to become more a part of that one.

  6. The two other members of my congregation with blogs have rolled me as a UU blogger. I need to live up to that.

  7. I’ve been designated my congregation’s coordinator for our membership in We Believe. I tend to blog the stuff I’m doing, and so will inevitably have material from that. I could also blog about how I have far too many damn volunteer projects going, but that would be one of those personal things.
So, having considered the above, fair warning – you’ll get more church posts. The symbol at the top of the post – a flaming chalice inside linked circles – is the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Association. This symbol will head any UU post. If you don’t like it, you can scroll past.

And I’ll give fair warning before the next cat picture.

Sherrod Brown in Stark County Today

Today at noon, U.S. Rep. and Senate candidate Sherrod Brown held a press conference in North Canton to announce that he has introduced a new bill in Congress: H.B. 5635, the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act. The bill aims to prevent goods manufactured in “sweatshops” from being sold in the United States.

Today’s North Canton announcement was pretty much a press and visibility event. The campaign sent out a flash late last week and got a fairly decent showing of labor folks, young Dems, Dem club members and politicos. By the time the event was on, it looked like a crowd of fifty or so. The usual suspects in the press were there – Canton Repository, Canton’s WHBC radio, Akron/Canton TV news and Carl Chancellor from ABJ.

Against all expectations I was able to work childcare miracles and get down there in time. Here’s how it went.

A couple minutes after noon Sherrod Brown arrives and immediately greets union leaders and Stark County party chair Johnnie Maier. He spends ten minutes or so working the crowd, talking to union folks and Dem activists as well as the VIPs.

I’ve said it before; this is Sherrod at his best. While he would have lost a one-on-one to the preternaturally charismatic Paul Hackett, it’s important to remember that he has serious game: tousle-haired, boyish good looks and the ability to convey to each successive conversation partner that listening to him or her is the most important thing Sherrod will do all day. In short, he’s a natural at person-to-person campaigning. How that translates to the inevitable media campaign in a statewide race remains to be seen.

Around 12:15 Brown starts speaking. He opens with “I firmly believe that American workers can compete if they are on a level playing field” – an admirable bit of speechcraft. He briefly outlines the proposal, then starts after DeWine: He is supported by the big corporations that outsource jobs and he has supported job-killing trade agreements.

He casts this as a debate about which side you are on – the workers versus the corporations. He runs through the painfully familiar story of community erosion in Ohio – loss of jobs, whittling of tax base, residents leaving, more jobs go. It’s the backstory behind the shrinking of Ohio’s cities.

Brown then introduces Thomas Ward West, a member of Canton’s City Council and candidate for the Ohio Senate. I interviewed Ward after the event and will post separately on him. He spoke briefly in support of Brown and gubernatorial candidate T-d S--------d.

With that, the floor opens to the crowd. None of the press have any questions. A couple of citizens ask questions off topic, that allow Brown to make points that we need to address trade to address illegal immigration and that the U.S. isn’t enforcing our own labor laws. I was able to ask whether the bill is consistent with the current trade regime. Brown says that the bill is written to be WTO compliant, but he hopes it will lead to a reassessment of trade policy generally.

After the event, I was able to interview Rep. Brown briefly. Here’s the Q&A:

Q: How are “sweatshops” defined? A: Basically it’s the definition contained in the International Labor Organization standards. Those standard have five elements
-Right of association
-Right to organize
-Prohibition of forced labor
-Prohibition of child labor
-Prohibition of discrimination

Q: You’ve mentioned DeWine’s support for trade agreements and the pay-for-play culture. Do you have a “smoking gun” link between support for DeWine and his trade votes? A: Certainly DeWine does receive support from companies that outsource, and certainly he continues to support the President as more and more trade agreements are brought before Congress.

Q: How are the provisions in the bill enforced? A: Three ways. The Federal Trade Commission has enforcement authority. In addition, competitors have a private right of action. [in response to follow-up question] The competitor right of action extends to retail companies – CostCo can sue WalMart. Finally, a shareholder of an offending corporation can sue.

Q: The upside of trade for US companies is intellectual property protection, and it’s an important concern of tech industries that are at least a potential Democratic constituency. How do we reconcile concerns about trade with protecting IP? A: I feel strongly that we should use the full force of the government to protect intellectual property, but we need to protect workers as well.

ASSESSMENT: I haven’t analyzed the finer points of H.B. 5635 and don’t intend to. In a Republican Congress, this bill doesn’t have a prayer of getting out of committee. But it’s an election-year policy statement that doesn’t offend the militant pragmatist.

I admire Sherrod’s ability to engage in an essentially populist campaign without resorting to simple-minded shibboleths. He criticizes trade agreements without falling back on a purely protectionist model. It’s a subtlety of thought that appeals to me as well as to rank-and-file union guys. That’s a hell of a feat.

Ohio GA Contemplating Capital Gains Tax Break

As reported in Saturday's Columbus Dispatch. A Saturday story generally means a Friday announcement (though what prompted the CD report isn't made clear). Announcing on Friday is a well-worn tactic for flying something under the radar. While the CD writes that this is part of a coordinated election-year campaign, this is the part Republicans don't necessarily want in the face of the voting public.

Even apologists for cap gains tax cuts admit that they go disproportionately to the wealthy. In a year when the Republicans are trying to hold on to votes despite a feeble state economy and make inroads with urban Blacks, cutting taxes for the wealthy is unlikely to be a big sell.

I have further thoughts on the wisdom of the policy and some quirks in the CD article but I have to roll out, so it will wait. In the meantime, here's a policy paper from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy to get us started.

Read and discuss.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

MTB John Green

Saturday Meet the Bloggers interviewed Dr. John Green, Professor of Political Science, Director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron, and Senior Fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Pubic Life. Thanks to Redhorse for setting up the interview. Also attending were Daniella Lindquist, Tim and Gloria Ferris, James Hardy and of course George Nemeth.

Dr. Green is famously intelligent, knowledgible and quotable. We had a lively, wide randing discussion hitting on religion and politics, public disengagement and netroots organizing among other topics. Usually I write a post or two about my impressions of the interviewee, the discussion of what we talked about, what have you. In this case, first off my impressions of Dr. Green are pretty irrelevant. This interview was about learing what he had to say.

Beyond that, the discussion was so much about first principles that a single post would hardly do it justice. As it happens, most of what we discussed plugs into one or more of the three or four posts currently kicking around my head. So my project for the week is to get those posts up, incorporating the Green discussions along with my thoughts.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Tale of Two Races

It’s hard to believe sometimes that the top-of-the-ticket races in Ohio actually come from the same state. The Governor’s race is already a brutal affair pitting as extreme a conservative as has ever run for office in Ohio against a centrist angling for crossover from Gunnutistan. For the Senate we have a genteel contest in which a consummate cross-the-aisle moderate is trying to hold off a wonky but fiery progressive.

It’s a measure of how politics has shifted in Ohio that when I worked against DeWine in ’94 he was considered the standard-bearer for the right wing of Voinovich’s Republicans. This year I’ll be surprised to see Blackwell share a stage with DeWine outside a party-only event.

Catching up with the Governor’s race, T-d S--------d is demonstrating the perils of reaching for crossover by embracing conservative issues. Despite calling for action on a truly disastrous gun nut bill, he’s being criticized as being soft on guns because – wait for it – he doesn’t actually own one. In the interests of disclosure, I should point out that, despite my pro-gay stance, I don’t actually . . . never mind.

In contrast, DeWine actually got the endorsement from The Brady Campaign to End Handgun Violence – surely a Maalox Moment for Mike. It helps him not at all – pro-gun control folks will still vote overwhelmingly for Brown. And it’s pretty much a disaster in Southern Ohio to suggest that perhaps we might want to regulate people killing machines just a little. The wild card is whether enough firearms enthusiasts abandon him for someone like Bill Peirce to give Sherrod a chance.

Meanwhile, DeWine and Brown each sat down for a extended Newsweek interview. DeWine is cool, nonpartisan, moderate – just what you need to be if you are running for Senate in, say, Delaware. He makes it a point that he doesn’t use the phrase “cut and run” to describe the Democrats’ position. How that plays in Ohio, we’ll see.

While DeWine is Mr. Nice, Sherrod is showing the aggressive, angry streak that I’ve heard people fret about. He’s in the reporter’s face twice in as many pages about how the media are covering politics. He goes after DeWine for “not talking about issues,” links him to Karl Rove and Tom Noe in a single paragraph and expresses optimism that the Dems can take both houses.

In the Gubernatorial campaign, on the other hand, we had the whisper campaign about T-d’s family life and the “Who’s Christianer?” debate – don’t get me started.

How does all this play out? I suspect Blackwell helps DeWine far more than DeWine hurts Blackwell. J. Ken will get the base to the polls and they certainly won’t defect to Brown. On the other hand, Blackwell is setting a tone that lets Brown be as aggressive as he wants. No moderate independent who can stomach the governor’s race will be turned off if Brown dials it up.

Correction thanks to Lisa Renee in comments. I shouldn't blog when sleep deprived.

Cillizza on the Ohio Congressional Races

This week’s Friday Line takes on the House races. Both the Ohio races featured in his Top Twenty – the 18th and the 6th – drop places in the rankings.

In the 18th 6th, Cillizza is impressed with Charlie Wilson’s “impressive” write-in win and observes that the Republicans have hurled all the oppo research they have to no effect (query: is the oppo having no effect on independents?)

In the 6th 18th he is basing the drop on the continued, Francisco Franco-like non-indictment of Bob Ney. He notes that Zach Space is a “mediocre” candidate. He doesn’t acknowledge the uglies for Ney in the McCain Report.

I’d feel a lot better about the list if he had 21-50 stashed away elsewhere on the site. That way we would know he’s keeping decent eye on races like the 1st and 15th.

Corrections thanks to Staff at Buckeye State.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Random Ten

1. “Hornets! Hornets!” The Hold Steady
2. “Left Hand Suzuki Method,” Gorillaz
3. “Skip Tracer,” Sonic Youth
4. “String Quartet No. 2 ‘Company’: II,” Kronos Quartet
5. “Buffalo Nickel,” Bela Fleck
6. “Waitin’ for Superman,” The Flaming Lips
7. “The Picture,” Loudon Wainwright III
8. “Valentine’s Day,” Steve Earle
9. “Cameltosis,” Korn
10. “[Untitled],” Pretty Girls Make Graves

I'll take this opportunity to plug The Hold Steady. I pretty much love everything about this band and they do almost everything I love to hear from a band. Lead singer -- well more like lead poetry shouter -- Craig Finn pens intelligent, complex lyrics and delivers them over monstrous guitar riffs.

A sample from Hornets! -- kind of a Bukoski take on the Amazing Rhythm Aces' "Third Rate Romance":

    she said i like the guy who always answers the door.
    he never asks you what you came to his house for.
    she said i won't be much for all this humbert humbert stuff.
    i've never done so much of this.
    i have to try so hard not to fall in love.
    i have to concentrate when we kiss.
    she mouthed the words along to "running up that hill."
    that song got scratched into her soul.
    he's never heard the song before. but still he gets the metaphor.
    he knows some people that switched places before.
    she said i really like the crowds at the really big shows.
    people touching people that they don't even know, yo.
Most of my favorite bands -- including this one -- will be at Blossom August 3. I, unfortunately, will be out of town.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

An Epidemic in the Blackwell Camp

One of my all-time favorite baseball quotes was this managerial assessment of erratic reliever Mitch Williams: “Mitch doesn’t get ulcers, but he is a carrier.” Similarly bloggers supporting J.Ken Blackwell don’t get irony, but their blogs increasingly carry it.

First example is J. Ken’s blog. In his defense of Blackwell’s Godless Democrats blast, Blackwell blogger Matt Naugle lets loose with this:

    Democrat leaders, on every level of government, believe that big government and bureaucratic programs can solve all problems. Congressional Democrats, with far-left minority leaders from Las Vegas and San Francisco, promote government as the solution to every answer.
Mind you, “Las Vegas” and “San Francisco” are embedded with links to sites for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Whatever could he be saying? Las Vegas and San Francisco? Whatever could he mean?

The very next paragraph he says:

    And Ted Strickland, via his platform, frequently uses Ohio Democrat Party Chair Chris Redfern's coded-language, where "investments" really mean "higher taxes." This is simply an effort by Democrat leaders to play with semantics to find gentler ways to promote big government programs that spend more of your money.
So using “Las Vegas” and “San Francisco” as code for “degenerate gamblers” and “homosexuals” is high-minded discourse, but talking about investing in education is playing with semantics. Next time we want to discuss investing in the public infrastructure, apparently we need to drop a link to Portland, Oregon to meet Matt’s approval.

Meanwhile, Scott Pullins found my post about him and predictably is not amused. Check out his headline: “Liberal Bloggers Can't Discuss Issues Without Resorting To Namecalling” You got me there, Scott. I didn’t engage in a civil discussion about the "issue" of you spreading smarmy rumors about T-d S--------d. I resorted to namecalling instead of calmly responding to the "issue" of you calling my candidate a fag. My bad.

Here’s the meat of his argument against me:

    this liberal blog from Akron who's main point seems to be to call any person that writes about these rumors a douchebag, along with a bunch of anonymous false personal attacks against, me, my wife and my 2 year old child. No civil discussion here.
Actually, the point was that I won’t call anyone a douchebag unless they step way over a line, which you clearly did. You have no evidence, you are repeating rumors and elevating them to news by saying the rumors are newsworthy.

Isn’t that – what’s the word – ironic?

That Was Then, This Is Stupid

OK, I’m trying to let pass an Open item from Tuesday (during my brief internet blackout.) But I can’t. It just makes me too crazy.

The entire argument is that Betty Sutton gave Tom Sawyer a hefty campaign contribution in 1994, then criticized him during the primary. Yes, that’s it. No really. For good measure they get a quote from the Foltin campaign saying this is one more example of Sutton’s hypocrisy. Not sure what the earlier examples were, but . . .

As someone who worked on Sawyer’s campaign in ‘94 this surprises me not at all. Recall ’94 was the year of the Contract with America. Clinton’s approvals were weak, the economy was spinning its wheels, the right-wing noise machine was getting into high gear with nothing to counter it and Hillary had just released the outline of the only conceivable health care plan worse than the one we have. It wasn’t a good year to be a Democrat.

Lynn Slaby was running a fierce campaign against Sawyer. We were working a combined campaign for Sawyer, Joel Hyatt against Dewine and Lee Fisher trying to hold off Betty Montgomery. We watch John Cochran from ABC News do a stand up outside our HQ saying “Democrats are running scared here, in a district they have held for over 50 years.”

There were two kinds of Democrats that year: Those who pretended not to be Democrats and those who worked their butts off to keep the hellhounds at bay. That was the year that gave us the Republican Revolution, Governor George W. Bush, Attorney General Montgomery and Rep. Steve LaTourette. Hell, yes Democrats gave money to Sawyer. The ones who saw it all coming did, anyway.

What’s more, in 1994, no one realized just what a disaster NAFTA would be. It was sold as an eventual win because it would build the Mexican middle class and increase demand for our exports. Instead, it devastated the truck farm economy, drove unprecedented numbers of increasingly desperate people up against our borders and further concentrated the country’s wealth into the hands of an oligarchy. All that took a few more years to play out.

Finally, this was a primary. Primaries are tough. Sutton and Sawyer agree on more than they disagree on, but a candidate has to make contrasts to give voters a reason to vote.

I doubt the Open writer who penned this absurdity is really so dewy-eyed as to believe every campaign contribution is a sign of undying devotion and every campaign position is borne of deep enmity. So why write a post balanced on so thin a reed?

A Pause for a Good Cause

We interupt our broadsides at Ken Blackwell et al. to talk about the Akron Zoo. As reported yesterday, the zoo's levy is up for renewal this fall and will be on the ballot. I've been drafted to help with the campaign, so this is my first official act.

You can read all about the zoo at their website. The campaign will have a web presence, but I haven't yet gotten word that it's live. The Akron Zoo is a great success story for the city. Not long ago it was a petting zoo and a third-rate one at that. Now it houses scores of species and has participated in some cutting edge preservation activities.

Obviously, missing the school levy by that much complicates the picture considerably. Since the Zoo issue is not a new tax, we are hopeful.

For good measure, here's some pics from one of my favorite days ever at the zoo. Kid T and I were there three years ago on an early spring day and got to see staff reintroduce the Trumpeter Swans back into the outdoor habitat.

Trumpeters are endangered -- about 6000 now living. And they really do trumpet. As the mated pair were deposited individually in the habitat, they started vocalizing to find one another. The clear tone of their call is at once familiar and gloriously otherworldly -- like a Haydn concerto played on native instruments from some undiscovered tribe.

I guess J. Ken would say that this is another example of a Democrat thinking the government is God. No, Ken. The government is an instrument for bringing this wonderful community asset to our city. And listening to those regal birds call to one another, I was reminded of what it is to feel the presence of God.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ken Blackwell's God, Pt. 1

The Ohio leftysphere is buzzing with opinions about Ken Blackwell’s blast at Democrats yesterday in Toledo. T-d S--------d sent out a notice condemning the statement and linking to an online petition demanding that Ken apologize. Ken’s blog is unrepentant. You can read blog reaction from Jill, Modern Esquire at BSB and Eric.

To begin with, let’s get the full context down:

    "Our rights are not grants from government," Mr. Blackwell said. "They are gifts from God. And when you understand that, you will understand and respect what has driven the American legacy of limited government."
    Democrats, he added, "still believe that government is God, and God is not."
Thought number one: While it would be nice for Blackwell to apologize for insulting my faith, it would be nicer still for him to apologize for using such vague and clunky language. Strickland seems to interpret the last phrase as meaning “And God is not the government.” In fact Blackwell appears to be saying that Democrats believe that God is not, i.e. that He does not exist.

Either way, this is an attempt to forge a rhetorical link between small government conservatism and Christian conservatism. I disagree – I believe God wants us to alleviate suffering with whatever tools we have, including government. While I disagree with his premise, I might be able to respect his project except A) It’s a bunch of hooey and B) He is insulting and threatening me and my faith.

I’ll deal with (A) in this post. (B) will come later.

Topic A: Hooey. Blackwell loves to talk about his dislike for Big Government. According to his PD blog, his antipathy toward government drove him to the Republican party. So he doesn't believe in using government to solve problems.

All this would be simply wrong as opposed to actually offensive if he worked this to its logical conclusion. If, like his putative hero Ronald Reagan, Blackwell told people that they are on their own, that they just have to pull themselves up, work harder, do it themselves, I could respectfully disagree.

But no, J. Ken speaks from both sides of his pulpit.

As I noted a couple of days ago, the centerpiece of his platform is leasing the Turnpike for $4-6 billion to pay for stuff. What will he do with the money? Let’s ask:

    Once implemented, the generated revenue would be segregated from the rest of the state budget (so that it couldn’t be hijacked on regular state spending) and targeted for on a number of items, such as:
    • Ohio energy development including alternative and clean coal resources as well as conservation and efficiency improvements
    • Ohio Venture Capital Fund
    • Revolving development loan fund
    • Turnpike corridor development
    • Transportation infrastructure
    • Universal Broad Band access
    • Higher education scholarship fund for engineering, technology and science students
    • K-12 science and math program support
    • Technology specific worker training
    • We could do this with guarantees to maintain the Turnpike’s road maintenance programs and a stable toll structure keyed to the rate of inflation

Does that sound like limited government to you? To me it sounds like a hugely ambitious laundry list of government programs. He calls it the JOB Fund -- JOB meaning Jobs for Ohio Businesses. It could easily wear a more epic tag like, idunno, New Society or Great Deal or something.

To be fair, he probably advocates doing this in a “market based” way, which translated from Republican means “give it out in no-bid contracts and hope for the best.”

Still, this is government money – a monstrous chunk of government money – being used to solve problems. The fact he's funding it by selling off an asset that was paid for with past taxes as opposed to using future taxes doesn’t change the construct. He’s using the government to solve problems.


Why do I get the feeling that the party faithful hear more of his "Democrats render blood sacrifices to the God of government" rhetoric while the inner city blacks he's courting hear more about the JOB Fund?

Kos Says "Nip It"

For whatever reason, The New Republic is going bloghappy this week. Posted just this afternoon on the magazine's blog The Plank is an interesting break in the story about possible links between DKos endorsements and money from campaigns -- the so-called Kosola controversy.

First, here's a catch up if this is new to you. Upshot -- Kos kollaborator Jerome Armstrong agreed to an injunction an SEC case accusing him of touting stocks on bulletin boards without acknowledging that he was paid to do so. The new info is that Kos has sent out a confidential memo to his inner circle urging them to refrain from blogging on the issue so as to "starve it of oxygen." He also tries to minimize Armstrong's culpability -- "He didn't do it but he settled it because . . ." If I had a dime for every time I heard that as a prosecutor.

Here's the money quote from The Plank:

So far, Kos's friends in the fiercely independent liberal blogosphere seem to have displayed a sheep-like obedience to his dictat. And while it's true that Kos himself hinted at the controversy in this blog post yesterday, he didn't come anywhere close to addressing the questions that really matter. You might even call Kos and company's behavior in this whole affair just another case of politics as usual. So much for crashing the gates.
Back to TNR. They have some good pieces, some bad, apparently touched off by the YearlyKos convention. All are worth a look and all are so far available without a subscription (it's hilarious that they whine about Times Select when they selectively do much the same thing.) You may or may not see some additional here about all that.

Scott Pullins Is . . .

Here’s the story as I’ve told it in real life, but not yet on the blog. When I wrote a post about the head of the Ohio Taxpayer’s Association supporting the RON amendments, the first draft described him as something like “arch-conservative blogger and all-around douchebag Scott Pullins.” Then I reconsidered, thinking “I don’t really know that Pullins is a douchebag. I disagree with him on pretty much everything, but conservatism isn’t equivalent to douchebaggery.”

So I set a personal policy at that point: I won’t describe someone as being a douchebag unless I know he’s a douchebag.

Pullins actually rolled in with some enlightening comments on the RON post. He also chimed in later on a TEL post saying that OTA wouldn’t support TEL if the local restriction required a majority vote of all registered voters to override. These are the sorts of comments that make a blog good. I just set the table -- when people show up with either new information or good arguments, that's when this thing is really humming.

Generally I try to keep a high tone here. I prefer real debate to name calling. I’ve always been a “More Flies with Honey” kind of guy. Once in a while I’ll bust out with something harsh or profane or both if the situation calls for it. But I’m not going to use invective against someone just because we disagree. I'm just not that guy. Plus the blog seems to have certain credibility among readers and bloggers who aren't necessarily as liberal as I. All this backs up my policy on the "douchebag" gloss.

So I read about Pullins’ conflict with State Rep. Thomas Collier (R- Mount Vernon) along with his generally litigious nature and said hmmmmm. Well, I never said he isn’t a douchebag, just that I won’t call him one without proof.

Now, after reading about his sleazy riff on the anti-T-d S--------d whisper campaign (using logic that would also prove that Harriet Myers is a lesbian), I’m ready to make the call:

Scott Pullins is a douchebag. So is anyone else who goes there.

Back Online

This morning the light on the cable modem wasn't blinking. Fired up the computer and sure enough, things are back up and running. The connection has dropped a couple of times, so we'll still see the cable guy on Friday. In the meantime, I'm working on a couple of things, hopefully up this afternoon or tonight.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iraq Around the Clock

So the Republican Congress is setting up Iraq as the issue for the election, Bush has a bounce as a result of the Zahawi rubout and what everyone wants to know is “What does that skinny blogger in Akron think about all this?” OK, not really. Which is why I generally avoid national news.

I still have no clue what the US should do about Iraq. I do, for what little it may be worth, have some ideas about how the Dems should handle the issue.

First off, the party needs to agree on a core goal for whatever policy we come up with –something along the lines of a stable Iraqi government that can hold its own against the insurgency. One problem that seems to be hampering the effort to respond to the issue is that a fairly sizable minority – with Kucinich at the helm – appears to believe that the core goal is getting the U.S. out, come what may. That is to say, even if it could somehow be proven to Kucinich that keeping a force in Iraq for, say another three years would yield benefits to U.S. interests, it looks to me like the Kucinich response would be that we should get out anyway on moral grounds.

The Dems need to make a statement that peace at all costs is not the majority position. If I’m wrong and no “Peace camp” exists, so much the better. If I’m right, that camp needs to be left to its minority status. I’m sure on the far right are Republican Members who think we should nuke Tehran tomorrow and Damascus on Thursday, but the party hasn’t let them define the terms of the debate. Our far wing has too much voice.

Whatever policy comes out should be a policy that aims at that core goal. Murtha proposed his over-the-horizon plan because he believes it is the best way to force the Iraqis to stabilize their government and solidify their security forces.

Finally, and most importantly, the Dems need to acknowledge that whatever their plan, Bush will be in charge for the next two years, meaning they are unlikely to force a withdrawl or any other sharp shift in policy. As such, they should look at what they can do if they find themselves holding one or both houses to make things better. Some suggestions:

  • An anti-torture policy with strong oversight from Congress. And we should emphasize that the Global War on Terror is above all a war of ideas. If we can’t demonstrate that a secular democracy can respect human rights, we lose the war on the only front that ultimately matters.

  • Contractor oversight. The insurgency took root because we couldn’t turn the lights on. A fair pile of evidence suggests that we couldn’t turn the lights on because of corruption and incompetence in the reconstruction effort. Probably it’s too late to make a difference, but let’s at least try to do what’s left right.

  • No permanent bases. What’s the opposite of cut and run? Stay forever. Americans want neither, but right now they only see one side proposing the bad thing. Democrats should hammer constantly on the Conference Committee sneaking the No Permanent Bases provision out of the appropriations bill. Last week’s House Resolution looks damned reasonable – stay until the job is done. We should be pointing out that they not only resist a timetable, they resist the simple promise that we will leave someday.
All of which brings me to the information I’ve been getting from Sherrod. He is going after Dewine over amnesty for insurgents who have killed American troops. The Iraqis want to give it, Dewine is OK with it, Sherrod is agin’ it.

The downside is that people may regard Sherrod’s position as being to the right of Dewine’s. To the right of Dewine is not Sherrod's natural habitat. He’s not going to pick up voters who hang out there. What’s more, Dewine is going to have more credibility on his right flank than Sherrod, so whatever explanation he has for his position is likely to be persuasive.

I could be wrong, and it’s certainly important to find policy differences. Which is why I’m puzzled that neither Sherrod nor any other Dem pol is using the No Permanent Bases amendment as an issue.

In any event, Sherrod is showing the beginnings of a strategy for working the Iraq issue to his advantage. Given the generally feeble showing of Dems this past week, it’s good to see signs of life close to home.

Regarding S-----d

While it can’t compare to Scott’s, I’ve had my own stubborn contest going with the Democratic nominee for Senate. Time was I had a good relationship with his campaign – particularly compared to other bloggers. I had a line into the campaign and at times they initiated contact.

Then I wrote this post calling for a make-up session with Paul Hackett and threatening to boycott the race until it happened. Two things happened – or didn’t happen – as a result. They stopped contacting me (aside from the generic emails to supporters), and I stopped mentioning the candidate by name.

Now I’m following Scott’s lead and throwing in the towel. A few reasons I elect to do so now. Above all, it’s clear I’m out of my league. If Sh- She- [deep breath] Sherrod can stand by unmoved by Scott’s caffeine-and-carbs fever dream, a mere series of dashes will move him not.

Second, I really want to talk about the Dems strategy on Iraq and I’ve gotten some interesting emails on Sherrod’s messaging on the issue.

Finally, I only have room in my political doghouse for one Democratic candidate. The current occupant? Our COPE-loving nominee for governor, T-d S--------d.


My internet connection is down. My internet connection is down and has been down since Monday morning. My internet connection is down and will be down ALL WEEK!!!
After enduring a day of shaky hands, blurry vision and food tasting like sawdust, I wrote a couple of posts at home last night and have made my way to a coffee house with wi-fi today. Thank you, Angel Falls.

So, what to do with the blog. Probably what you get from me this week is essays without much in the way research behind them or links within. I will barely have time to check my various email accounts, do what I have to do for work and upload whatever Word document I’ve prepared at home. I won’t be surfing the blogosphere, so apologies in advance for anything duplicative. And expect more than usual in the way of factual errors. Finally, I won’t be responding much to comments.

By rights I should take the week off. My plummeting hit stats tell me that blogging is a winter sport. But I made a deal with myself to post at least once a day this year (as in blogging Year Two.) It would be a shame to blow it the second week after the blogoversary. Even though this isn’t up until now, it counts, dammit.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Catching Up with the Governor’s Race

First up, this week Chris Cillizza’s Friday Line took on the governor’s races. On Cillizza’s list of governorships most likely to change party hands, Ohio remains at number 2.

Cillizza does mention, consistent with the “Hope for Republicans” headline, that Blackwell did well in the Cincinnati poll. He neglected to mention that the Cincinati poll is something of an outlier – the other polls have consistently shown Strickland with a double-digit lead. Moreover, HypoSpeak points out and illustrates that the trend in the Rasmussen poll is currently grim – Blackwell is static and Strickland is rising.

Callahan has started blogging about Blackwell’s Lease-the-Turnpike idea. As a political strategy, it worries me. I’m all for breaking it down and talking about why it won’t work, but before going in depth about why it is a bad idea, we need to acknowledge a few things:

  • It gives Blackwell a hypothetical pot of money to pay for his campaign promises

  • His campaign promises include spending big bucks on inner-city renewal projects.

  • People who would benefit from those projects will not care that the money is borrowed from future generations.
Blackwell is mortgaging the house to buy votes. Buying votes is one of the easiest ways to get them. Just ask Ralph Regula.

Today’s Dispatch interviews a bunch of folks in an independent-heavy, Republican-voting precinct in Columbus. Yes, wading into one of these street scene pieces is fraught with hazard. It’s been said that the plural of anecdote is data. Perhaps, but the sincular of “data” is “statistically insignificant factoid with a huge sampling error.” Not as pithy, but you get the point.

Nonetheless, let’s look at some of the potentially portentous data points unearthed by the Dispatch.

  • Plenty of die-hard Republicans will vote for Ken, even though they have reservations.

  • Some Republicans are so put off by a) corruption and b) Iraq that they are considering a party switch this year.

  • Blue collar Republicans (represented by the barber) are feeling the squeeze of a Republican economy.
    • Before anyone takes any comfort in this, recall how many Republicans and right-leaning independents talked like this in 2004 before the actual campaign started.

      I don’t know why, but the Ohio blogosphere seems to be feeling a little nervous about the race. How else to explain Strickland getting pretty much no blogosphere grief over his vote in favor of the COPE act with its net discrimination provisions intact. He and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones were the only Ohio Dems to do so. As Callahan noted, Brown voted “No” despite entreaties from his friends in the Communications Workers of America. After Ted voted the bill out of committee the netroots erupted in vitriol. This time, nary a peep.

      Staff at Buckeye State did take time to write a thoughtful piece on the Blackwell persona that basically set down much of what I had been thinking. Namely, that Blackwell’s apparent flip-flopping is not a matter of indecision but of political expedience. Truth be told, I don’t think Blackwell himself buys half of what he is selling. He just runs ideas out, sees what sticks, backs away from what doesn’t

      Finally, I’m a little worried about the silence of late from Camp Strickland. The Blackwell switchback on the voting rules should have prompted insufferably smug and celebratory emails. Instead, I got happy talk pieces about the grand opening of the Shaker Heights HQ – your chance to hear Lee Fisher quote rock lyrics in person – and an odd invitation to send a tribute to my dad to Ted’s website.

      Let’s keep our heads in the game, guys.

      The Regula Way of Doing Business

      Let’s get this out of the way first. Today’s BJ fronter headlined “Regula under fire for favorites” means nothing for the election. If you just saw the head, you might think Ralph is caught up in an ethics probe. No. Some watchdog groups – the lefty Center for Responsive Politics and the more balanced Taxpayers for Common Sense – are criticizing him for his earmark-driven funding of the National First Ladies Museum.

      I was working in Canton as all this went down. The Museum was pretty much an eye-roller among the people I talked to. It was another one of Ralph’s projects. More of Ralph being Ralph.

      Meanwhile, Ralph has been in Congress since I was a child. Jeff Seeman got his clock cleaned despite running a brilliant internet-based campaign against him – so brilliant in fact that it catapulted his internet guru Tim Tagaris into a stratospheric career arc. Word on the street is that the Dem bosses won’t work against Regula on the theory that he will be gone soon and they want their boy – for most of them it’s party Chair Johnnie Maier – to make a run at the open seat. Ralph is winning in ’06. Ralph will continue winning until he’s done, one way or the other.

      As the article says, the controversy is interesting as a window into how Congress works. Stark County is a virulently anti-tax area. Citizens there resist mightily piggy-back sales taxes that pay for law enforcement. The county has the largest number of people living in townships – where the taxing power is minimal – of any county in the state. When Jackson Township tried to incorporate a few years back, residents beat the proposal mercilessly.

      And yet, people in Stark are all good with Ralph bringing home the pork. They may think projects like the First Ladies Museum are silly, but they are happy to see the silliness in their back yards.

      Which is why earmark reform is important, but is a loser as a political issue. It’s awfully hard to get people excited about a bill to cut off the flow of money to their districts. People may hate taxes, but by the time their taxes go through the Washington mill and gets shipped back home, it become free money.

      Saturday, June 17, 2006

      MTB John Cortlett: Hit and Run

      I took a bit of time out of Not at Camp week for the Meet the Bloggers session with Center for Community Solution’s John Corlett. I dropped Kid Z off at gymnastics team practice in Copley, headed up to Cleveland for the 10:00 session, but had to be back to pick up Z by 11:30. All very frustrating. John is thus far my favorite “get” for MTB. He’s extremely bright, knows volumes about tax and budget policy and is genuinely fun to talk to. We could have rapped with him for a couple hours without running out of topic to mine.

      All of which is explanation for a new MTB high water mark. I believe I asked the windiest, most tendentious, multi-layered and impossible-to-answer question in the history of MTB. Bill Callahan previously claimed the honors at the David Abbott interview, but it’s all mine now.

      First off, what we learned about the TEL effort. The removal of the ballot issue is pretty much wired. The special legislation passed recently compels the Secretary of State to remove an issue if the sponsoring committee requests him to. The TEL sponsors have delivered such a letter to Blackwell (insert joke about weight of paper here.) Once the new law goes into effect in August, Blackwell must remove the issue and that’s that.

      In addition the Coalition for Ohio’s Future is still pursuing one of the legal challenges against the issue. This is important because no one knows if the legislation allowing the committee to say “Never mind” is actually constitutional. For that matter, no one knows if anyone has standing to challenge the procedure.

      The Coalition hasn’t filed the legal challenge I reported on earlier – evidently they just issued a humiliation-inducing press release about it. The active suit challenges Johns says they are negotiating a settlement that would allow the Coalition to challenge a certain number of signatures.

      Jill asked why the TEL proponents used this mechanism to control spending. John’s response essentially is that the best mechanism to control spending is to control spending. Indeed, one of the fundamental aggravations of the whole TEL debate is the failure to admit the failure of Republican rule in the state.

      Which got to my question. Let me try to make this coherent.

      Part I: No one in the public sector is actually flush with cash. In fact in every category agencies are budgeting ever closer to the bone. From John’s silent nods he apparently agrees.

      Part II: In fact Ohio is caught in a perfect storm of budgetary pressures. Medical expenses – a cost for the state both in Medicaid and employee benefits – are increasing a many times the rate of inflation. Energy costs are escalating. The state loses money from Federal budget cuts and must meet unfunded mandates. All this in a political environment in which a tax increase is a laughable idea. Again, apparent agreement.

      Part III: The essence of the question, when you get through all the verbiage. Do Republicans actually have an idea about how to get out of this mess, or will they just continue to use it for political gain. It wasn’t asked that clearly, but John pretty much answered it. The Republican prescription, so far as it exists, is more of the same. More tax cuts aimed at businesses, more privatization no real idea of how to grow an economy.


      The challenge – and this is me, not John – is making the case for change. Our case is that the government actually plays a role in the economy. That’s an idea that runs against the current. People embrace anti-government cynicism independent of data. The terrible beauty for conservatives is that many Ohioans see ineffective government first, party affilation last if at all. The more Democrats excoriate Republicans for their abysmal record of governing, the more they reply that the problem is inherent in government.

      If you find this as frustrating as I do, please read the Alan Wolfe piece I recommended earlier this week. His argument is that anti-government conservatives simply cannot be trusted to govern effectively. He is no Great Society liberal – he lauds conservatives for putting a check on the excesses of liberalism. But he makes the compelling case that 1) Americans understand that government is an essential component of modern life and 2) the failures of the Bush administration don’t result from his rejection of anti-government conservatism, but from his embrace of it. His writing is eminently readable and his argument is tight. If you click through no other link in this blog ever, go to Wolfe’s essay and read it.

      Back to John. After he gamely tried to answer my question, I headed back to Summit. I was also interested in hearing him debunk the stats tossed around by the taxcut crazies – Ohio 3rd in taxes and so forth. I gave the question to Jill. When I have a chance to listen to the pod, I’ll report back.

      Finally, I have pictures of the event but Blogger is in one of its sucking moods lately and hasn't been letting me upload. If I can get them up later, I'll add them.

      Friday, June 16, 2006

      Friendly Advice

      Surprise number one for a blogger: you get on mailing lists without asking to. The first couple times it’s surprising, then it’s amusing, then it’s “What else is new.”

      Usually being on a mailing list means getting the same press releases everyone else on the media list. Sometimes a really skilled internet outreach person – a CJ Gaffney or a Jesse Taylor – will send emails that catch the blogger vibe.

      But occasionally I get emails that pretend to be chatty and personal and singular, but on closer inspection look for all the world like form letters. You can almost see the places where they drop in the information particular to the recipient:

      Dear Pho:

      We really like Pho’s Akron Pages. It’s an excellent addition to the Northeast Ohio blogosphere.


      It happened again today. I sent the email in question around to my fellow NEO bloggers and indeed most of them had gotten an identical email saying how superspecial their respective blogs were. It could have been worse; in primary season I got an email saying how much candidate X’s family enjoyed my blog and would I please add to my blogroll . . . a blog I had added a month earlier. Busted.

      In this case, the group in question is one I support – in fact I spoke at one of their meetings last summer. So no worries. We’re all new to the medium, all figuring out how to best communicate with each other. It’s a fundamental theme of the Ryan Lizza piece about YearlyKos.

      But here’s the friendly advice – if you are sending out a mass email, let it look like a mass email. We bloggers are an understanding bunch, but we have hypersensitive bullshit detectors. And we talk to each other. And we are all a bit sensitive to the "Love your blog!" entreaty because we've all read it before in comment spam. Even if you aren't trying to steer traffic to Male Enhancement Blog, the damage is done.

      So be what you are: A progressive organization trying to reach out to bloggers. If you actually read my blog, great. If you don't, also fine. I make an independent determination about requests to blogroll me. Unless you blogroll me first in which case I lay down like a seaport hooker (and the aforementioned candidate had a blogroll that didn't include The Pages. Way bad form.)

      I get lots of email, but not so much that you have to go all "You may already have won!!!" to get my attention.

      Thursday, June 15, 2006

      Reading Material

      This hairy week marches on. I’m hoping to get to MTB with John Corlett tomorrow. Meanwhile, the kids are having a great week, but not a lot of time for the blog. Plus, there’s lots of interesting stuff to read out there during a relatively slow news week. I hope at some point to break down the latest Blackwell flip, but aside from that, it’s the sleepy season for politics junkies.

      So here’s my reading list until I can drop a real post.

      Bill Callahan has a great editorial about how the COPE Act represents a big fungoo from the Dems to urban areas. Bill has been one of the only bloggers, even among the nationals, who writes about the policy implications of COPE beyond the net neutrality angle.

      Ryan Lizza has a riotous write up of the YearlyKos convention. Here’s a sample:

      But there is still a discomfiting sense among the bloggers here that, as with
      Armando, nothing in their world will be the same after this weekend. They are
      moving from faceless writers talking in what sometimes seems like an echo
      chamber to a national movement courted by presidential candidates and covered
      seriously by the press. They are finally meeting the politicians they bash and
      praise from the safety of their basements. Las Vegas could be the beginning of a
      new era of blogger influence and authority. Or it might just be the weekend they
      all sold out.
      PoliSci prof. Alan Wolfe has an excellent piece in the current Washington Monthly called Why Conservatives Can’t Govern. As Kevin Drumm notes, its an antidote to the Conservative Apostacy Meme that has been going through the righty punditocracy. Given that our own J. Ken Blackwell has been running on the a platform of conservatism as it has never been tried before, it’s a must-read.

      Wednesday, June 14, 2006

      Out of Iraq . . . Someday?

      Topic A tonight is the leaked John Boener memo recommending that the Republicans run on Iraq. You can find Ohio blog reaction here and here. The GOPer message appears to be: “We promise to continue making the same mistakes in Iraq, but the Democrats might make all new ones.” Which frankly is a message that worked in ’04, so Democrats need to do more than just make fun of it, enjoyable as that may be.

      The problem is that even among people who agree about the fundamental problems with the Administration’s policy can’t reach consensus about what to do. Christ, there isn’t a consensus in my head, for that matter. If we stay, I fear another Vietnam. If we go, I fear another Mogadishu.

      All of which makes votes like the recent emergency funding bill interesting for progressive Democrats. Interesting, but I have no idea what this Open post about the latest such vote is getting at. It has a couple of interesting paragraphs, but if they’ve been assembled to reach an actual point, it eludes me.

      While voting against funding for the troops is perilous for anyone outside a complete lock of a district, Dems do have an issue to run on. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill included language stating that the money appropriated could not be used to establish permanent bases in Iraq. That’s all it did. The language was sufficiently innocuous to actually pass both houses. Then when the Conference Committee met to reconcile the bills, they reconciled the "No Permanent Bases" provision the hell out of there.

      At the SCPD meeting Tuesday Night (h/t for the info, btw) our point person on the issue said that DeWine sat on that conference committee. I’m surprised Sherrod Brown hasn’t made a bigger deal of it. After all, this isn’t about leaving on a timetable or leaving after milestones are reached, it’s about leaving sometime. Given news reports that BushCo. plans a long-term garrison of 50,000, a no permanent bases pledge makes sense. Even to a fence-sitter like me.

      D Fink Has a Challenger

      At our second meeting for Next Step for Akron I met a nice young man who has taken out petitions to run for State Board of Education in District 7. That’s the position currently held by evolution skeptic and charter schools Pollyanna Deborah Owens Fink.

      State Board of Ed is one of those positions candidates run for without a party affiliation on the ballot. Elections for such positions are fairly unpredictable since no candidate goes in with a yellow dog base. That is in part why a partisan conservative like D Fink represents a district (Summit, Portage, Trumbull, Ashtabula) that trends blue. David Brennan’s campaign largess didn’t hurt.

      All of which is very interesting because Dave Kovacs is running as a Green. I didn’t know that when we talked or I would have had some additional questions for him – like are the Greens making a strategic push in obscure, down-ticket races.

      Kovacs' website is up-front about his Green affiliation, though fairly close-lipped about who Kovacs is and where he came from – no bio page, nothing I could find in the bloggish archive section. From what I glean from Google, he is a U of A senior and may be a bassist. He has my email. He’s free to send a bio sheet.

      I'm not down with the Greens, but I'm sufficiently weary of D Fink that I'll put Kovacs' website on the sidebar next round of updates.

      Dead Women

      Apparently the Ohio Republican Party’s dog and pony – er, fetus and pony – show is over for another election cycle. Hearings on the total abortion ban are over, with no further action expected. Thanks for coming.

      I don’t find it easy to be pro-choice. Someone recently asked in comments to the PhAQs what I meant by moderate on abortion. Three things, really. First and second, I am less comfortable with late-term abortions and more comfortable with parental notification than most pro-choicers. Third – and this is the essence of the thing – while I don’t think an early term abortion ends a human life, it certainly ends the life of something that, in an ideal world, wouldn’t have to die. I acknowledge that, at the risk of getting hooted down by pro-choice absolutists.

      Anyway, at times I envy the simplicity of saying, “It’s a human life, protect it at all costs.” But the abortion ban considered this time around gives lie to that simplicity. By banning the procedure even to save the life of a mother, the advocates move from Party of Life to Party of Dead Women.

      What’s remarkable about all this is the rare break in discipline in the anti-abortion ranks. The anti-abortion movement since Roe has been a marvel of political craft. People who believe they are working for the ultimate in absolutes have nonetheless strategically proposed incremental that find favor with otherwise pro-choice majorities – cooling off, parental notification, bans on state funding. In a series of deft strokes the anti-abortion movement has whittled down the right guaranteed in Roe and shaved support off the pro-choice majority and painted pro-choice groups as extremists. Looked at purely as tactic, it has been a thing of beauty.

      Like the South Dakota law before it, the Ohio law abandons that strategy for a base-mobilizing, choir-preaching bill that could reverse decades of political gain. Indeed the bill appears to be an attempt to be more prolifier than South Dakota – after all, those bankrupt plains state moral relativists wrote in an exception to save the life of the mother.

      In addition to being strategically suspect, the Ohio law points out the chinks in the moral absolutism of the pro-life position. A woman with an anencephalitic baby – a baby with no brain, no chance to survive more than a few days – who will die if she tries to take it to term must take it to term. Yes, it’s an outlier case, but it becomes much harder to gloss the Democrats as the Party of Death when you embrace policies that end in Death 2, Life 0.

      None of which matters because it was all a farce to begin with. If you doubt that, look no further than Right to Life Ohio’s position. They refused to endorse because the bill would have repealed all abortion laws – including popular restrictions like parental notification and Ohio’s “partial birth abortion” ban. Clearly the sponsors of the bill did not intend this thing to be taken seriously.

      Meanwhile, Democrats have a well-crafted alternative. Senator Teresa Fedor and Rep. Tyrone Yates have introduced the Prevention First bill. It would:

      • Demand data-driven decisions on funding sponsoring effective sex education.

      • Require insurance to pay for contraception.

      • Put money into state family planning programs

      • Broaden access to morning-after contraception.
      These bills have even less chance of passing than the total abortion ban, of course. But casting the election as the Party of Prevention against the Party of Dead Women is a smart strategy. It’s about time.