Sunday, December 30, 2007

10-6, But No Postseason

Wow. That has to be the least satisfying end of a season ever. Bad enough that the Browns end up as the first team in two years to fall short with ten wins. The Titans/Colts game scrimmage tonight was agonizing.

The one point of solace, if you could call it that, is that the Coltscrubs lost the game exactly the same way the Browns would have: no pressure on the quarterback and porous secondary play. I recall one Tennessee pass play being broken up by a defender -- the one that gorked off the corner's helmet and was caught by a Titan's receiver. It was a real God Hates Cleveland Sports moment.

A special shout-out to Tony Dungy for not taking the last time out. Nice to have confirmation that you were never interested in winning the game.

Friday, December 28, 2007

More Republican Challengers in Local Races

News today that Roe Fox will run against Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, and Mary Stormer will run against County Clerk of Courts Daniel Horrigan. (Forewarning: that link for the Stormer story is acting funny).

County Democrats acknowledge that the one immediate effect of the Elephant War is that no one will run unopposed this year. Walsh was unlikely to get by without an opponent. The office is too attractive and she's taken some hits over the years. (That said, Fox's promise to "restore hope" to the office is extreme campaign hyperbole coming right off the blocks.) Ditto Horrigan who is running for the first time after being appointed last January.

All that said, these are some serious challengers. Fox was a high-ranking Assistant Prosecutor under Mike Callahan. Stormer is a campaign veteran of sorts, having served on the Akron Board of Education, and is an executive assistant to Muni Clerk Jim Laria. Both are also, as far as I can tell, Alex allies. So as he makes his pitch for staying in as Chair, Alex can point to recruiting two quality candidates in two key local races. His detractors, of course, will argue it's too little too late.

Meanwhile, these will be interesting races to watch.

Bill O'Neill's Big Year-End Push

Conspicuously absent from recent discussions of congressional races in play was Ohio's Fourteenth. Judge Bill O'Neill has pledged to give entrenched Republican Steve LaTourette a battle.

O'Neill's campaign is running a particularly strong fundraising campaign for the end of the reporting period. The pitch says fairly explicitly that O'Neill is trying to get on the DCCC's next tier of priority races:

    Democrats in Washington know I can beat Steve LaTourette. But they've been clear that the next 10 days are absolutely crucial for my campaign.

    Every three months, congressional candidates must file reports on their fundraising progress. These reports are what reporters, pundits and Democratic leaders use to measure which races are winnable. Help us show that we're ready to take on a long-time incumbent - and win. (Emphasis in original.)

So if you have a little extra Christmas money, surf over to Judge O'Neill's ActBlue and offer an end-of-the-year vote of confidence.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benizir Bhutto Assasinated.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister and opposition leader Benizir Bhutto was assassinated this morning by a lone gunman/suicide bomber. At this point (around 1:30 EST) the estimated death count is over twenty. This is shocking, and in retrospect surprising that it was so shocking. The immediate open question is not whether this will result in a chaotic, destabilized Pakistan but the extent of the damage and how far it will spread.

I fear for the world my daughters are growing up in.

A few links.

The NY Times story.

Firedoglake and Texas Liberal both have posts including lots of in-country links. Based on that and other searching, the following are recommended:

The Pakistani Spectator

All Things Pakistan

Council on Foreign Relations has a quick if obvious piece up about what's next.

Lots of blog reaction and more to come, no doubt. So far I agree most with this piece in Moderate Voice about the contributing negligence of G.W. Bush. The U.S. is locked in a partnership with Musharraff in which his relative power waxes and wanes inversely with U.S. credibility in the Middle East. Bush's entire term has been devoted to squandering American power, hard and especially soft. Whether Musharraff was directly complicit or merely incompetent in fighting the extremists in his midst may never be known. But certainly U.S. weakness has made this sort of thing far more likely.

Lots of reaction on Counterterrorism Blog, including news that NRO just concluded a symposium on the assassination. Not that the conservative punditocracy is rushing its analysis or anything.

TPM's Must Read quotes a south Asia expert who opines that the U.S. strategy is "in tatters." (h/t Yglesias).

Finally, I learned about the tragedy within an hour of the AP posting their story. By that time Bhutto's Wikipedia entry had been updated with the news. Who thinks of these things?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Whatever You Call It, Happy Holidays from the House of Pho

Best Holiday Wishes. See you on the other side.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Russ Pry Makes It Official

Possibly the least surprising news of the week:

    Summit County Executive Russell M. Pry filed Declaration of Candidacy petitions for Summit County Executive today at the Summit County Board of Elections.

    Russell M. Pry was sworn in as the County of Summit Executive on July 13, 2007, bringing a wealth of experience and community involvement to the position. Pry immediately made economic development and jobs his number one priority.

In a brief time in office, he's put together a nice portfolio to run on:
    Working with the State of Ohio, City of Akron, the Summit County Port Authority and County Council, Executive Pry was personally involved at the highest level of negotiations with Goodyear officials. Pry and the County of Summit played a pivotal role in securing Goodyear’s commitment to remain in Summit County. Keeping Goodyear in the area will keep over 400 businesses, 2,900 employees and 378 million dollars in income in our community.

    Executive Pry also created a new “Economic Development Task Force” within his Department of Community and Economic Development to assist all local businesses with everything from job retention and job creation to low interest loans. The new Executive office has hosted two “Economic Development Forums” where local businesses have been invited to meet with federal, state and local government leaders to discuss ways to partner, assist and create new opportunities for job growth.

    As the new County Executive, Russ Pry used his leadership skills to reach a long awaited agreement with the Summit County Agricultural Society. Last month, the Summit County Agricultural Society signed a new Lease and Operating Agreement for the Summit County Fairgrounds resolving lingering issues that involve the operation of the County of Summit owned land located at the county Fairgrounds. County Council voted to approve the Lease and Operating Agreement.

    Working with the Summit County Veterans Administration and County Council, Russ Pry led the way for a much needed new Veteran’s facility. The County recently purchased land for the site, and the new building is under design. The new facility is scheduled for construction in late 2008.

Summit County Common Pleas: Muni Judge Lynne Callahan Announces

The Breaking News section of Ohiodotcom reported last night that Akron Municipal Court Judge Lynne Callahan announced that she's seeking a seat on the Court of Common Pleas. What the story does not say is which seat she is seeking. Judge Marvin Shapiro is definitely retiring due to the 70-year age limit. Local attorney Bob Gippen has announced he will seek the nomination for that seat (and full disclosure, I've worked with Bob on a pro bono project before. I've found he's a good guy and a smart lawyer.)

The other judge who may be stepping down is Mary Spicer. Her seat is up, and the extant clues suggest she's close to seventy herself. Shapiro and Gippen are both Democrats; Spicer and Callahan are both Republicans. Callahan is probably as strong a candidate as the Republicans could run for Common Pleas right now. If Gippen wins Shapiro's seat and Callahan runs for and wins Spicer's the balance on the court would remain static.

Any other year, that's what we would expect. In fact, any other year, we could expect token opposition at best in each race. But this is the year of Alex v. Kevin, and that sort of arrangement, whether or not actually arranged, is a central point of contention in that battle. So we shall see.

In the meantime, this being the last business day before the holidays, I was unable to fill in the blanks. If you have information, do share, either in comments or drop me a line.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

DCCC Targeting Ohio's Fifteenth, Sixteenth Districts

Got a note from DCCC in the ebag today. "Here’s an early Christmas present: Mary Jo Kilroy and John Boccieri are first in line to get DCCC support for Democrats running in open seats." (links added) The note was followed by a Roll Call story detailing the strategy. Roll Call is subscription only, so we will quote liberally.

(And credit where it is due, Jerid was first up with his post, Boccieri, Kilroy First in Line for DCCC Support.)

Roll Call first notes:

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, convinced that its vulnerable incumbents are now well-positioned for re-election, is shifting its focus to the growing list of Republican open seats, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said in an interview Wednesday.

    Van Hollen has spent the year on defense, urging Democratic donors to bolster the campaign coffers of 31 incumbent House Democrats the DCCC had deemed vulnerable. But heading into 2008, Van Hollen is going on the offensive and encouraging contributions to Democratic candidates running in Republican open seats — beginning with six in Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Wyoming.
Which among other things, is good news for Zack Space in the Eighteenth.

Here's more on the new offensive:
    Overall, the DCCC is targeting 40 Republican-held seats in 2008 — both open seats and those where the incumbent is running for re-election, Van Hollen confirmed. Van Hollen acknowledged that the DCCC’s continuing wide cash advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee was a key factor in his decision to shift his focus to aiding Democratic challengers.

    “We don’t have to spend all of our time worrying about what the Republican committee is going to be able to throw at our incumbents. There’s no doubt that allows us some flexibility,” Van Hollen told Roll Call. “It has given us some room to maneuver. Definitely.”

    The fundraising numbers for the DCCC and NRCC are due to be released today but were not available at press time on Wednesday. However, the NRCC had a paltry $2.5 million in the bank at the end of October, compared with $28.3 million for the DCCC.
Then we get into the specific targeting:
    At the outset of Van Hollen’s shift in strategy, the DCCC has its eye on 17 seats where the Republican incumbent is retiring — that number could grow — and in particular is focused on 12 seats where it believes it has a candidate in place who is solid at the very least. In those 12 districts, the DCCC is embarking on an immediate fundraising effort to flood six of them with campaign cash, with a similar effort focusing on the other six to follow at a later date.

    The first six Democratic candidates set to enjoy the largess of the DCCC’s fundraising effort include state Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson in Illinois’ 11th district; state Sen. John Adler in New Jersey’s 3rd; state Assemblywoman and 2006 nominee Linda Stender in New Jersey’s 7th; Franklin County Commissioner and 2006 nominee Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio’s 15th; state Sen. John Boccieri in Ohio’s 16th; and 2006 nominee Gary Trauner in Wyoming’s at-large. (Emphasis added)
U.Va. guru Larry Sabato offers more good news for Dems in Ohio and elsewhere. (h/t Taegan Goddard.) After noting the fundraising and cash-on-hand discrepancies, he calculates:
    Out of 23 open seats for 2008--places where the incumbent member of Congress has decided to step down--nearly three-quarters (17) are held by Republicans. Open seats give the opposition party the best chance for a takeover in many instances. As of now, not a single retiring Democrat is leaving a seat easily subject to a takeover bid by a Republican, while at least seven GOP seats are clearly vulnerable and comprise our TOSS-UP category for the moment: those of retiring Reps. Mike Ferguson (NJ-7); Deborah Pryce (OH-15); Jim Ramstad (MN-3); Rick Renzi (AZ-1); Jerry Weller (IL-11); Ralph Regula (OH-16); and Heather Wilson (NM-1).(emphasis added)
And a bit more good news: Sabato has Space categorized as Leaning Democratic. For the record, Jean Schmidt in Ohio-2 is Likely Republican and the rest are unlisted meaning they are highly likely to remain unchanged.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Carnival 96 Posted

Not a holiday theme, instead we go garage retro for this week's Carnival. Enjoy.

By the way, we are taking the week off for the holidays. The Carnival will be back the week of December 31 after the New Year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm Back

So, did I miss anything?

Oh. Shit.

Damn, I was planning to link positively to Redhorse's observation that Russo appears back in the blogosphere. But I get an immediate reminder of what a double-edged sword that is.

Some readers may agree that this morning's Boccieri post was entirely worthless. To you I only offer my apologies. It was a quickie post in the middle of the grading marathon. Me, I don't think it's my best work, but not my worst either. I've had some offline communications responding to it that didn't go to the "totally worthless" blast. Whatever.

For those of you who read the post and wonder what got Tim's shorts in a bunch, here's a little background. It's not full background as I still don't believe in airing dirty blog laundry. But enough to give a little context.

The actual back story with Jerid goes to last summer. Bottom line: When Russell Hughlock was running Buckeye State he worked to build the entire lefty blogosphere. Jerid, to say the least, has not. I let it be known that I found that disappointing. And by the way, other people have expressed that to me, if not to Jerid.

Fast forward to last week when I put up this post that included, in good-natured horseplay, the observation that a post of Jerid's sounded kind of familiar. Again, not the first time someone has observed such a thing. I thought it was a gentle needle, but knowing Jerid's notoriously thin skin, I should have known better.

There were offline communications. Jerid's first blast at me was that he never reads my blog unless I write something about BSB. Which I almost never do, but whatever. When I pointed out that the post at issue was one he commented on, his fallback position was that the point was obvious1. Some other nastiness ensued, I tried to end on a conciliatory note and heard nothing else.

Until today. According to his comment on Ohio Daily, Jerid, who does not read my blog, read the post today thought it hilarious that I said nothing in it. He didn't post about it because he doesn't do that sort of thing. But Russo did. And Jerid immediately relplied. Resetting the controversy between us.

And it had nothing to do with the fact that I poked fun at him last week. It was entirely about how important it was to tell everyone what a lame blogger I am. Just like this post is entirely about offering advice to political candidates and nothing whatever to do with embarassing someone else that Jerid has argued with lately.

Look. I'm the last person you should look to for an objective view of this whole thing. If people want to stop reading the Pages because Russo thinks I'm lame, so be it. I'll have more time for real life which works for me. But before anyone buys from Jerid and Tim, just understand exactly what they are selling.

1Yes, the point was less than earth shattering. But making the point before the election when it would have some traction as opposed after when it sounds like whistling-past-the-graveyard spin is less so. In any event, I pointed out to Jerid that when someone beats me to an obvious point, I acknowledge it with a link.

Akron-Based Video on Evolution on Current TV Website

Some friends cut a video regarding Intelligent Design for current TV:

Lisa and Steve pulled serious volunteer weight in Tom Sawyer's campaign for State Board of Ed., a campaign I worked on for a time. This after they recruited Tom to run. Lisa and I have kept in touch and Steve and I were friends from church long before the campaign adventure. Both are smart folks who explain the science side of the ID tilt well.

The way Current works, apparently, is that people view and vote and the videos that do best in some combination of the above make it to air. Otherwise the vid will live on the website. You can click above to view (it counts) and surf here to vote (registration required.)

Boccieri's Volley

Received the following email solicitation from State Sen. John Boccieri last night:

    Dear Friends,

    The republicans [sic] are desperate to distract from their poor record on the issues that matter most to Ohioans. Already the attacks are starting against me, my legislative accomplishments, even my record of military service.

    It was bound to happen sooner or later. Well, it's happening sooner.

    While running for re-election to the State Legislature in 2004 Republicans said I was AWOL from the Statehouse while serving in the war that George Bush started. Unbelievable! Now they're back to their same old tricks of trying to swift-boat another veteran. We can't let them do it again this Presidential Election year.

    Help us build the resources to respond to these attacks! [link omitted]

    All this coming from the party that believes our state legislators should be exempt from the background checks that they require for four dozen of Ohio's professions.

    That's right. A few days ago, the Ohio legislature voted to require background checks on dozens of Ohio's professionals. When I offered an amendment to hold state senators and representatives to the same standards, the Republicans shut down consideration of the Amendment before I even had a chance to finish speaking.

    Ohio has had enough of legislators who believe they are above the law and refuse to be accountable to the people they represent. We need a change to keep government focused on the things that matter most: Bringing jobs to our state and keeping them here, adequately funding education, improving access to health care and supporting our veterans and military families.
First off, I understand why, in a fundraising email, a candidate does not want to reset the attacks made on him. But it's damned frustrating. I've been getting emails like this from the Pres candidates, from DSCC, and so forth for months. "They're attacking me! Trust me, they are! Send me money!" If I haven't heard the attacks it's hard to take that leap of faith.

Oh, and it's really frustrating trying to blog off of emails like that. Not to pick on Sen. Boccieri, who I really like. But this has been chaffing for a while now.

On the other hand, I'm glad to see him use the incident last week involving his proposed background checks amendment. Jon Peterson handed him a gift wrapped early Christmas present and he has used it well.

Finally, it looks more and more like the Swift Boat Vets secured (or were conceded by Kerry) a Pyrrhic victory. Thanks to them, Republicans can no longer question the service record of a Democratic candidate without being labeled a Swiftboater. I'm confident Boccieri's record is solid, regardless of what the GOPpers say. But some day a slacker Dem will run on his service in the Quartermaster Corps and win because his opponent legitimately pointed out his resume puffing. And on that day I shall dance a merry jig. Because at that point it will have come around.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Coming Up For Air

A few quick links before I get back to grading.

One post in the works is some response to yesterday's John Higgens' charter schools check-in piece. Quick take: A little disappointing in that it rehashes the existential argument about charter schools. Look, they are here to stay. Let's start talking about how to make them accountable and raise the quality.

The most important blog post over the past few days is this Blue Bexley piece about Gov. Strickland insisting on Nativity scenes in state parks. He raises points about both church/state relations and what he calls "meta-awareness of politics" that are worth pondering a long while. And by the way, this Rambling from Roland offers a pretty good primer on the two sides staked out in the church/state debate.

If you happened to read my item in Catalyst about newly-minted DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee looking for authority to fire staff at will, rest assured the debate isn't over. EdBizBuzz has the best coverage.

Swift & Changeable has been offering essay topics on No Child Left Behind reauthorization. Snark aside, the posts offer some fascinating behind-the-scenes info suggesting that nobody is particularly anxious to take up the legislation.

We pretty much can't go a week without some newspaper mentioning that Gov. Strickland hasn't offered a school funding reform plan yet. What I know is that he's meeting with pretty much everyone -- ed community, business community, party leaders. What I guess is that he won't propose anything in the run up to an election year, especially given the very real possibility that he could have a friendly Ohio House when the smoke clears.

I'm up for Carnival of Politics this week. Since the aforementioned grades are due Tuesday, don't look for it before Wednesday night. Remember that it is not by invitation only. Anyone can send in Ohio politics-related posts. Do so and you will 1) get on the blogroll and 2) be added to reminders list. Send up to three posts to ohiopolcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com.

Those Chief Source guys have headed out to New Hampshire to do some Obama volunteering and take the temperature. They've been posting along the way, just click through and scroll down.

Finally, there are fuzzy areas in what is plagiarism and what is not. But if you lift entire paragraphs from a source, put them under your name and don't acknowledge the source anywhere, that's not a fuzzy area. That's plagiarism, plain and simple. Anyone considering taking a class from me in the future would do well to remember that. So, for that matter, would Watchdevil (Cf here.)

And back down again I go.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Marc Dann at the Akron Press Club

Cross-Posted on Ohio Daily
Marc Dann is not the guy he looks like in his publicity still. The man pictured on the Attorney General website looks happy and friendly and, well, a little pudgy. Soft. Soft in a good, nice, favorite uncle sort of way, but still soft.

Marc Dann in person is far more imposing. Broad-shouldered and barrel-chested, with a persistent set to his jaw, in person he looks hard. Hard in a good, tough, guy you want to have your back sort of way, but still hard.

Marc Dann spoke at the Akron Press Club today. With a variety of disclosures and caveats1, here are a few impressions. He is, again, an imposing presence. Yes, he carries a little of the extra padding that comes with middle age, but it’s layered atop a bruising physique. He carries himself like the former o-lineman he is.

Dann is also a forceful speaker. Whatever one thinks about his policies, he speaks with impressive passion about his accepted mission to act on behalf of consumers and citizens. Part of the rap on Dann during his first year in office, on both the left and the right, has been his lack of political acumen. In contrast to the occasional missteps of the last eleven months, the speech today was a political masterwork. In particular, Dann’s speech did two things Democrats need to do better, and did both wonderfully.

First, Dann bucked the narrative. The narrative on Dann is that he is too hard. Too combative, too volatile, too mean. In Jim Rome speak, Dann has a reputation as Likes to Fight Guy.2
Today in contrast, Dann was self-effacing, particularly when acknowledging his missteps. Here’s how he started the day:

    It’s appropriate I speak prospectively about my term at the invitation of an organization founded by journalists. First, because as the husband of an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism professor, I understand the value of the fourth estate. And second, given the amount of material I’ve given to reporters the past year, the least you could do is buy me lunch.
He went on to catalogue the column inches and “one memorable YouTube moment” he lavished on the news media this year.

He kept that side to the audience throughout the afternoon. During questions, when a woman complemented him on “all the information” he gave in his speech, he quipped, “That’s a nice way of saying I spoke too long.” Too often Dems seem oblivious to their narratives -- everyone has one -- and because they fail to counter the narrative, they instead deepen it. Dann understands what people are saying about him and works to makes sure they see his other facets.

Dann also frames issues well. Much of his work this year has been in consumer protection and fraud cases. He describes shifting the philosophy of the office toward serving citizens as a cornerstone of his administration. The obvious first criticism is that he is a regulation-happy Democrat who is bad for business. In his speech he first introduces the topic as protecting consumers and ethical businesses. He recounts speaking to business leaders who want robust enforcement of laws they obey so they aren’t working at a disadvantage.

And when he got an inevitable question about casino gambling, he shifted the discussion to the problem of “unregulated gambling machines” left by his predecessors. In other words, he was talking about the skill machines. He had statistics at the ready of, for example, how poorly they pay in contrast to machines in states with legalized gambling. And he was quick, in that instance and others, to complement the legislature for addressing the problem.

Though he is genuinely angry about some of the policies, particularly of the Bush adminstration, that put fealty to business interests above all else, he can voice that anger without sounding like a Naderite ativism. Much of that is thanks to the attention he pays to framing.

Marc Dann has a tough road ahead. His was the most surprising of the statewide wins and he is generally seen as the most vulnerable Democrat in 2010. But he already can tick off a nice-sounding list of accomplishments – the AOL/Time Warner settlement, fighting with MySpace over sexual predators and closing failing charter schools, to name a few. And if today’s speech is an indication, he’s learning more about the politics side of the office as well.

ANN has what appears to be audio of the entire speech. In addition, the presentation will air on public access: Dec. 20 at 9 p.m., Dec. 22 at 7 p.m and Dec. 23 at 4 p.m. Then it will roll into free on-demand on Time/Warner.

Also, he didn't mention it today, but the AG's office has a new, constituent-friendly website, (h/t BSB).

1I am a newly appointed member of the Board of Trustees of the Press Club. In addition, a friend of mine works for Dann and that friend arranged for Dann to sit down for a few questions for an upcoming article. And that friend also contributed some of the elements that impressed me about the speech. To that last, I suspected I saw his fingerprints, but didn’t find out until afterwards, after he made fun of my car.

2Described as follows: “Most guys don’t want to get into a fight, but figure if I have to go, I’ll go. Likes to Fight Guy wants to go.” The current archetype of Likes to Fight Guy is Yankees reliever Kyle Farnsworth who rushed the plate last season, in defiance of all diamond brawl convention.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

One Other Thing: The Reincarnation of Cafe Momus

Akron's Cafe Momus, in addition to being a University institution was something of an unofficial Akron home for NEO bloggers. We held Meet the Bloggers interviews there, our one Akron meetup was there and it was the site of Hackett's Last Stand. Sadly, it closed when the owner's wife and business partner fell ill and eventually passed away.

Happily it is coming back as a Hattie's Cafe, a project of Hattie Larlham, a local charity that works with mentally handicapped adults. The cafe will provide good eats and coffee and train Larlham clients for careers in food service.

No word on whether they will maintain free Wi-Fi, but it is a near-campus coffee shop. I think there's a rule or something.

Just Some Links Before I Go.

Today I finish my exam and finish a piece under a drop-dead deadline. Some morning linkage to go with your coffee.

City Council President Marco Sommerville [finally] pled to a misdemeanor gun charge earlier this week. Boring poked me about this a ways back. The short version is that he is right -- the state would have a tough time proving he had the requisite mental state. And almost certainly he didn't have the requisite mental state. In other words, he isn't getting a special break because he's Marco Sommerville. I'll try to post the long version tonight.

Loved this take from Dave on parents upset they couldn't get Hannah Montana tickets. Loved it because he's right and because he dropped a Foghat reference. On top of everything else, these parents don't realize: They were spared attending a Hannah Montana concert. At least when we sat through 20 minutes of "Slow Ride" we were stoned. "Best of Both Worlds" is excruciating in any mental state, not least stone cold, parentally responsibly sober.

I totally don't get why private colleges are whining that they are not included in the State University System plan. Hmm. Maybe because it's the state university system plan? As if Fingerhut didn't have enough fiefdoms to contend with.

One of the best headlines in a Faith in Public Life collection ever: Congress to say Christmas is important. Sun and Moon declared good too
(from Politico)

One of the worst headlines in a Faith in Public Life collection ever: Christians Under Fire in Colorado (from Time) Really? Christians under fire? Does this follow up "Shoppers Under Fire in Missouri" or "Engineering Students Under Fire in Virginia?" The resolution at issue in the first headline decries "persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide." Do we really need more fuel for that fire of ridiculousness?

I have lots of thoughts about the new US News high school rankings. In the meantime, here's the search page if you are interested.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ohio Economy Tanking. More.

Ugly, ugly news in today's Dispatch.

    The "signs are certainly pointing" to state budget trouble after a new report that shows a drop in tax collections while spending continues to outpace projections, Ohio's budget director said yesterday.

    Most of the blame goes to the sputtering Ohio economy, which Gov. Ted Strickland's Council of Economic Advisers says poses the greatest economic challenge for the state since early in the recovery from the 2001 recession.
I haven't checked out the righty blogs today, but no doubt it's all Strickland's fault that he hasn't in one year been able to pull us out of the hole that 16 years of Republican rule got us into. Oh, and if we just cut taxes everything would be fine.
Certainly news like this won't make anyone happy.
    Strickland already has announced budget cuts in recent weeks, including postponement of a planned restoration of dental benefits for low-income adults and the delay of planned increases in Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and other health-care providers.
Strickland took what I thought was a calculated risk by balancing the last budget with some one-time revenues and accounting maneuvers that can't be duplicated. Thanks to an overheated mortgage banking industry, that gamble is coming up snakes. Hope he has more ideas.

U.S. Adopts the Hague Convention on International Adoption

This is long run a positive development. We have been corresponding with a couple waiting to go to Vietnam and for couples like them, it's a worry because Vietnam hasn't signed yet.

Here's how it works:

    Each nation names a central authority — here, the State Department — to establish ethical practices, require accreditation for the agencies handling the adoptions, maintain a registry to track complaints and create a system for decertifying agencies that do not meet the standards.
    In addition, once the treaty is fully put in place in April, parents seeking a visa for an overseas adoption must demonstrate to the State Department that a child has been properly cleared for adoption, that a local placement had been considered, and that the birth parents were counseled on their decision and have signed consent forms. Prospective adoptive parents also must show they are properly trained for what could be a rocky transition.
I'm not sure how much will change for families adopting from countries that sign and ratify. When we adopted, we had to certify all of the above to get the Kid T's visa into the U.S. The big difference is that our big stumbling block was INS. As a result, things vary country to country depending on who is the INS Officer in Charge (our OIC, not the nicest guy.) Presumably this will introduce some uniformity. And though the State Department hasn't inspired confidence in anyone for a very long time, the INS has been consistently worse.

The very good news will be real oversight of international adoption agencies. Based on what I heard (people queing up for exit visas find each other and start talking) states generally don't regulate the international agencies much leading to some dysfunctional agencies seriously messing with people. If the U.S. can get a handle on that, so much the better.

R.I.P. Ike Turner

Ike Turner died today at 76. Greg Kot at the Chi Trib has a good appreciation. He offers a thorough review of Turner's non-DV contributions to rock history, a balanced assessment of the ugly stuff and the happy news that Ike had gotten his life together for his final years.

Among other things, Ike Turner was responsible for one of the three best cover songs in rock history. Ike and Tina's version of "Proud Mary" and Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" fight for 2 and 3 on my personal list. Number one is indisputable if you know it's a cover: Aretha Franklin's version of Otis Redding's "Respect."

Back to the Turners, here they are. I love covers that completely rework the original.

Godspeed, Ike.

Carnival 95 Is Up

Thanks to Jill who was up this week and, from the sound of it, had Carnival duty collide with real life. But she did a fine job. It happens that way some times. I'm up next week and my grades are due Monday, so the week should be clear. How I'm actually going to get everything graded is another story . . .

And by the way, Akron stepped up this week. Good going Akron.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ohio Fifth: Preview for '08?

So it looks for all the world like the Republicans will hold onto the Fifth. AP is projecting a win for Bob Latta with Robin Weirach currently pulling about the same (as of this writing) as last year.

Swing state had explained why earlier this week:

    In reality, despite a bruising primary followed by a weak campaign by Latta, the deck is still stacked against Robin Weirauch here. For one thing, there are only six districts in the nation that are more Republican leaning than OH-05 and are held by Democrats: MO-04 (Ike Skelton), ND-AL (Earl Pomeroy), TX-22 (Nick Lampson), MS-04 (Gene Taylor), UT-02 (Jim Matheson), and TX-17 (Chet Edwards). These are all seats held by very exceptional and very experienced campaigners.
Meanwhile Jerid had the Best Take Ever earlier today. Honestly, I don't know where that boy comes up with such great ideas.

Thanks again to Jeff Coryell for providing us (even those of us feverishly working under multiple deadlines) with lively field reports.

Finally a thought. Much of the Republican anger at Bob Latta has recently been expressed as anger for running a lackluster campaign (see the Swing State link above.) But the anger began with the bare knuckle, wingnuttier-than-thou, social-issue-focused campaign coupled with Latta's less-than-perfect record on taxes and spending. One popular narrative in the Presidential election is that Evangelicals may bolt if Republicans nominate either Romney or Giuliani. Does Ohio-5 suggest a dynamic running the other way? If the Republicans nominate Mike Huckabee, who is seen as insufficiently Republican on economic issues, might the Growth Clubbers either run a third party candidate or at least refuse to support the nominee and let their constituents sit out election day?

I don't know, but apparently Tony Perkins thinks so. If you have thoughts, drop them in comments. And if you don't have time now, just wait a couple days and drop them on the BSB thread.

UPDATE: Just received from ODP this statement from Party Chair Chris Redfern:
    Tonight's election results show Republicans are more vulnerable than ever in Ohio. In a district that George W. Bush carried with 61% of the vote and where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 50 percent, the GOP had to scramble to win a special election that should have been a cake walk. Desperate to hold on to a district they had controlled for nearly 70 years, national Republicans had to spend more than $428,000 - or nearly 20% of their entire campaign account. Now the GOP - with even fewer resources on hand - will be even less equipped to play effectively in the 4-5 competitive House races in Ohio in 2008. Make no make mistake, this election shows that in November 2008, voters in Ohio and across the country will choose strong Democrats who will undo the damage of the Bush-Cheney years.
And this moral victory is very much Redfern's moral victory. He came into office vowing to campaign aggressively in all 88 counties. He's a party chair with a chess player's sensibility -- what happens in this corner of the board affects everything else. We may well see dividends next November. Well done, Mr. Chairman.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Romney the Panderer

Every campaign needs a theme song. I submit the following for Mitt Romney's campaign. Just trying to help out.

To the tune of "The Wanderer" by Dion and the Belmonts.

    Oh well I'm the type of guy whose positions move around
    Where ever the base is, well you know that I’ll be down.
    And if I have a view that isn’t quite pro-life,
    I’ll quietly change my mind, then give a speech about my wife.
    They call me the panderer - yeah - the panderer
    I pander again again again again.

    Oh well there's moderates on my left wing, Evangelicals on my right
    And Club for Growth’s the group yeah that I'll be with tonight
    And when they ask if Huckabee will overtake my campaign
    I’ll talk about religion, but not of Gesthemane
    'Cause I'm a panderer - yeah - a panderer
    I pander again again again again.

    Oh well I roam from flop to flip
    I change positions without a care
    I’m always ready with a quip
    And my big flashing smile and really great hair

    Oh, I'm the type of guy that likes to flip and flop
    I'm never in one place when I see my numbers drop
    And if we’re all debating and Rudi starts to flow
    I'll throw rights to the wind and promise to double Guantanamo.
    Yeah I'm a panderer, yeah a panderer
    I pander again again again again.
Amazing what comes to you in the shower. Do not under any circumstances assume I will produce similar works for the other candidates.

OK, I might have ideas for a song about Rudy to the tune of Iron Man, but no promises.

Young Dem Virtual Holiday Fundraiser for John Boccieri

From Kevin Fisher, President of Stark Co. Young Dems and proprietor of Daily Left:

    We're just weeks away from Christmas and i have a very special wish to put on my list for Santa...I want a congressman that we can all be proud of in Ohio's 16th District.

    I'm of course talking about our friend State Senator and Air Force Major John Boccieri. Sen/Major Boccieri is the leader some of us having waiting for our whole lives and I'm personally committed to doing everything I can to see him elected to Congress in 2008. I hope that you will join me in my support for our next congressman.

    I'm asking of you to do two simple things: Follow this link to make a secure online contribution to help elect a great leader and patriot to congress and then send that link to all your friends
    and ask them to do the same. It's the best Christmas gift those of us who have been waiting for leadership in OH-16 for more than 30 years could ask for this year.
I know lots of folks gave heavily to Robin Weiruch, but if you have anything to spare, the more early money Boccieri raises, the more solid his campaign will be.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Manufacturing Bias*

The Freedom's Watch bruhaha looked, from the start, like a set-up. A known right-wing pro-war group puts a happy-face Thank the Troops ad together which directs viewers to their website which in turn greets them as follows:

    Welcome to Freedom's Watch
    For too long, conservatives have lacked a permanent political presence to do battle with the radical special interest groups and their left-wing allies in government. Freedom’s Watch was formed to be the conservative voice fighting for mainstream conservative principles – today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. We engage in grassroots lobbying, education and information campaigns, and issue advocacy to further our goals and objectives. We create coalitions and collaborate with like-minded groups and individuals to further our common goals. Freedom’s Watch provides bold conservative solutions to pressing domestic and international issues to keep America strong, safe, and prosperous
NBC has a well-publicized policy** against "controversial" ads, as the United Church of Christ learned when they tried to run ads with the "controversial" message that the church accepts gay parishioners. NBC rejects this Trojan horse of an ad and Freedom's Watch screams that the network doesn't support the troops.

This sort of right wing performance art has been rampant lately. It provides fodder for Fox Noise and radio yappers and the lemmings who make up their audience. Fortunately, our conservative blogger friends are too smart to be taken in by such an obvious sucker ploy.

Ooh sorry, Boring. Didn't see you there.

Really? Doesn't support the troops? That's how we are going to gloss such an obvious gotcha? I guess following that logic, Fox hates the Constitution because they rejected an ad from the Center for Constitutional Rights about the Guantanamo cases. And Fox's rejection is arguably worse because they don't, to say the least, reject controversial ads. Their policy is viewpoint discrimination. Fair and Balanced indeed.

But of course, hating the Constitution isn't really an equivalent insult to conservatives. In fact, aside from some carefully selected clauses in Article II, plus Amendments II and V, hating the Constitution is practically a plank in the Republican platform.

*Yes, a nod to Chomskey.

**And for the record, I find NBC's "no controversy" policy to be lame and contrary to the network's duty to serve the public interest as a holder of public spectrum.

Carnival Catch-up

Two Carnivals have passed without a mention here, so at least I'll try to serve up the link love. Ben assembled Carnival # 93 last week and LisaRenee assembled number 94 this past week. If you haven't already, surf and enjoy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

State Sen. Kirk Schuring Unveils School Funding Reform Proposal

This past Tuesday, to little fanfare, State Senator and Congressional candidate Kirk Schuring unveiled a proposed constitutional amendment to reform school funding. The proposal, now before the General Assembly as Sen. J. Res. 4 creates an earmarked fund for education. To formulate the fund, Schuring essentially takes the current state funding level, and earmarks percentages from a number of funding streams so that, if those earmarks were in place today, the amount in the fund would be the same as the amount currently budgeted for education.


Yes, it is true that the General Assembly played games with funding levels for the couple of budget cycles after the Supreme Court relinquished jurisdiction in the DeRolphe case, and this would limit the legislature's ability to engage in those sorts of shenanigans in the future. But the proposal does not increase the state share and therefore will do little to get districts off the levy treadmill.

The simple, but seemingly impossible solution is to raise some state tax, earmark the hike, and simultaneously fiat a reduction in property taxes for those districts above the 20 mil floor. It's impossible because no Republican can vote for a tax hike even if it results in a tax decrease elsewhere. And even where the tax that was decreased is demonstrably less fair and/or more of a drag on the economy. If he does, he will be clubbed by the Club for Growth crowd.

Exhibit A for this proposition is the number of Republicans who ran against the Commercial Activities Tax last year. Everyone agreed that the tangible personal property tax and the corporate franchise tax were bad taxes and that the CAT is comparatively better. Nonetheless, from Blackwell on down, the tax cut crazies not only campaigned against the CAT, they dishonestly implied that it was a new, freestanding tax.

Exhibit B would be the similar attacks currently leveled against Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primary.

Meanwhile, Shuring wants to run this onto the ballot by going through the GA, but hasn't said if he will have anything to do with a signature campaign.

And we have to consider has been talking about school funding a lot for a Republican for some time. It's possible that he would have rolled this out even if Regula hadn't retired. Nonetheless this will certainly mean something in the campaign. What exactly we can't tell since Schuring's campaign site is [still] under construction. And no response as yet from his primary opponent Matt Miller or Dem hopeful State Sen. John Boccieri.

A few quick takes before I hit the salt mines.

Miller South Uniform Protest

This cracks me up, mostly because I know many of the people involved (particularly the girl who was "forced" to participate in the protest and the car pool lady who "forced" her.) Kid Z goes to the school, so I've heard all about the controversy.

One thought. Conservative ed reformers like to (a) rail against the supposedly monolithic, one-size-fits-all public school system and (b) favor throwback measures like school uniforms. How to resolve the two?

Drilling in Ohio Parks.

I'm not foursquare against it since I do, y'know, drive and stuff. But the criteria in the bill, at least as reported in the news accounts, is incomplete:

    The provision under discussion would allow drilling only on state lands "covered by concrete, asphalt, gravel, turf, crops or fields that have plants or trees not exceeding 10 years in growth." The bill would create a five-member Oil and Gas Leasing board to oversee the leasing of state property for developing oil and natural gas reserves.
That doesn't protect what is special about the parks. The bill does not mention preserving habitats or other ecologically important features, keeping noise levels down or protecting scenic vistas.

Having said all that, an oil well operates on a twenty foot square piece of property between my post office parking lot and the adjoining church. It is possible to do this unobtrusively if the regulators keep an eye on things.

Thoughts about Ohio Five.

First off, the Dems have already won. Even if the Republicans hold on to the seat, they do so only by pouring money into what should be a safe seat. The Repubs have been forced to trade a knight for a pawn (ok, maybe a rook for a bishop) and still might not win.

Meanwhile, the Presidential candidates are getting into the act. Barack was first in (I got that email), with Edwards close behind (didn't get that one for some reason.) We will watch this weekend to see if Hillary, Biden or Richardson -- who have otherwise been burning up my inbox -- chime in.

And if you want to follow the endgame, just keep an eye on Ohio Daily. DailyKlueless may not think so, but Jeff has been doing the best work on the race.

News Corp. Buys BeliefNet

Not happy about this at all. It was one thing for Rupert Murdock to get his hands on the Wall Street Journal, which already runs to the right. It's another for him to take over a site that is currently truly ecumenical. I'm bracing myself for Fox Noise-style displays of priggish intolerance masquerading as piety.

Bring a Toy to See Marc Dann.

If you come to Marc Dann's presentation at the Akron Press Club next week, bring an unopened toy. The Press Club is teaming up with the Marine Corps to serve as a Toys for Tots drop off site. This is probably as good a time as any to disclose that I will be joining the Press Club Board of Trustees next year.

Sidebar Updates Coming Soon.

Those of you who have asked for links. I'll try to get them done this weekend. Also, I've been really late in recommending Argue with Everyone, a political forum site whose name pretty much says it all. Perfect for the politics wonk version of Likes to Fight Guy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Decoding Romney

Mitt Romney gave his much-anticipated "Yep, I'm a Mormon" speech today at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library (insert joke about eventual George W. Bush Presidential Comic Book Stand here). The speech was by a Republican for Republicans. Specifically Romney's mission was to convince conservative evangelical Christians that they should not hold his religion against him. On that score he bravely refused to bravely take on the issue:

    There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.
Statements like that can be parsed by those Romney is trying to convince. (You can scroll The Corner for a range of GOPer reaction.) Of interest on this side of the aisle is Romney's view of religious freedom -- a concept he invokes repeatedly while making the case that his personal faith should not be a relevant factor in the primary. Religious freedom is a beautiful concept -- one this blogger is particularly fond of.

But Romney's cabins his concept of religious freedom so it is essentially parallel with the view of the evangelicals he is courting. Like Byron York, I detect some dog whistles. Whether this religious freedom lite is Romney's original position or another he has adopted for the moment, religious moderates and liberals should pay heed. Romney is speaking the language of people who strongly believe you have the right to come around to their way of thinking.

Romney's discussion of church and state starts of on familiar notes:

    We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
The conservative fight against radical secularists is old news and, frankly, not a big concern. Groups like Freedom from Religion probably go to far in their attempts to scour any mention of religion from government speech. The object of the Constitution is to make government neutral to religion. Combing out every arguably religious image, no matter how benign, at some point becomes something other than neutral.

So we are on familiar, but not yet problematic territory. The question presented is about line-drawing. How do we define acceptable government expression from unacceptable. Next paragraph is where things get interesting, but you have to pay attention.

    The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

    We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders - in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.' [my emphasis]
The evangelical view of the religion clauses holds that the first clause only prohibits the government from establishing a church. Under this formulation, most -- in some cases all -- uses of government property and power to prosteletize are acceptable, as long as the government hasn't extablished a church.

And in case anyone missed the dog whistle, here it is again:

      "We cherish these sacred rights, and secure them in our Constitutional order. Foremost do we protect religious liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right. There will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise of our religion.[my emphasis]
    Early reactions from the left (Dickinson and Klein to get you started) have noted that Romney's freedom concept appears to exclude non-believers. And yes he's pretty explicit in showing them his back:

      Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

      * * *

      In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion - rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.
    But something larger -- or smaller -- is at work. Romney's "religious freedom" includes rolling back decades of Establishment Clause jurisprudence, just as conservative Christians have been agitating for.

    This is no abstract matter. Earlier this week an Eighth Circuit panel ruled against a program in the Iowa prison system that essentially set up an honors dorm for inmates in a Chuck Colson Christian rehab program -- one of the most important tests to date of faith-based social services. Will a Romney administration persist in using government resources to preach Christian doctine? The speech gives little reason to believe otherwise.

    So Pho, What Have You Been Doing with Yourself?

    A fair question. I haven't been blogging much, and it's not for want of material. An aggragation of distractions has kept me away. We've been on the east coast both of the last two weekends, Prof. W is out of town, one of the kids is sick, I've been wrapping up my class and working on a writing project and resolving computer issues. Layer on top of that a set of niggling health problems which, if I catelogued them, would make me sound like Mr. Richard Feder of Ft. Lee New Jersey.

    So I haven't been writing much.

    Today was my last class. I have a stack of term papers to grade, plus a final to give. The class has taken the most out of me. Studying Con Law has been rewarding -- I learned more this run through than either of the first two times through the material. But it is real work. My class next semester should be less demanding, though probably not as much fun.

    Meanwhile, the writing. When Jill posts her "Some People Pay Me to Write" links she pulls of a matter of fact tone. I'm feeling all "OMG, someone is paying me to write! Y'know, read stuff, learn about it and write it up. The thing I've been doing for free for the past few years. I found someone who pays me for that!!!" Anyway, my first paying gig is up. Currently the Notebook is my beat (on pages 4-5 of the .pdf.) I wrote the three In Review items, the Elsewhere piece, found the Quotable quote and did the Q&A with OFT President Sue Taylor. I even got a byline-y thing on that, which was unexpected.

    And I'd be remiss in not pointing out that the whole issue is a good read featuring interviews with Gov. Strickland and State Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman. And don't forget that subscriptions for hard copy are free.

    Anyway, that's where I've been. Now that class is over I have a little more control over my schedule, especially when I finish the piece I'm currently working on. In the meantime, I appreciate everyone's patience.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Republicans to Institute "Code of Conduct" in Primaries

    Further fallout from the wingnuttier-than-thou mud bath that was the Ohio Fifth special election primary, reported today by GateHouse News Service:

      COLUMBUS – Angry at inter-party attack ads in a recent congressional primary, the Ohio Republican Party will develop a code of conduct and ethics and a preferred list of vendors and consultants for future primary and general elections, including one next year in Northeast Ohio.

      “I am angry about it,” said Republican Chairman Robert Bennett about the fight between State Sen. Stephen Buehrer, R-Delta, and State Rep. Robert Latta, R-Bowling Green.

      Last month, the two conservatives got dirty attacking each other, claiming each was a liberal and linking each other to unpopular former Gov. Bob Taft and convicted coin dealer Tom Noe. In reality, they both have nearly identical voting records in the Legislature and both took campaign money from Noe.

    Here's a little more background on the primary.

    Codes of conduct like this are notoriously hard to enforce. A party code would have a better chance of working because, as a private entity, the Republican Party is not bound by the First Amendment (yes, I know, when they are in charge Republicans don't feel bound by the First Amendment either. But don't lose the larger point.) Still and all, the Repubs face an uphill battle making this stick.

    Here's how they intend to go about it:
      [Party Deputy Chair Kevin] DeWine will develop a code of conduct, which the central committee will discuss at its February meeting.
    Here's where it gets interesting:
      He also will create a list of vendors who will be asked to pledge to abide by that code.

    And some basic principles:
      “We want the process to be transparent,” DeWine said. “This will be (our) seal of approval to make sure every dollar is used to elect Republicans.”

    Every election cycle sees a backstage struggle for power among the party organs, consultants and interest groups that rivals the actual election for intrigue and drama. The Republican struggle tends to be cloaked in layers of Kremlin-like secrecy, but we at least get to see how this part plays out.

    Meanwhile, the GateHouse story references the primary for the open seat in the Fourteenth as a possible test case for the Code:
      Another battle between Republicans is brewing in the March 4 primary in the 16th Congressional District, now occupied by U.S. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township. Regula plans to retire at the end of his term next year.

      The two announced Republican candidates are Ashland County Commissioner Matt Miller, who took on Regula in 2006, and State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township. The filing deadline is Jan. 4.

    Well maybe but. Looking at Matt Miller's website, he doesn't look like the sort of hard rightwing ideologue who seems more likely these days to go dirty. And he makes no mention of the social issues that were the grist for the mudstorm in the Fifth. He's a young guy and one wonders if this run is as much about making a name in the Ashland party as anything else.

    The Republicans dodged a bullet when Wooster State Sen. Ron Amstutz announced he would not run. Amstutz is the sort of movement conservative who would readily call Schuring out as a RINO, and is a nasty piece or work to boot.

    As for the Code of Conduct, don't expect its application in a general election any time soon.

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Julio Pino in the News Again

    In today's Beacon:

      The head of Kent State's history department was relieved of his duties for approving a professional leave to the United Arab Emirates for a faculty member who has contributed material to a jihadist Web site.

      John Jameson was fired because he didn't follow university protocol in granting the fully paid leave for Julio ''Assad'' Pino, a Muslim convert and associate professor. Jameson remains a tenured professor.

      Kent State spokesman Ron Kirksey said the university would have taken the same action with other department chairs in similar situations.

      He said Jameson should have approached the interim dean of the college, then the provost's office instead of authorizing the leave on his own for the Nov. 1 conference.

      Jameson said the reason for his firing was more subtle.

      Some administrators and faculty ''were upset because Assad was going to this area of the world'' and didn't want any more bad publicity about him, Jameson said.

    Here is where it gets interesting:

      Pino said he was eager to take part in the six-week program on Arabic language and culture sponsored by the Zayed House for Islamic Culture in the city of Al Ain. Some American imams are taking part in the program, according to news reports.

    Pino is there now, but jumping on the next flight back because he can't afford to take the time unpaid.

    This is the latest example of Pino's odd arrogance. Instead of acknowledging that he holds a minority view that makes people uncomfortable, he sticks it all in people's faces and dares you to tolerate him. Instead of acknowledging that he shouldn't have gone near Global War and explaining carefully what he did and did not contribute there, he wraps himself in the First Amendment, deepening the suspicion that he was the jihadist blogger and not just a source.

    And now. Any rational person would understand that a radical Muslim logging time at a Mideast Islamic Center would raise questions. So do Pino and his chair makes sure everything is done to spec? No. He gets oral authority to travel on the taxpayer's dime and jumps on a plane. And now we are all shocked shocked that the chair lost his position.

    Further reaction from Puddle Pirate.

    Earlier posts.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Mike Moran's Rollout for House 42

    Democratic Hudson City Councilman Mike Moran formally announced his bid for the Ohio House 42nd District in an invitation-only press conference in Cuyahoga Falls today. The 42nd is currently held by Republican John Widowfield who earlier this month badly lost an election for Cuyahoga Falls Clerk of Courts.

    As the list of attendees made clear, Democrats are targeting this race to be one of the four pick-ups needed to win control of the House. Moran was introduced by Minority Leader Joyce Beatty (that's the two of them at the podium in the photo). Other Representatives in attendance included Brian Williams (41), Steve Dyer (43) and Matthew Szollosi (49). Also in attendance were Stow Mayor Karen Fritschel, Common Pleas Judge John Quinn, three members of Cuyahoga Falls City Council, and of course, Lisa Zeno Carano, the woman who took the shine off Rep. Widowfield.

    Also attending were officials from the House Democratic Caucus, several members of Summit County Progressive Democrats PAC, blogger Jeff Coryell and yours truly. And Moran's wife Barb and their two young daughters.

    Mike Moran is an impressive candidate on several levels. First off, when I posted about his race and signed up for email updates on his website, I had a personal email message within two hours thanking me for the post and inviting me to the presser.

    Moran is one of those rare finds -- a guy with a gaudy resume and political skills to effectively make the case for himself. He has degrees in civil engineering and law, experience as a big firm lawyer, a sole practitioner and a manager in the legal publishing business. He works the room with barely contained exuberance -- it's not for nothing that his publicity still shows him laughing. He keys it down significantly -- maybe a little too much -- from the podium.

    His stump concentrates on core Dem issues: Education, health care, jobs. As the son of a doctor with siblings also in the medical field, health care is clearly his driving passion.

    I was most impressed by our conversation afterwards. I asked if he had any specific policy ideas. He said his main focus is on getting past labels -- i.e. pro and con "universal health care" -- and instead study the system to find where improvements can be made.

    He may get grief for not "having a position" but I find this refreshing. While he explained this in the context of talking to an insurance executive who spoke to his Rotary club against universal health care, fact is progressives are as bad, if not worse, about this sort of health care orthodoxy. Aside from his fits of clownishness, it may be the trait Kucinich and his supporters share that I find most grating. If a health care proposal offers anything less than a total single payer universal system that wipes out all that came before, the proposal is given labels like "corporatist" and the candidate is accused of riding in the pocket of the insurance companies.

    This is bad politics and nuking the entire system to replace it with something new, huge and untried is bad policy. Moran talks about working toward goals -- efficiency, affordability and access. I'll pass up grand schemes and liberal orthodoxy for a hard-working policy nerd working for incremental improvement any day.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    Marc Dann Coming to Akron

    Since Marc Dann is the hot topic today, it's as good a time as any to publicize his upcoming appearance at the Akron Press Club. He will be here Friday, November 14 at the usual 11:45. Details.

    He will speak on "Looking Back, Looking Ahead," which for no other political figure in Ohio would sound so loaded.

    C'mon down, Jerid and see your big bear. Holla!

    Updates from All Over Akron

    The ABJ carries three pieces today updating stories previously featured here on the Pages. First, the proposed new downtown parking garage that caused the Federal judges such consternation has been redesigned to cross Dart. Ave.

      The five-level addition will be constructed across Dart Avenue with a tunnel added for the thoroughfare to continue between Main and Market streets.

      * * *

      The new addition would be farther from the federal building than the existing Superblock garage, located behind the Akron Centre complex on South Main Street. The expansion would run west across Dart Avenue.

      The judges have signed off on the revised plan.

      ''They are not opposed to what we are doing over there,'' said James Weber, a construction division manager for the city.

      Construction is to begin in March and take about 14 months. Dart will be closed during con
      struction, reopening when the project is complete.

    Also finalized are plans for Portage Path Elementary. Portage Path became a point of particular contention in Akron Public's construction plans when earlier iterations had the school taking up space currently occupied by the Highland Theater.

    Finally, a sidebar buried next to the reefer of the parking deck story (not the more logically connected Portage Path story) we learn:
      Akron has contacted grocers across the country about a long-promised grocery store for the Highland Square area and now has a ''good prospect,'' Adele Dorfner Roth, an economist for the city, said Monday.

      ''It's about getting the right thing to work there,'' said Roth, who gave the Akron City Council's planning committee an update on the project. ''We don't want to just throw something together.''

      Council members, who have been deluged by e-mail from residents frustrated by the empty corner at North Portage Path and West Market Street, asked Roth to provide a list of the grocers the city has talked to and why they rejected the prospect.

    And here is my favorite part:
      Council members asked Roth to find a way to better communicate with residents about the progress of the search.
    Good luck with that.

    On the Latest Kucinich Kraziness

    As funny as it was to hear that Dennis Kucinich is "thinking about" Liberpublitarian Ron Paul as a running mate, the puzzled reactions are hilarious. Yes, I understand why people think they couldn't run together. After all, Ron Paul wants to abolish every governmental department in the name of "liberty" and Kucinich's signature issue is establishing a new cabinet-level Department of Peace. Yes, it seems odd.

    Until you remember that nothing is more important to Dennis Kucinich than making sure that people are talking about Dennis Kucinich. Notice that we have been talking about him the past three days? This despite his infinitesimal chance of becoming President?

    Mission accomplished, Dennis. Now promise to make Britney Spears a U.N. Envoy. Good for another couple of days.

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    New Sources on the Chief Source

    Akron-based group blog The Chief Source just got a little bigger with the addition of two new bloggers Chandra and Annie. I've gotten to know Annie over the last couple of months and look forward to watching her move into blogworld. You can read Annie's inaugural post on the Ohio-5 special election and Chandra's on providing affordable birth control.

    Always good to have new perspectives in the blogosphere. Welcome and good luck to both.

    Judge Eve Belfance Running for Court of Appeals

    Municipal Court Judge Eve Belfance is running for the seat on the Ninth District Court of Appeals being vacated by Judge Lynn Slaby. Judge Slaby must retire under Ohio law, having reached age 70 during the last term.

    Judge Belfance told me she was considering a run when we bumped into one-another recently. Word is now out that she is in and I was trying find an email contact for the campaign to get confirmation -- an odd exercise given that she lives a block away, but . . . Anyway, confirmation came in the form of a fundraiser invite, so safe to say she is in.

    Given the recent allegations of Court of Appeals decisions being influenced by party politics and campaign donations, this election should interesting, for a Court of Appeals election. If elected Judge Belfance would be the third Democrat elected in as many tries after years of Republican hegemony on the Court. It is her second try at this level, having run a good but unsuccessful campaign in 2004.

    Currently she has a website,, set up for her campaign this year for a full Muni term and never fully constructed after it became apparent that she was unopposed. It's unclear whether she will run on that site or get a new url for the Court of Appeals race -- I think she can run as Judge Belfance but it's one of those picky areas in judicial election rules.

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Mike Moran Taking on John Widowfield for State Rep.

    Hudson At-Large City Councilman Mike Moran has announced that he is seeking to unseat Rep. John Widowfield in the Ohio 42nd House district. In the 2005 city council election, Moran was the top vote-getter in a six person race for three at-large seats.

    According to the ABJ:

      Moran, a Democrat, filed a complaint in September about a group of female independent candidates crowding the ballot for Falls clerk. He alleged it was an attempt by Republicans to draw votes from Lisa Zeno Carano, the Democratic candidate. The independents were thrown off the ballot because they missed the filing deadline.

      Moran, 43, a two-year councilman, said the independent-candidates issue — and Widowfield running for another seat — prompted his challenge.
    I talked one party insider who flagged this race as a chance for a pick-up as ODP tries to take back the Ohio House. Widowfield, who never had a reputation as a world-beater, took a serious blow to his credibility by getting creamed in the election for Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Clerk, despite significantly outspending his opponent. And of course Widowfield's recent designation as Ohio's Laziest Legislator will be part of the entire campaign as opposed to just the last weekend of campaigning.

    You can learn more about Councilman Moran on his website which is currently focused on the City Council position.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Offline (Probably) for the Weekend

    We are off on our usual Thanksgiving pilgrimage east to visit Prof. W’s family. The route is a little different this time, so we are in the Germantown, MD Hampton Inn as opposed to our usual Harrisburg or Elizabethtown stopping point.

    I won’t say posting this weekend is impossible because sometimes surprising opportunities arise. But looking at the schedule, it is highly unlikely.

    In the meantime, the 92nd Carnival of Politics is up. I compiled this week, thus the lack of posting yesterday. Tuesdays and Thursdays generally have been bad for the blog this semester – they are heavy days here at the House of Pho.

    Finally, the following happened sometime early this morning:

    Some entirely anonymous reader was logged as the 100,000th visitor to Pho’s Akron Pages. Yes, plenty of blogs have reached that milestone in less time than this one, nevertheless, I am humbled by your continued support.

    Have a great holiday, everyone.

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Lies, Damn Lies, and Crime Rankings

    Both Daily Bellwether and Ohio Daily posted about the new crime stats ranking four Ohio cities as among the nation's "most dangerous," and both have mentioned some criticisms of the list. NPR's On the Media covered the story over the weekend, including a campaign by criminologists against using the FBI stats to rank cities. As the OTM guest noted, the FBI website on which the statistics appear warns against using them to rank cities. Click to access the crime data and you get a popup bearing the following:

      Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment.
    The popup links you to a more detailed set of cautions about the data.

    As Bill Sloat notes in his post, whatever cautions the number crunchers put on, the fact remains that four Ohio cities are listed among the likes of Oakland and Compton California, Camden, NJ and Gary IN -- all cities synonymous with urban turmoil and failure.

    But the most important caution offered on the OTM segment remains salient:
      The harm is that people use the information as if it were conveying something important about their risk for crime. But knowing the city a person lives in tells you nothing about the, quote, "danger" they may face. Knowing the neighborhood a person lives in might tell you something more important about their risk for crime. And, in fact, differences in crime risk across neighborhoods, within any city, tend to be much greater than differences between cities in crime rate.

      I also think that uncritical media attention compounds the error, and the city and its residents suffer as a result, I should say, especially the downtown areas of those cities. When people read about the city they're not already familiar with, they often associate the crime risk with the downtown area of the city, the place that people visit, stay in hotels downtown, visit cultural attractions, and so forth.

      In fact, of serious violent crimes that occur in the city, four to five percent of them tend to occur in the downtown area. When you consider the, you know, effective population of downtown areas, all the people who work there, who recreate there during the evenings, that's a very, very low percentage. But you'd never know about that from the crime rankings.

    Dennis Kucinich Doesn't Know the Name of His Party

    From the New Republic blog The Plank:

      Dennis Kucinich, the candidate we all might love if only he didn't happen to be loony, demonstrates with a press release that showed up in my inbox this morning entitled:


      * * *

      As the Washington Post has put it, "The missing '-ic' has a long legacy. Dick Armey was fond of saying 'Democrat Party.' Commie-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy even used the phrase half a century ago." Dennis, I know you feel aggrieved these days, but ... Dick Armey and Joe McCarthy! You really want to go there?

    The "it," by the way, is his impeachment resolution which bears the distinction of being the least sucky/least crazy idea The Koosh has had in the past 18 months or so. Still, beating up ones own party with a favorite winger dig is a bit much even for Dennis.

    But if you are still not convinced that he is more interested in being a Party of One than actually accomplishing anything, by all means come primary time, pull the lever for Dennis Kucin.