Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blogging Ohio Signing Off

Speaking of ill-fated media ventures, BloggingOhio announced that they are ceasing operations. The blog was part of Weblogs, Inc., an AOL-owned collection of for-profit blogs. Unlike George, I'm not terribly sorry to see them go. Over the course of it's nine month or so history, B.Oh went from a venture that annoyed me to a blog that sat on my RSS reader but was hard to care one way or the other about.

I don't want to pile on as I'm sure the people involved put a lot of work in and are hurting now. But I note the passing of the blog to underscore one part of their undoing. B.Oh did little to be part of the blogging community. Occasionally one of us (including the Pages) would end up in one of their "Around the State" posts, but the mentions were infrequent and they had no permanent blogroll. All the permanent links on the blog steered you to other AOL properties.

Anyone who has had even a modicum of success attracting an audience to a blog will tell you it's all about links and comments on other blogs. The corporate masters running BloggingOhio appeared to think they could build traffic independent of all that. Apparently they were wrong.

Left of the Dial

If you missed the news yesterday, liberal talk radio talk network Air America was sold to the brother of longtime Naderite activist Mark Green. Buyer Stephen Green and brother Mark will try to lead the network in new directions:

    “In this digital era, the tech changes by the day, and Air America Radio has to become something of a new-media company,” Mark Green said. “We look forward to an A.A.R. 2.0 that has sharp, smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?”
Wherever they go, it will be without the best horse in their stable. Headliner Al Franken announced his intent to leave Feb 14 once the sale was announced. Apparently he had been hanging on the aid the transition to new ownership. You can hear audio of Al’s announcement on yesterday’s show at his website. At the time, Franken said he was close to deciding whether to take a run at Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman -- a decision he has now finalized. For his part, Coleman wasn't waiting around to find out.

All this comes on the heels of protests in Columbus, aided and publicized by our friends at ProgressOhio and responding to the decision by ClearChannel to clear the decks of all liberal talk programming. That effort seems to be taking a new – and more efficacious – tack, reaching out to potential advertisers.

That gets closer to the crux of the matter. Liberal talk stations are failing as businesses. I haven’t seen any credible evidence to the contrary and, as dodgy as ClearChannel is politically, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t stay in that market segment if there was money to be made.

As to why, I think its a few different factors. It hasn’t helped that Air America as a company has been horribly run. At the outset industry watchers were scratching their heads over the decision to launch an entire network with a day’s worth of programming all at once. No one runs a radio network any more – they pretty much died out at the dawn of television. Plenty of other missteps followed, arcane to us civilians but patent to the likes of Ohio Media Watch.

Another factor may be that there are just few liberals than conservatives. Not to say that conservatives dominate – polls I’ve seen put numbers just below 20% identifying as liberal and somewhere in the low thirties as conservative. Most folks identify as moderate. Still, a bigger audience is a bigger audience.

But I also wonder how much is because liberals simply consume news differently. Liberalism is dedicated – to an annoying and paralyzing degree at times – to the proposition that all sides should be heard, that one should consider the full breadth of evidence and that any point of view has potential merit. One pet theory of mine is that conservatives see liberal bias in the media because any sort of balance – any suggestion that there may not be one absolute truth – is in itself a liberal proposition, inconsistent with conservatism.

Or as Al Franken himself somewhat portentously put it during the run-up to the Air Am launch, “Liberals look for information; conservatives look for ammunition.” Air America attempted to be the left’s ammo dump and a lot of liberals declined to load up.

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

My laptop crashed yesterday during the trip to C-bus. Here at home I still have surfing/blogging options, but as the laptop was the go-to computer for such things, being without is cramping my style. As a result, posting may be a little lighter than usual for, hopefully only the next few days.

Please Stand By.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Amendment Updates

Radio silence today because I spent most of it in Columbus for work. I leaned a bunch of interesting stuff I can’t share and some mundane stuff I can.

So far the AWNN is moving along the pipeline apace. The AG has signed off on the petition language and sent it off to the Ballot Board who will decide whether it can go forward as one proposed amendment or if it must be divided. The Board currently consists of:

Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner
Sen. Randy Gardner
Rep. John Husted
Sen. Ray Miller
William Morgan (citizen member)

By statute, the board shall:

    Examine, within ten days after its receipt, each written initiative petition . . . to determine whether it contains only one proposed law or constitutional amendment so as to enable the voters to vote on a proposal separately. . . If the board determines that the initiative petition contains more than one proposed law or constitutional amendment, the board shall divide the initiative petition into individual petitions containing only one proposed law or constitutional amendment so as to enable the voters to vote on each proposal separately.
    (R.C. § 3505.062, if you are in to such things)
Meanwhile, a couple of interesting items you can check out while waiting, breathlessly I'm sure, for my next amendment post. Michael Douglas wrote a piece in the ABJ Sunday hitting most of the right notes. He got hold of a Bill Phillis email I saw last week as well and used it as a springboard for arguing that school funding reform must by necessity come out of the political process.

The video of the rollout press conference is up, but not on the Getting It Right website. Instead you can find it on the website of Ohio School Boards Association which aggressively frontpages the effort. The best part is last where lead speaker Jim Betts answers about a thousand reporter questions about separation of powers.

Finally, I note a couple of lessons this effort could learn from the Minimum Wage campaign. As I noted in my Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah post about RootsCamp, I attended a session by Anna Landmark who managed the campaign. Two bits of information from her presentation jumped out, mostly to verify conventional wisdom.

First, she said that the campaign just barely scraped together enough signatures to get on the ballot. This despite starting collection before the Nov. ’05 election (I collected signatures at polls as I was doing visibility for RON.) Also, despite having enthusiastic support from union workers and progressive activists, loads of volunteer collectors and some paid gatherers. If you sit all the way through the press conference video, you will hear Betts say that the campaign doesn’t plan to use paid solicitors for the signature phase. We’ll see.

The other datum of interest was the poll numbers. At the beginning of the campaign, the idea of raising the minimum wage polled in the seventies. By the end, the issue passed with 56% of the vote. And this in a Democratic year.

Conventional wisdom says that in the course of a ballot issue campaign, support goes steadily down. Voters are inherently cautious. A voter may find ten, twenty, thirty reasons of vote against a ballot issue and the voter needs only one reason to vote no. Once a “No” campaign starts, the opposition will pick apart the bill and tease out those details that make voters uncomfortable. Like creating two entirely new boards that exist to write reports. Or giving near-total authority to the State School Board. Or including a sixty word sentence that means nothing.

Proponents have a long, long way to go on this thing.

Monday, January 29, 2007

YouTube to Share Revenues with Content Providers

The video sharing megalith announced its intention at the World Economic Summit. H/t MediaBistro. No details on how the payment scheme will be set up. Certainly it will heighten tensions over posts of copyrighted material.

This part of the story stood out:

    [YouTube Founder Chad] Hurley said that when YouTube started, he and the site's other co-founders - Steve Chen and Jawed Karim - felt revenue-sharing would build a community of users motivated by making money, rather than their love of videos.

    But that as the site has grown, the three, who continue to run the company, have come to see financial remuneration as a way of improving content.
Lately we’ve seen discussions, first on AOG and continuing at RootsCamp, about “sustaining” the blogosphere, including finding sources of funding. I think two of the most attractive features of the blogosphere are independence and the love bloggers have for their craft. I’m not saying that bloggers getting paid would be incompatible with maintaining those parts of the ‘sphere, but it would change things and raise issues.

Watching how YouTube negotiates the thicket will be instructive.

Meanwhile, time will tell whether this will lead to more quality videos on YouTube, or more Bride Has Massive Hair Wit Out.

UPDATE: Eric Vessels in comments provided the link to the video of Hurley explaining it. He starts by saying that they are working on technology that would identify music in a video made by a user and notify the record company/publishing house and those entities could "generate revenue from that." Then he talks about revenue sharing with users. Some of the comments on the YT page are interesting; along much the same lines as my take.

Education Amendment (E): The Sentence About Nothing

It’s taken all my willpower not to skip ahead to this. This post is about the most amazing sentence I’ve seen in a piece of legislation, enacted or proposed, EVER. It appears as the last sentence in section (E), the section that governs deposits to and disbursements from the Education Trust Fund. It reads:

No School District or joint vocational school district shall receive any greater amount from the School Trust Fund than that which, when combined with the district’s required School District Local Revenue Contribution, exceeds the amount necessary to ensure the opportunity for a High Quality Education for each of the Public School Pupils of the Public School District for any year.

Sixty words guaranteed to make your head hurt if you read them enough. If you’re like me, you’ll need to read this several times to be confident you’ve really gotten it. Here it is again:

No School District or joint vocational school district shall receive any greater amount from the School Trust Fund than that which, when combined with the district’s required School District Local Revenue Contribution, exceeds the amount necessary to ensure the opportunity for a High Quality Education for each of the Public School Pupils of the Public School District for any year.

If you think you understand what it means except that it can’t mean that because that means nothing, you’ve got it right. For those of you still confused, try it again with the key words highlighted:

No School District or joint vocational school district shall receive any greater amount from the School Trust Fund than that which, when combined with the district’s required School District Local Revenue Contribution, exceeds the amount necessary to ensure the opportunity for a High Quality Education for each of the Public School Pupils of the Public School District for any year.

Weeding out the qualifiers and subclauses it means the following: No district can receive more money than what would be more than what they need. Let the modifiers cancel each other out and it means that a district can get more than they need. You’ve heard of a double negative; this is a double superlative.

I don't know definitively what it is supposed to mean. I can guess, based on some history that I will annoyingly continue to keep confidential, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that someone should be asking. Someone should ask the proponents of the measure what the sentence is supposed to mean. Is it a typo? If it’s a typo, shouldn’t it be fixed before we go gathering signatures?

And if it’s not a typo, what is it? Why does the amendment include a sixty word sentence that means absolutely nothing? W, at the risk of being impertinent, TF?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

TNR Editor 's Odd Appraisal of Ohio '04

Lately I’ve been reading The Spine, a newish blog by New Republic co-owner Marty Peretz. TNR has drifted noticeably to the left in recent years, but Peretz has done his level best to rein it back. Peretz is the embodiment of the cold-war era, crabby liberal TNR I grew up with; as Mickey Kaus puts it, right on warfare, left on welfare. Also fiercely Zionist and allergic to the cultural left. This Peretz description of Joe Lieberman could as easily be about himself:

    [M]uscular on defense, assertive in foreign policy, genuinely liberal on social and economic matters, but not doctrinaire on regulatory issues . . . He has qualms about affirmative action. But who, in his hearts of hearts, does not? He is appalled by the abysmal standards of our popular culture and our public discourse. Who really loves our popular culture--or, at least, which parent? He is thoroughly a Democrat.
Peretz through and through. While he has his opinions and enforces them with, at times, Stalinist efficiency, he’s a smart guy with mostly thought-provoking things to say.


Today he presumes to explain why Ohio voted for Bush in 2004. It was Michael Moore. And George Soros. Seriously, in a post about Democrats lining up Hollywood supporters he makes both claims.

The Michael Moore claim is the sort of simple-minded shibboleth we expect coasters to say about flyover country. Granted, since Kerry’s lost by a fine-edge margin any number of factors could have made the difference. But there were so many big ones, singling out the little ones just seems silly. Saying Kerry lost Ohio because of Michael Moore is like saying he lost because of his “Lambert Field” fumble.

The Soros claim, on the other hand, is just bizarre. All Soros did was poor millions into a canvass and GOTV effort that helped turn out record numbers of voters. He was vilified as a result, but it’s hard to imagine that people who watched the dire reports on Fox Noise were going to vote for Kerry in any event. He didn’t personally appear in Ohio, he didn’t make a documentary featuring debunked conspiracy theories, and he certainly didn’t waddle around after Wesley Clark like a homesick gosling.

What makes me sick about this is that the right loves to play the game called "You Are Who Supports You." This despite right wing candidates being supported by plenty of unsavory candidates themselves. It's enough of a challenge staying out of that game when baited by the right. We really don't need people on the left signing up to play.

Ironically, if there was one factor outside of John Kerry being a stiff that tipped the balance in Ohio, it was arrogant East Coasters presuming to know what does or doesn’t play here. Peretz’s post indicates we still have plenty of that.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Happy Camper

Dear Mom and Dad

Having a great time at RootsCamp. The weather is pretty yucky, but the Senior Patrol Leaders, Mr. Vessels and Mr. Rothenburg have lots of cool things to do here inside like talking and drinking coffee and eating donuts.

Lots of my friends from home are here, like George and Jill and Cindy and of course I came down with Jeff. Also I met some cool kids I had heard of like Jerid and Lisa Renee. And there were kids from all over like SEIU and America votes and Young Dems and Licking PAC.

Remember Anna Landmark? She used to work for Ms. Sutton, then she just left and we never heard from her again. Well it turns out the whole time she was running the Minimum Wage Issue campaign. All the time we thought the Dem candidates and the party were ignoring the issue, it turns out that the campaign was working to help out Dem candidates. They did things real careful so that they didn’t cwoordinate against the rules.

Mr. Vessels said I did such a good job getting my Education Advocacy merit badge that I could teach a session on it. It was a pretty cool session, but not many people were there. Tommy Smith said it was because education is a stupid and boring issue, so I punched him in the head.

I talked for a long time for C.J. who worked for Mr. Sultzer and Leesa who worked for Mr. Cordray. Hey, you know how Mr. Cordray hired Russell? Well it turns out they started thinking about it because Mr. Sawyer hired me and Jason. I think that’s pretty cool.

I met a lot of neet people and we had a good time together. At the end George was talking to Mr. Vessels and they might do a BlogCamp sometime soon. Can I go pleeeeeze?

NOTE: The the html code for the original kid writing typeface on this post was somehow unstable. Blogger didn't like it in any event. When I pulled the post back into editing to add tags, Blogger turned it back into Times Roman, at least on Preview. Since K-pho said the font was annoyingly hard to read, I'm not going to fuss.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Education Amendment Sec. (D) -(E): GSM

Follow along as I read out loud.

Sections (D)(3)-(4) and (E) are where the amendment gets financial on us. After the State Board of Education determines the components of a quality education in (D)(2), it then does another study in (D)(3) to determine how much those components cost.

This two-part approach – determine the components of a quality education, then determining how much they cost – directly responds to one of the central concerns the Supreme Court had in the DeRolph case. The Court found that Ohio’s education funding was residual. That is, the state figured out about how much it had to spend on education and that’s what it spent.

Residual funding, by the way, can be quite the exercise. The State funds schools using a per-pupil formula, with various add-ons and multipliers mixed in. To engage in residual funding, the State presumably figures out how much they have, runs the formula backwards to figure out what that comes to on a per-pupil basis, sets the per-pupil or foundation amount and tinkers with the variables, then the whole thing runs forward and you have a school system.

The two-part approach in (D)(2)-(3) tries to get away from all that. There is something to be said for determining what makes a high-quality education independent of cost consideration. One of the strengths of the AWNN is the requirement that the state cost out what is needed for schools.

Next, (D)(4) which basically says that the General Assembly can’t stop the School Facilities program.

Section (E) says as much as you are going to get about how this is funded. The General Assembly must deposit in the Education Trust Fund money enough to fund what the Department of Education has determined constitutes a high quality education. The only funding mechanism identified is the one already in place – net proceeds from the Lottery. Aside from that, it’s up to the GA to come up with the money.

All this is why critics of the proposal say the amendment has no cap. In fact, the proponents concede – nay celebrate – the fact. They even graphically represent it. I’ve reproduced art from a page on the website which they use to illustrate the effect of the amendment. In converting the image from .gif to .jpeg, my software made it look more reasonable by creating discrete gradients. Check out the original where the top of the post-amendment graph dissolves effervescently into the heavens.

The difficulty facing the framers is that a specific budget cap arguably doesn’t really belong in a Constitution. Constitutions are for procedures and principles. Budget figures belong in budget bills. But it’s a challenge to proponents of this amendment to reassure voters that the state can sustain amount of spending the amendment will require. (And it will be a challenge to explain why they shy away from budget specific figures for K-12 education when they get specific on other areas.)

Once this thing is in effect, it’s an open question what a court would do if the General Assembly just said, “Eh,” and refused to fully fund the Education Trust Fund. It’s hard to imagine any court, much less the one we have now, ordering a legislature to impose a tax. Theoretically, a court could order deposits into the Fund, but what if all the revenue streams are already encumbered? The bottom line – there does come a point where the legislature is still the legislature.

School Funding Reset.

"And you may ask yourself, 'Well, how did I get here?"

Comments, both on- and offline, make it clear that my attempt at a neutral tone about the amendment isn’t fooling anyone. No, I’m not a fan. It has some good ideas but takes them too far. I’ll continue to unpack the amendment in the manner I’ve been doing. But first, a review of why this has come to pass.

I started (and didn’t finish) an ambitious project retracing the history of the school funding movement from the beginnings of the DeRolph case to present day. You can read what I wrote as background for part of what I’m going to say. Also, if you’ve seen the Next Step for Akron presentation, you’ve heard all this before.

I’m not going to restate the school funding formula as it stood at the time of DeRolph. You can read my previous post on that if need be. Suffice it to say school funding is done on a per-pupil basis starting with something called the foundation amount.

The DeRolph Court wrote a long, broad-based opinion that purposely avoided holding that “Thing X is wrong with school funding, fix it and you’re done.” Nonetheless, the Court identified three aspects of the school funding system it found particularly troubling:

  • Residual Funding – The fact that the state bases funding on how much money it wants to spend rather than what it needs to spend to actually create a thorough and efficient system.
  • Phantom Revenue – A trick of the funding system that makes a district’s local revenues remain flat and its state share go down as property values increase. More here.
  • Overreliance on Property Taxes – Because the state makes local districts pay too high a share, differences in property wealth are reflected in differences in funding for schools.
The Court’s ruling and subsequent rulings admonished the State to fix these three problems. Instead, the General Assembly increased the foundation amount, started the parity aid program, tried a pseudo-costing-out methodology that was quickly changed when it started spitting out numbers the GA didn’t like.

The Supreme Court issued three more decisions, none giving the state a clean bill. By the time of DeRolph IV, Court personnel had lurched to the right and the original dissent by then-Justice Cook on justiciability grounds was looking good. If DeRolph I had been decided by the DeRolph IV court, I believe it would have gone the other way, at least on justiciability.

As it was, a conservative court was unwilling to overrule itself in the course of a single case. Instead, DeRolph IV declared again that the system was unconstitutional, admonished the state to fix it and relinquished jurisdiction over the case. The Court said it would no longer hear the case. To mix Biblical metaphors, they washed their hands, saying, “Go, and sin no more.”

Since then we’ve had two budget bills pass. And the result has been, well, same as it ever was.

Going into the first budget cycle the statute was written to guarantee a 2.8% increase in the foundation amount yearly. In the 04/05 budget (passed in 2003), the GA dropped that increase to 2.2%. Mind you, 2.8% didn’t cover cost of living increases, much less the greater increases in the cost of running a school system (mostly due to increases in the cost of health insurance and utilities.)

The statute also had built in increases in the Cost of Doing Business Factor. Instead the GA cut the factor in half. They also monkeyed with other parts of the formula, gave parity aid to charter schools and generally did mischief.

In the 06/07 budget they did more of the same. You can read my summary of that one.

What really irks me about that budget cycle is the after-effect of the tax changes. We were told by people in the administration and the legislature not to worry, that the tax reform would grow business in Ohio, more than making up for the lost revenues, in particular the losses locally due to the elimination of tangible business property taxes.

Twice since then the legislature has had the happy task of deciding what to do with increased tax revenue. Twice the legislature chose to apply that money to further rounds of tax cuts – cuts that didn’t even make sense from a growth perspective. The fact that we didn’t believe them at the time doesn’t keep the proof that they lied from stinging.

As you read the proposed amendment, you will sense a fundamental lack of trust in the legislature. That lack of trust in real, and has a strong basis in history. Some folks of a different political stripe my comment about this with unions or that with overhead. I agree with a lot of that. But I also understand why nothing is on the table – no one trusts the legislature any more.

So that’s why I still believe in doing what I do. That’s why I was willing to give the amendment process a chance. And that’s why, to tip my hand a bit, I’m willing to use my tiny soapbox here to add a few drops to what I hope to be an overwhelming swell of opinion that sweeps the parties back to the table to fix this thing and make it a viable alternative.

So, that’s how we got where we are. Now, back to parsing the amendment, in which we ask ourselves:


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Farewell to the FAF

Faggoty-Ass Faggot is no more. Brian, the proprietor and, well, you know, has declared that “the blogging bubble has burst.” He has gotten what he needs out of the blog and he moves on. H/t BFD.

I met Brian once at the Paul Hackett MTB for which he wrote the most memorable mash note post in MTB history. I haven’t been a regular reader for some time – one of those "changing RSS readers and not getting around to adding some things deals." But I liked Brian’s writing style and his irreverence. Seeing him go is like finding out that a friend I haven’t seen in some time is moving across the continent. Perhaps he wasn’t a regular part of my daily life, but knowing he was out there somewhere made a difference perceptible only in his absence.

It occurs that with the sudden disappearance of Law Dork, Blogesque on indefinite hiatus, and now this, we are getting low on prominent gay Ohio bloggers who do politics, which is a shame.


Finally I'm sufficiently back in blog mode to have something to contribute to Newshound's 58th Carnival of Politics. Check it out.

The Amendment, Sec. (C) and (D): Three Boards, Two New

I'm hearing indications that the proponents of the AWNN are pressing on, so we shall as well. Remember you can follow along here.

Sections (C) and (D) deal with the boards that will do the stuff the amendment requires. The amendment actually creates two new boards – the Education Accountability Commission and the Education Advisory Commission – as well as broadly expanding the powers of the State Board of Education.

Section (C) creates the Accountability board. As is usually the case in constitutional provisions, the language is very basic – only that the commission is created, how its members are appointed, and some restrictions on who gets to serve (three former or current public school district employees.) The General Assembly is to fill in the details, including what sort of staff the Commission gets.

Staffing is important because the Commission’s mandate is as follows:

    The Education Accountability Commission shall monitor and annually report to the Governor, the General Assembly, the State Board of Education and the public regarding the extent to which the resources necessary to provide the components of a high quality public education as required by this section are being delivered in a cost efficient and effective manner and the degree to which they are successful in improving pupil performance, together with such recommendations for improvement as the Commission determines.
A tall order. Presumably this means “monitoring” the spending of 612 school districts, plus Education Service Centers that serve them and perhaps the State School Board itself. They monitor and report. It should be noted that per the amendment, that’s as far as it goes. They report.

Reports are fine things. I’m all about reports. I got my first op-ed published due to my high dudgeon that there would be fewer reports about education in Ohio. But according to the amendment, the Commission’s authority goes no farther than that. It’s conceivable that the General Assembly could give a little more teeth to the Commission’s report, but as we will see as we get deeper into this, that’s a little hard to do given the broad discretion given the State Board of Education.

Next, in (D)(1), the amendment creates the Education Advisory Commission. Their job is to . . .wait for it . . . advise. The State Board of Education, as it turns out. (D)(1) tells you who sits on this Commission and how the eighteen members are appointed. When you head down to (D)(2), that’s when things get interesting.

The first sentence of (D)(2) zips through most of the meat of this thing, so you have to look sharp. In the middle of a sentence about the State Board of Education's new job, it tells you what the Education Advisory Commission does: “[the OBE shall] in concert with the Education Advisory Commission . . .” so the Advisory Commission works in concert with OBE. Presumably OBE is also working in concert with the State School Superintendent and the staff at the Ohio Department of Education as well. And again, the General Assembly determines staff of the Advisory Commission.

So, 19 members of the State Board of Education, 18 members of the Advisory commmission, plus the State Superintendent and ODE staff. And are what all these folks they doing in what we hope is harmony? “[E]ach budget biennium, conduct objective, reliable and validated studies as appropriate to define the Educational Components of a High Quality Public Education for all Public School Pupils for the next succeeding budget biennium.” There’s more about what sorts of things the State Board is supposed to look at, then this:
    The Educational Components as so identified shall, when fully funded, constitute a thorough and efficient system of common schools as required by Section 2 of Article VI of this Constitution.
You could, I suppose, read that as saying that what the Board is supposed to do is pick the components needed to create a thorough and efficient system. But what the sentence appears to be saying is that the components the Board selects are, ipso facto, what a thorough and efficient system requires.

What we lawyers call"Administrative Law" is it's own practice field. Many of the smartest (and geekiest) lawyers end up there because it is so complicated and arcane. Admin lawyers need to know the circumstances under which a court can review and administrative action, when a decision can be deemed arbitrary and capricious and on. I'd have to do some serious work to get back up to speed on Admin Law to figure out how all this works. But not now. With that last sentence, the State Board of Education's selection of educational components becomes a constitutional mandate.

Remember this. It gets mighty important later on.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Education Notes

Amendment Summary: Don't Just Take My Word

Joan Platz at the League of Women Voters writes a weekly email summary of legislative activity germain to education in Ohio. Ohio Fair Schools hosts the update on the web (generally going up a day or so after they go out.) This week's update is heavily devoted to the Amendment With No Name. Joan has access to the information I have, plus, so she's a good source.

Finger in the Wind

Check out the comments to this post on BSB regarding the AWNN for gossipy news about how it's going down among education groups and the ODP. It's consistent with what I'm hearing.

Garrison Bill(s) Preempted by SOTU

I can find no coverage outside the Marietta paper. Even this dispatch is silent. Was this a mistake or not? SOP for bills you want under the radar is to introduce them Friday afternoon, and afternoon of the SOTU is certainly the equivalent. On the other hand, if Garrison wanted this to get noticed, she picked a bad day to announce it.

The Marietta Times suggests that Garrison is actually introducing two bills: one on parity aid and a separate one on all-day kindergarten. The piece does a good job of explaining how the parity aid piece works and extrapolating what it would mean for districts in that area.

Speaking of the SOTU

If I don't get a general reaction piece up, let me note this: By far the least enthusastic applause on both sides of the aisle was the response to the applause line exhorting Congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind.

Unpacking the Amendment, Pt. 1: Know Your Rights.

As the Dispatch notes, the education amendment is gaining few friends but plenty of enemies. If I really want to write a series of posts about this thing, I need to get going.

By the way, anyone besides me think this thing needs a name? Right now the name would be something like “The amendment proposed by the Coalition for Ohio’s Future d/b/a Getting it Right for Ohio’s Future.” That could stand to be tightened up a bit. I’d suggest to the proponents something like the Right to Learn Amendment, but who listens to me?

On to the Amendment. Let’s skip over the definitions for a minute. Reading the definitions out of context is causing people to get worried for no reason. In a statute or constitution, definitions matter only insofar as they define terms that appear in the statute.

The first substantive provision is Section B which proclaims:

    Each Public School Pupil has a fundamental right to the opportunity for a High Quality Public Education. Such right shall be guaranteed by the state, as provided in this amendment, for all Public School Pupils, regardless of school district property values, income levels or other demographic or geographic factors.

Now we need to look at the definitions to begin understanding what that means. In the definitions section, “Public School Pupil” is defined as “any individual who is required by law to attend, or who does attend a public school operated by a Public School District as defined herein.” Some people have been asking about private school students, charter school students, voucher school students. The amendment applies to them all in that it guarantees each an opportunity for a high-quality education. That doesn’t mean they have a right to state-funded improvements in, say, a private school. It doesn’t mean that Life Skills will be forced actually offer a decent education. As long as the public school district where they live offers a high-quality education, the provision is fulfilled.

The definition of a high quality education sets a fairly high bar: "all of those educational components, programs and services necessary to prepare each Public School Pupil to carry out the duties of citizenship and to function at the highest level of his or her abilities in post-high school education programs or gainful employment." If you read the definition of "Educational Components," the bar gets arguably higher.

The fundamental right provision changes the law in two ways. First, it creates a personal right to education. The provision in the constitution now states only that the state has a duty to maintain a thorough and efficient system of common schools. Second, because the right is declared a fundamental right, it opens the door to (caution, legalese ahead) heightened scrutiny equal protection analysis.


The 14th amendment to the US Constitution guarantees that equal protection under the law. The line of cases interpreting this provision use different standards depending on nature of the claim. If the issue involved either a suspect classification (race, religion, national origin among others) or a fundamental right, the court imposes strict scrutiny. What you need to know: high bar. Difficult to defend the action. In most other cases (gender not included) the standard is rational basis. What you need to know: if it’s rational basis, game over. The court can always find a rational basis.

By declaring education a fundamental right, the amendment may overcome the barrier to judicial action erected by the Supreme Court in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. That was the one equal protection case based on wealth of school districts that the Court considered.

Problem is, Rodriguez was decided on three lines. One was that education is not a fundamental right. A second is that a system in which different school districts have different tax bases doesn’t classify citizens in a way that runs afoul of equal protection. The third is that such a case is not justiciable.

Justiciability is one of the terms courts use to say they are bailing on an issue out of concerns about separation of powers. For example, sometime after the resolution authorizing use of force in Iraq, a bunch of citizens (including Dennis Kucinich) sued claiming the Congress hadn’t properly declared war. The court dismissed the case as nonjusticiable – the courts will refuse to get involved in controversies involving war. The DeRolph dissent was based in large part on justiciability.

So how will this change affect how courts decide education cases? That’s not at all clear. I’ve been told that in 14 states education has been declared a fundamental right, but I can’t find a case where that was done in a constitution. From this summary of state constitutional provisions, it looks like those that include an education guarantee do so with some version of what Ohio has – a duty imposed on the legislature to maintain the system. Some courts have uses such clauses to declare a fundamental right. For instance, the North Carolina Supreme Court found that a similar provision in their constitution guarantees each child a right to a sound basic education.

The section on its face solves the fundamentality problem. The bit about the guarantee holding regardless of where a student lives may solve the classification problem. But neither by itself solves the justiciability problem.

Problem is, Rodriguez isn’t going anywhere. Rodriguez was decided in 1972 when the Court was still giddily riding the wave of Warren-era activism. Of the recent Court conservatives, only Renquist sat at that time. On that Court the the plaintiffs ended up on the bad end of a 5-4 decision. On a court dominated by conservatives like Ohio’s, an attempt to move beyond Rodriguez into a heightened scrutiny equal protection analysis is likely a nonstarter, even with this new language added in.

So the fundamental right language by itself won’t necessarily move a recalcitrant Supreme Court. It does set the stage for some of the guarantees explicitly laid out in other provisions of the amendment. That’s coming up.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jennifer Garrison Introduces School Funding Bill

WKSU ran a story tonight on "Your Way Home" that State Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D-Marietta) has introduced a school funding bill. It doesn't purport to reform school funding. Instead, according to the story, it would provide funds to all school districts for all-day kindergarten and would increase parity aid to property-poor districts. As of tonight, the podcast on 'KSU is all I can find on the matter.

Interestingly, this occurs the same day the Marietta School Board announced it would put two levies on the ballot in part to offer all-day kindergarten. The 'KSU story notes that beyond Marietta, Garrison's district includes many of the poorest rural districts in the state.

This has been percolating for a while. On the surface, it seems like a decent start. Certainly, all-day K is one reform with wide support from all sides of the education debate. Until I see the details, I will refrain from calling it devil-free. The problem is that many districts with large populations of economically disadvantaged kids already provide with Povert-Based Assistance money. Akron and the rest of the "Big 8" are among them. If Garrison's plan results in comensurate cut to PBA, it's at best a wash for urban districts. I haven't seen the numbers, but have been told that some urbans could actually see net cuts because of some wrinkles in the school funding formula.

Meanwhile, the parity aid idea does nothing for urbans. At least not now. Given time and the current downward trajectory of Akron property values, who knows. But parity aid goes to property-poor districts. I has helped, though two budget cycles the GA began inexplicably giving a slice of it to charter schools (inexplicable in that charters don't receive property tax money and therefore are not affected by differing property values.)

Garrison's bill is just the beginning. Sens. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) have each made noises about proposing funding formula reforms. Ted's budget comes out in March, as I noted before. And if past experience is a guide, the proposed amendments will spur counterproposals in the legislature.

Education Agenda, Pt. 2

I’ll get to the first post on the amendment in a bit. First off, let’s talk about the budget. In a normal year, this would be the primary focus of education advocates. We have new Governor, new legislators and a fair amount of term limits inspired House-to-Senate shuffling. In the last budget the General Assembly pretty much hosed the schools. I’ve tightened up the post-budget post to serve as a reference. You can go here for my primary source at the time, here for a CCS look back at 2005 and look forward to 2007, and here for the Ohio Department of Ed's report on the coming budget.

Ted is predicting doom and gloom in the budget this year. He won’t raise taxes (which is good) or roll back the tax cuts from the last cycle (which in some cases is not so good). Taft and co. left him with a mess which will be reflected in slow-to-no growth in the budget.

The temptation among school advocates will be to focus on the amendment as The Answer To All Our Problems. This is wrong. First off, amending the constitution is always difficult and this amendment is fraught with more difficulties than usual. Lets face it, unless the mayors and Governor are on board, this thing is sunk. As it is, the amendment is adrift and taking on water fast.

Even if the amendment were to pass, the phase-in doesn’t start for three years. During those three years, increases are built in that are benchmarked to this budget.

Finally, the budget bill isn’t just about filling pots of money. For example, much of the past charter school legislation has appeared in budget bills. Regardless of whether the amendment passes, the GA could screw things up with more, and less accountable, privatization schemes.

Still, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that this coming cycle won’t be a complete disaster. First off, last budget cycle saw a higher level of grassroots participation than ever before. The infrastructure is in place to set a new high water mark this time around. This is important because, while any new legislators may have their biases, they nonetheless are educable at this stage in the game in a way they won't be down the line.

Second, some legislators will surely see the last election as a shot across the GA bow. While the seismic results of the elections reflected dissatisfaction with Taft, Bush and the Culture of Corruption®, also polls also showed serious dissatisfaction with the education funding system. Over the last few years Republicans have been following a glide path toward a fully privatized education system. But Ken Blackwell campaigned explicitly on privatization as his education plan and moderates in the party can’t help but notice that voters did not buy what he was selling.

Third, of course, we have the new executive slate, starting with Ted. Bob Taft actually did not completely suck on education – if his budget had passed as proposed last time around, APS for one would have been far better off. But with a Democrat proposing and shepherding the budget, things should be better.

And finally, we have the amendment which, as Willard noted, may give us hand.
So that’s the budget battle. The most optimistic guesses I’ve heard is Strickland proposing the budget in March. I’ll be working on that, posting updates and telling you how you can get involved in the effort.

One last note; you may have noticed that my file label for education posts is "Academically Challenged." I'm working on tabbing old ed. posts as well for easy reference. And more generally, I'll have a post up sometime as a guide for the file labels as most of them are too precious for words.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hillary Clinton Has Too Much Money

Otherwise, why would she be advertising on Townhall? As I was researching the D'Souza piece below, I saw this:

Yep, that's a Hillary ad, paid for by the exploratory committee. Clicking on the advertising link at the bottom led to the blogads page for

So who is she trying to reach at TownHall? Do liberals who are suspicious of her war stance know she's also reaching out to conservatives? And in any event, should she be called to task for financially supporting a rightwing mouthpiece (though a generally responsible and nearly bearable rightwing mouthpiece)?

D’Souza D’issed

Once a darling of the anti-diversity right, Dinesh D’Souza has apparently done something no other conservative has been able to: he has written a book so vicious, mean-spirited and wrong-headed that the rest of the right wants nothing to do with it. In the book – The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 – D’Souza advances the novel thesis that Islamic extremists attacked us because they don’t like gay marriage and other artifacts of the modern, secular, liberal West.

No, really.

So D’Souza’s prescription is for cultural conservatives to find common ground with moderate and conservative (including, presumably, jihadist) Muslims.

No, really.

If you don't believe me, here's a taste, but apparently it gets worse.

The book is apparently bad enough that PoliSci prof Alan Wolfe slipped past the NYT Book Review editors the most intemperate review I’ve ever read on those pages. Here’s his conclusion:

    At one point in “The Enemy at Home,” D’Souza appeals to “decent liberals and Democrats” to join him in rejecting the American left. Although he does not name me as one of them, I sense he is appealing to people like me because I write for The New Republic, a liberal magazine that distances itself from leftism. So let this “decent” liberal make perfectly clear how thoroughly indecent Dinesh D’Souza is. Like his hero Joe McCarthy, he has no sense of shame. He is a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace, a sorry example of a publishing culture more concerned with the sensational than the sensible. People on the left, especially those who have been subjects of D’Souza’s previous books, will shrug their shoulders at his latest screed. I look forward to the reaction from decent conservatives and Republicans who will, if they have any sense of honor, distance themselves, quickly and cleanly, from the Rishwain research scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Damn. Happily, voices on the right are doing just that. D’Souza has gotten raked on both Powerline and Hugh Hewitt, among others.

So let’s review: Advocate mass murder of newspaper employees (Coulter), OK. Advocate indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets (Limbaugh), OK. Make any number of repellant attacks on gays (Savage, among others), *yawn.* While I am as appalled as anyone by D’Souza’s argument, there is something unsettling in learning that the line not to be crossed in conservative circles is finding commonalities with Islam.

Meanwhile, I can’t find any news clips indicating that D’Souza has lost his aforementioned research chair, meaning that, pariah or not, some heavy hitters in the conservative movement are still paying his freight.

Education Amendment Check-In

It’s time to start talking about the proposed education amendment. To start with, during the runup to the announcement I boldly proclaimed that the amendment, while fraught with the difficulties of compromise, was overall a good thing. Well, the amendment text contained, let’s say, a couple of surprises. At this point, I’m undecided whether or not I support this, and my prospective involvement is likewise up in the air. I certainly don’t stake whatever credibility I may have on this thing.

That being uncomfortably and obliquely said, I’m planning on writing a series of posts unpacking the amendment section-by-section. I know a fair amount of the behind-the-scenes history, but will do my best not include that in the analysis. It’s all confidential and whatnot. I’ll also try to be neutrally descriptive in my analysis, avoiding judgements about whether provisions are good or bad ideas.

That said, let’s look at where we are now. The press reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. ABJ’s editorial yesterday joins those of the PD and Dispatch among the majors. Plenty of smaller papers have piled on with pieces like this one.

I would note that Bill Phillis from the Equity and Adequacy Coalition is painted as the bad guy by both the ABJ and this Kevin O’Brien nastygram. Taking shots at Bill is inaccurate and unfair. Unfortunately I can’t disclose the information to fully defend Bill, but I can state with confidence that people writing these pieces don’t have good information about how this came together.

Dennis Willard wrote a separate piece in yesterday’s BJ touching on an important theme – the use of the amendment to leverage for legislative changes in the school funding system. As Willard notes, using an admirable Seinfeld reference, the amendment gives education proponents hand. Just as RON gave us early voting, this could give us a real fix for phantom revenue or some such.

(BTW, Willard appears to have Dave Giffels slot while Giffels is on leave writing a book.)

So why is the media coverage so bleak? Part of it surely is the 11th hour opposition of big-city mayors and Strickland’s increasingly pointed criticisms. Part of it is that the amendment would radically change the structure of Ohio government, which makes editorial writers uncomfortable. But much of it also is the coalition’s near total silence since the Wednesday rollout. About this, I can offer no explanation.

UPDATE: Today's Dispatch has an interesting article about prospective effects of one of the proposal's key provisions; making education a fundamental right.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Betty Sutton Has a New Gig

Per ABJ, Rep. Betty Sutton is now the Communications Director for the freshman class of the Democratic Caucus. She'll hold the post for the next six months.

It's possible, just possible, she'll have some things to say about Republican corruption.

Actually, she might want to consider updating the Caucus website which lists Tim Ryan as a member of the freshman class.

WH 08: Richardson Is In

Presser from the ebag:

    "I am taking this step because we have to repair the damage that's been done to our country over the last six years," said Richardson. "Our reputation in the world is diminished, our economy has languished, and civility and common decency in government has perished."

    "The next president of the United States must get our troops out of Iraq without delay. Before I became Governor of New Mexico, I served as Ambassador to the United Nations and as Secretary of Energy. I know the Middle East well and it's clear that our presence in Iraq isn't helping any longer," said Richardson.

    "Our next President must be able to bring a country together that is divided and partisan," said Richardson. "It is clear that Washington is broken and it's going to take a return to bipartisanship and simple respect for each other's views to get it fixed. Most public policy solutions these days are coming from Governors and state government. On issues like the environment, jobs, and health care, state governments are leading the way. And that's because we can't be partisan or we won't get our jobs done. That's a lesson I've learned as Governor and that's what I'll do as President."
Read the Rest.

I'll round up the rest of the contenders soon. I mention Richardson because he has hit the highwater mark of internet savvy; emailing a certain obscure local blog witha funny name. For the record, I'm on Edwards' list as well, but apparently I'll have to sign up for the rest.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Akron Press Club Presents "Trading Places with the Media"

From the ebag:

Trading Places with the Media, a half-day professional development seminar geared to public relations, marketing and media practitioners, will be held Friday, Feb. 23, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Martin University Center, 105 Fir Hill.

Sponsored by the Akron Beacon Journal and First Energy Corp. and hosted by the Akron Press Club, the event will present an inside look at how local media determine what they will cover in print, online and on the air. It will also offer tips on how to get media coverage in today’s rapidly changing market.

* * *

The cost is $35 for Press Club members and $45 for non-members. The optional luncheon program at noon is an additional $15 per person for the buffet. The student rate is $15 for the entire seminar, including lunch.

Reservations are required, and payment must be received by Feb. 16. Send name, contact information and a check payable to the Akron Press Club to P.O. Box 423, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44222. Or visit to download a registration form.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Sam Harris v. God, Round 2

Evangelical Atheist Sam Harris is again blog-debating the existence of God. This time he's taking on Andrew Sullivan in a debate hosted on BeliefNet. Sullivan thus far is a stronger opponent than Dennis Prager who Harris schooled. The Prager dialogue was supposedly about "Why Are Atheists so Angry?" and this one with Sullivan is titled "God Is Not a Moderate," but they seem to devolve quickly into the basic argument over the existence of God.

Since that debate is fairly impossible to resolve, these things take on a sporting quality, like the Monty Python sketch in which contestents wrestle over the question and we are later informed by a dulcet-toned faux-BBC announcer that "God exists, by a final tally of 3 falls to 2." I'm not a big fan of Harris's overall project, but it sure was good to watch him carve up the frankly bigotted Prager.

I've been watching the anti-religious crusade of Harris and fellow traveler Richard Dawkins for some time. I have thoughts, but tomorrow there's a loooong meeting in Columbus about that thing I haven't been blogging, so God will have to wait. Until then, Harris just threw his Old Testament left jab. Lets see if Sullivan handles it better than Prager who pretty much walked into it.

Is Congress Trying to Criminalize Blogging?

Not really. If, like me, you've been getting spammed by long-time New Right leader Richard Viguerie about the Dire Threat that lobbying reform poses to absolutely anyone who criticize the government, not to worry. Steven Bainbridge, by way of Kevin Drumm, has details.

The upshot -- the section applied to people blogging on behalf of a paying client. If such a person burns more than $25K in a quarter, he/she must register. And by the way, the section has been removed.

I will say this, without having read any further than Bainbridge's piece. All things being equal, the political process is better served if people know that a blog post is paid-for propaganda. There is a delicate balance between protecting free speech and mandating transparency. Has this proposal properly struck that balance? That's more research than I'm going to do for a now-dead section.

The Return of the Random Ten

Special Guest Randomizer Edition

All Kid Z wanted for Christmas was an I-Pod Nano. So she got one. I loaded about half its 2 Gig capacity with music before setting it under the tree. One of my computer mini-crashes disabled my MP3 program, so I've shuffled Z's Pod to bring back the ten on Fridays.

“Call Me Beep Me,” Christina Millan
“Fade into You,” Mazzy Star
”All for Swinging You Around,” The New Pornographers
“I Miss You,” Bjork
“Kissing the Lipless," the Shins
"Radio Free Europe," REM
"You’re Still Standing There," Steve Earle w/ Lucinda Williams
"Come Back to Me," Vanessa Hudgens
"The World at Large," Modest Mouse
"Maps," Yeah Yeah Yeahs

As you can see, I loaded some typical tween stuff (C. Millan, V. Hudgens.) I also gave her a bunch of songs she heard me play and liked (TNP, Shins) and, frankly, songs she should hear because I say it's good for her, dammit. I suspect I'm like many in my generation in wanting my daughter to have precociously cool music taste while bracing myself for some mass market monstrosity like the '07 version of the Spice Girls.

All this would have worked if we had gotten Z a shuffle. Wanna hear Ashley Tisdale? You gotta sit through this Otis Spahn song first. By the way, hear the way that propulsive piano line drives the song? That's Chess Blues, baby. But no, we got the nano. While I want her to learn to love Billie Holiday in the same way I want her to learn to love sauteed collard greens, she can skip right to her Hannah Montana dessert.

All of which has actually worked out better than I hoped. Her big thing is High School Musical now which, if you don't have a tween girl, Oh. My. God. But since HSM is structured as a classic movie musical, she's actually gaining some apppreciation for the form. Not that she's begging to rent, say South Pacific right now, but give it time.

Similarly, she's a little obsessed with the movie National Treasure. So much so that she asked to go to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and spend her vacation money on her own copy at the museum store. But now it's gone beyond that thing that was in that movie. She read the display descriptions, and checked out the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta as well. In fact W overheard her tell a teacher it was her favorite part of the trip.

Plenty of teen/tween culture seems like total crap, but you never can tell when it will lead to something a little more real.

Burned All My Notebooks. What Good Are Notebooks?

So, um, not a good week. In addition to dealing with the amendment and its discontents, I’ve been having an escalating series of computer problems and a three-day school week for Kid Z. So, still not in the posting groove.

And just like I avoided sports for a week-plus after OSU bellyflopped in the BCS, I’m shying away from current events just now. So, as good a time as any to empty my notebook of half-formed ideas for posts; acorns that will never grow to be mighty oaks, but still should have their day.

A Post That Hasn’t Happened Yet.

I was utterly captivated by White House Senior Terror Expert Francis Fragos Townsend’s spin that the failure to capture Bin Laden is not a failure of the Bush Administration but "a success that hasn't happened yet." Then I was disappointed to see the statement disappear into the ether leaving nary a trace. If we truly had a liberal media like the conservatives have conservative media, this would have traveled around the world faster than you could say “no controlling legal authority.” If a Democrat had said something as mind-bogglingly inane, as implicitly insulting to the intelligence of the listener, this would now be permanently embedded in the political lexicon and people would be riffing on it instead of still making “for it before he was against it” jokes.

I’ll take one last stab at immortalizing this most brazen of spin jobs with a personal take. Herewith are Pho’s successes that haven’t happened yet:

-Landing a book deal
-Winning the Pulitzer Prize
-Sleeping with Uma Thurman
-Remaining married despite sleeping with Uma Thurman
-Cleaning my desk
-Getting a real job

Campaign ’06 Leftovers

A couple of lines that never made it into posts and whose shelf life is rapidly expiring.

“Betty Sutton is running the Head-On campaign:
Corruption! Apply directly to opponent!
Corruption! Apply directly to opponent!
Corruption! Apply directly to opponent!”

“Bill O’Neil’s strategy of not taking campaign donations to highlight the corrosive effect of money raising on the judiciary is brilliant. Now all he needs is some money so he can tell people about it.”

Blogospheric Disturbances

I was going to write a long post about all the changes on other blogs, but what I really want to do is ask: What the hell happened to Chris “Law Dork” Geidner? Some time during my extended convalescence, one of Ohio’s most nationally famous bloggers not only stopped blogging, but took down both iterations of The Dork, old and new. Spooky.

What Gay Marriage Advocates Could Learn from Pro-Lifers.

One thing that kills promising posts is that I have a fairly simple idea, then spend so much time with a bunch of unnecessary research that I don’t have time to finish the post. As I was verifying Chris’s continued absence I ran across this article he wrote about gay marriage and was reminded of one such simple idea that I made foolishly complicated.

The argument goes like this. Proponents of gay marriage and opponents of abortion both started in the same spot. Both believed their position to be fundamentally morally correct and both found heavy majorities opposing them. After some fits and starts, the anti-abortion movement settled on a strategy of incrementalism – passing statutes that whittled the right to abortion at the margins and that the public generally found agreeable. Parental notification was the classic for a long time; bans on so-called partial birth abortions are the latest example. The strategy got the movement bits of what they wanted and moved the overall debate in their direction.

Gay marriage proponents, on the other hand, do the opposite. Despite majorities favoring civil unions in most states, they continue to press for all-or-nothing court-imposed same-sex marriage. Funny thing about an all-or-nothing strategy; if you don’t get it all, you get nothing. I agree that gays should be allowed to marry and call it marriage. I don’t agree that tactically it makes sense to dig our heels in.

Did I really need a pile of links to make that case? I don’t think so either.

The Second Best Conservative Rock Songs.

Some time over the summer I heard about a National Review article about the 50 best conservative rock songs. There’s some good points in it, but it is replete with misreadings (the Blue Oyster Cult’s homage to the Japanese anti-nuclear monster movie Godzilla? Really?) and bizarre takes on what makes an idea conservative (“I Can’t Drive 55,” which embraces public disorder and law breaking. Or did the author think Sammy Hagar stops at 62?)

So I tried to come up with a satirical list of ten. I had a handful when the thing was too far past for it to make sense. Here are a few of my favorites – feel free to add more in comments.

“This Land is Your Land,” Woody Guthrie. Obviously it’s about property rights, though it would have been nice if he had been clearer: “This land is my land, that land is your land.” Bonus points for the anti-immigration chorus “This land belongs to you and me.” Not, you know, them.

“Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” Brownsville Station. Another rant against the supposed nanny state. And apparently there is now nothing so conservative as cigarettes.

“One Week,” Barenaked Ladies. Perfectly summarizes conservatism in one line: “Vanilla, it’s the finest of the flavors.”

Speaking of Songs

I started down the long road of writing a reflection on the Tom Sawyer experience. You know, going from blogger to blog outreach guy and back. I didn't get very far, but did come up with a nifty, facetious song parody as a framing device (apologies and hat tip to Joni Mitchell):

Still in jammies, feelin' proud
To say "It's bullshit!" right out loud.
Another voice within the crowd.
I've looked at blogs that way.

But now it's just another tool.
The Blogger's great or he's a fool
But either way, there's just one rule:
Send blogfood every day.

I've looked at blogs from both sides now
From "Inbox" and "Send," and still somehow,
It's blogs' illusions I recall
I really don't know blogs. At all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Education Ballot Initiative Rollout.

I attended the press conference in Columbus announcing the rollout of the proposed ballot initiative to reform school funding. Good rollout, lots of people, lots of press. I got some less-than-stellar video and my computer won’t talk to my video cam, but if I can make it happen I’ll get some video up.

In the meantime, you can check out the website for the effort. The committee is actually called Campaign for Ohio’s Future, but they are doing business as Getting It Right for Ohio’s Future. Right now the website isn’t flashy, but it has decent content to start off with, including the ballot language.

Unfortunately the early reviews have been – mmm – tepid? Today’s Dispatch preview was all people saying “Hated it!” Some criticisms are colorable, some I think not so much.

More to come.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Stuff is happening. Here's what's what.

Congressman Tim Ryan will be speaking at the Akron Press Club Friday, Jan. 26 at the UAkron Martin Center. From the Press Club website:

    Recently appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, he also serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and co-chairs the House Manufacturing Caucus. Some of the current issues Congressman Ryan is focused on include strengthening America's manufacturing base; making college more affordable; improving childhood nutrition, and revitalizing America's downtowns.
Lunch starts at 11:45. Cost is $15; five bucks off if you are a member. Rep. Ryan is truly one of the rising Dem. stars in Congress. He is a smart and able legislator, and has also worked the internal politics of the House admirably. He's a good speaker to boot.

Roots camp is being organized by ProgressOhio, a new liberal advocacy group focussed on online organizing. Erstwhile Plunderbund blogger Eric Vessels is on staff there. Per the website, roots camp is:
    for people who played a role in the 2006 elections in the state of Ohio and are prepared to share with others innovations, failures, old wisdom and new discoveries. It is a place to engage with exceptional people from all levels and all sectors of the progressive movement with an eye towards doing things even better in 2008 and beyond. Please invite other exceptional folks you may have worked with -- from precinct captains to consultants to candidates. RootsCampOH is for EVERYONE who played any role in the 2006 elections -- including local staff, local activists, and volunteers.
I'll be there, but I'm still not sure in what capacity. The conference has a freeform, organic organization in which people who want to present just sign up an do so. It's happening at the Y in Columbus. Details at ProgressOhio

If you are not yet inaugerated out, Sen. Sherrod Brown is holding an Ohio swearing-in ceremony in the Columbus Athenaeum on January 20th at 11:00 AM. Sign up to attend.

Finally, you may have noticed tonight's Next Step meeting on the Upcoming badge. Meetings are the third Tuesday of each month at the Main Library. Next month's meeting promises to be a big one. We will have updates on the proposed ballot issue and the coming budget advocacy effort. We will have a statehouse report as a number of members will be attending a PTA Advocacy Day in early February. And we hope to have some specific proposals for group action as this year moves forward.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fred Phelps to Picket Strickland Inagural

Rev. Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps is apparently coming to Ohio to picket Ted Strickland's inaugural celebration. The good reverend is peeved that Ted appointed an out Lesbian to his cabinet.

I apoligize if the story was hashed out when it broke (you can read a .pdf of the press release dated Dec. 23.) If the announcement caused any blogospheric ripples, I missed them while on vacation and can't find anything now.

Phelps' theology of hate is so virulent, so unrelentingly hysterical, so unapoligetically Medeval as to defy either serious analysis or satire. I do like the Canton Rep. columnist's take on Phelps' threat that Ohio is now cursed -- How can we tell? If you are unfamiliar with the Reverend's works and you want to read about how America is "A sodomite nation of flag-worshiping idolaters," by all means, be my guest.

I suspect that the relative silence about his planned arrival is testament to his utter lack of credibility. Still, it would be nice to see a counter-demonstration or a call on the Parsley/Johnson set to publicly condemn the event. If I make it down, I'll try to get some art.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Not Holding My Breath: A Presidential Address Preview

The President's major address on the new Iraq strategy is minutes away. This evening WKSU interviewed Sherrod Brown, Betty Sutton and Steve LaTourette on the local news program "Your Way Home." They were asked how they feel about the much anticipated surge or escalation or escalating surge or whatever. Additionally, they were asked something like "what would you like to hear from the President's speech.

I won't agree with what the President has to say. I'm confident of that. But if he said any of the following, I might feel like we have some longshot hope of eventually getting out of this with something like a whole shirt.

  • "I screwed up." Supposedly he is going to admit that "mistakes were made." I want to hear him go one better and admit his own mistakes. I'm a firm believer that a person who won't admit mistakes is guaranteed to repeat them.

  • "I’m sorry." Which is the natural follow up to admitting you screwed up. Especially when your screwup results in thousands of needless deaths.

  • "Other people screwed up. Their heads will roll." Unfortunately, the administration appears to be looking for fall guys in the ranks of military commanders. In fact, it's the civilian leadership who really botched this. Remind me again which party doesn't support the troops.

  • "The enemy is . . ." As of now, I don't have any confidence that this administration has a real appreciation of who we are fighting. Of course, if the did, they would recognizing that we are splitting time battling the beligerents in a civil war.

  • "Victory will look like . . ." I keep hearing that we will fight until victorious, but with no indication of what victory sounds like.

OK, off to watch. Not expecting much, tho.

Subodh Chandra on Voting Rights Litigation (Audio)

Subodh Chandra came to speak to Summit County Progressive Democrats last night about the voting rights litigation he has participated in since his run in the AG primary. Subodh worked on teams litigating two cases challenging provision in the SB 3 election "reform" legislation passed by the General Assembly last year. One case challenged a provision stating that a poll judge could demand of a naturalized citizen that he/she produce a naturalization certificate. The second case challenged the ID requirement in SB 3.

A personal note: My younger daughter became a citizen by operation of statute. She is foreign born, but became a citizen when we adopted her. As such, she has no naturalization certificate. If that law had been allowed to stand, she would not have been able to vote in Ohio.

Anyway, I excised the 20 minute guts of Subodh's talk. Even if you saw his updates as things happened around the run up to the election, there's some additional information here. He also had very kind things to say about SCPD, and gave grassroots activism some heavy cheerleading, but I'm running out of space on my host, so those bits ended up on the floor of my virtual cutting room.

School Funding Plan Rollout

Jill caught it before I did: the first press mention of the rollout scheduled next Wednesday, Jan. 17 for the proposed Constitutional amendment to fix school funding. So that's out of the bag. The plan is to roll it out just before submitting it to the Attorney General for approval.Currently I'm planning to be down there and hope to post a report. Subject, as always, to the vagaries of parenthood.

By the way, I can't find a mention in either the Plain Dealer or the ABJ, both of which are scaling back statehouse coverage in deference to tough economic times.

Back to the article in the Dispatch. The blogs have been speculating on what this means for Strickland. Here's what the Governor had to say:

    Strickland said yesterday that he still considers school funding the most pressing problem facing Ohio. He said he plans to bring all interested parties together to come up with a plan "that would be acceptable to the vast majority of Ohioans and stakeholders while realizing that nobody would get everything they desire."

    He said such a fix must deal with both education reforms and money.

    "I think if we are able to tell the people of Ohio what they are going to get for the investment, they will be more willing to support it."

    Such reforms, he said, would include ensuring that both teachers and students have the opportunities and tools they need.

An Education Agenda for 2007, Pt. 1

As you can see from the fragment provided, one item* on my list of New Years resolutions is to reform Ohio’s system of funding public education. The chances of living up to this resolution are actually far better than for the rest simply because I will be but a small part of the effort

As frequent readers know, in addition to being a blogger and stay-at-home dad, I work as a part-time field organizing contractor for the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign. This coming year promises to be watershed for Ohio’s public education system, and therefore a busy one for me.

The Ballot Issue

The blogosphere has been buzzing about the effort to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change the school funding system. Indeed, that effort is moving forward and I’ve been involved. I know much of the backstory that has been subject to speculation here and here and a whole lot here, and, unfortunately, also here. Unfortunately this is a delicate time for the effort and much of what I know I can't talk about just yet.

Here’s what I can tell you based on what’s in the public sphere. The effort has been going on since early 2006. It involves double-digit number of organizations representing every district, every stakeholder group. All the organizations involved are pro-public education, including the folks who litigated the DeRolph case. The process has run parallel to, but is not the same as, the effort of the mayor's group.

I can tell you with confidence that you won't agree with every single decision the coalition has made, but that is the nature of coalition work. Coalitions make compromises and a compromise, by definition, gives each party less than 100% of what they want.

I can tell you that if you trust my position on education you can trust this effort and if you don't trust my position on education, you probably won't like the final product but probably you don't like public education anyway.

Blogging this is going to be a little challenging, so I'm setting some ground rules:

  1. Understand that I get paid for my OFSC work, but I'm not invoicing my blog time. I don't speak for either OFSC or the Coalition here. If that changes, especially the pay thing, I'll let you know.
  2. At the same time, I have to respect my position. As such, I will be toeing the party line here. This is one instance where you won't be getting any warts-and-all critical analysis from me. It wouldn't be fair to my client to publicly disagree with the Coalition's position and it wouldn't be fair to my readers to pretend to be objectively analyzing the thing.
  3. As such, my updates on the effort will pretty much just be newsy: What's happening, what's new, how people can get involved.
  4. Please remember throughout all this that I do what I do because I believe in the cause, not for the money. Try to keep your "You just say that because you get paid" smack to a minimum. I don't get paid enough to say what I don't believe.
*And by the way, you won’t be hearing about the rest of my resolutions. Discussing resolutions necessarily involves discussing those parts of my life I’m less than happy about. One regrettable facet blogging politics is locking horns with people who can’t discern a difference between being an adversary and being an enemy. Such people will pounce on any perceived weakness, even one revealed in a moment of self-effacing frivolity. Yes, I’m looking at you, D[ave H]ickman. Much as I’d like to be one of those blogggers who publicly lays bare all his amusing foibles, it just doesn’t work if part of the audience refuses to take things in the spirit given and instead will use generously revealed imperfections as a weapon. If you find it regrettable that I won’t be sharing the softer, more neurotic side of Pho, blame the D’ickmans of the world.