Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fingerhut Coming to Akron Press Club

He's the man with the plan -- only we don't know what the plan is and it makes us all nervous. Eric Fingerhut, Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, is coming to the Akron Press Club Friday, Nov. 9 to speak about The University System of Ohio. The program is co-sponsored by the Association of University Women.

Fingerhut speaks simultaneously about how well the University of Akron is doing and how he would like to see consolidation, preferably centered around Cleveland somehow. This would be a good opportunity to press him on specifics, glean more hints about what that University plan will look like, and gently hint that messing up Akron U would be a bad thing.

And when he says "Finger" we say "Don't screw with our university!" Not catchy, but it might get the message across.

Not as Wide Open as We Were Led to Believe

In a move that vindicates all those who believe that MSM outlets and independent bloggers cannot coexiste, the PD today fired Jeff Coryell from it's Wide Open group blog. Nothing on WO yet, but Jeff has posted his take on the move. Here's the guts of it:

    Today [PD online editor Jean] Dubail called me and asked if I would agree to never write about LaTourette on "Wide Open," as a condition of my continued participation. He said that the arrangement was sought by Susan Goldberg, Editor of the Plain Dealer. When I declined to agree that I would never write about LaTourette on "Wide Open," I was terminated by DuBail.

    As a political blogger, I am a partisan. My political orientation as a progressive Democrat is an integral part of what I do and is completely transparent to my readers. This is a crucial component of being a political blogger/activist, and sets us apart from journalists in the classic sense. It was understood among the four participants in "Wide Open" that we are political partisans and that we would engage in political debate from our respective political points of view.

More thoughts in a bit.

UPDATES, Including some of those thoughts.

Plunderbund is tracking blog reaction. So far, lots from the left and none from the right.

BSB has a fine idea - sending folks off to dKos and MyDD to "Recommend" Jeff's diary on the subject. I dusted off my ancient dKos account and did so.

In the dKos thread, someone noted that the party line at the PD is that it violates their rules for reporters to contribute to politicians.

A little background info apropos of BMD's comment to this post. Jeff has been telling me (and some other blogger friends as well, I'm sure) about all this as it plays out. Apparently Jeff got on LaTourette's bad side by blogging about the Honorable Gentleman's cozy relationship with Forest City Enterprises and their coincidental good fortune landing a development deal in DC handed out by a Congressional Committee chaired by a certain Congressman from Northeast Ohio. LaTee has been bending ears at the PD since Jeff was announced as one of the Wide Open bloggers. You can read the rest in his post. Point is, this is the same sequence of events he told me before (minus the actually getting fired part of course.)

One takeaway from all this: The PD ought to be telling us what strictures it is placing on the bloggers it has now employed. Are any of the others restricted from blogging about people based on political contributions? Or are they now not permitted to make political contributions? Hmmm. Keeping Blumer's jack out of Ohio GOP coffers may make all this worthwhile.

Second takeaway: Steve LaTourette is a pussy.

Third takeaway: The PD may try to hire another liberal blogger, but we can now be pretty confident it won't be me.

Final thought: I've never thought much about Bill Sloat's criticisms of Connie Schultz's position at the paper. It always seemed to me that once someone steps out of the reporter role and writes editorials -- laden with opinion as they are -- they have dropped out of the Cult of Objectivity. Now the PD has gone the other way. If Jeff got fired for making a political contribution, what of Connie's dual role as columnist and de facto adviser to the Senator she married?

Imam Declines Cleveland Position Due to Blog Criticism

This is the story of the day. Not because the thing itself is huge -- though for the blogosphere it's pretty big. But more than that, it implicates so many meta issues, not least is the prospects of continuing to share this rock with one billion Muslims.

The unnamed bloggers in the AP story are, among others, Tom Blumer of BizzyBlog, etc. and Patrick Poole of Central Ohioans Against Terror. Tom apparently broke the story about the Imam Alzaree's dicey past sermon and Patrick followed up with questionable content since scrubbed from the website of the Imam's previous mosque. Tom has a Wide Open post up with links to the past stories and a lively ongoing discussion.

I have thoughts, but also errands to run. I'll get something up tonight; in the meantime, check out the links in Tom's post.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Great God Almighty Marc Dann, Clean up Your Act

Nonsense like this has got to stop. For an awful lot of us who voted for him, ending corruption wasn't a neat political theme because it fit the temper of the times. It was something we actually wanted to see happen. Not that Dann looked like the perfect candidate, but we hoped that riding a reform wave would wash away some of his sins.

Not really. Now we are all about loopholes and working up to limits and controlling legal authority.

And by the way, why is a state negotiating a contingency fee contract anyway? Contingency fees make sense for individuals who cannot afford hourly fees. If lawsuit is worth pursuing, the state should pay for attorney time and the citizens should enjoy full recovery if the suit is successful. When the contingency fees from the tobacco litigation hit the papers, everyone looked bad. But I don't suppose a guy who failed to learn from pay-to-play scandals can be expected to learn from that.

This is why the bloggers preferred Subodh.

Canton Mayoral Strangeness

Blogging the Canton mayoral race is odd for me on a couple of levels. On one, Democratic challenger William Healy currently employs one of my students. A bit ticklish that.

On another, it's Stark County politics. Stark Co. has a gentler, more civilized politics than most other places in the state. I've written about this before. Both parties are closer to the center, will little in the way of far out wings. Elected officials tend to be moderate and work well across the aisle. My former boss, the late Bob Horowitz, was every bit a Democrat, but one of his favorite people in county government was then-Auditor Janet Weir Creighton. And individuals tend to be all over the place on issues. Merely knowing what party someone belongs to doesn't tell you a whole lot.

Fast forward a decade or so and Ms. Creighton is now fighting to hold on to her seat as Mayor of Canton. A Canton Correspondent sent me a link to a Repository story that illustrates how Stark is different:

    In the closing of an hourlong debate Sunday, a mayoral candidate lit a fire, and the consequence could be ugly.

    Incumbent Janet Weir Creighton told the audience - many of them black - that her opponent's crime policy could be scary.

    His "zero tolerance policy (on crime) will lead to racial profiling," the Republican said.
So the Democrat wants to get tough and the Republican is playing the race card. The Republican is concerned about the rights of suspects and the Democrat accuses her of being soft. That's Stark for you.

Looking at Healy's actual crime plank, it doesn't leave lots of room for racial profiling. That is, it doesn't involve things like more traffic stops which is where profiling becomes a problem.
In fact, it includes the sort of community policing and early intervention programs that get-tough Republicans usually deride as coddling criminals. In this instance "zero-tolerance" seems less a codeword for profiling and more a brand for a crime platform that includes some progressive ideas.

CORRECTION: It took me a beat, but I realize the person who sent the clip isn't from Healy's campaign.

Finally Posting on my Church Blog

Do you want to know what I think about my church's advertising campaign? Did you know my church even had an advertising campaign? I've been threatening to start writing on my church's blog and now I've finally gotten to it.

BTW, the ads are running in Time. As a result, I discovered it is damnably difficult to find a newsstand copy of Time in this town. I tried grocery stores, drug stores, nada. I finally had to go to Borders. I'd like to think it's all about people getting it on the web, but I fear it's more about a Britney crowd-out effect.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blogging -- And Feeding -- The Horserace

Intriguing Howie Kurtz piece in yesterday's WaPo about how blogs in mainstream news outlets are affecting the presidential campaign. Here's the thesis:

    The mushrooming number of political blogs on newspaper and magazine Web sites has altered the terrain of the 2008 election. Campaign officials have learned to feed the bottomless pit of these constantly updated compilations, leaking favorable tidbits -- a new poll result or television ad -- and quickly disputing negative items.

    In short, journalists and political strategists find themselves sparring more and more over smaller and smaller items on shorter and shorter deadlines.

At times I've expressed the pitiably naive hope that blogs and other Web 2.o contraptions could move us beyond horserace politics. That instead, the proliferation of outlets would encourage citizens to debate issues, problems, solutions -- in short, policy.

I've moved on from that hope. Certainly that exists for people willing to take the time to seek it out. But usually blogs engage in a binary conversation in which every issue is divided into a left position and a right position and each new development is slotted according to which position it supports. Partly this is because many bloggers are partisans of one wing or another. Part of it also is that covering the horserace or slotting issues into left or right is just easier. Hell, I have three posts on my wish list right now; this is the one that doesn't require any additional research.

Now that MSM outlets are jumping on the blogwagon, the blogosphere's service to horserace politics is a fait accompli. Because of blogs , things are different. Not better. Just different.

By the way, Kurtz notes that of all the campaigns, Hillary Clinton deals with blogs the most aggressively. Another reason she's pulling ahead by several furlongs.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Debbie Phillips Kicks off Her Campaign for the 92nd

My friend and former boss Debbie Phillips formally announced her candidacy for the 92nd Ohio House seat. This is her second run at the seat; she lost by 865 votes last year. As noted in a previous post, she is now running for a vacant seat as current Rep. Jimmy Stewart is running for the Senate seat Joy Padgett is vacating.

That's House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty at the announcement. Gov. Strickland also contributed the following: "Debbie represents an excellent opportunity to give the 92nd House District back to the people. Restoring balance to the Ohio General Assembly is so important to our work to turnaround Ohio."

Photo courtesy of Ed Venrick, Athens News

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Still Working My Way Back into the Game

So yeah, I said I was back and over the past two days, not so much. Two thing. The first is again Thing-related.

The second: This was my turn at bat for the Ohio Carnival of Politics. Or maybe the CARnival of Politics this week. *snerk* As always a fine selection from around the state.

OK, time to make the donuts. Hopefully something substantive up tonight.

Monday, October 22, 2007

. . . And We're Back

So, um, I said I'd be offline for three weeks, right? Yes, that turned out far longer than I anticipated. Partly it was about The Thing that I was working on. The Thing will remain nameless for the time being because I am plagued by a superstitious fear of jinxes. But anyway, The Thing took a long time and wasn't done when I thought it was done and gave it to the person who kicked it back and said, among other things, that we needed a new Thinglet. And as soon as the first Thing deadline passed, I got a pile of papers from my class, so I was grading and Thing working at the same time.

And as a thin shaft of daylight appeared, an intestinal virus marched through the House of Pho, extending everything that much.

Anyway, I'm back now. If the past is an indication, it will take a while to hit blogging stride. But we'll get there.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Taking Some Time Off

My life has many moving parts, and right now none of them works properly. I need a blog vacation to do some life maintenance. Hopefully it will not be too long. I'm thinking about a week, shorter if things fall into place, a little longer if not.

In the meantime, talk among yourselves. Best animal simile for Kucinich's craziness -- fox or March hare? Discuss.