Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren: His Purpose Is Not to Make Actual Sense

President-elect Barack Obama has ticked off the LGBT community and their friends and allies (yr. blogger included) by offering the symbolically-charged inaguration invocation spot to Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback evangelical megachurch. Warren opposes gay marriage and campaigned for Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban in California.

While I disagree with Rev. Warren's position on the issue, I can't be the only one to find the position doubly infuriating because it's so incoherent. In a recently published interview with BeliefNet and the Wall Street Journal Rev. Warren explained -- or tried to -- his views. Below is an excerpt regarding the marriage issue itself. This follows an attempt to discuss civil unions which becomes a big mess and results in Warren submitting a number of "clarifications" after the fact. I'll try to get to the civil unions bit in a later post, but first we need to suss out the initial position.

(plain text is Warren, bold is the questioner and my thoughts are in italics.)

    The issue to me, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

      The polygamy bugaboo will be funny no matter how many times gay marriage opponents use it. People like Warren base their opposition on the Bible, then invoke polygamy, ignoring the fact that polygamy was foursquare within the 5000 year old definition of marriage up to and through the biblical era.

    Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

    Oh , I do.

      This hurts the worst. Later he talks about having gay friends and eating at their homes. The homes of people whose relationships he equates with incest and pedophilia, apparently.

    For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews – historically, marriage is a man and a woman.

      Well, a man and as many women as he can afford.

      Oh, another thing. Warren et al. rhetorically claim (or at least imply) that the definition of marriage has remained static for all those 5000 years. In addition to the above, marriage has at various times been defined as between people of the same race, as between a man and whoever his parents arranged for him, and between a man and the woman he was deemed to own. All of those definitions have been changed and the world failed to spin off its axis.

    And the reason I supported Proposition 8, is really a free speech issue. Because first the court overrode the will of the people, but second there were all kinds of threats that if that did not pass then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships, and that would be hate speech. We should have freedom of speech, ok? And you should be able to have freedom of speech to make your position and I should be able to have freedom of speech to make my position,

      At this point Warren is either being dishonest or obtuse. Nothing in the California Supreme Court's decision repealed the First Amendment. Put another way, the U.S. Supreme Court held that anti-miscegenation laws violate the Constitution. People can still legally speak out against interracial marriage. They aren't arrested for it, they just are considered douchebags.

      This argument was a staple of the Prop 8 folks and made it difficult to respect their position as simply a difference of opinion. It was a lie then and remains a lie today.

    and can’t we do this in a civil way.

      The lying and comparing political adversaries to the worst people in the world way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Believe this License Plate is Unconstitutional

. . .though I don't believe the suit against it will ultimately be successful.

This blog has reported earlier about efforts in Florida to create a Christian-themed specialty license plate. South Carolina has begun production and, as of this week, been ordered to stop. Americans United, who brought the suit, has been crowing about a preliminary injunction handed down this week.

Just to be clear about this, a preliminary injunction does give an indication that the judge is leaning toward the party who secures it, but it isn't a complete win, even at the trial court level. It is what it say -- preliminary. Under the right circumstances a judge will make one party or the other stop what they are doing to preserve the status quo pending the ultimate decision. While one part of the calculus is a judgment that the moving party is likely to succeed on the merits, it's entirely possible to obtain a preliminary injunction, then ultimately lose.

To say nothing of the appeal. The Fourth Circuit runs shoulder to shoulder with DC in the race for the most conservative appellate panel. And at some point the Supremes will weigh in as well and the current Court is not friendly to Establishment Clause claims.

In the opinion granting the injunction, the trial court notes:

    As the Supreme Court has further explained, "Government may not promote or affiliate itself with any religious doctrine or organization." [quoting County of Allegheny v. ACLU].
Allegheny County is a 1989 case regarding a government-sponsored Christmas and Chanuka display. Of the five member majority, only one -- Justice John Paul Stevens -- still sits on the Court. On the other hand, Justice Anthony Kennedy now the swing justice authored a dissenting opinion which offers his views at the time regarding government-sponsored religious speech. Kennedy rejects the argument that government religious endorsement is unconstitutional if it conveys the message to non-believers that the are not part of the political culture. Instead, he argues that Establishment Clause cases turn on whether the government conduct is in some way coercive to non-believers.

A lot has happened to Kennedy's jurisprudence since 1989s- he is the one conservative justice who has drifted toward the center. So it remains to be seen whether that is still his view and whether he will forego that view given that the majority decided differently. Personally I'm not confident that he will.

And so what's the harm, you ask? If the standard is actual coercion, shouldn't that offer enough protection to reprobates and heretics like yr humble blogger and his friends. Well, a couple of things. First off, make no mistake -- making nonbelievers feel as if they are outside the American community isn't a side effect of efforts like the SC license plate, it's a goal. And a constant drumbeat of messages that certain people are not "real" Americans pushes closer and closer to the level of coercion.

In other words, the line between government conveying the message that nonbelievers are truly part of the community and "coercion" is far more difficult to draw that Justice Kennedy seems to believe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Party Animals in the Sixth Circuit

Remember the HAVA suit against Jennifer Brunner during the runup to the election? The Republicans filed suit against Ohio's Secretary of State alleging that she was violating the Help America Vote Act1. A three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit ruled that the suit should be dismissed, then the entire Sixth Circuit sitting en banc overturned the panel's decision. Then the Supreme Court reversed again.

A story in last week's Washington Post put the case in a broader context. The Republican dominated Circuit hs been using its discretionary power to rehear en banc to overturn panel decisions the majority doesn't like:

    "Anytime two of us show up on a panel and they don't like it, they yank it," said one Democratic-appointed judge on the circuit, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid directly provoking colleagues.

    That may be only a slight exaggeration, according to a Washington Post review of all of the circuit's en banc rulings in the past decade. In the past five years, initial verdicts by panels dominated by Democratic appointees were clearly reversed by Bush's appointees and other Republican picks 17 times, out of 28 decisions issued by the full court.

This is arguably an abuse of the en banc power:
    Under 6th Circuit rules, full court, or "en banc," hearings are allowed in order to ensure "uniformity of the court's decisions" when separate panels of three randomly appointed judges disagree, or when questions of "exceptional importance" are at stake. But some of the court's Democratic appointees allege that the Republican-appointed majority is grabbing and reversing cases whenever those judges disapprove of the social consequences of the Democratic appointees' rulings.
Much of the article focuses on criminal appeals and the whole thing is worth the click-thru. H/t Stefan Padfield at Akron Law Cafe whose link eventually gets you there.

One last point. The accompanying graphic shows that in 2001 the circuit was essentially split with 27 vacancies. The vacancies at that time pretty much account for the shift during the Bush years. In the second Clinton term Republican Senators were refusing to allow dozens of Clinton's appointees an "up or down vote" leaving several circuits and district courts with similar gaping vacancies. We cannot allow whatever shenanigans the Rs try to pull with Obama's nominees this time around.

1The suit itself was somewhat Bizarro World. The Act requires state election officials to compare voter rolls against public databases to create a sort of EZ Pass for voters deemed bona fide before showing up at the polls. Republicans being Republicans wanted to covert it into a Help REAL America Supress the Vote Act.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rod Blagojevic Is Why I'm Not a "Democrat for Blackwell"

Some merry blogosphereic pranksters have started a "Democrats for Blackwell" Facebook group, advocating that the former Secretary of State and current far right commentator be elevated to RNC chair. The gag -- and it's a good one -- is Blackwell's radical conservatism coupled with his political incompetence will keep the Republican Party weak and regional. All respect to the guys behind this, I laughed when I got the invite. But the ill fortunes of the Republican Party are not a good thing.

Case in point, a David Broder column about indicted Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevic. After recounting Blagojevic's improbable rise to power, Broder notes

    He had a rocky first term in Springfield, where he quickly became known as an absentee executive and where his inner circle was rumored to be operating with hands out. An unseemly family feud with his father-in-law fed the gossip mills.

    But in 2006, the badly weakened Illinois GOP furnished another unelectable opponent, and Blagojevich won without breaking a sweat.
I for one want the Republican Party to come back, at least enough to be a credible threat. (I'd like it if we could consistently beat that threat, but still) First I'm close enough to center to understand that a Democratic agenda with no brakes is not a good thing. But more than that, losing political accountability makes the Blogojevices (and for that matter, Tafts and Noes) that much more likely.

I want a Republican Party that can both deter corruption and root it out when it happens. I'd prefer a party that can occaisionally field a moderate candidate who I could vote for if the Dem is, say, a more recalcitrant version of Marc Dann. Sadly, conservatives have spent so much time filtering out anything that doesn't tell them how right they are, I doubt they can properly diagnose their problems, much less fix them.

RNC Chairman Blackwell would calcify all the worst tendencies of the Party. That's an excellent subject for Facebook humor. But it's not something anyone should actually wish for.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The GOPs Problems in a Nutshell

In a HuffPo piece on the RNC looking at Howard Dean's fifty state model for inspiration, this nugget:

    "By relying on wedge issues to win, they've used issues to divide people and worked to appeal to an increasingly smaller group of people," said the aide. "Dean's point has not just been that we need to show up in all 50-states but also that as a party we need to ask people for their votes, listen to what they have to say and be willing to work to solve issues in areas where we have common ground, even if we don't agree with everything."

    Part of that is simply showing up. The leading Republican presidential candidates this cycle famously shunned an African-American themed debate, much to the chagrin of moderates like Jack Kemp, who worried that the party had become too country club.
It's entirely true that running on a politics of red meat and hot buttons is inconsistent with running across the map. One indication of how far the party has gone toward rigid dogmatism: the fact that Jack Kemp is now being called a moderate. It was surreal when wingers derided McCain as a moderate, but Jack Kemp? He was one of the intellectual drivers of the Reagan revolution for God's sake. He is, to be sure, consistently concerned about elevating the poor, but he has just as consistently stood firmly for market-based solutions and limited government.

Yes, this is a characterization by a liberal blogger and yes, probably "pragmatist" is a better description than "moderate." Still the point remains -- Jack Kemp, once a mainstay of the conservative wing of the GOP is now an outsider and the conservative wing is nearly coextensive with the party itself.

One of my reading obsessions since the election has been anything and everything about how the Republicans can bounce back. It's in the best interests of the country that there be two viable parties to keep each other in check. But more and more it feels like conservatives aren't particularly interested in coming back if it means anything less than fielding a uniformly conservative party.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Mayor Recall: How Very Akron of Us

While the quixotic effort to recall Mayor Plusquellec appeared stillborn, a little more ink got spilled this week. Bob Dyer wrote an anti column infused with Dyer's usual ironclad grip on the obvious. Also Boring weighed in tonight.

The campaign itself is unlikely to amount to much. In the first place, mounting a signature campaign at the start of Ohio's winter is pretty much a guaranteed movement killer. And the whole thing seems inspired as much as anything by spokesman Warner Mendenhall's panic at the prospect of a week going by without his name appearing in the paper.

Nonetheless, the rhetoric from those in favor of the recall is so very Akron, it bears mentioning. You can get a sample on the group's website -- a link appears in this ANN piece. (It's a source of great amusement that you can't find the site by Googling "recall Mayor Plusquellec" or anything similar, and I don't want to spoil the effect.) Also, check out comments in the various stories. The debt is out of control! Crime is going up! The Mayor is a big meanie!

Once again, residents of the most successful big city in Ohio can't see what's going right. Not everything of course -- this is Ohio after all. But go out of town and tell people you are from Akron and those in the know will talk about Akron as a model for moving beyond rust belt economics.

In many ways Akron's political culture* is the dead opposite of our big neighbor to the north. Clevelanders have a charming credulity about their future, believing that one more big development project will finally be the thing that turns the city around. In Akron, no matter how many successes the city has, people are convinced that doom is impending. The recall campaign is just the latest manifestation of Akron's fatalism.

*Edited per Colin Morris in comments. Many Thanks.


  • The series of posts on the legal road to Guantanomo has been postponed. I realized that it will cover material on the final and not all my students in the current class know of the blog. Happily, I realized this before hitting "Publish."
  • Meanwhile I've hit yet another snag in my effort to get back to the blog. Just a bunch more stuff needed getting done.
  • Also I hurt my back over the weekend, but I'm better now. You wouldn't think back troubles interfere with blogging, but they do.
  • Romeo Crennell may be the worst Browns coach of my lifetime.
That is all.

Ralph Regula (R-Canton) Coming to Akron Press Club

Congressman Ralph Regula, the outgoing and longtime representative of Ohio's 16 district, will speak at the Akron Press Club this Friday, Dec. 12. Lunch begins at 11:45. Details here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Legal Road to Guantanamo: An Introduction

With President-Elect Obama promising to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, we are on the verge of a national conversation on the matter. As my humble contribution in my humble corner of the internets, I will offer a brief history of the legal precedents that led up to the current morass. Beginning in the Civil War era, a series of Supreme Court decisions -- some franky sloppily decided -- helped get us where we are. And since my students are studying them, the work here does double duty.

A few caveats are in order. First off, there are plenty of actual experts out there who study this stuff full time. I'm not that guy. As such, I'll offer some basic outlines of the history, but don't expect the final word. Also, I'll be focusing on the legal side, but we all know some opinionating will sneak in. And of course if I actually finish this series, it may be my first.

All that said, we'll get started in the morning.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wading Back In

So here we are again. Once again a long, unannounced hiatus with a similarly unannounced return. Will it be different this time? I honestly don’t know.

By now you all have heard the tale. My myriad responsibilities as university instructor, part-time writer and full-time Dad, along with some long term volunteer projects, does tend to get in the way of blogging these days. And at the same time, I fell out of love with blog world some time ago and haven’t yet fallen back in.

During this latest stint in the basement, Jeff Coryell and Redhorse both called it quits. I knew it would happen, but still it saddens me. And leaves me with a much less friendly blogosphere to return to.

Yet return I shall.

I will say that with the election now over, this blog may again find its footing. The Pages has always been more about policy than politics and lets face it, politics tends to be an enemy of real policy discussion. Now that a new administration is taking shape nationally and the Strickland administration finds itself bailing frantically as the state takes on water, there's a lot to talk about. I'm particularly interested in what Strickland will try to do on school funding, the burgeoning debate over what to do with Guantanomo, the continuing disintegration of the news media and much more.

Later. For tonight I'm easing myself into all this. My goal is to write something at least once a day, but this is it for the day.

See you after class tomorrow.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Good and the Bad in Dispatch Election Analysis

Like it or not, the Columbus Dispatch is the paper of record when it comes to statewide politics. Between some political reporters and the natural proximity to politics central, the paper will run more stories and have more statewide information than anyone else.

The Good.

The best Dispatch post-mortem so far is a story analyzing Obama's 88-county strategy. The story doesn't stop at the obvious (scoreboard; it worked.) Instead the writers dig through the numbers to show that the strategy paid off. Obama improved Kerry's performance in most regions throughout the state, winning some new counties in the northwest and blunting the Republican advantage on its home turf. Moreover, the paper notes that Obama actually underperformed Kerry in Appalachian counties and in the Mahoning valley.

Click. Read. The whole article is worth the time.

The Bad.

The headline alone tells you we're heading off the tracks: "As Usual, Dispatch Poll Was Accurate." As usual? Do you guys remember any of your earlier polls? Or are we engaging in a bit of revisionist history.

Let's review. As accurately noted, the Dispatch poll showed a dead heat in 2004 just before the election which was in the MoE of Bush's two percent win. But a month before, the Dispatch poll was an outlier, showing a seven percent Bush lead when the average of Ohio polls showed two percent.

The next year, the Dispatch suffered a humiliating stumble, predicting victory for two of the four Reform Ohio Now amendments before all four were crushed at the polls.

In '06 the poll showed Strickland ahead by six and a half points more than his ultimate margin of victory and was, again, the only poll to do so. For a poll that claims a 2% MoE, that's ugly. By the way, the RON poll and the '06 gov poll were so far of that they gave Fitrakis fodder for his usual moonbattery.

Happily, no significant statewide races last year offered the paper a chance to issue a meaningful poll.

"As usual" it was accurate? A better headline would have been "Dispatch Poll Fails to Embarass the Paper This Time."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Two hundred nineteen years ago the new nation ratified a Constitution that enshrined both fundamental guarantees of liberty and the institution of slavery.

One hundred and eight years ago, the Supreme Court decided Plessy v. Ferguson, effectively gutting the constitutional attempt to guarantee newly freed slaves real equality. Plessy would remain the law of the land for fifty eight years.

Sixty years ago the cold war with the Communist world began. It would be fought in the main as a chess match in former colonies in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and America's moves would not infrequently include supporting dictators and erstwhile colonists.

Forty Four years ago Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and famously declared that Democrats had lost the South for a generation.

Yesterday the still-young country elected as President the son of a former subject of British colonial rule in Africa.

My head still swims at the thought.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I begin the day so early it won't be entirely accurate to describe it as morning. I'll be working voter protection all day and at some point staggering over to the Dem victory party. It's safe to say I won't be blogging, but will Twitter whatever, whenever I can.

The Election and the Supreme Court

While wading through some long neglected corners of my Google Reader, I ran across this anti-Obama rant by Holly in Cincinnati on Moderate Voice. Holly was one of the most stridently anti-Obama voices during the primary and apparently is feeling quite PUMA-ish.

Holly will do what she will do, but one item in particular caught my eye. She rejects the argument that a vote for McCain is a vote for a right wing lurch on the Supreme Court, "because SCOTUS appointees historically tend to moderate their views and do the very best job that they can to serve the American people and our judicial system."

That's not an argument. That's denial.

First off, understand what we are talking about. Currently the Court is composed of four predictably conservative judges -- Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia -- and four judges that vote in what passes these days as liberally -- Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens. Kennedy is currently the swing vote.

Holly is right that some justices moderate their views. Kennedy is an example. He is by nature a conservative, but unlike the right wing of the court, his conservatism includes respecting stare decisis (the principle that says precedent should be followed) and worries about a drastic change by the Court disrupting society. In addition, he has allowed life experience (for example, getting to know gay clerks and employees, attending international law conferences) to influence his jurisprudence. O'Connor, the previous swing vote, what much the same.

On the other hand, Thomas and Scalia have not moderated their views one iota. For example, in a concurrence in the early Nineties Thomas outlined a view of the Constitution that would render most government regulation of the economy -- including labor, health and environmental legislation -- unconstitutional. Scalia recently declared that the decision that simply allowed Guantanamo detainees to have a day in court would inevitably result in more people dying in terrorist attacks.

Court watchers generally agree that Roberts and Alito are similarly unlikely to moderate their views. Alito for one is still the same jurist who declared a Pennsylvania law requireing a woman to notify her spouse before having an abortion constitutional before the Court struck it down in Casey v. Planned Parenthood.

Not only are some judges disinclined to change their views, the right wing seems to be getting better at making the prediction. The three most recent Republican appointments -- Thomas, Roberts and Alito, are also the most recalcitrantly conservative.

This matters now more than ever. The next President will almost certainly replace two, if not three members of the liberal block. Stevens is 88. Ginsberg is 75 and a cancer survivor. Souter is 69 but reportedly loathes DC. (Scalia at 72 is the only conservative near any possible retirement age.)

So the next President will almost certainly replace a large segement of the liberal bloc. McCain has signaled his intention to nominate justices in the mold of Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. In point of fact you have at least three different molds there, but the message is clear -- no more compromisers like Kennedy and O'Connor.

If this happens, losing Roe v. Wade will look like a relatively mild consequence. Large swaths of legislation protecting consumers, guaranteeing bargaining rights and safeguarding the environment will be at risk. Individual civil liberties on the other hand will be given a back of the hand. In particular, the righty bloc has little patience for challenges to government religious speech or limits on law enforcement. Whatver moderating effect on all this Kennedy has had would be gone as Scalia would take his place at an increasingly rightward center. (Prof. Will Huhn has a series of posts getting more specific on all this. Click here and scroll down to the Court in the Balance posts.)

For my conservative friends, this is all fine of course. But if you do not want to see a simultaneously ultraconservative and activist court, vote Obama. It's your one chance to shape the Court.

Tips for Voting Tomorrow

Assuming you haven't done so already, voting tomorrow will present challenges. Here are a few tips for making it a little easier on yourself and making sure your vote gets counted. I offer this as a service and, yes, it's based on my voter protection work. But in case there are any questions, this officially comes from me, not the voter protection effort.

1. Bring Your ID

Yes, you know that already, but really. Bring your ID. No ID and you have to cast a provisional ballot.

Also remember, if you use a driver's license, state ID or military ID, the address on the ID need not match the address under which you are registered. If a poll worker tries to tell you otherwise, firmly but correctly point out that that isn't the rule.

If for some reason you don't have one of the above, remember that you can bring a utility bill, paycheck or government document of any kind, provided it shows your name and (different this time) the address under which you are registered.

2. Go to Your Proper Polling Place

The one sure way to cast a vote that won't be counted is to cast it at the wrong polling place. Questions about your polling place? Check out and plug in your address. But remember, that only gives you a polling location. Many locations house multiple precincts. You have to find the table where your precinct picks up ballots. Polling locations have greeters this year to help you find your way.

If you try to vote and aren't on the list, it may be because you aren't at the right polling place or precinct table. So first off, check that. Polling staff are supposed to look your address up in the book if there are questions, but if the crowd swells, you might have trouble getting this done.

Whatever you do, if you aren't on the list do not cast a provisional ballot at that precinct unless you are sure it is the right one. Some poll workers were letting/encouraging this in '04. Remember, if you cast at the wrong precinct your ballot does not count.

3. If You Have Problems, Look Out for Voter Protection Observers.

While we don't have observers at every location, where we do they are there to help. We should have outside observers at lots of locations, and inside plus outside observers at a good many. They can help you resolve problems with voting if they arise.

4. Leave Your Campaign Gear Behind

The rule about campaign shirts/hats/buttons etc. isn't clear, which means poll workers will be enforcing it as they see fit. The base rule is no campaigning within 100 feet of the door to the polling location. Under some interpretations, wearing a candidate's paraphernalia is campaigning.

If you want to test the rule and have a well-connected team of lawyers ready to file a declaratory judgment action and get a judge on the phone for on on-the-spot ruling, by all means, be a test case. If not, understand that the presiding judge at the polling location has the last word unless you go to court. So the smart move is to go into the polling place sans Obama (or McCain) gear.

Yes, "Your Professor" at 216 said the opposite. One difference between Your Professor and the present instructor -- he says you can look it up; I actually do.

5. Vote.

Seriously. No matter what happens tomorrow, people will be talking about this election for decades. You want to be part of this.

6. Tell Your Story.

Wiki the Vote is compiling voting info with an eye toward improving the process. SoS Jennifer Brunner's website also encourages voters to log their experiences. Whatever doesn't go right will be a lot harder to solve if people don't know about it.

TNR Spotlights Jennifer Brunner

Just up on The New Republic's site is an article shadowing Ohio SoS Jennifer Brunner as she prepares for tomorrow's elections. Much of it is familiar to Ohioans -- chaos in 2004, Republican attacks on her neutrality, howling fantods about database mismatches. As the article notes, Brunner is now lining up her bucket brigade to douset any fires that flare tomorrow. A taste:

    On the floor below Brunner's office, dozens of staffers in the Elections Division are recovering from months of GOP blasts while, at the same time, bracing themselves for Tuesday's swarms of voters and the hiccups or disasters they might bring. "We're preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best," says field leader Katherine Thomsen, who will coordinate polling site checks and conference calls on Tuesday to keep the secretary of state's office in the loop about what's happening on the ground.

    One wing of the floor houses a "phalanx of lawyers," in one staffer's words, ready to handle any legal problems, while another is staffed by campaign finance officers still answering phone calls about possible problems with candidates' yard signs. Piles of filing boxes stuffed with election documents stretch down one wall in the floor's central hub, past cubicles where "paper jockeys" are busy with faxes and e-mails from local precincts.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Is Arizona Obama's Head Fake?

For political junkies, the question of week is why is Obama bothering to advertise in Arizone. Sure the polls show him within striking distance -- in some cases even within the MoE. But they consistently show McCain ahead and the RCP average puts him outside the MoE.

Futhermore, as 538 demostrates, Arizona pretty much can't make a difference in any conceivable scenario. That is to say, it's impossible to imagine Obama surging enough in Arizona to win but losing enough other states that he actually needs the ten electoral votes.

One hypothesis offered by Chris Cillizza is that the Arizona ad buy is a signal to the electorate as a whole that the race is in hand. As an alternative consider this. By going after McCain's home state, Obama could deke his proud opponent into abandoning his game plan and doing something rash. Like, say, cutting way back on GOTV for a last minute ad buy.

Anyone passingly familiar with Obama's biography knows his lifelong love of basketball. You've got to admire his head fake. Just hope he doesn't miss the layup.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Barack the Halloween Night

For the past four years I've carved a political pumpkin to go along with the more conventional efforts of my kids. Past examples of my work are here and here.

All love to Obama, this year he made it easy. Here's my Jack O'Bama:

And it looks really cool in the dark.

Can't tell you how good it is not to be carving a bunch of lettering.

Bipartisan Recommendations for Non-Partisan Races

A number of folks have asked me offline about judicial elections. They are difficult to be sure. Not only are they putatively non-partisan, but the rules for judicial conduct strictly limit what candidates can say about themselves. And plenty of people don't like going straight party line, even if they have a party voter guide with them.

What follows is not an exhaustive list -- in some races I know neither candidate. But for those for which I have an opinion, here it is. FWIW.

If you want websites, check this Akron Law Cafe post that embeds some of the links.

Summit County Common Pleas -- Juvenile Division

Linda Tucci Teodosio (D) over Katarina Cook (R). As it happens Judge Teodosio, Katarina and I all worked for the same firm, though at different times. In addition, Katarina was at the Stark Prosecutor's Office for a time when I was there. The one time I was before Summit Juvenile was before Judge Teodosio took the bench, but I heard plenty about how she changed the office. She has been an effective administrator and generally seen as having improved operations.

Katarina is not a great legal thinker and has no experience running a large office. Reports I've heard indicate that she's been effective as a traffic magistrate, but that's probably as far up the judicial food chain as she can go without bumping into the Peter Principle. Katarina also holds the honor of being the only person to ice me because of things written on this blog. Strong.

Summit County Common Pleas -- Domestic Relations Division.

John Quinn (D) over Edna Boyle (R)

John Quinn hired me into the Summit Co. Prosecutor's Office when he was General Counsel there. I worked with him a bit before he won election to the bench. He's smart and has a gentle manner perfect for that particular judgeship. The only thing he's done I disagree with is challenge Clair Dickenson for nomination to Court of App in '06.

At this point we know that if Edna Boyle is the candidate, the Repubs aren't really serious about the seat. With Strickland in office, her days of getting appointed to a judgeship then losing it are over. She'll forever be a pretend candidate to fill out a slate.

Summit County Common Pleas -- General Division.

Brenda Burnam Unruh (R) over Orlando Williams (D)

Judge Unruh and I agree on pretty much nothing politically, but as a judge she's first rate, proving that party ID and judicial ability are independent. She's fair -- not knee-jerk pro-prosecutor, tough on sentencing but willing to give people a chance if they look salvagable. She's also first-rate at the business of running a trial.

Orlando Williams is a rabble-rouser who has served as mouthpiece in the Demetrus Vinson case -- one of the most devisive cases in recent memory -- and didn't exactly act in a judicial manner.

Bob Gippen (D) over Tom Parker (R)

I got to know Bob working on a pro-bono project together. He's smart, well organized and generous with his time and expertise. He's been on the bench a few months now, having been appointed when Shapiro retired.

Tom Parker will be a good judge someday. He's probably the best hopeful on the Republican roster. I wish he was running in one of the other races, but in this case my vote goes to Bob.

John Holcomb (R) over Mary Margaret Rowlands (D)

This one is extremely tricky for your blogger. I've known Mary professionally and socially for over ten years. To say the least, we've parted ways. Personal stuff aside, I don't believe she possesses a judicial temperment.

Ninth District Court of Appeals.

Eve Belfance (D) over William Wellemeyer (R)

I met Eve four years ago when she was canvassing for the seat during her first run. As it happens she, Wellemeyer and I live within a block of each other. She's an impressive lawyer and by accounts a good judge. For about ten minutes earlier this year I was signed up to do internet communications for her campaign. Given my overcrowded, overcommitted schedule, that should say something about how highly I think of her as a candidate. (The campaign decided -- rightly -- that internet communications doesn't really work for a judicial campaign.)

Supreme Court of Ohio.

Peter Sikora and Joseph Russo (D) over Evelyn Lundberg-Stratton and Maureen O'Connor (R).

If the recent cases over voting haven't convinced you that we need party diversity on the high court nothing will. The court has repeatedly ruled against Jennifer Brunner's office using some . . . highly creative . . . reasoning.

For the record, Lundberg-Stratton is generally a good and independent justice, though a bit conservative. O'Connor, not so much.

State Board of Education

A bonus non-judicial but also non-partisan race

Heather Heslop Licata (D) over Tammy O'Brien

Heather, as noted before, is a good friend. Fortunately she's also a smart and effective Board member so no difficulty endorsing her. O'Brien is an "Elect me to something, anything" perennial candidate.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

LMJ's Fact-Free Editorial

The Lorain Morning Journal runs an editorial today -- not a wingnut-penned op-ed, mind, but an editiorial -- rehashing the charge that Obama wants to turn the Constitution into Das Kapital. Here's the nut:

    With less than a week remaining before Election Day, it seems to us that the real October surprise of 2008 is how little serious attention is being paid to the genuine and profoundly disturbing statements by Barack Obama himself. Specifically, Obama's "spread the wealth" admission to Joe the Plumber and most especially to an interview Obama did on Chicago public radio several years ago in which he basically dismisses the U.S. Constitution as a flawed document because it only talks about protecting citizens from the government and does not specify what the government "must" do for citizens. His words create the distinct impression that under an Obama presidency, federal judges and Supreme Court justices appointed by Obama would be encouraged to reinterpret the Constiution and to go beyond its words in ways that would result in a whole new concept of what the United States of America is about. Although Obama's delivery of these concepts was as cool and dispassionate as ever, the real-life social impact of such reinventing of the Constitution would surely be so red-hot as to make the word "radical" totally inadequate.
Problem. Obama didn't say that. More to the point, he said the opposite. You can find a transcript on the Fox News site of all places and follow along. (By the way, I've cleaned up the transcription a bit.) First off, here's the bit that Limbaugh et al use to make the charge:
    I mean if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy and the court I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples so that I would not have the right to vote would now be able to sit at lunch counter and as lpong as I could pay for it would be ok but the supreme court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of basic issues of political and economic justice.
OK, stop right there. Not because that completes Obama's thought, but because the wingers using this interview stop there. I unfortunately ran across Rush declaiming on this earlier this week. He stops the tape here and says, "He regrets this. He thinks this is a bad thing." With no actual evidence or anything.

So here's the rest of that graf:
    in this society and to that extent as radical as people try to characterize the warren court it wasn't that radical it didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the constitution at least as it has been interpreted and the warren court interpreted it generally in the same way that the constitution is a document of negative liberties says what the states cant do to you says what the federal govt cant do to you but it doesn't say what the federal govt or state govt must do on your behalf and that hasn't shifted and i think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement became so court focused i think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.
There's a lot here -- about latter day critics of the Warren Court, about the difference between positive and negative rights. It's all heavily academic. The key for our purposes is the last bit where Obama says that the court successes lulled the movement into relying too much on litigation and not enough on political organization. That doesn't sound like someone who wants to write redistribution into the Constitution but the opposite -- someone who thinks questions of economic policy should be left to the political process.

Not enough? Try this from later in the interview:
    You know maybe I am showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor but you know I am not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts you know the institution just isn't structured that way just look at very rare examples where during he desegregation era the court was willing to for example order you know changes that cost money to local school district and the court was very uncomfortable with it it was hard to manage it was hard to figure out you start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues you know in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that is essentially is administrative and take a lot of time the court is not very good at it and politically it is hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard so I think that although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally you know I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts I think that as a practical matte that our institutions are just poorly equipped to do it.
So, an interview in which Obama says that using courts to redistribute wealth is used to prove he intends to use courts to redistribute wealth. One wonders if the LMJ actually read the transcript, or if they just heard the Fox/Limbaugh snippet. In their summing up, the paper says:
    Do not brush off this admonition as an empty scare tactic from a newspaper that has endorsed John McCain.
Fair enough. Instead let's brush it off as an empty scare tactic from a newspaper that can't be bothered to do basic reporting.

UPDATE: I'm off my game. I forgot to h/t my tweep Olevia for the tip.

UPDATE 2: Olevia points out that I forgot to link to the piece. And I forgot the link for the transcript. Really really off my game. Links are updated above. Also if you want to know more about the negative/positive rights issue alluded to above, Prof. Will Huhn has a good explanation on Akron Law Cafe.

Back for the End Game

OK, I'm finally ready to get back into the game . . . for the end of it. So where have I been? Take your pick . . .

A) Recuperating after a 6'4" Alaskan saw my Obama bumper sticker, jumped me and carved a backwards "S" in my cheek.

B) I inherited a $250K/year plumbing business and haven't had the heart to tell you all that I'm switching sides.

C) In anticipation of Tuesday night, I've been practicing "The Internationale."

D) Got the flu that's going around, took two weeks to get over it, then had to dig out from a pile of grading.

I won't even try to catch up on what's happened in the interim. I have a few plans for the time between election protection and the usual family/school/work stuff. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Pt. 1: The Roundup.

For those of us watching the various court rulings on the ORP/Jennifer Brunner voter matching case, the last week has been as dizzying as it is for those of us watching the stock market. Another turn this afternoon as the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Sixth Circuit's en banc ruling. The tally so far is as follows:

District Court: Temporary Restraining Order [TRO] granted
Sixth Circuit Panel: TRO vacated
Sixth Circuit en banc: TRO reinstated
Supreme Court: TRO vacated

Jill has been following the story all day. You can read the Court's per curiam opinion here. As Jill found, Lyle Deniston comments on SCOTUS blog and Rich Hasen on Election Law Blog. In addition ACS Blog (that's American Constitutional Society) has a very pointed post accusing the Sixth Circuit decision of applying a double standard regarding private rights of action. Orin Kerr promises to blog more from the right, although the comments he elicits from Rampant Voter Fraud Guy are worth perusing.

Nothing yet from OSU election law expert Daniel Tokaji who apparently posts about once per season. But his last extant post from July predicted just this problem. A worthwhile point -- if the state's leading election law specialist was flagging the problem in July, why exactly did the ORP start its lawsuit in October?

On the fact side of the dispute, Tokaji's post notes the various reasons why the high number of computer mismatches. NY Times and Tapped both offer updated versions of the same story, both quoting Tokaji. Also, Tokaji notes that the central state database is supposed to be something that makes voting easier, not something that one or the other party can uses as a vote-caging tool.

Finally, FiveThirtyEight predicts that the effect in the end is likely to be less than one percent either way.

More to come . . .

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I will again be a panelist on the Buckeye State Blog liveblog of the finally final debate. Surf over and enjoy.

Obama Leading Big Among Ohio Early Voters highlights SurveyUSA's breakout of early voters in five key states including Ohio. The result is an overall average 23 point lead for Obama within those states. In Ohio Obama leads 57-39% among people who have actually voted, versus 49-45% among likely future voters and 50-45% overall. In SUSA's Ohio poll, 12% reported having already voted, versus 88% of the sample identified as likelies.

A few notes.

  • The big variables among polls are sampling and methodology for identifying likely voters. Obviously this result takes care of the second. As to the first, it should be noted that while the overall poll includes a statistically significant sample, we can be less sure that the sample of early voters is so.
  • To the extent this means anything, it offers evidence of 1) the enthusiasm gap and 2) better organization in the Obama ground op.
  • Since the early voting question takes care of likely voter identification, it's possible that the gap to some extent reflects a long-suspected theory that early voter panels are washing out newly mobilized (and registered) Obama supporters. Without knowing how SUSA does likely voter panels, it's impossible to take this further.
  • One reason Obama supporters may be going early in disproportionate numbers is that folks with election day time issues -- especially students and hourly wage-earners -- have a strong incentive to take advantage. Meaning that (as suspected) early voting over time offers an advantage to Dems turning out their constituencies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ohio Bloggers Against Knuckle-Dragging, Race-Baiting Rumor Mongers.

Peace Bang posted this example of the high, high price of the First Amendment:

Way to go, Ohio.

(The image comes from photographer Brett Marty in his Battleground States slide show. Go here, then click on Ohio on the map and follow the links.)

(Oh, and I've been sick with the flu. Better now, though this picture isn't doing me wonders.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"That One" Is 2008's "You Forgot Poland"

Presidential debates are like open wheel auto races: The participants have little contact with each other making them generally dull, but the crashes are spectacular if they occur. And mercifully, they go by pretty fast.

But as tedious as debates generally are, they do occasionally contribute some few bytes to the popular culture data stream. This cycle, the contribution seems destined to be John McCain referring to Barack Obama as "that one." If I have found the last person in the Western Hemisphere who hasn't seen it yet, here is the clip:

I'm less scandalized by this than some. More than anything I find it curious to hear John "Western Maverick" McCain using what I always considered to be a mid-Atlantic colloquialism. I never heard it before my stint in the DC area, but there it was pretty common. And people generally used it affectionately but teasingly, rather than coldly dismissively.

I haven't been able to verify it's origins as "that one" is pretty much impossible to Google. Someone with a better working knowledge of linguistics blogs than I (*cough* K-Pho *cough*) may be able to help out with this.

In any event, just like "You forgot Poland" was up and viral within hours of the '04 debate, some enterprising souls have up and running, complete with merch. (H/t Dave Harding at ProgOH.) And because this is 08, not 04, we also have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Debate 2.0 Liveblogged at BSB

Thanks to the BSB guys for inviting me to participate in their liveblog of the second Presidential debate. Check it out here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Q: Are We Not Dems? A: Devo to Play Benefit for Obama

Word comes this afternoon confirming a rumor that Akron area natives Devo will play a show to benefit the local Democratic party. Details from the presser:


    DEVO is making an urgent trip to their native Akron , Ohio to rally for Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama!

    DEVO will be holding a concert on Friday, October 17th at 8pm at the Civic in Akron .

    Tickets go on sale TOMORROW at 11:00am (Tuesday, October 7th) at the Akron Civic Theatre Box Office (330.253.2488 or and Ticketmaster (330.945.9400, 216.241.5555 or Reserved seats are available for $50, $35, and $25. A limited number of VIP tickets, which include a post show reception with the band, are available for $150.

    All proceeds will benefit the Summit County Democratic Party!
So come on, all you spud boys. Grab the girl u want and exercise your freedom of choice. Devo benefiting local Dems? That's good.

Image from the band's MySpace page.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Summit Co Early Voting and Vote Protection Notes.

Here's a couple things you need to know if you don't already. First off, if you vote early, it will count, no matter what some yahoo caller on WNIR says. And on top of that, it's way easier.

My Tweeps heard recently that I've joined the Dem-side voter protection effort. This is the same thing I did in the 04 campaign and is a better fit than phonebanking or *shudder* canvassing. Plus the regional coordinator is a friend who has some big favors to call in.

Unlike past election time work, I'm determined not to go dark this go round (though a recent unplanned two-week silence doesn't inspire confidence.) I have a confidentiality agreement, but it doesn't bar discussing what I've seen.

So for my first official act, yesterday I voted. We wanted to see what was happening at the early vote location and, since observers aren't allowed into early voting, I guinea pigged it.

Specifically, I checked out the Job Center of Tallmadge Ave. where Summit is one of a handful of counties that has set up a satellite early vote location. The space isn't luxurious -- raw space in a former shopping mall being repurposed as a county facility. But it's huge and for this job, huge works. The space includes folding chairs that seat well over fifty, though no more than twenty were waiting during the time I was there around midday. The Board workspace also has extra capacity -- ten or so monitors weren't in use.

The wait was about ten minutes once I filled out the absentee request form. They are printing the absentees on demand and have to print out the right ballot for the right precinct. The advantage is that they don't run out of ballots for a precinct which was my issue last go-round.

The info I've heard is 550 voted the first day. That's fewer than the ABJ reported, but still a hefty number and probably more than the Board could have handled.

In addition to idiot rumors about the vote not counting noted up top, there are also apparently rumors misstating the operating hours. Early voting, including the satellite, is open until 8:00 weeknights and 12-4 Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in being an election day poll observer for the voter protection effort, you can sign up here. Your you can contact me directly and we'll get you into the mix.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Akron Press Club Presents "Buckeye Battlefield"

There is still time to reserve a spot for the Akron Press Club "Buckeye Battlefield" program this Thursday. The panelists will be:

  • John C. Green, Director, Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, The University of Akron
  • Jason Johnson, Assistant Professor, Communication and Political Science, Hiram College
  • Connie Schultz, Columnist, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Check here for reservation info.

Monday, September 29, 2008 Computer Generated Satire

Computer algorithm parody sites have been all the rage this election cycle -- the '08 equivalent to You Forgot Poland and Sandy Levinson at Balkinization put me on to my fav so far -- a Sarah Palin interview generator. The site clicks you through a series of questions, answered by a program using a Markov chain. Here's a sample.

    Q: Why should the US elect Senator McCain?

    McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that contract that should be inherent in corporations who are spending, investing other people's money, the abuse of that closed door, good old boy network that has to be in, if we were to allow that to happen. We have got to get a more coordinated and a much more than smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we need to implement those. We cannot just concede that, oh, gee, maybe they're going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I think that I am so proud of his desire to control and to control and to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that's a dangerous position for our world is and how important it is the foundation of our best interests to fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska.
Spot on.

Oh, and Hi again.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

R.I.P. David Foster Wallace.

Tonight came the heartbreaking news that writer David Foster Wallace apparently took his own life. Close readers of the Pages have heard at least a little of how much Wallace means to me as an influence and inspiration.

It would be easy to write up Wallace being the Great Underappreciated Artist, the agony-and-ecstasy archetype. Certainly that type has come and (too quickly) gone frequently enough to give the story as we know it tonight a familiar ring. But the trope gets more tired with each passing year. And Wallace got plenty of appreciation.

Which leaves whatever was going on inside. I can't understand how someone so gifted, so successful, so wise could be so apparently unhappy. What I know is that he was the best working writer of fiction and nonfiction I've read over the past ten years. I pray for his friends and family, mourn his passing and miss everything he leaves unwritten.

No, I didn't know him, but yes he was a man of infinite jest.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Brunner v. GOP, Absentee Ballot Edition

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is again under attack from the state Republican party. Today the occasion is her decision regarding applications for absentee ballots prepared by the McCain/Palin campaign for supporters. Brunner ruled that if voters have not checked a box next to a statement that the applicant is a qualified elector, the application is not valid.

Abentee ballots are governed by section 3509.03 of the Ohio Revised Code, which states in part:

    Except as provided in section 3509.031 or division (B) of section 3509.08 of the Revised Code, any qualified elector desiring to vote absent voter’s ballots at an election shall make written application for those ballots to the director of elections of the county in which the elector’s voting residence is located. The application need not be in any particular form but shall contain all of the following:

    (A) The elector’s name;

    (B) The elector’s signature;

    (C) The address at which the elector is registered to vote;

    (D) The elector’s date of birth;

    (E) One of the following:

    (1) The elector’s driver’s license number;

    (2) The last four digits of the elector’s social security number;

    (3) A copy of the elector’s current and valid photo identification, a copy of a military identification , or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document, other than a notice of an election mailed by a board of elections under section 3501.19 of the Revised Code or a notice of voter registration mailed by a board of elections under section 3503.19 of the Revised Code, that shows the name and address of the elector.

    (F) A statement identifying the election for which absent voter’s ballots are requested;

    (G) A statement that the person requesting the ballots is a qualified elector;

    (H) If the request is for primary election ballots, the elector’s party affiliation;

    (I) If the elector desires ballots to be mailed to the elector, the address to which those ballots shall be mailed.
At issue, obviously, is subsection G in bold. The McCain campaign topped their application with a legend in (est.) 20 point type "I am a qualified elector and would like to request an absentee ballot for the November 4, 2008 election." The type for this heading is larger than any of the information below. And the infamous check box appears at the front of it. Cincy Inquirer has posted a pdf of the form so you can follow along.

The GOP argument is that by signing the form the applicant makes the statement that he/she is a qualified elector. Brunner counters that because there is a check box, the implication of not checking is that the statement isn't true.

Generally speaking, I'm inclined to err on the side of voting and, based on her political persuasion, I expect Brunner is as well. But the legislature has spoken, and that isn't their inclination. With the passage of Ohio's voter ID law, the legislature has added a different guiding principle -- combatting the voter fraud chimera. Guiding principle like this serve as a touchstone for interpreting a statute -- if you know what was on the legislature's mind, you can interpret the statute in the way that best achieves that end.

Viewed in this light, the required statement of eligibility to vote serves two purposes. One is to put the applicant on notice that he should only be getting an absentee ballot; the other is to make it easier to prosecute Rampant Voter Fraud.® When applicants don't check the box in the form as constructed, neither purpose is served. We don't know that applicants have gotten their notice because they may well have blown past the header. And as a prosecutor, I wouldn't be very confident that I could prosecute someone for falsely claiming that he was an eligible voter when he doesn't check the box saying that he is an eligible voter.

And no, the signature doesn't cut it. Generally when a form requires a signature to certify something, the statement appears directly over the signature line and explicitly states the effect of the signature: "By signing below I certify that . . . etc." Without that, a prosecutor can't prove that a defendant knowingly made false statements, which is the standard for prosecuting fraud.

Sadly, the papers, especially the Inquirer, seem to be accepting the GOP's line that Brunner is making a technical ruling on a close question. Her ruling is right down the middle of the law. With the check box unchecked the application includes no statement that the applicant is a qualified elector. If Brunner had made the opposite ruling on a Dem application, you would hear weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth from the right.

Not to mention the hypocrisy. The line we hear over and over again from the GOP on voting is that if an elector makes a mistake so be it, his fault, if you want to vote, be responsible. But now it's their voters who can't negotiate the maze, so it's all someone else's fault. As happens so often, conservatives are for personal responsibility until they are against it.

I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like

But obviously McCain/Palin have. The big political news this week was a fluffy controversy over whether Obama called Sarah Palin a pig.1 Some of my friends have suggested that Obama set himself up for the attack by referencing "lipstick." But with McCain/Palin so settled on calculated umbrage as a campaign tactic, it seems unlikely Obama could have found a metaphor to convey the message that

  • Can't polish a turd: Sly reference at Palin changing diapers; subliminal attempt to touch off Mommy Wars.
  • Deja vu all over again. Quote comes from Yogi Berra who is old and dottering (though he was dottering when he said it and is old now). Clearly an agist attack on McCain.
  • Can't teach an old dog new tricks: Calling Palin a dog now? Completely inexcusable. Bonus campaign flip-flop after Biden opined that she is good looking.
  • A leopard can't change it's spots. Does Palin wear animal print?
  • Putting old wine in a new botttle. Now it sounds like he's asking her on a date.
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same. The original is in French -- Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. 'Nuff said.
Everyone has advice for Obama this week. The clear lesson from L'affair de la cochon? Stop speaking. Now.

1Here's a close as I can come to a complete transcript of the infamous remark splicing together MediaMatters and Ben Smith:
    Let's just list this for a second. John McCain says he's about change, too. Except -- and so I guess his whole angle is, "Watch out, George Bush, except for economic policy, health-care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics. We're really gonna shake things up in Washington." That's not change. That's just calling some -- the same thing, something different. But you know, you can't -- you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink. We've had enough of the same old thing
And as for Obama's second metaphor? I'm not going near that.

The Palin Mud Wrestling Strategy

In the classic vulgar comedy Stripes, John Candy gets talked into Um, it was the Eighties. Anyway, the best bit is when he hits one of his opponents who cries "You hit me and I'm a girl." He lets his guard down to apologize and she decks him. I don't entirely trust AOL's embed code, but here goes. Warning, not entirely SFW.

"You hit me and I'm a girl" seems to be the running slogan for the McCain/Palin campaign. Specifically, Gov. Palin will feel free to jab at Obama/Biden (and embellish her own record) but any critcism of Palin causes collective vapors in the McCain campaign. "You can't hit her like that, she's a girl," they cry as she's rearing back for a roundhouse.

Jill opines that the campaign is sequestering her out of sexist concern for her weakness. I think it's a conscious strategy to immunize her from criticism. The Candy bit is funny because it touches on something primal -- we have a problem with seeing a woman being, well, manhandled. Whether it's cultural or instinctive doesn't matter -- it's there and it's powerful.

So will it work? That depends entirely on the willingness of voters to call BS, something we collectively seem incapable of doing. The media didn't help with their many missteps in the first week of Palin vetting. (It's reassuring to know that we don't have to worry about Palin cozying up to a treasonous separatist party just because it was falsely reported that she was a member.) Still, the capacity of McCain/Palin to piss on our collective legs and convince us it's the weather has thus far been breathtaking.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A New Knight Center and a New Freelance Piece.

My latest step in my slow ascent up the ladder of freelance respectability is here, a lead in the Knight Foundation newsletter about the Knight Center of Digital Excellence. Attentive readers may recall that when the Knight Foundation and OneCommunity announced plans for an Akron WiFi zone, they announced creation of this Center of Digital Excellence as part of the overall effort. They moved into their new offices in the United 1 building a couple of weeks ago and hired me to cover the event for their members.

If you aren't inclined to click through to review my work I'll say that the Knight Center (still getting used to saying that and meaning something other than the Convention Center) is a nationwide pro bono networking consulting service run in partnership by the Knight Foundation and OneCommunity. They work toward community internet access by playing what baseball teams call small ball -- small, focused connectivity projects here and there build out networks (mostly in what tech guys call the middle mile) and communities build on that to connect their populations.

It's no small thing for Akron to have gotten this. The effort is getting serious looks as a sort of next generation collection of connectivity models now that some high-profile muni wireless efforts have cratered. I was honored to have been present, if not at the creation, at least on moving day.

(Just so we're clear, my contract with the Foundation was fulfilled by the article; I'm writing this on my own because it's pretty cool and Pho-phriendly news regardless.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Plain Dealer Among Papers Teaming with Politico

From Editor and Publisher:

    Politico, the online political news site, has launched a new content sharing network that will provide news items to other news outlets -- including several newspapers -- in exchange for ad placements on their sites, the Web site revealed Tuesday.

    In an announcement, Politico states that it has partnered with Adify, a vertical ad network management company, to launch the Politico Network. Through the new venture, media organizations selected by Politico editors will have access to the site's top stories for use online and in print.

    "The Politico Network also brings a new revenue model to these media partners: Politico will sell national advertising to be placed on partners’ websites, and revenue from those ads will be shared between Politico and the media outlets," the release stated.

    Among those news outlets already signed up for the network are The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Denver Post, and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Politico stated.
In fairly short order Politico has become a journalistic force, though who knows how the economics look. The received wisdom at the time of launch was that Politico needed a viable print counterpart to survive. This may be a way to accomplish that.

News organizations are working on all sorts of content/ad revenue sharing models as the economics of news gathering shift and tighten. The value of an outfit like Politico is that it can serve multiple segments simultaneously. They report the deep minutiae for us political junkies, but can synthesize that into more reader-friendly stories for normal people.

Something's Coming to Highland Square

Once again, anonymous construction is happening in the new buildings in the Square. The last time a dumpster and Portajohn appeared in the parking lot and people were moving stuff around inside, Metro Burger happened. This time someone is building out the space next to Metro Burger, leaving two others to be finished. Thus far it looks like they have studs up for the internal wall and are roughing out electrical.

My usually well informed Highland Square elves haven't heard anything, nor has the Neighborhood Association, though they are somewhat preoccupied by billboards. The building permit is posted facing the inside, so whatever-it-is remains a mystery for now.

If you have info, feel free to drop a comment or an email.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Preachers Pulpits and the Proper Separation

The hard right Christian exceptionalists at the Alliance Defense Fund are on one of their favorite crusades again -- challenging restrictions on political activity by churches. This time they are advising pastors to defy the restriction and preach political endorsements from the pulpit on September 28, and offering to defend anyone brought up on violation of IRS violations.
Not to be outdone in the Dubious Tactics category, an Ohio UCC minister has filed a complaint against the effort alleging that . . . um, they are trying get complaints filed against them. According to a WKSU story (which hopefully will be posted sometime) they are also planning a Sunday of celebrating separation of church and state.
I'm big on church/state separation, but that's not what this is about. Separating church isn't the same as separating religion and politics, which is probaly impossible. The IRS regulations are about separating partisan politics and charity. All nonprofit organizations -- not just churches -- are prohibited from engaging in electoral politics. In other words, the taxpayers don't underwrite political campaigning. What the Alliance wants is an exception for churches and churches only.
This sort of exceptionalism is the norm for groups like ADF, which is ironic. Their rap on opposing gay rights is that they are "special" or "exceptional" rights. The right to keep one's job irrespective of sexual orientation is exceptional. But the use of state resources to "celebrate" the country's Christian heritage (but no other) is simply curtailing discrimination against Christians.
It's so . . . special.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Jennifer Brunner Rorschach

Tell me what you think of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and I'll tell you your politics. If you love her, you are a mainstream Democrat. If you think she's well meaning but doesn't do enough to secure, you are a Dem, but farther out on the left wing. If she's a useful idiot duped by the ongoing Diebold/Rove conspiracy to steal elections, you are a Green (genus Fitrakis.) If you don't have much of an opinion one way or the other, you are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and/or one of those wise people who doesn't pay attention to politics until about mid-October.

And if you gnash your teeth at the very mention of her name, you are a Republican.

The obvious explanation for the Brunner Rorschach is 2010 reapportionment. If Gov. Ted Strickland and Secretary Brunner retain their seats, Democrats will control the reapportionment board which will influence what the legislature looks like which will in turn determine who Congressional districts are drawn. That's important any decade, but assuming Ohio will lose two Congressional seats as projected, it's crucial. At her Akron Press Club appearance Thursday, Brunner acknowledged the importance of her seat to both sides and noted dryly "It becomes a little prickly sometimes."

Throughout her presentation and the Q&A after, Brunner cited the work she is doing to make voting easier and more reliable for Ohioans. Her office is turning out directives to Boards of Elections, in an attempt to offer what she calls a library of resources for a variety of contingencies. She's working to get voter rolls online so people can verify that their registration is up to date. She is requiring counties to have backup paper ballots in case machines go down or lines get too long (touchscreen machine voting routinely runs longer.) She's rolled out uniform poll worker training, in part to make sure workers across the state enforce rules consistently.

Again and again Brunner talks about working proactively to guarantee people the right to vote. Which offers a second explanation for why she vexes Republican so. Democrats and Republicans simply have different philosophies about how to govern voting. For Democrats, voting is a fundamental right that the government should take pains to guarantee, if not encourage. For Republicans, voting is a privilege to be earned by just following a few simple rules, dammit, and pulled out of reach of anyone who even looks like he might commit voter fraud.

It is again, easy to dismiss all this as simple politics. Historically Democrat's coalition have included more population segments susceptible to vote suppression -- primarily poor folks who have less job flexibility and minorities for whom voting is associated with a long history of intimidation (these are the sorts of voters you get when you are the elite

  • I forgot my camera, so a crappy image from my cell phone will have to do. As you can see, she spoke next to an open nuclear reactor.
  • She began the talk with an anecdote related to her that some professer told someone from Uganda that he was from Ohio and the Ugandan asked if that was where Blackwell was from, and "Isn't he the one who stole the election for Bush?" Her point was that Ohio shouldn't have election problems that make news halfway around the world.
  • Stolen Election Guy wasn't there, nor was his Republican counterpart, Rampant Voter Fraud Guy. At least they didn't ask questions, and the odds of either Guy sitting on his hands for an hour are at least as long as the odds of a valid Columbus Dispatch poll.
  • Notwithstanding that, Brunner talked quite a bit about security. She is trying to get rid of touchscreen machines because, among other things, they aren't secure. She's also getting rid of "sleepovers."
  • She's predicting an 80% turnout in November.
  • She lauds Summit Co. for "superior" vote security. She also noted that she has to break BoE ties and some in places -- again Summit -- the boards deadlock a lot.
As usual, the program will be rebroadcast on local public access. Keep an eye out. Brunner's not the most dynamic speaker, but the program was heavy on information.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Righty Bloggers Complaining About RNC Treatment

If you followed the convention posts on BSB or especially from Jeff, you know that they had impressive access. Indeed, the rise of the blog was a major story line, with the only point of controversy being who got the state credentials. Whatever bad feelings may linger from that apparently do not compare to blogger complaints from the Republican convention.

From Pajamas Media:

    Here on what is passing for “Bloggers Row,” there is plenty of grumbling about the accommodations supplied by our hosts. Some descriptives are not printable. Most reflect a huge disappointment with the way the GOP has shunted most of the bloggers off to the side, far from the action, dispersed throughout a gigantic “Press Filing Center” where the working media comes to hook up to the net and file their stories.
And in PM tradition, the post is hilariously overwrought: "The dungeon that the GOP has put bloggers in this time around would be familiar to Torqumada and his buddies who made the Spanish Inquisition such a great party."

Snark aside, wonder why the RNC has become so much less accomodating. My theory is that bloggers for a party in trouble are less likely to toe the party line (see also, lefty bloggers c. 2004) and therefore of less use to the party.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Do You Know "Did You Know?"

The story I'm currently working on covers a meeting where we saw the viral Did You Know video. It was the first time I saw it. The story goes that after video-savvy teacher Colorado Karl Fisch produced it for his colleagues, a friend encouraged him to give it a broader distribution. He took out the Colo-specific info, added this and that and posted on the Yube. If you haven't seen it yet here's release 2.0:

ShiftHappens has spawned a wiki space and Fisch has an education-related blog.

And I'm working on some original content for tomorrow.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Far to the Right Is Sarah Palin? UPDATED

Far enough to the right that she supported Pat Buchanan's run in 1999. You know, the isolationist paleoconservative who doesn't hate Jews or minorities, but just really really likes Christian white people? Yeah, that Pat Buchanan.

Game changer, indeed.

UPDATE: Much as I'd like to continue the dialogue with DJW, this story renders the discussion moot. I'm not sure I get a public figure showing up at a rally wearing a button, then saying "psyche." But for a part-time mayor of a small time in Alaska, we can let it pass.

Btw, the Obama campaign screwed up calling Buchanan a "Nazi sympathizer." Buchanan is a Nazi apologist. Let's keep that straight.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Grumpy Guy

Abe Zaidan, retired ABJ columnist and long the dean of NEO political commentators, has jumped into the web20 world with Grumpy Abe, a blog of "Politics and whatever comes to mind.

I've gotten to know Abe through the Akron Press Club and know that he's been considering the leap for some time. I'm glad he's finally added his voice, experience and wisdom to our little project.

Hardcore MSM-bashing blog triumphalists will have trouble with passages like this from his intro post:

    I have cast myself into a disorderly crowd that has recast the tarnished badge of professional journalism into an unsightly free-for-all of gingham wolves and calico leopards. I dare say I will have to painfully adjust to the new media culture if I will have any chance at all of catching up with any of the sprinters on the other end of the
But I think he throws justified a punch in either direction and nicely evokes the world-in-flux we now live in. For myself, I'm a Glenn plaid ocelot.

By the way, his book Portraits of Power is an excellent primer on Ohio politics over the last half of last century. If you want to know how we got where we are, pick up a copy.