Monday, June 30, 2008

Moving Day for Howe House

Today the historic Richard Howe House will be moved from it's current location to a spot by the Erie Canal. The effort to save the house of the Resident Engineer of the canal has been going on since back when it housed a tattoo parlor. Now the space is designated for development as housing for the student market and various public and private entities have chipped in to move it instead of razing it.

This shot was taken with my phone as we walked to an Aeros game Friday night. The actual move is set to begin around 11:00 this morning and, by reports, will proceed v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

Friday, June 27, 2008


The Gun Lobby and the Mexican Drug Wars

In a comment to yesterday's Heller post, Swanny argues:

    Instead of putting more restrictions on them, we need to work to keep guns from getting into the hands of the wrong element. That is actually easier than it sounds, and can be accomplished using existing laws. Take a look at the statistics on gun crime sometime and you will see that the majority of guns used in crimes come from a small percentage of firearms dealers. Focus on shutting these dealers down, and you will put a significant dent in the flow of illegal guns.
A happy thought for us, but not to the residents of Gunnutistan. Portfolio Magazine this month carries a long, heavily reported story about how the increasingly bloody drug wars in Mexico are fueled by guns smuggled from the United States. Drug cartels buy in the United States because they can readily buy high-tech killing machines either from know-nothing dealers whom the U.S. is slow to act against, or from private dealers or gun shows which have few of the restrictions that Swanny laments. Toward the end of the piece we learn why:
    It’s well-known in Washington that the efforts of groups representing gun owners and the gun industry have helped hobble the A.T.F. The agency’s ranks and budget have hardly expanded in years. N.R.A. director Wayne La­Pierre has said that the abolition of the A.T.F. is one of his goals, and he once compared its agents to Nazis. In the Senate, gun-control opponents led by Idaho senator Larry Craig have delayed the confirmation of Michael Sullivan, Bush’s chosen A.T.F. director, for more than a year because they say that he has made it too difficult for gun dealers to operate. Of the roughly 5,200 gun-dealer-license applications it received for inspection last year, the A.T.F. provisionally approved 4,400. It revoked 97 licenses, or less than one one-thousandth of the total. “We can only enforce the laws Congress passes,” one A.T.F. agent says. “We’re never going to be able to change the laws, because of the N.R.A.”

So first, we don't really have the laws we need. We have a bunch of laws that restrict individual owners that vary from state to state. But we have few Federal laws with any teeth that allow the government to move against high-volume dealers that fill the supply lines of the underground market that supplies criminals both here and across the border.

I'm not an anti-gun absolutist, though pro-gun absolutists won't make the distinction. But the gun lobby is interested in more than protecting individual rights of law-abiding citizens. They also are protecting a multi-billion dollar industry that deals death worldwide.

Finally, some commenters to the story are saying that the whole problem is Mexico's gun restrictions. Let's be real about this. The United States has more guns per capita than any industrialized nation. We also have a higher prison population per capita than any industrialized nation. And we have higher rates of violent crime than any industrialized nation. The "more guns" experiment has played out: we are doing far worse than the controls.

Gov. Strickland in the Running for Dumbest Post-Heller Reaction

Here's the statement posted on the official website:

    “I concur with today’s landmark decision by the US Supreme Court, which emphasizes what so many have long understood: The right to bear arms is a fundamental civil right like the freedoms of speech and to vote. And it's important that governments at all levels not infringe on those fundamental rights.
Um, Wayne LaPierre has left the building, Governor. You can get up off your knees now.

First off, Scalia's opinion studiously avoided stating whether the right to bear arms is "fundamental." The laundry list Scalia provided of what the Court was not striking down

Second, a finding that the right is fundamental would be if the right to bear arms is directly analogous to the right to speech, where does the Governor think that right ends? Possession of fully automatic weapons? Do we need to strike down the firearms specifications for crimes? After all, we've struck down hate crimes laws that enhanced penalties for things people said in the course of a crime. Does enhancing penalties for possessing but not using a gun in the commission of a crime "infringe" on the right to bear arms. What about concealed carry by convicted felons? Or guns on airplanes?

There appears to this Governor's fealty to the gun lobby.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

DC v. Heller: SCOTUS Gives Right to Own a Gun, But Little Else

The opinion is out. As usual, SCOTUSWiki is the best place for a round up. On SCOTUSBlog, Lyle Dennison has a good summary of the opinion and a separate post pulls key quotes from the majority opinion. Also, you can check my preview cheat sheet and predictions post to see how I did.

To understand the Scalia's majority opinion, you should focus on one word in the Second Amendment: "The." As Scalia noted in oral argument, the amendment protects The right to bear arms, that is, the right as it existed at the time the Second Amendment was passed. So the opinion spills most of its ink in service of examining the historic record to determine what that right was at the time the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution.

"The" is also why Scalia's opinion goes to pains to laundry list the kinds of restrictions (e.g. on concealed carry, types of weapons, sales and licensing) not directly implicated in the decision. While The Right cannot be infringed, The Right was not absolute and many current restrictions can fall under the boundaries of The Right.

The only surprise in the decision is how carefully Scalia defines its parameters. While not the extreme minimalist that Roberts and Alito are, he nonetheless tends not to bother with realpolitik in his opinions. I certainly can't recall a Scalia opinion so careful to define what it is not.

I wonder if this opinion will be a watershed for gun control activists. Up to this point, activists have been fractured between absolutists who make up the core of a small cadre of activists, and the majority of us who could be described as "concerned citizens of America but not of Gunnutistan" who are more interested in common sense regulations to dampen the urban arms race rather than tilt at the absolute ban windmill. With an absolute ban off the table, but the Court signaling that many regulations short of a ban, that core, if they are smart, will try to organize people around regulation. That is what Freedom States Alliance, for example, has been burning most of their pixels on.

SummitCo Repubs v. Brunner, Pt. 3: Run Away! Run Away!

Three people deserve credit/blame for my continued determination to plow through SCOhio’s weird post-Elephant Wars case. The first two are Ed Esposito, who challenged me via back channel to do so when the case came out and Cleveland Carole Cohen who has been commenting on the posts.

The third is ABJ editor Steve Hoffman who muffed interpreting the import of the decision last Friday on NewsNight Akron, compelling me to provide some correction for some sort of permanent record. To be fair to Hoffman, he made a typical first year law student mistake – accepting the first concurrence as somehow controlling the case. In fact, thanks to the 2-2-3 split, you have to mix and match the various bits the three groups agree on to glean anything like a rule for future cases.

Hoffman’s misreading was based on the placement of O’Donnell’s concurrence first after the per curium opinion. O’Donnell’s is easily the worst of the bunch, but also the easiest to describe. O’Donnell notes that the statute does not explicitly say that the Secretary of State can reject the second opinion and therefore she can’t.

No really, that’s what it says.

Certain strict constructionists – most notably their Justice Scalia, their Head Abbott, almost revel in giving absurd construction to a badly written statute and leaving it up to the legislature to clean up their own mess. O’Donnell takes that to an extreme: gutting a perfectly adequate piece of legislation supposedly (thought not really) for the sake of strictly construing it.

Under O’Donnell’s interpretation, the party committee can nominate someone wholly unqualified under statute – for instance, a non-resident or a non-voter – and the SoS would have no choice but to appoint that person. Not to say there’s any great chance of that happening, but when a reading of a statute yields a result absurd on it’s face, it should be a sign that you need to check your work.

When the other justices chide him for granting de facto appointment power to the central committee, he engages in genuinely silly wordplay, maintaining – with Margaret Keane eyes, no doubt – that it’s not appointment power at all, it’s only the power to nominate. Well, the power to nominate someone who must then be appointed, no questions asked is exactly the same as appointment power, no matter what you call it, Mr, Justice Waif.

Why does O’Donnell reach this absurd result? One could argue it’s partisan hackery and O”Donnell himself has certainly done much to support such a charge. But to give the Justice a little credit, I think something else is going on.

First off, let’s dispense with his policy basis for the decision. O’Donnell’s opinion states:

    I do not share the view that this statute allows for a perpetual process that permits the secretary of state to repeatedly reject committee recommendations. If that were an accurate interpretation of R.C. 3501.07, the secretary of state could conceivably continue to reject recommended appointees and cause a board of elections to have only three members. This situation demands finality, and construing the statute to permit a committee to enforce its rights with respect to its second recommendation of a qualified elector resolves the matter.
But a SoS cannot reject nominees ad infinitum, only those who are unqualified. As soon as the central committee nominates someone qualified, the SoS must appoint, and (by everyone’s analysis except the dissent) the central committee can enforce that by mandamus. That may drag things out longer that O’Donnell wants, but it’s what the statute says.

I don’t give much weight to O’Donnell’s policy rationale. Instead, it appears that he is doing what conservative justices often do – avoiding scrutinizing the factual findings of an executive. Cupp’s concurrence is all about examining Brunner’s decision making and finding it wanting. O’Donnell on the other hand, looks for any way to avoid doing so.

As noted earlier, conservative judges are not fond of second-guessing the fact findings of other branches. One way to affect that judicial preference is to give considerable deference to those findings. Another way is to find something/anything to justify avoiding the inquiry altogether.

In this, O’Donnell and the dissent have much in common. While O’Donnell claims the lack of explicit language about the second recommendation means that the SoS can’t reject it, the dissent says it means that the SoS can reject it, but the central committee can’t challenge the rejection.

Both opinions engage in literalism on an Amelia Bedelia scale. If you thought they really read this way in their every day lives, you would assign minders to the justices. Otherwise they might, for example, get stuck for hours in the shower after reading instructions of a bottle of shampoo: Apply, lather, rinse, repeat.

But of course, they don’t really read this way. They only choose to do in this case because they want to avoid what they consider the distasteful work of adjudicating an executive’s findings of fact. While deference is supposed to make the system flow better, in this case it makes things far worse.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Nanosite Takes on Dobson's Take on Obama

Yesterday Dr. James Dobson, one of the most influential evangelical opinion makers, dusted off a 2006 Obama speech about faith in the public sphere and trashed it. Today God-o-Meter notes that a nanosite (remember them?) is up: James Dobson Doesn't Speak for Me.

Named as an organizer is one Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of a Houston megachurch. While Rev. Kirbyjon has been on the O Train from early in the cycle, he is also a friend of W. Bush. So the Reverend is probably left of center politically, but not someone likely to be painted as another Jeremiah Wright.

The site features a good side-by-side of Dobson's remarks and what Obama actually said. As of now if a transcript of Dobson's rant is available it's hard to locate, meaning you have to listen to all 18 minutes of it which, no thanks. But based on the JDDSFM website, it looks like most of what Dobson objects to and calls undemocratic or inimical to his freedoms is a wild misreading of what Obama was saying. Check for yourself.

Basic Legal Knowledge, Pt. 1: Deference

I've threatened before a series of posts about basic legal concepts. It is time for the first on the subject of court deference. Partly this offers something of (hopeful) value to my faithful readers. Partly this is practice for some lectures planned for the first week of class. To that end, feel free to critique these posts (not that certain of you really need the encouragement). Your criticisms will help make my class better.

In addition to all that, we are about to confront the squirrelliest part of the Ohio Supreme Court's decision in the Elephant Wars case -- O'Donnell's concurrence. Understand the squirrelly parts of O'Donnell's decision, and the almost equally squirrelly parts of the dissent, it helps to understand the concept of deference.1

Deference is a key, but poorly understood, concept in judicial review -- that is, the review by the court of the lawfulness of legislative and executive decisions. For instance, to really understand why some rights seem to be protected more than others, you need to understand standards of review, and to understand standards of review, you need to understand that they embody, among other things, the degree of deference.

Deference means deference to the factual determinations of the legislature or executive. Any action under review will have some factual basis behind it. For example, law authorizing DUI checkpoints (to use an example cited by a past commenter) is based on a factual determination that such laws deter drunk driving and/or are effective in catching drunk drivers. Similarly, a police DUI checkpoint in a particular spot is presumably based on a determination that it is a good spot to catch drunk drivers.

Courts are generally reluctant to start all over in determining facts. So to some extent they defer to the facts as determined by the other branches. To use the example above, a court will certainly determine how to set up a DUI check point so that it doesn't offend Constitutional rights to search and seizure and so that it can't be used arbitrarily. But courts are reluctant to open up the initial question of whether checkpoints are an effective law enforcement tool.

Why are they reluctant? A couple of reasons. First, the courts assume that the legislative and executive branches are more competent to determine facts. Legislatures have hearings at which anyone can present evidence, executives have extensive staffing and, often, entire agencies dedicated to studying policy. Courts on the other hand are ill equipped to make anything beyond very simple factual determinations.

The second reason is separation of powers. Courts are supposed to provide a check on legislative and executive actions, but not be superlegislatures or superexecutives. While certain segments of the polity bemoan "unchecked" judges, courts in fact put a number o checks on themselves in the form of doctrines like separation of powers. Deferring to factual findings is part of that.

So courts defer. But how much they defer varies. First off, it varies based on the type of case. For example, in cases involving economic regulation, the courts pretty much take the legislative determinations as true unless they are clearly erroneous or pretextual2. On the other hand, when rights determined to be "fundamental" are at issue, the court will scrutinize the factual determinations more carefully. Courts have all sorts of magic words to describe the various gradations of factual review, depending on the context. If you read things like "arbitrary and capricious," "abuse of discretion," "de novo review," odds are the court is talking about the degree to which they will review someone else's factual determinations.

In addition to all that, different judges will defer differently. While deference is not absolutely a left/right thing, by and large conservative judges are more deferential to the determinations of other branches while liberal judges are less reluctant to pick apart the factual bases behind actions under judicial review.

1I could of course just drop a definition of the concept in a footnote to the post, but the footnotes apparently really bug people like Modern Esquire and Tim Russo, so I won't do that.

2This ultimately comes from the most famous footnote in Supreme Court history: footnote four of Carolene Products.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Metro Burger is Up and Running

By the time we got back from vacation, the advertised (and previously blogged) Metro Burger was open in Highland Square. Apparently they offered a soft opening over the weekend, and started doing business in earnest Monday. It is, as people noted in comments, a free-standing restaurant owned by the group that owns the Market Street Cafe, a successful sandwich shop in Wallhaven.

Metro serves food for the masses, taken a rung or two up from holes it the wall like Ido's. If they are influenced by a cuisine other than generic burger, it's Southern -- fried dill pickles and sweet potato fries are available as sides. The decor is plain but lively. Walls are painted in bright oranges and yellows. Tables are plain, with plenty of seating indoors and a nice patio buffered from street traffic by the interlacing concrete walls around the main new building.

While the food includes higher-end ingredients, the service is strictly burger. As you walk toward the order window you pass a shelf full of clipboards full of one-page menu/order forms. You can pick from five specialty burgers (including chicken and veggie) or design your own. The child's menu offers but two choices -- grilled cheese or two sliders, both with a choice of fries or homemade tri-color chips.

Like most burger joints with higher aspirations (e.g. the woeful Red Robin), Metro focuses on toppings rather than the meat. When designing your burger you can choose among three buns and eight kinds of cheese. You then get up to four "toppings" with the option of adding extras or going for "premium toppings" for an extra charge. The toppings include the usual fare, and such things as jalepenoes and green onions. Finally you can choose from among fourteen sauces, which really embody the gourmet-ish hopes for the place -- lemon garlic dill aioli, sundried tomato pesto and cucumber wasabi appear alongside the more traditional barbecue and honey mustard.

The patty itself bats about three hundred. Unlike the gray lifeless discs that McDonalds et al have pelted us with for generations, Metro Burgers are nicely seared on the outside. Unfortunately, the burgers are only cooked well done. My one-third pound burger had nary a hint of pink inside. Also, the patties are not seasoned, even on the grill. A burger salted at the table just doesn't compare to one with salt in the meat.

Metro overall seems to suffer from a fear of seasoning. They cook their hand-cut fries to a perfectly golden brown, but again serve them unseasoned, leaving the diner to sprinkle on standard table salt, watch it inevitably fall off and mourn the fry that could have been. The creamy A-1 peppercorn sauce for my burger (served on the side which is a nice touch) had an agreeable, but faint flavor, lacking both salt and acidic bite.

In all, Metro is an asset to the Square. The restaurant serves simple food at a good price, and offers more than the local drive-through. At the same time, the recipes could use a little tweaking.

You can go online to view a pdf of the menu, (link here) though the rest of the site is under construction.

Some friends and I have talked -- but to this point only talked -- about doing some semi-regular restaurant reviews. In hopes that will happen, I open a new label for all things foodie.

Back to the SCOhio SummitCo Republicans Decision: It Didn't Have to Be So Hard.

The case of SummitCo Republicans v. Brunner is (or should be anyway) a simple matter of statutory interpretation. I always tell my students to start with the text, so here is the text of Ohio Revised Code Section 3501.07, in it's entirety:

    At a meeting held not more than sixty nor less than fifteen days before the expiration date of the term of office of a member of the board of elections, or within fifteen days after a vacancy occurs in the board, the county executive committee of the major political party entitled to the appointment may make and file a recommendation with the secretary of state for the appointment of a qualified elector. The secretary of state shall appoint such elector, unless he has reason to believe that the elector would not be a competent member of such board. In such cases the secretary of state shall so state in writing to the chairman of such county executive committee, with the reasons therefor, and such committee may either recommend another elector or may apply for a writ of mandamus to the supreme court to compel the secretary of state to appoint the elector so recommended. In such action the burden of proof to show the qualifications of the person so recommended shall be on the committee making the recommendation. If no such recommendation is made, the secretary of state shall make the appointment.

    If a vacancy on the board of elections is to be filled by a minor or an intermediate political party, authorized officials of that party may within fifteen days after the vacancy occurs recommend a qualified person to the secretary of state for appointment to such vacancy.
So when a board member's term is coming to an end or when there's a vacancy, the Secretary of State the central committee of the party with the appointment either accepts the recommendation or rejects it and gives the party a chance to submit another. That part isn't in dispute. If the party doesn't like the SoS's decision, they have two choices as well -- they can name another candidate or they can challenge the decision in a mandamus action1.

The question gets slightly trickier when we get to the second candidate. For five of the seven justices, this is where the case turns and they supposedly have great difficulty with the lack of specificity about what happens if the SoS doesn't like that second either.

It seems clear to me that the statute is essentially a do loop. That is, when the first candidate is rejected, you go back to step one -- the SoS can appoint or reject, the county can accept the rejection and name another or file mandamus, and so it goes.

That's the clear intent of the legislature. When you read the interpretations advanced by either O'Donnell or the dissent, they seem bizarre. Supposedly, both opinions (written as they are by Republican judges) are strictly construing the statute. Since the statute doesn't explicitly say "Go back to step one," they insist that we don't have authority to go back to step one.

Fine. I think we can make this work even using the ironclad rules of strict constructionism. The statute applies when either a board member's term is up or when there is a vacancy. Let's say the SoS rejects the first candidate and the party has decided not to file mandamus. What situation are we then in? There's a vacancy on the Board of Elections. What do we do when there's a vacancy on the Board? Well, the party picks a candidate and the SoS either accepts or rejects.

In other words, just reading the language of the text in the context of what is actually happening on the ground gives you the loop construction. Simple, no?

According to our Supreme Court, no.

1To go Junie B. Jones on you for a bit, mandamus is a legal word meaning "You do so have to, so there." Mandamus is what's called an extraordinary writ, one that compels a government official to do something he or she is legally obligated to do. It's companion, the writ of prohibition, compels a government official to stop doing something unlawful.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Couglin Working Toward Guv Run: Breaking News and a Bleg

An Anonymous dropped a comment in my George Carlin post, reproducing a fundraising letter he received from State Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R-Vidal Sassoon.) Here's the meat of it:

    Often in politics, leaders promise to be visionaries who will "turn around Ohio."
    All too often, those slogans and promises turn out to be empty.

    Ohio's challenges are too serious to simply be managed. They require
    forward thinking leadership that is in touch with our common values. Our citizens
    deserve leadership that is bold enough to share a detailed vision and is
    energetic enough to turn that vision into a reality.

    I want you to be the first to know that I will be spending the coming months
    discussing what my contribution can be toward building a Whole New Ohio with
    my family, friends, and supporters. By Thanksgiving, I will decide whether
    to seek to lead our state in 2010.
    [Emphasis added]
Everyone has been expecting Coughlin to run at statewide office, though it wasn't clear whether it would be Governor or a downticket race like taking on Jennifer Brunner. This looks like Bexley is in his sights.

At this point, no additional information is available on KC's campaign website and New Summit Republicans remains static since the coup was put down.

Ted Strickland could do worse than an opponent who will be undercut by his home county party chair (and one of the most powerful party chairs in the state) at every turn. Make no mistake, Alex Arshinkoff will say "feh" to party loyalty and make it his personal mission to take out Coughlin if he runs. And it wouldn't even make the Top Ten Most Petty and Fratricidal Things A2 Has Ever Done list.

Meanwhile, I'm curious who is getting this letter. All I know about Anon is that he's posting from Akron. Summit County is pretty barren land for Coughlin after his unsuccessful run at Alex. He certainly won't get any of the major funders on board and folks who give to him will likely get on Alex's naughty list.

Hence the bleg1 part. Did anyone outside of SummitCo. get the letter? Please drop a comment or an email. Thanks.

1If you are relatively new to blog world, a "bleg" is a blog-based request for information. Blog + beg. And agreed, the lingo is getting increasingly precious.

George Carlin Leaves His Stuff Behind.

The man who reminded us that there are seven words you can't say on television died yesterday at 71. Unlike most counterculture, envelope-pushing comedians, George Carlin managed to live long and remain relevant. While Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor succumbed (quickly and gradually, respectively) to their demons and Bill Hics' and Sam Kinison suffered early deaths that may or may not have been related to their dissolute lifestyles, Carlin lived and performed on.

One of my favorite Carlin stories was told by Garry Shandling, who managed to get backstage as an aspiring writer and hand Carlin a sheaf of skits and stories he had written. Carlin called back the next day and said, "I read it all and found something funny on every page. If you are thinking of pursuing this, I think you should." Imagine an eminence like Carlin taking the time to read the work of some anonymous kid. As much as he liked occasionally to play the misanthrope, he was personally generous, especially toward young comedians.

While he's most famous for the Seven Dirty words sketch, I think "Stuff" is the most happily subversive of his classic pieces, slyly mocking American materialism without strongarming the audience. It's somehow fitting that Stuff isn't available for embed, but you can find it here. If you want a routine without clicking through a link, here's "Baseball and Football."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Signing Off from Colorado

Today is travel day. We check out of our cabin, bum around Boulder for a few hours, then jump on a red-eye back to Akron.

The image above is from out last day in the park. This is pretty typical of the view you get from pretty much anywhere. In this case, across Sprague Lake, looking at some of the distant mountains to the northwest.

Advance thanks to those who will return to the Pages when we get back to a regular (for summer anyway) blogging schedule.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Trying to Make Sense of the SummitCo. GOP v. Brunner Decision

A friend wrote asking for some feedback on the opinion issued this week by the Ohio Supreme Court over appointments to the Summit County Board of Elections. This is a few days later, but whaddya want, I'm on vacation.

A full explication of the opinion and the various sub-opinions will produce a post of daunting, scroll-past-in-your-reader length. So we'll do this in segments.

Bottom line, the opinion is an embarrassing mess. To begin with, it's not a 4-3 decision, it's a 2-2-3 decision. A bare majority agrees in the result, but using two wildly different standards which would produce two wildly different results in future cases. Five justices -- the dissent, plus O'Donnell and Lundberg-Stratton in the first concurrence -- find ways to punt actually adjudicating anything. While ODP Chair Redfern accused the Court of being partisan, the opinion actually reeks of a Court scrambling to avoid making any hard decision, precisely because it touches on partisan politics.

A little basic information. Most of the time, the most important part of the Supreme Court's function is not deciding the actual merits of the case before it, but the twin functions of clarifying the law for future cases1 and offering a check on executive and legislative power.2. This case was different in that it was an original action. That is, the law allowed the parties to try the case directly before the Court, rather than go through the lower courts. Original jurisdiction cases are rare.

Because the case involves interpreting a fairly basic statute which governs how elections boards are appointed, and because it involves a dispute across party lines and because of the Elephant Wars in the background, this case should have seemed pretty darned important to the Court on the "deciding the issues" axis as well as the "clarifying the law" and "checking the executive" axes. Curiously, then, we begin with a per curium opinion.

A per curium opinion is one unsigned by specific justices. The Latin translates roughly into "from the court." Generally they are short and contain little analysis. In theory such an opinion is handed down when the issues are straightforward and uncontroversial, needing only application of well-established precedents.

Generally that's the case, but in fact courts have also been known to issue opinions per curium because the issues were too controversial. The infamous Bush v. Gore opinion, for example, starts with a per curium opinion, then moves to the various concurrences and dissents. That we have a similar structure here is not entirely a coincidence.

The per curim part of the opinion gives only the disposition: Brian Daley is in, Don Varian is out, but the decisions that Varian participated in stand. Among other things, this resolves a last skirmish of the Elephant Wars. And frankly, it's not a bad result. It's in the getting there that the Court gets lost.

Next up: This really shouldn't be so hard.

1This is because we are heirs to the English common law tradition. It's become fashionable in certain political circles to get howling fantods about judges making law, but the fact is common law judges have been making law for centuries. Conservatives will tell you that trying to change centuries of tradition and culture with the stroke of a pen is a disastrous undertaking, but when they rail against judge-made law, they are essentially advocating that sort of upheaval.

2And the Secretary of State is an executive officer. Ohio, unlike the national government, has a non-unitary executive. Executive functions are divided among five independent elected officers with overlapping spheres of influence. By the way, a similar multiple executive was contemplated and ultimately rejected by the framers of the Constitution

Monday, June 16, 2008

Good Morning

We are in the mountains now, and to my surprise the cabin complex has wifi. That's good. And bad.

Anyway, while working on the McCain post below, I hear Prof. W, who had gone out walking calling me through the window to come and bring my camera.

Not thirty feet from out cabin, an elk was grazing:

It was hard to get a decent picture until a magpie's screeching got his attention:

It turns out, the magpie was harassing a fox, who was slinking around and bolted once he spotted us.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

McCain's Guantanamo Statement, Annotated

Swampland has the most complete, but not completely complete, version of John McCain's statement on the Boumediene v. Bush I've been able to find. While the "one of the worst decisions" tag has gotten the most play, the whole statement is a disgrace. Here it is, with my thoughts in footnotes. And if you don't want to go all the way through it, the most important bit is in footnote 7.

    The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions1 in the history2 of this country. Sen. Graham and Sen. Lieberman and I had worked very hard to make sure that we didn't torture any prisoners, that we didn't mistreat them3, that we abided by the Geneva Conventions, which applies to all prisoners. But we also made it perfectly clear, and I won't go through all the legislation we passed, and the prohibition against torture, but we made it very clear that these are enemy combatants2, these are people who are not citizens, they do not and never have been given the rights that citizens of this country have4. And my friends there are some bad people down there. There are some bad people.5 So now what are we going to do. We are now going to have the courts flooded with so-called, quote, Habeas Corpus suits against the government, whether it be about the diet, whether it be about the reading material7. And we are going to be bollixed up in a way that is terribly unfortunate, because we need to go ahead and adjudicate these cases8. By the way, 30 of the people who have already been released from Guantanamo Bay have already tried to attack America again, one of them just a couple weeks ago, a suicide bomber in Iraq. Our first obligation is the safety and security of this nation, and the men and women who defend it. This decision will harm our ability to do that.
1McCain has made clear for some time that he intends to demagogue the courts. It's good strategy. In doing so he winds dog whistles to the base in terms that the center doesn't find too offensive. But he does love him some hyperbole. For example in responding to a Federalist Society inquiry about how he would pick judges, he said "I believe that one of the greatest threats to our liberty and the Constitutional framework that safeguards our freedoms are willful judges who usurp the role of the people and their representatives and legislate from the bench."

2I hope at some point some enterprising reporter asks McCain what the other worst decisions ever would be. Certainly we can expect Roe v. Wade to top the list, and anti-Roe folks have long linked Roe with Dred Scott in the pantheon of badness (which is bull for reasons too complicated to go into now.) On the other hand, for both long-term damage and the Court's brazen insistence that day is night, it's hard to beat Plessey v. Ferguson. Given the conservative cottage industry in debunking Brown, it's hard to imagine him going there. Similarly, he presumably wouldn't include Koromatsu in which the Court said the government could inter Japanese Americans on the West Coast because the military said they wanted to.

3Plenty of reports suggest that this great effort on McCain's part was less than an unqualified success.

4If Tom Blumer were serious about his "objectively unfit" business, he would declare McCain objectively unfit based on this statement. Neither the legislature nor the executive decides who is an enemy combatant. That's the whole freaking point. Imagine a Presidential candidate complaining about an eminent domain decision thusly: "We made it clear that the property was worth $5000 an acre." The right would go insane over such hubris, and such a fundamental lack of understanding about how our democracy works.

5This is a false dichotomy. The question isn't full rights of citizens versus only having the right to be free from torture that McCain magnanimously granted. Habeas is far less that the former, and far less than the latter.

6And there are some innocent people. The problem is that we haven't established a reliable process for separating the bad from the innocent.

7This is where things get scary in the "John McCain is either extravagantly dishonest or deeply confused" sense of scary. Habeas Corpus has nothing to do with the conditions of internment. The Court granted no such rights to sue. A writ of habeas corpus simply compels the government to produce the person being held before a judge and explain the circumstances that gives the government the right to hold him. That's it. That simple, basic protection of personal liberty is all that was at stake in this case, and that's what McCain would deny the people we are detaining. McCain's bollixing that up with lawsuits about diet is unconscionable, as is the media's failure to call him on it.

8This is absurdity. He's implying that the decision is bad because it will slow down adjudications that the government wants to get on with. In fact, the Court's decision noted repeatedly that government's practice has been to put off adjudication for as long as possible. McCain may or may not think that "we need to go ahead and adjudicate these cases" but the administration disagrees.

9It's an open question how many of those were bad guys all along and how many were radicalized by being mistreated by the U.S. and housed with jihadists. Of course the administration has actually floated the idea in the past that we can't release innocent detainees because of the possibility they have been radicalized which as a standard is too horrible to contemplate.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The View from a Mile High

We are staying at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center (following custom, they get a plug for giving free wifi -- a rarity in business hotels.) Major swanky, although in true western fashion the lobby decor includes a dog-shaped iron boot scraper mounted on a plexiglass base and displayed as an objet.

The view from outside our window looks like this:

Signs of money abound, at least here in the southern suburbs. High-end retail, luxury cars and these tall spindly things that look vaguely familiar. I asked a local who informed me that these are called "construction cranes" -- things used in areas where it makes economic sense to erect new tall buildings.

With all that, the hot topic on LeftyBlogs/Colorado our first day was a study showing that the state experienced the highest growth in child poverty over the past seven years. While the study notes a number of intersecting factors, it's important to remember that Colorado is home of the TABOR amendment which severely restricts government spending (and also the state that blunted its fangs.) Colorado now lags behind most states in a number of spending categories, including substance abuse treatment, child health and education.

Not to say that spending alone is the cause behind the study's findings. But then as TABOR acolytes were pushing the amendment in Ohio, they pointed to Colorado's gaudy growth rates and attributed them to the amendment which is just as reductivist. The rates of growth and in-migration may have more to do with this:

This picture was taken from the parking lot of the IHOP where we had breakfast yesterday. Now Northeast Ohio has plenty of beautiful places if you know where to look. But nowhere in NEO will you find an IHOP parking lot with a view that will take your breath away -- at least not in a good way.

If we are serious about turning the Ohio economy around, we need to avoid gimmicks from states whose cachet is based on factors we cannot replicate.

See also: No income tax in Florida.

New Business Coming to Highland Square

For a couple of weeks, trades people have been filing in and out of the retail spot on the west end of the big building (the opposite end from Chipotle). A day or two before we left, a sign appeared:

Based on empty Google searches, it does not appear to be a chain. A free-standing burger joint in the Square would be pretty awesome. Not only can we carnivores get our burger on, it may well prompt some enterprising soul to open a veggie place, which would be far more keeping with the H Square vibe.

So far no chatter on the HSNA website (which suggests they haven't found much to complain about, though the site as a whole has been slow lately.) The front page includes notice that someone (not clear who) will do put a tangram-based mural on "The wall beside Chipotle." I assume this means one of the raw concrete walls. Because it's only on the HSNA front page, the story may disappear from the link over time.

Meanwhile, I'm hearing rumors of a yet another venture opening up across the street. Stay tuned.

(Yes, I'm still in Colorado, but had this ready to go for when some time opened up, which it has. Briefly.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Heading for the Mountains

In the literal, not the beer slogan sense. The fam and I are headed for Colorado today. We'll have internet access (but not much time) until the sixteenth when we decamp from Boulder for a cabin in Estes Park where we'll have more time (but no internet access.)

So light blogging, then no blogging, then back to the usual routine of trying to blog amongst the demands of my lovely urchins.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Carnival #121 Is Posted

The latest edition of the Carnival of Ohio Politics is up here.

If you are new to the blogging scene, you should check it out as an excellent primer on the great blogs working the Ohio political scene.

If you are a politics junkie, you should check out what you might have missed the past week.

And if you are related to me, you should check it out as I may have made light of you a bit.

Dems Tapping Cordray for AG

The Dispatch Blog got there first. The post says Strickland will endorse Treasurer Cordray which should clear the Dem field for him.

Recall that this has been rumored for some time -- even before Dann stepped down. The question remains whether they actually conducted a screening process or whether this has been wired all along and the "Submit your interest" bit was just window dressing.

Ohio của tiếng Anh chỉ hoá đơn -- không vấn đề , không có giải pháp

Ohio Nhà Bill 477. hiện tại hạ cân nhắc , sẽ đơn xin bất cứ " Công Cộng thân thể -- về cơ bản bất cứ chính phủ tác dụng , bang hoặc bản xứ -- yêu cầu kia " tiếng Anh là dùng cho mỗi hội nghị của một Công Cộng thân thể và cho mỗi quan chức sự chuyển động của bất cứ bang tác dụng hoặc chính trị, bao gồm mỗi kỷ lục chuẩn bị , hội nghị cử hành , chính sách câu hỏi , hoặc khác sự chuyển động cầm hạ màu của hợp pháp."

Gho kia chúng tôi không hiện tại có một vấn đề có , nói , Ravenna Hội Đồng Thành Phố sự xuất bản cái đó phút tại Slovenia , hợp pháp là chĩa phiên dịch phục vụ dịch vụ đến dân nhập cư. Hợp pháp sẽ hạn chế , một chút , năng lực của chính phủ tác dụng cung cấp phiên dịch của quan chức cái giũa đến ấy ai sự cần chúng nó.

nhưng hợp pháp cũng làm một số của sự trừ ra kia vung hầu bất cứ địa thế hạ nào một tác dụng có lẽ muốn cung cấp phiên dịch . ở giữa chúng nó :

( 3 ) bảo hộ hoặc đề cao Công Cộng khỏe mạnh , an toàn hoặc phúc lợi ;
( 4 ) bảo hộ quyền lực của đảng và người chứng kiến tại một dân sự hoặc tội phạm sự chuyển động hoặc hoa lợi tại một sân nhà hoặc tại một hoa lợi sự quản lý ;
( 6 ) cung cấp sự biểu thị đồ án đến sự giúp đỡ học sinh có hạn chế tiếng Anh proficiency như thế chúng nó có thể làm một hợp thời sự quá độ đến dùng tiếng Anh trong trường công ;
( 7 ) đề cao thương nghiệp quốc tế , buôn bán hoặc sự du lịch ;
( 9 ) hành nghề informal và phiên dịch nonbinding hoặc thông tin

Như thế hoá đơn cứu cánh sự biến đổi rất nhỏ. Tôi sự xảy ra đến ngồi tại ban giám đốc của một từ thiện kia công tác có dân nhập cư và người lánh nạn, chủ yếu từ châu Á. Iôi liên lạc có giám đốc chúng tôi ai bảo đảm tôi kia nhiều quá phiên dịch không phải là hiện tại Ohio của vấn đề. H.B. 477 có lẽ làm một ít nhỏ hơn phiên dịch có thể dùng được , nhưng từ khi Ohio không hiện tại cung cấp cả phiên dịch sự cần đến " bảo hộ hoặc đề cao Công Cộng khỏe mạnh , an toàn và phúc lợi " có lẽ không bằng nhiều.

477 là một giải pháp tại lục soát của một vấn đề . đại phàm phương pháp này vấn đề là địa chỉ là được người tuyển dụng và kia nhất định coi bộ ca ở đây . hoá đơn cuộc biểu diễn tại sự sợ -- sự sợ một, Balkanized Mỹ , và liên hệ sự sợ người ai không vẻ ngoài và âm thanh thích chúng tôi , những ai " chúng tôi " là.

chúng tôi có sự tranh luận này ở đây đẹp nhiều mã mãi . từ NINA dấu tại thứ mười chín thế kỷ thương nghiệp cửa sổ đóng hạn ngạch Do thái2 của thứ hai mươi thế kỷ , chúng tôi luôn luôn nghe tối tăm cảnh cáo về ấy người ai sẽ đến ở đây và sự biến đổi văn hoá Mỹ . cảnh chung , chúng nó đến và chúng nó đổi văn hoá chúng tôi cho càng hay

dùng Balkan Peninsula khi nào một cờ hiệu cho hại của đa dạng văn hoá nhấn mạnh thế nào sai của sự tranh luận là . chia tay của Yugoslavia là một và công việc chảy máu , nhưng không , tại chủ yếu , do sự chuyển động của phần ít văn hoá . phần lớn Serbia chị huyết nhất chạy theo một lớn hơn -- và " purer " -- Serbia

tại khác tự , sự khác nhau không phải là vấn đề . ngoan ngạnh là

Thanks to Jill for conceiving and organizing the Blogging in Tongues action day. You can find the translation here.

1 “Không sự cần Ai-len đơn xin.”

2Phải đó nào hủy diệt untold nghìn đến chết tại khí chambers khi nào chúng nó đang giữ gìn tại thế giới chiến tranh II.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Closing Charter Schools

The Education blog Quick and the Ed1 notes a headline in today's WaPo "Charter to Close Over Academics" and notes that we don't see that headline applied to traditional public schools. Setting that aside, fact is, we hadn't seen it applied to charter schools in Ohio until Marc Dann started going after them.

Last week's Ohio Gadfly2 published a piece on their experience as a charter school sponsor forced to close schools.3 It's long, but it gives a lot of detail about the difficulty closing charter schools for academics (as opposed to financial mismanagement which was the basis for all the closings pre-Dann.)

  • Theory collides with reality. Closing a school seems pretty straightforward: parents will send their children to good charter schools, and the poor ones will close for lack of enrollment because parents won't send their children to a bad school. This premise doesn't necessarily hold true. And, when a school does close, the reality is a complicated, confusing, painful, and expensive process for all concerned. What makes it tough is that you're dealing with stakeholders who are emotionally and financially attached to the school. For example, parents made a conscious decision to send their child to the school and the choice is being taken away from them. Teachers lose their jobs and are tossed into a tough labor market. You're forcing people to participate in the death of something about which they care deeply.
  • School closure is costly. This is true not just in terms of extra dollars spent by the sponsor and the school's governing authority, but also in terms of the amount of time that the sponsor, governing authority, and school staff need to devote to closure. The governing authority still needs to close the year out and complete all required financial reports, tax forms, and audits. Then there's the staff time associated with reviewing and submitting innumerable bureaucratic forms and documents to the state and federal governments. For the sponsor, the major expense is the time devoted to overseeing closure. This can take more than a year, and this is if the closure is done amicably and does not include costly lawsuits.
  • Responsibility falls up. If the closure is mutually agreed to, the school's governing authority and sponsor work together to do a tough job well. The buck, however, ultimately stops with the sponsor. If the closure is not amicable, the sponsor is still on the hook for ensuring that teachers show up to teach and students show up to learn. The sponsor must explain to teachers, parents, students, and the state why the school is being closed. The sponsor has to pull the trigger on whether or not to close a school before the end of the year and to ensure that proper closing procedures are followed, all state and federal reporting requirements are met and assets are distributed fairly. A sponsor that chooses to close a school against the will of the governing authority is, we assume, in a very lonely spot faced with a hostile board, disgruntled staff, angry parents and students, and curious media.
  • Communication is critical. The key players--state, sponsor, governing authority, and operator--must be on the same page so that all stakeholders hear consistent messages. Rumors abound, and, when you've got different people making contradictory statements or giving bad information to parents and the public, things likely will go downhill fast.
All of the above are reasons why relying solely or even heavily on the free market to ensure charter school accountability has failed in Ohio. In fact, Ohio's charter system suffers from three inter-related deficiencies.
  1. For years the Department of Education did little to police the quality of the people setting up charters or their plans for doing so. As a result, dozens of charters were set up with no real chance for success.
  2. The philosophy for holding charters accountable was essentially laissez faire economics -- the market would guarantee accountability. For various reasons, including those listed above, that hasn't worked.
  3. The law has left it to sponsors to regulate charters, but has done little to hold sponsors4 accountable. In fact an number of sponsors have fallen through a legislative donut hole and are literally accountable to no one. Furthermore, sponsors get money from keeping charters open and stop getting money when they close, so the economic incentives built into the system are perverse.
There have been a couple of attempts to tighten reins on charters and, in particular, put real teeth into sponsor accountability. Unfortunately none has gone very far. More unfortunately, when Democrats start dealing with charters, they stampede to a moratorium, which does nothing to solve either the problem of bad set-ups or of holding existing charters accountable.

We need to be talking about this. Charters aren't going away in Ohio and can provide some real benefits if done right. We are far from doing this right.

1Not necessarily conservative, but interested in reform in a way that includes general friendliness to charter schools.

2Published by the Thomas Fordham Foundation which is both charter-friendly and conservative.

3By the way, one of the charters mentioned as closing -- East End Community School -- is actually being absorbed into Dayton Public Schools, which also should have been mentioned in another piece in that issue. In fact the issue as a whole in uncharacteristically sloppy.

4 To review, sponsors, are separate entities from either the schools themselves, or from for-profit education management oranizations (EMOs) like the dread White Hat. The law basically privatizes regulation by vesting authority in sponsors, but without and oversight.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Norka Notes, 6/6/08

I'll try to do this at least occasionally. But as always, no promises.

So here's what's going on in The City Formerly Known as Rubber:

Jeff Coryell notes the ABJ piece on dropping property values, including a haste-inspired goof by me. The drop county-wide is one percent; the drop in Akron is four percent. The full version on the website now includes a map showing what you would expect -- drops in Akron and most of the southern suburbs, and increases in the northern subs, led by Hudson.

All of this is, by the way, still better than the double-digit drops on the coasts, mostly because we didn't have the speculative bubble around here pushing values up to unsustainable levels.

Speaking of money and Akron, TechRepublic notes that Akron is among the cities where IT professionals can command the highest hourly rate (happy birthday, K.)

Cuyahoga Falls School Board member (and blogger) Kellie Patterson has sued the board she sits on to compel the board to follow Ohio's open meetings law. Kellie explains her lawsuit on her blog.

PETA, whose basic philosophy seems to be that looking exhbitionistically goofy is always more important than actually improving life for animals, is nagging Kent State over a live golden eagle mascot. No word on how they feel about Zippy.

But seriously, I wonder how they feel about protecting the lives of jellyfish. PETA is generally anti-zoo, but the big ticket at the Akron Zoo this weekend is a jellyfish exhibit. Jellyfish pose something of a challenge to the bright-line rules PETA tries to draw. There's little morally meaningful difference between a jellyfish and, say a kelp bed.

At any rate, the jellies exhibit looks good and opens to the general public tomorrow.

One of the big tickets

Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!! Summer Vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After hearing the students at Kid T's school scream the above yesterday at the bell, I've made a mental note to open an Earplugs 'n' Tylenol concession next year.

What this means for my dear readers is a truncated blogging schedule. Of course T, who usually requires a pry bar to be removed from her bed at the appointed hour during the school year beat her usual wake up time by 15 minutes this morning, swamping the time I was hoping to get posts up.

Of course.

For those days that the kids actually sleep in, we'll have some posts in the morning, some nights I'll get stuff up, and otherwise it's catch-as-catch-can. Right now neighborhood kids are over and are not vandalizing my home at this moment. It think.

On top of this, the House of Pho will be heading out for vacation next Wednesday with extremely limited connectivity.

On the other hand, it's too hot for much beyond blogging today, so . . .

Susan Tave Zelman at City Club Now

Outgoing State Schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman is speaking at this time at the Cleveland City Club. You can catch it now on WCPN, or listen to the podcast on the City Club Website.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Norka Notes

I've been neglecting the blog's middle name. Some catch-up gleanings from around the city:

Eric Mansfield, who gave his last Akron newscast last week, is guesting for WAKR's Ray Horner tomorrow and Monday. You can catch Eric from 5:30 to 9:00 a.m.

The Thirteenth District's Betty Sutton is among the many many Hillary supporters who have publicly endorsed Barack Obama.

The Summit County Board of Elections has rented off-site space for early voting. Apparently it is so popular that the traffic interferes with other Board operations. As a result of a quirk in state law, the Board can only open one early voting walk-up location, so you will not be able to vote at the Board.

The Beacon Journal is reporting tonight that area property values have fallen about one percent over the past year. Given the picket of real estate signs around here, it could be much worse.

The Innerbelt is closing while they install a towpath bridge. From the ebag:

    As part of the construction of the Cascade Locks Bikeway in downtown Akron, the City of Akron will close a portion of State Route 59 (Akron Innerbelt) to traffic starting Monday, June 9th at 9:00 a.m. through Sunday, June 15th at 8:00 p.m. Route 59 Northbound will be open to the Dart Avenue Ramp to Mill Street.

    Traffic will be detoured around the closure from that exit, via Dart Avenue, Mill Street and Main Street. Southbound traffic will be directed off of S.R. 59 onto Rand Avenue using the W. Exchange Street / Cedar Street exit and then back on to S.R. 59 just north of West Exchange Street.
Akron is in the running for a Bridgestone tech facility. Here's the POV from our rival, Murphreesboro, Tennessee.

United Way of Summit County is looking for participants for their annual Docs to Rock event. If you are a doctor and you, well, rock, sign up.

Finally, Akron has always been one of those towns that gets name checked by humorists as shorthand for something typically flyover. An example from HuffPo: Straight Man Accidentally Sees Sex and the City, putatively about a tragic mishap involving a local Home Depot employee.

ODP Updated to Be Obama Country, But Not Completely

Both ODB noticed the lag in the ODP website updating to reflect Sen. Barack Obama's new status as undisputed Democratic nominee (though Bill Sloat noticed earlier that they had the merch sales going). When Jill posted news of Gov. Strickland's endorsement I checked back and, for five minutes or so, got a Service Unavailable message. Then on the third or fourth try, this:

Nicely done, but I'm still wondering about this:

The ODP Dinner is little over two weeks away and we still haven't heard who is headlining. Last year it was Hillary; the year before Obama, plus Biden. Given that the smart play is a high-profile surrogate of the nominee, it may well be that the party has been waiting for resolution. We'll see if that plays out, or if it will just be a backyard barbecue among us Ohio Dems.

BTW, I'll be on a plane back home that day, so no report this year.

Obama's Map

The First Read guys are updating their electoral college map. The leftysphere has been giddy about a new national poll, but of course the map is what's important. Here are the reported results and thoughts:

    Base Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT (153 electoral votes)
    Lean Obama: ME, NJ, MN, OR, WA (47 votes)
    Toss-up: CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NM, NH, OH, PA, VA, WI (138 votes)
    Lean McCain: AR, GA, IN, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND (84 votes)
    Base McCain: AL, AK, AZ, ID, KS, KY, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (116 votes)

    While both McCain and Obama get to 200 when adding up their base and lean states, it’s clear to see that Obama has an early edge with the map. Not only does he have a stronger base than McCain does (153 votes vs. 116), but he also has more potential pick-up opportunities. When you add toss-up and “Lean McCain,” Obama has the potential for another 222 votes outside his favored states. By comparison, McCain’s toss-up and “Lean Obama” comes to 185. Of course, potential sometimes means just that -- potential. At the end of the day, Obama will likely win few, if any, of those Lean McCain states. But his reach right now seems much longer than McCain’s.
Some additional thoughts.

This map represents gains almost across the board from the (methodologically different) Rove map of a couple of weeks ago.

The map also shows the power of Obama's fundraising advantage. He will be able run McCain all over the country, giving him little in the way of uncontested wins. Normally Dems write off the southeast, but Obama can spare some money and time in vote-rich states like North Carolina and Georgia. He probably won't win both and might not win either, but McCain will have to devote resources there, including pouring TV money into expensive media markets like Atlanta, to keep Obama at bay.

One of the oft asked questions around here is whether Obama will write off Ohio in favor of another swing state like Missouri or the newly-swingy Virginia. Between the current toss-up status and again the money advantage, he may not need to make that choice.

The First Read story goes on to say that the results over the next two weeks will reflect a bounce from securing the nomination. Not an illegitimate bounce, but it will likely drop a bit heading into July.

Jeff has some other map results up. I prefer a five-tier division like this to a straight up electoral vote count.

Finally, the map reflects some ongoing changes in demography. New Hampshire, once resolutely red, is looking increasingly blue. Similarly Colorado and Virginia look more purple with each passing cycle, though some reports indicate that Colorado is in more of an issue-dependent flux like Ohio than a demographic sea change.

Gee, I Thought I Was Special

Hillary's email today says she wants me to be "one of the first to know" that she's dropping out and endorsing Obama.

By "one of the first" she apparently means after the readers of The Washington Post, New York Times, and the blogs, plus with the cable news watchers and contemporaneously with everyone else on her list.

And here I was hoping we were going to chat again.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hey, Look It's Hillary Clinton! What's Hillary Doing? Everyone! Let's All Pay Attention to Hillary!!!

So no decisions last night, another day of hints and leaks and finally word that she's dropping out and endorsing Obama. Probably.

And of course I'm supposed be acting gracious about all this and the fact that I don't says something bad about me. And I'm supposed to be done with this. What almighty goddam fucking ever.

I've not always been sure of Obama but tonight I'm really good with Hillary not being the nominee.

MSM Poaching: Gawker Explains It All

Gawker contemplates an incident in which the NY Times apparently stole a year-old story from the Wall Street Journal. But Gawker's explanation, if true, explains a lot about why blogs get acknowledgment only rarely when the papers run familiar-sounding stories.

According to Gawker, the Golden Rule is:

    Media outlets can only steal outright from other media outlets that are not their direct competitors, and do not fall in their same class.
    * * *
    When stealing from one's own class, it must be acknowledged that you are doing so, and that you have been scooped.

Unfortunately, Gawker rules leave us with little recourse. For one, no Ohio media outlets acknowledge parity with even the mightiest blogs. For another, bloggers have little ability to impose the "penalties" for violation:
    Those who foolishly flout this rule by stealing the work of other reporters in their same class with no credit can expect to be ostracized at media parties; have vicious gossip about them leaked to Gawker; and, one day down the road, to be the subject of a gratuitous backhanded smear in the outlet that they stole from (this goes double if you're dealing with tabloids).
On the other hand, the summary admonition:
    Reporters are small people, and we never forget an insult. Play smart.
Applies to bloggers with at least equal force. Pay heed.

Carnival #120 Is Up

Jill summarizes the weighty issues of the week here.

A Slight Repurposing

As the Slog to the White House has dragged on, this blog has been distracted, especially by the escalation of disingenuous transmissions from Planet Hillary. It's time to turn focus back to what got me interested in blogging in the first place. I can argue repeatedly that including Michigan in The Biggest Vote Total Ever®, but Planet Hillary remains a place largely devoid of a reality-based community. (h/t Pandagon) Is it too much to ask that Hillary supporters be at least a little inspired by the fact that we nominated a Black man for President less than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act? Apparently.

I've given Hillary my suggestion. It went like this:

    And now it is time to stand down. It is time to rally your supporters behind the party's nominee. To do that, you need to concede.
Of course as soon as I hit SUBMIT the site took me to a donation page.

Up until now the next best thing for Dems has been for the race to end. Everywhere but Planet Hillary it has. Now comes time to concentrate on defeating McCain in the general. Plus I want to blog more of what inspires me: education policy, Constitutional law, local government. Yes, I'm weird that way.

I won't say this is the last time the blog mentions the primary, but for the most part, I wish to move on, even if Hillary doesn't.

One last gift before we do, h/t Donklephant:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Detroit Pistons Want Your Opinion

If you missed it, Christopher Orr at TNR offered a brilliant "sports parable" today:

    Some in the media are declaring the series over because the Boston Celtics have won four of the six games played so far. But I don’t understand why, with a series this close and hotly contested, anyone would want to shut it down before we play a seventh game and have all the results in.
So to carry the parable forward, the Pistons now want you to go to their website and offer advice about what they should do next.

Hillary's Serve

Anthony asks a number of questions about how . . . someone . . . is going to react to Hillary's possible concession tonight. At times he seems to be addressing Obama, at times he must be addressing Obama supporters and for some questions he can only be addressing Hillary Clinton's worst critics. I'm unaware of anyone explicitly aligned with the Obama campaign using the words "witch, bitch and pig," or for that matter insinuating that Hillary is only a strong candidate because she is a woman which at least would mirror statements from her proxies about Obama.

In any event, my predictions are 1) some nominal Obama supporters will embarrass the rest of us and 2) that the Hillary camp will continue to play the game of calling on us on those embarrassments without acknowledging the Ferraros in their midst and 3) the reaction in the bulk of the Obama camp will depend on Hillary herself.

As to that third, remember the tradition in American politics is for the loser to concede graciously, throw his/her support to the victor and then and only then the victor praises the hard fight and tenacious spirit of the vanquished. Given transmissions from Planet Hillary that she won the popular vote (need I say more about that. I hope not) it's not at all clear that she will show the class Anthony speaks of in his opening.

If she suspends and calls for unity behind Obama, most of the Obamasphere should rise to the occasion and we who do should scold those who don't If she concedes that Obama has the delegates but she has the popular vote and that everyone should reconsider the "fairness" of all that, no one should be surprised if a mighty shitrain does fall.

AP Calling It for Obama

Carried on Real Clear Politics:

    Barack Obama effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday after a grueling marathon, based on an Associated Press tally of convention delegates, becoming the first black candidate ever to lead his party into a fall campaign for the White House.

    * * *
    The tally was based on public declarations from delegates as well as from another 15 who have confirmed their intentions to the AP. It also included 11 delegates Obama was guaranteed as long as he gained 30 percent of the vote in South Dakota and Montana later in the day. It takes 2,118 delegates to clinch the nomination.

TMV notes contrasting CBS reports. Donklephant "doesn't understand," possibly because he missed the bit about supers declaring anonymously to AP.

All of this sets up Hillary's much-anticipated address tonight.

The Kids Are Alright

Last week I upbraided the BSB guys for their take on the DNC Convention credentialing process. Subsequently BSB HQ communicated off-blog about the incident and now they have gone public with their take in a well-written post. The upshot is that they regret attacks on Jeff Coryell but maintain that the credentialing process lacked transparency.

Good on both counts. My major objection was the elbows thrown at Jeff, and I should note that those attacks have been edited out of the BSB posts in question.

At the same time, I agree that the DNC needs to make the bases of such decisions transparent. I don't have a problem with the party using a backstop in case a higher-traffic/technorati-ranked blog may be embarrassing to the Party, or (really the case here) if a good blog in a strong second arguably offers intangibles that will help the party get its word out better. After all, the DNC exists for one purpose -- to get its people elected. Blog credentialing should serve that purpose.

But whatever the process, it should be agreed to ahead of time and disclosed to the
applicants. That didn't happen here and is the reason for the lingering raw feelings.

Be all that as it may, we are left with two happy results. Each of Ohio's most comprehensive and well-read blogs will be going to Denver and they will do so on good terms with each other. More generally, the new leadership at BSB is showing a maturity and thoughtfulness that hasn't always been a hallmark in the past.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Texas Fixin' to Teach English Good1

This is a story in the works for one my paying gigs. If you have experience with this sort of thing, consider this fishing for background.

Anyway. The Texas State Board of Ed has been working on new language instruction standards, and things have gotten ugly:

    State Board of Education members, casting aside months of work by English teachers across the state, tentatively approved new curriculum standards Thursday for English and reading classes that will be used in Texas schools for the next decade.

    Led by its social conservative bloc, the board rejected a curriculum proposal written and backed by several teacher associations – including those representing English teachers – and instead adopted a Washington, D.C.-based consultant's plan that changes the way grammar is taught.

I've done a little reading on the language wars but was unaware parties would resort to political intrigue:
    Some board members accused teacher groups of hijacking the process by pushing their own document instead of the one tentatively approved by the board.

    "The process has become a joke and a mockery," said Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond , calling it "contaminated and a circus."
So here is what all this is about. The conservatives on the Board want a specific instruction on grammar and the teachers want grammar instruction to be part of writing instruction. And the English teachers want the standards to include reading comprehension instruction and the Board does not. The Board, being the Board, is winning. At least one teachers group has the drafts up on their website.

So here's the thing. None of the stories talk about whether there is any research on any of these approaches. Even the Fordham story I got this from talks about research. Both parties seem to be working more based on politically-based assumptions.

The idea of teaching grammar only in the context of writing is counterintutive. It sounds like teaching the fingering on a flute only in the context of playing a concerto or telling someone to make eggs Benedict without knowing how to make a Hollandaise sauce.

On the other hand, watching a daughter learning to read and doing well with a curriculum that teaches her strategies for reading comprehension, it's hard to see who would object. But I can see how that some might dismiss it as mollycoddling PC stuff.

So I know some teachers happen by on occasion. If you can shed any light on all this, I'll be in your debt.

1A hattip to a friend who came up with the title during a conversation today. She's actually blogger Keith Woodruff's wife Marisol. And by the way if you want to mean on me for stereotyping Texans I'll point out that Appolonia is actually from Texas and you will go on about the long history of self-hating Texans and I will weep silently until you go away.

R.I.P. Bo Diddley

You can have your Presleys and your Berrys. On my personal Rock Rushmore Bo Diddley gazes down, between Buddy Holly and Little Richard.

AP has a good remembrance. And here's his profile from the Rock Hall if you are just tuning in.

As Dr. Johnny Fever once said. "Here's Bo Diddley singing Bo Diddley. And why not? I don't know who could sing it better."

Jesse Taylor Is Back to Blogging

Ohio bloggers may remember Jesse Taylor, the Pandagon blogger who ran internet communications for Strickland's campaign. He's been gone from Pandagon but now (h/t Ezra Klein) he's back.

Why is this a big deal. Try on this sample from the comments to his post about the prezzie race. The quote is from the earlier comment to which he responds:

    “It’s also a mistake to keep ignoring and insulting the non-obama supporting feminists, if he wants our votes.”

    You don’t lose people’s respect because you don’t support Obama or because you’re a feminist.

    You lose people’s respect because you keep insisting up is down.

Yes! And one!

Endgame: Obama Akron Watch Party Tomorrow Night.

Default Dem hangout Bricco is the place to be. RSVP with Obama's campaign here.

Endgame: Hillary Flogs Popular Vote Deception

The Hillary Campaign's post-Puerto Rico email continues the deceptive bait/switch talk about her supposed popular vote victory. This part is technically true:

    When all the votes in Puerto Rico are counted, our popular vote lead will be even bigger. More than 17 million people have cast their ballots for our campaign, more votes than any candidate has received in the history of the Democratic Party.
But the balance of the paragraph is fundamentally dishonest:
    Now there can be no doubt: the people have spoken and you have chosen your candidate. We are winning the popular vote.
It's technically true that more people cast ballots for Hillary because she counts the results in Michigan where they couldn't cast votes for Obama because he followed the rules. It's dishonest to say that this perverse reading of the vote totals yields an argument that "the people have spoken." In Michigan they absolutely did not speak on the question of Hillary vs. Obama. They spoke on Hillary vs. NotHillary and she posted a fair-to-middling win.

The turnout in Puerto Rico guarantees that Hillary will not win a popular vote absent the Michigan inclusion fraud. From Bloomberg (h/t Taegan Goddard.)

    Clinton's supporters argue that she is winning the popular vote. Yet going into Puerto Rico, she trailed Obama by more than 275,000 votes. Those figures include the votes in Florida, where the candidates agreed not to campaign. They don't include the results from Michigan, where the candidates didn't campaign and Obama took his name off the ballot.

    In Puerto Rico, Clinton scored a net gain of fewer than 150,000 votes, leaving Obama with an overall lead of 125,000, more than enough to offset any gains she may make in South Dakota or Montana.

    Clinton yesterday continued to predict she would win the most popular votes, though such assertions aren't likely to carry much weight after this weekend.

    ``I will lead in the popular vote; he will maintain a slight lead in the delegates,'' she said at a rally in San Juan, Puerto Rico, adding that the race would come down to the superdelegates.

    While vowing to fight on, she hinted that could change. ``I'm sort of a day-at-a-time person,'' she told reporters aboard her campaign plane after the Puerto Rico primary. ``We'll see when Tuesday and the day after Tuesday comes.''

So, yes, if Obama was losing the squeaker instead of winning, his supporters would be upset. But if he was using these kinds of fundamentally dishonest arguments to justify prolonging the agony, at least this supporter would have turned on him by now.