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.