Friday, May 28, 2010

Now Posting at Cleveland Examiner

The Examiner web platforms let people sign up to write on specific topics for (mostly) exposure and (a little) cash. I signed up to be the Cleveland Church and State Examiner. The spot was open and it's one of my strongest interests. And rather than bore all of you and the Akron Legal News audience with church/state all the time, I have a new platform for that stuff.

So here's the deal. Pay, such as it is, is based on traffic (the site carries ads, especially of the smoking hot news reader telling you about Acai berry sort.) I will be posting links to my Examiner pieces here, plus my other social media stuff. It would be a big help if you would surf over and check them out. It's a great way to feed a starving blogger and (hopefully) be entertained and informed as well.

So far I have this piece looking at how Elena Kagan might view church/state controversies as a Supreme Court justice, this take on the Parma sex education controversy and, just up, a law wonkish piece on what we are talking about when we talk about Establishment Clause -- and other legal terms.

UPDATE: Links are fixed now.

Closing Tabs and Random Ten

This has not been a stellar blogging week as I've been working on a couple of projects. Actually that sounds more impressive than it should -- mostly I've been painting my porch.

I have been trying to keep up with stuff but haven't had much time to write. But here's what's clogging my browser today.

I've been remiss in failing to acknowledge Tim Russo's post at Plunderbund welcoming me back a couple of weeks ago. Tim and I have had our differences and probably will continue to do so, but his post was very kind.

I've been glued to the Rand Paul story. Ezra Klein (unsurprisingly) does the best job of explaining the enduring importance of his objection to an otherwise entrenched piece of legislation. BTW Rand's poll numbers are tanking.

Most of the faculty at my alma mater -- including some fairly outspoken conservatives -- signed a letter against the Virginia Attorney General's fishing expedition against a climate change scientist.

A double WTF from the Dispatch yesterday. Yes I was also puzzled by Jennifer Brunner's criptic email to supporters last week. But why was it news a week later?

An EdWeek blogger offers some vague and unsatisfying thoughts about the advantages of for-profit companies in education. Here's a question: If for-profit education can work, why doesn't it work in the one area where no government funds are involved -- high end private schools. When someone successfully establishes a for profit to compete with the likes of Old Trail and Western Reserve, I'll start to believe.

Happy to see California -- the other education superpower -- taking steps against the new Texas Christian Right Curriculum.

Interesting piece in The Straight Dope of all places about how some middle class neighborhoods in Chicago have rescued neighborhood schools.

Two pieces that attempt to sort out the hash Facebook has made out of its privacy settings.

Save the Internet has the breakdown of who in the Ohio Delegation signed the pernicious letter to the FCC against net neutrality.

Finally, Justice Scalia for one would be happy to have a new justice who had not been a judge -- well as happy as Scalia ever is.

Now here it is, your Moment of Ten:
  1. "I Know," Dionne Faris
  2. "Opinion," Nirvana
  3. "The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness," The Feelies
  4. "Discovering Japan," Graham Parker
  5. "Po' Boy," Bob Dylan
  6. "You Belong to my Heart," Old 97s
  7. "Every Morning," Keb Mo
  8. "Dippermouth Blues," King Oliver and the Creole Jazz Band
  9. "Again," Alice in Chains
  10. "Rocker," Miles Davis

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Third Party Pro-Strickland Ads Coming

Swing State Project reports:

    A group backed by the DGA and the American Federation of Teachers called "Building a Stronger Ohio" is going up with a $300K ad buy on behalf of Ted Strickland . . . Nathan Gonzales reports that this new group has $1.7 million in funding (so far), so more and bigger buys are probably on the way.
Rothenberg has more, with a rehash of the ad story so far: Strickland's first negative ad on Kasich and the RGA response.

Given the involvement of AFT and the money involved, it will be interesting if we see any White Hat talk in future ads.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frankly, I Think Constituent Communications Are a Good Thing

So apparently there is a Gannett report lurking somewhere behind a paywall about the use of franking by members of Congress, and as a result, we've a spate of stories about the constituent communications of local members. The Dispatch goes pretty hard after Mary Jo Kilroy for placing seventh among all Representatives and first in the Ohio delegation in money spent. Other stories look at the delegation more generally.

And all these stories lead with the amount of money spent. I think we all agree that we want to know what our representatives are doing and we all think representatives listening to their constituents is a good thing. But *gasp* it all costs money.

And that's the tone of these stories. The lede and opening grafs are all about "They're spending your money! They're spending your money!" and framing the discussion like of course these are nothing but extended campaign ads. Of course none of this is substantive or useful or good. Then they get quotes from the various members who have been set up to sound like this guy:

Here's a thought. We should encourage our representatives to communicate more with their constituents, not less. And if challengers don't like the inequity of members having the franking privilege, I'm right there with them too.

It's yet another argument for public campaign financing.

Policy Matters Ohio Report on Another Charter School Management Company

John Higgens at the ABJ digs into a timely Policy Matters Ohio report on Imagine Schools, a Virginia-based education management organization (EMO) that has set up an run charter schools in Ohio, including one in Akron near the old Rolling Acres Mall. Complaints from the operating boards of the schools sound very much like those of the White Hat schools currently suing their EMO.

From the executive summary of the report:
    Imagine Schools, Inc., is privately owned by Dennis Bakke, a high-profile and outspoken supporter of education vouchers and charters. In 2004, Bakke bought an existing management company, renamed it Imagine and set out to expand. Bakke is former chairman of AES Corporation, a global energy generation and distribution company and author of the popular business book Joy at Work. He made news in 2009 when an internal memo he wrote was published in news reports; in it, Bakke told Imagine managers and school leaders that Imagine-managed schools are “our schools” because the taxpayer money flowing to the schools is “our money.” He also encouraged his employees to disregard and minimize the power of appointed school boards.

    In Ohio, Imagine school board members have resigned in frustration over what they describe as corporate disregard for the governance role, mandated by law, that charter school boards are to exercise over their schools. “We finally concluded that what was desired from the administration [of the school] was for the board to be a rubber stamp rather than a governing body,” said one former board member interviewed for this study. [emphasis added.]
Higgens piece relates the report about Imagine to the situation with White Hat:
    The striking similarity between the Imagine report and the White Hat lawsuit is the power that both for-profit corporations hold over the nonprofit school boards that are their employers — at least on paper.

    ''One huge issue is how hard it is for these school boards, these governing boards, to break away from Imagine or White Hat,'' said the report's author, Piet van Lier.
Best of all is White Hat's response:'''This is not the place to argue about the politics of charter schools,' according to White Hat's statement. 'That is properly left to the legislature.' Probably true that a legislative solution would be best, but if one is proposed you can bet on a phalanx of White Hat lobbyists working to kill it.

Personally I don't think everyone involved with charter schools is out to make a buck. Some good people work for charters and occasionally good people even start them. But it's increasingly clear that the current model in many states including Ohio is allowing some EMO operators to bilk the schools and by extension the taxpayers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Charters Sue White Hat

Another story I'm working on is the lawsuit launched by ten White Hat charters against the company. John Higgins at the ABJ does an excellent job of laying out the issues.

This arises from a law that mysteriously passed during the '06 lame duck session that essentially gives contract protection to education management organizations (EMOs) the for-profit corporations that are contracted to run many charter schools, and in some cases (such as White Hat) appear for all practical purposes to be one and the same as the charter school.

For example the White Hat website doesn't portray the company as a management company, but gives the impression that the company owns Hope Academies and Life Skills. On the website, those schools are called "ventures" of White Hat, as opposed to, say, clients.

As Plunderbund points out, White Hat founder David Brennan has been a leading contributor to Republican candidates, including the current top of the slate. The press release accompanying the lawsuit accuses White Hat of leveraging that political capital to get the sweetheart protection law.

This is actually the second time charters have sued to have the law overturned. So one thing I'm digging into is what happened the first time.

The EMO protection law is terrible for everyone involved -- for taxpayers, for students in charter schools, charter school advocates. Hopefully this lawsuit will finally shame the legislature into getting rid of it.

Signature Gathering Beginning for Sovereignty Amendment

Word comes that supporters of a "Sovereignty Amendment" to the Ohio Constitution is beginning.

The Ohio Sovereignty Amendment is part of a broader national state sovereignty movement which seeks to introduce bills, resolutions and constitutional amendments purporting to assert state rights against the Federal government.

As of now, the Ohio effort looks doomed. From the looks of the website of the sponsor, the People's Constitution Coalition of Ohio (PCCOH) it does not look like they have the financial backing necessary to pay for signature gatherers which is indispensable. Someone will roll in here and say that they have committed grassroots support and they can gather the signatures with an all volunteer effort. They can't. As they say, the target is around 700,000 to get the 400 some odd valid signatures needed. Many have tried to do that all volunteer. And have failed.

The PCCOH promises to continue work even if they don't get the amendment on the ballot this go round. If they are able to maintain the grassroots energy they, and their arguments, will be around for some time.

We will explore the Amendment and the arguments underlying it in coming posts. Here's the overview. First, most of the amendment would be unconstitutional. The amendment seeks to have Ohio dictate to the Federal government the limits on the latter's power. It will shock you to learn that states can't actually do that.

The Sovereignits (that will do until something thinks of something shorter) would reply that the only reason people would think their amendment is unconstitutional is that the Federal government has so overstepped its historical limits as to make it look unconstitutional.

Which gets us to the second major point: nearly everything they say is wrong. Not just wrong because I disagree, but demonstrably, objectively wrong. And not merely a little off, but in most cases what they say is the perfect opposite of the truth. They deal in countertruth, in antitruth, in things true only in Bizzaro.

So why bother writing a few posts about a fringe of a fringe organization with delusional ideas and no chance of success? A couple of reasons. First off, it will be fun.

Second, while it is easy to write off the Soveriegnites as ignorant rubes, they actually have developed a fairly detailed theory of governance and that theory gets at some of the most basic debates about government and power. Taking on the sovereignty amendment means taking on basic assumptions made by the likes of the Tea Parties and other anti-government activists. Which isn't a bad thing to spend time doing.

Finally, while their ideas are wrong, it would be dangerous to let them gain currency. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that the last time ideas like these were broadly accepted, Ft. Sumter was attacked. Not to say that's where we are headed, but let's also not just sit back and let folks like this run the debate.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's Good for GM Is Bad for Jim Renacci

For Jim Renacci's rant against the GM bailout to make sense, he needs the bailout to fail. If the bailout, and the subsequent bankruptcy, restructuring, layoffs, elimination of models, and yes, terminating dealer franchises works, then it sounds like he's just whining about his personal ox getting gored.

What's more, he's running on his experience as a businessman. He says experience creating jobs with the businesses he has run and can translate that experience into better economic policies. Apply that to the presser about the closing and the argument seems to be -- indeed must be -- that if he had been in Congress GM would neither need to go bankrupt nor would it need to close dealerships. And for the second to work, he needs to show that closing dealerships has prevented GM from bouncing back.

He could arguably say that the point of the bailout shouldn't only be GM's survival, but the health of the economy as a whole, including all the franchisees. That would be an interesting argument, but also a progressive Democratic one. It's essentially an argument that a company should think about the social costs of it's downsizing strategy, much like when progressives point to studies showing that mass layoffs can hurt a company's long term health.

Such an argument is not consistent with the free market, laissez faire, CEO knows best philosophy of governance that undergirds all of his campaign rhetoric. He can make that argument, but he would have to switch parties first.

Meanwhile, if his fit over losing his dealership is only about him losing a dealership, his whole argument about austerity and personal responsibility. If he can't personally take the medicine he prescribes for the economy, surely he can't provide the leadership we need in trying times.

So, if the bailout succeeds, he was wrong about GMs restructuring. And if he's wrong about GMs restructuring it undermines the entire argument for his candidacy. Got it? Great. Now check this out:
    General Motors' promise was this: by cutting its North American brands in half and shedding employees, dealers and creditors, it could break even with 18-percent share of a 10-million unit annual U.S. light vehicle market. In its second full quarter as post-bankruptcy New GM, (having even fired the man who made that promise as CEO, Fritz Henderson) has turned a profit.

    * * *
    What does all this mean? It means the bankruptcy did what was intended. It shrunk GM to a manageable size and made it an automaker more likely to survive in a market crowded with keen Asian, European and domestic competitors. GM needed to shed brands, models, dealerships, white- and blue-collar employees, production capacity and debt to be viable and help save U.S.-based manufacturing. Liddell expects GM to remain profitable, although it's too early to predict an overall profit for 2010. If GM can pull that off, an IPO that "buys out" a portion of the government's "investment" (large enough to reduce our ownership to a minority position, I hope) should happen by early next year.
Would you buy a used free market ideology from this man?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jim Renacci Loses Dealership; Incoherently Politicizes It

Republican Congressional Candidate Jim Renacci has announced that his GM dealership in Wadsworth will close. OK, not so much "announced" as "turned into a bizarre, internally contradictory campaign talking point." His press release, reproduced here on ANN, asserts the following:

    The GOP candidate for the 16th Congressional District is closing the doors to his Wadsworth car business -- a casualty, he says in a news release, of GM's deal with Uncle Sam.

    Today, Jim Renacci announced that his Wadsworth Chevrolet dealership, which was targeted for closure following the government takeover of General Motors in 2009, will close its doors next month. Renacci was first notified in May of 2009 that the dealership was one of over a thousand nationwide that would be terminated.

    * * *

    Renacci stepped in and acquired it in an effort to save local jobs and shortly thereafter he successfully stabilized the once troubled business. Nevertheless, Renacci's franchise was ultimately dismantled as a result of the government takeover of GM.

    "When the Obama administration first made clear its intention to take over General Motors and to dictate to small business owners whether or not they could continue to operate privately owned businesses"”which in some cases had been their family's livelihood for over 50 years, I feared we were witnessing one of the darkest days in American capitalism. And today, as I was forced to face my employees and tell them that we lost the fight and they've lost their jobs"”it was clear that my fears were not misplaced. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to overcome the government's "˜restructuring plan' from the outside"”but I am now left even more committed to restructuring our government's plans from the inside," Renacci said.
Wow. We have so much wrongness here it's like on of those "How many mistakes can you find in this picture" puzzles.

Take just the opening graf in which he claims the dealership is a casualty of GM's deal with the government. I think he's overstating the extent to which the government dictated dealer closures as a condition of the bailout. It's more like the bailout enabled closures that the company wanted to make. When the closures were announced, it was GM brass insisting that they needed to trim their overextended dealer network to cut costs and right size the company. It's car companies that are now fighting state efforts to pass dealer protection laws.

But more fundamentally than that, if GM hadn't made the "deal with Uncle Sam" Renacci would have lost his franchise anyway because there wouldn't be a GM any more. The choice wasn't between a bailout and running the company a different way, it was between a bailout and no more GM. Most of the time when Republicans criticize the bailout they are at least honest enough to acknowledge that GM would have gone bust, they just dispute the administration's assessment that it would have wrecked the economy.

The coherent criticisms of the bailouts have either maintained that free market principles are so important that the risk of big firms folding is worth it, or argued that the bailouts were too kind to the companies -- that they didn't put austerity conditions on the bailed out firms. Renacci seems to have found a third way -- the government should cut spending everywhere except that it should provide unconditional bailouts where they would benefit him personally.

Finally Renacci's little snit goes against his whole campaign theme. In his latest KNR ads he avers that when times are tough, you have to tighten your belt. Well, if GM is going to tighten its belt, it needs to shed some tonnage. Belt tightening isn't as much fun to talk about when you are the fat that gets trimmed, eh Jim?

Credit where it's due, at least he didn't revive the debunked conspiracy theory about only Republican dealerships getting axed.

In case you thought Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 was too broad brush, no. He's alive and well and running for Congress in the Ohio 16th.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nickie Antonio Now Running Unopposed; Poised to Become Ohio's First Gay Legislator

Word comes tonight that the challenger of Ohio House candidate Nickie Antonio has dropped out of the race, making her virtually assured of becoming Ohio's first openly gay or Lesbian representative. H/t to Equality Ohio for the email notice

Jeremy Caldwell had been running against Ms. Antonio as an independent. He hasn't posted a reason for dropping out on his MySpace blog, though the fact that his web presence was a MySpace group with 15 friends may have something to do with it.

Since talking about her sexuality caused a stir on the blogosphere recently, let me say this. Like Jack Shafer, I dream of a day when a person's sexuality will not be an issue. Since today it is with a significant portion of the electorate, when a candidate is able to succeed despite the bias of that part of the electorate, it is a thing to be celebrated. The only way we get to the end point of sexuality being irrelevant is to pay attention to successes of LGBT people today.

The Ultimate Elena Kagan Resource Site

I've been trying to compile links to the best sites for Kaganalia. Happily the folks at the Library of Congress have done (most of) the work for me: (Hattip: Akron Law Cafe.) You'll find there a complete bibliography, links to important papers that are online and a collection of blog and news links.

The one addition I would make is the Jurisprudence department on Slate has some of the best Supreme Court reporters going, especially Dahlia Lithwick and Emily Bazelon. The whole staff has been posting insightful analyses from a variety of angles.

Also, if you are unfamiliar with the blawg (that's blogs about the law) world, note that the two academic blogs most closely covering the nomination are Balkinization, which is generally center/left and Volokh Conspiracy which is generally libertarian/right. Each is a group blog and on each a number of posters have contributed strong articles, mostly about her academic work.

Ohio 16th Check-In

This week Republican Congressional nominee Jim Renacci's most credible primary opponent endorsed him. Which is sufficient excuse to check in on the race.

Renacci is running in the Sixteenth District against freshman incumbent (and something of a blogosphere darling) John Boccieri.

Here's hoping they make as a campaign issue the proper pronunciation of double c's in Italian.

With his erstwhile challenger Matt Miller formally endorsing him, Renacci is consolidating his party support in the district. While ongoing strife with Miller was unlikely, a cleavage between the southern part of the district and the Stark County center of gravity.

In addition to the Miller, the same article notes that he is lining up the traditional Stark County Republican brokers, notably the Timkens and Representative emeritus Ralph Regula.

Renacci has been running hard since the start of the year. He's been tapped by the national party as one of its top tier Congressional candidates, and has been raising money by the barrowful.

He's also been spending it by the barrowful. He has been running ads on WKNR since January. First, a life story, then ads telling Boccieri not to vote for health care reform, then ads slamming him for his vote in favor. All this happened before the primary. Advertising on KNR is a profligate use of campaign money as coverage is spotty in Stark and Wayne. Currently the campaign continues the onslaught with ads decrying government spending.

Renacci has an interesting resume -- entrepreneur and small town mayor. Sadly, he's not running a very interesting campaign. Instead of proposing innovative center/right solutions, he's reading straight from the RNC playbook, claiming Boccieri is a Nancy Pelosi lackey and pretending that Pelosi and Obama are entirely responsible for the economic mess. On health care for instance, he advances only the two Republican non-solutions -- interstate competition and tort reform.


While it makes for a predictable campaign, it isn't a stupid strategy. The election will be more than anything else a reflection of the public mood on the economy. Republicans are rooting for the numbers to remain bad and hitching their wagons to grim economic forecasts. And history says

It's tired to say Stark County is a bellwether, but once again it is. This will be a knock down drag out race spending armored car loads of campaign cash. In the end it will come down to how voters in the Sixteenth feel about the economy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early Thoughts on Elena Kagan

A couple of friends asked me what I think of Obama's pick for Supreme Court. I've been reading this and that, but by no means have I made a comprehensive review of all things Kagan. In no particular order, here's my initial set of reactions.

  • On Average, She's About on Par with Stevens. Justice Stevens is being touted as a great progressive hero. In fact he is a pragmatist and a moderate who looks liberal only due to what passes for the center on the current court. He is responsible for some strong liberal decisions -- his dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick became the law when the Court struck down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas. On the other hand, he also took some less-than-progressive positions, such as his dissent in the Texas flag-burning case. Kagan looks about the same, though probably with a different issue mix.
  • In any Event, She's Certainly Left of Kennedy. This is all matters a whole lot less, given that Justice Kennedy is the swing vote. It's unlikely a liberal position will get Kennedy's vote, but not Kagan's.
  • She Was Nominated for Her Intangibles. Intangibles were the "it" topic during this year's NFL draft -- that bundles of leadership qualities that don't fit on a stat sheet. By all reports, Ms. Kagan's big strength is her intangibles. She's the Tim Tebow of high-flying legal talent. Justice Stevens was known as the last great compromiser on the Court, able to occasionally bring a conservative or two over to an otherwise liberal side. My guess is that Obama wanted someone to fill that role on the Court and Kagan had the best mix of professional qualifications, youth and consensus building chops.
  • At Some Point, the President's Selection Should Be Respected. The grumbling on the Left is that Obama should have picked a through-and-through orthodox liberal. I've never been terribly comfortable with trying to defeat a nominee simply on the basis of ideology -- I'm more interested in legal method. In any event, mobilizing against a nominee because she may be liberal but not liberal enough embraces a rigid orthodoxy that we should let the Right keep to themselves.
  • The Experience Thing. She's not the next Harriet Myers as Mitch McConnell's office is apparently hinting. Her experience is more analogous to -- though more extensive than -- that of William Rehnquist. And setting ideology aside, Rehnquist was a good Justice and a great Chief Justice at a time the Court needed strong leadership to recover from the damage Warren Burger wreaked.
  • Enemy of My Enemy. Anyone attacked by Jeff Sessions is worth a serious look.
As time goes on and more information sees daylight, I may get more specific. For now, you know where I'm coming from

Friday, May 07, 2010

Closing Tabs

Not much success in Day 2 of the Comeback. Too much end of semester grading. Too much writing work. Meantime, here's what I read on breaks but never had time to write up.

  • The NRA Says Terrorists Have 2nd Amendment Rights Too. The kings of Gunnitistan are opposing attempts to flag people on the terrorism watch list to keep them from buying guns. The NRAites have always been the ultimate absolutists, but this is a lot even for them.
  • Marc Dann, Convict. Former Attorney General Marc Dann plead guilty today to ethics violations, a sad coda to his hubris-riddled career. He's been fined and sentenced to community service. Which will be something new for him.
  • Palin Flogging the Christian Nation Trope. The demi-Governor says the plan at the founding of the nation was to "create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandents, it’s quite simple." Yes, simple is one word for it.
  • NYT on Charters Schools. The paper of record runs an extensive look at the latest studies -- including one from privatization-happy Hoover Institution -- showing that most charters do no better than the schools they replace, some do work, etc. Worse for charter honks, the ones that succeed are the ones that have lots of philanthropic support. Hmm. Education costs money. Whoda thunk? H/t Scene Mag.
  • Some Big Words that mean Conservatives Are Close-Minded. I'm fascinated by the chatter about epistemic closure on the right. These tabs may stay open a bit longer; I may need to blog this yet.
Still lots of grading to do tomorrow, but things will clear up soon.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Buckeye State Tubes RNSC

Buckeye State Blog proprietor David Potts successfully petitioned YouTube to pull the Republican Senate Campaign Committee's ad against Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher. The ad lifted footage from a video interview BSB posted at the start or primary season, pulling a couple of quotes about Fisher's job at the Department of Development. Congrats to David for getting the attention of Politico and for the general awesomeness of the play.

This story is fun -- because damn -- but it's also important. Interviews like that at BSB and the interviews Jeff Coryell used to do at Ohio Daily offer an important service. A candidate relating to a nonprofessional citizen journalist tends to be different -- more relaxed, informal, unscripted. We will get less of that if candidates fear it will be plundered for an unflattering moment taken out of context. Way back when Meet the Bloggers was happening, this was an ongoing concern. We had Emily's List (well, their consultants, anyway) lift some photos of Capri Cafaro for attack mailers and Zack Space's opponent using quotes from his MTB interview in radio ads.

How far citizen journalists can push this remains to be seen. The decision to pull the ad based on the intellectual property objection is YouTube's. The ad remains (as of tonight) in the NRSC front page and is probably on their anti-Fisher attack site which I have no desire to visit. If challenged in court, they can claim fair use which works some time, but would take serious lawyering to beat. Some newspapers assert their copyright over editorial endorsements such that you have to run the entire piece, but newspapers have phalanxes of lawyers to assert those rights.

The great hope is that the embarrassment of being publicly outed for copyright infringement and especially getting dinked by YouTube will deter this kind of nonsense to some degree.

Finally, an irony worth noting. This is the interview that essentially tore Buckeye State apart when it happened. Tonight it has gotten the blog national notice.

Back Again

So the previously announced Spring cleaning took longer than planned and I wondered if blogging could ever fit into my schedule again. I still wonder, but people keep asking after the Pages. A couple of highlights: I got name checked by Ed Esposito at a Press Club event earlier this year, and the college friend who first glossed me "Pho" dropped the url in our alumni mag this month. So here's to one last push to get this thing going again.

There should be no shortage of material. Not only will races for statewides and Senate be tight, but locally the Ohio 16th (Boccieri vs. Renacci) will be a battle royal. And in the 13th Betty Sutton has an interesting challenger in Tom Ganley, though it remains to be seen whether he will actually do any campaigning.

And of course there are the usual topics around here: what the Supreme Court is doing to our Constitution, whether public education in Ohio can be saved, the latest net neutrality debate and various and sundry policy issues and occasional nods to culture and food.

Should be fun.

The first new substantive post appears immediately below.

Primarily a Bad Sign

We can start with yesterday's AP piece trying to divine broader meaning from voter participation in Tuesday's primary. Here's the nub:

    Final, unofficial totals show more votes were cast for Republicans in every statewide race except U.S. Senate, the Democrats' most high-profile primary.

    Experts say the participation rates show Republicans are energized — perhaps to beat Democrats, but perhaps to either support or defy the nascent tea party movement. Lessons for fall are still being determined.
I'll mostly go along with that, especially since the participation rate parallels the polling data showing that Dems are demoralized and Repubs are energized. But it's worth noting a few factors that may exaggerate Tuesday's numbers:
  • The Roll-off Difference. Studies show that Democratic voters are more likely to roll-off, that is vote only the top of the ticket as opposed to filling out the entire ballot. This is, for example, why Republicans continued to win judicial races even in the big Dem cycles. Setting aside arguments about what this says about the respective parties, its certainly possible that Dems are less likely than Republicans to vote in all the uncontested races.
  • New Ballots. The new optical scan ballots make it more of a pain in the butt to vote. Filling in an oval is that much more tedious and annoying than punching a button or tapping a screen. Not that anyone would not vote in a real race, but when there is a real (if minimal) cost to doing something that matters not at all, fewer people will do it. This may have heightened the roll-off effect.
  • The Tea Party. While the Senate campaign was big for the true political junkies on the left, the Republicans had a near civil war over the Auditor's race in which the Tea Partiers had there guy against the establishment Party pick. This arguably injected an energy into turnout on the Republican side of the ballot.
  • Things Change. This an events-driven election cycle. The prime mover in this election is not big ideas about the role and size of government, it's that people want something/anything to happen so they start hurting. It's unlikely the economy -- and in particular the employment numbers -- will pick up appreciably, but if they do, the picture changes.
Make no mistake, things are not good for Democrats this cycle. But it is still good to see the entire picture.

UPDATE: Apparently the GOP's "voter enthusiasm" advantage is dampening. h/t Progress Ohio's Twitter feed.