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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bush Approval Ratings Nearly - But Not Quite - Worst Ever

There's a story in the Wall Street Journal reporting that Bush's dismal approval ratings aren't as bad as the worst marks given to former presidents Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, based on a study by Harris Interactive. Is this good news for the beleaguered White House?

Well, not so much. Harris has Bush at 28% approval, and that's only 2 points better then Nixon shortly before his resignation after the Watergate scandal, and only 6 points better than Carter after the failed mission to rescue the American hostages in Iran. Nixon's 26% and Carter's 22% were in fact the worst ratings ever recorded during the nearly half century of such polling monitored by Harris. Not much comfort there.

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OH-16: Amstutz (R) to Run if Regula (R) Retires?

The Dispatch political blog Daily Briefing thinks it could happen, and suggests that this could be the explanation for why term-limited State Sen. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) was the only one not to co-sponsor a bill introduced by State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middleton) to ban job discrimination against veterans and those still serving in the military. Boccieri has already announced his intention to run for the seat. Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Navarre) is 82 and has served since 1974.

Meanwhile, township trustee and state party committee member Michael Todd (D-Medina) is preparing to run for the Ohio Senate seat that Amstutz will vacate. (Todd previously announced a bid for Rep. Regula's seat, later withdrawn). The GOP candidate could well be term-limited State Rep. Jim Carmichael (R-Wooster), one of just a few (three? four?) Republican incumbents to run unopposed for the Ohio House of Representatives in 2006.

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Oh Thank Goodness - Days May Be Numbered for Glenn Beck on CNN Headline News

The few times I've tried to watch it's been like enduring the worst toothache of my life. Apparently I'm not alone, as ratings for the right-wing radio host's evening TV shows (at 7:00 and 9:00 pm) are abysmal. Let's hope the network comes to its senses in a hurry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yellow Dog Sammy Interviews Connie Schultz About Campaign Book

The first half of my interview with Connie Schultz about her forthcoming book on the Senate campaign is now posted on the State sub-page. The interview occurred back on January 29th, a few weeks after I had travelled to Washington for Sherrod Brown's swearing in ceremony. Schultz was then just about finished with her first draft of the book, which is scheduled for release in hardcover on June 19th.

I thought of the interview as a preliminary to her eventual book tour, so we talked extensively about her writing process and how the book developed over the course of the campaign. It was a long conversation with a number of surprises. In this part of the interview we learn the origin of the idea for the book (and it didn't occur to Schultz first), the story of the title, the important role of Moleskine notebooks, thoughts on political journalists and on bloggers, the hardship of taking a leave from writing her column, and some insights into Brown's delayed entry into the race (Schultz was the holdout, and she wanted her husband to go ahead and say so). Schultz gives us a candid look at the private moments she shared with her spouse behind the scenes, including a hilarious early morning episode involving toothpaste, and glimpses of the tremendous strain and anguish they endured, particularly in connection with the loss of Schultz' father early in the campaign. And, we find out what cable TV show they watched on DVD to help provide a late-night distraction.

Read the interview.

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Ohio Job Loss Continued in April


The folks at Policy Matters Ohio are keeping an eye on employment data in Ohio, and the latest update is more bad news. According to seasonally adjusted payroll numbers for non-farm wage and salary jobs from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio’s job market sagged again in April. While slightly above the lowest recent numbers (in the fall of 2003), the number of jobs remains lower than last year’s levels and way down from early in the decade.

It certainly doesn't help that China's entry into the World Trade Organization has been a disaster for domestic manufacturing jobs, as detailed in a report from the Economic Policy Institute called "Costly Trade with China." Supporters had argued that China's entry in 2001 would actually reduce its trade deficit with the U.S. and increase U.S. employment (by opening China's markets to imports and securing China's compliance with trade standards and rules). However, the agreement failed to include any protections to improve labor or environmental standards in China. Instead of improving the U.S. economy, the agreement to let China into the WTO has been a fiasco. China's policy of artificially devaluing its currency (effectively subsidizing Chinese exports), its suppression of labor rights, its direct subsidization of export production, and its strict non-tariff barriers to imports has resulted in exports to the U.S. six times greater than U.S. exports to China. China's trade surplus was more than 40% of the U.S. non-oil trade deficit, easily the most imbalanced of our international trading relationships.

How does that affect Ohio? The report estimates U.S. job losses due to our trading relationship with China at 1.8 million since 2001. Policy Matters points out that Ohio was the 8th hardest hit among the states, losing 66,100 jobs and job opportunities. This number is about 1.2 percent of Ohio's total employment base in 2006. Another blow to Ohio from bungled trade policy.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Listen to Hillary Clinton's Keynote Speech From ODP Dinner

Did you miss the Ohio Democratic Party State Dinner on May 12th? Click on through to the ODB Nation sub-page to listen to the audio of Hillary's Clinton's keynote speech (38 minutes).

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OH-11: Tubbs Jones (D) Supports Fox News Sponsorship of CBC Debate

In 2003 the CBC Institute, an affiliate of the 43-member Congressional Black Caucus, reached a deal with Fox News to sponsor a presidential debate focused on addressing the concerns of African American voters. Fox News began at that point to ingratiate itself with the CBC by making donations to individual members and to the political arm of the caucus, and by establishing an internship program at Morgan State University, a black college in the district of then-chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD).

This year, when plans to repeat the Fox-sponsored presidential debate in this election cycle were made public, Democratic bloggers and activists objected loudly to sponsorship of the CBC debate by Fox News, citing Fox's blatant bias against Democrats and against blacks in particular. The three highest-profile Democratic candidates (Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and former Sen. John Edwards) have all withdrawn from the event. For details about the debate, the campaign against it, and the reactions by the candidates, see this article in Sunday's New York Times and posts at MyDD.com here and here.

Although there is fierce debate within the CBC about the matter, and prominent member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has come out strong against the CBC-Fox relationship, the caucus members responsible for organizing the debate have refused to back down. Recently, 26 Caucus members joined in a letter to all of the candidates, urging them to participate in the Fox-CBC debate. Ohio's Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) joined in that letter.

Constituents of Tubbs Jones and other Ohioans who are disturbed by the pernicious bias at Fox News, and who don't want to see the CBC continue to provide Fox News with cover to deny charges of bias and racial prejudice, can take action by signing an online petition sponsored by ColorofChange.org. Here is the text of the petition:
It is wrong for Black leaders to legitimize FOX -- a network that calls Black churches a cult, implies that Senator Barack Obama is a terrorist, and uses the solemn occasion of Coretta Scott King's funeral to call Black leaders "racist."

The Congressional Black Caucus Institute must end their partnership with FOX, and presidential candidates should reject the FOX debate in favor of the CBC Institute's CNN debate.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Kudos to Ohio Dem Reps For Voting "No" on Iraq and "Yes" on Ethics Reform

Although I'm trying to be philosophical on the Iraq funding vote, and the decision by Democratic Congressional leaders to let the bill pass doesn't bother me as much as it bothers many, I'm nevertheless pleased that a majority of Ohio's Democratic members of Congress joined 140 Democrats overall in voting "no." (Reps. Kaptur, Sutton, Kucinich, and Ryan voted "no," Tubbs Jones was absent due to a death in the family, and Space and Wilson voted "yes.") Symbolism is important, public statements of principle are important, and yesterday's voting revealed the predominantly Republican dimension of support for continuing the war.

Also heartening is the majority of Ohio Democratic members voting in favor or two bills on House ethics reform, even though the bills still don't go far enough. All of the Ohio Democrats except Reps. Kaptur, Kucinich, and the absent Tubbs Jones voted to require lobbyists to disclose "bundling," which means soliciting and collecting donations from several sources on behalf of a candidate. All but Kaptur and Tubbs Jones voted for another bill including a tighter prohibition on lobbyists' gifts, requiring disclosure of legislators putting "earmarked" projects into spending bills, and prohibiting pressure on lobbying firms to base hiring on political affiliations (i.e., disgraced GOP leader Tom DeLay's "K Street Project").

Kaptur told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that she voted "no" because the bills are incomplete, and Kucinich did not return calls about the votes.

Thirty-three Democrats voted in favor of a GOP procedural motion designed to harass the Democratic leadership by strengthening the first of the ethics bills, apparently in hopes that fewer Democrats would vote for the modified bill. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley Township), who campaigned squarely on ethics reform, got a special mention on CQ Politics for her vote in favor of the GOP motion.

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CJ Prentiss to Host Conference on Increasing Graduation of Black HS Students

CJ Prentiss, the former Ohio Senate Minority Leader and now Gov. Strickland's Special Representative for Closing the Achievement Gap, will be the moderator for a day-long conference in Columbus next Wednesday, May 30th, at the Columbus Convention Center titled "The Governor’s Conference on Increasing the High School Graduation Rate for African American Male Students."

The keynote speaker for the conference is Mychal Wynn, a national authority on African American male achievement and school improvement planning. He is the author of 17 books including Don't Quit, Test of Faith, Increasing Student Achievement, and The Eagles who Thought They were Chickens. Wynn is a charismatic and dynamic educational trainer with a remarkable personal story. He was adopted at age six, raised in the Chicago ghetto, and was a low-performing student throughout elementary and middle school. He beat the odds against him to graduate with honors from Northeastern University and begin a prosperous career as a systems design analyst, which he gave up to become a teacher in South Central Los Angeles and eventually a successful author, publisher, speaker, and educational consultant to schools and school districts.

More information about participants and workshops is available on the Conference website. Pre-registration has been huge, with more than 1,400 people already signed up. On-line registration is closed, but on-site registration will be available on the day of the event, and the morning plenary and luncheon program will be livestreamed on The Ohio Channel.

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Sen. Brown (D) and Rep. Space (D) to Hold Historic Joint VA Affairs Hearing in Ohio

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) announced last night that they will hold the first ever joint field hearing of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans' Affairs in Ohio next Tuesday. The hearing will focus on issues affecting veterans in Ohio and across Appalachia, with testimony about access to care, claims processing, information dissemination, and veterans service improvements.

"We have a duty and moral obligation to ensure our nation's veterans receive the care and support they need," said Brown in a press release. "As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, I take this task very seriously and look forward to hearing from those in the field on how we can better serve Ohio veterans."

"Veterans in rural Appalachia unfortunately often receive a lower level of care due to transportation and access issues," adds Space. "That is simply unacceptable. I look forward to discussing these issues with experts in the field and working with Senator Brown to find solutions so our heroes get the care they deserve."

Attendees at the hearing will include Frank Anderson, Government Relations Director of the Buckeye Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America; Robert Bertschy, Senior Vice Commander of the Disabled American Veterans, Department of Ohio; Tom Burke, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Buckeye State Council; Larry Moore, State Legislative Director of the Ohio Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; George Ondick, Executive Director of AMVETS, Department of Ohio; Donald Lanthorn, Department Service Director of the Department of Ohio of The American Legion; and Terry Carson, Chief Executive Officer of the Harrison Community Hospital.

The Veterans in Appalachia Joint Field Hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 29th, at 10:00 am on the Kent State University - Tuscarawas campus, 330 University Drive NE, New Philadelphia, Ohio.

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Light Posting Today (and Must-Read True Anecdote)

No Ohio news or presidential race roundups today as I focus on catching up on some longer feature pieces for the sub-pages. However, I will note any interesting or major new bits that come my way, and for now I have to share this little true story from last night.

My spouse and I were at a dinner event and a friend sitting next to me mentioned her twin sister. Another attendee asked our friend if the sister is an identical twin, and our friend replied:
"Oh, gosh, no. She's a Republican!"

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

News and Notes: Presidential Contenders

What they are up to today:

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - Rejected her campaign aide's advice to skip Iowa in favor of subsequent primaries, but because the news got out her campaign is in overdrive denying any intention of doing so. She will campaign in Iowa again this weekend.

Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - Cites John Edwards' rejection of the term "Global War on Terror" as proof that Democrats are in denial about terrorism. A new Gallup poll assigns him the highest favorability rating among the six major candidates of either party at 62%, with Edwards second at 56%.

Mitt Romney (R-MA) - If you guessed that Hillary Clinton got the lowest favorability score in that Gallup poll, you are wrong. Romney is 26 points behind Clinton at 27%. (Edwards, Obama, McCain and Clinton are all bunched together between 53% and 56%.)

John Edwards (D-NC) - Isn't treated altogether kindly in a new memoir by Robert Shrum, the political consultant who helped out with Edwards' U.S. Senate campaign. Shrum writes that Edwards confessed to being uncomfortable around gays, and elsewhere refers to him as "a Clinton who hadn't read the books."

Sam Brownback (R-KS) - Trots out Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff known as "Jane Roe" in the 1973 Supreme Court abortion ruling Roe v. Wade who has become an anti-abortion icon, to prop up his flagging campaign.

Al Gore (D-TN) - The non-candidate appears on tonight's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "Late Show with David Letterman."

Ron Paul (R-TX) - Assigned remedial reading for Giuliani after the latter upbraided him in the last GOP debate for saying that U.S. policy in the Middle East provoked the 9/11 attack. His list: "Imperial Hubris" by Michael Scheuer, "Dying to Win" by Robert Pape, "Blowback" by Chalmers Johnson, and the 9/11 Commission Report.

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Opposition to War at All-Time High, Surge Regarded as Failing, in New Poll

The New York Times has just released a poll showing that "six in 10 Americans say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq and more than three in four say things are going badly there – including nearly half who say things are going very badly." It is the most negative result on the war since it began.

Sixty-three percent favor a timetable for withdrawal, but "a majority support continuing to fund the war as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals." Seventy-six percent, including a majority of Republicans, say the additional troops sent under Bush's troop "surge" plan "have either had no impact or are making things worse in Iraq." At 33% Bush is near his lowest approval ratings ever, and a record 72% say the country is "seriously off on the wrong track."

The Democratic Party's approval rating is solidly above the GOP:
For the first time, more than half of those polled, 51 percent, said the Democratic party is more likely than the Republican party to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq. More broadly, Americans have a more favorable view of the Democratic party than of the Republican party. Fifty-three percent say they have a favorable opinion of the Democratic party, while 38 percent, have a favorable view of the Republican party.

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Iraq War Funding Votes Today and Tomorrow

My thoughts on the votes are posted on the ODB Issues page. There are some thoughtful takes on the votes on DailyKos and MyDD today.

UPDATE: This piece by Joan Walsh in Salon is also very good, rejecting attempts by Democratic leaders to portray the bill as anything but a cave-in to Bush.

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News and Notes: Ohio

Newsy bits from around the Buckeye State today:

Draft DePiero - Thanks to a new website with an internet petition, now you can add your voice to the chorus urging the popular mayor of Parma, Dean DePiero (D-Parma), to mount a primary challenge to serial long-shot presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland).

Kucinich's Rant: "It's The Oil, Stupid!" - Speaking of Cleveland's entry in the White House derby, I caught part of his long-sought one-hour floor speech on Iraq yesterday. He laid out his case that the underlying purpose of our presence in that traumatized nation is the greedy interest of big oil companies in vast untapped oil reserves. His case is rendered more difficult to dismiss by the fact that the oil law that the U.S. is pushing Iraq's parliament to pass was largely shaped by those western oil companies and it would grant them huge development opportunities in the country. Jill has the link to the printable version the speech.

Strickland Calls on Bush to Address Gas Price Crunch - Ohio's new governor joined top officials from 16 other states in calling on the president to work with the oil companies to find a long term solution to rising gas prices.

Ohio Senate Approves "Instant Racing" Machines at Race Tracks - The bill would allow the horse racing industry to install machines that allow gamblers to bet electronically on thousands of old races. But ... isn't that a lot like the slot machines that voters emphatically rejected last November?

Dann Proposes Regulating "Skill" Gambling Machines - Betting machines that resemble slots but purportedly require some element of "skill" have sprouted up all over the state. Attorney General Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) has proposed a plan to test and certify those machines. Yesterday, Dann settled a lawsuit with a manufacturer of two types of such machines, and the settlement allows Dann to hire an independent expert to determine whether that manufacturer's products are based more on skill (which is legal) or more on chance (generally illegal). He wants to expand that testing to all such machines.

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OH-18: Space (D) to Conduct Day-Long Summits on Rural Broadband Access

Freshman Congressman Zack Space (D-Dover) will make good use of the Memorial Day recess, holding two "Connect Appalachia" summits next Thursday and Friday to explore bringing high-speed internet access to rural areas of his district. Local leaders, telecommunications industry representatives, elected officials, a representative of the Governor's Office of Appalachia, and concerned citizens will discuss the barriers to progress and how to overcome them.

"Just as railroads in the 19th century and our interstate system in the 1950s represented revolutionary breakthroughs in transportation infrastructure, broadband represents the breakthrough for our generation," Space said in a press release. "We absolutely need wider access to broadband in order to attract new industries and jobs. The unfortunate reality is that much of southeastern Ohio lags behind the rest of the nation in the deployment of this technology."

The first summit will be Thursday, May 31st from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the OSU Extension Office in Jackson, Ohio, and the second will be Friday, June 1st, 2007 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Salt Fork State Park in Cambridge, Ohio. Contact Space's Dover office at 330-364-4300 or toll-free at 866-910-7577 for more information.

On a related note, the availability of broadband access through cable service is very much on the mind of the dean of Cleveland bloggers, Bill Callahan. This veteran advocate of fairness and universality in telecommunications service is keeping us informed about the problems with Senate Bill 117, a measure that would eliminate municipal cable franchises to clear the way for telecommunications giant AT&T to introduce statewide cable service, but AT&T's service would leave out many regions and communities across Ohio. Read Bill's invaluable posts here, here, and here.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

BREAKING - Rove Aide Seeks Immunity To Testify in Abramoff Investigation

MSNBC is reporting that Susan Ralston, a former senior aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove, has offered to tell the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform what she knows about administration links to convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff if she receives immunity from prosecution. Ralston resigned late last year after the committee determined that she had extensive contacts with Abramoff and had accepted tickets to sporting events and concerts.

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Thor Jacobs to Discuss Iraq and Middle East Policy at Forum and on New Website

Thor Jacobs, who ran in the Democratic primary in the 2nd Ohio Congressional District last year, is an expert on the Middle East from years of study and from having lived and worked in the region. I've met Jacobs and read some of his writing and I can attest to the scope of his knowledge about the topic.

Jacobs will be discussing U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Middle East in general at a panel dicussion on Saturday night at 7:00 pm at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, 1212 Jackson Street in Cincinnati. The panel will be moderated by Michelle Goldman, an Israeli national, and the other speakers are Muthar Al-Ubaidi, Mahi Sadeghi, Abdulla Adib, who have first-hand knowledge of Iraq, Syria, and Iran respectively. It is part of a series of forums and other types of events in connection with an exhibit on sociopolitical expression. More information about the series is available from saad-dot-ghosn-at-uc-dot-edu.

In addition, Jacobs has created a web site to host the essays he has written about Iraq and the Middle East, at present featuring papers titled "The Way Out," "What the Baker-Hamilton Commssion Report Should Say," and "A Strategic Plan for Sucess in Iraq." (It also has a gallery with cool pictures of Jacobs in the Middle East from childhood to the recent past.)

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OSC Report: GSA Chief Violated Hatch Act

The Gavel has a post noting that the Office of Special Counsel has issued an unpublished report concluding that President Bush's top official at the General Services Administration, Lurita Doan, did indeed violate the Hatch Act in a January 26th lunch meeting at GSA headquarters attended by Doan and Bush political appointees. The Hatch Act prohibits political activities by federal officers while in the scope of their official employment. During the meeting, Scott Jennings, the White House deputy director of political affairs, gave a PowerPoint presentation with slides listing Democratic and Republican seats the White House viewed as vulnerable in 2008, a map of contested Senate seats, and other information on election strategy. Afterward, Doan asked how the GSA could help "our candidates." Doan has until June 1 to respond to the OSC report.

This news mirrors former Alberto Gonzales aide Monica Goodling's admission today before the House Judiciary Committee today that she went too far by using political criteria in the hiring of Assistant U.S. Attorneys across the country (confirmed in the Washington Post today here). This is an administration that has put partisan politics well ahead of the national interest by infecting every aspect of government with its quest for political advantage.

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OH-8: Boehner (R) Calls Immigration Proposal "A Piece of Sh*t"

Hotline reports that Ohio Congressman and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester) had this to say in a private meeting with Republican activists last night:
"I promised the President today that I wouldn't say anything bad about ... this piece of shit bill."
Ah. That explains the cryptic public statement of yesterday, which didn't explicitly reject the bill but echoed the objections of conservatives who oppose it.

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News and Notes: Presidential Contenders

Newsy bits about some of those angling to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office:
Fred Thompson (R-TN) - Chris Cillizza reports that a Thompson candidacy looks increasingly likely as another Washington insider, this time former FEC Chair Michael Toner, has been brought into the camp. An AP story just out says much the same.

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - The Democratic front runner will hold a 12:15 pm ET press conference with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to announce an amendment to the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 that would remove barriers to reunification for spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents.

Mitt Romney (R-MA) - Watch the former Massachusetts governor's new TV ad, to run in New Hampshire and Iowa, here. Called "Tested, Proven," the ad boasts that Romney stood up to liberals (picturing Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and former Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-MA)) in the most liberal state in the nation.

John Edwards (D-NC) - The Edwards campaign promises a "muscular speech" on terrorism and the use of military force by the U.S. today at Council of Foreign Relations in New York City. And this news bit is hard to figure - the Edwards campaign has confirmed an expanded ad buy in Oregon. Oregon?

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Gonzales Aide Monica Goodling Set to Testify

If you can get C-Span3 or watch the streaming video online, it's time for the House Judiciary Committee testimony of Monica Goodling, former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and principal liason between the Department of Justice and the White House regarding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys late last year. She is expected to spill the beans after having been granted immunity from prosecution.

Live blogging of her testimony at DailyKos is here.

UPDATE: I listened to Goodling's opening statement. She denies being the principal DOJ-White House conduit or speaking to Karl Rove or Harriet Myers peronally, although she admits communicating with members of their staffs. She denies any knowledge of the actual reasons for the firings (i.e., she can't say whether the reasons she supplied in memos and messages were the reasons actually motivating whoever made the ultimate decision). However, she admits that she went too far by asking about, and taking into account, political views and affiliations in the hiring of new Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

Her voice trembled as she called the DOJ community her "family" and said that it was not her intention to say anything bad about anybody. How did this graduate of Pat Robertson's evangelical Christian law school, Regent University, possibly get hired and promoted four times? Oh, that's right, because she IS a graduate of that school.

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News and Notes: Ohio

A few things making news in the Buckeye State:
Gas Price Spike Continues - Retail gas prices as high as $3.50 are front page news in the Toledo Blade, the Akron Beacon Journal, and the Cincinnati Enquirer, especially with families considering changing their Memorial Day plans due to the expense. CNN is reporting that the current spike is a record-breaker, with the average retail price having exceed $3 for 20 days and having set a new record high every day for the last eleven.

Senate Hearings on Budget Continue - The Dispatch has a story discussing possible changes to the two year, $52 billion budget passed by the House, with Senate hearings on the matter continuing today. Republican senators are talking about increasing the additional funding for higher education that the GOP-led House added to Strickland's proposal (without figuring out a source for the extra money). The basic plan for k-12 educational funding is not expected to change.

Income Tax Credit for Adoption Increased From $500 to $1,500 - Final Senate action was yesterday, and Gov. Strickland is expected to sign.

No Booze At State Fair - The governor rejects proposals to allow beer and wine sales, which are banned except at the final concert at Crew Stadium.

Credit Report Freeze Bill Passes House - A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Timothy DeGeeter (D-Parma) and Rep. Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) that would enable consumers to freeze, and later temporarily or permanently unfreeze, their credit reports has passed the lower chamber. This is an important improvement for victims of identity theft. It requires payment of fees ($10 to each of the big three credit report agencies to implement the freeze), a feature that rankles consumer advocates. There is a similar law in about 35 other states, and a number of states don't require fees.

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Action Alert: Call Reps. Gillmor (R), LaTourette (R), Pryce (R) and Wilson (D) on Housing Voucher Bill

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is urging everyone concerned about public and assisted housing, an area that has been sadly neglected the past six years, to call U.S. Representatives on the Financial Service Committee immediately in support H.R. 1851, the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act, which is slated to be marked up today. The bill would enact these important improvements:
* Fixes to the distribution of voucher renewal funds by establishing annual rebenchmarking of voucher costs that will most closely match actual costs of administering vouchers at the local level.

* Supports the portability of vouchers by requiring receiving housing agencies to absorb ported-in vouchers from other housing agencies. Receiving housing agencies would be paid back with reallocated HUD funds.

* Simplifies rent calculations for voucher, public housing and project-based Section 8 tenants.

* Requires HUD to issue tenant protection vouchers (including enhanced vouchers) for all public and assisted housing units that are lost.
The NLIHC also supports these anticipated amendments:
* An amendment by Representative Green (D-TX) for 100,000 new vouchers in each of the next five years.

* An amendment by Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA) to reduce the number of voucher holders who face very high rent burdens.

* An amendment by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) to improve housing conditions and promote family stability by allowing owners up to six months to repair non-life threatening defects before voucher tenants are forced to move.

* An amendment by Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) to prohibit denials by PHAs of voucher assistance based on factors that are unrelated to a family's ability to fulfill their assisted lease and, in the case of all terminations and denials, require the consideration of mitigating circumstances in a fair hearing initiated by the PHA.

* An amendment by Representative Michael Capuano (D-MA) to improve enhanced vouchers for tenants.
The Ohio committee members are Steven LaTourette (R-Concord Township), Paul Gillmor (R-Old Fort), Deborah Pryce (R-Upper Arlington), and Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville). You can call them toll-free at 877-210-5351 and report the results of your call as outreach-at-nlihc-dot-org.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

News and Notes: Ohio UPDATED

Lots of things going on with Ohio elected officials:
Gov. Ted Strickand says he will decide today whether to sign Senate Bill 16, the Phil Burress/Citizens for Commmunity Values-backed law to impose additional restrictions on strip clubs. He also said he is optimistic about bringing an expansion project by Rolls-Royce North America to Ohio, although he would not say where.
UPDATE: Strickland has just announced that he will allow the bill to become law without signing it. This will get huge media coverage tomorrow.

Senators George Voinovich (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) announced today that they are co-sponsoring a bill to authorize federal grants in support of early education, which would help states "attract, train, and retain high-quality early childhood educators."

Rep. John Boehner (R-West Chester) and Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) have spoken out on the proposed immigration reform bill in the Senate, as reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer political blog Politics Extra, with Schmidt adamantly opposing it and Boehner sending a mixed signal that neither rejects nor supports it. Here is part of Boehner's statement:
“America is a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws – those laws must be obeyed and enforced. The Senate agreement appears to recognize that additional border security measures and more effective immigration law enforcement must come before any other issues are addressed, but I have significant concerns about parts of the Senate proposal - particularly provisions that would reward illegal immigrants who have consistently broken our laws. Republicans look forward to working with our colleagues on common sense reforms to shore up our borders and put a premium on enforcing our laws.”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) has only missed 10 roll calls in the 110th Congress on account of his presidential bid, which is just 2.7% of the votes taken. The other three Congressmen running for President have missed much more: Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) 12.8%, Ron Paul (R-Texas) 14.7%, Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) 24.9%. On the Senate side, Sen. Hillary Clinton is the least absent White House contender at 2.3% of roll calls missed.

Sect'y of State Jennifer Brunner announced a pilot program this morning aimed at getting more young people to vote by distributing voter registration forms and voter information with high school diplomas, calling it "the ultimate civics lesson." Also, information for young people about how to vote absentee and how to become a poll worker is now available on a special section of the Secretary of State web site.

State Senators Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), Dale Miller (D-Cleveland), and Robert Schuler (R-Sycamore Township) are co-sponsoring a bill that would make it a fourth-degree misdemeanor for 911 operators or translators from discussing billing information for translation services before handling an emergency. This proposal follows the drowning death of a 4-year old girl in Franklin County whose non-English speaking parents gave up on their 911 call after the operator brought a translator on the line to explain billing for translation services.

State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown), an interview with whom was posted on this blog today, will hold a press conference tomorrow at 12:30 pm in the Statehouse Minority Conference Room to announce a bill to bring Ohio law in line with the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA). The law would would protect servicemen and women from discrimination because of their service in the Armed Forces, National Guard or other services, and would safeguard their right to reclaim civilian employment following their time in military service or training.
UPDATE: Gov. Ted Strickland (D-New Lisbon) and Ohio Senate leaders will join Boccieri at the press conference.

The City Council of Oberlin voted last night to ask the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Oberlin becomes the first city in the state to pass such a measure.

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OH-16: Ohio Daily Blog Interviews Congressional Candidate John Boccieri

Yesterday it was my pleasure and privilege to interview state senator and recently-declared congressional candidate John Boccieri (D-New Middletown), who is running for the seat of Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Navarre) in the 16th Ohio Congressional District. Boccieri is a Major in the Air Force Reserve who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, flying C-130 aircraft. He explained to me what inspired him to enter politics and what motivates him today, why he decided to run for Congress now, his suitability to represent the 16th District, his interests and accomplishments in the state legislature, and the issues that he will emphasize in his campaign for Congress.

The interview is posted on the ODB State page, so click on through!

UPDATE: Audio of interview (about 15 minutes) now available in MP3 format here.

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News and Notes: Presidential Candidates

What are those would-be CIC's up to?
Duncan Hunter - The national security-obsessed California Congressman announced the launch of his "The Right Stuff Express" RV tour yesterday, featuring legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager. Playing off John McCain's well-known "The Straight Talk Express" bus tours, Hunter will begin his RV tour by travelling around South Carolina this week.

Al Gore - The Democratic non-candidate is getting a lot of media play, from the New York Times' sunday magazine feature about his big plans on global warming and yesterday's review of his new book out today to two new pieces on Huffington Post yesterday (one promoting Gore individually and the other pumping a Gore-Obama ticket), to a laudatory column by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post today:
Whatever flaws he has, Gore suffered through an extreme injustice with great dignity. His revenge is to have been right about a lot of things: right about the power of the Internet, right about global warming and right about Iraq.
John McCain - Reacting perhaps to yesterday's Des Moines Register poll that showed Mitt Romney with a substantial lead in Iowa, the Arizona senator ripped the former Massachusetts governor yesterday for attacking the compromise immigration reform bill now under consideration in the Senate. Perhaps Romney's solution to the immigration crisis is "to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn," McCain said, alluding to a newspaper report that a landscaping crew at Romney's gubernatorial mansion included illegal aliens. McCain also intimated that Romney's views are dictated by political expediency, saying that McCain might "wait a couple of weeks and see if the winds change and Mitt comes back around."

Hillary Clinton - Who benefits the most from Florida's decision to advance its primary to the very early date of January 29th? A chart compiled by Chris Bowers at MyDD.com shows that the average of three recent polls puts the former First Lady well ahead of nearest rival Barack Obama in Florida (41.3% to 18.%). It is the biggest number for Clinton among the various early-primary states, according to the chart.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Democratic Congressional Leadership Poised to Cave on Iraq Funding?

An AP story just out suggests that the Democratic leaders of Congress are moving toward introducing a bill that would fund U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September 30th without any kind of timetable for withdrawing from the Iraq. The bill would specify "political and military goals for the Iraqi government," linked to continuation of reconstruction aid, but that may be subject to presidential waiver. It would also be shorn of unrelated public spending provisions that appeared in earlier drafts. (The bill would, however, include a definitive version of the federal minimum wage increase that the House and Senate have each approved in varying forms.) Democratic sources insist that the party will continue to advance measures opposing continuation of the Iraq war in various forms, but yielding to the White House on this funding authorization is difficult to square with the Democrats' repeated pledge not to give the president "a blank check" on Iraq.

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"A Feminist Fury" Over Michelle Obama's Decision to Scale Back Her Career

Essayist Debra Dickinson writes in Salon today that she is in "a feminist fury" over the decision by Michelle Obama, spouse of the presidential candidate, to "scale back" her high-power career as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals in order to be "a professional wife and hostess" on the campaign trail. Dickinson doesn't blame Obama, or her husband, but she writes that she is heartsick and "blam[es] the world and every man, woman, child and border collie in it who helps send the message that women's lives must be subordinate to everyone else's." She concedes that the cause of electing the first black president is historic and worthy of sacrifice, but she also calls on Obama (if her spouse wins the race) to "go for it and take on a meaningful public policy role," and calls on feminism "to reach out to black women via the contingent of Obama-esque overachievers out there who ought to be chilled to the bone by Michelle's retirement from work of her own."

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From the "It Never Ends" Department, Global Warming Section

After years of insisting that global warming is a contested issue and not demonstrably linked to human activity, the White House signalled some softening on the issue by referring to "the serious challenge of climate change" in this year's State of the Union speech, and by subsequently claiming that this administration has taken steps to address the problem. Reuters reports today, however, that the Bush administration continues to work behind the scenes to suppress efforts to tackle the environmental crisis:
The United States is battling to stop next month's Group of Eight summit in Germany from pushing for urgent talks on a new deal to fight global warming after the Kyoto Protocol lapses in 2012.

In a draft of the final communique for the June 6-8 summit seen by Reuters, Washington wants taken out references to the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for a U.N. conference in Bali in December to open talks on a new global deal.

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Parma Couple Wins Supreme Court Case on Suing School District Without at Attorney

The New York Times reports that Jeff and Sandy Winkelmann of Parma, Ohio have won their federal lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing the right of parents of children with disabilities to appear without a lawyer in cases filed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which assures all children a “free appropriate public education.” The court did not actually rule that parents can act as attorneys for their children without a law license, but rather that parents have a separate, enforceable interest under the law that they can present on their own behalf, without legal representation.

School districts have dreaded this ruling, which is likely to greatly increase the number of people who file suits over the quality of education received by children with disabilities. However, parents of such children are going to find this greatly liberating, and they will certainly have more leverage in negotiating with schools about classroom procedures and conditions that affect their kids.

UPDATE: My oh my, Jill is good, isn't she? WLST is all over the Winkelman decision today, as in here, here and here.

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WH2008: Richardson (D) and Guiliani (R) in National TV Appearances Today

Just a heads up - get your fix of White House contenders on TV today as Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) appears on the CNN show "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" at 5:00 pm ET, and former mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) is a guest on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" at 11:30 pm ET.

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Immigration Compromise Taking Fire From All Sides

The proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill, devised behind the scenes by U.S. Senators including ultra-conservative John Kyl (R-AZ) and ultra-liberal Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and praised by the White House since it's unveiling last week, may be headed for a floor vote as early as this week. In brief, the compromise would establish a path to citizenship for many of the 12 million illegal immigrants now in the country, although one that is slow, arduous and expensive (among other requirements, applicants must pay a $5,000 fine). A guest worker program would be established to allow a limited number of aliens to work in this country legally but without any chance for citizenship, and the system for applying for immigration visas would be adjusted to emphasize job skills and education (including the ability to speak English) over family relationship to current U.S. citizens (at least beyond the narrow family circle of spouses and minor children). Chances for Senate approval are apparently slim and declining, however, as opponents from various camps turn up the volume on their criticism.

The New York Times reports today that business groups, although supportive of concepts underlying the compromise, are increasingly unhappy with the specifics. In particular, they don't view the skills-and-education point system as targeting their particular employment needs as effectively as the current employer sponsorship of work-related visas. A spokesperson for Hewlett-Packard wrote that that “a ‘merit-based system’ would take the hiring decision out of our hands and place it squarely in the hands of the federal government.” Also, employers are displeased that the bill would require them to check a federal data base on employment eligibility for all existing as well as potential employees.

On the other hand, the Washington Post today details objections from groups supporting immigrant communities, who complain that the guest worker system is immoral because it will lead to a subordinate class of people without rights, and that the emphasis on ability to speak English favors some immigrant nationalities over others, and that the dilution of the long-standing policy in favor of family reunification is "an anti-immigrant drive to end cultural diversity."

As the legislative process draws out, and GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already declared that it cannot be finished before the Memorial Day recess, more and more rank-and-file legislators will take public stands against the proposal. For example, last week freshman Ohio Congressman Zack Space (D-Dover), who won the strongly Republican 18th Congressional District in the wake of the Bob Ney scandal, issued a press release emblazoned with the headline "SPACE RAILS AGAINST IMMIGRATION COMPROMISE THAT WOULD OFFER AMNESTY TO MILLIONS OF ILLEGALS." Momentum against the proposal can only be expected to build over time.

UPDATE: Add Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Upper Arlington) to the list of vocal dissenters among the rank-and-file in the U.S. Congress. Hat-tip to the new Dispatch political blog, The Daily Briefing.

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News and Notes: Presidential Candidates UPDATED

This morning's tidbits on some of the White House wannabes:
John McCain - In a speech to the Oklahoma State Legislature today, the GOP senator from Arizona will call for more ethics and efficiency in government. Meanwhile, the Washington Post Capitol Briefing notes that McCain has missed 42 straight roll calls over the past five weeks, a large number even for a presidential contender. He has been missing an extraordinary number of votes ever since his dismal fundraising report for the first quarter was released.

John Edwards - As noted by Joseph on the estimable blog Plunderbund this morning, a new poll from the Des Moines Register shows the former North Carolina senator pulling slightly ahead in the critical state of Iowa:
29% Edwards
23% Obama
21% Clinton
10% Richardson
Jonathon Singer notes on MyDD that Richardson's early advertising has pulled him up into double digits. Will this cause other candidates to unleash a flurry of ads?

Hillary Clinton - The junior senator from New York today will unveil a $5 billion plan for universal pre-kindergarten classes at an elementary school in Miami. The voluntary program would require states match federal spending, which could increase to $10 billion as more states join during the first five years. Teachers funded under the program would be required to have bachelor’s degrees and training in early childhood development, and there would be standards for early learning curriculums and teacher-child ratios. The money could also be used to expand Head Start programs.

Bill Richardson - The Governor of New Mexico is expected to formally announce his candidacy at about 1:00 pm our time:
Richardson, who is currently operating under the rubric of an “exploratory” committee, is due to speak in California at the Los Angeles Press Club on Monday at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time. While his campaign would not confirm the details of his speech, multiple media outlets report the governor will formally enter the presidential race.

If that is the case, the venue is hardly a random choice. Richardson, who is in his second term as New Mexico governor, is the only one of the prominent Democratic contenders who is from the West.

UPDATE: Some highlights from Richardson's remarks:
"I am running for president, because these times call for a leader with a proven track record, and a demonstrated ability to bring people together to tackle our problems at home and abroad. I am that person, not because I say so, but because of what I have done, and what I can do for the American people....

"The challenges we face are not acts of God or accidents of fate. They were man-made and deliberate. Whether it was willful ignorance or an ignorant will, we are left with the ravages of an administration that will take years to rectify."

UPDATE: Mitt Romney - The Des Moines Register poll also show the former Massachusetts governor with a substantial lead over the other two front runners, McCain and Guiliani, with Romney pulling down 30% and the the others at 18% and 17% respectively. The pollster said that Romney's strong lead may be attributable to "solid performances in the two national debates, his work in building a network of supporters in Iowa, his fundraising prowess and money spent on TV ads." It also helps that the new poll does not include the two persistently-popular non-candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN).

Fred Thompson - And speaking of the former senator from Tennessee, Chris Cilizza reports in The Fix today that Washington veteran Tom Collamore, a former Reagan administration official and aide to Bush I, has become Thompson's "manager in waiting." Since his government service, Collamore has been a corporate officer at tobacco giant Phillip Morris and its successor Altria. Cilizzi takes this move as a sign that Thompson is becoming more and more serious about jumping into the race, probably before the end of June.

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Gonzales' Grasp on AG Office Slipping Again

How quickly the conventional wisdom shifts. Just a few weeks ago pundits announced that embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had weathered the political firestorm surrounding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys early this year and would cling to his office for the time being. On Friday, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) became the sixth GOP Senator to call for Gonzales's resignation, after long hesitating to take that step. Today, the New York Times quotes Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, as saying that Gonzales "might resign rather than face a no-confidence vote in the Senate" perhaps as early as this week. This despite insistence from a Department of Justice spokesman that Gonzales has no intention of resigning, and ridicule by the White House of the no-confidence vote as feature of parliamentary (foreign) governance. An AP story further reports that Specter predicts a sizable number of Republican Senators will oppose Gonzales in that vote, and pointedly notes that the projected vote has failed to draw a public statement of support" from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). As for whether Gonzales can effectively lead the Justice Department, McConnell said "that's for the president to decide."

UPDATE: From his ranch in Crawford, Texas today, President Bush signalled his continuing support for Gonzales by describing the no-confidence vote as "pure political theater" and declaring that Gonzales "has done nothing wrong."

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The Return of Ohio Daily Blog

For those new to this blog, welcome! For returning readers, thanks for your patronage and for checking back in.

As a little background, I began blogging about politics as a diarist at Daily Kos in early 2004, with the user name Yellow Dog Sammy. I commenced my own blog about Ohio politics in January, 2006 at Ohio 2006 Blog. I conceived of that blog as a one-year project devoted to the 2006 election cycle.

After the 2006 elections were concluded, I decided to continue blogging and transferred my operations to this location. My last post here was on February 17th. At that time my plan was to take a short break from the daily demands of blogging, and also to retool Ohio Daily Blog into a larger and more multifaceted operation on a new platform. I planned to return on March 1st.

Life, no great respecter of plans, intervened by handing me several personal challenges and urgent non-blogging projects. The hiatus gradually stretched from a few weeks to a few months.

Today marks my return and I must begin by thanking the readers and friends who have expressed concern about my absence and wished me well. Your support means everything to me and I greatly appreciate it.

Although the ambitious changes to this blog that I envisioned in February proved to exceed my technical capacity at the present time, and in actual operation would have required more effort than a single person could provide, I have significantly altered the structure of the blog by adding subsidiary blog pages in three subdomains, linked at the top of this main column. These are denominated State, Nation, and Issues. This front page of the blog will be limited to brief topical posts and quick summaries of longer Ohio Daily Blog features, which will reside on the sub-pages. Thus, the front page will always present a quick scan of breaking news and events and a brief index of more detailed material throughout the blog.

The state page is intended primarily for interviews with newsmakers and coverage of events relating to either state governance or electoral races for federal or state office in Ohio. The nation page is for coverage of federal governance and the Presidential race, particularly as it relates to Ohio. The issues page is an effort to expand my coverage of public policy and to present a forum for opinion from all points of view.

Comments are welcome on all posts and from all political perspectives. However, I reserve the right to delete any comments that engage to any degree in profanity, hate speech, gratuitous personal attacks, or rumor-mongering.

Thanks again to all who have conveyed their interest and support during my absence and I hope that you will all find the blog to be interesting and informative as I get back up to speed and the political process moves forward toward the exciting events ahead.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

But ... but .... there's nothing here yet!

Yes, I know, I know. Sometimes things just take a little longer than expected.

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