Ohio Daily Blog on Hiatus Until July 12th!
Thanks for visiting - this blog is on break for the next 12 days, until July 12th!
News and notes on politics and public affairs
Thanks for visiting - this blog is on break for the next 12 days, until July 12th!
There will be a fundraiser tonight for Ohio Senate candidate Michael Todd (D-Medina) from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at the Cherokee Hills Golf Course in Valley City, Ohio. Senate Democratic Leader Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown) are expected to be on hand.
Thanks for visiting! Ohio Daily Blog is on holiday for ten days (until Monday, June 25th).
What's going on in the Buckeye State?
The Inspector General has issued his report on Frankie Coleman, finding that she was paid for 56 hours of time when she was not working and that she initially lied to investigators about it. I have more to say about this on the state sub-page.
The opportunity for amendments to improve the statewide video/cable franchising law (Am. Sub. SB 117) has passed and the Ohio House will vote on the measure tomorrow. Bill Callahan declares the law as it stands is "extremely bad news." It strips Ohio communities of their power over cable monopolies, allows cable companies to abandon neighborhoods that they had been serving, and does not guarantee that the new fiber-enhanced video broadband access will be universally (or even widely) available across the state.
The National Rifle Association will push to change the law so that victims of a felony are no longer required to prove that shooting in self defense was justified, and Gov. Ted Strickland (D-New Lisbon) reportedly supports the bill. Just to be clear, a prosecutor could still attempt to prove that a shooting was not justified in a particular case -- it is a matter of shifting the burden of proof from the shooter to the state.
Gov. Strickland has not only vowed to veto a proposed bill to allow electronic betting on archived races at horsetracks, he has now joined with Attorney General Marc Dann to call for a ban on cash prizes from table-top gaming devices that are appearing in bars and restaurants all over the state. Dann's support for a ban has developed out of his frustration with his earlier efforts to enforce the existing legal distinction between outlawed games of chance and permissible games of skill.
The Ohio Senate unanimously passed the state budget in the form approved by the Finance Committee, after Democratic leader Sen. Teresa Feder (D-Toledo) withdrew her proposed amendment that would have imposed stricter accountability standards on charter schools. Fedor hopes to get something done about charter school accountability in the joint conference committee that will attempt to reconcile differences among House and Senate versions of the budget.
On March 16th I sat down with State Sen. Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) in a coffee shop in Warren, Ohio for an early morning interview. She had been appointed in December to the 32nd Ohio Senate District seat that Marc Dann vacated to assume the office of Attorney General. She will run for re-election in 2008. The interview is posted on the state sub-page.
Labels: Capri Cafaro
After the launch of State Sen. John Boccieri's congressional campaign in North Canton yesterday, Gov. Ted Strickland was asked by a reporter about his letter to George Bush, requesting assurance that Ohioans called up for military duty in Iraq would receive proper equipment and training before deployment. He replied that he has still not heard back directly from the president, but last week he did receive a "cordial" telephone call from the Secretary of the Army. However, that official was not able to give Strickland an affirmative answer to the two questions Strickland had asked, i.e., whether Ohio national guard personnel and reservists will have and be trained with the equipment they need to keep them as safe as possible, and whether the president will refrain from sending them into the war zone until they have that equipment and training. "I think what I am asking of the president is reasonable," said Gov. Strickland, "and I am troubled that I have yet to get an affirmative response."
What's going on?
A Washington Post-ABC poll shows that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) leads other Democratic presidential hopefuls by 2-1 among women, even more among lower-income and lesser-educated women, and this factor accounts for her large lead over the others. Overall, Clinton garnered 51% support from women, compared to 24% for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and 11% for former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC).
A new Gallup poll shows that Republicans reject evolution by a better than 2-to-1 margin, 68% to 30%. Overall the nation is about evenly split on evolution. Independents are more likely to believe in evolution (61% to 37%) than Democrats (57% to 40%).
A study shows that political considerations have played a major role in the selection of immigration judges by the Bush administration, although that is specifically forbidden by law.
New polls show Hillary Clinton pulling away in New Hampshire and also show John McCain continuing to fade nationally (he is now battling with "Don't Know" for third place behind Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney). However, social conservatives are showing signs of ganging up on front-runner Giuliani over his pro-choice and pro-gay positions.
President Bush is meeting GOP lawmakers at lunch today to urge them to support the immigration reform legislation that stalled in the U.S. Senate last week, and business lobbyists, labor unions, religious organizations and Hispanic advocacy groups plan to flood Capitol Hill this week in support of the troubled bill.
The 53-38-1 vote that killed the no-confidence resolution against Albert Gonzales yesterday could have been a little closer to the winning margin of 60. Presidential candidates Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Sam Brownback, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Barack Obama all missed the vote because they were on the campaign trail, costing at least three votes. The lone "present" vote was cast by Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens, who faces a corruption investigation by the Department of Justice and thus perhaps didn't want to take a position as to the future of its chief official. Five of the seven Republican senators who voted for the no-confidence resolution are up for re-election in 2008: Gordon Smith (OR), Chuck Hagel (NE), Norm Coleman (MN), John Sununu (NH), and Susan Collins (ME).
Does anyone else find it disturbing that Democratic legislators negotiated directly with a lobbying group, the powerful National Rifle Association, to craft new federal gun control legislation in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre? The sway of the NRA over GOP lawmakers is apparently so utterly complete that the Republicans who actually fill the legislative seats are not a necessary part of the negotiations or the agreement. Don't get me wrong, I applaud better background checks for gun buyers and improving the databases of people who should not get guns due to criminal records and/or mental health problems, I just find it extraordinary and unsettling that the NRA has virtually stepped into the shoes of the Republicans who fill the legislative seats when it comes to this issue.
Yesterday I drove to North Canton to attend the launching of the 16th District congressional campaign of State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown). In a strong display of party unity, the Democratic chairs for all five counties in the district (Ashland, Medina, Wayne, Stark and Tuscarawas) were present and Gov. Ted Strickland (D-New Lisbon) and Treasurer Rich Cordray (D-Grove City), close friends of Boccieri, spoke on his behalf. Other lawmakers in attendance included campaign treasurer State Rep. Mark Okey (D-Carollton), State Rep. Steve Dyer (D-Green), and State Sen. Capri Cafaro (D).
Under investigation by the Ohio Inspector General for allegedly failing to work all the hours for which she has been paid, the wife of Columbus mayor Mike Coleman, Frankie Coleman, has resigned from her state job, and Development Director Lee Fisher has accepted her resignation, according to this item in the Cleveland Plain Dealer political blog Openers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that the Bush administration cannot indefinitely detain a legal U.S. resident it believes to be an al-Qaida sleeper agent simply by declaring him an "enemy combatant." The court ordered that the federal Military Commissions Act does not strip Qatari national Ali al-Marri, who has been in a U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina for four years without formal charges filed against him, of his constitutional rights to challenge his accusers in court. Holding that the government had not produced evidence to back up its claim that al-Marri is an "enemy combatant," the court ordered him released from military detention. However, the government can transfer al-Marri to civilian authorities to face criminal charges, initiate deportation proceedings, hold him as a witness in a grand jury proceeding, or detain him for a limited period of time under the Patriot Act.
Labels: Military Commissions Act
Can't resist noting these news items:
Ohio Citizens Action is highlighting the heavy political contributions ($558,344 to state lawmakers, office holders and parties) by AT&T in the past two years, particularly $1,300 in direct contributions (and $5,000 through lobbyists) to State Sen. Jacobson (R-Butler Township), principal sponsor of the statewide broadband/cable franchise bill over which AT&T and other large telecoms have been salivating.
Why are the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee pushing through a $140 million increase in funding for "abstinence-only" programs, larger than any increase in the last three years of the Republican-controlled Congress? A recent government funded report shows that such programs contain medically inaccurate information and have no positive effect on persuading teens to remain abstinent.
It's not too late to call your senators and urge them to support the Employee Free Choice Act, designed to remove obstacles to workers making up their own minds about union representation. The toll free number is 1-800-774-8941, and more information is here.
The immigration reform bill might not be dead, after all. Democratic leadership hints that if the GOP can work out a limited number of amendments to offer, the proposal may work its way back onto the legislative calendar. Bush will lobby Republican opponents to the bill tomorrow.
A bipartisan study of rural voters shows that the once solidly-Republican group is now a toss-up in terms of 2008 presidential preference, a change driven largely by disgust with the Iraq War.
Today's symbolic no-confidence vote in the U.S Senate on U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales isn't going to pass, but the Democrats are determined to get Republican lawmakers on the record about it. Some who have said publicly that Gonzales should resign will vote against the measure, calling it a mere political ploy.
Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has been getting foreign policy advice from Colin Powell, who says it is too early to say who he will support for president in 2008.
The Akron Beacon Journal has a feature on Akron blogger extraordinaire Pho.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) have sent a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney, asking him to recuse himself from any involvement in issues related to the I. Scooter Libby criminal prosecution (such as a potential presidential pardon) and from public comment thereon, due to his personal involvement in the underlying case. Won't even get the courtesy of a reply, but I love it - the text of the letter is terrific:
These requests are prompted, in part, by your reported comments in which you stated your hope that “our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man,” and by reports that Administration officials expect you to press for a pardon in internal White House debates.Right on! How badly things have slipped under this administration. Cheney's public comments didn't even seem particularly surprising or noteworthy, as inappropriate as they plainly were, because we have all become so inured to Bush officials putting their personal and partisan interests ahead of the public interest.
The reasons for my request are several. First, at trial, evidence was elicited of your involvement with Mr. Libby in connection with the events that formed the basis of his prosecution. As the federal prosecutor stated in his closing argument, the evidence at trial revealed that there was “a cloud” over certain aspects of your conduct. Accordingly, your comments may be seen as blurring the distinction between the institutional interests of the Office of Vice President and your personal interests in the ultimate results of the prosecution.
Second, your comments would appear particularly inappropriate because post-trial proceedings are ongoing. Mr. Libby has announced that he intends to appeal his conviction, and his motion for bond pending appeal is before United States District Judge Reggie Walton at this time. The Executive Branch must speak through one voice on matters of criminal prosecution. We would hope a sitting Vice President would not suggest that the Government seeks any result other than that sought by the prosecutors representing the Department of Justice, or imply that the decisions of the trial court – both as to the validity of the verdict or the proper sentence – should be undone. ...
What's going on?
State Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) says he'll run for the 16th Ohio Congressional seat of Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Navarre), if and only if Regula retires. But what was that news story that Jerid caught before it was pulled down, announcing that Regula will indeed run?
Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) of the frozen cash has pleaded "not guilty" to federal bribery charges.
The Immigration Reform Bill failed a second procedural test vote last night, so it is dead for the time being. Our Senators both voted in favor of getting the bill passed.
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), beseiged with constituent calls about passport application delays, called for a postponement on requiring passports when U.S. citizens return to this country from Canada or Mexico. However, today's news reports indicate that the requirement will be relaxed to the extent of permitting travellers merely to show that they have applied for the passport.
Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, nominated to be the new War Czar (and I thought that the Commander Guy was supposed to be that himself!), confirms that The Surge hasn't accomplished much to date and isn't likely to anytime soon.
The star of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is rising, with new polls showing him ahead in both New Hampshire and Iowa and competitors John McCain and Rudy Giuliani both withdrawing from the Iowa straw poll in August.
Check out Pho's take on the announcement that strip club owners will collect signatures to put an initiative on the fall ballot, hoping to reverse the stricter regulation of strip clubs just passed by the General Assembly and allowed to become law without a signature by Governor Strickland. Oh, terrific, another ballot measure to get the righteous right out to the polls in November, and progressives will feel compelled to champion the cause of the flesh peddlers. Can't we all focus on something more important, please?
You know what it means at a theatrical audition when the director says "we'll get back to you." That's about all that the G-8 Summit agreement on climate change trumpeted in the media today comes down to. The actual language of the G-8 Climate Statement reveals that the accord essentially consists of a promise only to "consider seriously" the goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050:
In setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050.So, they'll think about it. "Don't get back to us, we'll get back to you."
My friend and law school classmate Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) is the principal proponent of the House bill to expand federal funding of research using embryonic stem cells that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. It passed today, but without enough votes to override the veto that President Bush is certain to issue:
The House vote to send the measure to President Bush was 247-176, 35 short of the level needed to override a second veto in as many years on the issue.It is frustrating to me that GOP opponents continue to claim that research using embryonic stem cells is unnecessary because some preliminary studies using non-embryonic stem cells from animals indicate that maybe - maybe - non-embryonic stem cells from humans may one day be an alternative to embryonic stem cells for this purpose. That prospect is not certain and is years away, and people with debilitating and terminal illnesses who might benefit from this research need for it to be supported now.
"For many, embryonic stem cell research is the most promising source of potential treatments and cures" for debilitating disease, said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, the bill's leading advocate. "Unfortunately, because of the stubbornness of one man -- President Bush -- these people continue to suffer as they wait," she added.
Labels: Embryonic Stem Cell Research
The Cleveland Plain Dealer political blog Openers reports that Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) has announced the formation of a new Congressional Philanthropy Caucus, which she will co-chair with Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC):
"The saying 'to whom much is given, much is required' was instilled in me at a young age," Tubbs Jones said in a press release to announce the new group. "This philosophy has and continues to be a centerpiece of American culture. That is why I am pleased to join with my colleague Rep. Robin Hayes in establishing this Philanthropic Caucus in order to assist charitable organizations in highlighting the various issues that they face in their efforts to provide resources to the community."
Labels: Stephanie Tubbs Jones
The vote early this morning to put a time limit on the guest worker program was a bad omen for the proposed immigration reform legislation, but today's failed vote to cut off debate might be the end of the road. There is one more opportunity to cut off debate coming up tonight, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is warning that a repeat of this morning's vote will kill the bill:
“The bill’s over with. The bill’s gone. I mean what else can I do?” he asked reporters. “Should we spend more time on this so we don’t get to debate gas prices, so we don’t have to chance to vote on whether or not Alberto Gonzales should stay on as attorney general?”
Labels: Immigration Reform
It's about time. Democratic leaders in Congress have announced that they will move next week to eliminate the rule that only fellow members can file complaints about wrongdoing, and also create an outside ethics commission to assess the merit of such charges.
“Back in my district, they are looking for movement on this,” said Zack Space of Ohio, after he and other Democratic freshmen were briefed on the proposal during their weekly sit-down with Pelosi.
Space is the successor to Bob Ney, R-Ohio (1995-2006), who is in prison after pleading guilty to federal bribery charges in connection with his duties as a congressman.
“It is part of my responsibility to help restore faith in the government that has been lost by the betrayal Bob Ney committed,” Space said.
Freshmen appeared encouraged by the proposal, even though many wanted the outside commission to have more power, such as the ability to subpoena witnesses, Space said.
This may come as a surprise, given the distinct Republican lean of the district and frequent indications of GOP zeal to reclaim the seat, but political prognosticator Larry Sabato gives freshman Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) an even chance of retaining his seat in 2008. In a survey of 15 freshman members of Congress whom Sabato regards as endangered (14 Democrats and 1 Republican), Sabato includes Space among nine in the "toss up" catergory.
"The people of southeastern Ohio sent me to Congress to represent their interests, not those of a particular party or ideology. While I am proud to call myself a Democrat because of our commitment to help meet the needs of working families, frequently what the party wants ... is not in the best interest of my constituents. I am more than happy to work with Republicans for the sake of helping meet the best interests of my district.
"From the very first day of my campaign, the people of the 18th Congressional District came to know me as a truly independent voice who would not kowtow to pressure from the party. Frequently, my commitment to fiscal restraint, supporting the efforts of our small business to stimulate our local economy, and cracking down on lobbyists places me at odds with the majority of my Democratic colleagues, and I am perfectly comfortable with that."
Labels: Zack Space
Late last night the U.S. Senate voted 64-33 to adopt an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill that declares English to be the national language of the United States. Called the "S.I. Hayakawa National Language Amendment Act of 2007," after the California legislator who was an outspoken advocate of enshrining English as an official language, the amendment also declares that there is no affirmative right to receive government services in languages other than English, except where required by federal law.
Labels: Immigration Reform
The Iraq Coalition Casualty Count has a map and chart showing the distribution of U.S. military casualties in Iraq by state. Ohio is seventh in the nation in population but sixth in Iraq wounded at 1,056 and fifth in Iraq dead at 148, for a total of 1204 Iraq casualties.
[M]ilitary experts say the number of wounded is a more accurate gauge of the fierceness of fighting because advances in armor and medical care today allow many service members to survive who would have perished in past wars. The ratio of wounded to killed among U.S. forces in Iraq is about 8 to 1, compared with 3 to 1 in Vietnam.Over a thousand wounded from Ohio alone, and 25,830 wounded nationwide. Those numbers are huge.
"These days, wounded are a much better measure of the intensity of the operations than killed," said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"Under what rock precisely do they find these people?" A friend forwarded this news report about Bush's nominee for Surgeon General with the foregoing comment, which about sums it up (emphasis added):
Actually, Holsinger doesn't just attend the church with the anti-gay iminstry, he founded it:
Bush's Choice for Top Doc Compared Human Genitalia to Pipe Fittings and Said Homosexual Practices Can Cause Injury or DeathPresident Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., wrote a paper in 1991 that purported to make the medical argument that homosexuality is unnatural and unhealthy. Doctors who reviewed the paper derided it as prioritizing political ideology over science, and Democratic aides on Capitol Hill say the paper will make his confirmation hearings problematic, if not downright bruising. ...
... Holsinger also belongs to a church that offers a ministry to "cure" gays of the sexual orientation [see more on this below]. ...
Holsinger's paper argued that male and female genitalia are complementary -- so much so "that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other." Body parts used for gay sex are not complementary, he wrote. "When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur." ...
Professor Eli Coleman, Director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School said that the paper seems to have a pre-1970s view of human sexuality. "I can't imagine that any scientific journal would be able to publish this material because of its very narrow views of homosexuality," he said.
In fact, if one of his students handed the paper in, Coleman would give it a failing grade, he said. "I find it rather outdated in terms of its scientific knowledge and also narrow in its view of homosexuality," Coleman said. "It concerns me because I think our public policy really should be based upon best available science."
"It's a totally faulty paper. The man doesn't know anything about human sexuality," said June M. Reinisch, Ph.D., director emeritus of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender & Reproduction. "There's clearly a political agenda in this paper. This is not a scientific paper." ... Reinisch, who was director of the Kinsey Institute when Holsinger wrote this paper, said that if Holsinger "is going to come up with this position in 2007 I think I can clearly say that he is not qualified to be surgeon general." ...
Holsinger founded the Hope Springs Community Church, a "recovery ministry" that caters to alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts and those seeking to "walk out of that [homosexual] lifestyle," according to its pastor Rev. David Calhoun. When not busy endorsing ex-gay conversion therapy, Holsinger served on the highest court of the United Methodist Church where he voted to remove a lesbian pastor from her position.
It bothered me and many others when Sherrod Brown (D-OH) voted in favor of the Military Commissions Act during his successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. Brown justified his "yes" vote as moving along the process for detainees at Guantanamo who would otherwise continue to languish with no hearings. However, the abrogation of habeas corpus rights for non-citizen detainees was sharply criticized as an unacceptable blow to a bedrock of civil rights.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Toll free numbers for the Capitol Switchboard:
1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437
A definite pattern is emerging here. With less than two years remaining in his term, Bush has shifted to a long term, distant-target approach to the major problems confronting his administration and, by extension, his legacy as chief executive. A few days ago he was analogizing U.S. occupation of Iraq to our half-century-long military presence in Korea, adding many years to his prior comment that continuation of the Iraq occupation would be decided by his successor in office. Today at the G-8 Summit he is shifting real action on climate change far down the road, resisting calls by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for an immediate agreement on cutting greenhouse gases and calling instead for talks with the 15 largest emitters of such gases with the aim of agreeing on cuts by the end of 2008 -- in other words, the earliest possible time frame for any commitment to act is after he is on the way out.
This morning on MSNBC, conservative host Joe Scarborough asserted that it isn't just he and other conservatives who think Libby should not have been prosecuted and ought to be pardoned, but "America" thinks so as well. Not so fast, Joe. Polling conducted after Libby's conviction showed that Americans don't want to see Libby pardoned by a 3-to-1 margin - 69% to 18% in a CNN/Opinion research poll and 67% to 21% in a Gallup poll.
Labels: Scooter Libby
The Washington Post political blog Capitol Briefing notes that a WaPo-ABC poll released Friday shows approval/disapproval ratings for Congressional Democrats fell from 54/44 to 44/49 over the last six weeks, and attributes the reversal to Democrats' inability to force Bush to change course on Iraq. The drop results as much from a decline in support from Independents (from 49/48 to 37/54) as among the anti-war liberal base (85% approval down to 67% approval). Bush's ratings remain mired at 35/62 and congressional Republicans are in lock-step at 36/58.
The second half of my interview with Connie Schultz is now posted on the State sub-page. The first half is located here.
I have posted my thoughts on last night's debate in New Hampshire on the Nation sub-page. Otherwise, light posting from me today as I am furiously working to finalize the second half of my interview with Connie Schultz ... stay tuned, it's a good one!
The bigotry underlying the right's objection to the proposed immigration overhaul is laid bare in this exchange between presidential contender Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Fox "News" host Bill O'Reilly, the video of which was posted on YouTube by the McCain campaign. The relevant part is about one minute into the segment: