Dispatch reporter Julia Carr Smith writes that Gov. Ted Strickland's energy bill is on a slow track in part because the GOP is benefitting from delay. Wealthy utility companies, alarmed about re-regulation, are throwing campaign money at the state GOP:
Utility companies seeking to influence the future of electricity regulation in the state are pouring money into Republican campaign funds. According to a recent Associated Press review, FirstEnergy, Duke and American Electric Power had given at last $281,000 combined to state and local campaigns so far this year, most of it to GOP leaders overseeing the bill's trip through the Statehouse.
Catherine Turcer, campaign reform director for Ohio Citizen Action, a government watchdog group, said such legislation is destined to continue to generate big money for Statehouse politicians as long as it's unresolved.
“You have these very different vested interests that actually have a lot of cash, and the way they can influence the process is by making these campaign contributions,” she said. “It's a typical juicer bill, as in let's see what we can squeeze out of this.”
Strickland had wanted the bill to get through the General Assembly by the end of the year, but now the final vote is not expected until early next year.
Meanwhile, the Plain Dealer had an editorial Sunday calling for more teeth in the energy bill's requirement of an advanced energy portfolio:
More comprehensive and specific provisions could jump-start wind energy projects in Cleveland, expand Northern Ohio's niche in solar power and favor the sort of battery innovations locally that might make this region a center of renewables production and research. ...
[A] big part of her message is that families in the farm-and-factory region have been harmed by U.S. trade policies [that] have not worked. Like U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the Toledo Democrat who represents a neighboring district and has long been the House's leading critic of Wall Street-dictated trade policies, Weirauch is arguing for a new approach that protects the rights of workers, consumers and the environment rather than merely focusing on enhancing the bottom line of multinational corporations.
Weirauch's Republican opponent, Bob Latta, is a relatively unquestioning backer of the Bush-administration's trade policies."
Nichols goes on to highlight Weirauch's focus on "the most immediate and troubling byproduct of the current trade regime" which is unsafe imports, especially toys. Her campaign web site features tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and American Association of Retired People Foundation on safe toy buying, and reminds visitors that "the best way we can ensure our children get safe, quality toys is of course, to buy American."
Weirauch made a dramatic appearance on Friday in front of a Toys R Us in South Toledo to demand that Washington gets its act together to ensure our kids are safe from toxic Chinese toys. “Finding a parking space and the best deal on Christmas toys is normally what parents worry about on Black Friday, but this year moms and dads across Northwest Ohio have an additional worry -- whether the toys they buy their kids are safe,” said Weirauch at the event. "It seems like another toy is being recalled each week, putting our kids at risk," she wrote on her campaign blog. "This summer alone, 25 million toys manufactured in China were recalled because they were dangerous to children. Some of those toys contained nearly 200 times the legal amount of lead – a potentially lethal amount of lead."
Talking about the problem of unsafe imported toys is another example of Weirauch's determination to focus her campaign on the real concerns of working families, not divisive wedge issues. As Nichols wrote, Weirauch's focus on safe toys "might well be emulated by presidential candidates who are struggling to figure out how to campaign against the backdrop of the holidays."
Today Paul Ackerman (D-Powell), a computer analyst and partner in the two-person political consulting firm Linwood Campaign Services, announced that he is running for the 21st Ohio House District seat won by freshman State Rep. Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) in a narrow 2.5% victory over political novice Dean Hernandez (D) last year. Ackerman's spouse Jean Herendeen Ackerman (D) lost the Democratic primary to Hernandez last year by 68 votes.
A personal friend who helped me set up this community blog and whose consulting firm advertises on my sidebar, Ackerman links his campaign to the Democratic Party's need to win four more seats in the Ohio House of Representatives in order to implement Gov. Ted Strickland's "Turn Around Ohio" plan. “Control of the state house isn’t about power,” Ackerman writes in a press release. “Control of the state house is all about a change in priorities in Ohio and Ohioans have clearly said they are ready for change. For too many years, the state house has busied itself with narrow concerns while the vast majority of Ohioans have struggled with the exodus of jobs leaving the state, the seventh highest tax burden in the country and an educational system that is being starved of resources while we shovel more and more money at failing charter schools.”
“I am running because my 7 year old daughter and 2 year old son do not benefit from fights in the legislature that will not create jobs and improve education," Ackerman continues. "With the election of Ted Strickland, we have begun to change direction in Ohio, but we must win back the state house to continue this effort.”
Scott Pullins reports that Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson (R-The Plains) will indeed declare that she is running for the 92nd Ohio House seat of Rep. Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) at her previously announced press conference on Monday. Thompson was appointed to her position in 2000 and has won two county-wide elections since then.
Debbie Phillips (D-Athens), a member of Athens City Council and founding director of the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, is running for the second time.
Phillips nearly won in 2006, missing out by only 855 votes (1.6%) following a recount. This race is one of the Ohio Democratic Party's best opportunities to pick up a seat in the House, where only four additional seats are needed to gain a majority.
The 92nd District is in southeast Ohio. About half of the voters are in Athens County and the rest are in Morgan, Meigs and Washington Counties. It has a slight Republican lean (PVI D +2.9). Stewart, who won with 58.61% of the vote in 2004, is now running for the 20th Ohio Senate seat of retiring State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton) and is supporting Thompson.
Unbelievable. President Bush tells ABC's Charles Gibson that Gen. Pervez Musharraf "hasn't crossed the line," that he is "truly is somebody who believes in democracy" and has "advanced democracy in Pakistan." Moreover, Bush noted that Musharraf has said there will be elections and today he released prisoners, and "so far I've found him to be a man of his word."
How can Bush be in such deep denial about a tyrant who is crushing dissent and abrogating the rule of law to cling to power? Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) gets it right:
"What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?" asked Biden. "He's already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin's soul."
And Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch says it perfectly:
"Almost everyone in Pakistan who believes in George Bush's vision of democracy is in prison today," Malinowski said. "Calling the man who put them in prison a great democrat will only discredit America among moderate Pakistanis and give Musharraf confidence that he can continue to defy the United States because Bush will forgive anything he does."
Bush has no qualms at all about Musharraf's jailing of the independent judiciary and replacing them with sock puppets, or clamping down on the independent media and political rallies. Sure Musharaff has released prisoners, including Imran Khan, but his police are continuing to arrest protestors every day, and other important opposition figures (including Aitzaz Ahsan and deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry) remain in detention. The reconstituted Supreme Court, packed with loyalists, is a travesty.
With just three weeks to go before the special election on December 11th, Robin Weirauch is campaigning hard on bread-and-butter issues in the 5th Congressional District. Two days ago she visited the Seneca County Board of Health and toured the Women Infants and Children program offices with County Health Commissioner Marjorie Broadhead. She "heard success stories for providing services with limited resources and she heard frustrations about the limited resources," and she "linked the funding issues to political gamesmanship in Washington":
“Politics as usual is something that has caused us all to be pretty fed up with a lot of things,” Weirauch said. “Certainly I think we’re all fed up with the political games that are being played in Washington when we have real problems, real people facing every single day some devastating issues.”
She continues to push campaign themes reminiscent of Sherrod Brown's successful U.S. Senate campaign:
“You have families that work hard and play by the rules, and still don’t seem to be able to pull themselves out of the situations they are in,” Weirauch said. “They are not asking for a handout. They just want a fair shake to be able to provide for their families.”
As noted in the Toledo Blade here, Weirauch is hammering the GOP on blocking the SCHIP program:
"This isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue," Weirauch said. "This is an issue that strikes to the very heart of our commitment to equip our children with the tools they need to compete in the world.
"We cannot expect our children to be physically prepared to take on the good jobs of the future if we don't take care of them today."
She is running a good campaign, and the word I'm getting is that staffers brought in specially for this campaign are putting in 18-hour days on her behalf. She has a good TV ad running on all four Toledo stations, and with additional campaign resources she can keep getting her message out. Now would be a great time to send a donation her way.
Imprisoned cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan, leader of the Tehrek-e-Insaaf party and reportedly on a hunger strike, has a stirring opinion piece online at the Guardian:
But before we achieve our goal of building a free democratic society, the foremost challenge is to force general Musharraf to resign. General Musharraf's recent statements are proof that he is in denial mode. The time is ripe for change, for a fresh beginning. The present regime is under siege and we must never allow this opportunity to fritter away. All Pakistanis - particularly the students, workers, civil society members, and political workers - should join the peaceful protest led by the lawyers for the restoration of democracy.
Targeted freshman Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) is fighting back with deft political maneuvering on several fronts this week.
Cutting short criticism from the right of his upcoming Congressional trip to Greece, Space has taken the dramatic step of announcing that he will pay all of his travel expenses himself. Space was asked to join the delegation because of his Greek family roots. “It’s not something that most members of Congress would do, but it’s something I am going to do in order to exceed the public’s expectations and put the focus of this mission where it should be: on local economic development and U.S. security," Space said.
Bolstering his status as a political independent, Space is sounding very conservative on guns and illegal immigration this week. He has issued a press release praising the U.S. Supreme Court for taking a case challenging the District of Columbia ordnance banning handguns, pointing out that he is an NRA member and a co-sponsor of federal legislation to curtail the ban. Also, having completed a two-day fact-finding trip to the Mexican border, Space has written a newspaper column calling for tougher border and internal enforcement, a crackdown on employers, and stricter enforcement of laws against illegal aliens receiving government benefits.
Many thanks to Pho for another phine ephort, and on busy Pheast Week to boot. Go and fill up on holiday political reading, with all the trimmings!
As I noted yesterday, State Rep. Courtney Combs (R-Fairfield) objected strenuously upon learning that state agencies have advertised a hiring preference for bilingual candidates for positions like dispatcher and customer service representative. Today the Cincinnati Enquirer upbraids Combs in an editorial titled "No Downside to Bilingual Skills":
Combs says he'll introduce an English-only bill that requires state and local governments to conduct business in English. "We want people in this country to speak English," he said. "It's a sellout to say they can't learn the language."
But having bilingual safety officials isn't about enabling people who can't or won't learn English. It's about providing assistance and service to those who haven't learned it yet.
And encouraging employees to master a second language is only to their benefit professionally and personally. Safety services work better for all of us - including the safety providers - when crucial time isn't tied up trying to communicate a problem, determine a location or figure out what kind of help is needed. ...
Our nation and region are continually growing more diverse. Acknowledging it in an area as crucial as public safety is a prudent approach. Weather emergencies, health crises, automobile accidents and other human difficulties don't just happen to those who speak "English only."
Good for the Enquirer.
* Health insurance costs rose just over 6% per employee for the third year in a row in 2007, pushing coverage costs to a national average of almost $8,000 per worker;
* In Ohio, costs jumped 4.5% for an average of $8,229 per employee; and,
* Nationwide, the percentage of companies with fewer than 200 workers that offer insurance dropped from 63% in 2006 to 61% in 2007.
Health care costs have risen at about double the rate of inflation for the last three years. They rose at a higher rate about a decade ago, but one of the reasons for tapering off is that employers have shifted more costs to employees through self-directed options like health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts.
This report shows that there is good cause for 72% of Ohio voters considering the cost of health care a "very big problem" heading into the next election cycle.
The campaign of Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon) has its first television ad on the air, a nice 30-second biographical introduction:
The campaign is calling on supporters to donate up to $200 to help keep this ad on the air. Click here and make a quick donation today, in whatever amount you can manage!
An article in the Enquirer portrays Gov. Ted Strickland (D) as tempering his support for equal rights for gays, in an apparent attempt to sidestep controversy going into the 2008 election cycle.
At issue is last May's executive order that bans workplace discrimination in the executive branch of Ohio government based on sexual orientation and gender identity. So far, so good. However, the order refers only to "rate of compensation," a term that is being interpreted as monetary compensation only, not benefits like health insurance for same-sex partners.
OSU law professor Marc Spindelman, an advocate for gay equality, is incensed. He argues that the Ohio Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex partner benefits when it ruled that the new marriage-discrimination amendment to the Ohio constitution doesn't bar legal protections for unmarried victims of domestic abuse. Of course, anti-gay bigot Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values disagrees with Spindelman on that interpretation.
The article reports that Karla Rothan, Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus, does not join Spindelman in condemning Strickland at this juncture. "We need to give our governor more time," she says. "We'll see more equality than we have in the past 12 years."
In news from Pakistan today, Gen. Musharraf has begun releasing thousands of party activists and lawyers from jail (3,416 let go, according to this AP story, with about 2,000 still detained) and is off to Saudia Arabia (that hotbed of democracy) for talks with autocratic King Abdullah. There is speculation that Musharraf may reach out to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, deposed by Musharraf and living in exile in Jeddah, as an alternative to Benazir Bhutto for purposes of forming a Bush-placating power-sharing arrangement. Sharif, however, has rebuffed the idea of working with Musharraf. Another possibility is that Musharraf is negotiating with the Saudis to keep Sharif out of Pakistan until after the January elections.
* Pakistani bloggers scoff at the decision by the reconstituted Supreme Court to dismiss petitions challenging Musharraf's re-election as president (some petitions were dismissed for non-prosection, when the petitioners may well have been in jail at the time of the hearing);
* U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson met with Bhutto yesterday in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade her to resume talks with Musharraf about sharing power;
* Sports legend and media darling Imran Khan (leader of an opposition party) has begun a hunger strike in solitary confinement in Deraghazi Khan jail in Islamabad, calling for reinstatement of the constitution and deposed judges (more on this here);
* UPDATE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday:
Democracy holds the key to resolving Pakistan's problems. Musharraf hopes that other nations will prefer his despotism to the anarchy he claims would erupt were he to leave office. This is a lie that America and other Western nations should not accept. Tyranny is never a substitute for freedom, and there is no substitute for democracy. ...
Clinton refused to shake hands or be photographed with Musharraf when he visited Pakistan in 2000. People took that as a gesture from a friend who wished Pakistan well. By refusing to associate with a dictator, President Clinton essentially won the hearts of the Pakistani people. That was the policy that should have been pursued. That is the policy that should be pursued now. America should not alienate 160 million Pakistanis by supporting a dictator who prefers rifles to reason.
* Police beat and arrested 150 journalists in Karachi and another 23 in Hyderabad who protested Musharraf's press restrictions;
* Civilians are fleeing the Swat valley, a former tourist destination, as the Pakistani military begins a counterattack against militants who have occupied towns there;
The outlines of the ultimate standoff are beginning to appear. The Bush administration has sought to persuade Musharraf to roll back some elements of martial law, but has been silent on restoring the judiciary who appeared ready to challenge his eligibility to continue as president. Bush emissaries continue to try reviving the Musharraf-Bhutto shared government idea. Musharraf is groping for some middle ground, where most opposition figures are released from jail but some remain (and Sharif presumably remains in exile). Some activity by the independent press is reinstated, but severe restrictions (such as forbidding "ridicule" of Musharraf) remain. For their part, opposition leaders are insistent that the judiciary must be restored, and are resisting going forward with parliamentary elections under continued restrictions. Bhutto, Sharif, Khan and other opposition leaders continue to insist that Musharraf must step down from governing altogether, not merely from his military role.
It does not appear likely that Bhutto will step back into negotiations with Musharraf, as the White House desires, if for no other reason than the further damage to her standing among Pakistanis from appearing to cooperate with the unpopular dictator and the even more unpopular American president. So, the ultimate issue becomes whether the opposition parties will boycott the parliamentary elections, in essence refusing to back down from their demand for restoration of the judiciary (and effectively the end of Musharraf's rule), or instead participate in the elections and capitulate (for the time being) as to the impaired status of the judiciary and other residual elements of martial law. The former course of action requires unity of purpose among the opposition parties, who have inconsistent interests and a history of bitter rivalry, although there have been indications of talks toward some kind of alliance. The latter course, if it happens, would likely be the result of mistrust among the opposition parties.
This week, Americans are preparing to celebrate with their family and friends and share the simplest blessing – a meal with the people we love. I’ve spent time with thousands of families in Ohio’s 2nd District, and over the last year I’ve spoken to more and more of them who have been personally affected by the mortgage crisis sweeping the United States.
I was inspired to see that, last week, the House of Representatives passed the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act (HR 3915). ... The bill passed by a wide margin, 291-127, as 64 Republicans broke ranks and voted with Democrats to fix a problem that strikes at the heart of the American Dream. But Rep. Jean Schmidt voted against the bill. ...
As of today there are 2,103 foreclosure listings in Cincinnati alone, and a shocking 75 in Jean Schmidt’s home town of Loveland, OH, population under 12,000.
What do Jean Schmidt’s neighbors think of her voting against them? ...
We need to stand up for our hard working families, not the Wall Street insiders who made billions when times were good and are now looking for a government bailout. Maybe she’s listening to the developers who have supported her political career. ...
I have one question for Jean Schmidt: isn’t it Congress’ job to protect families who save up and buy a home in good faith and then lose it because the system was rigged from the start against them?
The bill that was passed didn't go far enough in dealing with the foreclosure mess, but it did take some important steps toward that goal and voting against it is inexcusable.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 218 points due to two developments related to the subprime mortgage mess: Goldman Sachs downgraded Citigroup to "sell" based on its expectation that the bank will have to write down $15 billion in bad mortgage-related investments over the next two quarters, and Lowe's reported lower than expected earnings (and forecast low earnings for next quarter) because of the housing slump: housing inventory high, turnover low, home prices dropping, so people aren't indulging in home improvement. Also affecting the market, the price of oil is up again and the value of the dollar continues to drop.
Meanwhile, executives of charity organizations are attributing a sharp drop in donations to the housing slowdown:
Charity executives are nervously monitoring the mortgage debacle while food and energy costs continue to rise. Food banks and homeless shelters are already grappling with reduced federal aid as fears grow that more people will need help just as charity giving starts to decline. ...
The backbone of those charities, U.S. households with $200,000 or more in annual income or more than $1 million in assets, are also the ones most likely hit by the recent drop in stock prices sparked by the mortgage mess, according to research. ...
There are anecdotal reports the mortgage mess is forcing corporations to pull back too. Carol Schneider, media relations manager for the Food Bank for New York City, said a major U.S. bank — she wouldn't name the company — has reduced its donation by 60 percent this year, citing the fallout from mortgage losses. ...
Food pantries around the country are scrambling to meet rising demand from households that can't afford food because of rising housing costs.
A story posted today on CNNMoney.com describes the crime wave in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood, the hardest-hit neighorhood in the nation, caused by the more than 800 houses standing vacant due to foreclosures.
Mark Wiseman of the Cuyahoga County Foreclosure Prevention program describes the influx of squatters and looters, saying that "it takes about 72 hours for a house to be looted after it is vacant." Metal siding goes first, but that's just the beginning. "If someone takes the doors, moldings, appliances, it's bad enough," said Wiseman. "But once they pull the piping out, it's all over; they do it with a sledge hammer." At that point fixing the house would cost more than the restored home would be worth, and the county has only a tiny fraction of the $100 million that it would take to tear down all of its demolished hones. So the houses stand ruined and vacant, becoming a location for drug transactions and other crime.
It is a depressing report, but it is good that the problem is getting national attention, which is critical to persuading the federal government to provide financial help to localities burdened by this crisis.
Notes on ongoing events in the nation whose official languages are English and Urdu (a dialect of Hindustani that draws on Persian and Arabic vocabulary and is written in Perso-Arabic script):
Replacement Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Musharraf - A reconstituted Pakistan Supreme Court, minus the Justices who had resisted Gen. Pervez Musharraf and packed with loyal replacements, dismissed five out of six petitions objecting to Musharraf's eligibility to assume the office of president. Musharraf suspended the constitution and disbanded the court because the previous Justices had been expected to uphold the petitions. During the proceedings, lawyers were warned that they face contempt charges and cancellation of their licenses if they persist in challenging the legality of Musharraf's replacement judges.
Negroponte Resists Changing Course - The efforts of Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte in Pakistan over the weekend to defuse the crisis revealed the reluctance of the White House to change it's faltering strategy of continuing to rely on Gen. Musharraf as a key ally in the war on terror and attempting to prop up his rule by pushing a power-sharing alliance between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. While urging Musharraf to end emergency rule. Negroponte pointedly reaffirmed U.S. reliance on Musharraf as an ally against terror, urged Bhutto to resume negotiations with Musharraf, and refused to talk about cutting or restricting U.S. aid in response to the crisis.
U.S. Ambassador Calls For Lifting Media Restrictions - Today U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson visited the office of Geo TV, a Pakistani station which had been broadcasting via satellite and internet from Dubai in defiance of Musharraf's media crackdown until Pakistan pressured the United Arab Emirates into closing it down, and called for an end to media restrictions. "Such extreme and unreasonable measures are clearly not in Pakistan's best interest, and contradict the progress Pakistan has made toward becoming a fully democratic society," she said. "The media must be free to report on events and share their opinions with the public."
U.S. To Enlist Tribal Leaders Against Taliban and Al Qaeda - The New York Times reports today on a classified proposal by the U.S. military to recruit and pay leaders in the tribal area bordering Afghanistan to join in the fight against resurgent Taliban and foreign fighters in the area, against whom the regular Pakistani military have been waging a losing battle. The plan would increase the number of U.S. military advisors inside Pakistan, and would add a military dimension to what had been an exclusively CIA operation in the tribal region.
Protest in London - About 500 protesters led by Jemima Khan, British ex-wife of cricket-legend-turned-political leader Imran Khan; Hina Jilani of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; and Member of Parliament George Galloway of the Labour Party, held a demonstration in front of the Pakistan High Commission yesterday in London. Khan is pictured with the younger of their two sons.
Musharraf's Military Successor Profiled - The Los Angeles Times has a good profile of Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, Musharraf's No. 2 man in the Pakistani military and heir apparent to succeed Musharraf when (if!) he puts aside his military role to commence his next term as president. Kiyani is regarded as competent, taciturn, and uninterested in taking charge of public affairs. The AP also has a profile, including a discussion of the circumstances that might lead Kiyani to take action against Musharraf down the road.
Pakistan Teach-In at University of Chicago - An event was held Friday on the historical and political dimensions of the crisis. The blog Chapati Mystery has the text of interesting remarks by Prof. C.M. Naim reviewing U.S. involvement in Pakistan long before 9/11. (Naim is a revered figure in South Asian studies and the author of the Introductory Urdu textbook with which I struggled on a daily basis during my sophomore year in college.)
What's happening on the Monday before Thanksgiving in the state that ranks 11th in the nation for overall turkey production, processing more than five million turkeys annually:
Flynt Joins Hollywood Stars in Backing Kucinich - Porn magnate Larry Flynt, an Ohio native, joined Woody Harrelson, Ed Norton, Sean and Robin Wright Penn, Frances Fisher, Stephen Stills, and Melissa Etheridge in co-hosting a fund-raiser for Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) at Hustler headquarters in Los Angeles. By the way, Flynt says he's about to go public with more sex scandals involving Republicans.
Toledo Bishop Balks at Domestic Partner Registry Plan - Bishop Leonard Blair objected to a plan to let gay or other unmarried couples register their domestic partnerships at City Hall in a letter read at Sunday masses and sent to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who hasn't decided whether to proceed with the plan. Ohio blogger Man With The Muck-Rake comments.
Clean-Up at Dayton-Area Nuclear Site Stalled - The U.S. Department of Energy, owner of the former Mound nuclear plant in suburban Dayton, had budgeted $4.5 million toward clean-up this fall but now says it isn't environmentally necessary and plans to walk away from it early next year if local officials don't come up with another $5 million of their own toward the project.
GOP Legislator Objects to Hiring Bilingual State Employees - State Rep. Courtney Combs (R-Fairfield) doesn't like the fact that Ohio state agencies have been advertising a preference for bilingual job applicants for certain positions like dispatcher and customer service assistant. "We're getting more and more toward a bilingual nation," Cates said. "We want people in this country to speak English. ... It's a sellout to say they can't learn the language. To me, it's more important for them to learn English than it is for us to learn Spanish. It just doesn't make any sense to me."
Four Ohio Cities Among Most Dangerous - According to an analysis of FBI crime statistics, Cleveland ranked 10th, Youngstown 15th, Cincinnati 16th, and Dayton 19th. Parma (at 23rd) was the only Ohio city among the 25 safest. The methodolgy of the report has been sharply criticized, however.
OHFA Approves Funding for Affordable Housing - Developers around Ohio will receive $11.15 millionin loans and bond proceeds from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency Board, a self-supporting quasi-public agency governed by an 11-member board, under plans announced recently. Projects include over $1.5 million in loans for a senior housing community in Delaware County, $3.25 million in bond proceeds to renovate Palmer Garden and a $750,000 loan for the YWCA in Toledo, and a $1 million loan for Cogswell Hall in Cleveland.
A month after announcing that she would not renew her quest for the 19th Ohio House District seat of now term-limited State Rep. Larry Flowers (R-Canal Winchester), grandmother and feisty long-time political activist Marian Harris is back on the campaign trail. "Circumstances have changed," she writes on her campaign web site, "More information is forthcoming."
Harris won 45.06% of the vote against Flowers last year in a district that leans strongly Republican (PVI R+11.5). The GOP candidate is County Coroner Dr. Bradley Lewis (R-Groveport).
From a new USA Today/Gallup poll:
Republicans look at the low approval numbers for Congress and figure that the Democratic Party is losing favor with the public rapidly. Actually, public approval has been steady since the spring:
Approval of the Republican Party is on a generally downward slide since shortly after 9/11:
Americans identify themselves mostly as independents (41%), but those who call themselves Democrats (34%) outnumber those who call themselves Republicans (25%). Among independents, the attitude toward the Democratic Party is positive (47% to 40%) and toward the Republican Party is negative (33% to 50%).
Gov. Ted Strickland (D) had signaled that he might veto the overhaul of state auditing procedures proposed by Auditor Mary Taylor (R) and passed by the GOP-led General Assembly, citing cost and usurpation of the Governor's authority. Strickland had proposed his own changes, but Taylor's plan creates an independent oversight committee and Strickland's plan did not.
Strickland has now signed Taylor's plan into law, and the key to him doing so was an adjustment to the role of the committee. As Columbus Dispatch reporter Mark Niquette puts it, the committee "now has the power merely to review and comment on audit plans rather than approve them." Having preserved his own authority to some extent, Strickland relinquished the veto pen, despite his continuing concern over the cost of the new panel.
This is another example of Strickland's pattern of getting bipartisan results through occasional compromise. Taylor's plan, like his own, is intended to tighten up the auditing process, hoping to avoid a repeat of the waste and fraud at the Bureau of Workers Compensation that occurred on the watch of two Republican administrations. It is a laudable goal. "This is one more example of a bipartisan effort resulting in something good for our state," he said. Precisely. A much better result than a veto and partisan confrontation, in this instance.
New reports on the crisis in the country to which we've given over $10 billion in aid since 9/11, most of it military, and much of that in untraceable cash payments:
Bhutto Rejects Caretaker Government - Released from house arrest in anticipation of the visit by U.S. envoy John Negroponte, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto promptly rejected the caretaker government that had been announced by Musharraf for the purpose of overseeing elections, and repeated her vow not to negotiate with Musharraf any more.
Some Opposition Party Workers Released, Some TV Outlets Back On the Air - Apparently playing for time, Musharraf has released some of the thousands of people who have been arrested and allowed some independent television stations to broadcast, although under strict new reporting regulations.
Opposition Leaders Negotiating Alliance - The leaders of the various opposition parties are forming an alliance to oppose Musharraf, and Bhutto has called for installation of a "government of national unity" in advance of the January elections.
Negroponte Spoke with Bhutto on Telephone - The Deputy Secretary of State called Bhutto, reportedly to "reiterate the importance of moderate forces working together" and "getting Pakistan back on the pathway to constitutional rule." He also wanted to hear from her on the political situation. He is expected to meet with Musharraf in person, a distinction no doubt freighted with diplomatic significance.
Insurgents Gain Territory Since Emergency Declared - In the last few days militants have captured more territory for their mini-state inside Pakistan’s borders, invading settled areas and chasing away frightened policemen, despite Gen. Pervez Musharraf's insistence that he imposed emergency rule in order to better fight against them.
Student Protests Against Handover of Imran Khan Continue - Thousands of Punjab University students protested again today over the actions of a few students affiliated with the religious party Jamaat-i-Islami in delivering moderate opposition leader Imran Khan over to the police. In this video clip, two law students say that they have resigned from that party's student organization over the incident, and assert that the cause of upholding the rule of law is non-political, i.e., all parties should support it:
(Translation is here.)
Musharraf Trying to Shut Down Geo TV - The independent Pakistani TV outlet Geo TV has been operating out of Dubai, although its programs have been blocked within Pakistan. Now, a blogger reports, Musharraf's government is using its influence with an unspecified foreign government to get Geo TV shut down altogether.
ABA Sponsored Rally, Web Site - The American Bar Association sponsored a rally of solidarity with the Pakistani judiciary and lawyers in Washington on Wednesday, with an estimated 600 to 700 lawyers marching past the Supreme Court building. The ABA has also set up an online media kit to focus attention on the issue, with audio and video. There is also an online petition you can sign.
No big surprise here [pdf]:
* 20% say the Ohio economy is excellent or good, 46% say fair, 33% poor.
* 58% think economic conditions in Ohio will get worse, 21% think they will get better, 18% think they will stay the same.
* The cost of health care is rated a "very big problem" by 72%, gasoline prices by 61%, jobs leaving Ohio by 61%, home heating and energy prices by 46%.
Polls show that Ohio voters trust Democrats over Republicans on handling health care and the economy. If Democratic candidates offer sound policies and a clear message on these concerns, the voters will respond.
ADDENDUM: Marc Kovac reports on the excellent Capital Blog about the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services unemployment report this morning, indicating that the state rate remained unchanged from last month at 5.9%, up from 5.5% one year ago. Ohio's rate is more than a point worse than the national rate of 4.7%, also unchanged from one month ago. Not getting worse, but not getting better, and we still have fewer jobs than when the last recession ended in November 2001.
In votes that occurred within the last hour, the U.S. Senate failed to pass the $50 billion war funding bill with a phased withdrawal plan that the House passed yesterday 53-45 (seven votes short of the required 60), but also failed to pass a GOP-sponsored provision to approve the $50 billion with no strings attached by the opposite margin, 45-53. The matter is deadlocked, with Democratic leadership pledging that there will be no more "blank check" war funding and the Bush administration claiming that the Pentagon is unable to shift funds from other accounts to continue to pay for battlefield operations. Expect major recrimininations and posturing on this. Hopefully the Democrats will display more backbone this time. Omitting telecom immunity from the revised FISA/warrantless wiretapping bill is a good sign.