OH-05: Candidate Debates Unlikely

The Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune reports today that two televised debates and a League of Women Voters candidates forum have been cancelled. Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon) and State Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) both tentatively agreed to the debates before the primary, but now can't seem to work them into their compressed campaign schedules. In Latta's case, the TV debates fell victim to a strange set of demands as well:

Latta’s campaign officials refused to agree to a live debate, insisted that it be no longer than a half hour, and that it run during primetime viewing, [Steve] France [of Toledo Fox News] said. But those conditions were unacceptable, he said, since Fox News wanted the debate to be live, between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m., and at least one hour long.
“By time you read the rules,” a half hour would nearly be gone, France said.

“We bent over backwards to try to make it come together. We’re obviously very disappointed,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this since the beginning of October.”

Latta also blamed scheduling difficulties and his responsibilities as a state legislator.

It sounds like Latta doesn't want to face Weirauch in a debate, perhaps figuring that he is ahead in name recognition and doesn't want to give his opponent additional media exposure. Or perhaps it has to do with the fact that a GOP candidate has too many difficult questions to answer at a time of near-record unpopularity for the sitting Republican president, and deep public dissatisfaction with his disastrous war in Iraq and dubious national economy. In any event, it looks like there won't be any candidate debates before the December 11th vote.

Stock Market Bounces Back On Rate Cut Speculation and Bargain Hunting

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up 331 points today, but when you read between the lines it seems like a bounce that basically confirms the market's overall weakness. CNN Money attributes the gain in large measure to comments from Federal Reserve official Donald Kohn, apparently signaling a willingness to cut a key short term interest rate at the December 11th Fed meeting because "recent market turmoil has reversed some of the improvements in market functioning seen at the time of the last Fed meeting." In other words, the stock market bounced back because a Fed official acknowledged that the market has been in turmoil. Also, the CNN story points to "rabid bargain hunting by investors" among "sectors hit the hardest in the recent selloff," especially financial stocks.

So, are we looking at a sustained recovery, or just confirmation that the market is subject to wild gyrations as it reacts to the subprime mess, housing slump, and credit crunch? There is no shortage of fresh bad news about housing, including today's report on new home sales and home prices:

Sales of existing homes fell to a record low in October, as even the largest drop in home prices ever wasn't enough to revive moribund sales ...

[S]ales by homeowners fell in October to an annual pace of 4.97 million, down from the revised September reading of 5.03 million. September had marked a record low since the trade group started tracking sales for both single-family homes and condos in 1999.

October marked the eighth straight month that the pace of sales has declined from the month before, and it left sales down 20.7 percent from a year ago. ...

OH-16: Boccieri (D) Opposes New Tolls for Highways and Bridges

Jill has been following the story of ODOT budget planning in light of an enormous anticipated deficit. Today Marc Kovac reveals that congressional candidate State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown) is adamantly opposed to closing the gap by imposing tolls on bridges and stretches of interstate that are currently toll-free. Kovac recaps a conversation that Boccieri had with ODOT Director James Beasley:

“All this talk of challenges about funding our roads and bridges is stemming from the federal government’s diminishing support,” Senator Boccieri said. “I think the whole process of federal earmarks and gas tax revenues needs to be re-thought in Congress.”

According to Director Beasley, Ohio is facing a $114 million shortfall by 2009 and a nearly $3.5 billion shortfall by 2015.

“I expressed my frustration about federal earmarks that take away from the State’s overall ‘giveback’ from Washington and the fact that I would not support any tolling of existing highways in Ohio,” Boccieri said. ...

“The simple fact remains that the federal government wants our gas tax money and wants more states to pay for interstate highways themselves,” Senator Boccieri said.

One idea under consideration is imposing a toll on the 20-mile stretch of I-80 from the Pennsylvania border to its junction with I-76, over which daily traffic ranges from 26,000 to 60,000 vehicles every day. Pennsylvania is already thinking of putting a toll on I-80 on the other side of the border.

This dispute fits into a much larger ideological debate about federal assistance to the states in general, which has been cut under the Bush administration in a variety of ways. Boccieri has identified a specific instance where the fairness issue is palpable -- why should Ohio drivers pay tolls on top of gasoline taxes to pay for highway expenses that the gas tax alone used to cover? This issue isn't going away any time soon.

Ugly SCHIP News

A report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service indicates that if the SCHIP program (for providing health insurance to children in low-to-middle income families that don't qualify for Medicaid) is merely renewed at fiscal year 2007 levels, without the bi-partisan expansion that was passed by Congress and vetoed by President Bush, Ohio will begin to run out of SCHIP money in September 2008, with an $11.9 million shortfall by the end of the year. That's if the program is renewed at current levels.

Will it happen? Now even that is in doubt. Negotiations on a compromise SCHIP expansion that could pass by a veto-proof majority have fizzled. GOP House members have hardened their positions on demanding citizenship documentation as a prerequisite for enrollment and excluding adults (such as parents of eligible children) from the program, among other sticking points. Now it looks like those areas of disagreement may prevent even an extension of the program at current funding levels:

However, Congress "might have as much difficulty with an extension as it has had with a full reauthorization" because the "sticking points in this year's debate have been less over money and more over policy changes advocated by Republicans," CQ Today reports. Those issues, including restrictions on SCHIP coverage for adults and tighter rules aimed at preventing undocumented immigrants from enrolling in the program, "could arise during debate on an extension," according to CQ Today.

News and Notes: Ohio

What's the latest from the third largest wine producing state (after California and New York), much of it quite drinkable:

CQ Politics on Competitive House Races In Ohio - A feature on Midwest races rates OH-15 and OH-16 as "no clear favorite," OH-18 as "leans Democratic," OH-01 and OH-02 as "leans Republican," and OH-14 as "Republican Favored."

Quick OH-05 Update - I went to a no-press fund-raiser for Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon) in Shaker Heights last night. I promised not to blog about the event so I will just say that Robin presented herself very well and the attendees were impressed and enthusiastic. Howie Klein talked up her campaign on DownWithTyranny! last week here. Today the Toledo Blade has a story contrasting the supply-side economic theory of State Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) with Weirauch's populist fair trade, lower-gas-prices stance.

Strickland to Delay Medicaid Change That Would Restrict Specialized Service - The controversial change to Medicaid billing rules that parents fear will deprive many children with autism of specialized services has been put off to at least April 1st.

Election Recounts - In Franklin County, five local races are headed for official recounts. In Cuyahoga County, 20% of paper printouts in local race recounts were illegible, requiring reprinting of the records from magnetic memory cards. And by the way, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections still doesn't know why its software crashed during election night vote counting.

Mortgage Industry May Cooperate With Mayors on Foreclosure Crisis - This story in the Akron Beacon Journal indicates that following the recent national conference of mayors the Mortgage Industry Association agreed to help cities with raising public awareness and obtaining certain records. Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman has some thoughts on the mayors and the mortgage industry here.

Peter Kirsanow Reappointed to Civil Rights Commission - Stephen Koff of the Plain Dealer reports here that Bush has reappointed the conservative black Cleveland attorney to the U.S. civil rights panel. Kirsanaw "opposes racial-preference programs, supports school choice and says that Ronald Reagan should be on Mount Rushmore." He also testified in favor of John Roberts and Samuel Alito as Supreme Court nominees. Another fox-in-the-hen-house appointment from Mr. 28%. Yes, I'd have to agree that this move is "likely to set off complaints from liberals."

Not Fun - Just for the record, I do not share in the glee reflected in this and this. I did not want to have to ban a user from this blog. However, after a few weeks of one person dominating the comments with long and frequently abusive rants, I reluctantly concluded that it was necessary. It was my decision alone. As for the individual in question, he must get his own blog. That is the only fair and practical resolution.

Ohioans Are Paying More Health Care Expenses on Plastic

A scary article in the Marietta Times reports that Ohioans are increasingly paying their medical and prescription expenses by credit card, in part as a result of climbing prices for gas, utilities, and food:

“Definitely within the last two years we’ve noticed the situation is getting much worse,” said Pam Dowler, executive director of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Mid-Ohio Valley. “Our counselors are noticing that a lot more health-related charges are showing up on credit cards.”

Dowler believes that there are several reasons this is happening more than ever before, the economy chief among them. Higher fuel and utility costs, grocery bills soaring and overall costs of living on the rise are creating financial stress, she said. Families and individuals simply cannot afford health insurance and pay other bills.

“Another thing that’s happening today is that many health care facilities, especially hospitals, are offering a 25 percent discount if the person pays the balance of their health care bill up front, before insurance pays,” Dowler said. “The easiest thing for many in that situation is to put the balance on a credit card.”

Borrowing to pay health care costs is a precarious practice that can quickly turn to financial quicksand. This is very troubling news.

Recession Watch: Subprime Mess and Credit Crunch Woes Mount

Home prices have fallen steadily for over a year (since July 2006), but fell dramatically over the last few months. Prices plunged 1.7% from the second quarter to the second quarter of this year. That's the biggest drop in the 21-year history of the Case/Schiller homes prices index. Co-founder and Yale economist Robert Schiller said that home prices ultimately could decline as much as 50%.

Most recessions are preceded by housing declines, and Schiller thinks the odds of this decline precipitating a recession are over 50%. Consumers apparently agree, since a leading consumer confidence indicator has fallen to near a two-year low. Rising gasoline prices, falling home sales, and unstable financial markets have weighed on consumers' spending, according to the report accompanying the announcement.

OH-05: Schechter's Upbeat About Weirauch (D)

Cliff Schecter, a Columbus-based political commentator, writer and progressive video producer for Brave New Films, has a post on the Brave New Films blog talking up the special election campaign of Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon):

[T]he GOP is poised to perhaps get another jolt to their system of corruption on December 11th. That is when progressive Robin Weirauch takes on your usual nutty Republican in the 5th District here for an open U.S. House seat. Now, some worry it is too Republican a district for Democrats to win (it was held for a while by Republican Paul Gillmor before he suddenly passed away), but they are, what's that called...oh yeah, WRONG.

Both Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland, one of our current Senators and Ohio's Governor, carried the 5th in their respective landslide victories in 2006. The people of the 5th realize, like most of the rest of us, that they were hoodwinked by Republicans, who shipped jobs to China and their sons and daughters to Iraq for war profiteers, oil, and the right-wing, think-tank produced fantasy of Iraq's turning into England if only we blew the whole place up first.

The buzz is increasing.

OH-05: Emily's List Endorses Weirauch (D)

This happened last week but got lost in the holiday rush:

EMILY's List, the nation's largest political action committee and financial resource for women running for elective office, today announced its endorsement of Robin Weirauch in her bid for Ohio’s fifth congressional district.

“A passionate advocate for the community with deep roots in northwest Ohio, Robin Weirauch has been making a positive difference in the lives of Ohioans for more than two decades,” said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY’s List. “From economic development to education and protecting children, Weirauch has tackled some of the toughest challenges facing this district and created effective solutions to improve people’s daily lives. In an environment rife with frustration with the status quo, Weirauch offers a real world perspective and on the ground experience that is the answer to her district’s desire for change.”

This is a huge boost for the Weirauch campaign. Founded in 1985 and 100,000 members strong, Emily's List is the country's largest PAC. In 22 years it has raised over $240 million and has elected 69 pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. House. The press release gives a nice biographical sketch:

OH-15: Kilroy (D) on Top 10 Fundraisers List

Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus) is 7th on a list of the top ten money leaders in open-seat Congressional races posted today by CQ Politics.

Kilroy raised $438,000 through September 30th. She joins six other Democrats among the top ten. However, three of the Democrats are all running for the 2nd Colorado Congressional District (Jared Polis is first with $828,000, Joan Fitz-Gerald is second with $624,000, and Will Shafroth is fifth with $509,000). and another three Another two Democrats and a Republican on the list are all running for the 14th Illinois Congressional District (Chris Lauzen (D) with $546,000, Bill Foster (D) with $541,000, and Jim Oberweis (R) with $422,000).

OH-05: Weirauch (D) and Brown (D) Talk Gas Prices and Energy Policy; Latta (R) A Little Nervous?

Yesterday Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), who carried the 5th Ohio Congressional District in his convincing U.S. Senate win last year, joined Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon) for a press conference call about rising gas prices and U.S. energy policy. Weirauch continued her effort to focus her campaign on pocketbook issues for working families:

Anyone who traveled to see their families during the Thanksgiving weekend knows that the cost of gas is out of control. Right here in Northwest Ohio, hardworking middle class families are paying more than 70 cents a gallon more than we were last Christmas, while gas companies are making millions of dollars in profits and contributing thousands of dollars to politicians. In return they get huge tax breaks while Ohio families struggle to make ends meet. That’s not right.

Weirauch also talked about the need to promote alternative energy, and the potential for Ohio to benefit as a leader in producing alternative energy technology:

We need an energy policy that creates jobs and opportunities right here in Ohio,” said Weirauch. We can be a world leader in alternative energy production and that means good-paying jobs located right here in Ohio. Our current energy policy has made [us] less strategically safe and less economically secure. We need an energy policy that invests U.S. dollars in the Midwest, not the Middle East.

The potential that exists to create new advanced manufacturing capabilities right here in Tiffin, or Fremont or Defiance is too good an opportunity for us to pass up. As the Assistant Director of the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green, I know what it means to bring the public and private sectors together to create jobs. As your next Member of Congress I will work with my good friend Senator Brown to help direct federal funds to projects that will build up this energy infrastructure and create the sort of opportunities that exist in our region.

Joshua Boak of the Toledo Blade reported on the call today. He questioned Weirauch's position by noting that some economists argue that higher petroleum prices will create a more profitable market for alternative energy. Although perhaps valid as a pont of economic theory, high gas prices are not an acceptable component of energy policy because they hurt consumers. As Brown commented to Boak, those economists "are not thinking about the basic needs of middle-class Americans, [who] are struggling to pay for gasoline." Alternative energy must be promoted through government policy and incentives and promoting public awareness of the need for energy independence, not sky-high gas prices.

Weirauch's hard-hitting campaign on pocketbook issues has not escaped the attention of opponent State Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green). He began his campaign by stating that he would not mention his Democratic opponent, but he has begun responding to her campaign strategy by turning his attention to jobs and the economy -- an issue nearly absent from the ideology-heavy GOP primary battle. Latta held a press conference this morning at the entrance of the Bass Pro Shops construction site, near the I-75/Ohio Turnpike at the intersection, to introduce a new TV ad and announce that Latta "is a firm believer that the next Member of Congress from the 5th District needs to make jobs and the economy a top priority."

UPDATE: Lisa Renee was on the conference call.

OH-05: National AFL-CIO Blog Promotes Weirauch (D)

The AFL/CIO Now Blog has a post up praising Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon) as a "pro-worker candidate" and former member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and including this photograph of Weirauch signing the Employee Free Choice Act pledge.

The post notes that Weirauch has called for a moratorium on trade deals that have hurt Ohio workers, supports the SCHIP bill vetoed by Bush, and promises to fight for those who have worked hard all their lives but face the prospect of an insecure retirement. The author also points out that her eight years as the assistant director of Bowling Green State University’s Center for Regional Development gives her the experience necessary to make a difference for northwest Ohio’s working families.

News and Notes: Ohio

What's cookin' in the state that lo-o-o-ves to eat (10th highest adult obesity level in the nation at 24.9%):

Kaptur Calls 5th District Special Election a Bellwether for 2008 - "This race will be an indicator for the political climate in Ohio for 2008," Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) told the Toledo Blade. "Absolutely. It will be a barometer for where we are" heading into next year's presidential election. Lisa Renee is merely skeptical, Jerid outright disagrees.

Kucinich (D) Floats Paul (R) as Possible Running Mate - Oh, puh-leeez.

Dann Wants to Raise Fee for State Background Check Fee - It hasn't been increased in 20 years, and demand will go up due to a new requirement of background checks on more school employees and increased screening of foster parents, day-care providers, and others. The fee would go from $15 to $22, and the state would receive up to $7 million as a result.

Strickland and Sykes Disagree on Timing of Maternity Benefit Change - The governor wants the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to slow down implementation of a rule requiring 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, but chairperson (and former state representative) Barbara Sykes has refused. She says that businesses have already had enough time to comment. The rule has already been rewritten so that the leave is not mandatory unless approved by the woman's doctor, which pleased businesses but disappointed policy advocates. The Ohio rule would apply to a range of businesses not covered by a similar federal rule.

Callahan on Dismissal of Foreclosures by Federal Judges - In a terrific post, Cleveland blogger Bill Callahan uses a particular boarded-up home to explain the real significance of recent rulings by U.S. District Judges Boyko and O'Malley that dismissed foreclosure proceedings for failure to document ownership of the loans when the cases were filed. An eye-opening, highly informative post.

Congressional Earmarks Sharply Down Under Democrats

You wouldn't know it to hear President Bush's whining while vetoing Congressional spending bills, but the independent watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste says the Democratic-controlled Congress has dramatically slashed earmark spending compared to two years ago:

"Earmarks in fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills total around $20 billion, which is down 33 percent from the $29 billion designated in 2006 spending bills."

And as to those remaining earmarks, let's not forget about the $130,000 earmark sought by Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Navarre) for the library and museum honoring first ladies, which was founded by Regula’s wife and is run by his daughter. So please, Mr. President, don't pile all the blame on Democrats for how much pork is still getting passed.

Ohio GOP Milking Energy Bill for Campaign Cash

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. ...

OH-05: "The Nation" Praises Weirauch (D) for "Smart, Aggressive" Campaign

John Nichols has an entry on the Campaign '08 blog at The Nation praising Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon) for her "smart, aggressive" campaign for the December 11th special election:

[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."

OH House-21: Ackerman (D) Announces Bid

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.”

OH-92: Thompson (R) Will Announce Candidacy Monday

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.

Pakistan: Bush in Total Denial About Musharraf

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.

OH-05: Weirauch (D) Campaigning Hard on Jobs, Families, and Health Care

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.

Pakistan: Imran Khan Op-Ed in Guardian

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.

OH-18: Space (D) Short-Circuits Travel Critics, Tacks Right on Guns and Illegal Immigrants

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.

Carnival of Ohio Politics #92: Feast Week Edition

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!

Enquirer Editorial Slaps Down Combs (R) on Opposition to Hiring Bilingual Dispatchers

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 Cost Up, Percentage of Employers Providing Insurance Down

Ohio Health Policy Review reports on a national survey of employer health plans, reported in the Enquirer yesterday:

* 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.

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