Friday, November 19, 2004


Ohio's jobs dilemma - in a picture


Ohio to divert $8.1 million owed to consumers on inane marketing campaign

Let's see if we understand this right.

1) Ameritech successfully lobbies the the Republican controlled Ohio legislature and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to "loosen" the rules on required capital improvements.

2) Ameritech equipment declines and customers suffers weeks and weeks of no service, and is meanwhile purchased by SBC.

3) Faced with mounting public outrage over its poor service in 1999 and 2001, this "new" SBC is fined $9.8 million by the PUCO for failure to meet even minimal service standards.

4) The PUCO "unable to determine how to divide it equitably among customers who received bad service."

5) Six months after he declares that jobs is his #1 concern for 2004, Gov. Taft creates the Ohio Business Development Coalition to attract new business and investment through marketing. SBC picked to be part of the OBDC.

6) The Republican dominated Controlling Board diverts the PUCO fine pool and gives it to the OBDC.

In otherwords, the compensation meant for the Ameritech/SBC residential and business customers gets shunted back to - you guessed it, SBC! And for what? Some inane marketing program.

The brazeness of this who deal is really breathtaking. Talk about the rewards of one-party rule.

And, one has to wonder what kind of insanity rules in business development circles that thinks that Ohio's economic problems can be aided - even a smidgen - with a multi-million dollar image campaign? Do these guys have any business sense, or is this the just the old country club crowd doing some harmless playing around with someone else's money.

Are we Ohioans such rubes that we are willing to put up with this crap?


More on jobs bad news

Well, you heard the worsening news about Ohio's jobs picture here first. Now that the official announcement has been made, we know more of the details:
Meanwhile, some surprising job increases occurred such as in the badly battered manufacturing arena:
Small employment growth was also noted in educational and health services (+800) and government (+500). Experts tell us this is a one-time phenomenon that attributed to the secondary placement of teachers and other education staff as schools fill remaining staff gaps.

As we said earlier, this is all very bad news that we will have more to say on over the next few days.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


New Ohio jobs/unemployment report to show major setback

Exactly four weeks ago, the Bush campaign got a small gift. Ohio had been the poster child for the economic failings of W's administration. But the jobs/unemployment numbers released in late October showed a faint twitch in the numbers, an small hiccup that if one were to squint just right might somehow be seen as good news.

Bush and his surrogates - unchallenged by most of the Ohio press corps - proclaimed that the net growth of 5,500 jobs in September and a drop in the unemployment rate from 6.3% to 6.0% proved that Ohio had turned the economic corner. Funny thing was, however, roughly half the state knew that was utter nonsense.

Unfortunately, we now know which have was right.

Our sources say the jobs and employment report that will be released tomorrow - covering data from October - will show bad economic news.

How bad? Pretty bad. Bad enough to make you stay awake at night wondering what would have happened with the election if this had been the report given in four weeks ago. For example, the new report will show:
We need to put this in context (using the format developed by the good folks at Policy Matters Ohio who will probably have their own analysis out Friday afternoon). These new results mean that the state has gained a total of about 18,000 jobs since December, an increase of about a third of one percent. At that rate, it will be about ten years before Ohio regains the jobs lost since the recession officially began in March 2001.

The Republicans can be expected to blame this all on Gov. Bob Taft. Or they will blame it on the unions. Or they will blame it on the taxes. Or they will blame it on the size of government. Or they will blame it on the lawyers.

Taft is a boob, but he hardly deserves all the blame. All but the comatose know Speaker Larry Householder and Sen. Pres. Doug White with their 2:1 Republican majority in both houses ran a tight ship. A very tight ship. For nearly 16 years the Republicans have had the run of the Statehouse, and Ohio's middle class has suffered greatly. And what's there to show for it? Wretched public school funding, a blatantly unfair income tax system that gives virtually a free ride to businesses, a gutted manufacturing sector, and a public services that allow the severely mentally ill and mentally retarded to fall through the cracks. Oh - and let's not forget a term-limit system, Republican initiated, that lets those responsible for the mess flee before anyone catches on.


The downward spiral in Iraq

"Stars glittered over the Baghdad hotel where I blew out the candles on a cake decorated by my four closest Iraqi friends. We stayed up until the dawn call to prayer rang from a nearby mosque, telling stories and debating the future of a country I'd grown to cherish. - Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder journalist.
Kudos to the Beacon Journal and the rest of the K-R chain for printing this. Yes, whatever the reporters are experience is only a fraction of what some Iraqis are going through, but this story shows how far things have coming from the "thrilling" stories that the press corps was churning out during the early months of the war.
It's hard to say when it changed. By last autumn, insurgents had improved their bomb-making skills and organized themselves into sophisticated cells. Reporters waded into an alphabet soup of military terminology: VBIED, vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. RPG, rocket-propelled grenade. PSD, personal security detail [ . . .]

The pace and scope of attacks grew exponentially. Targets came to include foreign journalists and the Iraqis working with them. Two of the Iraqi friends at my birthday party were shot to death at point-blank range as they drove home one spring night. Two weeks later, American soldiers opened fire on the third friend, an Iraqi television reporter who was speeding to the scene of a mortar attack. His last gasps were broadcast on live TV. I couldn't work for weeks. The fourth friend fled Iraq after receiving death threats.

So far, we've been lucky at Knight Ridder in escaping death or serious injury. Our American and Iraqi correspondents have been shot at countless times, attacked by knife-wielding rebels and bruised by stones lobbed from angry mobs. They've been trampled by riotous demonstrators, arrested by a renegade police force, taken hostage by militiamen and burned by red-hot shrapnel.

After one bombing, a young boy shoved a severed hand in my face. Another time, I used a tissue to pick shreds of human flesh off my shoes after covering a car bombing. Gagging, I gave up and pushed the sneakers deep into the trash.

As the close calls grew, the Iraq we knew shrank. The northern mountains and southern marshes are off-limits now because the roads out of Baghdad are lined with bombs and gunmen. Even a jaunt to the grocery store is a meticulously planned affair. Do you have a radio? A flak vest? A second car to watch for kidnappers?

I just turned 27. With the war still raging and the heartbreaking absence of my four Iraqi friends, there seemed little to celebrate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Why didn't this come out before Nov. 2?

Don't miss this: Dubya - The movie

Monday, November 15, 2004


Dispatch misses story while Southeast Airlines problems continue

How's this for a lede:
The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed fining Southeast Airlines $240,000 for safety violations that include allowing a plane to make 279 landings in a 72 days without required inspections for fuselage cracks
It's a pretty scary story, too. Seems there were problems with two other Southeast planes and all three are still flying. Since Southeast only has eight planes, chances are pretty good that if you have flown the airline recently out of Columbus, you rode one of these questionable birds.

Since Columbus is one of Southeast's principle destination/departure points, could this fine reporting have come from the Columbus Dispatch? Are you kidding? That the Dispatch has made some improvements over the last few years isn't news. But, as the dust up over its presidential endorsement showed, these changes have been quantitative, at best, and definitely not qualitative.

Nowhere is this more painfully obvious than it's "Business" section. This lame, lazy name is perfectly symbolic for the lame and lazy reporting that goes on there. If it wasn't for the PR shops at the insurance companies and the banks, these guys wouldn't cover anything close to "news." And "hard" news? Well, maybe when someone local business exec is finally doing a deserved perp walk. But, don't count on the Dispatch's Business Team to do any serious digging, let alone report on something with a possible labor or consumer slant.

Case in point: Southeast Airlines. Southeast (NOT Southwest) is a low, low cost operator that flies routes to locations like the Tampa Bay area, the Orlando area, the Columbus area, the Philadelphia area, the New York area. The key word is "area". Southeast avoids the large, higher landing fee airports and instead goes to the St. Petersburg airport instead of Tampa and Rickenbacker Airport instead of the main Columbus airport.

Nothing wrong with that business model, per se. Southeast, apparently, engages in some other aggressive cost-cutting techniques which may include flying overweight planes, using sub-standard equipment, omitting mechanical inspections and engaging in corner-cutting training of pilots.

Nevertheless, Southeast has been fairly popular with consumers in the Columbus area and has had regularly scheduled flights several times a week to Florida destinations for over a year.

Several months ago, we had something of a blind post suggesting some of the problems mentioned above were going on at what was obviously Southeast airlines. This was based on some interesting reporting going on at the St. Petersburg (Fl) Times. That newspaper had been in contact with a couple of disgruntled pilots who had gotten canned and were retaliating by spilling the beans about Southeast management ignoring safety rules in order to keep to the airline's flying schedule. This story caught our eye since we had several alarming experiences with three consecutive Southeast flights.

We know the Dispatch eventually knew about this story because we sent it to them. As a matter of fact, after we posted the information, we also sent a message via email to every Dispatch business reporter whose email we could find.

End result? Nada! Now, this wasn't totally surprising. After all, they had already been scooped by the folks in St. Pete. Just running their story would have been fairly embarrassing, and finding a new angle on the story would have meant getting to work before 10 am or missing a lunch or a golf game. So, since no one besides Hypothetically Speaking even knew about the problem - who cares what some washed-up, whinny pilots say is going on.

Who cares? Well, actually a good reporter - Jean Heller - in St. Pete still does. Last week she reported the story above and how Southeast had been using substandard brake and wheel assemblies that had been overhauled by a company that is not even in business anymore.

It should be noted that the story of the proposed fines didn't just drop into Heller's hands. As she recounts:
The FAA proposed the fines last year, according to spokesman Christopher White, but they did not become public until the action appeared on the FAA's Web site this month and the agency supplied documentation Friday to the St. Petersburg Times.
In otherwords, she had to do some work - like monitoring the FAA site. Good for her. Bad for the Dispatch's crew. None of them apparently can hack that kind of effort.

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