Friday, December 03, 2004


More on the governor's musical chairs

Nearly a month ago, we were the first in Ohio to report that there was a scheme afoot to do a big shuffle in the top levels of state government to pre-position one of the Republican rising stars in the Governor's seat.

The Cincinnati Blog confirms that the rumors are still floating around - and so are the denials. When we first reported this plan, our sources said that Betty Montgomery was the leading candidate to take over after Taft is giving some fancy-dancy appointment by the Bush administration. Since then, however, the other name that has surfaced is Bush pal Congressman Rob Portman from the Cincinnati area.

The Cincinnati blogger say the rumor is thin but we aren't so sure. Either way, it's not really a rumor. We know for a fact that the source of all this is Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett who has been calling around to run the scenarios by other Repub bigwigs. So, we think this stuff fails in the category of test balloons rather than just gossip.


The opportunities are there

This is one of those good news/bad news stories. From the Middletown Journal we get this fascinating nugget:
[. . .] Even though John Kerry lost the presidential election, his campaign galvanized the Butler County Democratic party and spurred it into action. In a county where almost all the local government positions are staffed by Republicans — and where a visit by President Bush drew the largest rally numbers of the campaign — Democrats came out of the woodwork to knock on doors, staff phone banks — and vote.

Now they say Kerry’s defeat only strengthened their resolve. The county party is growing, in numbers and fervor, and is planning a comeback.

“That was one of the things with the Kerry campaign. Those who had not been active in political campaigns before, for the first time in their lives they got active in it,” said Dan Gattermeyer, chairman of the Butler County Democratic Party. “People had strongly held beliefs in this election. People who believed in Kerry believed in him strongly,” he said. [. . .]

Attendance at the Democratic Party’s Nov. 18 meeting was about 70 to 80 people — higher than it had been in years, he said.

“We wondered if it would drop off after the election. It was just the opposite. Although we lost the races, we gained momentum. I think we can build a firm system to continue this momentum,” Gattermeyer said.
We aren't surprised at all by this. Actually, this is the kind of thing that we have been found ourselves discussing frequently with others over the last couple of weeks, namely that there is a huge residual amount of untapped, untamed political activism that is yearning to stay active - despite the election outcome.

That's precisely one of the points of our "Open Letter to Tim Russo." Whether it was through ACT or MoveOn or the Democratic Party or the unions or whatever group, there is a huge group out there in Ohio looking for leaders, issues, direction and a plan. The second point of the "Open Letter" is that because none of these groups have made serious attempts to keep these people organized after the election, many of them are spontaneously gravitating to recount/voter fraud issue because it is the only issue that is giving these folks an outlet and a context to continue to be politically active.

The fact is that a large portion of the 70-80 people who came to the Butler County Democrats' meeting got their on their own - not because the Dems had recruited them to come.

As we said at the top, there is apparently bad news in this, too.
The Butler County Democratic Party’s goals: win support, win votes and win elections. The first step is getting good candidates.

Butler County lost its last Democratic office in 2000, when Republican Robin Piper defeated Gattermeyer in the race for county prosecutor. The local Democratic candidates have been consistently defeated in every election since.

But Gattermeyer said he has already met with “quite a few” promising candidates for the 2005 election. He said the party will try to get a Democratic presence into lower-level offices, like township trustee and clerk positions. Then they will begin to gain ground toward the countywide seats.
We hope the newspapers got it wrong. We hope that Gattermeyer and the others didn't really bore those that attended the meeting to tears by discussing candidates. Hopefully they are not that fucking stupid.

Butler Co. and the other county Democratic Party organizations better be spending their time focusing on ISSUES that are important to those 70-80 people. Chrissakes, they could care less about candidates at this point. Those 70-80 came out because the are concerned about specific issues and concerned about where their community and their state is going. We suspect they want to do concrete organizing on jobs, schools, safety, the environment, the war, etc..

Anyone with a smidgen of wisdom would be spending time at this point just listening to these folks, and then helping them put together a plan to achieve what they want to achieve. It really is pretty simple.

We can't count how many times people have stopped us and asked, "How can follow what's going on in Ohio?"

That's the big question. We worked with MoveOn, ACT, the Ohio Dems, the unions during the elections and we were on a dozen email lists. But, with the exception of one financial solicitation from the national Dems, one financial solicitation from MoveOn, and one email about a MoveOn conference call, no one has asked us to get involved with anything. The one odd exception is the Glibs group who have at least tried to get us to be recount monitors. We doubt we're the exception.

What happened to the precinct networks organized by MoveOn and the Democratic Party? What happened to the door-to-door and phonebank teams organized by labor and ACT?
What happened to the student groups that popped up at the campuses?

It will be a betrayal of all the good activism the pro-Kerry forces did in 2004 if the Dems and the other groups let these people fall into the cracks and disappear.

The Ohio Democratic Party has a small window of opportunity to reunite these people. For gods' sakes, don't let it pass by.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Open letter to Tim Russo

Tim -

First, thanks for signing on weeks ago to help with the Ohio Voter Suppression Blog.

Second, we gotta say, damn man, you have an odd way of operating and a major martyr complex. We are not so out of it that we missed the whole shebang at that you were involved with.

After the MYDD dustup, we didn't do a pre-emptive strike to prevent you from posting stuff. We figured if you didn't want to be a part of the blog anymore you would have just let everyone know and you could have had yourself removed. We really didn't pay it much mind either way, and we still don't.

Therefore, we thought it absolutely over-the-top that you suggested that someone was going to censor you on that blog. Besides these ravings, we frankly didn't like your recent post if for no other reason than it should be been done as a comment and not as a post. Most if not all of the other posts on that blog have at least one solid "news" link. The place for opinion and debate is in the comments.

We haven't really weighed into the debate about the scope and scale of the voter irregularities on the Ohio Voter Suppression News blog for several reasons. First, we figure we have our own blog (here) and if we were going to do it anywhere, we'd start here first. Second, it has been damn time consuming to be gathering the county-by-county numbers and do some other projects we have been involved with.

For the record, we clearly laid out our skepticism about the potential for a change in the votes and Kerry's post-election chances early on. See, for example, see this post.

But as we pointed out there, one of our pet gripes was - and still is - the awful writing that is suppose to pass for journalism in Ohio.

As another offshoot of that, we learned through our reporter pals that none of the press corps was even bothering to track the provisional ballot counts or doing any serious investigation of some of the problems being reported. Thus, we took up the task of doing the tracking work that the press corps should have been doing. We vowed to carry it through to the end, regardless of the outcome, and report what irregularities we were finding. We also felt that the numbers were going to speak for themselves and, in fact, appeared to have cooled down some of the far-fetched thinking that was out there.

On the Hypothetically Speaking blog, we think we have tried to be fair with why things are politically screwed up, at least in Ohio. We have been careful to target both the Republicans and the Democrats when blame is due. In particular, we laid a hell of a lot of the blame for the pre-election fears and post-election problems on the Democrats. We believe - we know - that most of the democratic appointees on the boards of election were asleep at the wheel. They used these positions year after year to collect another paycheck and get their PERS retirement credits and get the other public employee benefits. As we pointed out, many of the voter registration problems may have been initiated or continued by Blackwell, but they were allowed to exist for years and years with the democrats not saying a word - despite lots of griping from people in the field.

We're not wild about a recount. It seems like it might have some value in highlighting the differences among the counties in how they conduct their votes, but not much value. On balance, as we have stated, we think it will turn into a PR nightmare, but nothing is apparently going to stop it.

Regarding the Ukraine, we don't know shit about the situation there and would never try to fake it. But the timing about the election fraud issues there are good for at least a chuckle.

But, let's look at what's really going on here. We know you have been a democratic trooper for a long time. So have we. More than you probably realize. Therefore, let's agree that we are all veterans at this. What we have to say next isn't meant to imply you don't know what you are talking about. You have an odd, absolutist kind of approach to political debate that may be good for point scoring, but lousy for leading people anywhere.

When we say you are an absolutist, we are not criticizing the fact that you take firm positions. You clearly do that. Wish more people did. However, your appoach seems to be that people are either absolutely wrong or absolutely right.

But our experience is that serious people debating serious issues need to forcefully address and consider their opponents best arguments (versus their weakest arguments).

For example, you may be right about whether Howard Dean would be a good chair of the DNC. But framing the issue that way (Dean would be good, Dean would be bad) misses the point that Dean/Trippi did some innovative stuff (that needs to be permanently written in the Dems playbook), raised an interesting alternative to campaign financing, and mobilized a lot of people in a way that was qualitatively different than anything we've seen done in Ohio in 35 years. And these people want to stay active. Dean may not be the guy for the DNC, but your approach will lose them if you don't pay attention to why the Dean campaign resonated with them.

We are deeply disturbed about the state the Ohio Democratic Party. Obviously, there are a lot of people gunning for Denny White. We are not particularly impressed with Denny. He has made a few changes, but nothing qualitative. Throwing together a web site would be something to brag about if this was 1998.

But what's worse is that there has been no public effort by the Ohio Democratic Party to capture the tremendous amount of support that was shown on Nov. 2, even if it was for a lost cause.

We are not talking about whether Denny joins the recount effort or sues Blackwell or not. That's small change compared to the shit storm that is going to hit the state when our wack-pack of legislators tackles the issues of campaign finance "reform", tax "reform", tort "reform", school funding "reform" and the $5 billion gaping hole in the state budget. Denny White and the ODP have virtually no plan and no concept of what the fuck to do.

And, unfortunately, we haven't heard any great ideas - yet - from the potential contenders for Denny's throne.

And we don't hold the ODP leadership as the only problem. Labor has a big presence in Ohio, but Bill Burga, his son, and the rest of the AFL-CIO leadership is, in many ways, even more pathetic than the ODP. Hell, they have the ability to work directly with their members and they are scared to death of them.

Tim - this is why a lot of people in Ohio are obsessed with the vote count still: There is a huge vacuum left by the ODP, MoveOn, ACT, etc. and the vote count thing is the only easy, coherent way for them to stay connected to something "bigger." Give them credit for at least hanging in there.

(That's why your Cavaliers references are so weird - it seems to say, "Hey, stop being and activist. Just chill." We doubt that's your intent. The solution isn't to chill out - the solution is to get involved with something more constructive in the long term. Don't you agree?)

If we had our way, we'd have the ODP holding both public and private meetings in every county ASAP to discuss the party's future. We would try to identify some newer activists with good insights and organizing skills in each area to start grooming as future party leaders. Based on feedback from those meetings, we would work on framing some broad messages about what kind of state Ohio could be, And, in late January or early February we would come out with a very positive, alternative view of Ohio encompassing education, jobs, taxes, the influence of big money on politics and the environment. We would revive the house meetings where those networks existed. We would continue to do the door-to-door outreach and opinion identification. We would be developing statewide ballot initiatives on minimum wage or health care or the environment.

But what do we have now to capture people's interest and enthusiasm? Not bupkus!

This "vacuum" problem exists nationally, too. So, Tim, go easy on the people who are obsessed with the voting irregularities. It doesn't work to "yell" at them or put down their candidates. We don't want to lose them to the Greens for chrissakes.

Your obsession with proving them "wrong" is just as one-sided as their obsession. People as experienced as you are and we are need to be pushing those party leaders that can implement large-scale efforts to start acting like the leaders (county, state & national) they were elected/selected to be.

- Hypothetically Speaking:


Southeast Airlines shuts down, Dispatch snoozes

Were we unfair for suggesting several times in the past that the Dispatch's failure to cover the Southeast Airlines story showed what a joke their "business" reporting is? Hell no. Not when you have to read the following in other papers:
Southeast Airlines goes out of business

The embattled St. Petersburg-based charter airline cancels all flights, blaming fuel costs and heavy competition.

LARGO - Battling high fuel costs and federal inquiries into its safety, Southeast Airlines late Tuesday announced it was going out of business.

At the company's headquarters on Belcher Road in Largo, employees said company officials told them about 9 p.m. to turn off their computers, go home and not return today . . .
Yes, there was zilch about this in today's Dispatch.

We know there were some grumblings among the Dispatch about some of our posts, but the fact is that there is no news investigation or coverage going on, despite repeated heads up. We had at least thought that the editors would make sure that at least one of their staffers would monitor the Southeast situation.

The Business staff are now playing CYA by posting a brief patchwork of others' stories on the web site late in the morning. We can predict that they will have the token "human side" stories about how the rapid going-out-of-business will be a financial hardship for all the SEA-related staff at Rickenbacker Airport.

But the fact remains that if the reporting staff had been doing its job, employees and county officials would have been on alert and trying to head off the closure instead of just suffering the consequences.

God, we wish someone would do a real housecleaning in the Business section instead of sweeping the messes under the carpet.

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