Friday, March 25, 2005


Democrats to hold Social Security town meetings

The Republicans may still be in hiding on Social Security, but the Dems are still on the offensive. Here is the schedule we know of so far:

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Phil Burress is a bag of shit

In light of the new domestic violence ruling, let us not forget what a slime Burress is:
• The president of the local group, Citizens for Community Values (CCV) is denouncing AARP of Ohio for its opposition to State Issue One. Issue One, also known as the marriage protection amendment, would not recognize the legal status of either same sex couples or unmarried couples of the opposite sex.

The AARP says if passed the amendment could take away the rights of unmarried, older couples. [emphasis added]

But CCV president Phil Burress says by taking that position, the AARP is "turning its back on basic moral principles". WCPO-TV, Oct. 12, 2004.

• When the question was asked regarding how a ban on same-sex marriage would hurt heterosexuals getting married, Burress became less than friendly and stated that the issue is not a ban on gay marriage, rather that it was an effort to protect families from moral destruction. - Perry Slone, Dayton City Paper, Oct. 27, 2004

• Burress agrees the amendment will end domestic partner benefits offered by four state universities, regardless of whether couples are gay.

"The term 'domestic partner' is marriage by a different name," he said.
He said the amendment will not have any impact on private businesses or individual contracts, as some suggest. He said concerns about an adverse economic impact are "fictional." - Gannett News Service, Oct. 18, 2004.

• "We're very comfortable with the words [of Issue 1]." - Phil Burress, Oct. 14, 2004.

• “The concerns that Senators DeWine and Voinovich raise are totally without substance,” explained Burress. “Both sentences of the amendment define marriage and protect it from anyone attempting to create counterfeit marriages by another name."CCV, Oct. 8, 2004.


Surprised by the unintended consequences of Issue 1? You shouldn't be.

Gee, is the recent court decision a surprise? Well, no. It was one of those obvious things that was predicted by, well, just about everybody with half a brain:
Its far-reaching language will have unintended consequences, disallowing otherwise contractual rights, benefits, and protections, such as those of adopted children of unmarried couples or of unmarried couples jointly owning property. - Ohio League of Women Voters, Sept. 10, 2004.

It is an ambiguous invitation to litigation that will result in unintended consequences for senior citizens and for any two persons who share living accommodations. - Project Vote Smart, Oct. 13, 2004.

[The ACLU Nov. 10, 2004] forum is intended to assemble those who are concerned about the widespread implications and consequences of Issue 1 to begin a coordinated process of . . . identifying the legal issues in relation to various impact areas (domestic relations, contracts, adoption/custody, employment benefits, etc). - Ohio ACLU

It is an ambiguous invitation to litigation that will result in unintended consequences for senior citizens and for any two persons who share living accommodations. There will be as many interpretations of the words, “Intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage,” as there are judges in the state of Ohio. - Gov. Bob Taft, Oct. 13, 2004
If approved, the amendment would deprive any unmarried couple in Ohio - gay or straight - of legal privileges they now enjoy. - Toledo Blade, Oct. 10, 2004.

. . . single pregnant women might find themselves unable legally to assert a right to maternity leave or to gain a court-protection order against an abusive ex-boyfriend. - Dayton Daily News, Oct. 7, 2004.

I'm also concerned about other Ohioans, including heterosexual friends and family members, who would be harmed by the passage of this amendment . . . It may even affect whether domestic violence charges can be pursued if the victim is not legally married to the person who abused him or her -- this includes women who are abused by a boyfriend. - Jim Ryan.

Ohio's new constitutional amendment aimed at denying special legal rights to gay and unmarried couples also may strip legal protections from thousands of unwed victims of domestic violence.

Legal and victim-advocacy circles are buzzing over motions from the Cuyahoga County public defender's office to dismiss domestic-violence charges against unmarried defendants.

The argument: that the charge violates the amendment to Ohio's Constitution known as Issue 1 by giving spouselike status and protection to victims who live

"The thing is, you can only get a domestic-violence charge now if you are a wife beater, not a girlfriend beater," said Jeff Lazarus, a law clerk for public defender Robert Tobik and chief architect of the motions to dismiss. - Plain Dealer, Jan. 15,2005.

[Issue 1] is vague and likely to cause unintended consequences. It will also reduce rights and benefits for all unmarried Ohio couples. - Eric Resnick, Dec. 31, 2004.

This proposed amendment to the state constitution, masquerading as an affirmation of traditional marriage, has been publicly outed for what it truly is -- an assault on the rights of all unmarried Ohioans and a threat to our economic future. - Mary Anne Sharkey, Oct. 28, 2004.
. . . and so on and so on.


Dispatch garbles state business tax stance

The papers lastest editorial on changes to the business taxes is the print version of talking with marbles in your mouth - who knows wtf you just said.

The headline to the editorial says, "Plug the loopholes."

Okay, you think. Sounds like the Dispatch is joining the Policy Matters Ohio camp of calling for fixing the state's swiss cheese-like franchise tax rather than going with Taft's new Commercial Activities Tax.

Or maybe, you think, the paper thinks that fixing the franchise tax is an interim measure that would either buy time until consensus on the CAT is reached or would force CAT opponents to change their mind.

But, apparently, it's neither. No where in the body of the editorial does it make any call for patching the loopholes. As a matter of fact, it calls for full speed ahead for the CAT:

The leaders of the General Assembly, House Speaker Jon A. Husted and Senate President Bill
Harris, recently told The Dispatch editorial board that they are committed to passing the governor’s plan without substantial changes.

Ohio’s long-term financial and economic health will improve if they succeed.
So, is this just a big screw up or signs of some nuanced difference between Glenn Sheller and Ben Marrison on taxes?


Issue 1 chickens come home to roost: Domestic violence law only applies to married couples

So now we are in some "unusual and frightening places."

Opponents of last November's Issue 1, aka the Gay Marriage amendment, warned that it wasn't about homosexual marriage, unions or whatever. They warned that it was about having government decided who you could and could enter into a relationship with, and what rights would be conferred on that relationship.

In otherwords, they were saying that the radical right's opposition went beyond gay sex and that there was a broader agenda to restate the rules for all relationships including heterosexual ones. Thus, they predicted that Issue 1 had many hidden bombs within it that would go off over time.
Well, it didn't take long for the first bomb to go off. From the Plain Dealer:
Ohio voters who approved a constitutional amendment last fall that denied legal recognition of unmarried and gay couples probably didn't envision the measure being successfully used as a defense in domestic violence cases.

But that became a reality Wednesday when Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman ruled that the amendment, approved by voters as Issue 1, made part of the state's domestic violence law unconstitutional.

Friedman said that because Ohio's domestic violence law recognizes the relationship between an unmarried offender and victim as one "approximating the significance or effect of marriage," it represents a direct conflict with the amendment's prohibition against such recognition and is thus unenforceable.

In the case involving Frederick Burk of Cleveland, who was arrested in February on a charge of domestic violence against a woman, Friedman reduced that charge (a fourth-degree felony with a possible prison term of six to 12 months) to simple assault (a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum six-month jail term). One of Burk's attorneys, Dave Magee of the public defender's office, said Friedman's ruling may be the first in Ohio supporting the contention that the domestic violence law is unconstitutional.

[. . . ]

Lewis Katz, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, said the legal battle could eventually reach the Ohio Supreme Court. He said that court may try to save the statute, and an effort will made by the state legislature to revise the law to make it constitutional.

Until then, he expects to see more lawyers raise the constitutional issue in domestic violence cases, and "judges bending over backwards to save the domestic violence statute from such attacks.

"My own guess is that Judge Friedman is correct because the language of Issue 1 is so clear, it's hard to get around that," he added.

[. . . ]

Cathleen Alexander, executive director of the Domestic Violence Center in Cleveland, said Friedman's decision will bring an issue that needs to be resolved to the forefront. But she also noted "the troubling part, until the state figures out how to address these unintended consequences, is that a victim can't avail themselves of the full protection of the domestic violence law."

That protection could include the automatic escalation of charges for repeat offenses and obtaining protection orders for victims, Alexander said.

Friedman said he was "greatly concerned" as to how his decision might affect judicial decisions setting bail and motions for temporary restraining orders in certain domestic violence cases. But before announcing his decision, he emphasized that anyone who assumed the ruling was based on any kind of personal, legal or social agenda would be wrong. And following the law, Friedman said, can sometimes mean taking a path to some "unfamiliar or even frightening" places.
UPDATE: As Brian points out, the Issue 1 architect wants all the other laws to change instead of fixing his:
Phil Burress of Cincinnati, a leader in the drive to pass Issue 1, said the domestic violence law needs to be amended "to bring about equal treatment," and noted that legislation to that effect has been introduced by Rep. Jim Raussen, a Cincinnati Republican.

"There's nothing wrong with the constitutional amendment," he added. "If there's any law contrary to the constitutional amendment, we will fix it."
We think it's an open question of how sincere Burress even is. It's not like this was an unforeseen problem when Issue 1 was drafted. Burress knew exactly what he was doing.


Sentiments from Tampa Bay about Schiavo

With her hospice located there, Tampa Bay area is ground zero for the Schiavo circus. St. Pete Times writer Howard Troxler's column today typifies the attitudes in that region:

By my last count, 1,085 people had written e-mails in reply to Tuesday's column criticizing Congress for intervening in the Terri Schiavo case.

Of those 1,085 people, only 40 disagreed.

Another 269 people left voice messages. Of those callers, only 13 disagreed.

The total number of people who responded sets an all-time record. No previous topic has come close - not gay marriage, not flag burning, not even cat-and-dog stories. Nothing.

[. . . ]

. . . I have never seen anything like it. It is the first time in my career that an issue was so one-sidedly dominated by the, uh - well, what do we call this side?

It's sure as heck not the "anti-religious" side. A large number of people made it a point to express their Christianity and their deep faith in God, while expressing outrage at grandstanding politicians:

I am one of those conservatives, and a born-again Christian. I believe in the sanctity of life ... There are many of us who feel Terri needs to be allowed to die naturally.

I'm a Christian and Republican. My personal feeling is Congress was just flat wrong and that the federal government opportunists are trying to grab moral brownie points.

It's not the "liberal" side, either. Just as many people described themselves as lifelong conservative Republicans. A lot of them, with grudging good humor, complained it was the first time they had ever agreed with me, or the tiresome St. Petersburg Times.

I must be feeling the emotions that Ronald Reagan felt when the Democratic Party "left him." I have been a conservative Republican all my life but now I feel that I'm being left behind by my party and even by all of those conservative radio talk hosts.

As a Goldwater Republican I'm saddened at this garbage that the Bush boys are pulling off right now. This could lead to tens of thousands of these battles for no good purpose. My son is profoundly handicapped ... I have guardianship and would be very upset if someone came in and told me how to care for my son. It's MY call, not some jerk in Washington.

Certain themes recurred in the e-mails: profound anger at the arrogance of Congress, the belief that families should control their own destinies, the worry of seniors that their own wishes will be trampled by the government.

Perhaps, the next time one of our congressmen has a pain or feels ill, he should send a snippet of video of himself to his doctor for diagnosis.

I just don't understand how people can claim to be Christian but are willing to vote for politicians who cut health care for the poor. Then when these same political hacks pretend to be so concerned about Terri, they believe them.

What is ironic is that these same conservatives have for years expressed their fears that Democrats, or what they find most despicable, liberals, would take power in the government, and use it to further control people's lives through regulation.

Neither did it escape readers' attention that the same government that preaches to us about the "sanctity of marriage" is so willing to trample over that institution when it doesn't like the result.

I mailed copies of my living will to my mother and sister yesterday. I find it appalling that after passing the Defense of Marriage Act because the sacred institution of marriage must be protected, now Congress seeks to intervene in a marriage. I also can't believe that anyone thinks they can wipe out seven years of court decisions just because the court didn't rule their way. Must be nice!

Many compelling messages came from people who have been through similar experiences in their own families. Some expressed pain and sympathy for Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's parents, but related their own decision to let a loved one go. Several of these spoke firsthand about the natural process of passing, in which our bodies shut down and refuse food and water - it is not "starving to death," nor is it suffering.

Both our fathers died of cancer at home with the help of hospice. Even after days of not eating and little drinking they did not ask for food or fluids when they rallied for brief periods.

While there are many who believe that denying food and water to someone near the end of life is painful and cruel, quite the opposite is true. This is a very natural way for our bodies to shut down when we are near death. Natural brain chemicals kick in, and we peacefully pass on to our afterlife, where there is no medicine or pain.

Most gut-wrenching was an account from Clearwater:

My family is one of the many "murderers" that have had to deal with choosing to prolong a life long gone or allow the kindness of death and the hope for something better for a trapped spirit. My father spent 12 years battling Alzheimer's and in the end, we did what we felt was right and what the hospice people advised - no food and only ice to keep his lips moist.

I can assure those doubters out there, fearing that Mrs. Schiavo will suffer, that it does not happen, especially in individuals who have no cognizant awareness - the body produces endorphins in this state that act as a natural anesthetic. My father did not suffer in his last hours and peacefully passed away at home in his own bed, four years ago. In all that time, I have never once felt like a murderer or that my family should have made another decision.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


The Petro/Heimlich team

Cincinnati blog has been doing some good coverage here and here of the jostling among Republicans to replace Rob Portman. Until yesterday, it seemed that the blog gave former Cincinnati councilman/first term as Hamilton County commissioner Phil Heimlich the edge. Potential contender State Rep. Tom Brinkman even endorsed him.

But yesterday's announcement that Heimlich would be Jim Petro's lieutenant governor and running mate seems to put his campaign for congress on hold

The blog also has more information here about how Heimlich's reputation and decision affects Kenny Blackwell and the outrage from the right wing fringe elements of the Republican party.

As the Enquirer notes, this is pretty early for a gubernatorial candidate to be announcing a running mate, so there has got to be more to the story than this . . . such as lining up someone else for congress. Seems far fetched to us, but another Cincinnati blog seems to be taking radio personality Bill Cunningham seriously.

Monday, March 21, 2005


Hard to believe Columbus opinions this far out of line

The latest issue of Newsweek indicates that President Bush continues to have problems with the American electorate:
The president's approval rating of 45 percent is the second- lowest of his presidency in the Newsweek poll. His lowest was 42 percent in May of last year.
[. . . ]

Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1010 adults aged 18 and older for the Newsweek poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

[. . . ]

The president's issue-specific approval rating in the Newsweek poll hit record lows for his handling of the situation in Iraq, the federal budget deficit, energy policy and the environment and tied record lows for terrorism and homeland security, education, and Medicare.
On the other hand, a Dispatch-commissioned survey supposedly indicates people in the Columbus area are giving Bush improved approval ratings, compared to a similar poll in May 2004:
Bush's job approval rating climbed to 50 percent in the most-recent survey, a 6-point increase.
Despite disagreeing on the approval ratings, this Dispatch poll showed a similar disenchantment with the war in Iraq.
President Bush is a little more popular these days, but his war isn't.

At the second anniversary of the U.S.-led coalition's invasion of Iraq, 38 percent of Columbus-area residents say the war has been worth the toll in lives and other costs, a new poll shows. And 36 percent say Bush has a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq.
Pet peeve: Why did Darrell Rowland feel compelled to include these comments from one respondent?
But Barbara Cannon, 58, a retired state worker who lives in West Jefferson, said Bush has done "an excellent job.'' Her son is an Army sergeant stationed in Afghanistan.

Cannon acknowledged that many Iraqis have been killed during the fighting.

"But that still doesn't match the 3,000 people that were killed Sept. 11, including children in day-care centers,'' she said. "We were attacked, and we don't need the approval of anybody to defend America."
We assume reporter Darrell Rowland agrees with the facts, namely that Iraq has nothing to do with Sept. 11. The only ones who stubbornly stick to that linkage belong to the tinfoil hat wing of the Republican party, and Rowland never struck us as that type.

But it strikes us as either awfully careless or awfully reckless of Rowland to keep those quotes in the story or run them with no disclaimer.


Summing up where we are on the Schiavo case

Via Digby, it's worth looking at where we are at right now:

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Uh, you know that big return you are supposed to make from personal accounts? Maybe not.

More bad news for the Bushies. From the Washington Post:
Nearly three-quarters of workers who opt for Social Security personal accounts under President Bush's "default" investment option are likely to earn less in benefits than those who stay with the traditional Social Security system, a prominent finance economist has concluded.

A new paper by Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller found that under Bush's default "life-cycle accounts," which shift assets from stocks to bonds over a worker's lifetime, nearly a third of workers would bring in less in benefits than if they remained in the traditional system. That analysis is based on historical rates of return in the United States. Using global rates of return, which Shiller says more closely track future conditions, life-cycle portfolios could be expected to fall short of the traditional system's returns 71 percent of the time.


When reporters try to comment on statistics, polls and spin . . .

. . . accurate information is often left behind.

Take for example, Alison Grant of the Plain Dealer, who takes a perfectly simple "writes itself" kind of story about Ohio's new jobs/unemployment report, and then mucks the whole thing up with this:
Ohio's unemployment rate rose to 6.4 percent in February from 5.9 percent in January as more people jumped into the job market in expectation that the outlook is improving. [emphasis added]
We assume Grant was basing this on comments from head of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services:
"The increase in the unemployment rate was due in part to more people looking for work in anticipation of improvements in the economy, rather than significant change in the labor market" said ODJFS Director Barbara Riley.
There are two parts to what Riley is asserting. First, since there was a net loss of over 4,000 jobs during the month, some of the rise in unemployment is probably due to sheer job loss. Second, she is asserting a commonly-held view that a rise in unemployment that is not attributable to job loss is a good thing because it supposedly indicates that more people are optimistic about their chances of getting a job.

There can be some truth to that point of view and it paints a conveniently optimistic picture of how Republicans locally and nationally are doing with the economy. But, it takes quite a bit more research to determine if that fully describes what's going on.

For example, Riley doesn't really know at this point if the 6.4% figure is accurate. Typically, ODJFS has to revise that number the following month and with an initial report of a .5% jump some significant downward revision wouldn't be unusual. There is also the potential for volatility in population data sets as well as regional and job-sector factors to have caused the unemployment number to skew upwards. In other words, a more-optimistic workforce is only one possible explanation.

At best, Riley's comments should be taken as extremely optimistic spin. Why call it spin? One of the first ways we test for spin is to ask, would the person have applied the same logic if the news was politically bad. If we go back to the January 2005 ODJFS jobs/unemployment report - where unemployment dropped from 6.1% to 5.9% - there is nary a comment from Riley about the decrease being caused by workers dropping out of the workforce because of discouragement about the economy.

And, if we go back one more month to the December 2004 report, where another drop in unemployment occurred, Riley blamed "the volatility of Current Population Survey data."

Riley is a Republican loyalist who knows what side her bread is buttered on, so her efforts are no surprise. But this is marked shift from her predecessor, Tom Hayes. Although a Democrat, Hayes's quotes on the jobs and unemployment were always factual, if not stating the obvious.

So, Grant is guilty of the reporter's sin of wholesale buying into Riley and the Republican's spin. But, Grant compounds her errors by tossing in this:
Non-government polling also has captured rising anticipation of a better job market. Twenty-six percent of adult workers in Ohio believe that more jobs are available, compared to 24 percent in January, according to a survey by the staffing firm Spherion Corp. and Harris Interactive.
Leaving aside the obvious skepticism that Grant should have for a self-serving poll, she acts as if the increase from 24% to 26% was significant. But it wasn't - statistically (and factually) speaking that is. The survey's methodology indicates that result have a margin of error of +/- 3%. In other words, Spherion/Harris knows with a 95% certainty that the results are between 23% and 29%. Period. No rising optimism. No thoughts of better job opportunities.

Alison (and your editor) - surely you can do better than this.

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