Friday, June 24, 2005


Handjob: The Prez and the Pioneers

"Now, Mr. President, take my wife . . . please!"

You can get a spiffy framed commemorative edition of this print here.

[UPDATE: Okay, we have heard that the significance of this picture is a little obscure. The guy patting down Dubya for coins is Tommy Noe and his pitbull, Bernadette. (Apologies to all pitbulls.)]


Friday basil blogging

Ahhhh. They'll be a big plate of caprese tonight!


Why does Ipsos hate America and our military?

From the AP:
AP/Ipsos Poll: Most Oppose Return To Draft, Wouldn't Encourage Children To Enlist

Washington, DC, June 24, 2005 - The latest AP/Ipsos poll shows opposition to reinstating a military draft is strong; nearly half of Americans strongly oppose a draft, and a majority of Americans say that if they had a child old enough to serve in the military, they would discourage their son or daughter from enlisting.

[. . . ]

"People simply don't want their kids to be sent off to Iraq to be shot at in a situation in which the value of the war is becoming more and more questionable," said John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University and author of "War, Presidents and Public Opinion."
Thank god we still have Operation Yellow Elephant!


Austin gets it exactly right

Regarding Taft:
"My party wants to amend the Constitution to allow him to run for a third term," quipped Democratic consultant Jerry Austin.


"He's not evil, just a doofus"

We've been saying this for years:
“There is no evidence that I can see that Taft was venal, perhaps just incompetent,” said Mr. Sabato, director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit political organization. “Impeachment is pretty drastic, especially considering there is a gubernatorial election in 2006.”
It should be noted that Mr. Sabato also said that impeachment should hold a special place in the politics and that the legislature should whip out that heinous mojo only when:
“pure criminal corruption of some sort” has taken place.
Mr. Sabato explained that 50% criminal and 50% stupid was simply not enough. 100% stupid was clearly out of bounds. He also added later that legislators should also make exceptions if your name was Householder or Hicks.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Major Herb Asher sighting!

Just when we thought John Green had overtaken Prof. Asher as the most overused source of shallow quotes for lazy Ohio reporters, Herby's name surfaces again - smack in the middle of the Bob Taft meltdown. We have to admit that we totally forgot that the Ash-man had been on the Ethics Commission:
Once Taft files an amendment to his report, the Ethics Commission will have authority to investigate the circumstances of the golf outings, said Herb Asher, a Democratic member of the commission from 1998 to 2004. He added that after two decades of filing ethics statements, Taft should know what gifts are reportable.

"Filing an amended report doesn’t make everything all right," Asher said. "One would think that the higher up you are on the political ladder, the more likely you would have aides who would give you advice about what your responsibilities are."


"Students, Gov. Taft is going to be kind enough to explain what ethics is all about."

Apparently Bob Taft had ambitions to be the Emily Post of ethics, but Julie Carr Smyth jabs and twists the fork in our governor in a funny piece in the Plain Dealer today:
Gov. Bob Taft gave some ethics advice to a Cincinnati symposium six weeks ago: "Public servants must pay if they want to play."

Taft told participants in the Xavier University event: "Public employees can enjoy entertainment, such as golf or dining out, with persons working for a regulated company, or one doing business with the state, ONLY if they fully pay their own way."

[. . .]

In his May remarks at the ethics symposium, Taft urged caution: "When dealing with public officials and employees, please keep the following tips in mind: Thank you notes beat thank you gifts; gifts to public employees are strictly limited, and the safest course of action is to not give any."
Of course, by "gifts" Taft wasn't referring to actual money. Cash is always polite in Ohio.


Did Bob Bennett drop a hint last week on Taft?

We keep wondering what's going through GOP chairman Bob Bennett's head as he sits in his new Lake Erie abode with the garish and gaudy OSU logo on it (hey - we support OSU and several of us have the little decals on our car, but we don't put something on our front door that's so goddam big and ugly that it pisses off the entire neighborhood!).

What does Bennett know? When did he know it. What is he doing about it?

In regard to the last question, we wonder whether he is just sitting back, letting the chips fall, or is he exercising some influence over how the whole Taft-Snow-Noe-Conrad-Coingate-Hicks-Householder-Deters-Blackwell thingy is unfolding?

One thing that is interesting - in retrospect - is a speech Bennett delivered some time last week to a group of GOPs (do they call it a club, cabal, ring?) and reported on June 16 by the Wheeling Intelligencer:
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett told Belmont County Republicans there are problems ahead for the state GOP in 2006 at a fund-raiser this week at Undo's West in St. Clairsville.

His words came amid allegations of financial and ethical wrongdoing by some Republican officeholders in Ohio just as the 2006 race for governor begins - and as 2008 presidential campaigns start to take shape.

"There are a few people in our party who have abused their trust," Bennett said, making reference to a scandal in which Republican office holders invested state money in rare coins.

As much as $10 million in coins owned by the state are now missing.

"There could be more bad news about Republicans still to come," he added.

"The word around Columbus is that some indictments could be forthcoming, and that's the way it should be.

"We have to get these officeholders off the playing field if they're guilty, prosecute them and put them in jail."

The Ohio GOP problems don't end with "Coingate," he continued. Bennett didn't mention names, but next spoke of legislators with alleged close ties to lobbyists.

"Sometimes lawmakers get elected, and after a time they begin to think themselves invincible," he said. "A lobbyist buys them a $125 bottle of wine, and they think nobody will ever find out about it. Eventually, it all catches up with them.

"This has resulted in some ethics problems (among Ohio's Republican officeholders), and there needs to be some internal investigations." [emphasis added]
Shizzam! as Gomer Pyle used to exclaim. We, like the reporter, at the time thought this might be a reference to Bobby Ney, BFE Ohio's golden boy. We been salivating over that thought for several days.

But, based on what's unfolded this week, Bennett was certainly talking about Taft (and others in Columbus). For one thing, the timing is right. The news reports about Taft's recent financial reporting lapses indicated that he sent a letter to the Ethics Commission around June 14. It is unthinkable that Taft would have even started preparing a letter to the commission without giving Bennett and other key operators in the party a "heads-up" about what was to be forthcoming. Thus, Bennett was aware of Taft's plans just before the Belmont County meeting occurred.

So, now another interesting thing is whether Bennett wants Taft to "be taken off the playing field," not to mention see him "prosecuted and put in jail." Bennett has been vocal publicly and privately that Taft is not resigning. But, it appears that no one is trying to ask how the speech in St. Clairsville applies to the Governor and others who will be named later.


John Snow, Bob Taft golf pals? The national tentacles grow

As we noted yesterday, Gov. Bob Taft has hired a criminal defense attorney and has admitted he filed deficient financial information. Much of the missing financial information has to do with unreported golf outings. Much of the initial interest about the outings focused on the alleged presence of Tom Noe, ace GOP fundraiser and one of the ringmasters behind the Coingate circus.

Late yesterday, however, much of the buzz in Columbus was over who else Taft golfed with. This morning, the Toledo Blade ran an intriguing story that claims that at least one of Taft's golf buddies was current U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow at a period when Snow was still with the CSX Corp.

From the Blade:
The Blade learned yesterday that in October, 2001, Mr. Taft golfed with John Snow, the chairman and chief executive officer of CSX Corp. who became secretary of the treasury in February, 2003, and Neal Zimmers, a lobbyist for the transportation company. Mr. Snow is a native Toledoan.

The group golfed in the Columbus suburb of Dublin at Muirfield Village Golf Club, owned by Jack Nicklaus. Gary Sease, a CSX spokesman, told The Blade it was unclear who paid for the outing.

Mr. Taft yesterday wouldn’t talk about whether his failure to disclose golf outings on his annual ethics statements involved Mr. Noe, Mr. Snow, or others; how many outings he failed to disclose, and how many years of free golf are involved.

The governor also would not say whether the state and federal investigations of Mr. Noe uncovered the golf outings that he told the Ethics Commission about on June 14. He said he had failed to disclose those outings on his ethics statements.

“There’s a lot I’d like to tell you today, but I just can’t because I want to respect the Ethics Commission process."
Were the get-togethers with Snow about politics or business, or both?


Blade says BWC still withholding information

Damn, this is interesting!

In a blistering editorial today, the editors of the Toledo Blade accuse the new regime at BWC of throwing up unnecessary roadbloaks in the paper's investigation of the MDL scandal:
The bureau continues to stonewall this newspaper's attempts to gain access to any and all public records relative to the BWC's relationship with MDL Capital Management of Pittsburgh, the outfit that helped the agency lose some $215 million in a hedge-fund investment the bureau should never have made.

Reasonable people would expect that records connected to that relationship - including communications, e-mails, memos, you name it - would be public information and turned over as soon as The Blade or anybody else filed a legal public records request, which we have done.

Instead we get resistance and the phony excuse that much of what we seek is protected by the client-attorney privilege.

That's ridiculous. The public demands with one loud and clear voice the prompt release of every piece of material we seek - unredacted, a legal term for blacking out entries and items the releasing agency doesn't want anyone else to see.

The BWC is an agency with zero credibility right now, and the reasons why have been thoroughly documented in our pages since April 3.
It's worth reading the whole piece just for the fun of trying to read between the lines.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Taft promises to hang tough

This is the best thing that could happen to the Ohio Democratic Party. A central Ohio TV station owned by the Dispatch has posted a new story that claims Taft talked to its reporters today and that he is digging in his heels:
"I have no intention of resigning. I have a year and a half to go. I have a lot of work I want to get done," said Taft.
We keep hearing his administration's days are numbered, but hell, we hope he stays on until next November. He'd serve to remind everybody like a pair of old socks about the stench of corruption that's permeated the Ohio GOP.


Who else was playing golf with Taft?

Some of the more interesting phone calls and email going around the Cap City today had to do not with Taft playing golf with Tom Noe but were speculating on who else he was he on the links with.

There seems to be a lot of sudden worry that some enterprising reporter is going to start comparing foursome lists to the unbid contracts voted on by the State Controlling Board.

We are not sure why they are worried. Isn't the Adminsitration and the Controlling Board always working to protect the best interest of Ohioans? At least some Ohioans. Well, maybe a few Ohioans.


Hey kids - time to vote in the ONN poll

The Ohio News Network wants to know:
Do you think the political problems currently surrounding Gov. Taft will affect the Republicans' chances of holding onto the governor's office in the next election?
Vote here.

[UPDATE] This is where the poll stands, as of Thursday AM. This is why we like the idea of Taft NOT resigning.


More than 1-in-4 Ohio voters had problems in November

That's according to the just-released report from the DNC's Voting Rights Institute:
An exhaustive five-month investigation by the VRI's research and investigative team identified grave problems in the administration of Ohio's voting system. More than 1 in 4 voters in Ohio faced problems at the polls, including illegal requests for identification, long lines, poorly trained election officials, and more. There were also dramatic disparities in voting conditions among different races; African Americans waited nearly three times as long on average as whites to vote.

Most important, the VRI's comprehensive investigation resulted in concrete recommendations that will help protect every American's right to vote and to have that vote counted. These recommendations cover voting equipment, training for poll workers, uniform standards, and much more.
Hey - better equipment, better training, clear standards. Who could argue with that? Why, maybe the MehlMan. Thanks for asking!:
National Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman dismissed the report as "pure political fiction."
Uh, Ken, there are several hundred thousand Ohioans who slogged it through the organizational hell that was election day last November who think you have your head stuck up your puckered little sphincter.


4th best comment

Via Atrios (why are his commentators so goddam funny?)
this whole affair won't be completely satisfying unless there are hookers involved.


3rd best comment

Also via Atrios:
Tom Noe just flung open his overcoat to reveal the wiring and all the rows of TNT sticks...


2nd best comment of the day

From the Dispatch's comments section (definitely worth reading):
The Governor and Tom Noe probably used "Rare Coins" for ball markers.


Blade offers more on Noe golf story

On the heels of today's story in the Dispatch, the Drew Crew at the Blade weighed in late this morning with a story in which unnamed sources claim Noe and Taft were golfing in Toledo:
A source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, yesterday said that Tom Noe, a Toledo-area coin dealer at the heart of the state investment scandal, told him at Toledo’s Inverness Club in 2002 that he was playing golf there with Governor Taft.

The source, who had played golf in the morning, said Mr. Noe told him he would play golf with the governor that afternoon. The source told The Blade that he did not see Mr. Taft, but heard later there may have been other occasions when Ohio’s governor played the Inverness course with Mr. Noe.
Now, that is hardly a smoking gun, but we suspect there may be several other "eyewitnesses" to these outings that either have or will soon come forward.

But, the fact that Taft and Noe were on the links together is hardly news at this point. The fact is that Taft has already submitted a list of golf dates to the ethics commission.

What seems to be the outstanding questions about Taft, in particular is how often he golfed with Noe, when did this occur, what was discussed, and who else was present?
Mark Rickel, Mr. Taft’s press secretary, refused to confirm or deny that Mr. Taft had failed to list one or more golf outings involving Mr. Noe on his financial disclosure statements.

He also would not say how many golf outings Mr. Taft had failed to disclose since taking office in 1999.
Oh yeah, there is another question about the Governor: Who dropped the dime on Taft?

GOP chair Bob Bennett is Machiavellian enough to have done it, perhaps in an effort to cut losses and pin the blame on a guy who has to be the most unpopular politician in Ohio right now.

A more probable theory is that Noe, himself, is the source. As we predicted several weeks ago, Noe's going to sing loud and long.

Again, we assert that with Taft's admission to the golf outings, he has performed the equivalent of sticking his pecker into one of those "Chinese" handcuffs we used to play with when we were kids - once it's in ya' can't get out with out inflicting serious damage.

For example, it's clear that Taft can't "amend" his Ethics Statement. Politicians are given one chance to get it right:
There is no provision in state law for an “amended” ethics form.
Public officials can provide an “addendum,” which triggers an examination whether the person inadvertently failed to disclose information or there was a “knowing falsification.”

Mr. Taft’s statement yesterday said that at the advice of counsel, he “will refrain from comment until the Ethics Commission resolves this matter.”

“At the completion of the Commission inquiry, I will disclose all information that should have been included on my financial disclosure forms,” Mr. Taft wrote.
Given the numerous golf-related scandals among others in his Administration, Taft can't credibly claim to have misunderstood or not known about the need to report the golf trips.

From an overall perspective, the more important piece of this to us is that Taft - up until this point - had been trying to play coy about how close his relationship was with Noe. It's one thing to fail to report a few golf trips; it's another to fail to admit that you had been buddying up with one of the guys at the center of a scandal on a monthly basis and had accepted over $21,000 in direct contributions and used his services to round up an additional $100,000.


Best Coingate comment of the day . . .

Via Atrios, this just shot the coffee out of our nose:
Will Tom Noe pull a Colson ?

Once he's in jail, I imagine he'll pull several Colsons.


Dems set to pounce on Ohio scandals

Flash - a pulse may have just been found in the Ohio Democratic Party! Good god - it may be alive!

The Dispatch says that the Democratic National Committee and ODP chief Denny White met yesterday to make plans to put a fork in the Ohio GOP:
After meeting in Washington yesterday with DNC Chairman Howard Dean and the six Democrats in Ohio’s congressional delegation, White said the national party promised "substantial resources" this year and in 2006 to help Democrats capitalize on the Republican scandals.

"There’s definitely an opportunity there," said DNC spokesman Luis Miranda. "That’s why we’re investing in the state party."

On Tuesday, the state Democratic Party began airing a 30-second cable TV ad saying that Taft and other GOP politicians funneled state money to Noe and other politically connected donors and ignored the state’s economic problems.

White said the TV spot is the first of a continuing barrage aimed at "keeping these Republican scandals in front of Ohioans."
The ODP has a link to view the commercial (Realmedia) at it's homepage. (Would someone who knows what the hell they are doing please, please, please take over the ODP's web production. If there is a worse state DP homepage elsewhere, we'd love to know about it.)


Noe confirmed as Taft's golf pal

The Columbus Dispatch this morning confirms that there is a link between the unreported golf outings and Tom Noe, the infamous Republican fundraiser who was behind the Coingate scandal:
One of Taft's playing partners on a least one occasion was scandal-tarred Toledo coin dealer Thomas W. Noe, a well-placed source said on condition of anonymity. The men playhed at Toledo's storied Inverness Club, the source said.

But it was unclear whether Taft as required to disclose to the Ohio Ethics Commission any golf he played with Noe. If th governor paid his own way, he would not be required to report it.

Taft's office refused to confirm that Noe and the governor played golf together at Inverness, where Noe is a member, but Taft did 'fess up to a number of previously undisclosed outings with still-to-be-named golf partners.

The admission will prompt an investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission, which could refer charges to the Frankin County prosecutor. If Taft knowlingly filed a false financial-disclosure statement, he could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
The Plain Dealer reports this morning that although Taft issued a public statement about not reporting the outings only yesterday, he informed the Ethics Commission a week ago.

In a new development, the Dispatch also suggests that there may be several other politicians facing problems over "unreported golf outings:"
David Freel, executive director of the Ethics Commission said he could not comment directly on Taft's situation. But he said "a number " of other public officials or their representatives have inquired about amending their financial-disclosure forms.
It's worth noting that Taft has had a history of demanding that his subordinates resign when they've been caught accepting free golf outings and other gifts from questionable sources.

Believe us - Taft's bags are packed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Bob Taft . . . tick, tick, tick, tick

As we so subtley suggested yesterday, Ohio's appears to be due for a change in Governors in a matter of days - or hours. Remember - ya' heard it here first.

And we even provided a hint that there was a link to golf - assuming you were reading us closely. And you better had. We like to drop hints a lot,

Today, Gov. Bob Taft had a revelation. Shucks! Darn! He forgot to jot down about 4 or 5 golf outings on his annual financial disclosure statement. Well, maybe not 4 or 5 . . . maybe it was 40 or 50. Who knows cause ya' know, it's so hard to keep track of those kinds of things when get into that ol' golf game banter about money and coins and appointments and unbid contracts and fundraising. And you can really lose yourself when you go to those warm-weather states. OOPS - we are only hypothetically speaking, of course!

And since we are speaking hypothetically, say of serious criminal charges, then Taft might have been wise in his hiring of noted criminal defense attorney William Meeks. Who is Bill Meeks? Thanks for asking.
"one of the most experienced and accomplished defense attorneys in the state." One respected commentator said: "If one day I am accused of robbing a bank my first and only call would go to Meeks."
Rob banks? Heavens no! Why rob a bank when its much easier to do your "work" from a golf cart.

But Taft really, really wants everyone to know he's wanting to bring on the facts to life.
"While I am still gathering all available information, it appears that a series of matters that should have been reported on my financial disclosure forms were not listed," Taft wrote.
But it is awfully hard to seem sincere when the criminal attorney you just hired is stuffing a sock in your mouth.
Taft would have no further comment on the advice of his lawyer, spokesman Mark Rickel said.
You know, again hypothetically speaking, if we were a top GOP ringmaster, and we were trying to throw Taft out as a sacrifical lamb to quell the uprising against the Republican culture of corruption, we'd be tempted to just hang out at a nice new retreat on Lake Erie and see how the dust settles.


Blackwell myth destroyed by convictions

Don't mourn for Roger Blackwell. After being convicted on 19 counts of insider-trading, the career of the so-called marketing guru is over. Gee, maybe he'll have to sell the Chihuly chandalier that hangs in his house to cover his legal fees, his alimony and the $1 million dollar fine he might face.

In fact, Blackwell has been a mediocre marketing professor whose ass reporters (and others who didn't know any better) kissed for reasons we could never fathom.

We understand why OSU kissed his ass. He earned millions serving on various corporate boards and doing lucrative consulting gigs, and he had shown a willingness to give a few mill to the university where he nominally still worked (teaching one class a year to ga-ga biz majors and drooling pre-MBAs hardly qualifies as teaching). But Blackwell's one consistent marketing genius has always been in marketing, guess who? Blackwell!

Thus, when OSU agreed to call its boutique hotel "The Blackwell" after getting a pledge of $7.2 million, we suspect that Blackwell knew he got the better part of the deal.

Blackwell's reputation - largely a myth - was built in the 1980's and early 1990's as an advocate for customer-focused marketing and retailing. Now, it's true that paying attention to the customer was somewhat of a vanguard issue back in those days. It certainly made him the darling of Les Wexner crowd. Blackwell rode the "customer-driven" horse for two decades and leveraged his ideas into well-paid seats on the boards of directors of one-time corporate regional power-houses like Max & Ermas, Applied Technologies and Airnet Systems.

But, for the last ten years Blackwell has plowed no new marketing ground and, as far as we are concerned, displayed little sense of modern competitive business strategy. Indeed, many of the brands he is most closely linked with were struggling to grow - or even survive - even before he was indicted.

Nationally and internationally, marketing academics dismiss Blackwell's impact marketing influence on the business community, and consider recent books like Brands That Rock dated jokes. They are right.

Blackwell should've quit while he was ahead.


Why does NRO hate Coingate/BWC fact checking and Paul Krugman?

Not that we think Paul Krugman is losing sleep over it, but no one else has apparently picked up on today's bumbling attack on his Coingate/BWC column launched by the National Review's Donald Luskin and the NRO's battlin' Krugman Truth Squad.

What first really riles Luskin, apparently, is his belief that Krugman and the NYT didn't fact-check the column:
[A]pparently there’s no limit to the New York Times’s willingness to embarrass itself by printing yet another hilarious error-filled column by America’s most dangerous liberal pundit.
According to Luskin, Krugman's error is that he reported that $225 million had been invested in the MDL fund.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, BWC’s loss was actually $215 million — leave it to economist Krugman to get the number wrong and err on the side of partisan melodrama.
Sorry, Don. Sadly, no. Krugman is right. The initial investment was indeed $225 million, of which all but over $9 million was lost. He and the Dispatch were right, leaving you looking like a major douche bag.

Everything else in Luskin's piece is a departure from the discussion of facts to a harangue that accuses Krugman of downplaying the role of Democrats in the the various BWC scandals at the expense of Republicans.

Now, any sane, honest and thinking resident of Ohio (that leaves Luskin 0-for-3) clearly knows that the current mess Coingate-MDL-American Express-illegal campaign contributions schemes were seeded, nurtured and eventually covered up by Republican politicians, functionaries or power brokers. Yes, George Forbes may have been a willing player, and, yes, Bill Burga may have been asleep at the wheel. But they are only bit-actors in this "melodrama" as Luskin likes to call this felony.

But, even the Republicans know they were the ones that squatted down and left this stinking shitpile in an agency whose intended purpose is to protect and help injured Ohio workers. We would remind Luskin that it was the Ohio GOP's own chairman, Bob Bennett, who was embarassed into quickly organizing and demanding that his pols take ethics training shortly after the scandals started to surface.

But, there is an even bigger lie and distortion underlying Luskin's garbage. Despite Luskin's claims, Krugman - to his credit - resisted writing the column as a story of "When Republicans Go Wild!"

Now, it's worth noting that it's just a plain simple fact that there is one-party rule in Ohio. The Republicans have had a lock on the Ohio House, the Ohio Senate, the Governor's office, the Secretary of State's Office, the Attorney General, the Auditor and the Supreme Court. Those are just the facts.

So, it's amazing to us that anyone could exercise much restraint in attacking the GOP for creating a culture of corruption in the state. But Krugman was restrained. Instead of a one-sided attack on Republican rule, Krugman wrote his column as a lesson about what the dangers are when power goes to the head of any group in politics:
Now, politicians and businessmen are always in a position to do each other lucrative favors. Government is relatively clean when politicians are sufficiently afraid of scandal to resist temptation. But when a political machine controls all branches of government, and those officials charged with oversight are also reliably partisan, politicians feel safe from investigation. Their inhibitions dissolve, and they take full advantage of their position, until the scandals become too big to hide.

[. . .]

These efforts have already created an environment in which politicians from the right party and businessmen with the right connections believe, with good reason, that they have immunity.

And politicians who feel that they can exploit their position tend to do just that. It's a likely bet that the scandals we already know about, from Coingate to Tom DeLay's dealings with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are just the tip of the iceberg.
Not much GOP bashing there. But, as seems to be the standard reaction on the radical right when they get desparate, Luskin sound the "shrillness" alarm over these very words from Krugman:
Even for Krugman, the sheer virulence of this condemnation of the GOP surely must be a first.
Like the Bard's observations, "The lady doth protest too much," Luskin's protests at this point are an obvious and defensive lie.

It is impossible to read his column without understanding that Krugman's warnings about dominating political power apply across the board. Old timers in Ohio remember that many of the shenanigans during the Celeste administration were nothing to be proud of, either. (We still remember the stories of ODOT employees in the late 1970who were barely making a living wage being shaken down several times a year to buy $50 or $100 tickets for an ODP fundraiser.)

Krugman still has the final - and best words:
The message from Ohio is that long-term dominance by a political machine leads to corruption, regardless of the policies that machine follows or the ideology it claims to represent.
Any disagreements with that, Donny boy?

If Luskin represent's the national conservative movement's best thinking about how to slow the crumbling of Republican power in Ohio - i.e., to blame it on the Democrats - then bring it on. They'll be laughed right out of the state.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Comfest ! Comfest ! Comfest !

This (June 24-26 at Columbus's Goodale Park) is the best three-day music festival we know of in Ohio. And one of the biggest.

Seriously, don't miss it. Some how the loonies that run this show pull it together and it somehow all works - with zip, zero, nada corporate support.

The goobers race to the main stage to watch their neighbors as much as to watch the bands. But the veterans know that the small stages like the Exit Ramp Stage, the Gazebo and the Jazz stage are the place to dance, soak in the sounds and drink some cold Rolling Rock and Columbus Pale Ale.

And don't gripe about the beer price - it pays for the whole goddam show! What would you rather the organizers do. Charge $25 or $35 bucks a day to get in? Remember - this is a free festival. Besides, the beer pourers are very friendly and will fill you cup up to within microns of the top - with no foam. Ya gotta love it!

Check out the Comfest schedule here. And remember, these aren't necessarily the best bands in the area. The number of bands that try to get a slot is enormous and, unfortunately, many of the best somehow get shut out. But the ones that are lucky enough to get selected rise to the occasion and kick ass.

Be there or kick yourself for the rest of the summer.


Who will be Bruce Johnson's Lt. Governor?

There is a game going around the wateringholes, bistros and steak houses in Columbus. The game is putting together the short list of whom Bruce Johnson will pick for his Lieutenant Governor when Taft resigns.

Taft resigns?!?!? Aw, come on - you don't really think the Ohio GOP isn't looking for a scapegoat now, are you? Really? And, hmm, maybe after the budget gets put to bed on July 1 . . . Besides, we understand that Taft really wants to get back to his golf game. . .

Anyway, back to the list, who might be good for the job?

Maybe its a position that the GOP might want to return a big screw-up to - say, a Jeanette Bradley?

Or maybe its a way to again try to promote a potential star who has been disappointment so far - say a David Goodman?

Or maybe its a stepping for ambitious pols like Steve Austria or John Carey?

Let the guessing begin!


Even Bermudans didn't like MDL

One of the controversies around the MDL caper is that state officials (at least BWC representatives) signed an agreement with Mark Lay and his MDL enterprise to the effect that MDL would be incorporated in Bermuda and subject only to their judicial system.

There is no reason why any state official or representative should sign an agreement with any firm that is incorporated offshore. When it comes to potential state vendors, it's a buyers market and it confounds us as to why state rules allow contracting with scoundrels who are either too crooked or too unpatriotic to pay their fair share of taxes, or both.

Nevertheless, with so many businesses eager to operate in a beautiful offshore haven, we are sure that Bermuda business people, reporters and politicians are pretty jaded when it comes to suggestions that some of these companies are, uh, ethically-challenged.

So, it was that a story in the daily Royal Gazette (Hamilton, Bermuda) caught our eye:
MDL was one of a number of new fund managers recommended by Bermuda's pension fund consultant Tina Poitevien in 2001. Ms Poitevien, who has described Cabinet Minister Dr. Ewart Brown's wife Wanda Henton Brown as a close friend and mentor, was appointed as consultant to the Public Funds Investment Committee (PFIC) in 2000.

MDL invested some $70 million in US fixed income funds for the PFIC between 2001 and 2004, but was replaced around year-end 2004 for poor performance.
Okay, so Bermudans figured out before Ohioans that their pension money wasn't safe in MDL.

But even as MDL's performance for the PFIC started to slide, Mark Lay continued to scratch Dr. Brown's back while he scratched Lay's. Brown by the way, is Bermuda's Deputy Premier:
Dr. Brown, reported last week by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to have attended the opening of Mr. Lay's new offices in that city in 2003, declined to answer questions asking if he attended the event, if Mr. Lay was a friend, and whether Mr. Lay was invited to attend the Washington fund-raising lunch in honour of Dr. Brown, held in Washington in March 2002, when invitees were asked to contribute $2,500 to Dr. Brown. He also refused to answer a series of questions about his political fund-raising.

Dr. Brown wrote: "My lawyers have advised me to make no comment to the media regarding this matter."

. . . [Lay] cut the ribbon in an unveiling attended by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Dr. Ewart Brown, the Deputy Premier of Bermuda, and an MDL client, and other dignitaries and special guests."


Noe: Caveat Emptor

The Plain Dealer shows signs that it wants to be taken seriously regarding Coingate. Cool. Diane Solov and Barb Galbincea surface with more news about Conrad's investment gurus. Read it and weap:
In documents, Noe himself told the Bureau of Workers' Compensation there was no way to know what its multimillion-dollar investment in Capital Coin Fund was worth. He told the bureau that no independent party would evaluate the coin transactions. And under a heading in bold capital letters, Noe said his business could profit by selling coins to the fund.

Several investment professionals and lawyers laughed when they read the disclosure statement Noe gave the bureau.

"He said he was going to screw you, and he screwed you," said Terry Fergus, a certified public accountant who, at The Plain Dealer's request, reviewed documents that Noe and his funds filed with the bureau. "The most inexperienced investment officer would run away from this investment as fast as possible."
And some of them are still on the job . . .

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