Saturday, October 15, 2005

 

Strickland's new team member

It's great to see that Jesse Taylor, nee Pandagon, has been tapped to be Director of Online Communications for Ted Strickland. One of the earlier bloggers, Taylor was given earned respect on many occasions from people like Atrios for the blog's biting commentary, reporting and just plain on-target bellyachin'.

Only a few months ago, we had been criticial of the Strickland campaign's decepit home page, but in a short time they have really turned things around. The creation of a DOC and the selection of Taylor is a real plus for the campaign.

Friday, October 14, 2005

 

MotoPhoto honcho bankrolling anti-RON actions?

One of the sleuth diarists at Kos says so. MotoPhoto is a franchise one-stop photography store based in Dayton:
After the meeting Kimberly Fletcher, president of the Anti-RON Homemakers for America, disclosed to me that MotoPhoto's President and CEO Harry Loyle is partially bankrolling (at least with inkind support) anti-RON efforts in Montgomery County. To find out why Harry is interested in obstructing good government reform, feel free to contact him at Hloyle@motophoto.com or 937-854-6686 ext. 255 (I'm not positive that works). [ed. note: they also have toll-free number: 800-454-6686]
Sounds like a good time for a phone call to MotoPhoto HQ to discuss your photo purchasing preferences. Seriously, nearly all of these photo stores are in a major financial squeeze and are increasingly unable to compete with the WalMarts and Walgreens in photo finishing let alone the increased used of high quality home printers. Bad publicity is the last thing they need, so let it rip.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

 

Help needed

We need some help on something very important. We especially need help from readers in the Toledo - Lucas County area. What can anyone tell us about a guy very involved in Republican party activities in that area named John Stainbrook?

The spelling might be wrong. John may actually be "Jon". We know there is a musician in that same area with a similar name that may or may not be the same guy. Our interest is only in his political activities and political history.

 

Let's not forget about TABOR

Via Atrios, TAP has a good overview about how Colorado's voters are going to be asked to pass judgement about whether they like the harm it's TABOR law has brought to their state, but the effort to roll back some of its more onerous provisions is not going to be achieved easily:
Just at the moment the Republican coalition is showing strain over Katrina recovery and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, a Colorado ballot measure is threatening more harm. Though it's a "purple" state with notable blue and red streaks, Colorado now has a chance to roll back a program long supported by the anti-government movement.

. . .

Just a few weeks in front of the November 1 election, it’s hard to say who’s winning. Both sides are well funded, but the Rocky Mountain News has reported that the pro-Referendum C forces -- backed by the state's wealthy business community -- have a substantial fundraising edge, perhaps by a more than 4-to-1 margin.
As the article notes, the stakes are extremely high. Ohioans dodged the TABOR bullet for 2005, but Kenny Blackwell is still prepared to push it for 2006. A victory by the anti-TABOR forces in Colorado would be an huge (but not necessarily fatal) setback to Blackwell's ambitions about this matter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 

When worlds cross

Apparently we buried this nugget in our long post on the Fritz Wenzel matters, but it's worth highlighting again: His son, P. J. Wenzel, is - according to Republican sources - "now the Political Director for the campaign to defeat the ballot issues."

These ballot issues would be Reform Ohio Now ballot issues.

Interesting how this all works in the small Culture of Corruption World.

 

Push-polling reported in Ohio

From Soapblox Colorado, via a Kos diary:
Sources have confirmed that these push polls are being paid for (at least in part) by the Grover Norquist related "issues" group Americans for Tax Reform.

. . .

[T]he number of hits this site has been getting from searches for this number has been increasing. At first, the searchers were all from Colorado, but late this evening we got 4 different Google and/or Yahoo searches for this number from Ohio.

Ohio is also having a special election this November to radically change the political outlook of the state--something that would seriously hurt the Norquist connected elements that function in my home state. Safe to say Grover is against the reforms in Ohio, and Grover is against the reforms in Colorado.
As several folks close to the Reform Ohio Now campaign have noted, the RNC national network is heavily vested in the defeat of Issues 2-5 and is going to pull out all the stops including calling on the folks like Norquist. This is an all-out battle for an all-important state.

 

Who should suck it up first?

Publicly we are staying out of the Paul Hackett/Sherrod Brown spat. We let our feelings be known privately to those that need to know them.

In regard to the comments from bloggers, if nothing else, one has to give considerable respect to the views of creative, insightful folks like Chris Bowers, Tim Tagaris, Bob Brigham and others who were there from the early days for Paul Hackett. They spent a lot a time and effort raising money, volunteers and most importantly raising Hackett's profile. The sensed an opportunity with Hackett that very, very few others did.

Then there are publicity blowhards like Tim Russo who somehow think they have some credibility to announce to the world that Paul Hackett should suck it up.

Let us remind blogsville of the wisdom Russo was giving out before the OH-02 election:
Hackett Will Lose. Period.

. . .

It ain't gonna happen, and the irrational exuberance of the lefty blogosphere over this race is a good study in just how irrelevant the loud, lefty blogosphere makes itself.

First, the district. OH-02 is a Republican seat. Rock. Solid. Portman's been winning the seat with over 70% of the vote. The Republican who won her hotly contested primary, Jean Schmidt, received more votes than the votes cast for every Democrat in the Democratic primary combined. There aren't enough Democrats in this district to elect a Democrat. It's like running a white guy in Stephanie Tubbs Jones' district. Throw in the fact that this is a low turnout special election, in AUGUST, and it is simply impossible to imagine any Democrat getting enough people to the polls to threaten, let alone win.
And there was this gem:
Gee...you mean trailer park dwelling independent voters in rural Scioto County, Ohio, aren't responding very well to a call from a guy wearing Birkenstocks on a cell phone calling from a Starbucks in Berkeley, CA to talk about Iraq in between sips on his latte? Shocking.
As a matter of fact, we can't recall one positive thing Russo did to encourage donations or volunteers, or to offer in a way of strategy and tactics regarding Hacketts race.

Russo proclaimed that he had to "eat crow" after the Hackett/Schmidt race turned out to be so close. But admitting you were wrong and understanding why you were wrong are two very different things. He shows no signs of any serious re-thinking of what's fundamentally wrong in how he sees the political world. He's kind of like the wife beater who knows its wrong but keeps doing it anyway.

To us, Russo is a uncreative, bombastic typist with centrist politics who thinks its cute to throw verbal bombs. While it may be true that Hackett has to "suck it up," hearing it from a douchebag like Russo makes us want to run to the nearest toilet and puke.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

 

The Fritz Wenzel's mystery

Everyone's seen the Salon post on ex-Blade reporter Fritz Wenzel, right? (If not, check it out here, and if you're not a subscriber you will have to sit thru an ad, so no big deal).

In it, Bill Frogameni reports that several sources say Wenzel knew about all the Noe business (and then some) as early as January 2004. For the record, Wenzel says he knew about it in March 2004 and told his editors at the Blade about this. Wenzel, according to the story, learned about the Noe money laundering allegations from Joe Kidd, the Republican and former elections director of Lucas Count.

Not that Frogameni needs us to confirm his reporting, but we had been hearing similar rumblings for sometime and have been trying to find out if Wenzel had yet been called into any meetings with one of the federal/state investigation teams. Our working assumption was that he had since there were starting to be several rumors about Wenzel floating around.

It should also be noted that some large parts of Frogameni's story aren't really new and in some details contradicted by a story by Joe Strupp that ran in Editor & Publisher in August.

E&P was the first outlet we know of to report that Wenzel knew of some aspects of Noe's activities in March 2004, but didn't mention Joe Kidd as the source. The link to Joe Kidd moves this story forward quite a bit since Kidd would have been able to provide first-hand information about his $2,000 "donation" when, heretofore, the common wisdom was that the Noe story in 2004 was just "rumors."

But several strands and major questions are left hanging from the story. Here are but a few:

1) Did or didn't Wenzel tell the Blade editors about the money laundering allegations and/or Joe Kidd? Frogameni emphatically reports the editors deny it:
The Blade's special projects editor, Dave Murray, who was Wenzel's assigning editor at the time, says Wenzel would have come to him with any such information about Noe. But, Murray says, "he never came to me, and, as far as I know, he never came to other Blade editors."
This editors-knew-nothing line is contradicted by Joe Strupp/E&P:
Dave Murray, the Blade's special projects editor, told me the paper had a reporter check out the rumors, and found that Wenzel knew nothing.

. . .

"Did he hear things?" Assistant Managing Editor LuAnn Sharp asked, referring to Wenzel. "Yes, but we all heard things. Many reporters had heard about those rumors."
Why didn't Frogameni ask about these conflicting statements from the editors?

2) Has Wenzel actually lawyered up? Frogameni says Wenzel replied to his inquiries thru attorney Mark Berling who is not directly described as Wenzel's attorney. Is he? Who is paying for him?

3) Has Wenzel been questioned by investigators and has he testified before any grand juries? We've gotta believe he has or he knows it's coming, or why go use a lawyer's carefully parsed words to respond to a reporter. Also, Frogameni is a little inaccurate when he says that that Wenzel's blog entries were pulled down shortly after he was associated with Jean Schmidt and her campaign. Actually, the links to his "diaries" were removed from the his home page but the diaries, themselves, remained available to anyone who played with the url's. It's only recently that the web site has been scrubbed, presumably on the advice of some sage lawyer. We checked the Wayback Machine but nothing is turning up there. Anyone have archived copies of Wenzel's diaries? They didn't seem to have much in them when we first read them but may be worth another review now.

4) Speaking of parsing, isn't there a lot of wiggle room in the statement released by his attorney, "When a source conveyed an allegation about Tom Noe's possible involvement with campaign finance irregularities in the spring of 2004, I promptly informed Blade editors about what I had been told."? That pretty much evades the questions of whether he knew anything in January 2004, and precisely when he claims he told the editors.

5) Who is the "Toledo Republican Party insider familiar with the affairs of the Board of Elections" that Frogameni uses as his source? We, of course, don't fault Frogameni for not revealing his/her name, but we are pretty sure we know who it is. There is at least one relatively low-level Lucas County political operative who, according to our own sources, is running scared and very recently trying to lawyer up because he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. If the stories being connect to this operative are correct, there is a major shit-storm coming.

6) Is his son, P. J. (Phillip) Wenzel involved? P. J. has been a rising operative in the Ohio GOP for several years, and we hear he has been angling for a national position within the RNC or the White House. He had been the ORP's main contact for SE Ohio until he was recently switched to the SW Ohio region. Most interestingly, a blog by a member of the ORP state central committe reports that "P.J. Wenzel is now the Political Director for the campaign to defeat the [Reform Ohio Now] ballot issues.

7) What's one to make of the Frogameni's reporting that "Blade editor in chief Block and other editors say they don't believe that Wenzel intentionally sat on the story."? What an odd reply. Even odder are Block's bizarre rationalizations about Wenzel in the E&P piece:
"He might have been lazy with the story. But I'm sure any reporter on a beat makes a mistake with a story."
. . .

"He had to get everything — the municipal, county and state and national [stories]," Block said. "It is a rumor beat, and a lot of what passes on the political beat is gossip. They hear a lot of stuff."
Given that Coingate and the possible toppling of the Ohio Republican empire may be the biggest story in Ohio in the decade, why is Block trying to polish this turd?

8) Hats off to Paula Ross at the Toledo City Paper for being one of the few reporters (writing before the E&P story) who had no problem with pointing out the obvious about Wenzel's lack of stories about Coingate. We can't find a workable link to her archives, but this post and laughable string of comments written by some detractors gives a sense of her good instincts about Wenzel:
"The Blade investigation of Coingate and of the alleged money laundering by Tom Noe on behalf of the Bush campaign is a big deal. Why was the Blade’s political reporter conspicuously absent from those stories, which were well under way before his departure from the paper?"

"Add to these questions the fact that Wenzel’s twentysomething son Phillip is employed by the Ohio Republican Party and the situation gets odder and odder."

"Are we about to receive a new installment of Noe scandal stories, featuring Fritz Wenzel? I know a lot of Democrats who would line up at midnight for that."
We are sure there is much more to come about Wenzel, but also about what Noe was up to that has yet to be made public. The teams of investigators aren't just punching in at the time clock. And there is some potential for some of this to hit before Nov. 8.

Monday, October 10, 2005

 

RON trainings going great

We just received an email from a reader who says that the America Votes trainings for Reform Ohio Now ground forces has been going great. Apparently (as the below photo shows) the training this Saturday in Columbus packed 'em in with 150+ in attendance.

RON_AV_training

We know that there will be a lot of field activities starting the Friday and lasting through the weekend. Tim Tagaris has posted a list of RON regional coordinators here, and volunteers should contact one of them to get a list of local activities. We hear that Football Friday nights are one of the best places to do the RON thing.

Tim and GrowOhio have also been doing a great job of explaining the Issues 2 through 5, and posting information about various RON events. We highly recommend starting your day there.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

 

Delphi's demise

From the Dayton Daily News:
Delphi has 31 plants in 13 states. The company has 185,000 employees worldwide, including about 13,000 in Dayton, Warren, Sandusky and Columbus.
We feel a personal sadness at the slow decline and bankruptcy of Delphi and we've had quite a few friends, and their parents before them, who worked for Delco and later Delphi in the Dayton and Columbus regions. One friend is one of Delphi's top engineers. One of our physics instructors was a major Delphi consultant for many years.

To be sure, the potential impact on 5,700 workers in the Dayton area will be enormous. They aren't lost yet, but we remain very pessimistic about their ability to keep their pay, benefits and pensions. There is some discussion in investment circles that Delphi's bankruptcy will cause a chain reaction up and down the stream, including the possibility of forcing GM into bankruptcy.

In looking at Delphi situation, and thinking about how they got in the situation they are in, we say up front that we have a strong sympathy for unions and union members. We also say up front that the comments from both sides are mostly a red herring (except for the slimey decision to up the executives severance packages).

Taking in the view from the 35,000-foot level, it's important to note one thing: Plenty of companies are making plenty of money supplying the auto industry. Just ask some of the executives that operate the plants that supply Honda located up and down SR 33, I-71, I-75, I-70.

What's happened with Delphi, however, is the result of terrible management and bad seeds that were planted years and decades ago including a parent company (GM) who acted as if it couldn't give a shit about Delphi's well-being and was willing to squeeze Delphi in order to offset it's own mismanagement. Delphi, in turn, had a long, long history of treacherous labor-management relationships. This is no chicken or the egg matter. The lousy management set the stage for the lousy history with the UAW.

But, rather than go into the details of this, and with bankruptcy a threat in many other industries, we'd rather take note of some of the thinking by two of our favorite enlightened managers who don't believe in blaming their workers, or blaming another nation, or blaming the EPA or blaming anybody but themselves.

We'll start with some appropriate ideas from management consultant Peter Block, author of an extremely important book, Stewardship. In Stewardship, Block observes that the American workplace is one of the few places in the country where we insanely and unquestionably accept that democracy stops at the front door.
The [corporate] governance system we have inherited and continue to create is based on sovereignty and a form of intimate colonialism. These are strong terms but they are essentially accurate. These become the means of dominance . . . It is not that we seek dominance, but our beliefs about getting work done have that effect.

. . .

Democracy cannot thrive if we only experience it for a moment of voting every two to four years. If day in and day out we go to a workplace that breeds helplessness and compliance, this becomes our generalized pattern of response to the larger questions of our society, and in fact most other aspects of our lives.
Regarding economic failures of an enterprise, Block cuts to the chase of who is at fault in situations like we find at Delphi:
An economic crisis for any organization means it is failing in its marketplace. In some fundamental way it is unable to serve its customers. And if it is unable to serve its customers, it means it has failed to serve its own people.
Block has long been a critic of corporate patriarchy and instead advocates for a special kind of economic partnership that he calls stewardship, that has four components: 1) Employees at all levels engage freely in defining the enterprises purpose, vision and values; 2) Everyone has a right to say no and to disagree; 3) joint accountability all the way up the ladder; and 4) absolute honest.

Granted, this all sounds unbelievably idealistic and pollyanna-ish. The problem is that several companies have tried this - in union and non-union environments - and it has worked.
One of the best and most easily accessible accounts of a stewardship-like approach is contained in an amazing book called The Great Game of Business, written by Jack Stack.

Stack was once the plant manager of an International Harvester (now Navistar) engine remanufacturing plant in Springfield, MO. A few years after becoming plant manager, IH was facing bankruptcy and problems in the Springfield plant. Stack organized a group of managers to buy the facility from IH, despite an enormous debt load that came with the plant.

Stack calls his approach "Open-Book Management."
When a company plays the Great Game of Business, all of the employees - from the janitor to the CEO - know exactly what they contribute, what they cost the company, and how they depend on one another to be successful. Everyone starts thinking and acting like owners, not as traditional employees who are just "doing the job."

Fads like TQM, reengineering, and the customer service movement fail because they keep people focused on the tools of business . . . rather than on the overall success of the company. Open-book management uses the company's own financial statements to show how the business works.
Stack describes how giving information isn't enough. He learned the hard way that 95% of his workforce had not enough time nor enough educational background to process the information. In response, he brought in business educators to train his employees (while on the clock) on how to use the financial information and allowed them to review the materials on company time. And, he has had a full equity-sharing program in since the beginning.

In writing this post, we realize that we potentially are exposing ourselves to accusations of naivity and a failed grasp of the inherent inequities capitalism demands. Readers will have to take our word that we are far, far from naive on these matters.

Yet, we'd ask our critics if you had a business, how would you run it? If you had been the head of Delphi or the UAW what would you have done different from what they have done. Other than the inane proposals to cut the Delphi employees' wages and benefits to the Wal-Mart level, we have yet to see any analysis that shows that a different outcome was possible.

Had we been able to roll back the hands of time, we believe that the principles of Stewardship and Open-book management are two strong alternatives that could have provided a different outcome than the economic tragedy that is unfolding around Delphi.

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