Saturday, January 14, 2006

 

Ney grasp on power slipping fast; crushing blow?

It sounds like the GOP have finished making their political calculations about Bob Ney and decided that it's time to start jettisoning some ballast before even more of their ship sinks.

The Hill yesterday broke the story that - 'according to a source close to the congressman' - House Speaker Dennis Hastert is applying the screws:
The source indicated Ney was concerned the allegations against him regarding his ties with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff would be a distraction in the Republican conference and to the work of the House. Ney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) have discussed his chairmanship, according to the source.
The Dispatch's Jack Torry today offers more information and commentary, this time citing a 'highly placed Republican source':
Hastert "is moving behind the scenes" to persuade Ney to step aside as soon as next week, said a senior GOP aide, speaking only on condition that he not be identified. Ney, who was in New Orleans for a hearing on housing needs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, confirmed that he is talking with Hastert about giving up the chairmanship.

. . .

The development is a crushing blow to the Heath Republican and a dramatic sign that his support among Republican colleagues is swiftly eroding. The Dispatch reported last month that if Ney is indicted, the Ohio Republican Party will call on him to resign his seat.

 

Boehner's Ohio friends and non-friends [Updated]

In the fight for the Majority leader's position, The Hill is keeping a running tally of the pledge votes for Roy Blunt, John Boehner and John Shadegg (81, 43, and 3 respectively, as of this writing).

What's interesting to us is who is (and is not) on the list of Boehner's committed votes among the Ohio GOP delegation. Here is what we have so far.
For Boehner: Boehner (natch'), Chabot, Gillmor, Hobson, LaTourette, Oxley, Tiberi and Turner.

Uncommitted: Ney (may be too preoccupied), Pryce, Regula and Schmidt.
Pryce's non-committal isn't too surprising, actually. As GOP chair, she probably argues taht she should stay on the sidelines for a while. More realistically, it's important to recall that there's never been any political love lost between Boehner and Pryce, and that the ambitious Boehner went gunning for Deb's job just months ago.

[Update] It should be acknowledged that Pryce is in a huge political pickle. Boehner may not be a political friend but Roy Blunt may not be either. In fact, the stories are mounting (see this in The Hill, for example) that conservatives will try to remove Pryce from her GOP post if Blunt wins. When it comes to Boehner, Deb can't live with him, can't live without him, either.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

 

Kirsanow and Abramoff? Maybe

We noted a few days that Clevelander and hardcore anti-union lawyer Peter Kirsanow recently received a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board.

Kirsanow has also been an member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission for several years during which time he actually has gained more fame for provoking enmity towards several minority groups, which apparently qualifies him for vouching for Alito’s civil rights credentials.

Now more stories are surfacing linking Kirsanow’s participation in Project 21:
In 1996, as a member of Project 21, ostensibly a group of Black conservative leaders, Kirsanow supported anti-union legislation in California that was intended to diminish labor's political power.

. . .

According to the Washington Post (December 25, 2005), Kirsanow "served on an advisory board and [did] some writing for a group called Project 21 ... [which] sought to get publicity for the views of conservative blacks, including Kirsanow." Project 21 is a program of the National Center for Public Policy Research (grants), a right wing public policy research group that has been around for more than two decades and is closely connected to Tom Delay.

. . .

The Washington Post report pointed out that the AFL-CIO was questioning whether Kirsanow, "a prominent member" of Project 21, may be connected to Abramoff through their mutual involvement with NCPPR. Abramoff, who was a member of NCPPR's Board of Directors, used the group as a front for a "Scotland golfing junket," and other trips taken by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the former House majority leader.

"The center is also reported to have received a $1.07 million donation from Abramoff's client, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians," the Post reported.
"This is really a stretch," Kirsanow responded in an interview with the Washington Post. "I don't know Abramoff, I don't know anything about Abramoff except from what I read in snippets in the paper."
A lot of folks have made the same initial public claim about their closeness to Abramoff only to do some considerable backpedaling.

 

State abstinence director fronting for PR firm?

Thank you, AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. Without you, apparently no one would know what Cristocrat and State of Ohio's abstinence "manager" Valerie Huber is up to.

We first posted about Huber early last September and described how she got her facts a little screwed up when she tried to assert that an outbreak of teen pregnancies at Timken High School could have been prevented with an abstinence program. Funny thing: It turned out that the school already had an abstinence program in place, a situation that led many knowledgeable educators to conclude that the problem(s) couldn't simply be solved with a "just say no" approach. We also reported that Huber had wanted to pay Maggie Gallagher $5,000 to be a keynote speaker at department's annual abstinence conference. Gallagher was one of the national newspaper columnists who was secretly taking payments from the Bush administration to shill for it's programs.

At the time, we promised to do more digging about Huber but unfortunately we got sidetracked into other projects. Had we kept on top of it, we could have reported that pressure from a number of community groups apparently forced Huber to ditch the contract for Gallagher.

And, although we got distract from following Huber, the same can't be said for the ATGC. Apparently these folks are keeping a close eye on her, a situation we suspect isn't so much based on a personal dislike of Valerie but a dislike for the way AIDS funding has been diverted into funding abstinence programs like hers.

Today, via a ATGC tip to the Plain Dealer, we learn that Huber has got herself stuck in an odd but interesting situation where she is listed as the agent for a Colorado PR firm that is seeking a contract with the state's Department of Health's abstinence program:
Cox Creative Inc. of Denver, which describes itself as a full-service marketing company, filed registration papers with the Ohio secretary of state on Dec. 12 after receiving preliminary approval to develop a media campaign promoting sexual abstinence until marriage. The papers listed state abstinence coordinator Valerie Huber's name and address at the Ohio Department of Health as the contact agent.
In this position, she would receive the business correspondence sent to Cox Creative which is bizarre because, as abstinence manager, she also have a hand in drafting the same correspondence. In other words, she is involved in sending business communications to - herself!

It appears that no contract for Cox has been approved by the state's Controlling Board. But the incident has set off an ethics investigation and this bizarre situation adds one more example of why Huber and her program need to be monitored.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 

ODNR completing only 1/2 of surface mine inspections

Maybe it's our sheer cynicism when it comes to the Ohio General Assembly, but the more we dig into the situation with Ohio's "mineral surface mines" (think aggregate/gravel mining operations and quarries) the more alarmed we are about what's going on.

First, allow a little refresher. A week ago we reported that State Senator Larry Mumper has sponsored a bill, S.B. 191, that would practically eliminate State oversight of these surface mineral mines. Mumper's bill would replace an ODNR random inspection program with a voluntary self-policing and training program. The bill would also refers to a substitution of federal mine safety requirements (which are essentially the same as the state's) but our sources tell us that the federal program does not perform inspections.

In fairness to Mumper, we should also now note that a bi-partisan companion bill to S.B. 191 has been introduced in the Ohio House of Representative sponsored by Representatives (Jim) McGregor (R-20) and co-sponsored by Aslanides (R-94), Cassell (D-63), Fende (D-62), Carano (D-59), Wolpert (R-23) and Webster (R-53).

It should be noted that the elimination of the inspection program is only part of a larger bill that also address revenue and zoning-related issues.

Digging a little bit into ODNR's Division of Mineral Resources annual reports, it turns out that state inspectors have been struggling to maintain their current surface mine inspection workload.

The 2004 report says:
Mine safety law mandates quarterly safety inspections be conducted at every surface and underground mine for coal and industrial minerals. The division’s nine surface mine inspectors and five underground mine inspectors conducted a total of 1,421 inspections throughout 2004, . . . a decrease of 4% from 2003 inspection levels.
This same documents says that although 94% of the underground mine selections were completed, only 51% of the surface mine inspections were done.

In fact, as this chart shows, the number of inspections of surface mineral mines has been dropping dramatically over the past 5 years.

Okay, so the obvious concern is whether this lack of inspections is showing up in injury statistics. Unfortunately, these statistics are more difficult to come by - but we are working on it.

But, it should be noted that the 2004 annual report noted that:
. . . a comparison of [lost-time accidents, occupational injuries and illnesses] incident rates showing that Ohio is better than the national average in all categories of mining except for underground coal and surface minerals mining operations.
Thus, it seems like a very odd response by state legislators to eliminate inspections at a time when Ohio can't even meet a national yardstick for surface mine safety.

We've mused about the bad timing for such legislation in light of the Sago mine tragedy and, in fact, a hearing about S.B. 191 scheduled for this week was cancelled. On the other hand, H.B. 400 had a sponsor hearing today before the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, the same committee that Aslanides chairs and McGregor vice-chairs, and we hope to post more on this tomorrow.

 

O'Brien stumbles on Pirik conviction

Republican AG candidate and current Franklin County prosecutor will have trouble getting past this. The ODP is right about hammering him after Pirik copped a felony plea:
Five clerk employees originally brought claims against Pirik in January 2005, only to have them summarily dismissed by the prosecutor’s office. The same employees went back to O’Brien with additional evidence in August 2005. O’Brien, once again, refused to take the allegations seriously. It was at this point that the Franklin County Democratic Party launched a public relations campaign to pressure O’Brien into appointing a special prosecutor who would act without political bias.

Monday, January 09, 2006

 

Strickland up? [Update #2]

The Psychobillies report on a new Rasmussen poll that seems to show that.

[Updated 1/9/06] We've now found the direct link to the poll. For the record, it was a telephone survey of 500 Likely Voters was conducted January 3, 2005. The MOE for the survey was 4.5%.

Not surprisingly, Rasmussen identifies Blackwell as Strickland's strongest opponent - at least for now, and shows that he benefits from a very strong group of "true believers," especially among evangelicals:
Overall, Strickland is viewed favorably by 54% of respondents (versus Blackwell's 49%, Petro's 48%, Montgomery's 45%). More respondents have a "very favorable" impression of Blackwell (21%) than of any other candidate (versus 17% of Strickland, 13% Petro, 15% Montgomery).

As an opponent of Strickland, Blackwell enjoys not only a slight general edge over Petro, but also a distinct advantage among evangelical Christians (61% versus Petro's 53% and Montgomery's 43%) and among Bush supporters (winning over 78% of those who strongly approve of Bush and 64% of those who somewhat approve). Blackwell also does better among conservatives.
[Update #2] Joel1954 at Kos apparently has deeper pockets than we do, because he's got the full (premium subscription required) list of comparisions, Bush ratings, etc.

Scroll down thru the comments to see that Strickland has a favorability rating that is statisically better than Blackwell, Montgomery and Petro (54% favorable compared to 49%, 35% and 48% respectively

 

Legislature subsidizes loan sharks short-term personal lenders

The Taft administration's Department of Development never ceases to amaze us, as do the nincompoops who serve on the state's Controlling Board. From today's Gongwer (subscription only):
The Controlling Board agreed Monday to change a previously approved grant for expansion of a Dublin checking cashing company over objections of a legislator who said the state should not help a business “viewed by some as predatory lenders.”

As a result of Monday’s action, the recipient of a $100,000 business development grant through the Ohio De-partment of Development will be 7001 Post Road, LLC.

The state money, to help in total real estate acquisition costs of $5.5 million, originally was to have gone to Lenhart Frauenberg (LF) Partnership. The company was to buy two buildings and lease them to Buckeye Check Cashing Inc., a check cashing and short-term personal loan company with 125 locations in six states.

Buckeye Check wants to expand its crowded headquarters in Dublin. Due to federal income tax business considerations, the company and LF Partnership restructured the proposed real estate ownership arrange-ment, necessitating the need for a change in the state grant designation initially approved in 2004.

The Controlling Board approved the request on a 6-1 vote with Sen. Ray Miller (D-Columbus) objecting. He questioned whether the state should encourage development of such businesses.

“They’re viewed by some as predatory lenders…with the high interest rates they charge,” Sen. Miller said. “I don’t believe the state should be in the business of helping this type of enterprise.”

 

Legislative Black Caucus slams voter i.d.

From and OLBC press release:
Members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) are outraged by proposed changes to Ohio’s election law in House Bill 3 sponsored by Representative Kevin DeWine (R-Fairborn) that would require all voters to present a current and valid government issued photo ID or another form of acceptable identification such as a utility bill to cast a vote.

“Allegations of widespread voter fraud as justification for this change are simply untrue,” said Representative Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) and OLBC President. “However, there is documented evidence and statistics that prove that this type of requirement is likely to disenfranchise and overburden voters, especially racial minorities and the poor.”

. . .

“Even in 2005 we are still fighting the same Jim-Crow Era tactics that try to rob citizens of equal access and opportunity in this country,” said Representative Sykes.

 

Astroturf, baby!

You mean that beacon of journalistic wonder, the Times-Reporter, got rope-a-doped by the freepers? Media In Trouble has the scoop, via Atrios.

 

Tribal love for the Ohio GOP

We had no idea Ohio's GOP congressmen and congresswomen were so into Native American issues. BlueCollarBaby a district-by-district report.

 

Repository: There is no voter ID problem

The editors of the Canton paper again state what only the GOP cannot see:
We expect that the Ohio House will vote early this year to approve a bill changing several aspects of election law. It will include a provision that requires voters to show identification when they vote. It will include this provision because Speaker of the House Jon Husted said so, in a determined way, a way that suggests no further debate is required.

. . .

We believe this proposed change in law addresses a non-existent problem, and we have said so in the past. In fact, when the House declined to finish work on the bill last year, we observed that no one should be in any hurry to see some of its reforms enacted.

Redfern agrees with the unnecessary nature of voter identification. Without challenge from the Republican leaders, Redfern said there have been only four prosecuted cases of election law violations in the last six years.
We remind readers that our $1,225 challenge still hasn't been claimed.

 

Brazil to become energy independent in 2006?

So says today's Wall Street Journal (subscription only):
After nearly three decades of work, Brazil has succeeded where much of the industrialized world has failed: It has developed a cost-effective alternative to gasoline. Along with new offshore oil discoveries, that's a big reason Brazil expects to become energy independent this year.

To see how, take a look at Gildo Ferreira, a 39-year-old real-estate executive, who pulled his VW Fox into a filling station one recent afternoon. Instead of reaching for the gasoline, he spent $29 to fill up his car on ethanol made from sugar cane, an option that's available at 29,000 gas stations from Rio to the Amazon. A comparable tank of gasoline would have cost him $36. "It's cheaper and it's made here in Brazil," Mr. Ferreira says of ethanol. If the price of oil stays at current levels, he can expect to save about $350 a year.

At current prices, Brazil can make ethanol for about $1 a gallon, according to the World Bank. That compares with the international price of gasoline of about $1.50 a gallon. Even though ethanol gets less mileage than gasoline, in Brazil it's still cheaper per mile driven. As a result, ethanol now accounts for as much as 20% of Brazil's transport fuel market. The country's use of gasoline has actually declined since the late 1970s. The use of alternative fuels in the rest of the world is a scant 1%.
How was this possible?
Military and civilian leaders laid the groundwork by mandating ethanol use and dictating production levels. They bankrolled technology projects costing billions of dollars, despite criticism they were wasting money. Brazil ended most government support for its sugar industry in the late 1990s, forcing sugar producers to become more efficient and helping lower the cost of ethanol's raw material. That's something Western countries are loath to do, preferring to support domestic farmers.

With government support, sugar companies and auto makers' local units delivered cost-saving breakthroughs. "Flexible fuel" cars running ethanol, gasoline or a mixture of both, have become a hit. Car buyers no longer have to worry about fluctuating prices for either fuel because flex-fuel cars allow them to hedge their bets at the pump. Seven out of every 10 new cars sold in Brazil are flex-fuel.
What does this mean for Ohio?

The state is potentially a key area for biofuels and biomass products. Some academics are actively trying to promote this as an economic growth strategy for Ohio. Admittedly, there are some key differences between Ohio and Brazil not the least of which is the climate. Besides longer growing seasons, Brazil also has the climate to grow scads of sugar cane, which, if one picks the right strains, can be the most efficient ethanol producing plant. And, admittedly, we have no way of knowing what environmental strains have been put on Brazil in order to achieve this breakthrough.

But, having said that, we think this story 1) shows the energy independence is not necessarily decades away, and 2) illustrates the type of strategic initiatives that the Third Frontier should spearhead - but unfortunately never will - under this administration.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

 

Pig Vomit a Buckeye and helping Springer?

The General amplified the revelation about Kevin Metheny having a hand in Jerry Springer's show. Maybe Pig Vomit's stylings to the show explains a little bit of why, as much as we've tried to like it, that we just cannot bear to listen to Jerry's slogging, pedantic snorebaiter (and still plead for someone to rescue it).

Actually, according to the Air America website, it sounds like Pig Vomit is more of an on-air fill-in for Springer than a producer, but maybe he is something of a producer for the show, too. But - there is no way that Pig Vomit is the best substitute Springer can find. This clown shouldn't even be allowed to email the fucking show, let alone be it.

For those who have wondered where Pig Vomit has been all these years, the sad, sad truth is that he has been holed up in Cleveland for several years. In Kevin's own words:
Since September 2002, I have been Regional VP of Programming for Clear Channel Radio, Cleveland & Toledo Regions + Dayton market (45 stations).
The link above gives more details about his whereabouts since his Double-you-NNNNNN-BC days, but a little more digging suggests that although he may be a radio veteran, Pig Vomit still has absolutely no ability to pick a radio winner as evidence by the fact that:
  • In 1996, the flagship talk radio station in his region, WTAM, buys the Dr. Laura (Schlessinger) show for the the mid-morning slot. While PV apparently wasn't around when this deal was made, he kept her show until. . .

  • September of 2001, when he dumped Dr. Laura in favor of Glenn Beck. ("Beck is more interested in relating to listeners and entertaining them than proselytizing to them, as Schlessinger often did."). PV kept Beck until. . .

  • March of 2005, when he dumped Beck in favor of Springer. ("We've been listening to ‘Springer on the Radio’ since it launched, and have been positively impressed by Jerry's rapid development as an issues-driven talk radio host.”)
Now, Springer is a hell of an improvement over Dr. Laura and Beck. But, damn, that bar is set pretty low. Besides that, look at how Pig Vomit has programmed the shows before and after Springer:
Add regular features such as Indians Manager Eric Wedge, Rush Limbaugh, and Paul Harvey, along with the exclusive Wall Street Journal Report with Ed Coury, and you have the most informative Morning Show in Northeast Ohio.
Sheesh, now wonder terrestial radio is scared shitless about satellite.

 

One post on torture

Almost by definition, we have tried to keep our posts to Ohio-related issues and stories. Nevertheless, allow us to stray (admittedly far afield) in to the should-we-or-shouldn't-we-torture thought games that wackjobs like Cheney wants to play.

Okay, everyone knows that Cheney has laid out this apocalyptic hypothetical situation:
He dramatized the point, conjuring up a scenario in which a captured Qaeda operative, another Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, refuses to give his interrogators details about an imminent attack. "We have to be able to do what is necessary," the vice president said, according to one of the senators who was present.
Here's the question we'd love to ask Cheney: "If it was necessary, would you also be willing to do 'what is necessary' (i.e., torture) to KSM's children or wife, assuming he has any?"

In otherwords, if you really believe Cheney's logic, you can't be in favor of just stopping with KSM, himself. "Whatever is necessary" means just that. No rules. No moral handcuffs. No hesitation. No drawn lines. No flinching.

This isn't an idle question, as everyone should know, because torturing a prisoner's family member has been frequently used, including recent reports of the Uzbeks using this hideous technique to try to establish links among their citizens to Bin Laden.

You know, let's just get it all out on the record. And, then we can ask Dobson and Parsley and the rest of the Christocrats about this, too.

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