Friday, December 18, 2009

ANOTHER DEM IN SECRETARY OF STATE RACE?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 2:19 PM

We’ve reported recently on how unhappy many progressives are with the Ohio Democratic Party’s current candidate for secretary of state in next year’s election. State Representative Jennifer Garrison of Marietta has a track record of being anti-gay marriage and anti-choice and no apparent interest in elections issues, the most significant part of the secretary of state’s office.

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So many in Cuyahoga County are excited that Candace Hoke, an associate professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State, is exploring the possibility of running in the Democratic primary against Garrison. One of her key specialties is election law, and until recently, she headed the nonpartisan Center for Election Integrity at CSU.

There’s reason to be leery about a Democratic candidate coming out of Cuyahoga County right now, given the rampant corruption investigations. But Hoke is ideally situated to finesse that. As head of the Center, she hasn’t been involved in partisan politics and isn’t affiliated with any party faction that could come back to haunt her in Republican attack ads. In fact, her bio says, “Professor Hoke’s highest commitment in elections reform is complete integrity and transparency. She considers herself a political independent, having worked as a volunteer in both Republican and Democratic campaigns since the 1970s.”

If that makes anyone question her commitment to Democratic principles, it shouldn’t. While Garrison and her supporters have been brushing off her extreme positions on choice and gay marriage, saying that the secretary of state’s office doesn’t address these, Hoke feels differently. She says, “If you don’t believe in equal treatment for everyone, I’d have to wonder if you could be trusted to treat everyone equally in applying election law.”

Hoke’s biggest liabilities are her lack of experience in campaigning and fundraising, and the state party’s apparent strong support for the controversial Garrison. But she could be a stronger general-election candidate. While Garrison would be spending her time trying to keep the Democratic base from deserting, Hoke would be the only candidate able to insightfully discuss the ins and outs of elections. Unlike Garrison, she could make Republican Jon Husted look ignorant. — Anastasia Pantsios

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

SPARE THE ROD? NAH, LET HIM SUFFER (UPDATED)

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 4:26 PM

You gotta love when a self-righteous scumbag falls on his face. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio's biggest rightwing douchebag is in trouble:

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The Rev. Rod Parsley has issued a desperate plea for money, telling his flock that he is facing a "demonically inspired financial attack" that is threatening his ministry.

Parsley is asking for donations by Dec. 31, calling that date an "unavoidable deadline" during an episode of Breakthrough posted yesterday on www.rodparsley.com. Breakthrough is Parsley's television show.

A message titled "Crisis -- Urgent" on the Web site says ministries such as Breakthrough and World Harvest Bible College need help.

The headline of the appeal for donations reads: "Will you help me take back what the devil stole?"

"The devil" apparently is the then-2-year-old boy who was badly beaten at the daycare center at Parsley's multi-million-dollar megachurch/compound in 2006 — a sin that cost the poor reverend $3 million. Read the whole thing.

Characterizing this boy as "the devil," and imploring followers to help make up the deficit that the incident caused, is low even for Parsley, and that's saying something.

UPDATE: Right Wing Watch provides details about the incident, and others — including the 3-year-old who ended up with a skull fracture at Parsley's facilities. Suffer the little children indeed.



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FITZGERALD ENTERS COUNTY FRAY

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 10:49 AM

Lakewood Mayor Ed FitzGerald has joined the jostling for the new county executive post created by the passage of Issue 6. The ambitious FitzGerald — he’s been positioning for a move into county politics for months — says he has the skills to restore public faith in a scandal-plagued government.

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“This corruption scandal is not over,” says FitzGerald. “We’re in the middle of it. The primary task for the new county executive is to try to restore the confidence that has been shaken or destroyed, as far as the public is concerned.”

FitzGerald has been Lakewood’s mayor since 2008. He’s a graduate of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and a former FBI special agent who worked on an organized-crime task force in Chicago. He has also served as an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor and Lakewood city councilman.

FitzGerald says he’s focused on building support across a politically fractured landscape. He was a visible opponent of Issue 6’s county government restructuring, a topic that remains contentious in some circles.

“I think it’s going to be incumbent upon whoever runs for county executive to try to build the broadest coalition possible,” says FitzGerald. “I have to make sure my campaign is diverse and has diverse support from all different segments of the community. I’m not running a campaign that’s strictly suburban or strictly about the city of Cleveland. There’s not a single neighborhood I’m not going to campaign in or build support in.”

FitzGerald’s campaign website is edfitzgerald.org.— Damian Guevara

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

VOINOVICH: MORE MACHINE NOW THAN MAN

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 8:00 AM

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We keep hoping that Senator George Voinovich will show some evidence of deserving the "moderate" and "deficit hawk" descriptors that the mainstream lazily bestow on him at every mention. But he keeps disappointing us — and frankly, it hurts. We can't go on like this, so we're ending it, now. And for the record, it's not us, it's him.

The last straw was a recent press release outlining his oh-so-principled stand against healthcare reform. The release was sent before Senator Joe Lieberman screwed his own party again and unilaterally shoved a Medicare buy-in option off the table. That rendered much of what Voinovich discussed moot, but the hypocrisy and blatant partisan hackery should not be forgotten:

There is some indication that in order to reach a compromise on the public option, it is being suggested that Medicare be expanded to all individuals age 55 and over. I think this is an outrageous suggestion and makes a government takeover of our healthcare system all the more likely.

The Medicare program is already on shaky ground, and this bill does nothing to fix that. Despite $37 trillion in unfunded future Medicare costs and the prediction that the Medicare trust fund is expected to be insolvent by 2017, the health care bill calls for $465 billion in cuts to Medicare to create brand new programs.

Stop. Right. There.

Senator Moderate is certainly no honesty hawk. The numbers he cites are essentially meaningless; he's parroting rightwing talking points that are intended to confuse and scare you. Factcheck.org reports:

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity has released a new 60-second ad through its Patients First project. The ad, which features a family doctor, Dr. Amy Siems, talking to viewers, recycles a few misleading talking points against health care legislation in Congress, but includes a new claim that is quite startling. Dr. Siems says that "Medicare will be bankrupt in eight years."

Yikes. Quite a scary claim to make about a program that encompasses 16 percent of the federal budget and benefits 45 million Americans. But the word "bankrupt" is far too strong to accurately describe Medicare’s problems.

And as is typically the case with GOP talking points, they leave out the inconvenient truths.

Voinovich went on to refer to his "Democrat colleagues" (will Republic hacks ever tire of this juvenile little dig?) and to whine, "Democrats should stop meeting behind closed doors and bring their issues and protections into the light of day — we need open and transparent health care conversations.” As if the Democrats hadn't spent most of this year compromising on compromises of compromises. As if it's perfectly reasonable for the debate to be framed by the most ideologically hardcore members of the party voters soundly rejected in 2006 and 2008.

And as if the GOP would never dream of pulling the sorts of shenanigans it now projects onto Democrats.

Slate revisits the GOP's Medicare prescription-drug bill of 2003:

Today the Medicare prescription-drug debate is remembered mainly for the political shenanigans Republicans used to get their bill through. Bush officials lied about the numbers and threatened to fire Medicare's chief actuary if he shared honest cost estimates with Congress. House Republicans cut off C-SPAN and kept the roll call open for three hours — as opposed to the requisite 15 minutes — while cajoling the last few votes they needed for passage. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay was admonished by the House ethics committee for winning the eleventh-hour support of Nick Smith, a Michigan Republican, by threatening to vaporize Smith's son in an upcoming election. It's worth remembering these moments when Republicans criticize Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid for his hardball tactics.

The real significance of that episode, however, is not their bad manners, but what Republicans ordered the last time health care was on the menu. Their bill, which stands as the biggest expansion of government's role in health care since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, created an entitlement for seniors to purchase low-cost drug coverage. … Simply stated, the bill cost a fortune, wasn't paid for, is complicated as hell, and doesn't do all that much — though it does include coverage for end-of life-counseling, or what [Republican Senator Chuck] Grassley now calls "pulling the plug on grandma."

In their 2009 report to Congress, the Medicare trustees estimate the 10-year cost of Medicare D as high as $1.2 trillion. That figure — just for prescription-drug coverage that people over 65 still have to pay a lot of money for — dwarfs the $848 billion cost of the Senate bill. The Medicare D price tag continues to escalate because the bill explicitly bars the government from using its market power to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers or establishing a formulary with approved medications.

And unlike the Democratic bills, which won't add to the deficit, the bill George W. Bush signed was financed entirely through deficit spending. While Grassley and his colleagues accuse Democrats of harming Medicare through cost cuts, it is their bill that has done the most to hasten Medicare's coming insolvency. Between now and 2083, Medicare D's unfunded obligations amount to $7.2 trillion according to the trustees. Numbers like these prompted former Comptroller General David M. Walker to call it "... probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s."

And "moderate" "deficit hawk" George Voinovich voted for it.

It was just a few months ago that Voinovich (belatedly) lamented the GOP's takeover by southerners. Now he sounds just like them as he either lies or displays inexcusable ignorance of the real costs of Medicare, and just flatly refuses to acknowledge the rising human cost of lack of access to insurance.

The baffling thing about this is how unnecessary it is. Voinovich has long since announced that he won't seek re-election, so there's no need to protect his flank from a teabagger-backed primary challenger. Maybe he just likes being, and wants to be remembered as, a hypocritical obstructionist. Whatever the case, we're done deluding ourselves that he's different, that he's somehow above the madness afflicting most of the party. Clearly he's not the man we thought he was. For a guy who claimed to have brashly counseled President Bush to wise up and consider his legacy, the much-older Voinovich is shockingly cavalier about his own. — Frank Lewis

UPDATE: Voinovich also voted for the Bush policies that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities cites as the primary causes of the rising deficit in a new report:

Some commentators blame recent legislation — the stimulus bill and the financial rescues — for today’s record deficits. But those costs pale next to other policies enacted since 2001 that have swollen the deficit. They are less conspicuous now, because many were enacted years ago, and they have long since been absorbed into CBO’s and other organizations’ budget projections.

Just two policies dating from the Bush Administration — tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounted for over $500 billion of the deficit in 2009 and $7.1 trillion in 2009 through 2019, including the associated debt-service costs. These impacts easily dwarf the stimulus and financial rescues. Furthermore, unlike those temporary costs, these inherited policies (especially the tax cuts) do not fade away as the economy recovers.

Without the economic downturn and the fiscal policies of the previous Administration, the budget would be roughly in balance over the next decade. That would put the nation on a much sounder footing to address the demographic challenges and the cost pressures in health care that darken the long-run fiscal outlook.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

AN S.O.S. FOR CLEVELAND'S LAKEFRONT

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 11:06 AM

A coalition of activists intent on stopping the Cleveland Port Authority's proposed relocation of port facilities to waters off East 55th Street has created a web-site to publicize their concerns. Cleveland Lakefront Alliance brings together environmental and good-government activists from the League of Women Voters of the Cleveland Area, the Dike 14 Nature Preserve Committee and the Northeast Ohio Sierra Group.

Vision
To have a vibrant, accessible, livable lakefront for all to enjoy for generations to come.

Mission
To protect our recreational Lake Erie shoreline from industrial development by preserving and enhancing Cleveland’s lakefront parks and shoreline for public access and recreational use.

Goals
• Preserve all existing lakefront state parks, marinas and nature preserves
• Stop the destruction of the East 55th St. Lakefront State Park and Marina, the degradation of Gordon lakefront State Park and Dike 14 nature Preserve, and the elimination of public access to the Lake Erie shoreline and protected recreational waters that will be the result of the Army Corps’ plan for a 157-acre CDF (Contained Disposal Facility) at East 55th, and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority’s plan for a new 200-acre industrial port facility at East 55th St.
• Promote compliance with the popularly developed Waterfront District Plan 2004

For some background on the port's relocation plan — and related about-face on the ’04 plan — read Scene's recent cover story "Sunk."Damian Guevara

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

IS VOINOVICH CYNICAL, OR JUST DUMB?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 11:59 AM

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Alleged "deficit hawk" Senator George Voinovich, who voted for every budget submitted by unrepentent spender George W. Bush, has found a new way to crow about his phony credentials. He's signed on to Senators Kent Nelson and Judd Gregg's Talk About the Deficit A Lot — Like A Lot A Lot — We're Totally Serious This Time Bipartisan Task Force. From Voinovich's press release:

The legislation is closely modeled after Sen. Voinovich’s own Securing America’s Future Economy (SAFE) Commission Act. As an original co-sponsor of the new bill, he looks forward to working with his colleagues to promote meaningful budget reform in the coming weeks.

“I have long said that our increasing national debt is the biggest challenge facing our nation today. For too long, I felt alone in the desert in my calls for reform — but I have finally found an oasis,” Sen. Voinovich said. “I am grateful for the leadership of Senators Conrad and Gregg for taking action, and I was happy to help move this issue forward. It doesn’t take an economist to realize that our course is unsustainable. Our crushing debt is doing harm to the economy, affecting our footing in the international community, and hurting America’s ability to do business and create much-needed jobs.”

Sounds great — and that's exactly the point. These earnest men are deeply committed to their goal, which is to make you believe that they're serious about accomplishing something. They're not, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains:

The Conrad-Gregg commission will have 18 members [eight Democrats, eight Republicans and two administration officials] and require the agreement of 14 of them before it produces recommendations. Those will then require a supermajority not only in the Senate, but also in the House, where no such mandate exists. This is the legislative equivalent of cooking a meal with one hand tied behind your back. The process is harder than usual and rich with new veto points. It's as if Conrad and Gregg concluded that reducing the deficit is too easy and that Congress needed a challenge.

It's also worth noting here that it was Senator Gregg who recently advised his fellow Republicans to bring the Senate to a screeching halt with

"time consuming motions to establish a quorum," reading the full text of amendments out loud, making points of order "with or without cause," in which "delay is created by the two roll call votes," offering "an unlimited number of amendments --germane or non-germane -- on any subject," dividing amendments that contain two or more parts "to extend consideration of a measure," and other similar efforts to obstruct the work of the Senate.

And in this environment, a commission is going to find enough common ground on taxation and spending to win super-duper majorities in both houses?

You have a commission proposing a package of highly unpopular legislative changes. And, in addition to having to surmount the 60-vote barrier in the Senate, which is nearly insurmountable for major legislation and which was avoided for both of the last two major deficit-reducing bills, it's also going to impose a new supermajority requirement in the House and a 78% threshold in the commission itself?

To say that this procedure "is designed to get results" shows a very odd understanding of American political institutions. Conrad and Gregg seem to think that instituting major reforms in the public interest is rare because the threshold for passing legislation is too low. Thus they've designed a process that creates new and higher supermajority requirements, on an issue where getting even 51% to sign on is probably impossible. And if that fails, maybe they'll conclude the process was too easy. Next time they could also require the commission members to create a cold fusion reactor or retrieve a magical ring from inside a volcano.

And the senior senator from Ohio is falling over himself to "me too!" his way into this cynical charade. Klein again: "If you're a deficit hawk, it's arguably worse than nothing, as it will make people think something is being done when nothing is actually happening.

We've asked before, more than once, but seriously, can someone please explain why Voinovich is widely hailed as a moderate? — Frank Lewis

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THIS PROJECT BLOWS

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 8:00 AM

The shells of former automobiles line both sides of the wide, muddy path that runs through the lot behind the office of Pearl Road Auto Parts. Every wheel has been removed, many are missing doors and all are unmistakably worn. It’s the way the Kaplan family has been doing business for four generations — recycling the guts of dead cars to keep other cars alive — and for the mostly operational cars cruising down nearby I-480, this operation is completely concealed by a tall green fence.

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Last September, the Kaplans erected a 140-foot wind turbine on their lot that rises high above the fence and makes one point clear: Very little is wasted in this family.

While Myron Kaplan runs the auto yard, it’s his sons Jon and Kevin who have championed the windmill project. Taking advantage of a $147,500 grant from the Ohio Department of Development’s Advanced Energy Fund along with a few other federal grants, tax credits and incentives, they started digging the foundation last May.

Last Friday, a few dozen environmentalists, media types and friends of the project gathered around the hefty cement foundation for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. If the number of politicians attending a ribbon-cutting is metric for measuring its import, then it’s notable that three Cleveland councilmen appeared. Among them was Ward 15 Councilman Brian Cummins.

“I think it’s great,” says Cummins. “Jon and his father, Myron, worked on it so hard for so long. I don’t think even the people that know them, even the people and the businesses around them, can fully comprehend what they’ve achieved.”

Continue reading »

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