May 20, 2010

Pushing Portman

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:10 am

PortmanNote: This post went up at the Washington Examiner’s OpinionZone and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Monday evening.

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GOP nominee Rob Portman has been in philosophical cruise control since he declared his candidacy for the Buckeye State’s open U.S. Senate seat over a year ago.

The former six-term Southwestern Ohio congressman, who followed that service with successive one-year stints as Bush administration Trade Representative and as head of its Office of Management and Budget, seems as bound and determined as anyone I’ve seen in a long time to stay in cruise control until Election Day.

Last year, when Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination was before the august body he wishes to join, he said nothing. Meanwhile, Tom Ganley, Portman’s sole GOP primary opponent, had plenty to say in opposition to Sotomayor. When Ohio’s retiring alleged Republican Senator George Voinovich voted to confirm her, Portman was again silent.

Earlier this year, the Ohio Republican Party, which I have taken to calling ORPINO (the Ohio Republican Party In Name Only), “persuaded” Ganley that his political fortunes would be best served if he chose instead to run for Congress against incumbent Democrat Betty Sutton. In the context of what happened statewide on May 4, it’s quite easy to believe that ORPINO “persuaded” Ganley thusly: “Look pal, you can empty your substantial bank account, and it won’t matter. We’re determined to empty our treasury and throw all available party resources at any and all insurgent/Tea Party candidates. And we’ll win.”

That is indeed what ORPINO did to Auditor candidate Seth Morgan, who challenged ORPINO favorite Dave Yost, and Sandy O’Brien, who went up against party golden boy Jon Husted for Secretary of State. In twin unprecedented moves in competitive primary races — moves that I have never seen directed at even Democrats in the 35 years I’ve been voting in Ohio — the party pushed out as many as eight slate card mailings spotlighting Yost and Husted, and on Election Day placed operatives handing out slate cards at dozens and perhaps hundreds of key polling locations throughout the state. Ganley, whose candidacy against Portman was going to be a long shot even without ORPINO’s heavyhanded intervention, opted for self-preservation and set his sights lower. If only the state party was as intent on winning general elections.

From Portman’s perspective, Ganley’s withdrawal avoided the possibility of a pre-primary election debate and enabled him to remain in cruise control. It is becoming painfully clear that Portman will stay right there if he, ORPINO, and his handlers think he can get away with it. Recent polls showing him slightly trailing Lieutenant Governor and Democratic nominee Lee Fisher, a dreadful candidate who hasn’t won a statewide general election on his own since 1994, should be disabusing Team Portman of that notion — if they’re not already asleep at the wheel.

Rob Portman has several serious problems with center-right Ohioans, and if he doesn’t conquer them in the coming months, the people he still thinks are “his,” many of them already embittered at ORPINO’s primary tactics, will either stay home or skip his name on the ballot. Here are just a few of those concerns.

On fiscal matters, Portman’s congressional voting record deteriorated over time, to the point where by the end of his service, he could accurately be described, as another Beltway journalist recently did, as a “big spender.”

On immigration, as a congressman Portman received an average grade of D+ from Numbers USA. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) gave him a grade of 0% in December 2003.

Portman is a consummate Washington insider, and has been for years. Sadly, available information tells us he considers that to be a feature, not a bug. This is self-evidently out of sync with center-right Ohioans.

Finally, when the chips are down, will Portman choose country first, or Rob first? This quote from a 2005 Cleveland Plain Dealer profile provides little comfort or solace:

“I probably am a little risk-averse compared to some members [of Congress],” he concedes, “but I think a lot of that is a deliberate decision on my part that some things are worth it for my career and some things aren’t.”

Gosh, don’t do us any favors, big guy.

Portman seems every bit like the kind of politician who always wants to have the “escape hatch” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie referred to last week.

Rob Portman had better define himself as a genuine, constitution-based, sensible conservative (assuming he is one) with the courage of his convictions (if he has them) in the coming months. Cruise control won’t work, not even against Lee Fisher.

Lucid, Lickety-Split, and Lightning Links (052010, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:57 am

Lucid Links:

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That these three Cincinnati-area news items have appeared at roughly the same time is instructive, and not in a good way –

  1. 20 Lockland High School students have been arrested in a school-based prank that appears to have involved no property or other financial damage (if I’m wrong, someone should let me know). 10 12 of them who are 18 or older are awaiting possible felony charges that may be handed down by a (!) grand jury.
  2. Meanwhile, Miami University sorority Alpha Xi Delta has been suspended for two years, because of “drunken behavior and destruction at a spring formal at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.” Specifically, “sorority members and their dates urinated all over the building, defaced restrooms, intentionally crashed drinks on the dance floor, vomited all over restrooms and at the dinner table, swore at the staff and tried to steal bottles of booze from the bar.”
  3. A week earlier, another Miami sorority, Pi Beta Phi, was suspended for “drinking heavily, behaving crudely and destroying property during the sorority’s spring formal at Lake Lyndsay Lodge in Butler County.” Specifically, “Students took drinks onto the dance floor, broke a toilet in the women’s restroom and continued to use it, urinated in sinks, toppled a table of food onto the carpet and vomited several times … they hurled crystal vases off a porch to watch them shatter below on a concrete patio. A large concrete lion also was knocked over and broken.”

Though the people involved in Items 2 or 3 are presumably mostly 21 years of age or older, no one was arrested for damaging and destroying things. A full reading of the story at Item 2 also indicates disturbing racist overtones. So unless I’m missing something, no one involved in either affair is going to suffer any negative ongoing individual consequences. It’s a shame that neither party venue called the cops as things went down; they should have.

Which brings me to Item 1. If-if-if the Lockland prank was truly damage-free (having spoken to a relative of one of those involved, my understanding is that this is the case), it would be intensely unfair to throw the book at those involved. There has to be a way to “send a message” that isn’t permanently damaging, especially when dozens of maliciously destructive alleged Miami “adults” in Items 2 and 3 get to move on with their mostly financially prosperous and relatively privileged lives as if nothing happened.

Update, 9:30 a.m.: From the Cincinnati Enquirer

A Hamilton County grand jury has recommended that felony charges be dropped against a dozen 18-year-old Lockland High School students accused of breaking into the school last week during a prank gone awry, Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Tuesday morning. Instead, prosecutors are recommending Lockland police charge the 12 students as adults with misdemeanor criminal trespassing, he said.

I have a one-word suggestion for prospective employers of Miami grads who put Pi Beta Phi or Alpha Xi Delta on their resumes in the next couple of years: Avoid.

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In Columbus, against all odds, Mayor Michael Coleman is very busy trying to lead his city into decline.

Last year, rather than control costs, he pushed a 25% income tax increase (from 2% to 2.5%), which passed. Well of course it did. Coleman had it go on the ballot in August, guaranteeing low turnout. Also, probably one-third of the people who have to pay the city’s income tax only commute to the city, and thus couldn’t vote on the increase. Didn’t somebody fight a war over taxation without representation?

Now the city’s situation is soooo under control that Coleman is focusing on the really important stuff, like banning city-funded travel to Arizona over that state’s recently passed immigration law-enforcement measure. The linked Columbus Dispatch article has over 2,900 overwhelmingly negative comments as of 8 a.m. this morning.

Actually, Coleman and his city are probably lucking out from what Arizona is doing, though they’ll never admit it. The city will be getting a likely windfall in the coming year, because so many more people from all over Ohio who are pleased with what Arizona has done will hop onto those non-stop flights from Port Columbus Airport to Phoenix to visit the Grand Canyon State.

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Maggie Thurber tipped me in an e-mail to this pretty weak Toledo Blade report by the paper’s Larry Vellequette, wherein the reporter quotes “an analyst” and “a Cleveland-area economic researcher” named George Zeller.

Matt Naugle at Right Ohio did a bit of research on Mr. Zeller in June of last year:

Zeller also advertises his heavy involvement with the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, which are government-supported non-profit leftovers of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the failed “war on poverty.” After looking at his website, can there be any doubt that Zeller is a political liberal with an agenda to “end poverty” through government intervention?

It is unreasonable to expect economists to not hold personal opinions. But a responsible reporter would find a way to include an expert’s political activities, instead of expecting readers to deduce them.

The link to “his (Zeller’s) web site” Matt cited no longer works, and its home page forwards to a Cleveland-area (based on the phone numbers provided) VOIP/web hosting provider. Either Zeller didn’t like the spotlight coming from Matt, or it’s a sheer coincidence (you can tell us if you’d like, George).

Here is Zeller’s (new?) home page, and his “Poverty and Economic Research” page, in which he plugs the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies. His status at the very least as a left-leaning economist is pretty evident.

Matt’s point about not “including an expert’s political activities” also applies to Vellequette’s recent piece at the Blade. It’s an all too typical establishment media failure, and is yet another reason why papers like the Blade continue to lose readers.

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Lickety-Split Links:

In another item from Toledo, there’s this from Maggie Thurber (“Trash tax and broken promises: we told you so!”). As usual, city fathers in that hard-pressed city have figured out how to put in a tax they said they wouldn’t, and have forced no meaningful concessions from its public-employee unions.

As the Blade loses readers (see related “Lucid Link” item above), Toledo continues to lose people. Census information obtainable here shows that the Glass City’s population declined by almost 20,000 from 2000 to 2008 to its current 293,201, and that the city lost residents every year during that period.

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While we’re on the topic, here’s info for other Ohio cities’ population changes from 2000 to 2008, continuing a nearly five-decade trend:

  • Columbus: Up 39,000 to 754,000 (state government growing like a weed will cause that)
  • Cleveland: Down 43,000 to 434,000 (far-lefties in Ohio still want to attribute this to racism or lack of jobs, when it’s crime, awful schools, high taxes, and city-county corruption, not necessarily in that order; the city’s population in 1960 was 876,000, or over double what it is now)
  • Cincinnati: Up 2,000 to 333,000 (the city has seemed to acquire a few whiffs of sanity in the past few years, especially in doing something, but still nowhere near enough, about crime; 1960 population — 503,000)
  • Akron: Down 9,000 to 207,000 (1960 — 290,000)
  • Dayton: Down 12,000 to 154,000 (1960 — 262,000)

People will keep voting with their feet as long as these cities continue to govern as they have for so long.

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Lightning Links:

  • Erick Ericksen — In California’s GOP Senate primary, “It is Not Chuck DeVore Who Must Drop Out. Carly Fiorina Must Go.” Amen, brother. And yeah, Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Fiorina looks like a mistake.
  • Even I have more fashion sense than this.
  • At Catholic News Agency“Cuban government harasses mother of deceased political prisoner.” At long last, have they no decency?

Positivity: Latin American leaders recognize efforts of Varela Project in Cuba

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:34 am

From Santiago, Chile:

May 20, 2010 / 03:07 am

The Latin American Democratic Bridge Network recently announced the creation of the “Prize for Democratic Openness in Cuba” and has decided to grant the first award to the Varela Project.

The network explained on its website that the prize highlights “the work of Cubans who, despite great obstacles, encourage their fellow countrymen to begin the path towards the transition to democracy.”

“The Cuban government has set up a one-party regime that represses the exercise of democratic freedom and prevents any type of peaceful political transformation. Any call for openness in Cuba implies having great courage and assuming enormous risks.”

The Varela Project calls for democratic changes in country’s laws through a referendum.

The panel charged with selecting the recipient of the prize includes former Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, Senator Soledad Alvear, Representative Patricio Walker and Peruvian Lourdes Flores Nano. The judges said the Varela Project has obtained “unprecedented citizen support within Cuba and has had enormous repercussions internationally.” They called the Varela Project “one of the peaceful initiatives within Cuba that has suffered the most in terms of the number of members imprisoned and given extended sentences during the wave of repression of March 2003.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.