Friday, April 06, 2007

On Partisanship

There's a new blog in Columbus. And although I've enjoyed watching it hatch, one of the first things that ColumbusUser has done with his blog is express mild disapproval of the degree of partisanship I displayed in my last post.

Reading his post, I realized that I sometimes assume that everyone is operating in the same context cloud that I am, and what a lousy assumption that is. So I thought I would take a moment to address the comments Brian made, describe the 'mission' of Blue Bexley, and let anyone who wants to come to a more fully informed impression. Of course, it might strengthen that impression, but at least I'll have fully earned every bit of it.

1) When I started this blog, I was a newcomer to Bexley, having moved from the Short North with my wife and daughter (who turned one yesterday - it's time for another picture, but I digress). One of the reasons we picked Bexley when we swallowed our liberal guilt and moved to the suburbs was the support of liberal candidates and issues.

2) At that time, we were in the summer campaign of '06. Bexley was represented by two Republican Senators, a Republican U.S. Rep, a Republican State Senator, and a Republican State Rep., not to mention a State Government that had Republicans in every Statewide office.

3) In November, Ohio turned over those statewide offices (except for auditor), and sent Sherrod Brown to represent the state in the U.S. Senate. Locally, in Bexley, we saw all of our Republican legislators earn re-election (well, to be fair, it was December before our State Rep. election finally was declared for the incumbent).

4) How do we arrive at a point where a city that is firmly Democratic in its electorate has only Republicans representing it? More importantly, does it matter? Well, at the level of City Council, where Bexley has voted for a bi-partisan group that rarely mentions party affiliation, there are few day-to-day issues. Just as it was ridiculous to disparage Ned Lamont in Connecticut for his positive relationship with Republican Greenwich Selectmen, it would be ridiculous to target Bexley city council members this fall solely for their party affiliation.

5) There's a bigger issue, though. Patrick Tiberi has been in the U.S. House for six years now, and has been a very reliable party line vote. Many of the really bad things that have happened over the last six years couldn't have happened without the willingness of people like Pat to fall in line with Bush, Rove, Delay, Frist, et al. The U.S. House has become a party-line chamber, for better or for worse. When it comes to electing a representative for that chamber, unfortunately, 90% of the choice is simply D or R.

6) Pat has cruised to re-election due to the absence of a competetive opponent. Although Bob Shamansky had a number of positive attributes (certainly many more than the perrenial candidate Ed Brown), he never connected with voters outside the Outerbelt, and didn't get the turnout inside to make up for it.

7) Finding a credible candidate is not the easiest of propositions. The typical opponent for a Congressman is a local officeholder. For instance, State Senators often run for the U.S. House, but ours is David Goodman, a Republican. If we could get someone in David Goodman's seat, that person might be a good candidate. So how did Mr. Goodman get his seat? He came from the Bexley City Council and was appointed to a vacancy. State Senators often come from the ranks of State Reps, but ours is a Republican, Jim McGregor. How did Mr. McGregor gain the experience necessary to win that seat? By being mayor of Gahanna.

8) So, every time a city like Bexley elects a Republican to local office, especially a higher profile position like mayor, they help insulate a Republican U.S. House Seat. We, Democrats, have no farm team, and we need one. I can't expect New Albany to produce the Democrat who will eventually defeat Tiberi (or Goodman, or whoever holds the U.S. House seat in what is now the 12th District). The process of growing a grassroots infrastructure of locally elected Democrats is largely the responsibility of Democratic Strongholds like Bexley.

9) Therefore, even though I actually strung more consecutive positive adjectives together for Mr. Lampke than I've ever done for a Republican, I'd rather see the office go to a Dem.

10) Having said that, I won't push the candidacy of a clearly inferior Democrat against someone like Matt Lampke. I have limited blogging resources, and I save them for battles I consider worthwhile. I realize that my 'mouth predominantly shut' comment sounds a bit petulant, but if you were a Republican candidate in Bexley, and the only blog in the U.S. with 'Bexley' in the name was dedicated to getting Democratic representation for the city, wouldn't you settle for silence? Perhaps I'm a bit too full of myself, but I actually thought I was being more than fair with my policy.

11) Following up on the petulance bit, I play up my partisanship somewhat, at least in the strictest sense of the word. First of all, I feel that putting my subjective baseline views out front paradoxically gives me more credibility. If you mistakenly assume that I'm a disinterested bystander, you'll become disillusioned at some point. I think I'm fair, and I've always thought that if you couldn't make a decent argument for the other side's position, then you don't really understand an issue, but I have a point of view. And, when I'm writing as bonobo on Blue Bexley, I have an agenda.

12) The other reason that readers may overestimate my pure partisanship is because I have very little direct contact with the party. We're talking maybe three emails and some chatting in the few days immediately preceding the election. I'm still not sure what the Franklin County Democratic Party does, and when I went to their website yesterday I couldn't tell if they had finally made an update after six months of total neglect because the site was down. My belief and support relate to the Democratic Platform more than the Democratic Party. I'm not hostile, just disconnected. And I have an aversion to most things clubby, which fairly or not is how Party Politics has always struck me.

So, that's it. That's why Blue Bexley is a partisan blog, and why I, bonobo, promote partisan causes.

BTW, for folks who have missed it, I have offered up my real name in the past. One of my New Years things was an auto-outing, so that I wouldn't be tempted to engage in the illusion of anonymity. That post is in the archives.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mayor Lampke?

Here's where I get to start trying to fulfill one of my New Year's Resolutions. I wrote a while back about the musical chairs going on in Bexley's city government, including the strong possibility that Mayor David Madison would retire. Well, we have our first candidate - Council Member Matt Lampke.

Lampke made news last week by NOT being promoted to council president when Helen MacMurray stepped down from that position:

The president's chair usually goes to the sitting finance and judiciary committee chairperson, currently Matt Lampke. But several members said that because Mac Murray is leaving in the middle of a term and because the finance committee has a lot of issues to deal with, it would be best if Masser were to take over instead of Lampke...

"You can say it," Lampke quipped, "I'm indispensable."

Three days later, the Matt Lampke for Mayor website was launched. The site lists his qualifications, etc. and has forms for volunteers and donors. It also has a list of personal endorsements. As of this writing, the page is a little misleading. It has a heading for "mayor," then a heading for "city council," then a list of people who have given personal endorsements. This list includes current mayor David Madison. It's possible that Mr. Madison is already endorsing a potential successor in this race, but I'd like to see that made more explicit if it's true. If it's actually the case that Mr. Lampke has received no endorsements yet in his mayoral run, it might behoove him to take the page down until he has a few and the categories can be clearly separated.

If it seems like I'm less than enthusiastic about this run, well, that's because I am. The tag line of this blog contains the words "Democratic Stronghold," and Mr. Lampke is a registered Republican. He's easily qualified to be mayor, committed to the community, and partisanship plays little role in the day-to-day operations of a small city, so at this point I have no reason to take shots at the man. I would, however, prefer that a city whose residency is overwhelmingly Democratic be run by Democrats.

(numbers from 2006 Primary)

As per my usual policy, if I take sides in a race, it will be the side of the Democrat. If I don't want to support a particular Democrat, I'll keep my mouth (predominantly) shut. If you are a qualified Democrat, and you'd like to see me take sides, or if you would like to comment confidentially on the race, drop me a line at bluebexleyATgmailDOTcom.

If you would like to comment publicly, please do so using the comments link below. I do ask that you make up a name rather than posting as "anonymous" if you prefer not to use your (real) name.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On Paranoia

There's been a dust-up over at BSB concerning the group 9/11 Truth. It started with assertions along the lines of 'those loonies ruined Progress Ohio and they'll take down the whole progressive movement if we don't stop them,' and overall it has gotten somewhat less civil since then.

As a side note, the "ruined PO" statement was retracted, and I concur that the 9/11 truth bunch didn't "ruin Progress Ohio," but at the same time I have to say that PO's RSS was only hanging by a thread in my reader for a while. It's a nifty site with some pretty cool tools, but the community blog... let's just say that the 911T folks certainly had help in engendering my loss of interest. The number of posters has recently gone way down, with most posts coming from PO administrators, and as a result, quality is way up. I guess I'm just a reactionary sucker for a moderator.

Anyway, the upshot of the criticism is that the 911T folks are paranoid conspiracy theorists who feed into the right wing narrative of loony lefties who would accuse W of anything and don't recognize the threat of groups like Al Qaeda.

For what it's worth, I tend to agree with a lot of the criticism. And for whatever else it's worth, even if I were to be convinced that there are some questions that need to be answered, I would not hesitate to guess that none of the answers will involve planted explosives. As Richard Clarke said on Maher's show: You have to assume the government is both competent and able to keep a secret. But, in the end, I can't really climb on the 911T -bashing-bandwagon.

The Bush administration has put together the largest database of private communications ever assembled. They have monitored the phone calls of U.S. citizens without a warrant. They have held suspects for years without trial. They have flown prisoners on secret flights to places where they could be legally tortured. They have tortured prisoners themselves. They have thrown Americans into jail for merely wearing slogans in their presence that they disapproved of. They've used the FBI to spy on anti-war groups. They've manipulated intelligence to create a case for a war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians, including a lie in the State of the Union Address that eventually led to them outing an undercover CIA operative and her front company for political reasons.

This administration has significantly raised the bar for dismissing accusations with the statement that "they just wouldn't do that." There are a lot of things that the evil government agents do in cynical thrillers that used to be easily recognized as fiction. Things like the list above. That list, however, does not link to Robert Ludlum novels, it links to the mainest of mainstream news outlets. This administration is not the first to go out of bounds. Internment camps, the Bay of Pigs, the Shah, Iran-Contra... There are plenty of historical events where I still have a hard time believing that my country did what it did, but the current crop of folks at 1600 almost seem to be on a campaign of systematic desensitization to illegal abuses of executive power. It's almost as if they're trying to make the black helicopter crowd socially acceptable.

So, do I think that the evidence is in any way compelling for the MIHOP or LIHOP worldviews? Not at all. Do I think that vocally pushing the "What Really Happened" meme is a lifeline tossed to the Right Wing Noise Machine? Actually, I do. But I have some sympathy.

In a world where where Wal-Mart "had a long-haired employee infiltrate an anti-Wal-Mart group to determine if it planned protests at the company's annual meeting," and we are encouraged to think of "bean festivals, car dealerships, small-town parades and check-cashing stores" as potential terrorist targets, a culture of paranoia is inevitable. Remember when the phrase "or the terrorists will have already won" was bandied about? You don't hear it anymore.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Peter Wray does my favorite blog post of the last week yesterday. Informative, opinionated, and interesting, which is tough to pull off when the reader knows little about your subject going in. It goes after the PD for a piece on Ohio's public employee pensions that relies quite heavily on out of state conservative think tanks as sources.

The scariest headline of the last week or so was today's blurb about a shooting at the CNN building in Atlanta. People always assume that terrorists are interested in taking out the largest number of civilians, or creating the most spectacular damage. That's why we are always thinking about bridges and football games and the like as the most attractive targets for a 9/11 sequel. Not me. On 9/11, Al Qaeda was trying to send a symbolic message by striking at the heart of the institutions underlying American world domination. There are three such areas, and Al Qaeda struck at the heart of our financial domination by going after the World Trade Center, and our military domination by going after the Pentagon. The third area is cultural domination. In my personal opinion the two most attractive targets within the U.S. at this point would be CNN and Disney. I may be way off base, but I'd be less surprised at an attack in Atlanta or Orlando than I would be in San Francisco or L.A.
So when breaking news on my Google homepage had two dead at CNN's headquarters, I was willing to actually click on a Fox News link. It turned out to be a locally circumscribed tragedy.

I'm still not supporting anybody in the early '08 goings-on, but I've decided on a new position: My support defaults to Bill Richardson until someone convinces me it shouldn't.

Redhorse of Psychobilly Democrat won the BuckeyeStateBracket challenge. Several years back, I switched from using my knowledge of basketball to fill out my brackets to my knowledge of data. I developed a model that does a reasonably good job predicting the scores of post-season college basketball games. Unfortunately, I tweak the outcome every year to give close predictions to the underdog. Big Big mistake this year. I'm sorry that I didn't give the others a better run for their money glory. PBD also discusses my alma mater's new head coach. I agree with his positive assessment.