Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two Rules of Ohio Politics

Well, dear readers (if any) it looks like I am two days behind in my blog posts. That means that I am right on schedule to be giving you a summary and reactions from Ohio's May 2nd primary election.

My first reaction to primary day is that it proves that at least two rules of Ohio politics are alive and well. Rule No. 1: Cuyahoga County is always the last county to get their vote totals reported in. This causes lots of stomach acid production for us Democrats because Cuyahoga County is the Democratic heartland of Ohio, and without it we simply cannot win. As I write this, Cuyahoga County still has not reached the point where 100% of precincts are reporting, due to missing memory cards and absentee ballots that had to be counted by hand. Now, of course, offical results are not due into the Secretary of State's office until May 23rd, and this was the first election using all-electronic voting machines in Ohio, and there were the understandable glitches. But still, Rule No. 1 is alive and well.

Rule No. 2: Never underestimate the power of the "O." As in any candidate with an Irish last name containing and O and apostrophe. In both parties, unendorsed, underfunded candidates with the magic O defeated their party-endorsed primary opponents. On the Democratic side, it was Court of Appeals Judge Bill O'Neill defeating A.J. Wagner for the nomination for State Supreme Court. On the Republican side, Ashtabula County Auditor Sandra O'Brien defeated incumbent State Treasurer and former lieutenant governor Jeanette Bradley to win the nomination for that post.

In other results, State Sen. Charlie Wilson was successful in his effort to win the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional district as a write-in candidate. He will now face the Republican nominee, State Rep. Chuck Blasdel of East Liverpool, in the general election. However, Wilson's ability to get a remarkable 50,000 write-in votes in the primary speaks to the kind of candidate he is, and his ability to hold this seat for the Democratic party.

In Ohio's 13th Congressional District, Betty Sutton dispatched former Congressman Tom Sawyer and Youngstown shopping mall heiress Capri Cafaro for the Democratic nomination in this district. Sutton's win can be attributed to the strong support of organized labor and the funding she received from EMILY's List. Sutton, a former state representative, squares off against Republican Craig Foltin, the mayor of Lorain, in the general election. However, the district leans Democratic (it gave Sen. John Kerry a 62,000 vote margin of victory in 2004) and Sutton should be able to win the seat.

In the race for Ohio Attorney General, I was truly disappointed that former Cleveland Law Director Subodh Chandra did not have a better showing, as he only garnered a lackluster 29% of the vote. Pundits chalked this up to his non-traditional ballot name and his limited campaigning outside of Northeast Ohio. However, Chandra is a fiery campaigner and an obviously extremely intelligent person, and I hope he considers running for public office once again. Perhaps the challenge of running for a statewide office in his first attempt was more than he could overcome, but I would heartily encourage him to run again, perhaps for a State Rep or State Senate seat.

On the Republican side, the news of the night was Ken Blackwell's defeat of Jim Petro to win the Republican nomination for governor. However, the county-by-county results show some trouble spots ahead for "Ayahtollah" Blackwell. It has been noted elsewhere on this blog that Franklin County produced more votes for President G.W. Bush in 2004 than any other county in Ohio, and Cuyahoga County produced nearly as many as Hamilton County (221,600 and 222,616, respectively). Without those nearly half-million votes from these urban counties, Bush's goose would literally have been cooked. So, Mr. Blackwell's failure to win these two counties could signal trouble ahead, as the moderate Republicans who occupy suburbia may vote for a moderate, pro-gun, Golden Rule Democrat like Ted Strickland before they vote for a mortar-lobbing archconservative like Ken Blackwell. We will have to see. The next six months will surely be interesting.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thoughts On A Day Without (Illegal) Immigrants

As the product of two families who immigrated to America via Ellis Island from Italy and Lebanon, there is little that I can say in opposition to immigration. Immigrants help make our country strong by bringing talents, work ethic, and the dream of a better life to our shores.

The problem is that right now, America's immigration policy is 180-degrees removed from what it should be. We tacitly permit millions of low-skilled, mainly Latino illegal immigrants under the guise of doing jobs that Americans won't do. Meanwhile, we make it increasingly difficult for foreigners of all stripes to come to American universities to study, and then make it even harder for them to stay if they so choose once their studies are completed. This policy is wrecklessly dangerous to our economy and needs to "flip-flop". We should make it harder for unskilled laborers to come to the U.S., but easier for foreign students to study at U.S. universities. And easier still for them to stay once they graduate. I would even go so far as to say that any foreigner who earns a master's or doctorate degree from an American university should have a "green card" stapled to their diploma.

I'd first like to say that there are no jobs that Americans simply won't do. The labor market is subject to the law of supply and demand just like every other market in America. If the supply of workers to perform a particular task is beneath the demand, then the wage paid to those workers will rise to draw more workers into the market for that task, until the market reaches equilibrium, supplying businesses with the labor they need a the market-clearing price.

However, the problem with this model is that businesses desperately do not want to pay the market-clearing price. The "Wal-Martization" of our economy has placed such enormous strains on businesses to have the lowest cost structure possible, that if they can get away with paying illegal immigrants far below the market-clearing price, they'll do it. This hurts American workers with a high-school diploma or below education level, because now they are forced to compete with illegal immigrants who will work for next to nothing. Consider that during the 1970's meat packers at chicken processing plants in the rural South had an average wage of $19/hour. Today these same jobs pay about $9/hour. How can they afford to pay that little? Well, lets just say its no coincidence that these businesses were the ones shutting down during the "May Day" protests. But, the businesses simply don't care because the penalties for this activity are light to moderate.

No more. This is the heart of the matter. For all the fantasies of people like Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, no mass deportation of illegal immigrants to Mexico or other countries is in the offing. And there need not be. All we simply must do is make it clear to businesses that the U.S. will no longer tolerate companies who hire illegal immigrants. A fine of $100,000 per illegal immigrant employee or contractee, per day, should be a sufficient deterrent to corporations to make them scrupulously check the documentation of the workers or contractees they hire. Then, the corporations should be billed for any public services their illegal immigrant employees or contractees consume. These measures should dry up the demand for illegal immigrant labor, which would cause them to go home.

Now, I'm sure that there will still be some demand for immigrant labor in some sectors, agricultural being one, and that's why we need to institute a "guest worker" program to allow workers to enter the U.S. legally for a period of three years. We should probably allow a fairly high number each year, lets just say 300,000 per year just as a round figure for debate purposes. If after three years, the guest worker wishes to stay and has met certain conditions (such as having not been convicted of a crime, not on welfare, etc.) the permit can be renewed for another three years. If after the second three-year permit has elapsed they still meet the conditions they can then apply for citizenship. Then they can truly be called immigrants, because they would have come to the United States in a manner respectful of the rule of law.

I'd just like to close byoffering one of the most astute comments by the mafiosi who ran booze during Prohibition: "The worst part about being outside the law is that you no longer have the protection of it." If you come to this country outside the law, then please do not scream about your rights. This country is about liberty, and liberty is not possible without the rule of law.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

support Pete Ashdown for U.S. Senate

Just a brief note to mention the exciting candidacy of tech-centric Democrat Pete Ashdown in Republican-heavy Utah. Considering the state went over 70% for George Bush in '04, there is no doubt that Mr. Ashdown will have to take a centrist tack to have a shot at unseating longtime Republican incumbent Orrin Hatch. However, Utah is one of the heaviest tech-employment states in the country, and Mr. Ashdown's stances on tech development and protection of tech companies from the punitive laws pushed by the RIAA, MPAA, and others, should give him a chance in November. Please visit for more information.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Is it May 2nd yet?

One startling fact I discovered recently is that in terms of raw vote total, not percentage, Franklin County provided George W. Bush with more votes than any other county in Ohio in the 2004 Presidental Election, with a total of 230,000 and change. And while John Kerry received roughly 50,000 more votes than Bush in Franklin County, those 230,000 votes are the reason that Columbus airwaves have been inundated with TV advertisments from the Republican primary contestants in Ohio's May 2nd primary election.

On one hand, we have the intriguing matchup of Secretary of State "Ayatollah" J. Kenneth Blackwell against Auditor of State Jim Petro, who are whacking away at one another with charges of hypocrisy and not hating gay people enough in their quest to be the Republican nominee for governor of Ohio. Mr. Petro's late-90s position switch from pro-choice to anti-choice, and Mr. Blackwell's ownership of Diebold stock during the time he was forcing Ohio's county boards of election to choose new electronic voting machines, with Diebold one of the two options, has provided the contestants ample ammunition for their attack ads. Estimates are that this primary contest will cost something on the order of $3 million.

On the other hand, which is even higher on the pandering scale, we have State Sen. Jim Jordan going against Frank Gugliemi (sp?) for the Republican nomination in the safely conservative 4th Congressional District, the seat for which is being vacated by retiring Rep. Micheal Oxley. No part of the 4th District is in Franklin County, however, it does include Marion and Mansfield which are considered part of the Columbus media market. The 4th District is one of the 3 most conservative in Ohio, so the winner will have a safe Congressional seat until at least the 2012 redistricting. Therefore, the incentive to pander to the conservative base is quite high, and it has reached disgusting levels, with talk about cutting taxes and who hates choice the most, neither of which have anything to do with Ohio's failure to build a diverse, creative, educated, 21st-century workforce that will keep companies and jobs in Ohio for years to come.

Here's hoping May 2nd comes and goes without my having to choke down any more vomit on seeing this Republican ass-kissing on our airwaves.

Here's a great column in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer