Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Saturday, November 01, 2003

TV Kids

The other day, after Angie finished her breakfast, I looked at her and asked, "Do you want to watch a Baby Einstein DVD?" My 16-month old's eyes went wide, a smile on her face, and she ran out of the kitchen into the living room and stood in front of the TV expectantly looking over to the DVDs on the shelf. I thought it was great, because she understood what "Baby Einstein" was and the context. This baby crack has been a godsend. It allows me a chance to check my e-mail without her getting under the desk and pulling at the wires; take some much needed bathroom breaks; and just relax for a couple minutes.

She gets very happy when certain characters appear on the TV: Elmo on Seseme Street and Max Kellerman on Around the Horn. It's very cute.

Of course, later that day I came across some press-release adapted story on how kids watch too much TV and it is "bad" for them. It's one of those things I can recall seeing an article from some serious sounding study just about every year decrying the effect of TV and video games on infants, toddlers, kids, and/or teens. Still, I'm a parent now, and I am the one staying at home with lots of duties in fostering the development of Angie. So, I looked at the release with a more careful eye, before saying, "bah." If for no other reason, than the wife may read it and worry more than she already does about the amount of TV watching by Angie.

Thankfully, Jacob Sollum beat me to bothering to write about this. The whole thing is exactly the way I feel.

When my daughter's attention span developed to the point where she would sit and watch TV or a videotape for more than a few minutes, I was delighted. It meant that she could entertain herself for reasonable stretches of time while I worked in the next room.

I'm a terrible father. Or so I gather from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's recent study of "exposure" to electronic media among children 6 and younger. Based on a national survey of parents, Kaiser reported that "even the youngest children in America are growing up immersed in media, spending hours a day"—just under two hours on average, to be more precise—"watching TV and videos, using computers and playing video games."

Naturally, this discovery should be viewed with alarm. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two not watch any television," the Kaiser report notes, "and that children over two be limited to one to two hours of educational screen media a day. Despite these recommendations, in a typical day, 68% of all children under two use screen media....and these youngsters will spend an average of two hours and five minutes in front of a screen."

It seems I'm not the only one who has been flouting the AAP's child rearing guidelines. Maybe that's because they don't make much sense.

Sollum actually read the report and several of the stories, so he finds a lot of really interesting tidbits that should set parents minds at ease.

In case parents need more reassurance on this score, Kaiser's survey found no evidence that TV watching displaces other activities among children 3 and younger. It also found that "the portrayal of television watching among young children as a highly solitary activity is not accurate," and that parents were "more likely to see positive than negative behaviors being copied" from TV.

Press coverage of the study ignored or played down these and other upbeat findings, instead emphasizing results that could be cited as cause for concern. Among 4-to-6-year-olds, for example, those who watched TV two hours or more a day "spent an average of 30 minutes less per day playing outside and eight minutes less per day reading" than the other kids.

As the researchers concede, it's not clear what these findings mean. It could be that kids in cold climates or dangerous neighborhoods tend to stay inside, for instance, and therefore watch more TV. And kids who have trouble reading are less apt to enjoy it and may therefore be more inclined to watch TV instead.
The AAP's [Michael] Rich not only concedes that research so far has not demonstrated a difference "between kids raised on media and those raised on more interactive play." He also says, "I don't think we'll ever have [those] data." But a lack of evidence will not stop his organization from issuing edicts that imply most people cannot be trusted to raise their own children.

But it's for the children.

Cleveland Convention Center -- It Just Won't End

Please, let it stop. I really don't want to write about it, but I feel obligated at this point.

Like a lingering cough that you still have a month or two after being sick, that makes you wonder if you've permanently damaged your lungs (or is that just me), there is still babbling about building a new Cleveland Convention Center. It starts to remind me of a incessant child asking for something over and over, until the parent finally gives in just to shut the kid up (hmmm, that might be the plan).

Roldo Bartimole fires off a nice blast at the new effort by organized labor to push the issue. Lots of fun juicy stuff.

In a three-page, ham-handed letter signed by 13 labor leaders to political officials, the labor chiefs play heavily on the inability of political leaders to force a vote to burden the public with heavy debt and new regressive taxes.

It's obvious that all the unions - associated with the building trades and on stationary of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council - have a clear self-interest in the construction of a new convention center at $400 to $600 million. It means jobs for their workers, a natural reason for wanting to spend.

They would build pyramids if it meant jobs.

Forget about cost. Forget about who pays the bills. Forget about whether there's a need. Forget about other community needs.

The main point means construction jobs.
The labor leaders, however, demand, "Your support to immediately secure the funding necessary to complete the planning process of a Convention Center to save the time once full funding is secure."

How shortsighted can Labor be? No question about who will be taxed or how much. Apparently, Labor cannot be bother with those small matters. They just want the money and do not care where it comes from.

It's a big problem with Labor - when caring only about its members, not about the larger public. It's part of the reason we are in the shape we in this society, particularly when lower economic issues are ignored.

Labor and big business allied and the hell with everyone else.

Cleveland big labor did that with Gateway and we can see what the results have been. It's done that with tax abatement and we see that we cannot fund schools and we have overbuilt downtown office space that creates not only vacancies but also a now have created a depressive attitude for Cleveland. The construction trades particularly opposed the Cleveland Teachers Union when it tried to limit tax abatements in the late 1990s.

All the tax abatements given in the 1980s and 1990s and continue today simply postpone (and worsen) the inevitable - that a no-growth Cleveland must shrink to meet its diminished economy.

Not that any of this should be terribly shocking. The whole CCC was about creating a new public trough from which many would feed -- not the least would include trade and construction unions.

Of course, organized labor hasn't had much luck either, so business leaders are once again turning to the old stand-by scare tactic: Downtown will wither die without a new CCC

Downtown restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions will struggle to survive unless a convention center is built soon, proponents said last night.

"Without the foot traffic, we aren't getting enough visitors to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center or Severance Hall," said Dennis Roche, interim president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We need to find a way to feed what we've already committed to."

Roche was among a panel of convention center proponents who spoke to suburban council members at the City Club.

Pepper Pike Mayor Bruce Akers, head of the Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association, told the group that building a new center would provide a lift to the spirits of Greater Cleveland and would attract investment.

"This city needs a shot in the arm," Akers said. "If the core city dies, then it will affect the suburbs."

Here's the really sad thing. Nothing has changed. If anything things are less coherent than before.

No one is backing off from wanting their key goodies which pushed the estimated costs from merely the obscene $400 million to the spectacularly pornographic $1 billion or so.

No political leader even wants to touch it now. The proponents are back to square one with choosing a possible site. The taxing devices aren't agreed upon. No one knows who would be in charge since the Greater Cleveland Visitors and Convention Bureau is in limbo while it is finding out whether it will be supplanted by a new and different entity.

I would ignore it as just wishful thinking and idle chatter, but this sort of crap has a way of sneaking back up fast and painfully.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Local Judges

Okay, this is funny to me. One of the local alt-weeklies, Cleveland Scene decided to do a survey of attorneys in the area for their opinions on the judges sitting on the bench for Cuyahoga County's Court of Common Pleas. Hardly a serious or scientific survey -- it's intended to mock to a large degree the judges. There were categories like the biggest law-and-order judge, most professional and such, but the majority were categories like the biggest media show-off, least trust-worthy, most likely to hit the pubs, biggest political hack, and most likely to cut out early for golf.

Not a big deal, but amusing. The part that really struck me as funny, was the state bar association's reaction.

Some 500 lawyers received the survey (I didn't, but that isn't a surprise since I live in Lake County and am not a member of the Cleveland Bar Association). This survey apparently prompted a nasty e-mail from Keith Ashmus, President of the Ohio State Bar Association to lawyers in the area telling them not to respond and that it violated rules (Presumably, the code of conduct, but I'm not sure. It would have been nice if they reprinted the e-mail). The e-mail, of course, had the opposite result. More attorneys contacted Scene for a chance to sound off anonymously. So, the OSBA appealed to the magazine:

Ashmus appealed to Scene. "While you may see the humor in asking lawyers to match a judge's name with labels such as 'most charming,' 'biggest media grandstander,' and 'biggest blowhard,'" he wrote, "such labels denigrate the integrity of the court." Harrumph, Part II.

"We urge you to abandon this effort to characterize judges in such a disrespectful way and turn your attention to providing your readers with useful information."

Yeah, that was going to happen.

The OSBA was bent because it would be disrespectful to the judges and may effect the perception of the judges. Good. Judges are people most in need of being taken down a couple notches. There is a natural arrogance to be a judge that is necessary, but too many of them don't have a clue about understanding their own place in the general scheme. Not to mention, that locally elected judges are there but for the politics and their name recognition. Not their competence.

Cleveland Sports Scene

LeBron. LeBron. LeBron. LeBron. LeBron. LeBron. LeBron. LeBron.LeBron. LeBron.

Okay, judging by ESPN SportsCenter this morning, this is a national thing. LeBron won rave reviews from everybody (the fact that the Cavs actually lost is more of an afterthought) for scoring 25 points (12-20, but only 1-3 in FTs), 9 assists and 6 rebounds in 42 minutes. No question this was a spectacular debut. My only point, though, is that he cannot be playing 42 minutes per game too often. He shouldn't be playing more than 30 minutes, max. He's still too young, and not ready for the physical abuse he is going to get. He may have a "man's body" already, but he still needs time to adjust to the strain. Otherwise, he's heading for injury and an injury-riddled career that will become nothing but what-ifs.

At the other end, Cleveland Browns RB William Green was arrested for a DUI and misdemeanor marijuana posession. While this just gives a local columnist a chance to rip on the Browns front office for its inability to consider character, there is an interesting point raised in the matter.

Green was pulled over at 6 p.m. Monday. If it were 6 a.m. Tuesday, it might be blamed on the depression felt while watching Miami steamroll an inept San Diego team that won its first and only game against the Browns a week earlier.

Six o'clock is only a few hours after the Browns departed Berea. A blood-alcohol content of .165 - twice the legal limit of .08 - that early in the day might suggest the Happy Hour equivalent of a two-minute drill.

He was getting ripped very quickly following practice. Not out partying at night. Getting his drink on hard and fast in the afternoon. That might be a problem.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Not Quite

The wife picked up Coupling, Season 2 DVD for me last night. She was taken aback by a sticker on the plastic wrapper:

The original UK version of the smash NBC hit!

Um, well, I guess it depends on what you define as a "smash."

Snippets of a Conversation

Talking with the wife, after hanging up the phone with my dad. "Why is everyone so concerned with my mental well-being, just because the Yankees lost the World Series? I mean, I've had dad, grandpa, you, my friends... everybody. They all seem to think that I'm at risk to become mentally unbalanced because of this. Why?"

The wife's response: "Because we know you."

More on this later.

Not Anti-War, Pro-Death

There's a video store on S. Craig Street in Pittsburgh -- right between the campuses of Pitt and Carnegie Mellon. In the window, they had this

I thought it kind of dumb since the whole war in Iraq was long over. Now it's the rebuilding and helping the Iraqi people. Presently there are attacks on US troops and soft targets in Iraq by Islamists, old Baathist loyalists, and assorted terrorists who just want a chance to kill Americans. Not exactly what you could call nationalists, resisting American imperialism.

Of course some, like ANSWER, seem to think so, and actually want the US to withdraw from Iraq so there can be a complete bloodbath and a new strongman dictator can arise there. Michael Totten nails them perfectly. Just read the whole thing.

Even if you didn't support the US in Iraq, we can't leave until we've finished helping them rebuild and stabilize.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Eminent Domain

It occurs to me that I have been posting on the eminent domain issue in Lakewood without explaining my opposition.

Eminent domain is a legal procedure that compels a real property owner to sell their property to a government entity at a fair market value, regardless of the real property owner’s actual desire. It is supposed to be undertaken only when negotiations fail, and only as a final option.

I view eminent domain in a narrow construction. My view is that eminent domain is an action taken only when absolutely necessary, and for a clear public use. This means that it should only be utilized when negotiations undertaken in good faith have clearly failed, and the purpose for the land is for an articulated and concrete public use or good. I’m willing to concede some grey area for the second part, but never for the good faith negotiations. Where I do not find a grey area is when the land is taken from one private owner for the purpose of being transferred to another private owner. This is not public use – no matter what the reason. This is a transfer of land with a government entity acting as the middleman.

Classic uses of eminent domain has been the construction of highways, roads, sidewalks, airports, parks, and other public projects undertaken by a government entity.

The City of Lakewood, a middle class, inner-ring, Cleveland suburb, is attempting to take, by eminent domain, an entire neighborhood. The city wants 30 acres containing 55 homes, several apartment buildings, and some local businesses. Lakewood would then transfer the land to a private developer who would make the turn the property into an upscale retail mall and condos. The public good, claimed by the city, is that the new use of the property would be an increase in the amount of taxes generated for Lakewood. Property taxes would go up because of the new usage as retail, as opposed to the predominantly single dwelling houses. The upscale condos would provide higher income tax revenue from the new residents, versus the middle class and aging population presently residing in the neighborhood. In other words, the City of Lakewood would see an increase to its revenue streams in the long term. That is, after it pays down the costs associated with compensating the present real property owners. It also based on the assumption that the development plan will go exactly as planned. Right down to people willing to move into the condos.

Now, to be fair to the City of Lakewood. They have undertaken good faith negotiations with the residents and business owners in the neighborhood. They have offered a reasonable fair market value for the real property and some additional compensation for associated moving costs. A clear majority of the real property owners have accepted the offer. A significant minority, however, are opposed and have no interest in selling their homes or businesses.

A problem, though, with the fair market value offer for the property, is that it does not take into account the loss of housing in the area. Suddenly there are 55 less homes in the community, not to mention the loss of apartment buildings – and the renters do not receive moving expenses since they are not owners. This is a case of simple supply and demand. The reduction of available housing, means that the cost of the remaining housing increases. Think that the renters of other apartments in the area will not be seeing an increase in the monthly rent? How about the cost of a house?

My primary reason to oppose the City of Lakewood’s use of eminent domain, is because it is an abuse and part of an expansion of eminent domain. The public good, the city argues is the potential to grow and improving the city’s tax base. The problem with this standard is that it is a wide open gate through which anything can be justified.

A bigger business with the promise of more jobs wants to build on a piece of land owned by a smaller business that has no interest in selling. The location is perfect, and to move anywhere else would hurt the business. The bigger business wants that spot for exactly the same reason – location. Under this standard, the local municipality could take the land via eminent domain since the bigger business will provide more taxes. It is not hard to see how unfair, ridiculous and permissive this standard is. Basically if a real property owner owns property that does not generate enough income for a municipality, it only takes another private party to convince the municipality that they could generate more revenue to trigger an eminent domain fight.

Another aspect to this is what it says to the role of the residents of a city. Lakewood is effectively telling the people living in this neighborhood that they are not producing enough income to benefit the city. In other words, the residents must meet the expectations of city. That the city wants a better, richer class of people. That is not a comforting thought, nor should it be the way of our society, to take land from one private owner to give to another. Funny, I always thought that was one of the things we did wrong with the Native Americans.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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