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Friday, December 19, 2003

Local Concerns

Apparently I need to pay closer attention to what is happening in my own suburb.

Sixteen employees in Eastlake, including four police officers, will be laid off effective Jan. 2 and 4.

Police Chief John Ruth and union President Tom Pesosky have received letters from the city stating that a total of 16 employees are being laid off.

Four of those being laid off are union police patrolmen. The remaining 12 are in Local 3058, which represents employees in the recreation, service and sewer departments, and some clerical positions.
Council is trying to come up with a $12 million budget for 2004 after it refused to accept the one proposed by Finance Director Jack Masterson earlier in the month. City officials have said the city is facing a $3.2 million deficit.

Eastlake is the only Lake County city/suburb that is running this kind of deficit and is facing layoffs.

It may appear that the problem is the new minor league ballpark.

Mayor Dan DiLiberto built a minor-league baseball stadium last spring. Now he's laying off city workers en masse. He promised not to raise taxes. Today he's begging citizens to approve a levy. He had a sign installed on Highway 91, touting Eastlake as the "crown jewel of Lake County." Now, says one disenchanted resident, "They ought to take that crown jewel and pawn it."

Such was the mood at a city council meeting last week, where citizens arrived with rhetorical pitchforks. DiLiberto was conspicuous by his absence. Word was that the mayor had been hospitalized the previous weekend with a mild heart attack. If so, there was little sympathy in the room. "Very convenient!" several residents huffed.
Still, it's apparent that the mayor's soaring ambitions are starting to choke him. Chief among them is the new stadium, home to the Lake County Captains. It was a bold notion to begin with, given that Eastlake's annual operating budget is just $12 million. But a project that was supposed to cost about $15 million is now over the $24 million mark, according to documents submitted to the county auditor.

Early on, there were signs that this bedroom community was in over its head, with resources meant for the city being devoted to the stadium ["Money Pit Park" April 30]. But the mayor insists that city finances come from one pot, stadium finances from another. Ballpark overruns aren't the reason city workers are losing jobs, says DiLiberto. "The two things have nothing to do with one another." The real problem, he asserts, is a beleaguered economy.

I've been hearing this stuff about blaming the ballpark, but perhaps naively, I believed that the city wouldn't be that stupid to dip or mingle the money. That gets those that do such a thing in real trouble, and potential fiscal liability/responsibility.

And they appear to be right. In a report released last month, State Auditor Betty Montgomery noted that Eastlake had transfered road-repair money to economic development, the spending category dominated by the stadium. Unfortunately, that's illegal.

Montgomery also found the city's books a mess. Now, on top of all the other chaos, Eastlake must form an audit committee to remedy its bookkeeping.

Amazing. I found the Report (PDF, 910 kb). Don't know if I'll get a chance to read it too deeply.

Looks like things are going to be getting tense in the area this coming year.

Boston Red Sox -- Keep Working Outside the Box

I'm not going to discuss the Manny Ramirez-Alex Rodriguez trade until it actually happens. I know why the sports columnists and the people on SportsCenter keep bringing up the latest move with breathless anticipation -- it's easy and it fills up space -- but since I'm not getting paid, I don't see a need to write anything until it all goes down.

What did catch my attention was this item about how the Red Sox bypassed the media and posted updates on the trade directly to the fans on fan websites and messageboards (link via Jeff Jarvis who has additional thoughts on this sort of thing). This direct communication pissed off at least one Boston sports writer who complained on a sports radio show about how the BoSox were going "directly to the fans" with news. This whining led to new Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling calling in and completely silencing and humiliating the writer. (This is apparently the call from Schilling, but since I have a piddling dial-up, I don't have the patience to download and listen. If someone wants to listen and tell me about it, that would be nice.) The gist of what he said was that the web was the place to go to tell your story without filters.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

More Conspiracies

Wondering what the hot conspiracy theories are in the Arab world regarding Saddam Hussein's capture? Well, MEMRI has a swell round-up of the ones that were published.

A Conspiracy Theory that Saddam was an American Agent

An editorial in the Iraqi daily Al-Shira' titled: "The Servant has Fallen in the Master's Cage" surveys Saddam's policies from 1963 until his capture, and suggests that he implemented these policies at the behest of his American masters. According to the newspaper, Saddam waged the war against Iran in 1980 to extricate the U.S. from its difficulties with Iran. The occupation of Kuwait in 1990 gave America and Israel "everything they were dreaming and not dreaming of," including elimination of the Palestinian problem, deepening the American presence in the Gulf to ensure American control over the sources of Arab oil, allowing Israel to penetrate Arab capital, and eliminating the regional role of Iraq and creating an imbalance of power between the Arabs and their enemies so that Iraq is delivered as a free gift to America.

The last service provided by this "super servant" was to surrender as "a free service to America, and Bush in particular, in disgraceful pictures that would be used as stickers in the election campaign…." [8]

Wonder how long until they make their rounds with some of the European and American anti-Bush crowd.

Guilt by Conversion

I can't remember when it appeared, but there was a brief run in Boondocks, where Michael Jackson was on the phone with Huey trying to get his support when he was in trouble. Huey was all over him about how black celebrities go running back to the black community. He asked Jacko why. Jacko responded, "It worked for O.J." This led to Huey screaming into the phone, "Well it shouldn't have!"

Believe me, if I could have found the particular cartoon rather than trying to retell it, I would have. It's just that, that was what popped into my head, when I read that Michael Jackson has become a member of the Nation of Islam. I'm guessing this means, Jacko might be a might more worried about his molestation charges. Presumptuous, but then I'm not going to be on the jury.

A Conspiracy Theory I Believe

And I don't have to wait long to find out if it's true:

Pete Rose has a new book coming out next month. Jan. 8, to be precise. Now, you might ask, "Why Jan. 8? Wouldn't the publisher want the book out before Christmas?"
Rose's publisher has embargoed the book, releasing absolutely nothing to anybody before the official "pub date." This is extremely unusual; publishers generally send out scads of review copies weeks or even months before publication, to generate publicity. Even when they hold the review copies, in the case of a book that's got some surprises, those surprises are leaked in some fashion; again, for the sake of publicity.

But as far as I know, nobody's seen this book except the publishers (Rodale Press).

Why so hush-hush? And why Jan. 8?

Like I said, it all made sense to me when I looked at my calendar. Rose wouldn't be publishing a book unless he'd cleared the contents and its publication date with the Commissioner's Office. Here's my guess, dollars to doughnuts: Rose will finally admit that he did wrong, that he did bet on baseball and he's really, really sorry. Really.
For months, I suspect (and that's all it is, speculation), all this has been carefully orchestrated by Rose and baseball. And this time next year, Pete Rose will be headed for the Hall of Fame.

Despite my deep affection for the 1980 Phillies, and as part of a select group who loved baseball but sucked at playing it so Pete Rose was something to emulate on the field, I do not want Pete Rose reinstated into baseball. Let him into the Hall of Fame. Fine. He merits it, and I would like his plaque to mention his banishment. He cannot be let back into baseball. He broke the most important rule of pro sports. He bet on his own game, as a manager. It's a rule right there in every lockerroom from the minors to the majors. Pete Rose saw that rule every day for almost 30 years. He willfully and purposefully violated it. He can never come back. He can never be trusted.

Unfortunately, I think Neyer is right.

US Empire to Destroy Human Rights

Michael Totten eviscerates a column claiming the US is undermining global human rights. Example:

Faced with the public outcry "never again!", the victorious powers had no choice but to recognize the full range of human rights--not only civil, political and religious freedoms, but also rights to health, education, housing, work, social security and adequate livelihood. If taken seriously, this revolutionary idea had the potential to overturn, through peaceful legal means, the established distribution of political and economic power.

"Never again" meant that no genocidal dictatorship would ever again be allowed to stand, which in practical terms means overthrowing it by force. Social security, while important, had nothing to do with it.

The Bush Administration now seeks to kill the human rights idea in its infancy and return the world to the law of naked power.

How is it that literate people can write sentences like this at a time when naked power has been overthrown and human rights are being codified into law in Iraq partly at the behest of the Bush Administration?

Read the whole thing.

Getting Predictable

A good checklist of what to expect anti-war types will argue following the capture of Saddam Hussein (via Tim Blair):

Saddam refuses to co-operate with his interrogators.
The arrest of this man is a sideshow. He clearly knows nothing about the current state of resistance and has played no role in the planning of insurgency. His trial will simply be an exercise in vengeance with no constructive outcome for Iraq.

Saddam sings like a canary, identifying the perpetrators of insurgency.
Saddam is obviously being tortured by his American captors. Or else, they are lying about his testimony and justifying their own persecution of innocent Iraqis on the basis of his alleged "confession". (Note to broadcasters: these hypotheses need not be stated baldly. They can simply be hinted at or implied by leading questions and incredulous facial expressions.)
If Saddam's trial is conducted by Iraq without outside interference.
This is nothing more than a kangaroo court: a lynch mob bent on tribal vendetta, licensed and abetted by America, which has, typically, waged an irresponsible war and then walked away, washing its hands of the consequences.

It's sad when you already know what their reactions and arguments will be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Lakewood Neighborhood Still Blighted

Yes, even with the eminent domain action in Lakewood defeated, the designation of blighted will remain.

Mayor-elect Tom George will not ask City Council to remove a controversial blight designation from the West End neighborhood.

George said that maintaining the designation makes it easier for the city to get federal grants and other public subsidies for development in the neighborhood.

This means Lakewood residents will still be paying to defend the lawsuit neighborhood residents filed with help from the Institute for Justice. Either that, or the residents will vote the designation off in March.

Dennis Miller Q&A

Excellent to learn Dennis Miller will be doing a show on CNBC. He does a good 10 questions in Time, covering politics and SNL's Weekend Update. He's completely dead-on regarding Jimmy Fallon.

Should we be worried that the country seems increasingly polarized politically?
I'm not worried. Most Americans will let liberals and conservatives play their games because most Americans don't pay attention. They're out there earning a living, trying to bounce their kids on their laps and watch Trista and Ryan's wedding.

What were your parents' politics? I didn't know my Dad—he moved out early. And my mom's politics were kind of hardscrabble. She didn't think about Democrats or Republicans. She thought about who made sense. I've been both in my life. Somebody can say they don't understand why somebody drifts. But I've always found people who drift interesting, 'cause it shows me the game's not stagnant in their own head. They're thinking.

Do you like Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon's take on your old Saturday Night Live gig?
Tina Fey might be the best "Weekend Update" anchor who ever did it. She writes the funniest jokes. Jimmy Fallon's forte is the sketches. He's got the pre-emptively disheveled haircut. There's too much artifice happening there.

Jimmy Fallon just annoys me. I don't know why, but he just does.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Paying Attention

Stephen Green had a great post right away after the capture of Saddam and attacks within Iraq regarding a meme that made its way into the press despite the President's own words (again).

The unspoken assumption is, "Now that Saddam is in our hands, you told us the fighting would end, but it hasn't. Liar." Except Bush said no such thing. From yesterday's address:

I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East.

Nevertheless, the many in the press will try to make you think that Saddam's capture is supposed to mean an end to the violence, and that Bush will have failed if it doesn't happen.

By Steve's count, it took 9 stories before he found one that got it accurate. Examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

So, it's worth noting that the Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board, who I regularly rip on for their local views. Gets it right in their editorial regarding Saddam Hussein's capture.

But it would be foolhardy to think that the capture of Saddam the fugitive will bring an immediate end to the insurgency. Those cells appear to have been operating with little command structure, and may continue to do so for weeks to come.

They did leave a vague window of "weeks to come." Does that mean if there are still some attacks in a month, 6 weeks, more or less, that this can't be shocking? It is, though, a legitimate question to ask. The difference, though, will be in whether the attacks are almost daily (as they presently seem to be) or do they become more sporadic and less frequent after a month or so.

I don't have an answer to that part. I'd say no one is really sure right now. It depends in part, I think, on just how many more non-Iraqis (Iranian, Syrian and Saudi terrorists) are operating in Iraq, and how many more are thinking about sneaking in.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Simple but Effective

Amusing cartoon from Peter Bagge (gosh, I miss Hate!) regarding Boomers in their youth and now that they are the authority.

Cleveland Convention Center Collapses (Again)

I can't say I'm shocked that the business, labor and local politicians making up the brain trust that decided to push forward for a new Cleveland Convention Center, have done an about face, and shelved the project for at least 2 years.

Supporters have abandoned their plans to ask for a restaurant tax increase in March, fearing they had too little time to sway skeptical voters.

A report about the economic benefits of a new center won't be completed until the end of January. Business and labor leaders, who wanted to use the report to win over voters, worried about squeezing their sales pitch into a few weeks.

And officials in Cleveland are battling the worst fiscal crisis in decades, which would divert their attention from hyping a new center. The money crunch would also make it tougher to entice taxpayers to back a major public works project, supporters conceded.

You have to love the fact that they already knew that the "report" would be in their favor. No, it's a completely accurate and honest report. Really and truly.

John Ryan, head of the Cleveland AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, said the labor community "is very disappointed. . . . What this community needs is jobs."

But he and other supporters aren't giving up on the idea of a new convention center and promoting the jobs and economic benefits it could bring. For now, though, it appears they will work more methodically.

I guess Ryan is only looking out for his own. The [union] labor community wants jobs, and it doesn't matter how they are created or who has to pay. Anything to keep the appearance that the union leadership is actually doing something.

Of course the Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board (PDEB) had something to say about this latest collapse.

That said, the problems of this latest convention center dance went far beyond any questions of political timing.

Like last summer, there appeared to be a rush to get something on the ballot. A study of the national convention market and Cleveland's potential niche in it likely will not be completed until late next month. How do you craft a plan to pay for a convention center without an up-to-date analysis of what needs to be built and how much it might cost? The question of where to put such a hall dominated deliberations earlier this year, but barely came up this time. Yet surely it is key to any plan, especially if one of the rationales for the project is to spur additional development. Without answers to these most basic and obvious questions, voters would surely have said no.

It would be nice if the Plain Dealer -- the only daily in Cleveland -- actually would ask some of these questions of the business and political leaders, rather than just throw them out in a general sense without directing them at anyone in particular. The PDEB has nerve talking about these questions, when it didn't care about them until the project started circling the drain. The Plain Dealer coverage of the CCC has been pathetic from the start. The only solid piece of reporting was on the proposed Forest City site and their dangling carrot of downtown housing development by Sandra Livingston and some work from the PD's architectural critic. Not surprisingly, since Ms. Livingston's piece was so good and devastating to the Forest City interests and proponents of the new CCC, she hasn't written a single article on the topic since.


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