Friday, February 13, 2004
Ohio has passed legislation in the name of tort reform before. About the only good that came of it, was that it forced a lot of attorneys to get their cases filed, for their clients a little more quickly. When I was in law school, doing a little part time work for a sole practitioner, I wasted the last day before one of the tort reform legislations were to kick in, standing in line to file cases at Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. It was quite a sight. The line of lawyers, clerks, interns, paralegals, etc. All waiting to get their cases filed. Each time, though, the Ohio Supreme Court would find the law unconstitutional, and it was back to the status quo. Amusing, considering the "business friendly" reputation the Court has.
So, I can only look at news of this kind of legislation as nothing more than some grandstanding
. (Grandstanding? From a political officeholder? Say it isn't so?
Fast-food patrons whose overeating makes them fat wouldn't be able to fatten their wallets at the expense of the burger joint that sells the sandwiches under a bill a state House committee recommended for passage Wednesday.
The House Civil and Commercial Law Committee unanimously approved the bill, which Chairman Bill Seitz said is designed to protect companies from consumers' overindulgent behavior. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
The legislation is necessary because people should be accountable for their eating habits and not blame others if they become obese, Seitz said.
Yes, this is a reaction to the McDonalds lawsuits that got thrown out of federal court last year. I'm not saying I agree with the lawsuits -- I don't. But if the courts manage to screw up and let it happen, the legislation won't mean jack.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Sales Are Up
The anachronistic, state-owned monopoly in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
(how do you really feel?
), has announced that sales in 2003 rose 7.7%
Jonathan Newman, Chairman of the PLCB, said that wine and spirits sales in the PLCB's 634 stores in 2003 totaled a record-high $1.25 billion, an increase of $89 million over 2002's total of $1.16 billion.
Newman said the PLCB's sales growth is 50 percent higher than the average growth experienced in 2003 by the 18 states and one municipality that control the sale of wine and spirits in the United States.
The press release lists several factors for the increased sale (no, tstagnantent economy and need to drink to deal with it was not included). This news will undoubtedly upset the neo-prohibitionists and LCB employees who didn't want the Sunday hours, and thus will blame the increase on allowing Sunday sales in 63 of the 634 state owned stores
. There's also the fledgling online ordering service
Likely, though, the biggest factor was opening "outlet stores" at six locations on the state's borders to bring in shoppers from Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. I've seen the billboard when crossing the turnpike in Ohio to Pennsylvania. For some reason, the wife doesn't seem inclined to let us stop so I can shop. Considering that the Pennsylvania controlled prices of liquor and wine is cheaper than Ohio's state controlled prices, I imagine the outlets are doing well. When I lived in the Youngstown area, I did all my purchasing just over the border in Sharon, PA. Prices are regularly $1-5 cheaper depending on what you purchase.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Inner Geek (part 2)
The original three films in the "Star Wars" series, which are among the most-anticipated films still unavailable in the digital format that is quickly replacing videotapes, will be released on Sept. 21 in North America, LucasFilm Ltd. and 20th Century Fox announced Tuesday.
The price of the package and international release dates were to be revealed later.
The original "Star Wars" movie from 1977 - now titled "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" because of the newer prequels - will be compiled in a four-disc collection along with the follow-ups "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."
But now the bad news.
The versions on DVD will only feature the special editions, LucasFilm spokeswoman Lynn Hale said. Many fans of the original movies had hoped the rougher, unaltered films would also be provided.
Ward said there wasn't much debate about whether to release the unaltered originals.
"The official definitive versions are the 1997 special editions. That's the version the artist, in this case George Lucas, intended to be seen," he said.
This has been Lucas' stance. Screw the fans. It's not their vision, it's mine. I wrote this almost 2 years ago
I understand his viewpoint. The Special Edition is closer to his true vision, and as the creator, owner and artist, it is his right.
That said, Lucas shows some astonishing lack of understanding and/or concern for his fans. (I like Star Wars, but I'm not a huge fan, I only married one) The original version was the one most saw for the first time. It is nostalgia, fondness and part of what they saw and shaped them when they were growing up. To tell these fans, tough, this is the way I want it is arrogant and disrespectful to them. Much, the way colorization of B/W movies in the late '80s/early '90s.
Lucas' Star Wars was shaped in large part, by the Sci-Fi movies and serials he saw growing up. He speaks of them with great affection and nostalgia. It seems unlikely that a colorized version of a "Flash Gordon" serial would enhance his fond memories of them.
Looks like we won't be getting rid of the VHS versions from 1995, if for no other reason than because Greedo didn't fire first.
Inner Geek Thoughts
Well, the flags at DC Comics are flying at half-mast
Legendary DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz the man who started the comic book rebirth known as "The Silver Age" died Sunday morning in Winthrop Hospital in New York City. He was 88.
In 1956, Schwartz edited Showcase No. 4, which introduced a modern version of the 1940s super-swift character the Flash. That character ushered in a whole new pantheon of modern counterparts of the 1940s superheroes including Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom and the Justice League of America.
Julie Schwartz from the 70s (when I started reading comics) was the DC frontman, though not as well known, in much the way Stan Lee was for Marvel in the 70s and on. Interesting to note that he was also an agent for Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch and Alfred Bester because in the 30s he started the first literary agency catering to science fiction writers.
Monday, February 09, 2004
Failing to Move Up, He Wants What He Had
In Cuyahoga County, no politician has continually failed in his upward bids more than the husband of Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager
, Tim Hagan. A long time County Commissioner, his peak. He failed in several bids to be mayor of Cleveland. He failed in a run for the governorship against a very weak Taft. So now he wants to go back to being a County Commissioner.
Hagan believes in the old ways of Cleveland politics. That being, give the big money interests (major unions and corporations) what they want, by selling it to the people as a big economic opportunity. He led the point on the great beast that was the Gateway sports complex, some 10 years or so ago.
He is running for the Democratic nomination against the incumbent Tim McCormack. Since the Cuyahoga Republican Party, such as it is, isn't running a candidate this fall, the primary will decide the seat.
Hagan is running with the support of most of the corporate interests and the biggest union -- the Cleveland AFL-CIO Federation of Labor (though there have been some defections
) in the county.
McCormack is paying the price for his role in helping to torpedo the extremely unpopular Holistic Convention Center/Revitalize Cleveland/Cure Cancer/Give Everyone Puppies
plan of the past summer.
The funny thing, Hagan actually still backs the plan
, and in a debate actually used McCormack's lack of support as if it were a negative.
Hagan tried to make three points throughout the night: that McCormack can't get along with others, that the county should be the engine for regional economic development and that he would bring leadership back to the county.
"Personalities have gotten in the way of public policy," Hagan said.
A new convention center was often at the center of Hagan's remarks. People who backed the convention center proposal, including some prominent business leaders, put much of the blame for its failure on McCormack. He openly questioned the plan.
"You put an issue on the ballot when there's consensus," Hagan said.
McCormack, however, said a commissioner can't allow himself to be swayed by business interests who "want their piece of property, their convention center, or we're going to take it out of your hide. Granted they have the largest amount of cash . . . but they can't control policy."
County commissioners pulled the convention center proposal from the ballot last summer after Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell announced she wouldn't support it. At the time, polls showed that few county residents were willing to raise the sales tax to pay for it.
McCormack's main points for the evening were that public discussion about spending $400 million in taxpayer money to build a center was "healthy" and not a failure of leadership. He also homed in on his and the other commissioners' ability to make cuts in tough economic times and to keep the county budget balanced.
Since Hagan continues to back a new Cleveland Convention Center -- no word if he will promise to guarantee a major Star Trek Convention with it -- is it any surprise who the Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board decides to back.
But however large the table, McCormack's often self-righteous style makes consensus-building difficult. He has an unfortunate tendency to raise important questions - as he did around the abysmal conditions at a downtown women's shelter - then dig his heels in so firmly that he makes solutions difficult.
The shelter that opened this weekend
over City Councilman Joe Cimperman's objections and attempted court injunction? So is the problem that he raises the important (and likely difficult and legitimate) questions, or that he doesn't just rubberstamp the pushed solution?
We recommend Hagan with full knowledge of his weaknesses. Last week's news that Gateway had finally renegotiated the lopsided leases of the Indians and Cavaliers was a reminder that he sometimes valued the deal over the details.
But the sports complex also demonstrates what can happen when leaders lead. Quite simply, Tim Hagan knows how to get things done.
Hagan along with then Mayor Mike White went point behind a $2 million ad campaign more than 10 years ago to push through Gateway. It was loaded with promises of economic boom, 20,000+ jobs, and the Cavs and Indians would be paying rent. Gateway has never received a dime from the Cavs because the deal was rigged so that the Gateway corporation had to pay for all the routine maintenance work, and the Indians stopped paying their pittance once ticket sales dropped below 1.85 million in a season. The complex has been teetering on bankruptcy the entire time. Now that's leadership.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
Local Free Speech Matters
Looks like a nearby community college
is having some problems with a professor admitting his religion in a moral philosophy class
Lakeland Community College near Cleveland, Ohio, has removed a professor of moral philosophy from his classes as punishment for refusing to hide his religious identity from students. The college threatened Dr. James Tuttle, who espouses traditional Catholic beliefs, with dismissal because he made statements on his syllabi and in class that disclosed his religious faith and how that shaped his personal philosophy.
Dr. Tuttle's problems began in March 2003 when he received a copy of a student complaint forwarded to him by Dean James L. Brown of the Arts and Humanities Division at Lakeland. The student complained that Dr. Tuttle mentioned his Catholic beliefs too often for the student's taste and suggested that he be given "counseling for tolerance."
In an effort to address this issue, Dr. Tuttle decided to add "disclaimers" to the syllabi of two of his classes informing students that the professor was "a committed Catholic Christian philosopher and theologian," so that students would know in advance about his perspective. The statement also encouraged any students who felt uncomfortable with Dr. Tuttle's views or methods to feel free to talk to him outside of class.
On April 21, 2003, Dr. Tuttle received a letter from Dean Brown saying that he was "more bothered by [Tuttle's] disclaimer than by anything I read in [the student]'s complaint." Dean Brown went on to suggest that Dr. Tuttle "would be happier in a sectarian classroom."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
ran an article on the matter
yesterday with some more details. The student in question felt she was looked down upon by the professor because she identified her religion as Paganism (the professor counters that he was "mildly amused"). The story only identifies the class as an "introductory philosophy class," not as involving moral philosophy.
Lakeland President Morris Beverage Jr. said that Tuttle was not being punished and that religion was not the issue. He added that the issue was Tuttle's performance, but said he could not comment on personnel matters.
In response to the student's complaint, James Brown, the dean of arts and humanities, reviewed the course outline and was disturbed by a disclaimer that Tuttle had included.
In a letter to Tuttle, Brown said, "In essence you are saying 'This is Dr. Tuttle's philosophy and style - now take it or shut up.' This class is not about your philosophy."
Tuttle said he was merely advising students about his religious perspective and that students were free to speak with him if they felt uncomfortable.
Part of the disclaimer said: "Since your teacher happens to be a committed Catholic Christian philosopher and theologian - and a passionate, controversial (not politically correct), candid, and zany/earthy one for that matter - please be aware of where I am coming from and where you are coming from."
So the professor is upfront with the students as to what direction he is approaching the issues discussed in class, and this is wrong? Stupid. It provides context to explain his viewpoint. At least you actually know.
The one thing missing from any of the allegations was whether he graded or actually treated the students in a biased way based on their beliefs. You would think that would be the issue.