Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I thought it appropriate to offer an open thread regarding New Year's resolutions. I'm curious as to what this blog's readers hope to do/accomplish in 2008 (apart, of course, from showering Brian with fame and fortune).

My own resolution: Be more connected and involved in the community. I mentioned in my first post that I moved to Cincinnati in 2000; I did so in order to begin law school. Even though I've been out of school for over four years now (with one of those years spent working for a federal judge in West Virginia), I've not broken out of some (bad) student lifestyles, and still live almost as if I'm a temporary resident. So...I'm going to join the Downtown Residents Council. I'll be more active in the bar association and other professional organizations. Maybe I'll even join a church (that's a whole other discussion thread, though).

And, of course, I'll lose some weight.

What about you?


Today is a sad day for Cincinnati journalism and civics. After the last paper hits newsstands today, Cincinnati will be a 1 paper town. We are losing a voice for the City. News gathering will shrink. Information on our government, our society, and our culture will diminish with the death of the Cincinnati Post.

One small light comes from a story the Cincinnati Post is had on Saturday that will continue on with a new WCPO partnership.

'Team Lachey' to Perform on Fountain Square NYE

In a classy move, "Team Lachey" choir will open the Fountain Square New Year's Eve event.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Getting Home Safely New Year's Eve

Once again, free cab rides will be available inside the 275 loop on New Year's Eve. Call 513-768-FREE.

The last way you want to begin the new year is by being in hospital after wrapping your car around a telephone pole. Or worse yet, by putting someone else in the hospital.

Books of 2007 -- For What Its Worth

Not that anyone really cares what a gay lawyer and writer in his 50’s in a middling town in the Midwest thinks were some of the best books published in 2007, but since everyone else is coming out with “best of” lists here at the end of 2007, I thought I would throw my list out there as well. These may not be the best books published in 2007, because with a couple of exceptions, all books I read this year were either written in English or translated to English. Therefore, I begin with the huge caveat that there were no doubt many great books published in other languages in the past year. I also acknowledge that this list is not representative of the demographic face of America, particularly when it comes to gender. However, in putting my list of ten (ok, really eleven) books together, I did not say to myself I need 50% men and 50% women (5 male/5 female authors), 78% white (7.8 white authors), 9% black (.9 black author), 5-7% gay and lesbian (an author who was about half gay or lesbian, I suppose), 13 % latin / Hispanic (1.3 latin / Hispanic authors --- well you get the picture. I also did not include Harry Potter or any of the great children and young adult novels that were written this year, most notably Hero by Perry Moore. Instead, I simply put together a list of the books that were published in the last year that I enjoyed a lot. I had to make some very difficult exclusions, in that there were a lot of great books published last year.

So here goes in alphabetical order:

Andre Acimen
Call Me By Your Name

A beautiful and passionate gay coming-of-age tale set in Italy – a fine follow up to the Egyptian born Acimen’s Out of Egypt.

Junot Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

Another fine younger writer trying to make sense of the cultural stew that 21st century American has become despite the rantings of Lou Dobbs.

"You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto," Díaz writes. "Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest."

Like his previous book Drown, Diaz understands that geeks rule. Perhaps the best novel of 2007.

Susan Faludi
The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post 9-11 America

One of our finest social observers and commentators writing about how all the hooey about how 9/11 changed us all forever is just that --- hooey. Yet Faludi observes how this event rekindled some ancient myths about the role of men as protector and what happens when the myth is shattered – when men don’t protect.

Joshua Ferris
Then We Came To The End

Simply a funny novel about the arrogance and insecurity in work that is at the heart of contemporary corporate America --- in this case at an ad agency where people are being shitcanned.

Christopher Hitchens
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (or published in the UK as God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion)

Agree or disagree with Hitch about religion or the divine, this is a challenging and brilliantly argued manifesto about the poisonous history of religion and things done in the name of the divine. In an election year where a central question seems to be who is religious enough to lead this secular nation (please, don't tell me this is a christian nation -- we have no state religion ---- yet), this book is timely.

Denis Johnson
Tree Of Smoke

My pick for novel of the year --- a magnificent Vietnam story about war and faith and love and loss and lost faith.

"Once upon a time there was a war . . . and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That’s me."

“She had nothing in this world but her two hands and her crazy love for Jesus, who seemed, for his part, never to have heard of her.”

Mildred Armstrong Kalish
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits On An Iowa Farm During The Great Depression

Mrs. Kalish is in her 80’s and has a story to tell --- settle in for a joyous ride.

Alex Ross
The Rest Is Noise

I have been a fan of Alex Ross for years through his New Yorker reviews and his blog, but Ross has done us all a favor in presenting the history of 20th century classical music in a manner that is enlightening and fascinating. This book seems to be on everyone’s top ten list.

Colm Toibin
Mothers and Sons

There are very few writers working today with Toibin’s interior and introspective voice. It was awesomely displayed in his Jamesian turn in The Master and it is put to great use in this magnificent collection of stories.

Jeffrey Toobin
The Nine

Want to understand the importance of the conservative shift in the Supreme Court and how nine unelected judges decided the 2000 election and put W in power, then read this book by one of the most astute court observers in the country.

Tim Wiener
Legacy Of Ashes

What Toobin does for the Supreme Court, Wiener does for the history of the CIA. A marvelous read that leaves you with an understanding of what it means to say that the more things change the more they stay the same.

I look forward to reading additions and corrections in the Comments. Everyone party safely and let's hope (and pray, if you do) for a good 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Noir Year's Eve at Know Theatre

If you are still looking for something to do on New Year's Eve, consider Noir Year's Eve at Know Theatre. The Know's party last NYE was a smash, so buy your ticket before they sell out.


I actually agree with Leslie Ghiz on John Cranley's effort to bail out the Parkland Theater with $50,000 of the city's money. I like the idea of local movie theaters providing a nice entertainment value, but what makes this more of a priority than reopening the Emory Theater? Granted, $50,000 isn't even close to enough money to get the Emery going again, but it has far more historical value than the Parkland Theater. When we are talking about for profit entities getting city funds, how should the city pick and choose which project gets the money, especially over non-profits? How many city residents are likely to take advantage on an improved Parkland Theater? Would it be more than the number for a project like the Emery Theater, or any other project that someone may be thinking about? Should the economic impact of the project outweigh other factors? How do we set priorities?

Baker Working For Berding

For political insiders it's good to see Shawn Baker working at city hall. Now we can hope Shawn can help pull Berding away from the dark side (Fiscal Five), and back in line with the City Dems.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Mole Hill

Can someone explain to me how red-light cameras warrent 8,000 signatures and countless hours and money to try and prevent? It is getting very unseemly for Chris Smitherman and Chris Finney hanging out together like Batman and Robin. I didn't think it is possible for two extremists to become worse by teaming up in the most unholiest of alliances.

Honestly, I get why Finney is against the red-light cameras. His anti-government stance is clear. Smitherman is acting more loony on this one than usual. What makes this an issue for the NAACP? The anti-jail-tax effort had a small sense of relevance to the NAACP, but red-light cameras is about as relevant as parking enforcement. Is Chris up for a boycott of driving? The environmental movement might support things there.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Harris Running for County Commission

CityBeat's Kevin Osborne is reporting that Greg Harris is running for County Commissioner against Pat DeWine.

UPDATE: I guess this means that John Cranley is not running?

2007 Election Follow-Up

In case you missed it, GetCincy has a nice breakdown of the council race by ward. Knowing how each ward voted helps drive future campaign strategies. Cincinnati this year was far less varied as I would have thought, but you can still see the voting trends at work.

County Commission Race About To Start

At the Enquirer's Politics blog, Jessica Brown lists those who have picked up petitions for the two Hamilton County Commission seats up for grabs in 2008. Todd Portune and Pat DeWine have, of course, picked up petitions in efforts to retain their own seats. For the Republicans, Jim Weidman, Charles Winburn, and Ed Rothenberg picked up petitions; attorney Tim Deardorff picked them up for someone else (no word on who). Vlasta Molak picked up petitions as well; I don't know her party affiliation, though.

On Sunday, activist and blogger Nate Livingston announced that he's considering throwing his hat in the ring, but hasn't decided whether to do so as a Republican or an independent.

Picking up petitions is just a necessary first step to running. Completed petitions to be included on the March 4 primary ballot aren't due until January 4.

OSU Students Prefer To Be Above The Law

The Enquirer prints an AP story that reports that some OSU students who were arrested for underage drinking are upset that they were arrested for committing a crime.

For illegally sipping beer on the morning of an Ohio State University football
game - she's 19 in a state where the legal limit is 21 - [Chelsea] Krueger was
handcuffed, loaded in a police van and hauled off to jail for six hours.

Her sentence, following a guilty plea: a $50 fine.

The article doesn't mention the possible penalties. In Ohio, underage consumption is a first-degree misdemeanor. That means the possibility of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Apparently, Chelsea was upset about the fact that she was locked up with the common riffraff during her quarter-day period of dentention (presumably, the time it took for her to be processed and her spoil-her-rotten parents to post bond):

As prostitutes ran their fingers through Krueger's hair and told her how pretty she was, she couldn't help question her situation. "They're putting the wrong students in jail," said the sophomore from Westchester, N.Y. "The people who should be more harshly punished are the ones putting themselves in dangerous situations."

First of all, the story about the prostitutes running their fingers through Krueger's hair sounds more than a bit apocryphal.

But Chelsea's defense is the one that lots of criminal defendants offer: go catch the "real" criminals. Lawyers and police officers hear it every day. People at traffic stops tell police to go catch people committing more serious offenses. Some people caught possessing drugs (from marijuana to heroin) will say that their crimes are nonviolent, and thus not worthy of prosecution. Some of the prostitutes who touched Chelsea would probably tell you that they're not hurting anyone, and that they just offer a service to men who want to make use of it (and some would claim that they actually save marriages in the process).

The point is: if you break the law, you run the risk of being punished for it. It doesn't matter if you're an indigent defendant caught with less than a gram of crack (for which you could serve twelve months in prison), or a spoiled rich brat from Westchester getting tanked before the Buckeyes game. If you don't want other people (police, prosecutors, and judges) to have the power to alter the course of your life, don't give them that power.

The go-catch-the-real-criminals defense almost never works. And neither does whining.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jesus' Birth Was Virginal, Not Premature (Warning: Grinch-Like Post Ahead)

Every year, we're told by our various media outlets of a baby Jesus figure being stolen from a nativity scene. This year, we heard that same old news at least twice: once when it happened in Mason, and once when a Cincinnati attorney donated a replacement Jesus for a suburban Miami creche. (I'm not sure why he didn't just replace the Mason Jesus and save himself a long-distance phone bill. I suppose he wouldn't have gotten himself on CNN for doing that.)

I'm sick of hearing these stories.

Blaming the victim is usually wrong. But these nativity-scene owners are at least partially to blame for the kidnapping of Jesus. If they had just held to tradition, baby Jesus might still be safe and sound. It always used to be the case that the baby Jesus figurine/statue/what-have-you wasn't placed in the nativity scene until Christmas Eve. Until then, the manger sat empty. Tradition is a good thing a lot of the time. Displaying a completed nativity scene prior to Christmas Eve is (in my opinion) one more symptom of a general failure to remember the "reason for the season." (The Miami Jesus was stolen sometime before December 5, for you-know-who's sake.) The act of laying the Jesus in a manger on the night before Christmas helps to focus our attention on the religious nature of the holiday. A nativity scene shouldn't be an accessory to a Christmas tree and plastic reindeer (or worse yet, one of those awful inflatable globes with a scene inside).

In fact, every time I drive past a nativity scene with a prematurely-displayed Mary's child, I fantasize about stealing it, only to surreptiously return it late on Christmas Eve. Stealth, however, has never been one of my gifts, so I have no doubt that I'd be caught either taking Jesus or giving him back. With my luck, I'd probably be tased before being taken into custody.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Happy Festivus, et al

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a belated Joyous Solstice to you!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Food, Glorious Food

The only thing new in this article on the effort to get a full service grocery store in Downtown are the quotes from Council member Roxanne Qualls.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bearcats 31, Southern Miss. 21

O Cincinnati magic name
I proudly to the world proclaim
No sweeter name e'er charmed my ear
None to my heart was e'er so dear;
A fountain of eternal youth,
A tower of strength, a rock of truth.

Varsity, dear varsity
Thy loyal children we will be,
Thy loyal, loyal children we will be!

The Bearcats won their bowl game for their first ten-win season in 56 years; Team Lachey came through Thursday night; can the Bengals make it a Cincinnati trifecta on Sunday?

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Year's Eve: Where Are You Going?

CityBeat has their guide (pdf) to what is happening on New Year's this year, and Zipscene's NYE page has some of the bars with deals.

The Know Theatre has announced their NYE bash as well.

CSO is having their annual NYE Concert.

CSL is having a party at the 20th Century.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cincinnati Victorious

That's something you haven't heard much this year.

OK. I'll admit it. I watched the finale of "Singing With the Stars," or whatever it's called. It was pretty good TV. And Nick Lachey's team won. The Enquirer's early coverage is here.

I'm pretty sure that a lot of people assumed Patti LaBelle's team would win. I know I did. I don't mean any disrespect to Lachey by that--say what you will about boy bands like 98 Degrees, but at the end of the day, Nick's a very talented singer. But Patti LaBelle is . . . well, Patti LaBelle. Lachey's choir, though, really put it together, from what I could tell by the live performances tonight and the clips from the past few days. (The vocal rendition the choir did of Flight of the Bumblebee was particularly imnpressive, I thought.)

In fact, Tracy Morgan (who NBC had announce the winner, in order to promote his new movie--yeah, that's right, now he's got his own movie) was so sure he'd be calling Patti LaBelle's name, he didn't bother to make sure he knew how to pronounce "Lachey." (Morgan thought the winning team's name was "lake-ee".) He tried not to pronounce it at first, just pointing and saying "this team over here. I think someone must have whispered to him to read the name.) I have to admit, I got a chuckle out of that. Five minutes too late, you could hear him yell, "Lachey" correctly. It was hilarious.

During the show, LaBelle announced that she's going to do at least one more performance (on New Year's Eve) with her choir. I hope Lachey follows suit. He seemed guininely moved by the experience. And it's not as if he's got anything better to do--none of his former bandmates are running for office right now, and he doesn't seem to be able to compete with Tony Romo in the romance department.

Sorry, that last bit was a little snarky. Congratulations to the outstanding group of Cincinnatians who got together for a good cause. And a big thank you to Nick Lachey, for making a Cincinnati team competitive on television. And I do hope we see Lachey and his choir singing somewhere again soon. They're entertaining.

Next year: Lachey replaces Marvin Lewis; Bengals go 16-0.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Public Service Announcement On Street-Crossing

My earlier post on red-light cameras led to some comment-thread discussion about downtown drivers mowing down pedestrians. As both a downtown driver and a downtown pedestrian (though usually not at the same time), I feel it necessary to offer the following advice to those strolling about downtown:

In order to safely cross the street, follow these simple steps:

1. Proceed to the nearest crosswalk. Downtown, you can usually find one every half-block.

2. Wait for the crosswalk indicator to say "Walk." The flashing "Don't Walk" sign does not mean "Walk, but do so very quickly."

3. Cross the street at a ninety-degree angle to the curb, within the marked lines.

For those that think it's okay to cross the street with the traffic signal when the "Don't Walk" sign is flashing, you're wrong. You may notice that the pedestrian signal on one side of the street will read "Walk" longer than the one on the other side. This is not an accident. Instead, it occurs so that cars can turn off the street they're on without fear of hitting someone in a cross walk. Race Street, for instance, is a one-way street headed southbound. Fourth Street is one way headed west. The crosswalk indicators on the west side of the intersection (to cross Fourth) will start flashing "Don't Walk" well ahead of the traffic light turning red. If it didn't, cars that want to turn right could never do so. So when you cross against the pedestrian signal, you create a traffic jam. Don't do it.

And for the commenter who wondered: pedestrian injuries are a real issue downtown. Over the last year, I can think of at least two downtown pedestrian deaths, just off the top of my head.

Finally, to the guy who yesterday afternoon decided to run across Central Parkway (at Main Street) while carrying a baby in a car seat after the light turned red (meaning oncoming cars had a green light) : you're an idiot. And if I find out who you are, I may try to file a complaint for child endangering. I don't care how expensive your suit was. You need a couple of days at Queensgate to reflect on life.

Nativity Scene on Fountain Square

I don't know when this was put up, but a very permant looking structure is displaying a Christian Nativity scene on Fountain Square. I took the above picture today just before 1 PM. I could find no signage indicating who put it up, who paid for the very significant (close to permanent) structure, or why it is even there. A Menorah was up during Chanukah, which all stems back to preventing the KKK from putting up a cross on Fountain Square. In prior years Christian groups got together and put up a cross, preventing the KKK from doing so. That cross was very much non-permanet, like the Menorah. This year it appears to be to be different, unless I don't remember it being there last year.

This display is a more prominent place than the Menorah, which was placed behind the tree. This display is very up front on the Vine Street side of the Square. I really personally believe all of these displays violate the Constitution, but courts have ruled that the short term displays can be permitted. What I find most objectionable here is that this Nativity scene was not constructed as a short term display. A landscaper was likley used to build it. The display can be removed, and I am sure it will be, but at whose expense? That is the other problem, who paid for it? I think it should be the policy of the city to have any religious display accompanied with a reasonable notice, preferable a sign, stated who got the permit and who paid for the display.

If any city or 3CDC money or services where used and not reimbursed, then favoritism and thus a violation of the law would have occurred.

I will be waiting people to chime in here and say "What the big deal." Well, I have the legal right to pay to have a statue of Zeus (or phallic symbol or a wood carved Homer Simpson) displayed on Fountain Square on my religious holiday. I have to the get the right permit, clear the size, safety, and insurance concerns with the Fountain Square management. If I can't, which I would bet there are things that would be blocked, and I don't mean just the phallic symbol, then that is a "big deal." When religion or certain religions get favored over other religions or the lack of religion by the government or its representative, then a violation of the 1st Amendment has occurred. If the constitution and the 1st Amendment specifically aren't a "big deal," I would then bet you voted for Bush.

UPDATE: Bill Donabedian, Manager of Fountain Square, has confirmed the following:
  • A private organization put up the Nativity Scene
  • There is a sign stating such.
  • This was done last year as well.
  • The display will be removed after the 25th.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eye of the Beholder

At the Enquirer's Politics Extra blog, Jessica Brown quotes Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer as saying that "other than [the difficulty with visits from family members], I think they [inmates] were happier to spent [sic] time here."

At least with respect to pre-trial detainees, that wasn't what I was hearing from my clients. They felt that they were being treated as "second-class" inmates up in ButCo. Here in HamCo, there are some programs that even pretrial detainees can make use of to try to improve their post-incarceration lives. Those weren't available to them in ButCo, presumably because ButCo's sheriff wasn't interested in doing anything with them other than collecting the rent HamCo was paying him. And ButCo seemed to pay absolutely no attention to some pretty standard rules regarding which inmates should (or should not) be housed together.

And Dwyer downplays the importance of visits to inmates. Let's face it: most people that are locked up (at least prior to trial) are poor (otherwise they'd "make bond" and be out on the street). I've represented clients stuck in jail on as little as $1,000 bond. If they're poor, their families likely are, too. And that means that getting to Hamilton (the city) can be extremely difficult. For an inmate waiting for the resolution of a case that could lock him away for many years, contact with family is often one of the few stabilizing things in his life.

HamCo's decision to house pretrial detainees in ButCo also created another problem that's not much talked about: attorney visits. The HamCo Public Defender set up a video conference system so that attorneys (even those of us in private practice representing clients on appointment) could talk to clients from the Defender's office via video feed. But it's impossible to pass documents to a client that way, and sometimes, there's no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.

Finally, I've never seen any figures on the cost of transporting inmates back and forth to ButCo. We routinely see the per-bed cost paid to ButCo itself, but every time a ButCo-housed inmate was transported to HamCo for a court date, there was some, additional cost (both in deputy-hours and gas money).

While I understood the need to find another space to house inmate, I, for one, am not sorry that the ButCo contract has ended.

Red Light, Green Light

Cincinnati City Council--where bad ideas never really die, they just . . . hang out until the next budget shortfall.

It looks like "red light cameras" have enough votes (Cole, Cranley, Crowley, Qualls, and Thomas) to become part of Cincinnati life. Mayor Mallory seems to object to the idea (so far as I can tell from the Enquirer's coverage) only on the grounds of timing. So there's no telling what he'd do if the cameras are part of the overall budget submitted to him.

Assuming the cameras will be implemented as they have been in other Ohio cities, here's how they work: go through a red light at an intersection with a camera, and a picture of your car (in the middle of the intersection under a red light) will be taken. A "ticket" will be sent to the vehicle's owner.

It's not a typical traffic ticket, though. The violation is strictly a civil offense. No "points" are reported to the BMV or to your insurance company. And you have the right to appeal. But, if Cincinnati uses the plan used elsewhere (and we haven't seen the details yet), you'll have to pay the fine before you appeal. And your "appeal" won't be to HamCo Municipal Court (where we have elected judges), but probably to some hearing officer the City hires.

I suppose we'll soon start seeing lots of ads from this company, which claims to make a product that will make your license plate unreadable when photographed by red light cameras. (I guess it'd make a great stocking-stuffer for your favorite traffic scofflaw.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Exchange Closed

Another Dance Club on Main has bit the dust. At this point it would seem it was closed, at least in part, to allow focus on the new and nicer Cue. I walked by Exchange on Saturday night at about 11PM and was surprised to see it closed up tight. I think that either this is going to be a slow year of change, or this is it for the Main Street Entertainment district. Right now, there are only three places open: Kaldi's, Courtyard, and Cue. Speakeasy and Mixx are supposed to open soon and I just don't see Rhino's ever open to really count. Is Ocho Rios open at all? I am lumping Below Zero into the Gateway Quarter area, which is warming up nicely, but needs the restaurants to open up. At this point, unless something really big happens, I don't see how MidPoint could happen on Main Street next year, at least not focused on the Main Street area.

OtR: Cincinnati's homegrown holiday tradition

Every year-- since 1994, I believe-- Over the Rhine has hosted its own sort of holiday party. It started at the Emery Theater (whose website needs to be updated-- the last update was in 2001!) and has now moved to the Taft Theater, where on Saturday night (despite the weather conditions, enough to make any Cincinnatian stay home for the evening) they played to a full house.

Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler started up the band in 1989 in an apartment on Main Street, and in subsequent years gained a pretty impressive local following. After the release of their 2003 album Ohio, they gained real national attention-- awards, great reviews in national magazines (including Paste Magazine's first five-star review for Ohio), and sold-out tour dates both in the US and abroad.

The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards just this past year voted them "Best Musical Ambassador for the City"-- which is why I'm mentioning them here. Nearly every time I talk to someone from out of town who asks where I live and I say, "Over-the-Rhine," I don't get the response I get from locals (who react as if I said I lived in Gaza or Baghdad), but instead, "Over the Rhine-- you mean, like the band?" This gets a nice little dialogue going-- there's nothing like connecting with someone over music-- and we can talk not just about the band, but the rich history of Cincinnati's neighborhoods-- not just Over-the-Rhine.

If you want to support a local artist this holiday season, pick up their holiday album Snow Angels (available at your favorite local record store).

What do you consider a Cincinnati holiday tradition? Playhouse's A Christmas Carol, the trains at CG&E/Cinergy/Duke? The Nutcracker at the Cincinnati Ballet?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Joe Wessels To Write For CityBeat

Joe Wessels will be writing for CityBeat starting next month. I look forward to reading Joe's perspective. I also am very interested in what the "mild refresh" of CityBeat shall entail.

“We were forced to cut the lion’s willy off with the aid of a computer.”

The world has gone mad:

Protests from female soldiers have led to the Swedish military removing the penis of a heraldic lion depicted on the Nordic Battlegroup's coat of arms.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Conservative Talk Radio Fails

Let us all join together and have a communal IN YOUR FACE to the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Now, to be clear, a clone of WEBN is not adding much to the local radio climate. I am happy they are keeping Miami sports, however.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Brunner Reports On Electronic Voting, and the News is Not Good

Earlier today, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner released the Evaluation and Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards, and Testing report (or the EVEREST report). Early Enquirer coverage is here; the full, eighty-plus page report is here.

Brunner devised a remarkably aggressive evaluation protocol, engaging both a private consultant and academic researchers to test the integrity of the voting systems used in Ohio. The Hart voting machines, used here in Hamilton County, got particularly low marks. How's this for scary?

The researchers concluded that virtually every ballot, vote, election result, and audit log is “forgeable or otherwise manipulatable by an attacker with even brief access to the voting systems.” The reason is that the mechanisms that Hart uses to protect data and software is frequently based on absent or flawed security models. The researchers concluded that “in most cases these issues cannot be addressed via software upgrades, but call for rethinking of both technical design and procedural practices.”

(EVEREST report at 44.) The Enquirer article mentions some of the EVEREST report's recommendations (particularly the suggestion that votes be centrally scanned and tabulated, a process that Hamilton County BOE officials think could take four days). From a voter's standpoint, the most notable proposal is one the Enquirer misses: Brunner recommends (at pages 77-80 of the report) that polling places that consist of fewer than five precincts be eliminated, and that "Voting Centers" consisting of 5 to 10 precincts each be created. Moreover, she suggests a true "early voting" system through which the "centers" would be open beginning fifteen days prior to Election Day. (And if BOE officials are permitted to scan (but not tabulate) ballots at the end of each day, that may solve the purportedly long wait-time for results created by centralization of counting.)

That's two huge changes, one of which I support but the other I view with some skepticism. Early voting seems like a good idea that should be implemented. We should always be looking to create more opportunities for citizens to participate in the electoral process. I'm concerned with the notion of large "Voting Centers," though, and the impact that change would have on the indigent and marginally indigent. The advantage of single-precinct polling places is that people don't have to travel far to get to their polling place. Consolidating them inevitably means a longer trip for many people, and we should be concerned about what effect that would have on voter participation. Perhaps the two week period for voting would make this a non-issue, but I'm not convinced that the EVEREST group fully considered the potential problem.

All 'Roided Up and No Place To Go

Senator McCarthy Mitchell has released his report. Reds reliever Mike Stanton is named as having used steroids.

If last season was one in which Stanton was "enhancing" his performance, he apparently needs to find a better method: his ERA was 5.93 over 57 and two-thirds innings. And maybe if Adam Dunn got some help from modern chemistry, he might be able to hustle out a double here and there....

Main Street Treading Water

Joe Wessels has a good story in the Post about where the Main Street Entertainment district is going. At the beginning of 2007 there was a sense that Main Street was on the rebound. A new theatre was opening, Neon's was living on, and the former Main Street Brewery location was going to open again.

Well, where it is going at this point is unsure. Cue's opening is good, but the location is slow out of the gate. It appears to me that they are not opening every night they are advertising. Neon's is a mess. Mixx is supposed to open on New Year's Eve, but I am not going to hold my breath. What is happening? Are we just in a slow period of flux? Will 2008 be a big year?

One issue already looks better: Club Red and Club Dream are no more. Good riddance to the bad promoters who catered to the drug dealers and the foolish people who idolize the drug dealers.

Money appears to be the problem with Vinyl and Neon's. Harry's Pizza hasn't opened up either, nothing appears to be happening there.

The situation is right for things to bounce back, but I think and I hope it is not going to be a place for the nutty partiers. An older more sophisticated crowd would be best.

Looking ahead, what will Midpoint do?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Good Deal for Downtown

As reported by the Enquirer, FirstGroup (which owns Greyhound and Laidlaw) will keep its North American headquarters in Cincinnati, and will move from Centennial Plaza to the Center at 600 Vine (formerly "the Convergys Building"). It's a good thing for the 600 Vine building, which has been sadly, sadly empty for the past two years.

It also sounds like the kind of deal the City should be making with corporations to keep them around. Yes, FirstGroup gets a million dollars to cover the cost of their move (they should've called Two Men and a Truck, who probably could do it for less!), but the City will recoup that through payroll taxes on newly hired FirstGroup employees. And if FirstGroup doesn't hire as many people as it has promised it will, it has to repay the City itself.

20,000 Federal Prisoners May Be Resentenced

For years, some people have complained about the sentencing disparity that exists in the federal system with respect to crack and powder cocaine. Until quite recently, possession of one gram of crack cocaine was treated as the same as possession of one hundred grams of powder cocaine.

The United States Sentencing Commission, which is responsible for writing the sentencing guidelines under which federal defendants are sentenced, re-wrote the recommended sentences earlier this year, greatly decreasing the discrepancy (resulting in shorter recommneded prison terms for crack offenders). That was big news. But the really big news came yesterday, when (as this article in the Post explains) the Commission voted to make the new guidelines retroactive. In other words, defendants who were sentenced under the old guidelines pertaining to crack cocaine possession and trafficking may now ask their judges to resentence them.

The Post describes the result as "early release," though that's not how the term is usually used. Typically, we think of a prisoner being released "early" when he or she serves less than the full sentence imposed by a judge. Here, the affected inmates will get new sentences (and they will serve the full sentence a judge says that they should serve). And remember: judges aren't required to give new sentences; they can turn down the requests upon a determination that the original sentence was appropriate.

The move by the Commission is nearly unprecedented. Many will view this as justice long denied due to unfair sentencing laws.

(For those who are wondering, Ohio law treats crack differently than powder cocaine, but the difference is not so dramatic. While the (old) federal ratio was 100:1 (100 grams of powder = 1 gram of crack), the ratio in Ohio is between 5:1 and 20:1, depending on the weight involved.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chabot Shows How He Waffles

When BushCo claimed that Iraq was building Nukes (Allegedly based on US. Intelligence), Chabot bowed deeply and hosted a big speech in his district for BushCo to spread those lies. When US Intelligence now says that Iran is no longer building Nukes, Chabot finds doubt. So, I guess Steve is a born-again doubter of the Executive Branch. I wish he would have found the light back in 2002 before Bush spewed all of the lies from Union Terminal, history may have been different.

Streetcars: Look to Portland

One of the negatives of the Cincinnati mentality is that "we" don't like to take chances or be the first to do things. On Streetcars we can meet this neurosis by looking to Portland. We can't copy Portland's model, but we can see that it works.

The council member that I believe needs to be pushed hard to support this in the end is John Cranley. He has to run on the Westside and the old school Westside voter isn't going to be keen on Streetcars, unless they see how it can help the whole city, without the line reaching Price Hill or Westwood.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Drop Inn Center: Another Perspective

There's been some discussion here over the last couple weeks regarding the city's problem with "bums" and on the merits of having the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine. This article provides a somewhat different angle on the Center's work and those who benefit from it. It's well worth reading.

The article is also one more example of why we'll miss the Post next year.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Gateway Quarter Celebration

Come on down to the Gateway Quarter this Thursday for a holiday celebration:
The Gateway Quarter is having a special holiday event on Thursday December 13, and they want all DRCers to know they are welcome to attend. Our neighbors from OTR, Pendleton, West End, etc have also been invited to attend.

Join us December 13 in Over-the-Rhine's Gateway Quarter. The fun kicks off at 6 p.m. with music and refreshments at Enzo's followed by special offers at City Roots, Metronation, MiCA 12/v and Park + Vine. Caroling starts at 7:30 p.m. in the 12th and Vine parking lot. Head to Below Zero Lounge for more holiday cheer at 8 p.m.

Ten percent of all sales go to the School for Creative and Performing Arts.
Hat tip to Jacki D.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Choo Choo

My two previous posts are not-so-happy thoughts about downtown. Sorry about that. To balance those out, I thought I'd mention my favorite Cincinnati holiday tradition: the train display at the Cinergy--err, Duke Energy Building at 4th and Main.

300 train cars (0-gauge). 50 engines. 1,000 feet of track. Open 10-6 (except Sundays, when it's 12-5). What more do you need? According to Duke, more than 9,000,000 visitors have stopped by since the trains began running in 1946.

If you're new to the city and haven't seen this, it alone is worth the trip downtown (especially if you have kids). If you're a native who hasn't been to see the trains in a while, then come on down and refresh those childhood memories.

Time To Get Off The Pot

Sorry...that may be an overly-vulgar title for a post, but this article, reporting that Eagle Realty Group (a division of Western & Southern) is seeking yet another extension of time to submit a plan for Fifth and Race, is truly frustrating.

I was excited when, earlier this year, Eagle Realty proposed the construction of a large condo complex on the site. (For those who don't know, the parcel we're discussing is the parking lot adjacent to the Millenium Hotel.) But once again, Eagle Realty has failed to deliver a concrete plan to accomplish anything other than more empty promises.

Don't get me wrong--cutting through that parking lot when walking from my home to my office saves me about half a block of shoe-wear. But Eagle Realty has had the development rights since 1998 (it's been a parking lot since 1999; before that, it was an office building).

Maybe Eagle Realty isn't the right company for the job. Maybe the City needs to deny an extension and open up some sort of bidding/proposal process to determine which company is best-suited to do something with the space. But it's too valuable a location to allow Eagle Realty to hold onto the rights in perpetuity in the absence of any real sign of progress. And if there is progress, then it ought to be shared publicly: for instance, is there any financing in place for the putative condo building? How about feasibility studies? Construction timetables?

When it takes eight years to put together a plan to develop one block of space, it becomes clear why the Banks is taking so long.

Visibility Problems

As I was scurrying down Vine Street yesterday (scurrying because of the cold, not out of any sense of insecurity), I overheard a conversation between two women who were obviously visiting downtown. One asked the other, "Did you find the mall?" The reply: "It's not really a mall; there's just a Macy's." I assured the inquiring woman that there was, in fact, a mall (not "just" a Macy's), helped her locate it, and went back to my errand.

The episode brings up one of my biggest pet peeves about downtown: why is Tower Place Mall so invisibile? Frankly, if you don't know it's there, you could walk past it on Vine, Fourth, or Fifth many, many times without any awareness that you're walking past a mall.

If we're serious about downtown being a destination, then we need to start acting like downtown is someplace where people from outside Cincinnati want to be (rather than just hoping they'll drop in). Visit other (more booming) cities' downtown areas and you'll find strategically placed maps. Why don't we seem to have any of those? Even UC has figured out that permanently-affixed maps help people find their way around campus; why not the same for downtown? Or more signs (geared towards pedestrian traffic) with arrows towards major attractions (Fountain Square, Tower Place, CAC, the Underground Railroad Museum, and Music Hall, just to name a few)?

Downtown needs to be more than merely safe (which, by the way, it is): it also needs to be accessible and accommodating. Let's work on that.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Criminal or hero?

The Enquirer reports that Arthur Graham, a disabled veteran, happened upon a woman being assaulted in the 1100 block of Race. His response? Stab the guy assaulting the woman. The police's response? Arrest him for felonious assault. I know the legal definition of felonious assault, but I'll admit I'm not sure where the line between self defense (or defending another person) and felonious assault is. I can't help but feel that if I were the woman he saved from being assaulted that I'd feel pretty bad that he got arrested for it. The strange thing is that the man assaulting the woman, Jeffrey Lowery, was only arrested when Graham told the police that he had been hit by Lowery with a bottle. What about assaulting the woman?

(Edited location for accuracy.)

What Happened To The Humans? -- Part Deux

"What kind of man hits a kid" (a former council member notwithstanding) or points a sawed off shotgun at kids selling Christmas trees? Yet, that's exactly what happened last night at the corner of Gilbert and West Galbraith, where some Boy Scouts were selling trees and three young thugs came up, pointed a shotgun at the kids and their parent, hit the father and one of the kids, and stole money. Is this what passes for courage in the groups in which these thugs were raised? Is it simply poverty, lack of education, or lack of opportunity that creates these thugs or is something else at work? What do we say to these kids who had a gun shoved in their faces and who were robbed about the state of the world in which they live? "Happy first day of Hanukkah and Merry Christmas, 2007!"

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What Happened to the Humans?

Kevin Drum has found an interesting example of Republicans holding horrid beliefs. These are not the candidates, these are the party's base, the average voter.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

NPR Misses the Story

Over Thanksgiving weeking, NPR's Morning edition had a news story that parallelled the Washington Park Feeding the Bums story from the week prior. The story was on the surface balanced, but it wasn't long enough and in now way gave enough background. It played upon the basic extremist NGOs out to protect their funding "clashing" with the city and business owners. It gave a nice positive quote to one of the owners of CityRoots (great store by the way, they have Christmas Trees for sale!!!).

The story however just glossed over the issues. It gave no history of the neighborhood, of the effort to make a better neighborhood, and of the foolish choice to move the social services to OTR in the first place. It played into the false stereotype used by the NGOs. When people listened to that story and when they heard the term "homeless" what came to mind is the image of a person down on their luck, living out of their car, who were hurt by the system, not by any of their own actions. In reality, the people in question are "homeless" because of their own actions. They are felons, alcoholics, and drug addicts. The mentally ill are part of this group, but I would say in most cases it is not their "fault" for being there. Unless they refuse to take their meds, the fault lies with the state for eliminating institutions to care for the mentally ill, or families who are unable to find a way to care for their mentally ill kin. If people don't agree that the mentally ill should be put into good facilities, then I think they must be mentally ill themselves.

More Seafood for Downtown

I just noticed the signs in the windows of the first floor of the 580 Building (on the southeast corner of Sixth and Walnut) that the Oceanaire will be opening a restaurant there this spring. A quick web-search leads me to conclude that while this story got some mention last June when the lease was signed, it was relatively under-reported.

The executive chef will be Justin Dumcum, who previously held that position at Palomino and Jeff Ruby's South Beach Grill.

While I'm a little concerned about whether the downtown market can really sustain both the Oceanaire and McCormick and Schmick's, it's great to see another storefront occupied.