Ohioans aren’t too wild about the President, either

The Gallup organization tracked polling results by state in the first six months of this year, and it appears that the President is in trouble, based on his job approval ratings. Only 13 states* and the District of Columbia (natch!) give him a majority, and most of them are predictably ”blue” states.
Gallup notes that among the states giving him the highest approval ratings are several that are “rich in electoral votes” — New York, California, and Illinois are in the majority column. Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia — all key battleground states — sit at 46%, with North Carolina and Ohio not far behind.

Most Ohioans I have talked to are not very enthusiastic about either the President or Mitt Romney, because of the intense negativity that has already infested both campaigns. Our politics have become so polarized that the truth is hard to determine, and even where the truth becomes known, a third to half of the electorate will not believe it. However, being practical people, most Ohioans are not quite ready to think outside the box.

We all need to remember that nothing will change until we change our thinking about politics.

Virtual buckeye to the Ohio Liberty Coalition.

* Assuming that Minnesota’s 50% was rounded down.

Go Buckeyes!

OHIO CULTURE: CUISINE

In Columbus, “Go Bucks!” is always in season, sometimes annoyingly so, but in the rest of the state, it might sound a bit odd at the end of May; but we’re not talking football or basketball here. We’re talking about that chocolate and peanut butter confection that resembles the inedible nut that is so deeply rooted in our identity as Ohioans.

Readers of the “old” (pre-March 5) Ohio Republic will recall that, in place of the “hat tip” or “HT” used by other bloggers, I gave the referror or author a “virtual buckeye” with a link to this recipe. They are very easy to make (or so I’m told — my attitude toward preparing food is a paraphrase of Richard Nixon: “I am not a cook!”).

In the linked recipe, buckeyes take 20 minutes to make and heat, allowing an additional 50 minutes to cool. Ingredients are very common: peanut butter, butter, vanilla extract, confectioner’s sugar, and semisweet chocolate chips.

If you would rather buy than make, the “official” ones are made by Anthony-Thomas Chocolates in Columbus, but practically every confectioner in the state makes some variation of them.

On a personal note, let me add that, while cuisine is part of the culture and character of any people, this field is the farthest from my natural talents and interests. I would welcome (and greatly appreciate) the help of any reader who is a cook or chef, who would like to discuss what foods define us as Ohioans.

 

Report from Ohio’s Occupiers

The mainstream media have been rather quiet about the Occupy movement lately. Ohio has 25 Occupy General Assemblies (more or less). Their web presence varies depending on the size and technical literacy of the group. In some smaller cities, such as Akron, Alliance, Ashtabula, and Lima, it exists only as a Meetup group. A few others have sophisticated websites.

In activity, some are mostly commenting on news in their Facebook pages. Others are actively engaged with local issues, as others concentrate more on economic injustice and war/peace issues.

My observation is that Occupy is a diverse movement. While some are very leftist in their orientation (the logo on Akron’s is definitely influenced by the socialist movement), others are quite (small l) libertarian and are simply seeking justice.

Here is a potpourri of news from Occupy organizations around the state:

Occupy Miami University Ohio joined several other Southwestern Ohio groups at the Hamilton County Courthouse May 12 to protest a ruling that closed the Anna Louise Inn, which provides otherwise homeless women with affordable housing. Organizers of the rally believe that the suit was launched because of the Inn’s proximity to a prominent insurance company’s headquarters. The suit forces the Inn to repeat a bureaucratic process for approving renovations that it had already successfully completed.

Occupy Wright State, located in a university and city that that takes pride in its aviation and military history, interestingly is protesting the use of drone missiles. However, the comment made May 15 is right on target:

The use of drones to assassinate people violates US and international law in multiple ways. US military and civilian employees, who plan, target and execute people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are violating the law and, ultimately, risk prosecution. As the technology for drone attacks spreads, protests by the US that drone attacks by others are illegal will sound quite hollow. Continuation of flagrantly illegal drone attacks by the US also risks justifying the exact same actions, taken by others, against us.

Occupy groups throughout the state, including those Medina and Mansfield, are protesting fracking for oil and natural gas. While I am not unalterably opposed to the practice, it does raise serious environmental and public policy questions that have not been extensively discussed in the public space.

Finally, Occupy Toledo’s Facebook page May 16 raises a philosophical question that goes to the root of the entire Occupy movement. Occupy is based on the assumption that one can have a leaderless movement run by a general assembly that meets at mutually-agreed-upon times that votes on recommendations at their meetings. However, the question is, don’t you need leadership to sustain the movement between meetings?

Brian E. Cassidy
Ok I like the occupy movement idea–but the next logical question is how do you make the economy better for the people? The OWS movement needs to elect leaders, vote on a platform and then act to make that platform a reality otherwise we’re just making noise

Sean Nestor
I don’t find those things necessary. It seems it would do more to shoehorn the movement into something it isn’t, and a format that has been tried over and over again to little avail.

For lovers of freedom, it should be encouraging that, at least in Ohio, Occupy is raising the level of citizen involvement in our social and political system. Not everyone will agree with civil disobedience, and sometimes their tactics will be annoying; but collectively, we have all been so quiet for so long that those who would rule us with a rod of iron have taken that quiet for granted. When the process has failed, as it clearly appeared to* with the Anna Louise Inn story, more assertive tactics become necessary.

*  “Appeared to,” because I have not read the case documents, so there may be important details that I have missed.

 

The future couldn’t come soon enough

OHIO CULTURE: ARCHITECTURE

One subject that you did not discuss with the Canton architect Arthur Compton Marks (d. 1991) was historical preservation. He saw nothing useful about saving relics of the past. In one article published in The Canton Repository several years ago (reference not available), he even said that cities should be leveled and rebuilt. His career extended from 1959 to 1991.

His futuristic vision for Canton in 1985 looked like something from a space movie or The JetsonsTo explain his vision, he wrote a short story, “Four 1985 Cities,” in reaction to the founding of the Canton Preservation Society, which he opposed.

Arthur Compton Marks, “Canton, Ohio 1985″ (1976)

He also had a radical vision for a new United States Capitol, a Roman Catholic cathedral that would float on Lake Erie, and received design patents on inventions including a rubber-bodied automobile, a two-story house trailer, and a catamoran.

However, many of Mr. Marks’s projects were built, most notably the Canton Country Day School (1969), which applied the then-innovative “pod” concept of elementary education, though the design is from our perspective relatively conservative; the ProServ Plaza (1972, no longer standing), which was the office building for the Friedl & Harris engineering firm, which bore a passing resemblance to a spaceship, or perhaps a submarine; and the Jackson Township fire station at Lake Cable (1976). He also designed several homes which applied advanced concepts, but are not as radically futuristic as the vision he had for his public buildings.
Stark County District Library (1976, original design)

The real monument to Marks’s genius is the Stark County District Library in Canton (1976). Dubbed by Canton Repository reporter Jim Hillibish as a “snowdrift,” the library was one of the first public buildings to use solar panels in the United States. It has a very open plan which gives the interior a light, airy appearance. However, it also had several problems: the solar heating did not live up to expectations, and the design of the parking garage resulted in water leakage. Harris-Day Architects corrected these issues in 2001, but the renovation considerably altered the original design.

The source for the information in this post is Marko, a retrospective site lovingly assembled by his son, A. A. Marks, who is also an architect. Arthur Compton Marks was well known in the Canton area and within the architectural profession, but he deserves a broader audience for the incredibly vast imagination that his work displayed.

Here’s one Democrat proposal I can support

OHIO POLITICS

While I am not a partisan Republican, for liberal Democrats to come up with a proposal I can support is – well – highly unusual, to say the least. However, this is one proposal I can get behind.

Voters First Ohio plans to put on the fall ballot a proposal to replace our highly partisan Reapportionment Board with a non-partisan redistricting commission. To get on the ballot, the proponents will have to collect 386,000 valid signatures from 44 counties.

The commission is to consist of 12 members, no more than four of whom may be from the same political party (Note that this wording does not discriminate against smaller parties like the Libertarians and Greens) from a slate of 42. The slate of 42 is to be selected by lot from a panel of eight judges of the courts of appeals, themselves selected by lot. The speaker and minority leader of the Ohio House may each remove nine members, three each from the two largest political parties and three others.

All meetings and records of the commission are to be public record, and anyone is free to submit a proposal for redistricting.

The plan must comply with applicable state and federal laws, be composed of contiguous territory (all parts of the district are connected) and meet four additional criteria:

  • As much as possible, districts shall avoid dividing governmental units, which are in order of preference, counties, municipalities, contiguous townships, and city wards.
  • Maximize competitiveness.
  • Balance number of districts leaning toward each political party so that the number of districts corresponds to the preferences of Ohio voters.
  • Compactness.

The Supreme Court will have original jurisdiction over cases arising from the proposed amendment.

The concept behind the plan is a good one, which all but the most partisan Ohioans will clearly support. However, the language of the proposal is vague, particularly in its descriptions of the criteria. For example, the criterion on competitiveness reads:

Competitiveness – maximizes the number of politically balanced districts. A “politically balanced district” is a district where the average political party indexes, determined using actual election results from recent representative statewide elections, does not lean toward one party by more than five percent.

The provision does not define a “political party index”, nor the calculations necessary to determine whether a proposed district “leans toward one party by more than five percent [of what?].” The phrase “recent representative statewide elections” is also vague. Does the provision contemplate a sampling, and if so, how is the sampling created? Or does it refer to recent elections for state representative, and if so, how many?

This will create a land-office business for attorneys litigating on behalf of just about everyone in the Supreme Court to work out the details.

Nevertheless, the existing system is just plain awful. It protects incumbents, fosters extremism within each major party, and discourages new people from seeking elected office.

So, with the reservations noted, I support this issue.


Scraping off the rust

OHIO ECONOMY

Last week, the Brookings Institution issued a report with the findings of a study suggesting how Ohio can leverage its position in the global market as part of its Global Cities Initiative.

Because of our metropolitan areas and its central location attracting transportation and logistics hubs, Ohio can take advantage of new opportunities in exportable services, clean green technologies, and innovation. The Toledo, Youngstown, and Cleveland areas experienced some of the fastest growth in export-related manufacturing industries in the nation. Northeast Ohio (Cleveland, Akron, Canton, and Youngstown) is developing a business plan for assisting small manufacturers to retool and retrain their workers to make fuel cells, electric vehicles, medical devices, and organic electronics for export markets. A similar effort is taking place in the Columbus area.

Ohio’s Third Frontier, a fund to which Ohio voters added $700 million of funding in 2010 has been held up as a national model for state support for technological innovation.

What federal policies would help this innovation? The study recommends that the U.S. press for new trade agreements that open world markets to our innovative products, much stronger protection of our intellectual property rights, and major modernization of our transportation infrastructure – not just highways, but seaports and airways as well.

Interestingly, the study observes that the networks being formed linking financial cities, manufacturing centers, and seaports to each other conceptually mirror the trade routes built before the formation of nation-states. Each city had distinct specialties and strengths. The presenter describes it as a “path back to shared prosperity, sane and sensible growth that works for companies, cities, and consumers.” For the world, it is “a path toward reducing global poverty and generating wealth.”

As I noted in Governing Ourselves, growth can be sustainable, but we will need to not just be smart about it, as Brookings suggests; but also very wise, so that the fruit of that growth can provide opportunities for all, not just a few people, corporations, or regions.

When the crash comes

OHIO CULTURE: BOOKS

Ted Lacksonen, The Eagle Has Crashed
Gambier, Ohio: Clear Peak Press, 2011                                   Paperback: $14.95, eBook: $6.99

Most of us have seen signs of the economic collapse to come – the mounting debt of the federal government, the Federal Reserve creating trillions of dollars to support that debt, and that bank almost giving away money with near-zero interest. Internet pundits like John Rolls, Gerald Celente, and Porter Stansberry are crying out in the wilderness that the end is near; and judging from the advertising, dealers are doing a great business selling precious metals as a hedge against inflation, even as the price of those metals continues to mount.

So what happens when the economy finally does collapse? That is the question Ted Lacksonen’s novel The Eagle Has Crashed seeks to answer. Set in central Ohio in 2029, Mr. Lacksonen creates a gloomy, but all-too-believable picture of failed businesses, mass layoffs, and social unrest in a state still reeling from the loss of manufacturing half a century earlier.

The author consulted with professional economists to ensure that his collapse scenario was based on realistic assumptions (which are available in graphical form at the author’s website). However, he has acknowledged in his Afterword that the projections really were too optimistic:

I aimed to stave off dangerous levels of debt for twenty years so I could scrub all current faces from Washington in the story. Unfortunately, it took a great deal of optimistic assumptions to create a scenario in which America does not reach the “danger zone” of debt for that long.

Having no experience as a literary critic, I am in no position to judge the book’s literary merit; but I have read a fair number of novels, and this one definitely is a page-turner. The characters will remind Ohioans of people we know – on the shop floor, on the farm, in your neighborhood – and anyone who has seen a movie or television drama about Washington politics will have no trouble believing the characters of President Davidson and Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Andrea Sullivan. The plot is well developed and the sequence of events is logical.

The only criticism I have is in his portrayal of Ohio’s secessionists late in the book. His gloss on secessionist movements elsewhere in the United States is remarkably neutral; but he gives an almost cartoonish portrayal of Ohio secessionists as a ragtag band of hotheaded terrorists. Ironically, the preferred method of the literary terrorists was blowing up bridges, just like the “anarchists” who tried to blow up the Route 82 bridge near Cleveland last week. I would have liked to have read a more nuanced portrayal of secessionists as decent people who sincerely believed that we could not live in freedom within the union, and where the “Ohio Secessionist Army” would be a lunatic fringe, rather than the heart, of that movement.

The Eagle Has Crashed is something of a genre-bender, with almost equal parts political thriller and action story. There is a slight romantic element in some tender moments between a young man and his wife, as the young man prepares to leave her and two very young children to fend off the terrorist menace in the absence of a government capable of doing so. The conversation between them poignantly summarizes the conflict every family must face when a parent must decide whether to stay home for the children or to risk his or her life on the battlefield to protect their children’s birthright.

The book’s geographical references will make it particularly appealing to central Ohioans; but the books will stand on its own for any reader. It is entertaining, engages the reader’s emotions, and is highly thought provoking. It is the kind of book you will want to buy and share with your friends – and I strongly encourage you to do exactly that.

China buying up Ohio assets

OHIO ECONOMY

We all know that China has been racking up cash from years of U.S. trade deficits in consumer goods, but Steve Bennish at Dayton Daily News brings it home to us.

Chinese are investing in Ohio’s growing energy sector by paying $2.2 billion to cover a stake in Ohio’s Utica Shale natural gas development, and reportedly bid $1.6 billion for wind power assets.

Chinese investors have purchased key downtown properties in Toledo, a move strongly supported by Gov. John R. Kasich.

In the manufacturing sector, they bought Delphi’s automotive brake division in 2009 and years ago, they took over Centerville-based Huffy Bicycle Company.

Last fall in Akron, technicians in Hangzhou approximately $18 million in a high-tech medical scanning startup, with up to $50 million possibly becoming available later.

While Chinese investments are smaller than those of those of many other countries, many are concerned with the tactics China has used in its trade with the United States. In the last ten years, the U.S. has shut down 60,000 manufacturing plants and lost approximately 5.5 million manufacturing jobs. The trade deficit with China was $295 billion in 2011 alone.

The liberal blog Plunderbund succinctly stated in February 2011 the concerns all of us should have about state officials abetting large-scale foreign investment in our state and country:

Kasich on China: You’ve stolen our jobs, our wealth, but one investment in Ohio and all is forgiven.

However, to blame China for pursuing opportunities is pointing the finger in the wrong direction. As Ryan Costa, a commenter to the Plunderbund post wrote:

China has done nothing wrong to America. America’s Congress has done wrong to America. It is Congress’s job to set tariffs, import regulations, and regulate our currency and currency exchange.

Exactly. While the President and Congress are socializing the American economy by unconstitutional means, they are neglecting their Constitutional duty to protect the free enterprise system from predators both foreign and domestic.

“Beautiful Ohio”

ohio culture: music

The Ohio General Assembly adopted “Beautiful Ohio” as our state song in 1969. It comes in three versions, according to the Ohio Historical Society’s Ohio History Central.

Mary Earl (a pseudonym for Robert A. King) composed the music, and Ballard MacDonald wrote the original lyrics, published in 1918. It was clearly published as a fanciful love song:

Long, long time ago
Someone I know
Had a little red canoe,
In it room for only two.
Love found its start
Then in my heart,
And like a flower grew.

CHORUS:

Drifting with the current down a moonlit stream,
While above the Heavens in their glory gleam,
And the stars on high
Twinkle in the sky,
Seeming in a paradise of love divine,
Dreaming of a pair of eyes that looked in mine.
Beautiful Ohio, in dreams again I see
Visions of what used to be.

 

In 1989, the Ohio General Assembly granted permission to Willard B. McBride to substitute new lyrics for Ballard MacDonald’s original. While portraying Ohio in a romantic light, the new words seemed more fitting for a state song:

I sailed away; Wandered afar; Crossed the mighty restless sea;
Looked for where I ought to be.
Cities so grand, mountains above,
Led to this land I love.

CHORUS:

Beautiful Ohio, where the golden grain
Dwarf the lovely flowers in the summer rain.
Cities rising high, silhouette the sky.
Freedom is supreme in this majestic land;
Mighty factories seem to hum in tune, so grand.
Beautiful Ohio, thy wonders are in view,
Land where my dreams all come true!

Recordings of both versions by the Ohio Village Singers appear on the page in Ohio History Central.

Originally written as a waltz, the Ohio State University Marching Band (known to its fans as TBDBITL*) arranged it as a march tune sometime in the 1930s.

A video of The Ohio State Marching Band playing Beautiful Ohio is included in the Songs of The Ohio State University website.

* The Best Damn Band In The Land.

Introducing a new Saturday feature

Beginning next week, The Ohio Republic will introduce a new Saturday feature to highlight music, books, art, cuisine, and cinema made in Ohio.

Because Ohio is in many ways a microcosm of America, we sometimes forget that we are a sovereign state with a distinct culture. The purpose of these Saturday features is to help us appreciate what it is to be Ohioan.

I hope you will find them enjoyable as well as informative.