Friday, June 25, 2004


From August of 1991 to December of 2003, I lived and grew up in northern Kentucky, near the Cincinnati airport in Boone County. I have witnessed firsthand the ascendancy of the Republican party in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in particular. This region had, for a very long time sent Jim Bunning to the House to represent the 4th district until he decided to run for the Senate. Even though Bunning was successful, his seat went to Democrat Ken Lucas. Mr. Lucas is a conservative Democrat from Boone County who won re-election in 2000 and 2002. In 2002, Mr. Lucas narrowly beat Geoff Davis a business consultant from Boone County 51%-49%.

On election night, Mr. Davis announced his intention to run for the seat again. He ran and beat handily Kevin Murphy in the Republican primary this May. Mr. Davis is now engaged against Nick Clooney whom the Democrats recruited to run for the seat this year. This contest, at least by what I have seen is a legitimately close contest.

Mr. Clooney is a t.v. news anchorman and columnist here in Cincinnati. He has an easy-going common folks kinda guy persona about him. He is the father of George Clooney and has been living in the 4th district most of his life. Through the efforts of his son and because of his name recognition, he has raised a lot of campaign cash so far. He may be a new comer to politics, but he appears to be doing well. His biggest drawbacks may be his son's stated political views (for better or for worse) and some of his own. He hasn't hesitated to venture his opinion in the past and that may come back to bite him in the posterior.

Mr. Davis has been running for the office for nearly four years straight. Mr. Davis has worked his way from obscurity to nearly taking out one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress and would really be a testament to his grit if he were to surmount Mr. Clooney's built-in advantages. In the image department, Mr. Davis comes off much worse than Mr. Clooney, being a geek and wonk by comparison, but that knowledge of policy can come in handy if he learns to hit his spots like a good actor. Mr. Davis in 2000, went after and received organized labor's backing, so in criticizing Ken Lucas, he hit on protectionist themes that seem to play well in the district. This year, organized labor has returned to the Democrat candidate and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Republican candidate.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Davis has flip-flopped on free trade and it will be interesting to see what Mr. Clooney has to say about gun ownership rights and abortion.

Mr. Clooney has money, didn't have a primary fight and has media experience and an ability to connect with people. Geoff Davis has grit, determination, policy knowledge and the GOP establishment behind him. Vice President Cheney came into town to raise funds for Mr. Davis yesterday. Mr. Clooney has some name recognition, but Mr. Davis has President Bush. In 2000, Bush crushed Gore in the 4th by 15 points, presidential coattails cannot be discounted. Strap yourselves in folks, this race has the makings of a good tight race.

I am partial to Mr. Davis, but he has his work cut out for him. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia has called this race a toss-up and at this point, I would have to agree with him, based on what little I've been able to find.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Public transportation, et al 

Last Sunday, Haynes Goddard, an economics professor at the University of Cincinnati, wrote an op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer. His basic argument is that the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI for short) were doing the region a disservice by not including public transport in their plans for transportation development. He said that by focusing primarily on highway construction, OKI was contributing to problems of air pollution, traffic congestion and higher gas prices, which would blunt economic development. In his last paragraph, Mr. Goddard accuses the leaders of OKI of ducking tough decisions and calls for a massive reorganization of the way OKI does business.

Yesterday, the President and Executive Director responded to Mr. Goddard. Their basic arguments have been: OKI is trying to listen to the citizens of the region to find some solutions to traffic problems. Where they could, they included expansion of public transport into their plans. And finally, because voters turned down a half cent sales tax increase, we can't start to build a light rail system because of Department of Transportation mandates. I will expand upon these two gentleman's response to Mr. Goddard, but if the reader wishes to view the rebuttals to Mr. Goddard, click here and here.


First of all, Mr. Goddard's assertion that higher gas prices are "here to stay" is one that an economist shouldn't be making. When adjusted for inflation, gasoline prices are higher than their long term trend, but still not as high as the run up in the 70's according to
Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute. There are many factors to higher gas prices, but I think a lack of public transportation is one of the more miniscule ones. It seems obvious to me that Mr. Goddard was throwing this assertion around for emotional and rhetorical effect.

Next, Mr. Goddard rants that urban sprawl and increased traffic congestion are the result of focusing "solely" on road construction. "Urban sprawl", as far as it's a problem, is the result of people demanding more housing for less money than they would find in the cities. People also want quality schools, peace and quiet and a plot of land of their own. What I find infuriating about this column is that this intelligent man is living in a fantasy world but thinks that we ought to be in it with him. For instance, he doesn't acknowledge the severe beat down OKI took at the ballot box in trying to get a half cent sales tax increase passed. The pro lite rail people had regional government officials behind them, they had Fortune 500 Corporations supporting the measure. They had the Cincinnati Post supporting the measure (The Cincinnati Enquirer opposed it). They even had a life sized model flown in from Minneapolis for a week in an effort to "educate" the public about lite rail (see that story here and here.) Even with all of this backing, the measure still went down in flames by a 60-40 margin. What does he expect of political leaders in the face of that kind of message from voters?

Road construction AND "public transportation" should be privatized affairs. I think OKI and other "regional" government agencies shouldn't exist. I think that having toll roads to discourage unnecessary trips in cars would all be far better use of resources than simply throwing more good money after bad in money-losing ventures. In Cincinnati in particular, public transport needs to ditch, in the worst way, the "hub-and-spoke" system of running their buses. I think that airlines and bus lines lose money because they are addicted to the hub-and-spoke way of organizing themselves. Problems with gas prices have little to do with public transportation and "urban sprawl" isn't a problem because it is merely the housing market responding to demands from citizens. Cities need change with and embrace urban sprawl, not fight it. Mr. Goddard's column illustrates the lack of imagination and narrow tunnel vision that plagues government bureaucracies and far often academics alike.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Tonight in St. Louis, Ken Griffey Jr. hit career home run 500, a solo home run in the 6th inning. It has been frustrating as a Reds fan to see Griffey hurt for the previous three seasons, but that is what is making this season so cool to see. Griffey is healthy and he is playing like he used to in Seattle. His achievement on the diamond should just about gaurntee him a trip to Cooperstown when he decides to retire.

It was a good sign that the Reds went out and got some sorely needed help for their bullpen when they traded for Gabe White from the Yankees. White has had three previous stint here and did pretty well for himself. Management hasn't done much, but what they have done, they have addressed specific needs. I think that there are still more deals to be made, but this is a good sign that management is deciding to get serious about a run for the playoffs.

For a good perspective on Griffey's accomplishments,click here and here.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Can you say evidence? 

There is an important story coming out of the U.N. According to the Rantburg blog, U.N. weapons inspectors have found parts belonging to the Al Souad II missiles in scrapyards in Jordan and engine parts showing up as far away as Rotterdam (parts have been suspected to have been shipped out all over the world, but no one knows for sure).
For a quick reference, the Al Souad II missile, if my understanding is correct, is an intercontinental ballistic missile that had greater range and accuracy than the SCUD of Gulf War I. True, these are no weapons of mass destruction, but they were BANNED weapons all the same and these weapons that Saddam allegedly didn't have could deliver chemical and biological weapons if loaded and handled properly.
I will go back to what I said earlier on this blog: if we could miss a buried MIG-25 and if missile parts are showing up in different countries, how much more difficult is it going to be find deadly biological agents when their containers could probably fit inside an average ice box?
click here for the Rantburg article.

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