Sunday, May 31, 2009

Race and The Supreme Court Candidacy of Sonia Sotomayor

Inevitably, things surface during the candidacy of Supreme Court nominees that need explaining. Judge Sotomayor's comments on race do not. Judge Sotomayor was being honest that her experiences as a woman and a Latina inform decisions she makes. That's it. She was addressing the elephant in the room. And I applaud her for it.

The Republicans and the right saw this as an opportunity for attack. They have pounced, and, by pouncing, furter divided the country. Rush Limbaugh called Judge Sotomayor a racist and compared her nomination to nominating Louisiana Republican and former Klan member David Duke to the Court. Newt Gingrich has called her a racist. The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions, refused to categorically condemn these types of attacks on Meet the Press this morning saying, "I would not use those words." Sessions also knifed the President's claim that his nominee have "empathy" but when confronted with Samuel Alito video saying that he would take his own family's experiences into accord when ruling on immigration issues said it was important for a judge to have empathy.

Here's the deal folks. My experiences in life are greatly affected by who I am. I cannot escape my race. I cannot escape who raised me. I cannot escape the middle class upbringing. I cannot escape my public schooling. I cannot escape my views. I cannot escape any of this. Thankfully, I have been granted an empathetic mind that can see most sides of an issue. Thankfully, I have been granted the support of great friends of all different ethnicities and backgrounds. Those friends and their experiences also determine who I am, what I believe, and how I feel about issues.
Many people, including many of the Republicans that will vote on Judge Sotomayor's nomination, are affected deeply by their religious beliefs and believe firmly that religion can not only inform decisions but that a higher power guides decisions.

What Judge Sotomayor is getting slammed for is not racist. It's humanist! It's absolutely the truth, and it's unfortunate that people get ripped for telling the truth anymore. Rush Limbaugh clearly knows what it's like to be a racist (Donovan McNabb incident, Barack Obama attacks during campaign, etc., etc.), and he should know that Sonia Sotomayor is an accomplished Latina female Supreme Court nominee. Her past decisions just simply don't bear his claims out and, again, show that she's a centrist.

It's demagoguery, and it's the kind of thing that just makes the Republican Party look like it's dumpster diving. Is it fair to ask questions? Sure. It's also fair to ask Judge Sotomayor about things she has written or decisions she has made. The attacks on Judge Sotomayor are just not fair and should be strongly condemned.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama Rankles Right with that lefty lib...wait...a Centrist?

President Barack Obama did exactly what the right expected him to do. He went to the lef...wait...the RIGHT of David Souter in his first Supreme Court nomination. Now, the right is really scrambling to make something stick as they comb over case decision after case decision of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to find some obscure detail for red meat purposes.

Of course, President Obama picked a completely unqual...whoops...qualified candidate. A former prosecutor and longtime federal judge that has a resumé that's very very long and impressive, Sotomayor has been on the short list for the Supreme Court under both Republican and Democratic Administrations. She was considered for the job when Samuel Alito was elevated to the court. Obama's pick of Sotomayor makes President George W. Bush's unsuccessful Harriet Miers pick look really bad. So, why would Obama pick this raging libera...centrist? Good question. Perhaps he wanted a judicial activis...minimalist.

Gosh, this red meat stuff just isn't going very well. The liberal wing of the party is upset because Sotomayor is apparently not liberal enough. The Republicans are mad because Sotomayor is not conservative enough. The expert analysis must be correct...Obama picked a centrist.

It is a brave pick for the President right now. The Supreme Court balance is tenuous now, and it's fairly clear that, while appointed by George H.W. Bush, David Souter was more liberal than conservative. Picking a centrist may move the court back further to the right. With Judge Sotomayor at only 55 years old, a mere kid for Supreme Court Justices, the would-be first Latina justice could provide a friend and a balance to the right-leaning centrist Anthony Kennedy.

I think it was an impressive pick for the President. The Republicans would be wise to take that look at Judge Sotomayor, and pending any damaging information that has yet to come out, confirm her with flying colors. Continuing to oppose Judge Sotomayor's nomination absent of real reason makes the Republicans look more and more and more like the "Party of No" they have come to represent. This was a pretty non-political pick done on merit from all indications. I congratulate the President on seemingly playing this card correctly.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Brickyard Legend" Robin Miller Pitches New Show

Robin Miller is at it again, and apparently, he's trying out for a spot with Discovery's Mythbusters. In his latest colonic pearl from indysportsnation.com, the poop-stirrer-in-chief tries to pick a fight with people that really don't exist anymore.

Miller writes:
"This is my favorite time of the month because all the experts, IRL shills, friends of Tony George and media types who see one race a year start running off at the mouth.

They usually declare "the field is the deepest in history" or give us that insight: "any of the 33 starters could win."

And then they always follow up with "350,000 to 400,000" fans will jam into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

So let's clear up these myths before we handicap the 93rd Indy 500."

He then goes on to talk about the dominance of Andretti-Green Racing, Team Penske, and Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the IRL. He also goes out on a limb and picks Helio Castroneves to win the race on Sunday.

Here's the thing. Robin Miller's now stuck in 1999 and needs to move to 2009. I love IndyCar, and I have always supported the IRL. That said, if the winner's name on Sunday is not Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, or Hideki Mutoh I will be very surprised. You could probably throw in Panther's Dan Wheldon or even the cars with Ganassi or Penske ties (Alex Lloyd or Rafa Matos) into the hat too.

Miller is just pointing out the obvious (obvious now for five or six years) with his normal negative, anti-IMS spin. He's right! IndyCar right now isn't very competitive full field, but the five or six or seven or eight drivers that can win will trade jabs Sunday. The rest of the field will joust, battle, and race hard in every corner to give the (what IMS itself acknowledges) smaller crowd then normal a heck of a show.

Exactly what year did all 33 drivers have a chance to win? The "Brickyard Legend" who has never turned a hot lap there should know. IT HASN'T HAPPENED. The thing that is great about Indy is the thing that used to be great about the one class basketball tournament. The possibility is there over 500 miles for something unexpected to happen.

It's incredibly difficult to beat the perfectionists in the Penske, AGR, or Ganassi garages, but, over 500 miles a bobble, a mistake, or a misstep could conceivably level the playing field. It probably won't happen, but it could happen. That's the lore of the Indianapolis 500.

While "Brickyard Legend" Robin Miller continues to fight the CART-IRL war, race fans can take solace in knowing that the Greatest Spectacle in Racing will still be the best show in motorsports. Maybe all 33 cars don't have a chance, but the winner could still come from a four, five, or a six car shootout at the end. Wouldn't that be exciting? Wouldn't it be exciting to see John Andretti run for a top ten spot from the back of the field?

Probably not for the "Brickyard Legend" or his friends that are stuck tearing down open wheel racing rather than rebuilding it again.

It's time for the "Brickyard Legend" to just shut up about these things. He made his point, but his point is now mainstreamed so much that the George-owned IMS Radio Network picked drivers from the "Brickyard Legend"'s own list of possible winners.

This "Brickyard Legend" just comes off bitter, shrill, and just plain irrelevant.

Coroner's Office Dead Wrong on This One

The Marion County Coroner’s Office is in the news again, and, yet again, it’s for the wrong reasons. Frank Lloyd, the county’s new coroner, is under fire for his office’s handling a 750 pound woman’s lifeless body.

48-year-old Teresa Smith passed away of undetermined causes on Tuesday. Smith’s body was not able to be handled in the normal means and, according to the Indianapolis Star, firefighters were not available to assist. So, the Coroner’s Office did the most sensitive thing it could. It found a flatbed wrecker and hoisted her body on board with a chain. A FLATBED WRECKER? HOISTED HER WITH A CHAIN?

That’s right. Someone in the Marion County Coroner’s Office thought it would be okay to transport someone’s loved one by flatbed with just a carpet covering her remains. To his credit, Coroner Frank Lloyd was right out in front of the situation taking responsibility for the handling of Smith’s body and conceding that his office could have handled the situation better. I applaud him for this.

Coroner Lloyd’s mea culpa doesn’t quite make everything right for the family of Ms. Smith. She deserved better from Coroner Lloyd’s Office, and I hope that Lloyd makes this clear to his staff and to policy makers on the City-County Council.

As the obesity epidemic expands, the Coroner’s Office appears to be in need of equipment to handle these situations. If this is an equipment issue, then the Council needs to spend the money necessary to assure folks in Marion County that this never happens again. It’s just not an acceptable option to put someone on a flatbed. While I sympathize with the Coroner’s situation in some ways, it does not excuse the callousness his office showed in dealing with Ms. Smith’s death.

The Star also reported that Smith’s boyfriend is attempting to get together enough money to give her a proper burial, and I hope he’s able to do so. After the way she was treated in death, she deserves the dignity to rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dr. McGoff Enters 5th District Race

Dan Burton may be the incumbent for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, but the Republican primary challengers somehow feel he’s vulnerable. They are lining up to try to topple the longest-serving Representative in the Indiana delegation. Yesterday, 2008’s vanquished challenger Dr. John McGoff joined the fight which already includes former 7th District candidate Brose McVey, State Senator Luke Messer and possibly colleague Mike Murphy.

I think it’s going to be much more interesting this time because only the most true Republicans voted in the primary in 2008. Many R’s were masquerading as Democrats and playing in the D primary as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama slugged it out. This time, maybe more voter registrations will switch back to R as maybe some Democrats play in the Republican primary in '10. Now with McVey, a fairly moderate Republican in his nasty but unsuccessful 2002 race against Julia Carson, and conservatives like McGoff, Messer, and Murphy in the race the vote could split widely and just enough to erase the seven point margin Burton had over McGoff in 2008.

This entire situation underlines that, even though people cry and cry for term limits, that the voters can invoke their own term limits if they feel someone has been representing them badly. It also brings to the forefront what a mess the Republican Party is in right now with this longtime incumbent and R icon facing a challenge from within.

Whichever candidate that emerges will be a formidable foe for the Democrats in the fall. Like Indiana’s 4th District, the 5th is “No Republican Left Behind” territory with a boundary pretty obviously gerrymandered in the GOP’s favor. It’s tough sledding for the Katherine Fox Carrs or Mary Ruleys of the world who line up almost every year for a shot at the man called Dan (or the primary winner).

Burton could really really be in deep doo doo this time. However, this cat could still use one more of his nine lives. If I were Burton, I’d play up my advocacy for autism research. He’s actually right on that issue. He also has to portray himself as someone with the ability to change his own party with his built up political capital.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ballard's Latest Crisis...the City Market

Boy, when it rains, it pours on the 25th Floor at the City-County Building. After a horrible week of news that included tv reports about the deplorable condition of some city parks, the Indianapolis Starreports this morning that the City Market is broke and cannot pay its employees or its utilities.

Here is a link to the article: http://www.indystar.com/article/20090517/NEWS/905170383/Financial+problems+back+City+Market+into+a+corner

Ballard was quick to blame the business model and told the market people to be open to new ideas. "Some people want to make it a 1950s-style market, but that model is done," Mayor Greg Ballard told Brendan O'Shaughnessy of the Star. The Star reports that Mayor Ballard wants to open up the market to national chains such as Panera Bread and Starbucks.

If you read the article, this might be akin to a simple bandage on a dam break. It appears the problems go much much deeper than just attracting some tapped out national brands that have their own issues to come into the city landmark. It also, as the article points out, goes completely against what has been the City Market's purpose...local businesses in a landmark local space.

I guess my question would be...when has the city ever promoted the City Market? This could be a destination and tourist attraction for visitors downtown. This destination could host small, midday outdoor concerts with local acts or it could be a jewel in attracting the arts community in the courtyard.

I don't have all the answers, but it seems to me that the city could help out more by promoting and holding low cost events in and around the City Market. It needs to be promoted in the city's advertising literature for what it is...an historic and vital part to our community.

So, will Panera or Starbucks bring in tourists? Doubtful. It might bring in the lunch crowd downtown, but there are so many great restaurants and options there. The new ideas that Mayor Ballard wants the City Market to be open to may just be to promote the fact that it's a different kind of place than you can find anywhere else in Indianapolis.

None of this has to cost money...it's just promoting the jewel that's already right across the street from the City-County Building.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Had Enough? Vote ______________________

It seems like the perfect campaign slogan. Turn around the old "Had Enough?" slogan back around on Mayor Greg Ballard. It was pretty much the only question Mayor Ballard asked the voters in 2007. "Had Enough?" became a mantra that swept the retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. into office. It transcended the man as the 2007 Mayoral race became more than just the tradional referendum on the incumbent.

Sad thing was, I knew we were in trouble. I thought I saw early on what we were getting in Mayor Ballard. I knew it the first time I met the man. That would have been a community function up in Wayne Township. It was shortly after Ballard had been installed as the Republican candidate for Mayor. I watched as Mr. Ballard was led around by my friend and frequent reader of this blog, Rep. Phil Hinkle.

The next time I met the man-who-would-be-Mayor was at a neighborhood group meeting. Ballard sat quietly in the room and did not shake hands or work the room. Afterwards, I overheard a Republican friend of mine express her displeasure at the lack of attention.

I ran across the future Mayor again at a community fair with his beautiful family. He was again, very attentive to his family and his wife, but I didn't notice him working the crowd or talking to folks.

The Mayor seemingly has never been a "people person" in the times that I have seen him. He doesn't seem to understand that part of his job as a leader is to talk to people and find out their issues. Hizzoner has taken this personality to his "Mayor's Night Out" gatherings that have been, even to some of his supporters, tough at best.

On top of this lack of a human touch, this Mayor wrote a book (more like a long pamphlet) on leadership, and he has been violating it page-by-page. Now, he's going back on one of his campaign foundations and is proposing tax increases to help pay for the CIB's shortfall. This after coming to the party a little more than fashionably late and at a time where our folks are tapped out here in Indy. High taxes and crime...Had Enough? That was essentially the campaign of Greg Ballard. A nice guy, but clearly an amateur politician and someone not ready to lead a city with very different needs than a Marine platoon.

Now, some big name Democrats are lining up to run for Mayor. I have discussed that in previous blogs. You have to wonder how long the Marine will continue to go unchallenged. You have to wonder when maybe a Phil Hinkle or Carl Brizzi will decide that maybe it's time to make a run. Who knows?

I do know that the next Mayor of Indianapolis will face a changed city that will likely have higher taxes and still with unsafe areas. Whomever that next Mayor is better have more substance than "Had Enough?" behind them. I also doubt that the winner of the next Mayoral election will be Greg Ballard.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No One's Man Mitch???

These are interesting times in our state! Last night, I attended the Decatur Township Democratic Club meeting (ok, I’m President of the club), and we heard from two high-ranking Democratic lawmakers that even the Republicans aren’t necessarily in one happy tent over the unsettled state budget issue.

Senator Jean Breaux and Representative Jeb Bardon both called the 2009 General Assembly session strange and odd. While there were a few good things that got done, Senator Breaux touting the expansion (thanks to the feds) and salvation of the state’s unemployment benefits system, there were some really strange things, too.

Breaux said that Senate Republicans were pre-occupied with saving Indiana from the possibility of a Federal Government takeover with the “Defense of Sovereignty Resolution” that basically urged the feds to stay out of places they aren’t supposed to be constitutionally. She also cited the attempt by the Senate Republicans to “artificially create” an educational spending deficit by changing the school funding formula to get federal education dollars. She said that the change in the formula would have caused public schools in Gary and in Indianapolis to lose millions after the federal money went away.

Bardon said that he thought that there was a good deal in place for a budget. He said that unraveled suddenly. This was a budget that passed the overwhelmingly Republican Senate and was on its way to likely passage in the House. “The invisible hand of Mitch Daniels,” according to Breaux, had the Republicans unsure as to what to do. Mitch threatened to veto the budget, so the Senate passed it (without Breaux’s vote) and the House couldn’t come to an 11th hour agreement. Now, it appears that the circular firing squad of the GOP may be turning inward at the state level with Senate R’s lining up against their own Governor. Two for one sale on “My Man Mitch” merchandise. Not really what you might expect from a guy reportedly mulling over a Presidential run in 2012.

It appears that Governor Daniels will now put lawmakers up against the statutory June 30 deadline for a budget agreement. According to Bardon, a budget debate that does not end with a budget on that date will cause “real problems” for the state. Checks won’t go out, and all heck breaks loose. Conventional wisdom seems to say that Governor Daniels is going to try to bury certain things (CIB BAILOUT) in his budget proposal and try to force the hand of the General Assembly. Still, this could work back against him. Forcing a late special session could backfire if the Indiana House and Senate pass a budget that Governor Daniels is forced to sign to maintain the state’s solvency. Stay tuned on this one.

Still, I find it so funny to take that one of the authors of the largest budget deficit in the history of the United States is complaining about spending.

Non Political Rambling Here...

WXIN-TV, our beloved FOX affiliate here in Indianapolis, is running a new promo for their race coverage this month. It calls former Indianapolis Star reporter and columnist and longtime controversy starter, Robin Miller, a "Brickyard Legend" in the video spot.

When I saw the spot. I laughed! What a JOKE! The only place where Robin Miller is a Brickyard Legend is in his own mind. I can't believe that anyone who has any familiarity with the track would buy this load.

For years, Miller made it his business to stir the pot. Sometimes I have agreed with him, but, most times, I have not. Miller took CART's side in the CART/Champ Car vs. IRL debate. Now, he's somehow morphed into a "Brickyard Legend"??? Fox cannot be serious! This has to be a joke.

A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Ray Harroun, Louie Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Tony Hulman, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, Tom Carnegie, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Tommy Milton, Parnelli Jones, Sid Collins, Donald Davidson, Bill Vukovich, Lloyd Ruby, Eddie Sachs, Michael Andretti, even up to Helio Castroneves and today's stars...I could go on and on and on and on and on and on...are all Brickyard Legends.

I could list 200 probably, and Robin Miller wouldn't be on that list.

It's sickening and wrong. Robin Miller is a great pundit and very experienced racing reporter but he's not a "Brickyard Legend" and calling him one pees on the name itself. PERIOD.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"I Can't Comment on That."

That was Bob Cockrum, City-County Council President and CIB Board Member's, underlying response to Fox 59's Russ McQuaid's direct question about where Cockrum's "mayor's leadership" was on the whole CIB mess.

Cockrum, a veteran Councillor and, again, a member of the CIB Board was not contacted apparently by Mayor Ballard when he put together his plan to save the CIB, the formerly powerful body that controls operations of such city landmarks as the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse. It was shocking to hear the highest-ranking Republican in the City-County Council so mum on the question. He couldn't even come up with a political answer blaming it on the Democrats in the House or something.

McQuaid, a longtime reporter at Fox 59 and before that on the radio at WIBC, asked Council Minority Leader Joanne Sanders the same question about the Mayor Ballard's leadership and she said, without blinking, "Missing in Action."

It's another example of a leader that was not ready to lead. A man that was hastily elected due to acrimony...someone in way over his head.

To be fair, I think that Ballard inherited this mess. No excuse. We've seen what a true leader can get done at the federal level with our new President. His problems were much greater than those of Mayor Ballard. I don't know what Mayor Peterson would have done in the situation. Maybe all these untied loose ends underline how much Peterson did not expect to be beaten by Lt. Col. Ballard (ret.) in November of 2007. Peterson certainly would probably have a better relationship with the Democratically-controlled Indiana House. Of course, he wouldn't have had much of a relationship with the Republican-controlled Senate. It would have perhaps been better for negotiations. The problem is that Indianapolis is now a microcosm of the housing market. New airport, new stadiums, new convention center, and not enough money to run all of them. We built too much house for our mortgage.

Now, Indianapolis is in danger of LOSING business because the politicians can't get together. The chief politician is the architect of the building plan himself...Mitch Daniels. Governor Daniels backed a nine-county (he got eight) solution to help get the funds to build Lucas Oil Stadium. He boldly took the building project out of Mayor Peterson's pocket and made it a state project. Now, he's been just like Mayor Ballard...completely MIA.

Ballard and Daniels need to sit down with the Indiana House and the Indiana Senate leaders and hammer out a deal that protects taxpayers and our city's guests from shelling out exhorbitant money when they want to rent a nice hotel room, a rental car, or eat dinner out. These all are regressive taxes. Instead, I think a user fee makes sense (I know the Colts don't like a ticket tax, but those people that go to Colts games should be paying that bill). And I do believe that the entire state owes Marion County something here. Indianapolis does drive the economy in Indiana in a big way.

I also think it's time to tap the state budget surplus to help Marion County out. What difference will it make if we have a $1.2 or a $1.4 billion state surplus? It's time to open up the purse and pull out some pocket change to move this stuff forward...at least on an emergency basis. While you're in the surplus purse...pull out some money for education, too.

That's my ignorant opinion. Yes, I admit I've only been casually following the story. I may be way off base here. It just seems like it's time for the Republicans AND Democrats downtown to act like they care about having a world class city in Indiana or just India-No-Place where we get all excited twice a year about cars going around in circles (guilty of that).

Jack Kemp
I was saddened to hear of the death of one of those good Republicans. Former NFL Quarterback, Vice Presidential candidate, and Congressman Jack Kemp has passed away. I always liked Kemp even when I didn't agree with his political positions. Kemp was 73 years old, but I was shocked to hear about his age. He never looked it.