Tuesday, June 30, 2009

THE NEW BUDGET IS HERE...THE NEW BUDGET IS HERE!


After working overtime to get it done, the Indiana General Assembly passed a compromised budget that essentially bowed to the Governor's $1 billion surplus and apparently only partially cuts the throats of Indiana Public Schools to a less than cost of living increase of 1.1 percent in 2010 and 0.3 percent in 2011. The budget passed 62-37 in the House and 34-16 in the Senate with the majority of the Democratic caucus standing firm.

The budget also tosses a partial lifeline to the Capital Improvement Board but doesn't give Marion County all it wanted or needed to solve the issue. It's hard to believe that urban school districts like IPS will be gutted still while the House and Senate decided to just partially solve the CIB issue.

I guess this is a win for Mitch Daniels who got most of what he wanted in the budget. He also gets to say he drove the car. The Democrats took it all this far to just pass essentially the budget the Republican-dominated Senate passed a week ago.

So, the Special Session ends. Several Democrats caved to the doomsday predictions of his excellency, Governor Daniels. Perhaps they were being diplomats or were watching out for their own district or interest, but it's a big shame to have come this far and argued so passionately for one cause only to cave in when things got tough and leave major untied strings for the next two years.

It's sad. All the praise I have heaped upon many Democrats, I take back. This could have been done a long time ago. For those Democrats that voted to hurt our public schools and cripple our urban districts, shame on you! To those Democrats that stood strong, thanks for fighting the good fight.

Time for Mitch to board the Harley and head for the sunset

I invite any of the Democrats that voted for the budget to comment here and clear up anything I may be misunderstanding. I'm no obstructionist, but I just think we wasted this Special Session only to cave in the end.

And the Winner Still Is...AL FRANKEN!

AL FRANKEN HAS DEFEATED NORM COLEMAN! Franken was declared the winner of the Minnesota Senate race that took place back in November by just 312 votes in a 5-0 decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The comedian turned liberal radio host turned politician finally will be seated (likely next week) and provide the Democrats a 60th seat in the Senate. Coleman could challenge the court's decision, but he decided to concede the race citing that further litigation would harm the "unity" of his state.

Well, no duh! You think Norm?

Congratulations to Al Franken. He will now be doing one man band reports from the Senate Chambers. Finally, he's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Budget Debate To End One Way...or Another


Here it is. We are at ground zero for the apocalypse. It's coming. The final day for the budget debate at the State House. Mitch Daniels wants you to believe that the picture on the right is about to happen. We will have a budget, or we won't have a budget at midnight July 1. I believe the state will continue to be a state. I'm pretty sure the lights will come on in your houses, and I don't believe the doomsday forecast of the Meterologist-in-Chief, Governor Daniels. I also have faith that something will get done. If it's not what Daniels wants, does he have the cojones not to sign it?

I have heard from two different Democratic caucus members of the Indiana House that they think something can get done. Candidly, despite the claims of the Governor to the contrary, the Republicans vote in lockstep more than the Democrats do. Every Democrat in the House and Senate as well as the vast majority of the public school corporations in the state believe the budget proposed by the Republican Senate and Governor Daniels was just flat unfair to Indiana students and public schools. So, they may and could, as State Senator Vi Simpson give the Governor limited authority to continue running the state under the 2009 budget figures. The Senate's original provision that has not passed the House yet gave the Governor broad authority to not only continue to run the government but to change 2009 appropriations.

Speaker Bauer pointed out that no budget tomorrow doesn't necessarily mean the world will stop spinning and that we will all go flying into the universe. It's definitely somewhere we've never been, but it's so critical that hasty decisions do not rule the day just to get something on the books. The General Assembly's Special Session lasts until mid-July. Giving the Governor temporary authority while the budget debate continues seems to be the way to go, in my opinion.

The Indianapolis Star, for the second time in a week, wrote a very critical editorial about Pat Bauer and his job as Speaker of the House. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the middle right (anymore) Star wrote the editorial, but it calls Bauer an "obstructionist" and says that Daniels and the Republican-dominated Indiana Senate have been willing to compromise. Excuse me, if they were willing to compromise, why would we be in this situation? The Republicans in the Senate can't get off of this scot free. When is the last time they listened to the 17 members of the Senate that are Democrats on any major issue? They don't have to. They have the votes, and they do what they want to do. The Democrats in the Senate are loud, and I am proud of them.

There have been times that Senate sources have said that Republicans have not even been on the same page as their Governor. Why would the Democrats in the House or the Senate be willing to fall in step? Why would they fall in step when potentially this budget could gut our urban school districts and continue to allow them to bleed out and die away? For one, I'm glad that Pat Bauer and the Democrats in both the House and the Senate are there. If we aren't standing up for our kids, who can we stand up for?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Billy Mays Dead at 50


More sad news from the entertainment world today as Billy Mays, the ever-present pitchman for household problem solving items and other products, passed away this morning at the age of 50.

I had seen Mays largely as an annoyance and a huckster until I began watching the Discovery Channel's Pitchmen program which starred Mays and other pitch guy Anthony Sullivan. The television show introduced me to the real Billy Mays. He was much different than his salesman persona as well as much the same.

He was loud, obnoxious at times, and larger-than-life. He was also a perfectionist that tended to care as much about the product he was selling as the person he was selling it for. Mays was a professional entertainer in addition to his career as a salesman.

Mays was also a family man. In more recent episodes, we were introduced to his son "Little Billy" and his little girl. Watching scenes of Mays in a knight suit in this past week's Pitchmen episode made it clear that he was a little boy trapped in a professional pitch man's body.

I believe Billy Mays will be missed more than we believe he will. My hat is off to you Billy.

BUT WAIT...CLICK BELOW...HERE'S HOW TO ORDER.



Goodbye Billy! You will be missed by this TV nut.

Oxley Faces Potential Charges in Downtown Incident


The fate of former Indiana Rep. Dennie Oxley, a former rising star in the Democratic Party, is in the hands of Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's hands after a bizarre incident downtown. By now, the local media has picked up the story on Oxley, so, given the nature of the case, I'll defer to the local sources.

I know Dennie Oxley. He has spoken twice to the Decatur Township Democratic Club, and I found him to be a bright, articulate, and intelligent guy. I was so impressed with him that I told some of my friends that we had not seen the last of him. Little did I know it would be in this manner.

This is now the second incident in less than a year for the former lawmaker and Indiana Lt. Governor candidate. To me, it's very sad to watch this young and vibrant individual that I have met on several occasions go down a very dark path.

No one is perfect, and I hope that Dennie and his family are able to get through whatever may happen from here. Still, it's inexcusable...especially at this time of year in the amazingly contentious special session...for a current employee of the Democratic caucus to act in this manner.

Oxley should resign from his post and get his life together. He has young children they need their father. At 38, Oxley still has a future in politics, and I think he can overcome this. We always root for the underdog, and I think his charisma and charm will carry him far if he gets past whatever inner demons he has.

Listen, none of us are perfect. I have made mistakes and have done stupid things in my life. I just was never a public figure when I did them. I've also never allegedly lied to the police or even been close to being arrested.

All that said, while not excusing what was apparently deplorable behavior, I'm rooting for you, Dennie. Good luck and best wishes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Indianapolis Arts Scene Sees Major Regression Under Greg Ballard

Mayor Greg Ballard is failing to provide leadership in many areas. Add the arts to that list.

Everyone understands what dire straits the city is in financially. There are many tough issues that are confronting the 25th floor at the City-County Building. Just a few of these issues include the continuing crime problem, the failing infrastructure, and the Capital Improvements Board. Besides funding for parks, Mayor Greg Ballard has also failed to provide leadership in another "quality of life" area here in Indianapolis, the arts scene.

This week's Nuvo news magazine has two articles that are somewhat related. The first is a column by David Hoppe lamenting the complete rollback of any progress in the arts scene under the Bart Peterson Administration. The other article details the closing of Mark Ruschman's art gallery after 20 years of business. These are trying times, there is no question. I don't think anyone would begrudge the Mayor a few dollars here and there to deal with some of our major issues, but Indianapolis has apparently gone from a city with a mayor that celebrated the arts to a mayor that does not.

Hoppe writes that Mayor Ballard spoke to a "rally of art advocates on the Circle." He told the assembled group that the arts community needed to as Hoppe writes, "do a better job promoting itself." Hoppe quotes a study by Americans for the Arts that showed that Indy's $2.5 million investment in the arts in 2007 brought in nearly a half million dollars to the city's coffers. Since Mayor Ballard took office, the Indianapolis investment in the arts has slowly dwindled to a trickle. Now, Hoppe writes, it sounds like the Republican-led City-County Council may choke the spigot off altogether.

The aforementioned CIB used to contribute heavily to the arts community; that revenue is now gone. The private sector is strapped for cash as anyone that has tried to raise any money will tell you. The only hope for a healthy arts scene is a little stimulus from city government. Of course, that stimulus right now is not coming. Indy would rather spend millions on a cultural trail on the Northside and Southside than spend millions on a formerly vibrant and bustling arts scene.

It would seem to me that continued investment in the arts might be a way to make the city some money and make Indianapolis just that much better of a place to live. It's time for Mayor Ballard to come clean about his position on the Indy Arts Scene because he seems to have left them in the middle of a raging river without a way to get to shore.

Had Enough yet?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Dies; Farrah Fawcett Dies; Pieces of Childhoods Die

If you are a child of the late 70's or 80's, you must feel like I do today. A piece of our collective childhoods just passed, too. Farrah Fawcett, 62, passed away today after a long, public battle against cancer. Michael Jackson, 50, passed away today after an apparent sudden cardiac arrest.

Many a teenage boy in the late 70's lusted after Fawcett's racy posters and pictures as they hung on his bedroom closet wall. Young women copied her hairstyle and her fashion statements as well. Later in life, we were treated to her grace and strength as she stalked death with her eyes wide open.

For me, as a child coming of age in the 80's, there were three pop stars that really dominated the era. One is Madonna. One is Prince. And, you could argue that there would be no Madonna or Prince without the man that died today, Michael Jackson. Jackson lived a, from my estimation, sad and somewhat tragic life inside a media bubble he never came to terms with. Many of his problems were self-inflicted with his odd behavior.

Still, somewhere between Enzo's Pizza at Hanna and Madison on the Southside and my home in Decatur Township, it all sunk in. As I listened to Radio Now 100.9 play a selection of Michael Jackson's hits, I was suddenly transported back to the early 80's when I was little. I had that sinking sensation that I had lost a long lost friend. Yes, a couple of tears welled up in my eyes. With Jackson, I somehow had separated the great music, the innovative artistry, and the world citizen from the odd, peculiar, and creepy man that we had come to know. I was slapped upside the head in my car with the reality that the artist and that man were one in the same, and it hurt deep inside to know that part of my childhood died tonight.

The world will still have Jackson's music, but it will be sorely missing Fawcett's grace and class as she tackled cancer and death with her eyes wide open and her affairs in order. Jackson's legacy will be forever mixed with amazing contributions to this country's musical culture and the tragic figure he became.

It's a sad night for anyone who saw a major piece of their childhood disappear this evening.

Star Criticizes Bauer for Budget Stance; Fails to Criticize Republicans for School Funding Stance


The Indianapolis Star had been doing a better job as of late being a more moderate voice. It's been hot on the CIB story, the Ballard Administration, and has pushed for former Mayor Peterson's Indy Works plan. Today, though, it criticizes Indiana Speaker Pat Bauer and the Democrats in the Indiana House for standing up for public schools while giving the Republicans' position a free ride. Since the Star will give the speaker "No Applause" in its editorial, I will! I applaud the Speaker for his efforts and the Democrats in both the House and the Senate for standing up when the Republicans have slinked away.

Mitch Daniels' budget plan would have cut the heart out of urban schools and some suburban and rural schools, too. The Governor's plan would have cost IPS $47 million over two years. I can't argue that the state's largest school district has made some bad PR moves lately but taking away $47 million from teachers and students is just not right. I do believe our Indiana school funding formula needs work. It's needed the same work for years, but this "dollars follow the child" plan backed by the Republicans and the Governor fails to take into account the struggles school districts have with budgeting.

Indiana school districts must, by law, make a budget based on property tax projections and income forecasts well in advance of budget implementation. Once that budget is set and approved, it's up to the State of Indiana to make it so. Public school districts were socked in the face by the Governor's decision to freeze property tax assessments and collections a few years ago. Now, Hoosiers are still trying to pay the remainder of the "2007 pay 2008 bill" leaving schools unsure as to what will be available to them. While that crisis is slowly coming to a denoument, the budget battle continues to drag schools down and make public school defenders the villians.

If the Indiana General Assembly Democrats had failed to stand with our public schools over the years, then private schools would certainly have benefitted with public tax money in the form of vouchers, charter schools would have taken over as the public school system, and the parents that send their children (denied access to charter schools, etc.) to urban districts like IPS would have been forced to deal with a much different landscape.

What would happen? All of these things were possible. Class sizes of 40 kids or more are possible because districts couldn't hire more teachers. Reduction of programs like art and music would have been certainly possible, and research shows that art, music, and performing arts classes teach children to think and that those students in those activities tend to do better in core classes. The removal of those programs also remove the hooks that keep kids in school and out of trouble. Also, the removal of funds from schools that struggle seems to me to go against the very fabric of what our society should be about. We should be focusing our resources on making our urban schools better. Doing that, frankly, costs money and investment in our future.

It's true that urban public schools like IPS are bleeding student enrollment, but it doesn't have to be that way. There are many examples within IPS of great achievement. Look at the "Community School" formula and what it's done at George Washington Community School. The magnet program routinely produces young people that are well-rounded and intelligent contributors to society. Immediately removing funding from those schools like ripping off a bandage quickly just is not the answer.

I think the Indianapolis Star misses the point. The House and Senate Democrats are standing up for our public schools and our public school students. The Governor also is missing the point. The better our schools are; the better our society will be.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a stake in this debate. As many of you know, I am a public school teacher, and I do feel that many Republicans in state government do not understand the jobs that public school teachers do. I believe that the Indiana House and Senate Democrats have a far better understanding of the position of public schools and the reason behind that position than many Republicans do. Indiana is taking in less revenue, but shouldn't our public schools be a priority of where to spend our money? Our state is in dire straits right now financially, but how can we justify a budget surplus when our poorest students suffer? That should be the question the Star asks.

The Indianapolis Star is giving the Governor and the Indiana House and Senate Republicans a free ride. So, I ask the Star to consider this question...Pat Bauer is standing up for Indiana's public schools; why isn't Mitch Daniels?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Indiana Treasurer John Wayne...er...Richard Mourdock To Continue Chrysler Fight?


After wasting $2 million Indiana taxpayer money on his own personal principle and crusade against the Chrysler bankruptcy and reorganization with Fiat, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock told Business Week he may file a motion to have the Supreme Court review the Bankruptcy Court's decision on the Chrysler case.

Of course, Mourdock was praised by the right for standing up against President Obama. Mourdock told Business Week that he is "personally opposed" to government involvement in business. As the Treasurer said in the article, "John Wayne never needed a bailout," he continued. "Is it about money? Is it about principle? Is it about the law? Yes. It's about more than Chrysler and Indiana. When we see the law has no meaning, it sets a bad precedent."

Apparently, the rule of law was upheld in the Bankruptcy Court's opinion. Time will tell if the Supreme Court will agree or even will hear the case. Of course, a major controversy was that the Treasurer used an out-of-state attorney to argue the case. He plans to use another out-of-state attorney again if he files the motion, but that attorney would work pro bono along with Indiana's Solicitor General.

Do you have an opinion on the issue? Should Treasurer Mourdock continue to put what jobs Chrysler still has at stake? Give the Treasurer a call or send him an e-mail. The contact information is below plus, there is a link to his e-mail form.

Indiana State Treasurer's Office
242 State House
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
phone: 317-232-6386
fax: 317-233-1780
email: tosstaff@tos.state.in.gov

Link to e-mail form

The State Newspaper Publishes Sanford E-mails

Oh my...defintely Moderately NSFW

Governor Sanford Speaks!


South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford finally broke his silence about his long, strange trip where he slipped the bonds of his security team and his staff. Apparently, Sanford decided to go visit the land that spawned the musical Evita. He was in ARGENTINA!!!!

The word comes after his staff apparently lied to the media and to the state's four million residents. Now, today, the bombshell as he announced in a Press Conference that he had "bottom line" been "unfaithful" to his wife with a "dear dear friend" in Argentina.

So much for hiking the Appalachan Trail or taking some time off or getting away from the kids to "write something." The story kept changing even after the Governor was discovered to be in Argentina. He said that he told his staff he was probably going hiking but decided for something more "exotic" and decided to drive the coast of Argentina. When it was pointed out this was difficult to do, Sanford was finally toast. You know, sometimes when you tell a lie to cover another lie to cover another lie, you have to come up with another lie and none of these were particularly good ones. None of those lies rang particularly true. Now, South Carolina's Governor now has some 'splaining to do.

You see, I actually don't care if he had an affair. That's his family business. You can argue that other politicians that were caught in similar pickles were still on the job. When Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton had their liaisons, for example, it was in the White House. For goodness sakes, one of the most famous ones was in the Oval Office itself. Even John Ensign wasn't accused of not doing his job.

It's clear though that either Sanford's staff was trying bad to cover for him or they, frankly, didn't know where he was. This means that Governor Sanford decided that it was more important for him to leave the country to visit his "dear dear friend" in Argentina than it was for him to conduct state's business. It was more important for him to pursue that affair than to leave his cell phone on.

Life is complicated. We all know that things happen with love that sometimes make things even worse. This is now a very painful bit of dirty laundry strewn across the pages of major newspers, television networks, and internet sites worldwide. For that, I'm sorry to the Governor. It was Governor Sanford that will have to face the music for leaving the country and his four young boys behind on Fathers Day for apparently an extramarital affair. The political issue for me as well as all of the Government of South Carolina is that this is strict dereliction of duty.

The Governor should resign as he already has from being the Chair of the Republican Governors' Association. If he doesn't, he should be impeached. His irresponsible personal actions have left his state potentially in peril. I'm sure this is not the last we've heard of this weird, odd, strange, disturbing story.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wacky Republican Caucus in the Indiana Senate Gives Daniels Carte Blanche

The Indianapolis Star reports that a bill has passed the Indiana Senate allowing Governor Mitch Daniels to operate the State of Indiana after June 30 if no budget is passed during the General Assembly's Special Session. While this, on the surface, seems to make sense, if you think about it, it does not.

This bill allows the Governor to continue under the 2009 budget, but it kicks the very heavy can of the the 2010-2011 budget debate down the sidewalk. Democrats charge that the bill amounts to a power grab by the Governor (and we all know that the Gov. loves to power grab).

While the bill passed the Senate, 32-18, it is not likely to pass the Democratically-controlled House. Passage of this bill in the House would also mean that this Special Session, which has cost Indiana taxpayers millions, would have been a complete and utter faiure. The bill would also take away the very large stick that the General Assembly holds over the head of the Governor as well.

While many of the cards are in the hands of the Governor as he has fought the budget debate on his home turf, the June 30 deadline gives the Democrats in the House a chance to work out a budget with the Republicans in the Senate and then put it on the Governor's desk to sign. In effect, if this bill were to pass the House, that could happen before June 30, and the Governor could just punt the budget out if he doesn't like it. He has no stick of re-election to worry about, either.

Bottom line is that there are extreme differences between the GOP and the Democratic budgets, and those should be resolved by compromise. Removing the June 30 deadline will take away the sense of urgency for compromise.

I also would like to salute one brave Republican for joining the Democratic caucus in voting against the Senate bill. Senator Jean Leising of Oldenburg bucked her own party's ceding of control to the Governor. Bravo to her!

Gentle readers: The budget debate must be solved by June 30 or all parties lose. It's time for the powers to come together and work something out and stop these silly political ploys that may work out in a more powerful Governor's Office. Mitch Daniels already controls the 25th Floor of the City-County Building, the Superintendent of Public Instruction's Office, the Secretary of State's Office, the Treasurer's Office, and the Republican caucus in the Indiana Senate. He doesn't need the House, too. Speaker Bauer and the House Democrats need your support now more than ever. They are the only thing standing between the State of Indiana and an unchecked Governor.

Apparently, I'm on FredPAC's List

I received an e-mail this morning from the PAC of former Senator and Presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

After I clicked on the link provided by FredPAC, I was treated to Fredenstine's diatribe from a radio program (I assume) about Obama's status in Iran. Freddy called Obama "irrelevant" to the people in Iran. I chuckled to myself because it seems to me that there is no one more irrelevant in this equation than Fred Thompson.

When Lindsey Graham or John McCain speak out against Obama, they are at least still in Congress. When John Boehner opens his well-tanned trap, he's one of the House leaders. When Senator Richard Lugar supports the wait-and-see approach of Obama, he has years as the Republican's top guy on Foreign Relations behind him. When even Rush Limbaugh speaks, his droves of fans and fanatics listen.

But Fred Thompson? I didn't even know Fred Thompson had taken over Bill O'Reilly's radio show slot in March. How irrelevant is that? Come on Fred! Are you serious? How irrelevant are you to the Iranian people. Are they hanging on your every word?

Plus, you are just flat out wrong calling Obama weak for not responding. Obama is maintaining America's strength by NOT responding. At least, that's what Senator Lugar is saying, and, as I've said in three different blog posts, I trust his word on foreign relations.

You're weak Fred. You're irrelevant Fred. I think you're just jealous.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Paging Governor Sanford


The Chief Executive of the great state of South Carolina has been incommunicato since Thursday but has now been located. That's the report of the State newspaper. Now, amazingly, the legislature wants to know who was running the show in his absence.

The Governor's own office told the Lt. Governor's Office that Governor Mark Sanford was just fine. Apparently, the Governor needed some time "away from the office this week to recharge after the stimulus battle and the legislative session, and to work on a couple of projects that have fallen by the wayside," according to his own office. His wife put it more simply. She told the paper that the Governor had been missing for several days, but she was not concerned. She told the paper that he said he "needed time away from their children to write something."

Politicos may remember that Sanford was in the VEEP derby for a while with on the Republican side with John McCain. He was also notable for not immediately endorsing McCain as the presumptive nominee. Sanford is a former Republican Congressman who has been mentioned as a potential future Presidential candidate.

That seems to have been derailed as the State reported that Sanford left the Governor's Mansion on Thursday night in a black SUV. His security detail could not locate him. He also had turned off both his personal cell phone and his state-issued cell phone. The last GPS location from those phones apparently came near Atlanta, GA. This apparently is not the first time this is happened. The State reports that "one official familiar with the situation said there was no indication that foul play might have been involved because Sanford occasionally makes trips without his security detail."

All of this is just odd. Why would the State's highest elected official go AWOL? I have NO idea. The fact that the Governor of South Carolina could disappear into the ether is also quite surprising and odd. It also brings up the very real questions about Sanford's leadership. Who is running the State of South Carolina? The only verification of his location and whereabouts is apparently his own office!

State Senator Jack Knotts seems to be on the same page. He wants to know who is in charge of South Carolina. The Senator told the State, "As the head of our state, in the unfortunate event of a state of emergency or homeland security situation, Governor Sanford should be available at all times to the Chief of SLED." The SLED is the Governor's security detail.

The South Carolina Constitution provides that the Lieutenant Governor take over executive duties if the Governor is unable to execute them. Governor Sanford, according to the State, did not transfer power to the Lieutenant Governor when his Air Force Reserve Unit was called to Alabama for a two week training.

Watch this odd story!

UPDATE:
Sanford has been hiking the Appalachian Trail! That's the story, and they're sticking to it.

Republicans Spend Morning Talk Shows Yappin'

The Republican Party trotted out its loudest barkers...among them Lindsey Graham and John McCain...to appear on the Sunday morning talkers yesterday in condemnation of President Obama's measured response to the election debacle in Iran.

Still backed by the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, Obama continues to take a wait and see approach in Iran although Saturday condemning the government's violent crackdowns against protesters.

The Republicans are continuing to back a failed strategy of meddling in other countries' affairs and that "hair on fire" diplomacy that got us into the ever slogging on war in Iraq. And it gives you pause...what if John McCain had been elected President? I know I blogged on this a few days ago, but John McCain has gone from maverick to moron before all our eyes. Hey...wouldn't that be a great title for Bob Woodward's next book? From Maverick to Moron: The Great Change of John McCain

Yes, the man that, if he had won the 2000 Republican Primary, I would have considered supporting has now become a mere shadow of his former self by toeing his party's line. It's quite quizzical, too. He will be 76 the next time that we elect a President, and that's well past the shelf life for any Presidential candidate not named Bob Dole. It seems that he could have reverted to McCain 1.0...the Maaaaverick and turned the clock back to pull his party back. Instead, he and most other Republicans are gum flapping away at an issue that clearly the President is right on. I don't base that on the President's assessment either; I base it on Lugar's.

I trust Richard Lugar's assessment of foreign affairs. It's been one of the amazing hallmarks of his time in the Senate. Lugar has traveled the world, negotiated with the likes of Muammar al-Gaddafi (not the most stable soul on the planet). He knows foreign policy. If it's good enough for Lugar, it's good enough for me when it comes to Obama's Iran policy. Last week, it was Lugar and not Obama that said he was concerned that if the United States dove into the fray there in any fashion that it could and would be used against us. Obama echoed this talking point yesterday.

Still, I would have liked to have seen the same fervor of enthusiasm and outrage from the Republicans...or the Democrats for that matter...in 2000 after the sham of an election we were all treated to in Florida. Instead, hardly anyone short of a few Democrats in Congress batted an eye. Consequently, we all rolled over and watched the "peaceful transfer of power" take place in the country though it was clear that Al Gore got more popular votes than Bush. We rolled over enough to continue to allow the Electoral College to exist. This despite being told it was just a mere formality all through grade school. It wasn't just a formality. The Electoral College system gave us what we got in 2000. The funky voting in Ohio gave us what we got in 2004. Again, short of Democrats like Julia Carson that joined a bill in protest of the election results...nothing.

That's another blog for another day. I just say to the Republicans that if you're going to yap...make sure it's the right rap.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Clinton Cautions Democrats to Lead

Bill Clinton held an entire room of excited and a little warm Democrats in complete and utter attention at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Indianapolis Saturday night.

It was a sweeping address almost too big for the event but perfect at the same time. Clinton traced the history of the Democratic electoral fortunes back to the last time we had the best candidate and the right moment in time for sweeping change. That was, according to President Clinton, 1968. At that moment, we lost Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. The election was won by Richard Nixon's silent majority and the Democrats would win only three Presidential elections through 2004.

"The Republicans had the White House, but they also had Democratic Congresses to keep them in check," said Clinton. He then traced the history through the Reagan years, George H.W. Bush's Adminstration, and through the Clinton White House.

You can say what you want about Bill Clinton, but there's no question that the United States was in a stronger position than almost any other time of peace in 2000. The economy was going gangbusters (although the dot com bubble was soon to burst), and peace...not war...governed most foreign shores. The federal surplus was in the billions and the national debt was falling and not rising. Clinton managed to walk a tight rope between fiscal conservativism (granted, helped out by a conservative Congress) and social liberalism. Then, all heck broke loose.

In 2000, the United States elected George W. Bush (in the Supreme Court, 5-4). "That 'compassionate conservative' campaign slogan was better than anything I've ever given you; that's for sure. He was saying that he would deliver everything Bill Clinton delivered to you, but it will cost less and you'll get a bigger tax cut," said Clinton.

In 2002, Bush was delivered an all-Republican Congress that, according to Clinton, "Was just as radical as he was." Clinton brought the narrative forward from 2002 to 2008. Clinton said the events of September 11 galvanized the country around Bush. He stated that in 2004, the country returned Bush to office just as a "wartime President" usually gets returned. Clinton said Bush's victory was the smallest for a re-elected President since the Woodrow Wilson re-election in 1916.

In 2006, the country finally had enough and the Democrats took back the Congress. "I woke up that day and looked at the results, and I told Hillary that if we didn't nominate a convicted felon that a Democrat would be elected President in 2008. You could see the tide turning."

The tide continued to turn in 2008 when Clinton said, "For the first time in 40 years, we had tough times and the right candidate. We also had a more diverse society than ever before that said 'I don't have time to oppose you because you are different.'"

Barack Obama moved into the White House. Clinton said that it's time to put the past in the past and answer some very fundamental questions. The most important one being, "Now what?"

How do the Democrats govern from here? Clinton said the party would be judged at every level by the actions. "The people handed us the ball. Now it's up to us to run with it," said the former President.

He ran off a laundry list of items the Obama Administration is working on agreeing with every one of them. He credited Obama with putting a floor under a sinking economy and ensuring that there was some liquidity in the markets. He said that Obama's treatment of the auto industry collapse was "about right" and that he would not have done much differently.

He cautioned though that once the hard times turn around that it's important for us to support the President to "pay back that debt." As a fiscal conservative, Clinton said he believed in surpluses and deficit reduction during good times. Clinton's point of the speech was that the blame game should stop because there's no one to blame anymore. As fractured as things were, it's now up to the Democrats to glue everything back together.

Clinton gave solution suggestions in creating green jobs, addressing climate change, and finally ending the nightmare for working families by providing national health care. Clinton said lowering health care costs should be a priority for bringing back manufacturing jobs from other countries where health care is cheaper such as Japan and the European Union.

It was 55 minutes of eloquence and a cautionary tale for Democrats across the United States.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Exciting but Bittersweet Weekend on Tap for this Democrat

I am looking forward to this weekend and not looking forward to this weekend.

I was able to score some tickets to see President Bill Clinton on Saturday at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in downtown Indianapolis. President Clinton was my first Presidential vote in 1996, and I credit him as well as an ex-mate, and Congresswoman Julia Carson for getting me off my butt and involved in Democratic politics. I am looking forward to going to the Mariott to see one of the greatest Presidents of the 20th Century. President Clinton, if by some reason you stumble upon my blog, welcome to Indianapolis.

As far as the bitter part of the weekend, this will be my first Father's Day without my father, Henry Easter. As many of you may know, my dad passed away in February. He and I could NOT TALK POLITICS. For conservative readers of my blog, you may be wondering how I could be born from two conservative parents. I was. Regardless, I'm not really looking forward to Sunday. A typical Father's Day would be sitting on the couch with Dad watching the U.S. Open. I haven't been able to do that for a long time, but I always made sure that I gave him a call after Mom and Dad moved away to Florida.

That last paragraph has nothing to do with politics, political criticism, or humor. Still, death is a part of life whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. I got to see death visit my father. I was with him when he took his last breath on this Earth, and it was so peaceful and serene. It was a stark contrast from the days and years before where Dad struggled so much.

You see, my father was a lifelong Westsider. He was a proud graduate of George Washington High School. He matriculated from there to the University of Indianapolis where he, like he did in high school, starred in sports. He graduated from Indiana Central College, as U of I was called then, and went directly into teaching. He was the first football coach at Avon High School. A couple of years later, he joined the staff at IPS School 75. He would remain in IPS for the rest of his career until his retirement in January of 1997.

In the meantime, he and my mom raised two children and lost two. They had a business that succeeded and then failed. Regardless, they stayed together through all of it and were in their 48th year of marriage when dad passed on. Still, I think my dad was never really happy in his own skin.

He was when he was inducted into the University of Indianapolis Athletic Hall of Fame in January of 2008. He BEAMED smiling ear to ear. It took a letter writing campaign by his friends and colleagues. One letter even came in from Avon High School expressing its appreciation for his efforts in starting the football program from scratch.

I actually think it was in those last few years of his life that he found happiness. He was comforted by the visits from friends and even some former students. One former student wrote him a letter last year about how my father's coaching helped him survive his time in Vietnam. It was a touching letter that brought my father to tears.

Sorry to ramble on, but, even though my father and I canceled each other's votes out more than once, my dad stood on his principles and believed deeply in this country. He was a true patriot that loved the United States, and I hope he instilled some of that in his youngest son.

So, do something for me...if you can...hug your dad real tight this weekend and never be afraid to tell him you love him.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Imagining a Nightmare: The First Five Months of a McCain Presidency

OK...so President Obama's approval ratings are starting to slip. Let's give some thought as to what a John McCain Presidency might look like through a blog I might have written.
----

Well, we are five months into John McCain's Presidency, and he continues to allow things to go from bad to worse.

The problems began early on when the President put into Executive Order a plan to keep Guantanamo Bay open permanently as well as extend American troop deployments in Iraq indefinitely. The Congress immediately passed a non-binding resolution strongly urging the President to close Guantanamo and to begin withdrawing troops.

Secretary of State Richard Lugar was fired six days into his job due to a disagreement with McCain's immediate declaration putting Iran, North Korea, and the small island nation of Vanuatu on a new "state sponsors of terror" watch list. Relations were immediately more strained when McCain ordered an invasion of Vanuatu in search of coconuts of mass destruction. He also escalated the North Korea situation by putting US warships on standby just off the coast including the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. Both North and South Korea appear headed towards an unresolvable conflict.

Vice President Sarah Palin raised eyebrows by taking Air Force 2 on a shopping excursion to Manhattan. In the meantime, she saw a New York Yankees game, and David Letterman made an inappropriate joke about the Vice President's daughter igniting a war of words between the comedian and the VEEP.

McCain reacted to the resignation of Supreme Court Justice David Souter by appointing Judge Marilyn Milian of the People's Court to fill his spot on the court. Judge Milian has impeccable credentials having served as a law professor, a former Assistant State Attorney under Janet Reno and a Miami Circuit Court Judge, but her handling of the Wilson-Smith case in the People's Court drew some interest. Apparently, she ordered Wilson to return Smith's compact discs despite the fact that some of the CD's were actually Wilson's. McCain also raised eyebrows by quoting the People's Court's open as a qualification for Milian's nomination by flippantly saying to a question by NBC's Chuck Todd, "Hey...she's qualified. After all, she's the hottest judge on TV."

Former Indiana Governor and now Secretary of the Treasury Mitch Daniels decided to privatize the mint selling it for $4 trillion to a Chinese firm. Governor Becky Skillman was sworn in as the first female Governor in Indiana's history and the state immediately said, "Who is that?"

Of course, recent events have sent things spinning. Refusing to prop up General Motors and Chrysler, McCain allowed both to fail. GM went into bankruptcy, but Chrysler was forced to liquidate. As a result of this, retirees pension funds collapsed, and the unemployment rating has skyrocketed to near 18 percent.

The Federal Government came to a screeching halt as well when a budget could not be passed. Short the 60 votes in the Senate to override a veto (because of the ongoing battle for the Minnesota Senate seat) Congress failed to override McCain's veto of the Democrat approved budget. Health care reform and movement anywhere on civil rights appears to have stalled.

All-in-all, it's been a rocky start for McCain. Let's hope things get better from here on out.

Stephen Colbert's Take on Flygate

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen's Positive Obama Coverage
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Murder in the White House - Fly Widow Interview
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama Enforces White House No Fly Zone, Personally

Both the Internet and the cable news media are abuzz with President Obama's handling of a persistent and unwanted supporter. I have posted some of the highlights I found on YouTube below.









Then, there's this offering from The Guardian.

BUT...TMZ reports...

Let's Talk Lugar

Richard Lugar should be the face of the Republican Party. He consistently is the most reasonable and thoughtful Republican in Congress.

While former moderates like John McCain and the raving lunatic fringe like Rush Limbaugh are saying that President Obama should be running in with his hair on fire and calling the Iran election a complete sham, Lugar has supported the President's measured approach calling it the appropriate cause of action. He also has said that the United States should stay out because the Iranian clerics would use "ill will" generated against us.

After President Obama's Cairo speech, it was Senator Lugar that came out in defending the President against his own Republican party faithful (who said Obama's speech weakened America) by saying that he didn't think it made America look weak, that the speech struck the appropriate tone, and it was tough enough for its particular purpose on the Middle Eastern power structure. He also did not agree with the Rush talking point that the speech was too apologetic.

So, who is this guy? Is this guy really a Republican? YES. Richard Lugar IS a Republican. He carries around core Republican values, and I disagree with many of his issue positions...especially social issue stances. Lugar is pro-gun, pro-military, pro-free trade, pro-private health care, anti-union, anti-abortion, anti-domestic partnership rights, and the list goes on. Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that Lugar is further left than our very middle of the road Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. When you look in the voting record though, Bayh is a Democrat, and Lugar is a Republican.

However, I will say this. Lugar is probably the most thoughtful and non-partisan Republican when it comes to foreign policy issues. He understands that foreign policy issues sometimes can't go up for easy answer debate. Things aren't always clear cut. For that, I applaud him. I will say that, as Republicans go, Senator Lugar far outshines other Indiana Republican Congressional leaders like Steve Buyer, Mike Pence, and Mark Souder. Pence and Buyer both have drawn recent ridicule for comments on the House floor.

Perhaps the Republicans should be listening to Lugar and including him in the reorganization of the new Republican Party.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Perspective on Manhattan Gate

Here's a nice perspective article from the Associated Press on President Obama's recent date night to New York City with the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Inner City Schools Suffer Under State School Superintendent...er...Governor's Budget

Some of the state's largest school districts will be stripped of millions in funding over the next two years under State School Superintendent...er...Governor Mitch Daniels' budget proposal. That's the assertion coming from the Indiana Democratic Party in this large PDF File.

Indianapolis Public Schools would, according to the numbers provided by the Democrats, lose over $43.5 million. Gary Community Schools would lose nearly $25 million. Anderson schools would lose nearly $5 million. All of this comes on the heels of Every County Assessor Daniels...whoops...the Governor's decision to freeze property tax collection causing the unintended consequence of shortfalls in public school districts across the state as they waited for revenue while the mess got sorted out.

No outrage was reported from Deputy Mayor...whoops Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard at the funding situation. Apparently, Mayor Ballard is content to allow the funding to go away without advocating for his own school districts. Another Marion County District, the MSD of Lawrence Township loses nearly $2 million.

I would not expect outrage from the right who generally do not believe in the value of public education. On "Little Rush" Greg Garrison's show this morning he said something to the effect that no good comes out of more money for schools. This is the kind of attitude that prevails in the Governor's Office. The difference is that statement from Governor Daniels would be no good comes out of more money for inner city schools.

House Speaker Daniels...whoops...Governor Daniels has advocated (along with Republicans like Rep. Bob Behning) a change in the funding formula where the "dollars follow the child" in public education. This would mean that if Student A enrolls in IPS but his parents get a job in Hamilton County that the dollars would immediately be pulled away from IPS and given to Hamilton Southeastern schools...let's say. The problem is that schools are required by law to budget far in advance. That's why the property tax freeze by Daniels caused so much trouble. Schools had budgets on the books that were not funded.

It's a mess. While IPS loses millions, suburban schools gain. That's where the increase in funding that Mitch and the R's are touting goes. While IPS loses over 10 percent of its funding over the life of the two year budget, Carmel Clay schools gain 4.1 percent. Hamilton Southeastern gains 10.8 percent. Martinsville loses 2 percent, but charter schools like the Monument Lighthouse Charter School (An eastside K-7 arts-based charter school...according to its website) gain 86 percent!

It's definitely a redistribution of funding. While I don't believe anyone will argue that if you have fewer students in your district you probably should get less funding over time, pulling the funding like a band aid doesn't allow the district to plan to do with less.

Let's hope some common sense prevails at the Statehouse. Governor/State School Superintendent/Mayor/Assessor/Dog Catcher Daniels cannot be allowed to win this fight.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Steve Buyer Is One Piece of....WORK

Congressman Steve Buyer garnered (or should I say garnished?) some attention this past week by arguing against and voting against a landmark bill that gave the FDA the ability to regulate what goes into cigarettes and how those cigarettes are marketed for the first time.

Buyer, who was one of just 97 members of the U.S. House to vote against the measure, took to the floor to take issue with the research that says the new bill will cause LESS people to smoke and saying that if you smoke lettuce you will have the same problem as if you smoke tobacco. Buyer's comments also seemed to indicate that it's fine to get nicotine in other ways including smokeless tobacco.

Buyer voted against the bill though he said the SMOKE is the problem. I guess potentially dropping smoking rates AT ALL isn't worth it to Buyer. Marketing smokes to kids...not a problem either for him. He also, according to opensecrets.org, has taken nearly $100,000 over the years he has been in House from the tobacco industry as well as close to $500,000 from the health care industry and nearly another $375,000 from the pharmaceutical industry. In short, Buyer would seem to have a political interest in keeping folks smoking.

His nonsensical speech on the House floor can be seen below. WAKE UP REPUBLICANS IN THE 4TH DISTRICT! THIS IS WHO IS REPRESENTING YOU!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tim Russert

It's hard to believe, but today marks one year since the best in the biz, Tim Russert, passed away while prepping for Meet the Press in Washington.

Since Tim passed, much has changed. One can only imagine what Russert would have thought of the historic Presidential campaign that he missed the last eight months of last year. I still wake up Sundays at 10:00 a.m. sometimes expecting to hear that same old familiar voice say, "OUR ISSUES THIS SUNDAY..." or finish out the broadcast "IF IT'S SUNDAY, IT'S MEET THE PRESS."

David Gregory does a fine job, but Tim Russert's Meet the Press was about Tim Russert even though it really wasn't about Tim Russert.

This past year, I've experienced the pain of losing my own father. I think Tim actually helped me prepare for losing my father. I read his book The Wisdom of Our Fathers several years ago, and it allowed me to see into countless lives of people that had lost their dads. It's a collection of letters that Russert received after people read Big Russ and Me, a book he had penned about his relationship with his father. The letters and observations were right on. You never forget the little details. For example, my father had the amazing ability to hang his shoes off his toes backwards. He would even do it when he was napping. There are so many other details, but I think it was reading Tim's book that made me tune into those details when I was with my dad even more.

Amazingly, it has been a year. He was the best in the biz. He was my journalistic hero. I felt like he was a friend I never met. Tim Russert...here's to you my friend.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Raining Bush

The folks in a small seaside Maine town looked up today to see #41, President George H.W. Bush falling from the sky attached to a parachute and another skydiver. It certainly was not the first time we've seen the former President fall from the sky. He did it once from his damaged airplane in World War II. Since, he has skydove several more times to celebrate milestones.

Today, it was Bush's 85th birthday celebration. On hand were all the kids including #43. George W. Bush beamed and looked as awkward as ever bobbing up and down in his casual clothes (including a pair of tennis shoes). A whole head taller, Jeb Bush was the one that looked more Presidential in a polo shirt and khakis. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Neil Bush appeared too. Of course Barbara, Laura and the rest of the gang were there. It made me think of something.

I know that the Bushes are ridiculously rich and have dubious ties to the Middle East (especially Saudi Arabia). Still, it's touching to see old #41 put his arms around #43, Jebbie, and the rest of the gang. It's also awesome to see this man that can, by his own admission, no longer play golf jump from an airplane 13,000 feet in the air. After landing, the former President shuffled slowly to the set up podium and seemed astute and sharp as he ever was.

Who knows if another Bush will run in 2012. Certainly, Jeb has some interest and has put himself forward as a possible leader for the Republican Party in 2012. Today, it was Dad's show. The old man still has it. Let's see if he can get W., Clinton, and Carter up there with him next time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tully...Tully...Tully

There's no need for original content when Matt Tully writes a hilarious column like this one in the Indianapolis Star.

Expanding on his hilarious idea, here are some other imagined tweets. All in fun folks.

Rudy Guiliani: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11

Tom Tancredo: It's been 15 minutes since I said something crazy. Time to open my mouth again.

John Kerry: I enjoy tweeting. It's an enjoyable to communicate with voters in this way. It forces me to put my thoughts into a concise few sentences. That's why I voted for Twitter before I voted against it. It's important to twit

John Edwards: I understand that I upset Elizabeth but was the electric fence and collar really necessary.

Evan Bayh: Testing which way the wind blows before taking a position.

Dick Cheney: Hunting anyone? No? Go F*%# yourself.

George W. Bush: Mising beeing the Deecidur

Greg Ballard: Waiting for Mayor Daniels to tell me what to do...

André Carson: Doubters...how you like me now?

Steve Buyer: Let's just drop a nuke on North Korea. Take that Kim Jong-Il

Kim Jong-Il: Playing golf...just had six holes in one in the first seven holes. Beat that Burton!

Rush Limbaugh: Blah...blah...blah...blah...blah...hat Obama...blah...blah...hate Obama...blah...hate Pelosi...blah blah blah.

Greg Garrison: "If I could be like Rush...wanna be wanna be like Rush...like Rush"

George H.W. Bush: Going clubbing with best bud Willy Jeff. Gonna party like it's 1989.

Barack Obama: Curing cancer, Solving pi, walking on water all at once

Ed Coleman: "All By Myself...Don't Wanna Be...All By Myself...Anymore"

Carl Brizzi: At WIBC working on Crime Beat. Wonder if I should go into the office?

Richard Mourdock: Waiting for Treasurer Daniels to tell me who to sue next.

Richard Lugar: Wanted to start moderate Senate Republican caucus, but I was the only one interested.

Greg Garrison: Just farted...still stunk...disappointed.

Howard Dean: Enjoying a quiet day in the Vermont countryside...BYAHHHHHH!

Rod Blagojevich: Relaxing. If things get hairy, text me.

George W. Bush: The nany iz leting me colur in my colurin buk.

Ronald Reagan: Rolling over in my grave

Sarah Palin: Thinking of baby names for next child. Is Trowel a good one?

Bill Clinton: Interviewing interns then going clubbing with H.W. Screw it. I'll just do it all at once and multi-task.

Mike Huckabee: Need to miss this week's show on Fox. Maybe if I get a 2x4 to stand in, they won't notice.

Larry Craig: Need to use the restroom. Be back in 4 hours

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Prosecutorial Pile Up

Step right up...step right up. You too can be the toughest person in Indianapolis. The Prosecutor's race is getting crowded in Marion County, and we Marion County-ers won't even vote until next May.

The big question is will Mr. Crime Beat himself, Carl "Find Me a Camera" Brizzi run for a third term as Marion County's lawyer. There's nothing to stop him from doing so, and I would assume that he has no interest in throwing his hat (or toupee if he had one) into the ring for District 5 U.S. House. Thus, you would figure that the longest-serving Republican in a Marion County office would run again. (I know Bob Cockrum could claim that mantle, but he only serves District 22)

For the Democrats, the field is getting crowded. Assessor Greg Bowes shocked everyone when he filed for Prosecutor. I will be honest. As a person, I like Greg, but I was surprised to hear he filed. Unfiled candidates include former deputy prosecutor Terry Curry and former Beech Grove PD Detective and current lawyer, Lowell "Butch" Shroyer. Bowes, Curry and Shroyer are making the rounds and drumming up support. I have reason to believe a big name Democrat is about to throw his hat in the ring for the office. I won't divulge who it is, but I think it will make things even more interesting.

Make no mistake, this will be a big time, big money race. The Republicans will try to hold on to the office because there is a big blue tide coming in 2011. It's very likely that after January of '12 the Republican Party will be back in its pre-2007 position with very few offices to show for their efforts in the county. The Mayor's race is starting to take shape, and I don't know if the Repubs are happy with the race car they are currently driving in that one. That's another blog for another day.

Bottom line, the story hasn't been written on this race quite yet. There are still some cards to be played, and the Briz (just like in his first two campaigns) won't have an easy ride to a third term in 2010. Keep your eyes on this one.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Local Government Only Works When the People Care!

The old political mantra says, "All politics is local." It's so true, but what happens when the people don't care.

Pop quiz hotshots...next time you're in your local grocery establishment, ask someone if they know who is on your township's Advisory Board. Maybe ask them to identify the township's trustee or constable. Ask them who represents them on the City-County Council or...who is one of the at-large councillors that represent the county. Ask them to name one County Commissioner or even who is the Prosecutor, Auditor, Recorder, Surveyor, Treasurer, or Assessor. Ask them if they know who represents them in the Halls of Congress, the General Assembly, or in the court system.

After you get your dirty look and your shrug, you will realize why it's so easy to make the case for consolidation of government services into smaller, county-wide units. The average, every day citizen is fighting to survive in their own world and cannot be bothered with the layers of government that tax them, spend their money, and continue to function in their name.

I heard this morning on a local radio talk show (our own local version of Rush, Garrison...I know...I listen for the comedy) an impassioned defense of local government as the government that's essentially closest to the people. That's true, in theory. It should be your local government that has your best interest at heart because you essentially should know them. That works well in Benton County. It doesn't necessarily work as well in Marion County.

During the election season for the Decatur Township Advisory Board in 2008, the constituents were told by the incumbent Advisory Board members that a vote for them means a vote to keep YOUR Decatur Township Fire Department. Now, as the Perry Township Fire Department, Decatur Township's eastern neighbor, stands ready to potentially become the next township fire department to join the Indianapolis Fire Department by consolidating, we will see what happens in Decatur. Hopefully, the voters that overwhelmingly supported those incumbents will hold their feet to the fire on keeping "YOUR" Decatur Township Fire Department under Decatur control.

Unfortunately, I believe the discussions will largely take place likely behind closed doors. The Decatur Township Advisory Board does the bare minimum in advertising its meetings and reporting its actions. Only once have I seen the meetings advertised prominently in the Mooresville-Decatur Times. I have never seen a report or a run down of what happens at board meetings in the media, either. I regularly read what happens in the Brooklyn Town Council (Brooklyn is a tiny town in Morgan County). You kind of get the idea that the MDT doesn't get invited to the meetings. I hope that I'm wrong.

And, sadly, the people don't care. The difficulties of the Democratic candidates (of which I was one) in getting information from the Decatur Township Advisory Board and Trustee's Office were brought up prominently in the campaign. Still, when only a couple of handfuls of people care enough to attend forums, it makes it difficult to get the word out. Instead, people vote party identity in these offices and, in a township that's overwhelmingly Republican, that's what you get many times.

All politics is local, yet the average "Joe the Plumber" off the street cares more about federal issues, typically. It's the local government that's sticking the tap into your wallet to support your city, state, and town. It's the property taxes you pay. It's the school buildings you build. Obama largely has no control over that, honestly.

Local government does so much more. It controls the way your streets get plowed, when your trash gets picked up, and how your fires get put out. It's the way the police respond to crimes, how you get to work (public transportation?), or if that blasting under the area near your neighborhood is regulated. Local government steps in first when a tornado blows down your home.

AND...YET...how many people can tell you all of your local representation. It's frustrating to explain to people that everytime the polls open, you vote.

If people are so passionate about defending the most local government, township government, learn about it. Know who your representatives are in it. Otherwise, you can't go on Garrison and passionately defend it. Maybe local government would truly be worth it.

Frankly, sometimes it's the local government that you have to watch the most because it's in the local government that things slip by you. CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. all watch the feds carefully. Rush's daily diatribe is aimed at Obama. Local media concentrates on Governor Daniels and the General Assembly. For the most part, no one watches your township government. It's why families dominate these offices for years and years.

So, when you hear, "ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL." Don't forget it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Gov's plan to save the CIB...oh yeah...that other Mayor guy signed on too...

The vacuum of leadership at the City-County Building continued to suck away today as Governor Mitch Daniels stepped in with a somewhat different plan than Indianapolis Mayor Mitch Daniels...whoops...Greg Ballard proposed earlier. In fact, an official release detailing Mayor...whoops Governor Daniels' plan goes out of its way to underline that it doesn't do what Deputy Mayor...whoops...Mayor Greg Ballard wanted to do in raising the booze tax.

Instead, Mayor Daniels'...whoops...Governor Daniels'...and Greg Ballard's plan does a number of things. First of all, it destroys and blows up the CIB. And replaces this un-elected bureaucracy with another un-elected bureaucracy called the Facilities Management Board of Marion County or the FMB (not nearly as catchy as the CIB). It does this by putting the old CIB in a nice saucepan and melting it together with the Marion County Building Authority dissolving them into this new FMB.

Who is the FMB? Well, if passed, it would be a nine member board with three appointments by Mayor Daniels...whoops...Deputy Mayor Ballard...whoops...Mayor Ballard, two appointments by the Marion County Commissioners (a board made up of the Marion County Auditor, the Marion County Assessor, and the Marion County Treasurer), two appointments by the Governor, and one appointment by the City-County Council. The other appointment would go to the President of the Indianapolis Covention and Visitors Association.

The plan itself calls for the elimination millions in expenses, raising the Marion County hotel tax from 9 to 10 percent, raising the admissions tax from 6 to 10 percent, and raising the car rental tax from 4 to 6 percent. It would also extend the Professional Sports Development Area to include the JW Mariott. It's of course much more complicated than my one paragraph summary.

Gone is that spirit of cooperation when then-Mayor Daniels...whoops...Governor Daniels hastily took the building of Lucas Oil Stadium away from the City of Indianapolis and got seven of the eight surrounding Indianapolis counties to raise taxes to help build the stadium. In this plan, Indianapolis and Marion County bears the burden with no help from Boone, Hancock, Hamilton, Hendricks, Johnson, Madison, and Shelby counties.

Your taxes now on a $50 Colts ticket will, if the legislature buys the Gov's plan go to $5 per ticket. Multiply that by four, and your family is now paying $20 in just taxes. Add in the soggy pretzel, the nachos that never had enough cheese, and the over priced burned popcorn and you're in it deeper! Certainly the Colts and Pacers can't be totally happy to hear that their ticket prices would involuntarily go up under this plan. This further locks out the everyday Marion County family from going to see their favorite team in action. Fire up that new DTV or your converter box!

An argument that plan supporters bring up here is that visitors will be paying the majority of these taxes. That's perhaps somewhat accurate, but that also means that if you rent a car in Marion County, you will be paying for it. Want to rent a car to go on vacation? That would be going up when this plan is approved.

If this plan is approved, the General Assembly was strangely shut out of the FMB appointment plan. The House and the Senate will examine the Governor/Mayor's plan as part of the Special Session on the budget beginning June 11. There are already signs that the Governor's budget is not getting rave reviews from the Democratically-controlled House. I would assume that the plan is anything but set in stone which belies Governor Daniels' confidence at the press conference earlier that it will be passed.

But, the other fact that can't be ignored is that our novice, accidental Mayor missed another opportunity to lead. He was usurped by the Napoleonic Governor who swooped around him and grabbed the problem by the...well...you know. The Mayor was in a 1978 Pinto without a road map and the Governor was in a Team Penske IndyCar. This was another opportunity for Mayor Ballard to step up and work in concert with the Governor to find a plan that would work for HIS CITY.

Instead, it was Mayor Daniels...whoops...Governor Daniels that GAVE him the plan and was nice enough to include the Mayor's on it. Thanks for standing up for us Mayor Ballard.

That sucking sound you hear is coming from the 25th floor of the City-County Building.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Who said this?

"Quite honestly, it was a fashion statement vote for some people. I'm not disparaging that. People wanted to demonstrate enthusiasm for a society that could elect an African-American president."

If you read the Blue Indiana blog, you know the answer. For the rest of us, let's play who said this...

Clue #1-Republican


Clue #2-Much in common with Napoleon minus the uniform and with less hair.


Clue #3-Governor of a Midwestern state that starts with an I and ends with an ndiana.

That's right! MITCHELL E. DANIELS! So, the Governor of Indiana is calling the choice to vote for Obama, "a fashion statement." He's calling it, in essence, a vote FOR Obama because he was black. WOW! He's explaining that the Republicans lost this state for the first time since 1964 because we wanted to "demonstrate enthusiasm for a society that would elect an African-American."

Apparently, Mitch Daniels doesn't get it.

If Mitch reads this blog, and I know maybe he might stumble on it some night when he's up there on Geist Reservoir with insomnia, I will now explain exactly why I voted for Barack Obama.

In 2004, I watched a young candidate for Illinois Senate address and effectively take over the Democratic Convention in Boston by talking a unity message. About how red states and blue states can come together as the United States of America. At that point, I said to myself that Obama would someday be President of the United States. I don't know if I believed it or not, but I can remember thinking about just how different this rhetoric was.

Fast forward to February of 2007. Barack Obama stepped into the Presidential race, and I immediately stepped into his corner as a supporter. I can remember going to early Obama events and finding others that were inspired by Obama's message in 2004. I remember working side-by-side with a senior citizen that had never been involved in politics at Obama HQ downtown making phone calls and updating databases. While I was there, another senior citizen walked in off the street and was put to work -- both of them white by the way (not that it matters).

I can remember hearing a friend of mine talk about how his mother became involved going door-to-door for a candidate for the first time in history and how proud it made him that a candidate could cause this kind of reaction in his mom.

I can remember going toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton supporters in a competitive primary last year which split friends and families apart politically. By November, those same people were wearing Obama buttons, working for Obama, voting for Obama, and talking about what a refreshing candidate he had become.

I can remember going to Obama events and being introduced to Republicans for Obama who no doubt split their ticket to vote for Daniels and Obama in November of 2008.

I donated over $200 to his campaign. I bought t-shirts, bumper stickers, and stuck multiple signs in my yard (because they kept getting stolen).

I voted for Obama because he inspired me. He got me involved. He got my ass off the couch by his energy, his work, his campaign, his spirit that we are all in this together. For the first time in many years, I finally had someone I could vote FOR when it came to the Presidential race.

It's a good thing that quote came from Mitch Daniels or I might be offended by his characterization of my vote. I am certainly not capricious with it. That's exactly why I've never voted for Mr. Daniels.

Domestic Terrorism and the Murder of Dr. George Tiller

The murder of women’s health care provider Dr. George Tiller has set off outrage on the left and has set off celebration on the fringe right.

However you look at the law, Dr. Tiller was providing a legal service necessary for women’s health. He was doing nothing illegal under local, state, or federal law. For doing his chosen job, he was gunned down in his own house of worship while working as an usher.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have problems with abortion. I do. Even though I’m pro-choice, I’m not pro-abortion. That may be a somewhat nuanced answer to the question. I believe, like Presidents Obama and Clinton, abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Ultimately, it is the choice of the woman in consultation with her doctor. It is that woman that is going to have to live with the consequences of the abortion the rest of her life. Abortion is not nor should not be a form of birth control.

Until we start changing sex education in our schools to include more about contraception and preventing pregnancy, we will continue to have abortions in this country. We just tell the students not to do it. What we should be telling them is that the only 100 percent effective way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence, but if you are sexually active, here’s how to protect yourself. We are not giving American students the knowledge to keep themselves safe from unwanted pregnancy or disease.
The reason…many of the extremists on the far right that want to rough up or kill abortion doctors.

There are many reasonable people out there that have a conscientious objection to abortion. These folks need to sit down with the reasonable people who believe in the woman’s right to choose. This is kind of what President Obama talked about in his amazing speech at the University of Notre Dame last month.

Unfortunately, what happens too often is that extremists like the whack job that killed Dr. Tiller take what they believe to be decisive action and the conversation gets lost in the hysteria. Suddenly, the sides are shouting at each other and eventually everyone retreats in fear to their own neutral corners.

What happened to Dr. Tiller is an absolute act of domestic terrorism in the same way it would have been an act of domestic terrorism if someone on the far fringe left had taken the same sort of action against an anti-abortion activist. It’s also the kind of action that doesn’t help advance the conversation either direction. What you get is a maelstrom of outrage from both sides with a very pertinent issue getting lost in the whirlwind.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Agree With Dick Cheney???

When it comes to strange bedfellows, I would say that Dick Cheney and I would fit that description. I have a feeling that on 99.99 percent of everything that is political, the former Vice President and I would find something to disagree about. The .01 percent that we agree on appears to be, ironically, gay unions.

The former Vice President is on a head scratching PR tour because he simply seems like he got bored in his undisclosed location during the Bush years in the White House and has done everything to undercut and undermine the Obama Administration along the way including a flat out statement that he believes Obama’s policies have made the country less safe.

However, speaking in front of an audience at the National Press Club, USA Today reports Cheney said, "I think, you know, freedom means freedom for everyone." The former VEEP continued, "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish."

Who would have thought the former Darth Vader of the Free World would ever come to the defense of gay marriage. The scary thing is, it’s an absolutely consistent position dating back to the 2000 Vice Presidential Debates with Joe Liebermann. Cheney, who I’m obligatorily required to report here has a gay daughter, believes that each state should decide the issue, individually. I guess I diverge from him on that point. What defines freedom in Indiana should be the same in California or Iowa or Vermont or Massachusetts or New York or Alabama or Texas or Hawaii or Alaska or Wyoming or wherever.

I actually go a step further. I believe the United States should be out of the marriage business altogether. I think every union should be termed a civil union. Marriage should be strictly the business of the individual church or the individual union itself. To me, marriage is an institution steeped in religious tradition. If marriage is something states recognize, it would seem that locking out same sex couples would certainly violate the Equal Protection Clause in the Constitution.

In my view, marriage is a federal issue. Still, it has no place in the Constitution of the United States. Our founders did a pretty nice job setting up that document and giving individuals the tools necessary to protect personal freedom. By letting the states continue to decide to write discrimination into their constitutions or their laws, the feds are kicking the can down the street further.

So, I guess…boy this hurts…I applaud Dick Cheney for taking an unpopular stance against his own rabid base. He’s right. Freedom should apply in the case of same sex unions. It’s time to join most of the rest of the civilized world and allow freedom to reign on this issue.

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