Friday, March 31, 2006

IU Law School Clears Bradford Foes Of Wrongdoing

Former IU-Indy law school professor William Bradford had accused two professors of the law school of unfairly blocking him from becoming a tenured professor after just three years at the school because of his pro-military sentiments on the war in Iraq and discriminating against him because he is a native American. A law student blogsite, IndyLaw, posted a statement interim Dean Susannah Mead released to law students clearing Professors Mary Mitchell and Florence Roisman of any wrongdoing. Mead wrote:

[The Adademic Ethics Review Committee] found no evidence of discrimination on the part of Professors Mitchell and Roisman and concluded that they conducted themselves responsibly and honorably. In my view, Professors Mitchell and Roisman have now been fully exonerated by these actions.

Mead noted that charges Mitchell and Roisman had lodged against Bradford were mooted by his abrupt resignation late last year. Mead indicated that the "matter is closed" and asked student to join her "in putting this unfortunate episode behind us and moving forward in an atmosphere of mutual respect and collegiality."

Bradford's cause had initially been taken up by conservatives across the country who believed Bradford was a victim of the liberal academic culture in America. He made an appearance on FOX News' O'Reilly Factory a short time before it was disclosed that he had misrepresented his military record and service honors. The Star's Ruth Holladay uncovered the discrepancies in Bradford's military record after she discovered he had misrepresented a number of facts about his case for tenure at the law school, which she relied upon in writing a column supportive of his position.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Indiana Supremes Declare School Service Fees Unconstitutional

By way of the Indiana Law Blog, we learn that the Indiana Supreme Court released an opinion today for Nagy v. Evansville-Vanderburgh County School Corporation, a case in which the constitutionality of a $20 student services fee charged to all students of a public school system was challenged on both federal and state grounds. In a 4-1 decision, the Court held that the student services fee violates Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution. Unlike the Court of Appeals, however, its ruling did not extend the "free tuition" coverage in the state's constitution to include textbook rental fees.

The provision of the Indiana Constitution in question pertains to a requirement that the "General Assembly . . . provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all." The plaintiffs also challenged the student services fee under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, but the Court did not consider that ground because the decision was decided by the Court of Appeals to be in violation of the state constitution.

The student services fee challenged by parents of the school system was used "to pay for, among other things, a coordinator of student services, nurses, media specialists, alternative education, elementary school counselors, a police liaison program, and activities such as athletics, drama and music." Every student was required to pay the $20 fee, including those who qualified for free or reduced fees for school lunches and textbooks. Parents who failed to pay the fee were taken to court and charged a collection fee of up to $100.

The majority opinion written by Justice Rucker examines the legislative history surrounding this particular provision of the Indiana Constitution. The majority took issue with a sweeping read of the provision by the Court of Appeals which interpreted Article 8, Section 1 "to mean that not only must Indiana public schools not charge for ‘tuition’ in the sense of the services of a teacher or instruction, but also must not charge for those functions and services which are by their very nature essential to teaching or ‘tuition,’" which could include textbook fees as well. Rucker wrote, "We are of the view that that the holding expressed by our colleagues sweeps a little too broadly." He continued, "[U]nlike constitutions in a number of states, the framers of Indiana’s constitution were careful not to provide for a free school system. Rather, at most the framers provided that tuition would be free, or more precisely "tuition shall be without charge."

Rucker's opinion takes a fascinating look at the history surrounding the free common school debate in Indiana in the 1840s. A public referendum on the question in 1848 was approved by just 56% of the state's voters. Strong opposition came from the state's wealthier and poorer residents. Interestingly, some voters feared that a free public school system would endanger religious freedom. One resident said, "The bait is to give our children an education; the chief object is to religiously traditionize them, and then unite Church and state." Perhaps that person perceptively had in mind someone like D.C. Stephenson or Eric Miller. Interpreting the text of the constitution in the context of the history surrounding its passage, Rucker concludes a narrower meaning of "tuition without charge." He writes, "Rather than completely subsidizing education, which would fall within the meaning of a "free school" system, the framers pursued a more modest, and perhaps less controversial, route: a uniform statewide system of public schools that would be supported by taxation. Indeed the term "common school" was widely understood to mean "public school."

The Court then looked at how the Indiana General Assembly had gone about creating a general and uniform system of public schools. Rucker writes:

Where the legislature—or through delegation of its authority the State Board—has identified programs, activities, projects, services or curricula that it either mandates or permits school corporations to undertake, the legislature has made a policy decision regarding exactly what qualifies as a part of a uniform system of public education commanded by Article 8, Section 1 and thus what qualifies for funding at public expense. And of course the legislature has the authority to place appropriate conditions or limitations on any such funding. However, absent specific statutory authority, fees or charges for what are otherwise public education cost items cannot be levied directly or indirectly against students or their parents. Only programs, activities, projects, services or curricula that are outside of or expand upon those identified by the legislature—what we understand to be "extracurricular"—may be considered as not a part of a publicly-funded education. And thus a reasonable fee may be assessed, but only against those students who participate in or take advantage of them.

The Court noted that the items for which the student service fees were charged by the school were all items that had been deemed by the legislature or the State Board of Education to be "part and parcel of a public school education and by extension qualify for public funding." The problem the court found with the fee was that it also included "programs, services or activities that are outside of or expand upon those deemed by the legislature or State Board." Rucker writes, "[T]he mandatory fee [the school] imposed generally on all students, whether the student avails herself of a service or participates in a program or activity or not, becomes a charge for attending a public school and obtaining a public education. Such a charge contravenes the "Common Schools" mandate as the term is used in Article 8, Section 1 and is therefore unconstitutional. Rucker hastens to add though, "The Indiana Constitution does not prohibit [schools] from charging individual students for their participation in such extracurriculars or for their consumption of such services."

Rucker's opinion seems to leave room for the legislature to enact a law which specifically permits schools to levy a student services fee on all students as long as they don't fall within the "extra-curricular" gambit.

Justice Sullivan issued a very short dissenting opinion. He writes, "Because the trial court found that the things for which the fee was imposed were things that, to use the Court’s formulation, were "outside of or expand[ed] upon those identified by the legislature" as part of the constitutionally commanded uniform system of public education, I believe that even under the Court’s construction of Article 8, Section 1, the fee was permissible."

Daniels Tells Indy Bars To Drink Up

In a move that will make him at least momentarily popular with Indianapolis' bar owners, Gov. Mitch Daniels has instructed the state's alcohol and excise police to ignore this weekend's time change to daylight savings time and allow bar owners to stay open an extra hour. Without the change, bar owners would have been required to close an hour earlier as a result of the time change, which requires clocks be moved forward an hour for observance of DST. Because Indianapolis plays host to the NCAA's Final Four men's basketball tournament, bar owners feared the loss of substantial revenues if they had to turn away out-of-town visitors an hour earlier. With this change, bars will now be allowed to serve alcohol until 4:00 a.m.

Scalia To Reporter: Vaffanculo!

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia denied making an obscene gesture to a news photographer after departing a Catholic mass this past weekend as first reported by the Boston Herald, but the news photographer says otherwise. “It’s inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment,” said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot, writes the Boston Herald. And if that's not enough, the news photographer produced the smoking gun evidence--the picture he took of Scalia making the gesture. The paper writes:

Despite Scalia’s insistence that the Sicilian gesture was not offensive and had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald as obscene, the photographer said the newspaper “got the story right.” Smith said the jurist “immediately knew he’d made a mistake, and said, ‘You’re not going to print that, are you?’ ” Scalia’s office yesterday referred questions regarding the flap to Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg, who said a letter Scalia sent Tuesday to the Herald defending his gesture at the cathedral “speaks for itself.” “He has no further comment,” Arberg said. Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship. “The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said. The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

You read that right. The term "Vaffanculo" is an Italian cuss word for "fuck you."

Star's Sellout To Realtors?

The Indianapolis Star handed its opinion page over to Indiana's realtors today, allowing a guest column from the sponsor of the "Realtor Protection Law", Rep. Tim Harris, and a "friendly" letter-to-the-editor from the industry's lobbyist to argue that the pro-industry bill is actually pro-consumer. This after the Star allowed one out-of-state consumer advocate to blow the whistle on the consumer wrip-off law, which benefits only greedy realtors. And, for the record, the Star has devoted not one column inch of its news pages to the self-serving law.

In his guest column, Rep. Harris says, "I thought I would set the record straight by giving factual information" in response to the March 19 letter-to-the editor. Here is what Patrick Woodall of the Consumer Federation of Amerca wrote about Harris' legislation:

At the urging of traditional real estate brokers, the Indiana legislature quickly and quietly passed a bill that would make homeownership even more expensive. House Bill 1339 requires all real estate brokers to provide "minimum services." This seemingly innocuous change is an attempt to protect brokers' 6 percent commission from market competition. Unfortunately, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed this anti-consumer bill.

The change will require real estate agents to provide a full set of services -- marketing the home, receiving offers from potential buyers, sales negotiation and handling closing procedures -- even if the homeowner doesn't want or need these advisory services. It is an attempt to prevent consumers from accessing a range of new, lower-cost real estate models.New brokers, for a much lower fee, will market homes in the multiple listing service and provide marketing support but allow the homeowner to handle everything else -- show the house and negotiate the closing -- or hire a different party to provide those services. For example, many homeowners have turned to for-sale-by-owner services, which provide little more than a multiple listing and a yard sign . . .

In other services, new business models using the Internet and technology brought improvements years ago -- such as in securities brokerage and travel -- but the changes are only beginning to affect the real estate industry. Rather than embracing market competition, industry leaders are attempting to use government to preserve the old model and prevent consumers from using less expensive real estate services.

Similar efforts to limit competition from Internet real estate brokers drew a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors. And the same effort is behind the Indiana legislation.

The Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, along with consumer groups and many new real estate brokers, opposes the law. Gov. Mitch Daniels did not act in the best interests of consumers and homeowners when he signed this legislation.

Harris argues that Woodall suggested the new law would end the fee-for-service business model. He writes, "The letter implies that HB 1339 will prohibit the discount brokerage business model. This is simply not true. Go to and you will see that these firms still operate in states that have passed laws similar to HB 1339. No evidence has been produced showing an adverse impact on the discount brokerages operating in these states."

Rep. Harris is correct that the new law doesn't bar fee-for-service agreements, but he skirts the real issue. The fee-for-service Woodall referred to in his letter was an agreement where the homeseller purchases for a small fee a service which allows the seller to perform seller duties normally performed by the agent, such as meeting with the buyer's agent to negotiate the terms of the sale and preparing counter-offers and otherwise taking actions to bring about the sale of the home. Fee-for-service brokers may still offer services which require them to perform all of these duties for the homeseller, but at a much higher price.

AI explained the new law's impact on fee-for-service provider Home Yeah recently. We wrote:

As much as Slimak is concerned about the impact on his own business, he points out that the big losers are Indiana consumers, who are deprived of real choices in selling their homes because of the protective nature of the new law. When the new law takes effect on July 1, 2006, it will impact HomeYeah's Market + product the greatest according to Slimak. For a flat fee of $499, a homeseller can market their home through HomeYeah, plus have their home listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is managed by the local board of realtors. This requires the homeseller to offer the buyer's real estate commission (i.e., 3%-3.5%), while paying HomeYeah only the flat fee of $499. The Market + service represents 62% of HomeYeah's existing business.

As of July 1, 2006, Indiana's "Realtor Protection Law" will bar HomeYeah from offering this service. That's because the new law mandates that a selling agent provide a minimum amount of services in order to accept a fee for their service, such as marketing the home, receiving offers from potential buyers, sales negotiation and handling closing procedures, even if the homeowner doesn't want or need these advisory services. If a homeseller wants to utilize HomeYeah's services, it will now be required to purchase a much costlier service for $1,999, regardless of whether the homeseller wants the additional services.

In the case of Home Yeah, yeah, you can still use their fee-for-service, but the homeseller will have to pay $1,500 more for a service it could have purchased for just $499 prior to the enactment of the new law. According to Home Yeah, up to now, 62% of its customers choose the lower-cost service, many of whom are financially distressed and need to be able to sell their home for the lowest possible cost. Other homesellers choose the service because they are more savvy and don't need the services provided by an agent. The new law does nothing to protect homesellers; it only limits the choices they have in marketing and selling their new home by forcing them to select a more costly service if they choose the fee-for-service route rather than the traditional sales route, which requires them to pay a commission of 6%-7% to the sales agent.

Of course, Rep. Harris clues us in on the fact that he has a vested interest in maintaining a tight relationship with the traditional realtor community. In defending the new law, he writes, "I have been involved in the real estate industry as a title insurance agent for more than a decade and can assure you I would never author legislation that would lessen consumer choices or harm the industry." Thanks Rep. Harris for explaining your selfish desire for screwing Indiana's homesellers.

The Star also gives column space today to the realtor's chief lobbyist, Karl Berron, who sheparded this consumer wrip-off bill through the legislature. He has the audacity to tell Star readers, "Woodall's criticisms are not only inaccurate, they are borderline offensive." The services hard-pressed and consumer-savvy homesellers will no longer be able to purchase in Indiana Berron refers to as "hit and run listings." He explains, "This happens when a firm lists a property for sale, charges an up-front fee and then abandons the project, leaving the consumer with no representation. Consumers often then turn to the agents of potential buyers to help them through the transaction, even though that agent works for the opposing party in the transaction." Berron doesn't have a similar problem with an agent getting to walk away with half of the commission for the transaction for doing nothing but listing the property, which is often the case.

Nice try Karl, but the Justice Department doesn't see it the same way. As AI previously reported, "The Justice Department and the FTC have warned several states in recent months that such laws hamper innovation and competition, and have formally objected to industry-supported proposals in Oklahoma and Texas." Indiana has now made itself a target of anti-trust action by the Justice Department by virtue of enacting this self-serving law to limit competition for Berron's industry.

AI hopes that the advertising the realtors purchase from the Star has not in some way affected its ability to provide unbiased news coverage to its readers. It is remarkable that a law which so dramatically alters the real estate legal landscape in Indiana has so far escaped mention on its news pages.

The Indiana Law Blog has its own take on today's development. Click here to read.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

United Aircraft Mechanics Learn The Hard Way: New Book Showcasing Their Plight

AI recently talked about the inability of a rising tide to lift all boats in our current economic climate in terms of what most American workers are able to earn in wages. A new book a by New York Times economics writer Louis Uchitelle underscores the problem. "The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences," showcases the plight of United Airlines aircraft mechanics in Indianapolis to illustrate the struggle American workers have in finding jobs which pay a decent wage, irrespective of their skills and education.

What is our response to layoffs, particularly high-paid manufacturing/mechanical jobs? Retrainining and more education have been the policy "heralded as a sure path to new and better-paying jobs" Uchitelle writes in his book. There's only one problem: the policy doesn't work. And nobody came to understand that reality better than the nearly 2,000 aircraft mechanics who lost their jobs when United Airlines began laying off and eventually closed its aircraft maintenance facility in Indianapolis.

Uchitelle retraces the beginning of the mechanics' downfall. A hard-line union attitude about work hours and over-time resulted in a deliberate slowdown in worker productivity by the mechanics. United struck back by beginning to outsource work to other non-union contractors in the south, whose wage costs were half those of United mechanics, resulting in layoffs of union mechanics. The union quickly softened its stance and, initially, worked with the company to retrain and educate laid off workers.

The federal government stepped in with federal grants to help with the retraining. The Indianapolis Private Industry Council, Uchitelle explains, acted as a conduit for funneling the federal dollars into retraining efforts. The Council contracted with Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. Their goal was to get most of the laid off mechanics re-employed at 90% of the previous wage, which in the case of the mechanics was $31/hour. And since the laid off workers were earning only $336/week in unemployment benefits, down from the $1,100 they earned in their previous jobs, the mechanics welcomed the assistance the training program offered. Nonetheless, the efforts failed and failed miserably. Uchitelle writes, "But the employment goals were not met. They could not be met; they were too optimistic, mythically optimistic."

Uchitelle found that the aircraft mechanics didn't need any training or education. As it turns out, they were way over-qualified for the supply of jobs the market offered. Uchitelle explains:

But training for what? The reality, as the aircraft mechanics discovered, is painfully different from the reigning wisdom. Rather than having a shortage of skills, millions of American workers have more skills than their jobs require. That is particularly true of college-educated people, who make up 30 percent of the population today, up from 10 percent in the 1960's. They often find themselves working in sales or as office administrators, or taking jobs in hotels and restaurants, or becoming carpenters, flight attendants and word processors . . .

So the demand for jobs is considerably greater than the supply, and the supply is not what the reigning theory says it is. Most of the unfilled jobs pay low wages and require relatively little skill, often less than the jobholder has. From the spring of 2003 to the spring of 2004, for example, more than 55 percent of the hiring was at wages of $13.25 an hour or less: hotel and restaurant workers, health care mployees, temporary replacements and the like.

The outcome of the retraining and education efforts of the aircraft mechanics who participated in Goodwill's program made Uchitelle's point abundantly clear. Instead of the $31 an hour they were accustomed to earning, more than half of the laid off workers who participated in the program found jobs earning between $14 and $20 an hour, such as HVAC repairmen, auto mechanics, computer maintenance workers or truck drivers. Nearly one-fifth of those workers wound up in jobs which paid less than $13.25 an hour, working in jobs at warehouses, construction, retail and restaurants. Only 15 of the 185 who completed the program found jobs earning at or above their old wage. Of those 15, half of them were re-employed elsewhere as aircraft mechanics, and they were typically younger, lower-paid workers earning close to that of their non-union counterparts. Describing the utter failure of the efforts, Uchitelle writes:

The process was like a funnel: wide at one end, where all the laid-off workers go in, and narrow at the other, where a limited number gradually emerge into retraining and, if they are lucky, new jobs at decent pay. Mark A. Crouch, a professor of labor studies at Indiana University, used another analogy to describe the recycling of laid-off workers. He called it a "burial program."

Uchitelle's book really brings home the point that our current approach is just not working. We need an economy that is producing better paying jobs to match the skills and education of our workforce, not more low-paying jobs that offer no hope of prosperity to job-seekers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ellsworth Moves To The Right Of Hostettler On Immigration Reform

In a remarkably stupid poltical move, Eighth District Democratic congressional candidate Brad Ellsworth has decided to outflank Rep. John Hostettler on the extreme fringe of the immigration issue. The Howey Political Report says that Ellsworth is flat out opposed to any amnesty for America's 10-15 million undocumented aliens. Howey writes:

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in Indiana’s 8th District, called on the U.S. Senate to pass the House immigration plan and oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. “Giving lawbreakers amnesty is wrong,” Ellsworth said. “We need to crack down on illegal immigrants, not give them an excuse to break the law.” Ellsworth called for Senate passage of a measure sponsored by Republican Representatives James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York that passed the House in December. It is intended to increase security on the nation’s borders and require employers to verify job applicants’ immigration status before hiring them. “For far too long folks in Washington have ignored this problem,” Ellsworth said. “Now, illegal immigrants account for one of every twenty workers, taking jobs from Americans and breaching the security of our homeland.” Ellsworth's opponent, U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, has been a leading advocate of a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Now, we know that Hostettler understands his extremist view, but how familiar is Ellsworth with his? Let's explain this to Sheriff Ellsworth. By saying you are for the Sensenbrenner bill which passed the House last year, you are saying that all undocumented aliens currently living and working in this country will be deemed felons. You are also saying that all the employers who employ undocumented aliens will be charged as criminals. And, all those charities (religious charities included) providing services to undocumented aliens will be criminally charged for aiding and abetting them. As a respected law enforcement officer, can Sheriff Hostettler not imagine the civil war this would set off in our own country if the federal government were to actually be put in the position of having to enforce this "cruel and unusual" punishment?

Let's not forget that we are a nation of immigrants. Many of our ancestors were able to immigrate to this country simply by landing at Ellis Island and remaining here for a certain period of time--no questions asked. Our immigration laws are more restrictive now than they have been at any point in our history. Is it any wonder we have so many undocumented aliens? Did our own government not deliberately make a decision to, in effect, wave them across the border to make sure our employers had an ample supply of cheap labor?

Whether you like the fact that we have so many undocumented aliens or not, the issue has to be dealt with in a humane fashion that is least disruptive to families, our economy and the civil order. Sensenbrenner's legislation doesn't come close to passing that test. As a law enforcement officer, Ellsworth should understand this better than Hostettler. Unfortunately, he does not.

Abdul Hits Kennedy On "Inactive Status"

Melina Kennedy's campaign for Marion Co. Prosecutor took a hit today when WXIN radio talk show host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz raised questions about Kennedy's listed "inactive status" as an attorney admitted to practice law in Indiana for a 9-month period ending last June. Already plagued by critics' charge that she lacks prosecutorial experience, this latest revelation is likely to raise questions about her commitment to the practice of law. As Abdul explains at Indiana Barrister:

The potential problem for Kennedy is that for nearly nine months, September 18, 2004 through June 6, 2005, Kennedy was on the inactive list. She left the Mayor's office in September 2005, created an exploratory committee for prosecutor in October 2005 and officially field for prosecutor on February 1, 2006. Kennedy would not have been able to legally serve as prosecutor one year prior to forming her exploratory committee.

Usually when attorneys go on "inactive" status it is because they leave the state, the profession or have committed some misconduct. Sometimes, like me earlier this year, they forget to pay their registration fee. They send in a check and get back on the list. I sent mine after getting the letter in the mail and am in good standing in the State of Illinois. To the best of my knowledge, none of those circumstances apply to Kennedy, which makes the nine-month absence rather odd. Why would someone who is considering running for Prosecutor, who knows experience will be an issue, take a nearly nine-month absence from the active list? She was still in the Mayor's office while inactive. While she could not practice law, she was still a key aide to Mayor Peterson in the area of economic development.

According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, Kennedy was first admitted to practice law in Indiana on June 14, 1996. The publicly available records reveal a gap in her active status. She has been an active member in good standing since June 6, 2005. Abdul reports that her "inactive status" kicked in on September 18, 2004, although that date isn't currently provided on the Roll of Attorneys' listing for Kennedy. Abdul opines that an attorney goes into "inactive status" when "they leave the state, the profession or having committed some misconduct."

At the purported time of her "inactive status", Kennedy worked in a non-legal policy position for Mayor Bart Peterson's administration. Although she was not actively engaged in the practice of law, Kennedy could have maintained her "in good standing" status to practice law as long as she paid the annual attorney registration fee and performed the minimum amount of continuing legal education hours for the current year and the applicable 3-year cycle. Attorneys who retire, stop practicing in Indiana, or switch to a non-legal job typically elect "inactive status", which they can do by executing an affidavit swearing that they are no longer engaged in the practice of law but wish to maintain inactive status in Indiana.

By adjusting to "inactive status", an attorney is no longer subject to the CLE requirements as long as he/she remains in that status; however, the attorney is not allowed to practice law while on "inactive status." While some states don't require attorneys to take CLE as a continuing requirement to practice law, Indiana does. An attorney who fails to comply with CLE requirements can be suspended and even disbarred in Indiana.

An inactive attorney can return to active status after electing "inactive status" as long as the current CLE requirements are satisfied. In Kennedy's case, because she was in "inactive status" for less than a year, she would have had to have fulfilled any unmet CLE requirements for the period of her inactivity. Abdul notes that Kennedy became a mother during her inactive period, but the Kennedy campaign did not offer that as a reason for her "inactive status" according to Abdul (UPDATE NOTE: per Sheila Kennedy's post below--Melina gave birth to twins during this period and needed the time off for this reason, although her campaign did not mention that according to Abdul's account below). Abdul explains what the campaign told him about Kennedy's "inactive status":

I asked the Kennedy camp about this entire situation this afternoon. The response from campaign manager Andy Miller and spokesman Tim Moriarty was essentially, "It doesn't matter." They maintain that Kennedy's work in the Mayor's office fighting domestic violence and promoting economic development are experience enough. They also point to her work on the State Supreme Court and the fact she is in good standing now. They argue Kennedy's experience speaks for itself and they don't see how not being able to practice law for close to nine months is an issue.

Certainly the fact that an attorney at some point in their career elects "inactive status" does not in any way diminish their competence to practice law. In Kennedy's case, however, the timing of it so close to the time she decided to run for prosecutor makes it a relevant issue. It tells us that she swore in writing to our Supreme Court, for whom she once worked, that she no longer intended to practice law in Indiana for an unspecified period of time. And she took this act a year before she launched her campaign for Marion Co. Prosecutor.

Abdul assures us that Republicans intend to make an issue of her inactive status. He says, "Marion County GOP Chairman Mike Murphy said 'the nine-month lapse reveals Kennedy was not serious about being prosecutor or a lawyer.'" (Update: In light of Sheila Kennedy's comments below about the birth of her twins during this period, the issue could cut both ways). Matt Tully was right. This race is going to be brutal.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Play Poker In The Agora

Blogger Joshua Claybourne introduces Las Vegas-style gambling to his blogsite, In The Agora. The IU law student invites his readers to participate in a little online gambling action, "Love Poker?" Here's Claybourne's offer:

Thanks to a partnership with, ITA readers are entitled to a free $25 signup bonus when you deposit a minimum $50 with the site. Just click on the image to the left and use the bonus code "AGORA" when you sign up.

As a frequent poker player myself and a user of the site, I can attest to its superiority over other poker sites. It is, after all, the biggest poker website in the world. So if you like playing and want an additional $25, go here and get started. Remember to use the bonus code "AGORA".

Some of his readers aren't real hip on Claybourne's offer to join the game. Here's a sampling of some of the comments:

I'm kind of surprised about this affiliation myself.

Ethics and morality aside, the legality or illegality of on-line gambling has not been established. I'm a little surprised that ITA would endorse something where legality has not been clearly determined. Further, on-line gambling has been specifically outlawed by some states and some credit card companies won't accept charges because they are unsure whether it is a legal activity. This particular company owns no assets in the U.S. specifically for the purpose of skirting U.S. gambling laws. It is one thing for Josh or any other ITA writer to be involved in gambling as a personal decison. However, though it is their right to use ITA to promote gambling, I'm sorely disappointed that they are doing so. Problem on-line gambling has become a significant crisis for many college kids. I don't see that they need an extra push from Christian leaders.

Lest anyone think this is an easy way to make $25 (as I did, contemplating merely withdrawing my $75 after my initial deposit of $50), the free money comes with some pretty serious strings attached. I can't say that I completely understand the terms, but I can tell that there's a fair amount of risk required before you get your bonus.

. . . So, you have to wager $125 before you'll get your bonus $25.

Many of the chief owners of the outfit have had serious connections to online pornography. I just think people should know the type of people they are affiliating with. I'm still surprised that ITA wants to advance this cause, but it appears I'm not going to get an answer to my concerns, so I'll abandon this post and address it my own post.

Actually, on-line gambling is illegal in Indiana. See:IC 35-45-5-2 Unlawful gambling Sec. 2. (a) A person who knowingly or intentionally engages in gambling commits unlawful gambling.(b) Except as provided in subsection (c), unlawful gambling is a Class B misdemeanor.(c) An operator who knowingly or intentionally uses the Internet to engage in unlawful gambling:(1) in Indiana; or(2) with a person located in Indiana;commits a Class D felony.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of online gambling I think you need to be careful running this alongside Adsense. The Adsense policies page states "Site may not include: Gambling or casino-related content." I'd say if nothing else you need to delete this post or ditch Adsense.

Advance Indiana can appreciate In The Agora's desire to make a little bit of money from its site. These blogsites aren't exactly money-makers, unless you are a big-time site like Americablog, Daily Kos or Redstate. For the record, AI has no revenues to date, and no--we don't get paid to blog certain points of view like a lot of other bloggers. But these online gambling sites are bad news all around, not to mention the legality of such operations. They make it just too easy for problem gamblers to feed their addiction, the operators are typically based off-shore and have little, if any oversight, and all that that implies.

Bauer Takes Top Honors On Tully's "Messing Up Indiana" List

Indianapolis Star political columnist Matt Tully recently asked readers to assist him in compiling a list of the top "100 People Who Are Messing Up Indiana." The winner by a long shot was House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer. Tully said, "He nearly doubled his nearest competitor, getting selected, it seemed, by Republicans and Democrats alike. One person called Bauer, 'A do nothing politician at his best and an obstructionist politician at his worst.' That pretty much summed up the view of his detractors."

House Speaker Brian Bosma came in second to Bauer. Tully said, "Many pointed to Bosma’s fight in recent months against a court ruling that restricted certain prayers at the Statehouse." For as much as he's been beaten around in recent months, surprisingly Gov. Daniels placed third behind Bauer and Bosma. Tully writes, "For all the talk about how controversial Daniels is, he came in a relatively distant third. And unlike Bauer and Bosma, many people also came to the governor’s defense. One person wrote that, 'Mitch runs this government like a business, all he knows is stock options and portfolios and the bottom line.' Another, however, said we should all, 'give him and his ideas a chance.'"

Placing fourth on the list was no less than the Grand Dragon of Moral Righteousness Eric Miller. "The conservative troublemaker came in fourth, a significant showing for someone who has been out of the news lately." And rounding out the top five was U.S. Rep. Julia Carson. "By my unofficial count, Carson tied Miller," Tully said.

Earning honorable mentions on the list were: Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton, Senator Pat Miller, Miles Brand (I guess he's still getting blamed for Bobby Knight's downfall), and Mayor Bart Peterson.

Scalia Gives Reporters The Finger--For Real

Americablog picks up a Boston Herald item about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia flipping the finger at reporters as he departed a Catholic mass he attended yesterday. Scalia apparently wanted to let reporters know how he felt about their questions pertaining to his impartiality when it comes to church-state matters. The Boston newspaper wrote:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by flipping a middle finger to his critics. A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state."You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the obscene gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian." The 20-year veteran of the high court was caught making the gesture by a photographer with The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper."Don't publish that," Scalia told the photographer, the Herald

Given how highly Scalia is regarded by the Catholic Church, we suspect the photographer won't be giving up his smoking gun evidence. Scalia was already under fire from the left for pre-judging a case before the Court pertaining to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other federal facilities which are housing suspected terrorists. It sounds like Scalia just doesn't give a damn anymore what anyone thinks of him after being passed over for Chief Justice by President Bush. Americablog reports:

This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the special military commissions created by the Bush administration to try Guantanamo detainees violate national and international law, as human rights groups charge. But Justice Antonin Scalia doesn’t have to wait for arguments — his mind is already made up. Newsweek reports that in a controversial unpublicized March 8 speech, Scalia “dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions.”

“War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts,” he says on a tape of the talk reviewed by NEWSWEEK.“Give me a break" - challenged by one audience member about whether the Gitmo detainees don’t have protections under the Geneva or human-rights conventions, Scalia shot back: “If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son and I’m not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it’s crazy.”

Scalia was apparently referring to his son Matthew, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Kennedy Teams Up With Anti-Gay Bigot To Bar Sex Offenders From City Parks

In a move not likely to win her favor with Indianapolis’ GLBT community, Democratic prosecutorial candidate Melina Kennedy joined one of the leading anti-gay bigoted members of the city-county council, Mary Moriarty Adams, at a press conference this morning to support a new ordinance barring registered sex offenders from using the city’s public parks. Adams is one of only two Democratic members of the city-county council to vote twice against the passage of the Human Rights Ordinance barring discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender persons.

The Star’s Brenden O’Shaughnessy reports:

Sex offenders who have committed crimes against children would be banned from public parks and other gathering places under an ordinance that will be introduced in a City-County Council meeting tonight.

The ban would require anyone registered as a sexually violent predator on the Indiana State Sex Offender Registry to stay at least 1,000 feet from a public playground, recreation center, swimming pool, beach or sports facility when children are present. The ordinance adds civil penalty fines of $300, $500 or $2,500 to existing criminal penalties for violations.

Mary Moriarty Adams, a council member, and Melina Kennedy, a candidate for county prosecutor, held a press conference this morning at a Near-Northside playground to announce the proposal. Adams said a constituent had complained about a problem with a registered sex offender living across the street from a Catholic school playground.

Some might view this effort as a little over-kill. Governor Daniels recently signed into law SEA 246, which severely limits registered sex offenders proximity to places like public parks. It prohibits a sexually violent predator from working or volunteering on school property or at a public park or youth program. It further prohibits sex offenders from residing within 1, 000 feet of a school, public park, or youth center, or within a mile of their victim’s home.

While Kennedy may have the best of intentions in her support of the proposal, many in the GLBT community will wonder why she chose such an anti-gay bigot as Adams to team up with on this effort. Adam’s motivation in supporting this proposal is probably different from Kennedy’s.

Her Republican opponent, Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, won applause from the GLBT community last year when he enacted a non-discrimination ordinance for his own office prior to the enactment of the HRO. He was condemned by religious right groups, such as Advance America and the American Family Association for protecting gay employees of his office from discrimination.

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union fought a legal battle for a convicted child molester a couple of years ago, who was barred from entering Lafayette’s public parks. The ICLU argued that the ban violated the man’s First Amendment rights. A divided 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision upheld the city’s ban on a vote of 8-3. The Indiana Law Blog also reports that the ICLU is challenging a similar ordinance enacted by Plainfield.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Rising Tide Not Lifting All Boats In Indiana

The Star's business columnist John Ketzenberger takes to task recent comments made by Treasury Secretary John Snow that everyone's doing better in the current economy. Specifically, Ketzenberger uses the following quote Snow gave in a Wall Street Journal report:

"Look at the Harvard economics faculty, look at doctors over here at George Washington University . . . look at baseball players, look at football players," Snow told the Journal. "We've moved into a star system for some reason which is not fully understood."

The market, Snow explained, is rewarding the nation's most productive people with the highest compensation. And the rising tide, he argued, is lifting all boats.

"A rising tide lifts all boats" is an often used quote, most often by Republicans, although it was John F. Kennedy who first used it in a political sense to argue for tax cuts during his presidency. Ketzenberger points out that income figures for Indiana don't bear out Snow's claim. Citing median income figures showing an actual decline for Indiana over the past several years, he writes:

The median income for a Hoosier household fell 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2004, according to Jerry Conover, director of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University. That means half of Indiana incomes are above that level and half sit below.

And that means a household here is not making as much as it was in 2000. "I don't think Secretary Snow's statement is fully reflective of the marketplace," said Conover. Snow relied on averages to make his case, Conover noted, so significant jumps in income among high-end households will skew those averages.

It almost sounds like Snow is suggesting the solution for Indiana's lagging income is for the Pacers or Eli Lilly and Co. to sign more high-priced free agents.

"It reinforces the notion that the people in charge don't know what the hell's going on," said Willard Witte, an IU economics professor.

It's a long way from Washington to Kokomo, that's for sure.

Ketzenberger's comments highlight just how out of touch someone like Snow is. He is a multi-millionaire former executive of CSX, and he obviously doesn't know what it's like for the average American trying to earn a decent wage.

Just from personal observation, it certainly seems to me that the divide between the haves and have nots in America has changed dramatically in my lifetime. There are so many more super rich in this country than there were when I was growing up. But the vast majority of people are having to work harder and look for income from second jobs just to keep their heads above water. In the case of married couples, it's nearly impossible for one spouse to stay at home if they want any decent standard of living for their family. It wasn't that way when I was growing up.

Marion Co. GOP Gets A Blog

The Marion Co. GOP has decided to enter the blogosphere. Fix Indy Now ("FIN") takes a look at the political world of Indianapolis and what needs to be done to fix our city the site says. The Blogger in charge is "Brody", but that's all the site gives up about "Brody." The site is no doubt a counter to Taking Down Words, which is a mouthpiece of sorts for the Indiana Democratic Party. One of its bloggers, Jennifer Wagner, serves as communications director for the state party. Brody admits to reading TDW. He says, "Everyone needs a little laughter in their lives."

So what's FIN talking about? One of its posts on St. Patrick's Day took aim at Melina Kennedy, who is running against incumbent Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. FIN complains that someone always ruins the fun--in this case it was Melina Kennedy. FIN criticizes Kennedy for distributing campaign literature during the parade against "non-partisan" parade rules, which earned the site a mention in Matt Tully's column in the Star today. Tully calls it "one of the silliest political flaps in memory." For the record, Indiana State Treasurer Tim Berry (R) also handed out frizbies promoting his re-election during the parade, if it even matters.

Kennedy became the target of FIN's most recent post, which informs us that Kennedy held a press conference on Friday, the same day as President Bush's visit, and only one reporter showed up. It doesn't say what the subject of the press conference was. Another post pokes fun at Kennedy for "shopping around in other counties looking to be appointed as a special prosecutor to gain some experience." For the recond, she has no previous prosecutorial experience.

Kennedy is not FIN's only target. Marion Co. Sheriff Frank Anderson is hit for the city's high crime rate. Mayor Peterson takes a hit for the "sucking noise" of the shrinking savings from his law enforcement merger plan. And his plan to plant more trees in Indy was an easy target for FIN as well. FIN writes:

Our fearless leader Bart seems to think that the best way to move our city forward is to spend a bunch of money Indy doesn't have on trees. We will lay off tens of police officers, we will let criminals out of the ever crowded jail, we will turn a blind eye to potholes to make our city look greener.

Advance Indiana welcomes FIN to Indy's growing blogosphere. It's always good to have another perspective, particularly since the Republican perspective has been noticeably under-represented in the local blogosphere.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bush Desparate To Put Out Anti-Immigration Fire

It has been estimated that there are between 15 and 20 million persons living and working in the United States illegally. Republican-led immigration reform legislation, which has already passed the House, would make all of those persons felons if it becomes law. That is triggering public demonstrations this country hasn't seen since the Vietnam War era. The potential backlash from this issue alone is enough to topple Republicans from control of Congress and state houses across the country. And that has President Bush, Sen. John McCain and many moderate Republicans worried that the flames fueled by GOP-led anti-immigration efforts will consume the party's fading hope of maintaining control of Congress in this year's elections.

Yesterday, an estimated 20,000 demonstrators protested at the offices of Sen. Jon Kyle (R-AZ), a co-sponsor of the anti-immigrant legislation. FOX News reports that it was one of the largest protests in the city's history. Tens of thousands of workers staged a walkout in Georgia on Friday after the Georgia House passed anti-immigrant legislation which would deny government services to persons in the country illegally (similar to GOP-led legislation defeated in the Indiana House earlier this year) and impose a 5 percent surcharge on wire transfers from illegal immigrants FOX also reported. In Los Angeles, students staged walkouts from schools, which caused fighting to break out between Hispanic and black students, and hundreds of thousands gathered for another protest in downtown Los Angeles today.

Bush used his weekly radio address to urge Congress to pass a guest worker visa program to deal with illegal immigration rather than the harsh penalties contained in the GOP legislation. The AP reports:

President Bush, bracing for more street protests and a Senate showdown on immigration reform, called Saturday for legislation that does not force America to choose between being a welcoming society and a lawful one.

"America is a nation of immigrants, and we're also a nation of laws," Bush said in his weekly radio address about the emotional immigration issue that has driven a wedge in his party . . .

Bush wants Congress to create a program to allow foreigners to gain legal status for a set amount of time to do specific jobs. When the time is up, they would be required to return home without an automatic path to citizenship.

"As we debate the immigration issue, we must remember there are hardworking individuals, doing jobs that Americans will not do, who are contributing to the economic vitality of our country," he said.

Unfortunately, Bush's unpopularity may make his task of reigning in out-of-control members of his party on this issue a near impossibility. Sen. McCain, anxious to seek the GOP nomination for president in 2008, has to be extremely nervous that the GOP may forfeit any chances of holding the White House if Hispanics voters turn away from the GOP in large numbers. The California Republican Party found itself relegated to near-permanent minority status in the nation's largest state with its large Hispanic population after former Gov. Pete Wilson fought for the enactment of a state law which denied government services to illegal aliens--a law which was later overturned by the federal courts as unconstitutional.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bush Comes To Town

It’s not every day that you can step outside your home and watch the President of the United States drive by. It happened to me twice today. President Bush dropped by a political fundraising luncheon for U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel at the Murat Center in Indianapolis, which is just a block from my home in the Lockerbie Glove Company.

From my rooftop deck, I could see hundreds of demonstrators gathered along Alabama Street west of the Murat to greet the President. The President never saw them. His motorcade turned onto New Jersey after it made its way down Michigan Avenue, allowing the President to enter the Murat out of the view of the demonstrators. As it turned out, they would have done better standing along Michigan Street in the Lockerbie neighborhood if their point was to let the President see their protest signs, although police ran off at least one demonstrator who tried to position himself on Michigan Street across from my building.

The largest contingent of protestors were demonstrating against pending immigration reform legislation in Congress, which would increase border enforcement and make those who are found to be present in the U.S. without inspection guilty of a Class D felony, thereby making it impossible for undocumented aliens to ever become legal residents of the U.S. Sodrel supported this legislation when it was approved by the House last year. Bush actually opposes this approach and, instead, favors a limited guest worker visa program which would allow undocumented aliens to stay in the U.S. and work legally as long as they are gainfully employed.

When the President departed the Murat, his motorcade reversed its route to east on Michigan and then south on East Street to the onramp for I-70. Several of my neighbors stood at the end of our drive facing East Street and waved at the President as his motorcade proceeded by us. He waved through the tinted glass of his limousine, as did his Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, who accompanied him in another car. I was struck by just how few people stood along the motorcade route to see the President, given we are in the heart of downtown Indianapolis and a view was easy to come by. Few people in my neighborhood bothered to venture the few steps that they were required to take outside their door to catch a glimpse of Bush.

In between his arrival and departure, I was able to view Bush’s remarks to the Sodrel fundraiser live on WRTV-6, the only local TV station to carry the President’s speech live. He opened with the traditional “family guy” plugs. His better half, Laura, couldn’t be there, but Sodrel’s better half, Keta, was present Bush told us. Bush likes Sodrel because he’s a guy “who has his priorities straight” and “family is his top priority.” “In a land of lawyers, it’s good to have an entrepreneur” Bush said of Sodrel.

Bush recognized several other Republican dignitaries. He singled out Gov. Mitch Daniels, who he says he’s not surprised has turned out to be “a fine Governor.” Bush said, “[Daniels] doesn’t need a poll to tell him what he thinks.” He recognized other Indiana Republican members of Indiana’s congressional delegation, including Reps. Steve Buyer and Mike Pence. He mispronounced Buyer’s name as Bullyer.

Bush also recognized the presence of Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter, Secretary of State Todd Rokita and state party chairman, Murray Clark. Steve Goldsmith got a mention as well. Bush described Goldsmith as being on the “leading edge of the compassionate conservative agenda”, which Bush lost sight of after becoming president by using wedge issues, such as gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research and “right to life” to divide our country.

Bush devoted a substantial part of his speech making the case for the war in Iraq. It is the lessons of 9/11 and understanding the stakes in the global war on terrorism that we must not lose sight of according to Bush. What are the lessons of 9/11? Bush says there are three:

  • We must defeat the enemy overseas so we don’t have to fight the war on terror at home.

  • We must hold those who harbor terrorists accountable—they are equally as guilty as the terrorists.

  • When we see a threat, we must take it seriously before it comes and hurts us.

Few people would disagree with Bush’s first lesson, but many would question just how much of a threat Iraq posed to the U.S. Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein was a threat and removing him has made Iraq and the world a safer place. In reality, the country is in the midst of a civil war in which tens of thousands of Iraqi lives have been lost, not to mention the more than 2,000 American soldiers who have died while serving in Iraq. In Hussein’s absence, we’ve seen troubling signs of the growing influence of Islamic extremism. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for example, recently issued a fatwa calling for death to all gay and lesbian Iraqi’s, and it’s been carried out with indifference being shown by the occupying American troops. Bush also said that Afghanistan had been “liberated from the clutches of a barbaric regime." Yet, the Afghani’s still don’t enjoy religious freedom as evidenced by recent news that a Christian who converted from Islam is facing prosecution punishable by death.

Bush insists that we must not lose our will to fight the war in Iraq, or we will lose. He says our objective is to “defeat totalitarian ideology” and replace it with a “philosophy of liberty.” That’s all well, but the early signs in Afghanistan and Iraq point to the establishment of totalitarian Islamic states with no room for tolerance or religious freedom. Bush cited the examples of Europe and Japan as reasons for hope in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the comparison with the events of World War II and today’s war on terrorism is not prescient. We are faced with a growing, radical Muslim influence in the world that is dedicated to the death and destruction of Judaism, Christianity, Israel, the West and its culture and, particularly, America. It is hard to argue that our efforts in either Iraq or Afghanistan have done anything but further foment their hatred of us.

Bush touched a little less on domestic issues. He continued his call for reforming big government entitlement programs, such as social security and Medicare, without acknowledging that he signed into law the largest entitlement benefit since the 1960’s—Medicare prescription drug coverage—without a plan for funding its high price tag. He patted himself on the back for having the courage as a Texan to say “we had an addiction to oil” that we must curtail. Under his administration, oil companies have earned record profits from soaring oil prices, and no long-term solution to ending our dependence on oil has been put forward by him. There’s hardly been any courage on his part—he’s the oil industry’s best friend. He also touched on the importance of helping the farmers of Indiana by making sure there is a market for their products at a fair price. If he really wants to reduce our oil independence and help Indiana farmer’s market their products, he should be doing a lot more to encourage ethanol and bio-diesel alternatives.

Political observers are debating whether today’s presidential visit will benefit the tough re-election race Sodrel faces against the incumbent he unseated in 2004, Baron Hill. Because of the president’s low approval numbers here and elsewhere, conventional wisdom suggests Sodrel should be distancing himself from Bush. One thing is for certain though--his campaign is $500,000 richer as a result of today’s fundraiser, and that cannot hurt. Our guess is that whatever happens in November, it will have nothing to do with what happened today.

Redstate Blogger Seeing Red After Resignation From Post Amid Plagiarism Charges

It's been less than a week since the Washington Post announced that it was hiring blogger, Ben Domenech, to host the Red America blog on its online edition. But today, the Post announced it had accepted his resignation amid charges that he had plagiarized some of his past writings before joining the Post. In accepting his resignation, Executive Editor Jim Brady wrote:

When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

No sooner had the Post hired Domenech than the criticism of him and the Post's decision to hire him start coming from the left. Domenech is defending himself in the wake of his abrupt resignation. “While I appreciated the opportunity to go and join the Washington Post,” Domenech said, “if they didn’t expect the leftists were going to come after me with their sharpened knives, then they were fools.” He claims there is an explanation for every example of plagiarism cited by his critics. “I felt like if I didn’t resign, they would have pushed me out—if not today, then Monday,” he said.

Whistleblowers Demand Apology From Souder

Indiana Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ft. Wayne) has earned a reputation as an independent, reform-minded conservative since he's been in Congress. He recently stunned many people with his derisive views toward government whistleblowers. While speaking at a House committee hearing on legislation which would offer whistleblower status to employees of the Department of Homeland Security, Souder said:

"I don't see a bunch of these whistle-blowers out there panning for food because they whistled," Souder said during the meeting. They're celebrities in the media. They sell books and all that. It's a bogus argument for political purposes."

Rep. Souder was speaking in opposition to an amendment offered by Rep. Ed. Markey (D-MA). Markey's amendment would have allowed any Department of Homeland Security employee who faced retaliation for reporting a national or homeland security concern to file a complaint with the Department of Labor. If the department didn't act within six months, the person could sue.

Rep. Souder's press secretary assures us his comments were taken out of context. "In fact he does support protection for whistle-blowers," Martin Green said. "He thinks we have to be very careful with national security whistle-blowers because of the classified nature involved."

But the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, which represents about 85 insiders, said Souder went too far with his criticism. "We read with astonishment, disappointment and a great deal of outrage the comments you made," coalition founder Sibel Edmonds said in a letter to Rep. Souder.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

If At First You Don't Succeed . . .

On day four of the mock election testing for the new Statewide Voter Registration System there we no errors to report. WISH-TV has been doing a day-by-day blow of the testing process for SVRS. It reports:

For the first time during mock election testing of the state's new voter registration system, things went smoothly in Marion County.The new $10 million system crashed on the first day, and the second day saw errors and delays. On Day Three, Marion County could not print a poll book for its largest precinct. On Day Four, officials from Quest Information Systems, the company that built the database, were on hand in case there were new problems.

For the record, WISH-TV corrected its report on Day Three concerning the inability of SVRS to print a poll book. As it turned out, the problem was with the browser setting on Marion Co.'s computers. Pop-up blockers on another county's computers contibuted to problems with the system as well. WISH-TV also credits Indiana with being the first state to try a mock election of this size and scope. The biggest complaint remaining is that the system's speed isn't what the counties expect of it.

As a person who has experience managing the development and installation of customized computer systems for government clients, the testing and attendant debugging Quest Information Systems has been performing on SVRS is standard protocol. It is nearly impossible to develop a customized application of this size and scope and expect it to run smoothly and without any errors during its first live demonstration. It's good to see that Quest is getting as many of these issues resolved prior to the May primary as it possibly can. Will there be problems with the system on election day? Most certainly. But you can bet that many of those problems will be caused by user error.

Charity Begins At Home For Bush Family

Last year, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, joined together and formed the Bush-Clinton Katrina Relief Fund to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Former First Lady Barbara Bush made an undisclosed, large contribution to the fund. There was only one catch. The money could only be used by school districts to purchase Ignite Learning software, which is produced by a company owned by her son Neil Bush. As we reported previously, this is the company which was financed, in part, by the United Arab Emirates.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the software has been obtained by 8 school districts which took in children of Hurricane Katrina victims. The story reports that the Houston school district began using Ignite Learning in 2004 after Bush solicited over $115,000 in private donations for a charitable fund which benefits the Houston schools with instructions that the money only be spent to purchase Bush's software. The story said, "The deal raised conflict of interest concerns because Neil Bush and company officials helped solicit the donations for the HISD Foundation, a philanthropic group that raises money for the district."

Barbara Bush planned to visit a Houston Independent School District campus using the Ignite program to call on local business leaders to support schools and education. The Houston Chronicle said, "Barbara Bush is expected to observe both teachers and students using the Ignite Learning program while touring classrooms, according to the Ignite press release."

Gee, I wish my mom and dad could create business for me and be charitable at the same time, and I've been a good boy, unlike Neil. Neil Bush has had quite a reputation for being the black sheep in the Bush clan. He got in quite a mess back in the 1980s when a Denver savings & loan where he served as a director went belly up--a billion dollar collapse. Daddy had to bail him out of that one. He and other directors had to pony up $49.5 million to settle a negligence lawsuit, and he narrowly avoided a criminal prosecution. His divorce a couple of years ago was also pretty messy, stirring up allegations of extra-marital daliances with Asian women during business trips and fathering at least one child out of wedock. It's good to see mom and dad are still helping Neil out, even with the embarrassments he's caused the family.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fancy Ford To Speak At Indiana Democratic Fundraiser

The Indiana Democratic Party announced that U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN), also known as "Fancy Ford", will be the keynote speaker for their annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on May 13 at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

Ford is a candidate for the U.S. Senate this year in Tennessee. Republicans have been having a little bit of fun with Ford's lavish spending on himself using his campaign funds, as well as his wild penchant for partying. In fact, they've devoted an entire site to Fancy Ford. He attended the Playboy Superbowl Party in Jacksonville, Florida last year (all the celebrities and playmates were there), and he has hosted fundraisers at New York's exclusive Core Club ($55,000 membership fee, plus $15,000 per year).

Ford charged his campaign $2,549 for an Armani suit to wear to one of his high-roller fundraisers, which he didn't repay. His campaign spent $19,000 on flowers and another $8,900 for expensive Davidoff cigars and other pricey gifts. His campaign picked up a hotel tab of $20,000 for his stays at the Biltmore Hotel in L.A. and another $32,000 at such destinations as the Four Seasons in L.A., Periwinkle in Nantucket and The Essex in New York. He also spent $3,100 dining at the member's official dining room at the Capitol last year.

Now Ford and the Democrats are crying foul. Ford claimed the National Republican Senate Committee unveiled a political web site to smear him. He writes:

The “facts” of the site are the most mundane imaginable. I know they are mundane, because they all come from my own campaign finance disclosures. It turns out that I—just like President Bush, Senator Frist, and Senator Alexander—travel out of state to raise money. When I do so, I–just like they—incur legitimate expenses. I frankly don’t know what their site is trying to say. Many of you have speculated here and elsewhere what the Republican point is.

Other Democrats think the Fancy Ford site borders on racist, judging by some some of the comments posted on the web since Republicans launched the site. For the record, if any Democrat thinks we're being racist by raising this issue, we have just one question: Why do the Indiana Democrats name their largest fundraising event of the year the "Jefferson-Jackson Day" dinner? Weren't both Jefferson and Jackson slave owners? Have they thought about calling it the "Franklin Roosevelt Dinner" or the "John F. Kennedy Dinner", or even the "Martin Luther King, Jr. Dinner?"

Death Squads Carry Out Fatwa Against Gays In Iraq

Last weekend, Advance Indiana reported how the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq had issued a fatwa against gays and lesbians in Iraq, ordering them "killed, in the worst, most severe way of killing." We tipped off our friends at PageOneQ, who put their international reporter, Doug Ireland on the story. PageOne Q is now reporting that Doug Ireland will report in tomorrow's weekly edition of Gay City News that death squads are hunting down and killing gays in Iraq in response to al-Sistani's fatwa. Ireland's report says, in part:

The Badr Corps is committed to the 'sexual cleansing' of Iraq," a 33 year old gay Iraqi exile in London told Ireland. Since the SCIRI's spiritual leader, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistni -- the highest Shia religious authority -- issued a fatwa ordering gays assassinated in "the worst, most severe way of killing," the Badr Corps in Iraq has begun to use the Internet to hunt down and kill Iraqi gays.

The murdered Iraqi gays "are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head," Iraqi exile Ali Hili, coordinator for the London-based Abu Nawas Group, an organization of gay Iraqis in exile -- tells Ireland. In one case, the article explains, a transsexual was beaten and burned to death in an area of Baghdad.

Hili explains that, "intimidation, beatings, kidnappings and murders of gays have become an almost daily occurrence.”

Ireland's interviews include one with Tahseen, an underground activist in Baghdad, who is hiding 5 gays in his home and reports on the disappearance and killings of a number of gay men. PageOneQ is reporting that both Ireland and Ali Hili will appear on radio and TV news broadcast "Democracy Now" Thursday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. EST to discuss this troubling report. For more information on the broadcast, click here.

Hell Yeah There's A Problem With Indiana's Realtor Protection Law

Last weekend, Advance Indiana reported on a new law signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels, which effectively shields Indiana realtors from competition from low-cost homesale agents, such as those offered locally by We wondered just what the extent of the new law's impact would be on low-cost providers like HomeYeah. Today, AI Editor Gary R. Welsh heard from John Slimak, President of, who is based in the company's Fishers, Indiana office. Slimak was totally taken back by the sweeping nature of the law, and was unaware the Governor had signed the new law until he read our post.

As much as Slimak is concerned about the impact on his own business, he points out that the big losers are Indiana consumers, who are deprived of real choices in selling their homes because of the protective nature of the new law. When the new law takes effect on July 1, 2006, it will impact HomeYeah's Market + product the greatest according to Slimak. For a flat fee of $499, a homeseller can market their home through HomeYeah, plus have their home listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is managed by the local board of realtors. This requires the homeseller to offer the buyer's real estate commission (i.e., 3%-3.5%), while paying HomeYeah only the flat fee of $499. The Market + service represents 62% of HomeYeah's existing business.

As of July 1, 2006, Indiana's "Realtor Protection Law" will bar HomeYeah from offering this service. That's because the new law mandates that a selling agent provide a minimum amount of services in order to accept a fee for their service, such as marketing the home, receiving offers from potential buyers, sales negotiation and handling closing procedures, even if the homeowner doesn't want or need these advisory services. If a homeseller wants to utilize HomeYeah's services, it will now be required to purchase a much costlier service for $1,999, regardless of whether the homeseller wants the additional services.

HomeYeah is the brainchild of Gerry Hays. Before starting up, Hays worked as an environmental lobbyist for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He later sold the company to Help-U-Sell , the leading “fee for service” residential real estate franchising company in North America, after he expanded HomeYeah's services to several other states, including Indiana. Help-U-Sell's parent company is Ampac. With Homeyeah's strong presence here in Indiana and other states, the new law could potentially reduce its bottom line value to the company to the extent the new law cuts into HomeYeah's business in Indiana.

Slimak says that the Market + service is most often utilized by financially stressed homsellers, who have little equity in their homes to give up as commissions to agents in the course of the sale to avoid being upside down. A recent report in the Indianapolis Star recounted the high number of foreclosures in Indiana. The Star reported, "More than 7,000 Indiana homeowners faced foreclosure in the final three months of last year, a record high for a state that has led the nation in foreclosure proceedings since July 2004." The high number of foreclosures in Indiana are driven by factory layoffs, personal bankruptcies, stagnant home prices and aggressive lending according to the Star.

Sadly, Slimak notes that these financially stressed Hoosiers are the people who most need the benefit of the low-cost services companies like HomeYeah offer, and now Indiana's government is telling them that this option will no longer be available to them. A higher priority has been placed on shielding Indiana's traditional real estate agents and brokers from competition than helping our citizens in greatest need of assistance from the benefit of low-cost services.

Slimak says the company isn't taking the new law sitting down. Numerous lawyers are studying the new law and determining appropriate legal steps to fight it. Independent real estate brokers are likely to find a sympathetic ear from the U.S. Justice Department. The Justice Department has already announced it plans to take anti-trust action against the National Association of Realtors, alleging that its policies illegally restrict discounting of sales commissions and put online competitors at a disadvantage. Indiana Law Blog also has a new post today which provides further support for intervention by the Justice Department and the FTC against Indiana's new law.

The Justice Department has also objected to the very types of laws enacted by Indiana, which the realtors have been pushing in other states. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The government is also targeting industry-backed efforts to get state legislatures and real-estate boards, which set licensing standards, to enact regulations that in effect protect full-service real-estate agents and their commissions. Some brokers offer fixed fee-for-service, or menu, pricing that can lower consumers' costs, and others rebate a portion of the commission.

The Justice Department and the FTC have warned several states in recent months that such laws hamper innovation and competition, and have formally objected to industry-supported proposals in Oklahoma and Texas.

The Justice Department last month sued a Kentucky state agency that sought to restrict rebate payments to customers by residential-real-estate agents and brokers. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville, the U.S. charged that the five-member Kentucky Real Estate Commission illegally conspired to impose and enforce the rebate ban in order to fix commissions and deprive consumers of price competition by brokers.

Slimak could not understand how Gov. Daniels could sign a law that is so harmful to consumers and his industry. Advance Indiana suspects that an early announcement of support by the Indiana Association of Realtors for Gov. Daniels' Major Moves initiative may have shaded his thinking on this legislation just a wee bit.

Illinois GOP Picks Moderate Topinka To Win Back State House

Republicans in Illinois turned to a moderate, State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, as its candidate with the best chance of winning back the governor's office from the Democrats. Topinka garned approximately 38% of the vote in a 4-way race against well-funded opponents, all of whom ran as traditional conservative Republicans.

Republicans held the governor's office continuously from 1977 through 2003 with successive moderates, including James R. Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan. Ryan, in particular, made greater inroads in Chicago than any prior statewide Republican candidate. He fought for death penalty reform and a state civil rights law for gays. Unfortunately, his administration became consumed by political corruption. He is currently awaiting a jury's verdict after a several-month trial in a Chicago federal courtroom.

Topinka was repeatedly lashed by her conservative male Republican opponents for her more liberal views. In particular, she was singled out as a "Pro-Homosexual Activist" because of her pro gay rights views. One conservative site writes about Topinka:

As she seeks to become the next governor of Illinois, it is crucial, now more than ever, that Illinois voters understand that Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka holds extremely liberal values that are contrary to those embraced by the vast majority of Illinois Republicans. In fact, Judy Baar Topinka’s pro-abortion and pro-homosexual positions are in keeping with the Democratic Party Platform—and opposed to the national Republican Party platform to which she would seem to owe allegiance.

Topinka was knocked by conservative Republicans for participating in Chicago's Gay Pride parade and for her assistance in arranging financing for a gay-oriented community center in Chicago's Boys Town. She has also been attacked for being too close to the head of Illinois Equality, a gay rights organization, and its efforts to block attempts to enact a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages.

Topinka will face off against incumbent Gov. Rod Blagoyevich (D) who defeated reform candidate Ed Eisendrath. Although Eisendrath had little money for his campaign, he still managed to pull down a third of the Democratic primary vote, indicating that a high number of Democrats are unhappy with his performance. Like his predecessor George Ryan, his administration has been plagued by political corruption. It should be an interesting race. And it's good to see the Republicans nominate a person in the true tradition of the Party of Lincoln.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Post Hires Right-Wing Blogger And Angers Left

In apparent attempt to placate conservatives, the Washington Post has hired Ben Domenech of to write a blog for the paper. Judging from the reaction over at AmericaBlog, liberals aren't too happy with the Post over its new hire.

Editor & Publisher indicates that news of the hire didn't fare well when the Post's political reporter, Tom Edsall, attempted to do his online chat today. Edsall responded online unsympathetically to the new hire today:

The hiring of Ben Domenench of RedState has provoked a firestorm, if the volume of questions this morning is any measure. One theory in the newsroom is that he was hired at the behest of Dana Milbank. More seriously, I am told that this is part of the Post's web operation's efforts to provide diverse views. These decisions are, unfortunately, above my paygrade, much as I would love to have the power to hire and fire . . . In fairness to the many inquiries about the Red State blogger, the questions you raise go to some basic issues of journalism that deserve much more expansive treatment and should get answers defining the principles guiding the Post as it engages with web. I could shoot my mouth off on these questions, but they should be answered by those with the power to set policy.

Editor & Publisher thinks the decision to hire Domenench may be to counter the Post's liberal blogger Dan Froomkin, who has recently stirred up quite a controversy with some of his opinions. The bottom line is that even the leading newspaper's in the country are coming to accept the valuable role bloggers now play in shaping American journalism and public opinion.

Rockford Newspaper Tells Illinois Voters To Stay Home

While it is custom for a newspaper to editorialize about the importance of exercising one's voting franchise by participating in all elections, it is not often you find a newspaper urging voters to stay home. That's exactly what the Rockford Register told Illinois voters to do in today's statewide primary election if they haven't bothered to educate themselves about the candidates and issues. The newspaper's editors write:

By all means, do not go to the polls today if you can’t identify at least one significant difference between your favorite Republican candidate and the four others who are running in the gubernatorial primary.

Likewise, if you haven’t paid enough attention during Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration to spell and pronounce his name, take a pass.

And please, stay home if you don’t know the reason behind the referendum that would increase the sales tax in Rockford by 1 cent. If you insist on voting, you should know that the 1-cent tax would fund street repairs, end the need for vehicle stickers and reduce future property taxes. The sales tax also would put some of the burden for street repairs on people who use the roads but don’t pay city property taxes or buy vehicle stickers. You may be for or against the proposed sales tax, but please, don’t vote unless you know why.

One commenter at a blog site in Illinois suggested that the lowly regarded newspaper may have been adopting a new tact since so few of its readers ever follows its advice and vote for the candidates it endorses in Illinois elections. Then again, the newspaper may have had something else in mind.

The editorial reminded AI Editor Gary R. Welsh of Illinois' notorious 1986 Democratic primary election. Democrats had slated Adlai Stevenson III to run for the second time against Gov. James R. Thompson (R). He had lost by just a few hundred votes to Thompson in 1982 after a rancorous recount of the election results. The Democrats also slated several other candidates to run on a statewide ticket with Stevenson, who provided ethnic diversity. The voters selected two complete unknowns with Anglo-Saxon sounding names in the Democratic primary in the races for Lt. Governor and Secretary of State, who so happened to be followers of Lyndon LaRouche.

Stunning Illinois Democrats, Mark Fairchild defeated George Sangmeister for Lt. Governor, and Janice Hart defeated Aurelia Pucinski for Secretary of State. Stevenson was compelled to leave the Democratic ticket and run as a third party candidate, along with his fellow slated candidates to disassociate himself from the two extremists. The damage had already been done. Stevenson lost his rematch against Thompson by a much bigger margin, even though Thompson's popularity had eroded considerably.

Thinking back on 1986, the Rockford Register's suggestion to uneducated voters to stay home may not be such a bad idea sometimes. Much is at stake in this election. The unpopular incumbent Governor Rod Blagoyevich (D) is facing off against a liberal Chicago reformer, Ed Eisendrath (D). Four Republicans are vying to take on the winner of that race in the fall. There are also several hotly contested congressional races in the Chicago area which are getting a lot of national attention, along with other statewide and local races. With today's bad weather in Illinois, voter turnout will be considerably suppressed based on early reports. We can assume that only the more educated voters will brave the weather and exercise their voting right.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pence Digs Into Campaign Fund For Personal Expenses

Rep. Mike Pence (R) has been a leading advocate for lobbying reform in Washington, but his practice of using his campaign funds for personal expenditures has caught the eye of the Washington Post notes the Indiana Daily Insight. Rep. Pence earns $165,000 a year from his congressional salary, but Pence, like many other members of Congress, reaches into his campaign coffers, which are enriched by contributions from lobbyists, to pay bills which you and I must dig into our own pockets to pay for.

Last year, Pence spent $348,255 from his campaign committee, plus $25,472 from his PAC, even though it was a non-election year. The Post writes:

Pence sought reimbursement for 293 meals in 2005, for a total of $9,806. Most were at fast-food or family-style restaurants, including Wendy's, Arby's, Ruby Tuesday, and various pancake houses and pizza parlors, as well as convenience stores and airport concessions based in Anderson, Ind. Ninety-four of the charges totaled $10 or less. He also paid $4,082 for a 1998 Oldsmobile minivan that he drove throughout his east-central Indiana district.

Pence even sought reimbursement from his campaign for a $1 meal from a local gas station, which his staff believes was for a bottle of water, according to the Post. Pence's staff defended the expenses this way:

When Mike Pence campaigns, he campaigns as if he's in a tight race," said William A. Smith, Pence's chief of staff. He said that his boss prefers one-on-one meetings to big groups, which explains the numerous small charges, and that items are often billed to the campaign, as opposed to the official account, to avoid potential ethics questions. "If he's doing political work, that's going to be part of his campaign budget," Smith said.

The FEC rules give lawmakers broad discretion on how they spend their campaign funds. Some items are specifically banned, the story notes, including home mortgages, clothing, personal automobile expenses, country club and health club memberships, vacations, household food, nonpolitical admissions to concerts and sporting events, and tuition. However, lawmakers are allowed to accept free travel paid by lobbyists, which often amounts to a free vacation to exotic destinations.