Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rev. Bosma Attains Christian Martyrdom: Judge Says No More Sectarian Prayers In The House

It’s official. Rev. (or Speaker) Brian Bosma has become a Christian martyr. Federal district court judge David Hamilton ordered Speaker Bosma to discontinue his practice of permitting sectarian prayers at the opening of session days in the Indiana House of Representatives.

As the Indianapolis Star reported, "The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union against Speaker Brian Bosma, alleging that the prayers overwhelmingly promoted Christian beliefs to the exclusion of other faiths."

Judge Hamilton ruled today: “To summarize, the evidence shows that the official prayers offered to open sessions of the Indiana House of Representatives repeatedly and consistently advance the beliefs that define the Christian religion: the resurrection and divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Hamilton continued: “The Establishment Clause 'means at the very least that government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions). The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.’ The sectarian content of the substantial majority of official prayers in the Indiana House therefore takes the prayers outside the safe harbor the Supreme Court recognized for inclusive, non-sectarian legislative prayers in Marsh v. Chambers . . . "

Judge Hamilton’s order makes clear that it will not prevent the House from opening its session days with prayers: “This relief will not prohibit the House from opening its session with prayers if it chooses to do so, but will require that any official prayers be inclusive and non-sectarian, and not advance one particular religion.”

Hamilton’s order grants “a permanent injunction against the Speaker in his official capacity barring him from permitting sectarian prayer as part of the official proceedings of the Indiana House of Representatives.” It provides that “[i]f the Speaker chooses to continue any form of legislative prayer, he shall advise persons offering such a prayer (a) that it must be nonsectarian and must not be used to proselytize or advance any one faith or belief or to disparage any other faith or belief, and (b) that they should refrain from using Christ’s name or title or any other denominational appeal.

Indiana Black Pride Denounces Black Ministers' Prayer Vigil Against HRO

Indiana Black Pride responded angrily today to a prayer vigil conducted this morning by African-American ministers, who represent approximately a dozen area churches, at the city-county building in opposition to Proposal 622, the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO). The group said, “As a community of African American GLBT people we are offended with the suggestion that these black pastors speak for all black people or even all black congregations.”

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. the group said, “‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ With these words Dr. King taught us that to discriminate against anyone for any reason is wrong. The question put before us by the proposal of a Human Rights ordinance is not whether or not you agree with or condone a particular sexual orientation or gender identity, but rather do you condone discrimination.”

Indiana Black Pride urges Indianapolis’ African-American community to stay focused on the legal and constitutional issues of the HRO, and not on one’s perception of morality. “The argument for equal protections under the law is a legal and constitutional one, not a morally driven one. We believe, as does Mayor Peterson and Governor Daniels, that all of Indianapolis’s citizens deserve equal protection from job discrimination and unfair housing practices. Both Mayor Peterson and Gov. Daniels have issued executive orders saying that their respective governments will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The group blasted the black ministers for suggesting that black’s alone have ownership of civil rights. “African-American gays and lesbians certainly understand the many sacrifices our forefathers and foremothers made during the civil rights movement. However, we as black people do not own the term civil rights. Coretta Scott King, Julian Bond and Rev. Al Sharpton have all spoken out in favor of GLBT equality and an end to the homophobic rhetoric that has stifled all healthy dialogue concerning same gender love and sexual identity within the black family. The efforts by a few local black pastors only serves to widen the gap between the church and the black GLBT community.”

At this morning’s prayer vigil, one black minister sought to disabuse any notion that black civil rights and gay civil rights can be equated as reported by the Indianapolis Star. “It is an offense to black people to be used – that the blood of our fathers and our own blood that was spilled on the pathways to civil rights should be used as a lever to get legal license to make their own choices law,” the Rev. Melvin Jackson, pastor at Christian Love Missionary Baptist Church and a participant in the civil rights marches of the 1960s, said after the vigil.

Indiana Black Pride’s statement complained that many black gays and lesbians are members of the very churches represented by the group of ministers praying against the HRO. The group reported: “Many black gays and lesbians sit quietly by every Sunday morning listening to sermons filled with homophobic ranting and separatist theology. Meanwhile, the HIV infection rate among African- American men and women is reaching pandemic proportions. Yet, the only dialogue that comes from the black church is morally objectionable, unnecessary, and insulting.”

For more information on Indiana Black Pride, contact Robert Ferguson here.

Ministers Pray For Hate And Discrimination

Twenty-nine African-American ministers will pray today for hate and discrimination. WIBC reports that a group of Indianapolis’ African-American ministers will pray at 11:29 a.m. for one minute that the Indianapolis City-County Council defeats Proposal 622, the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO).

The ministers’ group believes that “the ordinance promotes a homosexual lifestyle, which the ministers say goes against biblical teachings.” “We’re not discriminating against (gays), but we are opposing their homosexual practices,” says Rev. Terry Webster of the New Corinthian Church. “We will take a minute and pray for each councilor that they will get the wisdom that they need to make the right decision,” says Webster.

The HRO revamps the city’s outdated civil rights ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited forms of discrimination in employment, education, public accommodations and housing.

And by saying that you believe employers should be able to fire someone because they are gay, or that a landlord should be allowed to refuse to rent to a transgender person, how is that not discriminating Rev. Webster?

And the ministers say it goes against “biblical teachings.” Would that be the Bible of Love, or would that be the Bible of Hate Rev. Webster--you remember, the one White Christians in the South said approved of slavery and no mixing of the races? How soon they forget.

When the HRO fell four votes short of passage last spring, five African-American councilors voted against it, including Patrice Abdullah, Sherron Franklin, Ron Gibson, Ike Randolph and Steve Talley. Abdullah and Gibson cited their religious beliefs as the reason for their no votes. None of these five councilors has publicly changed their positions since the last vote.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Salisbury: All You Liberals Are Crazy

Digital Dog Meat shares some more dialogue Indianapolis Republican city-county councilor Earl Salisbury had with a friend of his on his political views. "I feel that liberalism is a sickness and mental disorder that is being used to destroy our country," Salisbury is quoted as saying.

On the HRO, he said, "How would this law help anybody. If it did it would include short people and fat people, which are able to be identified." When asked why he hasn't researched the Human Rights Ordinance, according to Digital Dog Meat he stated: "I work 85 hours per week not including 300 e-mails per day."

Quite funny stuff if it weren't so serious. Salisbury is shown at left in his Sons of the American Revolution uniform, an organization with which he is actively involved.

Salisbury Charges That Purpose Of HRO Is To "Split Politics"-"Does Nothing For Gays"

In an e-mail communication to Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh today, Indianapolis Republican councilor Earl Salisbury charges that the purpose of the Human Rights Ordinance is to "split politics", and that "it does nothing for gays."

Advance Indiana first reported last night on a sarcastic reply Indianapolis Republican councilor Earl Salisbury sent to Lori Morris, who had e-mailed Salisbury and other councilors concerning the newly reintroduced Human Rights Ordinance (HRO). Salisbury, who voted against the HRO last spring and still opposes it, poked fun at the notion that passage of the HRO would help end abuse of gays and reduce suicide rates. Morris' e-mail included a touching letter written by the mother of an abused, suicidal teen-ager.

Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh e-mailed Mr. Salisbury a link to the story with the following message:

If you wish to demean the importance of the HRO to the Indianapolis' gay, lesbian and transgender persons through e-mail communications to its supporters, then we are more than happy to oblige you by sharing your views with the entire Indianapolis community.

This is what people are reading about you today:

As a life-long Republican, I am embarrassed and ashamed of the bigoted views held by so many GOP officials in Marion County. As long as the face of the party is you and Virginia Cain, we are assured of permanent minority status in this county. Have you forgotten what the Party of Lincoln is all about?

Gary Welsh

Salisbury initially responded this morning to Welsh with a one word e-mail reply: "Lies." He followed that response up with this simple sentence: "Which is the purpose of this ord." Welsh asked Salisbury to clarify the meaning of his last e-mail message. He replied, "The purpose of this ord is to split politics. It does nothing for gays. Those nasty republicans are mean."

Steph Mineart, editor of A Commonplace Book, reported in a comment to the Salisbury posting on an e-mail exchange that he had this morning with Lori Morris and Rock Indiana's Pepper Partin. Mineart said: "He had an ongoing exchange with Lori and Pepper Partin about his response, in which he claimed that he wasn't being flippant but was asking a serious question about gay suicide rates, saying that unless we can prove suicide rates will go down, he won't vote for the act." Is this man for real?

Whatever is motivating Salisbury to say the things he is saying, one thing is clear: He's an absolute embarrassment to the Marion County Republican Party and to the citizens of Marion County. But don't expect to hear any criticism of him from any of its current leadership, who are also riding the anti-gay bandwagon.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What You Should Know About Earl Salisbury

Last summer Advance Indiana exposed Indianapolis city-county councilor Virginia Cain’s anti-gay bigotry by publishing an e-mail she had sent to a local gay rights advocate, Seth Kreigh, in response to his e-mail asking her to support the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO). Sadly, yet another Republican councilor has sent a completely insensitive and demeaning e-mail communication to a supporter of the HRO.

Lori Morris sent an e-mail to Republican councilor Earl Salisbury, who represents the 13th district on the city’s far west side, which includes portions of Wayne and Decatur Townships, concerning the HRO as newly reintroduced Proposal 622. Morris’ e-mail specifically addressed bigoted comments Councilor Cain made to WTHR’s Mary Mills concerning her opposition to the HRO. Cain, echoing her e-mail last spring to Seth Kreigh, told Mills that homosexuality was a “behavior”, that it was not innate, and that it was bad for families.

Morris’ e-mail to Salisbury and other councilors said the following: “After reading Ginny Cains remark about the HRO being against 'family', I find that I must again point out the ignorance of her statement. I am forwarding a letter that was printed in a Vermont newspaper in 2000 from a mother that has had enough of the hatred directed towards her ‘family’. She has said it better that I ever could.” The mother’s moving letter described how her son had been driven to contemplate suicide because of the harassment and taunting he had been subjected to since he was a very young boy because of others' perception of him as being gay. A copy of the letter Morris included with her e-mail can be read at the end of this posting.

In a curt, sarcastic e-mail reply dated today, Salisbury wrote: “So if the laws change does the abuse stop? No more suicides? Promise?” Salisbury no doubt wrote these insensitive words without any fear of political fallout from them. Imagine a councilor reacting similarly to a constituent expressing concerns about lynchings in the context of the push to enact civil rights laws in the 1960s to protect African-Americans from discrimination. It wouldn’t be tolerated. And Salisbury’s cold indifference to the discrimination faced by gays, lesbians and transgender persons should not be tolerated either.

Unfortunately, many of the Republican councilors have the same attitude towards the HRO as Salisbury does. That is because the Marion County GOP has adopted “Murphy’s Law,” named in honor of GOP Chairman Rep. Mike Murphy, who has urged Republican councilors to vote in a bloc against the HRO so the party can use gay baiting tactics to unseat Democratic councilors who vote for the HRO in the 2007 city elections. Murphy actually believes this is the issue that will enable the GOP to regain control of the council!

To Murphy’s dismay, at least two Republican councilors, Scott Keller and Lance Langsford, are openly defying Murphy’s Law by sponsoring and supporting the HRO. At least one other Republican councilor may join them as well. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is facing a tough re-election race next year, also thumbed his nose at Murphy’s Law by enacting his own non-discrimination policy to protect gay and lesbian employees in his office from discrimination.

Councilors Cain and Salisbury might not make such comments, at least in public, if the mainstream media held their feet to the fire the way they do when public officials make comments that are racially or gender insensitive. For now, the GLBT community must rely on its network of bloggers to spread the word about these anti-gay bigots. Please spread the word about Cain and Salisbury every opportunity you get. You can tell them how you feel by e-mailing Earl Salisbury here, and by e-mailing Virigina Cain here.

The text of the mother’s letter Morris sent to the councilors is here:

As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be. Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont.

I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life with no dignity. You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair.

I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.No choice At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join.

The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you.

If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it.

For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can? A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders.

Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters. "Principles? You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending.

My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance. How dare he? you say.

These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage. You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?" Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?

By Sharon Underwood

CIA Spoofed By Virus-Containing E-mail

If a bit odd, it looked official. Apparently thousands of e-mails, which purported to be sent by the CIA Public Affairs Officer Steven Allison arrived in computer users e-mail inboxes across the country and elsewhere around the world over the past several days, including that of Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh. The message claimed that the CIA had “logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal websites.”

The recipients were directed to answer questions from a document attached to the e-mail. The attachment, which Welsh wisely did not open, contained a virus. The address and phone number for the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs followed the note. The return e-mail address was

Upon calling the Public Affairs Office, an automated voice male message instructed e-mail recipients to immediately delete the e-mail from Steven Allison. The auto attendant told callers that the e-mail was a fake, and that the CIA did not send the e-mail.

A prominently displayed message on the CIA’s homepage reads as follows: “Some members of the public have in the past few days received a bogus e-mail falsely attributed to CIA's Office of Public Affairs. CIA did not send that message. In fact, it does not send unsolicited e-mail to the general public, period. If you have gotten such a message, we strongly encourage you not to open the attachment, which contains a destructive virus.”

According to Information Week, the virus attached to the e-mails is a variation of the long-running Sober worm. The FBI has similarly been spoofed by the virus-containing e-mails. The creators of the virus are suspected of being from Germany according to Information Week.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sen. Lugar: "Continual Metrics" Key To Success In Iraq

Indiana Senior Sen. Richard Lugar (R) was a guest on FOX News Sunday discussing the latest state of affairs on the war in Iraq with Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). Show host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Lugar: “Do we need a change of course in U.S. strategy in Iraq? And if so, what?

Now that’s a straight-forward question, requiring a simple yes or no answer, and if yes is the answer, an explanation of what change of course is required. Lugar’s response was, well, you decide. Lugar responded, “No, we don't need a change of course, but we need an explanation and continual metrics as far as how successful we're doing.” Huh?

If you were confused like us by that answer, Sen. Lugar clears things up for us later in the interview: “The majority of the public in this country still believes that [Iraq becoming a ‘stable country’] is [a] possibility. The elite don't, but the majority of the people believe that we should have gone to war in Iraq to begin with and, secondly, that we're going to have a stable democracy. We've really got to live up to what our own public wants.”

Sen. Lugar, the majority of people don’t use terms like “continual metrics” to describe how successful our efforts in Iraq have been, regardless of whether we support the war. Only an “elitist” would speak of the war in those terms. But you are right, you do have to “live up to what our own public wants.” That means listening to the folks back home who elect you instead of lecturing us on the war like a numbers cruncher at the Pentagon.

Just Say No To Free Speech In Mishawaka Schools

Mishawaka High School has told a lesbian couple who own a gay and lesbian bookstore that they may not advertise in the school’s student newspaper. The school’s newspaper adviser, Jeff Halicki, told co-owner Patti Henges that “school officials decided not to ‘expose our teens to your type of establishment,’” according to the South Bend Tribune.

The Tribune reports that “[Robin] Beck and Henges, who were married in a civil ceremony in Canada two years ago, opened the coffee shop and bookstore in Mishawaka's 100 Center last year to serve the region's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities.” The student who accepted the bookstore’s advertisement added information about a weekly discussion group at the bookstore for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and straight teenagers and young adults to the ad to be placed in the student newspaper.

The school’s problem with the bookstore’s ad was the question it posed of bringing up “sexuality” in a student publication. "I was uncomfortable putting content in front of our readers that discussed sex or sexual orientation," Halicki said. The school’s policy requires that student publications be “generally suitable” for all students. "We typically don't have sexuality discussions in a student publication," a school spokesman said. "There is concern that there would be concerns among parents, students and other members of the community who would read the newspaper . . . Our schools need to reflect the general views of the community," the spokesman said, adding that Mishawaka is a conservative community. "We would have more parents unhappy with (the advertisement) than would be pleased with that."

At least one legal expert believes the school’s actions may represent a First Amendment violation. "They have to present some legal justification," Mark Goodman of the Student Press Law Center told the Tribune in a telephone interview. "If the student (or advertiser) could show that this was in fact an attempt to silence this viewpoint, then that may very well be impermissible under the First Amendment."

The Tribune talked to several students who acknowledged that there are gay students at the school. “There are gay kids here, but I guess the administration doesn't want to talk about it," student Jessica Payne said.

The school’s principal, George Marzotto, astonishingly claimed that he had never heard of any students who wanted to publish stories about sexuality. Marzotto noted that the school was bound by the state standards (i.e., Advance America’s and Eric Miller’s standards), which implores schools to teach only abstinence. In practice, each school adopts its own standards according to Suzanne Crouch with the Indiana Department of Education. “Throughout Indiana, our communities range from very conservative to very liberal," Crouch told the Tribune in a telephone interview. "It does allow for each community to decide how it is going to teach sexuality."

For their part, the bookstore’s owners believe students need a “safe place” to talk about their sexual orientation and gender-related questions in the absence of schools fostering that discussion. Beck told the Tribune that at least one study “estimated that nine out of 10 students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered are harassed each year in school, and 30 percent of those students attempt suicide.”

The Pretense Of Pence

Indiana Congressman Mike Pence (R-Muncie) has been quite the master at dining and cajoling news reporters into writing puffy pieces about his service for our country (and God). Hardly a week passes without someone writing a story about how Pence is a rising star in the Republican Party, and how he is being encouraged to run for House Majority Leader or some other high up leadership position.

Of course, Pence always manages to work his conservative religious views into every public policy debate that arises, ever endearing himself to the Christian right. In a refreshing and revealing look at Pence, Indianapolis Star columnist Dan Carpenter takes the holier-than-thou politician to task in a column entitled, “Leastwise, that’s how I see it.”

Carpenter writes of Pence: “Last week, upon reading the latest laudatory article in this paper about U.S. Rep. Mike Pence and his prospects for greater glory, I got to thinking about one of my favorite Bible passages. Pence, you see, perhaps more than anyone else in our most righteous Republican congressional delegation, wears his religion like a gleaming coat of armor against the slings and arrows of naysayers. I once heard him answer a question about his ambitions for higher office by saying that decision was in the hands of a higher power.”

Carpenter, with tongue and cheek, questions Pence’s support of cuts in social programs, while supporting ever greater defense spending, and the apparent clash of his social views with the Gospels of the New Testament. “Talk about a penalty for picking yachts over food stamps. The Savior didn't say a word about abortion or gay marriage, but he sure made it clear what a Christian's priorities are in what we now call the human services realm,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter argues that “so-called Christian conservatives like Pence can't have it both ways. They can't call for a Christianized government and leave the least of the citizenry to the whims of the so-called free market and these untaxed ‘faith-based’ enterprises, while government serves the lobbying and check-writing elite. The rich will never squeeze into heaven if you don't lighten their pockets.”

The self-righteous Pence is no doubt going to be unhappy with Carpenter’s column. It’s not a part of his otherwise well-scripted plan of convincing us that he is someone he is most certainly not. Carpenter appropriately challenges the fallacy of wrapping yourself in the Bible as Pence does. You can’t pick and choose which pieces of the loaf you choose to eat; you have to take the whole loaf, with the good and bad.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Teen-Aged Boy Faces Harsh Penalty For Unfair Prosecution of "Sex Crime"

The charging of an 18-year old by the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office with felony child molestation for a sexual liaison he had with a 13-year old points up both the harshness and the disparity in the law with which “sex offenders” are treated. For Joseph Hilton, a high school senior, the consequences could not be more severe. He faces a minimum jail sentence of two years and a life time sentence of having to register as a sex offender. Just what did this 18-year old do that is deserving of such a harsh criminal penalty?

As reported in the Indianapolis Star, Joseph Hilton, along with two other teen-age girls, got into to a hot tub belonging to the victim’s family together. When the 13-year old’s friend left to go into the house, Hilton and the 13-year old engaged in consensual sex. The two stopped having sex when the girl’s friend returned to rejoin them in the hot tub. After the 13-year old related what occurred to a school counselor, police were called and Hilton was arrested on felony child molestation charges and released on a $25,000 bond.

That teen-agers are having sex with one another is no surprise. That one of the teen-agers can be charged with a felony and, if found guilty, sentenced to jail time and required to register as a sex offender, may come as a surprise to many. Many may fault Hilton for having sex with a 13-year old, but it is common knowledge that junior high school-aged girls often seek out high-school aged boyfriends, and relationships between teen-agers with that much age difference is not uncommon with or without parental approval.

The problem for Hilton is that the girl, who was just five years younger than him, was under the age of 16 and, therefore, was not legally capable of consenting to have sex with him. But worse for Hilton is the fact that the girl was under the age of 14. That makes it a Class B felony if he engaged in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with her, and it is a Class C felony if he touched or fondled the girl for the purpose of satisfying his sexual desires. There is no evidence that Hilton has any past criminal record prior to this single incident.

Contrast Hilton’s dilemma with that of Debra Lafave, the 25-year Florida teacher who had sexual intercourse on several occasions with a 14-year old male student, including one incident in a school classroom. Lefave just accepted a plea agreement that allows her to avoid jail time altogether, although she will have to register as a sex offender like Hilton if he too is convicted or enters a plea of guilt. The crimes she pled to were battery and lewd and lascivious behavior. If she had been convicted of her original charges, she would have faced up to 15 years for each count. Lafave, who boasted that her high school boyfriend was Backstreet Boy band member Nick Carter, blamed her husband’s sexual inadequacies for her sexual transgressions.

If Hilton had been a female rather than a male and his "victim" had been a male, you can bet the Hamilton County Prosecutor would have never filed charges. Unfortunately, sex crime laws are unevenly applied between male and female offenders, with male offenders being dealt with much more harshly by prosecutors. Moreover, consensual sex among teen-agers, despite age discrepancies, is rarely charged as a crime, but if it is, the person charged is typically a male.

It is completely within the discretion of the prosecutor whether to bring charges in the first instance. Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp exercised poor discretion in bringing felony charges against Hilton. She should seriously reconsider whether the life-time punishment Hilton faces is proportionate to the crime he is alleged to have committed; otherwise, she should ask the State to begin building more prisons because the number of teen-agers she will need to start prosecuting will soon fill up available prison beds.

Indiana Supremes Dodge Abortion And Same Sex Parent Showdown

The Indiana Supreme Court handed down decisions involving two-hot button social issues, abortion and same sex parents, and in both case the court chose the path of least resistance to avoid any public fallout from their decisions.

In Clinic for Women, Inc. v. Carl J. Brizzi, the Supreme Court ruled that Indiana’s 18-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion does not unconstitutionally infringe on any right to an abortion or privacy that may exist under the right to “liberty” set forth in Article I, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution. The Court had been asked to rule that a women’s right to “liberty” under the Indiana Constitution included the right to an abortion as the Indiana Court of Appeals did in the case below. The Court held in vacating the Court of Appeals’ decision: “We find it unnecessary to determine whether there is any right to privacy or abortion provided or protected by Indiana’s Constitution because we are of the view that (a) plaintiffs in this case have not overcome the heavy burden imposed on those challenging the facial validity of a statute, and (b) in any event, the provisions of the statute are such that they would not impermissibly impinge upon any right to privacy or right to abortion that might exist.”

Justice Brent Dickson, the Court’s most conservative jurist, in a separate concurring opinion argued that the Indiana Constitution’s “liberty” interest embodies no fundamental right of a woman to have an abortion. Applying a strict, original intent analysis, he pointed out that the Indiana General Assembly had always outlawed abortions, including at the time the constitution was adopted in 1851.

Justice Ted Boehm sharply differed with the Court’s 4-1 majority opinion in a dissenting opinion. He flatly declared that the “liberty” interest in Indiana’s Constitution encompasses a woman’s fundamental right to an abortion, noting that the Indiana Bill of Rights is textually broader than the rights afforded under the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. He also believed that the state’s 18-hour waiting period unnecessarily interfered with a woman’s right to an abortion.

Pointedly criticizing Justice Dickson’s concurring opinion, Boehm said: “I think the contention that the liberty rights guaranteed by Section 1 were frozen as of that date is not tenable. In 1851 we had slavery in many states and Article II, Section 5 of the 1851 Constitution denied the right to vote on the basis of race. Married women had no property rights until they were conferred by statute in 1923. Both of these subjects were debated at length in the 1851 Constitution, but both were left in a state that, by today’s lights, is wholly incompatible with fundamental principles of ordered liberty. Both today, I submit, are governed by the “evolving” protections affirmed by the Bill of Rights as well as by specific constitutional and statutory provisions."

In another decision, King v. S.B., a case involving same sex parents, the Court vacated a Court of Appeals decision ruling that a same sex parent other than the biological mother was a “legal parent.” Instead, the Court sent the case back to the trial court level, which the Court said improperly granted the biological mother’s motion to dismiss the claim of parenting rights asserted by her former same sex partner. The case involved two cohabitating women, one of whom conceived a child by artificial insemination with sperm donated by the other woman’s brother. The biological mother had originally agreed to allow her same sex partner to become a legal parent to the child in a second parent adoption, but reneged on the agreement after the pair’s relationship ended.

In finding the trial court’s dismissal of the non-biological parent’s claim to parenting rights, the court held: "First, Indiana courts have authority to determine ‘whether to place a child with a person other than the natural parent,’ which we hold necessarily includes the authority to determine whether such a person has the rights and obligations of a parent. Second, Indiana law ‘provide[s] a measure of protection for the rights of the natural parent, but, more importantly, it embodies innumerable social, psychological, cultural, and biological considerations that significantly benefit the child and serve the child’s best interests.’ As such, Indiana trial courts are accorded deference in their determinations as to children’s best interests in these circumstances."

The effect of the Court’s ruling was to avoid any specific ruling on the legality of same sex parenting arrangements. Chief Justice Randall Shepard made this abundantly clear in his concurring opinion: “I write separately only to highlight what the majority has already said about the limited nature of today’s ruling, which I see as far more modest than my friend Justice Dickson suggests. Whether any element of King’s claims will be legally sustainable re-mains an open question for resolution after a hearing on the merits.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Dickson sharply differed with the 4-1 majority. He makes clear his opposition to same sex parenting arrangements. He would have upheld the dismissal of the non-biological parent’s claim of parenting rights with respect to the child. He said: “(1) permitting this proceeding to continue disregards Indiana’s adoption laws, particularly the statutory requirement for the mother’s consent to an adoption; (2) reinstating this declaratory judgment action raises grave questions regarding whether such device may be used by various other people, who are not natural parents of a child, to bypass our adoption laws and to intrude upon the lawful parental rights of others; and (3) advancing special policy interests that have not become well-established changes in society exceeds an appropriate exercise of common law jurisprudence.”

Advance Indiana suspects the Court is playing it safe on contentious social issues out of fear of retaliation by the Christian right. Such a move arguably began last year when Senator Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) sponsored SJR-1, a constitutional amendment which would have subjected Indiana Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges to retention in office by the Indiana Senate, an unprecedented reach of power by the legislature into the judicial branch. Frighteningly, that proposal sailed through the Senate, but was held up in the House. Some State House observers believe that SJR-1 was prompted by the Christian right’s, in particular Eric Miller’s and Advance America’s, displeasure with Court of Appeals’ decisions affirming same sex parenting arrangements, including second parent adoptions, which opponents of same sex adoptions claim is not permitted under Indiana’s adoption law.

At any rate, the Supreme Court has left these two contentious issues to be decided another day for now. As the old saying goes, “you can run, but you can’t hide.” At some point, the Court will have to rule on these issues whether it wants to or not.

Star: Passing The HRO Is The Right Thing To Do

The Indianapolis Star editorializes today in support of the pending HRO before the Indianapolis City-County Council, telling its reader it’s “the right thing to do.” Here’s the full text of the editorial:

Our position: Council should allow time for full debate, but passing discrimination ban is the right thing to do.

Eight months ago, the City-County Council turned away a proposal to give gays and lesbians the same protections against discrimination that other people have in their workplaces and in their housing.

Now, the same questions have returned: Should employers in Marion County be legally allowed to discriminate against workers simply because of their sexual orientation? Should landlords, home sellers or real estate agents be permitted to turn away potential buyers or renters for the same reason?
Fairness dictates that the answer to each question is no.

The human rights ordinance, proposed for a second time by council member Jackie Nytes, is without question controversial. Council members defeated the initial proposal after constituents objected.

But it's important to remember what the ordinance would not do. Religious institutions, including churches, mosques and synagogues, would be excluded from the new law. So would some nonprofit organizations. And so would businesses with fewer than six employees.

The council should take the time for a full public debate on the issue. All sides should have the chance to ask questions, raise concerns and support their positions. But ultimately the council, whether next month or early next year, should approve the ordinance. It's not about special rights or privileges. It is about the right thing to do.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Scanlon To Rat Out At Least 6 Members of Congress

Corrupt lobbyist Michael Scanlon entered his plea of guilt in a D.C. federal court today on bribery and fraud charges. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Scanlon has agreed to repay $19.7 million to Indian tribes he defrauded. He faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine, but the prison sentence may be reduced based upon Scanlon’s promise to cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation.

And just how is he cooperating? He plans to rat out at least six members of Congress and other high-ups both in and out of government. The Washington Post writes: “Investigators are looking at half a dozen members of Congress, current and former senior Hill aides, a former deputy secretary of the interior, and [Jack] Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues, according to sources familiar with the probe who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Because of his central role in much of Abramoff's business, Scanlon could be a key witness in any trials that arise from the case.”

Congressman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) is one of the members Scanlon bribed according to attorneys close to the case. House Majority Leader In Exile Tom DeLay (R-TX) is likely to be ensnared in the investigation as well. Scanlon worked for DeLay before joining Abramoff’s lobbying firm.

HRO Is Back And Needs Your Support

Indianapolis’ Human Rights Ordinance (“HRO”) is being reintroduced at tonight’s City-County Council meeting as Proposal 622. The HRO revamps the city’s outdated civil rights ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited forms of discrimination in employment, education, public accommodations and housing. Supporters are encouraged to attend tonight’s meeting, which starts at 7:00 p.m. at the public assembly room of the city-county building.

As of the printing of Proposal 622, twelve councilors had signed on as sponsors, including at least one council member who previously voted against the HRO in April, Republican councilor Lance Langsford. In addition to Langsford, the sponsors include the original sponsors, Democrat Jackie Nytes and Republican Scott Keller, as well as Democrats Rozelle Boyd, Monroe Gray, Dane Mahern, Angela Mansfield, Joanne Sanders, Greg Bowes, Vernon Brown, William Oliver and Lonnell Conley.

Area GLBT groups, under the direction of Indiana Equality’s Region 8 Steering Committee and HRO council supporters Jackie Nytes and Scott Keller, have waged a grassroots campaign over the past several months to build public support for the HRO after it was voted down in April by a vote of 18-11. Local Democrats were stunned then by the no votes of five Democratic council members, including the council’s president, Steve Talley.

None of the five Democrat councilors have publicly changed their position despite intense lobbying from supporters and local Democratic leaders. In addition to Steve Talley, Democrats Patrice Abdullah, Sherron Franklin, Ron Gibson, and Mary Moriarty Adams all voted against the HRO. These members run the risk of losing the support of the Marion County Democrat Party in their bids for re-election in 2007 if they once again vote against the HRO and cause its defeat. Sherron Franklin is already out of sorts with local Democrats after she embarrassed Mayor Bart Peterson by joining Republicans in defeating the consolidation ordinance for law enforcement, one of the Mayor’s highest priorities.

Republican councilor Scott Keller still holds out hope he may be able to convince at least one more Republican to join him in supporting the HRO. Marion County GOP Chairman Rep. Mike Murphy played a key role in getting Republican council members to vote against the HRO in a bloc last April, despite its Republican co-sponsor, in hopes of using support for the HRO as a anti-gay wedge issue to attack Democratic council incumbents in the next election.

Gary, Indiana Still A Dangerous Place To Live

Gary, Indiana just can’t seem to shrug its bad reputation. The latest ranking of the safest and most dangerous cities is out again, and it ranks Gary the 9th most dangerous city in America right behind New Orleans.

The arrival of casino gambling in the city more than a decade ago has helped fill city coffers with much-needed revenues, but it has done little to ease crime and poverty in the city.

Newton, Massachusetts ranks as the safest city in the country, while Camden, New Jersey ranks as the most dangerous city. Detroit, St. Louis, Flint, Michigan, Richmond, Virginia, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Birmingham, Alabama rounded out the list of most dangerous cities.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Leading Jewish Leader Likens Anti-Gay Christian Right To Hitler

A leading American Jewish leader has likened the anti-gay policies of today’s Christian right to those of Adolf Hitler. The Associated Press reports: “The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them 'zealots' who claim a 'monopoly on God' while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said ‘religious right’ leaders believe ‘unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person.’"

The AP reports that Yoffie “used particularly strong language to condemn conservative attitudes toward homosexuals. He said he understood that traditionalists have concluded gay marriage violates Scripture, but he said that did not justify denying legal protections to same-sex partners and their children.” "We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."

Biggest Congressional Scandal In History?

The indictment this past week of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s business partner, Michael Scanlon, and his agreement to enter a plea of guilt in exchange for cooperating with government prosecutors, has some observers speculating that the government’s investigation may unravel the biggest congressional scandal in its history. The New York Times writes: “The Justice Department has signaled for the first time in recent weeks that prominent members of Congress could be swept up in the corruption investigation of Jack Abramoff, the former Republican superlobbyist who diverted some of his tens of millions of dollars in fees to provide lavish travel, meals and campaign contributions to the lawmakers whose help he needed most.”

Scanlon formerly held an insignificant staff position with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay before joining Abramoff a few years ago. In a few short years, the 35-year old Scanlon had amassed tens of millions in lobbying fees, mostly from Indian tribes for casino lobbying activities. According to the Washington Post, “[Scanlon] was a reporter-friendly spokesman for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in 2000 when he quit Capitol Hill to join forces with Abramoff. Soon he was raking in a seven-figure salary, astounding former colleagues as he shed his student loans and picked up a mansion on the Delaware shore, an estate in St. Barts and an in-town apartment at the Ritz-Carlton in the District . . . Now the sandy-haired, buttoned-down Republican -- author of e-mails detailing wildly brash schemes to make money in politics -- is likely to take a turn as a star witness for the prosecution in the Justice Department's investigation of lawmakers, lobbyists, Capitol Hill staffers and executive branch officials,” writes the Washington Post.

Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, seem oblivious to the public’s discontent for the rampant corruption on Capitol Hill under their leadership. It’s failure to live up to its “Contract With America,” which helped put the party in control of Congress for the first time in more than 50 years in 1994, could well result in a watershed election for Democrats in 2006, putting them back in control for the first time in 12 years. Congressional reform “aimed at reducing the power of what Republicans saw as an entrenched Congressional leadership that didn’t represent the country was a key plank of the “Contract With America.” How soon they forget.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tax Amnesty Triples Expectations

Gov. Mitch Daniels’ tax amnesty program has yielded nearly three times the amount of money originally estimated. At least 68,000 taxpayers coughed up about $200 million in delinquent taxes. The State, however, has foregone about $30 million in penalties and fines due on these delinquent taxes, and it will pay at least $12 million to cover the cost of administering the program, including a substantial payment to a provide contractor which aided in the effort. The net collections from the program are likely to be closer to $160 million.

Democratic legislators are already making plans on how to spend the windfall. “Now that the governor has shown his devotion and bent over backward to help tax cheats in this state we're hopeful that he uses that money to provide assistance to schools, property taxpayers and other people who've been suffering under the effects of the budget he helped pass through the General Assembly last session,” Rep. John Schorg told WISH-TV.

Gov. Daniels for his part wisely plans to use the money to balance the budget. Legislators should not treat these funds as a windfall to be spent. This is a one-time revenue gain so it only makes sense to spend the money to pay the state’s current bills rather than looking for new ways to spend it.

Tax amnesty programs have become a popular gimmick for cash-strapped states to plug holes in their budgets. Tax amnesty is not, however, fair to the law-abiding taxpayers who promptly pay their taxes when they are due. These programs simply reward taxpayers for being scofflaws. This program may help the state with its current budget woes, but it is bad tax policy which should not be repeated.

Political Blog Sites Win Press Exception From FEC

In a unanimous advisory opinion, the Federal Election Commission has determined that political blog sites are entitled the press exemption from the law on reporting campaign finance activities. The Beltway Blogroll writes: “FEC Chairman Scott Thomas said his review of Fired Up found that its Web sites ‘fall within the legitimate press function.’ His only concern is whether such sites could change in the future to become political committees.”

Fired Up is a Missouri-based company that operates a number of pro-Democrat blog sites in several states.

This is a major victory for Internet free speech advocates!

Guv's Smoking Ban Has State Workers Fuming

Gov. Daniels has imposed a smoking ban on the entire State House campus. That decision has some state workers, well, fuming. What if a state worker violates the ban? A notation may be made in your personnel file. Smokers tell WTHR they want the Governor to butt out.

The ban will not, however, apply to the state’s lawmakers. Lawmakers will still be allowed to go to a designated smoking area off the third floor balcony. Gov. Daniels hopes the legislators will nonetheless voluntarily comply with his campus-wide ban on smoking. Yeah—like that’s going to happen.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Christian Right Plots Anti-Gay Strategy for 2006

The Christian Right met in Colorado Springs, Colorado this week to plot its election year strategy for 2006. Hosted by Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on The Family, the attendees agreed that a winning strategy would be to once again deploy anti-gay wedge issues to galvanize its base and boost voter turnout.

Greg DiNapoli of the Family Research Council told the Denver Post that “participants agreed that state gay marriage amendments were a ‘big draw’ in boosting turnout last year and a federal gay marriage amendment is still needed." Several states, including Colorado, are girding for gay marriage fights in 2006, the Denver Post reported. The group also discussed outreach to African-American voters and maintaining GOP control of the Senate. The attendees are particularly concerned about embattled Republican Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), who is losing badly in polls to his expected Democratic opponent next year.

But these are church groups and there are those pesky IRS rules to worry about as well. But the Denver Post assures us there is a way around those rules: Under IRS rules, most tax-exempt, religious nonprofit groups cannot get involved in partisan politics. But organizations can stage nonpartisan voter registration and get-out-the- vote rallies, as a Focus on the Family affiliate did in battleground states last year.” Okay, that’s what this was. Oh, and Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society and advisor to the Bush White House on picking judges acceptable to the Christian right, was also there to sing praises for Samuel Alito.

Taking Down Coach Hep At GOP Fundraiser

Kudos to Taking Down Words, the first to report on IU Football Coach Terry Hoeppner’s plan to be the featured speaker at a $300 per person Senate Republican caucus fundraiser next month on December 12. But that news didn’t go down with University officials, and TDW reported yesterday that “Coach Hep” was out and Tom Zupancic of the Indianapolis Colts is in.

The Star caught up with TDW this morning in its online edition with an AP story reporting: “Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner is no longer going to speak at a $300-per-person fundraiser for Republicans in the state Senate. An invitation to the event featured a picture of Hoeppner in IU apparel and the IU logo on a football helmet. Some said that was a misuse of the IU logo, and the Senate Majority Campaign Committee apologized.” "That was wrong," said Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis, treasurer of the campaign committee.

According to IU spokesman Larry McIntyre, Coach Hoeppner misunderstood the purpose of the event. “[H]e thought Hoeppner accepted the speaking invitation thinking it was a legislative luncheon, not a fundraiser. If the coach were to speak to Republicans, he would be available for Democrats, too, he said.”

The Star article does not mention the role the blogosphere played in the development of this story.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Court Strikes Down Pre-Trial Diversion Fees In Marion County For Indigent

The Indiana Law Blog is the first to report on an Indiana Court of Appeals’ decision striking down Marion County’s diversion fee charges for indigent defendants as an absolute condition for participation in its pre-trial diversion program. In Jamie Mueller & Vicki Evans v. State of Indiana, the Court of Appeals held that payment of a $230 diversion fee as a condition for participation in Marion County’s pre-trial diversion program by all defendants, including indigent persons, violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Consitution.

In its unanimous decision the Court held: “Completely foreclosing a benefit that the State offers to defendants in the criminal justice system, based solely on an inability to pay a fee or fine, violates the Fourteenth Amendment. In the context of the criminal justice system, the argument that the fees help offset the costs of running the pretrial diversion program is not sufficient to establish a rational basis for distinguishing between the indigent and those able to pay the fees. As such, precluding Mueller and Evans from participating in the Prosecutor’s pretrial diversion program based solely on their asserted inability to pay the $230 in fees violated their rights under the United States Constitution.”

The Court suggested that the harshness of the current $230 fee could be alleviated for indigent persons “in the form of complete waiver of the fee, partial waiver, implementation of a reasonable payment schedule, replacement of the fee with a non-financial (but reasonable) requirement such as community service, or some combination of partial waiver and a non-financial requirement.”

The Court of Appeals’ opinion, written by Judge Michael Barnes, in a footnote takes a swipe at an argument in the brief filed by Attorney General Steve Carter’s office on behalf of Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi in support of the $230 diversion fee. The Court said: “The State argues in its brief that the $230 in fees is ‘hardly excessive’ and, ‘That money easily could be saved by eliminating expenditures on items such as alcohol, cigarettes, cable television, cell phone usage, and eating out in restaurants.’ Undoubtedly, not every person who claims to be indigent turns out to be so, and the number of persons unable to pay these fees may be a small percentage of persons applying for the Prosecutor’s pretrial diversion program. However, we do not doubt the existence of extreme poverty in society and it is inappropriate to presume that persons in dire financial straits have wasted their money on drinking, smoking, cable television, cell phones, or dining out.”

According to the decision, the State’s case was argued by Deputy Attorney General Ellen H. Meilaender; it is unclear if she or another deputy in the office prepared the State’s brief in the case. An Indianapolis Star report written by Kevin Corcoran describes the comment in the opinion’s footnote as “chastis[ing] Brizzi and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office for suggesting that poor people could afford the pretrial diversion fees if only they would curb spending on cigarettes, alcohol, cable TV or cell phones.” The comment in the Court’s footnote is clearly directed at the State’s argument “in its brief.” Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi was not “chastised” by the Court as Corcoran’s article suggests as he didn’t author the brief filed by Attorney General Steve Carter’s office.

UPDATE: Kevin Corcoran brought to Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh's attention several prior public comments Prosecutor Brizzi has made which were consistent with the argument in the State's brief. For example, in an article Corcoran wrote for the Star on September 26, 2005, Brizzi told Corcoran that coming up with Marion County's mandatory $150 fee is a matter of making simple lifestyle changes. "How much is a pack of cigarettes?" he asked. He also points out that Brizzi signed off on the State's brief before it was filed. It is still the case that the Court was only responding to the argument filed in the State's brief, but Corcoran's evidence does point to Brizzi's ownership of the argument.

Bob Woodward Morphs Into Judith Miller

An astonishing admission from famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward today that a source at the White House identified to him that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent and the wife of administration critic, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, nearly a month prior to Robert Novak’s infamous column outing the identity of the CIA agent. The disclosure comes more than two years after the investigation of the CIA leak case was commenced, and only after Woodward disclosed that he was required to give sworn testimony to the government concerning his source on November 14, 2005.

According to a statement released by Woodward today, he was contacted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald on November 3, 2005 concerning his source after the indictment of Vice President Cheney’s chief of Staff Scooter Libby late last month at the conclusion of a federal grand jury’s work. According to Woodward, Fitzgerald contacted him in response to one of his White House sources (someone other than Scooter Libby) informing the prosecutor of a conversation the source had with Woodward in mid-June, 2003 during which the source told Woodward that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction as an analyst. The source released Woodward to testify to the government’s investigation but not to the release the source’s name to the public.

Woodward, who was working on another one of his books at the time, “Plan of Attack”, claims to have passed the information about Valerie Plame on to White House reporter for the Post, Walter Pincus. Pincus, interestingly, has no recollection of Woodward giving him this bombshell news. Woodward said, “It was the first time in 35 years as a reporter that I have been asked to provide information to a grand jury.”

The news today has set off a firestorm within the Post, not unlike the reaction of Judith Miller’s colleagues at the New York Times after her editors learned she had withheld key information about her source, Scooter Libby, and forced Woodward to make an apology for failing to reveal the conversation he had with the White House source for more than two years, “even as the investigation of who disclosed her identity mushroomed into a national scandal.” According to Howard Kurtz, Woodward withheld telling his superiors at the paper out of fear of being subpoenaed and his desire to protect his sources. The paper’s executive editor, obviously red-faced again by Woodward’s self-serving conduct, said Woodward “made a mistake.”

Kurtz’ stinging story following Woodward admission today including the following remarks: “The belated revelation that Woodward has been sitting on information about the Plame controversy reignited questions about his unique relationship with the Post while he writes books with unparalleled access to high-level officials, and about why Woodward denigrated the Fitzgerald probe in television and radio interviews while not divulging his own involvement in the matter . . . The disclosure has prompted critics to compare Woodward to Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who left the newspaper last week amid questions about her lone-ranger style and why she had not told her editors sooner about her involvement in the Plame matter. An online posting at Reason magazine called Woodward 'Mr. Run Amok,' a play on Miller's nickname at the Times. Neither reporter wrote a story on the subject . . . Woodward has criticized the Fitzgerald probe in media appearances. He said on MSNBC's 'Hardball' in June that in the end 'there is going to be nothing to it. And it is a shame. And the special prosecutor in that case, his behavior, in my view, has been disgraceful.' In a National Public Radio interview in July, Woodward said that Fitzgerald made ‘a big mistake’ in going after Miller and that ‘there is not the kind of compelling evidence that there was some crime involved here.’"

Kurtz said, “Liberal blogger Josh Marshall wrote: ‘By becoming a partisan in the context of the leak case without revealing that he was at the center of it, really a party to it, he wasn't being honest with his audience’". Kurtz added that "Woodward had violated the newspaper's guidelines in some instances by expressing his personal views.”

Woodward came under heavy criticism earlier this year for refusing to disclose the identity of his famed Watergate source, “Deepthroat,” even after the source, former Assistant FBI Director Mark Felt, had made it known to him that he wanted to go public with his story. Critics contend that Woodward’s motivation to write a “tell-all” book after the elderly sources death caused him to discount Felt’s mental stability to prevent him from “sharing in the glory” and earning money for his own “tell all” book. As a consequence of Woodward's self-serving conduct, the Post was outscooped on the biggest news mystery of the century when Felt turned to Vanity Fair magazine to tell his story.

Fox News immediately jumped on Woodward’s disclosure as punching a huge whole in Fitzgerald’s case against Scooter Libby, since he was not the first known source to discuss Plame’s identity with a reporter. But this new information in no way impact’s Fitzgerald’s central charges against Libby: that he made false statements to investigators, that he perjured himself to the grand jury, and that he otherwise conspired to obstruct the investigation by his actions. A spokesman for Karl Rove, who remains under investigation for his role in the leak, was quick to tell reporters that Rove was not Woodward’s source. Woodward said that White House Chief of Staff Andy Card released him to publicly disclose him as one of his White House sources, but Woodward said Card did not discuss Plame with him.

Just who Woodward’s source was could be quite a bombshell, even though Woodward earlier said on CNN’s Larry King Live a few weeks ago that he had no bombshells to report with respect to this story. From his earlier books on this White House, we know that Woodward was granted unprecedented access to high up officials, including President Bush and Vice President Cheney. What if the other unnamed source was the President or the Vice President? This could get very interesting. By hook or crook, Bob Woodward will find a way to place himself at the center of any presidential scandal in Washington.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pence's Hypocrisy On Media Shield Law

Rep. Mike Pence, along with Sen. Richard Lugar, is a leading advocate of a media shield law, which would allow journalists to conceal their sources during legal proceedings by treating conversations with their sources as privileged communications. Pence told the Capitol Hill newspaper, The Hill, that the trial of Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, would improve chances for passage of the proposed legislation.

“After the Libby case gets done, where four of the most famous journalists in America could be put in the dock and cross-examined, the public may be interested in clarifying the law,” Pence said. In his typical kiss up to the media style, Pence added, “People know the media are on their side and will find it deeply offensive, and I am reasonably confident we could bring a responsible media shield forward.”

But what about House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s recent demand that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees investigate the leaking of the CIA’s black site prisons to the Washington Post? Oh, well that’s different Pence tells The Hill. Compelling Washington Post reporter Dana Priest to reveal her source would be entirely appropriate because that leak Pence tells us involved “real time” classified information that posed an “imminent threat.” Pence continued, “My view turns entirely on [whether] the information that was leaked constituted a breach of national security and compromised our national security. That’s precisely the kind of leak that our federal media shield would not protect.”

Apparently disclosing Valerie Plame’s identity in Pence’s view in no way constituted a breach of national security or compromised our national security. The public doesn’t really know since her work at the CIA is classified, and Rep. Pence probably hasn’t had access to intelligence concerning her work either to make that conclusion. Nonetheless, as a former covered and currently classified CIA agent, would Ms. Plame not have reason to fear an “imminent threat” to her own well-being Rep. Pence? Or is it more important to protect the partisan gun-slingers in the White House who recklessly placed her life in danger than it is to discourage future disclosures that could place our intelligence officers lives in danger?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Police Merger Bill Fails By One Vote

The much anticipated vote at tonight's Indianapolis City-County Council for the consolidation of the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department fell one vote short on a vote of 15-14 against. All Republican council members voted against the measure, along with a lone Democrat, Sherron Franklin, an IPD police officer.

It is a bit ironic that consolidation of Marion County and Indianapolis governments into the original Uni-Gov under former Mayor Richard Lugar has long been hailed as a crowning achievement by local Republicans. Mayor Lugar's original plan called for the consolidation of the police departments, but politics caused that idea, as well as other forms of consolidation now sought by Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, to be left to fight another day.

Former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith planned to offer the consolidation plan now promoted by Mayor Peterson, but he shelved it because of opposition from then-Sheriff Jack Cottey and township Republicans. Goldsmith was trying to unite the county Republicans behind his gubernatorial bid in 1996 at the time, and he thought a consolidation fight would weaken his chances. He still wound up losing Marion County to Governor Frank O'Bannon that year.

Mayor Peterson simply dusted off the old Goldsmith plan and re-crafted it as his own. Sheriff Frank Anderson, also a Democrat, initially opposed the consolidation plan but dropped his opposition just days ago.

Guv The Most Popular of the Unpopular

Gov. Mitch Daniels fares better in public approval ratings than governors in neighboring states—“but that’s not a high bar, given that two of the four rank 49th and 50th nationally” according to Indiana Legislative Insight. The newsletter writes: “The Guv ranks 35th nationally in job approval among all governors, up from 37th in September, with 44% of Hoosier adults approving of the job he is doing as governor, and 50% disapproving (we’re also hearing about another confidential recent survey that shows the Guv’s faves in the 53% neighborhood). The approval number is down by one point from September, while his disapproval number is up”.

Washington Times Reports Smoking Gun Evidence On Alito's Judicial Philosophy

The reliably conservative Washington Times reports today on what many might consider the “smoking gun” evidence that Judge Samuel Alito, if confirmed as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, will vote to overturn the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision, giving women the right to reproductive freedom, including the right to an abortion. The evidence is found in a job application Alito completed while seeking a deputy assistant position in then-Attorney General Edwin Meese’s office.

Alito wrote on his job application: “[T]he Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion . . .  I personally believe very strongly" in this legal position . . .  I am and always have been a conservative . . . I am a lifelong registered Republican . . . I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.”

Further shedding light on his judicial philosophy, Alito also wrote:  "I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values. In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate.”

Alito’s words will be music to the ears of his conservative backers, but they are likely to ignite a major confirmation battle in the Senate. Senators who are committed to the belief that the Constitution embodies a fundamental right to privacy upon which the abortion right is premised will find it difficult to support Alito in light of this new evidence.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Division In The House Of Bosma?

Another front-page story in the Indianapolis Star today exposes some division within the House of Bosma on the issue of mandating the teaching of intelligent design. House Majority Leader Bill Friend (R-Macy), a biology and chemistry major, tells the Star he is “uncomfortable” with a state-imposed mandate, and that passage of “any such bill is by no means certain.”

Indianapolis’ Rep. Phil Hinkle, whose own survey showed about 53 percent of his constituents favoring the teaching of intelligent design, told the Star “he believes in God, Jesus and voting the will of his constituents, but “he doesn’t believe evolution is science.”

The state GOP’s executive director, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville) claimed that the intelligent design legislation “was not politically driven and doubted that anyone would win or lose on the strength of intelligent design.” Rep. Ed Mahern (D-Indianapolis) disagreed. “This is their Pledge of Allegiance of Ten Commandments issue of 2006,” Mahern said.

Of course, in light of the school board election results in Dover, Pennsylvania this past week, even the House of Bosma may be re-thinking the political viability of this issue. Rep. Friend pondered, “Are we more like Pennsylvania or are we more like Kansas? That’s what we are trying to find out.” Nonetheless, Rep. Bruce “Right” Borders (R-Jasonville) promises to introduce the legislation according to the Star.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rove Makes Surprise Speech To Federalist Society

Karl Rove came out of hiding to make an unexpected keynote speech at last night’s Federalist Society convention in Washington. As Advance Indiana reported last month, the Federalist Society mailed out a flier promoting its annual convention which touted Rove as one of its keynote speakers. But as Special Prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald’s investigation readied indictments from its 2-year long investigation of the CIA leak case, Rove suddenly dropped out of sight and began cancelling all public appearances. The Federalist Society’s website no longer mentioned Rove being a keynote speaker. After dodging the indictment bullet his good buddy Scooter Libby was unable to avoid at the conclusion of Fitzgerald’s first grand jury, Rove we are now told has rebounded.

In his speech to the conservative group of lawyers, the New York Times reports that the college drop-out attacked the courts’ “judicial imperialism.” MSNBC reported that Rove predicted that “[t]he public will reclaim its rights as a sovereign people”, and “at the end of the day the views of the Founders will prevail.” Advance Indiana is wondering if that includes the views of the Founders who insisted on the legalization of slavery in the new republic, and the notion that women were not entitled to the right to vote because they were second class citizens as the property of their men.

“If the judiciary is not reined in, voters will demand constitutional amendments to rectify what they perceive as bad decisions,” Rove said. Among the decisions Rove criticized was the recent Supreme Court ruling in Roper v. Simmons, which held that imposing the death penalty on juvenile offenders was unconstitutional. Rove complained of the decision that the Court “ignored the fact that at the time, the peoples’ representatives in 20 states had permitted the death penalty for killers under 18.” Of course, two-thirds of these peoples’ representatives once banned inter-racial marriages until the Supreme Court ruled 50 years ago that it was unconstitutional. Mr. Rove probably thought that ruling represented “judicial imperialism” as well.

Rove is reportedly back at work plotting out strategy nationally and locally for Republicans. According to the Times, Rove apparently is taking credit for Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka’s decision to enter the Republican gubernatorial race next year to face off against several lesser-known conservative candidates. Republicans in Illinois who know better will get a good laugh out of that one.

Rove’s renewed cockiness may be short-lived. The Raw Story reports that Rove’s former assistant, Susan Ralston, will be called back to the grand jury to testify about the reason Time reporter Matt Cooper’s call (the one Rove forgot to tell investigators about) was not logged in as other calls made to him were. Rove apparently lied to investigators by telling them that Cooper’s call was forwarded by a White House operator rather than being made directly to his office and, therefore, was not logged. Apparently, that’s just another Rove lie that Fitzgerald wants to learn more about before indicting Rove for making false statements.
And Susan Ralston is also a former assistant to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who used Ralston as a conduit to Rove to lobby the White House on Indian tribal matters.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dr. Reed Missing In Action On ID

It has been one week since the Indianapolis Star first broke the news that House Speaker Brian Bosma and his GOP colleagues intend to introduce legislation during next year’s legislative session to mandate the teaching of intelligent design in our public schools, casting doubt on the science-based theory of evolution. Our state’s top education leader, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Suellen Reed, has oddly had absolutely nothing to say about the controversial issue. When the Star asked her office to comment on Bosma’s proposed legislation, her office responded that she was not available for comment.

Advance Indiana paid a little visit to her website today in hope that Dr. Reed might have something to say about it there. She offers her opinion there on using state tax money for textbooks—she’s for it. She tells us she’s in favor of mandatory kindergarten attendance. On the possibility of running for a higher office, she says, “Never say never!” She tells us about her working relationship with Governor Frank O’Bannon, who, by the way, died two years ago. And we learn that the last book she read was “The Old Woman Who Named Things.”

Now, that’s all good Dr. Reed. But what we really want to know is what you think about changing our academic standards for science classes to require the teaching of intelligent design alongside the theory of evolution. Or could it be that Dr. Reed is afraid of what Eric Miller and the wackos on the Christian right will do if she states what we already know she thinks about this foolhardy proposal? Miller did manage to find a wacko legislator from Terre Haute to challenge you at the state convention in 1996. It was your good fortune that he was a bit too far to the right for even the mostly conservative delegates at the convention. But maybe you won’t get that lucky next time.

Get a spine lady. It’s your job to lead the state on education matters. Advance Indiana is sure Dr. Reed doesn’t want Indiana to become the laughing stock of the country like Kansas has just chosen to do. Just tell us how you really feel about the subject. The only thing for you to fear is your reluctance to lead when duty calls.

Politics Of Hate Backfires On GOP In Virginia

Tuesday’s election results in Virginia should serve as a sobering reminder to the Republican Party that the politics of hate doesn’t always work, even in a conservative, reliably red state like Virginia. The GOP gubernatorial candidate and two incumbent, conservative House of Delegate candidates, all relied on gay-wedge issues, and each of them lost races the party was expected to win.

At the top of the ballot, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore faced off against Lt. Governor Tommy Kaine. Kaine was decisively more liberal than Kilgore and the man he hoped to exceed, retiring Governor Mark Warner, a former Indianapolis resident. Kilgore attempted to use Kaine’s support of gay adoptions as a wedge issue. Kaine’s position was that the “best interests of the child” should determine approval of an adoption, not the adopting parent’s sexual orientation. Kilgore, by contrast, opposed all gay parent adoptions. Kaine had a less than stellar record on gay civil rights, having supported a ban on gay marriages. Nonetheless, Kilgore sought to cast Kaine as a pro-gay politician. Kilgore’s use of this wedge issue fell flat in the bourgeoning D.C. suburbs in northern Virginia where Kaine routed Kilgore and put him out of his reach.

Richard Black, one of the most outspoken foes of gays in the Virginia House, lost his bid for re-election. Robert Marshall, the author of the Marriage Affirmation Act, won an unexpectedly close race against his opponent. House Delegate Bradley Marrs was upset in his bid for re-election. After his opponent received a large campaign contribution from a gay man, Marrs sent out a fundraising letter attacking his opponent for accepting money from a “wealthy homosexual businessman.” Democrats and even the anti-gay Kilgore criticized Marrs for the letter. Also, Chris Craddock, a preacher and another anti-gay crusader, lost his race. Craddock showed his true colors when he told a group of high school students that “Africans will have sex with anything that has a pulse.”  

While Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a gay marriage ban, Maine voters resoundingly rejected a proposal to repeal the state’s non-discrimination law for gays. For many years, many white candidates found it advantageous to play the race card in close elections. Eventually, that practice fell out of favor and no longer works. Just as race-baiting has lost its effectiveness in campaigns, so too will gay-baiting. The sooner the Republican Party figures that out, the sooner it can start looking to the future through the front windshield rather than the rear view mirror.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Is Allen County Ready For A Lesbian Sheriff?

Tina Taviano is seeking to become Allen County’s first woman and first lesbian sheriff. Sgt. Taviano is a 24-year veteran of the Allen County Sheriff’s department who wants to be judged on her credentials and not her gender or sexual orientation.

WPTA-TV reports that Taviano, who holds a Masters Degree, is the Director of Training for the department. The Democrat is “pledging, if elected, to push for more cooperation between city and county police, saying she'll crusade for the separate training and communications divisions to be combined.” She also favors setting a fixed salary for the sheriff, promising to forego tax penalty money as a bonus if she is elected.

WPTA-TV reports that Taviano is open about being a lesbian. Sgt. Tina Taviano says, "We're going to talk about issues. We're going to run an issue based campaign and stay focused on what is best for the residents of Allen County."

Allen County has not elected a Democrat as sheriff since 1938. Taviano has her work cut out for her in this Republican stronghold.

Christian Hate Group Returns To Bloomington To Bash Gays, Taking Down Words and Bladewire all caught it. The Rev. John Lewis and his gay bashing Old Paths Baptist Church came back for a repeat performance of good ole fashion gay bashing. Their latest appearance was a protest outside Bloomington’s Inner Chef, a gay-owned business. Lewis and about 25 of his followers burned a rainbow “gay pride” flag and held up signs with messages like “Fags Die, God Laughs.”

According to the Indiana Daily Student, yesterday’s protest was much larger than its past protests in Bloomington, “complete with children playing instruments and singing songs beside the sign-wielding adults.” Rev. Louis told the student newspaper that he burned the gay pride flag because he believes “gay people will burn in hell.” "The elite city of Bloomington harbors an elitist, faggot business called The Inner Chef which openly and unabashedly claim they are against God Almighty," Lewis said. "... We were there to cry against it. We burned the flag, and we will do it again."

Last summer, residents of Corydon saw their re-enactment celebration of Morgan’s raid disrupted by Lewis’ Christian hate group. So disturbed were the city’s leaders about the impact such demonstrations would have on the city’s tourism industry, the city attorney was asked to research ways the city could prevent future disruptive appearances by the group.

More recently, Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) announced he would introduce legislation making it a felony for groups like Lewis’ and the Rev. Fred Phelps to stage similar demonstrations at the funerals of military veterans. Steele announced the move after Rev. Fred Phelps and his followers protested in Martinsville at the funeral of a fallen American soldier from the Iraqi War. Phelps and his followers claim that American soldiers deserved to die because of the country’s acceptance of homosexuality, and that their deaths were God’s punishment to America.

In introducing the legislation, Steele expressed no disapproval of the anti-gay message; only that it was directed at the family of a fallen soldier, a group favored by Sen. Steele. You probably won’t be hearing any words of disapproval for Monday’s protest in Bloomington from Sen. Steele and the supporters of his legislation.

ID School Board Members Ousted In Pennsylvania

Dover, Pennsylvania has become ground zero over the teaching of intelligent design in the community’s public schools recently. Yesterday, voters in that community swept aside board members supporting ID. Eight incumbent members in all lost their re-election bids. All the winning board candidates pledged to oppose intelligent design. Hopefully, someone in Indiana is paying close attention to these results.

Maine Rejects Christian Right's Plea to Discriminate; Texas Joins KKK In Saying "Bring It On"

In Tuesday’s voting Maine voters rejected a bid by the Christian right to repeal a state civil rights law that protects gay, lesbian and transgender persons from discrimination. By a vote of 57%-43%, Maine’s voters rejected the veto proposed by the Christian Civic League, which is Maine’s version of Advance America. This marked the third occasion this Christian hate group had placed a measure on the ballot asking the state’s voters to veto Maine’s non-discrimination law after being passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. Each of the two previous ballot measures was narrowly approved by the state’s voters.

Maine is the 17th state in the country to ban discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation; 7 states similarly bar discrimination of transgender persons. Supporters of Maine’s gay civil rights law called the conduct of the Christian right during the campaign for the ballot measure “reprehensible.” Christian right groups distributed campaign materials suggesting that the law would prevent schools from firing teachers who were pedophiles, while radio and television ads in favor of the proposition urged its passage “to protect your right to protect your children.”

Meanwhile, Texas voters by a margin of 75%-25% approved a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages, which was initiated by Christian right groups and supported by the Ku Klux Klan. It becomes the 19th state to enact such a ban, hearkening images of the era when fully two-thirds of all states in the country banned inter-racial marriages. In their zeal to adopt the constitutional amendment, critics contend that the vague language might also bar some opposite sex marriages. Texas, which like many states recognizes common law marriages between opposite sex couples, may no more as a result of the amendment’s adoption according to some Texas legal scholars.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

GOP Source Code For Winning Elections Revealed

A memo written by a former top staffer for House Majority Leader In-Exile Tom DeLay lays bare the strategy of the Republican Party to use divisive wedge issues for political gain. The memo in question was written by Michael Scanlon, at the time a lobbying partner with the now-indicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and it described the GOP strategy for assisting a Louisiana Indiana tribe in gaining voter approval for a controversial gaming referendum by using the Christian right or the “wackos” as he refers to them. Abramoff and Scanlon are both under investigation for their role in bilking several Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars over a several year period with unfulfilled promises of tribal gaming from the pair.

As writes, “[i]n plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.” Scanlon deviously explained the GOP strategy in his memo to his Indiana tribe client as follows: "The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees. Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The brilliance of this strategy says was twofold: “Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious ‘wackos’ could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.”

And what is that something that you use to get the “wackos” to come out and vote? Yes, that would be the amendment to ban gay marriages. So there you have it Eric Miller. Your Advance America organization is the Christian right organization from whom the “wackos” get the information you disseminate through your Christian radio stations, your e-mail alerts and your voter [mis]guides. Of course, we didn’t have to hear that from Tom DeLay’s ex-political operative. House Speaker Brian Bosma’s former chief of staff, Don Blinzinger, already told us that.

The next time you hear Micah Clark complain about you calling him an “extremist”, correct yourself and call him a “wacko.” And tell him Michael Scanlon said so.