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Monday, February 27, 2006
The Lucas Oil Stadium
According to WISH-TV, the Indianapolis Colts have reached a deal with the Corona, California company which gives the naming rights for the new Colts stadium to the company in exchange for payments approaching $120 million over a 20-year period.
A press conference making the announcement official is suppose to take place Wednesday afternoon. This is great news for the Colts' owner, Jim Irsay, who will be the only beneficiary of the deal instead of the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the half-billion dollar stadium project thanks to the one-sided agreement our leaders negotiated on our behalf. It's also pretty sad that a company with little connection to our state will be emblazened on a stadium our taxpayers paid to build.
500 New Low-Paying Jobs For Indiana--Whewhew!
SYSCO Corporation, North America's largest foodservice marketer and distributor, today announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase a 320-acre site in Hamlet, Indiana, where the company will construct its third redistribution center (RDC) and create approximately 500 new jobs in the process.
The company extensively reviewed sites in Illinois , Indiana and Michigan, but made the final decision to select a site for its new facility near the intersection of US 35 and US 30 in Starke County, Indiana. The state of Indiana, through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), Starke County Development Foundation, and the town of Hamlet worked together to provide an incentive package that helped attract Sysco's Midwest redistribution center.
Noticeably missing from the press release is any quantifiable information about the quality of the jobs Sysco will bring to Starke County in exchange for the hefty incentive package the state loaded the company up with, including:
- Up to $200,000 in training grants from the Skills Enhancement Fund (SEF) to train Indiana resident employees;
- Up to $50,000 in training grants for technology professionals through the Technology Enhancement Certifications for Hoosiers (TECH) fund;
- Up to $725,000 in assistance with off-site infrastructure improvements needed to serve the site through the industrial development grant fund (IDGF);
- Up to $3,600,000 over ten years in Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credits (EDGE); and
- Approximately four percent of the company's qualified investment through the Hoosier Business Investment tax credit program.
In addition to the state incentives, Starke County will provide infrastructure including roadway improvements, rail-spur, water and sewer extensions, and land through a combination of state and federal grants and local funds according to the release.
"Investments like the one Sysco is making reflect an encouraging confidence in Indiana as a place of economic promise," said Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Not hardly. Looks like the state's taking the "route to Wal-Mart" as Eric Dickerson describes it in attracting yet more low-paying jobs for an already poor region of the state.
Eric Dickerson's Run For Congress Is For Real
Dickerson’s campaign recently unveiled a slick website which introduces the 7th District voters to him. Dickerson, who owns and runs a Buick dealership in Indianapolis, has an impressive resume. He served in the U.S. Marines for 7 years where he became a pilot and rose to the rank of Captain. He later served as a helicopter pilot in the Indiana National Guard. Also earning an engineering degree from Western Michigan University, Dickerson worked his way up through the corporate ranks at General Motors and Rolls Royce before acquiring his own automobile dealership in 1999.
His website sums up why he decided to run for Congress:
My decision to run for congress has truly been a call to duty. You see, I am not a career politician. I don’t need a better job nor am I pursuing a new career opportunity. I already have these things and I am quite happy with my station in life.
I am a former U.S. Marine pilot and I have been a member of the Indiana National Guard. I have also been a corporate executive with both General Motors and Rolls-Royce. During my association with these companies, I traveled the world extensively and I took notes relative to the "Quality of Life" and things that might make sense at home. Since 1999 I have owned and operated Eric Dickerson Buick located in Indiana’s 7th Congressional District.
I am running for Congress because I believe the 7th district is in need of my leadership, endurance and fresh ideas. I have made a positive difference wherever I have been. Please don’t hesitate to contact me through this website or the dealership. I welcome your comments.
Better jobs are something Dickerson identifies as important to him. His website laments the fact that the three largest employers in Indiana are Wal-Mart, the federal government and the state government, in that order. He believes in smaller government, but he also believes government should be doing more to strengthen companies who pay good wages; otherwise, “our kids will be forced to take the route to Wal-Mart.”
Dickerson’s website also identifies the “right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” as a simple way of explaining where he stands on the issues. That means he is pro-life. “When faced with any issue that allows me to choose between life and death I will always choose life,” Dickerson says. He opposes the death penalty, and he opposes assisted suicide to show his consistency on the issue.
As to “liberty”, Dickerson accepts the dictionary definition (1) The freedom to think or act without being constrained by necessity or force; (2) Freedom from captivity or slavery; and (3) Freedom from the political, social and economic rights that belong to the citizens of a state (the freedom to be left alone). That definition implicitly encompasses support for the equal treatment of all citizens, including gays and lesbians, although he does not expressly say he supports gay rights.
As to the “pursuit of happiness,” Dickerson says, “You have the right to pursue the happiness you seek. I personally hope you find it. However, it should be understood that your right to pursue happiness does have limits.” Does that limit include a ban on gay marriage? Dickerson doesn’t say.
Dickerson adds, “Because Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights, law makers must be their protectors. I pledge to protect Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It’s a good start, but we need a few more details to see where he truly stands on the issues.
While Dickerson does not have the blessing of the county GOP organization, he did pick up the support of a former GOP candidate for that office who dropped out last year after being discouraged from pursuing his bid by party leaders. In a slap at the county party, Bob Croddy has e-mailed all of his former supporters and urged them to support Dickerson—“the only qualified candidate.”
We’re glad to see a bright candidate like Dickerson step forward and run who is not a career politician. If he’s nominated, he will most certainly run to win. That’s in sharp contrast to the GOP-slated candidate Ron Franklin, who party leaders chose because he would not be a serious candidate. Their belief is that Carson’s political organization won’t be working to get out the vote on election day if she faces only minimal opposition, thereby aiding other Republican candidates on the ballot. That sounds like a losing strategy to us and an insult to the voters of the 7th District, who deserve the best and brightest the party has to offer for every office on the ballot.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
IMS Confusion Over DST
In an effort to clear up the confusion, the IMS included a note with the ticket, which reads:
In 2005, legislation passed by Indiana's General Assembly and signed by the state's governor brings Daylight Savings Time to Indianapolis. So for the second year in a row, there will be a change in the local start time of the Indianapolis 500. Though your ticket was printed with a start time of Noon EST, the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 1 p.m. EDT (local time).
The IMS moved the start time of the race back an hour last year to accomodate viewers on the West Coast. If we're not mistaken, the IMS was among the many business proponents of the time change, particularly because of the live broadcasting of the event.
So what happened to an end to all of the time confusion we were supposed to get after the enactment of DST? Someone at the IMS probably got a good _ _ _ -chewing over this mistake.
Is Rep. Craig Fry A Thug?
When Jeremy Hiler recently announced he was seeking the Republican nomination to run for the House seat currently filled by Rep. Craig Fry (D-Mishawaka), the St. Joseph Republican Party chairman said that Hiler would win because Fry is a thug according to the Howey Political Report. At the time, the comment seemed a bit over the top for even a party leader to make. But given Rep. Fry’s recent treatment of a fellow Democrat and mayor, the comment might just have been on the mark.
Matthew Tully recounts in today’s Star a response Mayor Michael Fincher (D-Logansport) received from Rep. Fry after he wrote to Fry urging him to support Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Major Moves initiative. Mayor Fincher badly wants the Heartland Highway built, which would run from Lafayette to Fort Wayne, passing through Logansport along the way. The highway has been promised for many years, but keeps getting delayed. Mayor Fincher believes the highway is a key to Logansport’s economic future. Mayor Fincher sent the same letter of support to every member of the legislature.
Fincher’s letter upset many Democrats, including House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, who all let Fincher know they didn’t appreciate him helping out a Republican governor. The letter he received from Rep. Fry, however, was the most direct. "As a fellow Democrat, I am disheartened by your support for this Republican initiative," Fry wrote. "One might even call you a 'traitor' for supporting such a shortsighted plan."
A traitor? Does that mean Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D) is a traitor to the Democratic Party in Chicago because he privatized the Chicago Skywall Toll Road to finance transportation improvements in the City of Chicago? His privatization plan was actually supported by many Democrats. Even closer to home, is Sen. Glen Howard (D-Indianapolis) a traitor because he announced his support for Major Moves? Or is anyone a traitor who dares to support a Republican governor in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation to accomplish good things for his community and the state as a whole?
If Rep. Fry’s traitor comment in his letter to Fincher wasn’t bad enough, Tully reports that he later called Fincher a clown. "’To have some clown from Logansport writing me, telling me he knows better than I do what's good for my district, I don't have tolerance for that,’ Fry said, explaining his letter. ‘For him to tell me what I should do about the Toll Road is just asinine.’ ‘I don't need people interjecting themselves into an argument they have no business in,’ Fry said, seemingly forgetting that lawmakers serve the entire state, not just their own districts.”
On second thought, the St. Joseph County Republican chairman was right. Rep. Fry is a thug. With his kind of thinking, it is no surprise that Democrats were unable to accomplish any of the major road projects on the drawing books during their 16 years controlling the State House.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Congress To Make Face-Saving Deal With Administration For Dubai Ports
As we reported earlier, the Exon-Florio provision of the Defense Production Act mandated a 45-day investigation of the proposed sale after the initial 30-day review. This didn't happen because, presumably, the Administration did not believe the deal affected national security. Time said, "Administration officials remain adamant that their first review was thorough and proper, so the face-saving element was crucial, according to one Capitol Hill negotiator . . . This approach would eliminate the need for new legislation now, the Republican sources said. "
At this point, however, the 45-day investigation is pointless because the Administration has obviously already made its decision. It's hardly going to reach any different conclusion than it reached before. Some fight Congress is willing to put up after all the rhetoric we heard over the past week. All those lobbyists Dubai Ports recently hired must be doing their jobs.
Crawfordsville Mayor On Harassment Charges: Can't We Keep It Private?
Mayor John Zumer, in a prepared statement, denies Keesee's allegations and said that "the facts and the law are on my side." "I intend to defend myself vigorously against her accusations, but sadly, this is one of those instances where no one wins," Zumer said . . . "I'm mystified why some people feel the need to take it to such a public measure," he added. "So, short of sensationalism or character assassination, I don't know the logic of going public when the issue can be handled in private."
Mr. Mayor, excuse me, but the public has every right to know about a legal claim for which the taxpayers might get stuck footing the bill. If the facts and law are on your side as you claim, then you needn't worry. But he must have had some concern about the impact of the suit when he decided just two weeks ago not to seek re-election. The Star reports, "Zumer announced two weeks ago that he would not seek re-election for personal reasons. When asked Friday if his decision had been related to the possible lawsuit, Zumer said: 'I wouldn't go so far as to say that.'"
The Star said of Keesee's claim, "The tort claim alleges that Zumer told her she could no longer work for him or the city if she did not respond to his sexual advances. It also alleges that Zumer did not allow her to take time off to which she was entitled when her 10-year-old son was hospitalized."
Get Your NCAA Basketball Tournament Tickets
Political fundraising just gets more and more creative. Bob Novak reports that Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) is soliciting campaign contributions by scalping tickets to the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen Men's Basketball tournament in Washington next month for more than 30 times their face value.
According to Novak, Reynolds is soliciting $2,000 a person to provide tickets for the March 24 tournament session that are sold by the NCAA for $65 apiece. "Tickets are very limited," says the letter of invitation, "so please RSVP as soon as possible."
If Reynolds can get $2,000 a ticket for Sweet 16 tickets, an Indiana politician ought to be able to get $10,000 a ticket for NCAA final four tickets in Indianapolis.
Some Surprises In NJ's Ratings For Indiana's Congressional Delegation
According to the ranking, Lugar is more conservative than 53% of the Senate, or 47% more liberal than other senators. Only five Republican senators were scored more liberal than Lugar, including Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-DE), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR). Bayh, on the other hand, is more conservative than 29% of his colleagues, or 71% more liberal than other members. Not surprisingly, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) is the Senate’s most liberal member, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is the most conservative member of the Senate.
Among the potential Democratic contenders in the Senate, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is the most liberal and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is the most conservative. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) fall in the middle of the pack. Bayh scored just slightly more liberal than Lieberman. On the Republican side, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) rates as the most conservative of the potential candidates for president in the Senate, while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is the most liberal, although he is less of liberal than Lugar according to the rating. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) fall in the middle of the conservative pack.
On the House side, Rep. Dan Burton (R) stands out as the most conservative member of Indiana’s congressional delegation. He is more conservative than 92% of the House, making him 15th most conservative member of the House. Rep. Mike Pence (R) and Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) come in not too far behind Burton. Pence is more conservative than 89% of the House, while Sodrel is more conservative than 88% of the House. Rep. Mark Souder (R) is more conservative than 82% of the House, Rep. Chris Chocola is more conservative than 78% of the House and Rep. Steve Buyer is more conservative than 77% of the House. Surprisingly, Rep. John Hostettler (R) rates as the least conservative of Indiana’s Republican members. He is more conservative than 64% of his colleagues.
Indiana’s Rep. Julia Carson (D) is among the most liberal of House members. She is more liberal than 84% of the House members, though she is far from the most liberal. Rep. Peter Visclosky, by comparison, is more liberal than 72% of his colleagues. The honor for most liberal member of the House goes to California’s Rep. Pete Stark (D). Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is rated as the House’s most conservative member.
To arrive at the members’ scores, the National Journal considers hundreds of votes members cast during the most recent session of Congress, divided among social, economic and foreign affairs. There were 75 votes included in the Senate scoring, and 111 votes were considered in the House scoring.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Buyer Raps Draft-Dodging Bayh
Rep. Steve Buyer, who once chewed out Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh for questioning Congress' pay and pension system, unloaded some pretty sharp criticism against Sen. Evan Bayh. Buyer, a weekend reserve veteran, who once falsely claimed to have been called up for active service in the Iraq War, pretty much called Bayh a draft dodger at a press conference in Indianapolis today. Buyer said of Bayh:
Please recognize Washington D.C. right now is not Indianapolis. In the 14 years I've been out there, this is the most heightened political environment that I have been in. It is the meanest and the nastiest and the ugliest I have ever seen. It's not healthy. I just want you to know that it is not healthy right now. And so what we have (are) individuals of whom have no military expertise whatsoever, join the Senate Armed Services Committee so they can try to act like they have expertise in national security while they are running for President. And I'm including Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh in both those comments. And they do not have the expertise for which they like to proffer."
So what's your point Steve? Are only weekend warriors like yourself entitled to participate in military policy-making affecting all Americans? And what was George Bush's and Dick Cheney's military experience and it has benefitted them how? Steve, you may be disgusted with the current tone in D.C., but we're disgusted with the politicians like you who think only those people who have served in the military are entitled to participate in the national debate.
Sen. Bayh's office responded to Buyer's comments with this statement: "Senator Bayh joined the Armed Services Committee in 2002 to support our troops and help protect the country. Using that position, he's worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation to get our troops more armored Humvees and to help military families facing financial trouble at home."
News Alert To Eric Miller: The IRS Is Watching You
The Washington Post has a bit of news the Grand Dragon of Moral Righteousness Eric Miller is going to find a bit unsettling. The IRS is taking a closer look at the activities of so-called non-profit groups like your Advance America organization and they don't like what they are seeing.
The Post writes, "IRS exams found nearly three out of four churches, charities and other civic groups suspected of having violated restraints on political activity in the 2004 election actually did so, the agency said Friday. Most of the examinations that have concluded found only a single, isolated incidence of prohibited campaign activity. In three cases, however, the IRS uncovered violations egregious enough to recommend revoking the groups' tax-exempt status.
So what exactly were these non-profits and churches doing to step over the line. Here's a list of some of unlawful things they did:
- Charities and churches had distributed printed material supporting a preferred candidate and assembled improper voter guides or candidate ratings. Doesn't Advance America do something like that. Yes, "Advance America publishes Voting Records of the 150 elected state legislators after each General Assembly and distributes over 850,000 Voter Guides before each general election."
- Religious leaders had used the pulpit to endorse or oppose a particular candidate, and some groups had shown preferential treatment to candidates by letting them speak at functions. Eric Miller and Advance America have been there and done that: "While Miller's Advance America is a tax-exempt, nonpartisan group, the 2004 Republican candidate for governor extolled the virtues of having a GOP majority in the General Assembly this year."
- Other charities and churches had made improper cash contributions to a candidate's political campaign. Wasn't Miller's 2004 campaign for governor just an extension of his Advance America organization?
So what is the IRS doing to these tax cheats? The Post writes:
The IRS examined 110 organizations referred to the tax agency for potentially violations, and 28 cases remain open. Among the 82 closed cases, the IRS found prohibited politicking and sent a written warning to 55 organizations and assessed a penalty tax against one group. Those organizations included 37 churches and 19 other organizations. In the three additional cases in which the IRS recommended revoking tax-exempt status, none of the organizations were churches. The agency did not identify the three.
Well we think the IRS ought to identify who these tax-offenders are since they are subsidized by the general public. And we really want to know if Advance America is one of those organizations still under review. And if not, why? And just where is that 2004 Form 990 you must file with the IRS? We can't wait to take a look at it.
Hat tip to Taking Down Words for the Post story.
Time For House Democrats To Find A Closet To Hide Bauer
Pat Bauer has been representing South Bend in the state legislature for almost four decades. It's been so long his legislative biography wisely omits that bit of information. He's also a doube-dipper, a term for lawmakers who hold down another government job in addition to their legislative position. In Bauer's case, that means he is paid a six-figure salary to serve as Dean of External Affairs for Ivy Tech State College, which is short-hand for making sure that Ivy Tech's budget is well taken care of.
The legislative health care perk, which has come under so much public scrutiny this election year, was originally crafted by Bauer's predecessor, former House Speaker John Gregg, along with Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton. Bauer did nothing to alter the plan while he served as Speaker, but his successor, Brian Bosma, has taken steps to eliminate the perk altogether prospectively for all House members after this year. A wise political step for Bosma, we might add, in what has otherwise been a tenure marked by one misstep after another.
During much of his tenure as House Speaker, Bosma has acted more like the host of the Old Time Gospel Hour than the leader of the people's house. To many forward-thinking Hoosiers, his Christian theological theatrics have turned the state into the laughing stock of the country. They would much rather see the House turn its attention to matters which can make a real difference in their lives, such as the availability of good-paying jobs and affordable health care. Rule by a so-called "Moral Majority" is frankly discomforting to most Hoosiers, and to the extent House Democrats can appear to be the lesser of two evils, their odds of retaking the House this year are pretty good. But instead of distancing House Democrats from Bosma's holier than thou antics, Bauer has been standing next to Bosma holding his hand.
So why pray tell would Pat Bauer give any room for people to think leadership under the Democrats might be any worse? Yet he did exactly that again by falling into a trap of communicating to the Star's Matt Tully, by inference, that he has a secret plan to resurrect the health insurance perk Bosma has just deep-sixed. Tully writes, "House Democratic leader Pat Bauer, the tipsters said, has told his rank and file he plans to resurrect the notorious lifetime health plan for ex-legislators if he is elected speaker after the November elections." Unable to get a direct answer or a flat out denial, Tully finally asks Bauer, "Did Bauer, as many in the Statehouse halls say, talk some House Democrats out of retiring by vowing to restore their lifetime health benefits?" It's much more complicated than that," he said, frustratingly. No, Pat, it's very simple. All you need to do is say this: 'I won't bring the perk back.' I gave him several chances to say that as we talked. He didn't."
Indiana Legislative Insight reports today that the House Democrats' former chief of staff, Tim Jeffers, will be managing their parties' efforts to recapture control of the House. The first thing he should do is to hide Pat Bauer in a closet somewhere as far away from public view as possible. Let's face it, a man who shows up in public wearing a rat's nest for a hair piece has a credibility problem right out of the starting gate. You have to find a messenger who people can stop laughing at and who they will start listening to. Pat Bauer is not that person.
And if the House Democrats are successful in retaking the House this year, they should do all Hoosiers a favor by finding someone from a different generation with an entirely different perspective to lead the House.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Isaac Randolph Fights Discrimination Of Ex-Felons In City Hiring
Indianapolis City-County Councilor Isaac Randolph (R) doesn't think ex-felons are getting a fair shake when they apply for jobs with the city. Randolph is sponsoring Proposal 97, which he calls the "Second Chance Ordinance." It requires the Indianapolis Department of Administration to conduct a study to determine if changes in city hiring policies should be made to allow for the hiring of certain criminal offenders who have served their time.
Randolph's resolution notes that there are 3,500 residents of Marion County who are released from the Indiana Department of Corrections as ex-offenders each year. He reasons that, if these ex-offenders are unable to find job opportunities, they will most likely return to a life of crime. His idea is not without merit, although there are many jobs in city government that are probably not well-suited for ex-cons for a variety of reasons.
It is worth observing that Randolph doesn't share a similar compassion for Indianapolis' GLBT community in job-related matters. Despite campaigning in support of a gay rights ordinance when he was first elected to the council in 2003, he broke his pledge and twice voted against the HRO last year. He refused to discuss his flip-flop on the issue with anyone in the community.
It says a lot about Randolph as a person that he believes it is perfectly acceptable for employers, including the city, to discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but he thinks it's unfair to discriminate against a person because of a past criminal record, which for many job positions is a reasonable basis for an employer to deny an offer of employment.
CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight Discloses More Carlyle Ties To UAE
According to the CNN report, the United Arab Emirates is a major investor in the Carlyle Group. That included a major investment in a buy-out fund of Carlyle's worth $8 billion. The Carlyle Group purchased a shipping container business in 2002 from CSX, which two year later sold its port business to Dubai Ports. Treasury Secretary John Snow ran CSX before joining the administration and sits on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. which is charged with approving the sale of the port management company in question to Dubai Ports. The administration also appointed a high ranking Dubai Ports official, David Sanborn, just last month to run the U.S. Maritime Administration.
Neil Bush, brother of President Bush, has received substantial funding for an educational software company he runs from UAE investors. Why must Neil look for foreign sources to fund a U.S. software company? Given the former President's business ties to the Carlyle Group, none of which must be publicly disclosed and the president's brother's financial ties to the UAE, it is not unreasonable to believe that those ties might have something to do with the fast track approval this deal has been given, and the President's stubborness in defending a deal which might seriously compromise U.S. national security.
The complete transcript of the report on Lou Dobbs Tonight can be found below:
DOBBS: President Bush's family and members of the Bush administration have long-standing business connections with the United Arab Emirates, and those connections are raising new concerns and questions tonight in some quarters about why the president is defying his very own party leadership and his party in defending the Dubai port deal. Christine Romans reports.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is a major investor in The Carlyle Group, the private equity investment firm where President Bush's father once served as senior adviser and is a who's who of former high-level government officials. Just last year, Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout firm, invested in an $8 billion Carlyle fund.
Another family connection, the president's brother, Neil Bush, has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from the UAE investors. A call to his company was not returned.
Then there is the cabinet connection. Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX/. After he left the company for the White House, CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World for more than a billion dollars. In Connecticut today, Snow told reporters he had no knowledge of that CSX sale. "I learned of this transaction probably the same way members of the Senate did, by reading about it in the newspapers."
Another administration connection, President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Sanborn, the former director of Dubai Ports' European and Latin American operations, he was tapped just last month to lead the agency that oversees U.S. port operations.
ROMANS: Now, some members of Congress, some of whom have already confirmed Sanborn, say they'd like to take a closer look at this nomination. But it's not just administration connections that Dubai has in this deal, Lou. It's now aggressively lining up representation on the Hill, bipartisan representation.
DOBBS: Lobbyists as representation, including Bob Dole. It's a remarkable effort. It's a -- it can be a tremulous feeling to stand between $7 billion and those who want to exchange that money irrespective of the consequences. Thank you very much.
Christine Romans. The United Arab Emirates not only has friends in high places in government, it also has high-powered lobbying connections. This oil- rich nation has been lavishing hundreds of thousands of dollars on K Street, lobbying friends to push its point of view and its goals. One of those friends we found out today is none other than Senator Dole, former Senator Dole. Lisa Sylvester has the story.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To deflate criticism, Dubai Ports World has gone on a hiring spree. The bipartisan lobbying firm headed by former congressman Tom Downey and Ray McGrath was hired last week. Senator Bob Dole and the lobbying firm he works for, Alston & Bird, also got a call. DPW, owned by a member of the United Arab Emirates, is pushing hard to keep Congress from blocking the deal.
TED BILKEY, COO, DUBAI PORTS WORLD: We're going to do anything possible to be sure that this deal goes through.
SYLVESTER: And they're tapping former lawmakers to do their bidding.
ROBERTA BASKIN, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: An ex-senator is a perfectly-placed lobbyist because an ex-senator, of course, is going to have more gravitas. An ex-senator can actually go onto the Senate floor. SYLVESTER: But lobbying Congress is not new for the United Arab Emirates. The country has a team of U.S. lobbyists representing its interests. Records filed with the Department of Justices Foreign Registration Office show the UAE paid at least four lobbying firms more than $720,000 last year. According to Senate disclosure records, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce spent at least $100,000 lobbying Capitol Hill in the first half of last year. But the heavy lobbying efforts could backfire. It's now drawing attention to the influence of foreign governments on U.S. policy. Senator John Kerry has written Treasury Secretary Snow asking for full disclosure of the lobbying efforts on behalf of DPW. Congressman Curt Weldon echoed the need to know more about how this deal was sealed.
REP. CURT WELDON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We're talking about a corporation that is majority interest owned by another government. That's unlike the British or other companies that come in and invest in America. You're talking about a company that largely has a government control its operations.
SYLVESTER: One problem with foreign lobbying is the lack of transparency. Lobbyists representing foreign governments have to register with the Department of Justice, but the records are not easily obtained and the information included on those disclosure forms are usually very vague with government entities revealing as little as possible -- Lou.
DOBBS: Imagine that, revealing as little as possible in Washington, D.C. I'm shocked. Lisa, thank you very much.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Another Carlyle Link To Port Sale
Truthout unearths the fact that CSX sold off another business to the Carlyle Group less than two years before it sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports. CBS Market Watch carried this item on December 17, 2002:
After the bell Tuesday, transportation giant CSX announced that it would sell a majority stake in its domestic container shipping unit -- CSX Lines -- to the Carlyle Group for approximately $240 million in cash and $60 million in securities. The deal, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2003. According to Michael Ward, CSX president, "completion of this transaction is consistent with our long-stated strategy of becoming a more rail-based organization, strengthens our balance sheet and provides shareholders with significant value." CSX Lines, which moves goods between the continental United States and Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico, accounted for about 8 percent of the company's $8 billion in revenues last year.
Just last month, President Bush tapped a high ranking Dubai Ports official, David Sanborn, to run the U.S. Maritime Administration. Sanborn worked for Dubai Ports as head of its European and Latin American operations. What exactly does the U.S Maritime Administration do? This answer is provided on its website:
To strengthen the U.S. maritime transportation system - including infrastructure, industry and labor - to meet the economic and security needs of the Nation. MARAD programs promote the development and maintenance of an adequate, well-balanced United States merchant marine, sufficient to carry the Nation’s domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce, and capable of service as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency. MARAD also seeks to ensure that the United States maintains adequate shipbuilding and repair services, efficient ports, effective intermodal water and land transportation systems, and reserve shipping capacity for use in time of national emergency.
Doesn't it sound a little bit like putting the fox in charge of guarding the henhouse?
More Bad News On Port Deal
- The administration spent less than 30 days reviewing the proposed sale before offering its blessing to the deal, raising concerns that the deal received a cursory look by government regulators at best.
- The administration broke federal law because the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. ignored the mandatory 45-day investigation it was required to perform after its initial 30-day review under the so-called Exon-Florio provision of the Defense Production Act.
- The administration had a secret deal with the United Arab Emirates in connection with the sale which required the business to cooperate with future investigation by revealing records "on demand" about "foreign operational direction" of its business at U.S. ports, but the deal omitted key safeguards which typically accompany such agreements. The company is not required to maintain copies of its business records on U.S. soil where they can be subject to U.S. court orders, and it is not required to designate a U.S. citizen to respond to any government requests.
- President Bush, who announced yesterday he would veto any congressional attempt to block the sale, only learned of the deal himself a few days ago after it was already approved by his administration and others raised questions about it. How can he be so insistent upon the approval of an agreement he didn't even learn about until a few days ago. Did daddy Bush whisper something in his ear to stir him to act?
Today's developments only confirm what we already concluded. This deal must be stopped.
Indiana Gets Low Marks On Employee Rights
Hoosier employees who want to bring a civil rights suit against their employer for discrimination face an insurmountable set of obstacles. To get a trial, the employee and the employer must agree in writing to submit the case to a judge. Most employers who have been accused of discrimination prefer to keep the matter out of court and refuse to consent to a trial. We were unable to find any case where an Indiana civil rights case has ever gone to trial under Indiana law. This is a testament to our State’s meaningless laws and the total void of any leadership in our State on this issue. Even if the employee can get the employer to consent, there is still no right to a jury trial. Even if the victim prevails in a trial before a judge or administrative proceeding, the damages are so limited it is a worthless undertaking.
Betz and Malloy describe an absurd state law which actually provides greater protections for smokers than employees who face discrimination, such as their right to practice the religion of their own choosing. As they describe it:
If an Indiana citizen is the victim of discrimination because he uses tobacco, he’s entitled to a full set of remedies: jury trial, complete damages, and attorney fees. However, if that same citizen becomes the target of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or age, she has no right to a jury trial or meaningful remedies.
Legislators could work on legislation to ensure religious freedom to workers. Instead, Betz and Malloy write, "Indiana legislators are concerned about their own religious freedoms, but not those of the general public. The legislature is more concerned about protecting an individual’s right to smoke than protecting an individual who experiences discrimination." The pair note that Indiana was recently ranked 8th out of 8 midwestern states by a human rights organization for its overall treatment of its citizens, contributing to the flight of talent to other states:
Companies seeking to hire are fleeing to other states where the citizens are protected by better civil rights laws. Most civil rights lawyers in other states prefer to pursue cases under their states’ civil rights laws because the federal law is so inadequate. In Indiana, however, these inadequate federal laws are simply the only protection individuals have.
Betz' and Malloy's assessment of Indiana's employment laws really hit the nail on the head. Let's hope some of our legislators take notice and devote more attention to these matters instead of wasting taxpayer dollars to litigate a lawsuit about its own self-interest in having Christian only prayers in the General Assembly.
Senate Softens Anti-Abortion Bills
HB 1080, as passed by the House, would have required abortion clinics to meet new building code standards by January 1, 2007 or cease operations. According to planned parenting advocates, the bill would have forced all existing abortion clinics in Indiana out of business. As amended by the Senate, it will instead require the Department of Health to conduct annual inspections of the facilities to ensure the facility meets "the safety and well being of patients", state fire prevention and safety code rules and "provide a safe and healthy environment that minimizes infection exposure and risk to patients".
The Star report said, "Abortion providers say they'll be able to comply with the revised House Bill 1080 because they already provide safe clinics." The American Family Association's Micah Clark told his members prior to the committee hearing that he only expected an amendment to the bill to allow abortion clinics more time to comply with the new standards; he can't be happy with what he got. He wrote:
I expect that an amendment may be offered to give abortion clinics more time for compliance with the regulations. This is probably not a "killer" amendment to the bill, but I am not sure that is a very good idea given Planned Parenthood’s remarkable statement last week during opposition testimony. At that time, their president stated, "it does not matter if you give us six months or six years, none of Indiana’s abortion clinics can meet these standards." It kind of makes one wonder just how bad the conditions of these clinics really are after thirty years without any health inspections by the state. It is one more reason why HB 1080 needs to be passed and applied to clinics within a reasonable period of time.
The most talked about anti-abortion bill, HB 1172, was stripped of language defining when human life begins. It was also stripped of a requirement that physicians tell women seeking an abortion that the fetus may feel pain during the procedure. The bill, as amended by Senate, will only require physicians to explain adoption alternatives to pregnant women, and that there are many couples who are willing and waiting to adopt a child.
Pro-lifers had really wanted their definition of when life begins written into Indiana law. They can't be happy with this development in the Senate today. Both bills were passed by the Senate committee unanimously. If they are passed by the full Senate, it is anticipated both bills will wind up on conference committee where still more changes could occur.
Connecting The Dots On Port Deal
Treasury Secretary John Snow formerly headed CSX, which sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports for $1.15 billion in 2004 before Snow joined the administration. Dubai Ports now seeks to purchase the London-based company which operates ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami among others. The Treasury department, under Snow's leadership, approved the sale of the company controlling these ports. Last month, Bush tapped David Sanborn to run the U.S. Maritime Administration. Sanborn worked for Dubai Ports as head of its European and Latin American operations.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-New York) commenting on the proposed sale said, "It's particularly troubling that the United States would turn over its port security not only to a foreign company, but a state-owned one." Both House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist are now vowing to block the sale.
The New York Times adds, "The confrontation between Mr. Bush and his own supporters escalated rapidly after the Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, and the House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. George E. Pataki and a host of other Republicans in insisting that the transaction must be extensively reviewed, if not killed. That put them on essentially the same side of the issue as a chorus of Democrats, who have seized on the issue to argue that Mr. Bush was ignoring a potential security threat. The White House appeared stunned by the uprising, over a transaction that they considered routine — especially since China's biggest state-owned shipper runs major ports in the United States, as do a host of other foreign companies. Mr. Bush's aides defended their decision, saying the company, Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates, would have no control over security issues."
The truth is coming to light slowly but surely.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Bush's Veto Threat Over Port Sale: The Scary Truth
Brushing aside objections from Republicans and Democrats alike, President Bush endorsed the takeover of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports by a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. He pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.
The president on Tuesday defended his administration's earlier approval of the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to Dubai Ports World, despite concerns in Congress it could increase the possibility of terrorism at American ports.
When we first reported on the proposed sale on February 12, 2006, very little was known about the sale, which the Bush administration had signed off on after review by various federal agencies. Detailing a Washington Post account of the sale, we wrote then:
According to the Post report, a panel of U.S. representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security concluded that the purchase by the Arab country represented no threat to national security. In fact, the government considers UAE a major partner in the war on terrorism despite its role in the 9/11 attacks.
The Post reported, "The State Department describes the UAE as a vital partner in the fight against terrorism. But the UAE, a loose federation of seven emirates on the Saudi peninsula, was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FBI concluded."
Why is the sale of this company so important to President Bush that he would threaten the use of his veto power to discourage members of Congress, including many vocal opponents of the sale within his own party, from attempting to block the sale? The answer we fear is three words: "The Carlyle Group."
The Carlyle Group is one of the world's largest private equity firms based in D.C. It has substantial defense-related investments, including United Defense Industries and the Vinnell Corporation, both with major investments in the Middle East. Its successful investments in the Middle East are thanks in large part to its many well-known political associates, including former President George Bush, former Secretaries of State James Baker and Colin Powell, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci and former British Prime Minister John Major. The company made billions off the first Gulf War, as well as the current war in Iraq. It is business partners with the bin Laden family's construction company in Saudi Arabia. Yes--the family of Osama bin Laden.
If someone digs deeply enough into this story, we believe you will find some connection to the sale of this company to the Carlyle Group. Before President Dwight Eisenhower left office, he warned the nation about the influence of the military industrial complex. That power Eisenhower warned against is embodied by this company.
It's pretty pathetic that the current President Bush, who has built his entire presidency around the war on terror, is more interested in lining the pockets of his father and his Arab business associates than our own national security. The more terrorist acts we have, the more money the Carlyle Group will be able to make. Isn't that the real point of it all? Congress must stop this sale.
Burton Unloads On Abdul: Who Are You?
Howey explains what happened next:
After a series of questions from Abdul, Burton took to the podium and asked, "Who are you?" Once identified, Burton told the journalist, "For anybody in the media to come up here and start picking and choosing like you're doing right now is a mistake. It's just not right. You're not going to see any speaker, and I've served with Democratic speakers and Republican speakers in both the House and the Senate and the United States Congress and they don't do that. We're talking about religious freedom in the legislative branch of government having a morning prayer. That's what this is all about. Our constitution guarantees freedom of speech for everybody. We're talking about the federal courts infringing upon the rights of the state legislature by interjecting a view, which I don't believe will be upheld."
Burton repeated the same mistake Rep. Bill Friend made in today's Star article, arguing that the issue was about free speech. As already conceded by attorneys for House Speaker Brian Bosma, the issue before the courts is not one of free speech. Rather, it is a classic Establishment Clause case, which focused on the constitutionality of the House's practice of allowing Christian only prayers as part of the official prayers given at the opening of each business day.
The three amigos, Burton, Sodrel and Sen. Mike Delph, shared the podium without the House Republican leadership with whom the issue first arose. Speaker Bosma apparently chose to stay away from the press conference in the wake of comments he made to a Jewish group last week concerning the prayer issue which led to a public apology yesterday to members of the group.
Burton apparently had other reasons to be testy today as well. The Star reports that Burton was ticketed late last night for changing lanes without signaling and cutting off an Indianapolis police officer, who had to break hard to avoid crashing into Burton's car. According to the report, Burton was talking on his cell phone at 11:40 p.m. while driving on E. 62nd Street in Indianapolis when he abruptly changed lanes without signaling. Burton became testy with the police officer after he was pulled over and handed a $150 fine for failing to signal a lane change.
We suspect Burton may have been somewhat embarrassed after he learned that Abdul is actually a Republican and not typically on the opposite side of issues with him.
Sodrel's Unveiling Of Court Stripping Bill Bad Timing For Bosma
The Star gives the announcement of Sodrel's bill front-page billing with no mention of Bosma's public apology yesterday. Apparently the Star's State House reporters were taking a nap while that announcement was taking place yesterday--a story which got top billing on WISH-TV news yesterday. Bill Ruthhart writes:
U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., wants to take away federal judges' power to rule on the content of prayer in state legislatures. A bill introduced by Sodrel in the U.S. House would prevent what happened in Indiana last year from happening in other states. In November, U.S. District Judge David Hamilton banned prayers during Indiana House proceedings from mentioning Jesus Christ or endorsing any particular religion.
"This would restrict the court's ability to review decisions like this with regard to free speech," said Cam Savage, a spokesman for Sodrel, who could not be reached Monday. "Basically we think you ought to be able to say whatever you want and state legislators and their guests should be entitled to the same free speech rights as everybody else."
The Indiana Civil Liberties Union Ken Falk, not surprisingly, reacted negatively to the proposal, who called the effort a "complete disservice to judges and the American legal system." Falk said, "Sometimes courts make decisions that politically we don't like, but that's part of the American system. The response should not be to strip the courts of their responsibility of deciding what is constitutional."
Falk corrects an assertion by House Majority Leader Bill Friend in the story that this issue is about the "guarantee of free speech." Correcting Friend Falk said, "The speaker's lawyer has acknowledged that this is not a free speech issue. I don't have the right to walk into the House, ascend to the speaker's stand and start talking."
Joining Sodrel at the press conference will be that beacon of moral righteousness, U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R), House Majority Leader Bill Friend (R-Macy) and Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel). Speaker Bosma will be as far away from the press conference as he possibly can to avoid any questions which might get him into more trouble for anwering.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Bosma Apologizes To Jewish Relations Committee Over Comments
The Howey Political Report is the first to report on a public apology House Speaker Brian Bosma made to members of the Indianapolis Jewish Relations Committee for comments he made to the group last week in the context of discussing his appeal of Judge David Hamilton's order barring the House from allowing Christian only prayers at the beginning of its business days. According to Howey, Bosma met with three members of the group, including Henry Efromyson, Doug Rose and Marcia Goldstar. Bosma told Howey:
I extended a sincere apology if my words were taken as disrespect," Bosma said. "They accepted my apology and understood what was implied was not my intepretation." Bosma said the quote, carried on blogsites The Daily Pulse and Advance Indiana was not correct. "We did have a discussion on populations," Bosma said. "But I did not say it that way. It was a misunderstanding entirely."
The quote Bosma said was incorrect was first reported on the Daily Pulse and originated from an e-mail Rabbi Jon Adland, who was in attendance at the meeting, had sent to a number of persons expressing his concern about the comment. The rabbi alleged Bosma made the following statement: "How many Jews are there in Indiana? About 2%? There are at least 80% Christians in Indiana."
Giving Bosma the benefit of the doubt that he did not say what the rabbi specifically alleged in his e-mail account of the meeting between Bosma and 40 Jews from around the state, then why did he issue an apology? If he didn't make reference to Jews being only 2% of the population compared to the 80% Christian in Indiana, then what exactly was the "discussion on populations" and why was that relevant to the pursuit of the right to have Christian only prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives? A later report by WISH-TV's Jim Shella below sheds more light on the origin of the 2% comment.
The important point is that Speaker Bosma did recognize that he made comments that some people found offensive, and that he did the right thing in quickly reacting to a potentially explosive issue by meeting in person with members of the offended group and apologizing to them. The real test of his sincerity, however, will be his understanding that by pushing a Christian only agenda as he has since becoming Speaker, his actions have the effect of making others feel excluded. His failure to understand that will most likely lead to more regrettable meetings like the one he had today with members of the Jewish community.
To the dismay of Bosma, the story on his big misstep doesn't end on the blogosphere where the report first surfaced. WISH-TV's Jim Shella has a story on the incident which led off this evening's news broacast. Shella says:
Speaker Bosma met with about 50 Jewish leaders last week and after the meeting a rabbi sent an email to his congregation. In it, Rabbi Jon Adland said, "Everything we believed about this country had just been trampled. For the first time in my life as a citizen of this country, I was scared."
The rabbi's e-mail is now the subject of several blogs including one that carries a cartoon showing Bosma blocking minorities from a gate labeled "freedom." It all stems from a discussion regarding prayer in the Indiana House where it was pointed out that two percent of the population is Jewish and 80 percent is Christian.
Bosma told Shella, "I asked the group what percentage of the population in Indiana for demographic purposes was of Jewish tradition and faith and it was them who provided me with the two percent." But again, what is the relevancy of his question? Tyranny by a majority is precisely what moved Rabbi Adland to write his e-mail of concern. Echoing this concern is Rep. David Orentlicher (D-Indianapolis), the only Jewish member of the House. Shella reported, "[Orentlicher echoed the rabbi's concern about what he calls the "tyranny of the majority. That we are a democracy where the majority prevails but we're also a constitutional democracy where the majority prevails but important rights have to be protected for even small minorities," he said.
Shella reported that Bosma wanted the group to understand that he values his ties to the Jewish community "and that they are very valued citizens and that anything that had said to cause them to think anything differently that I sincerely apologized for that and he accepted that."
A big hat tip to the Daily Pulse for first bringing this issue to the attention of the public.
CORRECTION: In an earlier post we identified Rep. David Orentlicher as a Republican. He is a Democrat. We apologize for the mistake.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Hypnocrites On Bosma
The cartoon above is Hypnocrites take on House Speaker Brian Bosma's recent 2% solution comment to a Jewish group in defending his legal fight to permit the Indiana House of Representatives to hold Christian only prayers at the opening of each business day.
Alabama Closer To Hate Crimes Protection For Gays Than Indiana
The state House voted last week against changing Alabama’s hate crimes law to include offenses against people because of their sexual orientation. On a procedural vote, the House lined up 40-37 against bringing the hate crimes bill up for consideration. The vote fell mostly along party lines, with Republicans opposing the bill, saying it would make an assault on certain people worse than an attack on others. The Legislature passed a hate crimes law in 1994 that mandates longer minimum sentences for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability, but does not include sexual orientation.
Sadly, Indiana is one of four states, including Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming, which does not have any hate crimes law, let alone one which includes bias crimes committed against a person because of their sexual orientation.
Last year, Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi pledged to pursue the enactment of a hate crimes law which included sexual orientation during this year's legislative session. Without explanation, Brizzi abandoned those efforts. His office refused to respond to Advance Indiana's repeated requests for comment on his decision not to pursue a hate crimes law. Brizzi is facing a tough re-election battle from Democrat Melina Kennedy, who is raising some big bucks for the race. The issue could have bolstered his re-election efforts; not having it could hurt his chances.
Making matters worse, the state's leading GLBT advocacy group, Indiana Equality, decided it would do nothing this year other than to fight off further legislative attempts to relegate gays and lesbians to second class citizens simply because Brizzi didn't want to push the issue this year.
It's pretty pathetic to think that Alabama enacted a hate crimes law more than a decade ago and has pushed ahead of the state of Indiana when it comes to issues of equality for the GLBT community.
House Dems Show Lack Of Conviction On House Prayer Resolution
Democrats who abstained from voting on the resolution, included Jeb Bardon, John Day, Mae Dickinson and Ed Mahern, all from Indianapolis; Charlie Brown of Gary, Duane Cheney of Portage, Craig R. Fry of Mishawaka, Linda Lawson of Hammond, Win Moses of Fort Wayne, Phil Pflum of Milton and Matt Pierce of Bloomington.
Presumably, at least some of these members feared that a vote against the resolution might allow an opponent to use the vote to portray the member as being anti-Christian, notwithstanding the Bible's own admonition against public displays of prayer. One must also wonder whether the Speaker deliberately chose to call the resolution down for a vote on a day when the only member with the guts to vote against the resolution was absent to give a false appearance of unanimity.
Unfortunately, the supporters of the resolution will use the fact that both the House and Senate passed similar resolutions unanimously to advance their legal appeal of Judge Hamilton's ruling. Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana makes this point to his group's members. Clark recently commented that the resolutions were largely symbolic, but a supporter of the resolutions quickly contacted Clark to inform him that he misspoke. Clark said, "These official legislative statements could help the arguments in the legal appeal in that they both passed unanimously, and it is hard to buy the ICLU’s argument of harm when all the legislators oppose the Judge’s ruling. "
According to Clark, Rep. Mike Sodrel (R), has decided to join the circus act. Clark reports that Sodrel will hold a press conference at the State House on Tuesday to announce that he is introducing a bill in Congress to "keep Federal Judges out of the day-to-day operations of the elected bodies of the Indiana (or any other) Statehouse" as Clark puts it. Essentially, Sodrel's bill will strip the federal courts' jurisdiction to hear this particular type of Establishment Clause cases.
If lawmakers think this prayer issue is a burning issue that their constituents really care about, they better think again. Voters are becoming increasingly impatient with politicians who devote their energies to meaningless pursuits which serve no other purpose than to mine for votes, while ignoring the greater issues which require them to show leadership.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Cut Versus Uncut
The mother wants the circumcision because two doctors have recommended the procedure to prevent recurrent infections. Her husband thinks the procedure is an "unnecessary amputation" that could cause his son physical and emotional harm.
The father's concerns seems to be well taken given the age of the child. The procedure, as the Tribune article points out, is traditionally performed before a newborn leaves the hospital, or soon thereafter at a religious ceremony in the case of Jewish tradition. Circumcision is believed to be much more painful and take longer to heal for older children and adults than new-born infants.
The Tribune notes that circumcision is falling out of favor. In 1970, 90% of male babies in the U.S. were circumcised compared to 60% today. Opponents of circumcision liken it to female mutilation, which is still performed in some parts of Africa. They argue that it is medically unnecessary and morally indefensible.
Most experts agree that circumcision originated from pre-Biblical days as part of a religious rite. Many believed it was done to discourage young boys from masturbation, which at one time was believed to cause blindness and insanity. In more contemporary times, medical arguments were developed that male circumcision actually reduced the incidence of infection; however, most major medical organizations throughout the world have discounted any medical benefit from the procedure. Some recent studies, though, have argued that uncut males are more likely to contract HIV than cut males.
Circumcision involves the removal of the male foreskin, or prepuce, which is the principal location of erogenous sensation in males. Removal of the foreskin substantially reduces erogenous sensation. Uncut males, as a result, enjoy more sexual pleasure from masturbation and sexual intercourse than their cut male counterparts.
The Tribune reports that there are no published U.S. opinions to serve as precedents for the case pending in Cook County court.
Democrats' Election Strategy Is A Losing Strategy For Indiana
The issue of time, of course, relates to Indiana's decision to join the industrialized world after nearly a half century in observing Daylight Savings Time. Of all the state's idiosyncracies which underscore its negative image as a backwater, hilljack state, the oddity and confusion of not changing our clocks with the rest of the world has been at the top of the list.
Indiana's past three governors, all Democrats, supported DST but gave it only lip service, not wanting to take any political risks. Indiana finally has a governor who was willng to put his neck on the line to make a change every educated and forward-thinking Hoosier knew had to be made if Indiana is to become a full participant in the modern economy, and he succeeded in making the much-needed change a reality. Democrats now want to use the issue to clobber Republicans who supported DST, even though a good number of its own members voted with Republicans to make it possible. What if the issue is successful for the Democrats this year? Does that mean we will turn the clock back?
Taxes is a time-proven issue for most political races. Presumably, Democrats use of this issue is an attempt to exploit homeowners' concerns about rising property taxes. Again, the state's past three Democratic governors opposed statewide tax increases and tax-restructuring during their 16-year reign over state government. With fewer state dollars to support services, local governments relied more upon the property tax to make up the difference.
Homeowner complaints about rising property taxes have been the loudest in the state's two largest counties, Marion and Lake, both of which are firmly in the control of the Democrats locally. While Gov. Daniels and Mayor Bart Peterson offered a bipartisan proposal to grant local governments flexibility to shift to other forms of taxation, such as sales and local income taxes, to lessen the reliance on the property tax, Democratic lawmakers instead chose to offer an election year gimmick to eliminate the property tax altogether without a complementary tax replacement. That may sound good in election-year sound bites, but it does nothing to address the fundamental problem in a meaningful way.
And the toll roads would mean, according to Democrats, that ungodly sin Gov. Daniels has committed by proposing the "sale of our toll road to foreigners" for instant gratification that will lead to higher tolls. It is in reality a lease which puts $3.4 billion immediately into the state's pocket which can be leveraged with federal dollars to fund the largest road-building project in the state's history over the next ten years. It includes completion of projects promised but not funded by the state's past three governors, including the I-69 extention from Indianapolis to Evansville, an interstate highway from Indianapolis to South Bend and two new bridges over the Ohio River, among others.
Despite Gov. Daniels' best efforts at selling the public on a program that is critical to the state's economic future, Democrats' demagoguery of the issue has proven quite effective at muddying the water enough to erode public support for the issue. If Gov. Daniels fails, the only thing that is certain is that there will be no road to South Bend in the next four years, and there will be no major progress on the I-69 extension during the next 10 years. Could this issue work for Democrats to unseat Republican toll road supporters in Northern Indiana like Rep. Jackie Walorski? Probably. But is that good for Indiana? Definitely not.
Time, taxes and toll roads could no doubt prove to be an effective strategy for Democrats in enough contested legislative races to swing control of the House of Representatives back to the Democrats after a 2-year hiatus from control. But the success of that strategy will mean more of the status quo. And that's not good for Indiana.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Bosma Rapped Over Offensive Comments To Jewish Group At State House
Defending Christian prayers in the House, Bosma shockingly asked the assembled Jewish group this jaw-dropping question: "How many Jews are there in Indiana? About 2%? There are at least 80% Christians in Indiana."
Oddly, noone in the group brought up the matter of the prayer issue, which is currently on appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals after Judge David Hamilton ordered the House to refrain from conducting Christian only, sectarian prayers. Instead, Bosma raised the issue to the group on his own. The House's only Jewish member, Rep. David Orentlicher (R-Indianapolis), has been very vocal in his criticism of the way Speaker Bosma has handled the issue. He walked out of the House of Representatives last year when Speaker Bosma allowed a Christian minister to lead the House in singing a Christian song.
A hat tip to Masson's Blog for picking up on a post at the Daily Pulse reporting on the incident. The Daily Pulse, with the permission of the writer, posted an e-mail one of the attendees sent describing the disturbing encounter with Speaker Bosma, which can be found below.
This incident raises serious questions about Speaker Bosma's fitness to serve as Speaker for all of the people. He's already demonstrated his legislative zeal in making sure that gays and lesbians are treated in this state as second class citizens. Now others are rightfully wondering if their rights are safe as well.
Bosma's comments are a complete embarrassment to all Hoosiers.
The e-mail read as follows:
Last Tuesday, the Indianapolis JCRC’s Jewish Lobby Day was held. Around 40 Jews from around the State of Indiana came to Indianapolis to lobby our state senators and representatives on a number of issues.
The day ended with a private meeting with Speaker of the House Bosma meeting our group in the beautiful House chambers. We asked questions about full day kindergarten, about the clinics, and a young member of the delegation asked about providing sexuality education in public schools that is more than abstinence based. He responded to everything we asked. Sometimes we liked what he said and sometimes we didn’t. Speaker Bosma wondered why we hadn’t discussed the controversy surrounding the issue of prayer in House chambers. He told us his version of what happened and what he believes, and a passionate exchange took place. The end of this exchange left us, the Jewish delegation, in shock. Speaker Bosma, defending the prayer issue, asked, “How many Jews are there in Indiana? About 2%? There are at least 80% Christians in Indiana.” The implication of this statement was that our minority community doesn’t and shouldn’t have any say or any voice. It is about the majority and what the majority wants. The jaws of the delegation dropped to the floor. We were speechless. Everything we believed about this country had just been trampled. Gone was the belief of the constitutional protection of minorities. Gone was not feeling marginalized. Gone was the belief we were not strangers in this country. I am sure that Speaker Bosma is a fine man, but in that moment, for the first time in my life as a citizen of this country, I was scared. It is what I now call the 2% solution (and Jews are much less than 2% of this state) that if you are only 2% don’t even bother to speak up as the “Tyranny of the majority” will prevail.
I am sorry to bring such a depressing message as we prepare for Shabbat, but it needs to be said and addressed. I have been reminded about why we need to be vigilant. So I come to you on this Friday, February 17, 2006, to ask you to use this Shabbat to think about joining me and others at times to raise our voices. We might not agree on all the issues, but we agree that as Jewish residents of this State we should have a voice. 2% or less shouldn’t matter. It is not about the majority. It is about us. As you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light one for this great nation that has allowed us to grow and prosper and worship as Jews without restrictions. Light the other as beacon to our elected officials who if they follow the light will understand that leadership comes with responsibility to all, to be inclusive of all, and to help those who need the most help.
Garton's Troubles Over Health Care Perk Deepen
The paper's readers were asked the following question: State Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton (R-Columbus) said he is considering changes to an insurance plan that provides lifetime health insurance benefits to state senators who have served more than six years--what is your position? A resounding 92% responded that he should end the perk altogether. Only 3% said he should leave the program alone, and another 3% responded that senators had earned the benefit. Only 2% of the respondents were undecided.
To make matters worse, Star political columnist Matthew Tully unloaded on Garton and his colleagues. "A group of Indiana Senate leaders from both parties stood together Wednesday -- proud and united in their out-of-touch, inept selfishness," Tully said in describing the announcement that the plan is being scaled back--so they say. Tully continued:
How bad was it? In my 14 years in journalism, I've covered hundreds of news conferences. But I've never seen one that was more ridiculous, more downright offensive than this.
Senators double-talked about health care for "poor people" but admitted they were taking care of only themselves this year. They acted like they were scaling back their perks, when really they didn't even come close to that.
The focus of the news conference was the lifetime health-care benefit. This ensures subsidized health care for retired lawmakers -- you know, after they become lobbyists -- and covers everyone from their kids to their ex-spouses . . .
How much Garton didn't want to react was evident Wednesday. Standing with top Republicans and Democrats beside him, he announced an empty bag of hollow changes.
The biggest is that the health plan will now be open only to senators who retire after the age of 50 -- not a big deal in a nursing home of a chamber, where about 80 percent of the senators are over 50.
The most offensive part of the news conference came when the senators insisted their boondoggle might lead to more health-care coverage for low-income Hoosiers.
They said, without laughing, that they were just setting a good example.
Then they acknowledged doing nothing this year to address the 500,000 or so Indiana residents with no health care.
Garton's action this week is more good new to his Republican and Democratic opponents. It is hard to see voters in his district returning him to office after 36 years of service in the Senate when he is no more responsive to his constituents than he has demonstrated over the last several weeks.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Guess Who Opposes A Ban On Lobbyist Paid Travel?
The Hill fills us in:
A handful of nonprofit groups that sponsor travel for members of Congress are pushing back against recent proposals to ban privately funded trips, arguing that their activities are far different from the golfing and exotic foreign junkets that have been the centerpiece of recent lobbying scandals.
Such groups as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities have been quietly raising the issue with sympathetic members of Congress, hoping to convince lawmakers that their trips are valuable educational experiences and have not been abused by lawmakers or lobbyists.
AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, and its associated American Israel Education Foundation have sponsored 161 trips for members of Congress since 2000, according to politicalmoneyline.com, including nearly a hundred to Israel itself.
The Hill also tells us that a large part of the House Republican Conference opposes the ban on privately funded travel. "Their trips are substantive, they say, and aren’t designed merely to create an opportunity for their lobbyists to enjoy some face time with lawmakers," the Hill reports. And that sells about as well as a teen-ager trying to convince his parents that a skip day from school was actually a school-sponsored field trip.
What's even more amusing is to hear those religious folks trying to explain how they're different from all the other special interest groups. “It’s a very different situation for nonprofits like ours than for big K Street firms. There has to be some legitimate way to distinguish between the two,” said Joseph Grieboski, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. Grieboski led a group of more than 30 nonprofit religious and human-rights groups, including AIPAC, in writing to congressional leaders last month."
Let's face it folks, a special interest is a special interest whether you claim the blessings of God, Allah or anyone else to whom you pray for moral and spiritual guidance. If you're trying to influence our policy-makers to take a course of action, you should be treated the same as everyone else.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Garton Falls Short In Scaling Back Health Care Perk
Senate Majority Floor Leader David Long (R-Ft. Wayne) demonstrated just how out of touch he, Garton and his other colleagues are with reality with the comments he made about the change in the perk. "I think our efforts here have been to come up with a plan that is very reasonable and is in line with the modern times we live in today," said Senate Majority Floor Leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne.
Smith's story describes what Long described as reaonable:
The new Senate plan eliminates the subsidized benefit for senators or Senate employees who retire before the age of 50 and stay in the state plan. Those who retire after that and had served more than six years would still receive subsidized health insurance, but their premium copay would be based on a sliding scale that took into account years of service and retirement age.
The longer senators or Senate employees had served and the older they were, the more the state would pay for their health insurance. Those who were younger and had fewer years of service would shoulder more of the insurance premium cost.
Also, retirees would no longer be part of the full plan once they became Medicare eligible. The state would, however, subsidize a Medicare supplement - again based on years of service and retirement age.
In describing the changes, Garton said he consulted Democratic senators in gaining bipartisan support for the change, including Sen. Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington). "We came up with what we believe is a bipartisan effort here that is really comparable to what retirement plans are in the private sector and in many public sectors as well," she said.
In sharp contrast to the Senate change, representatives elected or re-elected this November will have to pay the full cost of their coverage with no state subsidy to stay in the insurance plan after leaving office. They also would lose most of their coverage after becoming eligible for Medicare.
Indiana Equality Responds To Critics
IE represents a coalition of GLBT organizations, which is “committed to full equality for all Indiana residents regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” In the past, the organization has been criticized for lacking a legally organized status. The e-mail clarifies that IE is now incorporated as a not-for-profit in the state of Indiana. According to records on file with the Secretary of State’s office, IE became recognized as a non-profit domestic corporation on July 19, 2005 with a business address listed at 2050 E. 55th Place, Indianapolis, IN 46220. It is not, however, recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization by the IRS. Its website clearly denotes that “contributions or gifts to Indiana Equality are not tax deductible as charitable contributions.”
According to IE, Indiana Equality, Inc. will be the “primary arm of IE” and will engage in lobbying and continuing to strengthen its statewide grassroots network. IE says, “Prior to incorporation we operated as a coalition under standard coalition guidelines. This coalition of other organizations pooled resources toward a common goal. These types of organizations operate all the time in Indiana and other states. It is common for groups to use this method to give themselves time to determine what kind of status under which they want to file.”
Records on file with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission show that IE registered in 2005 as an employer lobbyist with Kathy Sarris listed as the principle contact, and Mark St. John and John Joanette of Lambda Consulting were listed as the organization’s compensated lobbyists. IE listed $12,600 for lobbying expenditures in the form of compensation it paid to St. John and Joanette for lobbying according to a report signed by Kathy Sarris on July 12, 2005. The report was due on May 31, 2005 according to the statutory deadline for filing activity reports. Reports filed with the Commission after the deadline are subject to a penalty of $10 per day up to $100. In 2004, IE reported lobbyist expenditures of $9,300 for paid compensation.
The publicly available data on Indiana lobbyists suggest that IE is not lobbying the legislature during the 2006 legislative session. A list of registered employer lobbyists for 2006 provided by the Commission shows no registration for IE. A similar list of compensated lobbyists for 2006 provided by the Commission shows no registration for either St. John or Joanette. A threshold expenditure of $500 for lobbying must be met before an entity or person is subject to the registration and reporting requirements under Indiana’s Lobby Law. The group did, however, organize an “Our Families Count” rally last week at the State House where up to 300 members of the GLBT community gathered to protest the recent spate of anti-gay legislation introduced in the General Assembly.
The Lobby Registration Commission Audit List as of February 5, 2006, indicates that it has audits open for the 2004 reporting period for Indiana Equality and its compensated lobbyists, St. John and Joanette. This does not infer any wrongdoing on the part of IE or its lobbyists. The Commission staff randomly audits compensated and employer lobbyists each year. After the staff is satisfied that the registered lobbyist is complying with the law's reporting requirement, it will issue the audited person or entity an audit compliance letter.
IE’s e-mail to the community notes that it has also formed Indiana Equality Education Fund to be used for GLBT education matters. Donations to this entity are tax-deductible according to IE. According to records on file with the Secretary of State’s office, this entity became a non-profit domestic corporation on October 3, 2005. IE also intends to establish a political action committee (PAC) which will be “engaged should it be necessary to fight a ballot initiative with the marriage amendment.”
In response to charges it was not opening its finances up to the community, the group said, “IE previously posted an annual report that covered both program and financial information. In 2004, we posted several legislative reports and financials were made available to interested parties. These reports comply with both State and Federal regulations. They have been posted on our website and sent to a number of publications. The 2005 report will be posted in March - a 90-day period to close out the previous year meets standard guidelines.”
The organization’s site does provide a financial report for 2003 but it does not provide a report for 2004. It shows income in 2003 of $34,335.00 and expenditures of $33,734.53. Those expenditures are broken down as follows:
- Public policy advocacy, grassroots organizing activities $27,329.77
- Materials development and public relations activities $3,659.03
- Fundraising and development $2,588.73
- Miscellaneous $157.00
In response to criticism that it is not technologically savvy in its grassroots efforts, the group had the following to say:
IE continues to expand its technical capabilities. We are using a state of the art software suite for messaging, advocacy, and fundraising. We also have commissioned a new website that will debut very soon. While we agree that more time and research is needed with regard to how the web impacts campaigns and public opinion, data that is currently available tells us that the most successful campaigns incorporate some technology but the majority of the efforts, in fact, go toward the more traditional methods. (Some of this has to do with the fact that the majority of voters are above the age of 45 and much of modern technology is lost upon them.)
In our meetings with the folks who ran the ballot referendum campaigns in Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio. We were told that they wished they had had more time and money to run a more traditional campaign.
The group reports that it “will continue to send volunteers to ACLU ballot training and national power summits so that we can learn from those states that been though similar struggles.” It continued, “We also will be sending volunteers to Wisconsin to help them win their ballot referendum in November, which will give them invaluable experience as we potentially face our own referendum. We encourage everyone to help them in this effort because, in the long run, it will help Indiana.”
IE reports that it will be aiding other communities around the state in adopting non-discrimination ordinances similar to the HRO adopted by Indianapolis last year through the efforts of IE and other GLBT organizations. IE said, “The demands put upon IE over the past year by the Indianapolis area have been tremendous. We welcome that challenge and we are eager to continue to engage and help the LGBT community. Other communities are gearing up to pass HROs and we need to be there for them as well. Progress in any Hoosier community is progress towards the goal of equality. We ask everyone to join us as we move forward."
The IE officers listed on the e-mail communication are: Kathy Sarris, President, John Clower, Chairman, Jeff Sumner, Vice-Chairman, Bruce Parker, Secretary, Dan Funk, Treasurer and Jerame Davis, Communications.
IE’s response to its critics is welcome and does answer questions some in the community have raised. But it is also likely to raise more questions than it answers. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a meaningful dialogue with the GLBT community which will allow the organization to gain the full confidence it needs to be successful in its endeavors.
In the interest of disclosure, Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh currently serves as a Region 8 IE Steering Committee member. He has both contributed to IE in the past and has solicited contributions on its behalf in connection with the passage of Indianapolis’ HRO. He does not, however, hold any official or unofficial position with the statewide IE organization.