Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Indiana Losing Out In The New Economy

A Kaufman Foundation study ranking how states are doing in the "New Economy" suggests Indiana is falling behind the rest of the nation. The so-called "New Economy" refers to "qualitative and quantitative changes that in the last 15 years have transformed the structure, functioning and rules of the economy." In this "New Economy" the key to success lies in the "extent to which knowledge technology and innovation are embedded in products and services" according to the study. Indiana ranks 31st nationally, which is only slightly better than it fared in 1999 and one place ahead of where it stood in 2002.

There are a about a couple dozen different criteria used to establish a state's ranking. Indiana notably performs near the bottom in several categories, including workforce education (43), export focus of manufacturing and services (47), patents (48) and scientists and engineers (37). It is interesting to see which states rank near the top. They include Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington and California in that order. Pulling up the rear are Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia. The states at the top tend to be socially progressive, while those at the bottom are socially regressive. Unfortunately, Indiana these days is emulating this latter category of states far more than the state's leading the pack in the "New Economy."

It is worth noting that neighboring Illinois fares much better, placing 16th overall. There's an interesting contrast to be made here. Just this week Indiana included in a Senate-passed version of Gov. Daniels' life sciences initiative a prohibition on grants to be used for embryonic stem cell research. Compare that to a proposal Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes lauded the Illinois Senate for approving this week:

Illinois stands poised to become a national leader in the development of stem cell-based medical cures, thanks to state Senate passage Friday of a bill that responsibly promotes cutting-edge research in the state and creates a vehicle for its long-term funding.

The bill allows for state funding of stem cell research in Illinois and codifies the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, which was established last year under the governor's executive order to distribute grant awards. The bill also creates scientifically and ethically rigorous grant awarding and oversight processes and specifically prohibits cloning. The bill now moves to the House, where it has wide support, and then on to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has displayed decisive leadership on behalf of public funding of stem cell research.

I think Gov. Daniels' economic development team would do well to study this report very closely. If they heed the advice given therein, they will blow up their current economic development plan for the state and begin from scratch. There's a lot more to economic development than throwing around taxpayer dollars to lure businesses here without any real end-game for improving the quality of jobs and life here in Indiana.

Thank God For Nuvo

Nuvo's Laura McPhee once again outshines all other State House reporters in her coverage of the madness going on with the religious right's strangle-hold on lawmakers. Speaking of what happened to HB 1459, the hate crimes bill, this past week, McPhee calls Advance America's Eric Miller on the carpet for the disinformation campaign he waged against it to ensure its defeat:

Evangelical lobbyists like Advance America’s Eric Miller are reasonably assured a victory with SJR 7, the amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage, this legislative session. But Evangelical watchdogs believe another bill working its way through the House of Representatives attacks traditional values and they are using the full force of their political machine in opposition.

“Should homosexuals and cross-dressers get special protection?” Miller asked in an e-mail action alert to thousands of churches and families concerning House Bill 1459, the “hate crimes” legislation.

“This bill establishes a very dangerous precedent because it would create two classes of victims,” Miller warned. “[It] represents an attempt to give special protection to homosexuals and cross-dressers by stating that a crime against them is to be treated with more severity than a crime against a senior citizen, a child or a pregnant mother.”

Though Miller is a lawyer, he seems to have misunderstood HB 1459 at best and misrepresented it to his constituents at worst. The truth is that the legislation is in no way a legal precedent. Over the past 10 years, all but five of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia have passed hate crimes legislation similar to the one being debated this year in the Indiana Legislature.

Additionally, Miller failed to inform the recipients of his e-mail that Indiana law already has multiple classes of victims — including more severe punishments for those who commit crimes against children, the elderly, the mentally handicapped, pregnant women and law enforcement officers.

Another inflammatory aspect of Miller’s call to arms against HB 1459 was the deliberate omission of the true scope of the legislation. His e-mail did not mention that the bill was written by one of the most venerated African-American members of the Indiana House of Representatives, nor did he mention that the legislation defines a hate crime as one committed against someone on the basis of their skin color, race, religion, national origin, creed, disability, sex AND sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It is wrong for the government to mandate special rights for the homosexual lifestyle — a lifestyle that many consider immoral,” Eric Miller contends.

He did, however, warn of the potential, and entirely fictitious, possibility of a threat the hate crimes bill poses to thousands of churches and tens and thousands of Christians across the state.

“This bill represents a step in the wrong direction with regard to free speech,” he warned. “Will the next step be to prohibit speech that someone views as hateful? For example, will legislation be introduced to prohibit pastors from speaking out against the homosexual lifestyle from the pulpit? Call or e-mail your representative and ask them to vote no on House Bill 1459.”

Apparently, Miller’s pleas were heard. The Statehouse was reportedly flooded with calls and e-mails from concerned Evangelicals who had received Miller’s message and registered their opposition to the hate crimes bill.

At the end of the week, Republican state Rep. Jackie Walorski she pushed through an amendment to the bill that included language that would make a crime against an unborn fetus a hate crime. Once Walorski’s amendment was added, the measure failed to garner enough support from the remaining House members for passage.

If only other State House reporters put these issues and the religious right bigots into their proper perspective the way McPhee does every week in her coverage of the General Assembly, guys like Eric Miller and Micah Clark would become irrelevant to the legislative process as they should. By ignoring them, the mainstream media is empowering them beyond their worthiness.

I was thinking the other day about the fact that many lobbyists belong to the Governmental Affairs Society of Indiana, which is supposed to help elevate the esteem of the lobbying community. If GASI made any effort to police its own, it should publicly reprimand lobbyists like Eric Miller and Micah Clark who intentionally spread false information to the public about legislation before the legislature. Of course, if the mainstream State House reporters were doing their job, it wouldn't be necessary for GASI or anyone else to step into the ring. The truth would take care of the problem.

Harry & Brizzi's Not To Be?

It's beginning to look less likely Harry & Izzy's will be issued a liquor license with Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi as a 10% shareholder, if the state's Alcohol & Tobacco Commission has any say in the matter. The IBJ reports today:

A liquor permit sought by St. Elmo-spinoff Harry & Izzy's could be in jeopardy because one of its owners is Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.

Brizzi has a 10-percent stake in the new restaurant, which is slated to open in April in Circle Centre mall. He is one of five shareholders in the $4 million venture, which is led by St. Elmo owners Stephen and Craig Huse.

State law forbids liquor permits to be issued to law enforcement officers, which the code defines as including prosecuting attorneys.

Dave Heath, chairman of the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, told IBJ that the permit seems inappropriate. "The way the statute reads, it probably couldn't be granted," Heath said. Heath said he plans to meet with Harry & Izzy's attorneys today and then seek an opinion from the attorney general.

A Marion County hearing on the permit application is slated for Monday. A final decision would rest with the state commission.

In an interview about the restaurant with IBJ last week, Brizzi said he doesn't see a conflict. He said he wanted to get back into the restaurant business as a "silent partner" after a decade-long hiatus.

Over the years, Brizzi worked at his mom's Italian restaurant, shuttled fried chicken at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Jug's Catering, and waited tables during law school.

I personally have a great deal of respect for Brizzi, but I just can't figure out how this one got this far along the way before anyone asked the right questions. In the first instance, Brizzi should know better. The inherent conflict in being a prosecutor and holding a liquor license should have been enough, particularly when your business partner is a major contributor to your political campaign. Secondly, his wife is the former deputy commissioner of the ATC. It might have been a good idea to consult with her before making this business decision. And finally, it's the job of the attorneys who prepared the license application to know the law. It takes a pretty tortured interpretation of the statute to conclude the prohibition for law enforcement officers doesn't apply to Brizzi. He is after all one of the most powerful law enforcement officers in the state as the prosecutor for the state's largest county and seat of state government.

Brizzi should immediately divest his interest in Harry & Izzy's and put this matter behind him. The longer it drags on, the more it's going to take a toll on his credibility. Marion County can ill-afford to have a crippled prosecutor at a time when our crime rate is soaring out of control. It doesn't seem he's getting it yet though. The Star's Jon Murray in a late afternoon online update writes:

Brizzi said he was not aware of the restriction when he invested in the restaurant venture and would wait for the legal opinion before deciding whether he needed to back out. He has a 10 percent stake. The major investors are Stephen and Craig Huse, who own St. Elmo and each own a 35 percent share in Harry & Izzy's. Thomas R. Browne and Christopher Clifford each own 10 percent shares.

The restriction makes little sense, Brizzi said. "It's not like I'm opening up a bar in the prosecutor's office," he said, adding that common sense should prevail.

The restriction makes little sense? You've got to be kidding, Carl. This issue is moving fast. As I write, WTHR is now leading off its news cast with this as its top story. Dave Heath tells Jeremy Brilliant the same thing he told the IBJ--the statute is clear--it applies to law enforcement officers and the prosecutor is a law enforcement officer. In a telephone interview, Brizzi compared his investment to that of an investor in a publicly traded corporation because he's a mere passive investor. Nice try, but this isn't a publicly traded corporation. It's a close corporation with only five investors. That's a big difference.

UPDATE: The IBJ is reporting Brizzi is pulling out as a 10% investor in Harry & Izzy's for the time being to avoid holding up the approval of the liquor license. The IBJ reports:

"I'm going to get out of the deal for now so the liquor license is not delayed," he said this afternoon.

He said he doubts the intent of the law is to prevent any law enforcement officer from owning stock in any establishment that sells alcohol, including grocery stores and restaurants. Brizzi said he hopes to get back in the restaurant deal, as a "non-voting minority shareholder."

"No one ever thought this would be an issue," Brizzi said. "The really ridiculous thing about this is if my wife was the person on the license, that wouldn't be a conflict."

The point about his wife has already been raised in the comments here. I'm surprised he didn't think of it. His point about the intent of the law is just flat wrong.

HPV Infection Higher Than Thought

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control finds the rate of HPV infection among America's women is much higher than earlier thought. HPV, a sexually-transmitted virus which causes cervical cancer in women--infects more than a quarter of all women between ages 14 and 59. Among youger women from age 9 to 26, nearly one-half are infected with HPV. At least 3 million are thought to be infected with a strain of the virus likely to cause cervical cancer.

Legislative efforts have been launched nationwide this year, including here in Indiana, to require young school-aged girls to be vaccinated against HPV. The only current manufacturer of the vaccine, Merck, invested in those legislative efforts, but it recently ceased its efforts after its lobbying efforts became a focus of the debate. Legislation authored by Sen. Connie Lawson (R-Danville) has cleared the Senate, but not before it was watered down to a mere education bill. That came after the Christian right led an all out assault against the bill, claiming a vaccine requirement would promote promiscuity among young girls.

According to the study, an estimated 11,150 U.S. women will be diagnosed this year with cervical cancer, and about 3,670 will die from it.

What I-69 Project?

The long-awaited I-69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville appeared to become a reality last year when the legislature approved Gov. Mitch Daniels' Major Moves initiative which raised $3.8 billion from the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road. We learned at the beginning of this legislative session that the I-69 promise was a fat lie when Gov. Daniels told us we could build the I-69 extension only if he received immediate approval to build a new outer beltway toll road to the east of Indianapolis --the Indiana Commerce Connector--to serve as a link from the northeast to the southwest side of Indianapolis for the I-69 project.

Even worse, House Democrats have passed a budget which provides absolutely no funding for the I-69 project. Instead, they are tapping $60 million of toll roll revenues to pay for legislators' favorite local highway projects--or put more bluntly--pork barrel. The Evansville Courier & Press' Byan Corbin writes:

Although House Democrats declined to include any funding for one of his top priorities - Interstate 69 - and decided to spend some of the intended money on local roads and streets instead, Gov. Mitch Daniels remained confident Tuesday that funding for the interstate highway will be reinstated during the budgeting process.

The Republican governor was upbeat about the funding prospects for I-69 as he commented on the politics involved in the budget process.

The state budget must start in the Indiana House, which Democrats control 51-49, before it moves to the state Senate. The top Democrat, House Speaker Patrick Bauer, has been Daniels' collaborator on some issues but adversary on others.

"I think it's just the master maneuverer (Bauer) having some fun with us, and it's OK," Daniels said. "I don't really think there's a party position on the (Democratic) side to kill I-69; I don't think that."

On largely party-line votes last week, House Democrats advanced a $26 billion state budget without the funding that the Indiana Department of Transportation wanted for I-69 construction.

Democrats turned back an amendment that would have released that funding. And after passing the budget bill, they also passed House Bill 1830, which spends $60 million out of interest on the Major Moves construction fund for local roads and streets.

Although the fund's principal would not be touched, INDOT had raised concerns, saying it was counting on both the principal and the interest for big-ticket highway projects such as I-69. Democratic Rep. Dennis Avery, vice chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, agreed that House Democrats do not oppose building Interstate 69. They did not include I-69 funding in their budget, House Bill 1001, because INDOT officials were not specific enough in their responses to the Ways and Means committee, Avery said.

"Obviously maneuvering is part of it; but I think it's an expression of concern about the lack of full cooperation," said Avery, D-Evansville.

House Bill 1830, which passed last week, would draw $60 million from the $1.1 billion Major Moves construction fund and spend it on local road and street projects in all 92 counties - not on INDOT's 10-year highway project list that included I-69.

House Bill 1830 is "discussible," Daniels said. "Its heart is in the right place," he said. "It's essential to preserve the trust fund for reinvestment in permanent assets. So this is not raiding the cookie jar for today's spending, which I would strongly oppose."

But the governor noted that some Major Moves proceeds -$150 million over two years -already were drawn upon last year for local roads.

"For the moment, I think it would be more prudent to leave it there, because the rest of the trust fund is now targeted for I-69 and many other projects. I think it's a little early to start drawing down on that for any other purpose," Daniels said. "If we do too much of that, we'd have to start taking projects from off of the bottom of the list, and I don't want to do that."

Last year's Major Moves lease of northern Indiana's toll road - which Daniels advocated for and all House Democrats opposed - generated $3.86 billion in funding for infrastructure projects. Of that, $1.1 billion was set aside for the Major Moves construction fund. INDOT had planned to spend $44 million out of that fund in 2008 to start building I-69, followed by $75 million for the interstate in 2009.

Daniels has said the Major Moves funds would cover I-69 construction from Evansville to the Crane warfare center.

To extend I-69 from Crane to Indianapolis and make it a freeway its entire distance, Daniels proposes using $1 billion to $1.5 billion in proceeds from a proposed new privatized tollway through suburban Indianapolis.

Let's just watch as the legislature and the governor wind up pissing away those toll road revenues for self-serving pork barrel projects instead of projects which meet the state's long-term infrastructure needs.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Daniels' Health Care Initiative Killed In House

Gov. Mitch Daniels plan to insure Indiana's most needy Hoosiers financed with a tax increase on cigarettes was defeated in the House today on a 44-52 vote. Only 19 Republicans joined 25 Democrats in supporting the proposal. The blame for its loss must be clearly laid at the Governor's door for failing to rally House Republicans to support his initiative. Notable among those voting against HB 1008 were House GOP leaders Rep. Bill Friend (R-Macy) and Rep. Eric Turner (R-Marion), along with ranking Ways & Means Committee member Rep. Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale).

Looks like the governor would have been better served spending the last few days meeting one-on-one with House Republican members instead of running off to D.C. for face time with President Bush. On that matter, the Indiana Daily Insight reports: "Indiana's governor was seated at the head table at the National Governors Association formal White House dinner . . . and stayed overnight at the White House."

And Indiana Wants To Be A Leader In Bio-Life Sciences?

Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposal to privatize the Hoosier Lottery and use the proceeds from the sale to invest in higher education to stem Indiana's "Brain Drain" has become somewhat of a paradox. Yesterday, the Senate adopted by a vote of 32-17 an amendment authored by the chamber's resident religious wing nut, Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield), which bars any grant funds from being used to conduct embryonic stem cell research. The extremist position was favored by, well, the entire Senate Republican caucus. The Senate went on to approve the Lottery privatization today on third reading. Here's the list of Republican senators voting in favor of Drozda's amendment:

Alting Gard Long Steele
Becker Heinold Lubbers Walker
Boots Hershman Merritt Waltz
Bray Jackman Miller Waterman
Delph Kenley Mishler Weatherwax
Dillon Kruse Nugent Wyss
Drozda Landske Paul Young, M
Ford Lawson Riegsecker Zakas
Hat tip to Taking Down Words for catching this one.

Oops, Can I Own A Liquor License?

WRTV's Jack Rinehart is raising a very embarrassing question for Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi today. It seems Brizzi is a part-owner of Harry & Izzy's, a restaurant bar under construction in Circle Centre Mall. At issue is an Indiana law which prohibits a law enforcement officer from having a financial interest in an establishment which sells alcohol. Rinehart reports:

According to an application for a liquor license for Harry & Izzy's, an establishment set to open at Circle Centre Mall in the spring, Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is a part owner of the business.

The Alcoholic Beverage Commission says law enforcement officers are prohibited from having a financial interest in establishments that sell alcohol. Indiana Code 35-41-1-17 says a prosecuting attorney is a law enforcement officer, Rinehart reported.

"If our legal staff advises us that that applies in this case to a prosecutor, then we would have to make notification to the applicant that one of their people is not eligible to hold a permit," said Maj. Robin Poindexter of the Indiana Excise Police.

In a statement to 6News Monday afternoon, Brizzi said attorneys who prepared the liquor license application are looking into the matter.

"If we determine that there are any conflicts whatsoever, we will take the appropriate action at that time," Brizzi said.

Harry & Izzy's is set to open at the Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis this spring. The Marion County Liquor Board will hold a hearing on Harry & Izzy's liquor license application on March 5.
Brizzi's wife is a former deputy commissioner of the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. The statute referenced in Rinehart's story defines a law enforcement officer. If someone has the cite for the actual statute which prohibits a law enforcement officer from owning a financial interest in a business which sells alcohol, please feel free to share.

Ney's Fruitful Night Of Gambling In London

TPMmuckraker provides more details of the extent of former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney's corruption from charging documents against his former chief of staff, Will Heaton. This one involves a shady Syrian arms dealer and a fruitful night of gambling at a London casino where Ney pocketed $50,000. Here are the details:

Ney and Heaton both pled guilty to accepting thousands of dollars in gambling chips from a man only identified as the "Foreign Businessman" in the documents. That's the Syrian-born businessman Fouad al-Zayat (known as "The Fat Man" in the London casinos), who flew Ney and two of his staffers over to London for a high-flying night at a casino. Why? al-Zayat had a company that was seeking to sell U.S.-made airplanes and airplane parts to Iran, and he wanted Ney to get an exemption to U.S. laws that ban the sale of such parts to Iran.

The Fat Man knew how to have a good time. And just to make sure that Ney and his staffers enjoyed themselves during their visit, al-Zayat provided them with thousands of dollars in gambling chips. Ney walked away from their night of gambling with over $50,000 and Heaton with $5,000.

But Ney didn't want to declare the full amount to customs when he re-entered the U.S. So he gave $5,000 to one of his staffers (not Heaton) to carry through customs. And in order to save Ney the trouble of depositing the money into a bank once they returned, "Heaton stored this money in the safe of Ney's Congressional Office," according to the charging documents, "opening the safe as requested so that Ney could make repeated withdrawals."

Some people may wonder if it is possible for this form of bribery to occur right here in Indiana with eleven licensed riverboat casinos in our midst.

Beware, Monument Circle Unsafe

There's further evidence of how bad the city's crime problem has become. Yesterday, a woman was robbed, kidnapped, raped and carjacked at gun point as she left work in downtown Indianapolis at 5:00 just a block from Monument Circle. WTHR reports:

Metro police are investigating a downtown Indianapolis robbery, kidnapping, rape and carjacking. It happened as the victim left work just before five o'clock Monday. The victim parked on the fourth floor of the East Market Street Parking Garage just one block off Monument Circle.

She victim told police the suspect put a gun to her as she put her laptop in her car. He reportedly forced her to drive to the Chase Bank on Monument Circle to withdraw cash but changed his mind after seeing several people out and about. He ordered her to drive to the Chase Bank at Michigan and King on the west side.

After forcing her to withdraw cash, the victim says he sexually assaulted her in a nearby alley. She says her attacker wanted more cash, but this time at the ATM she jumped out of the car, ran to the bank and alerted tellers who called police.

"When you hear something like this happen it really gets you going. You want to get this guy and get him off the street," said IPMD Sgt. Matthew Mount. "He's obviously a threat to anybody on the street, and it's our hope that we can find him, arrest him, take him to court and put him in jail where he belongs."The victim described the suspect as a teenage black male, thin build about 5'8" wearing a blue polo shirt with yellow stripes. He wore dark pants. He stole her purse and drove away in her 2000 Green Sunfire with Indiana license plate number 97-Y-2927.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Star's Biddle Calls Out Drozda For Anti-Gay Bigotry

Star editorial writer RiShawn Biddle astutely concludes that Sen. Jeff Drozda's effort to amend an adoption reform bill, SB 199, with language prohibiting "homosexuals" from adopting children amounts to bigotry against gays. Biddle notes Drozda's amendment singles out gays as the only "nontraditional family" unit unfit to adopt children. He writes:

One has to wonder whether state Sen. Jeff Drozda hands are rather idle these days. What else would explain his effort to ban gay adoption by amending the adoption restrictions plan contained in Senate Bill 199? . . .

Why is Drozda even bothering with such a bald and outright attempt to codify bigotry? It isn't as if the state Supreme Court hasn't dealt with the issue and made it clear that gay parents can adopt under state law. Nor does the state constitution ban gay couples from adopting; as in the case of gay marriage, the state isn't supposed to refuse to recognize the rights and privileges of gay couples to adopt. As far as evidence that gays are somehow unfit to provide homes to children who have none? Neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the Child Welfare League of America have found evidence that children of gay adoptive parents fare any worse than those in loving homes.

More importantly, Drozda doesn't deal with the reality that the meaning of family is no longer just one man and one woman with children -- if that definition was ever the only one society recognized in the first place. Forget the sexual orientation of any adoptive parent or even how the child came into their homes and Drozda's amendment could just as easily target any nontraditional family, including even a family in which a man is raising a child not conceived from his own seed, but who he has raised while living together with his mother.

If homosexuals aren't deserving of adoption rights, neither are those in other nontraditional adoptive arrangements. But Drozda doesn't push to ban other such arrangements in his amendments and doesn't do so on the basis of preserving tradition. This is not an argument he has made publicly, even though his stance on the matter of gay adoption has been public . . .

Drozda doesn't have any real problems with nontraditional parents adopting children. Not at all. His amendment targets one group and one group only. The only interpretation one can take from the amendment is that Drozda is bigoted against gays. Period. If that is so, it would be nice if he was at least honest about it instead of hiding behind the dry language of legislation.

Let's hope this is the beginning of a trend among mainstream reporters to call out the mean-spirited, bigoted agenda of the religious right to legislate discrimination against Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens. Incidentally, Drozda did not offer his amendment to SB 199 today when Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis) called the bill down on second reading. This latest effort to discriminate against gays and lesbians is dead for now, but don't be surprised to see it rear its ugly head again.

Porter Defends Hate Crimes Bill, But It's Too Little Too Late

Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) puts up a reasoned defense for his hate crimes legislation in an opinion piece in the Star today explaining why it's time to pass it. Unfortunately, it's too little too late. Absolutely nobody over at the State House bothered to call out the Christian right, led by Advance America's Eric Miller and the American Family Association's Micah Clark, as they have spread outright lies about the legislation laced with anti-gay bigoted rhetoric. As I have pleaded with the folks pushing this legislation to respond to those false, bigoted attacks, their response has been that their claims were so nutty nobody could possibly buy into their arguments. Hello, have you met any of our legislators?

A good point Porter makes in his opinion piece is the fact the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of hate crimes law. If HB 1459 would lead to ministers being charged with a hate crime for speaking out against "homosexuality" from the pulpit as Clark and Miller have both falsely alleged, then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist would most have assuredly ruled against them. He did not. As Porter explains:

In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that hate-crime laws based on intent are constitutional. In his decision, Chief Justice William Rehnquist specifically noted that judges have traditionally been allowed to consider the motivation of defendants when imposing sentences. Rehnquist said that hate crimes inflict distinct emotional harm on their victims and can trigger social instability.

People will have to learn that if you want to beat these bigoted religious zealots who are polluting this state with their intolerant views, you have to get in the trenches and go hand-to-hand, toe-to-toe to combat them. They have proven time and time again they are not beneath using their phony nonprofit organizations to stir up folks by playing on prejudices. Yes, their rhetoric often seems too nutty and defenseless to merit a response, but Miller and Clark know it works. That's why they do it. Until they are called out in a public forum for what they're really all about, they will continue doing it with success.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Five Wives For Miles Romney

Because Jim Bopp and some other leading Christian right activists are advancing the candidacy of former Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential race, I can't help but chuckle about the latest brouhaha raised by some over the polygamy practiced by Romney's ancestors. Keep in mind Bopp is urging social conservatives to support Romney, in part, because of his opposition to gay marriage.

It seems the great-grandfather of Gov. Mitt Romney, Miles Romney, married his fifth wife more than 6 years after the Mormon church banned polygamy and long after it had been outlawed in this country by a federal law (Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act) signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. His great-great grandfather, Parley Pratt, actually topped that number with 12 wives. The Pratt family actually defended the practice of polygamy as a direct revelation from God. The Romney family fled in the late 1800s to Mexico to escape prosecution. That's where Mitt Romney's father, George, was born, who later went on to become governor of Michigan and was once considered a leading GOP presidential contender. Unlike Mitt, Gov. George Romney was a progressive Republican on social issues in the true tradition of the Republican Party.

An AP story notes that Gov. Romney's wife, Ann, makes light of his family's polygamist past by noting that unlike contenders Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, her husband has had only one wife. The Romney campaign wouldn't provide a comment to the AP for the story about the family tree.

Hate Crime Victim Dies, Along With Indiana's Hate Crimes Legislation

It's been a bad week for folks fighting to end the societal harm caused by hate crimes. Efforts to enact a hate crimes bill in Indiana died after the Christian right successfully launched a hate-filled and anti-gay bigoted campaign to kill it by inundating lawmakers with e-mails based upon completely false information and by filing a controversial anti-abortion amendment to the bill. And now comes word that a Detroit gay man died from a head injury he suffered from a hate crime attack. Andrew Anthos was clubbed over the head with a lead pipe while helping a wheelchair-bound friend after his assailant asked him if he was gay. The Advocate reports:

Andrew Anthos, whose dream was to light up the Michigan State Capitol dome in red, white and blue, died Friday of injuries sustained in a Feb. 13 hate beating.

Though Anthos, 72, was visiting with friends as recently as Wednesday, his condition declined rapidly in the past two days and he was administered the last rites late Thursday in Detroit Receiving Hospital.

The attack, which left Anthos paralyzed from the neck down and virtually without speech, shocked the gay community, which reached out to his family with love and support -- as well as anger and a resolve for justice.

"There's going to be a great deal more attention now that this, unfortunately, has become a homicide," said Jeffrey Montgomery of Michigan's Triangle Foundation.

"We have worked with prosecutors here for many years, and all the buttons that can be pushed are being pushed right now," Montgomery said.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has offered to pay for Anthos' funeral, Montgomery said.

"So many people want to pay their respects," said Anthos' niece, Athena Federis, adding that she considers the gay and lesbian people who've offered their support "like family."

The gay, biracial Anthos, known to loved ones as "Buddy," had been riding the bus that evening from the public library back to his Detroit apartment when another passenger annoyed with his singing approached him and asked if he was gay.

Anthos left the bus and helped a wheelchair-bound fellow passenger through the snow, only to be followed by the assailant, who hit him in the back of the head with a metal pipe and fled.

The wheelchair-using friend was able to provide some information, Detroit Police Detective Sgt. Ryan Lovier said. But police still seek potential witnesses aboard the bus, which would have arrived at the stop near Detroit's Windsor Towers apartments roughly between 6 and 6:30 p.m. The assailant is described as a light-skinned black man, no more than 23 years old, about 5 foot 7 and 150 pounds, wearing a dark coat and pants, Lovier said.

A big hat tip to A Commonplace Book for catching this one.

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel Gets It On Gay Tolerance

Unlike its rival newspaper, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, the News-Sentinel understands why it was wrong for Woodlan school administrators to censor the school's newspaper after it published an editorial advocating gay tolerance. While the Journal Gazette simply focused on the censorship, the News-Sentinel took dead aim at the absurdity of the school administrators' position that 10th-grader Megan Chase's opinion piece was "inappropriate" and "not balanced." "By extension, some people might look at the entire high school as a social backwater," the editorial reads. As to the silliness of the editorial not being balanced, the editorial reads:

Balance? What could Yoder or Melin be thinking? Were Sorrell and Chase supposed to find a student to argue in favor of mocking or ostracizing gay kids to offer some “balance” to a call for tolerance? Appropriateness? There are no safer-sex pointers or lurid descriptions in Chase’s column. It doesn’t get any more explicit than acknowledging that some people feel desire for members of their own gender.

Here is the full text of the editorial:

Woodlan High School journalism adviser Amy Sorrell and her students are in a fight with Woodlan Principal Edwin Yoder. Unfortunately for them, Yoder has the law, school board policy and long precedent on his side. But Yoder’s hitting the panic button over such an inoffensive expression of good will seems to be an overreaction. By extension, some people might look at the entire high school as a social backwater; if so, that would be the greatest harm to come from this episode.

Last month, Woodlan’s newspaper, The Tomahawk, published an opinion piece by Megan Chase, which we reprint today as a guest column elsewhere on this page. After Yoder saw Chase’s commentary, he ordered Sorrell to submit future issues of The Tomahawk to him for his review before they were published.

This tussle over a gentle call for greater acceptance of gay and lesbian students should reinforce a few points about high school press freedom. It’s likely that many disputes between school administrators and newspaper staffs and advisers arise because the folks who produce the newspapers look at principals as if they were the government and principals’ “prior review” equals the “prior restraint” of government barring the publication of a newspaper.

That’s a flawed comparison. A principal is much more like a publisher. A publisher is entitled to use his judgment in deciding what a newspaper will or will not print. A publisher is responsible not only to readers and to members of the newspaper staff, but also to the owners of a newspaper.

In the case of a high school paper, that means being responsible to taxpayers who support the school system. In the worst case – one that isn’t hard to imagine – a school system could be sued because a student newspaper had libeled someone. If only to protect the integrity and financial interests of a school district, a principal has good cause to review student publications before they are distributed.

High school journalists enjoy some protection under the law. The 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier held that material in a “curricular” newspaper could be censored if a school could reasonably argue that publication would interfere with some part of the educational mission. But the East Allen County Schools board has a policy giving administrators strong authority over publications, saying the district “will not tolerate text or commentary in school-sponsored publications or productions that ... is socially inappropriate due to the maturity of students...”

In some schools, there’s longstanding trust between a principal and a journalism adviser, so that a principal would feel no need to personally scrutinize every issue. From what Sorrell told The News-Sentinel’s Ese Isiorho, that was the way things worked between her and Yoder before the homosexuality column was published last month. She ran what she thought were sensitive topics past him for his review in the past.

Sorrell said she didn’t “think the homosexuality thing would be a problem.” Sorrell was right. Asking students to be understanding and tolerant of their peers who are gays or lesbians shouldn’t be a problem. To many teenagers today, displays of anti-homosexual prejudice seem as freakishly outdated as blatant racism.

Yoder gave Sorrell a written warning that said any other incidents could lead to disciplinary action, including being fired.

Yoder compounds the problem by responding to reporters only through Andy Melin, EACS assistant superintendent, instead of standing up for himself.

“It’s not the topic of the article,” Melin said. “It’s the content of the article in terms of its level of its appropriateness and its balance. You have seventh- and eighth-graders who are far less mature than 11th- and 12th-graders.”

Balance? What could Yoder or Melin be thinking? Were Sorrell and Chase supposed to find a student to argue in favor of mocking or ostracizing gay kids to offer some “balance” to a call for tolerance? Appropriateness? There are no safer-sex pointers or lurid descriptions in Chase’s column. It doesn’t get any more explicit than acknowledging that some people feel desire for members of their own gender.

What seventh-grader wouldn’t know that some people are homosexual? Aren’t openly gay people characters in television shows, hosts of talk shows, athletes, politicians, writers and actors? Isn’t the General Assembly debating a constitutional amendment that would outlaw same-sex marriages? Do newspapers and TV signals not make it all the way out to that corner of the county?

Of course students at Woodlan know some people are gay. Anyone who knows anything about Woodlan High School knows that its mostly rural students have a reputation as hardworking, bright kids. Eighty percent pass the ISTEP+ tests; of the 13 public high schools in the county, only Leo, Carroll and Homestead have larger percentages of students passing ISTEP+ tests.
We might quibble with Chase’s use of statistics and her sometimes simplistic view of sexuality and social adjustment, but in the end, Chase’s opinion piece is about as controversial as urging Woodlan students to be nice to their neighbors. We trust most students received it that way. Most parents did, too, apparently; as of Tuesday, Sorrell and Melin said they had received no complaints about the column.

Yoder and other high school principals have the right to control newspapers published by the schools. As for every principal exercising that control prudently, we can only hope, and we’re frequently disappointed.

Soldier Demoted For Speaking Out Against SJR-7

Apparently it's not worth a regular news story when a person serving in our military is demoted for speaking out against discrimination against gay people as Michael Isenhower did last month during the Senate committee hearing on SJR-7--at least at the Indianapolis Star. The Star relegates this happening to its political gossip/humor column, "Behind Closed Doors":

Last month, Indiana National Guardsman Michael Isenhower wore his full camouflage uniform in the Indiana Senate while he testified against a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Higher-ups, he said, quickly demoted him from specialist to private first class for his effort. Isenhower said wearing his uniform to testify before the Senate violated one of the military's codes of conduct. He said he had worn his uniform at the Statehouse to speak out on other matters in the past and was never disciplined.

But when ranking officers read newspaper accounts that Isenhower wore his uniform while speaking against the gay-marriage ban, they took action. Isenhower, a six-year guardsman who lives in South Bend, said he's appealing.

"I don't have any regrets, and I still think it was the right thing to do," Isenhower said. "I swore to protect the Constitution when I enlisted, and this ban is in direct violation of that Constitution."

The punishment hasn't kept Isenhower away from the Statehouse. This past week, he took part in a rally for gay rights. This time, he gave up the uniform in favor of a rainbow T-shirt that read, "Smile if you're gay!"

While the item in the column attributes newspaper accounts about Isenhower wearing his uniform while speaking against the gay-marriage ban, folks should be asking if Sen. Brandt Harshman (R-Wheatfield), the amendment author and staffer for U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer (R)--a fellow guardsman--didn't have a hand in alerting Isenhower's superiors. As for being disciplined for testifying in his uniform, this is clearly a selective punishment meted out to Isenhower by guard officials because of the content of his testimony. Men and women have testified in uniform over at the State House in the past without receiving similar punishment. Isenhower will no doubt be booted from the guard altogether after his superiors read his T-shirt in the photo the Star carried with this item because of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
In an unrelated item, the Star's editorial section has a youth piece entitled "Gay Teens Struggle For Acceptance," which is worth a read.

Star Making Light Of Pea Shake Houses

Bending over backwards so as to avoid offending certain local African-American leaders who unabashedly support illegal gambling, the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy has a story today about Indy's illegal pea shake houses which is insulting to its readers and downright offensive to the neighbors who suffer dearly because of their presence. O'Shaughnessy writes:

Police brass know the illegal business is there. It's been in the 1400 block of West Roache Street for years. Politicians know it's there, too. Ministers in the area know about Gypsy's, and so do the people who live in the neighborhood.

But with the exception of the occasional raid when traffic or some kind of other trouble connected to the simple wood-frame house gets out of hand, the drawings continue unabated.

The presence of Gypsy's and about a half-dozen other pea-shake houses in Indianapolis illustrates the deep schism that exists about the gambling operations among police, public officials and community members.

Some view pea-shake operations as entities that provide jobs and don't hurt anyone.

They also donate money to youth programs, soup kitchens and other community programs. The people who gamble at the houses see them as beacons of hope because for as little as a dime, they could win a few hundred bucks.

This argument that the operators of the pea shake houses are do-gooders who donate money is no different than the mafia's long-time practice of making generous contributions to churches and community groups where they operate to buy off public support. Completely missing from O'Shaughnessy's story is the availability of a regulated charitable gambling under existing Indiana law to help do good for the community. They won't get a charitable gaming license to carry on their activities because that isn't the kind of operation they are running. And that should be clear for all to see.

O'Shaughnessy throws this bone to the opponents of pea shake houses describing the operations at their worst:

They are illegal. They attract drug dealers and thieves selling stolen goods. Losing gambling slips are often dropped onto the ground and blow into people's yards.

The operations frequently create traffic problems. Families sometimes suffer, too, because the bread-winner has spent the paycheck at a pea-shake house.

If O'Shaughnessy had spoken to some of the folks who live near the pea shake house at 34th and Central as I have, he would have learned a lot more. Folks up there have to be careful about speaking out. A neighbor who voiced his opposition a few years ago was drug from his car and shot in the arm as a warning to keep his mouth shut according to one concerned neighbor to whom I spoke.

City officials are also proving how easy it is to lie. "There's never been any kind of tacit authorization of pea shakes or any illegal gambling," said Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell. "If you do something illegal, we'll enforce the law." "Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Michael Spears said the idea that ticket houses, another name for pea-shake houses, or other illegal operations are protected is 'just folklore.'" "I told them there are no locations or individuals that are exempt from enforcement action," Spears said. "The officers have my complete support. I commend them for their actions." The story does note that the original police report showing Sen. Glenn Howard (D-Indianapolis) had protested a raid on the Roache Street pea shake house earlier this month was later altered by police to remove his name. "When word of the report alteration became public, old questions emerged about whether there is an unspoken rule in the Police Department to ignore the pea-shake houses," O'Shaughnessy writes.

If you read what former mayoral Louis Mahern says later in the article, he basically confirms Campbell and Spears are not telling the truth. "Some elected officials continue to protect them because they put some money back into the community," said Louis Mahern, a Democrat who ran for mayor in 1991 and now heads the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Board. "The feeling is they don't hurt anyone.'' "Mahern said he visited several pea-shake houses when he ran for mayor." "He said legalizing the games would be better than pretending they don't exist." There's a reason Mahern visited those pea shake house as a mayoral candidate. He knew he had to support their operation if he wanted any support from certain African-American leaders in his mayoral bid. He already had his back against the wall because his GOP candidate, Steve Goldsmith, pretty much turned a blind eye to them as the county's prosecutor for 8 years and was winning support from the black community. I credit Mahern for at least being honest about the subject.

Current prosecutor Carl Brizzi says police bring few complaints to his office for prosecution. "Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said the police bring few illegal gambling cases to his office." "Laws are inconsistent, he said, allowing some forms of gambling while outlawing others, such as pea shakes and sports pools." The story doesn't mention it, but Brizzi's office did file various criminal charges against the man operating the Roache street pea shake house.

A couple of weeks ago, WXNT's Abdul Hakim-Shabazz reported the existence of a federal RICO investigation of the illegal pea shake houses. "Sources say the Government has identified nearly a dozen pea shake houses with net profits of more than $29 million, after payouts," he wrote then. "And that is a conservative estimate," he added. "There is also reason for the federal government to believe that in addition to those profits, millions more have been funneled into financing drugs, prostitution and loan sharking." "Money may have also been funneled into financing legitimate businesses in Indianapolis." The Star article references no federal investigation.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Guiliani On Top In GOP Race

A Quinnipac University poll places Rudy Guiliani way ahead of Sen. John McCain and the rest of the GOP field at a whopping 40%. As the only progressive candidate in the field on social justice issues that's music to the ears of folks like me. Here are the results:

Rudy Giuliani 40%
John McCain 18%
Newt Gingrich 10%
Mitt Romney 7%
Duncan Hunter 2%
Mike Huckabee 2%
Sam Brownback 1%
George Pataki 1%
Ron Paul 1%
Tom Tancredo 1%
Tommy Thompson 1%
Jim Gilmore -
Chuck Hagel -
Other (vol.) 1%
Unsure 15%

Speaking of the 2008 presidential race, Indiana's Jim Bopp, who is busy these days in his legislative and judicial efforts to replace the civil law with fundamentalist Christian law, is trying to convince the religious right to cast its lot with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. This choice seems odd given Romney's past support of gay marriage, gay equality and a woman's right to choose, but it's really not when you hear Bopp explain it.

In the latest edition of National Review, Bopp explains why social conservatives should support Romney. Bopp explain his analysis by reminding social conservatives that they cannot "achieve any significant success" unless they elect a president who "strongly supports social conservative positions" because of his power to appoint judges. "Social policy in America has been largely shaped by the federal judiciary, which has imposed an unrelenting liberal agenda on a reluctant people." "The law, as it concerns the issues of abortion, religious freedom, pornography, gay rights, sexual license, family, and marriage, has been shaped and even determined by judicial fiat." "Presidential leadership is vital to reversing these affronts." What Bopp is really saying here with a wink and a nod is that Romney has assured him and other social conservatives they can handpick his appointments to the federal judiciary, which ought to scare the hell out of a lot of all liberty-loving people.

Romney has apparently assured Bopp he is pro-life and pro-family, and he supports overturning Roe v. Wade. Bopp readily concedes Romney has undergone a major conversion on social issues. He writes:

But his sincerity is being questioned because, as he has acknowledged, he has changed his mind on these issues. In 1994, in his race against Teddy Kennedy for the U.S. Senate, and in his 2002 race for governor of Massachusetts, Romney was pro-choice on abortion. So it is right to question him about the sincerity of his conversion.

Explaining that his conversion wasn't as abrupt as it appears, Bopp notes that pro-abortion foes were saying backing in 1994 Romney wasn's sincere about his pro-choice position. "In 1994, NARAL’s Kate Michelman pronounced him a phony pro-choicer." “Mitt Romney, stop pretending,” she demanded. “We need honesty in our public life, not your campaign of deception to conceal your anti-choice views,” she said. "Romney now says that he was wrong about abortion in those years, that his position has 'evolved and deepened' as governor, and that he is 'firmly pro-life,'" Bopp explains.

Bopp doesn't even make an attempt to explain Romney's former positions stating his unequivocal support for gay marriage and gay equality. Based upon his analysis of Romney's conversion on the abortion issue, we can assume he believes it was necessary for Romney to lie about his position in order to get elected governor in Massachusetts. And Christians should not be concerned about Romney's Mormon faith Bopp says. "The Mormon religion, while having tenets that Christians do not share, is profoundly conservative in its support for life, family, and marriage," writes Bopp. "All people of faith believe that the best public officials are those with God, not man, at the center of their lives," Bopp adds. If you ask me, Bopp and Romney both practice "machiavellianism" more than Christianity.

Bopp's sure Guiliani is not a good social conservative. "He is pro-choice, pro-partial birth abortion, and pro-special rights for homosexuals," writes Bopp. Isn't it funny how support for equal rights for gays is deemed "pro-special rights" by Bopp, while he considers anyone who opposes equal rights for gays to be "pro family"?

In the end, it comes down to just one question to Bopp: "There is the simple question of whether social conservatives want someone who is currently on their side or someone who currently opposes them." Isn't it fair to ask if Jim Bopp is lying to Indiana lawmakers about the true impact of SJR-7 (i.e., what the second paragraph really does) just as he thinks it was okay for Romney to lie to Massachusetts voters about his true position on abortion and gay rights because it's all just a part of his end game?

Will Slots At Tracks Kill French Lick?

The Star's Mary Beth Schneider and Theodore Kim put out of a puff piece today for Indiana's horse race tracks and their bid to be transformed into land-based casinos overnight equipped with more slot machines than any of Indiana's existing riverboats. Their story speaks to a bill passed by a 54-39 vote yesterday in the House:

In the House, the bill drew bipartisan support from lawmakers who view slots as a financial panacea for Indiana's horse-racing and breeding industries and a help in balancing state costs elsewhere.

In addition, supporters said slots would inject money and life into the two struggling horse tracks being targeted: Hoosier Park in Madison County and Indiana Downs in Shelby County. Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, urged lawmakers to support the bill to give the tracks "a fighting chance for survival."

Van Haaften's legislation has drawn resistance from gambling opponents like Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville.

One of the votes Dobis said he most regrets in his 37 years in the General Assembly was one early in his career to allow the horse tracks.

Now, he said, the facilities are struggling and coming to the state for a bailout.

"Northwest Indiana has been devastated because of the demise of the steel industry," Dobis said. "I didn't see anyone stand up in this state and say the steel mills are in trouble, let's go bail them out and subsidize."

Van Haaften told legislators not to kid themselves. The bill, he said, represents an expansion of gambling. But, he said, the money raised would help communities statewide, and he urged lawmakers to view it that way.

The state Legislative Services Agency estimates the machines eventually might gross the state at least $85 million in tax revenue each year, based on adjusted gross revenues of at least $225 million annually when both slots operations are running. A recent study done at the behest of the track owners estimated much higher adjusted gross revenues: $534 million a year. The agency's tax revenue estimates came before lawmakers this week agreed to a higher wagering tax.

The bill would require the slot operators at each track to pay the state a $100 million up-front franchise fee.

The legislation also would prohibit the operators from selling or transferring those slots licenses for at least 10 years. If they are sold or transferred after that, the state would get half of any profits beyond the first $100 million in the transfer.

Completely missing from the Star story is any mention of the legislation's impact on existing riverboat casinos and, in particular, the newly-opened French Lick casino. Fortunately, the IBJ does the critical analysis left out of the Star article. The IBJ writes:

The owners of French Lick Resorts & Casino always expected a narrow profit margin. So there’s no sign of panic yet over indications the place already is struggling, less than four months after its launch. But the threat of unexpected competition from Indiana’s two horse tracks is something else entirely. The casino’s owners are downright terrified legislators soon will allow both tracks to become “racinos” and add up to 5,000 slot machines.

One-armed bandits at Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Downs in Shelbyville could attract a significant share of French Lick’s clientele—possibly enough to break its bottom line.

“We are such a lowmargin business, trying to support the resorts with a very small casino in a remote location,” said Mark Bommarito, vice president of sales and marketing for French Lick Resorts & Casino. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 machines or 2,500 machines [at each track]. Anything’s going to have some impact.”

In its 1920s heyday, French Lick was a magnet for tourists across the Midwest. But when cars replaced trains, highways to the rural region never followed suit. For decades, the palatial French Lick Springs and nearby West Baden Springs hotels qui- etly deteriorated. Both are historic landmarks.

Economic developers hope a $382 million restoration project and the state’s 11th casino license will return the hotels—and the area’s economy—to their former glory. But their luck may have soured. On Feb. 15, legislation that would allow slots at the tracks cleared a House committee 9-3. The measure now advances to the full House.

Legislators this year are looking for money to fund a slate of expensive new programs—including full-day kindergarten. Many see racetrack slots as a palatable way to raise millions of dollars in new tax revenue. On the day of the vote, Orange County residents clad in orange shirts gathered at the Statehouse to argue against the bill. The casino earlier had organized a town meeting to rally concern. They may have good reason to fret.

Since French Lick Resorts & Casino opened in late October, it has become the region’s largest employer, with 1,560 workers. And when renovations on the West Baden Hotel are complete in a few months, it will hire even more. The next-largest local business is woodworking firm Paoli Inc., whose 750 employees face increasingly stiff overseas competition. Thanks to the casino, Orange County’s unemployment rate has fallen to 6.4 percent. That’s a full percentage point below its rate a year ago—but still well above Indiana’s 4.7-percent average.

In the Star story, Rep. Chet Dobis is quoted as saying the bill was carefully crafted by gambling lobbyists intent on maximizing private profits. Rep. Van Haaften is quoted as responding that he, not lobbyists, crafted the bill and that he had "no horse in this hunt." Neither track is in his district. I'm sure Rep. Van Haaften is sincere in what he says about his legislation, but this idea is nothing new. When I lobbied the legislature back in the 1990s, lobbyists for the horse racing industry were fast at work then trying to craft a plan to convert horse race tracks into casinos. Both from personal observation and published news media reports, the horse racing industry earned a pretty sleazy reputation for its lobbying efforts at the State House.

If this legislation becomes law, the legislature will be increasing the value of these licensed horse race tracks by many times. With so much money at stake for a hand full of individuals, the potential for corrupt influence on the legislature is very real. Hopefully, the feds are keeping a close watch on what's happening under our State House dome. The legislature would also do well to take a close examination of the impact these land-based casinos situated so close to Indianapolis would have on the riverboat casinos.

For the legal buffs who are always amused by the conflict checks, according to Indiana Lobby Registration Commission records, Ice Miller lobbies for both riverboat casinos and Hoosier Park race track.

More Than A Third Of GOP Councilmen Opt Not To Run

The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy observes that 6 of 14 GOP incumbent members of the Indianapolis City-County Council opted not to run for re-election this year. Intolerance of moderate views by party leaders led City-County Councilor Lance Langsford to opt against running. O'Shaughnessy writes:

Councilman Lance Langsford, a firefighter who just returned from Indiana National Guard duty in Afghanistan, said he was discouraged by the party's direction. He said he decided not to run when party leaders indicated a lack of support for his moderate views. "We're a party that needs to be rebuilt," Langsford said.

That's an understatement. Democrats are predicting a 5-seat pick up in this year's election, giving them a 20-9 advantage. Looking at the field as it stands after yesterday's filing deadline, that prediction will probably not be too far off the mark.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Will It Be Strike Three For Pat Bauer?

Strike One: House Speaker Pat Bauer's Democratic leadership refused even a hearing on HB 1716--legislation which amended our state's civil rights law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Strike Two: House Speaker Pat Bauer's Democratic leadership today killed the hate crimes bill, HB 1459, because they claimed it lost its focus after the anti-gay bigoted Rep. Jackie Walorski (R) filed non-germane amendments to the bill dealing with such topics as abortion.

Strike Three?: House Speaker Pat Bauer announced before last fall's election he intended to allow a vote on SJR-7 because it wasn't worth the fight. SJR-7 now sits in the House awaiting action after passing the Senate on a 39-10 vote.

If Wyoming Can Do It, Is There Hope For Indiana?

Wyoming has a state law limiting marriages in that state to the union of one man and one woman. That law, however, does not specifically prohibit Wyoming from recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages as do many other state Defense of Marriage laws. The religious right wanted to change that with legislation aimed at closing what some would say is a "loophole." Wyoming's Republican Speaker of the House saw it otherwise.

House Speaker Roy Cohee (R) cast the deciding vote in the House Rules Committee to defeat the bill. News accounts don't say what led Cohee to join a couple of his GOP colleagues to kill the anti-gay marriage bill. Maybe he thought the state should live up to its slogan--the Equality State. Here's how a public television program explained why some GOP members surprised everyone and cast a vote against discriminatory of Wyoming's gay citizens:

Rep. Pat Childers (R-Cody) spoke proudly of his gay daughter, “who was born that way,” and Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) said that his study of American history revealed an ongoing extension of liberties and freedoms, “and if it costs me my seat…I can say I stood up for basic rights, and history can be my judge.”

Some legislators appeared to wrestle with their decisions right up to the end of the hearing. Rep. Tom Lubnau (R-Gillette), who had questioned the cost of extending recognition to out-of-state gay marriages, concluded, “Maybe the right thing to do is to stand up for tolerance.”

But Simpson, surprisingly, voted for the bill. That left it to Speaker Roy Cohee (R-Casper) to cast the deciding vote, as the measure was killed by a 7-6 vote.

In a fairly lackluster session, it was a dramatic, revealing, and dignified, exchange.

Massachusetts is the only state in the nation which grants full marriage rights to same-sex couples. Massachusetts law does not, however, permit an out-of-state same-sex couple to get a marriage license in that state. Wyoming's same-sex couples, who get their marriage license in Canada or another country which allows same-sex marriages, would be able to have them legally recognized by the state of Wyoming under current state law. Indiana's DOMA, unlike Wyoming's DOMA, prohibits recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages: "A marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized."

Folks here in Indiana would be happy to find a few more tolerant Democrats, let alone Republicans. If Wyoming can face down the religious right on these mean-spirited efforts to legislate discrimination against gays and lesbians, you'd think there would be some folks with enough backbone to do the same here. Sadly, this year may be shaping up as the most disastrous on our own state legislative front. House Speaker Pat Bauer's Democratic leadership did not even allow a hearing on Rep. Jeb Bardon's anti-discrimination bill, HB 1716. Rep. Greg Porter's HB 1459, the hate crimes bill, seems imperiled as it clings to life on second reading with a Tuesday deadline fast approaching after being passed over for consideration today. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), a strident anti-gay legislator, has filed non-germane amendments to the bill designed to flame other favorite issues of the religious right, including the abortion issue. It would indeed be sad if House Democrats used that poor excuse for not calling down HB 1459. And then there's SJR-7--just waiting for the House's action. Is it time to move to another state?

Mayor Peterson Re-Elected By Default

Sorry folks, but the Marion County GOP dropped the ball big time. As a consequence, only token opposition has filed to run as a Republican for Indianapolis mayor, effectively sealing Mayor Bart Peterson's undeserved re-election to a third term. The Star reports that businessman Bob Parker, who the party was poised to support, dropped his bid after Matt Tully disclosed comments he made which were offensive to people of Jewish faith. The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy reports that six unknowns filed for mayor on the Republican side. They are: Lawrence Shouse, David Moscrip, Greg Ballard, Michael Simpson, Darrell Morris and James Black. You can bet at least one or two of those were put up by Democrats to confuse voters, anticipating that Republicans would get their act together and find a credible candidate. Even the Democrats underestimated the ability of the Marion Co. GOP to beat itself.

Here'a rundown of the candidates filing for 25 district and at-large city-county council races:

J.M. Evans (D)-District 1
Charles Henderson (D)-District 1
Bruce Henry (R)-District 1

Angela Mansfield* (D)-District 2
Brownell Payne (D)-District 2
Bruce Schumacher (R)-District 2

Cody Kendall (D)-District 3
Ryan Vaughn* (R)-District 3

Christine Scales (R)-District 4
Pamela Hickman (D)-District 4
Carey Hamilton (D)-District 4

Ginny Cain*(R)-District 5
Rodney Bradburn (R)-District 5

Frank Scott, Jr. (D)-District 6
Janice McHenry (R)-District 6

Leroy Robinson (D)-District 7
Cherrish Pryor* (D)-District 7
Annette Johnson (D)-District 7

Monroe Gray*(D)-District 8

Tom Knapp (D)-District 9
Jackie Nytes*(D)-District 9

Danny White (D)-District 10
William Oliver*(D)-District 10

Michael Heacy (R)-District 11
Paul Bateman, Jr.* (D)-District 11

Michael McQuillen (R)-District 12
Sherron Franklin*(D)-District 12

Anna Peay (D)-District 13
Robert Lutz (R)-District 13

Marilyn Pfisterer*(R)-District 14
Gloria Harvey (D)-District 14

Patrice Abduallah*(D)-District 15

Will Jackson (D)-District 16
Brian Mahern (D)-District 16
Scott Keller*(R)-District 16

Mary Moriarty Adams*(D)-District 17
Gary Whitmore (R)-District 17
Jody Tilford (R)-District 17

Vernon Brown*(D)-District 18
Adam Longworth (R)-District 18
Bob Steiner (R)-District 18

Dane Mahern*(D)-District 19
David McGrath (R)-District 19
Harry Liggett (R)-District 19

Keric Fitzgerald (D)-District 20
Sue Day*(R)-District 20

David Young (R)-District 21
Benjamin Hunter (R)-District 21
Jon Katz (D)-District 21
Joe Billerman (D)-District 21

Stephen Terrell (D)-District 22
Bob Cochrum*(R)-District 22

Jeffery Cardwell (R)-District 23

Mike Speedy*(R)-District 24
Tyson Wray (R)-District 24

Lincoln Plowman*(R)-District 25

Ruth Hiland (R)-At Large
Jerry Sedam (R)-At Large
Michael Jezierski (R)-At Large
Michael Hegg (R)-At Large
Larry Cooper (R)-At Large
Kent Smith (R)-At Large
Barbara Malone (R)-At Large
Ed Coleman (R)-At Large
Lonnell Conley*(D)-At Large
Joanne Sanders*(D)-At Large
Odessa Alums-Shobe (D)-At Large
Rozelle Boyd*(D)-At Large
Ron Gibson*(D)-At Large
Harvey Knox (D)-At Large
Brent Clemmon (D)-At Large

* Denotes incumbent

GOP Rethinking Support For Parker

Today at noon is the last day for filing paperwork to be a candidate in this year's mayoral election, but the Marion County GOP has yet to settle on a candidate. That's because the party has been forced to reassess its planned support of the candidacy of businessman Bob Parker after he made offensive comments about Jews in an interview with Star political reporter Matt Tully. Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John released this statement late yesterday according to the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy:

Dating back to the days of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party has always been the party of inclusion, and rebukes any statement that could be construed as disrespectful or offensive to any person or people within our community," Party Chairman Tom John said in a statement. As a consequence of Parker's remarks, the Marion County Republican Central Committee would review the "appropriateness" of slating him as the party's choice in the 2008 mayor's race.

The man Parker would run against, Mayor Bart Peterson (D), thought Parker's comments were "appalling." A political science professor is comparing Parker's comments to the infamous remark of former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) during last year's campaign describing a non-white staffer for his political opponent as a "macacca". Parker was supposed to file his paperwork with the Elections Department yesterday and formally announced his candidacy today. Matt Tully has more on how the GOP chose the wrong candiate here.

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Tolerate Student Views

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorializes against Woodlan school administrators' decision to censor a student newspaper after they objected to a student-written editorial by 10th-grader Megan Chase encouraging tolerance of gays and lesbians. While I'm happy to see the paper weighing in on the subject, I'm disappointed at their rationale, which can be summed up in this paragraph:

But Yoder’s plan to subject the student newspaper to prior review contradicts the aim of school journalism to provide a forum for the exchange of student opinion. It contradicts the goal of allowing students to explore journalism as a career opportunity.

The newspaper's editorial offers no opinion on the subject of tolerance towards gays. Instead, they seem to lament the fact that Chase's message got a far wider audience than it otherwise might have because of the school administrators' actions. "Yoder guaranteed a wide audience for Chase’s student newspaper editorial when he responded to the Jan. 19 opinion piece with a letter to the staff and journalism adviser Amy Sorrell demanding that each issue of the Woodlan Tomahawk be submitted for prior review and approval," the editors wrote. Does the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette have a problem with Chase's editorial getting a wide audience?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Calls For Parker To Quit Mayor's Race, Before His Formal Announcement

Republican mayoral hopeful Bob Parker hasn't even formally announced his candidacy and there is already at least one group calling for his withdrawal. Parker's analysis of the "wealth" the "Jewish faction" brings to the Democratic Party and how it will influence the Democrats to support an Israeli war against Iran during an interview with Matt Tully isn't being well-received by the local Jewish relations committee. As the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy reports:

Jewish groups today called on the Marion County GOP to pull its support of likely Republican mayoral candidate Bob Parker after he made what were viewed as "unbecoming" comments about the Jewish community.

Parker's comments, made in a recent interview with Indianapolis Star political columnist Matt Tully and reported online today, suggested that Jewish influence within the Democratic Party would drive the party to support an Israeli attack of Iran and Syria.

"I'm sure you realize -- well, most people don't -- millionaire Democrats outnumber millionaire Republicans four to one," Parker said. "It's mainly because of the Jewish faction inside the Democratic Party.

"Most Jewish people are Democrats and they bring that wealth. My opinion is, if Israel would go into Iran, Democrats will follow that cause."

The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council called Parker's comments "ignorant" and "offensive."

The National Jewish Democratic Council said Parker's words were "unbecoming of someone seeking to lead a major U.S. city."

Parker's comments were made in response to questions about his interest in the mayor's race.

When someone posted a comment earlier today reminding us that Parker was the guy who challenged Sue Anne Gilroy for the GOP mayoral nomination in 1999, egged on by Rex Early, my memory of who he is was refreshed. God help the Marion County GOP this year. They're going to need it.

Earth To Rep. Jackie Walorski

Rep. Jackie Walorski has been drinking a little bit too much of the Kool-Aid Eric Miller and Micah Clark have been serving her concerning HB 1459, the hate crimes bill. She's worried about giving "special protections" to the "homosexuals" and "cross-dressers" which she's certain the bill does. She's also afraid ministers are going to be jailed for "hate speech." WFRN offered this news item today:

The Indiana House today could vote on a controversial hate crimes bill that has pro-family groups around the state up in arms. It would give special protections to homosexuals and cross-dressers who are the victims of crime. And Lakeville House Republican Jackie Walorski tells WFRN she's concerned it could also limit what pastors can say from the pulpit. Walorski says we should call our state reps and urge them to vote no to House Bill 1459, the Hate Crimes bill.

If Walorski had bothered to read HB 1459 she would understand it doesn't afford any group of citizens "special protections." It does provide that if you commit an underlying crime against a person because of their race, religion, national original, creed, gender identity, sexual orientation or sex, that is just one of several factors a court may consider in deciding whether to impose a harsher penalty for your crime. In the case of sexual orientation, it applies equally to straight and gay people alike.

It's funny that Walorski wasn't concerned about charging a minister with a "hate speech" last year when she and all her GOP colleagues voted for Sen. Brent Steele's bill which made it a Class D felony to protest within 500 feet of a funeral. That law targeted an extremist Christian minister from Kansas who conducted protests at military funerals, blaming their deaths on America's support of "homosexuality." Yes, Rep. Walorski supported legislation to jail Rev. Fred Phelps for preaching his "hate speech" at military funerals. Unlike that legislation, HB 1459 does nothing of the sort, unless of course the minister accompanies his "hate speech" with a criminal act, such as stoning a person to death in a public square because he's a "homosexual." Think about it, Jackie. You would be amazed what you could learn if you actually read the legislation you vote on in the General Assembly instead of just spewing the hate-filled rhetoric Eric Miller and Micah Clark pass on to you. Oh, and Jackie, if you doubt my word on the actual effect of HB 1459, you might want to call someone in one of the 45 states which has already enacted a hate crimes law.

As if to add further insult to injury, Walorski has filed an amendment to HB 1459 to drag the whole abortion debate into it by adding language making it a Class C felony only if there is "bodily injury to a viable fetus" in the commission of a hate crime involving a battery offense. Because she has already announced her intention to oppose HB 1459, offering this amendment is only further evidence of her mean-spiritedness respecting a serious piece of legislation.

Now Drozda's Trying To Ban Gay Parent Adoptions

The intensity and mean-spiritidness of the assault on Indiana's GLBT community has never been higher than the level it's reaching during the 2007 legislative session. The Indiana Senate under the leadership of Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is proving to be quite the breeding ground for hate and discrimination against GLBTs. The passage of SJR-7 isn't enough for these folks. Sen. Jeff Drozda filed an amendment to an adoption reform bill, SB 199 yesterday which would prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children in the State of Indiana, or as his amendment reads: "A court may not grant an adoption if the petitioner is a homosexual."

You may recall Drozda pledged last year after the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that Indiana's Adoption Act does not prohibit either a gay person individually or a same-sex couple from adopting a child in Indiana to introduce legislation to overturn the court ruling. Drozda did not introduce a bill in this session, but he's trying to sneak into a much-needed bill to reform Indiana's adoption laws. This is about hate and discrimination pure and simple. You must speak up and stop these folks. These religious right zealots will stop at nothing to relegate Indiana's gay and lesbians citizens to permanent, second class status.

AFA's Warning If Hate Crimes Legislation Becomes Law

The American Family Association both nationally and here in Indiana has been active in opposing hate crimes legislation using the worst of anti-gay bigoted rhetoric. Both the AFA of Indiana's Micah Clark and Advance America's Eric Miller have been spreading false information about HB 1459, which is currently on second reading in the House after passing out of committee last week by a 9-1 vote. If you wonder where Miller and Clark get this heated rhetoric, you need look no further than the American Family Association's website and read what the organization is saying about pending federal hate crimes legislation. It begins with the erroneous claim that ministers will be criminally charged with "hate speech" if they preach against "homosexuality" from the pulpit and it goes downhill from there. This is what the AFA is saying:

  • Preaching that homosexuality is a sin from the pulpit will result in the preacher being charged with “hate speech.”
  • Churches will have their tax-exempt status revoked if they oppose homosexuality.
  • Homosexual marriage will be legalized and recognized in all states.
  • Polygamy will be legalized.
  • Landlords will be forced to rent to homosexuals.
  • Scouts, and all non-profit organizations, will be required to hire homosexuals as leaders.
  • Biblical language used to define homosexuality will be considered “hate speech.” City officials have already had a billboard removed in Long Island, NY, because it was classified as “hate speech.” The billboard read: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” (Leviticus 20:13)
  • Employees will not be allowed to say anything negative about homosexuality in their workplaces.
  • Classes promoting the homosexual lifestyle will be included in school curricula beginning with the lower grades.
  • Employers will be forced to hire homosexuals.
  • Adoption by homosexuals will be legalized in every state.

This crap is so over the top and yet nobody in the mainstream media calls them out on it. Where's the outrage? I have to say I'm extremely disappointed Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, or any other public figure for that matter, has not spoken out against the attacks on HB 1459 by Miller, Clark and others from the religious right. This information is being disseminated to churches in our state, who are in turn contacting the legislators to oppose a bill based upon a complete misapprehension of what the legislation actually does. How can people claiming to be Christians bear false witness against their neighbors in the name of God?

Nuvo On Homophobia 101 At the State House

Nuvo's Laura McPhee is doing what none of the other reporters are doing at the State House in covering SJR-7: she's reading the fine print. McPhee picks up on the relation of SJR-7 to SB 65 and Sen. Brandt Hershman's past record of trying to strip domestic partners of their benefits at our state's public universities, both of which seriously undermine his contention that the second paragraph of SJR-7 will not do more than deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry. Here are some of the critical points covered by McPhee but overlooked by her mainstream colleagues in the media:

If ratified, according to opponents of the amendment, unmarried couples could lose every right or protection available to their families, touching nearly every facet of modern life, from health care to domestic partnership benefits to child and elder care. In stripping away these important rights, unmarried couples and their families would be vulnerable to future discrimination without legal recourse, severely limiting the opportunity for those of limited means to fight for their rights . . .

Serious repercussions from legislation similar to SJR 7 have already been seen in Michigan, Utah and Ohio where the passage of a constitutional amendment resulted in the legal system’s inability to protect victims of domestic violence. In Michigan, one prosecutor has refused to issue protective orders because, in his words, “domestic violence laws are for wife-beaters, not girlfriend-beaters.” This past month, a Michigan judge upheld a ruling that denies domestic violence laws from being applied in the cases where the victim and abuser are not married.

Because Utah’s amendment states that no domestic status or union other than the legal union of one man and one woman has legal sanction or validity, protective orders in the context of an unmarried couple cannot be enforced. And in Ohio, where domestic violence law applies only to a person “living as a spouse,” the new constitutional amendment prohibits Ohio from recognizing a spouse outside the context of a legal union between one man and one woman.

In an effort to negate these concerns in Indiana, the Senate Rules Committee has taken SB 65, previously a “vehicle bill,” and changed the bill to amend the definition of domestic battery to provide that the offense is committed if the prohibited behavior results in the bodily injury of a family or household member of the person engaging in the behavior.

The bill, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman, who also authored SJR 7, is a clumsy attempt to negate the criticism of SJR 7’s probable effects on Indiana’s domestic violence laws. There is little belief that the amendment will be passed.

Domestic partnership health benefits are also at stake if SJR 7 passes. Kentucky has a similar constitutional amendment already on the books and this year that state’s Legislature is well on its way to approving a statute which prohibits state universities from offering domestic partner benefits. The legislation was launched after the University of Louisville became the first public university in that state to announce it planned to offer domestic partner benefits.

During the recent Senate debate on SJR 7 here in Indiana, Hershman insisted that the claims that the amendment would strike down domestic partner benefits, such as those offered by Purdue University in his own district, were untrue. Hershman told the Lafayette Journal & Courier, “I have consulted constitutional scholars and the attorney general. And these assertions are simply false.”

Even if Hershman does not intend for SJR 7 to restrict health care benefits, he has tried to cut off domestic partnership benefits in the past. In 2003, Hershman introduced legislation to cut off state funding to Purdue University and other state educational institutions that offered domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners.

For all those folks out there in the mainstream media, this is the story you should be writing if you were doing your job. McPhee earns a merit badge for holding the hypocritical Brandt Hershman's feet to the fire. She's the only reporter who's bothered to cover the fact that, according to his former wife, he demanded after 7 years of marriage without any children she get an abortion after she became pregnant, only to see him file for divorce one week after she complied with his wishes.