Saturday, May 31, 2008

DNC Restores Half-Vote Status To Florida And Michigan Delegates

The DNC today voted to restore delegates to the Democratic National Convention, both pledged and unpledged delegates, to half-vote status. In Florida, where Clinton defeated Obama 50%-33%, she will net a 19-vote edge in pledged delegates. Where it gets really screwy, though, is the DNC's decision to automatically award pledged delegates to Obama in Michigan where he did not even appear on the ballot. Under the plan approved, Clinton receives 34.5 delegates to Obama's 29.5 delegates in Michigan. Clinton stalwart, Harold Ickes, condemned the DNC for substituting its judgment for that of more than a half-million Michigan voters. He promised a credentials fight at the convention, even though Clinton supporters on the panel voted for the proposal. Clinton supporters repeatedly disrupted the meeting to protest what they saw as a disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan voters. MSNBC said today's decision will now push the magical number to win the nomination to 2,118 delegates. According to their count, Obama is about 65 delegates shy of winning the nomination.

Obama Quits Church

Stung by yet another racist outburst by one of his own spiritual advisors, Father Michael Pfleger, at his Trinity Church of Christ this past week, Sen. Barack Obama did today what he earlier said he would not do--he resigned as a member of the church. Recall that Obama originally refused to disavow the church's former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. As he explained at the time:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

We know now that Wright became even too much for Obama to handle and he finally disavowed Wright, claiming he had never been a spiritual advisor to him. Explaining his confidence in Wright's replacement at his church and why he would remain a member of the church, Obama said:

Well, you know, the new pastor — the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is a wonderful young pastor.

And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community.

This — I’ll be honest, this obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Reverend Moss but because this has become such a spectacle.

Obama is supposed to offer a further explanation of his decision to quit the Trinity Church of Christ later this evening. Who will he have to throw overboard next? His wife? Perhaps. Larry Johnson says there will be big news on the purported "whitey" rant video of Michelle Obama from the pulpit at Trinity Church of Christ. "Now I know why people who have seen the videotape say it is stunning," Johnson writes. "Barack’s headaches are only starting."

UPDATE: Obama said in a press conference in Aberdeen, South Dakota that he and his wife have been contemplating withdrawing as members of Trinity Church of Christ since Wright spoke to the National Press Club and reunited the controversy over his church ties. He said he and his wife discussed it with Rev. Moss, prayed on it and came to the conclusion "with sadness" that it was in the best interest of both his family and the church to leave the church. He cited public scrutiny of the church as becoming a big burden for the church and its members to endure. Obama says he never saw it coming in terms of how big of an issue his church has become in this campaign. Yet, he clearly concluded when he started his campaign that Rev. Wright was too controversial as evidenced by his decision to disinvite him to his announcement speech in Springfield, Illinois. When asked if he was denouncing the church, Obama said no because the church was not "worthy of denouncing". Obama rejected a reporter's suggestion that he only joined the church nearly 20 years ago for political connections. He said there were other "better-connected" churches on Chicago's South Side which he could have joined if that was his motivation.

Friday, May 30, 2008

CNN Discovers That Obama Plays Hardball Politics

In Chicago Democratic politics, the boss is Mayor Richard Daley. The media boss is David Axelrod. And their man is Sen. Barack Obama. I've made the point over and over on this blog that Obama is not the agent of change he professes to be. He's a throwback to the worst kind of politics as usual as you can encounter. A surprising news organization, CNN, explores at this late date in the campaign just the type of hardball politics Obama played to get his start in politics. He won his first seat to the Illinois Senate by challenging the nominating petitions of all of his primary opponents. To be a candidate, you needed 757 signatures of registered voters in the district. Although his opponents' petitions contained far more than the number of signatures required, Obama sent a team of lawyers to the Chicago Election Board to find technical flaws in the petitions. For example, if a voter printed his name rather than signing it in cursive, the signature was disqualified, even if the person was a valid registered voter. The challenge worked. Obama ran for public office unopposed after getting all of his opponents disqualified, including incumbent Sen. Alice Palmer, a truly reform-minded legislator not backed by Mayor Daley. Not surprisingly, Palmer is supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton this year. Please check out this video from CNN to learn who the real Sen. Obama is. Obama would employ similar hardball politics against both his primary and general election opponents when he ran for the U.S. Senate. He destroyed Democrat Blair Hull and Republican Jack Ryan by peddling dirt culled from both Hull's and Ryan's previously-sealed divorce records. Photo of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Obama and Mayor Daley courtesy of the Capitol Fax Blog.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Second Spiritual Advisor To Obama Falls By The Way

Sen. Barack Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004 that he had three spiritual advisors: Jeremiah Wright, James Meeks, and Father Michael Pfleger. Obama distanced himself from Wright when videos of his racist, anti-American rants from the pulpit at Obama's Church, the Trinity Church of Christ, made their way to the Internet and became too hot too handle. Obama said he only remained a member of that church because Rev. Wright retired. Now, a controversial video of a racist rant against Sen. Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of Obama's church by Father Michael Pfleger, a controversial white Catholic priest, is forcing Obama to distance himself from yet another one of his spiritual advisors. Here's a little of what Pfleger had to say about Clinton:

"Rev. Moss, when Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on," Pfleger says from the pulpit. "I really believe that she just always thought, 'This is mine! I'm Bill's wife, I'm white, and this is mine! I just gotta get up and step into the plate.' And then out of nowhere came, 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,' and she said, 'Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!'

Pfleger then mocks her crying, much to delight of the crowd, many of whom stand up and applaud.

"She wasn't the only one crying, there was a whole lot of white people crying!" Pfleger says to laughter.

Obama's campaign released this statement in response to the controversial statements made by Pfleger just his past Sunday:

As I have traveled this country, I've been impressed not by what divides us but by all that that unites us. That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.

There was also an apology from Pfleger:

Father Pfleger writes to say, “I regret the words I chose on Sunday. These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama’s life and message, and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them.”

Like Wright, Pfleger is an admirer of the controversial Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. Pfleger claims to have been a spiritual advisor to Obama for more than 20 years. As the Sun-Times reported in 2004:

Friends and advisers, such as the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church in the Auburn--Gresham community on the South Side, who has known Obama for the better part of 20 years, help him keep that compass set, he says.

"I always have felt in him this consciousness that, at the end of the day, with all of us, you've got to face God," Pfleger says of Obama. "Faith is key to his life, no question about it. [It is] central to who he is, and not just in his work in the political field, but as a man, as a black man, as a husband, as a father.... I don't think he could easily divorce his faith from who he is."

Unlike Rev. Wright, Pfleger had been given an active role in Obama's presidential campaign. The Obama campaign featured an endorsement by Pfleger on its website. The site included a testimonial from Pfleger, which has since been scrubbed. ABC has documented the financial ties between Pfleger and Obama. Pfleger also campaigned for Obama in Iowa.

So what about the third advisor, Rev. James Meeks? Well, he's also a state senator who doesn't mind mixing religion and politics from the pulpit. He is minister of the 24,000-member Salem Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side. Meeks has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as one of the "10 leading black religious voices in the anti-gay movement".

State Dem Worker Gets Home Detention For Stealing

She stole $62,000 from the Indiana Democratic Party over a 2-year period for clothes, jewelry and out-of-state trips while employed there as a controller, but she won't spend a day in a jail for her crime. The Star's Jon Murray says Judge Reuben Hill sentenced Kim Bostic to six months of home detention, followed by 18 months of probation and 120 hours of community service. Bostic also agreed to repay the state party and its insurer $114,000 to cover the money she stole and the cost of auditing the state party's books and election reports.

Recall that Brad Hiller spent at least six months in a state prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100,000 from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. Hiller, according to a Star report, vomited in the courtroom after being read his sentence. Bostic talked about the meaning of "Karma" during her sentencing hearing according to Murray.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scott McClellan's Mother And Father

The liberal blogs are abuzz today over the scathing, tell-all book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan. I've always had little respect for a person who uses people in high places to get where they want to be and then turn around and trade on the information gained from their insider access to harm the very people who entrusted them with confidential information, often for profit. That's exactly what Scott McClellan did to Bush and other members of his administration. Given his family roots, I never quite understood why Bush gave such important positions in his administration to Scott and his brother, Mark, former head of the FDA.

There's an old saying that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Scott's and Mark's mother is Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a former Austin mayor and Texas Comptroller. The thrice married Strayhorn bucked the Republican Party in 2006 and ran for governor as an independent. McClellan's father, Barr McClellan, is even more intriguing. Barr worked for Ed Clark's law firm in Austin, the firm of former President Lyndon Johnson, where he was supposedly afforded access to the secrets of the Johnson political machine. He left Clark's firm over a client dispute and later left the practice of law after a disciplinary complaint was filed against him concerning litigation against a bank, which he claimed called in an outstanding loan he had with the bank in an effort to bankrupt his law practice. In 2003, long after the deaths of Johnson, Clark and the rest of the gang, McClellan wrote a book, "Blood Money & Power", in which he lays out a conspiracy theory of how Johnson and Clark had President John F. Kennedy assassinated as well as other people who got in their way. A number of the Texas oilmen alleged to have had a role in the Kennedy assassination were big supporters of the Bushes in Texas politics.

As much as I deplore what McClellan is doing to Bush with this tell-all book, I have to say that Bush only has himself to blame. There were plenty of good reasons not to have anyone from the McClellan family as members of his administration. Aside from his family problems, he performed the job as ineptly as any White House press secretary I can recall. The Bushies now claim McClellan was fired from his job, but Bush kept the incompetent press secretary on for nearly three years before unloading him. It looks like he's determined to become for Bush what Dick Morris has become for the Clintons. McClellan will no doubt be offered plenty of paid gigs by left-leaning news organizations like MSNBC to make the obligatory GOP-bashing comments. I would simply ask my friends on the Left who want to believe everything he has to say about the Bush Adminstration if they are also willing to believe everything his father has written about how the father of the Great Society and not the CIA killed their beloved John F. Kennedy.

Carpenter On The People Who Need Enemies

Star columnist Dan Carpenter does a good job pegging what the California gay marriage decision means to Eric Miller and his stooges in the state legislature. Calling the California decision a "Pyrrhic victory", Carpenter explains:

Until the nation's largest state validated a basic right for gay couples, it appeared that the morals militia Miller leads was unlikely to muster another push toward a constitutional amendment to "defend marriage" in Indiana.

After failing to get the measure through the required two consecutive legislatures, Miller had moved over to the property tax bandwagon. Gay couples, meanwhile, continued to live together, and rear children, and be denied marriage under state law, and all was safe in the heterosexual bedrooms and divorce courts of Hoosier values. The Indiana General Assembly could look around for other work to do.

Now, however, the Great Fear has become available for whipping up again, and crusaders such as Miller, state Rep. Eric Turner and Rep. Brian Bosma are mounted and helmeted anew. The cannons of pious rhetoric and preposterous stereotypes are firing. The roaring rallies in opposition to unseen enemies who perpetrate domesticity are in our near future. The re-election campaigns have their visceral alternative to complex issues.

Darn those activist judges. What do they think they are, a branch of government?

Well, we can't stop Miller, Bosma, Turner et al. from being the fear mongers they are on this issue, but we can continue to focus attention on what the full impact of what they propose to do in the form of a constitutional amendment is. The proponents of SJR-7 continually assured state lawmakers that the surplus language included in the second paragraph of their amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages really didn't have any extra meaning. Now, those darn activist judges up in Michigan decided such extra language does have extra meaning. The Michigan Supreme Court says it means universities and units of government cannot extend domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. But Miller says that's Michigan and their language is different from Indiana's SJR-7. Yes, just like Indiana's law on equal protection is different from California's.

Thompson Still Looking For Number Two

As Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson works to set up her campaign's state headquarters in Indianapolis and to find a running mate, Gov. Mitch Daniels picks up a big union endorsement from the Professional Firefighters. WTHR's Kevin Rader says Thompson is focusing on six choices and, no, Jim Schellinger is not one of them. Those reportedly under consideration for the Lt. Governor slot include Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, Representative Trent Van Haaften from Mt Vernon, Representative Dennis Oxley from English, Former Speaker of the House John Gregg and Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Obama Weaves Yet Another Tale

Sen. Barack Obama has been caught in yet another lie about his family. Using the occasion of a Memorial Day observance in New Mexico, Obama falsely claimed he had an uncle who served in a brigade during World War II which helped to liberate Auschwitz. A pro-Obama blog report from a CBS reporter wrote of Obama's moving Memorial Day tribute:

Despite not having served in the military himself, Barack Obama used his Memorial Day remarks to speak about his family’s service. “My grandfather marched in Patton’s army, but I cannot know what it is to walk into battle like so many of you,” he told a small group of veterans here. “My grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line, but I cannot know what it is for a family to sacrifice like so many of yours have.”

Obama also spoke about his uncle, who was part of the American brigade that helped to liberate Auschwitz. He said the family legend is that, upon returning from war, his uncle spent six months in an attic. “Now obviously, something had really affected him deeply, but at that time there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain,” Obama said. “That’s why this idea of making sure that every single veteran, when they are discharged, are screened for post-traumatic stress disorder and given the mental health services that they need – that’s why it’s so important.”

Let's do the fact check. American troops did not liberate Auschwitz. The Russian Army liberated Auschwitz. The Washington Post and most other major news organizations reported Obama's account of his uncle's service as fact. Obama has no uncles. His American mother was an only child. Caught up in an obvious lie, Obama's campaign rushed to correct what he meant to say. The pro-Obama CBS report included this update:

Obama's campaign clarified the comments about the candidate's great-uncle liberating Auschwitz, saying Obama was "mistaken," and was referring to Buchenwald, not Auschwitz. “Senator Obama’s family is proud of the service of his grandfather and uncles in World War II – especially the fact that his great uncle was a part of liberating one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald," said spokesman Bill Burton.

The New York Times noted this correction:

In response to a question at a Memorial Day appearance in New Mexico, Mr. Obama said an uncle helped liberate the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz during World War II. The problem? That story didn’t track with history, considering Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet forces.

So on Tuesday, the campaign acknowledged the senator made a mistake and mentioned the wrong camp. It actually was Buchenwald, according to spokesman Bill Burton.

The correct story is that Mr. Obama’s great uncle, Charlie Payne – his grandmother’s brother – actually helped liberate Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald. Mr. Payne was a member of the 89th Infantry Division.

Note that the reporter accepts that Obama meant a "great-uncle" when he actually referred to him simply as an "uncle." He simply confused Buchenwald, we're told, with Auschwitz. That's good enough for the media, which has pretty much ignored this latest Obama gaffe. Similarly, the media let Obama skate on a false claim that the Kennedy family helped bring his father to America to get a college education. They forgave his false claim that his parents got together because of the civil rights march on Selma in 1965; his parents gave birth to Obama four years before Selma. The media hardly noticed Obama thinks there are 57 states, not 50. There's plenty of other Obama gaffes which the media has completely ignored at the same time it pounces all over Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain for every minor misstep they make in their campaigns. Remember how much the media played up Clinton's claim she was under fire during a visit to Kosovo? Or how the media this past week twisted a comment she made about the assassination of Robert Kennedy to imply she intended to suggest Obama might be assassinated?

UPDATE: It's now beginning to look like the entire uncle story was made up. Larry Johnson has a post today raising doubts that his "great uncle" ever made it to Buchenwald during the war, let alone Auschwitz.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Record Purse For 2008 Indianapolis 500

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway gave away a record purse of $14.4 million to the 33 drivers in the 2008 running of the Indianapolis 500. This year's purse was $3.8 million higher than the total purse in 2007. It's still not as big as the prize for NASCAR's Daytona 500, which this year had a record purse of $18,689,238, but the Daytona 500 also has ten more drivers than the Indianapolis 500. Winner Scott Dixon takes home a record $2,988,065 in winnings. That compares to Ryan Newman's $1.5 million for winning this year's Daytona 500. No driver in this year's race received less than $270,000. Second-place finisher Vitor Meira collected $1.2 million. Third-place finisher Marco Andretti picked up $782,065 in winnings.

This year's race took 3 hours, 28 minutes to run with an average speed of 143.5 miles per hour. Scott Dixon ran the fastest leading lap of the day at 222.057 mph. Marco Andretti had the fastest lap of the day at 224.037 mph. Scott Dixon's winning margin over Vitor Meira was 1.7498 sec. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Rookie Of The Year award for his 6th place finish. It will be interesting to see what the television viewership ratings for this year's race are, particularly in comparison to NASCAR's Coca Cola race which ran later in the day. Last year, ABC's coverage of the event increased 40%. The wider viewership of the race was attributed to interest in Danica Patrick's participation in the race.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Great Running Of The Indianapolis 500

Scott Dixon started the running of the 2008 Indianapolis 500 on the pole and finished on top for his Chip Ganassi Racing team. It was a close ending, but Vitor Meira and Marco Andretti fell behind Dixon in that order. Helio Castroneves finished fourth, and Ed Carpenter finished fifth. Danica Patrick ran in the top 10 most of the day until she was taken out by Ryan Briscoe, who clipped her car in the pits, causing enough damage to her car to end her run late in the race. Patrick stormed down the pit lane to make her way to Brisco's pit when she was headed off by track security. You may recall an incident at one of last year's races when Patrick grabbed Dan Wheldon by the arm to show her displeasure with him after run-in with him on the track. Her departure left a lot of fans disappointed as did Tony Kanaan's wreck late in the race, helped along by team mate Marco Andretti. Sarah Fisher's day ended when she was unable to avoid Kanaan's car after he got into the wall. The only other female driver in the race, Milka Duno, met a similar fate when she lost control of her car late in the race. This, of course, is the first running of the 500 with a unified IRL. The crowd appeared larger than any I've seen in recent years. Maybe the IRL has finally got its act together and will begin to rebuild its waning fan base and improve its sagging television ratings. The video clips are of the start of the race and the ending of the race taken from where I sit at the race in Turn 1.

Tax Bills Will Be Lower For Most

About 90% of Marion Co. homeowners will realize a reduction of about 10% from the flawed tax bills they were originally mailed last year before Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered a reassessment according to the Star's Tim Evans and Mark Nichols. That translates to a median savings of $145. Your tax bill will, however, be on average 20% higher than what you paid in 2006. Taxpayers will not realize any benefit from the property tax relief enacted this year until they receive their 2008 tax bills, which aren't expected to be mailed until later this fall. The story attributes all the savings on the 2007 tax bills to the reassessment. What about those refunds the legislature enacted in 2007 which taxpayers were originally suppose to receive in the mail? After the reassessment order the decision was made to roll the rebate into the revised 2007 tax bills. How much of the 2007 reduction is attributable to the rebate as opposed to the reassessment?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Press Corp Ogles As Obama Parades Himself In Jeans

If you want to understand why the media coverage of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is so biased in his favor, check out this YouTube video clip taken on the candidate's plane after his victory in North Carolina. Watch as the ogling reporters implore an agent blocking their view to sit down as Obama prances around sporting a little . . . . for their benefit in blue jeans. Cameras flash as reporters speculate on what brand of jeans he's wearing. CNN posted the original video clip on its news site. As Obama talks on his cell phone and prances, he positions himself to maximize exposure down there, smiles at the journalists and says, "No flash." I say, no class.

Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain Opens Book On Health Records

Sen. John McCain provided a rare opportunity on Thursday for a select groups of reporters, including all the major television news networks, the AP and the Washington Post, to peruse 1,173 pages of medical records accumulated over the past 8 years. The AP reports that McCain is cancer-free, an important disclosure considering he is a 3-time survivor of the deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma. The health of his heart for a man his age is also well according to his medical records. The AP reports:

Three-time melanoma survivor John McCain appears cancer-free, has a strong heart and is in otherwise general good health, according to eight years of medical records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting remains at risk for developing new skin cancers, and gets a thorough check by a Mayo Clinic dermatologist every few months.

"I do not see any worrisome lesions," Dr. Suzanne Connolly concluded after McCain's most recent exam, on May 12 . . .

Like many aging Americans, McCain takes medicine to keep his cholesterol in check.
But Mayo internist Dr. John Eckstein, his longtime personal physician, lauded McCain's performance on a heart stress test - sweating it out for 10 minutes when Eckstein routinely sees patients decades younger quit at five or seven minutes.

"I think physiologically he is considerably younger than his chronologic age based on his cardiovascular fitness," Eckstein said in an interview Thursday. "I got a call from the cardiologist who said that he had not seen anyone that age exercise for that long in a long time."

McCain's most recent exams show a range of health issues common in aging: He frequently has precancerous skin lesions removed, and in February had an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, an easily cured skin cancer, removed. He had benign colon growths called polyps taken out during a routine colonoscopy in March.

The Vietnam veteran has degenerative arthritis from war injuries that might mean a future joint replacement. His blood pressure and weight were healthy, and his cholesterol good but not optimal - and he switched medication from the controversial Vytorin that made headlines this past winter to a proven standby, simvastatin.

Now that McCain has laid his health records to bare, it's time for Sen. Barack Obama to lay out his health records in similar detail. Obama would become the youngest person elected president since John F. Kennedy. Despite Kennedy's appearance of youth and energy, he suffered from more serious health problems than any president in modern times--a fact unknown to most Americans until after he was assassinated. Obama, a former chain smoker, claims he gave up the bad habit a little more than a year ago, although at least one member of the news media has raised questions about the veracity of that claim.

Lawrence One Step Closer To Becoming Federal Judge

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday cleared the nomination of federal Magistrate William Lawrence to fill the federal district court judge position vacated by John Tender, who recently joined the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. According to the Star's Maureen Groppe, full Senate action on Lawrence's confirmation is expected next month. Quoting Sen. Richard Lugar, Groppe writes:

"This selection was the product of a bipartisan process and reflective of the importance of finding highly qualified federal judges to carry forward the tradition of fair, principled and collegial leadership," Lugar said at Lawrence's May 1 confirmation hearing.

[Sen. Evan] Bayh praised Lawrence's intelligence, honor and "highest standards of judicial temperament."

In the last year of a president's term in office, it is often touch-and-go when it comes to federal judicial confirmations. The Demoratic-controlled Senate, in this case, has an incentive to stall as many judicial nominees as possible in hopes that their party will win the presidency this fall and get to make those judicial appointments. Surprisingly, Judge Tinder's nomination to the Court of Appeals sailed through the Senate while many other Court of Appeals nominees languish on the Senate's calendar.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Democratic Staffer Victim Of Internet Hacker

You've all received one of those e-mails from some lost royal tribe member in Africa seeking your assistance in helping him get his long-lost multi-million dollar inheritance. If you're the sucker, you wind up with a drained bank account instead of the quick payoff for helping the poor guy out you were promised. Today, I received an "urgent" e-mail purporting to be from Russell Bennett, a Senate Democratic Caucus staffer. Here's how it it read:

I want you to read very carefully bcos it's very urgent and important, so please don't see it as a Joke or some kind of virus/spam. I am currently out of states on personal business trip to Lagos. Unfortunately, I lost both my wallet & my ATM card, maybe in the hotel where I'm lodging or somewhere else.

I'm totally confused about that, as I don't know what to do, I went to the US Embassy to report the issue of my losted items and to also seek for a loan to pay the hotel bills but its unfortunately nothing could be done to assist me financially.

The hotel management were not taking it easy with me, just because I couldnt paid up my bills since I've lodged in. I have been restricted from calling & receiving calls, the telephone line to my room has been disconnected. I didn't traveled with my phone since my trip was outside the country, I would have prefer discussing this on phone, and since I have no access to phone I decided to contact you by email because its the only avenue I could use to send you this urgent notice.

I'm totally stranded and have no dime on me here, after calling my bank and they couldn't do any wire transfer to me since i'm oversea, i decides to contact you immediately. can you please do me a favor? I need a loan worth of $950 from you so that I could be able to pay the hotel bills and plan on coming back home. Will you be able to loan me the money and how soon, I just need it ASAP? I promise to pay you as soon as I return home. I need to pay the hotel bills so that I could be allowed to pack my luggage and leave to board a flight back home without any delay.

Write back to me ASAP and let me know how you could assist me with the loan, then I could give you further instruction on how to send the money to me via western union money transfer.

Please keep this confidentially, as I wouldn't want anyone to know about this since no one knows about the trip because all my plans was that its going to be a successful one and I will be back with No cause for alarm.

Being that this urgent e-mail came from a very unlikely source, I forwarded it to fellow blogger Jen Wagner, who suspected Bennett had been the victim of an Internet hacker. Sure enough, a short while later I received this e-mail from Bennett, entitled "Many Many Many Apologies", explaining what happened:

Well, as you all have figured out, someone hacked into my email today and sent an email to all of you. I am SO sorry that this happened and I have no idea how it did happen. I hope that this didn't inconvenience anyone too much.

I appreciate the dozens of calls I received to make sure I was alright. Before I knew that this email had gone out, I thought all of the calls were to wish me a Happy Birthday :)

I would also like to thank those of you who knew the email was fake because of the spelling and grammar, I write MUCH better than that!

On the bright side, I now know where Lagos is.

Again, very sorry for the problem, I would promise to not let it happen again but I didn't have any control over it this time, so hopefully things will be okay in the future.

Vote For Me Because I'm A Christian And An Evangelical

Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas is one of two Republicans competing for the Attorney General nomination at next month's Indiana Republican Convention. He has the backing of Gov. Mitch Daniels, Secretary of State Todd Rokita and a slew of other Republican leaders across the state. I haven't met Costas, but he appears to have an impressive resume upon which to run. What bothers me is the first YouTube video clip his campaign launched to introduce him to delegates to the state convention. There is a very heavy emphasis on Costas' religion. He wants you to know that he's not just a Christian, but an "evangelical Christian." My question to Costas: Why do you want me to know that you are an evangelical Christian? You are a candidate for Attorney General. As an attorney, I want to know first and foremost that you understand the Indiana Constitution. In particular, I want you to know if you understand the meaning of the part which reads: "No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for any office of trust or profit."

In Indiana politics, religious right fanatics like Eric Miller and Micah Clark seek to place a litmus test on persons seeking public office. If you aren't an evangelical Christian, then you can't be trusted to hold public office. Describing oneself as an "evangelical Christian" is code to say you believe the government should regulate the relations of consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom. It's code to say you believe women are stripped of any right to reproductive health and freedom. It's code to say you believe fundamentalists' interpretation of Christian laws should supersede non-secular, civil laws. By emphasizing that you are an evangelical Christian, are we to believe you will interpret our laws and run the office the way former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore tried to carry out his constitutional duties before being unceremoniously driven from office? Efforts in our country by fundamentalist Christians to impose so-called "Christian law" as the civil law is as much a danger to individual freedom and to the rights of minority groups as is the Islamic radicalism our country is at war with in Afghanistan and Iraq. Islamic radicalism represses religious and individual freedoms in every country where it rules.

The last Indiana Republican to begin his campaign for public office touting his fundamentalist Christian bona fides was Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Matt Kelty. Interestingly, Kelty launched his campaign with a YouTube video clip which relied heavily on a similar religious message. I wrote then about my concern for Kelty's emphasis on his personal religion:

What Kelty and so many politicians forget is that under our constitutional government, religious tests cannot be imposed as a condition to public service. By invoking their personal religion in the fashion Kelty has done, it has the effect of excluding anyone who doesn't subscribe to those particular set of religious beliefs. With a population over 220,000, Fort Wayne is Indiana's second-largest city. The vast majority of the city's residents are no doubt Christian, but I suspect a city of that size includes among its citizens a variety of non-Christians as well. If he becomes mayor, he is expected to represent all citizens, not just those of his same religious faith. But when politicians like Kelty invoke their religion in this fashion, people of other faiths have reason to worry about whether they will be treated equally as

A critic responded to my comment this way: "The Kelty Christmas message is less about alienating voters and more about demonstrating the candidate has a moral compass and core, believes in something that defines good and evil, and has the courage of his convictions to present them." That was before Kelty went on to run a campaign during which he was caught up in lie after lie, received a 9-count indictment for campaign-finance related violations tied to money his campaign received from anti-abortion activists and took a beating at the polls in a race which by all accounts should have been won by the Republican candidate.

Now, I'm not suggesting Costas is anything like Matt Kelty. It doesn't help though that he has surrogates like State Rep. Eric Turner, who has been on a mission to rewrite the Indiana Constitution to ensure that Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens will become permanent, second class citizens, appealing to delegates for support on his behalf. “It is important that the citizens of Indiana have a true conservative in the Attorney General’s office working for them,” Turner said in an appeal to delegates. He added, “Jon has done Christian relief work across the globe and helped found a crisis pregnancy center in Porter County. Jon Costas has a long history of putting his conservative beliefs into action.” What I do see thus far is enough to make me ask additional questions about who Jon Costas is. I'm a delegate to the state convention and I've not yet made up my mind who I will support. Costas is opposed by Chief Deputy Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who has the backing of his boss, Attorney General Steve Carter. I heard talk earlier that Costas was supposed to be the "progressive candidate". If he wants me to vote for him for the same reason Matt Kelty asked voters to support him, I'm going to have a tough time bringing myself to vote for him over his convention opponent.

Taking Down And Starting Anew

Fellow blogger Jen Wagner pulls the plug on her Taking Down Words blog and launches a new blog, Hoosier Political Report. Unlike her old blog, this one promises to offer bipartisan commentary.

McCain Veep Watch

Sen. John McCain is reportedly beginning the process of interviewing potential vice presidential running mates. He will meet with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney this weekend at his Arizona ranch. Karl Rove handicapped the three on FOX News last night. He dismissed Crist and Jindal due to the "experience" factor. Ironically, both have more experience than Obama. Romney, he says, has the experience and the backing of many key conservatives. If Romney had stayed true to the beliefs he took while running for office as Massachusetts governor, he would be a perfect choice. Instead, Romney repudiated all the progressive positions he took as a candidate to win as a Republican in one of the country's most Democratic states and became just another typical politician. News reports also indicate that Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Lindsay Graham are joining McCain in Arizona this weekend. I suspect these two are there to advise McCain and not to interview as veep candidates. I'm of the mind that McCain has to reach out to someone who can help attract independent and Hispanic voters--two groups McCain needs to win.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Note On Kennedy's Cancer

It is a diagnosis nobody wants to hear from their doctor. After being hospitalized on Saturday after suffering a seizure, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) learned from his doctors that he has the worst kind of brain cancer. As devastating as that news must have been to Kennedy and his family, the Kennedy clan, no stranger to tragedy, immediately and fully disclosed Kennedy's medical diagnosis to the public. Contrast the Kennedy family's public candor with that of the family of the late Rep. Julia Carson (D-IN). Carson, her family and surrogates lied to the people of the 7th District for at least a year about the seriousness of her lung cancer diagnosis. The Carson family's motive was to keep others at bay while her political machine could lay the groundwork to install her totally unqualified and then-unknown grandson, Andre, as her replacement. Hats off to the Kennedy family for the respect they have afforded the people of Massachusetts as Sen. Kennedy faces the most difficult challenge of his life. The Carson political machine could learn something from the grace with which the Kennedy family deals with such matters, but I doubt it.

Daniels Says Troop Morale High In Iraq

Gov. Mitch Daniels completes a 2-day trip to check up on Indiana National Guard troops deployed in Iraq. Daniels tells the South Bend Tribune's Ed Ronco that troop morale is high:

"There's a lot of good humor," Daniels said by phone from Kuwait. "They've only been here seven or eight weeks, and maybe near the end of a year's deployment people will be in a slightly different mood.

"Daniels spent Monday and Tuesday in Iraq, visiting with Indiana's 76th Infantry Brigade, as well as active duty units containing Hoosier soldiers. Indiana has 4,133 National Guard members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan -- the most of any state.

"They're really good at what they're doing, they're really proud of what they're doing, and every Hoosier should be, too," he said . . .

"Infrastructure's better," he said. "Still no garden spot, but definitely different. The level of violence is way down.

"Iraqi soldiers have worked in the southern city of Basra to eradicate insurgent militias and in the north, near Mosul, to get rid of members of al-Qaida in Iraq, Daniels said.

"There's a tentative sense of real excitement," Daniels said, "not only getting on top of the security situation, but that it's the Iraqis doing it."

Ronco says Daniels learned a new military acronym during his visit to Iraq. "I learned a new military acronym: SIGO. It means 'significant other,' " he said.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hillary's Repeat Performance In Kentucky

Like West Virginia, Kentucky is a swing state winning Democratic presidential candidates in modern times have always carried. As she did in West Virginia last week, Sen. Hillary Clinton trounced Sen. Barack Obama, winning two-thirds of the vote to his 30% share. With a record primary turnout, Clinton added nearly a quarter-million vote plurality to her lead in the national popular vote to date, counting Michigan, Florida and all the caucus votes. Obama carried only Jefferson County, home to Louisville, and Fayette County, home to Lexington. Clinton racked up huge margins elsewhere in the state, carrying some rural counties with as much as 90% of the vote. According to exit polls, at least a third of the Democratic primary voters in Kentucky said they would vote for Sen. John McCain over Obama in the general election, while 50% said they would vote for Obama over McCain. Sen. Obama is expected to carry Oregon tonight. Results there will not be reported until after 11:00 p.m.

UPDATE: Obama wins Oregon decisively, although not by the margin Clinton won Kentucky. He collects 58% of the vote to Clinton's 42%. Obama also declares himself the winner of a majority of the total pledged delegates to the Democratic convention. To win a majority of the overall delegates, he will have to count on enough of the votes of the unelected superdelegates and the exclusion of the delegates from Michigan and Florida. How fitting for the party which claims that the 2000 presidential election was stolen from Al Gore in Florida and that Voter ID is a Republican ploy to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

Keep Super Bowl Bid Win In Perspective

You will be hearing from plenty of people in the coming days who will be touting the huge benefits Indianapolis will reap from winning the opportunity to host the 2012 Super Bowl. You will hear economic benefit numbers being tossed around in the range of $250 million. And you will be hearing various politicians and elitist insiders standing in line to take credit for today's announcement. The local news media will be gushing more than anyone because they stand to benefit economically more than most from the event. Here's some thoughts to keep in mind as people celebrate today's win:

  • In order to land this event, Marion County and neighboring counties had to raise taxes and borrow money to build Lucas Oil Stadium at a cost of $750 million. Without the new stadium, Indianapolis stood no chance of hosting a Super Bowl.
  • Private sources will have to contribute at least $25 million to front costs for the NFL to put on the event.
  • The NFL and its affiliates will receive special tax benefits at your expense for the privilege of allowing us to host this event.
  • Both the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis have essentially written blank checks to the NFL "to provide all governmental services and support reasonably necessary to the success of Super Bowl XLVI and related Official Events within its jurisdiction". The City alone will shell out at least $1.5 million in over-time pay for police officers to support the event.
  • Very few Indianapolis residents will have an opportunity to attend the event. Even special events for the Super Bowl are "by invitation only" and a large section of downtown will be cordoned off to keep the "uninvited" out and limit access to "invited guests only."
  • The revenue benefit from hosting the Super Bowl will be less than the economic benefit the City enjoys annually from hosting the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. Only a relatively small number of businesses and employees associated with the service industry will directly benefit from the Super Bowl.
  • Hosting the Super Bowl will not improve Indianapolis schools. (See Detroit)
  • Hosting the Super Bowl will not reduce crime in the City. (See Detroit)
  • Hosting the Super Bowl will not reduce the growing number of abandoned homes in declining neighborhoods outside the mile square. (See Detroit)
  • Hosting the Super Bowl will not fix the City's crumbling infrastructure. (See Detroit)
  • Hosting the Super Bowl will not clean up the corruption in city government. (See Detroit)
  • Hosting the Super Bowl will not make up for 2,000 lost jobs at Eli Lilly and thousands of other high-paying manufacturing jobs which have been leaving the City in recent years and will probably continue to do so.

I think that just about covers it. Go ahead and celebrate the City's big win today. The people who worked on the bid deserve credit for their hard work. Just don't forget about the big problems still facing the City in spite of today's announcement.

And now here's what Mayor Greg Ballard's office has to say about today's big win:

NFL team owners voted today to award thebid for the 2012 Super Bowl to the City of Indianapolis.

Today, a five member delegation representing Indianapolis was given a 15minute opportunity to present the city's bid to NFL team owners. Following the presentations by Indianapolis, Phoenix, Ariz. and Houston, Tex., team owners met to cast their votes for the winning city.

"This is great news for not only Indianapolis, but for the whole State of Indiana. The decision made by the NFL owners shows their recognition of the hard work of our team and the strength of our community," said Mayor Greg Ballard. "This was truly a community bid. It began with aprocess of involving anyone interested in being a part of it, and ended with our 8th grade ambassadors flying all over the country to hand-deliver our final bid package."

Studies of past Super Bowl host cities show that Indianapolis can expect 100,000 visitors over the course of one week and over an estimated $120 million direct spend into the local economy.

"We are once again eager to share with the world our incomparable package of convenience and outstanding facilities," said Bob Bedell, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association. "This decision today stands as a testament to our deliberately designed downtown, which has become the ideal destination for this and many other major events. I know our thousands of hospitality service providers and community volunteers will once again deliver with excellence."

Tamara Zahn, President of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. agreed."We are thrilled! This is a sensational score for Downtown Indianapolis," Zahn said. "Now it is up to all of us to exceed NFL expectations and deliver what we know Indianapolis can do!"

Council Approves $1.5 Million In Arts Funding

There had been some discussion that funding for the arts might suffer under Mayor Greg Ballard as he searched to find $70 million in spending cuts he promised. Last night, though, the City-County Councy approved a proposal awarding $1,543,500 in art grants to 49 different organizations. The average size of each grant is a mere $31,500. Some of the recipients are long-time, well-established organizations, including the Children's Museum, Clowes Memorial Hall, Dance Kaleidoscope, Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis Symphony and Madam Walker Theater. Others, mostly smaller recipients of a few thousand dollars, are not as well known.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Now Look Who Is Playing The Politics Of Fear

A few days ago, Newsweek declared that the Republican Party had used fear to win elections since 1968. Today, Sen. Barack Obama used social security to scare senior citizens into voting for him as Democrats have done in election after election for the past half-century. The AP's Mike Glover reports:

Democrat Barack Obama told seniors Sunday that Republican John McCain would threaten the Social Security that they and millions like them depend on because he supports privatizing the program.

Obama turned to a bedrock, pocketbook issue as he spoke to about 130 people at an assisted living facility and sought to tie the GOP's presidential nominee-in-waiting to an unpopular President Bush on an issue that motivates seniors.

"Let me be clear, privatizing Social Security was a bad idea when George W. Bush proposed it, it's a bad idea today," Obama said. "That's why I stood up against this plan in the Senate and that's why I won't stand for it as president."

Bush proposed a Social Security plan in 2005 that focused on creating private accounts for younger workers, but it never came up for a vote in Congress. Democrats strongly opposed the idea and few Republicans embraced it.

Obama said McCain would push to raise the retirement age for collecting Social Security benefits or trim annual cost-of-living increases. Obama has rejected both ideas as solutions to the funding crisis projected for Social Security in favor of making higher-income workers pay more into the system.

"We have to protect Social Security for future generations without pushing the burden onto seniors who have earned the right to retire in dignity," he said.

Because Democrats like Obama demagogue this issue year after year, it is impossible to develop a long-term solution to make the system solvent and ensure adequate retirement benefits for future generations. Don't run on a platform of change if you're simply going to rely on politics as usual to win an election.

UPDATE: Not to spend too much time picking on Obama this weekend, but this is one I just couldn't pass up. Some of you are old enough to remember former President Jimmy Carter's energy plan called "Moral Equivalent of War", better known as MEOW, when he asked Americans to accept the fact that they were going to have to learn to live with less. Well, when I read this statement from Obama today about his own energy policy, I couldn't help but think of Carter's failed MEOW policy:

Pitching his message to Oregon's environmentally-conscious voters, Obama called on the United States to "lead by example" on global warming, and develop new technologies at home which could be exported to developing countries.

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said.

"That's not leadership. That's not going to happen," he added.

Will Obama Have To Throw His Wife Under The Bus Next?

A former CIA and State Department counter-terrorism expert, Larry Johnson, writes on his blog, No Quarter, about the existence of a video showing Sen. Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, on a racist rant against "whitey". Opposition research efforts, according to Johnson's sources, discovered the video clip from archived recordings of the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ, where Obama and his wife are members. Johnson writes:

I now have it from two three four sources (three who are close to senior Republicans) that there is video dynamite–Michelle Obama railing against “whitey” at Jeremiah Wright’s church. Republicans may have a lousy record when it comes to the economy and the management of the war in Iraq, but they are hell on wheels when it comes to opposition research. Someone took the chance and started reviewing the recordings from services at Jeremiah Wright’s United Church of Christ. Holy smoke!! I am told there is a clip that is being held for the fall to drop at the appropriate time. The last thing Barack and Michelle need is a new clip that raises further questions about her judgment and temperament . . .

When the ugly video tapes about Jeremiah Wright’s racist ravings first broke Barack Obama told us he could no more disown Jeremiah Wright than his own Grandmother. Well, we all know how that turned out. So will Barack stand by Michelle when the tape emerges of her verbally attacking “whitey?” Republicans, who are otherwise gloomy about prospects in November, recognize that this recording will create real problems for Barack and give them a shot at the White House. It is their October surprise.

Subsequent to posting this entry, Johnson learned of a billionaire's attempt to pay a $1 million bounty to the person holding the video tape to prevent it from surfacing during the campaign. Johnson says the tape is held by Karl Rove and associates, who are showing it to fat cat Republican contributors in an effort to loosen up money to fund independent 527 group expenditures. Don't forget the role the 527 group which produced the Swiftboat ads against John Kerry had in his 2004 defeat.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

State Repays Local Governments

Gov. Mitch Daniels announced yesterday that the state will now pay off the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt once owed by the state to local governments. He says the remaining $212 million owed to local governments is being paid back ahead of schedule, which includes a $30.5 million payment to Marion County. It is worth noting that this problem was inherited by Daniels when he became governor in 2005. Prior Democratic administrations held up payments to local governments as a means of balancing the state's budget, putting additional pressure on local governments to raise taxes and borrow more funds for operations. Daniels promised to end this practice in his first state of the state address.

Indiana's Religious Right Plans To Stoke California Decision

Not than anyone should be surprised, but Eric Miller and the rest of the usual suspects are using the occasion of the California Supreme Court's decision this week, overturning a state law defining marriage as between one man and one woman and opening the door to the legal recognition of same-sex marriages in that state, to recharge efforts in Indiana to enact a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. Ergo, we're going to make it a big issue in this year's campaign. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider writes:

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Republicans will be working hard to let voters know that the success of the amendment "very much depends on who controls the legislative process."

Turner said he plans to try again in the next session, which begins in January, to get an amendment through the legislative hurdles. In Indiana, a proposed amendment must be passed by two separately elected legislatures and then approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

An amendment banning same-sex marriage passed the Indiana Senate and House in 2005, when Republicans controlled both chambers. But Democrats won control of the House in the 2006 elections. Although several Democrats joined most Republicans in supporting the measure, it never came up for a vote because the amendment died in the House Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee in 2007 and 2008.

"This will be an election-year issue," promised Eric Miller, who has lobbied hard for the amendment as head of Advance America. "We'll be distributing hundreds of thousands of voter guides letting people know how candidates from legislator to governor stand on this issue."

As a Republican, let me announce right now: If this issue is put front and center by House Republicans and others within the Republican Party this year as promised by Bosma, you can bet on a loss of several Republican seats this year, advancing Democratic control over that body. People are fed up with this issue being put ahead of far more pressing issues. It will be particularly harmful to the Republican Party in Marion County. It would also be a big mistake for Gov. Daniels to introduce this as an issue against Jill Long Thompson. Here's what Daniels said on the subject:

Asked Friday about the California decision, Gov. Mitch Daniels said that as a voter, he'd vote for an amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"Whether it's this issue or some other, it's unfortunate when judges rip decision-making out of the hands of the people," Daniels said.

And now, here's what Thompson said on the subject:

The Democratic nominee for governor, former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, Fort Wayne, said she opposes the constitutional amendment and would oppose it if it makes it to the general election ballot, something that couldn't happen until 2012.

"We already have a statute that is very clear that marriage is between one man and one woman," Long Thompson said, adding that she supports civil unions for same-sex couples.

Long Thompson said this may be a campaign issue, noting "people will raise all kinds of issues."

Miller, she said, "works to be very divisive, and he really ought to be putting his effort into what matters, and that is helping families to have opportunities for good-paying jobs."

Thompson hits the nail right on the head. It's the economy, stupid!

Every single legal scholar worth his or her salt in this state knows damn good and well Indiana will never overturn this state's Defense of Marriage Act, which has been on the books for more than a decade and upheld as constitutional in Morrison v. Sadler. A key difference between Indiana and California equal protection jurisprudence is the standard the courts apply in the two states to determine the constitutionality of a statute. California applies a strict scrutiny analysis; Indiana applies a rational basis test. Schneider references my point on this subject in her article today, although she inverted my reasoning, and includes a quote from IU Bloomington law professor Daniel Conkle. Schneider writes:

Republican Gary Welsh, an Indianapolis attorney who runs a blog called Advance Indiana, said Indiana's courts use a very different and much tougher standard to determine the constitutionality of a law than California's courts do. Here, he said, the court is very deferential to the legislature.

Besides, he said, the 2005 Court of Appeals decision found no fundamental right to marriage in Indiana's Constitution -- a completely different finding than in California.

Daniel Conkle, a law professor at Indiana University-Bloomington, said Indiana's courts traditionally have been more cautious than those in California and some other states.

While Indiana's high court "theoretically" could rule in some future case that same-sex marriage is legal in Indiana, Conkle said, "I'd say it's unlikely."

Again, it's California which applies the tougher standard. Indiana's rational basis test, which is highly deferential to legislative enactments, makes the task of declaring a state law unconstitutional much tougher.

The real issue of concern in Indiana should be focused on the breadth of the same-sex marriage amendment proposed by Miller and Turner. A Michigan Supreme Court ruling recently demonstrated the real consequences of the additional language in that second paragraph expanding the reach of the amendment to include "the legal incidents of marriage." In Michigan, that means that domestic partner benefits offered by the state's colleges and local governments are unconstitutional according to their Supreme Court's interpretation of its constitutional amendment. If Indiana enacts SJR-7 as proposed, you can bet that and other issues will be litigated to the detriment of all unmarried couples, straight and gay.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Newsweek Rewrites History

"The Republican Party has been successfully scaring voters since 1968, when Richard Nixon built a Silent Majority out of lower- and middle-class folks frightened or disturbed by hippies and student radicals and blacks rioting in the inner cities." At least, that's how Newsweek's Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe see it in a fawning analysis of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy. The two tell us that Obama is "ready for the onslaught." "Yes, we know what's coming," he told a cheering crowd as he won the North Carolina primary last week. "We've seen it already … the attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences to turn us against each other for pure political gain—to slice and dice this country into Red States and Blue States; blue-collar and white-collar; white, black, brown."

If you needed an example of liberal media bias, you could find no better evidence than this story. To state as fact that the Republican Party has been "scaring voters since 1968" is to reduce the Newsweek duo's role as political analysts to nothing more than the partisan, Democratic cheerleaders they are. Let's not forget the role a southern Democratic governor and leading segregationist of his time played in that 1968 election. Nobody sought to divide the country more in 1968 than Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, a Democrat, who ran as an independent. In 1976, then-Gov. Jimmy Carter played the "values card" as he rallied evangelicals to his side and actually ran to the right of President Gerald Ford, a fact often overlooked by today's political analysts. In 1980, the Democrats ran a campaign of fear against that crazy old war monger Ronald Reagan, who they said was certain to bring about a nuclear Armageddon if he became president. Instead, Reagan's policies help put the old Soviet Union on the "ash heap of history" just as he predicted without firing a single missile and produced the first nuclear arms reduction agreement between the two countries. And wasn't George H.W. Bush's campaign about a "kinder, gentler nation."

Now, think about it. Which party plays on the fear of senior citizens losing their social security benefits? In almost every national election I can recall since I first started participating in politics back in 1976, the Democrats have accused Republican candidates of supporting a cut in social security benefits. It happened in the special election race this very year between Andre Carson and Jon Elrod. TV ads and direct mail pieces told the 7th District voters Jon Elrod supported a risky privatization scheme which would put their own benefits at risk. It was a flat out lie, but Carson, like all Democrats for the past half century, knows the benefit in playing on the fear of senior citizens, a reliable bloc of voters in every election. Class warfare politics has been the trademark of the Democratic Party for decades now. So it is absolutely insulting to Newsweek's shrinking number of subscribers for the magazine's top political analysts to make such an absurd assertion about the Republican Party. With this kind of reporting, Newsweek's credibility will diminish to the point it won't even be around for the next presidential election in 2012 with any luck.

Indiana Lawyer On Marion County's Unbecoming Judicial Election

Thank goodness someone in the news media is talking about the antiquated way we go about electing judges here in Marion County. The Indiana Lawyer editorializes for the second time this year against the slating system for selecting judges in Marion County. The editorial takes comfort in Kim Brown bucking the Democratic slate and winning election as a superior court judge. The editorial reads, in part:

It was fun while it lasted. Indiana’s moment in the national political spotlight is over now that the primary is behind us. But the newspaper is going to continue to shine a spotlight on judicial slating every chance we get.

It seems to have backfired on the Democratic ticket in Marion County. Kimberly J. Brown earned more than 80,000 votes, despite the fact that she wasn’t slated by her party. Many of us in Marion County had a chance to see her billboards and yard signs. We wish the new judge the best of luck when she takes the bench.

Brown was outdone only by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, who netted more than 93,000 votes.

Brown’s name was at the top of the list of candidates on the ballot, as they are listed in alphabetical order. Judge Gerald Zore, at the bottom of the alphabetical list, was narrowly returned to office, in spite of the fact that he’s the county’s presiding judge. Judge Garland Graves, who was slated, did not retain his seat in the Marion Superior courts.

You’ll remember our position on the subject from earlier this year, when it was announced that Judges Kenneth Johnson and Gary Miller weren’t slated by the Republican Party. Pro Tem Judge Angela Dow Davis wasn’t slated by the Democrats.
None of these judges chose to run against the slate. Judges Johnson and Miller told us at the time that the process of “running against the slate” was not what they signed on for when they became judges. Judge Miller, in fact, called the process “unseemly.”

Sadly, Brown's win against the slate had more to do with her placement at the top of a 9-candidate field than the voter's determination to send a message to the Democratic Party against slating judicial candidates. Both parties do it to be sure. In the Republican Party primary this year, you had no choices. There were eight candidates, and all eight will become superior court judges after this November's election unless lightning strikes and a Libertarian candidate wins.

What is of particular note in the Indiana Lawyer editorial is a prominent member of the judiciary who has emerged as a stinging critic of the system. The editorial points to testimony U.S. Magistrate Judge William Lawrence gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing to replace U.S. Court of Appeals Judge John Tender as a district court judge in the Southern District of Indiana. Here's what Lawrence had to say:

We couldn’t help being reminded of that word when we read about Magistrate William Lawrence’s meeting with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. He’s awaiting a vote on his bid to become a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Magistrate Lawrence was asked about his feelings regarding partisan politics, in light of how as a federal judge, he would be asked as to make decisions on executive actions that could be interpreted to have partisan connections, such as executive power. You can read about the committee’s hearing in a story in this issue of Indiana Lawyer.

“I don’t think there is politics …” Magistrate Lawrence told the senator who asked the question. “When you’re a judge … you leave your agenda at the front door. I think part of the responsibilities of a judge is to provide a canvas for attorneys to try their case. A judge’s ideology, preferences, dislikes play no part in the decision-making process a judge must render.”

The senator asked Magistrate Lawrence whether he didn’t have that comfort at the state level.

Magistrate Lawrence explained how Marion County judges are elected on a strictly partisan basis that means running in primaries, attending local political functions, and raising money for the judicial races.

“Clearly, the very people we were asking for money are the very people that are going to be appearing in front of us after the election. I thought that was very distasteful, and I was very vocal about my opposition to that,” he said.

I agree with Judge Miller that the current process is "unseemly." And I agree with Judge Lawrence that it is "distasteful." Lawrence served as a Marion Co. Circuit Court Judge prior to becoming a federal magistrate so he has first-hand knowledge as well. I hope that we can form a bipartisan, coalition here in Marion County to convince the General Assembly to replace our current system in Marion County with a merit selection system, which the state already has in place for supreme court and appellate court positions, as well as Lake and St. Joseph Counties.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Billboards Finally Coming Down

Ten billboards which were illegally erected by Pinnacle Media are finally coming down after years of legal wrangling. This statement from Mayor Ballard's office confirms what others have observed happening:

The first of 10 large outdoor billboards scattered across Marion County is being dismantled by work crews today. The removal of the billboard, located at just off of I-70 near downtown, is being completed at no cost to the city. The remaining nine billboards will be dismantled in the same manner.

California Supreme Court Legalizes Marriage For Same-Sex Couples

A divided California Supreme Court today ruled that a state law limiting the legal recognition of "marriage" to "one man and one woman" violated the right of same-sex couples to equal protection under California's state constitution. Applying a strict scrutiny analysis, the Court's 4-3 majority ruled that, even though the state already had enacted a domestic partner benefits law which provided same- sex couples the material benefits of a marriage, the state law still effectively deprived same-sex couples of their fundamental right to marry under the California constitution.

Indiana observers should note a substantial difference in how California interprets its equal protection clause versus how Indiana courts interpret our constitution's equal protection requirement. Indiana courts do not apply a strict scrutiny standard in deciding equal protection cases as California does. Rather, Indiana courts use a rational basis standard, which is highly deferential to state legislative enactments. Using this standard, Indiana's Court of Appeals in Morrison v. Sadler upheld Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to "one man and one woman." Very rarely have Indiana courts overturned an Indiana statute as violating equal protection using the rational basis test. Further, Morrison v. Sadler found that there was no fundamental right to marry under Indiana's constitution.

Is Jim Schellinger A Poor Loser?

Indiana Democrats rallied in support of their gubernatorial nominee yesterday, but Jill Long Thompson's primary opponent, Jim Schellinger, wasn't one of them. According to the AP, Schellinger was thought to be out of town. Schellinger had already been singled out by WISH-TV's Jim Shella for lacking class in the way he conceded his race to Jill Long Thompson. That comment prompted Schellinger's brother to accuse Shella of being biased in his coverage of his brother's campaign. "It is very easy for you to sit on your throne and casts stones at others," Michael Schellinger writes in a comment on Shella's blog. "Throughout Jim’s campaign you were less than objective, not surprising for a member of the media," he continued. Also, according to Shella, former Obannon top advisor Tom New declined an offer by Thompson to head up her search committee for a LG running mate. And then there's a complaint the United Auto Workers has filed against Thompson's campaign with the Indiana Board of Elections as noted over at Frugal Hoosiers. The UAW dumped $445,000 into Schellinger's campaign.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obamamessiah, For Real!

I've now seen it all. In an appeal to the very people Sen. Barack Obama described only weeks ago as "bitter" people "clinging to their guns and their religion", Obama is now using his supposed calling by the Lord Jesus Christ to win over value voters in Kentucky. Standing in the pulpit with that "old rugged cross" hanging right up there with the church organ pipes, Obama tells Kentuckians, "I won't be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's work." The color brochure even brags up his membership in the Trinity Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side after spending the last several weeks trying to convince us he did not share the views of his controversial pastor there, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and that his minister of 20 years had never been his spiritual advisor. The brochure reads:

After graduating from Columbia University, Barack Obama moved to Chicago's South Side to work as a community organizer in neighborhoods devastated by the closing of local steel mills.

Obama forged a profound connection with the people of these communities. At their encouragement, he visited a local church one Sunday. That day Obama felt a beckoning of the spirit and accepted Jesus Christ.

After Columbia University? What happened to Harvard Law School? Through Rev. Wright he accepted Jesus Christ? I thought he wasn't your spiritual advisor? Does the word "hypocrisy" come to mind?

This is bit more than this cynic can take. Last December, the news media and liberals excoriated Gov. Mike Huckabee for the so-called "floating cross" image in a Christmas video message last December, which his presidential campaign was accused of deliberately creating through the placement of book shelves behind Huckabee as he spoke. Just for the record, it really was a bookshelf behind Huckabee and not a coded message for Christians according to Huckabee. There's no coded message in Obama's brochure at all. That's a cross behind him, and he professes to be doing the "work of the Lord" by running for president. This guy really does think he's the Messiah. Can you imagine the outcry from the Left if John McCain made a similarly outrageous comment? Indeed, President Bush has been frequently criticized by the Left for invoking his Christian beliefs in his public speeches.

Now, I'm not the least bit concerned that Obama is some religious zealot we should all fear. Quite the opposite. His former minister, Rev. Wright Wright, has Obama pegged. He's just another politician who will say and do whatever it takes to get elected. I don't believe for one moment Obama joined Trinity Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side because he found the Lord Jesus Christ. Obama had big political ambitions and how better to advance his network of potential supporters than by joining one of the most thriving and fastest growing churches on the South Side. Obama had very little in common with the people of that church when he first joined it. They were a means to an end and nothing more. He needed to earn street credibility in the black community if he wanted to pursue his political career. He couldn't accomplish that without membership in a prominent black church.

What I do find highly offensive as a Christian, however, is Obama's audacity to suggest that his presidential campaign is in furtherance of work for the Lord. Was he doing the Lord's work when he fought in the Illinois legislature against the enactment of a law outlawing even late-term abortions? Don't insult our intelligence by confusing your political ambitions, Sen. Obama. with the "Lord's work." Every single one of Obama's political campaigns have been about Obama. It is almost frightening to watch the cult-like appeal he cultivates with his supporters. For him to wrap his supposed Christian faith into that appeal is simply beyond the pale. It's a fraud just like his claim as an agent of change. He isn't about change. He's a typical Chicago politician whose meteoric rise came with the help of corrupt pols and political fixers like Sen. Emil Jones, Mayor Richard Daley, Governor Rod Blagojevich and Tony Rezko. I had to laugh when I read the closing argument Rezko's attorney made this week in his political corruption trial. Joe Duffy quipped that Rezko had probably raised more money for Obama than he had raised for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Ergo, his client couldnt' have had any more corrupt influence on the governor than he had on Obama.

Will the liberals or any of Obama's supporters complain about his blatant religious pandering to value voters in Kentucky? Will the media take him to task for it? Hell no. Duplicity and hypocrisy are terms that apply only to Obama's opponents. Those are what they call in this campaign the "Obama Rules."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Clinton Stomps Obama In West Virginia

A Democratic presidential candidate hasn't won the presidency in the past century without carrying the state of West Virginia. Tonight, Sen. Hillary Clinton is trouncing the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, by a better than two-to-one margin in the West Virginia primary. Despite the news media writing off her candidacy, Clinton is winning support from almost two-thirds of the nearly 350,000 voters who came out to vote today, which could give her a net plurality tonight of 120,000 votes. Obama is receiving just 28% of the vote. Even John Edwards, whose name still appeared on the ballot here, managed to grab about 6% of the vote. Only 36% of the people who voted for Clinton tonight said they would vote for Obama in the general election according to exit polls. More than a third of Clinton voters said they would support McCain in the general election.

By the time the votes are all counted tonight, Sen. Hillary Clinton will once again wipe out the popular vote lead Obama now holds when you add up all the votes to date, including Michigan and Florida. Next week, Clinton could rack up a similar-sized win in Kentucky, while Obama is favored in Oregon. Nonetheless, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann derisively referred to Clinton voters tonight as "delirious" and others continued to join the chorus calling for Clinton to end the race. Listening to Clinton's victory speech tonight, it sounded like she has every intention of sticking out the race until the final primary on June 2 in Puerto Rico, where she is expected to win by a large percentage.

There is also some very bad news for Republican congressional hopes this fall tonight. For the third time this year, Democrats have won an overwhelmingly Republican district in a special election. This time, it's a seat in Mississippi. Republicans earlier lost seats in Louisiana and Illinois which have been safe Republican seats for years. Based on the results thus far, I think it is safe to assume both Rep. Steve Buyer and Rep. Mark Souder here in Indiana are extremely vulnerable this fall. They both face well-funded and credible opponents in Nels Ackerson and Mike Montagano, respectively.

Sex Offender Law Unconstitutional As Retroactively Applied

An Indiana law barring certain registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school, youth center or park is an unconstitutional ex post facto law as applied to an offender who had purchased his home prior to the enactment of the law according to an Indiana Court of Appeals decision, State v. Pollard. In this particular case, a defendant convicted of a sex offense against a child in 1997 was charged with a Class D felony for residing within 1,000 feet of a school in January, 2007 after the enactment of Indiana's version of Megan's Law, which took effect on July 1, 2006. The defendant had resided in the same home for nearly 20 years. The trial court dismissed the charge as a violation of the defendant's protection against the enactment of an ex post facto law.

As the Court of Appeals explained, the federal and state constitutional protection against ex post facto laws provides that "a law may not be enacted if it imposes a punishment for an act that was not punishable at the time it was committed or imposes additional punishment beyond the measure prescribed at the time." The purpose of the constitutional protection is to ensure "the right to fair warning of that conduct which will give rise to criminal penalties." The State argued that the defendant was not being punished for conduct which occurred prior to the enactment of the residency restriction, and that the law was civil in nature. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the statute was indeed a criminal statute because it created a new criminal offense. As applied, the Court found it unmistakable that the statute had the effect of increasing the penalty for the defendant's past criminal conduct by depriving him of an important property right which he had acquired prior to his criminal conviction.

Hat tip to Indiana Law Blog.