Sunday, June 30, 2013

American-Backed Syrian Rebels Behead Catholic Priest

father mourad The Vatican has confirmed that Syrian rebels last week beheaded a Syrian Catholic priest, Francois Murad, because he was accused of collaborating with the Assad regime. The rebels posted a graphic video of Murad's beheading online. The rebels can be heard cheering and yelling Allahu Akbar as Murad's head is viciously cut off using a knife, the same words spoken by Maj. Nidal Hasan when he went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, killing 19 of his fellow Army soldiers.

These are the same rebels who the U.S. government has been training and funneling arms and aid for nearly two years. The Obama administration fabricated claims that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on the Syrian people as an excuse for more direct support for the civil war in Syria on the side of the rebels. The UN claims it was the American-backed rebels who used chemical weapons. The United States first introduced chemical weapons to the region when it gave them to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime to use in its war against Iran during the 1980s.

Hoosiers should take note of the fact that both of their senators, Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly, support military aid to these terrorists in Syria, many of whom have links to Al Qaeda. You should ask them how they justify fighting the government's war on terrorism by arming and funding the very enemy from whom they profess to be protecting us. Perhaps we wouldn't have to suffer through their insulting and pathetic defense of the unconstitutional spying on all Americans by the NSA if they and other members of Congress stop funding the war on terrorism, which has quite clearly been manufactured for the sole purpose of serving the selfish and greedy ends of the military-industrial complex.

Joe Hogsett Prosecuting Men Involved In International Child Pedophile Ring

Police hold concerns for missing Qld woman (clone 1372491882)
Peter Truong (left) and Mark Newton (right) with sexually exploited son they adopted
It's unclear why this case is being handled by U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett in the Southern District of Indiana, but this past week Hogsett's office announced sentencing of 42-year old Mark J. Newton for his role in purchasing a young boy from a Russian surrogate mother and then exploiting him as part of an international child pedophile ring known as Boy Lovers. Judge Sarah Evans Barker sentenced Newton to 40 years in prison, who along with his gay lover Peter Truong, had sexually exploited the boy since he was two years of age.

These vile creatures traveled throughout the world with their young boy and allowed him to be filmed while being sexually abused by other child pedophiles. Judge Barker said Newton deserved a tougher sentence, but she didn't want to subject jurors to the horrifying facts of the case. Initially, the AP said it wouldn't release the men's name in order to protect the identity of the boy.
"This is not a case that lends itself to easy understanding," Barker said during the hearing.
In a quaking voice, the shackled man stood before Barker and apologized, saying "being a father was an honor and a privilege that amounted to the best six years of my life."
"I'm deeply sorry," he added. "And I regret any harm I caused to my son or anyone else."
"Words don't help," Barker responded. "What can be said? What can be done to erase some of the horror of this?"
The judge noted that the man, who has dual U.S.-Australian citizenship, and his Australian domestic partner went to great lengths to "acquire" an infant from a mother in an unspecified foreign country and brainwashed him into thinking the abuse he endured was normal.
Federal prosecutor Steve DeBrota said the crimes occurred in Australia, the U.S, France and Germany. Two other boys were also abused, prosecutors said, though no details were released.
DeBrota said evidence showed at least eight men had sexually abused the boy, including one in Illinois and one in Florida, though other details weren't released.
The man also was ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution to the boy; the man's partner also has been convicted, according to prosecutors, but has not yet been sentenced.
Monica Foster, chief public defender for the Southern Indiana U.S. District, declined comment following the hearing.
Foreign news reports provide more information on the global pedophile ring than U.S. media. The boy's Russian mother sold him to a member of Boy Lovers, back in 2000 for $8,000. Newton adopted the boy with his Australian domestic partner, Peter Truong. News reports indicate that the boy grew up believing that sexual exploitation and abuse was a part of normal life. Police in Queensland unraveled the case when they arrested another child pedophile, who had photos of the boy and his parents on his computer. Examining Internet chat discussions, police in Australia were able to determine that Newton and Truong were the boy's parents. The two left Australia bound for the US in October, 2011 before police could apprehend them. Queensland police alerted U.S. authorities, who raided the men's Los Angeles home in February of last year and placed the young boy in the care of child protective services.

Initially, Newton and Truong insisted they were being targeted by authorities because they were homosexuals. US Postal service inspectors were investigating the Boy Lovers network, and images and video of the boy turned up in that investigation. The two had meticulously encrypted information on their computer hard drives, but Truong, who is still awaiting sentencing, eventually began cooperating with police and provided them password information to access the incriminating evidence.

There is still no explanation why their cases are being prosecuted in Indianapolis by Hogsett's office. According to news reports, two other men, American residents John R Powell, 41, a Florida-based lawyer, and Jason Bettuo, a 36-year-old Michigan tennis coach, have also been charged. According to Hogsett,  Newton and Truong travelled to San Francisco to meet with Powell and Bettuo who filmed themselves having sex with the boy. Powell had also travelled to the couple's home in Australia earlier to do the same.

"Personally.. I think this is probably the worst (pedophile) rings.. if not the worst ring I've ever heard of,’’ USPIS Investigator Brian Bone said. “For more than one year and across three continents, these men submitted this young child to some of the most heinous acts of exploitation this child has ever seen,’’ Mr Hogsett said after the court hearing.

Mark and Peter have claimed that Mark is the biological father of the boy born to the Russian mother, who acted as a surrogate. They claim the mother turned the child over to them when he was five years old; however, prosecutors found evidence the two had exploited him as early as age two. It is unclear where the two men found the money to live a lifestyle that allowed them to travel the world. “There was no real money trail that indicates they are in a form of employment that would sustain the lifestyle they’ve had and you can draw your own conclusion with respect to the amount of travel they’ve done and where they’ve been and the purpose of that travel,” Insp Rouse said.

It is interesting that a multi-millionaire Indianapolis businessman with ties to Indiana's top Democrats, Joe Miller, committed suicide in August, 2010. Various theories have circulated about the reason for his decision to abruptly end his life. Miller's Great Lakes Products illegally marketed and sold poppers around the world, a recreational drug inhalant popular in the gay community. There were some indications that his business had been raided by the feds. There are conflicting reports on the reason for the raid, which has never been acknowledged by any law enforcement agency. One friend says Miller feared he was about to be prosecuted as a pedophile, while others think his popper business was under investigation. A source close to Miller claimed he sold his popper business shortly before killing himself. Before his death, Miller split his time between a home in downtown Indianapolis and a second home in Los Angeles. Sources claim Miller, who enjoyed frequent international travel, preyed on young boys in third world countries. The circumstances surrounding Miller's illicit activities and death were completely covered up by local news media in Indianapolis.

Miller was a known pedophile who was arrested back in the 1970s for having sex with two young Johnson Co. boys while he was employed as a grand jury bailiff by former Marion Co. Prosecutor James Kelley, who Miller claimed to police had hired and used him as his personal Greek slave. Miller, who was in his 20s at the time, claimed that he traveled around the country and to Canada with Kelley on sex-filled trips. In his book, "Deadline: Indianapolis," former Indianapolis Star reporter Dick Cady said Miller was known as a chicken hawk because of his taste for young boys.

The pedophile charges against Miller were dropped after the boys' parents refused to let them cooperate in the case. Miller's business partner, a former Eli Lilly employee who provided the recipe and process for manufacturing the poppers sold by Miller's business, at the time had also been linked to a male prostitution service that exploited runaway gay youths, which went by the name Rent-A-Man.

Kelley did not seek re-election as prosecutor in 1978 after the Indianapolis Star disclosed that he had been present at a party in Woodruff Place where three gay men who worked at an Indianapolis gay bar, Deja Vu, were later found shot to death that same night in a field up in Hamilton County. Kelley had asked a roommate of one of the men to lie to police about his presence at the party on the fateful night. At the time of the killings, Miller's poppers were being manufactured in a back room at the Deja Vu night club. It is believed that authorities agreed not to press further investigation of Kelley after Miller had provided damaging information about his relationship with him to police. Kelley agreed not to seek re-election and moved to Washington, D.C. after leaving office where he worked as an attorney for the federal government.

Prominent members of the Indianapolis community, including former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and socialite Bren Simon, attended a memorial service held in honor of Miller's life at which former Gov. Joe Kernan delivered a eulogy. Kernan told of travelling with Miller to Vietnam where Kernan had once been held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In September, 2009, Indiana Stonewall Democrats honored Miller at a reception held at the home of former Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes, who now runs the Indianapolis library. Joe Hogsett, a friend of Miller, attended the reception along with a number of other prominent local Democrats.

It's interesting that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering the end to the adoption of Russian children by American citizens. If this sort of thing is happening to adopted children, you can't blame him for not wanting Russian children adopted by American citizens.

The FBI's Deal With The Devil

Deal with the DevilThe FBI takes another big hit on its credibility with Peter Lance's new book, "Deal With The Devil," which reveals the truth about the FBI's criminal relationship with mob informant Gregory Scarpa, Sr., who Lance says was allowed to murder at least 26 people while working as a paid informant for the FBI. Scarpa was nicknamed "The Grim Reaper" and "The Killing Machine" the Daily Mail reports on Lance's new book. He signed his letters "KM" and stopped counting the number of people he had killed after it reach 50. The most bloody period of his career happened between 1980 and 1992 when he was paid millions as a paid informant by the FBI.

According to Lance's new book, Scarpa is revealed as the inspiration for "scenarios and language used by Mario Puzo in his Godfather trilogy. Famed FBI informant Joe Valachi, who testified before Congress about the mafia's inner workings, was actually under Scarpa's control according to Lance. The revelations in his new book are from previously sealed records he obtained under freedom of information requests. Lance found that Scarpa wasn't just supplying intelligence. He was "acting with the apparent consent of top FBI officials to commit crimes and induce other members of the Mafia to break the law." Lance doesn't believe the FBI's Faustian bargain with Scarpa is defensible. He notes that Lance spent just 30 days in jail for attempting to bribe to police officers during a 42-year violent crime spree.

In a particular shocking revelation, Lance reveals how the FBI used Scarpa to perform rendition on a Klansman he kidnapped and tortured to crack the 1964 unsolved murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi during the civil rights movement, portrayed quite differently in the movie, "Mississippi Burning." According to Lance, Scarpa first put a gun to the Klansman's head that he had kidnapped as FBI agents watched. When the Klansman lied to Scarpa, he then put the gun's barrel in his mouth. As he continued to lie, Scarpa took out a straight razer, unzipped the Klansman's pants and threatened to emasculate him. When the witness finally cracked and revealed how the civil rights workers were killed and where they could be found, Scarpa returned to New York with an envelope of cash an inch thick that he used to take his mistress on a vacation to Miami.

Scarpa died from HIV/AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion. He sued the hospital where he contracted the disease and recovered $300,000. Near the end of his life, he pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, but he died in a medical center for federal prisoners in Minnesota before he began serving his prison sentence.

Gary Lawmaker Questions Ball State's Oversight Of Charter Schools

Ball State University receives about $3 million annually as an administrative fee to oversee the 41 charter schools throughout the state of Indiana it sponsors. State Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) questions whether the university uses the administrative fee it collects to support those charter schools because of the failure of a number of them. The Office of Charter Schools notified 7 of the charter schools administered by Ball State earlier this year that their charters would not be renewed due to poor performance according to the Northwest Indiana Times' Carmen McCollum, three of which are in Lake County.
Indiana Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, questions whether Ball State has the money to support other university programs outside the charters.
"They make millions of dollars," he said. "They say all of the money goes toward the administration of those charter schools. I believe they are subsidizing something else within Ball State University. They claim it's about the children, but some of those charter schools have not been successful. They have been around for years and should have been closed."
Ball State University spokeswoman Joan Todd said the university gets no financial benefit from authorizing charter schools.
"The Office of Charter Schools does reimburse Ball State for financial, legal support services, office space and other miscellaneous items connected with running an enterprise," she said . . .  
Rep. Smith said he wants to see the charter schools succeed because they are responsible for educating many African-American children.
"Charter schools have been touted as the greatest thing since apple pie," Smith said. "But with the exception of Thea Bowman in Gary, they haven't all been successful.
"And in 10 years, we should have seen success. I know that urban schools are not up to par, but charters were supposed to be the cure-all. We continue to experiment and split the dollars, which causes urban schools to struggle even more."
Ball State defends its charter school oversight, noting it derives no financial benefit from sponsoring charter schools. "The Office of Charter Schools does reimburse Ball State for financial, legal support services, office space and other miscellaneous items connected with running an enterprise," Joan Todd said. Ball State spends over $720,000 for salaries and benefits for the staff that oversees the charter schools.

What I found interesting about McCollum's report is the size of Ball State's charter schools staff. The Office of Charter Schools at Ball State has a staff of seven full-time employees, plus three graduate assistants with an annual budget of $2.9 million, to oversee 41 schools. Indianapolis' Office of Education Innovation, which sponsors 19 schools, employs nine full-time employees with less than half the number of schools to oversee with an annual budget of about $2 million.

Mayor Greg Ballard refuses to collect the administrative fee it costs to oversee the City's charter school program, the costs of which have skyrocketed over the past several years. The cost of administering the Office of Education Innovation come at the expense of basic city services, including public safety. Ballard has fought council efforts to force him to collect the administrative fee authorized by state law, which is 3% of the state funding the charter schools receive.
The City is trying to plug what it describes as a $50 million budget deficit. Ballard wants to raise property taxes on most homeowners by eliminating the homestead property tax credit to help plug that deficit.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Feds Seeking Seizure Of Jesse Jackson, Jr. Homes

Federal prosecutors in Chicago have asked a federal judge to allow the government to seize two homes owned by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife, Sandi, in Chicago and Washington, D.C. to help recover about $750,000 Jackson looted from his campaign account and another $600,000 his wife failed to report as income to the IRS. Prosecutors also are laying claim to an IRA account worth $80,000 held by Jackson.

The proposed seizure order would not require the Jacksons to turn the homes over to the government, but if they sell either home, a lien would be held on any equity interest they have in the homes to secure repayment of the judgment entered against them in their criminal cases. Jackson agreed as part of his plea deal, according to the Chicago Tribune, to turn over luxury items he purchased worth more than $60,000 during his crime spree, including furs, cashmere and celebrity memorabilia. The Tribune says he has so far turned over property items worth about $21,000.

FBI Uncovered Plot To Assassinate Occupy Leaders In Houston Using Snipers, Did Nothing To Prevent It

WhoWhatWhy has unearthed an internal FBI document that revealed the agency learned of a plot from a source within its own agency to assassinate leaders of the Occupy Movement who were planning protests in Houston, Texas using highly-trained snipers. Even worse, it appears the assassination plot was being planned by a government agency or private security firm with close ties to a government agency. What did the FBI do to prevent the assassinations from happening? Nothing. WhoWhatWhy's Dave Lindorff has the shocking allegation.
Would you be shocked to learn that the FBI apparently knew that some organization, perhaps even a law enforcement agency or private security outfit, had contingency plans to assassinate peaceful protesters in a major American city — and did nothing to intervene?
Would you be surprised to learn that this intelligence comes not from a shadowy whistle-blower but from the FBI itself – specifically, from a document obtained from Houston FBI office last December, as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Washington, DC-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund?
To repeat: this comes from the FBI itself. The question, then, is: What did the FBI do about it?  
But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what the document obtained from the Houston FBI, said: 
 An identified [DELETED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors (sic) in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified [DELETED] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [DELETED] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles. (Note: protests continued throughout the weekend with approximately 6000 persons in NYC. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests have spread to about half of all states in the US, over a dozen European and Asian cities, including protests in Cleveland (10/6-8/11) at Willard Park which was initially attended by hundreds of protesters.)
Lindorff's report indicated that Houston police claim they were never warned by the local FBI office of the assassination plot. Lindorff notes that law enforcement agencies in Texas have received sniper training from Craft International, the shadowy mercenary-for-hire organization that is based in Dallas, Texas. Craft was founded by the celebrated Army sniper Chris Kyle, who was shot and killed at a firing range last year by a fellow Army veteran. Craft has a contract funded by the Department of Homeland Security to provide training to law enforcement throughout the country. Last year, a state border patrol agent in Texas trained by Craft fired from a helicopter at a moving truck carrying nine illegal immigrants, causing the vehicle to crash, killing two and wounding a third.

Craft International employees were spotted working at the Boston Marathon during the bombing the government claims killed three persons and wounded more than one hundred others. Lindorff was unable to obtain a comment from the company on their work training Texas law enforcement agencies.

One of the Occupy Movement leaders, Remington Alessi, who may have been one of the targets of the assassination plot, told Lindorff that he was not surprised to learn of the plot. "I wish I could say I’m surprised that this was seriously discussed, but remember, this is the same federal government that murdered (Black Panther Party leader) Fred Hampton," Alessi said. "We have a government that traditionally murders people who are threats. I guess being a target is sort of an honor." Paul Kennedy, a Houston area attorney who represented several of the Occupy Movement protesters arrested during the protests, had not heard of the plot. “If it had been some right-wing group plotting such an action, something would have been done," Kennedy said. "But if it is something law enforcement was planning, then nothing would have been done. It might seem hard to believe that a law enforcement agency would do such a thing, but I wouldn’t put it past them."

What do you want to bet that the FBI and media would have blamed right-wing extremists had the plot actually been carried to fruition?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Question About IPS Superintendent Finalists

Indianapolis Public Schools announced the three finalists it has chosen to consider for a superintendent to replace outgoing Supt. Eugene White. The three finalists are all from out-of-state and all are black males. Assuming the school board conducted a truly open nationwide search to fill the position, is it even conceivable to believe that an impartial selection process would yield an all-male, all-black group of finalists? Can you imagine the reaction in the minority community if all the finalists were white males? 

Black radio talk show host Amos Brown is raising red flags about one of the finalists, Thomas Darden, the executive director of New York Schools for ASPIRA Inc., a program that runs leadership development programs aimed at Latino youth. According to the IBJ, Darden was a deputy superintendent of the Philadelphia public schools system, where he was in charge of charter schools. Brown tweets, "Questions about business ethics of companies Thomas Darden invested in needs to be vetted by IPS quickly & Darden must address publicly." The other two finalists are Dr. Lewis Ferebee, chief of staff of Durham, North Carolina public schools, and Millard House, COO of Charlotte/Mecklenberg public schools in North Carolina.

Chief Justice John Roberts' Cousin Can Now Marry In California Thanks To His Ruling In Proposition 8 Case

It has emerged that Chief Justice John Roberts' first cousin, Jean Podrasky, is an openly gay person who can now marry her same-sex partner in California thanks to a ruling authored by Roberts in Hollingsworth v. Perry, which had the effect of reinstating a California Supreme Court ruling striking down California's ban on gay marriage known as Proposition 8 by refusing to decide its merits on jurisdiction grounds.

Podrasky told Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler that she asked the Chief Justice, who is aware of her sexual orientation, for tickets to hear oral arguments in the case this past March, and he agreed to give them to her. “I am so excited. I am absolutely overwhelmed,” Podrasky told [Beutler] in a phone interview Wednesday. “I can now get married. I feel like my partner and I have been in limbo for several years. We’ve been engaged for a couple years, but now we can start planning.”

“I was stunned he kind of went one way for us on one of the ruling, and the other way on the DOMA ruling,” she said. “I want to say I’m from a very, very big family — I have 12 cousins on both sides of the family,” she says. By that measure, even though he has immense power as Chief Justice, Roberts is just on the other side of a family disagreement. “I want to say that quite a bit of my family on that side are quite conservative and pretty Catholic. We have differences of opinions on many many things, but we are still family.”

Podrasky, who plans to wed her partner next spring, is unsure whether she will invite Roberts to her wedding. “I actually don’t know,” she told me. “I’m certainly inviting family [but] we don’t have our guests lists yet.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

AILA's Quick Take On Immigration Implications Of Today's DOMA Decision For Same-Sex Couples

AILA President Laura Lichter explains how today's landmark Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor opens up immediately a pathway for same-sex couples to receive the same immigration benefits currently enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. As long as a same-sex couple has entered into a lawful marriage in a jurisdiction which legally recognizes their marriage, a U.S. citizen will be able to sponsor his or her same-sex spouse for immigration benefits as a result of today's ruling.

Lichter believes today's ruling is fortuitous given the current immigration reform legislation making its way through Congress. I'm not sure I agree with her. One of the principal sponsors of that legislation, Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio (R), has steadfastly opposed any inclusion of benefits for same-sex couples in his legislation. After today's ruling, Rubio reaffirmed his stance. “I believe the Supreme Court made a serious mistake today when it overstepped its important, but limited role,” Rubio said. "I believe that marriage is a unique historical institution best defined as a union between one man and one woman."

A strong argument can be made that the benefits included in the legislation for persons in the country illegally and their family members will have to be extended equally to same-sex partners in light of today's ruling in order to withstand a legal challenge. Is that a bridge too far for Rubio and other conservatives who currently back the legislation? It will be interesting to see how that debate plays out going forward. The Supreme Court appears to have taken the choice out of the hands of Congress to decide how the current laws on the books for legal immigration are applied. Congress is under no obligation to extend any legal immigration benefits to persons who entered the country illegally, but if it chooses to do so as this legislation proposes to do for more than ten million undocumented aliens, it will need to proceed in a non-discriminatory fashion.

Unbelievable: Indiana Legislative Leaders To Continue Fight Against Gay Marriage

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long may both be attorneys by profession, but they left their ability to interpret constitutional law, at least as it respects the rights of gays, somewhere in their dark, distant past. Despite today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and knocking down with it the wall of protection afforded only to same-sex couples by more than one thousand federal laws, Bosma and Long have declared that the fight against the recognition of rights for same-sex couples in Indiana must go on. From the Journal-Gazette's Niki Kelly:
"With today's decision, I am confident the matter will come before the General Assembly and ultimately be placed on a referenda ballot for voter consideration," said GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma. "As they have in 30 other states, Hoosiers should have the right to speak on this issue." . . .
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he will ask the Senate's legal staff, as well as other legal experts, to conduct a thorough analysis of the case with a goal of providing guidance for the General Assembly as we contemplate a constitutional amendment on the definition of marriage in 2014.
"That being said, I fully anticipate that both the Senate and House will be voting on a marriage amendment next session," he said.
The proposed amendment reads, "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
The second sentence would ban future legislators from enacting civil unions in the future, and might affect a host of other laws . . .
Public sentiment has shifted dramatically since Republicans started the process – then claiming it was the most critical issue on the table.
Indiana Equality Action President Chris Paulsen said he hopes lawmakers will forsake the effort.
"It runs counter to our core Hoosier values and creates a host of unintended legal consequences," he said. "Whatever the General Assembly decides, we will be prepared either to support their decision to abandon (House Joint Resolution 6) or to fight the amendment in every community across our state. Hoosiers value kindness and love, and we all deserve to live in a state that doesn't write inequality into its Constitution."
Now that same-sex married couples in Indiana will enjoy the same rights under federal law as all opposite-sex couples presently enjoy, any continued move by Indiana lawmakers to throw up roadblocks to rights afforded under state law to same-sex couples are totally misdirected and self-defeating. In a manner of speaking, we're biting off our nose to spite our face. Here's a question for Bosma and Long. Since Indiana's same-sex married couples will now be able to file joint income tax returns for federal tax purposes, how are they going to file their tax returns for state purposes since the state income tax piggybacks on the federal income tax?

This AP story throws up the conundrum that will be faced by states which choose to continue discriminating against same-sex couples after today's ruling:
The outcome is clear for people who were married and live in states that allow same-sex marriage. They now are eligible for federal benefits.
The picture is more complicated for same-sex couples who traveled to another state to get married, or who have moved from a gay marriage state since being wed.
Their eligibility depends on the benefits they are seeking. For instance, immigration law focuses on where people were married, not where they live. But eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits basically depends on where a couple is living when a spouse dies.
I don't believe the IRS will allow same-sex couples in states that recognize same-sex marriages to be treated differently under federal law than same-sex couples who were legally married in a state that allows same-sex marriages but resides in a state that bars their recognition. That in itself will open up the floodgates for equal protection claims. I'm betting the Obama administration already has drafted up new regulations just waiting to be rolled out on this subject interpreting a whole host of federal laws.

UPDATE: Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller had this to say in the amicus brief his office filed with the Supreme Court defending the federal DOMA statute before today's ruling:
In his brief filed before the Supreme Court's oral argument on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Zoeller argued that state bans on gay marriage would be jeopardized if the court strikes down DOMA.
"It requires no great leap of logic to conclude that a judicial rejection of DOMA would erode constitutional support for similar state laws," Zoeller wrote in the brief.
Zoeller explained in a release issued to the media this afternoon: "He had been 'duty bound to defend the authority of our state legislature and their decisions.'"

Breaking: Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense Of Marriage Act, Punts On Deciding Validity Of Proposition 8 Banning Gay Marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court has just issued a 5-4 opinion striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected under the Fifth Amendment. Justice Anthony Kennedy is writing for the majority. "The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others."

Chief Justice John Roberts writes the dissenting opinion, which concluded there was no jurisdiction to hear the case. "The Court does not have before it, and the logic of its opinion does not decide, the distinct question whether the States . . . may continue to utilize the traditional definition of marriage," Roberts writes.

In the separately and equally anticipated case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, which took up the question of the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 barring gay marriages, the Supreme Court held that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, allowing the law to stand. In a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice Roberts, the court held: "We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here." That means the state court ruling striking down the state law stands and gay marriages are once again legal in the country's largest state.

Nonetheless, by its holding in U.S. v. Windsor, striking down DOMA, the Court essentially swept away a major impediment to gay marriage. If the states that don't recognize gay marriage are compelled to recognize gay marriages entered into in states where such marriages are deemed legal, the practical effect is to legalize gay marriages nationwide. As SCOTUS blog notes, "What this means, in plain terms, is that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law-- with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits." Here's how Reuters describes the ruling's impact:
The ruling, on a 5-4 vote, means that legally married gay men and women are entitled to claim the same federal benefits that are available to opposite-sex married couples.
The court was due to decide within minutes a second case concerning a California law that bans same-sex marriage in the state.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.
"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity," Kennedy wrote . . .
By striking down Section 3 of the law, the court clears the way to more than 1,100 federal benefits, rights and burdens linked to marriage status.
As a result of Wednesday's ruling, Edith Windsor of New York, who was married to a woman and sued the government to get the federal estate tax deduction available to heterosexuals when their spouses die, will be able to claim a $363,000 tax refund.
I would go one step further. Immigration benefits for same-sex couples will likely be accorded the same treatment as opposite-sex couples with today's decision in Windsor.

This should put an end to pointless efforts to add Indiana's Defense of Marriage Law to the state's constitution.

UPDATE: Just briefly to recap the facts of the plaintiff in the Windsor case. Edit Windsor married Thea Spyer in Ontario, Canada where same-sex marriages were recognized in 2007. Spyer died in 2009, leaving her entire estate to Windsor. When Windsor sought to obtain an exemption of the estate for inheritance tax purposes under the Internal Revenue Code as Spyer's spouse, she was denied the exemption and compelled to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes. Windsor brought suit, seeking a refund of the estate taxes she paid, which the IRS denied and Windsor appealed. The district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Windsor. The Justice Department refused to defend DOMA, arguing it was unconstitutional. Instead, a group of congressman stepped in to defend the law in the government's absence. By affirming the lower court rulings today, the IRS will be required to refund Windsor the money she paid in federal estate taxes.

While Justice Kennedy's majority opinion does not pass on the constitutionality of nearly identical state DOMA laws like Indiana's, the opinion should leave little doubt where the court will come down. See these comments made by Chief Justice Roberts in his dissenting opinion.
We may in the future have to resolve challenges to state marriage definitions affecting same-sex couples. That issue, however, is not before us in this case, and we hold today that we lack jurisdiction to consider it in the particular context of Hollingsworth v. Perry, ante, p. ___. I write only to highlight the limits of the majority’s holding and reasoning today, lest its opinion be taken to resolve not only a question that I believe is not properly before us—DOMA’s constitutionality—but also a question that all agree, and the Court explicitly acknowledges, is not at issue.

Star Reports On Bloody Start To Summer, It's Time To Talk About Guns And Tax Increases

The Star's John Tuohy has a story following the deadly 24-hour period that left eight people shot or dead, echoing my report yesterday about the city being on track to record the highest number of homicides since 2006.
Eight street outreach workers rushed to a fatal shooting Monday night on the Indianapolis Northeastside and found only roiling vindictiveness.
As paramedics attended to the two victims and police put up crime tape, members of the Ten Point Coalition hustled to settle down a large, angry crowd.
“There were 100 people out there, and they were all screaming about revenge,” the Rev. Charles Harrison, coalition president, said Tuesday. “They were a mob. We had to hold them back from rushing onto the crime scene.” . . .
So far this year, 71 people have been killed in Marion County. If that rate continues, the number of dead could reach 150 by the end of the year. That would be the most homicides since 151 people were slain in 2006 and not far from the record number of homicides in Marion County — 162 — in 1998.
It's a Gannett paper that is pushing the New World Order agenda to strip us of our Second Amendment rights so there's the gratuitous push for banning guns.
“The short-term increases are clearly alarming,” said Thomas Stucky, an associate professor at IUPUI’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “All too frequently recently, the news is about another person getting shot.” . . .
“If you could substitute guns with knives and clubs the homicide rate would be almost zero,” said Stucky, of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.
And Matt Tully will be Matt Tully. The rising homicide rate is all your fault because you aren't paying high enough taxes.
Listen, in this city we don’t question whether we will do what it takes to keep our big-league sports teams. We decided long ago that there was wisdom in investing in a strong Downtown. Our leaders have announced that they are willing to spend heavily to improve mass transit. Time and again we have said yes to our dreams and goals and then gotten to work to make them happen . . .
On public safety, even in these awful budget times, the mayor needs to acknowledge the need for a fully staffed police department and then charge his financial whizzes with the task of figuring out how to do it. Don’t tell me it can’t be done. This city found a way to secure roughly half-a-billion dollars for roads and sidewalks. It found a way to build Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s come up with a plan to invest heavily in transit. It has repeatedly poured money into Downtown.
Finding efficiencies will help. But that likely won’t be enough; in the end the city will have to figure out a way to fund the salaries of new officers. Not just a few, but dozens. That might involve income taxes, new fees or rethinking how the city spends the tens of millions left in the infrastructure fund. It won’t be easy, but saying no to a fully staffed police department is not an option. Just say yes . . .
And then show the need. Sure, voters don’t like tax increases, and many politicians have paid a deep price for proposing them. But recent referendum elections over education funding have made clear that when leaders show the need for more money, and when their plan is not based on a whim but on solid evidence, voters generally accept the idea. You’ll have trouble finding anyone in Marion County who doesn’t think crime is a major issue, so making this case shouldn’t be too difficult. But even if it is difficult, it’s the right thing to do.
It's a column that will get Tully another pat on the back by the downtown mafia and a few more invitations to break bread and spoon feed stories to him so he doesn't have to break a sweat to write his next useless column.

What a predictable, useless tool Tully has become. We heard this same song and dance from him the last time the murder rate spiked to record levels. We have to raise income taxes. We did--65% to be exact. What did it get us? The most corrupt mayor in modern Indianapolis history, who did the complete opposite of everything he said he would do when he ran for office, fewer police officers and hundreds of millions more in public giveaways to the Mayor's pay-to-play pals and the billionaire sports team owners. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, who's a carbon copy of the typical mopes who get elected as mayors in the major cities in Indiana, won approval from the Fort Wayne city council to "support public safety" by raising local income taxes 35% for all Allen County residents (nothing like taxation without representation if you live outside Fort Wayne in Allen Co.), and impose a new property tax levy to pay for capital debt.
Mayor Tom Henry praised the measure, which was a compromise from one his administration pushed to close an expected budget gap for 2014. He said the new revenue will not only sustain the city but position it for success.
"Fort Wayne City Council tonight voted favorably on one of the most important initiatives in the history of the city of Fort Wayne," Henry said in a written statement. "By investing in ourselves, we're saying we're committed to a great quality of life, tremendous neighborhoods, new jobs, and business growth."
Only two Republican council members voted against the tax increase and one, Mitch Harper, is running for mayor. Naturally, those who voted for the tax increase blamed the property tax caps for necessitating the need to raise income taxes even though Fort Wayne, like Indianapolis, has decimated its tax property tax base with TIFS and generous tax abatements.
"This is not a huge tax increase, it's catching up to what we lost," [John] Crawford said, citing the property tax caps imposed in 2009. "Just because we decreased property tax revenues doesn't mean the cost of running the city went down."
The city has lost $53 million in revenue since the caps were put in the state constitution and is expected to lose $20 million more next year. The package approved increases revenue about $13.5 million . . . 
Harper said he is most concerned that the increased revenues will increase the temptation for the city to borrow. One of the arguments in favor of the tax hikes was that the city needs to stop its cycle of borrow and spend.

"We haven't seen pay-as-you-go up to now," Harper said. "We have no history of that."

The plan Harper and Jehl proposed did not increase income taxes but did raise current property taxes the same as the approved plan and also called for $6 million in new borrowing to ease cash flow until revenues improved.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger Fred McCarthy has a brilliantly written and spot on reaction to the latest news as always.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jim Crow Is Dead, Get Over It

Hearing people on the Left whine today about what a setback the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder striking down the preclearance formula that currently only applies to some southern states means for voting rights is somewhat like the recurring false prophecies of end times visited upon us with regularity. Rational minds point out that the Court's 5-4 majority simply reached a conclusion Congress' great partisan divide won't allow it to reach: Jim Crow is dead.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, acknowledged that the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 employed extraordinary measures to deal with an extraordinary problem existing in that era with some southern states going to great means to deprive black Americans the right to vote. Essentially, Congress' continual re-authorizations of the original act, which was only intended as a temporary measure when first enacted, have been based on outdated data and circumstances despite overwhelming evidence that the evils sought to be remedied are non-existent today.

Section 5 of the Act establishes the system for requiring some states to seek authorization from the Justice Department before enacting any state law regarding voting. Section 4 of the Act, which the Court struck down today, established the formula for determining which states were required to seek preclearance before enacting any voting law. The original formula covered seven states: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia. Counties within a number of other states with large minority populations have been added in subsequent re-authorizations, although certain jurisdictions have been able to bail out of the Act's coverage over the years.

Because election laws have increasingly become federalized, particularly with respect to the voter registration process, the election laws among the state have become much more uniform. Yet the Voting Rights Act continued to rely on a formula based on data that was nearly a half-century old. Black voter turnout actually exceeds white voter turnout in all but one of the original states covered by the Act; the gap in the remaining state is statistically insignificant. The fact is that the conditions that originally justified the extreme measures employed by the original law no longer exist as Chief Justice Roberts pointed out in his opinion.

What we've seen happening under the most partisan Justice Departments in the modern history of the country under Eric Holder was an arbitrary denial of the right of the states affected by the Act to enact voter integrity laws that other states have been able to enact, like Indiana's Voter ID law, which the Supreme Court has upheld. Frankly, instead of securing the right to vote, the Justice Department seems more determined to warp the right by seemingly supporting policies that promote, not protect against vote fraud, which is an equally valid concern.

Justice Ginsberg's dissenting opinion rests primarily on the basis of who gets to decide whether the extraordinary measures contained in the Act are sill needed. She thinks Congress should get to make that decision and the Court should defer to Congress, the opposite from the judicial activist role she normally advocates when it comes to ensuring rights. The reality is that Congress can't change the law because anyone who has dared to step forward and recognize the changed circumstances is lambasted as a racist who wants to revert to the days of Jim Crow. Showing their true colors, several liberal Democratic officials and leftist commentators lashed out at the Court's only black justice, Clarence Thomas, referring to him derisively as "Uncle Thomas."

The majority got it right. Congress can't simply continue to dictate voting laws to a handful of states when the evidence suggests those states are no more susceptible to administering their voting laws in a discriminatory fashion than the rest of the states.

Republicans On Tax Panel Vote To Hike Taxes In Indianapolis

Republicans rode a wave of anti-tax sentiment to retake the Mayor's office in 2007. Ever since, they've been backpedaling, advocating tax increases at every turn. Yesterday's vote of a bipartisan tax commission was no different. Republican appointees on the panel voted to eliminate the homestead property tax credit in a 6-4 vote, a move that will hike property taxes for most homeowners in order to increase revenues for the city-county government by over $8 million at the expense of reducing tax revenues to most other taxing districts, including schools.

Incredibly, the panel also wants the City-County Council to consider hiking local income taxes to help fund public safety. In 2007, Mayor Bart Peterson and the Democratic-controlled council raised local income taxes 65% to increase funding for public safety. Greg Ballard and Republican council candidates attacked Peterson and the Democrats mercilessly for raising income and property taxes. Despite promising to make public safety job one, there are now fewer police patrolling the streets than the day Ballard took office in January, 2008 after the gigantic public safety tax increase.

Republicans claim the efforts are needed to close a $55 million budget deficit, even though Mayor Ballard claims he has been adopting honestly-balanced budgets each year while he's been in office, a fete made possible only by sleight of hand budget gimmicks that most council members lack the time and effort to discern.

There are questions about the validity of the panel's vote. There were only five members present to cast votes in favor of the proposed elimination of the homestead property tax credit sought by Mayor Ballard. Republican council member Marilyn Pfisterer, who comes from the background of a double-dipping government household, decided she was entitled to cast two votes in favor of the proposal by casting a proxy vote for another Republican council member who was absent for the vote, Jack Sandlin. Proxy votes are not permitted under council rules.

Dishonest politicians blame property tax caps for the City's revenues woes. The real culprit is the continued decimation of the tax based relied upon to fund basic government services caused by passing out hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies and tax breaks to businesses which contribute generously to the politicians' campaigns, dole out free tickets to sporting events and provide junkets and other freebies to them. This is achieved by continually removing a significant portion of the property tax base available to other taxing districts through the expansion of TIF areas, which are nothing more than slush funds operated to reward favored businesses at the expense of all other taxpayers.

UPDATE: Apparently Pfisterer is not a voting member of the commission; she simply showed up to cast a vote in Sandlin's absence. The Star's Jon Murray is now reporting that the commission's co-chair, Jim Steele, a Republican, intended to have members cast their votes by a secret ballot until other members objected. The four no votes included Democrats Vop Osili, Frank Mascari and Dan Sellers, along with Republican Bob Lutz. Democratic County Assessor Joe O'Connor voted with the five who supported the elimination of the credit. In addition to Steele, O'Connor and Pfisterer's vote for Sandlin, MIBOR's Chris Pryor, Co-Chair Beth Henkel and Jeff Spalding, former city controller and an architect of Ballard's disastrous, dishonestly-balanced budgets, voted with the majority.

Eight Shot, Five Dead In Violent 24-Hour Period

At least eight people have been shot, leaving five dead, in Indianapolis during the most violent 24-hour period this year. The first shooting claimed one victim on the City's westside yesterday afternoon. That was followed up by two double shootings last night. Two people were found shot in a crashed car on the City's northeast side, one of whom was dead. A few hours later, two women were shot in a home on the City's east side. Another shooting shortly before midnight claimed the life of a sixth victim on the City's southside. Early this morning, two people were found dead in an apartment complex in Lawrence in an apparent murder-suicide. That brings the year's homicide rate to date close to 70.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Soldier's Last Words

Daniel Somers, a veteran of the Iraqi War, penned a gut-wrenching letter to his family that began "I am sorry that it has come to this" before ending his life on June 10. It is extremely painful to read. Unfortunately, the people who should be reading it, probably won't take the time to read it.

Somers describes his mind as becoming "a wasteland: " I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity." Why? He explains:

The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.
To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.
Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered . . .  
Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union?
Somers' criticism of our leaders is biting. President Obama is killing soldiers "by his own system of dehumanization, neglect and indifference," Bush was driven by "religious lunacy," and Cheney by his "ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends." "Is this what we destroy lives for?" he rhetorically asked.  

Wall Street Journal Raises Troubling Concerns About Obama's Choice To Head The FBI

President Barack Obama has nominated James Comey, a former Assistant Attorney General in the George W. Bush administration, to succeed Robert Mueller as FBI Director. Leftist blogger Sheila Kennedy, who claims to be a civil rights advocate--at least when it's a Republican president infringing on our rights instead of a Democrat like Barack Obama, describes Comey as "a highly regarded" choice to serve a 10-year term running the country's top law enforcement agency. The Wall Street Journal editors point to Comey's "troubling record of prosecutorial excess and bad judgment," which seemed to have been missed by the former executive director of the ACLU of Indiana. Here's a sampling of Comey's record:
  • Comey is the guy at the Justice Department who kept vouching for the FBI's pathetic attempt to frame virologist Stephen Hatfill as the person responsible for the 2001 Anthrax mail attacks in the weeks following 9/11. After the FBI eventually had to concede they had the wrong guy, Hatfill sued and won a $5.8 million judgment from the Justice Department.
  • Comey tried to prosecute banker Frank Quattrone on the strength of one e-mail for supposedly engaging in obstruction of justice and witness tampering after he couldn't find any banking-related charges to bring against him. The first trial ended in a hung jury. He won a single conviction on retrial, only to have it overturned by the Court of Appeals in 2006.
  • Comey led a dubious espionage case against two lobbyists for AIPAC based on bogus secret information. The Justice Department dropped the case in 2009 after it fell apart in court but not before destroying the careers of the two lobbyists. 
  • Comey engineered the appointment of his buddy Patrick Fitzgerald (who swept tons of evidence of Obama's criminal wrongdoing in Chicago under the rug) to investigate whether any crime was committed in outing the identity of a non-covered CIA employee, Valerie Plame. He then supported a widening of Fitzgerald's investigation despite the fact that he learned the identity of the actual leaker, the State Department's Richard Armitage, only months into his investigation. That fact was kept secret and not revealed until long after the Justice Department pressed its case against Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice after its case against him for leaking Plame's identity fell apart before the case got off the ground. The actual leaker was never charged with a crime. President Bush later pardoned Libby on the grounds that his unrelated conviction was the product of prosecutorial abuse.
  • Comey also stood behind Fitzgerald's decision to send New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail for 85 days for refusing to reveal her sources during an investigation that turned out to be a total waste of taxpayer dollars.
The only redeeming act Comey's supporters tout from his role in the Bush administration was his rushing to the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was seriously ill at the time, to prevent White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez and Chief of Staff Andrew Card from getting his signature on a 75-day reauthorization of a "top secret" warrantless wiretap program that President Bush had authorized shortly after 9/11. Comey threatened to resign and make the program public if Ashcroft signed the reauthorization, which makes him a hero according to the mainstream media meme while lowly NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden is a traitor who must be charged to the fullest extent of the law.

Before you think too highly of Comey's actions concerning the warrantless wiretap program, you should consider the fact that he became general counsel to defense contractor Lockheed Martin after leaving the Justice Department. "Such was the 'price' for defying the Bush White House," the Wall Street Journal deadpans. Gee, I wonder how Comey will come down on the never-ending, manufactured war on terror? Now ask Sheila Kennedy why she finds Comey "a highly regarded" choice to run the FBI.

Urban Times Can't Find Any Opponents To Mass Transit Proposal

If you've ever read Bill Brooks' column "Babblin Brooks" in the Urban Times, you get a clear picture that he's pretty much an advocate of anything being touted by the downtown mafia, including tax and fee increases, more regulation of businesses, public subsidies for the pay-to-play crowd's real estate developments and virtually any publicly-funded boondoggle in general. Why not? They're the ones buying advertising in his free publication.

In the latest edition of the Urban Times, Brooks claims to have surveyed his readers to see where they stand on the proposed multi-billion dollar mass transit boondoggle funded with another increase in the local income tax. Brooks claims that he attempted to find readers both for and against the proposal but "received little in the way of negative response." It's kind of hard to find negative responses, Bill, when you only seek responses from the small circle of friends with whom you converse who share your own opinions on most subjects. Sort of like how you reported no opposition by business owners in Fountain Square or Mass Avenue to the economic improvement districts before it turned out that there was all kinds of opposition.

It's amazing how full of it some of the people are who responded to Brooks' very unscientific survey about how they would utilize mass transit if a much larger, regional mass transit system is built, which is quite laughable since I know for a fact that most of those responding make no attempt to ride IndyGo, even though it's much easier for them to take advantage of it than many people who live in other parts of Indianapolis. Hell, I see a number of them get in their car and drive to work at nearby workplaces downtown, IUPUI, Eli Lilly and Wellpoint. They drive by me in their cars as I promote a green-friendly environment by walking to work every day.

Here's a clue. A person who won't walk four or five blocks to work, or who could easily catch a bus within a block or two of their home and ride directly to their currently place of work in and around downtown aren't going to find anything different with the new and improved regional transportation system than their current aversion to using IndyGo. You don't ride IndyGo because it's beneath you. You don't want to sit on a bus with those "other people." Let's be honest.

And please explain to me why on earth anyone in my downtown neighborhood would claim with a straight face that we really need a light rail system to ride from downtown to Noblesville? Why do you want to ride a train to Nobleville when you already have the City's best attractions within walking distance or a short drive from your home?

Some of these simpleton thinkers visit other cities that are landlocked with much higher population density, ride their costly transit systems as out-of-town visitors rather than take a cab and look at it like a child seeing a new toy he or she just has to have regardless of its utility value. This is precisely why I don't want the legislature to give voters a chance to vote on mass transit. Between the freeloaders who pay no income taxes and the eggheads, you can't trust them to make a decision, particularly when the only perspective any voters will hear in the debate is the one-sided view of the proponents drilled in their heads by the local news media and reinforced with a PR campaign paid for with our tax dollars.

Bomb Squad Detonates Backpack Containing Fireworks And Pot Outside Federal Courthouse In Indianapolis

Backpack detonated and remains left
(WISH-TV Photo/Kevin Ratermann)
IMPD's bomb squad investigated a backpack left outside the federal courthouse early this morning near the corner of Ohio and Meridian Streets that was spotted by a security guard around 2:40 a.m. according to WISH-TV. After bomb sniffing dogs gave an indication the bag might contain explosives, the bomb squad detonated the bag nearly two hours later and determined that it contained fireworks and marijuana. This looks like a drill to me. The bag was likely intentionally placed there to see how well emergency responders would respond to a potential bomb threat.

UPDATE: Folks are still antsy at the downtown federal office buildings. Security detained a woman and evacuated the Minton-Capehart building earlier this afternoon after a device she brought into the building raised concerns after passing through an X-ray machine. Police described the device as being in "a small plastic bin." Police used a detonation device to render it non-lethal according to the Star.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hong Kong Officials Ignore U.S. Extradition Order, Allow NSA Whistle Blower To Leave Country

NSA leaker Edward Snowden boarded a plane in Hong Kong bound for Russia earlier today after the U.S. filed "sealed" charges against him under the Espionage Act and issued an order to Hong Kong officials to extradite him back to the U.S. to face charges the U.S. government will not make public because the Court in which the charges were filed operates in complete secrecy in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Hong Kong officials say the extradition request from the U.S. did not fully comply with their law so he was permitted to leave the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier he would consider a grant of asylum to Snowden, but Snowden's final destination will reportedly take him to Venezuela by way of Cuba. The Associated Press, quoting from a Tass news report, says Snowden would fly from Russia to Cuba and then to Caracas, Venezuela.

Lawson Denies Making Campaign-Related Tweet On Official Twitter Account

Connie Lawson campaign tweet (copy)
This is an example of just how silly and sometimes risky social media postings are becoming for public officials. Secretary of State Connie Lawson has an official Twitter account for her office. On Friday, someone posted a tweet asking to follow her campaign at her campaign Twitter and Facebook pages. After Democrats squawked that she was illegally using her office for her campaign, the post was deleted. Her spokesperson initially claimed Lawson posted it using her iPhone, but Lawson is now denying she posted the tweet according to the Northwest Indiana Times' Dan Carden:
Secretary of State Connie Lawson admitted Saturday her official Twitter account was used for campaign purposes Friday, but Lawson — contradicting her spokeswoman — insisted she didn't do it.
"I did not type, post or tweet anything that came out yesterday," Lawson told The Times. "It was not me; it did not come from my iPhone."
The Republican said she was out of the Statehouse on Friday and does not yet know who from her office issued the political message on the "@SecretaryLawson" account, which Lawson said she considers official and not personal.
"I plan to get to the bottom of that" during a Monday staff meeting, she said . . .
State ethics rules prohibit executive branch officials and employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or acting in an official capacity.
Lawson said Saturday she called her office after discovering the message on her Twitter feed Friday and ordered it removed. She said she did not know why Kroeger thought Lawson posted the message.
Twitter and Facebook accounts cost nothing to maintain. Should they be considered state property governed by the state ethics rules?  Does it matter whether you used a personal computer or iPhone to post something on a social media account you hold how to represent your official office? I suppose those are questions the state ethics commission will face sooner, if not later.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Monkey Bites Cop's Hand For Writing Speeding Ticket

This is too funny. A rookie Texas police officer, Keith Moore, got quite a surprise when he reached his hand inside a motorist's vehicle to issue a speeding ticket and a monkey came from behind the driver, grabbed his hand and bit him. Apparently the monkey is normally quite friendly and performs at circuses for his owner.

Star Reports Towing Rates Will Rise 44% After Initially Claiming Rates Would Remain The Same

A red-faced reporter for the Indianapolis Star appears to be blaming the Ballard administration for her failure to report correctly the first time the fact that city towing rates under an exclusive towing agreement with San-Francisco-based Auto Return will rise 44%. The reporter on Thursday claimed towing rates would remain at $90 under the contract. WRTV's Jack Rinehart's report that same day noted that rates would only remain at $90 for the first year of the multi-year agreement.  "In years two and three of the contract, the cost will jump to $110, and in the last two years of the contract, the cost will increase to $130," Rinehart reported. This is how today's report in the Star is now reporting the 44% increase:
City officials said Thursday that car owners still will be able to retrieve their towed vehicles for $90 under a new contract with towing management company Auto Return.
What was left unsaid was that the $90 charge would last only one year.
During years two and three of the five-year contract, the cost of redeeming a car will increase to $110, Department of Code Enforcement Spokesman Adam Baker said Friday when asked for further details about the deal.
By the fourth and fifth year, prices will jump to $130, a 44 percent increase from the current price. The contract with California-based Auto Return begins July 1.
Baker said the new contract would be made public next month after the deal is finalized.
Perhaps Rinehart's years of experience led him to ask a few more questions about the contract city officials have yet to make available to the public than the novice reporter for the Star. Anyone familiar with how the Ballard administration does business knows that it's initiating backdoor tax increases everywhere it can to recoup some of the taxpayer money the Mayor is passing out to his pay-to-play pals in consideration for their generous campaign contributions and other gifts to the Mayor and his family members.

Did anyone catch this recent report by Fox59 News' Russ McQuaid about the establishment of a nonprofit foundation, Indy Public Safety Foundation, by prominent local business leaders to raise money for public safety in Indianapolis? The foundation is being launched with the support of Public Safety Director Troy Riggs. This is extremely disturbing. Public safety should be funded solely with our tax dollars. If private business owners can funnel money to the police through a nonprofit foundation, it raises serious concerns that special favors will be provided in return for their private support of public safety. Our local income taxes were raised 65% in 2007 to support public safety. What the hell happened to that money? Why does their continue to be fewer and fewer dollars to support public safety? And don't blame property tax caps, which have absolutely nothing to do with how much money is available to fund Indianapolis' public safety needs.

LA Times: One Of Hastings' Last E-Mails Discussed FBI Investigation

The LA Times is now bolstering the claim of WikiLeaks' lawyer that Michael Hastings claimed he was being investigated by the FBI in a conversation with her a few hours before her death. The LA Times confirms that Hastings also sent an e-mail hours before his death claiming "close friends and associates" were being interviewed by the FBI and he was going to "go off the radar for a bit."

The e-mail titled "FBI Investigation re NSA" sent to KTLA said Hastings was working on "a big story" and was going to disappear. Hastings warned colleagues to have counsel present if the FBI came to interview them. Hastings sent the e-mail to friends and colleagues and blind-copied his friend Staff Sgt. Joe Biggs according to the LA Times.
Biggs supplied the email to KTLA and said he and Hastings met when the journalist was embedded with Biggs’ unit in Afghanistan in 2008, KTLA reported.
Hastings, 33, died about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday when his 2013 silver Mercedes slammed into a tree in Hancock Park and burst into flames. The car was going so fast, the engine was found more than 100 feet away from the crash, authorities said.
Since Hasting’s death, wild conspiracy theories have bloomed on the Internet, implying he was murdered by powerful forces wanting to silence him.
According to the LA Times' story, Hastings was doing research on a new privacy lawsuit filed by Tampa Bay socialite Jill Kelley, who is suing the FBI and Department of Defense for identifying her as the person who reported threatening e-mails she had received from Paula Broadwell, the author and biographer with whom Gen. David Petraeus was having an affair. Petraeus stepped down as CIA Director shortly after details of his relationship with Broadwell became public. Hastings planned to meet with a representative of Kelley in L.A. next week to discuss her privacy lawsuit according to the report.

This blog exclusively reported last November that an unnamed attorney at the White House, Michael Gottlieb, was the person Kelley had visited at the White House several times before the Petreaus scandal became public. Gottlieb's identity was made by simple deduction--he was the only attorney on the White House staff who had worked in Afghanistan at the same time Broadwell was working on her biography of Petraeus, "All In" while he was serving as commander in Afghanistan. Within hours of the initial blog report, someone within the Executive Office of the President" began visiting this blog frequently.

The FBI denies it was investigating Hastings. The FBI similarly denied it had ever investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev until his mother came forward and claimed the FBI had interviewed her son and her on multiple occasions. Russian authorities later confirmed they had also alerted both the FBI and the CIA about Tsarnaev's activities.

The LA Times says the investigation of Hastings' death is still under investigation, although an earlier report claimed that police said they did not believe foul play was involved despite obvious evidence the car was exploded by a bomb. Witnesses said they heard what sounded like a bomb exploding before his car became completely engulfed in flames and came to rest against a palm tree in the median along Highland Street in Hollywood. Parts of the car, including the car's transmission, were found one hundred feet down the street from the car. Toxicology tests on Hastings will take several weeks according to the report.

Hastings' friend Sgt. Biggs tells KTLA he is very alarmed by the events of this week. “It alarmed me very much,” Biggs said. “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me,” he said. Biggs told KTLA he wants to know the truth about what happened to his friend. “I’m going to be willing to help and do whatever I can and make sure that people look into this story and make sure they find out whatever happened.”

KTLA has also identified the videographer with LoudLabs whose car's dash cam captured the footage of Hastings' car running a red light just minutes before the explosion and crash and the footage of Hastings' burning car and crash scene as Scott Lane. “There’s no cars that are following him,” Lane said. “He flies by and 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds goes by… No cars are following him.” Lane's opportunistic timing has drawn attention, particularly since he seemed so anxious to put words in the mouths of potential witnesses and videotaped a Miller Lite bottle in the middle of the median a distance from Hastings' car to suggest he was driving while under the influence of alcohol. Melrose and Fairfax Blog, which appears to have some affiliation with LoudLabs, made a point of assuring readers that Lane had nothing to do with Hastings' death.
Some people have accused LOUDLABS of being part of the conspiracy for being so close and arriving at the scene of the crash so quickly.  But M&F can attest that LOUDLABS has a knack for getting around Los Angeles and creeping the streets during the midnight hours, and just happened to be nearby when the Michael Hastings tragedy happened.
The footage LL captured of Hastings' car running a red light showed that no one was following him or other vehicles made him crash, and Scott Lane from LL even got interviewed on major news networks with his story.  Lane stated that he was not involved in any conspiracy, and he also mentioned believes that high speeds alone led to the crash.  However, conspiracy theorists are still propositioning that Hastings' car might have been micro-chipped, thereby causing the high speeds and brake failure leading to the crash.

UPDATE: Check out this video discussing the technological ability to remotely control your automobile. It's pretty scary stuff when you think about it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Another NSA Whistle Blower Claims High-Ranking Military Leaders, Lawmakers And Other Prominent Leaders Targeted

NSA whistle blower Russ Tice is making far-reaching allegations that NSA officials targeted many top government and military officials with wiretaps in an effort to gain information on them, including Barack Obama when he was a candidate for the Senate in 2004 and a prominent lawyer and judge who now sits on the U.S. Supreme Court. Tice, a former intelligent analyst for the NSA during the Bush administration made his startling claims during an interview with Boiling Frogs Post's Peter Collins:
“They went after–and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things–they went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial,” Tice told Peter B. Collins on Boiling Frog Post News.
He went on: “But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people.”
Then Tice dropped the bombshell about Obama.
“Here’s the big one,” he said. “[T]his was in summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois. You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives right now would you? It’s a big white house in Washington, D.C. That’s who they went after, and that’s the president of the United States now.”
FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds and Tice agreed that such wide-ranging surveillance of officials could provide the intelligence agencies with unthinkable power to blackmail their opponents.
“I was worried that the intelligence community now has sway over what is going on,” Tice said.
It's become a government by blackmail.

Rokita Sponsors Legislation To Make FISA Court Rulings Public

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) has filed legislation that would require rulings of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court to be made public. Rokita's Ending Secret Law Act would compel the release of the court's rulings "unless it undermines national security. That qualifier is the excuse the federal government uses too often already to keep government records away from the public's eye. NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden came under fire from national security advocates for releasing a FISA court order requiring Verizon to turn over the telephone records of its customers. The Northwest Indiana Times' Dan Carden reports:
"This legislation affirms that Americans have a right to know the assumptions and legal interpretations that are guiding our national security decisions," Rokita said. "Just as importantly, it provides that information to the public in a way that does not compromise specific security techniques."
Rokita has strongly criticized recently leaked National Security Agency surveillance programs, calling them a violation of Americans' Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
He said his legislation, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would help correct that by ensuring "Congress and the American people exercise proper oversight, while still enabling us to do everything possible within the bounds of the Constitution to protect ourselves from those who would harm us."
A Senate version of the proposal is awaiting action by the Judiciary Committee.
Indiana's Sen. Dan Coats earlier this week accused fellow congressional colleagues like Rokita who have been critical of unconstitutional overreaching by the government, of "grandstanding" on the issue of NSA surveillance of Americans.

Ex-Reality Star's Mom Gets Six Years For Theft, Son Wants Gay Marriage Equality

Austin Armacost with his husband Jake Lees
Franklin, Indiana's Karen Armacost, the mother of former reality TV star Austin Armacost, was sentenced to six years today for stealing $681,000 from her former employer. According to Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry, Armacost used some of the money to pay credit card bills in the names of her sons. Austin, who was on the short-lived reality show the A-List, told investigators that he had no idea how his mother paid for his credit card bills. Austin's Twitter account this week contained several admonishments to Sen. Dan Coats and Gov. Mike Pence for their opposition to gay marriage equality but nothing about his mother's nine-year prison sentence: "My beautiful husband & I, together 5+ years... Do we deserve equality . . . I am a gay Hoosier happily married to a British man +5 years who has no right to come to America... Do you not support us?" Austin posted photos of him and his husband, Jake Lees, an English citizen. Austin laments that U.S. immigration laws don't permit him to sponsor Lees for an immigrant visa, a right afforded to straight married couples.  "Gov. Pence does Not support gays & lesbians," he tweeted. "While every state is moving forward, he is supporting BIGOTRY/InEquality in IN!"

UPDATE: Did anyone catch the fact that Armacost received a stiffer sentence than Shamus Patton, the guy who shot 9 people at Black Expo in 2010 and got released early and re-arrested this week after a high-speed chase with police?

Utility Consumer Counselor's Office Seeks Significant Reduction In Citizen Energy's Proposed Water Rate Increase

Citizens Energy is seeking a whopping 15% increase in water rates, or more than $25 million in operating revenues annually, following a string of double-digit rate increases in recent years. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor thinks that's too high. It's urging the IURC to approve a rate increase one-fifth that size, or $4.6 million. The OUCC has several recommendations to reduce the size of the rate increase, including:
  • Utilizing long-term debt to fund one third of the costs of distribution system extensions and replacements instead of relying on three-fourths of the costs to be absorbed through higher rates.
  • Reducing line items for the water utility's operating costs, including property taxes, chemical costs, purchased water costs and one-time, non-recurring expenses.
  • Reducing the utility's depreciation costs and executive and employee incentive programs.
  • Further reductions in the utility's revenue requirements due to interest income, payments from other utilities for notes receivable, and funds from a nationwide, class action settlement regarding atrazine contamination.
I'm particularly pleased that the OUCC's recommendations take aim at executive and employee incentive programs. I recently lamented the fact that Citizens is paying about $10 million in salaries to its top 16 officials, which seems extraordinarily high for a small utility that is supposed to be operated as a nonprofit, public charitable trust. Citizens is also seeking big rate increases in sewer rates and steam utility rates in separate filings with the IURC.