Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Movie Review: Documentary "Fastball" Narrated by Kevin Costner

Baseball fans and even those who aren't fans but enjoy the science behind the game, should watch the documentary Fastball currently available through Netflix.  The 2016 film, narrated by actor and baseball fan, Kevin Costner explores the history and science behind baseball's most common pitch - the fastball.  From the film's website:
The heartbeat of the game of baseball is the battle between the pitcher and the batter – one man with a ball, one with a stick. As the pitcher winds up and the batter zeroes in, both of their bodies tense up and suddenly spring into action against each other. All actions of the game arise from that confrontation, sixty feet and six inches and barely a second in the making.
As explained in the fascinating new documentary FASTBALL, that seemingly arbitrary
Steve Dalkowski - the fastest pitcher to never make the majors?
distance is actually a nearly perfect balance point between the two players on either side of the ball. From that distance, a pitch thrown as fast as a human being can possibly throw – somewhere just above 100 mph if you are an elite pitcher – is delivered at a speed that is right at the threshold for how quickly the most talented of hitters can see, process, and react to the pitch. At that highest level of execution, batters and umpires alike swear the ball “rises” as it reaches home plate – something that physics tells us is impossible.
That’s just one of the mysteries, myths, and memories investigated and revealed in FASTBALL, based on the original idea by the film’s Producer, Thomas Tull, who also produced the feature film “42” and who is a Board Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The film features interviews with dozens of former players, from legendary Hall of Famers to up-and-coming All-Stars. FASTBALL documents the history of the “fastest” pitcher – from Walter Johnson’s famous speed of 122 feet per second, to Bob Feller’s post-war record of 98.6 mph, to Nolan Ryan’s “officially” clocked best of 100.9, to the current speed gun king Aroldis Chapman’s 105.1.
But it also remembers the many stories and statistics surrounding the greatest fastball pitchers of all time. Sandy Koufax’ perfect game is remembered with rarely seen footage shot from behind home plate; the intimidating stares of Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Bob Gibson are echoed in the observations of modern-day fastball mavens Chapman and Craig Kimbrel; and early problems with wildness ultimately lead to two very different careers for Hall of Famer Ryan and former phenom Steve Dalkowski, the fastest pitcher in history who never made it to the majors.
While players, historians, and scientists might disagree on who was actually the fastest pitcher in history – and yes, the film does the math and seems to come out with a very clear verdict that might come as a surprise – FASTBALL tells the story of the game itself. Filmed at baseball’s most hallowed grounds, from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to Yankee Stadium to the sandlot field in Weiser, Idaho, where Walter Johnson's fastball changed the game over a hundred years ago, the film provides unparalleled insight into both the mechanics and the mythos of our National Pastime.
Some background on the science behind the "verdict" regarding the game's fastest pitcher of all time.  The methodology to calculate the speed of a baseball pitch has varied over time.  Only very recently has it become standardized. Pitch velocity is now measured 50 feet from the plate, or approximately 10 feet after it leaves the pitchers' hand.   Earlier rudimentary measures of pitch speed were done calculating velocity nearer or past 60 feet six inches, i.e. where the plate would be.  By adding in the decline in the velocity of the pitch over distance (a constant), the scientists were able to recalculate the speed of earlier pitchers so they could be compared on a level playing field.  I won't spoil the surprise but instead leave my readers guessing pending their review of the movie.  Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan, Aroldis Chapman...who is the fastest pitcher of all time?

The movie does whiff on one point, however.  While there is a great deal of discussion about the physical challenges in hitting a 100 mph fastball, the movie misses the boat when discussing why such a pitch is so difficult to hit. While the reaction time to judge the location of a fastball and swing if in a hitting zone is extremely brief, a fact well documented in the movie, major league hitters can do successfully adjust to hit 100 mph pitches.  What makes a good fastball such an effective weapon is that the batter doesn't always know it is going to be a fastball - it could well be an off-speed pitch such as a changeup or slider, a pitch that looks a lot like a fastball until it breaks.  These off-speed pitches throw off the batters' ability to focus solely on timing the fastball.  Indeed the great fastball pitchers discussed in the movie all had strong off-speed pitches.

I highly recommend Fastball.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Indianapolis Library Attempts to Seize Private Property Via Eminent Domain

With much of my attention focused on the national political scene, this story of eminent domain abuse by our local Indianapolis library passed under the radar.  At a June 27th meeting of the library board, members voted to allow former Councilor and library CEO Jacie Nytes the authority to use eminent domain to seize several property parcels located in the Martindale Brightwood area from an elderly window who runs a business from that address.  The taking also includes a local church.
Jackie Nytes, Indianapolis Library CEO

Readers of this blog will note that I have noted that years Republican nominee Donald Trump partnered with Atlantic City government officials to try to seize the house of an elderly widow so he could expand limo parking for his casino. After a protracted court battle, Trump failed in his effort when the court found the taking would not have been for a "public purpose."

It appears that our local library is trying to do a similar thing.  Although the issue of whether the taking would be a "public purpose" will not be in dispute, at a June 27th meetin gof the library board, members voted to give former Councilor and library CEO Jackie Nytes the authority to use eminent domain to seize several property parcels locaed in the Martindale Brightwood area from an elderly window who runs a business from that address. The taking would also include a local church.

WRTV reports:
The plan ... is to close the small library and build a new free-standing one, right across the street on a plot of land that’s owned by people who don’t plan on selling.
That includes Lum Woodard, owner and pastor of Greater King Solomon Baptist Church. He says the $60,000 he’s been offered for the land is not enough to relocate and reopen somewhere else.
“It could be devastating,” Woodard said. “We would have to close, because $60,000 wouldn’t even buy a house in this neighborhood.”blockquote>
Sheena Schmidt, who owns several buildings in the area, says construction of the library would negatively impact those businesses, cutting off a crucial alley for deliveries.
"The alley is going to cause all these people to go out of business," Schmidt said. “It’s sad. It’s unbelievable what they’re doing.”
The WRTV report notes support for the project from neighborhood organization President, Amy Harwell:
“This is stupid, plain-and-simple stupid,” Harwell said. “We shouldn’t have to take measures – eminent domain – to get this property. Most of the people who are saying it doesn’t need to be there don’t live in this community.”
Ms. Harwell might well be right - that owners of the property are "stupid" for not taking the money.  So too may be the 100 plus people who signed a petition against locating the library at the site.  But being "stupid" for not accepting an offer does not make the library's use of eminent domain right.  Absent a compelling government need, private property owners should be able to refuse to sell their property.

This use of eminent domain does not involve the building of a road a scenario in which government may not have many options in terms of where to locate the road.  A library is not required to be built at a certain location.  Here it appears that the library has many options to build on property owned by people who are actually willing to sell, without resorting toeminent domain. These options include acquiring property owned by Martin University that is being offered almost for free.  As the Martin University property is vacant there would be no need for demolition.

Nytes and the library board apparently want the "perfect" property to build the new facility and if property owners won't cooperate, they're apparently willing to seize their land by force, backed by government, if necessary

To proceed with eminent domain, the library will have to get approval from the Council.  I will update this story as it develops/

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why I Became a Republican and Will NEVER Support Donald Trump for President

I was not born a Republican.  I chose to become one.

The number one influence on party affiliation is family. In particular, people tend to adopt the political party of their parents.  That factor has more influence on party affiliation than any other.

My mother is a Democrat.  My father was the quintessential "yellow dog Democrat." I remember sitting at the dinner table during which my father pontificated on politics..  He would always rail about how horrible Democratic elected officials were, people like then Indiana Senators Birch Bayh and Vance Hartke. He, no surprise, didn't like the Democratic candidate for president in 1972, Senator George McGovern. One day I asked him if he disliked Democrats so much, why he was not a Republican. I remember his response like it was yesterday: "The Republican Party is not for the working man."

My father passed away when I was 14 and did not live to see to see me become a Republican. It was in my late teens that I began to question the wisdom of my parents support of the Democratic Party.

During the late 1970s, as I was transforming from boy to adult man, the Republican Party at was also going through a transformation.  A conservative movement was gathering steam.  It was a movement based on the belief that Americans can create a better future if the federal government is limited to its constitutional functions and business owners are freed from the shackles of government regulation.  It placed an emphasis on the family unit as the critical building block of society.   It was aspirational but had as its foundation the ideas of intellectuals in the party, people like the late Congressman Jack Kemp, economist Milton Freedman, constitutional scholar Robert Bork, and the editor of the National Review William F. Buckley, Jr. There was no hating people because of their religious belief, their ethnic background or political positions.  Democrats were not reviled but rather viewed as last souls who were simply wrong on the issues. If ever questioned, conservative intellectuals of the day could provide a laundry list as to exactly why they were right and the liberals were wrong. All this was done without engaging in school yard name calling or demonizing the opponents as evil.

Of course, the ultimate triumph of the conservative movement was the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Reagan gave conservativism a face as well as one of the best communicators in political history.   I am proud to say that my very first presidential vote was for Reagan, a vote in the 1980 Indiana GOP primary. Of course, the Gipper went on to win in a landslide that November, an achievement accomplished while running unapologetically on the ideas deeply rooted in the conservative movement of which I had become a member.

Over the years, Republicans often fell short of the conservative ideals embodied in the conservative movement Reagan initially led. Sometimes too the ideas of that movement fell short as well.  The conservative idea of enterprise zones flopped.  Likewise, privatization mostly failed, chiefly due to political cronyism driving the process instead of market forces.  It doesn't take much to find other examples.

Nonetheless, the Republicans Party, post-Reagan, was extraordinarily successful at the ballot box.  Democrats were ousted from power in the Senate in 1980, after nearly 30 years of being in the majority. Fourteen years later, Republicans won a majority in the House for the first time in 40 plus years. While the GOP's success stalled during the Clinton years, Republicans have enjoyed unprecedented success since Barack Obama's election in 2008.  By 2014, the GOP had a record number of governors and majorities in an unprecedented number of state legislative chambers. The Republicans also had a majority in the Senate and a majority the size of which hadn't been matched in 80 years in the U.S. House. The only thing the Republicans failed to win since 2004 is the White House. The GOP was poised to do exactly that in 2016, having the opportunity to run against an extraordinarily unpopular Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. The victor would also tip the balance of the Supreme Court, having the opportunity to appoint as many as three new justices. 

But by 2016, things had changed. The aforementioned conservative intellectuals - Kemp, Freedman, Bork and Buckley - all had passed away long ago. So too had Ronald Reagan.   Those great minds which led the movement were replaced with television and radio talk show hosts. Detailed position papers on the issues were replaced with sound-bites and talking points. Those conservative media types told us it wasn't enough to think our liberal opponents were wrong on the issues, we also had to hate them.

Into this intellectual vacuum stepped Donald Trump, a life-long liberal running for the nomination of the conservative Republican party.  Spewing hate and vitriol from the podium, Trump echoed the talk show conservative media's denigration of political discourse by engaging in school yard name-calling. But that wasn't all. Trump mocked a reporter's disability, made a racist comment about a judge presiding over the fraud case against "Trump University," and praised brutal dictators. Indeed reporters in general became a Trump target.  Any truthful news report showing the New York businessman in a negative light, stories such as his sexist treatment of women, his failing to follow through with donations promised to charities, his repeated failure to pay vendors, employees and lenders what he owed them, were dismissed as just being examples of media bias. It didn't matter to Trumpites that the stories were true.

But it was not just the lack of substance, Trump attacked conservative values across the board.  He advocated that the federal government be more powerful and demonstrated through he recognized no constitutional limits on the power of the President.  He advocated the end to free trade.  Indeed, Trump's suggestion for a trade war would deal American consumers a huge blow and will undoubtedly trigger a recession if not a depression. Trump even attacked the First Amendment, suggesting that Americans have too much freedom to criticize public figures.  Of course, Trump had been for years filing SLAPP lawsuits to silence his own critics.

But intellectual consistency to Trump mattered not.  Trump reversed his position on taxes and the minimum wage.  He changed his position on banning Muslims from entering the country.  He reversed his position on Planned Parenthood a documented seven times. Throughout the campaign, Trump demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt he has absolutely no core political principles and will change his position at a whim and then deny his former position ever existed. 

Even Trump's claim of being a successful businessman is belied by four bankruptcies, numerous failed businesses, and a trail of unpaid bills.  Rather, examined more closely, Trump's entire career is one of being a con man, a grifter, the consummate huckster, a person always taking risks with other people's money, rarely his own.  If Trump would not have inherited $100 million from his father, he likely would have had a Kevin Trudeau type infomercial career, hustling the modern version of snake oil.  Not to insult Mr. Trudeau. Trudeau is plenty smart while Trump clearly is not.

This week, Trump was officially nominated by the GOP national convention being held in Cleveland.  I am told that now I must give up everything I have ever believed in as a card-carrying conservative Republican and the future of my party to support the election of a life-long liberal Democrat to the White House, someone who is a serial womanizer, someone who hates people based on their religion and/or ethnicity, someone so lacks even a modicum of talent and ability, or the temperament or maturity, needed for the job as President of the United States.  I am told that I need to put aside my concerns for the future of this country including the possibility of the initiation of nuclear war due to some petty Trump dispute with a foreign leader all because, well, Hillary will be worse. Forget the illogic of attacking Hillary Clinton's dishonesty and immorality with the most dishonest and immoral candidate we could find wearing a Republican jersey. I am told that we Republicans should all get behind Trump because it is his party now.

Wrong.  It is not Trump's party.  Those of us who toiled in the trenches for conservative causes were doing so long before Trump began pretending to be a Republican in order to run for the GOP nomination. We will be fighting for those causes long after Trump leaves the stage. It is our party, not Trump's. To support Trump would be a betrayal of the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the conservatives who fought the political battles over the past four decades.  I am not going to betray those conservative principles.

My Republican Party needs to be about limited government,  not unlimited executive power.  Republicans need to understand and respect the Constitution, not dismiss the document out of hand.  The Republican Party needs to welcome all people to the conservative cause, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background.  Trump fails to live up to the ideals of the Republican Party on every score.

Unlike people like George Will though, I will not walk away from my party because it is temporarily led by someone who makes a mockery of everything I believe Republicans should represent.  It is my party, the party I chose, after all. Come November 9th, the fight begins for the soul of the Republican Party. You will be able to find me on the front lines of that battle.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dissidents Maneuver to Force Floor Vote on Allowing Republican Delegates to Vote Their Conscience

According to a just released story from U.S. News and& World Report:
Signaling a potentially boisterous start to the Republican convention, anti-Trump delegates claimed on Monday that they'd collected enough signatures of delegates to force a state-by-state roll call vote on changing party rules, a battle that party leaders hoped to avoid.
It seemed highly unlikely that the insurgents would prevail. After a brief meeting in the convention arena, members of the rules committee said there will be no amendments to the rules that could deny the Republican nomination to Donald Trump.
...
A slow-moving roll call of the states still seemed possible, which the rebels seemed likely to lose. But even staging that vote would mean that instead of using the convention's first day to emphasize unity behind Trump, the gathering could underscore the tumultuous relations between Trump and party leaders on one side and social conservatives on the other.
Republican Party leadership and officials from Trump's campaign said Monday they'd held 11th-hour talks with anti-Trump delegates to see if they could avert a messy floor fight, live on television, over the rules. But one official said the negotiations had failed, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
Some socially conservative delegates — many backers of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's failed presidential bid — have wanted to force the convention to hold a state-by-state roll call on whether to change the party's rules in ways that would take power from GOP leaders. That bid includes an effort to let delegates back any candidate they want.
...
Party rules say a roll call should be held if a majority of delegates from seven states demand one.
But there are other requirements too — such as delivering proper documents to the secretary of the convention — that must be met to qualify for a roll call. The conservative delegates have said they think party leaders could thwart a roll call by taking steps like making it hard for them to deliver their documents.
After a frantic search on the crowded convention floor for the secretary, Susie Hudson, the rebellious delegates found a GOP official who said he would deliver the petitions.
"Now we take this fight to the floor," Dane Waters, a leader of the Delegates Unbound, said in the email.
First, I should clarify that, contrary to what is indicated in the story, there are no rules yet governing the operation of the 2016 GOP convention until the convention adopts those rules. That is the first order of business at these types of conventions   But the 2016 GOP Convention Rules Committee's report contains the recommendation that delegates be bound and, thus, not allowed to vote their conscience.  Overcoming that recommendation for a floor vote on those rules is quite difficult, especially when technicalities can be used to stop challenges.

It is encouraging though that there are so many of my fellow Republicans who are refusing to back a liberal, unqualified con man as head of the GOP ticket.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's Official: Trump Picks Indiana Governor Mike Pence for VP

I have been waiting to hear the words out of his mouth before commenting.  It finally happened this morning - Donald Trump announced via Twitter (how else?) that Indiana Governor Mike Pence is his choice for Vice-President.  All that it takes now to make it official is for that decision to be confirmed by a majority of delegates at the upcoming GOP national convention.  A mere formality.

To run for Vice-President, Pence had to withdraw as the GOP nominee for Governor.  Pence doing so this morning sets off a scramble in the Indiana political scene.  Pence's replacement on the ballot will be chosen by the Indiana state committee which is made up of two representatives from each congressional district. While many names have been floated as replacements on the ticket for Pence, it appears that current Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb may have already lined up enough support with the state committee. Other names mentioned include Speaker Brian Bosma and Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita, both Hoosier members of Congress. The Indianapolis Star is now reporting that both Holcomb and Brooks are officially in as candidates to replace Pence.

Although Pence has fallen out of favor with many Hoosier conservatives, the fact remains that he remains very popular with conservatives outside of Indiana. As such, he will certainly shore up the Trump ticket some on the ideological front. But as far as making a difference in the race, exit polls shows who is No. 2 on the ticket rarely matters. At best a vice president can usually help the presidential candidate win the Veep's home state and that's about it. But I'm not certain that the selection of Pence makes a difference in Indiana when it comes to Trump. I expect that Indiana may end up being competitive, much like it was in 2008 when Democrat Barack Obama won the state against Republican John McCain.

As far as Pence goes, he is risking his political career.Every racist, sexist, xenophobic and utterly stupid thing comment uttered by Trump, and there will be many such statements, will tarnish Pence's reputation. Many quality VP choices took themselves out of the running because they didn't want to risk their political careers by being associated with Donald Trump.

But then on the other hand, VP selections are often considered the next in line when the Presidential campaigns go south. Witness Jimmy Carter's selection of Walter Mondale as VP in 1980.Mondale became the presidential nominee in 1984 against Reagan. Of course, that did not end well.

It could be possible that during the presidential campaign Pence will appear as the voice of reason compared to the unreasonable Donald Trump. To accomplish that, however,would require Pence to promote Trump while at the same time somewhat distancing himself from the New York businessman's more outrageous comments. Not sure Pence can pull that off.

It's certainly been an interesting political season so far.  Maybe too interesting. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hill Walks Away From Indiana Senate Nomination; Democrat Insiders Will Replace Him With Bayh

This morning, former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill announced he is walking away from his May nomination for the Indiana U.S. Senate seat currently held by Dan Coats.  Hill had a good chance of winning the seat against Republican nominee U.S. Rep. Todd Young who well could have been burdened by having Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket in what is likely to be a good Democratic year.

Hill's replacement on the ticket will be chosen by Democratic insiders, members of the state committee.  That expected nominee appears to be none other than former Gov Evan Bayh. 

Sound familiar?  In 2010, then U.S. Senator Bayh withdrew from re-election too late for
Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh
other Democrats to get on the May primary ballot. As a result, Democrat insiders, instead of that party's electorate, picked the nominee, which turned out to be then Congressman Brad Ellsworth.  Bayh's move angered many Democrats who feel his last minute decision helped North Carolina resident Dan Coats win the election.

At the time of his 2010 decision, Bayh said he was leaving because Congress was dysfunctional and he lost interest in serving:
After all these years, my passion for service to our fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned,  For some time, I've had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress. ... Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people's business is not getting done.
One has to wonder what Bayh saw about how Congress has operated in the last six years to cause him to have renewed faith in the institution.   Further, Evan Bayh does not even live in Indiana.  He is a Washington, D.C. lobbyist who lives in the Georgetown section of that city.  The Washington Business Journal published a story on the Bayh's purchase of a home four-bedroom home on N Street Northwest in March of 2015:
The former Democratic senator from Indiana, now a partner at the K Street office of McGuireWoods, said he would have been just as happy staying in Spring Valley. But with their two kids off to college, the big six-bedroom, Georgia-style brick home was more than the couple needed.
Susan Bayh, her husband said, "just liked the idea of being in the middle of things," including plenty of shopping options. After the sacrifices she made for his political career, the senator figured he could sacrifice for her by moving to Georgetown.
"It's really simple. We have twin sons who went off to college last fall, my wife really wanted to downsize, and we didn't need as much space," Bayh told me in a phone interview. "It's the age-old story. The wife wanted to move. The husband didn't. So we moved."
The couple, which celebrated their 30th anniversary last month, settled on an 1820 Federal that was completely renovated with modern amenities, an old-meets-new "best of both worlds" setup, Bayh said. The home is assessed at $1.4 million, according to the District, and initially hit the market through Washington Fine Properties at nearly $3.2 million. McEnearney Associates represented the Bayhs.
The constitutional requirement for Senate is only that a person running be a resident of the state at the time of the election. So Bayh could move back to Indiana to run for the Senate.  But the problem is that while clearly residing in Washington D.C. and working as a lobbyist in that city, Evan Bayh and his wife has for years (even after Bayh left the Senate) continued to vote in Indiana, claiming that a very modest downtown condo is the family's residence.  Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was prosecuted successfully for a felony based on the allegation that he didn't live at the address he used for voting.  Yet more popular political figures like Democrat Bayh and former Senator Richard Lugar continue to do the exactly same thing without even the slightest concern of being prosecuted.

My guess is that many Democrats will be quite displeased with today's turn of events.  Hill's donors, who could now see their donations transferred to Evan Bayh for use on his campaign, also have an even more particular reason to be angry at these turn of events.  

Friday, July 8, 2016

With Ball Set on Political Tee This Week, Trump Whiffs

This week should have been a good one for Donald Trump.  While the FBI report issued by Director James Comey did not recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, Comey did indicate that Hillary Clinton and her aides were "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information"  in handling the nation's secrets.  (Note: not sure how "extremely careless" is different from "grossly negligent" the threshhold for a criminal prosecution under the applicable statute.)  As CNN reported, Comey's "explicit criticism of Clinton's conduct offered her enemies a trove of fresh ammunition for their assault on her character, honesty and trustworthiness — one of her biggest vulnerabilities."

Of course presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used the occasion to drive
the point home about Hillary's dishonesty and poor judgment?  Well, in fairness Trump did mention that in passing at a rally in North Carolina that followed the FBI announcement.  But what garned headlines out of the rally was Trump again talking about his controversial anti-Clinton "Star of David" retweet (a tweet that originated on a white supremacist website) and praising former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

A day later, Trump met with House and Senate Republicans.  At the House meeting, Trump was asked about how about as President he would go about protecting Congress' Article I powers.  The issue is near and dear to Republican lawmakers who have felt President Obama consistently encroached authority.  Trump though apparently didn't know what Articles were or confused Articles with amendments.  Trump said he would protect Article I, Article II (which outlines executive power), and Article XII.    There is no Article XII of the Constitution - they stop with Article VII.  Trump's lack of knowledge about the Constitution he would be sworn to defend as President caused considerable concern among several House members.

But Trump's meeting with Senate membership went even worse.  Trump got into it with Arizona Senator Jeff Flake,  The Washington Post reports what happened:
When Flake stood up and introduced himself, Trump told him, “You’ve been very critical of me.”
Yes, I’m the other senator from Arizona — the one who didn’t get captured — and I want to talk to you about statements like that,” Flake responded, according to two Republican officials.
Flake was referencing Trump’s comments last summer about the military service of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict. Trump questioned whether McCain was a war hero because he was captured.
Flake told Trump that he wants to be able to support him — “I’m not part of the Never Trump movement,” the senator said — but that he remains uncomfortable backing his candidacy, the officials said.
...
Trump said at the meeting that he has yet to attack Flake hard but threatened to begin doing so. Flake stood up to Trump by urging him to stop attacking Mexicans. Trump predicted that Flake would lose his reelection, at which point Flake informed Trump that he was not on the ballot this year, the sources said.
Flake was not the only Senator Trump attacked during the meeting.  Trump also referred to Senator Mark Kirk as a "loser," which is ironic since the Republican Kirk won a state six years ago - Illinois - that Trump has no chance of winning this Fall. 

Apparently Trump thinks the way to persuade in politics is by bullying elected officials with threats and engaging in schoolyard name-calling.  All that does is reinforce the (very accurate) view of Trump as someone who is lacking in temperament and unfit for the Office of the Presidency.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Indianapolis Mayor's Son Arrested for Marijuana Possession

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Mayor Joe Hogsett's son William was arrested last week on marijuana possession and other drug-related offenses, according to the Rushville Police Department.
William Hogsett, 18, was arrested about 10:45 p.m. Friday on initial charges of possessing marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia, Rushville Assistant Police Chief Todd Click told IndyStar on Thursday.
He was booked into Rush County Jail and released after posting $5,000 bond, according to the Rush County Sheriff's Office.
According to a Rushville police report, William Hogsett was driving a black Jeep with two passengers when officers stopped the vehicle for crossing the center line and failing to use a turn signal.
The officer smelled marijuana and ordered William and the passengers to step outside the vehicle.
William initially denied knowing about drugs, but later told the officer that the narcotics were on the passenger-side floor.
Officers found a zippered bag that contained two pipes, a butane torch, leafy marijuana and a small container of a waxy marijuana extract known as hash oil or wax.
William Hogsett's passengers were also arrested on possession charges, according to the report.
Put me down as one Republican who thinks we need stop treating marijuana possession matters as criminal cases.  This young man if convicted, will forever have to live with a blemish on his record. Although, it is only a misdemeanor, it is still a blemish. While I never smoked pot, I did certainly drink alcohol under the age of 21 as did probably 90% of my peers. Our laws have to be reasonable and criminalizing pot possession and drinking under 21 are not reasonable laws.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Kevin Kellems, Trump's Director of Surrogates, Resigns Third Week Into the Job

The big issue is "why."  In his two weeks plus on the job, what did Kevin Kellems see inside the Trump campaign that troubled so him so much he felt he needed to jump off the Trump train at its very next stop? The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
Indiana political consultant Kevin Kellems, who joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team just last month, has resigned. 
Kellems, who was brought on to be the director of surrogates on Trump's campaign,
Kevin Kellems
announced his resignation in a short email to associates obtained Friday by The Washington Post.
"While brief, it has been an interesting experience, and am proud of the contributions made through our early-phase project endeavors," Kellems wrote in the email. "Also have enjoyed meeting some fine and dedicated individuals throughout the organization. Look forward to running across several of you going forward." 
Erica Freeman, another aide who worked with surrogates, also resigned, a person familiar with her decision.
Surrogates is a term used for supporters who are not on the campaign staff but who do appearances on television and at events for the candidate.
The New York businessman has been accused by even his own fellow Republicans of making comments that exploit xenophobia and are racist and sexist.  Many of the Republicans in the #NeverTrump crowd have pointed out that many in the GOP working with and otherwise associating themselves with Trump are risking forever tarnishing their reputations. Trump recently added anti-semitic to his critics' list of Trump bigotry this week.  

But Kellems though knew of Trump's controversial reputation long before he joined the campaign. So it must have been something else that caused him to leave just over two weeks from the Republican national convention when all eyes are going to be on Donald Trump, exactly when Kellem's assistance in managing surrogates will be most needed.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Governor Pence Meets With Donald Trump Amid Rumors Indiana Governor Being Considered for VP Slot

The Chicago Tribune reports:
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's re-election campaign announced Friday that he will meet with presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump over the weekend amid speculation that Pence is under consideration as his vice presidential running-mate.
Gov. Mike Pence
The move raises questions about what it would mean for his gubernatorial re-election campaign at home. While the Republican governor's embrace of social issues has brought considerable criticism from Democrats and business leaders, he is well regarded among national conservatives and brings with him the support of the party's evangelical wing. If Pence were to become Trump's vice presidential nominee, state law dictates that he could not run for both offices.
Indeed, Pence's presence on the ticket would reassure traditional conservatives and evangelicals.  Although many Hoosier social conservatives and evangelicals aren't wild about Pence's tenure in office, that's mostly inside baseball.  Given the fact that more than half of Republicans want another nominee, Trump needs to shore up his conservative credentials.

But at the end of the day, the No. 2 person on the ticket matters little.  It's the No. 1 person who wins or loses presidential campaigns. Republicans are on the verge of nominating a candidate who is greatly disliked by 70% of the voters.   Trump will likely lose the general election badly and may well take down numerous Republicans with him.  Governor Pence has to make a decision whether he wants to be associated with a Trump-led divisive campaign that tarnishes the reputation of everyone associated with him.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reuters Tracking Poll Shows Orlando Bump for Trump is Gone, Clinton Double Digit Lead Returns

Reuters updates today on their tracking poll:
Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton regained a double-digit lead over Republican rival Donald Trump this week, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday.
The June 20-24 poll showed that 46.6 percent of likely American voters supported Clinton while 33.3 percent supported Trump. Another 20.1 percent said they would support neither candidate
Trump had enjoyed a brief boost in support following the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, as he doubled down on his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country, cutting Clinton's lead to nine points.
But Trump's rise in popularity appeared to be only temporary, unlike his lasting surge among the Republican field last year after the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California.
Clinton's 13.3 percentage point lead is about the same as she had before the Orlando attack.
No candidate has won the White House by double figures since Ronald Reagan won re-election in 1984, besting former Vice President Walter Mondale by over 18 points.   Before 1984, you have to go back to Richard Nixon's landslide in 1972 and Lyndon Johnson's sweeping victory in 1964 for double figure popular vote victory margins.
The article notes that the poll only captures a portion of the response to the Brexit referendum outcome which many analysts suggest will benefit Trump.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Presumed Innocent: Indianapolis Councilor Zach Adamson Has Criminal Charge Filed Against Him

The Indianapolis Star reports:
A 19-year-old man accused City-County Council Vice President Zach Adamson of rape, an allegation that Adamson has strongly denied.
The incident was reported to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on June 20, according to police records obtained by IndyStar. Documents indicate the alleged
incident happened last September.
"We are working with  the Marion County prosecutor’s office on the investigation and any public comment will be released by the prosecutor’s office," said IMPD Lt. Rick Riddle in a statement.
Adamson also issued a statement denying the allegations.
“I’ve only recently become aware of accusations against me, which are completely untrue and without merit," Adamson said. “Unfortunately, it appears I’ve become a target of ridiculous accusations. These allegations of impropriety are false. I can’t say that any more strongly.
“Until it is resolved, I’ll refrain from further comment and refer all questions to my attorney, Kathleen Sweeney."
First, let me just say I consider myself a friend of Zach's and I assume he considers me a friend as well.  Knowing him, I have trouble believing that he has a dark, sinister side that I am not aware of.  The fact that something like this was not reported until 9 months after it supposedly happens makes me doubt the accusation even more.

Contrary to what some may think, "victims" do sometimes make up stories. It is a situation I know all too well. Shortly after graduating from law school,  I had a classmate who I'd been friends with for years file for a protective order against me with the bizarre claim that she was afraid I might attack her....though I had never once done so up to that point.  It was the most bizarre thing I ever experienced. She testified under oath in a deposition she did not know me and had never been alone with me.   It was completely false...we had been very good friends and had been alone together hundreds of times.  Hearing her testify though sent chills up my spine - I think she believed every word she was saying was true and could have probably convinced any jury.  The fact is she had had some mental health challenges, let's call them, and I foolishly did what I thought good friends did - try to be there to help her through her issues.  I had no idea what she was capable of doing.  None.  A painfully long story made short, I got the court to order her to undergo a psych test.  She decided to dismiss the case after her examination but before the psychologist could issue what I expected (I talked to the psychologist) would have been a negative report on her mental health.

From time to time, political enemies of mine will bring up this 26 year old lawsuit in an effort to try to smear my character.  Of course, the story of the "victim" not knowing me and needing a protective order because I might suddenly attack her is, upon reflection, ridiculous. So they conveniently change the allegation to the more believable, but never asserted, "stalking."  I have come to accept that there people who will jump at the chance to lie about what happened to tarnish my reputation.  I'm confident there is a special place in hell waiting for those people who will do that sort of thing.

It is so easy to lodge allegations against someone in court.  Even when those allegations are of a sexual nature, many times they are not true.  That's why our legal system presumes people, with respect to all crimes, are innocent until proven guilty.  My friend, Zach, deserves that same presumption of innocence, and the fact he is a public figure does not change that.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Lack of Due Process Makes Terrorist List Unusable to Deny Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms

It sounds like an obvious thing thing.  Anyone who is a suspected terrorist such that they land on the U.S. government's Terrorist Watch List should not be able to buy a gun.   The problem though is how people end up on that list and how that list is maintained. ABC News explains:
The process for placing an individual on watch lists begins with “originators,” who range from everyday citizens to federal agents. Social media posts can also trigger a process for placing individuals on the list. Once an originator passes along a name to law enforcement, counterterrorism officials rely on an elastic set of guidelines in order to add an individual.
Appearing in the Intercept
Agencies must have “reasonable suspicion” or “articulable evidence” that the person is a “known or suspected terrorist,” according to a document detailing watch listing guidance compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center in March of 2013 and first obtained by the Intercept. The document admits that “irrefutable evidence and concrete facts are not necessary.”
Information about immediate family members and known associates of “known or suspected terrorists” can also be added to the watch list without any suspicion that they themselves are engaged in terrorism.
It should be emphasized that we only know about how the terrorist watch list works because of a leak.  The federal government didn't voluntarily disclose this information.   And there is absolutely no court oversight to how names added to the list or how the lists are maintained. 

What if you find out you have been wrongly added to the the list?  Can you get your name removed?  Yes...but.  ABC News notes that the problem with this process:
Individuals who believe they have been wrongfully added to a watch list can file a complaint through a redress program, which launches an internal review not subject to oversight by any court or entity outside the counterterrorism community, according to the documents.
Further, during the review you are not permitted to examine witnesses or evidence against you.

But even if you succeed, you may not know it:
The review can result in a removal of an individual’s name, but the individual won’t necessarily be notified because the government maintains a general policy to “neither confirm nor deny an individual’s watch list status,” according to the documents.
Individuals can even be kept on the list after being acquitted of a terrorism charge if authorities still have “reasonable suspicion.”
Several news reports report that the list is only a few thousand people, thus suggesting the ban would affect few people wanting to buy a gun.  But that's wrong.  Those reports are confusing the No Fly List, which only consists of 47,000 people and is simply a subset of the Terrorist Watch List, which list has over one million people listed on it, including 280,000 people who have no known affiliation with terrorist organizations.

Although some liberals are okay with people being stripped of constitutional rights simply based on the arbitrary decision reached by a government official, the Constitution is not.  That document mandates that people be provided due process before they are denied a constitutional right, a fact that even the ACLU understands. 

If you're going to deny people rights based on being on a terrorist list, people need to know they are being added to the list and have the right to contest that decision in a court of law.   They need to be provided the evidence against them and given the right to refute that evidence.  If those due process safeguards are not provided, the person on the list cannot be denied his constitutional right to buy and possess a gun.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Polls Show Clinton's Lead Over Trump Expanding to Double Digits (w/Update)

A new poll released yesterday by Bloomberg News shows Hillary Clinton opening up a 12 point lead over Donald Trump in a three way match-up that includes Libertarian Gary Johnson.  Clinton polled at 49%, while Trump was supported by 37% of the respondents, and Johnson, a former Republican Governor of New Mexico, scored 9% support.

The Bloomberg poll is consistent with the Reuters/IPSOS daily tracking poll which until recent days showed Clinton with about a 10.5 point lead over Trump.  With the terror attack in Orlando, Trump has picked up a couple points on Clinton, but still trails by 8.5 points.  Of course, tracking polls are more about identifying movement in campaigns, not accurately predicting election results.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

One of the most interesting part of the Bloomberg survey was when the pollster asked questions about the various negative issues plaguing the two campaigns.  While people were troubled by the several Clinton issues, more people were concerned about  Trump's.  Below is a summary of those issues and the percent of likely voters who said the issue "bothers" them "a lot.

Trump
Trump University Fraud Case  45%
Mexican Judge Comment  55%
Failure to Release Tax Returns  45%
Insults Comments About Women  62%
Claim Mexican Immigrants Are Bringing Crime, Deportation Plans  50%
Temporary Ban on Muslims Entering the Country  50%

Clinton
Improper Use of Email Server 45%
Paid Speeches to Wall Street banks  50%
Work to Undermine Women's Reputations Who Were Linked Romantically to Bill  34%
Failure as Secretary of State Because of Rise of Middle East Situation and Rise of ISIS  38%
Clinton Foundation Contribution, Possible Favoritism  47%
Clinton Part of Washington Establishment  35%

When a negative issue is polling at the 30% level as a major concern, that probably represents no more than the baseline already supporting the other party's candidate and whose voters are already motivated by these negative issues.  It is when it rises to 40%, 50%, as high as 62% on one of Trump's issues, that the issue seems to be crossing the line to hit independents who are going to decide this election.

Other interesting questions in the poll include a question as to whether a candidate was more or less appealing.  46% said Clinton was appealing while 51% said she was not. But when it came to Trump, 33% said he was appealing and 64%, nearly 2/3 of the electorate polled, said he was not an appealing candidate. 

Surprisingly Clinton also won the enthusiasm question.  43% of Clinton supporters said they were "very enthusiastic" about their candidate while only 33% of Trump supporters responded the same way about Donald Trump.

In another question, 55% of poll respondents said they would "never" support Trump, while 43% said the same thing about Hillary Clinton and a surprising 44% said they would "never" vote for the Libertarian Johnson.

While it is still early, it is difficult to see Trump's path to victory given how much of the electorate has been very turned off by him and his campaign.

UPDATE:  On Wednesday, ABC/Washington Post released a favorable/-unfavorable poll showing a substantial increase in people's negative views toward Trump over the past three weeks.  In a poll conducted on May 20th, 60% of people viewed Trump unfavorably.  Three weeks later, Trump's negatives have risen to an astonishing 70%.  During the same period, Clinton's unfavorable numbers rose from 53% to 55%.

Some of the noteworthy declines during the three week period include black voters (14% unfavorable to 4%), conservatives (58% to 47%), women (32% to 23%), non-college graduates (41% to 31%).

In May, I wrote about the historic unpopularity of the two candidates.  Well, they just got even more unpopular, especially Trump.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Did Indiana Republicans Nominate a Liberal Democrat as Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction?

I wasn't surprised by the result given the winner (obviously) spent much more money on her campaign, but yesterday at the GOP convention the Republican delegates nominated Jennifer McCormick, Superintendent of the Yorktown Schools over Dawn Wooten, a college instructor.

The only problem is McCormick did not appear to be a Republican  Here is her primary voting history:

2004:  Republican
2006:  Democrat
2008:  Democrat
2010:  Democrat
2012:  Democrat
2014:  Republican

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that McCormick taking a GOP ballot in 2014 was undoubtedly with an eye to running for Superintendent in 2016 as a Republican.

In defense, McCormick says in her literature that "[i]n many communities, including hers, the primary election is often where the defining race takes place and she wanted to make sure her voice
Dr. Jennifer McCormick,
Superintendent of Yorktown Schools
was heard."  That is an answer that should make the blood of Republican and Democratic party workers boil. People who are committed to their party's principles do not continually switch which ballot they take in the primary.  Further, McCormick is from very competitive Delaware County.  It is not like she is from one party Lake County where virtually all elections are decided in the Democratic primary.

McCormick made the claim that Indiana discarded Common Core in coming up with the standards.  But Wooten, who was actually on the committee that worked on the new standards, blew away that bogus claim on her website, showing a side-by-side comparison of how Indiana's standards in many areas are identical or nearly identical to Common Core.

I made my mind up on the McCormick v. Wooten race on the way down to the candidates' reception Friday night.  McCormick was being interviewed on the Abdul show on WIBC.  If McCormick had not been identified as a "Republican" you would have thought her to be a Democratic candidate to superintendent.  On issue after issue, McCormick spouted typical liberal nonsense. She said she wanted an expansion of pre-K, ignoring the credible studies that show that such programs only have a temporary benefit.   To his credit, Abdul asked her about those studies, but McCormick ducked the follow-up question.

But it is not just pre-K...McCormick wants more education spending across the board.  Further, she is apparently fine with federal involvement in K-12 schools, even though in return for very little money, the feds make enormous demands on our schools.

By her answers, McCormick actually seemed even to the left of Democrat Glenda Ritz.  McCormick's pitch for her candidacy seem to be only that she had a better resume than Ritz and would get along better with the Governor and the Republican legislature. 

Indeed McCormick does have a better resume and she probably would get along better..  However, she is a school district superintendent.  When it comes to all the players in the educational system, superintendents are the the absolute worst when it comes to opposing meaningful education reform and most demanding of more taxpayer money for the status quo.  There was nothing in McCormick's interview, her speech, or her literature, which suggests she is any different from the typical school district superintendent.

During the convention, Wooten gave an outstanding conservative speech on education.   It was very well received, better than McCormick's.  But unfortunately Wooten, undoubtedly because of limited finances, wasn't able to match McCormick's numerous pre-convention mailings.  My only contact with her was the speech, compared to the speech and maybe 5-6 mailings from McCormick.  Given her limited delegate contacts, I was rather impressed that Wooten received 1/3 of the vote.  Another 250 to 300 votes switched and Wooten would have won the nomination.

Those of us who are old enough remember Sue Ellen Reed, a Republican Superitendent of Public Instruction whose liberal policies made her very popular with Democrats but not so much with conservative Republicans.  Unfortunately, it appears Republicans nominated Sue Ellen Reed 2.0 yesterday.

Friday, June 10, 2016

News Report Details How Trump Regularly Stiffs Employees and Contractors

Those of us who have followed Donald Trump's business career know he has a well-earned reputation as a deadbeat, someone who regularly stiffs people to whom he owes money.  USA Today took a look at some 3,500 lawsuits Trump has been named in, many involving working men and women seeking to recover payment for work they did for the New York businessman:
Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will "protect your job." But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans ... who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them
At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused
Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.
Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages.
In addition to the lawsuits, the review found more than 200 mechanic’s liens — filed by contractors and employees against Trump, his companies or his properties claiming they were owed money for their work — since the 1980s. The liens range from a $75,000 claim by a Plainview, N.Y., air conditioning and heating company to a $1 million claim from the president of a New York City real estate banking firm. On just one project, Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, records released by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1990 show that at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers and plumbing.
The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.
The article cites Trump, and his daughter, Ivanka's, laughable response to the USA Today investigation - if someone is not paid in full by the Trump organization, that means that person didn't do a good job. Simply being dissatisfied with work does not give one a right to withhold payment for work performed.

The USA Today article paints the portrait of a man who stiffs working men and women at every opportunity and bullies them in court when they attempt to use the legal process to get paid. Trump is no hero of working class Americans.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Indiana GOP Delegates Face Real Choices in Nomination Contests for AG, Superintendent of Public Instruction

Republican delegates elected from across Indiana will meet Friday night and Saturday morning in Indianapolis to decide who will represent the party for Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction.  While a Lt. Governor candidate is also nominated at the state convention held on those two days, the only candidate for that position is Eric Holcomb, the current Lt. Governor under Governor Mike Pence.

Quite often state political party conventions are merely pep rallies.  But the contests for AG and Superintendent are being fiercely contested.  Let's look at the candidates for those contested contests.

Attorney General

The AG's race features four candidates.  Steve Carter, who was Indiana's Attorney General from 2001 to 2009 is running.  Another candidate is Abby Kuzma, who is currently an Assistant Attorney General under current AG Greg Zoeller, who was Carter's right hand-man when Carter served as Attorney General.

Carter and Kuzma face off against two "outsiders," Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill and State Senator Randy Head.
State Senator Randy Head

As an elected delegate, I am still pondering what to do in this race. I doubt I could supporter Carter or Kuzma. As an attorney, I've seen how the Attorney General's office has operated during the Carter-Zoeller years and I strongly believe there needs to be a change in direction. Consumer protection has been horrible during the past 16 years.  On another issue, while Carter (and his successor Zoeller) both went after gas stations that were "price gouging,"  the fact is the law gave him absolutely no legal authority to do so absent an emergency declared by the governor, fact I've written about on my website.  As far as Zoeller goes, his claim that he can pick and choose which laws get defended in court is untenable. It is a position that gives the AG an absolute veto over laws passed by our legislature.

I find Hill to be an intriguing choice.  Apparently he is well-liked by his staff, an important consideration for managing an office as diverse as the Attorney General.  But I am appalled by his insistence on pursuing felony murder charges against the Elkhart Four, a situation for which the law by any logical review of the facts did not apply - a fact the Indiana Supreme Court held.  Also, Prosecutor Hill's decision just last year to subpoena a reporter's notes in another case was an unacceptable attack on the idea of a free press.  In a letter to Prosecutor Hill, the NewsGuild attacked the decision:
On behalf of the 25,000 members of The NewsGuild-CWA, the union, until recently known as The Newspaper Guild-CWA, that has been representing professional journalists since 1933, I am writing to condemn your reckless, unconstitutional and shameful misconduct toward Elkhart Truth reporter Emily Pfund.
We call on you to rescind immediately your subpoena for Ms. Pfund’s testimony and her notes and other materials stemming from an interview with an inmate who accuses authorities of interrogating him under duress while needing medical care for a concussion and broken nose.
If you are genuinely concerned about the abuse-of-power allegations that Ms. Pfund’s interview raised, you can follow up with inmate Freddie Rhodes, with the police officers involved, and with the medical personnel who treated Mr. Rhodes’ injuries.
Instead, your pursuit of Ms. Pfund suggests a chilling attempt to punish her and the newspaper for publishing Mr. Rhodes’ charges, and to silence further such reporting. And it is not just the journalists’ First Amendment rights that are at stake. Your community has a fundamental right to know what its elected and appointed officials are doing, as well as the right and responsibility to hold those officials accountable.
...
I could not agree more. The prosecution of the Elkhart Four and going after a reporter's notes causes me to be concerned about Prosecutor Hill's judgment and temperament. Still, Attorney General is a completely different position than being a county prosecutor, the latter of which carries prosecutorial power while the former does not.

That leaves Randy Head. I know little about Senator Head, but his literature does suggest he disagrees with Zoeller and that all laws passed by the legislature should be defended in court. That's a major plus in my book.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Two candidates square off for the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, the superintendent of the Yorktown Community Schools, and Dawn Wooten, a college instructor.   I don't know much about the two candidates, but I suspect the fight will focus on Common Core.  On her website, McCormick insists that Indiana totally abandoned Common Core in its standards:
Indiana is not a Common Core state. Indiana standards are not Common Core, and Indiana does not utilize Common Core testing. The Common Core standards have been repealed in Indiana because of concerns related to federal overreach. Indiana crafted and implemented our own state standards with input from Hoosiers. We deserved better standards, and we now have better standards.
Wooten, who was involved in crafting the new standards, disagrees and includes on her website a very compelling side-by-side comparison of Indiana standards and Common Core to prove her point.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Democrats Call on Hoosier Republicans to Condemn Trump for "Mexican Judge" Comment

Fox59 reports:
Hoosier Democrats came out in support of a judge with Hoosier roots who’s come under attack from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Trump, who has made comments critical of Mexicans and touted his plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, said Curiel is upset with Trump’s policies toward Mexico and shouldn't oversee the Trump University case.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody lashed out against Trump’s comments
Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel
Monday morning, but he also criticized Indiana Republicans for failing to come to Curiel’s defense. While Trump has received some criticism from Republicans nationally, Zody said the Indiana contingent has remained quiet.
“We’re here to publicly call out the Indiana Republican Party and its candidates and elected officials for turning a blind eye and not sticking to the morals we know as Hoosiers,” Zody said. “We’re asking Republicans to put politics aside and join us in an effort to protect the well-being of Indiana and everyone who calls themselves a Hoosier by condemning these remarks against a Hoosier.”
...
Zody called for Hoosier Republicans, naming Gov. Mike Pence and Rep. Todd Young and others, to condemn Trump’s remarks.
“Hoosier Republicans should be held accountable for their blind support of their presumptive nominee,” Zody. “We’re not really talking about politics. We’re talking about the Golden Rule and how we treat one another.”
“The silence is deafening, and it should be a wakeup call for Hoosiers,” Zody said. “We’re hearing nothing from our Hoosier elected officials.
As the article notes, several national Republicans have condemned Trump's comments, including Newt Gingrich who on Sunday said the comment was "inexcusable.  Gingrich said the "judge is not a Mexican.  He's an American."  Trump responded to Gingrich who is supposedly on the Trump Vice-President short list scolding the former Speaker's public criticism of his comment as "inappropriate."

As I have pointed out on this blog, the biggest obstacle to Governor Pence's re-election is figuring out how to handle "The Donald" problem.  If the Democrats in this state are smart, they are going to continually link Pence to Trump and demand he denounce the GOP presidential nominee.  However, if Pence distances himself from Trump, he could alienate his own base, including most prominently Tea Party people.  But on the other hand if Pence doesn't distance himself from Trump he is likely to be tarnish his image with conservatives.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

GOP's Plans to Run Against an Unpopular President Obama Appear to Be Fading

One thing that has flown under the political radar is the substantial improvement in President Obama's approval numbers over the past several months.  Rasmussen does almost daily polling on the President's approval rating.  In early December, when there were 17 GOP presidential candidates chomping at the bit to take on the Obama legacy, Rasmussen's polling showed 43% approved of the President's performance in office while 55% disapproved.  As of yesterday, the polling had flipped to 52-46, an 18 point swing.

Rasmussen's polling is not an outlier.  Gallup also tracks Presidential popularity. Obama's approval rating as of today is +10, 53-43.  In late November, it was -7, 44-51.  So the Gallup swing is 17 points.

Why does this matter? Because the 2016 election will be primarily a referendum on President Obama's eight years in office.

Many Republicans will put their heads in the sand, pretending that all polls should be dismissed because on occasion some prove to be inaccurate when it comes to prediction election outcomes.  To summarily dismiss the importance of polling is extremely foolish.  Polling is an inexact science, no doubt, but it is a science nonetheless.  In considering political strategy, Republicans need to be honest with themselves about the political field on which they will play the 2016 election.  If Obama is popular, then the GOP campaign for President has to be about presenting a positive alternative, not just bashing the President and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Governor Pence Decides to Apply for Federal Dollars for State's Pre-K Program

In a disappointing move, Governor Pence announced he will be seeking federal dollars for Indiana's pre-K program.  The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence reversed a previous position and announced on Thursday that he will seek federal money to help expand a pre-kindergarten program for disadvantaged children.
"I am committed to opening the doors of opportunity to the most vulnerable children in our state," the Republican governor wrote in a letter to the U.S Department of Health and
Gov. Mike Pence
Human Services, inquiring about federal funding.
Pence strongly advocated for the state's existing On My Way Pre-K pilot program, which was launched across five counties in 2015 and has since sent about 2,300 low-income children to preschool at annual cost of about $10 million.
But many early education supporters were surprised at the time when Pence, whose name was being floated as a possible GOP presidential candidate, announced he would not seek $80 million in federal pre-kindergarten funding amid lobbying from religious conservatives, tea party groups and a network of home schoolers opposed to accepting the federal money. 
Since then, the state's pre-K program has proven popular, though the majority of families who applied have been turned away because demand has outstripped funding.
At the time, Pence said his administration decided not to seek federal funding because it would have required "us to expand our pre-K pilot before it is even up and running."
The Governor's position is that it would have been foolish to commit the state to taking federal dollars until the state saw how the pre-K pilot program was working.  Contrary to the Democrats' claim, that is a reasonable position. 

The problem though with taking federal money is that those dollars come with tremendous strings attached.  Although only about 7% of the dollars spent on public school K-12 education in the United States comes from the federal government, the feds use that miniscule funding level as leverage to force local schools to comply with an assortment of requirements, including most recently the Obama administration's restroom mandate.

But there is a second problem with more tax dollars being spent on pre-K. The credible studies out there indicate that pre-K programs offer no long-term benefits to students.  The Department of Health and Human Services looked at the Head Start program and found no long term benefits.  Vanderbilt University looked at Tennessee's pre-K program and found no long term benefits.  The liberal Brookings Institute looked at pre-K programs and found no long term benefits...and criticized unscientific studies being used to tout early childhood education.  I wrote about these studies in February of last year:
In voting to spend millions of dollars on pre-K, city-county councilors ignored studies showing early childhood education doesn't work.  A independent and comprehensive study of Head Start commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services found that the program offers no long term benefits.  Last year that 2005 study was updated to look at high v. low quality Head Start program and still found it made no difference...there was still no lasting impact.
Applying these analytic innovations to the experimental HSIS evaluation data, we find little evidence that Head Start’s impact varies systematically by the level of quality in the program for the available, limited quality measures. The frequency of statistically significant differences in impacts by quality levels is no greater than one would expect to observe by chance alone when no true differences exist. The one exception to this pattern is the discovery that, for 3-year-olds, lower exposure to academic activities is associated with more favorable short-run impacts on social development. There is almost no indication that either high or low quality Head Start in any dimension leads to Head Start impacts that last into third grade for either age cohort, consistent with the overall findings of the Head Start Impact Study not disaggregated by quality level.
A 2013 study by Vanderbilt University of Tennessee's voluntary pre-K program found the same thing:
The relatively large effects of TN‐VPK on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures found at the end of the pre‐k year were greatly diminished and no longer statistically significant at the end of the kindergarten year. The only exception was a marginally significant negative effect on Passage Comprehension such that nonparticipants had higher scores at the end of the kindergarten year than TN‐VPK participants.
Similarly, at the end of first grade, there were no statistically significant differences between TN‐VPK participants and nonparticipants on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures with one exception. There was a significant difference that favored the nonparticipant group on the Quantitative Concept subscale.
These diminished effects were not entirely unexpected in light of the findings in other longitudinal studies of the effects of early childhood programs on economically disadvantaged children. For preschool programs, a typical finding is that the cognitive effects are not sustained for very long after that initial year. Though none of those other studies investigated the effects of a single year of a scaled up state‐funded public pre‐k program, many involved even more intensive programs that nonetheless failed to show effects on cognitive achievement measures that were sustained for very long. Like TN‐VPK, however, these programs did not involve any continuous, focused support in subsequent years for sustaining the gains made during the initial program year.
Grover J. Whitehurst of the liberal Brookings Institute concerned about the "weak evidence behind the groundswell of advocacy for public investments in statewide universal pre-k" wrote an article in 2014 discussing the pre-K advocates' misuse of unscientific studies purporting to show the programs work:
The previous tables and descriptions refer to 13 separate studies (including 3 similar studies of district programs and two similar studies of statewide programs in Oklahoma and Georgia).  Of these 13, six report enduring and meaningful impacts beyond the pre-k year, four report null, negative, or very small positive impacts beyond the pre-k year, and three do not report findings beyond the pre-k year.
It would be easy for someone without the training to carefully evaluate these studies or someone with a strong motive to advocate for the expansion of publicly funded pre-k to summarize this research by saying that the preponderance of evidence supports universal pre-k for four-year-olds. After all, of the 10 studies I’ve reviewed that have long-term follow-up, 60 percent report substantive positive outcomes.  Libby Doggett, the Obama administration’s point person on Preschool for All, has been singing exactly this song at every opportunity:
You have to look at the preponderance of the evidence. Better high school graduation rates, social and emotional stability, less crime and other results speak for themselves.
But results do not speak for themselves.  Rather, it is the combination of results and the research designs that produce them that do the speaking.  And some of the combinations speak a lot louder than others.
Not one of the studies that has suggested long-term positive impacts of center-based early childhood programs has been based on a well-implemented and appropriately analyzed randomized trial, and nearly all have serious limitations in external validity.  In contrast, the only two studies in the list with both high internal and external validity (Head Start Impact and Tennessee) find null or negative impacts, and all of the studies that point to very small, null, or negative effects have high external validity. 
(Emphasis supplied.)  In general, a finding of meaningful long-term outcomes of an early childhood intervention is more likely when the program is old, or small, or a multi-year intervention, and evaluated with something other than a well-implemented RCT.  In contrast, as the program being evaluated becomes closer to universal pre-k for four-year-olds and the evaluation design is an RCT, the outcomes beyond the pre-k year diminish to nothing.
I conclude that the best available evidence raises serious doubts that a large public investment in the expansion of pre-k for four-year-olds will have the long-term effects that advocates tout. 
I have never had any doubt a voluntary pre-K program would be popular with parents.  Why wouldn't it be popular?  It is, after all, essentially publicly funded day care.  But taxpayers, who would balk at paying for day care, are easily duped into believing there are long-term educational and other benefits to pre-K when in fact the credible studies out there simply do not show those benefits exist.