Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Analysis of Indiana Election Results Suggests Troubling Future for Hoosier GOP in Trump Era

On the evening of November 6, 2018, Hoosier Republicans celebrated the victory of Mike Braun over Senator Joe Donnelly who was the only remaining Democrat with a statewide constituency.  That same night, Republicans swept the other statewide offices and, again,  won large majorities in the Indiana General Assembly.    The Indiana GOP had what appeared to be a great night and State GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer wasted no time bragging about the Republican success.  But a close look at the 2018 election data reveals a troubling future for the Indiana GOP.

In my last post, I took a deep dive into the local election data to find that Democrats now winning virtually every precinct on the north side of Marion County (Indianapolis) and even cutting into Republican dominance in the southern half of the state's most populous county.  Many politicos will write off
Marion County (which is well on its way to becoming the most Democratic county in the state) as an aberration.  After all, in the Trump era, red counties are getting redder and blue counties are getting bluer.

Except that is not true.

In establishing a baseline, I compared the State Auditor's election results in 2014 to 2018.  In the 2018 midterms, there was a tremendous increase in turnout over the election four years earlier.  Republicans, Democrats and Independents came to the polls in record numbers.  While the Republican State Auditor candidate still won an easy victory (57.5% of the R-D vote) that total was down from the winning 62.4% in 2014.  (To make comparisons between 2014 and 2018 easier, I have dropped out the Libertarian vote from the analysis and instead compared the R-D vote head-to-head.)  

So the state GOP baseline, using the State Auditor's race, was down in 2018 by nearly 7%.  While statewide Hoosier Republican candidates can lose that much and still win easy statewide victories,that may well not be the case during presidential election years when Indiana Democratic statewide candidates generally do much better.

Indiana has 92 counties.  In 2018, 50 counties saw decreasing GOP percentages while 42 counties had shares of the Republican vote that increased.  Again, the general assumption is that red counties have gotten redder during the Trump era while blue areas have gotten bluer.  An analysis of the data shows that to be a fiction, at least in Indiana.

Looking at the top 34 GOP counties percentage wise for 2014, only 5 of those red counties saw an increase in the Republican vote.  And even in those counties the GOP increase was small.  Only in one county did the Republican percent increase by more than 1%. 

Examining the raw Republican vote totals for largest to smallest, one sees a similar pattern.  Of the 11 counties with the most Republican vote, none became redder in 2018 compared to 2014.  Of the top 29 best GOP raw vote counties, only two became more Republican in 2018 compared to 2014.

Again, there was a significant number of counties (40 of 92) that did become more Republican in 2018.  If redder counties getting redder is a fiction, what then is a common characteristic in these, let's call them Trump Republican, counties?  

The answer is population...or more precisely the lack thereof.  Eight of the nine smallest population counties became more Republican in 2018.  Taking a wider look, 15 of the 19 smallest population counties became redder.

Flipping the numbers, the top 12 most populous Indiana counties saw a decrease in Republican vote from 2014 to 2018.  Of the top 29 counties population wise, only two counties became more Republican and that was by increases of less than 1%.  

Here is an abbreviated table, sorted by largest Republican decreases to largest GOP increases, percentage wise, in the counties:

County 2014 R Pct 2018 R Pct GOP Movement 2019 Population
Vanderburgh 70.3 54.6 -15.7 181,616
Hamilton 75.3 62.2 -13.1 323,747
Monroe 47.1 36.3 -10.8 146,986
Boone 76.9 66.3 -10.6 65,875
Hendricks 76.9 66.7 -10.2 163,685
Tippecanoe 62.2 52.2 -10 190,587
Johnson 79.1 70.5 -8.6 153,897
Marion 46.1 38.1 -8 950,082
Elkhart 73.6 65.4 -8 205,032
Wayne 72.1 64.1 -8 66,185
Warrick 70.5 62.5 -8 62,530
Allen 68.2 60.5 -7.7 372,877
Hancock 79.5 71.8 -7.7 74,985
St. Joseph 53.9 47.4 -6.5 270,434
Bartholomew 71 65.6 -5.4 82,040
Kosciusko 83.1 78 -5.1 79,206
Grant 70.5 66 -4.5 66,491
Huntington 80 75.7 -4.3 36,337
Marshall 72.5 69 -3.5 46,498
Vigo 54.5 51.4 -3.1 107,516
Montgomery 79 76 -3 38,525
Floyd 59.7 56.8 -2.9 77,071
Clinton 76.5 73.6 -2.9 32,317
Whitley 78.2 75.5 -2.7 33,756
Posey 66.3 63.6 -2.7 25,595
Lake 38.4 35.9 -2.5 485,640
Putnam 76.2 73.7 -2.5 37,702
DeKalb 75.5 73.3 -2.2 42,836
Rush 78.1 75.9 -2.2 16,645
LaGrange 78.3 76.2 -2.1 39,303
Steuben 74.2 72.1 -2.1 34,484
LaPorte 50.2 48.2 -2 110,029
Morgan 79.1 77.1 -2 69,713
Benton 76 74 -2 8,613
Porter 51.8 49.9 -1.9 168,404
Shelby 74.9 73.2 -1.7 44,395
White 72.6 70.9 -1.7 24,182
Noble 75 73.4 -1.6 47,452
Lawrence 74.9 73.3 -1.6 45,666
Carroll 75.2 73.6 -1.6 20,039
Fulton 72.8 71.4 -1.4 20,059
Wabash 76.2 74.9 -1.3 31,443
Clark 57.7 56.6 -1.1 116,973
Delaware 55.2 54.2 -1 115,184
Spencer 63.9 62.9 -1 20,394
Brown 63.9 63.1 -0.8 15,035
Wells 78.4 77.7 -0.7 27,984
Dubois 65 64.4 -0.6 42,558
Pulaski 69.8 70.3 -0.5 12,534
Tipton 75.8 75.5 -0.3 15,128
Dearborn 75.8 75.8 0 49,741
Fountain 75.8 75.9 0.1 16,505
Cass 68.5 68.7 0.2 37,994
Miami 74.2 74.4 0.2 35,845
Randolph 72.2 72.5 0.3 24,922
Daviess 79.4 79.9 0.5 33,113
Orange 68.6 69.2 0.6 19,426
Howard 64 64.7 0.7 82,363
Owen 69.4 70.1 0.7 20,839
Madison 58.4 59.4 1 129,498
Decatur 76.4 77.4 1 26,737
Parke 72.5 73.7 1.2 16,886
Gibson 66.5 68.1 1.6 33,576
Adams 72.4 74.1 1.7 35,491
Henry 67 69.1 2.1 48,476
Jasper 68.6 70.8 2.2 33,447
Warren 71.3 73.7 2.4 8,201
Ripley 73 75.7 2.7 28,442
Perry 48 50.7 2.7 19,081
Clay 69.9 72.8 2.9 26,198
Jay 67.3 70.3 3 20,945
Knox 64.2 67.5 3.3 37,508
Crawford 55.7 59.7 4 10,566
Martin 68.2 72.3 4.1 10,215
Union 71.1 75.2 4.1 7,200
Jackson 67.3 71.6 4.3 43,884
Jefferson 56.5 60.8 4.3 32,089
Greene 66.7 71.2 4.5 32,177
Newton 66.8 71.4 4.6 14,130
Vermillion 52.4 57.8 5.4 15,505
Harrison 61.1 66.7 5.6 39,898
Ohio 64 69.7 5.7 5,828
Fayette 62.8 68.8 6 23,209
Starke 56.4 62.4 6 22,893
Pike 60.9 66.9 6 12,365
Washington 64.3 70.6 6.3 27,827
Franklin 71.6 78.5 6.9 22,619
Blackford 60.3 67.4 7.1 11,976
Scott 49.1 56.7 7.6 23,870
Jennings 62.4 70.6 8.2 27,626
Sullivan 54.7 62.9 8.2 20,746
Switzerland 54.9 67.1 12.2 10,696

You don't have to be much of a political analyst to see the problems the Indiana GOP faces if these post-Trump trend lines continue.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Marion County-Indianapolis Electorate Turns Sharply Against the Republican Party

The other day, I took a look at how the GOP baseline numbers look in the Indianapolis City-County Council Districts up for election this year.  I found that seven northside districts the Republican council candidates won in 2015 are deeply underwater going into the 2019 municipal elections.

To recap, a baseline is a way political scientists have of measuring party support.  Once voters get
beyond the top few spots on the ballot, they start following their partisan leanings when it comes to lesser known or unknown candidates.   So to measure partisanship, a political scientist looks at how voters cast ballots in low profile races on the ballot.  A second caveat is that you consider the type of election.  A presidential election year will have much more turnout than a local election.  In most parts of the country, Republican candidates tend to do better with low turnout while Democrats do better in presidential election years. That though is a broad generalization though and is not true in every voting district.  It depends.

So compare apples to apples, using a low profile race.  I chose Marion County Recorder for my comparison.  Probably 90% of the voters couldn't name who the Recorder is much less tell you anything about the candidates for that position.  So the vote in that race is more about partisan affiliation than anything.   And I chose the midterms because they most closely emulate the lower turnout seen municipal elections.  I chose 2018 in particular because I wanted a recent election, post-Trump, to compare the electorate to the previous comparable election, 2014.

I cannot adequately convey how shocked I was by the data.   The Indianapolis Republican Party north of Washington Street, at least in terms of electoral support, has almost completely disappeared.  Consider the following:

The Republican Party won only 3 precincts in Washington Township (Outside) in 2018.  THREE.  That is 3 out of the 69 Washington Township precincts outside the old city limits.    While I did not look at the Washington Township precincts in the old city wards, they tend to be even heavier Democrat.

In 2018, the GOP won 1 precinct in Pike Township (outside).   That is 1 out of 51.  The other townships (outside the old city limits) precincts were better, but still horrible.  The GOP won 8 of 36 in Warren, 21 of 60 in Wayne and 17 of 67 in Lawrence.

No area has been hit harder by the GOP defections than the City-County Council District 2, a Broad Ripple area district which is currently represented by Republican Colleen Fanning who is also running for re-election.  The district, which takes in some of the wealthiest Meridian Street northside communities such as Meridian-Kessler, saw a dramatic drop in GOP support in 2018.   In 2014, the district had voted for the GOP Recorder candidate in 13 of its 30 precincts with a Republican baseline of 50.2%.  In 2018, the GOP Recorder candidate won ZERO precincts in the district and the Republican baseline in the county had dropped dramatically to 36.8%.  While that was the most dramatic decline, a substantial number precincts in other council districts flipped from red to blue. For example, Council District 3, won by then Republican Christine Scales in 2015, went from having 13 GOP precincts in 2014 to 3 in 2018.

While GOP strength on the southside of Indianapolis remains strong, it too is in decline.  My analysis shows the GOP baseline dropping on the southside between 7% and 10% depending on the area.  I did not see any part of Marion County where GOP support was strengthening.  Southside races that were once 70-30 for the GOP candidate are now 60-40.

One thing that comes through from the data is a large increase in turnout.  While in 2018 Hoosier Republican-leaning voters came to the polls in substantially higher numbers than 2014, turnout on the Democratic side was off the charts.  While Republicans can realistically hope for a significantly lower Democratic turnout in the 2019 municipal elections, it is difficult to fathom that even that would be enough to counter the long-term Democratic trend in Marion County that has apparently accelerated since the election of Donald Trump.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Republicans Set to Lose Seven Seats on the Indianapolis City-County Council that GOP Won in 2015

In 2015, Republicans won 12 of 25 Indianapolis City-County Council Districts utilizing a map drawn by Republican political operative David Brooks.  As I noted at the time, the problem was that Brooks had drawn the GOP districts with margins too small, margins that would not overcome the increasing trend of Marion County residents, particularly those living on the northside, voting Democrat.  The GOP did fairly well defending those northside districts in 2015.  It should be noted that District 2
Republican councilor Christine Scales switched to the Democratic Party after the election.

It is not that Brooks was negligent in drawing the council maps.  His charge was to draw the maps in such a way (by creating a significant number of narrow Republican majority districts) as to give the GOP a chance to win a majority of council seats in the 2015 election. He did exactly that.  The problem was those numbers would not hold.  It turns out that not only have the Republican  numbers continued their two decade long bleed, what appears to be a Trump effect has caused GOP numbers to hemorrhage.

I said at the time the Democrats, who unsuccessfully challenged the Brooks map in court, would grow to love the Brooks map.  The love begins this year.

Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15 and 16 are northside council districts won by the GOP in 2015.  Mid-term elections are the most similiar to municipal elections in terms of turnout.  To establish a baseline, I looked at the Marion Recorder's Office election results in those districts in 2014 versus 2018.  Here is the table I put together of districts the GOP won in 2015.

GOP Districts 2014 GOP Baseline 2018 GOP Baseline Difference
2 49.8 36.8 -13
3 54 37.7 -16.3
4 57 43.4 -13.6
5 55.1 43 -12.1
6 51.6 39.9 -11.7
15 55 42.8 -12.8
16 49.1 40.3 -8.8
18 60.3 51.7 -8.6
20 67.5 58.3 -9.2
23 67.8 58.8 -9
24 66 58.5 -7.5
25 72.3 62 -10.3

Those are not good numbers.  Seven northside GOP districts are deeply underwater.  Even a southside GOP district, District 18, appears to be competitive.

For the record, the only district the Republicans appear to have any shot of winning is Council District 22 held by Jared Evans who upset the Republican in that district in 2015.. But that is at best a long shot.  In District 22 the GOP base went from 54.8 in 2014 to 46.5 in 2018.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Indianapolis Tea Party Presents "Alternative Facts" in Attacking Mueller Investigation

Yesterday my email landed in my inbox announcing Monday meeting of the local northside Tea Party.  As a leadoff to the reminder about the meeting and information about the guest speaker, the email red meat to the tea party members.  Reading the red meat reminds me of the "alternative facts" explanation President Trump adviser Kelly Ann Conway used when explaining why people should ignore actual facts in favor of her spin.

The email contains some doozies::
"The recently concluded Special Counsel “investigation” unfairly targeted President Trump"
Although this is an opinion, rather than an "alternative fact," it's ridiculous on its face.    Numerous members of Trump's campaign were in communication with Russian officials and then lied about it.  This included a meeting in Trump Tower attended by the President's son, son-in-law and campaign manager, a meeting held for the express purpose of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russian officials.  The fact is virtually every Republican in Congress supported the opening of the investigation and the appointment of the special counsel. The investigation was not only to look into the nature of the Trump campaign contacts with the Russians, more importantly it was about Russian interference in the 2016 election. So the Tea Party does not think that Russian interference in our elections should not have been investigated? 
but who was propagandistically “charged" with "collusion: for which he could only be exonerated- due to the fact that collusion is not a crime. 
Not sure what this line means.  I certainly agree the media from the beginning to the conclusion mischaracterized the issue as "collusion." Collusion is not a crime. But Mueller's charge was never to investigate collusion.  It was to investigate Russian interference in our election as well as whether the Trump campaign criminally conspired with the Russians in that effort  Mueller found, at least according to Attorney General Bob Barr's spin of the report, that the answer to that conspiracy question is "no."  Contrary to media reports, Mueller never cleared Trump of "collusion."  And how could it have?  The Trump Tower meeting was indisputably an attempt by Trump campaign officials to collude with the Russians in the obtaining of dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign.  But did it rise to the level of criminal conspiracy?  Mueller, according to Barr, said "no."
"As a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, how does the President’s righteous defense from investigatory fraud; somehow make him “guilty" of “obstruction?”  
I certainly don't accept the assumption that President Trump was a victim of "prosecutorial misconduct" or that there was "investigatory fraud" going on.  The evidence clearly says otherwise.  But assuming Trump was completely innocent of any wrongdoing, a mighty big assumption, does that mean he gets a ticket to obstruct justice all he wants?  Obviously he does not. 
Documents reveal that early on, Special Counselor Mueller knew the DNC / Clinton / Fusion GPS funded “dossier” was a work of fiction; used to illegally obtain FISA warrants for the illegal surveillance of Trump & other 2016 Presidential candidates…  
It was a conservative leaning publication which initially funded the dossier, a fact the author omits.  But the huge fabrication in the sentence is that the dossier was a "work of fiction."   Many of the facts outlined in the dossier have been proven to be correct.  Other facts remain unverified and a few, very few, have been proven to be false  None of this should be a surprise as the dossier was a compilation of raw investigatory information.  It was never meant to be a finished product in which all facts were verified.  That the dossier is a complete work of "fiction" is a lie Trumpers have been spinning from Day 1.  It is simply not true.

Oh, and that the dossier was used to obtain FISA warrants is a complete misrepresentation.  The dossier was only one of several pieces of evidence used to obtain the warrants.  And the warrants issued were perfectly legal, contrary to Trump spin.
"Considering the manufactured “Steele Dossier” is tantamount to planted evidence, counterfeited to defraud a federal court (FISC); doesn't the Special Counsel’s suppression of that & other facts require a proper investigation- into criminal misconduct?"
As noted, the Steele Dossier certainly was not "manufactured" or "counterfeited."  The fact that the dossier was funded by a political campaign was in fact made known to the federal judges considering the FISA warrant.  But even if the sourcing wasn't announced, there is no evidence - zero - that the funding of the dossier was "suppressed" from consideration by the judge considering the warrant.  Not even sure how that "suppression" would have happened.  So do Trumpers think the federal judge asked for the source of the dossier and the FBI simply lied?  Again, no evidence of that.

The sad thing is if it President Obama or Hillary Clinton were the one who were having multiple contacts with a hostile foreign power leading up to an election, and had acted the same way Trump and his allies did to try to derail the investigation into those activities, Tea Party members would be in the streets in every major city protesting.  Unfortunately, they have chosen blind worship of President Trump over sticking by their principles and any semblance of intellectual integrity.

I guess I should not be surprised.  The Tea Party's No. 1 guiding principle used to be fiscal responsibility.  I really respected them for that.  But now Tea Party members have completely abandoned that principle to enthusiastically support a President who is running record deficits, during an economic expansion no less.

Below is the video of Democratic Representative Adam Schiff's eloquent speech in response to Republicans who tried to get him to resign as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  I defy Trumpers to find one single thing he said that is inaccurate.   Schiff is right...it is not "okay" what Trump's campaign did, regardless of whether criminality was involved.  Anyone, including members of the Tea Party, who thinks what Schiff condemns in his speech is actually acceptable conduct should never call themselves "patriots" because they are anything but.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

No, Donald Trump Was Not "Exonerated" By Mueller Report

After two years of investigation, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller issues a report saying that he cannot conclude either way whether President Donald Trump committed a crime.  In the delusional world of Trump and his Kool-Aid drinking cult supporters, that's a win!  Mr. Trump has been "exonerated"!  Of course, they ignore the specific admonition by Mueller that the report did not exonerate Trump of committing crimes.

But what about the finding by Mueller that there was no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with
the Russians?  Adam Schiff and the Democrats were wrong!  The liberal media were wrong! They all need to apologize!  Now!

The problem is Mueller issued no such finding.  His finding (which we only know thus far from Attorney General Barr's summary of it) was that he could not find evidence to support the notion there was a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Collusion and criminal conspiracy are not synonymous terms.  To prosecute someone for criminal conspiracy there has to be significant evidence that two actors planned and coordinated their illegal activities.  Just having meetings or conversations is not enough.

The Trump Tower meeting at which Donald, Jr. tried to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians was unquestionably an attempt by members of the Trump campaign team to collude with the Russians.  But pretty much everyone knew, including the maligned Schiff, that that act of attempted collusion (and others) was not enough for a criminal conspiracy.  It was up to Mueller to see if there was more there than clumsy attempts by the Trump campaign to collude with the Russians.  Mueller did not find evidence that would support criminal conspiracy and, not having seen the report, I have no reason to dispute that conclusion.  Nonetheless, that Trump campaign officials would have numerous meetings/conversations with a hostile foreign power trying to influence our election and fail to report any of those contacts to the FBI should give everyone pause.

As far as obstruction of justice, President Trump did pretty much everything he could to undermine the investigation.  But obstruction of justice was an issue that always should have been left up to Congress and the impeachment process as those were actions taken after he assumed office.  A criminal indictment for obstruction of justice was never going to happen to a President.

A writer for one Trump pro-publication is trying to spin Donald Trump as Washington's "boy scout."  Not sure if  the writer is aware keeping oneself "morally straight" is part of the Boy Scout pledge.  Nonetheless, anyone who has followed the failed businessman, successful reality TV star's career knows that Donald Trump has been a two-bit con artist his entire adult life.   As President, he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is completely unfit for the office.  Probably Trump's biggest con has been convincing his supporters that he is actually having a successful Presidency.  Back in the real world, by pretty much any measure Trump's presidency has been a train wreck.  I can't think of any President who has accomplished less in office.  Okay, maybe William Henry Harrison.

Sadly, every conservative principle I've ever believed in and fought for is now being attached to this very flawed and morally corrupt individual.  And I know there will be consequences. Democrats and socialism won on November 8, 2016.  It will take real conservatives at least a generation to rebuild the movement and the GOP after the Trump personality cult has ended.  And it will end.  The only question is how much damage to the conservative movement and the Republican Party will be done before it is over.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Unpatriotic IPatriot Writer Celebrates White Supremacist's Murder of New Zealand Muslims

IPatriot is a news website that fashions itself as a conservative alternative to the liberal mainstream media. At least once a  day, I receive an email linking to the latest "IPatriot" column of which I've read several.  The website, which has a number of writers, is not actually conservative at all and I haven't found many writers for the publication who can seriously be called "patriots."  What the website is is 100% pro-Donald Trump on every issue.  Worse yet, the website regularly gives voice to the most
radical views of Trump's cultish followers.

For the record, several times I've tried to unsubscribe from IPatriot without success. 

Last week, IPatriot's Justin O. Smith took IPatriot's unpatriotic, anti-American and extremely unchristian views to a new low, writing in the publication about how happy he is that 49 Muslims died during a white supremacist's terrorist attack on New Zealand mosques:
So … 49 Muslims dead. That’s 49 less potential global terrorists who might wage Holy War against the West and America. Forty-nine who were a part of the Islamic ideology responsible for 9/11, for Benghazi, for the Boston Bombing, San Bernadino [sic], Florida and Chattanooga terror attacks and many more throughout the Middle East and Europe … the same ideology that beheaded thousands of Mosul’s Christian population and put their heads on spiked poles outside the city … the same ideology that placed Christians in cages and drowned them or burned them alive.
If God were to strike every God Damned Muslim off the face of the Earth today, in one fell swoop, I would not shed a tear. I have no tears in me for Muslim deaths.
Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Can Senator Merritt Win The Indianapolis Mayor's Office Running on Infrastructure, Crime?

The answer to that question is a resounding "no."

Across my desk today comes a press release from Senator Jim Merritt, GOP candidate for Indianapolis Mayor, deploring the condition of Indianapolis streets:
INDIANAPOLIS – Current State Senator and Indianapolis Mayoral Candidate Jim Merritt laid the responsibility for the current pothole crisis on Mayor Joe Hogsett during an event held today at Clark & Sons Used Tires on the east side of Indianapolis. 
“There are potholes everywhere – over 7,000 of them, according to the Indy pothole viewer,” Merritt said. “This is the direct result of a failure of leadership and lack of planning by Mayor Hogsett.” 
According to Merritt, funds have been available to help fix the roads. “In 2017, the Indiana legislature appropriated $52 million to the City of Indianapolis to help fix the roads and I voted in support,” said Merritt. “Here we are again two years later and the city has practically nothing to show for it. The roads are in worse condition now than they were then. We’re going backwards.” 
Merritt commented that the costs of the pothole crisis are hitting Indianapolis residents particularly hard. “The price of a new rim and tire on a minivan is $300 or more. Add the cost of having a tow truck take your car to the repair shop and you’re creating a hardship for countless people here in the city,” Merritt indicated. “That’s the cost of medicine for some people. Imagine having to choose between your medicine and groceries for the week or a new tire to drive safely. These are real choices that residents in Indianapolis are trying to deal with.” 
Merritt emphasized that Mayor Hogsett’s administration has responded ineffectively to this crisis. “The money being spend now is reactionary. Paving now won’t fix the last three years of neglect by this administration,” said Merritt. “Last year, there were nearly 1,400 claims filed due to pothole damage to vehicles. Fewer than twenty of those claims were paid by the city. It’s obvious that Mayor Hogsett has a difficult time understanding the plight of hardworking citizens who face having to pay for unnecessary car repairs.” The concerns go beyond cost, however, according to Merritt. “Last month, the news reported about the very serious concerns of a local ER doctor who said that potholes are the biggest public health issue outside of opiates. He said an ambulance hitting a pothole can dislodge ventilators and IVs from infants, causing pain and life-threatening conditions.” 
Merritt concluded his remarks by saying that the legacy of the Hogsett administration is a city filled with undrivable roads, frustrated citizens, and stifled economic progress caused by ignoring our infrastructure. “The taxpayers of Indianapolis deserve better. The hardworking people of Indianapolis deserve better,” Merritt emphasized. “A brighter future for Indianapolis must include a mayor’s office working proactively on the challenges our citizens are facing every day. It’s time for new leadership.”
Senator Merritt is correct.  Indianapolis' roads are in terrible shape.  Traversing the city's streets requires constant dodging of potholes lest one end up with a flat tire or, worse, a bent rim.  Likewise Merritt isn't wrong to raise the issue of Indianapolis' ever increasing homicide rate.  But if Merritt thinks the issues of infrastructure and crime will propel him to the Mayor's Office, perhaps he'd be wise to learn the lesson of Mayor Melina Kennedy.

In 2011, Democrat Kennedy lost her bid to unseat Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.   Republican Ballard's first term featured pot-hole filled streets and record homicide rates.  Kennedy made those issues a central feature of her campaign.  Even with a new Democratic majority in Marion County, Kennedy was unable to move the political needle enough to win.

Now, Merritt is trying to replicate the losing Kennedy strategy but from the Republican side. which is an even worse idea. While Kennedy at least had a new Democratic majority in Indianapolis which almost propelled her to victory despite her lackluster campaign, Merritt is now dealing with an electorate in which Democrats dominate.   The only Republican areas left of Marion County/Indianapolis are the three lightly populated southern townships,

Merritt's narrow chance of winning the Mayor's race is to run as a non-traditional, populist Republican, someone who can identify with and zealously defend the interests of Indianapolis working men and women.  But Merritt's entire political carer has been spent as a typical country club, corporate welfare- loving Indianapolis Republican.  Does anyone think Merritt would not continue the practice of handing out taxpayer dollars to politically-connected contractors and developers?  Does anyone think Merritt wouldn't reward big law firms in town with lucrative, no bid contracts for legal services that could be provided much cheaper (and often better) by smaller, less connected firms?

The answer to those questions is "no."  Senator Merritt is not going to suddenly become a non-traditional Republican who puts taxpayers ahead of the corporate interests which dominate this city.  That is the only type of GOP candidate who can now win in a city dominated by Democratic voters.  Senator Merritt is not that person and has no chance of being elected Mayor of Indianapolis.

A Baseball Reform That is Needed: Moving the Mound Back

"Play Ball."

So looking forward to those words.  Little excites me more than the coming of the Major League Baseball baseball season.  Right now the teams are in Florida and Arizona prepping for the start of the season.  Baseball = Spring and more importantly the end of Winter I hate so much.  For that reason alone, I have to love the start of the baseball season.

Unfortunately the game is in a crisis.  Baseball games, at least at the top level, have become an endless parade of strikeouts and home runs.  Balls put into play have declined dramatically.  The excitement of watching fielders scrambling after batted balls and players running the bases has become a rarity.  Strikeouts, in particular, are consuming the action in baseball.  In 2009, hitters struck out 33,591 times. During the midst of the 2018 baseball season, it was projected that 42,076 batters would strike out.  (Don't have access to completed year stats.) That is an increase of 8,485 or 25.3% in less than 10 years.

Why is this happening?  The chief reason is a dramatic increase in pitch velocity.  In 2008, the velocity of the average MLB fastball was 90.47 mph.  In 2018, the average fastball clocked in at 92.8 mph.   In 2017, there were 81 MLB pitchers who threw in excess of 100 mph.

Games now have become a parade of relief pitchers throwing extremely hard to get out just one or two hitters.  Thanks to modern conditioning, these throwers (I hesitate to call them "pitchers" as they rarely have much in the way of breaking pitches) have fastballs that clock in at 95 mph plus.  A decade ago, these relievers' fastballs would have been in the low 90s.  That limited velocity and their moderately effective breaking pitches would have made their stuff little better than that offered by an middle aged baseball coach pitching batting practice.  But now, with those pitchers throwing much harder, these marginal pitchers can have major league careers.

Political analyst and stats guru Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight explains quite well the problem:
teams ... use a parade of relievers who enter the game from the sixth inning onward and throw the hell out of the ball, knowing they’ll probably max out at one inning at a time. (The Yankee bullpen is a prime example.) You might call these pitchers OMGs: One-inning Max-effort Guys. They can be incredibly, game-changingly effective, but they aren’t necessarily all that skilled. 
In fact, the whole problem is that OMGs are a renewable resource, with no real constraints on supply. Teams can take failed starters with two decent pitches and, after some weeding out, turn them into OMGs who will strike out 25 or 30 percent of the batters they face, provided they only have to throw one inning every second or third day. It also yields rosters that are grossly imbalanced relative to the amount of value that these relievers generate. 
According to FanGraphs, relief pitchers accounted for only about 9 percent of the value (in wins above replacement) that all position players and pitchers created last year. And yet, they occupy about 25 percent of roster slots.
And to a larger degree than you probably realize, these OMGs bear responsibility for the ever-increasing rate of strikeouts in baseball — something that was easier to shrug off until MLB attendance started to decline.
In his well-researched article, Silver proposed a reform - limiting pitchers on major league rosters to 10 along with one "emergency" pitcher.  MLB though settled on another reform for this season, requiring relief pitchers to pitch to at least three batters, or to the end of an inning.  Also, contrary to Silver's wishes, MLB went the other direction on roster size, starting in 2020 increasing MLB rosters from 25 players to 26.  Thankfully, the post-September roster expansion is now capped at 28, down from 40 players.  That was a change long past due.  Teams competing for playoff slots should not be playing their final games against teams out of the running which have filled their lineups filled with minor leaguers.

Other possible reforms, such as limiting  defensive shifts, adoption of the DH in the National League, reducing the strike zone, etc. are shelved for now.

The commonality of Silver's proposal and MLB's three pitcher reforms is that they they treat the symptoms of the problem while ignoring the underlying cause.  Bottom line is there is a limit on human reaction time.  While pitchers have been conditioned to throw harder and harder (if only for a few batters) the time required for a human being, even one as well trained as a major league baseball player, to decide whether to swing at a pitched ball has remained pretty much a constant. The modern day MLB fastball speeds are eclipsing the human reaction time needed to decide what pitch is being thrown and whether it is one at which the player should swing.

When it comes to baseball, I am as much a traditionalist as anyone.  I abhor the DH which robs the fans of seeing the major strategic move in baseball - whether to pull a well-performing pitcher for a pinch hitter during the game. I am adamant against the proposed limits on where defensive players can play in a baseball game.  But when it comes to baseball, I don't see anything magical about the pitching rubber being 60 feet 6 inches from home plate.  In 1969, the mound was lowered 5 inches to restore the balance between hitters and pitchers.  (The strike zone was also reduced to 1961 standards that year.) What is the difference between lowering the mound and moving the mound back, say 5 inches to a foot or two?   Just a little bit of extra time to evaluate a pitched ball would make an enormous diffence to hitters.

Over at Bleacher Report, Jacob Schafer argues that moving the mound back is a terrible idea.  He starts off with the bizarre claim that having to throw the extra distance will cause pitchers to have more arm problems. Of course, extra throwing distance hasn't caused a plethora of sore arms among outfielders.  It is not clear how Schafer came up with his theory that merely throwing a longer distance causes arm problems.

Schafer, however, is absolutely correct when he goes on to say that the longer distance means breaking pitches will be more effective, i.e. the extra distance gives breaking pitches more time to work.  But then Schafer goes on to theorize that the more effective breaking pitches will offset the additional time to respond to a fastball. He even finds an analyst who claims that the increased distance from the mound to home plate would actually hurt, not help, hitters.

Schafer is in essence arguing that with the longer distance pitchers will have rely more on off-speed pitches rather than simply throwing hard to strike out batters. So pitchers will have to go back to being  pitchers instead of throwers?  That's a bad thing why? Batters, on the other hand, will learn to hit the better breaking pitches (and will have more time to do so), most likely putting them into play instead of striking out.   Isn't that exactly what we want?

Instead of addressing the symptoms, MLB needs to address the problem.  Move the mound back.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

RIP: Gary Ogden, My Brother

Gary L. Ogden, 62, of Indianapolis, Indiana, passed away on February 25, 2019.   Gary was born on June 6, 1956 in Madison, Indiana to his parents, DeVon and Lucille.

Upon graduation from Madison High School, Gary became an electrician, working for years as a member of local IBEW #481.

After taking early retirement, Gary liked helping friends and his church with various projects.  Gary’s great passion throughout his life was nature, particularly growing plants and wildflowers. 

Gary is survived by his mother, Lucille (Ogden) Adams, his children, Rachel and Jacob, and his four brothers, Mark, Jeff, Paul (Kim), and Mike.  He was predeceased by his father, DeVon and stepfather, John Adams.

A memorial service will be held at Garfield Park Community Church, 743 E. Pleasant Run Pkwy, South Drive, Indianapolis on Friday, March 29th.  Visitation will be at 5 pm with the formal service starting at 6 pm.  A meal will immediately follow. 

Gary spoke often of his fascination with the beauty of the Franklinia, also known as the Franklin Tree. 
A Franklin Tree is going to be planted and nurtured as a living memory of Gary and his love of nature.  A GoFundMe page has been established for donations to the Franklin Tree Fund.  Or if you wish, you can send flowers to the Garfield Park Community Church for the memorial. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Leadership of Both Parties on Indianapolis Council Want Taxpayers to Foot the Bill for Soccer Stadium

One should never surprised by our Indianapolis City-County Council whenever it comes to corporate welfare.  On the Council, regardless of which party controls, there is always a bipartisan majority more than willing to hand taxpayer money to corporate interests.  Fortunately, the Indiana General Assembly on occasion will put a brake on the eagerness of local officials to raise taxes or redirect existing tax revenue for the latest giveaway.  The Indianapolis Business Journal reports on the latest effort of our councilors to give away our hard earned dollars:
A bipartisan group of city-county councilors has called for a committee hearing on legislation that would use state and local tax revenue for a $150 million, 20,000-seat soccer stadium, part of a larger mixed-use development proposed by the owner of the
Indy Eleven.
But the councilors—including President Vop Osili, a Democrat, and Republican Leader Mike McQuillen—stopped short of endorsing the stadium project, saying they want the opportunity to "carefully and thoughtfully engage in discussions" about the proposal and the future of soccer in Indianapolis. 
“We’re not advocating for anything other than the opportunity for local government to have a say in this,” Osili told IBJ on Thursday. 
A letter signed by Osili and McQuillen, as well as the council's majority leader, Maggie Lewis, and its vice president, Zach Adamson, says, "Our ability to act on this, however, is dependent on SB 543 being provided a committee hearing and the prospect of passage by the Indiana General Assembly."
The project would be a public-private partnership, with private investors chipping in about $400 million for the residential, retail and commercial parts of the project. The stadium would be publicly funded, with bonds paid off using revenue from property, income, sales and other taxes generated within the development. SB 543 would establish that funding mechanism, authorizing a Professional Sports Development Area to capture the state taxes and allows the city to create a tax-increment financing district to capture local revenue.
By the way, the term "public-private partnership" means that taxpayers assume the cost and risk of the corporate welfare project while the private company reaps the benefits from the partnership.

Alarmists Peddle Hypocrisy When Reminding Skeptics that Weather Does Not Prove Climate

The nation is now warming up after record cold and wind chills hit much of the United States.   Noting the occasion, President Trump tweeted:
"In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can't last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!"
Chris Cillizza, a CNN commentator, took the President to task in a column in which he interviewed James Samenow, meteorologist and Washington Post weather editor, who explained that weather (short
term) doesn't equal climate (long term).  Therefore, the CNN headline with the story declares the President's tweet to be "utter idiocy."  

No doubt Trump is wrong in equating weather with climate.  But perhaps (and I'm not sure he's smart enough to do so) the President is using his tweet to make a larger point by pointing out the hypocrisy of alarmists who are constantly doing just that -  using weather as proof of global warming climate change.

Indeed those who spout the man is causing dangerous global warming climate change theory are constantly pointing to hot summer days, or a particular storm or wildfire as proof of their theory.  Indeed, alarmists recently announced a new strategy of pointing to particular weather events to persuade people on the issue of global warming climate change.  Yet when skeptics point to weather events to refute the theory, the alarmists are quick to pull out the "weather does not equal climate card."

What is wrong for the goose is wrong for the gander.  The climate changes over thousands if not tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.  Weather events do not prove the climate is changing or not changing. (And those weather events certainly do not prove that man is the cause of any change or that a warmer climate is a bad thing for mankind.)    

It is as wrong for alarmists to use weather events to advance their theory as it is for skeptics to do exactly the same thing.  It's called hypocrisy.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Writing More on Local Indianapolis Politics

My belated New Year's resolution has been to write more on local politics. 

Glancing through the recent news, I see where local businessman Ersal Ozdemir, President and CEO of Keystone Construction, is trying to get taxpayers to pay for a soccer stadium for Indy Eleven, the Indianapolis City-County Council is screwing over Indy residents on higher parking rates with most of the money going to a private company, more ordinances (that won't be enforced) about the homeless are being proposed by the Council, and the Pacers want a new and better deal from taxpayers (we pay to run the Fieldhouse and the team gets 100% of the revenue) or the team will leave town.

Hmmm, these topics all sound familiar.  Written about them before.  Maybe I should just rerun my old columns dealing with those issues?

Corporate welfare continues to have a home in Indianapolis, that's for sure.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Senator Romney's Op-Ed Calling for Leadership, Honor, Integrity from White House is First Foray Into Post-Trump Political World

Governor and Senator-Elect Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in Tuesday's Washington Post about the need for strong leadership and questioning whether Trump is providing that leadership:
It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.
The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and equal justice, was even more esteemed. Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world. In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would “do the right thing in world affairs.” One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent.  
To reassume our leadership in world politics, we must repair failings in our politics at home. That project begins, of course, with the highest office once again acting to inspire and unite us. It includes political parties promoting policies that strengthen us rather than promote tribalism by exploiting fear and resentment. Our leaders must defend our vital institutions despite their inevitable failings: a free press, the rule of law, strong churches, and responsible corporations and unions.
Even though the Romney opinion piece focused on the need for a stronger foreign policy, his brief mention of Trump's character flaws and his suggestion that Trump isn't defending American institutions (indeed Trump attacks American institutions at every opportunity) has caused the President and his gang of Kool-Aid drinking supporters to have a meltdown on social media.  Any talk about the importance of "integrity," "honesty" and "character" in politics causes Trumpers' eyes to glaze over.  They do not think those traits matter one bit when it comes to any politician named Donald J. Trump.  As I have said before, it is not that Trumpers refuse to believe that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to win an American election.  They simply do not care if the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.  (In fact, Russian assistance to help Trump get elected make President Vladimar Putin a hero to Trumpers.)  Nor do they care if the President is using his position to enrich himself and his family. That is the way personality cults work.   The object of the cultists' affection always gets a pass on behavior that would be objectionable for anyone else.

More serious commentators chose to opine on the reason why Romney chose to write the op-ed piece.  Many point out that Romney's moral compass when it comes to Trump has not always pointed toward virtue.  I too question whether Romney's motives are entirely pure.  I tend to think they might be strategic.

It is far from a given that Trump runs for re-election in 2020 (or even that he completes his first term.)  If he does run in 2020, it is quite possible, given his unpopularity and lack of support among independents, Trump would lose in a landslide forever tarnishing his image.  Why risk that?  Plus, the Mueller and other investigations are likely to uncover unethical if not illegal behavior on the part of Trump and his family.  Why risk that exposure going forward?  If Trump leaves office early, the interest in pursuing such investigations would decline dramatically.

Romney's letter was likely the first step into an anticipated vacuum in political leadership.  He is positioning himself, post-Trump, for a leadership position in the Republican Party.  He is betting that Trumpism, with its brand of hatred, bigotry and appeal almost exclusively to older whites, has no future in the GOP. Sadly, however, long after Trump leaves office, the stench of Trumpism will remain with the GOP.   That is something that Romney and other Republicans will have to deal with in the post-Trump world.