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.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

"Witch Hunt" to Finally End on January 3rd

The Hill reports on the end of the witch hunt:
The Democrat poised to lead the House Judiciary Committee next year says he has no intention of continuing the GOP-led investigation into FBI and Jusice Department (DOJ) decisionmaking during the 2016 election.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who stepped outside of the ongoing closed-door interview

with former FBI Director James Comey, told reporters Friday that he plans to end the probe come January. 
"Yes, because it is a waste of time to start with," Nadler said in response to a question about whether he would end the probe. Nadler characterized the Republican investigation
as a political sideshow that aims to distract from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. 
"The entire purpose of this investigation is to be a diversion of the real investigation, which is Mueller. There is no evidence of bias at the FBI and this other nonsense they are talking about," he continued.
Amen. The good men and women of the FBI have been just trying to do their jobs and did not need the attack on their professionalism and integrity by "Republicans" doing the bidding of a President desperately trying to obstruct justice.  The claim that FBI was acting to prevent Donald Trump's from getting elected never made a lick of sense since the agency had kept completely under wraps an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign until the election was over, while very publicly discussing, right up until the election, the status of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. The polls showed a significant drop in Hillary Clinton's support after then FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the Hillary Clinton investigation just a week or so before the election.  Instead of constantly attacking Comey, Trump should be thanking Director Comey for helping him get elected President.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Indianapolis Council Leadership Proposes Parking Meter Extended Hours; Most of Money Will Go to Private Vendor

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:

A proposal from City-County Council Democrats seeks to raise about $1 million annually by extending the hours in which parking meters charge fees throughout Indianapolis. The extra funds would be used to pay for more street-sweeping and efforts to tackle homelessness. 
The proposal would standardize the times when parking meters charge fees across the
Picture from IndyParking.com
city. It also would lengthen the times in which fees are collected on certain days and impose fees on Sundays. 
If the plan is passed, all parking meters would charge fees from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Wednesdays, and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. And, on Sundays, charges would be in effect from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Parking on Sundays currently is free. 
Right now, meters in the city don't charge fees any later than 9 p.m. and most of them are free after 6 p.m. The city has about 3,800 metered spaces.
The proposal would do away with the city’s current parking meter zones, which all have different hours during which fees are charged. The downtown core and Broad Ripple zones have the fewest hours during which parking is free.
Nowhere in the article is it even mentioned that, in 2011, Indianapolis privatized its parking meters.  Under that contract, 70% of parking meter revenue goes to a private company, ACS, doing business as ParkIndy.  The parking meter privatization contract is a relic of the Mayor Greg Ballard-era, a period of time when city government seemed hell-bent on funneling taxpayer money to politically-connected companies.   

Admittedly it has been a long-time since I looked at the ACS contract but I do not recall an exception to the 70% for ACS, 30% for the City share breakdown for extended hours.  The contract does provide that once certain income threshholds are reached that the breakdown will become 60-40 in favor of the city, but because those levels are so high and an inflation adjustment is included, it is doubtful that the 60-40 split will ever be reached.

I have written about the Indianapolis-ACS parking meter contract several times before.  Here is one from August of 2011 in which I discuss the 70%-30% breakdown:

In reviewing the ACS (i.e. "ParkIndy") parking contract with the City, I uncovered another trick.  The contract has it set up so the split is 30% for the City, 70% for ACS.  But when a certain monthly income is reached is reached it becomes a much more favorable 60%-40% split in favor of the City.  This was a factor that the Ballard administration used to sell the contract to a skeptical public.
The problem is if you look at the numbers closely, and examine the current parking meter revenue numbers, you would know the monthly threshold necessary to hit the favorable 60%-40% second tier will never be reached.
According to Schedule 2.1 of the contract, there must be a monthly parking meter revenue of  $583,333 to advance to the second tier 60-40 split.  (The 60-40 split only applies to revenue above the first tier.) The drafters of the contact used a monthly income of $825,000 to construct an example of how much the City would earn with the $583,333 first tier in place.
The estimate is misleading at best, phony at worst.   For the four months from March through June of 2011, the total reported revenue was $1,660,910 or an average of $415,227.50 monthly.  That figure is nowhere near the amount needed to reach the second tier.  
But as the rates increase, the second tier target will be hit, right?  Nope, it is a moving target. As of January 1, 2012 (conveniently after the election), parking rates will rise from $1.00 to $1.50 an hour.  At that point increases are tied to inflation increases as measured by the Consumer Price Index.  But the $583,333 monthly inflation first tier ceiling is also adjusted by the Index.  The 60-40 second tier split will almost certainly never be reached.
Naturally the Republicans on the Indianapolis Council oppose soaking residents further on parking meter rates, especially since most of the money will be going to a private company.  That was sarcasm.  Minority Leader Michael McQuillen, who never saw a tax or fee he didn't want to raise, announced preliminary support for the proposal.  Again, from the IBJ:

The proposal appears to have some bipartisan support. Minority Leader Mike McQuillen told IBJ he was tentatively supportive of the plan but the “devil is in the details.” He said he thought expanding street-sweeping and funding for tackling homelessness initiatives were good ideas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Indiana GOP Chairman Takes a Bow as Hoosier Voters Turn Against Republican Party

This morning Indiana Republican State Chairman Kyle Hupfer sent out an email, essentially patting himself on the back for great success in the 2018 midterms.  The email quotes an article by local political pundit, Brian Howey:
NASHVILLE, Ind. — Indiana Republicans are at their historic apex. They control 107 out of 150 General Assembly seats (and almost all of the rural seats), nine out of 11 congressional offices, and all of the Statehouse constitutional positions. The maps drawn in 2011 make Democratic gains (only four seats in the General  
Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer
Assembly) virtually impossible as we saw in this wave election year.
Beyond the big cities, Republicans hold a majority of city and county offices across the state....
The verdict of Hoosier voters earlier this month to deny U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly a second term essentially renders Indiana as a one-party state, from a functional standpoint.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer preside over this cascading exhibition of absolute power. 
For Hupfer, Mike Braun’s dispatching of Donnelly was the culmination of a two-year effort that reached across multiple platforms, party entities and campaigns. 
“Not only did we have good funding, we had early funding where we could really build up that infrastructure over the state for well over a year,” Hupfer said in a Howey Politics Indiana interview.
I know I overuse the phrase, but Chairman Hupfer is whistling as he walks by the graveyard. No doubt Hupfer should be given credit for the Indiana GOP not taking it on the chin as badly as the party did in other states.  And Hupfer too shares much of the credit for Braun's win over the incumbent Senator Democrat Joe Donnelly.  But the Howey piece goes beyond that, claiming the Indiana GOP is at an "historic apex."   A closer look at the numbers though reveals that the Indiana GOP losing voters as races grow tighter.  The "historic apex" is in the past. 

A critical part of political analysis is to examine how the "base vote" changes over time.  The base vote is measured by looking at who is winning the low profile races and by how much.  The base vote represents the default for voters.  In low profile races in which few voters actually know anything about the candidates, they tend to vote the party that best represents their views.  Another aspect of base vote that is critical is that apples are compared to apples, oranges to oranges.  Because turnout, usually, fluctuates widely from presidential elections to mid-terms, a comparison of base vote focuses on similar elections.

I have already documented the astonishing decline of the GOP margin in populous Hamilton County which contains the northern suburbs of Indianapolis.  Trump was the least popular GOP candidate in Hamilton County in 2016 and the GOP numbers continued to slide in that county in 2018.  Many races in Hamilton County are just a stone's throw away from being won by Democrats.  That was unheard of before the Trump era began in 2016.  

The trend in well-to-do Hamilton County is not a surprise, however.  In wealthy suburbs across the country, voters are leaving the GOP in droves.  Hamilton is by far the most populous of the Indianapolis doughnut counties.  The substantial rural nature of the other doughnut counties just means those counties will stay a deeper shade of red longer than Hamilton County.  But it certainly doesn't mean the movement away from the GOP is not happening in those counties too.  It is.

But perhaps the rural Indiana counties are offsetting the Trump era GOP decline in Marion County (Indianapolis) and the suburbs?  No, they are not.  Let's take a look at the statewide base vote.  A good race to look at is State Auditor as nine voters out of ten could not tell you anything substantive about the candidates for State Auditor even if they could identify the candidates without a ballot.  People typically vote their party when they vote for State Auditor.  

This month, Republican Tera Klutz won  the State Auditor's race with 55.5% of the vote.  The Democrat Joselyn Whitticker received 41.0%.  (The Libertarian candidate received the balance.)  That is a 14.5% win.  Definitely a comfortable margin.

Actually a much less comfortable margin.  In 2014, State Auditor candidate Republican Suzanne Crouch (who left that position to become Lt. Governor) received 59.6% of the vote versus the Democrat who finished with 36.0%.  The margin between the two candidates was 23.6%.  Between 2014 and 2018, the Republican base vote victory margin over the Democrats shrank by 9.1 points. 

Certainly Indiana Republican statewide candidates can afford to lose a few points in mid-term elections, but presidential election years are a different story.  In 2016, Indiana Republicans won the Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction races by 5.9% and 6.8% respectively.  If Trump continues to drive suburban Republicans away from the party as he did in 2018, Hoosier Democrats are well within reach of winning statewide races in 2020, including the biggest prize, Governor.

I won't even get into the scores of state legislative races, especially in the suburbs, that are suddenly competitive for Democrats.  Although few GOP incumbents were beaten this election, that does not mean the Democrats haven't gained substantial ground.  They have.

I would close by noting that Indiana is not an aberration. The notion that "the red states are getting redder" in the Trump era, a mantra repeated frequently in the media, is fiction. In the future, I plan to share election results in some of those states which demonstrate voters in even more rural voters are leaving the GOP in the Trump era, just not as quickly or in the numbers as their suburban counterparts.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Lack of Wave for Democrats Is Anything But Good News for Republicans

In the final congressional race to be decided, incumbent David Valadao clings a lead over his Democratic challenger T. J. Cox in the race for California Congressional District 21.  Some media outlets had projected Valadao the winner on election night, but since then the lengthy counting of absentee and provisional ballots has narrowed Valadao's lead from a few thousand to, as of today, 447.  Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight projects that, when the counting is done later this week, Cox will end up the winner.

If Silver is correct, that would mean the Democrats have picked up 40 seats in the U.S. House, an
astonishing achievement especially considering most congressional seats were drawn by Republican state legislatures to ensure GOP representation.  Loss of the 40 seats is the worst performance for the GOP in midterms since 1974, the first election after Watergate when the GOP lost 48 seats.

Some people are calling it a blue wave.  That it was not.  But the fact the vaunted blue wave did not happen is not cause for celebration for the GOP.  Rather it is cause for alarm.

I have seen wave elections during my lifetime.  Most recently there have been Republican waves in 1980, 1994 and 2010.  For the most prominent recent Democratic wave one has to go back to 1974.  Waves are elections in which enthusiastic supporters of one party go to the polls while disillusioned or apathetic members of the other party stay home.  As a result of the skewed turnout, wave elections result in unexpected election victories by second, even third tier, candidates.

Top-notch political analysts such as Silver, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato identified every competitive House race in 2018. There were no wave-type surprise candidates winning districts not identified as competitive by the experts.

Republicans did not stay home in 2018. They came to the polls in droves, matching Democratic enthusiasm.  And while Republican turnout saved GOP control of the Senate (due mostly to a very favorable map), it did not stop the GOP from losing scores of House seats and control of that body to the Democrats.

If the GOP could point to its voters staying home as the reason for the poor midterm election result, that would be a significant problem, but one that could be resolved.  But since Republicans went to the polls and the GOP still got shellacked, the problem is actually much worse. 

The 2018 midterm was not a wave election.  The 2018 was a realigning election.  The election witnessed women and suburbanites abandoning the GOP in droves.  But the defections do not end there.  Exit polls show virtually every demographic group moving away from the Republican Party.  Even the claim that "red states have gotten redder" is mostly a myth.  Baseline GOP numbers are down in those red states, including Indiana which saw a 3 point decline in Republican statewide baseline numbers from 2014 to 2018.  Fortunately for the Indiana Republican Party, there is plenty of cushion for statewide GOP candidates in midterm election.  But Hoosier statewide elections during presidential election years are generally much closer and 3 points could be the difference between a Republican Attorney General and a Democratic one.

What's worse than a wave election?  A realigning election.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Attorney Michael Avenatti Learns the Meaning of "Karma"

California Attorney Michael Avenatti made a name for himself earlier this year by representing Stormy Daniels in a successful effort to end the ridiculous effort by President Donald Trump to enforce a non-disclosure agreement against her to stop the porn star from talking about her tryst with Trump.   In the process, Avenatti destroyed Trump's fixer "attorney" Michael Cohen and exposed as laughable Trump's claim that he paid Daniels $130,000 as hush money despite never having sex with her.  (No, as any attorney will tell you, $130,000 is not the size of a "nuisance" settlement.)

Honestly, besting a third rate attorney like Michael Cohen in court and exposing that Trump was lying
Attorney Michael Avenatti
are not difficult accomplishments.  Avenatti, however, should have quit while he was ahead.  When the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing became a three ring circus of sexual misconduct allegations, Avenatti could not resist the spotlight.  He put forward an additional Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnick, a woman who made the bizarre claim that Kavanaugh had made a practice in high school of getting women drunk so they could be gang raped by the future judge and his friends.  

Swetnick's allegation, like that of the lead accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, was offered without any actual corroborating evidence.  But in the world of #MeToosuch evidence is not required.  All that is needed is for a man to be accused of wrongdoing by a women.  The movement, in its most extreme form, demands that women always be believed in such situations.  Women, after all, never lie about such things.  Ever.  Avenatti fully signed on to the most extreme elements of the #MeToo movement including the concept that men are always guilty upon the mere assertion of wrongdoing by a woman.

Then Karma intervened into Avenatti's life  Last week came the news that the attorney was arrested for a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend, aspiring 24 year old actress Mareli Miniutti.  The allegations are that a drunk Avenatti hit her with pillows and dragged her across the door during a domestic dispute.  Miniutti's claim earned her a preliminary restraining order, but prosecutors found the evidence insufficient to file felony battery charges against Avenatti.  

Avenatti has denied the allegations against him, explaining, I'm trying to be polite here, his girlfriend is not mentally stable and was acting erratically.  Of course such a suggestion is a violation of the #MeToo mandate, i.e. that women's allegations against men must always be accepted at true and a man who attempts to defend himself is merely victimizing the woman again.    

I do not know if Avenatti is guilty or innocent.  (I am though extremely impressed that Avenatti has had not one, but two, ex-wives come forward to vouch for his character and to say that he never did anything remotely violent with them.)   I am comfortable, absent some corroborating evidence to the contrary, with the conclusion that it simply has not been proven that Avenatti violently assaulted Ms. Miniutti.  

Contrary to the assertions of many #MeToo adherents, women do occasionally lie about their encounters with men.  Because it is virtually impossible to prove a negative, it is a matter of fundamental fairness that we assume those accused of sexual misconduct, including allegations of violence, are not guilty unless proven otherwise.  Sadly, that principle was lost on Avennati when he attempted to use Swetnick's bizarre claim to personally derail Kavanaugh's nomination. 

Avenatti now wants to be presumed innocent and to have the right to defend himself against the domestic violence accusation lodged by Ms. Miniutti.  Indeed, Avenatti should be cloaked with a presumption of innocence as well as given the right to vigorously oppose the allegation.  Fundamental fairness dictates no less.  At the end of the day, one can hope he will learn a lesson from the incident, namely that, occasionally, it is the woman lying while it is the man telling the truth.

Avenatti needs to learn another lesson as well.  Clients often lie to their attorneys.  A lot.  Most attorneys learn that early in their careers and thus take a much more reserved approach than Avenatti has in their representation of clients.   That is why more seasoned attorneys learn to say "my client alleges she was attacked by X" instead of "my client was attacked by X."   Don't ever go out on a limb for a client, vouching personally for the things the client is claiming.

Oh, and do not ever tempt Karma because Karma will always win in the end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ivanka Trump Uses Private Email for Government Business, Flunks Hypocrisy 101

USA Today reports:

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior advisor Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of messages to government officials last year using a personal email account, the latest member of the president’s inner circle to face questions about private emails.
White House officials learned of Trump’s extensive use of a personal email address because they were gathering documents to respond to a public records lawsuit, according to a story Monday in The Washington Post. The Post cited unnamed sources familiar with an examination of her correspondence.
A spokesman for Trump’s attorney confirmed to USA TODAY that the president’s daughter “sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family. The spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said Ivanka Trump used the address “until the White House provided her the same guidance they had to others.”
Ivanka Trump needed "guidance" to know government officials are not supposed to use a private email account for government business?  Did she sleep through the "Lock Her Up" chants during her father's presidential campaign rallies?  Hillary Clinton illegally used a private email server to conduct government business which, Donald Trump insisted, made her not only unqualified for office, but someone who should be prosecuted.

Ivanka's attorney Abbe Lowell insists that no classified information was included in the emails and that all of the relevant ones have been turned over.  That is exactly the position Hillary Clinton took as to her emails.  Even if true, it is still a violation of the public record keeping law to use a private email for public business.

It should be noted that Ivanka set up this private joint email account with her husband, Jared, after her father's election.   It was not a long time email account she was using for convenience sake.   It could well have been established before starting public service, just as Hillary's email was, to avoid public scrutiny of her work in government.

On the Morning Joe show this morning, the position taken by hosts and panelists is tha, even though Ivanka is a smart woman, she is ignorant of how government works and thinks she is above the law with which other people have to comply.  I agree the Trump family members have repeatedly demonstrated that they believe they are above the laws that apply to everyone else.  I do not, however, agree with the premise, i.e. that Ivanka is a smart woman.  One thing that Donald Trump and his siblings, Ivanka, Don, Jr. and Eric, have demonstrated beyond any doubt is that they are not the sharpest tools in the shed. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Is the Future of Hamilton County (Indiana) Republican Party Like Orange County's (California) GOP's Present?

Logo from Hamilton County Dem's Facebook Page
Orange County, California, has long been a famously Republican county.  Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the county is home to over 3 million residents.  The wealthy residents of the county have long favored conservative Republican politics.  Orange County had not voted for a Democrat for
President since 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt's first re-election bid.  That string ended in 2016, when Donald Trump lost the county to Hillary Clinton by 5 points.

If anyone thinks Trump won't hurt the GOP brand, one only need look at the 2018 election results in Orange County.  The still concluding slow count of midterm vote, shows Democrats wiping out GOP congressional incumbents based in Orange County.  But it is not just federal candidates.  Other races in Orange County show the former Republicans now voting Democrat in scores of other races.  Low profile California Democrat statewide candidates are suddenly winning in Orange County.   The party baseline has shifted.

Indiana does not have an Orange County.  But we have a mini-Orange County: Hamilton County.  Located directly north of Indianapolis, Hamilton County is home to over 300,000 residents.  Hamilton, like Orange County, has a large number of wealthy, highly educated residents.  Republicans have held virtually every office in Hamilton County for decades.  That is about to end.

In 2016, Donald Trump ran as the most unpopular candidate on the Hamilton County GOP ballot.  It was also the first election in which the Hamilton County Democratic Party showed a pulse, fielding scores of general election challengers.  While Hamilton County Republicans won those races in 2016, it is notable that the Democratic baseline went from virtually non-existent to 30%.  

In 2018, the Hamilton County Democratic Party fielded even more candidates and did even better.  An analysis of election results show Democrats with a 40% baseline in the county.  A closer look at the election results, show scores of local Democrats knocking on the door to elected office.  For example, in the Clay (home to Carmel) Township Trustee race, the Democratic candidate received 43% of the vote.  The Democrat in Trustee Township race in Delaware Township (Fishers) also garned 43% of the vote in a race in which the Republican won by only 1,827 votes.

The 2018 midterm featured Republican Mike Braun winning by 6 points over incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly.  In 2012, Democrat Donnelly had defeated State Treasurer Richard Mourdock also by 6 points.  So Braun is clearly a more popular candidate than Mourdock was.  Yet in Hamilton County, Braun in 2018 received only 52% of the Senate vote.  Mourdock running in Hamilton County, pre-Trump, received 54%.  Braun's strategy of lashing himself to Donald Trump might have worked in rural Indiana, but clearly not in suburban Hamilton County.

At the pace the Democrats are on, it is only a few more elections before the Democrats are capturing elected office in the most populous portions of Hamilton County, Carmel and Fishers.  And it is maybe only a few more elections after that that Democrats are winning county-wide in Hamilton County.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Victory Margins for Indiana GOP Congressional Candidates Fall in 2018

Normally a political analyst would not compare a presidential election to a mid-term because they have dramatically different turnouts.  Tuesday's mid-term turnout rivaled that of a presidential election, so a comparison is possible so I decided to look at Indiana's congressional races 2016 v. 2018.  Here is a table with the information I gathered:

District
Winning 2018 Candidate
2016 Winning Margin
2018 Winning Margin
GOP Vote Margin Decline
1st
Visclosky (D)
N/A (No R candidate)
34.8%
N/A
2nd
Walorski (R)
22.3
9.6
-12.7
3rd
Banks  (R)
47.1
29.4
-18.3
4th
Baird  (R)
34.1
28.2
-3.9
5th
Brooks  (R)
27.2
13.4
-13.8
6th
G. Pence (R)
30.9
42.4
-11.5
7th
Carson (D)
24.3
29.8
-5.5
8th
Buschon (R)
32.0
28.8
-3.2
9th
Hollingsworth (R)
13.7
13.0
-.7


The smallest GOP decline came in the mostly rural 9th Congressional district located in the southern part of the state.  The fact Hollingsworth held onto that district by approximately the same margin as 2016 despite having a well-funded challenger who was constantly on television is significant. 

Congressman Jim Banks saw his margin trimmed the most, losing 18.3% on his winning margin in CD 3.  However, he still won CD 3 by nearly 30 points so that district is far from being competitive.

In CD 2, Republican Jackie Walorski saw her winning margin trimmed from 22.3% to 9.6% . While that seems close, Walorski pre-Trump has experienced closer races in the north central Hoosier district.

As I predicted, CD 5, the central Indiana district held by Republican Susan Brooks, was significantly closer in 2018 than 2016.  Brooks’ 2016 winning margin in the Indianapolis suburban district was nearly cut in half.  With just a 13.4% winning margin on Tuesday, continued GOP weakening in the northern Indianapolis suburbs could put the district into play.

In the one Indiana Democratic congressional district with an available comparison, the 7th District based entirely in Indianapolis, the Republican losing margin increased from 24.3% to 29.8%. 

What undoubtedly has allowed Hoosier Republican members of Congress to avoid the fate of many of their losing colleagues is that every Republican district in Indiana has a substantial amount of rural area in it.  Further, instead of using the Indianapolis’ suburbs to create a single congressional district, several congressional districts were drawn to cut into the Indianapolis suburbs.   The result is that GOP congressional incumbents avoided the election night loss experienced by many of their colleagues.