Friday, January 30, 2015

Analysis Shows Republican County Chairman Kyle Walker Controls Over 81% of Slating Votes

A review of the records of the Marion County Election Board records from the 2012 primary election show that after that election there were are only 150 elected Republican precinct committeemen in the 600 Marion County precincts.  (Interestingly Pike only has 4 elected Republican PCs while much
Marion County Republican
Chairman Kyle Walker
smaller Decatur Township has 10.)  That means the remaining 450 precinct committeemen slots were available to be filled by the county chairman utilizing anyone who lives anywhere in the county.  Under party rules, those PCs serve at the pleasure of the county chairman and can be removed and replaced whenever the chairman dictates.  In other words an appointed PC who is unwilling to vote the way the county chairman wants, can simply be replaced.

Republican slating in Marion County also allows for the participation of ward chairman and vice ward chairman, neither of whom have to live in the area they represent.  Both positions are appointments of the county chair.  While the number varies, wards are typically made up of six precincts.

The effect on slating of the appointments is substantial.   At a county-wide slating, the county chairman would have as many as 450 appointed precinct committeemen, 100 ward chairman and 100 vice ward chairman for a total of 650.  With only 150 precinct committeemen elected by GOP primary voters that means that going into a county-wide slating contest, the county chairman can control as much as 81.25% of the vote. 

Of course, as elected PCs begin to resign as they often do before the end of their four year terms, the power of the county chairman increases with elected PCs replaced by appointed ones.  However, there is no legal responsibility for the county chairman to notify the county clerk of the resignations of elected PCs so it is unclear how many of the 150 originally elected PCs remain.

Since PCs also elect the county chairman, the county chairman is essentially handpicking his or her own voters, or at least 3/4 of them.

This imbalance not only affects slating and the election of the county chairman, but also vacancy elections.  Any precinct committeemen, elected or appointed, who has a precinct in the district where there is a vacancy can vote to fill that vacancy.   Assuming the district needing a replacement representative is compatible to the county as a whole, 75% of those PCs eligible to vote in the vacancy election will be appointees of the county chairman.

My conversation with a former high ranking party official who used to be involved in the Marion County Republican party organization revealed that, decades ago, party officials worked to get elected PCs in 100% of the county.  In the 2002 primary, there were 357 Republican PCs elected.  A consolidation of precincts a few years ago which reduced the number from 914 to 600 should have resulted in significantly more precincts having elected PCs.  Instead it resulted in less.   As noted above, in the most recent election Republicans only elected 150 PCs.

Although the lack of elected Marion County Republican PCs result in county chairman domination of slating to the tune of 81.5%, it is actually even worse on the Democratic side as that party allows vice precinct committeemen, who are all appointees of the county chairman to participate in slating.  If the Democrats have the same number of elected PCs as Republicans, that would mean at Democratic county-wide slatings in Marion County, the county chairman appoints up to 1250 (450 PCs, 600 VPCs, 100 WCs, and 100 VWCs) of the 1400 slating voters or 89.3%.

Bottom line is that anyone who thinks they can win slating in Marion County against the wishes of the Republican or Democratic chairman is on fool's errand.  It's not that the vote might be rigged against the candidate who doesn't have the county chairman's blessing, it is that it is rigged before the candidates even file for slating.

Science of Prenatal Development is What Makes Abortion Issue So Difficult

Over at Sheila Kennedy's blog this morning she rails against a bill introduced into the General Assembly which attempts to define "fetus" to include prenatal life at all stages of development:
All in a day’s work for the men who think they were elected to be obstetricians.

...

Far more annoying than this added evidence of legislative ignorance, however, is the persistence of efforts to control women’s bodies, to insert government into what should be personal and family decisions, and to make some people’s religious beliefs (no matter how uninformed, unscientific or unrepresentative) the law of the land.
Kennedy tries to turn abortion into a men v. women thing all the while ignoring the plethora of polls showing women are nearly as opposed to abortion as men, and sometimes even more so.  (See poll at bottom of the page showing women by a 50-46 margin are more supportive than men of a Congressional proposal to ban abortion after 20 weeks.)  And what are we to think of groups like Feminists for Life?  So do those pro-life women suffer the character flaw of men in that they want to "control" other women's bodies too?

Kennedy also suggests opposition to abortion is based on religion.  But what about all those people whose opinion on abortion has nothing whatsoever to do with religion?  There are plenty of atheists pro life people out there.  As for a possible breach on the Establishment Clause that Kennedy suggests without identifying, surely as an attorney she knows that just because a proposed public policy corresponds with a religious belief does not make that policy unconstitutional.  If it did, laws against murder would have to be thrown out.

Kennedy's apparent position is that developing human life is never deserving of legal protection, that the location of that life is what should be determinative of whether it can be terminated.  Kennedy's position would support abortion on demand up until the unborn baby leaves the birth canal. Fortunately very few people support such an extreme position.

My position on abortion changed during my sophomore year of college.  I was taking a Health Science class and decided to do my research paper on prenatal development.  While learning how quickly life develops within the womb, I ran across scientific literature on what actually happens during an abortion.  To say it was ghastly revelation is an understatement.  Needless to say, when the pro-abortion rights crowd tries to peddle the story that a fetus is just a meaningless blob of cells that is politely discarded during an abortion, I know better.

While my friend Sheila Kennedy is constantly decrying Republicans not believing in science, I find it a little odd that on the abortion issue she is on the other side shutting her eyes to the medical facts of how human life develops.  The only way you can conclude that the abortion issue is just about a woman and her body is to completely ignore the science of prenatal life.

The bottom line is that the abortion issue is much, much more complicated than the slogans spouted by both sides.  It involves finding a way to balance the very real interest a woman has in privacy and bodily autonomy against the very real and indisputable fact that there is a developing human being growing inside of her.

The debate about the legality of abortion should not be about when human life begins (which I think is pretty indisputably conception and implantation) but when that human life has reached a point in its development that it is deserving of legal protection.  Unfortunately with its 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decided that this country was not entitled to have this debate. As a result,  no compromises were made, no public consensus about abortion law was reached.  We have all suffered from the Court's short-circuiting the democratic process from playing out.

P.S.  You will also notice on the graph above another interesting factor regarding polling on the abortion issue - that younger people often poll as more pro-life than older people.   Probably the reason for that is modern medical science, in particular the improvements in sonograms that let people see for themselves how human life actually develops in the womb.  The hope of liberals that the abortion issue will follow the same demographic path that same sex marriage has taken (i.e. older people who oppose dying off while younger people overwhelmingly support) is wishful thinking.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Indiana Government News Website: Media Criticize Proposal While Ignoring Their Own Failure to Do Independent Reporting

A few months into my employment as co-director of the Indiana Title Insurance Division, then Insurance Commissioner Jim Atterholt discovered one of my few skills is communications.  From that point I was assigned a second responsibility, de facto public information officer for the Department.
In that capacity I would occasionally jot off press releases and work with media contacts to get coverage.

It wasn't a time consuming job certainly.  Unlike the Department of Insurance, many if not most state agencies have someone who is paid solely to deal with the media.  They go by various names:  public information officer, communications director, press secretary, etc.  Some agencies in state government have multiple communications directors.  Last time I check, the Attorney General employed three highly paid employees in that position.

So now the news breaks that Governor Mike Pence is going to offer a consolidated approach to state communications with a website devoted to release of information. The Indianapolis Star reports:
Pence is planning in late February to launch "Just IN," a website and news outlet that will feature stories and news releases written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.

...

The Pence news outlet will take stories written by state communications directors and publish them on its website. Stories will "range from straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles."

The endeavor will come at some taxpayer cost, but precisely how much is unclear. The news service has two dedicated employees, whose combined salary is nearly $100,000, according to a search of state employee salary data.
Government officials communicating with the media and the public isn't exactly a new phenomenon.  It has been going on since organized government began.  It appears that Governor Pence is doing little more than consolidating communications that is already going on over several state agencies.   Yet this has not stopped the mainstream media from exploding in outrage over Governor Pence supposedly using taxpayer dollars to compete with them.  (Cue the rolling of my eyes.)  Locally we already have editorials by Indianapolis Star's Tim Swarens and Matt Tully decrying the move.

The problem is not state government providing content, which has been going on forever, the problem is that media outlets have become incredibly lazy simply repeating what is told them by government without question.  While news outlets rarely publish pres releases verbatim, they increasingly regurgitate claims made by government made without any sort of independent investigation. It is exactly for that reason that readership of blogs is exploding.

The irony of Swarens and Tully criticizing the Pence proposal can't be overlooked.  As Star editor and columnist, respectively, they are two of the worst offenders at taking what is told them by Indianapolis city officials and simply reporting it as true without any sort of investigation.  The Indianapolis Star has repeatedly failed in its duty to act as a watchdog of government and now they want to blame the government for its own failures.  In fact, when hired the Star's current editor said it would be her job to act as cheerleader for city government. To the detriment of Star readers, she's lived up to that promise.

Sorry...the problem is not Gov. Pence's proposal. Rather, the problem is the media not doing their job.

Indiana BMV Outsources License Plates to Company that Bungled Agency Billing Last Decade

TheStateHouseFile.com, in an article published on the Indianapolis Star's website, reports that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be ending its inmate made license plates:
Indiana prison inmates will no longer be a part of the license plate production process as of May 1.

The Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles ended its contract with a company earlier this
month that had worked with Prison Enterprises Network, which employed the state prison inmates.

PEN is a division of the Indiana Department of Corrections.

But the new vendor – Intellectual Technology Inc., which now is in charge of the production of license plates – estimated the state could save $14 million over five years by not using prison labor.
The California-based company handled the registration documents for the state for years but will expand its duties to production and facilitation of the license plates.
Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) expressed skepticism over the claimed savings and offered an amendment to require the BMV to include the total amount of money saved by no longer utilizing prison labor in its annual report to the Roads Committee. 

Last year the Indianapolis Star published an article about how the chosen license plate vendor, Intellectual Technology, bungled billing for the BMV.  While that article can't be located, a website called Kiosk Marketplace reported on the Star's article in a May 2004 story:
A vendor hired by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles admitted Tuesday to causing the state agency to overcharge hundreds of people for license plate renewals, according to an article in the Indianapolis Star.

Intellectual Technology bungled the billing process for Internet orders that were placed on March 30, leading the BMV to charge motorists hundreds of dollars more than they owed, President Craig Litchin said.

State officials identified 872 people whose credit card and bank accounts were charged as much as three times the correct amount. The agency has corrected the error with the motorists' financial institutions, said Dan Henkel, a BMV spokesman.

Intellectual Technology is offering to reimburse vehicle owners for any overcharges and checking and banking fees. "Most of the people used a charge card, and the money was put back in their accounts before they knew what happened," Henkel said.

Under a contract with the BMV, Intellectual Technology receives roughly $4.5 million a year to help register vehicles. The company's duties include supplying 36 BMV Express kiosks where customers can renew their license plates.
...

When Intellectual Technology officials tried to fix the problem, a subcontractor for the company wrongly billed the accounts of anyone who used the Internet to renew their license plates on March 30. As a result, many motorists were billed twice.

When BMV learned of the snafu on April 19 they mailed notices to customers informing them about the mistake.  Then BMV officials asked Intellectual Technology to address the situation, but its subcontractor once again mistakenly billed the motorists.
Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that the problem with Interactive Intelligence having "bungled" billing on Internet license plate renewals was reported in 2014. Actually it was 2004.  Ogden on Politics apologizes for the error.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Leading Indianapolis Republican Mayoral Candidates Show No Interest in Courting Conservative Voters

Chuck Brewer
Today on This Week in Indianapolis, WRTV anchor Rafael Sanchez interviewed the two leading Republican candidates for mayor, businessman Chuck Brewer and Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams.  What is significant for conservatives is that both indicated that they would continue with Mayor Ballard's priorities, which has included proposals like building a cricket field and massive corporate welfare subsidies to politically-connected campaign donors. 

Brewer, in particular, expressed support for the Justice Center, apparently oblivious (or not caring) about all the graft that has already been exposed on the project, the lack of transparency in violation of Indiana law, the inflated cost created by having a private company needlessly to act as landlord, and the horrible revisions to the original plan that eliminates office space for prosecutors and public defenders who then would have to commute daily from their downtown offices.

Olgen Williams
In offering support for Mayor Ballard's agenda, neither Brewer or Williams expressed any disagreement with Ballard's support for more than 40 tax and fee increases during his seven years in office.  It appears that Brewer and Williams have no plans to court fiscal conservatives who have grown tired of giving the most liberal big spending, big taxing, big borrowing mayor in Indianapolis history a pass because he has "Republican" on his jersey.

By Brewer and Williams positioning themselves as supporters of Ballard's misplaced priorities and tax, borrow and spend policies, they have opened the door for Hogsett to simply run a repeat of his successful 1990 Secretary of State campaign.  In that race, Hogsett held his base while successfully appealing to fiscal conservatives by attacking Hudnut's tripling of the Marion County option income tax.  Brewer and Williams saying they'll replicate Ballard's policies puts the proverbial ball on the tee for Hogsett to knock out of the political park.

Democrats Fool Themselves Into Believing They're Winning While GOP Enjoys Unprecedented Electoral Success

If you spend too much time on Facebook, as I do, you see no end to Democrats offering suggestions for how Republicans can fix their party.  We're told the GOP needs to return back to the views of President Eisenhower to become popular again.  Or that the Republicans need to abandon social issues and become the party of Senator Barry Goldwater, advancing just fiscal issues.  (After all, that strategy worked so well for Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.)  Or that the extremist Tea Party is dooming Republican candidates.

On the flipside, I have no shortage of Republican friends who criticize Democrats on Facebook.   But almost always the approach is different. They attack Democrats for their views and policies.   When Democrats attack Republicans on Facebook it is almost always comes accompanied by a claim Republicans are crazy racist sexist homophobes who hate poor people (check one or all).

It is the Achilles' heel of  the liberal elitists who dominate the Democratic Party that they cannot conceive of the fact that not everyone shares their view of the world.  Rather, the liberals' approach seems more to talk just to each other to gain affirmation that their world view is the one held by most Americans and that anyone who thinks differently must have some sort of mental deficiency.  If they lose an election, it is not that the Democrats' policies are wrong, it is that the voters are stupid and were tricked by those crazy tea party Republicans.

But while the Democrats have convinced themselves that the Republican Party is in trouble, indeed near extinction, the electoral scoreboard shows something else entirely.   Republicans have entered an era of almost unprecedented success.  Let's take a look at how well the Republicans are doing:
State Legislatures:  Republicans control 66 of 99 legislative chambers.   Republicans Have complete control in 30 legislatures, while Democrats control both chambers in 11 legislatures.  (The other 9 have split control.)

Governors:  Republicans today have 31 of the 50 state governorships while Democrats have only 17.  There is one independent.

Complete Control of State Government:    Only seven states have a Democratic governor and Democratic legislature, the lowest level of Democratic state domination since the Civil War.  Republicans have complete control of state government in 24 states.

Congress:   Of the 435 member U.S. House, 247 are Republicans.  That is the largest Republican House majority in 85 years.  Republicans have 54 of the 100 U.S. Senators. Since Obama's election in 2008, Democrats have lost 70 seats in Congress and 900 state legislative seats.  That is, respectively, a partisan swing of 140 and 1800 seats.
Of course, much of the Democrats' belief that their party is winning is based on Barack Obama's two presidential election victories.  Yet, in 2012, Barack Obama received just 51% of the popular vote against a very weak Republican nominee.  While many believe 2012 was an electoral college landslide despite being a relatively close popular vote, in fact it was the 21st closest electoral vote ever.  With a swing of 333,000 votes (just .26% of the total popular vote) in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Virginia would have given Romney the election.

Rather than spending time offering less than helpful suggestions regarding how the GOP can hone its message, the Democrats would be wise to take stock on their own electoral failures and revise their message and policies so that the Democrats have more appeal to Americans who are rejecting the party in record numbers.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Former NFL Coach John Madden Lays Responsibility for Deflated Footballs on Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

After hearing the procedure for approving footballs for play, I have to agree with former NFL broadcaster and coach John Madden that the order to deflate the footballs in the game against the Indianapolis Colts almost certainly would have come from Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady. 
Who, exactly, is to blame for the New England Patriots’ DeflateGate controversy? John Madden points the finger straight at Tom Brady, not Bill Belichick.

“That would have to be driven by the quarterback,” Madden told The Sports Xchange via Pro Football Talk).
New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

“That’s something that wouldn’t be driven by a coach or just the equipment guy. Nobody, not even the head coach, would do anything to a football unilaterally, such as adjust the amount of pressure in a ball, without the quarterback not knowing. It would have to be the quarterback’s idea.”

Although the matter of how the Patriots’ footballs were deflated in the AFC championship game remains under investigation, quarterbacks — especially top-tier quarterbacks — are finicky about their footballs. Brady laughed off the allegation that the balls were underinflated Monday, calling it “ridiculous.” But the matter is serious now.

“He is the affected,” Madden said. “He is the only guy. I heard some of the pundits saying the ball is easier to catch, but that would never, ever, ever be done for that unless the quarterback wanted it. You wouldn’t do something for a receiver to catch the ball if the quarterback couldn’t throw it. So it’s going to be done for the quarterback.”
That procedure is the game referees examine the balls given to them by the home team and, after being approved, they're turned over to the home team's equipment manager.  The deflation would have had to take place at that point.  Certainly the equipment manager did not own his own take the balls and deflate them by up to a very noticeable 2 pounds per square inch.  That order would have had to come from Patriots coach Bill Belichick or Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.  Madden points his finger at Brady:

During a press conference, Belichick claimed that he knew nothing about the deflated footballs and pointed to Brady as the ones who would know what happened.   When questioned about the deflated footballs, Brady was less than convincing that he didn't know about the deflated footballs, much less ordered it done by the equipment manager.    

If it turns out that Brady did order the deflating of the footballs, then the NFL would have no choice but to suspend Brady for the Super Bowl.  To do anything less would be to condone cheating that directly affects the integrity of the game.

My guess is the NFL will do everything it can to extend its "investigation" beyond the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Years After Leaving Office Former Prosecutor Carl Brizzi Continues Campaign Spending

Four years after leaving office and eight years after his last campaign, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi continues his campaign spending.  His annual report filed today showed his campaign committee spent $13,790 in 2014.  Many are contributions to other candidates which are perfectly legitimate expenditures.  Others, however, raise eyebrows for someone who hasn't been a candidate for four years.  These expenditures include:

Former Marion County
Prosecutor Carl Brizzi
Elizabeth (Shrout) Smith, listed as campaign finance manager, received 13 payments totally $6,500.  She is listed on LinkedIn as being a legal assistant/paralegal for Carl Brizzi's law office as well as two others law firms.  LinkedIn also shows her as being a law student .
 
Payments were made to Verizon for a cell phone in the total amount of $2,316.86.  $144 was paid to Asurion for electronic device insurance, presumably for the phone.  $39.90 went to TownPlace Suites located in Fort Wayne for lodging. $1206.25 went to Minted, LLC, which appears to be a stationary and gift card business located in San Francisco.   Postal expenses were $458.75.

Interestingly Republican Brizzi did donate $500 to the campaign of David Hennessy who ran as an unslated candidate for judge in the 2012 Democratic primary.

Value of Pacer Franchise Soars; Of Course Huge Taxpayers Subsidies Will Continue

The Indianapolis Star reports:
The value of the Indiana Pacers franchise skyrocketed by $355 million just since last year to $830 million, according to Forbes magazine.

The Pacers rank 21st among the NBA's 30 teams. The Los Angeles Lakers were first at $2.6 billion.

In the annual report on franchise values, posted Wednesday, reporter Kurt Badenhausen attributed the huge growth in NBA franchise values to "a massive new $24 billion television contract, a nearly six-year bull market in equities creating tremendous wealth, and cheap credit."

...

The Pacers' value also increased 74 percent and could renew questions about the Capital Improvement Board's decision, less than a year ago, to use $160 million in tax money to cover operating costs and upgrades at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers keep revenue from all fieldhouse events — basketball and non-basketball alike.

..

 Forbes said the Pacers' revenue in 2013-14 was $139 million with operating income of $25 million.
While the Star speculates that the soaring wealth of the Pacer franchise might reignite questions about the need to continue with huge taxpayer subsidy, anyone who knows how the CIB operates know that is not going to happen.  During negotiations with the Pacers and Colts, CIB President Ann Lathrop and the other board members have consistently shown zero interest in doing what is in the best interests of Indianapolis taxpayers.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rev. Charles Harrison Steps Aside From Mayor's Race to Support "Good Friend"

The Indianapolis Star is reporting:
Rev. Charles Harrison
The Rev. Charles Harrison, the leader of the Ten Point Coalition, said today that he will not run for mayor of Indianapolis as long as his “good friend” Olgen Williams is in the race.   
Harrison, however, held open the door for a possible candidacy after the May primary if Williams does not win the Republican nomination. If he were to get in that point, Harrison said he would run in the general election as a Libertarian or independent.
...
But he doesn’t want to run against Williams, who was a prominent black leader in the city even before Mayor Greg Ballard hired him in 2007 to serve as deputy mayor of neighborhoods. Williams announced on Monday that he will seek the Republican nomination.
When [Star editor Tim Swarens] spoke with him in November, Harrison said that he was concerned that the presumed Democratic candidate, former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, would emphasize a law enforcement approach to addressing Indy’s public safety problems rather than a more holistic approach. 
Not sure if this announcement actually will have any effect. After all Rev. Harrison, wouldn't have to declare this early unless he was running as a Democrat or Republican which was never likely.  If Harrison runs as an independent or a Libertarian, he can wait until after the primaries in order to file.

One good thing about having Harrison in the race is that he might begin questioning the corporate welfare agenda that both party establishments are currently pursuing.   It is highly unlikely that Olgen Williams, who as part of the worst pay-to-play, tax increasing, borrowing and spending administration in Indianapolis history, will be inclined to go against his boss Mayor Greg Ballard on the campaign trail.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2014 Warmest Year on Record?; Day After Its Press Release NASA Admits Claim is Probably False

If you want to know how politicized the science behind the anthropogenic global warming theory has become, one only needs to look at NASA's press release on Friday, January 16, 2015 in which it declared that it and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that the year 2014 was the warmest on record:
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

 ...

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.

“NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”
Of course, the press release got widespread coverage with commentators treating it as validation of anthropogenic global warming which has been now relabeled as climate change.  But some reporters didn't simply regurgitate NASA claim in the press release.  They looked at the data and found problems.  Within 24 hours, NASA was backing off its claim.  The Guardian reports:
The NASA  climate scientists who claimed 2014 set a new record for global warmth last night admitted they were only 38 per cent sure this was true.

In a press release on Friday, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) claimed its analysis of world temperatures showed ‘2014 was the warmest year on record’.

The claim made headlines around the world, but yesterday it emerged that GISS’s analysis – based on readings from more than 3,000 measuring stations worldwide – is subject to a margin of error. NASA admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all.

Yet the NASA press release failed to mention this, as well as the fact that the alleged ‘record’ amounted to an increase over 2010, the previous ‘warmest year’, of just two-hundredths of a degree – or 0.02C. The margin of error is said by scientists to be approximately 0.1C – several times as much.
As a result, GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has now admitted Nasa thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent. However, when asked by this newspaper whether he regretted that the news release did not mention this, he did not respond. Another analysis, from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, drawn from ten times as many measuring stations as GISS, concluded that if 2014 was a record year, it was by an even tinier amount.
I do believe 38% is less than 50%.  So even by NASA's own data, it is more likely than not that 2014 was not warmest year.   Yet did NASA announce that 2014 was probably not the warmest year on record?   No, NASA did exactly the opposite.  Since when are scientists supposed to be spinning data (actually in this case not just spinning, but flat out lying) in order to promote a political agenda?  I again say that the politicization of science (which is almost always to support a liberal political agenda) is one of the greatest crises we face.

The fact is you can't just stick a thermometer in the Planet Earth and take its temperature.  It is calculated by analyzing readings from temperature stations located all over the world.  Many of those stations, such as those in the old Soviet Union, have closed.  Others have opened in warmer climates.   Obviously where those temperature stations are located affects the data collected, making the comparisons from year to year difficult.  While NASA and NOAA tries to make adjustments to account for that, they are spectacularly bad at it and are constantly altering the data.   If you don't think NASA is capable of misrepresenting that information to promote anthropogenic global warming theory I point to their most recent press release about 2014 being the warmest year ever as proof otherwise.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Senator's Religious Freedom Restoration Act Is Mainstream Legislation Modeled After Federal and Other State Laws

This morning Sheila Kennedy, attorney, IUPUI professor. and former Executive Secretary of the Indiana ACLU takes to the keyboard to offer her almost daily rant on her blog against the notion that the right of people to hold and practice their religious beliefs should be protected against government laws that pursue what she and others believes is good public policy.

Sen. Scott Schneider
One of the targets of Kennedy and her friends on the left is Senator Scott Schneider's plan to introduce a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  We are told by many on the left that Schneider's bill to protect religious freedom would abe n extreme, unprecedented measure, and perhaps even unconstitutional.  Of course, to make such statements liberals completely ignore the history of similar legislation at the national and state level.

The Free Exercise of Religion Clause long required that government accommodate religious practices and beliefs in the laws it passes.  In measuring whether a law violated the Free Exercise Clause, courts employed the Sherbert test which required a court to determine:  1) whether a person has a claim involving a sincere religious belief and 2) whether the government action is a substantial burden on the person's ability to act on that belief.   If those two elements were established, then the government must prove that the law is in in furtherance of a compelling state interest and that government has pursued that interest in the least restrictive means possible.

In the landmark 1990 case, Employment Division v. Smith, the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Scalia, curtailed the Sherbert test holding that federal free exercise exemptions did not apply to generally applicable laws.  That case involved two members of the Native American Church who were fired from their jobs as  counselors at a private drug rehabilitation clinic because they had ingested peyote as part of their religious ceremonies at their church.  The Court instead urged the aggrieved party to take up its complaint with the legislature.

The Employment Division v. Smith case outraged the public, including groups on the left and right.  Over 60 civil liberties and religious organizations joined together to form the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, including the American Civil Liberties Union (at the very time that Kennedy was Executive Director of the Indiana affiliate of the ACLU), the Traditional Values Coalition, the Christian Legal Society, American Jewish Congress and National Association of Evangelicals.  The Coalition supported the introduction of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would reimpose the Sherbert standard on all laws that burden religion.  The RFRA which was introduced by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who was then a House member and now is a Senator, passed the U.S. House unanimously and the Senate 97-3.  President Clinton signed it into law in 1993.

Excerpts from the Act are as follows:
Congressional Findings and Declaration of Purposes:

The Congress finds that:
  1. the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution
  2. laws 'neutral' toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise
  3. governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification
  4. in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 US 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion; and the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.
The purposes of this Act are
1.     to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 US 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 US 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and 
2.      to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.
 Free Exercise of Religion Protected:
(a) In General: Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).

(b) Exception: Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person
  1. is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
  2. is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
Judicial Relief: A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.
The constitutionality of the RFRA as applied to the federal government was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2006.  But nine years earlier, the Court had struck down as unconstitutional federal encroachment Congress applying the federal RFRA to states.  As a result, many states adopted their own RFRAs. These states are: Alabama (by constitutional amendment), Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  No state RFRA has been held to be unconstitutional, which undermines the silly claim that Delph's RFRA proposal is unconstitutional.

In those states which have not adopted a state RFRA, such as Indiana, the holding of Employment Division v. Smith applies, providing less protection for religious freedom than the Sherbert test which the federal government and 19 other states have reimposed.  Contrary to the insistence that Sen. Delph's introduction of a state RFRA proposal is somehow extreme, it is mainstream legislation that has received overwhelming conservative and liberal support, in an assortment of federal and state venues. Nor is it unconstitutional.  No state RFRA has been declared unconstitutional by the courts.

Having discussed the legalities of the RFRA, I want to conclude with a word about political strategy. Last year, I opined how the fight against same sex marriage was a losing cause and that instead Indiana conservatives should have been focused on passing a law to protect religious freedom.  That bill, introduced last session, would have received substantial support from both conservatives and liberals.  But now with blood in the water from the same sex marriage battle, those on the far left hostile to religious freedom are emboldened while conservatives are reluctant to take up legislation that should be a slam dunk It's all about priorities and last year conservatives shot themselves in the foot.

Note:  During an earlier version of this story, I incorrectly identified Senator Mike Delph as the author of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Actually news reports indicate that Senator Scott Schneider will introduce the proposal, but as of today the RFRA does not show on the state's website as one of Schneider's bills.

Friday, January 16, 2015

US Attorney General Holder Halts Abuse of Federal Civil Forfeiture Laws By Local Police Agencies

A big "thank you' to Attorney General Eric Holder for putting an end to this abusive practice.  The Washington Post reports:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without evidence that a crime occurred.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

“With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons,” Holder said in a statement.

...

While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, the federal program was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police departments. Many states require seized proceeds to go into the general fund.

A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”

Holder’s decision follows a Washington Post investigation published in September that found that police have made cash seizures worth almost $2.5 billion from motorists and others without search warrants or indictments since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I have written numerous times about how local law enforcement has abused Indiana's civil forfeiture law.  Indiana law says that law enforcement can only keep civil forfeiture proceeds to cover the cost of the action against that particular defendant.   After that determination is made by the court, the remainder is to go to the Common School Fund. Yet, in county after county, prosecutors and local law enforcement officials, aided by judges who just rubberstamp orders handed to them, routinely violate the law and pocket 100% of the proceeds.  This includes Marion County, which under Republican Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Democrat Terry Curry hasn't paid a dime to the Common School Fund in years.  Rather than reign in the program, Prosecutor Curry has greatly expanded the use of civil forfeiture. 

I should also mention that under the Indiana Constitution, the Common School Fund is to be made up of ALL forfeitures.  Even the legislative carve out for civil forfeiture is of dubious constitutionality.

Greenwood Republicans Propose Raising the Local Food and Beverage Tax

When you have suburban Republicans who continually propose tax increases, more borrowing and more spending, why is there a need for a Democratic Party in those communities?  While it is usually the northside surburban mayors acting like fiscally irresponsible Democrats, today our attention turns to the 'burb directly south of Indianapolis...Greenwood.  The Star reports:
Mark Myers, Greenwood Mayor
State lawmakers will consider a new measure that lets Greenwood levy a 1 percent tax on restaurants.

Rep. John Price, R-Greenwood, is sponsoring a bill that gives Greenwood’s council the authority to levy a food and beverage tax, which could bring in about $700,000 a year.

Mayor Mark Myers said the city needs the tax to help make up for about $3.4 million in revenue lost after lawmakers imposed tax caps in 2008.

“We have lost $850,000 a year out of our budget,” Myers said. “It really cuts into our public safety.”

The same bill was introduced in the Statehouse last year, but failed to make it past a committee. If it wins approval this time, Greenwood council members would have to vote to impose the tax.

Under the measure, Greenwood diners and bar patrons would be taxed at a rate of 9 percent, which includes the state’s 7 percent sales tax and the 1 percent food and beverage tax levied by Johnson County.
I haven't looked at Greenwood's budget, but the claims that local entities have less money now because of property tax caps is usually as bogus as a $3 bill.  And let's not forget that part of property tax reform was an increase in the state sales tax from 6% to 7%.  We are not paying less taxes than we were before the 2008 reform.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pope Francis Says that Freedom to Criticize Religion Should Be Limited

I am Catholic and a big supporter of Pope Francis when he speaks on issues of faith. But when the Pope starts taking on political issues he often knows little about, my support goes out the window.  Today, Pope Francis declared that the freedom to criticize religion should have limits.  Uh, no.
Pope Francis
Absolutely not.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone's faith.

Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one's mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

"If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."

...

[H]e said there was a limit to free speech when it concerned offending someone's religious beliefs.

"There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others," he said. "They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Indianapolis Homeland Security Chief to to Chair Perry Township Schools PAC Pushing for Higher Taxes

If there is any wonder why the local Marion County GOP organization is losing conservative support, you only have to look at the the elected and appointed Republicans who regularly line up to support higher taxes on working men and women.    Next up is Gary Coons, former Perry Township Trustee
Gary Coons
who is currently employed by the City of Indianapolis.  He describes his position on his LinkedIn account as:
Chief Executive Director of Homeland Security~Executive Board FBI Terrorism Task Force~US DOJ Counter Terrorism Council
Coons got in some hot water a few years ago getting a full-time job with the City of Indianapolis when he already was Perry Township Trustee.  I wrote about it on my blog:
Previously on this blog, I wrote about Henry (Hank) Bosworth, who is probably best known for his work as a high-ranking official in the Marion County Sheriff's Department, but who has two other jobs.

This morning, I present the case of Gary Coons, the elected Perry Township Trustee. In that role, he make $51,520, not counting benefits. Recently, he has taken a second job with the city administration, as public safety liaison with the Department of Public Safety. In that role, he is expected to work 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., 40 hours a week minimum. Translation: It is a full-time job. He is now a salaried city employee, making $64,000 with benefits.
Channel 13 picked up on the story and Coons immediately ordered his trustee pay stopped.  He eventually resigned as Perry Township Trustee and later took a position as Homeland Security director for Indianapolis.

Today, Coons reappears as Chairman of "Vote YES for Perry Township Schools," a political action committee set up for the purpose of "supporting Perry Township Schools for their $63 million Referendum --$50M Construction ; $13M Operations."  Once again, a Marion County Republican is supporting higher taxes on local residents.

In the organization paperwork filed on December 10th of last year, Coons shows extremely poor judgment in listing his City of Indianapolis email and phone number.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Can the Democrats Win the Indiana Governor's Race? The 2012 Election Results Suggest They Can

In light of the discussion over Governor Mike Pence possibly seeking a second term, I decided it was a good time to look back at the race he won in 2012.  In that contest , Republican Pence squared off against Democrat John Gregg, a former speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives.    Libertarian Rupert Boneham also had a strong third party performance in that election.  A review of the election results that year should give the Democrats a reason to be optimistic about winning the
Governor's Office in 2016, regardless of whether Pence seeks re-election.

Pence's victory margin in that race was a mere 75,408 votes.   Gregg won Marion County by 80,618 votes.  There is no reason to think that the Democratic dominance of Marion County will be any less next time around and it is likely to be more. The Marion County GOP is a shell organization which in 2014 didn't bother to field a candidate in 8 of 15 Indiana house races or for Auditor.

Gregg won 19 counties in 2010.  Besides Marion, Gregg won some of the most populous counties, including Delaware, Lake, Madison, Monroe, Porter St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Vigo.  Gregg also bested Pence in Crawford, Greene, Knox, LaPorte, Perry, Pike, Scott, Starke, Sullivan and Vermillion counties.

I get the sense that the tea party wing of the Republican Party is none too thrilled with the Governor.  While Pence has backed away from conservatives on a number of issues (see for example his support of a pilot pre-K program and Indiana's - slightly - modified version of common core), Pence's new-found moderation is unlikely to attract Democratic-leaning votes. 

During the remaining weeks of the 2012 campaign, Pence reminded me of a quarterback sitting on a big lead running out the clock, trying not to make any mistakes as his opponent slowly closed the gap. (The result on Election Day suggests that perception was accurate.)  Pence appears to be governing the same way, not taking bold and creative approaches to issues as his predecessor Governor Daniels chose to do.  While the Pence people point to favorable polls, those polls belie how shallow his support is even among conservatives who had strongly supported him in Congress.

The Democrats would be wise to nominate a moderate like Gregg again.  If that happens, Gregg needs to abandon the cornball Sandborn ads he ran early in his campaign and present himself as a serious, intelligent candidate who understands the issues.   In terms of where he can concentrate his efforts, Glenda Ritz's performance in the Superintendent's race that same year provides helpful hints on where Democrats can gain ground in Republican Indiana.

While there is little reason to be optimistic about the Democrats' ability to win statewide office in off-year elections, presidential elections are a different story.

Blogger Panel Tonight at Indianapolis Northside Tea Party

I have been asked to announce that the Indianapolis Northside Tea Party is sponsoring a blogger panel tonight at the Knights of Columbus, near the northwest corner of 71st and Keystone.  On the panel are Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana, Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy, and yours truly.  We will be talking about Indianapolis' pay-to-play politics, insider deals, and corporate welfare. We also will be talking about blogging and the future of media.   The meeting starts at 6 pm.  Please attend.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Gov. Mike Huckabee's Appalling Ethics and Poor Judgment Make Him Unfit to be President

Gov. Mike Huckabee
Some of my conservative friends have jumped on the Mike Huckabee for President bandwagon.  Some have declined, citing to issues regarding how he ran the State of Arkansas as Governor.  This conservative though won't be signing up for the Huckabee for President campaign any time soon.  The reason why is the former governor's appalling ethical and judgment lapses for which there is no excuse.

Max Brantley, formerly of the now defunct Arkansas Gazette, spent much of his career covering Huckabee's career in Arkansas.  Writing for his new employer, Salon Magazine, Brantley in 2007 summarized Huckabee's ethical problems and judgment lapses:
Even editorialists and columnists at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state’s dominant (and Republican-friendly) daily paper, use words like “petty” and “thin-skinned” to describe Huckabee. Then again, he’s compared hard-hitting (and accurate) news reporters for the Democrat-Gazette to the press fabulists Jayson Blair and Janet Cooke. He called liberal columnist John Brummett of Stephens Media “constipated” when that early admirer commenced some gentle criticism. His administration paid $15,000 to settle a suit filed by Roby Brock, the host of a public TV news show whom Huckabee’s people tried to force off the air for his critical commentary.

Then there’s me. I’m the editor of an alternative weekly, but I began covering Huckabee when I was a columnist for the now-defunct daily Arkansas Gazette in 1991, and Mike and I have been on the outs pretty much ever since. He once called me and the Memphis Commercial Appeal bureau chief “junkyard journalists” for our reporting. He also compared me, in print, to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and, I’ve been told on good authority, has wished aloud for my early and violent demise.

It all began 16 years ago for Mike and me. Huckabee, in his political debut, was preparing to become the Bible-thumping, abortion-decrying Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, the Democratic incumbent. With a playbook straight out of James Dobson, he tried to portray Bumpers as a pornographer for his support of federal grants to the arts.

More important, Huckabee revealed an enduring weakness as glaring as that other Arkansas governor’s fondness for women. Huckabee seems to love loot and has a dismissive attitude toward ethics, campaign finance rules and propriety in general. Since that first, failed campaign, the ethical questions have multiplied.

In the 1992 contest with Bumpers, Huckabee used campaign funds to pay himself as his own media consultant. Other payments went to the family babysitter.

In his successful 1994 run for lieutenant governor, he set up a nonprofit curtain known as Action America so he could give speeches for money without having to disclose the names of his benefactors. He failed to report that campaign travel payments were for the use of his own personal plane.

After he became governor in 1996, he raked in tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, including gifts from people he later appointed to prestigious state commissions.

In the governor’s office, his grasp never exceeded his reach. Furniture he’d received to doll up his office was carted out with him when he left, after he’d crushed computer hard drives so nobody could ever get a peek behind the curtain of the Huckabee administration.

Until my paper, the Arkansas Times, blew the whistle, he converted a governor’s mansion operating account into a personal expense account, claiming public money for a doghouse, dry-cleaning bills, panty hose and meals at Taco Bell. He tried to claim $70,000 in furnishings provided by a wealthy cotton grower for the private part of the residence as his own, until he learned ethics rules prevented it. When a disgruntled former employee disclosed memos revealing all this, the Huckabee camp shut her up by repeatedly suggesting she might be vulnerable to prosecution for theft because she’d shared documents generated by the state’s highest official.

He ran the State Police airplane into the ground, many of the miles in pursuit of political ends. Inauguration funds were used to buy clothing for his wife. He once took control of the state Republican Party’s campaign account — then swore the account had been somebody else’s responsibility when it ran afoul of federal election laws. He repeated the pattern when he claimed in a newspaper story that his staff controlled the account to stage his second inauguration. When I filed a formal ethics complaint over what appeared to be an improper appropriation of donated money, he told a different story, disavowing responsibility for the money. He thus avoided another punishment from an Ethics Commission, which had sanctioned him on five other occasions. He dodged nine other complaints (though none, despite his counter-complaints, was held to be frivolous). In one case, he was saved by the swing vote of a woman who left the chairmanship of the Ethics Commission days later to take a state job. She listed the governor as a reference on the job application. Finally, unbelievably, Huckabee once sued to overturn the ban on gifts to him. 
While I would normally be dismissive of pieces that appear in the left-wing, on-line Salon magazine, the fact is though these transgressions by Huckabee have been well-documented in other, more mainstream publications.  The author is not lying.   While in isolation each transgression one might signify a momentary lapse in judgment, together though they reveal a politician who is a thin-skinned bully who believes he is above ethics rules that others have to abide by.  That's not the sort of person I want in the White House.

Field of Schemes Mocks Indy Eleven's Renewed Demand for New Taxpayer Funded Stadium

The Field of Schemes blog reports:
All the MLS expansion talk of late has focused on Las Vegas and Minneapolis and Sacramento, but Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir isn’t giving up without a fight. Ten months after throwing in the towel on his plan to ask the state legislature for $87 million for a new stadium — partly because his ticket tax revenue projections were completely nuts, but likely more so because the head of the state senate told him he’d have a better chance in the 2015 session — Ozdemir is back, and raring to be having the state cut some checks with his name on them:

...
In case you’d forgotten the details of Ozdemir’s stadium plan since last year — and you’ve got to think Ozdemir is hoping you have — the state of Indiana would send him annual $5 million payments, which it would recoup by collecting a 10% ticket tax on seats sold at the stadium. Except that the average MLS team only sells about $8 million a year in tickets, which would only bring in $800,000 a year in tax revenue; the research arm of the state legislature says it would be more like $200,000-400,000 a year. If that’s the case, the state would be left paying off the team’s stadium costs by kicking back income and sales taxes that otherwise would go into state coffers like normal people’s income and sales taxes do.

Ozdemir is touting the team’s sellout of all 14 home games last year as a minor-league franchise as a selling point, which is all very nice, even if Advance Indiana points out that a lot of these tickets weren’t so much “sold” as “given away.” It doesn’t explain why Indiana should give him $5 million a year for his project, though — if the Eleven are doing so well at IUPUI’s 10,000-seat stadium, doesn’t that make the case that they don’t need taxpayers to build them a new one to draw fans? Or if he really thinks he can sell six times as many tickets as other teams in MLS (without an actual approved MLS franchise, mind you — this deal wouldn’t be contingent on getting a big-league team), maybe Ozdemir could take out a bank loan, raise ticket prices by 10% in lieu of a tax, and do the financing himself? I’m talking crazy talk again, aren’t I?