Monday, July 30, 2012

Indianapolis Council Proposal to Extend "Domestic Partner Benefits" to Unmarried, Heterosexual Couples Would Undermine the Institution of Marriage

Over at Indy Democrat, my friend Jon Easter accuses Mayor Greg Ballard of playing games with his hesitancy on the domestic partner ordinance going through the Indianapolis City-County Council:
Ballard, according to media reports, has concerns over the proposal believing that it will give straight couples in Indianapolis a reason not to marry. Reports say (and he's not denying it) the Mayor is trying to strike out language that would make the proposal apply to opposite sex couples and make it only a same-sex couple ordinance if passed. This would likely cause most of the Republicans and maybe a couple of Democrats supporting the measure currently to vote against the proposal.
So, that raises the question: how often do people get married for benefits only? I'm sure it happens. I know there are definitely "marriages of convenience" out there. I really don't think that's germane to this ordinance, though. I don't think this will cause a significant change in the rate of people joining in holy matrimony. Pretty much, if you want to get married; you will get married. If not, you won't. Benefits aren't going to change that. This just opens another door for some couples that meet very specific requirements to get benefits from the City of Indianapolis. The financial benefits of marriage still outweigh any benefits this proposal would allow qualifying couples to receive from the city.
To see the rest of the article, click here.

Councilor Angela Mansfield, sponsor of
domestic partnership benefits proposal.
If Jon is accurately portraying the Mayor's position, I would wholeheartedly agree with the Mayor. I am completely opposed to the idea of handing out benefits for people who can get married and choose not to.  Marriage has been deemed to play an important role in our society and worthy of being given favorable legal treatment as a result.  The only reason to support the domestic partnership measure is the fact that we as a society do not allow same sex couples to get married.  I just don't know if legally the domestic partner benefit ordinance can be confined to same sex couples.  If it can be, I'd vote for it...but preferably with an amendment that when marriage becomes available to same sex partners, the partnership benefits end.  And make no mistake about it, same sex marriage is coming to Indiana, probably well within the lifetimes of middle-aged people like me.

I think Jon has the politics of this issue wrong.   If same sex couples could get married, the domestic partner benefit measure would never have gotten off the ground in the first place. The whole reason for the ordinance is to compensate for the state's discriminatory treatment of same sex couples when it comes to marriage.  There are a lot of Republicans, like myself and apparently Mayor Ballard, who believe strongly in traditional marriage but do not like to see it denied to same sex couples who love each other and want to make that commitment.

Undoubtedly arguing that domestic partner benefits ordinance is not about marriage discrimination is part of a strategic move by advocates who are trying to enlist the support of Republicans who fear the measure might intrude on traditional marriage.  The irony though is the measure - by granting benefits to heterosexual couples, people who can get married and choose not to - actually does undermine traditional marriage.   If the ordinance was confined to awarding benefits for same sex couples that are discriminated against from getting married, at least until such time as same sex marriage is allowed, then the measure would support traditional marriage.

The Mayor appears to have this one right.  Let's not extend domestic partner benefits to heterosexual couples who choose not to get married.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Star Announces It Will Start Charging for On-Line Content

The Indianapolis Star today announced an update of its business model, which update includes charging for on-line content.

I have long ago, argued that the Star's business model, with home delivery of the a print copy of the newspaper, is going the way of the dinosaur.  The Star needs to adapt and it appears the new leadership of the Star understands that.
Former Indianapolis Star
Editor-in-Chief Dennis Ryerson

But the Star's problems are much more than and expensive out of date home delivery system. The chief problem is content. During the leadership of Dennis Ryerson, the Star abandoned its role of watchdog of local government.  Apparently Ryerson took the position that the Star should be a cheerleader for the City and not a critic of local leaders.  Many people stop going to the Star for any sort of significant or critical content. During Ryerson's leadership, the number of hours local TV stations devoted to news increased significantly and the reporters were allowed to do more detailed investigative pieces.  Then you had the blogs that also filled, to a degree, the investigative role formerly filled by the Star.  I have long said blogs are not a replacement for the investigative role that newspapers can and should play.  But Indianapolis political blogs have increasingly become popular because the Star abdicated its journalistic role.  Into that vacuum stepped bloggers and TV journalists.

As someone who has done original reporting of issues on my blog (I broke the Lugar residency story on my blog after reviewing voter registration and real estate records), I also pass along many tips to local reporters.  But while there are many fine Star reporters who I think would do a great job if unleashed by editors, I have found that passing along tips about local issues in the Ryerson era was a waste of time. The Star does not like to write stories that would appear critical of local officials or the pay-to-play power structure in Indianapolis.   Even when the Star cover stories, it's just generally a milquetoast recitation of select facts.

Let's use the Broad Ripple Parking Garage as an example.   Under the contract, the City basically pays the first $6.35 million to buy the land and construct garage.  City officials tried to claim it is a $15 million garage...implying that Keystone Construction, which will get 100% ownership of the garage and 100% of the commercial rents and parking profits, will be supplying the remaining $8.65.  But a parking garage of that size is typically in the $6 million to $7 million range, which means Keystone may not pay anything for the garage and fact may not be obligated by the contract to pay a dime for the facility. The Star failed to report these facts and downplayed that Keystone is a major contributor to the Mayor and now employs the Mayor's former chief of staff.  The Star apparently thinks only state government has a revolving door.

Then we had the ACS parking meter contract.  We are giving away 70% of the revenue from parking to ACS for the next 50 years.  The Star never mentioned that Joe Loftus, the Mayor's attorney, also lobbies for ACS.  The Star also downplayed the fact that former President of the Council Ryan Vaughn, who cast the tie breaking vote, also lobbies for ACS.

Then you have the Pacers deal.  The Star never questioned the study by the pro-hospitality organization that said public investment in the Pacers was a good idea.  The Star could have talked to a university economist who would have almost certainly told a different story.  The Star never did a review of the contract, which would have revealed the penalties were too severe for the Pacers to move.  The Star never demanded that the Pacers open their books before the taxpayers shoveled out $33.5 million dollars.  When it was later revealed that property taxes were diverted to fund the operations of the Pacers, contrary to what the Mayor had said, the Star failed to cover the story.

This is only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the Star abdicated its responsibility to question these taxpayer funded deals and hold public officials accountable.  Hopefully the new leadership of the Star understands that we need our newspaper to be more than a cheerleader for city leaders.  We need to have a paper that will investigate wrongdoing by local officials and business leaders, and publish what it finds.  Otherwise the Star will cease to exist in any form.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CNN Does Story on Possible Electoral College Tie and How "Faithless Electors" Might Tip the Balance

Just yesterday I penned an article on the consequences of an Electoral College tie in the race for President. Today, CNN did a more extensive story on the subject. The story goes into much more detail than I did on the distinct possibility that "faithless electors" may switch their votes prior to casting their votes in December:
That has become a mostly irrelevant exercise in recent presidential elections. But in the event of a razor-thin finish, or a 269-vote tie, every elector will suddenly wield great power.
"If there appears to be a tie, then faithless electors become a big problem, and we could have a real mess on our hands," said Robert W. Bennett, a constitutional law professor at Northwestern University who has written extensively about the Electoral College.
Many recent electors have mulled switching their votes and little can be done to stop them, said Robert Alexander, an Electoral College expert at Ohio Northern University. 
In the course of writing a book on presidential electors, Alexander interviewed more than half of the electors who participated in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections. Of the 2004 group, 10% said they considered voting for someone other than to whom they were pledged. In 2008, 11% said the same.
Many told Alexander they were lobbied or pressured by someone to change their allegiance -- sometimes in person, sometimes by anonymous e-mails and phone calls -- in the period between Election Day and mid-December, when the Electoral College votes.
"If it's really close, you would expect to see massive lobbying campaigns," Alexander said. "Most do follow the herd, but not all, and that becomes the question in a close election. What happens at the margins?"  
Despite being party loyalists, he said, electors are regular people with their own biases and political inclinations. In rare cases, they make them known.
Throughout this past spring and summer, Ron Paul's devoted supporters worked furiously to elect their own as electors at state party conventions.
"They are trying to be the revolution to the Electoral College," Alexander said.
To see the rest of the lengthy article, click here.

Claude and Annie's Pike Plaza Bar Closes; Smoking Ban Cited as "Direct Cause" for Closing

It was announced today that the Claude & Annie's bar located at Pike Plaza on the northwest side is closing.  The owner, Michael Smythe, a friend of mine and a strong supporter of the Libertarian Party, announced the closing on Facebook.  His brother, Bill, who owns a Claude & Annie's in Fishers, which hasn't adopted a smoking ban, picked up on that announcement and expanded upon it, suggesting the City's smoking ban was a "direct cause" of the closing:
Earlier tonight my brother who owned the Claude & Annie's Pike Plaza posted this on his facebook page.  
"Thursday July 26th, 2012. Claude & Annie's Pike Plaza is CLOSED PERMANENTLY. This page will not be posted to, nor will questions be answered. We have met many wonderful people and made many friendships and memories. Those of you we called friends will be missed but as with life, SHIT happens! C...heers to the BEST bartenders, servers, cooks and floor managers in the business, we had our day!"

This marks the end of the Claude & Annie's locations that once existed in Indianapolis that were first opened 1982. In total there were 13 locations in all but never more than 7 open at any one time. Changing neighborhood demographics and the natural ups and downs of any company that has been in business for almost 30 years led to most of the stores being sold. However, the smoking ban that took effect June 1 was a direct cause of the last 2 locations shutting down. Sadly this is what happens when those in power abuse it in such a way as to remove rights of the owners to cater to their customers as it best fits their neighborhood.

It is no secret that I have opposed the smoking nannies since 2004 for this very reason and in part why this location was built (to be outside of Marion County). I can make no promise of if/when we might choose to go non smoking but I will fight forever to ensure that decision is mine and not some governmental unit.

We have a strong business model here in a strong pro business community and the long term prognosis for another 11 years is good. But we should never forget how quickly and easily those variables can change if the wrong people get into elected office.

Thank you all for your continued patronage and support.
Bill Smythe
It's a shame because Michael was a good business owner, someone who cared about the community.  He could have chosen to run a bar in the suburbs but he instead chose to run it in a neighborhood that had challenges.  Thanks Michael, we'll miss you and your bar.

Indiana Libertarian Party Abandons Principle in Ballot Access Case

I have a lot of friends who are Libertarians.  Most of them I admire very much. They are smart and committed to principles of limited government.  We have disagreements on issues, but I admire how they try to be consistent ideologically and stand by their principles.

Probably nothing is more important to the Libertarian Party than ballot access. The Libertarians for years fought to get it and every four years fight to keep it by getting the requisite 2% in the Secretary of State's race. The alternative to automatic ballot access is a time-consuming petition process where members obtain the signatures of registered voters.  Even thought the Libertarian Party now has ballot access, there are still races which require petitions be gathered to qualify for the ballot - races like Governor and U.S. Senator.

The case at hand involves Rev. Mmoja Ajabu, an interesting political activist in our Indianapolis community.  Rev. Ajabu, albeit controversial, has the same rights all of us have to throw our ring in the hat to run for Congress.  He did just that this Spring.   That was when he ran into the Marion County Board of Voter Registration, an outfit headed by a Democrat and Republican appointee, individuals selected by the two major party chairmen.  No elected official has any control over the is total party control, yet the job they do is supposed to be ministerial in nature.  In Ajabu's case the MCBVR was charged with the simple responsibility of verifying names on the petitions were of registered voters

But as gubernatorial candidate Jim Wallace and presidential candidate Rick Santorum had previously learned, the MCBVR does more than its ministerial duty when it comes to voter petitions.  It is the gatekeeper for who the establishment in Marion County believes should be allowed the ballot (or, in a case brought by Attorney Greg Bowes, which candidates can have useful public voter information for their campaigns).  With regard to Wallace, his challenge to his candidacy was spearheaded by Attorney and former Marion County Republican Chairman Tom John, the very person who had appointed Susan Mowery, the Republican head of the MCBVR.  Needless to say, the MCBVR kept finding problems with the Wallace petitions, including address problems and signatures supposedly not matching. One involved a husband and wife couple who signed the petition at the same time.  One was deemed okay by the MCBVR, while the other was disallowed.  Wallace didn't make the ballot, conveniently falling just a few votes short.

Sam Goldstein, Chairman of
Indiana Libertarian Party
Rev. Ajabu had to turn in 3,010 signatures of people from the 7th Congressional District in Indianapolis to qualify.  He first turned in 4,700 plus names.  The MCBVR went through the petition marking individuals as "NR" in a column, i.e that they were not a registered voter.  In the end, the MCBVR certified that 1,300 names were of registered voters.  Although now a minor issue, Ajabu, using the database the MCBVR told him to use, found another 130 plus individuals who should have been counted as registered, including one prominent Republican attorney who was at traffic court, the location where the Ajabu team collected signatures.

Apparently the MCBVR thought Ajabu would give up, but he didn't.  This time, armed with better knowledge of how to gather signatures specifically from 7th District voters, gathered 4,430 more names. He took them to the MCBVR.  What did they do?  They sent him a letter certifying that of the 4,430 names, not a single registered voter could be found among the 4,430 pages of names and that Ajabu's total still stood at 1,300.  The voter registration database, however,, shows there were 2,418 names of registered voters among the second batch, putting Ajabu at over 3,700 names and easily qualifying for the ballot as an independent.  A later review of the petitions at the Secretary of State's Office revealed that the second batch, as opposed to the first batch, had no notations of "NR" or any notations of any sort.  The Board had obviously never even reviewed the petitions before certifying that Ajabu had failed to qualify.

It is not difficult to speculate that Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy, fearing an independent candidate would endanger Rep. Carson's chances (to one degree or another), may have instructed his MCBVR appointee, LaDonna Freeman, to make certain Ajabu did not qualify for the ballot.  As far as the argument the Republican appointee, Susan Mowery, would act as a check on the Democrats, the fact is the two county party organizations have always worked together on ballot access and other issues.  Besides the Wallace issue, we just had a new issue where the appointee of the two chairmen to the Election Board voted, over the objections of Clerk Beth White, to hire a Democratic and Republican law firm to the tune of a quarter million dollars to defend the Board on its decision to enforce a law that was declared unconstitutional in 2003, at which time Election Board agreed not to enforce the law.  Yet none other than Ed Treacy filed the complaint against an unslated candidate that triggered the Election Board's decision to violate a federal court consent decree, a decree that it had entered into in 2003 finding the law was unconstitutional.

One would think Rev. Ajabu's dilemma would concern the Libertarian Party.  After all, that party could well face the same concerted effort by the MCBVR an the two major parties to keep the Libertarians off the ballot down the road.  Yet when the time came to stand up for principle, the Indiana Libertarian Party, led by Sam Goldstein, remaining seating.  To paraphrase a famous saying:

First they disqualified the unslated party candidate, and I didn't speak out because the candidate was not a Libertarian. 
Then they disqualified the Socialist candidate, and I didn't speak out because the candidate was not a Libertarian. 
Then they disqualified the Independent candidate, and I didn't speak out because the candidate was not a Libertarian. 
Then they disqualified me, a Libertarian  candidate, but there was nobody left to speak out for me.
People who are considered "outsiders" need to learn to stick together, and stand for principle if they want to oppose the establishment.  The Indiana Libertarian Party had a chance to stand for principle yesterday, and the party instead chose to remain seated.

Note:  Ironically, Rev. Ajabu at the press conference made a forceful argument that Libertarians be appointed to the various boards dominated by the two parties with the hope the a Libertarian appointee would act as a watchdog.   So Rev. Ajabu was making an argument for the Libertarian Party, when the Libertarians had failed to support him in the principle he was asserting on ballot access.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Inauguration of President Romney and Vice President Biden

Dateline Washington, D.C., January 20, 2013.  
"President Mitt Romney and Vice-President Joe Biden shivered in below freezing temperatures as they took the oath of office the White House, a culmination of the election of the most unusual White House partnership since when Federalist John Adams was elected President and his arch rival, Democratic -Republican Thomas Jefferson was elected Vice-President in 1796.  Following the electoral tie of 1800, which ended being decided by the House of Representatives in favor President Thomas Jefferson over his running mate Aaron Burr, the 12th Amendment was adopted to correct the constitutional flaw in the Electoral College that resulted in the 1800 deadlock and the provision that the second place finisher in Electoral College became Vice President.  Now the Election of 2012 has exposed yet another constitutional flaw that both President Romney and Vice-President Biden have asked congress to address through a proposed constitutional amendment which would ensure that candidates for President and Vice-President will always be elected from the same ticket."
Mitt Romney's Vice President?
Impossible?  Not at all.  The Constitution actually provides for two ways that presidential tickets can be split up.  The Electors could vote for a President and Vice-President of different parties.  Another, and more likely scenario is that there is a tie in the Electoral College or a candidate doesn't get a majority.  In that case the election for President is thrown into the House, with each delegation casting one vote, and the Senate decides the Vice-President.

Still not likely to happen, right?  There is more of a possibility than one would think.  At the bottom of this page is an electoral college map I have crafted that results in a tie in the Electoral College between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  It's not an outlandish scenario at all.  The swing states of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa and Minnesota all go to Obama.  Obama is actually leading in all those states.  Meanwhile swing states Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and New Hampshire go to Romney.  As Romney was the governor of neighboring Massachusetts, winning swing state New Hampshire would not be surprising, though he narrowly is behind there.  Probably the longest shot for Romney is Ohio, but Ohio has gone Republican 2 of the 3 elections and some polls have showed him in the lead in that state.

There is one final thing that has to happen to result in a 269-269 tie.  Nebraska has to come through.  Nebraska is one of only two states in the country (Maine is the other) which doesn't employ a winner-take-all system for divvying up electors.  Maine has 5 electoral votes.  One is awarded for the winner of each of the three congressional districts and two are awarded to whoever wins the state overall.  It is not a far-fetched scenario that Obama could pick off a congressional district in Republican Nebraska.  After all, in 2008 Obama narrowly won the second congressional district in Nebraska, the district which contains Omaha.  As a result, Obama picked up one electoral vote from the state.

Since many of the electors can vote for whichever candidate they want in the White House, I always thought if there was a close vote in the Electoral College that many electors would be subject to "persuasion" in the form of promises of high level positions in the administration or maybe a nice ambassadorship...if they switched their votes.  The experience of 2000 (when Bush led 271-266 (one elector abstained) in the Electoral College) showed that didn't happen.  So let's say between the time of the election and the meeting of the electors in their individual states to cast votes, nobody has been persuaded to change their minds.  The 269-269 split means there is no majority in the Electoral College, and for the 3rd time in history, the presidential election is to be decided by the U.S. House according to the 12th Amendment.  Meanwhile, assuming the same 269-269 (there is no reason to think the votes wouldn't mirror each other), the Vice Presidential is to be decided by the U.S. Senate.

In the U.S. House, the vote is conducted by each state's delegation casting one vote.  Republicans have a large 32-15 control in state delegations (3 are split) and Romney would be a slam dunk victor in that venue.  The Vice Presidential race is a different story.  Democrats have a 51-47 majority in the Senate (there are two independents though they typically vote with the Democrats in organizational matters).  A party line vote for Veep, which party line vote would most assuredly happened, would result in Vice President Biden being re-elected.

President Romney and Vice-President Biden.  It's not a probability, but it's definitely a possibility.

2012 Presidential Election: Tie in Electoral College

NBC v. Fox News Presidential Poll Results

On Facebook, a Republican activist complained that the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which shows President Barack Obama up on Mitt Romney by 6 points, is tainted by the fact that 11% more Democrats than Republicans were polled.  I checked it out.  It is true.

Fox News also is regularly polling.  Fox's spread in partisanship runs about 4% in favor of the Democrats.  Fox News' poll shows Obama leading by 4 points.  That's not a lot different than the 6 point lead cited in the NBC News poll.

I have been shocked at how stable the polling has been this election season.  Obama has led in virtually every national poll, but generally only by a small margin.  In the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Romney has not led Obama since October of 2011, but the margin has never been more than 6 points.

Of course, national polls do not matter much in a presidential race.  It is all about state polls and, in particular, polls in key, swing states. That is where Romney struggles the most.  In key states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, Romney is consistently shown as trailing. The only states he appears to have made progress thus far is in the Atlantic coastal states of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and South Carolina.  The latter Republican-dominated state looked competitive...briefly.

It is still early though, and Obama's lead is far from secure.  The key numbers that decide this election though won't be polling numbers but economic numbers.  If the economy turns sharply down into a double dip recession, which it shows signs of doing, then even a flawed candidate like Romney, who lacks any populist appeal in this era of populism, could upset President Obama. The old saying that "people vote their pocketbooks" is so true.

Press Release: Investigation of Marion County Board of Voter Registration for Possible Fraud and Other Legal Violations is Requested

Press Release  

Independent Congressional Candidate Mmoja Ajabu and Coalition of
Political Activists Call for Investigation of Marion County Board of Voter Registration

Contact Person:         
Paul K. Ogden, Attorney at Law
317-297-9720 (office)                                                                         

Reminder:  Date and Time of Press Conference is Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 1 pm, Outside of the Secretary of State's Office, Second Floor of Statehouse, Room 201.

Earlier this year, Rev. Mmoja Ajabu filed as an independent candidate for Congress.  As an independent congressional candidate, Indiana law required that he obtain 3,010 signatures from voters within the 7th Congressional District to qualify for the ballot.  By law, these signatures were to be certified by the Marion County Board of Voter Registration.  The Board is led by two appointees, one each appointed by the Marion County Democratic and Republican chairman.

Rev. Ajabu and his campaign staff worked diligently to gather signatures mostly from approaching potential voters outside the Marion County Traffic Court.  In the first batch, Rev. Ajabu turned in over 4700 signatures.  Of those signatures, the Board confirmed 1300 were registered voters in the 7th Congressional District.

Later Rev. Ajabu turned in a second batch of petitions, including 443 pages with signatures of approximately 4,430 individuals.  This time, the Marion County Board of Voter Registration issued a letter declaring that not a single registered voter could be found among the 4,430 names. As a result, Rev Ajabu was determined to have fallen short of the 3,010 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. 

A review by the Ajabu for Congress campaign discovered the second batch petitions, in fact, included 2,418 registered voters.  Along with the 1300 from the first batch, Rev. Ajabu easily qualified for the ballot.  A subsequent review of the second batch petitions shows that, unlike the first batch, the petitions contained no handwritten notations indicating the names were ever reviewed by the Board. 

This is not the first occasion in which the Board has acted in a questionable manner. This Spring there was a successful challenge to Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Wallace based on a supposed failure of signatures on the petitions to match what was on file.  The attorney in that case bringing the challenge was none other than the former Marion County Republican county chairman who had appointed the very GOP board member who refused to certify Wallace.

The Marion County Board of Voter Registration appears to be using its ministerial authority to disqualify candidates who are opposing those preferred by the county chairmen.  Such actions undermine the integrity of the political process and could discourage future candidates who dare challenge the establishment's preferred candidates.  Further, the actions of the Board could involve fraud and other legal violations.

Because of concern over the integrity of the petition process, Rev. Ajabu and a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and members of the Tea Party, have called a press conference to ask that Secretary of State Connie Lawson and other public officials investigate the actions taken by the Marion County Board of Registration and determine whether the conduct of the Board in attempting to disqualify candidates, constitutes fraud or otherwise violates Indiana or federal law.  In addition, Rev. Ajabu and the coalition will be asking that Secretary of State Lawson and members of the legislature review whether there needs to be changes to the law, perhaps by removing the Board of Voter Registration from control of the major party county chairmen or possibly adding an independent member to act as a watchdog on the two major parties.

            **                    **                    **                    **                    **                    **

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

University of Illinois Law School Fined by ABA for Falsifying Data

All I can say, this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to law schools falsifying data.  The Chicago Tribune reports:
The University of Illinois College of Law has been censured and fined $250,000 for intentionally publishing false admissions information to make the student body look more academically accomplished than it was.
It is the first time the American Bar Association has fined a university for reporting inaccurate consumer data, according to an ABA spokesman.
U. of I. reported false LSAT scores and incoming student GPAs to the ABA and others for the entering class of 2005 and 2007 through 2011. 
While U. of I. officials have said a former admissions dean acted alone in inflating data, the ABA found that U. of I. had created an environment that placed too much emphasis on rankings. 
"No matter what the competitive pressures, law schools must not cheat. The College of Law cheated," according to the censure released today. 
To see the rest of the article, click here.
Thanks goes to Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana for tipping me off about this article.

Monday, July 23, 2012

NPR Reports on How ABA's Change in Reporting Criteria Has Affected Employment Numbers Claimed by Law Schools

The American Bar Association requires that schools the ABA accredits send out a survey to new graduates nine months after graduation. In the survey, the law school asks the former student his or her current employment situation and salary. For years, the schools have padded the statistics, claiming for example someone working at Starbucks as being employed thanks to the legal education he or she received. The schools then use these employment figures to solicit new students and the numbers are also included as a factor in the ABA's rating of the school.

The ABA recently changed some of its criteria, disallowing the law school practice of padding employment stats by masking non-legal employment as being due to one's legal education. As a result, it's been suddenly revealed that there are an awful lot of unemployed lawyers. Reported starting salaries are also down about 30%.

While the ABA changed its criteria, we're still seeing only the tip of the iceberg. There still is no way of knowing that the data the schools are compiling represent honest numbers.  I remember asking the Indiana University at Indianapolis Law School (I refuse to call it the "McKinney" law school) for survey information years ago and being told that the school "estimates" salaries for people who do not return surveys. Why not "estimate" high and improve the overall average? You can bet the law school did exactly that. Imagine if you will if the ABA started auditing that raw data, demanding to see the surveys that produce these wonderful numbers that entice so many students to take on five or six figure debt for the promise of a legal education? The reported salary numbers for new law school graduates would drop like a rock. National Public Radio has an excellent report on the change the ABA's reporting criteria has had on the employment numbers cited by law schools:

Thanks to the Indiana Law Blog for finding this story.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Estate Sues Kroger For Employee's Shooting of Robber

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Nearly six months after Jeremy Atkinson was shot and killed by a Kroger store manager during an attempted robbery, his mother is seeking more than $75,000 in damages in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the supermarket chain.
Jeremy Atkinson
The complaint filed July 13 in U.S. District Court argues that Kroger neglected to enforce its own policy that prohibits employees from carrying firearms while on duty. Experts are saying this could be a tough battle for the plaintiffs to win.
... Toni Atkinson’s lawyers are alleging that Kroger’s “negligence” by not enforcing its gun policy directly resulted in Atkinson’s death.

The complaint further states, “Kroger owed Atkinson a duty to exercise reasonable care for his safety, refrain from wantonly or willfully harming Atkinson, and/or acting in a way that would increase the peril to Atkinson as a result of being on the premises. By failing to supervise its employees, enforce its own policies, and failing to properly train its employees, Kroger breached its duty of care to Atkinson.”

But experts say Atkinson’s own actions trump the allegations.

Miroff said even if there is, in fact, negligence on Kroger’s part for not enforcing its gun policy, it would still be hard to prove that the supermarket chain is at fault.
“To me, I don’t see any connection between the policy and the incident at hand,” Miroff said. “They can’t simply win by just showing that there was a violation of the policy. They’re going to have to overcome his (Atkinson’s) own actions.”
To see the rest of the article, click here.

I don't understand why any attorney would take that case.  First, I applaud when people robbing stores get shot.  They deserve it.  But setting that aside and putting on my attorney hat, this is a case that would have to be taken on a contingency, would involve an enormous amount of work, and is highly unlikely to result in even a token settlement.  It is difficult to tell from the coverage of the lawsuit all the legal theories that are involved, but the fact that the case was filed in federal court does not help.  Our local federal district court is well known by local attorneys for summary dismissal of cases.  It's hard to ever get a case to trial in federal court.  Defense attorneys know this too, which is why if the case is in federal court you often won't have any meaningful settlement discussions until after summary judgment.  The only way this case, in my opinion, has of succeeding is as a negligence case filed in state court and then the plaintiff negotiating a settlement should the defendant lose summary judgment, which is highly disfavored in negligence cases . But even then the defense attorneys know that you can never win in front of a jury, so what is the motivation for more than a token settlement?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Judge's Opinion Shows How ACS Lobbyist and State Officials Worked Behind the Scenes to Promote ACS and Undermine IBM

I recently had the time to go through the full length of Marion County Superior Court Judge David Dreyer's judgment awarding damages to IBM and finding against State in the medicaid privatization fiasco.  I must say I underestimated how bad the conflicts were and what was going on behind the scenes. 

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana does a good job of explaining how this whole thing started:
The state's lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions in damages against IBM for the failed welfare privatization implementation was a dubious lawsuit from day one. It was no secret that the Daniels administration had conspired with the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg , which represented ACS, to concoct a plan to privatize the state's welfare services and steer the bulk of that work to the law firm's client. It began with making sure that Daniels appointed a former ACS executive, Mitch Roob, to run the agency. Roob and another former executive of ACS, former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith, immediately began pushing a model based on a privatization model being implemented by ACS in the state of Texas, one that would ultimately be chosen by the agency Roob ran. That model was known as "remote eligibility," one under which remote call centers would process all claims for welfare benefits over the Internet or over the phone rather than the traditional model of having case workers in county offices who met with those applying for benefits face-to-face. Word spread quickly among potential bidders that the bidding process was rigged in favor of the coalition of companies responding to the public bid, which was led by IBM but included ACS as the major subcontractor participant. In the end, all competitors dropped out of the bidding process, leaving the IBM-led coalition as the sole bidder for a more than $1 billion, 10-year contract, the largest in the state's history. The state inked a contract with the IBM-led team despite the fact that the model upon which it was based in Texas had been halted by that state's governor because problems with implementation were "so severe."
Welsh's article continues, explaining how once the contract was awarded to the IBM-coalition, subcontractor ACS tried to take it over despite the fact that the work ACS performed was responsible for most of the complaints made about the Medicaid privatization:
As Judge Dreyer's opinion denying all claims the state made against IBM found, the bulk of the services provided under the privatization contract were being performed by ACS, which was the source of most of the complaints against the system when its first rollout began. Instead of working with it prime contractor to work through the problems, ACS's lobbyist at Barnes & Thornburg, Joe Loftus, began meeting secretly with high levels of the Daniels administration behind IBM's back to undermine its control of the contract, including Gov. Mitch Daniels. Judge Dreyer noted one e-mail exchange that Loftus had with Roob where he complained that IBM "just didn't get it" in reference to frequent lectures he received from them reminding them that IBM was the lead contractor and the principal point of contract for all communications under the contract. Even ACS officials who testified at the trial conceded that Loftus' communications behind IBM's back constituted a breach of their contract, and the state was breaching its contract with IBM by engaging in the direct communications with ACS.
According to Judge Dreyer, the services provided by ACS were the major source of the complaints, Nonetheless, IBM ended up being discharged from the while ACS remained on as part of a "hybrid system."  Conveniently for ACS, a former executive theirs, Mitch Roob, headed FSSA, when IBM-ACS won the original privatization contract and yet another ACS executive, Mike Gargano, headed FSSA during the litigation over IBM's discharge.

The State, i.e. FSSA, ended up suing IBM to recover under the contract.  IBM countersued, claiming that the State breached the contact through its termination.  But who does the Daniels' administration insist the State hire to represent the State?  None other than Barnes & Thornburg the very law firm that represented ACS in lobbying to get the contract and still represents ACS to this day. 

Let me summarize what appears to have happened. ACS lobbies state officials to oust IBM so ACS can have the lucrative Medicaid privatization contract to itself.  ACS eventually succeeds.  The State sues IBM, perhaps to counter the inevitable breach of suit IBM was about to file.  After, IBM sues, the State hires Barnes & Thornburg, ACS's attorney to represent the state.

The State appears to be nothing more than a proxy for ACS. This case is essentially ACS v. IBM, yet we taxpayers are on the hook to pay Barnes & Thornburg, ACS' attorneys, $9.6 million.  That is uttterly outrageous.

Given that federal money here is involved, I too wonder why there has not been a federal investigation opened up by the FBI into this matter.  There certainly should be now that the facts here expose troubling, if not illegal, conduct by government officials and private lobbyists.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Judge Rules State Owes IBM $12 Million on Failed Medicaid Privatization; Conflicted Barnes & Thornburg Attorneys Authorized to be Paid $9.8 Million for Work in Representing State in Losing Effort

The Star reports:
A Marion County judge today ruled that the state owes IBM $12 million in a dispute over the state's canceled welfare-modernization contract, but the victory falls short of the money IBM had sought.
That amount is in addition to $40 million that Judge David Dreyer previously ruled IBM deserved for subcontractor fees. The bulk of the new $12 million judgment covers $9 million in equipment it left in the state's possession when the contract was canceled. The state gets nothing out of the ruling, a blow for Gov. Mitch Daniels. 
"Neither party deserves to win this case," Dreyer wrote in a 65-page ruling. "This story represents a 'perfect storm' of misguided government policy and overzealous corporate ambition. Overall, both parties are to blame and Indiana's taxpayers are left as apparent losers."
To see the rest of the article, click here.
At the outset of this case, the Daniels' administration pushed for the hiring of the politically-connected law firm Barnes & Thornburg.  The only trouble is Barnes & Thornburg's client is ACS, the company that was the major subcontractor to IBM in the Medicaid privatization effort.  In the state contract employing the firm, Barnes & Thornburg detailed that firm had a conflict in representing the State against IBM since ACS is a logical co-defendant and said ACS was waiving that conflict.  B&T also provided assurances that, should the State decide to sue ACS, the law firm would wall off the attorneys at the firm who represent ACS from the attorneys suing ACS.

The only problem is, as I've detailed on this blog, it is a nonwaivable conflict under the Rules of Professional Conduct.   The reason why is that we lawyers are duty bound to zealously represent our clients.  The fact that B&T represents the State against IBM, in a case in which its own client is a possible defendant and certainly a party from which third party discovery would be sought, means B&T may well not aggressively pursue the claim against IBM if in doing so means it has to sue ACS and lose that company's legal work.

One wonders if the loss by the B&T attorneys was because the defense of the state was hampered by B&T's lawyers not wanting to also go after ACS which would seem to be a necessary party to the lawsuit. 

The B&T lawyers committed the worst violation of the conflict of interest rules I have ever seen in my practice of law.  If our conflict of interest laws are going to mean anything, they need to be enforced.

Nonetheless, the B&T firm is set to be handsomely paid for their losing efforts.  A March amendment to the legal services contract pegged the firm's compensation at $9.8 million.

See also:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012, Barnes & Thornburg's Outrageous Conflict of Interest in the IBM Medicaid Privatization Case

Friday, January 12, 2012, IBM Wins Judgment on Cancelled FSSA Contract; Conflicted Barnes and Thornburg Attorneys Cost Taxpayers Millions More

Wednesday, September 21 2011, Barnes & Thornburg Continues to Fleece the State's Taxpayers In Representing FSSA

Thursday, October 21, 2010, AP Hits Barnes & Thornburg on Conflicts of Interest in $5.25 Million FSSA Contract, Reveals Governor's Office Asked that Contract be Awarded

Saturday, October 16, 2010, Conflicted Barnes & Thornburg Receives $5.25 Million Contract From State to Sue Former Client IBM Over Medicaid Privatization Effort

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Press Release: Indianapolis Bar Owners File for Preliminary Injunction Against Enforcement of Smoking Ban

Contact Person:       Mark Small, Attorney at Law
                                    317-252-4800 office

            Early yesterday evening, an attorney for ten Indianapolis bar owners filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to stop the enforcement of Indianapolis' smoking ban while the case is being litigated in the federal district court in Indianapolis. 

            A preliminary injunction is an injunction issued prior to the court's full consideration of the merits of a plaintiff's claims.  It is designed to prevent irreparable harm to the plaintiffs while the case is being litigated.  If granted, the preliminary injunction would prevent the City of Indianapolis from enforcing the smoking ban until such time as the district court can fully consider the merits of the lawsuit. 

            In filing the motion, Mark Small, lead counsel for the bar owners, noted that several of the bar owners he represents have lost as much as 60% of their business since the ban took effect on June 1st.  They have had to lay off or cut the hours of bar employees.  Revenue from pool tables, juke boxes, and dart boards in the bars is also sharply off, according to Small. 

            "There is no doubt that, contrary to what the proponents of the ban claimed, many Indianapolis' bars have been harmed by the smoking ban.  Small continues, "All of my clients' bars are small, neighborhood taverns.  Many of the owners have put their life savings into their bars and now they fact the very real possibility that the City's ban will put them out of business." 

            The bar owners' filing contains a lengthy and detailed attack on the credibility of the studies relied upon by the City to conclude that second hand smoke is dangerous to bar employees, the stated justification for the adoption of the smoking ban.  "The ordinance rests on a shaky foundation of flawed studies and junk science," Small said.  The United States Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has held that junk science is not acceptable evidence in a courtroom."  

            Copies of the Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Memorandum are available upon request. 

            **                    **                    **                    **                    **                    **

Monday, July 16, 2012

Justice Department Need to Investigate Possible Collusion Among Indy Hotels to Not Hire Contract Service Employees

The Indianapolis Star provides some helpful background on a labor issue the Council is wrestling with:
Union members and other supporters of Downtown hotel workers plan to pack the City-County Council chambers Monday for a vote on a measure that advocates say would end alleged employment blacklisting.
That claim was among several in a lawsuit filed earlier this year on behalf of 14 former employees of a company that supplies hotels with hourly workers. They have alleged that several large hotels made pacts not to hire the contractor's staffers for permanent, better-paying jobs.  
Council Democrats waded into the dispute in May with the proposal, which focuses on the blacklisting claim.
It would bar a hotel from obtaining or renewing its annual license if it has an agreement with a contract cleaning service not to hire any of that company's workers.  
Industry representatives insisted to a council committee last week that no local hotel contracts contained such a provision. On the other side, a union organizer conceded that the workers had never seen a service provider's contract to check whether such language is included.
But Sarah Lyons, from a union called Unite Here, said several workers have been told by potential employers that agreements with the service providers prevent the hotels from hiring them.  
During a meeting of the Rules and Public Policy Committee last week, about two dozen hotel industry representatives stood up at the request of Phil Ray, board chairman of the Indiana Hotel & Lodging Association, to show their opposition. He's also general manager of the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.
"We agree 100 percent that we don't want that practice existing in our hotels," Ray told the committee.
The allegation of blacklisting was new to him, he said, and to other hotel managers with whom he's conferred. He thinks the industry should address the issue internally by discussing it with hiring managers. 
The committee voted 5-2 to advance the measure, with its two Republican members voting no. 
To see the rest of the article, click here.

While the Council is right to take up the issue and, in doing so, shine the light of publicity on such practices, I don't know that we need an ordinance. The fact is the alleged activity, which would constitute collusion, is already against federal anti-trust laws.  (For example, see this 2010 on-line Wall Street Journal story on Justice Department action against technology firms which had colluded to not hire each other's employees.)  While Unite Here is often demanding anti-free market, socialist crap such as ordinances requiring "living wages" be paid, here the union is ironically arguing for laws designed to make sure the free market, we Republicans like so much, works as it should. That should garner some GOP support. 

Perhaps Mr. Ray is correct in what he is saying and there is no collusion going on.  It does, however, certainly seem there is enough evidence to warrant a Justice Department investigation to investigate the practices of these hotels.  If they've done nothing illegal, so be it.  If they're violating anti-trust rules by colluding, then there should be legal consequences.

Does anyone have U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett's number?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Indians Fans Who Used Park's ATM Between July 2010 and May 2011 Entitled to $100

This has to be the best class action settlement - for the plaintiffs - I have ever read about.  It appears from the way the Star's article is written that if you use the Victory Field's ATM even just one time, incurring a $2 fee, you're entitled to $100 as part of the class action settlement.  The Star reports:
If you used an ATM at Victory Field from July 2010 to May 2011 — perhaps while balancing a hot dog and a Coke on your forearm — you're entitled to $100 from a lawsuit settlement.
The recent settlement came in a lawsuit handled by a Texas attorney who's taken to suing ATM operators across the country for failing to tell users about the small fee typically charged to withdraw money from the cash machines.
The attorney, Eric Calhoun, discovered that two ATMs at Victory Field, home of the minor-league Indianapolis Indians baseball team, failed to display both printed and digital fee notices in 2010 and 2011. So, with Zachary Couch, Indianapolis, as the named plaintiff, he got involved in suing the Indians in federal court last year, alleging a violation of the federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act.
The Indians and ATM operator IMS Quickcash agreed last month to settle the case for $35,000. Their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The settlement says anyone who used the ATMs behind home plate or third base at Victory Field from July 19, 2010, and May 19, 2011 -- and can prove it with a receipt or checking account statement -- is due $100 from the fund.
Maybe I'm misreading the terms, but at $100 a person, you'd only need 350 people before the $35,000 is gone.  I'm not sure if this means the first 350 who claim the $100 get paid while the rest don't.

I've been the beneficiary of a class action settlement maybe three times.  I've never gotten more than a few dollars.  One year, for example, I received about a $3 long distance calling card from the phone company as part of a settlement. I never used the card.  I could use $100 cash though.

To see the rest of the article, click here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

State Employees Accused of Ghost Employee Escape Prosecution; One Continues As State Employee While Other Retires With Full Pension

WRTV's Kara Kenney
WRTV's Kara Kenney has an excellent report on the State Fair employees accused of ghost employment:

The Indiana Office of the Inspector General found facilities supervisor David Hummel and employee Chris Clyne used state property to run their private businesses while on the state payroll, Call6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported. 
The inspector general forwarded the findings to the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, which will not pursue criminal charges. 
"I think it's disturbing, because this is theft," said Julia Vaughn of the nonpartisan government watchdog group, Common Cause Indiana. "For most of us, if we stole from our employer, the police would be called and charges would follow." 
Lara Beck, spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, told RTV6 Friday the employees had been disciplined and sanctioned through the State's ethics process, and they have in good faith negotiated a resolution to the violations.
"Our office didn't feel that it was necessary to investigate or pursue criminal charges," wrote Beck in an email to RTV6.
Clyne was suspended without pay for a week, while supervisor Hummel was suspended for two weeks without pay and fined $1,500.
Kenney reports that Hummel will still get his pension:
Hummel will retire in good standing on July 31, after 40 years of employment with the state.
According to an estimate using the Public Employees' Retirement Fund calculator, Hummel will receive $3,538 a month in pension benefits.
He is also eligible to receive payment for up to 30 days of unused vacation time.
Let me get this straight.  I write a memo to the Commissioner of the Indiana Department that my supervisor was misappropriating money from the title insurance division that I ran and committing other legal violations.  Within minutes of getting that memo, I am immediately fired and left two years short of my my pension.  I'm not alone.  Whistleblowers who are routinely fired by the state and I am not aware of a single one who has ever prevailed in court. Judges do not enforce the laws protecting state employee whistleblowers. 

Here, Hummel and Cline pretty much admit to facts which  which should constitute ghost employment, a felony.  Yet Prosecutor Terry Curry (whose questionable practices in office are suddenly making Carl Brizzi look ethical by comparison), forgoes what should be slam-dunk felony prosecutions.  Both walk away with brief suspensions and Hummel retires with a large pension.  Apparently Cline is allowed to continue working in state government.

If you are a state employee who dares to report ghost employment, the whistleblower can expect to be fired and have absolutely no recourse.  Meanwhile the state employee who commits the ghost employment gets a short suspension and continues on in state employment or gets his full pension should he choose to retire.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2012 Presidential Election: Projected Electoral Map (as of 7/11/2012)

2012 Presidential Election: Electoral Map: This map displays the electoral collection projections of the Paul Ogden as of July 11, 2012 and does not reflect the opinions of 270toWin.

Note:  I made these predictions after considering state polls, historical trends, and my own hunches about how the states would play out given the issues each candidate is touting and the candidates' strengths and weaknesses.

It looks to me like the states of the Big Ten, including states such as Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and even Pennsylvania are the keys to Romney scoring an upset.    While Obama won Virginia and North Carolina last time, I don't think that will happen again.  Believe it or not, Obama is even ahead in South Carolina, which he didn't win last time.  I don't buy he will win that state...or Indiana for that matter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Irsay Stabs Loyal Colts Fans in the Back by Unplugging TV Coverage

Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay
Over the past decade plus, Indianapolis taxpayers turned Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay from a mere millionaire into a billionaire.   Then, a few years ago when the Capital Improvement Board, the public entity which runs the venue where the Colts play, Lucas Oil Stadium, was bleeding money, the CIB went to Irsay and asked him for $5 million a year back on the ultra-sweetheart deal he got on the stadium, the very deal that made him a billionaire.   That way the CIB wouldn't have to ask that taxes be raised on Marion County taxpayers who were in the middle of the Great Recession.  What was billionaire Irsay's response?  Screw the people of Indianapolis, a deal is a deal.

So now that the Colts are down, how does Irsay repay the fans for their loyalty?  By blacking out home games.  Fox59 reports:
The Colts  told Fox59 that games that are not sold out this season will be blacked out despite new NFL rules.

Currently, there are still around 2,000 season tickets available--something the team is not used to.
Normally, a game that is not sold out would be blacked out per the old NFL blackout rules. Those rules were put in place to make sure fans attended games.
Recently, the NFL announced it's changing those rules, minimizing the chances fans would miss watching their team play. Instead of having to sell out to be on TV, the home team would only have to sell 85 percent of its tickets. It would be up to the team to decide if it would air the game.
The Colts, however, are sticking by the old rule: all tickets must be sold or fans can't watch the game on TV.
"We're confident that the games are going to sell out this year, but if for some reason one didn't, then obviously the blackout rules would still apply," said Hall.
"Obviously the blackout rules would still apply?"  Notice the dishonest response by Hall...suggesting that by blacking out the games the team would be just following NFL blackout rules.  As the story explains, the team doesn't have to black out games if it is 85% sold out.  The fact that there are only 2,000 tickets remaining means far more than 85% of the tickets are sold out.

The fact that Jim Irsay is a complete jerk of an owner who cares nothing about the community his team plays should be a lot more clear since the people's vision is no longer clouded by Irsay consistently fielding a play-off caliber team.

The 2012 MLB All-Star Game's Tonight!!! Who Cares?

Growing up, I was a big baseball fan.  The Cincinnati Reds were my team.  My childhood featured the Big Red Machine and two World Series titles.  I would follow every game, often keeping score of the action.

But while I liked baseball, I was never a big fan of the "Midsummer Classic," otherwise known as the All-Star Game.  To me, it was nothing more than a meaningless exhibition game where lineups were based on which city's fans could stuff the ballot box the most.  Over the years, I've become even less of a fan of the All-Star Game.  After controversy over some players not making the game, they, several times, expanded the roster of the All-Stars.  Now each side has 33 players.   Players are constantly swapped in and out. Pitchers rarely go more than one inning. The game means nothing in terms of proving which league's players are best.  Of course, that didn't stop the powers that be in baseball from ordaining that the league that wins the July contest secures home field advantage.

Even though the Major League Baseball All-Star game has gotten worse over the years, it still rates as the best all-star game of all the major sports.  Of course, that's not too difficult considering the atrocities known as the NFL's Pro Bowl and the NBA's All-Star game.

As far as the game tonight, you probably won't find me in front of the set watching the contest.   Couldn't care less.  Let's get the second half of the baseball season started so my Cincinnati Reds can reclaim first place from the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Bogeyman at the Back of the Liberal Closet: Overpopulation

As of late, I often find myself in the company of a species of man often mislabeled as "liberals" or, even more inaccurately, "progressives."  What I find interesting about this particular strain of Homo Sapiens is how they like to fantasize about various scenarios leading to the demise of mankind.  Curiously though they are only interested in doomsday scenarios which they can blame on the behavior of Earthlings and which will allow them to advocate expensive, politically-correct measures such as cap and trade and the Kyoto Treaty, I'm guessing the only treaty in history unanimously rejected by the U.S. Senate.  (95-0.)

Other doomsday scenarios, indeed more likely scenarios, such as the Yellowstone supervolcano killing 1 out of every 3 Americans when it inevitably erupts (and an eruption is overdue), just isn't on the liberals' radar.  Of course, some planning could save the lives of millions of Americans upon whom volcanic ash will rain, but preparing for that scenario doesn't advance the liberals' anti-technology crusade.

As I often do, I digress. This column is about the forgotten bogeyman at the back of the liberals' closet.  It is one that liberals, wanting to turn back the clock, used before the new bogeyman, known as global warming, er, climate change, emerged as the cause célèbre.  A misguided liberal friend (who I'll refer to as "Mike Large" to preserve his anonymity), in between stories about being a master debater (say that five times quickly and you'll get a chuckle), warned me about the dangers of WORLD OVERPOPULATION.  Too many people.  Not enough food and other resources. We're all going to starve and die!!! Scary, scary stuff.

Today while waiting for an appointment I picked up a Reader's Digest.  It had an article on world overpopulation which included some statistics showing that overpopulation is a myth:
  • The rate of increase in the population has been declining for the last 50 years.
  • National birth rates are lower than they were in the 1960s.  In the less developed countries, the birth rate has been halved.
  • According to the United Nations, despite increased longevity, population will peak in 2075 at 9.2 million people.
  • The 7 million population that exists today is eating better and living longer than ever before.  The Earth can easily support an extra 2.2 million.
I did a little "Internet research" to gather additional facts. This is from an article entitled "The Overpopulation Myth" written by Fred Pearce in Prospect Magazine:
Many of today’s most-respected thinkers, from Stephen Hawking to David Attenborough, argue that our efforts to fight climate change and other environmental perils will all fail unless we “do something” about population growth. In the Universe in a Nutshell, Hawking declares that, “in the last 200 years, population growth has become exponential… The world population doubles every forty years.” 
But this is nonsense. For a start, there is no exponential growth. In fact, population growth is slowing. For more than three decades now, the average number of babies being born to women in most of the world has been in decline. Globally, women today have half as many babies as their mothers did, mostly out of choice. They are doing it for their own good, the good of their families, and, if it helps the planet too, then so much the better.
Here are the numbers. Forty years ago, the average woman had between five and six kids. Now she has 2.6. This is getting close to the replacement level which, allowing for girls who don’t make it to adulthood, is around 2.3. As I show in my new book, Peoplequake, half the world already has a fertility rate below the long-term replacement level. That includes all of Europe, much of the Caribbean and the far east from Japan to Vietnam and Thailand, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Algeria, Kazakhstan, and Tunisia.
So why is this happening? Demographers used to say that women only started having fewer children when they got educated and the economy got rich, as in Europe. But tell that to the women of Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest nations, where girls are among the least educated in the world, and mostly marry in their mid-teens. They have just three children now, less than half the number their mothers had. India is even lower, at 2.8. Tell that also to the women of Brazil. In this hotbed of Catholicism, women have two children on average—and this is falling. Nothing the priests say can stop it.
Women are doing this because, for the first time in history, they can. Better healthcare and sanitation mean that most babies now live to grow up. It is no longer necessary to have five or six children to ensure the next generation—so they don’t.
The big story here is that rich or poor, socialist or capitalist, Muslim or Catholic, secular or devout, with or without tough government birth control policies in place, most countries tell the same tale of a reproductive revolution.
That doesn’t mean population growth has ceased. The world’s population is still rising by 70m a year. This is because there is a time lag: the huge numbers of young women born during the earlier baby boom may only have had two children each. That is still a lot of children. But within a generation, the world’s population will almost certainly be stable, and is very likely to be falling by mid-century.
To see the rest of Pearce's article, click here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Real Clear Politics Reports Romney VP Short List Down to Four

Erin McPike of RealClearPolitics reports:

Mitt Romney may be tight-lipped about his vice presidential short list, warning that only he and longtime aide Beth Myers know who is on it, but a close examination of the campaign's activity suggests four contenders have risen through the ranks: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. 
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell may be considered wild cards, and Romney has said he’s thoroughly vetting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, though the first-term lawmaker’s status appears unchanged. 
Given [Romney's] penchant for information gathering, it is reasonable to assume there are at least three data points Romney is considering as he mulls his vice presidential pick. The first is readiness for office, which is a qualification he has said publicly that potential choices must meet. The second is chemistry with the candidate and his wife, a quality his aides have indicated is important. And the third is an ability to fly solo -- to campaign on behalf of Romney without him being there. This is a metric that has not been addressed by the campaign, but judging by Team Romney’s actions, it’s clear that it’s a paramount concern given some of the events the campaign has staged with top surrogates -- and it likely reveals who is no longer in the running.
On readiness for office, conversations with Romney insiders and allies suggest that they have no qualms about Portman or Pawlenty. One of Romney’s biggest complaints about President Obama is that he is in over his head and had “never run anything before.” Pawlenty governed the state of Minnesota for two terms; Portman ran the Office of Management and Budget as well as the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Jindal is in his second term as governor of Louisiana. Paul Ryan, however, falls short in this regard; he was a Capitol Hill staffer and a marketing consultant before becoming a congressman at age 28.
As for chemistry with the candidate, Pawlenty, Portman and Ryan have all campaigned alongside him multiple times. Each endorsed him at critical moments in the primary process and appeared with him on the stump when they did. And each got a turn as his key surrogate on Romney’s June bus tour, which ran through their states. Jindal has not yet campaigned with the presumptive nominee, so look for that to happen soon in a swing state near you.
To see the rest of the lengthy article, click here.

Contrary to common perception, a VP selection rarely has much of an impact on the fortunes of the presidential candidate who made the selection.  But a VP choice can be crucial in helping the Presidential candidate win an important state that might otherwise go to the opposition or help balance the ticket geographically or ideologically.  Recent VP choices that didn't fit into this criteria was Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin.  Cheney selected as George Bush II's running mate, had served as Wyoming's representative in Congress before becoming Defense Secretary under the first George Bush, I.   Palin was the Governor of Alaska, and in the middle of her first term.

Cheney appears to be selected to shore up the ticket's foreign policy credentials.  Palin was selected undoubtedly to shore up McCain's conservative cred which had taken a beaten but also to bring some energy to the campaign.  The fact that the Palin selection balanced the ticket gender-wise was a bonus.

It appears that three on the short list - Pawlenty, Portman and Ryan - are all from important Midwestern swing states.  That appears to be an important factor in Romney's consideration of a running mate.  I do wonder though whether a person who only represents a portion of the state, i.e. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan could ensure his state went for Romney.  To me a former Governor, like Pawlenty, or a sitting U.S. Senator, like Portman, would have an edge in this category due to the fact they have state-wide constituencies.

But what Romney needs the most is a solid conservative with charisma, a characteristic nowhere to be found in the ex-Massachusetts governor's DNA.  Of the four, Ryan and Jindal seem the most likely to bring energy and excitement to the Romney campaign.  They would also help repair Romney's relationship with conservatives which relationship took a beating in the primary.  If I would have to guess, I would predict that Romney will select Tim Pawlenty as his running mate, perhaps the only VP candidate who makes Romney look charismatic by comparison.