Monday, December 31, 2012

Isn't It Time the NFL Pays Taxes?

Tonight, aswe stand at the precipice of the Fiscal Cliff, the National Football League regular season draws to a close.  What is the connection?  Well at a time that we're talking about whether the rich should pay a higher share of taxes, it should be noted that wealthiest the NFL, which is classified as a non-profit organization, is exempt from paying taxes.  Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Gazette explains in a column published this October:
... I did not know that the National Football League, the colossus of professional sports, is classified as a non-profit — a tax-free non-profit, to be more specific. That’s right: The NFL has its own exemption, written into federal law, that makes it exempt from federal corporate taxes.
The Professional Golf Association and the National Hockey League, among others, enjoy a similar exemption although in their cases, it is not an exemption specifically written into the law.
As described in Waste Book 2012 — compiled by the staff of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma:
In 2010, the registered NFL nonprofit alone received $184 million from its 32 member teams. It holds over $1 billion in assets. Together with its subsidiaries and teams – many of which are for-profit, taxed entities – the NFL generates an estimated $9 billion annually.... Almost half of professional football teams are valued at over $1 billion…. 
League commissioners and officials benefit from the nonprofit status of their organizations. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, reported $11.6 million in salary and perks in 2010 alone. Goodell’s salary will reportedly reach $20 million in 2019. Steve Bornstein, the executive vice president of media, made $12.2 million in 2010. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue earned $8.5 million from the league in 2010. The league paid five other officials a total of $19.2 million in just one year. In comparison, the next highest salary of a traditional nonprofit CEO is $3.4 million.
The NFL’s exemption stems from a 1966 law, passed at the time of the merger with the old American Football League, specifically allowing “professional football leagues” to enjoy 501(c)(6) status as tax-exempt trade organizations. Other leagues have piggy-backed on that legislation to claim that status themselves.
Major League Baseball also used to enjoy the same tax-exempt protection, but in 2007 it chose to surrender that status in part because ... tax-exempt, non-profit status requires you to report the salaries of your top executives....
As the Coburn report points out, “state and local governments usually exempt these organizations from state income and sales tax as well….” As the Indiana Business Journal reported, that proved to be a nice little perk when the Super Bowl was held in Indianapolis this year, because “hotels and restaurants … won’t be taxing National Football League employees. They’re exempt from paying, according to an Indiana Department of Revenue directive. The NFL is using its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(6) to avoid paying the taxes, in addition to fuel, auto rental and admissions taxes.” 
...
The article doesn't mention it, but the NBA is also classified as a tax exempt, non-profit organization.  The Pacers play in an arena exempt from property tax because it is technically owned by the Capital Improvement Board.  Although the public have paid to run the place to the tune of $10 million a year, the Pacers receive 100% of the revenue from the building.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Research Meterologist Finds No Increase In Atlantic Hurricane Activity Despite Claims of Global Warming

This evening I stumbled across a review titled "Global Warming and Hurricanes: An Overview of Current Research Results."  The review, by Thomas R. Knutson,  a research meteorologist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, was written in 2008 and updated on November 28, 2012.  It sought to answer the question "Has Global Warming Affected Atlantic Hurricane Activity?"

According to its website, GFDL "works cooperatively with the [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] to advance its expert assessments of changes in national and global climate through research, improved models, and products."

It is apparent from reading the report that Mr. Knutson is very supportive of the anthropogenic (man made) global warming theory.  He seemed very eager to prove that global warming had caused an increase in Atlantic hurricane activity.  In conducting his study, he used data to go beyond the typical 50 year historical record of Atlantic hurricanes.   To Mr. Knutson's credit, he reported the data honestly:
To gain more insight on this problem, we have attempted to analyze much longer (> 100 yr) records of Atlantic hurricane activity. If greenhouse warming causes a substantial increase in Atlantic hurricane activity, then the century scale increase in tropical Atlantic SSTs since the late 1800s should have produced a long-term rise in measures of Atlantic hurricanes activity.
Existing records of past Atlantic tropical storm numbers (1878 to present) in fact do show a pronounced upward trend, which is also correlated with rising SSTs.... However, the density of reporting ship traffic over the Atlantic was relatively sparse during the early decades of this record, such that if storms from the modern era (post 1965) had hypothetically occurred during those earlier decades, a substantial number would likely not have been directly observed by the ship-based "observing network of opportunity." We find that, after adjusting for such an estimated number of missing storms, there is a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. But statistical tests reveal that this trend is so small, relative to the variability in the series, that it is not significantly distinguishable from zero.... In addition, a new study by Landsea ... notes that the rising trend in Atlantic tropical storm counts is almost entirely due to increases in short-duration (less than 2 days) storms alone. Such short-lived storms were particularly likely to have been overlooked in the earlier parts of the record, as they would have had less opportunity for chance encounters with ship traffic. In short, the historical tropical storm count record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming induced long-term increase.
Thomas Knutson
If we instead consider Atlantic basin hurricanes, rather than all Atlantic tropical storms, the result is similar: the reported numbers of hurricanes were sufficiently high during the 1860s-1880s that again there is no significant positive trend in numbers beginning from that era (Figure 4, black curve, from CCSP 3.3 (2008) ). This is without any adjustment for "missing hurricanes".  (Emphasis is in the original document.)
The evidence for an upward trend is even weaker if we look at U.S. landfalling hurricanes, which even show a slight negative trend beginning from 1900 or from the late 1800s (Figure 4, blue curve)....
As a scientist Knutson had set out a hypothesis, i.e. that global warming had led to an increase in Atlantic hurricane activity, and found that, upon a fair assessment of the data, the hypothesis could not be proven. The report should have ended there. Instead Knutson changes the focus of his report to making predictions about the future of hurricanes incorporating into those predictions all kinds of scary projections about rising temperatures.  Knutson concludes:
climate warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and to have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes. In my view, there are better than even odds that the numbers of very intense (category 4 and 5) hurricanes will increase by a substantial fraction in some basins, while it is likely that the annual number of tropical storms globally will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged.
 
So in a nutshell, Knutson set out to prove that global warming had resulted in increased hurricane activity.  Failing to find data to support that, Knutson switches to making guesses about the future of hurricanes based on "model simulations of greenhouse warming."

More evidence of politicization of his role of a scientist is evident from his Knutson's conclusions which actually leads off the report:
  • It is premature to conclude that human activities--and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming--have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet properly modeled (e.g., aerosol effects).
  • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.
  • There are better than even odds that anthropogenic warming over the next century will lead to an increase in the numbers of very intense hurricanes in some basins—an increase that would be substantially larger in percentage terms than the 2-11% increase in the average storm intensity. This increase in intense storm numbers is projected despite a likely decrease (or little change) in the global numbers of all tropical storms. 
  • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes, with a model-projected increase of about 20% for rainfall rates averaged within about 100 km of the storm center. 
Knutson devotes only one paragraph, the first one, to the conclusion he reached after studying the hurricane data.  In the paragraph though h all but apologizes for concluding the data do not show a correlation between global warming and increased hurricane activity and even suggests the reader disregard that conclusion.  He then proceeds to spend three paragraphs talking about predictions about future hurricane activity based on computer models of increased global warming, which was not at all the express purpose of his report.

It is important to note that these conclusions, inserted at the beginning of his report, would be the only thing that many media outlets, politicians and other lay people would read.  The headlines would be that Mr. Knutson researched the issue and found that global warming increased hurricane activity when in fact his review of the data proved just the opposite.

As I have said before, the politicization of our science is one of the most dangerous trends today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Field of Schemes Excerpt: Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Inner Cities

Another excerpt from the book Santa brought me, Field of Schemes How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit:
The Colts' move, clearly was something new and frightening:  a team leaving home of three decades not for lack of support (the Colts had continued to attract large crowds in its last years in Baltimore), but solely for the lure of greater profits.  "If the Colts can be moved that way," wrote the New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson following the team's midnight flight,"any other franchise area in any sport can wake up some morning to find itself without a team."
They were prophetic words.  The Colts' move may have seemed an anomaly at the time, but in retrospect it was the dawn of a new era.  In 1984, corporations large and small were learning as never before how to supplement profits by extorting money from their home towns under the threat of moving across the country or overseas.  The sports industry may have come late to this game of "corporate welfare," as it came to be known, but it soon had adopted the tactic for its own.  Whereas a manufacturing plant could win perhaps tens of millions of dollars this way, the final tab for a single sports subsidy could run as high as half a billion dollars.
The Colts' sudden move led to a series of events far beyond anything that could have been imagined that spring night.  By the time the dust had settled, another football team had been taken from its diehard fans, and two cities had undertaken the building of four new stadiums, leaving taxpayers in two states to pay close to $1 billion in construction costs.  The resulting transfer of public funds into private pockets would lay claim to public schools and fragile urban neighborhoods, leaving democratic checks and balances in shambles, and enrich a handful of owners - real-estate barons and wealthy industrialists - by hundreds of millions of dollars....
The book Field of Schemes, which has a price of $19.95, can be ordered through this link.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How Did the 2012 Presidential Race Stack Up?; History Suggests It Was One of the Closer Races

In the Election of 1880,
Garfield won the popular
vote by less than 2,000 votes.
Following November's election, some of my Democratic friends were suggesting that President Obama won by an easy margin.  Some even remarked it was a blowout win.  When I countered that from a historical standpoint it was a very close election, my assertion was met with doubt.  I didn't have the numbers to back up my claim, so while visiting my parents in Florida over Christmas, I spent some time crunching the numbers.  I think my analysis of the date proves I was more right than wrong.  In reviewing the relative closeness of the race, the 2012 contest nearly ranks in the top 1/4 of races in the popular vote and in the top 1/3 when it comes to the electoral college margin.

Closest Popular Vote Margins
1.  1880 Hancock - Garfield .09%
2.  1960 Kennedy - Nixon .17%
3.  2000 Gore - GW Bush .51%
4.  1884 Cleveland - Blaine .57%  (Gore lost the popular vote)
5.  1968 Humphrey - Nixon .7%
6.  1888 Cleveland - Harrison .83%  (Cleveland lost the electoral vote)
7.  1844 Polk - Clay 1.45%
8.  1976 Carter - Ford 2.06
9.  2004 Kerry - George W. Bush 2.46%
10. 1876 Tilden - Hayes 3%
...
13.  2012 Obama - Romney 3.68%

Least Close Popular Vote Margins
1.  1920 Cox - Harding 26.17%
2.  1924 Davis - Coolidge 25.22%
3.  1936 FDR - Landon 24.26%
4.  1972 McGovern - Nixon 23.15%
5.  1964 LBJ - Goldwater 22.58
6.  1904 Parker - Teddy Roosevelt 18.83%
7.  1984 Mondale - Reagan 18.21%
8.  1832 Jackson - Clay 17.81%
9.  1932 FDR - Hoover 17.76%
10. 1928 Smith - Hoover 17.41%

Note: Winner of popular vote is highlighted. Only top two popular vote candidates are listed; they are compared head-to-head. Popular vote totals are only available going back to Election of 1824, which is a total of 48 elections

 Closest Electoral Vote Margins
In the Election of 1876,
Republicans cut a deal so
Hayes could edge out Tilden
in the Electoral College
1.  1876 Tilden - Hayes .2%   (Margin was 185-184.  Victory was a result of a compromise Republicans reached agreeing to end Reconstruction in exchange for Hayes receiving 20 disputed electoral votes.)
2.  2000 Gore - Bush 1% (Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote 271-266.)
3.  1916 Wilson - Hughes 4.4%
4.  1824 Jackson - John Quincy Adams 5.7% (Several candidates had electoral votes.  Race was thrown into the House of Representatives which elected Adams.)
5.  2004 Kerry - George W. Bush 6.5%
6.  1884 Cleveland - Blaine 8.8%
7.  1976 Carter - Ford 10.6%
8.  1848 Cass - Taylor 12.4%
9.  1960 Kennedy - Nixon 15.6%
10. 1880 Hancock - Garfield 16%
...
17. 2012 Obama - Romney 23.4%

Least Close Electoral Vote Margins
1. 1936 FDR - Landon 97%
2. 1984 Mondale - Reagan 95.2%
3. 1820 Monroe - John Quincy Adams 94.3%
4. 1972 Nixon - McGovern 93.5%
5. 1804 Jefferson - Pinckney 84%
6. 1864 McClellan - Lincoln 82%
7. 1964 LBJ - Goldwater 80.6%
8. 1840 Van Buren - William Henry Harrison 79.2%
9. 1932 FDR - Hoover 77.8%
10. 1956 Stevenson - Eisenhower 72.4%

Note: Winner of electoral vote is highlighted. Only top two finishers in Electoral College are compared head-to-head. Electoral vote is compared by looking at the difference between the percent of electoral vote received by the top two candidates. Comparison only goes back to Election of 1804, which is a total of 53 elections. Prior to that election, a different procedure for casting electoral vote was used which makes such a comparison difficult.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Field of Schemes Excerpt: Introduction

Because I was good, or at least while Santa was watching, I received as a Christmas present the book Field of Schemes:  How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit written by Neil deMause & Joanna Cagan.  The book, published originally in 2008, was updated this year.  If it is as good as I expect it will be, I will be publishing excerpts as I make my way through the book.

It didn't take long to find a gem in the introduction:
We also discovered the popular notions of the villains and the heroes in the battle over sports-franchise blackmail was upside-down.  Although newspapers had portrayed the public as unthinking fans who demanded their elected officials keep teams in town at any cost, we instead found hundreds of citizen activists who had been fighting city by city for years to stop public money from going to private profit.  Corporate welfare, they called it, and understandably so.  Meanwhile, the local politicians who had pleaded that they had no choice but to give in to sports owners' demands turned out to be eagerly lining up to build sparkling new luxury boxes - where they then happily attended games as the owners' special guests. As one fed-up resident told us, "They're not public servants.  They're corporate servants."
This book began because we were frustrated with free-agent franchises demanding money as the price of their loyalty.  But this is far more than a sports story.  It's also a story of deceptive politicians, taxpayer swindles, media slants, the power of big money, and most of all, a political system that serves the rich and powerful at the expense of the average fan, the average taxpayer, the average citizen.
That description is Indianapolis politics in a nutshell.  The local body politic is screaming at city officials to stop giving away our tax dollars not only to billionaire sports owners, but also to every politically-connected corporate interest that comes knocking on their door.   The politicians though, enticed by perks and campaign contributions, arrogantly turn a deaf ear to the public, with large majorities still continuing to vote to continue taxpayer giveaways, while complaining, but voting for, cuts in city services and tax increases. Meanwhile the local newspaper is not only silent to the abuses, but is actually one of the investors benefiting from corporate welfare.

Indianapolis politics though has an added dimension.  While challenging the city's tradition of corporate welfare would be immensely popular in a general election, insiders have historically so dominated the anti-democratic slating (endorsement) process of the parties they can insure that a reform-minded candidate who would stand up for taxpayers against the corporate elites would never be in a position to get the nomination.  The only reform-minded mayoral candidate who ever slipped by the insider-rigged system, not only getting nominated but elected, was none other than Republican Mayor Gregory A. Ballard who pledged on election night in 2007 to bring an end to Indianapolis country club politics.  Mayor Ballard's ascendancy and quick capitulation to the City's tradition of corporate welfare, before even taking a seat in the Mayor's chair, is a lesson of how reform-minded interests need to be as vigilant about winning the transition as they are about winning the election.

The book Field of Schemes, which has a price of $19.95, can be ordered through this link.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Son Claims Romney Only Ran for President Because He Could Not Find Anyone to Take His Place

The Romneys:  Mitt, Ann and Tagg
The Boston Globe published  a lengthy article yesterday which does a post-election analysis of the Romney campaign.  I have not  read it in full yet. This quote from Tagg Romney, however, jumped out and is being picked up by numerous outlets
“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside.
So we are supposed to believe that that Romney was not interested in being President and ran because he could not find "someone else to take his place"?   Seriously?

Mitt Romney was a terribly flawed candidate.  In an era in which populism is increasingly dominating politics, the Republicans managed to nominate the least populist candidate in the country.  Romney had no appeal whatsoever to working men and women who are still reeling from the worst recession since the great depression.  The GOP nominated Mr. Wall Street at the same time people on the right and left are still furious from the corporate bailouts and executive bonuses that are a legacy dating back to the last year of President Bush.

The field Romney ran against in the GOP primaries was indeed weak. But that was due chiefly to the fact that bigger name Republicans did not want to enter the race against a candidate who had the Romney's campaign organization and establishment support. Romney's presence in the race kept many much stronger candidates, candidates who could have ran a much better campaign and defeated President Obama, out of the race.   Indeed it is astonishing that, as weak a candidate as Romney was, that he managed to do as well as he did.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Star Columnist Criticizes Councilor for Putting Needs of City Ahead of Billionaire Sports Owners and Politically-Connected Developers

Indianapolis Star Columnist Matthew Tully
This morning, Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully (yes, unbelievably, he is still employed at the newspaper) pens a column in which he opens by suggesting it will be a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of living in the city versus the suburbs.  I guess I should have known to expect more Tully drivel when he starts out a paragraph: "Crime? It's not much of a factor" when it comes to living in the City..."

Then inexplicably Tully turns the column into a rambling diatribe on Indianapolis City-County Councilor Brian Mahern.

On many evenings this year, I sat on my couch watching Channel 16, flabbergasted by the partisan, obstructionist actions of a few key members of the Democratic council majority, most notably Councilman Brian Mahern
Mahern and his allies have attempted to stand in the way of much-needed development projects, new schools and, most important, bipartisan cooperation. They've not offered reasonable opposition and alternatives, which would be welcome, but rather petty distractions. 
...
So I've found myself asking more questions: Is this really the best we can do? How can a city tackle major problems if some of its leaders can't focus on the right things? It's hard not to wonder whether the low-caliber political antics are a warning of things to come in a city that's finding it hard to persuade smart people to run for office.
So while crime, schools and taxes don't cause me to seriously contemplate leaving Marion County, Channel 16 scares the hell out of me.
Mahern gets the most attention, as he has been the most ridiculous, offering bitter and often nonsensical opposition, stalling progress presumably for the sake of partisanship or his own ego. In meeting after meeting this fall, the council vice president veered zealously from grievance to grievance, with no apparent goal other than to throw a fit.
He'd have more credibility if he had simply stood on his desk and screamed: "Look at me!" Because that seems to be the motive behind the actions of a man with wild fantasies of someday becoming mayor.
...
Still, he was hostile as usual at a meeting this week, and the tension between him and Lewis was obvious during a few exchanges. It's hard to imagine Mahern suddenly will return to being the reasonable voice on the council that he once was, but here's hoping.
I have concluded from reading his columns over the years that Tully is incredibly disingenuous.  He'll leave out and distort facts, misrepresent positions, etc., to make political points.  He does not appear to have any interest in an honest discussion of the issues.   But I now realize that there may be another factor involved.  It might also be that he is just not very bright.  Clearly Tully is not half as bright as the person - Brian Mahern - that he criticizes.

Councilor Brian Mahern
What has Mahern done that earns Tully's scorn?  Mahern played a large role in the tax increment finance study commission.  Mahern spent countless hours in meetings actually learning about the complex local financing tool.  Along the way, Mahern learned the truth...that it is a lie that TIFs only take money from the increment above the pre-TIF tax base.  He learned that TIFs often end up underperforming and it takes money from the base and other sources to prop them up.  That is money taken away from local services like schools, libraries and law enforcement.

Does Tully educate himself on TIFs like Mahern has?  Of course not. Tully is content to remain blissfully ignorant about how TIFs operate in practice, repeating lies in his column so he can support the pay-to-play political structure which robs our tax dollars so they can be handed out to politically-connected developers.

Mahern also opposes our tax dollars being given away to billionaire sports owners and believes those dollars should go to things like public safety and other city services.  Mahern takes the Capital Improvement Board to task for being incredibly irresponsible stewards of our tax dollars, most evidenced by repeated and well-documented lies about the Board's finances and incredibly bad negotiation skills.  Mahern notes that Pacers and Colts games require a great deal of law enforcement proceeds and asks that the CIB, which is suddenly flush with cash, pay a PILOT so that some of those expenses can be recovered, especially since the city is expending resources to benefit private business entities during the games.

One would think Mahern's position is incredibly reasonable, not to mention fiscally responsible.  But not in Tully's world.  Mahern is not supporting the elites over the best interests of taxpayers and that causes the columnist to pounce with his diatribe against the councilor.  Wait until next month when the Mayor proposes raising so-called "visitor taxes" to give the CIB yet more money.  Dare Mahern point out the FACT that Indianapolis already has some of the highest visitor taxes in the country and that some of these visitor taxes, such as rental car taxes, are paid predominantly by local citizens?  Tully's head might explode.  Do NOT speak the facts around Tully.  You want the truth? Tully clearly cannot handle the truth.

Mahern speaking out on these issues is the equivalent to the child pointing out the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes.  One would think that would also be the job of a responsible, honest political columnist.  But Tully is neither responsible or honest.  And, it turns out, he may be dumb too.

See also Pat Andrews take on the subject.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Marijuana Legalization Advocates Soon to be Challenged by Winners of War on Drugs

As a political junkie, it is fascinating to watch two issues - same sex marriage and marijuana legalization - becoming ripe before our eyes. For years, advocates of both positions could not even get a 3 am time slot for politicians to consider their issues.  Now they find themselves thrust into prime time slots where they are poised to make the case for their issue to the public and elected officials who are suddenly willing to listen.

The issues are surprisingly similar. Both issues involve question of liberty and are pet issues for that professed party of liberty, the Libertarians.  For years, the public's positions on the issues seemed set, i.e. as in dead set against.  But in the past few years, polls show sharply increasing public support for same sex marriage and pot legalization, a fact that even Republican politicians are taking notice of.  Even more significantly, polls show a huge generational divide, with younger people supporting and older people against.  Regardless of one's position, it is hard to overlook the stark fact that opposition to same sex marriage and marijuana legalization is literally dying out.  I am not aware of a single issue, with such a generational divide in attitudes, in which the pendulum has swung back to the older generation's views.
Local activist Bill Levin is a leader in the legislative
effort to legalize the use and sale of marijuana.

Here is a prediction.  The fight on marijuana legalization will be far, far more bloody than the fight over same sex marriage.  Mind you, same sex marriage legalization has opponents on the right, primarily religious conservatives, who believe that extending it to same sex couples would undermine traditional marriage.  They are politically sophisticated and motivated.  The fight for same sex marriage won't be easy.

But I believe the fight over marijuana legalization will prove to be tougher and more lengthy than the battle over same sex marriage.  Advocates of reform argue the "War on Drugs" has left no one a winner, that criminalization of marijuana has cost society a great deal, and that pot is no more and maybe less harmful than alcohol use.  Additionally, they cite to the cost of prosecuting and incarcerating pot users and sellers, and point out that, if taxed, marijuana could bring in a windfall to a treasury strapped for funds.

However, contrary to the claim otherwise, the War on Drugs has not been a loser for everyone.  There have been profits to be made from marijuana being illegal.  Local law enforcement officials - prosecutors and city and county law enforcement agencies primarily - have made a fortune for their agencies off of civil forfeiture.  Many of these civil forfeiture seizures, piles of cash, cars, TVs, computers, etc. are made possible because of the criminalization of the sale and use of marijuana.  As pointed out by an Indianapolis Star expose, the proceeds from these civil forfeiture proceedings are simply being pocketed by law enforcement officials without little oversight on how the money is spent.  Further, even though the law requires that law enforcement remit proceeds in excess of the law enforcement action, the Star's reporting showed local law enforcement officials were simply ignoring the law to keep ALL of the civil forfeiture proceeds they seized.

In short, you have a lot of locally politically powerful individuals - most significantly elected county prosecutors, county sheriffs, and mayors - who are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the civil forfeiture money flowing into their agency's coffers.

Then you have the private corrections industry.  To make money, these corrections companies need a continual flow of "customers," i.e. both people who are accused and convicted, coming into their jails and prisons.   Many of those incarcerated, whether for the original offense or a probation violation, are locked up on marijuana offenses.

The corrections industry is likewise politically powerful. The industry hands out a lot of political contributions to incumbents in particular. They often hire ex-law enforcement officials and politicians who might have political clout on their own.

In short, the opponents of same sex marriage are motivated by an idea they don't agree with.  While some opponents of marijuana legalization are truly motivated by opposition to the idea, much of the organized, politically-powerful opposition is motivated by all the money made off of the criminalization of the sale and use of marijuana.  They are the winners of the War on Drugs.

In politics, when it comes to motivation, money trumps ideas.

Stanford Study Shows Indiana Charter Schools Leading Traditional Public Schools in Student Improvement

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Charter schools in Indiana are among the nation’s best at raising student test scores when compared with other public schools, a Standford University study showed. 
Of the 23 states and cities examined so far as part of the continuing study, Indiana’s charter schools rank fifth best for the test score gains of their students.
Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes followed up and expanded on a 2011 examination that also lavished praise on the state’s charter school performance.
... 
The charter school sector continues to be strong in Indiana,” said Margaret Raymond, the center’s director. 
The results were roughly the same as in 2011, with especially impressive reading results. Almost 20 percent of the charters saw significantly more gain in reading than typical public schools in the state. Fewer than one in 10 charters had reading gains that failed to outperform other public schools. 
....
When scores for charter school students are compared directly to students who are similar to them in terms of demographic backgrounds and prior academic performance, the charter school students appeared to learn more.
The study estimates the average charter school student likely is about a month and a half further ahead in reading and math than if they had attended their local public schools. In Indianapolis, the effect was more pronounced — charter school students came out about two months ahead of where they might have been if they attended Indianapolis Public Schools or township schools, the study reported.
To see the rest of the lengthy article, click here.

What never ceases to amaze me is that the defenders of the status quo in education continue to spin tall tales about charter schools.  They'll say charter schools aren't public schools.  Yes they are. They'll say charters get voucher money.  Of course they don't....they're public schools.  They'll say that charters can "cherrypick" the best students.  No, by law they have to have open enrollment, taking anyone who applies and using a lottery if there are too many applicants for open spots.  Plus, on average the students charters get are underperforming their peers at traditional public schools and then, after a few years at the charter, have turned things around.  They also will say that charters don't have to serve special needs children. Yes, by law charter schools have to provide education to special needs children just like any other children who apply.  Charter schools do all this with none of the facility funds that traditional public schools get from property taxes. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rethinking the Practicality of "Gun Free Zones"

My colleague over at Civil Discourse Now, who is so far left, he thinks President Barack Obama is a conservative, has penned a column this morning advocating the elimination of the private ownership of guns. It's a shame to see Mark write the article.  He appeared this year to start to coming to his senses on gun control, but apparently the cold weather has frozen the part of his brain controlling logic.

In Mark's world, the crazies and the criminals will see that it is illegal to have a gun, and, thus, be deterred not to commit a crime.  Apparently they are not only prone to commit violent acts through lunacy or criminal deviancy, they are also really stupid, apparently too dumb to figure out how to obtain a gun illegally.  It is funny how the mind of a liberal works.  Even though we have worked overtime in the War on Drugs, liberals believe that people are still easily able to get access to drugs and thus we should legalize their possession and use.  But when it comes to condoms, or other other birth control, even though perfectly legal, they think teenagers somehow can't figure out how to access them.  As far as guns, liberals believe a law banning their private ownership will magically prevent people from getting access to them.

Here's the real deal.  Drugs, condoms and guns are all easily obtained by whoever wants them and they still will be if you make laws against them.  But back to guns.

Mark notes how the shooter was able to get off 100 rounds of ammunition.  That's not exactly a surprise.  He was in a school, i.e. a "gun free zone."  He walked into that situation armed, breaking the law mind you, knowing teachers and administrators would never be able to defend themselves and the children from the shooter because, guess what, the gun free zone had disarmed them.

I grew up in the country where everyone had a gun in their house.  People were not robbed where I lived. Anyone who would break into a house knew they might get shot if not by a homeowner, by a neighbor who saw the break-in occurring..  Liberals suggest that it is only an actual shooting of a bad guy that acts as the deterrent.  While that has in fact happened here in Indy this year (several robberies of business establishments were thwarted when the robber was shot by an employee), what liberals do not seem to understand is that it is the THREAT someone might be armed that is the major deterrent.

It is important that we recognize that there are two types of "gun free zones."  You have those zones where everyone is searched going into a building or onto an airplane. Rules banning guns in those situations do make sense and for the most part work.

But where gun free zones miserably fail is when we impose those zones in places where there is no search of those entering, where compliance with the law or rule is totally dependent on those entering being willing to voluntarily follow the law.  In those situations, you find that gun free zones only take away weapons from law abiding citizens and make people inside those zones vulnerable to nut jobs like the Connecticut shooter.

We need to rethink gun free zones.  If there is not a confined space where people are being searched upon entering, laws and rules preventing law abiding citizens from possessing weapons in those gun free zones only make people more vulnerable to thinks like what happened in Connecticut.  If that means arming a few teachers and administrators to give the children some protection, I am 100% for it.  We need the bad guys to know that, if they endanger the safety of those children, they might get shot. That type of gun free zone, sans the search, only provides them assurances that they'll be able to shoot innocent children and teachers with no fear of consequences.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cooley Law School Attempts to Silence Critics with SLAPP Defamation Lawsuits

I have written previously about SLAPP lawsuits previously on this website.  A SLAPP lawsuit is literally a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, i.e. a lawsuit designed intended to intimidate, censor or silence critics utilizing the American rule that each side has to pay their own attorney, regardless of which side prevails.  Basically the idea is to sue public critics in order to force them to incur so much in legal fees that they will have to cease public criticism even though the critic would likely prevail on the merits years down the road when the case is finally heard on the merit.   Some states have tried to provide additional safeguards

With that background on SLAPP lawsuits in mind, I come now to today's topic, the Thomas Cooley Law School. A private law school based out of Michigan, with four Michigan campuses and a new one in Tampa, Florida, the Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the country with 3,129 part-time and 535 full-time students.  It also tends to rank near the bottom of most law school rankings.  With tuition over $34,000 a year, students of the law school often graduate with law school student loan debt in excess of $100,000.
Thomas Cooley Law School

Law students graduating today are finding a job market saturated with newly-sworn in attorneys looking for legal work.  Even students from the top law schools and top students from the average-ranked law schools find themselves struggling to find a place in the legal job market.  For so-called fourth (bottom) tier schools like Cooley, it is extremely difficult to find work as an attorney.

Law schools have been accused of publishing bogus employment statistics to entice students into law school.  Unemployed lawyers claiming to have been misled, quite often turn on their schools criticizing them via the Internet.  No law school gets more public criticism in this new media than the Thomas Cooley Law School.  Cooley has decided to fight back  by filing defamation lawsuits to pull critics into court. The Examiner reports on one such lawsuit:
What can we say about a law school, whose purpose is to train future lawyers, that doesn't believe in the fundamental right of freedom of speech under the First Amendment? 
Such is the case with the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which is suing a blogger critical of it under a frivolous claim of defamation, which can best be described as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit intended to intimidate free speech. The blogger, who uses the name Rockstar05, is a former Cooley student now attending another law school. His blog, the Thomas M. Cooley Law Scam, which contains numerous links to factual material, along with the blogger's personal experiences, opinions and biting commentary, can be found at http://thomas-cooley-law-school-scam.weebly.com/
Rockstar05, who feels Cooley is unethical and lacks any sense of institutional integrity, is highly critical of Cooley's absurd claim to being the nation's second best law school after Harvard. He points out that of 193 American law schools, Cooley ranks 160th in the first time bar exam pass rate of its graduates, even after the bottom 25 percent of first year students are flunked out; 181st in graduate employment rate; and 190th in student-faculty ratio. But in its self-ranking, Cooley uses a number of strange criteria, such as library seating capacity. 
As it is, there is a glut of lawyers, with only 27,500 jobs for 44,000 graduates in 2009, for example, and law schools rake in millions of dollars in federal guaranteed student loans. Cooley, with a main campus in Lansing and satellite campuses in Auburn Hills, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Riverview, FL, is the country's largest law school, with 3,129 part-time and 535 full-time students.
Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado and frequent criticism of law schools misleading potential students about employment in the legal profession, writes this year about getting a subpoena from Cooley's lawyers which then leads to this criticism of the Cooley Law School:
Prof. Paul Campos
I haven't warned people about the dangers of enrolling at Cooley for the same reason it would be a waste of time to warn a parent that it's a bad idea to hand a 15-year-old boy a bottle of Jack Daniel's and the keys to a new sports car. Some things are so obvious that it's pointless to belabor them.
...
Nevertheless, there is something potentially useful about reviewing Cooley's employment stats at the level of detail that is now available through the efforts of people such as Law School Transparency, in something of the same way it's useful to show 15-year-olds gruesome films of alcohol-related car crashes. In that spirit, let's compare Cooley's stats to, say, Stanford's, on the working assumption that the outcomes SLS graduates obtain are the kinds of things people borrow $115,364 (this was the average law school debt taken on by 2011 Cooley grads) in high-interest non-dischargeable loans in order to be able to do.
Graduating class of 2010:
Percentage of graduates who obtained jobs with law firms of more than 25 attorneys:
Cooley: 1.1%
Stanford: 51.1% 
Percentage who obtained federal clerkships:
Cooley: 0.0%
Stanford: 29.3%
Percentage who were unemployed nine months after graduation, or whose employment status was unknown:
Cooley: 34.4%
Stanford: 0.6%
Percentage who were employed and reported a salary:
Cooley: 6.5%
Stanford: 88.5% 
And so on. 
One of many useful things law schools tend to fail to teach their students is that lawsuits are often filed for reasons that have nothing to do with actual legal rights and wrongs. A classic example is a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). The point of a SLAPP suit is not to litigate valid legal claims but rather to censor critics, through legal intimidation.
It is something of an irony that the first exposure many current law students and people considering going to law school will get to how a SLAPP suit works is being provided by the suit Cooley has filed against the attorneys representing former students suing the school, and the even more preposterous suit the school brought against four scam bloggers.
For instance the law school is suing "Rockstar5" for defamation and wrongful interference with its business relations. As a strictly legal matter, the complaint against Rockstar5 is very weak. For example, it claims the author is defaming Cooley and its representatives by calling them "criminals." The specific passage in which that word appears criticizes the school for admitting people who shouldn't be in law school, and allowing them to spend $50,000 per year in tuition and living expenses, even though such people "don't have a shot in hell of practicing law." The author then says, "Congrats you criminals, you have accomplished robbery!"
You don't have to be a lawyer to realize the author is not literally accusing Cooley's administration of robbery, but rather is employing a metaphor to state his opinion regarding what he considers the ethically dubious character of Cooley's business model. Indeed with trivial exceptions, almost everything in the post is either a matter of undisputed fact or the statement of an opinion-neither of which can form the basis for a valid defamation suit. But SLAPP suits have little to do with legal rules, and everything to do with the economic rule that rich and powerful institutions can employ the legal process to crush dissent, by burying critics in a blizzard of litigation expenses. 
Cooley's real problem has nothing to do with supposed defamatory claims on what, until it filed this suit, was a profoundly obscure blog, and everything to do with what has been dubbed the the Streisand Effect. The Streisand Effect got its name from an ill-fated lawsuit brought by the famous singer against a photographer who published a photograph of her Malibu house on the Internet. Streisand's suit backfired when publicity regarding it led to the photograph being viewed by hundreds of thousands of web surfers.
Cooley is getting more on-line publicity than ever these days, such as for example this blog post, pointing out that the school's founder, "Professor Emeritus" Thomas E. Brennan was paid more than one million dollars between 2007-08 and 2009-10 for what even the school characterizes as less than ten hours per week of "work." Brennan's days seem to be in significant part filled by authoring a blog chock full of classic cranky old man rantings about, among other things, how The Gay is destroying the nation's moral fiber, while being paid more than $700 per hour (this assumes a 52-week work year) to compile "Judging the Law Schools," Cooley's very own ranking system, which in its 2010 edition is gracious enough to allow Harvard to deny Cooley the honor of being ranked the top law school in America (global and inter-galactic rankings are not yet available).
...
Regular readers of this blog realize I have zero tolerance for SLAPP lawsuits filed by deep-pocketed plaintiffs hoping to squelch critics by forcing them to expend tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves in a lawsuit that the plaintiffs know will in the end prove unsuccessful.  Judges should not condone the abuse of our legal system in an attempt to stifle a person's free speech.

Former Colts GM Supports Expansion of the Playoffs

Expanding the NFL playoffs from 12 to 14 (or 16) teams is a terrible idea. There are only 32 NFL teams.  The regular season is already too long.  More teams making the playoffs inevitably devalue the regular season games.  You will end up with even more mediocre, undeserving teams making the playoffs.  If they're going to expand the playoffs to 14, it's only a matter of time, despite what you hear here, that you expand to 16 to eliminate the playoff bye. Once you get to half the league's teams making the playoffs, you might as well shorten the season and put everyone in the playoffs, a move that would only add one week.  Not that I'm advocating any expansion of the playoffs.



People like Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Colts GM Bill Polian are trying very hard to kill the golden goose known as the National Football League.  Polian's comments can be summed up as:  "More money, more money, more money."

Did Bloomington South Display Bad Sportsmanship in 107-2 Defeat of Arlington?

Bloomington South which, obviously, has a strong girl's basketball program defeated Arlington High School in Indianapolis 107-2 a few days.  Arlington lost much of its students following a state takeover, including many of the players on its girls basketball team.  At 500 students, Arlington has one of the worst Class A girls' basketball programs, while Bloomington South, a 4A School was one of the state's best.  Arlington was clearly overmatched.

Let me say from the outset that I don't agree the two teams shouldn't have played.  Sports teaches important life lessons.  One of those life lessons is that your opponent will often be bigger, stronger, and more talented.  Sports teaches you to accept those challenges and learn from them, even in lopsided defeats.

I also despise so-called "mercy rules" in sports.  Life doesn't have mercy rules.  Teaching kids to compete all the way through the end, even when the cause is hopeless, is part of life.  Further, being "mercy ruled" is a bigger insult than losing by a large margin.  You don't save face by having the game artificially called because your team is too far behind.
This column though focuses on sportsmanship.  Simply laying down and trying not to score is considered a grievous insult to the losing side.  You are not supposed to do that.  But there are certain unwritten rules of sportsmanship athletes are expected to follow when they are in a fortunate position of blowing out an opponent.  These sportsmanship rules, which limit blowouts, are well known to most athletes...or at least I thought they were.
FOOTBALL:  The team that is ahead takes out its starters.  They are to not to attempt passing plays, especially those down the field.  They utilize running plays and try to run down as much of the play clock as they can when they have it. They don't pass up field goals and touchdowns, and they continue to try to get first downs, but they only do so in the context of a simple straight-forward defense.  On defense, the superior team is certainly not to blitz. 
BASEBALL:  The winning team doesn't try to stop getting runs or stop trying to get the other team out, which would be considered an insult to the inferior team.  The superior team's players, however do not take the extra base and they do not steal.  As with all sports, the superior team is supposed to put their weakest players in the game. 
BASKETBALL:  The superior team is supposed to stop running and play half court offense, with the shot clock winding down before taking a shot.  On defense, they are not to press but instead fall back into a relaxed defense such as loose zone that at the very least would let the inferior team have reasonably open outside shots.
You can often look at box scores of games and see whether these unwritten sportsmanship rules were followed in lopsided games.  Unfortunately my attempt to find statistics from the Bloomington South-Arlington game proved unsuccessful.  The only thing I learned of signficance was that Arlington's two points came on free throws, one in the second quarter and one in the third.  I don't know how many field goals were attempted versus how many made, I don't know how many free throws were shot, I don't know how many steals there were or how many turnovers.

So unfortunately I don't know if Bloomington South was still running fast breaks against an outmatched opponent.  I don't know if the team was taking quick shots and not running down the clock.  I don't know if Bloomington South was pressing Arlington, which would show up as an unusually high number of turnovers and/or steals.

My guess, considering the 107-2 score, is that Bloomington South had to be violating the unwritten sportsmanship rules.  A girl's high school basketball game is only 32 minutes or 1,920 seconds long.  With a 35 second shot clock, that is a minimum of 55 shots.  At two points a basket (assuming no three pointers), that is 110 points.  That very generous analysis assumes Bloomington South had the ball 100% of the time and hit every one of the shots it took, which obviously didn't happen.

Bloomington South simply couldn't have gotten to 107 points without running against an overmatched team and pressuring Arlington's offense into turnovers, long after it was clear Bloomington South would easily triumph. I don't see any other conclusion but that Bloomington South's coach displayed bad sportsmanship in having her players deliberately run up the score.

When I was ten years old, I personally witnessed another blow out.  Madison High School, the school I would eventually attend, was playing Switzerland County in boy's basketball.  Madison, the bigger school, usually dominated the smaller Switzerland County.  Thiatyear was no exception. When the final buzzer sounded, Madison won 142-44.*  How did we get to 142 points?   Madison ran, threw full court passes, and constantly employed a full court press against an opponent that struggled to brig the ball up the court.  For a young kid, it was a lot of fun looking for Madison blowing out its opponent by what I hoped would be 100 points.  But now as an adult looking back, Madison displayed really poor sportsmanship that night and the lopsided victory was not something of which to be proud.

*The website Hickory Husker lists the 142 point game as tied for the third highest total in an Indiana high school basketball game.  It fails, however, to list the 98 point margin of victory as one of the highest.  I believe my memory on the margin in that Madison Switzerland County game is correct as I believe I saw the score reprinted in later years.

Note:  If anyone can find the box score of the game, I'd love to see it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Most Unusual BFF? - Meet New Dog Owner Michael Vick and Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States

Not sure if readers know about it, but there is an unlikely friendship developed between Michael Vick and Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.  Yep, that Michael Vick, the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles who spent time in federal prison for dog fighting. 

Characterizing what Vick did as "dog fighting" vastly understates his reprehensible conduct.  As part of his plea, he admitted not only to running an extensive dog fighting operation, but that he personally engaged in the hanging and drowning of underperforming dogs.  Others involved in the operation say that Vick's torture of the animals went even further.


Pacelle and Vick at a 2010 press conference announcing
the partnership between HSUS and Vick
That didn't stop Pacelle from declaring at a 2010 joint press conference with Vick:
I have been around him a lot, and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner."
Well this fall, Pacelle's wish for his buddy came true.  On October 19, 2012, Douglas Anthony Cooper of the Huffington Post blogged:
Animal lovers across America have been all but crippled with loathing this week. The rage has been boiling over everywhere I turn on the Internet: in chat rooms, on Facebook, on bulletin boards.
You would have to have something deeply wrong with you not to be thoroughly disgusted at the prospect of Michael Vick taking in a pet dog. Decent people feel that this man -- who did not merely run a dogfighting ring, but personally hanged dogs, drowned them and beat them to death -- should be prevented from getting anywhere near an innocent creature. If I had my way, I'd keep him away from human beings.   
And yet, thanks to the diplomatic intervention of Wayne Pacelle, the slick and coiffed CEO of the HSUS (that would be the Humane Society of the United States), Michael Vick has been rehabilitated. In name, anyway: he's gone from being a man who tortures animals to a man who helps this saintly organization keep them safe. The HSUS is decent, you see, and they have spread their umbrella of decency over Michael Vick. 
And now Michael has a puppy to call his own.
I do not mean to suggest that there is something deeply wrong with Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the HSUS. The man who, for a mere six figures per year, runs the most powerful lobby in America devoted to ending animal cruelty. He did not, after all, procure a puppy for Vick. He simply explained that Michael "would make a good pet owner and thus should be given the opportunity." ... 
One of Michael Vick's dogs held at
his dog fighting kennel.
I can't imagine that Wayne Pacelle, deep down, had fond sentiments towards Michael Vick when he sat down with the felon to negotiate the man's rehabilitation. I am sure that hyper-civilized Wayne simply managed to quell his very real disgust. Somehow.
He did it well, too. It sure wasn't evident when our Wayne sat, sympathetically, inches away from the most famous animal abuser of our day. Most people, who are paid far less to protect animals -- who do it out of, you know, the goodness of their hearts and all -- wouldn't set foot in the same room as this sadist, who buried dogs alive. But Wayne Pacelle, the deep soul burdened with the personal responsibility for America's abused animals, sat shoulder to shoulder with this celebrity, and didn't even flinch.
It is in fact Wayne's personal responsibility. When your salary to protect animals from abuse is among the highest in the nation, then yes, it is your responsibility to care about them. Wayne Pacelle bags approximately $250,000 a year to care. Hence we should expect him to. And yet -- despite his very real, heavily-funded caring -- he has no problem taking up the cause of Michael Vick. 
I do not mean to imply any ulterior motive. As Wayne Pacelle points out in that touching document -- "Michael Vick and The HSUS's work to end dogfighting" -- no money is changing hands. Nor is it. $50,000 is not money, per se. It is a "grant."
...
Also, it's possible that mere animal lovers, not burdened by Pacelle's wisdom, caring and salary, don't see as profoundly into the heart of a man like Michael Vick. Wayne Pacelle -- something of a celebrity himself -- sees a fellow traveler. Even a fellow -- yes -- animal lover.
Michael in fact expressed this to Wayne: "Look, I love dogs."    
And Wayne understood: "You know, just going back to this issue of Michael telling me in -- you know, when we first met that he loved animals, obviously people who are involved in dogfighting, cockfighting, they really do value the animals in certain ways."
Absolutely. They do, Wayne. Your new friend Michael has characterized this as a "different kind of love." Which it is. The kind of love that causes you to maim, drown and torture your loved one to death.   
It's so good to know that the man entrusted with a $131-million budget to defend the nation's animals has the liberality of soul to comprehend this different way of loving. 
...
To see the rest of the article, click here.

Other animal welfare organizations are outraged by the Vick-Pacelle bromance.
"Just as convicted pedophiles aren’t allowed free access to children, anyone who is responsible for hanging, electrocuting, or shooting dogs and who causes them to suffer in other unimaginable ways should never again be allowed access to dogs," Lisa Lange, vice president of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the AJC. "All things considered, it is a very small price to pay, especially compared to the suffering endured by the dogs who were abused and killed in the Bad Newz Kennels."
I should emphasize that local humane societies are independent of HSUS.  Nonetheless, I can't help but note a certain amount of irony that some local humane societies will often insist on thorough background checks of pet owners, checks that often reach the kooky level, before deeming an potential pet owner worthy of adopting an animal.  Stories abound of prospective pet owners being turned down by their local humane society for adoption, often for dubious reasons.  One wonders whether Vick would have passed a background check if he went to a local humane shelter.   No word on where Vick obtained his new dog.

Climate Professor Sues Think Tank and National Review for Criticism of His Climate Research

The Washington Post reports:
In a 37-page complaint filed Monday {October 22, 2012] in D.C. Superior Court, [Penn State University Professor] Michael Mann and his attorney John B. Williams, charged the National Review and the Capitol Hill-based Competitive Enterprise Institute with six counts including libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit is based on a July 13 article by Rand Simberg, published on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s blog, titled “The Other Scandal in Unhappy Valley.” ...
Penn State Professor Michael Mann
The article compared Sandusky to Mann, accusing the the scientist of “molesting data” about global warming. It was later summarized and linked to by the National Review; in that piece, National Review writer Mark Steyn says, “Not sure I’d have extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr. Simberg does, but he has a point.”
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has since removed the sentences comparing Mann to Sandusky. An editor’s note says two lines were removed. 
The lawsuit says the statements in the article were made with “actual malice and wrongful and willful intent to injure Dr. Mann.”
To see the rest of the article, click here.

To refresh readers' memories, Prof. Mann contributed to the research that helped Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) win a Nobel Prize in 2007.   Then Mann's career took a turn for the worse.  Instead of the praise continuing, investigators began challenging the credibility of his scientific conclusions, most notably Mann's "hockey stick" graph showing increasing global temperatures which was based on selective data and more ignored earlier data.  Then in November 2009, hackers obtained damning emails from Mann and IPCC showing researchers were selecting using data (while hiding other data) to obtain the politically-correct conclusion that global warming was indeed happening.  Since that time the lexicon has drifted from "global warming" to "climate change."  Of course, the climate has been changing for 4.5 billion years.   By calling it "climate change" that means every weather event can be claimed as supporting the "climate change" theory.  Before that Mann and his ilk were beginning to struggle to link colder weather to "global warming."

Legally Prof. Mann has a hard row to hoe in his lawsuit.   He is a public figure which means he has to prove actual malice was intended by the publisher.  But they did not say he was a child molester, which would be defamation per se.  Saying Prof. Mann "molests" data is not accusing him of committing a heinous crime with little children.  While I wouldn't use the term "molests," there is plenty of evidence that Prof. Mann "manipulates" data to achieve conclusions he politically supports.  Bottom line is that Prof. Mann's credibility has taken a well-deserved hit and quite simply he doesn't like being challenged.  Prof. Mann is acting like a child who is angry because he can't do what he wants.  He needs to grow up.  When you attempt to pass yourself off as an objective academic wanting to know only the scientific truth while all the time manipulating data in support of a favored cause, you can expect that critics are going to challenge you.

As I've said before, the politicization of science is one of the greatest threats to public policy today.  Our universities used to place a premium on their researchers objectively analyzing data to get to the truth.  Now universities place a premium on researchers manipulating data to get politically correct results and the grants that go with arriving at those results.  Then they declare "the debate is over" and demonize anyone who dares challenge the conclusions.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

City Leaders Set to Raise Taxes for CIB While CIB "Negotiates" to Give the Pacers Millions More

Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star reports:
For years, hospitality industry leaders have protested creeping tax rates on hotel rooms, rental cars and meals that rank Indianapolis as one of the highest-taxed U.S. cities for visitors.

Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Soon they may have a fresh target: potential hikes being mulled by city leaders that could push taxes on car rentals from 15 to 17 percent and the admissions tax on Colts and Pacers tickets from 6 to 10 percent.
...
For the Indianapolis Colts, it's about sparing ticket-buyers from paying more. For the leader of the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association, even higher car rental taxes could deter visitors and conventions from coming to Indianapolis. 
The car rental industry plans to fight any attempt to increase the rental tax. 
...
The 15 percent car rental tax rate recently helped rank Indianapolis No. 8 on the Global Business Travel Association's list of the worst 10 cities for travel taxes in 2012. The group also considered Indianapolis' 9 percent tax on food and beverages and its 17 percent tax on hotels. 
Topping that list were Chicago (which taxes car rentals at nearly 25 percent), New York and Boston.
"I'd be more concerned about the auto rental tax" increase, said hospitality industry spokesman said John Livengood, than a hike in the admissions tax. He said it makes sense that users of CIB facilities pay the tax to help support the agency's operations.    
But a higher car rental tax "would discourage people from coming to Indianapolis and spending money," said Livengood, who's president of both the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association and the Indiana Restaurant Association, which are merging soon.
"That tax, like the hotel tax, is a disincentive for people to come here."
Ballard disagrees, saying that's not a consideration for him as he weighs whether to support seeking the tax increases.
...
But aside from arguments over travel taxes' impact, if any, on the tourism industry, the rental car industry long has opposed high taxes on its business as a matter of fairness, especially because many who end up paying aren't visitors but local residents who rent cars. 
...
To see the rest of the article, click here.

Global Business Travel Association earlier this year released a study showing Indianapolis as the 8th worst city when it comes to visitor taxes.


Increasing the rental car tax from 15% to 17% would add 80 cents to a $40 a day car rental.  That would push Indianapolis into 3rd place for cities with the highest visitor taxes, above every other city except for Chicago and New York.

Further, studies have shown that most rental cars are rented locally, not by visitors.  So the claim that the City's taxpayers won't bear the burden of these increased CIB tax increases simply isn't true.  That's not to mention the lost tourism dollars.

Finally, the article mentions that the CIB will be meeting on Monday to discuss the Board's "negotiations" with the Pacers regarding how many more millions of the public's dollars will be given to the Pacers.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Indiana General Assembly Should Take Investigation of Notices of Tort Claim Away From Attorney General

WRTV's Kara Kenney has an excellent report on a couple decisions by the Indiana Public Access Counselor finding the Indiana Attorney General violated the Open Records Law:
The Indiana Attorney General’s office is facing criticism for several violations of Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.  
...

Attorney General Greg Zoeller
Illinois-turned-Hamilton-County, Ind-resident Paul Straughn told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney it’s been a nightmare getting records from the Attorney General’s office.
...
Straughn said his father Max, a World War II disabled veteran, was mistreated by two Indiana doctors. 
... 
His father has since passed away, but Straughn filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office in November 2011 asking the agency to investigate the mistreatment allegations.
Straughn said the agency closed the complaint without interviewing key witnesses [including Straughn.].
...
Frustrated, Straughn filed a request for documents on his father’s case under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act (APRA). 
... 
In advisory opinions dated July 25 and Aug. 8, 2012, Hoage found three separate violations of the APRA, including failing to preserve records and failing to meet its burden for redacting, or blacking out, information. 
“I’m like wow, holy smokes,” said Straughn. “What can I say? I was dumbfounded. I find it refreshing -- the integrity of the public access counselor’s office.”
... 
Straughn said he only filed the records request as a last resort after the agency failed to properly investigate his complaints.
“I’ve brought allegations there are Indiana licensed physicians violating professional licensing standards,” said Straughn. “Why isn’t the Attorney General’s office looking into these allegations?”
Straughn is hopeful after his Nov. 29 meeting with the Chief Deputy that the Attorney General’s office will investigate.
“My goal is I just want my complaint to get a fair shake,” said Straughn. “If the AG’s office does a proper and thorough investigation of my complaint using qualified staff, let the chips fall where they may.”
You have two stories here. First there is a failure to comply with the open records law. The second is the failure to investigate.  That's of particular concern to me.

Indiana law mandates that, if you are considering suing a state agency, you send the agency a "notice of tort claim" saying what happened, and when and that you may sue.  The idea of a notice of tort claim is to give government advance notice of possible litigation so that claims that have merit can be resolved prior to the onset of expensive litigation.

A copy of that letter goes to the Attorney General's Office which is charged with the responsibility of investigating the claim and reporting back. Here is the problem.  The AG's office is also the attorney for the state agency against which the claim is lodged.  Is the AG going to investigate the matter thoroughly, then turn over incriminating information to a possible litigant against the state?  Is the AG going to write a letter to a possible litigant saying that, yes, the agency is at fault?  There is a huge conflict in investigating the notice of tort claim on behalf of the public and then representing the agency.

The fact is the AG's office does not investigate tort claims.  After a couple months, the AG's office will send out a form letter to the person saying that his or her claim was "investigated" and found with to be without merit.  But the fact is no investigation is ever conducted.  I am not aware of a single instance when the AG's office has ever talked to witnesses or reviewed information relating to a notice of tort claim.  And that is from sending probably 25 notices myself over the years, not to mention other attorneys I've talked to who likewise have never saw any evidence of an investigation into a tort claim being done by the AG's office.

The investigation of tort claims needs to be taken away from the AG's office to resolve the conflict between the investigation and representation of the state agencies.  Another body, perhaps the Office of Inspector General, should investigate notices of tort claims.  The current practice of the AG's office falsely telling the Hoosiers their claims have been "investigated" when no investigation has in fact been conducted,  needs to cease.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lincoln and His Support of a Constitutional Amendment Protecting Slavery

Late this afternoon, I am off to view the movie Lincoln.  The topic of our show Civil Discourse Now on Saturday probably will be on "The Great Emancipator" and the Civil War.  Mark Small and I decided watching Lincoln would be a good precursor to that show.
In preparation, I have also spent time reviewing the history surrounding Abraham Lincoln's tenure in office, which has brought me to various discussions of our 16th President, by lay people as well as academics.  It is amazing to me how people so idolize Lincoln that they are willing to ignore undeniable facts about the President.

The fact is, one of those indisputable facts, is that Lincoln, in an effort to ward off secession by southern states, actually came to office supporting a proposed constitutional amendment to make slavery permanent.  The name of that proposal was the Corwin Amendment, which stated:
No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
The "domestic institutions" reference was to slavery.  It not only would have stopped Congress from outlawing slavery, the language attempts to block future constitutional amendments to overturn the Corwin Amendment.

In early 1961, the amendment passed both the House and Senate by the 2/3 majority.  Even though he had no say in the amendment process, then President James Buchanan took the unusual step of signing the amendment.

By the time Lincoln was being sworn in on March 4, 1861, the Corwin amendment was on its way to the states for ratification.  Lincoln in his inauguration speech recognized the amendment and expressed support:
I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service....[H]olding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
It appears from some of the historical record, that Lincoln worked behind the scenes to try to get the Corwin Amendment passed.   Ohio, Maryland and Illinois (although there is some debate over the legality of that state's action) ended up ratifying the Corwin Amendment.   Although the Civil War rendered the issue moot, because there is no time limit on ratification of a constitutional amendment, technically the Corwin Amendment is still before the state legislatures.  In 1963, a Texas legislator proposed a joint resolution for his state to ratify the Corwin Amendment.  It went nowhere.

Despite the idolized view of Lincoln, it appears the President early in his term was more than willing to trade making slavery a permanent fixture, at least in the South, for keeping the union together.  While he was clearly against an expansion of the institution of slavery into new territories, Lincoln's support of the Corwin Amendment no doubt leaves a tarnish on the Lincoln legacy.