Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gallup Poll Finds Americans Misjudge Abortion Views of Other Americans; Most Americans Strongly Oppose Second Trimester Abortions

In May 2013, Gallup again polled the abortion issue, this time to focus on people's perception of where Americans actually stand versus their actual position. The results were interesting. This from the narrative:
PRINCETON, NJ -- When asked how they think most Americans feel about the abortion issue, 51% of U.S. adults say the public is mostly "pro-choice," while 35% say "pro-life." This general perception that the pro-choice viewpoint prevails contrasts with the nearly even division of Americans' actual views. The same poll finds that 48% of Americans call themselves pro-life and 45% pro-choice....
Political moderates are the most likely among major demographic and political subgroups to believe the pro-choice position dominates nationally. They are closely followed by "pro-choice" Americans, Westerners, Democrats, and nonwhites. Republicans, conservatives, and "pro-life" Americans are the only groups that are about evenly split in their perceptions of which abortion viewpoint is the more prevalent. No group mostly sees pro-lifers as dominant.
I can't say I'm surprised.  I always get a kick out of my left-wing friends who insist the abortion issue is killing Republicans.  In fact, the Gallup poll, which shows Americans pretty much evenly split on abortion, only hints at why the issue is not a good one for Democrats contrary to popular perception and media spin.  Historically pro-life voters vote on the issue much more frequently than do pro-choice voters.  So even if the polling is 50-50, if one side is voting on the issue and the other isn't, it is a problem for politicians who are on the wrong side.

I often tell the story of when I ran for the House in 2000 in a district on the northwest side of Indianapolis.  When you go door-to-door, voters will often ask you your view on a major issue that is key to how they'll vote.  After you tell them your position, they will tell you theirs.  My position on abortion was the most frequently asked question during the primary round.  Every last Republican voter who asked me about the issue during the primary round was pro life.  After winning the primary, I started hitting the doors of voters who had no primary history or only a limited Democratic primary history in an effort to hit the more independent voters.  I expected the abortion issue would be much more mixed.  I was wrong.  Again, the most frequent question was abortion. Again, every voter who asked me about that issue in the general election round turned out to be pro life.  I literally knocked on thousands of doors that election season and not a single pro choice person raised the abortion issue.  This was in an urban area, with then about a 40% minority population.  That is not surprising as African-Americans and Latinos often poll as being more pro-life than white Americans.  According to Gallup, Nonwhites identify as being majority pro-life by 51-37, while whites are majority pro-choice 48-46.

While pro-choicers claim that the abortion issue hurts Republicans with women the fact is there is little difference between men and women when it comes to the abortion issue.  According to Gallup 46% of women identify as being pro-life as opposed to 50% of men.  Not exactly a huge margin, though notably a slight reversal of earlier polling that showed women being more supportive of abortion. 

Where Republicans lose the issue is when they allow Democrats to define the abortion issue as being about the rare exceptions, i.e. rape and incest.   Republicans lose also when they support legislative proposals that sound like very intrusive medical procedures.  Supporting something called "vaginal probes" is not going to go over well with the public.    But the issue of abortion is in general clearly a loser for the Democratic Party and has been since Roe v. Wade.

Now we have a state senator from Texas, Wendy Davis, who wants to fight the battle to preserve abortion after 5 months.  One of the liberal commentators on the Fox News Sunday morning show, NPR's Mara Liasson said that on immigration, same sex marriage and other social issues, Republicans are on the wrong side, but when it comes to second trimester abortion, Republicans are on solid footing.

Indeed they are.  Just as Republicans are foolish to let the abortion issue be defined by focusing the debate on the rape and incest exceptions (which amount to about 1% of the abortions), the Democrats are likewise foolish if they fall into the trap of allowing the abortion issue be about protecting second term abortions (which account for about 9% of the total), which are so brutal and gruesome that I will not describe them here.

Let's look at the polling on the issue that Wendy Davis was defending, the right to abortion more than 5 months into pregnancy.  Ironically the poll by United Technologies/National Journal came out right before the Wendy Davis filibuster in response to a bill passed by the United States House.

Here are some things interesting about the poll. Women support the 20 week ban on abortions more than men.  Younger people support the ban more than older Americans.  The latter, not discussed thus far, is not surprising. While the other major social issue - same sex marriage - appears to be a generational time bomb for Republicans, the GOP's pro-life position has actually seen a slight but significant uptick in support among younger people in most polls.  Undoubtedly the reason why is the facts of prenatal development that have become even more undeniable with modern technology such as sonograms..  While the same sex marriage opposition is almost always cast in religious terms, there are solid reasons to oppose abortion, especially later term abortions, that have nothing to do with religion.  Any parents who have been provided a sonogram of their unborn child know what those reasons are.

Undoubtedly the question of the United Technologies, which included the provision about "rape and incest that are reported to the authorities," significantly knocked down the support for the second trimester ban.  If you look at a December 2012 Gallup Poll which asked the second trimester ban question without that provision, 64% supported the ban while 27% opposed it.  When Gallup first asked the question in 1996, 65% supported the ban while 26% opposed it.

Thus, an overwhelming majority of Americans have strongly opposed second trimester abortion for at least 17 years.  If the Democrats want to make future elections a mandate on keeping second and third trimester abortions legal, I'm sure the Republicans would welcome that debate.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Governor Pence Issues Classy Apology for Staff's Deletions of Negative Comments on Facebook

More politicians would be wise to do what Governor Mike Pence does here - admit when you are wrong and apologize.  People can be surprisingly forgiving when politicians are willing to admit they are human and make mistakes.  Governor Pence initially stumbled in his response to the Facebook deletions, but today he hit the ball out of the park with a classy apology.
“I believe that civility and respect for the opinion of others is essential to the democratic process. I also believe in the Freedom of Speech.

Over the past 24 hours, I became aware of concerns that comments responding to my statement of support for traditional marriage were being deleted from this Facebook page because they disagreed with my stated position.

Our longstanding policy, on this and other social media sites, has been to delete inflammatory comments that include name-calling, vulgarity or comments personally insulting to others. It was my understanding that the comments which were deleted all met this standard.

On careful review, it appear that this was not always the case and some comments were being deleted simply because they expressed disagreement with my position. I regret that this occurred and sincerely apologize to all those who were affected.

I have instructed our staff to review our policy and develop a standard of conduct similar to that of other elected officials and news organizations in the days ahead. We will post that policy prominently on this site.

Hoosiers expect our public debate to be open and respectful and we will ever seek to live up to that standard. In agreement or disagreement, I respect the opinions and the freedoms of all the people of Indiana.”

Governor Mike Pence

Pro-Abortion Rights State Senator Wendy Davis is No Hero

The far, far left has found a new hero, a Texas State Senator from Ft. Worth who successfully filibustered an abortion bill that would outlaw abortion after five months in the Lone Star State and would require abortion clinics to meet certain regulatory standards to avoid the "House of Horrors" clinic run by Philadelphia's Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who specialized in late term abortions   The conditions at Dr. Gosnell's clinic included broken equipment, bloodstained recovery chairs and an untrained staff giving anesthesia and other drugs.  As reported by the NY Times:
The scathing grand jury report in 2011 on Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, on Lancaster Avenue, detailed how despite complaints and malpractice suits, no inspector had visited in 16 years. The clinic was raided only after a tip that it operated as an illegal prescription mill. A month after the report, Gov. Tom Corbett fired six employees of the Health and State departments. 
The NY Times continued its report on what happened at the late term abortion clinic, the very type of abortions that Wendy Davis filibustered to preserve:
In the witness box, clinic employees said live births occurred regularly, and they believed Dr. Gosnell’s explanation for snipping necks with surgical scissors — to “ensure fetal demise” — was accepted practice in late-term abortions. An abortion doctor who testified for the prosecution said such practice was unheard of.

One witness, Steven Massof, testifying under a plea agreement to avoid first-degree murder charges, instructed jurors to feel the backs of their own necks and said, “It’s like a beheading.”
Another former employee, Adrienne Moton, sobbed as she described the death of Baby A, aborted when his teenage mother was about 29 weeks pregnant. Ms. Moton was so upset she took a cellphone photograph of him, which was shown in court. She said Dr. Gosnell had joked that the baby was big enough to walk to a bus stop. 

Ms. Moton, who also testified under a plea agreement, said she cut the neck of Baby D, who was delivered into a toilet while its mother, given a large dose of a drug to dilate the cervix, waited for Dr. Gosnell to arrive. 

Another clinic worker said she followed Dr. Gosnell’s instructions and cut the neck of Baby C after it moved an arm. The doctor told her was an “involuntary movement.” 
During my second year of college, I had to write a research paper in a health science class.  The topic I chose was prenatal life.  What I learned during my research was that life growing inside a woman is not just a clump of cells as pro-abortion rights advocates usually try to insist.  Here is a description of an unborn child's development, weeks 9 through 28.
  • Weeks 9–12: The fetus reaches approximately 8 cm. (3.2 in.) in length; the head is approximately half the size of the fetus. External features such as the face, neck, eyelids, limbs, digits, and genitals are well formed. The beginnings of teeth appear, and red blood cells begin to be produced in the liver. The fetus is able to make a fist.
  • Weeks 13–15: The fetus reaches approximately 15 cm. (6 in.) in length. Fine hair called lanugo first develops on the head; structures such as the lungs, sweat glands, muscles, and bones continue to develop. The fetus is able to swallow and make sucking motions.
  • Weeks 16–20: The fetus reaches approximately 20 cm. (8 in.) in length. Lanugo begins to cover all skin surfaces, and fat begins to develop under the skin. Features such as finger and toenails, eyebrows, and eyelashes appear. The fetus becomes more active, and the mother can sometimes begin to feel fetal movements at this stage.
  • Weeks 21–24: The fetus reaches approximately 28.5 cm. (11.2 in.) in length and weighs approximately 0.7 kg (1 lb. 10 oz.). Hair grows longer on the head, and the eyebrows and eye lashes finish forming. The lungs continue to develop with the formation of air sac (alveoli); the eyes finish developing. A startle reflex develops at this time.
  • Weeks 25–28: The fetus reaches approximately 38 cm. (15 in.) in length and weighs approximately 1.2 kg (2 lb. 11 oz.). The next few weeks mark a period of rapid brain and nervous system development. The fetus gains greater control over movements such as opening and closing eyelids and certain body functions. The lungs have developed sufficiently that air breathing is possible
  • Even most strident pro-abortion rights supporters balk at abortions at more than three months in, especially if they understand anything about pre-natal development.   But not Wendy Davis.  She is fighting to preserve the "right" to terminate the life beyond 22 weeks, by a gruesome procedure too graphic to describe here, of a very well-developed unborn child.  She is certainly no hero.

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    Governor Pence Now Allowing Negative Comments on Facebook Regarding His Position on Same Sex Marriage

    After an initial misstep with his staff deleting negative messages on Facebook, Governor Mike Pence is now allowing negative views in response to his statement supporting a constitutional ban on same sex marriage.  It is a good move by Governor Pence.  If you can't stand the heat, don't go into politics.  Here is a sample of the comments:

    Satchuel Paigelynn Cole Also, if you can't handle someone calling you a bigot, which is accurate, then why are you in politics?

  • Ryan Wiscaver Isnt it time to impeach this man? Look at his track record. Go ahead... google it.

  • Tim Deem Aggravated at your public statement. Embarrassed for it to originate from my own state. Encouraged by the HUGE number if remarks being made that DO NOT agree with you, Governor. Anxious to see how you feel when you're proven wrong. Confident that history will not look back on you fondly.

  • Satchuel Paigelynn Cole "For thousands of years, marriage has served as the glue that holds families and societies together and so it should ever be." - Mike Pence

    Then why do you want to deny that same right to others Mr. Pence? If you can admit that marriage is what holds our society together, then why are you against marriage for all? And how about you work on making anti divorce laws since you are so gung ho on marriage?

  • Rae Disco Homosexuality has been practiced far longer than Christianity and by more species. So bring it on, dude.

  • Marshall J. Baumgartner Mr. Pence, I didn't vote for you, and can't wait for your term to end.
    You are a dangerous hypocrite.

  • Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA on Case That Relies on Equal Protection, Federalism

    I have had a chance to read the majority opinion in the case, United States v. Windsor, in which the United States Supreme Court today held that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), or rather the section of the law in which the federal government defines marriage as between a man and woman for purposes of handing out federal benefits, to be unconstitutional.  I have also made my way through the dissenting opinions.

    When reading United States Supreme Court opinions I am reminded of my boss, the late Paul H. Buchanan, Judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals, preaching that his clerks write with brevity and conciseness.  I guess when you achieve the lofty status of United States Supreme Court Justice the need to be brief and write so people can understand what you are writing about gets lost.  Way too much rambling is going on in these opinions.   At least with Justice Scalia you get clever quips along with his lengthy prose.

    For me, the issue of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, is an easy one.  It is about federalism.  Under our constitutional system, states, subject to constitutional guarantees (such as that recognized in Loving v. Virginia, the miscegenation case), get to define marriage.  If states want marriage to be defined to include same sex couples, so be it.  But DOMA sought to severely undermine the choice states were making to legalize same sex marriage.  As a conservative who believes strongly in the wisdom of the framers in adopting a federal system of government, I found that offensive.

    Justice Kennedy, joined by the four liberals on the court, wrote the majority opinion in Windsor.   While Kennedy's opinion gives some pretense of being about federalism, the holding suggests that DOMA is unconstitutional by infringing on the "equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment."   Ah, that odd duck known as substantive due process.   Throughout the opinion, Justice Kennedy confusingly discusses the  encroachment of federalism through the guise of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.  There was no need to do so except probably to secure the votes of the liberals on the court who are generally opposed to federalist principles.

    Justice Scalia, in dissent, suggested the construction of Kennedy's argument was done so a "second, state-law shoe [could be] ... dropped later, maybe next Term."   Translation:  Scalia believes that next year the Supreme Court will use Windsor to find that state laws not allowing same sex marriage are unconstitutional.  Possibly, but I just don't think the votes are there for a sweeping decision that imposes a policy decision on the 50 states..  I think the Court will want to let the political process in the states play out.

    In the dissenting opinion conservatives found there was no standing,  That standing issue arose when the Obama administration announced it would not defend in Court the challenged portion of the DOMA, while at the same time enforcing DOMA to deny federal benefits to same sex couples.  But once that was disposed of and the dissenters proceeded to discuss the merits, they weren't ready to stand by the federalist principles they so often defend vigorously defend.

    I think the conservatives would have been much better off voting to overturn DOMA on federalism grounds (which approach I think Justice Kennedy would have readily endorsed) and letting the liberals join the majority conclusion via a concurrence that eschews the federalist approach.  The result would have been a stronger, more rational opinion that could have been used in later federalism cases.  Instead  conservatives on the Court ended up with a confusing equal protection opinion that could act as a catalyst for challenges to state laws prohibiting same sex marriage.

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Chairman of Homestead Tax Credit Commission Attempts to Conduct Secret Vote is Thwarted by Republican Councilor

    A big thanks goes out to Councilor Bob Lutz for standing up for the public and for the taxpayers.  On his blog, Deep Fried Politics, Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star reports on the interesting events that transpired at last night's meeting of the Local Homestead Credit Review Commission:
    Councilor Robert Lutz
    My journalist antennae sprung up Monday night just as the Local Homestead Credit Review Commission’s meeting started to get interesting. The members, after a half-dozen public sessions detailing budget minutiae and the complexities of the homestead property tax credit, were getting ready to vote on whether to recommend that the City-County Council keep that credit, eliminate it, or phase it out over a couple years. At stake, potentially, is $8.3 million in savings for the cash-strapped city/county budget, while most Marion County homeowners would kick in up to $30 extra a year on their property taxes once the credit is gone.

    Co-chairman Jim Steele, a former city controller under two Republican mayoral administrations, and commission staff had prepared paper ballots for secret votes, with plans calling only for announcement of the vote splits — not how each member had voted. All this, during a public meeting.


    Just as all kinds of red flags went up in my mind, council member Robert Lutz, who sits on the commission, spoke up to object. “This is a public body,” he said. “I don’t think we should do anything in anonymity.”

    He added: “I don’t care how you go about it, but when you vote and it affects people, we ought to tell them how we’re voting and why we’re voting that way.”

    Ultimately, seven of the 10 members voted for his motion to make the votes public. None of the rest, including Steele, opposed the motion. So the paper ballots stayed, owing to the complexity of the vote, but the clerk read each member’s preferences aloud as she tallied the votes on each issue.
    Murray proceeds to detail the vote on the key issue, the elimination of the local homestead tax credit.
    These commission members voted in favor of phasing out the tax credit:

    >>Jim Steele, co-chair.
    >>Beth Henkel, co-chair.
    >>Chris Pryor, government affairs director for Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors.
    >>Joe O’Connor, Marion County assessor (D).
    >>Jeff Spalding, City Controller’s designee (and former controller).
    >>Marilyn Pfisterer, City-County Council member (R), who isn’t on the commission but attended as the proxy for commission member Jack Sandlin, also a council member (R).
    These commission members voted to retain the tax credit:
    >>Dan Sellers, chief financial officer of Marion County Health and Hospital Corp.
    >>Robert Lutz, City-County Council member (R).
    >>Vop Osili, City-County Council member (D).
    >>Frank Mascari, City-County Council member (D).
    I believe the Commission was split evenly on partisanship with five Republicans and five Democrats.  The vote of the Democratic councilors, particularly Vop Osili's, tells me that the Democrats have already zeroed in on this proposed property tax increase as an issue to use against Republicans in the 2015 municipal election.  Reportedly some Republican councilors have concluded that this is a no win issue that could burn them in the election.  Yet, Mayor Ballard continues to insist that his own party's councilors leap off the political cliff with him.

    Same Sex Marriage Advocates Would Be Better Off Winning Their Issue Through Democratic Process Than By Judicial Decree

    Many of us are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the Court's decision in United States v. Windsor.   At issue in that case is the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines  “spouse,” and “marriage,” for all federal purposes, to exclude same-sex couples.  The result of that law is that many federal benefits, such as tax benefits, are not available to same sex couples even though they are legally married in states that allow same sex marriage.

    The betting is that some conservatives justices, mindful that DOMA undermines federalism, will join liberals on the court for a strong majority finding that the challenged portion of DOMA is unconstitutional.  At least that's my bet.

    The win on DOMA would be huge.  Congress passed the law just 17 years ago and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  Now I expect it will be gutted by a coalition of conservatives and liberals Supreme Court justices.

    But same sex advocates want the Court to go further, to find that there is a constitutional right for same sex couples to marry a finding of a constitutional right in a 220 year old document that no court had found before.

    First of all, those advocates need to low their expectations.  I doubt that more than two justices on the Supreme Court would vote to say the right of same sex couples to marry is guaranteed by the Constitution.  With raised expectation about the larger issue, same sex marriage advocates will look at anything less, such as a striking down of key parts of DOMA, as a loss. They shouldn't.  It would be a huge, huge win.

    But, second, while the Supreme Court declaring a constitutional right to same sex marriage would set off victory celebrations, the victory would be short-lived.  Politics is like physics. For every reaction, there is a reaction. Just like Roe v. Wade strengthened the pro-life side, the victory at the Supreme Court for those advocating same sex marriage would strengthen the side opposing that right.

    In Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court used an extremely tortured interpretation of the Constitution to short-circuit the political system and impose a certain policy view (abortion on demand for the first two trimesters) which at that time was accepted in only a handful of states.  The decision has never been accepted as legitimate by a sizable percent of Americans, and never will be.  Even liberals on the Supreme Court such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg admit Roe v. Wade was a mistake at the very least in terms of timing, i.e. the Court imposed a political decision on the country that people were not ready to accept.
    As slow and ugly as our democratic institutions can be, they are the way of achieving consensus and imparting legitimacy on policy decisions.  Same sex marriage advocates are routing opponents in legislatures all over the country.   Polls show soaring support for same sex marriage, especially among younger people.  Advocates are winning the issue where it should be won - in the political process.

    Another Violent Day in Indianapolis: Six More Shootings and Three More Homicides

    The Indianapolis Star reports:
    Six people were shot — three of them killed — in a wave of ­violence that swept through ­Indianapolis on Monday, one of the deadliest days of the year so far.

    The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department responded to two double shootings in the evening and found one man shot to death early in the morning. They also responded to a person who was shot and killed 20 minutes before midnight.
    The first shooting occurred about 4:30 a.m. on the city’s Westside, where police found one man in the 800 block of Cloverleaf Terrace....
    The second and third shootings occurred about 7 p.m. on the city’s Northeastside, where a car crashed into a tree after the driver and a passenger were shot in the 3800 block of North Layman Avenue..... Police found the driver of the green-blue car dead and his passenger shot several times in both thighs....

    The fourth and fifth shootings occurred less than four hours later on the city’s Eastside, where two people were shot in the legs in the 2000 block of Glenridge Drive....

    The sixth shooting occurred about an hour and a half later on the city’s Southside, where one person was shot and killed in the 1100 block of Henslow Lane....
    According to the Bart Lies blog which tracks homicides, we have hit 69 homicides for the year, on track for an incredible 143 before the year is out.  Thankfully we're getting that $6 million cricket field built just in time to stem this wave of violence.

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    Commission Recommends Higher Property Taxes in Indianapolis Through Elimination of Local Homestead Tax Credit

    The Indianapolis Star reports
    A bipartisan Marion County study commission tonight recommended phasing out the homestead property tax credit over two years, a move that could increase taxes slightly for most homeowners.

    The 6-4 vote indicated a split, with some Local Homestead Credit Review Commission members wanting to keep the credit. There also was a question about whether to count the vote of City-County Council member Marilyn Pfisterer, who supported phasing out the credit as a proxy for fellow Republican council member Jack Sandlin. Commission rules require six votes to make a recommendation, so it might not stand without her vote.

    The recommendation goes to the council, which created the commission as part of a bipartisan budget agreement with Mayor Greg Ballard.

    Let me tell you what was going on behind the scenes.  Republican Councilor Jack Sandlin could not attend the meeting tonight. Republican Mayor Ballard's administration was concerned there was enough votes on the Commission to support the increase in property taxes.  So another Republican Councilor Marilyn Pfisterer was told to attend the meeting to cast a proxy vote (of dubious legality) for Sandlin to ensure the elimination of the homestead tax credit passed.  So we had three Republican elected officials fighting to ensure residents' property taxes are increased.  The issue now moves on to the Indianapolis City-County Council.

    You can bet that local Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of running in 2015 against Republicans who voted to raise property taxes.   Unfortunately Republican councilors, with the consistent exception of Christine Scales, have supported every tax and fee increase that have been proposed in the last 5 1/2 years, and there have been a multitude of them.  But raising property taxes, given their enormous unpopularity, are on a completely different level.  If Republicans think raising property taxes won't have any effect on their re-election, they might spend some time refreshing their memories as to why Mayor Bart Peterson lost in 2007.

    Whistleblower Eugene Snowden Not Yet Charged With Crimes

    Eugene Snowden
    Numerous media outlets have filed stories reporting that Eugene Snowden has been charged by the Justice Department with several crimes, including "espionage."

    The information is in error.  Under the United States Constitution, Amendment V, in the federal system a person cannot be formally charged with a crime unless there is an indictment by a grand jury. That has not happened in this case.  What has happened is that an FBI  'special agent" filed a "Criminal Complaint"  in the Eastern District of Virginia Federal Court alleging that Snowden committed certain crimes along with an affidavit apparently providing facts. (The affidavit accompanying the one page of charges apparently has not been making public.)  That is a precursor to the United States making a request that Snowden be sent back to the United States.

    There is some confusion too on the charges.  Snowden has been accused by the FBI of the following:
    Theft of Government Property (18 U.S.C 641)

    Unauthorized Communication of Classified National Defense Information (18 U.S.C. 793(d)

    Willful Communication of Classified Communication Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person (18 U.S.C. 798(a)(3))
    While it has been widely reported that Snowden faces execution on "espionage" charges, I reviewed each of the code sections and each of the charges would appear limited to a 10 year prison sentence and a fine or both.  Of course, multiple acts could mean multiple 10 year punishments.   But I don't see how "execution" is even on the table as outlined in the Criminal Complaint.

    One thing that is not clear is how the government can be talking about or release publicly a criminal complaint that is under seal.  Reuters reports how the unsealing came about:
    The complaint, which initially was sealed, was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, a jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered and a district with a long track record of prosecuting cases with national security implications. After The Washington Post reported the charges, senior administration officials said late Friday that the Justice Department was barraged with calls from lawmakers and reporters and decided to unseal the criminal complaint.
    Under the federal rules whether to "seal" a complaint or an indictment is a judicial decision.  Once it is sealed, both parties, including U.S. attorneys and federal investigators, can get in trouble  for disclosing information about the complaint or indictment.   I don't know how those executive officials have the authority to "unseal" a judicially sealed criminal complaint in order to talk about it.  If there was grounds to unseal the complaint, which it appeared there were, that argument should have made to the court for the appropriate order unsealing the document.

    This discussion is not meant to endorse the apparently all too routine practice of federal courts sealing complaints and indictments without good cause.

    It appears though that the filing of this Criminal Complaint starts a 60 day clock on obtaining a criminal indictment from a grand jury.  The grand jury process generally is a one sided process where the jurors hear only the government's case.  While typically the grand jury will rubber stamp the federal prosecutor's request for criminal charges, this case though might be different.  About half of the Americans view Snowden not as a criminal but as a hero.  Some of those people may end up on the grand jury.

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Will Council Republicans Jump Off the Political Cliff With Indianapolis Mayor Ballard?

    It appears that possibly the local Democrats are getting smarter. I have said before that former Democratic Marion County GOP Chairman Ed Treacy blew the 2011 election, not only by losing the Mayor's race but by losing four council seats to Republicans in majority Democratic districts.  Due to an upset in Republican Susie Day's Beech Grove district and the Democrats, as expected, sweeping the at-large seats (which have now been eliminated by state law), the Democrats have been able to withstand the defection last year of Pike Township's Jose Evans to hold a 15-14 majority in the council.

    It shouldn't have been nearly that close though. While Treacy can't be completely blamed for the failure of Melina Kennedy to aggressively pursue issues that would have driven up Ballard's negatives, the fact is Treacy had control of the council races and, in those races, he chose not to attack their support of the Mayor's misplaced priorities and corporate welfare.  For example, just a couple direct mail pieces noting Councilor Janice McHenry's support of tax increases and $33.5 million for the Pacers the same week library hours were being cut for lack of funding, could well have ended her representation of that northwest side Democratic district.   But instead, Treacy kept the powder dry.  The only real exception was in Christine Scale's, slightly, Democratic district, and she was actually attacked by her Democratic challenger for not being sufficiently supportive of Republicans Mayor Ballard's downtown, corporate welfare agenda.

    The Democrats though now have a new county chairman, Joel Miller, who seems more skilled than Ed Treacy when it comes to basic political strategy.  They also have on the team Democrat Zach Adamson who understands the role of the "out" party when it comes to defining the incumbent Mayor prior to the election window opening.  In particular, Adamson saw the Mayor taking $6 million from the Rebuild Indy fund for a cricket park on the east side of Indianapolis, and smartly offered an amendment to an ordinance to take $6 million from the fund for a police recruitment class.  Adamson knew if the Mayor took the bait, it would make for a devastating 30 second television ad.  While pictures and stats of violent crime cross the screen, the ad will bring up the fact that the Mayor vetoed $6 million for new police officers while he instead chose to spend $6 million on a cricket field.   The Mayor's defense of his action would be too long for the debate.  Councilor Adamson and the Democrats dangled the bait before the Mayor and sure enough he took it.

    We will see though if the sudden rise in political craftiness on the part of Democrats will translate beyond the Cops v. Cricket debate.  Another chance to define the Mayor is coning.  The Mayor and Republican leadership on the council are planning to eliminate the local Homestead Tax Credit, which would result in the rise of property taxes for many residents.   Raising taxes, especially property taxes, is hugely unpopular. While Republicans have an explanation for why they want to eliminate the tax credit, at the end of the day it is still a tax increase and makes for an excellent 30 second spot for Democrats.  The Republican explanation for the elimination of the tax credit is way too long.  If the Democrats can hold together their caucus to vote against the elimination of the tax credit, a big "if," they will have another slam dunk political issue going into 2015.

    Republican councilors would be wise not to accept Mayor Ballard's invitation to commit political suicide by jumping off the political cliff on Crickets v. Cops and the property tax increase.  Three Republicans - Christine Scales, Robert Lutz, and Jose Evans - voted for the $6 million for a police officer training class.  Other Republicans should join them in a veto override and thus avoid the inevitable political allegation that they chose cricket over cops.  To vote on the wrong side of those two issues will certainly mean a Democratic Mayor and Democratic-majority Council come 2016.

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    WRTV Reports That Towing Prices to Rise by 44% Under New Monopoly Towing Contract Awarded to San Francisco Company


    Contrary to the reporting of the Indianapolis Star which suggested that towing prices would remain the same ($90) over the course of San Francisco-based AutoReturn's new five year contract, WRTV's Jack Rinehart has filed a story indicating there will be a dramatic increase in towing prices.  From his report:
    Through the first year of the contract, the cost of redeeming a vehicle from the police impound lot will remain at $90.

    In years two and three of the contract, the cost will jump to $110, and in the last two years of the contract, the cost will increase to $130.
    The increase in the towing charge from $90 to $130, is a 44% jump in just three years time.

    Probably the Star reporter simply repeated the City officials sales pitch that the towing prices would remain the same when in fact the City was misleadingly just referring to the FIRST year.  Rinehart either bothered to ask the follow up questions or actually reviewed the contract.  Regardless the score is: WRTV 1, Indianapolis Star 0.

    As reported previously, AutoReturn is a lobbying client of Barnes & Thornburg.   Mayor Ballard's Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn pushed the ordinance through that made the monopoly contract possible when he was President of the Indianapolis City-Council Council President.  He was at the time, you guessed it, an attorney for Barnes & Thornburg.   The Mayor's chief lobbyist and advisor is Joe Loftus, a Barnes & Thornburg partner.

    But I'm sure this is all a coincidence, just like it was a coincidence that ACS, a Barnes & Thornburg lobbying client, won the 50 year parking meter contract, with Barnes & Thornburg attorney and ACS lobbyist Vaughn casting the tie breaking vote.  Certainly ACS and AutoReturn won their contracts on merit and the Barnes & Thornburg connection had nothing to do with their success.

    See also:

    Thursday, May 23, 2013, Politically-Connected Law Firm Wins Indianapolis Towing Contract for California Firm

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013, City Panel Demands More Information on Towing Bids Before Approving Contract of California Towing Company

    State Senator Waltz Proposes Mass Transit Plan Based on Real Indianapolis-Area Commuting Habits

    Over at the Urban Indy blog, Curt Ailes proceeds to take aim at State Senator Brent Waltz's attempt to come up with a mass transit plan in opposition to the extremely expensive Indy Connect plan offered during the last legislative session.  Ailes' criticism comes a few months after the screeching objection of
    Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood)
    Indianapolis Star columnist Erika Smith who seems to have taken personal offense that someone is trying to come up with a different approach than the corporate insiders who sought to sell the public on the Indy Connect plan.  To Smith, Waltz's proposal amounts to the legislature "micromanaging" mass transit.  For Smith, it apparently would be much better for an appointed, unaccountable commission to decide how to spend the taxpayers money than elected representatives.  After all, it has worked so well with the Capital Improvement Board. (Sarcasm.)

    But I digress.

    Ailes focuses on the weakness of the Waltz plan, such as the lack of funding for a suggested road expansion.  But Ailes overlooks the strength of Senator Waltz's proposal.  Waltz recognizes that the Noblesville to Indianapolis light rail proposal in the Indy Connect plan, which is over 1/2 the cost of the plan, is of limited utility.  He correctly notes that Bus Rapid Transit is much cheaper and more flexible and would service many more people.

    But Ailes misses a bigger point about the Waltz plan.  Sen. Waltz actually begins his plan by looking at the travel habits of people in central Indiana and tries to design a plan to accommodate those habits.  He does not assume, as the Indy Connect plan does, that an overhaul of mass transit would result in a dramatic change in travel habits of Indianapolis-area commuters.

    The Indy Connect plan is a "build it and they will come" plan.  But as the studies show, only a tiny percentage of residents will change their commuting habits when presented with better mass transit options.  Indianapolis is one of the least dense large cities in the country.  Travel by automobile is easy.  People aren't going to suddenly give that up.  Any mass transit plan has to recognize that reality.  That's why Sen. Waltz's plan should be the starting point for mass transit discussions in the next session..

    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Indianapolis Mayor Ballard Chooses Cricket Over More Cops

    The Choice is Cricket!
    Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard took $6 million out of the RebuildIndy fund to build a cricket field out on the east side of Indianapolis.  But when a coalition of Democrats and Republicans passed a measure  to use $6 million of the Rebuild Indy money for a police recruitment class, which we haven't had in years, it was met with a veto.  Is cricket more important than cops in a city which is seeing a major upswing in violent crime?  Apparently for this administration the answer is a resounding "yes."

    The Indianapolis Star reports:
    Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard today vetoed a proposal that would have tapped $6 million from the city’s RebuildIndy public works projects fund for spending on police recruits.The expected move marks the second time the Republican mayor has vetoed a City-County Council proposal allowing spending from the RebuildIndy program for public safety recruit classes. Ballard has been protective of the fund, which the city started during his first term using $425 million in utilities sale proceeds.
    Okay, the last sentence is false as the Mayor's plan to spend $6 million from the fund on the cricket facility.  The article continues:
    Democrats rebuked the mayor’s veto, repeating their criticism of a RebuildIndy project that will add a $6 million world sports venue to the Far-Eastside.“As Indianapolis continues to get raped and robbed and murdered,” Majority Leader Vernon Brown said, “the mayor is spending money on cricket.”


     The council’s proposal would have set aside enough money, potentially, to pay for 60 recruits for one year.

    "This veto comes as Indianapolis is in the middle of an escalating wave of violent crime,” council President Maggie Lewis said in a statement issued in response to the veto. “To date, we have seen little action from the mayor as he instead spends his time on misplaced priorities including a cricket stadium and international travel.”

    She says Ballard’s plan to deal with police staffing shortages “comes a long six years after his pledge to make public safety a priority.”
    When a Republican is, rightly, being accused of reckless spending by liberal Democrats such as Vernon Brown and Maggie Lewis, you know it is a Republican who has no understanding of what it means to be a fiscal conservative.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    Indiana State Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb and Other GOP Officials Set to Step Down

    While I'm sure that some will try to claim this represents some sort of GOP division, the fact is that a new Governor has always been able to effectively choose the party chairman.  Eric Holcomb stayed on during the transition from Governor Mitch Daniels to Governor Mike Pence.  Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star reports on that and other departures:
    Indiana GOP State Chairman Eric Holcomb
    Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb and two other party officers are stepping down as part of several changes announced today to state committee members.

    The departures of Holcomb, Vice Chairwoman Sandi Huddleston and Treasurer Peter Deputy — three of the party’s four officers — will give Gov. Mike Pence a chance to make his mark on the future of the state party by influencing the committee’s leadership selection. Pence took office in January.

    Also announcing their departures from leadership posts today were former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, one of Indiana’s two appointees to the Republican National Committee, and Indiana GOP Executive Director Justin Garrett.


    The party’s new chair will be selected officially by the state committee, which includes chairs and vice chairs representing each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts. However, a sitting governor’s choice has never been rejected by either major Indiana political party.
    With Republican elected officials in virtually every statewide office and GOP supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, Holcomb would appear to leave the State Republican Party in excellent shape.  However, there is a growing political crisis developing in Marion County, the state's most populous county.  While Republicans in Indianapolis once enjoyed one of the best grass roots county political organization, in the country, that has not been the case the case for more a quarter century.  Beginning in the middle 1980s, the power and authority that once energized the grass roots party workers began to be taken away in favor of giving that power to party leaders. The situation in the past decade has grown increasingly worse, with party leaders assuming more and more power.  As a result, slating conventions, which used to feature spirited contests with energized precinct committeemen casting votes for their favorites, now involve tiny crowds ratifying the unopposed candidates pre-selected by party bosses.

    The increasingly autocratic approach of the Marion County GOP leadership has not only drained the grass roots of any incentive to work for Republican candidates, that approach has contributed to a dramatically shrinking GOP electorate in the county. While in 2000, the Republicans had a 50.09% majority baseline in the county, by 2012 it had shrunk to 38.21%.  In the last election, Governor Mike Pence lost Marion County to Democrats John Gregg by 80,618 votes.  The Marion County GOP deficit for Pence actually exceeded Pence's GOP deficit in Lake County, which was "only" 66,548 in 2012.  The days when the GOP vote in Marion County could be counted to offset the Democratic vote in Lake County is long gone.

    Naysayers undoubtedly will point to the exceptions such as Governor Daniels performance in Marion County in 2004 and 2008 and Mayor Ballard's win in 2007 and 2011.  But those are aberrations that don't disprove the overwhelming evidence that Marion County is rapidly becoming a major drag in statewide races.  The next Indiana Republican Chairman should make improving the organization in Marion County a priority.  If the GOP numbers in Marion County continue to decline, then Governor Pence and every Republican statewide candidate may pay the price at the polls.

    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    The Idiocy of "Traffic Calming" Along Broad Ripple Avenue

    Often in urban planning circles you will hear the concept known as "traffic calming."  The idea behind traffic calming is to slow down traffic through an area in order to create a safer walking and biking environment.  For those who advocate this philosophy, traffic congestion is a good thing.

    Slowing down traffic in residential areas makes sense.  But when you employ the tactic in commercial areas it has adverse, even unexpected, effects.

    One of the best examples of traffic calming is along Broad Ripple Avenue.   It used to be that when you reached the Monon heading east, Broad Ripple Avenue opened up to four traffic lanes, two each way.  A few years ago city leaders, supported by the Broad Ripple Village Association, the worst "neighborhood" association in the City, eliminated two traffic lanes in favor of bike lanes.  A middle turn lane was also added.

    As a result of the removal of the two traffic lanes along Broad Ripple Avenue it is now not unusual for traffic to back up so much so that drivers have to wait through multiple cycles of traffic lights to clear the intersection. Because of the traffic congestion, cars spend more time driving avenue using more gasoline and spewing more carbon monoxide into the air.  The bicyclists and walkers end up breathing more of that pollution.  Traffic calming is hardly good for the environment.

    Then you add to that the fact that many people will avoid shopping in Broad Ripple because they don't want to deal with the congestion on Broad Ripple Avenue.   In the world of the BRVA, this congestion will encourage people to get out of their cars at the edge of Broad Ripple and walk or ride a bike to do their shopping in the village.  It's a ridiculous concept before you even take into consideration that there is this thing in the Midwest known as WINTER.

    But here is another problem with the elimination of the traffic lanes along Broad Ripple Avenue...that traffic will divert to other streets.  Drop a few blocks south of the avenue to 61st Street and you will find that drivers are now using that purely residential street, which is only broken up by the occasional stop sign, to go from one side of Broad Ripple to the other.

    My guess is the residents around 61st Street do not appreciate the added vehicular traffic in their neighborhood. Not only does it endanger their safety and that of their children, it also lowers property values in their neighborhood.

    As I've said before, the good people of Broad Ripple deserve better representation than the Broad Ripple Village Association.   The village idiots are running that association.

    Saturday, June 15, 2013

    Indianapolis Mayor Ballard Doubles Down on Cricket Venture, Signs on to Three Year Deal to Host National Cricket Tournament

    Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star, pens an article this morning on our favorite sport here at Ogden on Politics, cricket:
    Indianapolis will host a revived U.S. amateur cricket tournament and championship beginning next year at a Far-Eastside complex that the city is developing into a world sports venue.

    City officials and the United States of America Cricket Association announced Friday that they have struck a three-year deal, through 2016, for an annual four-day tournament. The kickoff in late August 2014 will involve eight regional teams, each culling the 14 or so best players from amateur leagues within its boundaries.


    ....Mayor Greg Ballard and the Indiana Sports Corp. have pushed hard to win hosting rights. Ballard has taken criticism from some for spending $6 million to expand Post Road Community Park into a nearly 50-acre complex that will have five multi-use fields accommodating international sports, including cricket, lacrosse, Australian-rules football, Gaelic football, rugby and hurling. Its configuration can accommodate an overlay of two giant cricket fields.


    USACA has been criticized by officials in Broward County, Fla., for not doing enough to help attract more cricket matches in the last few years to the community’s $10 million stadium, which has permanent stands seating 5,000. That stadium is part of a larger $70 million regional park, and it hosted the last national cricket tournament three years ago.
    A recent IBJ article took note of Republican councilor Christine Scales criticism of the the sport's governing body and the priorities of the city as reflected in the cricket plans:
    “If we’re dependent on them, I’m worried,” said Republican City-County Councilor Christine Scales, a caucus renegade who co-sponsored with Democratic Majority Leader Vernon Brown a proposal to use $6 million from the Rebuild Indy fund to hire a new class of police recruits.

    Scales said she expects Ballard to veto the proposal, but she signed on as a co-sponsor to make a point about the administration’s spending priorities.... 
    The IBJ article unfortunately did not mention the work of Democratic Councilor Zach Adamson in smartly crafting an amendment that has now placed the mayor in the position of having to veto a bill to spend $6 million from the Rebuild Indy money on a police recruitment class which matches the $6 million the Mayor is spending from the Rebuild Indy money on cricket.   The point Adamson is making is that the Mayor has misplaced priorities, a point that is very difficult to dispute and will be a great campaign issue for the Democrats in 2015 should Ballard run for re-election.