Monday, August 31, 2015

Republicans Lose Abortion Issue if Public Debate is About Rape and Incest Exceptions

I ran across an article written by Jeff Greenfield a few days ago titled "How the GOP Loses the Abortion Debate."   I read it expecting to vehemently disagree with Greenfield and instead found myself concurring with his thoughts.

The premise of the article is that the Democrats are out of step with majority opinion on pressing abortion on demand for six if not nine months, paid for with public dollars no less but that Republicans let them off the hook when they demand an absolutist position on abortion to secure the nomination:
But this year , that distancing [from an absolutist position that does not include the rape and incest exceptions] may not come cost free. In the March “SEC primaries,” eight Southern states will cast their votes, and candidates will face a GOP electorate where a significant majority declare themselves “born-again” Christians. Back in 2012, Santorum won 11 primaries, running as a social conservative opposed to virtually all abortions. For
those Republicans with more nuanced positions—Jeb Bush, John Kasich—this could be a major problem. But for those embracing the “no exceptions” approach, what aids them in Dixie in March could be fatal nationwide in November.   
What about the Democrats? Their platform has embraced the essentials of the “pro-choice” position for the better part of four decades. (Back in 1992, Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey was barred from even addressing the Democratic convention to argue for a pro-life position.) But up until 2012, it framed the issue the way Bill Clinton had: that abortion should be “safe, legal—and rare.” 
In Charlotte, that last caveat  was erased. As it now stands, the platform simply asserts that “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” 
Read literally, this would permit abortions—paid for with public funds if necessary—for any abortion at any time for any reason. This is a view that the great majority of Americans reject. 
... 
In another time, a Republican candidate with a position like the one George W. Bush held might find some room to press the Democrat—OK, let’s assume it’s Clinton—on her views. “I disagree with my party’s platform, I favor exceptions,” this theoretical candidate could say. “Do you agree with your party that abortion should be permitted at any time for any reason? You’ve called those Planned Parenthood videos ‘disturbing.’ I find them disturbing too, for the casual way they deal with what you’ve called ‘potential human life.’” 
But with the Republicans more and more embracing the most rigid possible position on the pro-life side of the divide, the more it will relieve the Democratic nominee of the need to defend the absolutist posture on her side.
Greenfield is exactly right on how the politics and media coverage will play out.   Historically the GOP has gained a lot politically because of its pro-life position.  In recent years though that has become more problematic as Republican presidential candidates have been forced to eliminate the rape/incest exceptions from their pro-life positions at the demand of an increasingly hard-line GOP electorate.  That results in the media, urged by Democratic opponents, focusing on those exceptions deflecting focus from the very unpopular and out of the mainstream support of abortion on demand at any time, for any reason, position of the Democratic Party.

I understand the unborn child is a child regardless of how the baby originates.  Got it.  But it is also terribly important to me that we Republicans win the abortion issue.  Only 1% of abortions are due to rape or incest.  ONE PERCENT.    Do we really want to completely throw away winning the abortion issue over 1%?    Please, my fellow pro-life Republicans, let's not be that foolish.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

An Easy Way to Stop the Mass Shootings - Stop Giving the Shooters Publicity

Several years ago, Major League baseball struggled with the problem of fans running onto the field. MLB leaders eventually solved the problem.  How did they do it?  More security?  Harsh prosecutions of the offenders?  None of the above.  They got the networks to agree to stop broadcasting people leaving the stands and running across the field.  The theory was that the people were doing it for publicity and that if you don't give them the publicity they won't do it.

What motivates every mass shooter?  Publicity.  They do it because they want themselves and what they did featured prominently on CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC and the regular networks.  The shooters want to be the news for that day and often for the several days that follow.  The TV networks dutifully comply in giving the shooters what they want.

You cut off the publicity, at least the TV coverage, and the acts stop.   I know the government can't mandate that the TV networks not publicize these shootings, but those networks are certainly free to do so on their own.  Granted it would be difficult for the cable networks to not cover a shooting, but they need to acknowledge their own role in giving the shooters the very publicity that feeds the next act.

More gun restrictions won't make one bit of difference.  Any of the shooters determined to get the publicity will easily get a gun, illegally if they have to.  But you take away the publicity and the shootings will stop.  Guaranteed.

Hillary Clinton's Support in Iowa Plummets While Carson Moves Up to Challenge Trump

Sen. Bernie Sanders
In a Des Moines Register poll released this weekend, Hillary Clinton is shown with a narrow 37%-30% lead over Vermont Senator and avowed socialist Bernie Sanders.  More importantly than the closeness of the Iowa contest is the dramatic drop in Clinton's support in the state.  In late May, a Des Moines polls had Clinton with 57% support.  In that same poll, Sanders polled at 16%.  While Sanders claims that his supporters are not anti-Clinton, polling suggests otherwise.

On the Republican side, the Summer of Trump continues with the New York businessman scoring 23% in the Des Moines Register poll.  Soft-spoken physician, and favorite of many in the Tea Party, Ben Carson has moved up to challenge Trump at 18%.  All other candidates are in the single digits, including notably former Iowa leader Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (8%) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (6%).

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bloated Voter Rolls Propel Indiana to Third Highest Registration Rate in the Country

Indiana has 92% of its citizens registered to vote, the third highest state registration rate in the country according to a press release issued on Thursday by the election fraud watchdog True the Vote.  Indiana trails only Michigan (95%) and Kentucky (93%) in registration.

True the Vote found 136 counties in the United States with over 100% registration.  Using a slightly different methodology, the Public Interest Legal Foundation found 141.   In a press release issued this week by the PILF, those 11 Indiana counties are identified as Crawford (112%), Scott (107%), Franklin (106%), Brown (104%), Tipton (104%), Union (103%), Orange (103%), Dearborn (102%), Newton (102%), Warrick (101%), and Clark (101%).  The "bad county" list can be found here.  PILF is threatening litigation if the rolls are not cleaned up.

I went ahead and did the registration statistics for Indiana's five biggest counties (plus 200,000 in population) which don't appear on the list:  Marion (92.6%), Lake (95.0%), Allen (96.7%), Hamilton (97.3%) and St. Joseph (99.4%). 

Undoubtedly opponents will counter by attacking the messengers as being politically biased, these statistics are based on publicly available data.  All you do is need is the registrations for those counties, then divide it by the census figures for the adult age 18 year old population in the county.  That will give you the registration rate.  I'd welcome anyone disputing the numbers to actually take the time to pull up the data and do the math.

Whenever I hear complaints of Indiana's supposed low turnout rate usually accompanied with claims of electoral barriers erected by evil Republicans, I've pointed to Indiana's bloated registration rolls as the real reason that the Hoosier turnout rate appears low.  If you instead measure turnout by using Indiana's adult age population as the denominator, the state's turnout has remained remarkably steady and fairly average compared to other states.  Contrary to claims by opponents, real turnout (measure by adult population not inflated registration figures) has not dropped since Indiana enacted the voter ID law.

It used to be that Hoosier voters would be automatically removed from the voter registration lists in if they don't vote at least once in a four year period. Anyone who has worked the polls and handled voter registration will tell you if someone hasn't voted at that location for four years it is almost certain that the person is dead or has moved.   Unfortunately the National Voter Registration Act (Motor Voter Law) banned states from doing automatic purges of voters for non-voting.  Now to remove someone from the voter registration rolls is a very expensive and process.   As a result, voter registrations have soared.  In Indiana, before the Motor Voter law, we had a 69% voter registration rate.  Now it is 92%.

Congress could do states a favor and allow them to go back to automatic purges for non-voting.

See also: 

Monday, June 8, 2015, Hillary Clinton Proposes Worthless Voting Measures to Appease Democratic Partisans

Monday, February 23, 2015, Analysis Shows Indiana's Declining Voter Turnout Due Not to Restrictions But To Inflated Voter Registration Rolls

Wednesday, February 4, 2015, Indiana's Restrictions on Voters Worse than 1965 Alabama? It's Not Even Close

Wednesday, August 15, 2012, Turnout Figures Since Indiana Adopted Photo ID Requirement Does Not Show "Voter Suppression" as Claimed by Democrats

Saturday, June 2, 2012, 90% of Hoosier Adults are Registered to Vote

Tuesday, October 7, 2008, Vote Early & Often? -- 105% of Indianapolis Residents Now Registered to Vote

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Embarrassing Email Leak Exposes Indy Star Publisher's Plans to Use Newspaper to Advocate for LGBT Agenda

Thomas Rose, writing for Breitbart news, breaks an embarrassing breach of journalistic ethics by Indianapolis Star Publisher Karen Ferguson Fuson:
Breitbart News has exclusively obtained an email sent by the President and Publisher of the Indianapolis Star. It invites “community leaders” to help plan and coordinate an aggressive, highly orchestrated campaign to “persuade” the Indiana state legislature to adopt sweeping special protections for Indiana’s gay, lesbian and transgender communities.   
Karen Ferguson Fuson,
Publisher & President, Indy Star
The email, sent personally by Karen Ferguson Fuson, President and Publisher of the Star, was sent early this morning to an undisclosed list of business and media elites, together with gay rights activists. It pulls no punches in its scope or its goals. The email, in its unedited entirety reads as follows:
Dear Friends:  
The IndyStar is preparing this fall to launch an ambitious and aggressive Editorial Board campaign designed to persuade the governor and state lawmakers to expand Indiana’s civil rights law to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. 
We would like to privately brief you on our plans for the campaign, to explain ways in which you and your organization can partner with us, to answer your questions, and to hear your thoughts and possible concerns. Please join us for a meeting with community leaders on September 22, from 8:00 – 9:30 am at our offices, 130 S. Meridian St.  
We believe that it is critical for all of us to work together to drive this important change and to further the recovery from damage done to our state by the RFRA controversy.
Please join us as we prepare to continue this vital conversation about the future of Indiana. To RSVP, email [redacted]. 
Karen Ferguson Fuson,  
Group President, Gannett Domestic Publishing,  
President & Publisher, IndyStar
In reporting on RFRA this Spring, the Star continuously repeated the "license to discriminate" line of the law's opponents on its news pages, spreading the misinformation that RFRA was about denying service to the LGBT community and not about protecting religious freedom.  This was done despite a 22 year history of the national government and 30 states having RFRAs (by statute or judicial decision) in which RFRA had never once been used to overturn the application of an anti-discrimination law.   Now that RFRA passed, the Star's agenda has turned to attacking supposed damage to the state by RFRA, repeated as fact in the newspaper's pages without a shred of evidence in support of the claim.  In the email, Ferguson Fuson repeats claim as a rallying point to push for LGBT rights.

In the Society of Professional Journalists position paper on political involvement by journalists, the SPJ states that its members are to "remain free of associations that may compromise integrity or damage credibility."  Ferguson Fuson shreds this ethical standard;  her email not only suggests association to promote a political agenda, she expressly says she will help organize support for LGBT protections in the state's civil rights law and will use the resources of the newspaper to promote the group's agenda. 

Ferguson Fuson shreds any semblance of journalistic ethics by expressly using her role as President and Publisher of the Indianapolis Star to organize and lend assistance to one side of a public policy issue that the Star regularly reports on.  That she doesn't leave the issue on the State's editorial pages is evidenced by her newspaper's extremely biased reporting on the RFRA and LGBT issues.  It is further evidenced by the Star's refusal to report critically on taxpayer subsidies for the Indiana Pacers.  Ferguson Fuson divorced her husband and married Pacers Sports & Entertainment CEO Rick Fuson after relocating to Indianapolis.

Monica Boyer of Not on My Watch first brought the story to my attention.  She offers these tips at the conclusion of her article.
  1. Immediately drop your subscription to the Indy Star. Without readers, they have no advertisers. The number to call is 317-444-4000. Tell them you’ve decided to find other sources of news and their service is no longer needed. Not another dime to the Indy Star.
  2. It’s time to cut off the funding. Send us a list of their advertisers. ‪#‎cutoffthefunding‬ It’s time to see who is paying for this kind of bullying.
  3. Call your lawmaker. Tell them to get tough skin and prepare to do the right thing when they head to Indianapolis. Tell you will stand by them in support if they stand up for Religious Freedom. Tell them you will pray, call, email and whatever it takes. Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity laws are DANGEROUS to Religious freedom.  Several lawmakers have already said special rights for certain groups are more important than the First Amendment. It’s time to let them know we are watching.
  4. Become a Citizen Journalist. Make the Indy Star irrelevant by reporting the news yourself. It’s time to up our game and play offense instead of defense. Learn Social Media!!! If we got off the bench and into the game, they wouldn’t be able to bully our lawmakers like this. It’s easy, and it takes just minutes a day. It’s time to become citizen journalists and activate our social media skills. Email me if you are interested in setting up a class in your area.
  5. Pray for your Lawmaker. He/she will be going into a spiritual battle unlike many of them have seen. Call your prayer groups and churches and surround them with prayer.  It is NOT easy standing in this cesspool of anger and manipulation. Pray for them.
Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana also has an excellent article on the subject.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Free Speech Legal Expert Says Indiana State Fair Ban on Confederate Flag is Unconstitutional

Earlier this year, the Indiana State Fair announced it was banning exhibitors from displaying or selling the Confederate battle flag.  I warned at the time that that is a content-based restriction of speech and is very much unconstitutional.  In a Washington Post editorial published today, UCLA Law School Professor Eugene Volokh, an expert on free speech law, concurs with my assessment:
Recent news stories report that Indiana and Kentucky state fairs are barring exhibitors from selling or displaying the Confederate battle flag, or products containing that flag; Ohio seems to have done the same, and other fairs are considering it. But such bans violate the First Amendment.

Government-run fairs are “limited public fora,” see Heffron v. ISKCON (1981)), when it comes to the “exhibitors … [who] present their products or views, be they commercial, religious, or political” through the fair. This means the government can impose reasonable content-based restrictions on speech in those places, but not viewpoint-based restrictions. See Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010); Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Educ. Fund (1985). A ban on display or sale of Confederate flag merchandise is based on the viewpoint that many people perceive the Confederate flag to express.

...

But the Court in Walker reaffirms that even speech on government property can still be private speech, as to which the viewpoint-neutrality rule applies. For instance, the Court noted, “advertising space on city buses” is treated as involving private speech on government property; that was labeled a so-called “nonpublic forum” rather than a “limited public forum,” but the same viewpoint neutrality rule applies here. Fair booths are at least as much traditional places for private speech, even on public property, as are advertisements on buses. What the Court said in Walker about bus advertising — “the messages were located in a context (advertising space) that is traditionally available for private speech” and “the advertising space, in contrast to license plates, bore no indicia that the speech was owned or conveyed by the government” — is at least equally true for booths rented from a state or county fair.

Nor can the state avoid the problem by demanding that exhibitors enter into contracts promising not to display a Confederate flag. The limited public forum and nonpublic forum doctrine provides that the government may only impose reasonable, viewpoint-neutral restrictions. It can’t impose viewpoint-based restrictions, whether by ordinance, rule, or contract. I don’t know whether there are court challenges being planned to the fairs’ restrictions on Confederate flags, but if such challenges are filed, I think they will prevail.


Not only will a challenge to the Confederate flag ban likely prevail, Indiana taxpayers will be out hundreds of thousands of dollars defending an unnecessary lawsuit.  It is not sure if the Indiana State Fair officials consulted legal counsel before imposing ban, but they should have. The ban needs to be lifted before next year's fair.

Paul Attacks Trump for Supporting Use of Eminent Domain to Seize Private Property for Business

Kentucky Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul's op-ed piece on Breitbart is a must read:  
I remember having a conversation with a local city official in Kentucky when the Kelo Supreme Court decision came down. Conservatives, myself included, were outraged that the Supreme Court had wrongly allowed using eminent domain to take private property from one private property owner and give it to another private owner.    
Conservatives in my community came together with a local resolution to prevent this from happening. I’ll never forget the response from the local official, who told me: “But you know me, I would never use eminent domain that way.” I responded: “The law isn’t
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
about you—it’s about when we get bad representatives and must have the law to restrain them.”
...
Where was Donald Trump during this debate? He was busy using eminent domain to take a little old lady’s home and flatten it for a parking lot to park limos at his casino.    
When asked about the justice of using this bully force against property owners, Trump replied that he had no problem with it and that he supported the Kelo decision. 
Of course Trump did—the Kelo decision allows more crony capitalism. It puts big business and big government more and more in bed together, with ordinary Americans left out.
I ran for office in 2010 after spending my life outside of both big business and politics. I ran as a member of the Tea Party who was sick and tired of it all. Of the politicians. Of the people who sought to buy the politicians. Of the entire Washington machine.
Donald Trump cannot fix our problems because he is an integral part of the problem. From using government to seize property to enrich himself, to hiring lobbyists to get what he wanted, Donald Trump has bought access to government at all levels and exploited that access for personal gain. 
Now he wants you to give him power. We should ask ourselves—why?
Donald Trump is a fake conservative. Don’t let him destroy the limited government movement with chicanery and bluster. Frankly, you are not a conservative if you support this abuse of eminent domain, or the crony capitalism it enables.
Add Trump’s support for Obamacare and a single-payer government-run healthcare to his support for higher taxes, and you have nothing that is really conservative at all. Will Trump now change his opinion on the Kelo decision? Perhaps, but do we really want the leader of the ostensibly conservative party to be a fraud?
I think we deserve the real thing. A real conservative reformer who ran for the same reasons you would—for real change, not for power.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal Screens Planned Parenthood Videos for Protesters

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had a classic response when Planned Parenthood supporters showed up at the Governor's residence to protest his canceling the state's Medicaid contract with the organization.  Governor Jindal set up big screens on his law to show PP supporters the Center for Medical Progress' videos detailing Planned Parenthood activities.  Needless to say, PP supporters were so horrified by the videos they moved their protest to where they couldn't see or hear the videos.



Bottom line is Planned Parenthood suckers a whole lot of well-meaning people who believe the opposition to PP is about opposition to women's health services.  No, it is about the fact PP is the biggest provider of abortions in the country, a good quarter of those abortions are gruesome second term abortions.  PP's real goal is to continue its near monopoly on government grants for such services, a monopoly that squeezes out other non-profits which could provide such services to women, sans abortion.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Take on the Presidential Candidates Appearing at the Defending the American Dream Summit

This weekend I had a chance to attend the Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit held in Columbus, Ohio.  As my liberal friends will be quick to point out, AFP is funded by the Koch brothers, those "reactionary" billionaire brothers who fund conservative/libertarian causes and candidates.  Let's forget there are liberals on the other side - George Soros ring any bells - who do the same thing.

The summit was attended by, according to organizers, 3600 plus people who came from all 50 states.  AFP focuses on economic issues, particularly removing regulations and allowing the marketplace to operate without impediment.  An example would be fighting state and local taxicab regulations that are being used to try to shut down private enterprises like Uber.  Lest anyone thinks these are uncontroversial issues that Republicans can win on, AFP has also promoted right to work laws  and challenges to prevailing wage laws.  Those issues split off some labor supporting Republicans and GOP politicians.  Most notable among those is Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich who was criticized by some presenters at the convention for his failure thus far to support right to work and other labor reform measures.

Five presidential candidates appeared at the forum and spoke:  former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Bush's reception was polite.  He spoke entirely in front of the podium, going from one side of the crowd to another.  The presentation came across as a bit over rehearsed.  Unlike every other speaker, Bush didn't talk about the humble circumstances of his family's background - undoubtedly because he didn't have that background.  He threw a little red meat out to the crowd on some social issues, like the Planned Parenthood controversy, but avoided topics that might be divisive with the crowd.  Behind me a woman would periodically yell out "What About Common Core?" the nationalized education standards Bush supported that have become anathema to many conservatives.    Bush's speech didn't gain any supporters in the crowd, but it probably didn't lose what little support he had in the crowd before he started.

Next up that first day was Governor Jindal.  Jindal started out slowly. talking about his Indian immigrant parents and how they embrace the United States because of the opportunity this country provided them to succeed via hard work.  Jindal talked about his record in Louisiana in terms of economic development.  Jindal then turned to social issues, talking about his unwavering support for religious freedom.  The one that won over the crowd was Jindal's reporting what happened just a day or two earlier.  A crowd of Planned Parenthood supporters had showed up at the Governor's residence. to protest Jindal's cancelling of the state's PP contracts.  Jindal responded by setting up big TVs to screen the Center for Medical Progress' Planned Parenthood videos for them.  Needless to say the PP supporters couldn't stomach watching the videos so they moved further away from the residence.  By the end of Jindal's speech he had won over the crowd.  People rushed the stage to shake his hand.

On the second day the opening speaker was Cruz.  Cruz was easily the most popular presidential candidate at the convention.  He spoke entirely in front of the podium and connected well while dishing out red meat to the conservative audience, telling them all he would do on his first day in office.  Cruz sometimes comes across as a bit dowdy on the campaign trail, but when given the opportunity to talk at length he is a dynamic speaker.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Next up was Rubio.  The Florida Senator talked about his own humble beginnings.  He threw out the conservative red meat on economic and social issues that the crowd liked.  Because of his involvement in trying to work an immigration compromise, I had heard a lot of complaints about Rubio before the speech.  Rubio didn't address immigration in his speech, probably a wise move.  He won over a few people in the crowd, certainly more so than Bush, but I get the feeling he might not be seen as not quite ready for the presidency.  Unlike the others, Rubio has a tendency to come across more as a policy wonk type guy.  He also suffers from the unfortunate (at least for politics) affliction of looking ten years younger than his 44 year old age.   Even though Rubio and Cruz are the same age, Cruz for some reason seems older.

Last up was Perry.  The ex-Governor from the Lone Star state started out talking about his own humble background.  He then spoke about the economic success Texas had when the rest of the country was struggling through the Great Recession.  Perry took some jabs at unnamed Republican Governors running for President (undoubtedly Walker and Bush) who supported certain things in office and something else entirely on the presidential campaign trail.  Perry consistently tied his views to his record, for example saying he was opposed to Common Core and accepting federal Race to the Top money from the beginning.  Perry then started telling touching personal stories of his talking to WW II veterans and viewing where U.S. soldiers landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day.  When Perry did that he left the podium to walk toward and reach out to the audience, a move that gave his comments greater impact than if he had stayed behind the podium the entire time or never used it at all.  Of all the speakers, I would rate Perry the best with Cruz second and Bush last.  Perry certainly won over many in the crowd. Unfortunately for Perry though it is probably too late to save his campaign.

The presidential candidate discussed the most at the conference was Donald Trump.  I heard a considerable number of favorable comments about Trump.  But I also overheard numerous conversations of attendees trying to educate other conservatives on Trump's numerous statements on economic and social issues which demonstrate Trump was a liberal in the not so distant past.  I left with the impression that half the conservatives at the event (almost all of whom are very much anti-GOP establishment) wanted Trump as the nominee, while the other half will support anyone but Trump as the nominee.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pointless Anti-RFRA Campaign Spurs Revival of Indiana Religious Conservative Political Power

Remember this spring when Governor Mike Pence and the Republican legislature were being ripped over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?  Opponents of the RFRA, including Freedom Indiana, had disingenuously and successfully billed the proposed law as a "license to discriminate."  The media, chief among them the Indianapolis Star, helped spread that nonsense despite the fact that not once in 22 years has a RFRA at the national or state level (and 30 states have RFRAs by statute or by judicial fiat) been used to override an anti-discrimination law.

Governor Mike Pence
When the well-orchestrated and last minute attack on RFRA took place, Indiana religious conservatives were caught flat-footed.   They were at home certain that what they expected was a non-controversial bill protecting religious freedom would sail through the legislature.

In RFRA's aftermath, Indiana political experts on such programs as Indiana Week in Review opined that the RFRA public relations slaughter signaled a new age in Hoosier politics.  They argued that the LGBT forces were the new power players in politics while religious conservatives no longer reigned supreme. We were told Governor Pence's political future was over as were other Republicans who signed on to RFRA.  

At the time, I felt like the lone wolf howling in the woods.  I argued that Indiana RFRA politics were being seriously misjudged.  I claimed that the attacks on RFRA would spur a backlash from religious conservatives who would be spurred to get off their rears, get re-organized and back into the political game.  

I also made the point that the LGBT community made a huge mistake in going after RFRA, which was completely irrelevant to that community's cause of expanding Indiana's anti-discrimination laws.  In contrast to its same sex marriage campaign, Freedom Indiana and its corporate allies took a very negative approach to RFRA, targeting and threatening any Republican who dared to support religious freedom.    The approach, I argued, burned a lot of political bridges.  While not advancing LGBT rights one bit, Freedom Indiana's political strategy set their cause of a statewide anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation back considerably.

Sunday, March 29, 2015, RFRA Fallout: Expect Freedom Indiana's Vicious PR Tactics to Re-Energize Conservative GOP Base

Saturday, March 28, 2015, Freedom Indiana's Vile, Pointless Anti-RFRA Campaign Greatly Undermines Goal of Passing Sexual Orientation Anti-Discrimination Law

This is the column in which I get to say I was right and they were wrong.

The precursor to the Indiana 2016 General Assembly is taking place all across the state, in places like Goshen, Elkhart and Carmel. Those cities' attempts to enact local human rights ordinances that include protections for sexual orientation have been met with fierce resistance from religious conservatives.  Just this week, an estimated 5-1 public turnout against the Carmel ordinance forced
Mayor Jim Brainard and council members to back down on the plan to fast track the proposal and send the proposal to committee.  Mayor Brainard also discussed amending the measure to protect religious freedom from being trampled by the anti-discrimination proposal, a far cry from his earlier statements suggesting people need to leave their religion at the church door.  While no one expects Carmel elected officials, almost all of which can be classified as RINOs, to abandon their efforts completely to pass a local HRO, the fact that the City's fervent supporters of the measure have had to blink several times at the fierce opposition is already a victory for opponents.

The fallout from the anti-RFRA campaign is that religious conservatives have become re-energized and better organized.   The changing political winds will undoubtedly help Governor Pence and Republicans going into the 2016.   While religious conservatives are still mad about the "fix" (which in my opinion and that of other attorneys had no legal effect whatsoever), I think they will gladly back Pence over Democrat John Gregg who during the RFRA debate made the political miscalculation to oppose protections for religious freedom.   

NOTE:  In an earlier column, I mentioned Carmel Councilor Sue Finkam's emailed retort to Carmel resident Betty Johnson Harvey that she would help her find a mover since the constituent opposed the Carmel human rights ordinance.  Finkam publicly apologized for the comment at Monday's Carmel Council meeting for the comment.  That was a classy and appropriate thing to do. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hillary Clinton's Polling Numbers Continue to Slide

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
For the first time in over 2 1/2 years of polling, support for Hillary Clinton among Democrats has dipped below 50%.  In a Fox News poll released this weekend, Clinton polls at 49%. Also, for the first time a Democratic challenger - in this case Bernie Sanders - has closed within 20%.  Sanders is polling 30% of the Democratic electorate.  Just two weeks a Fox News poll had him at 22%. 

The Fox News poll also has some interesting head-to-head matchups.  Clinton leads Donald Trump nationally 47-42, a significant narrowing of that contest. Meanwhile Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio lead Clinton by 2% while Carly Fiorini trails Clinton by 7%.

Of course, these national numbers are not nearly as important as the numbers from early primary/caucus states.

Information on these polls can be found at Real Clear Politics.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Political Activist Schools Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard on Meaning of Religious Free Exercise Clause

I was meaning to sit down and write a piece saying why Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard limited view of the Free Exercise Clause (only protects "right to worship"), but I found that political activist Monica Boyer, who is not attorney but knows a heck of a lot more about the First Amendment than Brainard who once worked as an attorney, had done the work for me:

In support of the Carmel human rights ordinance, Mayor Brainard stated:
I feel it is important that we recognize there is a distinct difference between how we worship our God in our churches, our homes and our hearts versus how we live, play and
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
conduct business in the melting pot of mixed faiths and passions that we call America. 
Boyer alertly and correctly pointed out that Mayor Brainard is flat out wrong in how he believes the Free Exercise Clause works:
In our churches?  In our hearts? I think it is time for the Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel Indiana to have a lesson on the First Amendment and what it really means to Hoosiers.   
There is a great big difference between “Freedom of Worship” (the term Mayor Brainard is speaking of), and “Religious Freedom” intended by our founding fathers.   
Let me give a him a quick lesson.  The Obama Administration has already done this.  Early in his presidency, when Mr. Obama was on one of his apology tours in Cairo, he began to replace the term “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship.”  I’ve even heard the term “freedom of worship” tossed around by my own peers!  This is dangerous! Very dangerous! Let me tell you why.
Redefining the terminology allows the government to redefine what it protects.
Religion centers on a core belief system. Worship is just ONE factor of that. Many countries, such as Romania and Saudi Arabia, have the “freedom of worship,” but their people have no freedom of conscience, no freedom to spread the Gospel or practice religion in the public square. This is one of the main commandments of the Christian faith. Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations in Matthew 28. The church is NOT a building. The church is the PEOPLE living in the public square. 
So when Mayor Brainard says we need to recognize there is a distinct difference between how we worship our God in our churches, our homes and our hearts versus how we live, play and conduct business in the melting pot…he is stripping you of the freedom to live your faith in the public square. That is not religious freedom and directly flies in the face of the First Amendment of our Constitution. 
It’s about time we start paying attention to the fine print! 
Let me translate his quote above: If you are a person of faith, go to church on Sunday and shut the door. Do what you need to do. When you leave the church, you will serve the god of the State. In other words, play church on Sunday, shut up on Monday and Tuesday. 
Mayor Brainard may make himself feel better with his “moral preening” and feel good ordinance, but quite frankly, he needs to be more concerned about protecting our Constitutional rights. Starting with the 1st Amendment.
Boyer is exactly right.  The Free Exercise Clause does not just protect one's right to worship, but the right to PRACTICE one's faith, including outside of the Church's walls.  Brainard is flat-out wrong that the Free Exercise Clause only protects the right to worship.

Boyer's piece goes on to address the Carmel ordinance.  It is a must read.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Carmel City Council Schedules Quick Vote on Controversial Human Rights Ordinance

The Carmel City Council has scheduled a quick vote on a proposed human rights ordinance. While I haven't seen the exact wording of the ordinance introduced on Monday, according to the Indianapolis Star the measure protects the following classes from discrimination:
gender identity or expression and sexual orientation as well as race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, family or marital status, ancestry, age and veteran status
The ordinance opens the door to applications its supporters probably never thought about.  What about men's or women's clubs or groups that limit membership by age?  Or companies that prefer veterans over non-veterans, or try to hire the disabled?  What about a Carmel Chuck E' Cheese that wants to boot out an older person hanging around the kids?  

What the sponsors of this measure, and Mayor Jim Brainard do not understand is that these types of measures have to be carefully written because often in the course of trying to eliminate discrimination you can open the door to more discrimination.

Carmel Councilor Sue Finkam
Of course, unforeseen problems could be made foreseen through the committee process, with public testimony and other constituent input.  The council and the Mayor obviously are not interested in public input as they have scheduled a vote on the measure next week, barely a week after it was originally introduced.

That Carmel elected officials are dismissive of the public's opinions on this HRO is evident from Councilor Sue Finkam's highly snide retort to her constituent Betsy Johnson Harvey.  When the Carmel resident expressed strong objections to the ordinance, Finkam replied that she would help her find a mover.

At least Finkam's response was coherent. Mayor Brainard's legal justification for the ordinance ...not so much:
The ‘free exercise of religion’ guaranteed to U.S. citizens in the First Amendment to the Constitution does not give one the right to discriminate. If one were to claim that their religion allows discrimination in treatment of certain groups does it not follow that one can then be exempt from being charged with murder, robbery, theft and other crimes so long as it is done under the auspices of some ‘religion?
There is just so much wrong with this statement.  Unfortunately I don't have time to address all the problems.  Obviously Mayor Brainard's long abandoned legal practice did not include dealing with constitutional law.

Why Aren't Liberals Demanding that Wal-Mart End Racial Segregation of Its Book Shelves?

Target recently decided to stop segregating toys by gender, i.e. male and female toys.   That returned me to a subject I discussed a few years on Facebook but I had not blogged about - racial segregation of the Wal-Mart book section.

I was walking through my local Indianapolis northwest side Wal-Mart in 2011 when I came across the store's book section.  I could not believe it.  All the black authors or books with black people on
the covers were in one section. The white authors and books with white people on them were in another section.  We're not talking about an African-American history section.   Both fiction and non-fiction, regardless of subject, were placed on shelves according to race. 

It turns out this particular store on Lafayette Road is not the only Wal-Mart that does this.  The September 2010 issue of the CleveScene discussed an article that an Akron Beacon Journal columnist did on the subject:
Wal-Mart is in the business of making money. The process by which it does so is attracting a certain brand of consumer and keeping things simple. 
This goes for selling books just as much as it does for hawking economy-sized packages of tube socks.
Grouping books together by general topic and genre for easy perusal is how the book world operates. It's convenient, tried and true, and intuitive even to the book-shopping novice.
Ohio Wal-Marts take it a step further, putting works by and about African Americans in a section by themselves and not including them in their larger categories.
Make sense? No, but that's what Akron Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer discovered.
Because it's not enough to separate books like every other bookstore in America, breaking up fiction, history, self-help, sports, art, music, etc.
Obviously a young white male interested in sports wouldn't want to have any sports books involving African Americans mixed in with the rest of the offerings. And if you're a black female looking for a book about religion, you certainly wouldn't want to peruse any book written by a white pastor.
At the Walmart on Arlington Road in Springfield Township, you'll find two fancy, hardcover books by people who are household names in professional football. Drew Brees, quarterback of the 2009 Super Bowl champion. 
New Orleans Saints, smiles on the cover of Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity. Tony Dungy, coach of the 2006 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, smiles on the cover of The Mentor Leader.
But you won't find those books side by side. Why? Because Brees is white and Dungy is black. 
The black guy goes in the black section. After all, who other than a black person would want to read a book by an insightful, ethical, inspirational football coach?   
At the Walmart in Montrose, Storm Warning, by hugely popular white pastor Billy Graham, can be found in the religion section. But Life Overflowing, by hugely popular black pastor T.D. Jakes, is in the black section, along with Dungy and Obama and Sister Souljah and Adrienne Byrd and all those other people whom Walmart believes are pretty much the same.
I am not aware of any other store in the country that segregates books by race.   Yet remarkably, liberals who successfully demanded that Wal-Mart not sell the confederate flag in its stores, seem to have no problem with blatant racial segregation of books within the store.  I wonder if liberals would be offended if Wal-Mart installed "white" and "colored" drinking fountains?  Probably not. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Black Lives Matter Protesters "Take Over" Seattle Rally for Bernie Sanders

The organizers of these rallies need to get better security.  You can bet Hillary Clinton would have never allowed protesters to "take over" one of her events.  And rightfully so.  Free speech does not include the right to interrupt someone else's speech.  Sanders looking sheepishly on from the background does not look very presidential.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

On Eve of Debate Governor Scott Walker Signs $450 Million Corporate Welfare Bill for Milwaukee Bucks

Today Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will sign a bill obligating Wisconsin taxpayers to contribute nearly half a billion dollars to subsidize the NBA Milwaukee Bucks in building a new arena.   That Walker would do such a thing in the midst of a presidential run, and on the eve of the first major debate, shows how clueless he is about the toxicity of corporate welfare among tea party types as well as mainstream conservatives.  Not so surpisingly, Governor Walker attempts to spin the deal as good for taxpayers:
"It's critical not only for those who love sports, but the main reason I got into it was because it protected state revenues," Walker said last week, citing the income taxes Wisconsin would lose if the team leaves the state. "That just creates a big hole for everything else. ...This was really about protecting the taxpayers of the state." 
Gov. Walker makes the case for the stadium
(Photo Credit: www.politifact.com)
Walker's statement is pure nonsense.  The subsidization of professional sports teams, which are invariably owned by billionaires, has been panned as a terrible investment for taxpayers in virtually every academic study ever produced.  Neil DeMause, author of Field of Schemes, destroyed Walker's argument that it is cheaper to keep the Bucks in a piece published by Vice Sports:
Walker's office has put out a slew of charts claiming to show that the Bucks arena would be a good deal for taxpayers, charts that have gotten recycled a ton in the print and web media, because charts. For example, who can argue with this?


Chart courtesy of Fox6NOW
The tower on the left is bigger than the one on the right! And in color! No one could possibly be afraid of a pleasing taupe!
So what, exactly, do those "No Arena" loss numbers mean? The top one is the simplest to understand: It's the $120 million that the governor estimates it would cost to maintain the Bucks' current home, the Bradley Center, for another ten years. 
Those estimates, though, don't exactly match reality. First off, $20 million of that is existing debt on the Bradley Center, which the state would have to pay off regardless. Likewise, the state would have to pay for maintenance and upgrades on a new arena as well if the Bucks stayed—something that's yet to be negotiated, but could be substantial, given that a new building would have more expensive things that could break. And finally, the Wisconsin legislature's own independent legal advisers say the state wouldn't be on the hook for any upkeep if the Bucks left. So trim that green rectangle down to a thin slice.
The red and blue  are both parts of another Walker-concocted number: The future income taxes to be paid by Bucks players and staff. The bottom slab, $130 million, is what the state would bring in from team income taxes over the next 20 years if NBA payrolls stay the same. The top slab, $169 million, is projected earnings from future increases in player salaries. 
An offer the  state can't refuse, right? There are two problems here. First off, as we've discussed here in the past, you can't just total up all of the taxes paid by a sports team and assume they'd disappear if the team left, for the simple reason that then people would spend their money somewhere else, a somewhere else that might well pay Wisconsin income taxes....
And as for Walker's future revenue projections, I previously calculated that for his income tax numbers to come true, the average NBA salary would have to reach $33 million by the year 2046. And while that's plausible given current salary trends, it also envisions a future where our children are paying $1000 a month for their cable bill, which means any taxpayer windfall could easily be wiped out by the increasingly-likely downsizing of the Sports Cable Bubble, and/or the Cable Riots of 2045.
There's another argument that keep-the-Bucks-at-any-cost types have been making, and it's best summed up as: A new arena will lead to lots of other stuff getting built, whereas the Bucks leaving would leave Milwaukee a rubble-strewn wasteland! This is the focus of the Bucks' incredible promotional video in which a magic basketball unleashes a glowing green shock wave of redevelopment that turns all of Wisconsin to color. (Clearly somebody on the Bucks marketing team has a thing about The Wizard of Oz. Or maybe Wrath of Khan.)  
It's one of the core arguments in the I'm-a-billionaire, so-buy-me-a-stadium playbook, and remains so even as economists continue to find zero evidence that it's worked anywhere ever. The classic study here was conducted way back in 1987 by Lake Forest College professor Robert Baade, who compared several cities with and without teams and found zero evidence that new sports venues do squat for increasing per-capita income in their home cities. Other economists have looked at the same question from different angles—what if we look at income in every major city? What about during strikes and lockouts? What about sales tax receipts?—and similarly found nothing, to the point that there are relatively few new studies on the subject, because most economists consider the question asked and answered. 
But none of these is quite what we're looking for: a city that lost its team and how it fared afterwards. A recent paper by Brad Humphreys and his West Virginia University colleague Adam Nowak looked at one of the more notorious recent NBA relocations—the Seattle Sonics' flight to Oklahoma City in 2008—and examined yet another marker of economic health: condo sale prices. According to their findings (which involve a lot of math with Greek letters, so tread at your own risk), after the Sonics left Key Arena, nearby property values around Key Arena rose faster than those farther from the now-NBA-free arena, leading the authors to conclude that people don't actually want to live near NBA arenas thanks to the "traffic, crowds, noise, trash, and other activities associated with NBA games." 
Humphreys, who is currently working on yet another paper looking for any sign of a surge in new restaurants and bars around sports venues (SPOILER: He couldn't find any), says he thinks it's time to conclude that losing a sports team has no economic costs for a city. "I keep trying to tick off all the boxes," he says: per-capita income, employment, economic activities during strikes, none have shown any measurable impact from sports teams' presence. "I don't think there's any support whatsoever to the claim that a city's economy is going to suffer when a team leaves."  
So what does that mean for Wisconsin and the piles of cash it just foisted upon Edens and Lasry? Simple: if there's really demand for tons of downtown development in Milwaukee, the city could probably take advantage of it and build stuff with or without a new arena—or the team itself. In fact, when economist Geoffrey Propheter studied NBA arenas in particular, he concluded that arena builders are more often seeking out areas ripe for takeoff rather than revitalizing rundown zones—or as he put it, "professional sports are not the cause of development so much as they are the effect."
Walker is right on a lot of issues, but on corporate welfare he's dead wrong.  What is most troubling is that the research is out there almost universally condemning professional sports subsidies, yet Walker chooses to ignore it in favor of handing over the tax dollars of hard working men and women to billionaire sports team owners.  Is there a credible argument for why Walker should be allowed anywhere near the federal treasury given his position on the Milwaukee Bucks bill?

Governor Pence End Questionable BMV Contract, Calls for an Investigation

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Gov. Mike Pence is canceling a Bureau of Motor Vehicles contract with private license branch operator Express MVA and requesting a formal ethics investigation into a top BMV official who took a job at the company after allowing it to charge customers a “convenience fee” whose legality has been questioned.
“This Administration is committed to a government that is as good as our people,” Pence
Governor Mike Pence
said Monday. “After this matter was brought to my attention, I called for the contract with ExpressMVA to not be renewed when it expires in October. I also asked for an investigation by Indiana’s Inspector General to ensure that state government adheres to the highest levels of transparency and full disclosure.”
Those moves come in response to an Indianapolis Star investigation published last week. The Star found that former BMV Chief of Staff Shawn Walters allowed a relatively small contractor called Express MVA to open a private license branch complete with BMV-issued workstations and access to the BMV’s computer system.
The arrangement cost the state no money, but allowed the company to charge customers — including auto dealerships — a so-called “convenience fee” for title and registration work traditionally provided by the BMV. Those fees can double the cost of the services and are often passed on to car buyers, who may not realize they could save money by going to a local license branch.
Walters then took a newly created executive job with Express MVA without seeking an opinion from the state’s ethics commission.
State law requires a one-year cooling-off period for employees who want to take a job with a company that does business with the state. The law is intended to prevent private companies from using lucrative jobs to entice or reward state officials who have the power to award them contracts.
This BMV fiasco dates back to the administration of Governor Mitch Daniels.  Unfortunately, Governor Daniels ran a very loose ship when it came to his office supervising the work of the state's administrative agencies.   It is good to see Governor Pence take a more aggressive approach to his role as the state's chief administrator.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

As Hillary Clinton's Campaign Falters, Democratic Establishment Sends Joe Biden to Warm Up in Bullpen

The Guardian reports on the increasing likelihood that Vice President Joe Biden will make a run for the Democratic presidential nomination:
Vide President JOe Biden
The vice-president, who has twice mounted runs for the White House, signaled he was still open to exploring a third presidential bid this weekend when longtime aide Josh Alcorn joined the Draft Biden Pac. This was the first official link between Biden’s close-knit circle of loyalists and the effort mounted by fans of the vice-president to encourage him to jump into the 2016 campaign.
Those close to Biden emphasized to the Guardian this week that the vice-president has still not made a decision about whether to run for president. Instead, they noted that Alcorn’s move should be read as a signal that Biden hasn’t ruled out a run and that his supporters should not yet sign on with other campaigns.
Biden has long indicated to supporters that he would make a final decision about a presidential campaign at the end of the summer. While this would be a very late start for a presidential campaign by modern standards, it would still allow Biden to appear in the first Democratic debate as well as to speak at the Iowa Democratic party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, which is a major event on the primary calendar.
While Biden’s late son Beau reportedly urged his father to run for White House from his deathbed, it is unclear whether all members of the Biden family share this enthusiasm. A third presidential campaign for Biden would be an uphill fight against former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who has locked up significant support from the Democratic establishment. However, amid the constant drip of scandal surrounding her use of a private email server, her campaign has been marked more by acquiescence to a seemingly inevitable candidate than genuine enthusiasm.
It has become increasingly apparent that Hillary Clinton has enormous trust issues.  Besides the email fiasco, there is also questions regarding the Clinton Foundation and whether Hillary Clinton used her position as Secretary of State to aid fundraising for the Foundation. 

But besides the trust issues, the real problem with Hillary Clinton as presidential candidate is she lacks the personality and skill set to be a good presidential candidate.  She is thin-skinned, secretive, and testy when challenged. On the campaign trail she refuses to address basic issues, such as whether she supports Keystone Pipeline or the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.   Although those issues are deeply divisive among Democrats, her "solution" to not express an opinion strikes of naivety.

Bottom line is, when it comes to political skills,Hillary Clinton is no Bill Clinton.

The Democratic establishment may well have made a mistake to put all their faith in a candidate who has never proven herself to be a strong campaigner.  Let's not forget in 2008, when Hillary Clinton had all the institutional advantages her party could offer, she lost the presidential nomination to a first term Senator from Illinois.

Republicans would be wise though to not celebrate Hillary Clinton's 80 mile an hour fastballs down the middle of the political plate.  The Democrats have called on VP Joe Biden to warm up in the bullpen.  Biden, for all his gaffes and goofiness, is a much more skilled politician than Hillary Clinton ever thought of being. His willingness to speak his mind, often embarrassingly so, would be a powerful draw for an electorate begging for candidates to be authentic and talk straight to them.