Thursday, May 25, 2017

Montana Special Election Shows What Is Wrong With Early Voting

I have never been a fan of early voting, but after last night's debacle in Montana I am dead set against it.

For those who haven't been paying attention, on the eve of a special election Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, "body slammed" Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs who dared to try to ask the candidate about the CBO scoring of the Republican health care plan.  Then to compound matters Gianforte's campaign issued a press release blaming the incident on the reporter. NPR reports:
Gianforte's campaign spokesman claimed in a statement that Jacobs interrupted an interview "without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began
asking badgering questions.

"After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground," Gianforte spokesperson Shane Scanlon said. "It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."
Unfortunately for Gianforte, Jacobs had an audio recording of the altercation and Fox News reporters were nearby waiting to interview Gianforte.  The recording and the Fox reporters contradicted Gianforte's "alternative facts" his campaign tried to spin, namely that Jacobs and not Gianforte instigated the incident.  Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

As a result of the attack, several Montana newspapers immediately revoked their endorsement of Gianforte.  But the wannabe thug will probably get elected to Congress despite widespread negative publicity the day before the election.  Why?  Because close to 70% of Montanans have already cast their ballot due to the state's liberal early voting laws.

I am not against making voting easier.  In fact, I am a strong supporter of vote centers, which would allow voters to cast ballots at any county voting location on Election Day.  As far as early voting, that reform has not been shown to increase participation, but only changes when people who are going to vote cast their ballots.  But the negative is that early voting results in people casting ballots long before the campaign narrative has played out  It is like allowing jurors to cast votes in a trial before all the evidence is in.  Well, in politics, all the evidence is not in until Election Day.  Sadly 70% of Montana voters are stuck with a choice many of them now regret.

Hopefully, the Gianforte experience will help put the brakes on early voting.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Carmel Mayor Crashes City Vehicle...Again

The Indianapolis Star reports:
[Carmel} Mayor Jim Brainard crashed his city-provided 2017 Ford Fusion hybrid into another motorist last month, IndyStar has learned. 
No one was injured or cited in the crash, although the driver of the vehicle Brainard hit faces a charge for driving without a license. 
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
Brainard was driving northbound on 3rd Avenue SW around 2 p.m. April 20 when he crossed the center line along the curve north of Carmel Drive, according to the Carmel Police Department report. Jose Guzman Uribe, 36, Indianapolis, was driving southbound in a 2006 Chevy Silverado hauling a trailer for his lawn-mowing business. Brainard crashed into the trailer. 
The mayor told police he was feeling fatigued before he crossed the center line, according to the report. 
... 
[Carmel Spokeswoman Nancy Heck] said city employees are required to submit to a drug and alcohol screen in crashes while driving city vehicles, if there is injury or a vehicle was towed. Brainard's car was towed, but Heck said elected officials are exempt from the rule. She said the responding officer can choose to administer a test if he or she feels it's warranted. Lt. Joe Bickel, Carmel Police Department's public information officer, said it is up to the officer at the scene to decide whether to conduct a sobriety test or cite a motorist involved in a crash. In this case, the officer didn't think either was warranted.

... 
It's not Brainard's first crash in a city-provided vehicle. In November 2002, he T-boned a school bus in a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer, while attempting to turn left on 99th Street to Westfield Boulevard. No one was injured, but both vehicles were damaged.
I have questions. First, why did it take more than a month for this accident to be publicly reported? Usually, newspapers monitor public records but maybe it was just missed.  Second, while I take the police at their word that there was no cause for a sobriety test, the fact is Brainard admitted crossing the center line which is plenty of cause to be ticketed for that offense.

By the way, the article also detail the shockingly high cost of the leased vehicle Brainard wrecked, an angle that is worthy of its own story.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Turkish President's Bodyguards Beat Peaceful Protesters in Washington, DC

The Wall Street Journal reports;
WASHINGTON—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security team was accused Wednesday of taking part in an unprovoked attack on protesters in the U.S. capital, marring a Washington visit for the second year in a row. 
District of Columbia police have joined the Secret Service and State Department in an investigation of what Police Chief Peter Newsham said appeared to be an unprovoked and “brutal attack on peaceful protesters” that sent nine people to the hospital on Tuesday. One police officer and two members of the Secret Service were also injured in the clashes, according to the police and a U.S. official. 


The attacks were captured on video and shared widely on social media, drawing denunciations from the State Department, U.S. lawmakers, the city’s mayor, and the police chief. 
“This is the United States of America,” U.S. Sen. John McCain, (R., Ariz.), said on Twitter. “We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this thuggish behavior.”
According to protesters and video showing the attacks, a few dozen demonstrators marched to the Turkish ambassador’s residence, where Mr. Erdogan was speaking, to protest his first official visit to Washington to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday. 
The demonstrators included a mix of people opposed to Mr. Erdogan’s crackdown on opposition lawmakers, journalists, diplomats and military officers. They were met by a group of Erdogan supporters, District of Columbia police and members of the Turkish president’s security detail. 
... 
The Turkish Embassy cast the demonstrators as terrorist sympathizers of Kurdish separatists known as the PKK who were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled” to support Mr. Erdogan. The Erdogan supporters “responded in self-defense,” leaving one seriously injured, the Embassy said. 
“The violence and injuries were the result of this unpermitted, provocative demonstration,” the Embassy said. “We hope that, in the future, appropriate measure will be taken to ensure that similar provocative actions causing harm and violence do not occur.”
Former President Barack Obama refused to meet with Erdogan who has jailed journalists and suppressed civil liberties in a crackdown on political opponents following a coup attempt.  President Trump, however, has praised the Turkey strongman who since has assumed dictatorial powers. President Trump offered no criticism of the beatings of peaceful protesters.  The State Department, however, told reporters that it was communicating corn about the incident to the Turkish government "in the strongest possible terms" and that {v]iolence is never an appropriate response to free speech."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quinnipiac Polls Americans For One Word Description of Donald Trump

A Quinnipiac Poll released yesterday showed that President Donald Trump support had fallen back to near record lows of 36%. Probably the most interesting part of the poll though is when the university asked "the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?"   Here are the top 10 results:

1.  Idiot  9
2.  Incompetent 31
3.  Liar   30
4.  Leader  25
5.  Unqualified  25
6.  President  22
7. Strong  21
8.  Businessman 18
9.  Ignorant  16
10. Egotistical  15
11. Asshole  13
11. Stupid  13
13. Arrogant  12
13.  Trying  12
15.  Bully  11
15.  Business  11
15.  Narcissist  11
15. Successful 11
19.  Disgusting 10
19.  Great  10

Vice President Pence Damages His Reputation in Conveying False Narrative About Comey Firing

Probably no one has done a better job of remaining unscathed by association with the administration of Donald Trump than Vice President Mike Pence.  In that capacity, Pence has acquitted himself quite well in the aftermath of a rocky term as Indiana Governor.

That all changed with the Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, Pence and other Trump spokespeople went out to spread the narrative that Trump had acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to fire Comey because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.    Pence's mission was to convey that message to
members of Congress.

The problem was the Trump-Comey talking points were not true.   Journalists began digging and found that the Comey firing was because of every increasing Trumpian furor over the continued Russian investigation led by Comey.  Indeed, Comey had just requested it be expanded, with additional financial and personnel resources devoted to the investigation. The Rosenstein memo turned out to be after-the-fact cover for the decision.

The problem for Pence is that he was in the meeting during which Trump announced his plan to fire Comey, a meeting at which Trump requested Rosenstein write a memo to offer a false motive for his action.  So when Pence was on Capitol Hill he was knowingly offering a lie about how President Trump arrived at his decision.  The White House has since admitted the original tale spun by the Trump spokespeople, including Pence, wasn't true.

Pence's loss of credibility is a most unfortunate development.  I would rate the odds better than 50-50 he will be President before the official end of Trump's term and that he will lead the Republican ticket in 2020. His being damaged by his actions as Vice President further hurt GOP efforts to keep control of the White House and the Senate.

As far as the U.S. House, that most likely be won by the Democrats in 2018.  A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday showed that Americans by a 54-38 margin Americans want Democrats to win control of the U.S. House in 2018.  That 16 point spread is by far the widest margin ever measured on that question.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Downtown Indianapolis Living May Be Dealt Severe Blow With Loss of Two Marsh Stores


It appears the gentrification wave in  Indianapolis may soon be dealt a serious blow with the loss of the two primary downtown grocery shopping locations.  The Indianapolis Star reports that Marsh yesterday informed the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that it may have to close 17 stores, including those at 227 N. Michigan Street and 320 N. New Jersey Street, if it can find a buyer soon.  Despite younger professionals moving downtown the area has struggled to retain shopping opportunities.

Other Indianapolis stores are on the list including 1435 W. 86th Street, 6965 W. 38th Street, as well as a Marsh stores in Broad Ripple.  My local Marsh, which is a smaller store at 56th and Georgetown, is, thankfully, not on the list.   Not yet at least.

Marsh notice to IDWD indicates that the 17 closures would mean the layoff of 1,535 employees.