Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tripp....and fall!

Sarah Palin has a grandson whose name is "Tripp."

What explanation can we give for this horrendous name?

Perhaps somebody (grandma, I'm thinking) must think it will be cute to say, "My grandson sure is a Tripp!" Or, is it (we can only pray) some significant family name that, sadly, got made into a first name in another example of family/parental narcissism trumping the fact this kid will get mocked daily in school?

But wait! It's actually worse because the full name (this is NOT a joke) is:

"Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston"

Great. He's also named after an aluminum bat.

Do you know how people (mostly white in racial composition) make fun of African-American mothers for giving their kids names like Lamonjelo and Oranjelo (phonetically, but spelled "Lemonjello" and "Orangejello" respectively, as detailed in Freakonomics), or for naming them after liquors, cars models, or Greek gods?

Well, this is the white trash equivalent. Bad baby naming skills are being handed down from generation to generation. The Palin clan has concocted a completely ridiculous name that will guarantee this kid a lifetime of torment, and they make it worse by THEN trying to make it sound aristocratic by giving him four names.

If government could ever serve a useful function, it would be regulating baby names. If your proposed name was approved by the "Naming committee," it would then be referred to the "name spelling" subcommittee. Here's a dramatization:

Naming committee chair: "It was a VERY close vote, but we will let you name your daughter Charisma."

Spelling committee chair: "Hold on....how were you going to spell it?"

Parent: "K...A...R...I...Z....

Spelling committee chair: "I'm sorry, no. I have to refer you back to the naming committee where you'll start over. And may God have mercy on your soul!"

Oh, by the way, no word on when this alleged Bristol wedding will actually happen. We just have a "sometimes in 2009." Don't hold your breath. Also, Bristol Palin's soon-to-be mother-in-law just got arrested for selling Oxycontin.

While I understand there is a tradition of having people in the White House with embarrassing relatives (see Billy Carter, Nancy Reagan, Roger Clinton/Hugh Rodham Clinton, and Neil Bush/all of Jeb Bush's kids)....I can't believe so many of you wanted THIS as the Second Family?!?

When will you all admit you were horribly, HORRIBLY mistaken about Palin? And, ironically, the conservatorati are blaming MCCAIN for this loss! Are you kidding me?!?! The man had to carry an albatross around his neck every minute post-convention!

American is obsessed with looks, and Palin has them. I get that. But at some point, don't we all have to agree that the moniker "hottie" can only be uttered about Palin after the words "intellectually vacuous"?


Saturday, November 1, 2008

IPOPA Signing Off

Some will cheer gleefully, some will fall into mild depression, and some will be concertedly indifferent. But IPOPA will be going on hiatus until January 1, 2009. I have to focus on getting married in Jamaica, some much needed R&R, and then catching up at work from all the R&R. But before I go, I’d like to make two pleas:

First, regardless of what happens Tuesday, try to be gracious to the victors. The internet has created more polarization over politics than ever. We’ve become angry in our discourse, and I think it’s because it’s easier to tear somebody a new orifice when you aren’t looking at them. Remember that we can vehemently disagree, but we’re all in this American ship together.

Second, come see IPOPA’s alter-ego, Bullworth, rock the mic at Tonic Ball VII on November 21 and support Second Helpings.

Second Helpings, http://www.secondhelpings.org/, rescues prepared and perishable food and re-prepares it for organizations that feed meals to the hungry. Second Helpings also teaches adults careers in culinary arts.

Tonic Ball VII is a highly anticipated music bonanza, and here's how it works. Over thirty local bands with styles ranging from rock, pop, punk, funk, country, and everything in between, take the stage at two venues next door to each other - Radio Radio and Fountain Square Theater. Each band performs an original song and a "cover" of the featured artists, which this year are Elvis (at Radio Radio) and Queen (at Fountain Square).

IPOPA gets to drop some verses with the band formerly known as Squibnocket, which features Steve Campbell on bass, John Krauss on drums, and Kevin Sifferlen on guitar. It's a great event for a great cause. If music is not your thing, you still might enjoy Tonic Gallery, which is an art exhibition with works for sale and proceeds going to Second Helpings. Tell your friends!


DATE: November 21, 2008

TIME: 8:00 p.m. start

WHERE: 1119 E. Prospect Street

COST: $20

For tickets, call or email Jennifer Arnold at 632-2662 X. 12, or jennifer@secondhelpings.org.


Wheeler Arts Community, 1035 Sanders St., from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 21.


Friday, October 31, 2008

JLT is Doomed!

I call myself "painfully objective," and if I can't say this now, I should forfeit the title:

Jill Long-Thompson will lose her bid to become our Governor, and she should.

Her campaign is the worst-run statewide race I've seen since Linley Pearson lost his bid to unseat then-Governor Evan Bayh in 1992. Only an Obama Indiana tsunami will keep JLT from losing by Pearson-type numbers (Pearson got 37%). In fact, she might actually poll as high as 46%, but it will be in spite of her campaign, not because of it.

I've known she was in trouble for a long time, but how deep the hole was only became clear when an acquaintance came into my office the other day and said the following: "I've voted Democrat my entire life, but I don't know a single reason why I should vote for Jill Long-Thompson. Can you tell me something?" Of course, took her out of the Daniels' column. But then this morning, a Democrat lawyer I know said, "I'm so angry. Where is Jill Long-Thompson?!? I'm going to vote for Daniels because she's been nowhere." This is a conversation I've now had with friends all over the state.

Mmm mm mmmmh. Unless there are a hundred thousand people doing one-on-one conversions every day, JLT is toast.

Lest you think I'm one a disgruntled Schellinger Dems, you should know that while I did support him during the primary and donated to him, since then, I have:

(1) co-hosted an event for JLT;

(2) gave JLT 3 times what I gave Schellinger;

(3) tried to assist JLT's campaign strategically by repeatedly sending e-mail suggestions (more on that later);

(4) helped on policy as best I could; and

(5) generated adverse press for Governor Daniels as a byproduct of writing a letter criticizing one of the Governor's ads that featured an endorsement from the director of a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity. The resulting story ran on the radio and in 14 different major dailies in Indiana plus the Chicago Tribune.

In other words, you can't say I'm not "invested" in JLT's effort. I want her to succeed, and I'll keep telling people until the polls close to focus on policy, not public relations.

But I can't deny her campaign has failed catastrophically, which is hard to say because I have some friends there. But I know a rudderless ship, and it's been that way from day one.

Where to start? How about running for office without knowing what you're going to do?

Week after week after week, the media was begging JLT to talk about what she would do, and she waiting way too long to show up. The JLT campaign never grasped that the media only covers you when you're saying something new, and media coverage drives a challenger's fundraising as much as posting a good campaign finance report. Nobody gives to a candidate they don't see "out working," and if it's not in the paper, it might as well have not happened.

When Bart Peterson ran for Mayor the first time, he had issues committees, some of which had up to 20 members each that broke up into sub-committees. We all researched, wrote, discussed, and revised. The Peterson Plan was a top-to-bottom concrete blueprint for governing by a lot of knowledgeable people. In contrast, for the JLT campaign for the ENTIRE state, I never met with anyone but the policy director. There may have been hundreds working behind the scenes, but they weren't working in concert like the Bayh, O'Bannon, Kernan, and Obama.

Some colleagues have suggested that JLT was not accustomed to having to have proposals to govern, since her background is mostly legislative, where apparently you can sit back and give up and downs on other people's ideas. There may be legitimacy to this theory because JLT has not said much substantively.

Because JLT had no real message, her campaign was forced to "repackage" old news. I remember attending what must have been JLT's third HQ opening. It was billed as a big deal, but I remember seeing no more than 15 people who were not on staff. One attendee remarked that if this was a legitimate event, either JLT or Dennie Oxley would have appeared, at least telephonically. They didn't. Even they knew it was a non-event.

Because JLT had nothing substantive to say, her campaign wasted weeks on non-issues, such as the Governor's plane travel. Yes, it engaged the media (which loves a good scrape), but I assure you, it didn't move a SINGLE vote into JLT's column. The same thing could be said of the story surrounding my letter. Yes, it got major play, but it didn't move a single vote. What was distressing was that during the week of "the letter story," there was no JLT news coverage. A "process" story had taken precedence.

When JLT finally came out with her full-blown plan, which was ineffective repackaging itself, she had a disastrous press conference during which it became clear that JLT did not know her own plan.

What is maddening for me, though, is that about four months ago, I sent an e-mail to the campaign stating that JLT would get easy and widespread media coverage by doing something that was easy to understand and of limited risk: she should publicly call for an ombudsman in the Indiana Department of Child Services. This was a bill proposed by State Representative Charlie Brown in the previous session of the Indiana General Assembly.

The Indianapolis Star had chronicled the months-apart deaths of two children in the child welfare system extensively, and the comments from almost all Star readers were visceral and hostile. Some suggested that DCS director James Payne should be jailed! Whether fairly or not, everybody believed DCS was to blame, and nobody believed DCS could police itself.

Any political tactician knows that the best campaign issue is one where the "independent media" coverage provides a context or "story flow" which you can just jump into and ride. Think of the insane amount of coverage the immigration reform proposals received on CNN after Lou Dobbs made illegal immigration his baby, or how well covered the Daniels property tax plan was covered after the Ballard election.

Newspaper editors have policy ideas, and it was clear the Star felt the system was broken. And because newspapers would rather cover a policymaker proposing the solution than actually putting out its own suggestions, all JLT had to do was say ANYTHING.

But she didn't. A month passed and three more stories followed. Another month passed, and Judge Marilyn Moores was proposed some changes, but not the ombudsman. Another month passed, and even the Star got tired of waiting. It was making making a non-specific call to action for reform on its editorial pages. Finally, it happened.

Linda Pence issued a press release saying she would investigate fatalities as AG. Yes, the gubernatorial candidate got scooped by her own AG candidate. What was the result? The story ran in the Star, of course, and also in seven other papers in the state. This story was a nice, simple, political slow pitch down the center of the plate, and I couldn't get JLT's camp to swing the bat. But Pence knocked it out of the park.

Then, quickly picking up on what JLT didn't, which was his potential vulnerability on this child welfare issue, Daniels went out with the aforementioned TV ad featuring institutional leaders in the child welfare system talking about how much safer children are now then they've ever been. Innoculation complete! Now, anything JLT would say would be competing against a cemented impression in the electorate.

Admittedly, one issue wouldn't have gotten this victory, so even if JLT had jumped on the idea, it wouldn't have mattered. Candidates need to be consistently newsworthy, and they have to effectively reinforce their earned media message through paid media. But all of JLTs ads have been unoriginal and terrible. JLT's latest ad, which says nothing specifically except Indiana = bad and high school drop-out rate = bad. She pledges to do better, but offers nothing about how. But the ad did manage to misspell JLT's treasurer's name, so there's that.

That type of error has become common in JLT communications. A few days after the new ad aired, I received an e-mail that I'm sure was sent to every donor, media outlet, and volunteer. It told me that JLT's "Road to Change to Change" tour was beginning.

And this is the tip of the iceberg. I'd keep going, but at some point, isn't it just piling on?


Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain See the Handwriting

John McCain sees he's not getting enough traction attacking Senator Obama's character, so he's now doing what Democrats did to soften up Palin - campaigning against somebody he's not directly running against.

John McCain's message over the past 48 hours (and one that is likely to continue until election day) is that Americans should be terrified of what GOP's sees as the axis of evil - President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If you elect Obama and keep both of these congressional leaders, we'll apparently all be communists before March of '09.

This is an intriguing tactic...if you're objective is to minimize Republican congressional losses. This may be what GOP leaders are privately saying to McCain: "we think you're toast, but you can still help us." If this were a fruitful approach to actually winning the election, wouldn't McCain have brought it forth long before now?

Using the fear of one-party rule plays on most Americans' contradictory but consistent propensity to split votes on federal governmental control. However, I don't foresee this effort having much success. Democrats will still pick up seats.


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Good Pence

I can't foretell whether Linda Pence will be our next Attorney General, but if she loses, I'll never be convinced that the best person won. EVER.

Listen to Pence's critics, and you hear things like:

(1) "she is overzealous"
(2) "she is trying to run a prosecutor's race"
(3) "she's arrogant, and she thinks she's the smartest lawyer in the room," or
(4) "she won't go after corruption in Lake County."

To retort in order...

(1) having an AG who is overzealous is the best thing for Hoosiers. What is wrong with someone who will target those who target us through crime, consumer fraud, professional misconduct, and frivolous personal injury lawsuits filed against state employees and facilities? Anybody who has ever hired a lawyer knows that, as long as the lawyer's actions do not violate the rules of professional conduct, there is no such thing as an "overzealous lawyer."

(2) This segues nicely into the "prosecutor" issue. Among Pence's notable proposals are her desire to combat the methamphetamine epidemic, go after sex offenders, and independently investigate child fatalities, instead of relying on the Indiana Department of Child Services to police itself. These are all great ideas, but people say Pence shouldn't be acting like a super-prosecutor or....what's the word....solicitor general. My retort is, "Why not?" She is not talking about usurping anybody's role. She is talking about, for the first time in Indiana history, having someone who can coordinate crime strategy for the state from a prosecutorial angle. How is that a bad thing?

People who think this is overstepping don't know that history of the office. When Jeff Modisett was Attorney General, his office had a "death team," which would work with prosecutors on both initial death penalty prosecutions and petitions for capital post-conviction relief filed by inmates on death row. We went where help was requested, and it was FREQUENTLY requested.

(3) Ummmm....in 95-99% of the cases, when Linda Pence is in a room full of lawyers, she IS the smartest lawyer in the room. And do we really want one who has NEVER actually practiced law? I think back to when AGs all across the country went after big tobacco, and how these AGs' states had to pay a LOT to big law firms. Can you imagine how much would have been collectively saved had Linda Pence been in position to coordinate the effort under the aegis of the National Association of Attorneys General?

(4) A smart lawyer gunning for a superprosecutor image knows you MAKE a huge reputation on corruption. For every insider D she might alienate, she would pick up four R votes around the state for not flinching. Many have suggested that Pence's comment that she would "review all ongoing investigations" before committing to continuing them all meant she would pull the plug. No, no, no. She'll check the file first, which is prudent practice. And if grounds existed to move forward, she'd break a foot off in whoever's (expletive) needed it for justice to be done.

But the truth is, even if Linda Pence had NO new ideas for the office, you'll notice that NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY has said Greg Zoeller is a better lawyer than Linda Pence. Because they can't. They just can't.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Calling Obama Hitler Wasn't Good Enough?!?!?

Johnson County Clerk, Jill Jackson, distributed an inflammatory chain e-mail to two of her employees who voted for Senator Obama in Indiana's Democratic primary.

Though the e-mail did not refer to Obama by name, it refers to Obama's ties with Reverend Wright, and in the words of the Louisville Courier-Journal, is "heavy with racial references, criticizing the candidate's parentage with such comments as, 'He is proud of his 'African heritage' (a father who got a white girl pregnant and deserted her)."

The letter concludes: "The U.S. citizens are just not ready to give up their country to this young, black 'Adolf Hitler' with a smile, poor direction and absolutely no experience!" Apparently, Hitler is not nefarious enough, so the author needed to add the "black" adjective.

Clerk Jackson states it was intended as a joke. WHAT?!? That's your excuse?!?! So are ALL racist jokes, Clerk Jackson, but it doesn't make them excusable to distribute to your employees. If these employees were African-American, this would be ACTIONABLE!

Kudos go to Doug Lechner, Republican Party chairman in Johnson County, who didn't even try to explain the letter away. He stated it was "unacceptable and taints Jackson's ability to appear unbiased in administering this year's election."

Only when both parties attack racism where they find it will it be uprooted. It's sad for the GOP that they find it in their elected officials.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama Sees Red....in Indiana again

If you think this presidential election is a laydown, think again.

Yes, Senator Obama has gained in national polls, giving the impression of (ironically) a surge, but those numbers are functionally meaningless. After all, if Obama gains 5% nationally by increasing the percent of voters for him in states that are already solidly blue, it's the same as NO gain on the electoral college map. (In fact, we'd all do well ignoring national polls in favor of state-by-state polls that show the current electoral college outcome).

While Obama still has sufficient numbers on a state-by-state basis for an electoral college victory, McCain has gained support in five battlegrounds (Virginia, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, and New Hampshire) and reclaimed Indiana, according to pollster John Zogby.

Zogby's new numbers have McCain-Palin at 52.8% to Obama-Biden's 42.3%. Five percent are undecided. Zogby notes that despite a big lead among independent voters, "Obama appears unable to overcome the Republican enrollment advantage.

Obama's rally and his new commercial on education could not come at a better time.


The Old Lion and His Witch in the Wardrobe

The economy is in the tank, taxpayers got hosed on the bailout, and the Colts got drubbed on Sunday, so in the big scheme of things, this is minor. But Republican National Committee (RNC) campaign finance reports show that $150,000 was used to "outfit" Sarah Palin.

This is a dubious legal move, as campaign finance laws do not permit expenditures for personal benefit. Palin's folks say she intended to give the clothes to charity. That's fine, but how is she giving back the used cosmetics? But if the RNC wants to be mocked for purchases, so be it. That's not what bothers me.

McCain was heralded in GOP circles for getting somebody who is supposed to be a regular gal and "one of us." So why did WASHINGTON have to get her gussied up (ohhhh! Palin would love that expression) to the tune of $150,000, which I'm pretty sure is more than most Americans have spent on clothes in their lifetimes.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Random Cultural Annoyances

- Sarah Palin says we need to 'incentivize' our young Americans to realize what it is in terms of benefits and service our military can offer.

If this sounds like made-up, management speak, it's because it is. The origin of this word is 1970. Yes, I know, that's thirty-eight years ago, but it's still around yesterday's corner for the English language life span. And it's an irritating trend we can't stop -- turning nouns into verbs!

I foresee that forty years from now, this might actually be a legitimate sentence:

"Like, I need to, like, groceryize, like, my house, so I'm, like, carizing over to O'Malias, but first, I need to, like, moneyize my wallet, like."

- The last group of people that you can publicly hate without being deemed insensitive are:


And I'm comfortable with that. The other day I was walking by some people who were smoking about 100 feet outside my building, so I held my breath as I walked through the haze, but somehow, the smoke STILL got absorbed in my nostrils. How is this possible? I know, I know. All of your libertarian instincts are coming out, and you're saying, "It's their bodies." Not when you make everything stink around me. If everybody had some type of filter that could TRULY absorb the smoke, I wouldn't care if you smoked standing next to me (though I WOULD pass legislation that you have to pay more for Medicare).

The thing that REALLY puzzles me is the number of young professionals I know who smoke. They are (a) presumably highly educated, (b) young enough to have never seen the "smoking is cool" TV ads, and (c) young enough that they heard the Surgeon General's warning before they got addicted, unlike people who started in the 1950's and 1960's who now can't quit. Bow down to peer pressure, sheeple. Ask any young professional smoker how (s)he started, and it's ALWAYS at a party or in a bar while drinking with other smokers. NOBODY's started by buying a pack to smoke alone at home.

- Why do people litter? Seriously, when did our streets become a public trashcan? It is so difficult to get to a trash can that you have to empty the contents of your entire car into the grocery store parking lot? (You KNOW who you are!)

- Speaking of grocery parking lots, are Americans lazier now? The parking lot is packed, and people cannot get parking spots because about 40 of them have carts sitting in the spots. Is it REALLY that difficult for you to return your cart to one of the cart holders?

- I'm assuming you know when you went to the grocery store that you didn't have $180 in cash, so why do you wait until all of your groceries are in plastic before you even pull out your checkbook?

Here's an idea: write out everything on your check except for the amount BEFORE you go, AND have you checkbook out with pen in hand ready to write so you can do so when you get your total. This will keep the 21 people behind you in line from all sighing in passive aggressive ways, giving you dirty looks, or worse. I was irritated, for sure, but I'm pretty mellow overall. I couldn't say the same for the people behind me. I actually feared for this woman's life.

- FYI, while I'm on the grocery store, you do NOT have 20 items of less if you have 30 each of 20 different items. That's 600 items, m'kay?!?!?!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell Obama Endorsement Pulls the Race Curtain Further Back on the GOP

Remember back when Colin-mania gripped the Republican Party in the mid-1990s? Every white Republican you know bragged about how qualified Powell was to be president. The GOP was begging him to run.

GOP operatives and higher ups were all talking about Powell's sound judgment, record as a soldier, and statesmanlike manner. Some of the highest Republicans in the land made him a four-star general, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, and then Secretary of State, after all. The idea anyone would look at Powell as a token pick was folly; Powell's judgment was above reproach, the GOP said.


...the General endorsed Barack Obama yesterday.

Now, General Powell is getting clobbered by the conservatorati. According to Rush Limbaugh, George Will, and Pat Buchanan, General Powell made this endorsement primarily because he and Obama are both black.

How loathsomely insulting. NOTHING has changed about General Powell, except who he supports. And now the GOP's top mouthpieces paint Powell as one who will throw America into a ditch for "the black man." (Funny, but I don't remember anybody saying we shouldn't have Powell engage in diplomatic talks with any African countries or the U.N. because their presidents were black, as was Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the U.N.). Did Powell "sell us out" to black world leaders?!? (Pun intended).

The Powell backlish lays bare the GOP's race problem for all to see.

When the most prominent Republican African-American appointment in American history doesn't follow the GOP white masters' orders, he gets stripped of his entire history of professional achievements and lifetime of good judgments and is reduced to nothing BUT a black man.

When Limbaugh et al. have the audacity to repeatedly complain that Democrats won't let America "move beyond race," we can only respond: "Sorry, but not until you let it."


Saturday, October 18, 2008

IPOPA Demolishes the GOP on Race

Republicans and ultra-conservative commentators, particularly Limbaugh and Hannity, loooove attacking Democrats for hypocrisy on racism. They gleefully highlight that more Democrats won't vote for Obama because he's black than independents. Their mantra is "Democratic Party, take the log out of your own eye first."

Given the racial polarization in the Democratic primaries, it's a fair question. How CAN the Democratic Party lecture Republicans about not being a party of equal opportunity?

Pay close attention because the answer is crucial: the leadership.

Anyone can self-identify as a Democrat by voting in a Democrat primary. As a result, most so-called "members" of the Democratic Party never work for the party or donate to it. They can't be fired, their checks can't be returned, and nobody can stop them from saying, "YEEEHAWWW, Cletus, I'm a Democrat, and I ain't votin' for no black man!"

This is why, when you size up the soul of a party, you have to look at the leaders and those who vote for the leaders. The Democratic Party make a concerted effort to put people of other races into leadership roles, and they groom them to assume those larger roles later.

Here are the facts. In the U.S. Congress, there are 41 African-Americans and eight Asian-Americans. None are Republicans. There are twenty-nine Hispanic-Americans. Only five are Republican.

In fairness, the first African-American elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, Edward Brooke (1967-1979), was a Republican. But the state that elected him was, ironically, the one Republicans hate the most: Massachusetts. (You know what you call a Massachusetts Republican in the 49 other states? “Fellow Democrat”).

The Republican Party also had J.C. Watts, the four-term, African-American Oklahoma Congressman who left Congress to chair GOPAC, an organization created to “build a farm team of Republican officeholders who could run for congress or higher state offices.” What a great place to bring up some African-American talent with a supportive organization, right?

In 2007, Watts resigned from GOPAC, and here's what he said to the 2008 GOP presidential candidates:

“Republicans want to say we reach out. But what we do instead is 60 days before an election, we’ll spend some money on black radio and TV or buy an ad in Ebony and Jet and that’s our outreach. People read through that.”
In our country's history, we've elected three black Governors -- Douglas Wilder, Deval Patrick, and David Patterson, and one Latino governor, Bill Richardson. All are Democrats.

But wait? A Republican president put Clarence Thomas on the United States Supreme Court. This is true. But he did so to fill a spot vacated by a sitting African-American, Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed by a Democrat, Lyndon Johnson. Be honest with yourself on this question. If another African-American had already filled Marshall's seat, would Thomas be on the court right now? You already know. So the GOP has not expanded African-American presence. Since Thomas filled "the African-American seat," it's been back to the white men brigade for the GOP.

Indiana's GOP does as poorly, and with less justification for that dismal result. In Indiana history, we’ve only had three African-Americans serve in statewide offices: Pam Carter (Attorney General), Dwayne Brown (Clerk of the Courts), and David Lewis (Clerk of the Courts, appointed). All Democrats.

When we call Indiana a "red" state, we mean that its core leans Republican, which, in turn, means it should dominate (and historically has dominated) down-ballot races, such as treasurer, auditor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general, and previously, the clerk of the courts. At any time in its history, the Indiana GOP probably could have gotten an African-American elected to any of these offices had it made one the party's nominee. It never has.

You may say, "Come on, IPOPA. People can't just jump into these statewide roles. They have to prove themselves locally first." An excellent point...that further crushes the GOP's claim to care about African-Americans. In the Indiana General Assembly, there are eight African-American representatives and four African-American senators. All are Democrats.

What about cracking the ceiling on new offices? Indiana has elected only two African-American sheriffs, Oatess Archey and Frank Anderson. Both are Democrats. (In fairness, anyone who has read Archey's incredible biography, Going Over All the Hurdles, knows he's apolitical and just ran as a Democrat because that's where the ballot opportunity existed).

What about Indiana Courts? We have one African-American Justice on the Indiana Supreme Court -- Robert Rucker. He was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Evan Bayh and elevated to the high court by Frank Obannon. From 1964 to 1988, Republican governors could have put a black man or woman on the Court of Appeals. They did not. It took a Democrat to make that happen. There is currently one African-American judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals, Carr Darden. He was appointed to the Court in 1994 by Evan Bayh.

Some will say it is unfair to use judges in this analysis because there is a Judicial Nominating Committee that submits names to the governor. Yes, but the final call IS a governor's call, and if (s)he is so inclined, (s)he can say, “I’ll take the political hit from some Hoosier Bubbas to appoint an African-American.” In truth, this is where a party REALLY shows its stripes. Mitch Daniels has appointed three judges to the Indiana Court of Appeals. They are all white.

Republicans always throw out Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice, which is like white people talking about Rocky Marciano or Larry Bird anytime you mention the greats of boxing and basketball respectively. Even though I assure you that both Powell and Rice's memoirs will ultimately reveal how they were thrown under the bus for the benefit of a white VP and defense secretary, I'll let the GOP keep these two because the sum total of the evidence against them is still overwhelming.

While I encourage everyone to add to this list, my search for African-American Republicans holding even small county-wide offices has yielded three in the entire state of Indiana: Marion County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ayres (whom Governor Daniels has repeatedly passed over for nomination to the Court of Appeals), Marion County Superior Court Judge Reuben Hill, and Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill.

As judges seldom jump to other elected offices, Curtis Hill IS the entire GOP African-American bench. If I were Murray Clark, I would have already dispatched a 24-hour scandal/PR snafu prevention squad to watch over Hill. However, it might already be too late.

Prosecutor Hill already took a hit earlier this year for being a hothead when he bashed the Republican Mayor of Elkhart for taking officers away from a county drug interdiction unit to combat Elkhart’s rise in violent crime.

Hill's comment? "When it comes to fighting crime, Mayor Moore doesn't know his asphalt from a hole in the ground," Hill said. That's pretty funny and clever. BUT....the Elkhart Truth writes:

Hilarious. Devastating. A great sound bite. Just one small problem -- Moore's four years as president of the Elkhart Board of Public Safety. The prosecutor may consider him naive, but Moore knows a thing or two about the Elkhart police and crime-fighting.

Hill, for his part, let anger overwhelm his judgment. He publicly belittled the mayor of the county's largest city, damaging the relationship between the prosecutor's office and Elkhart.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Lugar’s Unshakeable Integrity Tells the Tale

Richard Lugar knows Sarah Palin is unqualified. The Louisville Courier Journal points out today that when Barack Obama selected Joe Biden as his VP choice, Lugar issue a statement heralding Biden.

However, clearly living by the gentlemanly adage that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, Lugar said nothing when Palin was selected.

(Folks, Senator Lugar knows she's a foreign policy nitwit. I'll be curious to see how strained any remarks he makes on her behalf will be today).

Apparently, wishing to alienate every rush-hour commuter possible, Sarah Palin has opted to appear at 4:30 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Center in Noblesville today.

Will Palin display her intellectual heft? Not likely, if you believe Governor Becky Skillman, who said, (I am not making this up) “Expect some zingers.”

Translation: expect some nasty cue-card scripted attacks against Obama. That Sarah Palin, gollygeewillikers! She’s a humdinger of a zinger slinger! You betcha!


Vet Murtha Turns Cowardly; watermelon and ribs...and that's NOT racist?!?

So Diane Fedele, the president of the Chaffee Community Republican Women, Federated (California) sent out a newsletter that says if Barack Obama is elected, his likeness will appear on food stamps. And the "Obama bucks" illustration she provided has the Senator (whose face is on a donkey) surrounded by watermelon, ribs, the Kool-Aid man, and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Now here's the funny part. When the controversy broke, Ms. Fedele said the following:

"I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn't my attempt."

WHAT?!? Well then, Ms. Fedele, what precisely were you trying to say by using watermelon and a bucket of KFC?!?

A sincere apology comes from recognition of wrongdoing, contrition, and an implied, if not explicit, commitment to not repeat the same mistake. When this woman says that "wasn't her attempt," she disavows her own apology by trying to offer some backhand defense of herself.

Ms. Fedele adds insult to injury by saying she doesn't think in racial terms, and as evidence, she points out that she supported Alan Keyes. (And I bet her best friend is black, too!). Even Alan Keyes will tell you this illustration was racist.

I'm going to do something for John McCain and the Republican Party now that no opponent of Senator Obama would do. I'm NOT going to brand Senator McCain or the Republican Party and say that they are all a bunch of racists. I won't use the guilt-by-association that Republican operatives across this country are desperately using to bring down Senator Obama.

I will just ask you this question. If something this vile (which Ms. Fedele says she received herself in a chain e-mail) is put out in public by a previously respectable GOP organization, what makes anyone think racist sentiment does not exist in stronger expressions elsewhere in this country behind closed doors?

This gets me to Jack Murtha, the Democratic Pennsylvanian Congressman. Murtha said a few days ago "there's no question Western Pennsylvania is a racist area" and that Obama would lose 4% of the vote solely because of his race. When Murtha's opponent accused Murtha of calling his own constituents racists, Murtha did a 180 and issued the following milquetoast statement:

“While we cannot deny that race is a factor in this election, I believe we’ve been able to look beyond race these past few months, and that voters today are concerned with the policy differences of our two candidates and their vision for the future of our great country,” he said, in a statement issued by his office.

And at that moment, I lost all respect for Murtha because he knows his constituents better than anybody, just like Richard Trumka, who is also FROM Western Pennsylvania. Trumka heard the racism first-hand. (Mr. Trumka delivered a moving speech (linked above) that I hope you will give a listen).

As Mr. Trumka quotes from Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good people to do nothing. How many of us have heard a racist comment or joke from a family member or friend, and we say nothing? Be honest with yourselves. How many of us use comments like "(S)he was just raised that way" as the rationalization for our silence.

I'm not saying attack your family and friends, but please educate them. If they respect you, you will have a bigger window of opportunity than any casual acquaintance or stranger who vilifies them. And this is how we'll continue to grow the society...one person at a time.

It won't happen through a "national conversation" because even TALKING about race makes a lot of white people uncomfortable, as Senator Obama has learned. And therein lies the "race dilemma" for Obama. I am convinced that somebody from the Obama camp ordered Murtha to apologize because they knew Murtha's comments would be used for ill purposes.

And guess what? Good instinct. Rush Limbaugh today spent an hour talking about Murtha "calling YOU ALL racists."

Here's delicious irony that probably makes Limbaugh sleep like a baby at night. If someone suggests there are white voters won't scratch for Obama because of his race, Rush will summon faux outrage and generalize the criticism to everyone. In so doing, he secures and mobilized white voters who aren't too keen on black folk from the outset.

What a delicious "two-fer."


Monday, October 13, 2008

ACORN is Weapon of Mass Distraction

Everybody should be concerned with any person or organization that interferes with the right to vote by suppressing turnout, purging voters who shouldn't be, or casting doubt on the integrity of the electoral process.

Accordingly, ACORN needs to evaluate its employment practices. Any company that gives financial incentives for the number of registrations a person turns in WILL get people who submit the starting line-up of the Dallas Cowboys in Texas (no, I'm not kidding) and "Jimmy Johns" in Indiana.

The problem is that most state laws require you to submit a registration card to state authorities. If ACORN employs me, and I give them a card that says "Peyton Manning" with an address at Lucas Oil Stadium, they can fire me, but they have to turn in the card. In many cases of bogus registrations, it is ACORN itself whose supervisors are flagging the problems for the state. And in many of these cases, people do get canned.

But even if you think this is all intentionally orchestrated, top-down attempts by ACORN to engage in voter fraud, here's a critical sentence from the Boston Globe:

"There is no evidence that anyone has actually voted as a result of the bogus registrations, which in some cases involve names being listed multiple times at fake addresses."

This organization has allegedly been submitting bad registrations since 2004, and there isn't a SINGLE act of fraudulent voting. In fact, here's the best that an ACORN critic can say:

But Cairncross of the RNC said the bad registrations constitute fraud and tie up local election officials and law enforcement agencies.

"What's going on here is a fair amount of partisan behavior on the part of local election officials," said Kettenring of ACORN. Noting that ACORN had flagged problematic registration cards to local authorities, he added, "They're politicizing cards that we identified ourselves and marked as such."

What? This is all McCain and the Republican Party have on ACORN?!?

I guess when nobody believes you can help the economy, you have to terrify America.

I saw an ad today talking about having Mayor Daley as an advisor. Did I miss something? Was Mayor Daley ever charged with a crime. It seems these days that all you need to do is say "Chicago" and Obama in the same sentence.

But what this desperation really shows is the vacuousness of the McCain campaign.


Only in America Do We Celebrate Gluttony

This will get me comments like "lighten up" and "stop hating America," but it bothers me that America has a "sport" called "competitive eating" (and that it keeps records!)

People are dying of starvation here and in around the globe, but we'll celebrate Joey "Jaws" Chestnut and put him on CNN for eating forty-five slices of pizza in ten minutes. ESPN 2 actually broadcasts a hotdog eating contest from Coney Island now (Chestnut ate sixty-six hot dogs in twelve minutes).

Aside from pizza, Chestnut holds "the record" for eating 8.8 pounds of deep fried asparagus in ten minutes and 182 chicken wings in thirty minutes (separate competition, thank God!), and ninety-three hamburgers in eight minutes.

I saw Chestnut on TV. Despite days like yesterday when he eats 11,000 calories in a sixth of an hour, he's actually fit. But this is still a morbid pursuit, and Chestnut is not alone. According to the website, Sonya Thomas ate 8.4 pounds of baked beans in two minutes and forty-seven seconds (apparently with a shovel), Patrick Bertoletti ate 9.17 pounds of blueberry pie in eight minutes, and Bob Should ate 13.5 pounds of Skyline Chili in ten minutes.

Ugh. Where's the Pepto? No wonder America is obese. We've turned food into a money-making venture. Oh, did I mention that Chestnut got $5,000 for his victory and that the remaining competitors split another $9,000?

I can see it now...some father talking to his son about the importance of studying in college because his dream to "make it in the pros" might not pan out.

Dad: "You have to take the books seriously, son, because the odds just aren't good. For every kid who wins at La Famiglia's, there are 100 overweight kids with diabetes, permanently distended stomachs, spastic colons, and congestive heart failure."


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stop Hiding the Truth With New Phrases

- I'm fascinated by the way people use language for PR purposes. In less than two years, every "liberal," "centrist," "Democratic-leaning," "DLC-oriented," or "diversity friendly" blog I regularly read has purged from its pages use of the phrase "illegal alien." Now, they're just "undocumented immigrants."

As I've said before, let's change the law, but until then, let's not act like there is no violation. Next time you're pulled over by a police officer, let me know how this one works out for you:

"I'm not speeding, officer. I'm just traveling at an 'undocumented' speed."

- But let me do you one better. The Indiana Department of Child Services has issued new statewide forms to be used in every case where a child is removed from a parent. As I'm reading the form, I come across the phrase "resource parent." You see, if you know that just since the summer, one "foster parent" in Marion County caused the death of Destiny Linden and another was charged with molest, the smartest thing to do is change the name to "resource parent." Basically, when your public image is horrible, and you're out of ideas for improving it, you change the name. It's kind of like when Phillip Morris changed its name to Altria to make people forget it was in the cigarette industry.

- On a related note, the White House declared today that President Bush has changed his legal name to "America is the Greatest."


Saturday, October 11, 2008

IPOPA’s Random Thoughts on Politics and Culture

- The tone at John McCain and Sarah Palin rallies lately is a bit terrifying. I’m not saying John McCain and Sarah Palin are racists or would ever wish harm to Barack Obama, but you can’t whip up this kind of “he’s not one of us” frenzy without expecting at least a few people to pick up the torches and pitch forks. Before the election is over, expect a member of the “liberal media” press corps that follows McCain to get more than just “the finger.” Nice family values, by the way.

- I’m morphing into a populist before my own eyes. I’m one of the 2/3 of Americans who opposed the bailout. Giving $700 billion to people who created the problem is like giving the guy who blew up his garage more dynamite and asking him to “be more careful.” I promise you that nobody you know will benefit from the $700 billion dollars in Monopoly money that we’re giving the Treasury Secretary. I was extremely disappointed when Congressman Andre Carson switched his vote in favor of this package. (Kudos to Baron Hill, Pete Viscloskey, Dan Burton, and Steve Buyer for getting this right).

- The fact the stock market has plunged AFTER the bailout is perplexing. Maybe I just don’t understand this. Isn’t it the case that companies that make things of value still make things of value? That they still own the same property? If worry about mortgages can make Microsoft, Lilly, or BP tank, weren’t they overvalued to start with? Might it not be the case that prices are going down based on irrational panic, and now is a great time to get a deal?

- I’m sick of the mythology that owning your own home is the American dream. This is marketing crap spouted by homebuilders. Living free is the American dream, and we're all living it the second we're born here. Everything else is just gravy. I’ve rented places, and I’ve owned homes, and I didn’t notice any more psychological comfort with the home. In fact, minus the tax benefits, the only difference with being a homeowner is you spend half your summer powerwashing your wooden fences.

- If I bought more home than I could afford, how can I complain when the bank comes to get it? Why are we trying to keep people from foreclosure? They bit off more than they could chew. I promise you when the home market goes low enough, people who DIDN’T overextend themselves will start buying those houses. I'll be one of them.

- And can someone explain this “credit crunch” to me. Everybody is walking around acting like Warren Buffet can’t get a loan. I don’t get this. People with good credit (i.e., those who SHOULD get loans) can still get them. I know this because a buddy of mine just bought a car for 2%. This is going to be a crazy idea, but maybe, just maybe, all the people whose credit is not good enough to get them loans should try living within their means for a while.

- Americans, including me, have spent more than they should for at least three decades now. If we need a financial shock to cleanse the system, I’m for it. We need to get back to when we actually waited to make purchases until we had the money. We also need to save more in America so that when we do borrow money, we’re borrowing our own, not China’s. The days of easy credit are gone, folks, and the idea that the government is trying to keep it alive says America hasn’t learned its lesson.

- I’m no prude, but I'm disugsted that little girls' costume options include “slutty witch.” We all know men use Halloween to induce their women to go scantily clad in public with the excuse "it's just a costume," but do we really need little girls looking like tramps? Who MAKES these costumes? The Pedophiles of America?


What the Heck is Going Down With Gas Prices?!?!

Gas prices were $2.72 last night in Indianapolis. Aside from Linda Pence saying she would zealously investigate Indiana gas stations as Attorney General, what has changed? (No, I know that couldn’t do it. Yes, she’s a bad@ss, but she’s not even in office yet!)

Seriously, America hasn’t begun drilling anywhere new yet, and most authorities say even if we did so TODAY, we won’t see the results for shy of a decade. Can someone explain how gas prices can drop so precipitously so quickly without market manipulation in the first instance or “politically-oriented price manipulation" now?

Some conspiracy-minded friends (who apparently are prescient) told me to watch gas go as low as $2.00/gallon until right after the election low gas prices helps McCain. This is common sense. Every public opinion taken on the matter says when the economy is bad, McCain suffers. Low gas prices lower the cost of everything.

But such a theory would assume that some American and European oil companies believe they’d be better off with John McCain. What would make them think that? Oh, wait. Barack Obama is going to tax them, isn’t he?

But how can the private oil companies alter production when they're all operating at capacity? And we know they are at capacity because multi-national corporations never lie, even when restraining production generates record profits for all of them. So, this price change must have occurred somewhere else.

Oh, guess what? On September 10, the Saudis said they would ignore OPEC requests to reduce production to keep oil prices from dropping below $100 per barrel. Oh, and guess what? The Saudis privately prefer McCain because they believe they want him to keep troops in Iraq, and they like his Iran rhetoric.

In short, two plus two equals cheap gas until November. Then watch us get crushed because then the Saudis won't care anymore.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

McCain is in McPain

He regurgitated every talking point he'd been given, but no matter how hard John McCain tried, he just couldn't get a bunch of undecided voters to turn their little dials to strong approval for him, except in one context which I'll address below.

I didn't find Senator Obama particularly smooth tonight. That means only one thing, and it has to be disconcerting to Republicans. Despite all the Obamamessiah, "cult of personality," and "rock star status" talk, it was Obama's substance, not style, that decided the debate tonight. Americans just aren't buying what John McCain is selling.

This is great news for the Obama campaign because ALL campaigns reflexively think the message is fine but the delivery is off whenever they are flailing. Expect McCain's people to try to retool how McCain delivers his message for the next debate, instead of changing what he says. Once they realize they've goofed, this thing will be over.

The occasions McCain had the dials up were when he talked about how amazing America and its people are. Understand this. I love America, though I think its current president is a moron who has thoroughly discredited America on the international stage. America is probably the most prosperous and freest country in the world, our republican form of government with its checks and balances is genius, and our workforce is productive.

But even feeling as I do, I wonder whether other people like me, who aren't susceptible to empty appeals to patriotism, found it almost sycophantic to see McCain so brazenly suck up to Americans.

It was as if John McCain morphed into Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver before my eyes. You always knew Eddie would get Beaver and Wally in trouble, but he ALWAYS avoided it himself by complimenting Mrs. Cleaver to pull the wool over her eyes.

Politicians take note...as a rule of thumb, the more you try to kiss my butt, the more suspicious I am of you.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Huffington Post and Daily Kos Misdiagnose Palin’s “City On a Hill”

American history buffs and theocracy fearers rejoice! Andrew Bacevich is talking to you on The Huffington Post, and Daily Kos (ironically) must need some “liberal” arts education.

Bacevich dissects the only philosophically meaningful comment Governor Sarah Palin made during the VP debate:

“And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope, and that we are unapologetic here.”

As Bacevich notes, the “city on a hill” idea came from Massachusetts Bay Colony Founder, John Winthrop, in 1630. Bacevich lays out the entire text and context for Winthrop’s remark and convincingly argues that unless America is God’s chosen people, a presumption which strikes him (and me) as arrogant, the "city on the hill" comment is inapplicable to the American experiment.

Daily Kos goes a step further and implies that Palin’s "city on a hill" remark is “code” for a fundamentalist conspiracy to create a Christian-based theocracy. D.K. says they (the religious right) have been “slipping this one by us.”

Daily Kos notes:

“The phrase was referenced several times during the 2008 Republican National Convention by Rudy Guiliani and several others, during the nomination of the Republican John McCain.”
Here’s the idea By referring to an “obscure” 1630 sermon that was given at the initiation of a Puritan colony, Republicans are secretly signaling their intentions to other Christians to enforce Christian values in government.

With all due respect, this idea that Republicans are "signaling" through Winthrop is crazy talk. Sarah Palin (and the supermajority of Christians in this country) couldn’t even tell you who John Winthrop is, let alone what he said and why. Without knowing the context of Winthrop's remark, how can anyone draw an association from it?

The stronger "signaling" argument is the one both Bacevich and Daily Kos completely miss. The original source of Winthrop’s oratory is the Gospel of Matthew, verses 14-16 (NIV):
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

In other words, Christians should act Christ-like while letting people know they are Christians as a way of gaining more believers. This is an uncontroversial notion that can be summarized as "serve as an example." Winthrop mutilated the original meaning to induce his followers to create a completely Puritan-based government.

"City on a hill" might be a signal, but it's no more a secret to a cultural literate American than "an eye for an eye," "turn the other cheek," or "God Bless America." The fact that Daily Kos, a leader for my party on a lot of issues, has authors who don't know such an obvious reference in the Bible is concerning because I suspect they know Greek and Roman mythology.

Like it or not, the Bible is the best-selling book in the world. Whether you're Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddist, Wiccan, atheist, agnostic, transcendentalist, or accidental tourist, you have GOT to know the Bible as a matter of cultural literacy. Even if you cringe when you hear someone call America a "Christian nation," you cannot dispute that it's a pluralist nation with a supermajority of Christians. As a result, even if you read it as fiction, you HAVE to read it. It's sort of like the Da Vinci Code, except movie adaptions of the Bible are actually entertaining.

(Also, even the culturally illiterate might have driven by the staggering number of churches actually named "City on a Hill." They're in Atlanta, San Diego, Boston, Albuquerque, Torrance, and Knoxville, and that's just the first six Google pulled up among the thousands of links I got in response to my search).


Friday, October 3, 2008

Open Mic Tactic?

So the VP candidates come out last night, and the first thing I realize is that I can hear everything Sarah Palin is saying. But I can't hear Joe Biden, except when he's talking to Palin. As every mic made in the world now has a "turn off" switch, it is obvious that Palin has a "hot mic." Call me a cynic, but I think this was intentional.

Why am I a cynic? Because when she meets Senator Biden and shakes his hand, she asks him in her "golly gee" folksy way, "Can I call ya Joe?"

Admittedly, I may have missed a reference since I watched the debate again on 2x speed, but I didn't hear Palin EVER refer to Biden as "Joe." It was always "Senator Biden." Why ask for permission to use a name you then never actually use?

I think her handlers told her to keep the mic on and what to say to come across as gracious and likeable, and I say, "GREAT tactic." It worked on me. If it wasn't intentional, this should go in some political operative's play book.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Running VP Debate Commentary

The next group of posts are a running, (mostly) real time commentary from the VP debate, which I watched on CNN. CNN kept a running "dial" tally of undecided Ohio voters and divided them by gender. When these voters heard something they liked, they turned the dials up, when they heard something they disliked, they turned them down. You'll probably want to go to the earliest entry and read up.


Ohio Women REALLY Hate Cheney

Joe Biden just called Dick Cheney the most dangerous VP in history and launched a verbal assault that earned him a maxed out meter for nearly five full seconds. Wow. Ohio folk, particularly women, REALLY hate Cheney.

Actually, something just occurred to me that, when I write it, will probably get me eaten alive. Has anyone else noticed that in most instances, when the dial maxes out, it's the women at the top, and when the meter goes into the tank, the women are lowest?

Ohio women are kind of moody.

Uh oh. Joe Biden was just talking about being a single dad, and I think he got choked up. Boy, is some heartless Republican going to make him eat that for lunch tomorrow. Expect this to launch a cynical debate among the conservatorati about whether it was a REAL or STAGED cry, just like they did for Hillary Clinton.

As for the closing statements, Palin sounded too rah rah, while Biden seemed more substantive. Overall that's my read on the debate. Palin was VERY folksy, and I'd love to have a beer with her. But you judge a debate by the political effect and the substantive effect. Palin did what she needed to do to get the political benefit (show people she's NOT a loon, and emphasize her outsider status), but substantively, man Joe Biden comes off as knowledgeable. I admit my bias because I was for Biden before Obama. But that was because a restrained Joe Biden is as sharp a political figure as you will ever meet.

If only he could "maintain the restrain."


Sorry, Gordon Gecko...greed is apparently NOT good!

Palin is talking about ending Wall Street greed, helping main street and working class folks, and keeping taxes low, and she's roasting the scale.

Biden had his lowest moment of the debate on the dial when he said he spends time at Home Depot. (I guess people prefer Lowe's).

But when he started talking about how corporate America has "benefited plenty," he jumped up again.

How cute. Sarah Palin just gave a "shout out" to some third graders. They must be ecstatic.

And, holy cow, if I were John McCain, I'd rewrite Governor Palin's stump speech to say:

"Education, wah wa waaa waaaaaah, education, blah blah, GO EDUCATION!"

Governor Palin's lines about education, which were exhortatory cheerleading, garnered the strongest sustained approval of the night for her.


Here's What Biden Knows...

...foreign policy, and he's running on the high end of the meter consistently now. Palin, while certainly not embarrassing herself, is hugging the mid-line with periodic upticks.

Every time Biden mentions Dick Lugar, the dial machinery falls asleep.

(Just kidding. It actually spiked up slightly when Biden said Obama reached across the aisle to work with Lugar).

Notably, Americans in Ohio want to help people in Darfur. When Biden talked about enforcing a no-fly zone, the meter maxed out.


We all love Israel!

Israel is our democratic bud, no doubt, and both Governor Palin and Joe Biden are giving the Israelis mad props. Biden just said, "Israel has had no better friend in the U.S. Senate than Joe Biden." Palin retorts, "I'm encouraged to know we both love Israel!"


Let's all go to the Middle East and give Israel a big group hug.

"We LOVE you, Israel! You are NOT a stinking corpse! You are the biggest per capita @ss-kicker on the planet!"


Palin is ailing again....

When Joe Biden said Obama had a plan to get us out of Iraq, he went off the chart on CNN's dial-a-meter! Palin's response that "We're waiving the white flag" put her below the zero line deeply for the first time tonight. At least among undecided Ohio voters, the Iraqi war is an elephant around the neck of John McCain.

When Biden said we need to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, he maxed out the charts again.

Now Palin is running through a list of the "baddies" in the world. Did somebody tell her during prep that saying difficult foreign names would make her look more knowledgeable? She's said Ahmedijad five times now.


Palin is Ailing on Gay Marriage

Sarah Palin just told me she is tolerant. Phew! What a relief! I thought a second ago she had rather strongly implied that increasing the incidents of marriage was a slippery slope TO gay marriage. Also, I'm not sure where she really is. When Joe Biden suggested that they have no difference because they both support giving all incidents of marriage to gay couples, Palin didn't say, "That's right." She said, "Your question was whether Senator Biden supported gay marriage? My answer is no."



Governor Palin was just asked a very narrow question: "Would you have favored the bankruptcy reform act last year?" She gave an answer, but it wasn't to Ifill's question. Biden didn't do a great job, though, finessing the difference between his vote FOR the bankruptcy reform act while Obama voted no. But he was at least on the subject matter.

I knew Palin would be very well-prepared, but I also knew the more "unexpected" the question would be, the weaker Palin would be in response. Governor Palin had rebuttal time, and instead of talking about bankruptcy or the economy in general, she went back to what she knew - energy.

I can see the future of this debate:

Ifill: What's your favorite movie, Governor Palin?

Palin: If we don't plan for the future by creating energy independence, we won't be able to see movies in the future. I don't want to fight over whether man is to blame for making bad movies, I want to fight over how we make better movies.



Palin is off to a great start by any measure, not just on the "reduced expectations" measure. She's holding her own and engaging Biden directly, which is gutsy. But why does she talk like a woman who popped out of a time machine from the 1950s? Everything she says is with "darn it," "golly, "we sure will" cheerleader enthusiasm, like she thinks the American people are children. I think if we all went over to her house and told her we were sad about the economy, she'd offer us cookies and lemonade.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Giving an Earful About Ifill

My favorite nemesis (and you know who I mean) is churning a story on his blog that Gwen Ifill is unfit to moderate the VP debate on Thursday night because she has an Obama "tribute" book coming out in January that he calls "The Age of Obama."

Here's the problem. The REAL title of the book is The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.

Since Obama is not even the sole focal point of the book, why not truncate the title and make it seem that way?!? The Amazon description offers the rebuttal:

In THE BREAKTHROUGH, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African-American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.

Ifill argues that the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s. She offers incisive, detailed profiles of such prominent leaders as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and U.S. Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama, and also covers up-and-coming figures from across the nation. Drawing on interviews with power brokers like Senator Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict and the "black enough" conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history.

If people want to say Ifill is not neutral, they can do so. I believe she bore an almost disgusted look after Sarah Palin's speech at the convention. People interpreted it as anti-Palin. I interpret it as her being offended about a belittling remark toward "community organizers." In truth, Ifill has been upfront about her view of Obama: "I still don't know if he'll be a good president."

If Ifill were shilling for Obama, she would have NEVER made this comment, and the notion she has a financial interest in the outcome is preposterous. People who are going to read a book about racial politics and Obama will do it independent of whether he wins. What idiot goes, "OH, I wasn't going to read about presidential nominee Obama, but now that he's "as seen at the White House" Obama, give me three copies!"

The McCain campaign agreed to Ifill, and nothing about the fact she's written a book partially about Obama should change their view of her now.

In short, we already see the excuse making for Sarah Palin coming from Republican-Land, and she hasn't even failed yet. This is a measure of how little faith even some stalwart Republicans have in her. It has never occurred to them that she could hold her own on Thursday night.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Zakaria: "Ditch Palin"

Earlier this year, Advance Indiana churned the notion floating among conservatorati that Barack Obama would ditch Joe Biden after he exhibited too much "crazy Uncle Joe" at consecutive campaign stops while "Palin syndrome" infected America. Now it appears Palin is under assault.

("Palin Syndrome," which has a Republican strand called "Obama-mania," refers to the public's irrational, fevered pitch enthusiasm for a completely unknown political candidate because (s)he "looks and feels the part" for a demographically diverse ticket).

CNN's world affairs expert, Fareed Zakaria, captures my sentiments about Palin, and even my general admiration for Senator McCain, better than I ever could in the following interview with CNN:

CNN: What did you initially think when Sarah Palin was announced as the Republican vice presidential nominee?

Zakaria: I was a bit surprised -- as I think most people were. But I was willing to give her a chance. And I thought her speech at the convention was clever and funny. But once she began answering questions about economics and foreign policy, it became clear that she has simply never thought about these subjects before and is dangerously ignorant and unprepared for the job of vice president, let alone president.

CNN: You don't think she is qualified?

Zakaria: No. Gov. Palin has been given a set of talking points by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras that she repeats and repeats as long as she can. But if forced off those rehearsed lines, what she has to say is often, quite frankly --nonsense. Just listen to her response to Katie Couric's question about the bailout. It's gibberish -- an emptying out of catchphrases about economics that have nothing to do with the question or the topic. It's scary to think that this person could be running the country.

CNN: Does it make you concerned about Sen. McCain as a president?

Zakaria: Yes, and I say this with sadness because I greatly admire John McCain, a man of intelligence, honor and enormous personal and political courage. However, for him to choose Sara Palin to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. He did not put the country first with this decision. Whether it is appropriate or not, considering Sen. McCain's age most people expected to have a vice presidential candidate who would be ready to step in at a moment's notice. The actuarial odds of that happening are significant, something like a one-in-five chance.

Every time I hear Palin's answer to Katie Couric's bailout question, I'm reminded of the scene in Billy Madison where Adam Sandler gives an infantile answer to a question during an academic competition, and the moderator/principal replies:

"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

But Palin will never get bounced, and my party is the reason. If McCain kicks Palin to the curb now, the Democrats will make him eat it for dinner. We'll put up ads about how he made a horrific call for political expediency.

So here's what I propose: bi-partisanship for the national interest, just like when Senator McCain championed campaign finance reform. Barack Obama agrees to SAY NOTHING about the change if John McCain will just do it. It would be like Obama giving McCain a political mulligan. Maybe if he did that, McCain would at least look at him in the next debate.


Conservatives Admit Palin is Shaky, but Fox Hides the Evidence

You often hear how Obama and his supporters mysteriously make negative news disappear from the internet. Apparently, they are not alone. Below is a story that used to be on Fox News. It's gone now, and I know why. Fox doesn't want you to know that it's not just George Will saying Sarah Palin has "negligible experience" now. In fact, if all the Republicans who haven't drank the Kool-Aid could speak without fear of damaging the ticket, they'd tell you what they now know: Sarah Palin is a twit.

John McCain isn't, and we're not voting for VP, right? So why care? First, Senator McCain belied everything appealing about himself when he picked Palin for political reasons. Good judgment? Out the window. "Country First?" Out the window. But more importantly, even holding the view I do that McCain is in fine physical and mental shape (it's not "advancing age" that makes him "unsmooth"; he's always been that way), I'm can't shake "what if..."

In my lifetime, I cannot think of anybody vying for the VP role, except for Sarah Palin and Admiral Stockdale, who actually terrified me. Any public figure can recreate or improve a public image, so Palin can still shock the world, but so far, she has been a vacuous soundbite spitter who believes the more emphatically you say something, the truer it is.

In fact, SHE would be more like the third Bush term than McCain could ever be. If she gets into the White House, it will be more "from the gut/ignore countervailing facts" governance. And, in accepting the VP role, Palin showed she has no ability to assess when she's in over her head. That's a terrifying prospect in an international crisis.

I predict that Americans will tune into the VP debate this Thursday in greater numbers than the first presidential debate. Many of those will be driven by schadenfreude ("enjoyment from the misfortune of others") because they anticipate Palin being "deer in headlights." That won't happen, but Palin and the McCain apparatus has gone into overdrive to downplay expectations just in case.

Palin seemed to take glee in emphasizing Biden's age (65), saying it will be "quite a task" going against a "great debater" who was first elected when she was in second grade who has been (in Washington) a "long, long, long" time. (I'm not making that up. It was like Palin was struggling to get to 500 words on a high school essay).

I understand downplaying expectations as a political tactic for election results, but I don't understand it here. It's as if Palin thinks the reason she might get beat is because she didn't take debate in college and hasn't had decades to absorb sound bites by osmosis, not because she'll be revealed as knowing nothing on most national issues.

Respectfully, if a candidate can't sell the American public on the idea she knows what she's doing, how will she sell world leaders?

Anyway, here's your phantom story:

Conservatives Begin Questioning Palin’s Heft by Associated Press Sunday, September 28, 2008 http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/28/conservatives-begin-questioni...

A growing number of Republicans are expressing concern about Sarah Palin’s uneven - and sometimes downright awkward - performances in her limited media appearances.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, a former Palin supporter, says the vice presidential nominee should step aside. Kathryn Jean Lopez, writing for the conservative National Review, says “that’s not a crazy suggestion” and that “something’s gotta change.”

Tony Fabrizio, a GOP strategist, says Palin’s recent CBS appearance isn’t disqualifying but is certainly alarming. “You can’t continue to have interviews like that and not take on water.”
“I have not been blown away by the interviews from her, but at the same time, I haven’t come away from them thinking she doesn’t know s- t,” said Chris Lacivita, a GOP strategist. “But she ain’t Dick Cheney, nor Joe Biden and definitely not Hillary Clinton.”

There is no doubt that Palin retains a tremendous amount of support among rank-and-file Republicans. She draws huge crowds, continues to raise a lot of money for the McCain campaign, and state parties report she has sparked an uptick in the number of volunteers.

Asked about Palin’s performance in the CBS interview, a McCain official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said: “She did fine. She’s a tremendous asset and a fantastic candidate.”

But there is also no doubt many Republican insiders are worried she could blow next week’s debate, based on her unexpectedly weak and unsteady media appearances, and hurt the Republican ticket if she does.

What follows is a viewer’s guide to some of Palin’s toughest moments on camera so far.

Speaking this week with CBS’s Katie Couric, Palin seemed caught off- guard by a very predictable question about the status of McCain adviser Rick Davis’ relationship with mortgage lender Freddie Mac. Davis was accused by several news outlets of retaining ties - and profiting from - the companies despite his denials.

Where a more experienced politician might have been able to brush off Couric’s follow-up question, Palin seemed genuinely stumped, repeating the same answer twice and resorting to boilerplate language about the “undue influence of lobbyists.”

These missteps could be attributed to inadequate preparation and don’t necessarily reflect more deeply on Palin’s ability to perform as vice president. But when reporters have tried to probe Palin’s thinking on subjects such as foreign policy, she’s been similarly opaque.

In an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Palin gave a muddled answer to a question about her opinion of the Bush Doctrine. And given the chance to describe her foreign policy credentials more fully, Palin recited familiar talking points, telling Gibson that her experience with energy policy was sufficient preparation for dealing with national security issues.

In the same interview, Palin let Gibson lead her into saying it might be necessary to wage war on Russia - a suggestion that most candidates would have avoided making explicitly and that signaled her discomfort in discussing global affairs.

Then, asked this week by Couric to discuss her knowledge of foreign relations - in particular, her assertion that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gave her international experience - Palin tripped herself up explaining her interactions with Alaska’s neighbor to the west. Watch CBS Videos Online

On the economy, too, Palin has avoided taking clear stances. In a largely friendly interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Palin spoke in tangled generalities in response to a question about a possible Wall Street bailout - and even preempted her campaign by coming out against it.

On Thursday, Palin finally took questions from her traveling press - but shut things down quickly after Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel asked her whether she would support Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who has been indicted for corruption, and Rep. Don Young, who is under federal investigation, for reelection.

Unlike her other interviews, at least this time Palin had the option to walk away.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ministers Vow to Violate 501(c)(3) Restriction

Coming on the heels of The Villages/Mitch Daniels ad controversy, I can't help but flag this story.

Tomorrow, thirty-three ministers will lead a protest called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," during which the ministers will endorse political candidate from the pulpit and then send videotapes of the sermons to the IRS.

The protest was organized by the Alliance Defense Fund, a consortium of Christian lawyers that fight for conservative religious and social causes. From the New York Times:

Organizers said they wanted a range of clergy of various faiths and political persuasions to join the protest, but acknowledged that the participants might be "weighted” toward the conservative end of the spectrum and more likely to support the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, than the Democrat, Senator Barack

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, said: “This is not something these churches want to do in secrecy and hiding. In fact, they don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong. They don’t believe they’re violating the law.

“What they’re doing is talking to their congregations about biblical issues related to candidates and elections, and they believe they have the constitutional right to do that.”

This will end up in federal court where it will be determined that, indeed, these pastors have the right to speak favorably for a particular candidate as the spirit moves them. They just don't have the right to avoid paying taxes while doing it. Am I wrong, though, that any church that REALLY felt like its divine mission requires involvement in politics would just pay the taxes as a necessary evil to have unfettered pulpit freedom? Aren't those pastors suspect who bristle because paying taxes means there will be less in the church's building fund a bit suspect?


It Takes a Villages. . . CEO to Get a Lucrative State Contract?

The story about Mitch Daniels' TV ad featuring the head of a non-profit entity endorsing him in arguable violation of IRS regulations has run either on, or in, WIBC, WFYI, WTHR, WISH, WTHI (Terre Haute), the Muncie Star Press, the Elkhart Truth, the Northwest Times (Hammond), the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Indianapolis Business Journal, and the Chicago Tribune.

If you read this blog, you know that Sharon Pierce, the CEO of two non-profits, The Villages and Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, spoke of Governor Daniels in glowing terms in the Governor's current commercial. I contend that Pierce's actions are contrary to IRS regulations prohibiting non-profits from engaging in political activism. For most of you, that's serious yawnsville, so you may be wondering, "How did a technical legal argument grow media legs?"

There is a new element to the story of which I was not aware: the Villages recently received a contract from the state for $12 million that covers the next two years. This is not an insubstantial amount, as The Villages' website states that its annual budget in 2007 was $25 million (a good portion of which was from existing state contracts).

For those who don't know state procurement (a/k/a "those who have a life"), Indiana law only requires the lowest competitive bidder on supplies and equipment. When the state seeks professional services, no bid is necessary. There is a middle option, however, called requests for proposal ("RFPs"). This method offers the semblance of competition by requiring each submitting entity to at least ostensibly "meet specifications" while outlining why they're good. However, the method of awarding RFP contracts is almost as subjective as no-bid professional service contracts. The only difference is that the state must give the reason a particular vendor was selected. This is limited only by the state’s creativity of phraseology, which gives it essentially unfettered discretion, even when it uses RFPs.

As a result, there is an air of quid pro quo on this commercial, which could be deflating or inflated depending on the answer to a series of questions:

(1) When did Ms. Pierce ultimately agree to appear in the ad? Was it before or after the contract was awarded to The Villages?

(2) Whose idea was the ad and when was it first broached between the parties? Was it before or after the RFP process began several months ago?

(3) Did Daniels (and his agents) know that The Villages was vying for a state contract (this is more of a rhetorical question really. The answer is yes, given that ALL social services in the child welfare system were out for bid).

(4) Were leaders of any other non-profit organizations approached by the Daniels campaign, and if so, what was their response? Were they bidding on state services as well at the time?

(5) Was The Villages the lowest bidder for the service it sought to provide? Or was there subjectivity in the state's award to The Villages?

When I wrote my letter to Ms. Pierce, I had two points: (1) I believed the ad should be withdrawn because it violated IRS regulations by giving the impression she was speaking for her agency, and (2) The Villages board was foolish for signing off on the ad because current and prospective donors might not want to support an organization that lets its CEO wade into electoral politics.

The first idea got some support yesterday from Julia Vaughn. From the Chicago Tribune:

Julia Vaughn, policy director of the citizens' watchdog group Common Cause Indiana, which lobbies for open and accountable government, said she has worked for nonprofits for 20 years and "you're not allowed to take sides."

"If they're not crossing the line, they've stepped right up to it with their toes squarely on it," Vaughn said.

But the contract sapped the vitality of my second argument. If you ran a company you expected to receive a quarter of its annual budget over the next four years from the Governor, why would you care about losing smaller private donations? DOING the ad might be the savviest play after weighing the pros (a lucrative contract plus the glowing admiration of a Governor who will be issuing new contracts in two years) against the cons (an almost non-existent likelihood of losing 501(c)(3) status even if the IRS determined there was a violation). One could say that The Villages just put its mouth where its money is.

But that would seem a cynical oversimplification. First, Ms. Pierce is no partisan hack. She's nationally known and highly-regarded in her field, and she has served both Republican AND Democrat administrations. Ms. Pierce was the then-Governor Evan Bayh's Deputy Director for the Department of Child Services between 1991 and 1993.

Also, The Villages is a multi-state organization that serves over 1200 kids annually. One could easily argue that The Villages didn't need to appear in any commercial to get business from the state, and that Ms. Pierce's motives were NOTHING about finances, but rather just about advancing the welfare of children with a Governor who has increased the number of case managers. (Of course, one wonders what contact Ms. Pierce had with Jill Long-Thompson to assess whether Ms. Thompson would hire even more case managers and also accept an independent investigator in child fatality cases, an idea not favored by Governor Daniels).

But there's a real easy way for non-profits across the state to avoid being subjected to this kind of "what's really going on under the surface" scrutiny. When in doubt, leave your non-profit’s name out.

I hope the boards are paying attention.


Friday, September 26, 2008

It's Official! I'm a Liberal!

If you read it in the paper, it must be true, right?

Niki Kelly of the The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette says I run a "liberal" blog.

One of the problems with journalism is not enough column inches for precision. This means oversimplification. One of the problems with human nature and society is that we can't stand gray. Everything MUST be black or white. These two phenomenons merge in the worst way, and as a result, every blogger is either "conservative" or "liberal." Statements you'll never hear in a news story are "He runs a socially liberal, economically conservative DLC-type blog," or "He runs a Republican-leaning, but generally objective centrist blog."

Understand that in my complaint, I don't look at the word "liberal" as evil like the Limbaugh fanatics of the world. I'm not even saying I don't have some traditional "liberal" beliefs. I'm just not sure how I'd fit into the club if I were around actual hard-core liberals.

- Not two weeks ago, I was chastizing the ACLU for not defending the rights of gun owners. Is that liberal?

- I'm not for dismantling our military. I just want it to quit developing and buying weapons systems that no generals recommend just because members of congress live in districts the that make them.

- I'm a strong proponent of competition and open school selection in education. If we REALLY cared about the "underprivileged," we would let parents take their kids wherever they want to go. Instead, we pretend we're saving them by "preserving the system." Have you seen our dropout rates? Have you seen our ISTEP scores? What's worth preserving?!?

This gets me revved up because an anti-choice approach doesn't affect many of the REAL liberals who can afford to send their kids to private schools. In fact, I'd say ANYBODY who has sent their kid to a private school should be automatically disqualified from saying that we must save public schools. I can't think of a more paternalistic and hypocritical position for a progressive to take than to deny to other people's CHILDREN what you gave to your own solely by virtue of a fat wallet.

- I supported Bill Clinton's welfare reform package because I believe dependency can become a culture that is handed down from generation to generation.

- I believe market-based incentives solve more problems efficiently than government regulations (though I certainly see the value of a lot more regulations than "conservatives").

I'm sure this is the tip of the liberal iceberg.

Call your political friends and enemies what you want, but don't act like you don't know deep down that you're being intellectually dishonest in most cases because one size does NOT fit all.

More on the substance of the Gazette story soon. . .


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top Two Reasons Letterman Is Peeved at McCain

In my opinion, David Letterman is venting his ego here. Scheduled to attend Letterman's show, Senator John McCain canceled at the last minute, telling Letterman's people that he was suspending his campaign to "race to the airport" so that he could get to D.C.

After glowing praise of McCain's POW courage, Letterman lays into Senator McCain for not acting like the McCain he knows. It would never occur to Letterman that someone would completely strand him to attend to a “national crisis” instead.

BUT perhaps Letterman is justified in his anger. If John McCain is suspending his campaign, why did he do an interview with Katie Couric at the exact time he was scheduled to go on Letterman?

Also, why COULDN’T Sarah Palin continue to run the campaign? I’m sorry, but it’s pretty obvious that even John McCain’s people don’t trust her to go unscripted (a claim that could arguably be made about Obama, by the way). McCain's people have been hiding Palin from the media like nuns hiding the pregnant girl at a convent.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The 2nd Gubernatorial Debate

I watched the second head-to-head-to-head last night, and, stealing from Sports Illustrated's Peter King, here are the "things I think I think":

1. If Jill Long-Thompson mentions her M.B.A. and PhD again, I'm going to scream. I don't know what poll she looked at that says saying this line gains her votes, but I don't buy it. In a vacuum, if I'm looking for someone who can solve an economic or business management problem, I'll take someone with an M.B.A. over a guy who has a GED. BUT nobody believes Daniels is an imbecile, so JLT needs to show me how the degrees translate in a better economic solution for this to make sense. She has yet to do this.

2. Mitch Daniels sure seems like a hothead. He was visibly irritated every time criticism was made about him. Also, I think Mitch Daniels can sometimes be cowardly. When he had the chance to say that he would do away with township government, he said, "These (the bi-partisan government reform commission's recommendations) are not my recommendations." He did say he would "look at" the recommendations and "take them seriously." Why the hedge?

3. In contrast to Daniels, Andy Horning told a guy who works as a logger that government has no business being in the natural resources/park management business, even though he personally cares greatly about the environment. Frankly, Andy Horning wins every debate he's in. He's the only one who articulates a clear philosophy, he's amazingly folksy while also being wonkish, which is an astonishing feat, and he is the only who will tell you bad news right to your face. I never hear Horning give an answer where I say, "That's a political answer." I can't say the same for either Daniels or JLT.

If the Libertarian Party ever finds a George Soros-type donor to give ten million dollars to Andy Horning, Indiana will have its first third-party Governor.


Bailout Lotto!

One of my best friends, Gerry Rosenfeld, is what I call a "fringe-thinker." He is better at distilling "the essence" of an issue than anybody I know, and he ran one by me yesterday, and for the life of me, I can't find any real downside, except that it SOUNDS too fringe.

He started with a very nonsensical principle: don't reward error.

He asked, "Why in the world would anybody give $700 billion in bailout money to the very people who caused the crisis in the first place?" I agree. Isn't that like giving more explosives to the guy who accidentally blew up his house while saying, "Be more careful!"

At the same time, we all recognize that: (a) the economy is struggling; and (b) SOME average people will take a hit to their 401(k) accounts and IRAs if their investments are in any stocks or mutual funds with mortgage-backed securities. While the free marketeer in me says, "They chose poorly, make them live with their choices," very few average investers could have seen this coming.

So, how do you get the economy going and get these companies "liquid" without giving control back to the clowns who "wrecked the engine," as Gerry says.

How about a national lottery?

Everybody in this country who pays taxes is registered by social security number. The government puts its $700 billion aside. Then the government runs a national lottery and draws, say, 3,500,000 random social numbers. If you have an existing mortgage, or are living in a home subject to foreclosure (but not yet foreclosed), the government will cut you a check (paid directly to the mortgage company) for the entire amount.

If your social security number is selected and you don't own a home, the government will put 20% down for you on any home for which you can qualify on a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage with a monthly payment that is, say, 60% or less of your gross income.

(Gerry's idea didn't require the winners to buy existing homes, but consuming the existing market seems beneficial, so maybe you give 10% down on new homes and 30% down for purchasing an existing one. Also, Gerry didn't introduce the "60% of gross wages requirement," which I pulled out of a hat, but it seems important to ensure that people don't take their government largesse and overbuy again by virtue of that subsidy).

This plan would stabilize the realty market and stimulate the economy because every person whose mortage is paid off can now either invest or inject into the consumer stream their saved mortgage payment.

If people say, "Yes, but this plan might benefit wealthy homeowners who aren't even struggling! What if Bill Gates is selected!?!?!" Okay, then maybe you interject "progressive" provisions. One might be that the government would only pay off mortgages of $200,000 or less. Another might be that the government will give the $200,000 if it (a) either retires the entire mortgage; or (b) allows a homeowner with a mortgage balance of greater than $200,000 to refinance to a fixed-rate mortgage that saves the homeowner at least 50% monthly over the prior monthly mortgage amount. The goal is to get saved mortgage money into the economy quickly while paying off as many mortgages as possible. When the money runs out, the government stops picking social security numbers.

While opposition to the "give the crooks the money" bailout is mounting, this lottery idea would be overwhelmingly supported by the American public. The approximately 180 million taxpayers would each have a 2% chance of winning. That's better odds than ANY other lottery in America, but this one you get to play FOR FREE.

People will be surprised I know a Garth Brooks lyric (though ONLY this one, plus that one about "friends in low places"). Anyway, in his song "The Dance," Garth says, "Our lives are better left to chance." Maybe so is a government bailout.

ADDENDUM: Gerry read my post, and he offers these thoughts.

1. People who have Gates-type wealth buy homes in cash, so we won't be helping out the super-wealthy, even if they win the lottery.

2. Most mortgages in small town America are WAY below $200,000, so we could actually cover probably 15 million people when it's all said and done, not just 3.5.

3. The federal government already regulates 30-year mortgages, so we don't need a 60% of gross income requirement. Had we simply NOT offered ARMs, we would likely not be in this mess.