Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Does Tully Read IPOPA or Do We Share the Same Brain? You Decide!

A reader told me I suffer from "keyboard diarrhea." Unfortunately, my brain is about to explode with “I told you so," and I can't explain why quickly. Grab your mental TP.

Matt Tully had a fascinating column in the Indianapolis Star last Friday. But for the fact it’s Hoosier common sense and many people can have identical thoughts independently, I’d tell Tully that, while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, God also said, “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” The jist of Tully’s column is that the Democratic Party “brand” is tarnished at the city-county level by a run of ethical lapses and public embarrassments. I've heard this “brand” idea before? Where was that? Oh, yeah. I’ve said it for the past three years to anybody who would listen.

The Marion County Democratic Party’s greatest failing is poor candidate recruitment (Ken Ackles, anyone?!?) that leads to embarrassing PR problems, which we follow up by a “circle the wagons” mentality that plays like cover up. And, because Marion County Democratic politics is seen through such a racial prism now, any allegation against an African-American elected official is met with defensiveness, whether the charge comes from inside or outside the party. In fairness, this response is caused, in part, by critics' phraseology. Have you ever noticed how Republicans use the phrase "thug" (which has prevalency in hip hop culture) to describe Andre Carson's followers? You never hear this phrase to describe the Congressman's white supporters, I assure you.

The latest news? An “ethics committee” (well, actually, two Republicans, as Paul Bateman resigned and Bill Oliver didn’t show up) voted to censure Monroe Gray and referred him for criminal investigation by Carl Brizzi.

The committee recommendations were a long time coming. Though the resolution to investigate Gray was sought in March of 2007, my own party sadly voted against an investigation twice. The investigation only passed on October 27, 2008, when the committee was made truly bi-partisan by a Sherron Franklin amendment.

But if the composition of the investigating body was the sticking point, this could have been addressed in March. Had the Democrats simply done then what they ended up doing anyway, they would have preserved their at-large city-county council seats and avoided back-handed compliments from Republican Party Chair Tom John.

Gray’s censure was based on his failure to disclose that his cement company was receiving money as a subcontractor for a major city contractor. This is the same company that has been the subject of several lawsuits, at least one default judgment (where a verdict is rendered against you because you don't even show up in court), and complaints for shoddy workmanship. Gray also suffered a major brain fade over 300 East when he told the Indianapolis Star that he knew nothing about the project, even though his wife, Teresa Gray, was a major investor. Does anybody breathing believe he really didn’t know?

The criminal referral is more troubling. Councilor Gray received a salary from IFD for...well, we’re not sure what he did for IFD, though critics say he was drawing a city salary to lobby the council on behalf of the IFD. We also know that Gray has was not willing to provide a single document – no e-mails, no meeting notes, no correspondence, no day planners – to prove his work for the IFD. The alleged charge, accordingly, is ghost employment. The fact Gray accepted this IFD “job” (and that he voted on a resolution to investigate himself) is terribly troubling.

For Bateman’s part, he resigned from the Committee after he found himself in a firestorm regarding a not-for-profit which is being investigated for a laundry list of financial improprieties. Word is that Bateman is fully cooperating with this investigation, so it is premature to paint him with ANY type of “criminal” brush. He is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. But how can you not paint him as being at least naive?

Paul Bateman is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met in politics. I’ve known him since he helped Pam Carter get elected in 1992 when he was working with the UAW. But I can’t change my approach because I like somebody. That's what gets us in trouble as a party.

When we let you wear the elected Democrat uniform, your obligation to avoid trouble intensifies. Your obligation to pay attention to what those around you are doing intensifies, in particular if you lend your name to their cause. NOBODY believes, “I didn’t know,” even if true. If you cannot handle that reality, DON’T run for office. You will quickly find yourself in a situation that detracts from what the rest of us are trying to get done for Marion County residents.

Tully used another of my frequent metaphors when he said the Marion County Democratic Party was becoming just like the Indiana Pacers. Let me finish the analogy for you since Mr. Tully didn’t.

Jamal Tinsley was shot at outside the Conrad Hotel. Was it Tinsley’s fault?

The public responds in unison: “WHO CARES!?!? It was 3 a.m., Tinsley was a wealthy celebrity, and he drove with a group of friends to a bar where the collective net worth of all the patrons was probably less than the value of one of the flashy cars in which he arrived. What did he THINK was going to happen?”

Nobody cares about the "fairness" of the situation when it comes to pampered players and politicians, except for pampered players and politicians. If you can't deal with THIS fact, don't run for office.

Smart political figures, like wealthy celebrities, do not put themselves in positions where controversy CAN follow. Are you listening, Ron Gibson? They don't associate with people who will get them into trouble? Are you listening, Councilor Bateman? As Gibson now knows, being exonerated of all criminal wrong-doing is NOT the public relations battle. AVOIDING the public relations battle altogether is the battle.

This is a lesson Doris Minton-McNeil needs to learn as well. I do not believe she will be charged with any criminal conduct, nor do I think she intentionally pushed the officer. But anybody who thinks that this is all that matters in politics is delusional.

And the “defensiveness” of which I spoke is best exhibited by a story making the rounds that the IMPD officers who went to Doris Minton-McNeil’s home were "out to get her." The true part of that story is that McNeil apparently met with the district commander for her neighborhood and said some not-too-kind things. But even if you buy the motive part of this story, SHE CALLED THEM. Am I supposed to believe that the officers who were dispatched by the 9-1-1 operator were able to hatch an elaborate conspiracy to make Minton-McNeil look bad before they even knew who she was? If so, that’s seriously quick thinking.

The truth usually lies in the middle. I’m told that Ms. McNeil tried to show the officer’s her business card because she did not believe they were taking her seriously. I can see that. But because McNeil was flashing her business card, who believes she didn't pull the "you can't arrest a city-councilor" card when they tried to place her under arrest. And as a city councilor, she has to know better than anybody the appropriate way to make a grievance about police conduct known. She could have NOT confronted the police, gone to the caucus and formulated a public response, and avoided this entire embarrassment for herself and every other Democrat in the county.

Anybody who heard the 9-1-1 tape (in which she says there is a “pedophile motherf-----” in her house) knows Ms. McNeil was very clearly amped up and/or intoxicated before police got there. Nobody who heard that tape will believe she was not confrontational with the officers in some way, even if they believe she didn't call them racists. Nobody who has ever hung out with an intoxicated friend will doubt that McNeil bumped into the officer by virtue of alcohol-related loss of coordination.

Ms. McNeil could have probably made this whole thing go away by issuing a public apology (without admitting criminal liability). Instead, she opted to put the entire caucus in the spotlight with her.

As for Councilor Bateman, while I doubt the criminal investigation leads to anything, only he KNOWS what it can turn up. If he knows there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING illegal or unethical, then by all means, Councilor, dig in and weather the storm.

But if anything questionable can materialize, Councilor Bateman should vacate now before every sordid revelation becomes "council business." Otherwise, the media will be there, photographing him and the caucus, just as they did with McNeil, and asking all its members for their position on "the Bateman matter."

In short, Bateman, too, decides whether his colleagues avoid the spotlight or get put squarely in it. Don't put them there, Councilor, unless you KNOW there's no way they can get burned.

All elected officials owe at least that to their party.


Bayh Sizing Up JLT HQ for New Drapes?

If I were on Jill Long-Thompson’s campaign staff right now, I’d be getting accustomed to playing second-fiddle because every indication is that Senator Evan Bayh will be Barack Obama’s running mate if Bayh survives the intensive VP VP (vetting process).

You ask: “What does a Bayh vice-presidential campaign have to do with JLT?!?”

Just this. Indiana Code 3-13-3-1(b).

“The governor shall immediately fill a vacancy in the United States Senate by appointing a person possessing the qualifications required under Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3 of the Constitution of the United States. The person appointed holds office until the next general election, when the vacancy shall be filled by the election of a Senator in a special election to hold office for the unexpired term.”

In politics, assuming an office, no matter how long you hold it before an election, gives a leg up on retaining it, which is why Andre Carson’s supporters quietly orchestrated his succession before anybody else had a chance to mobilize. See how well it worked?

So, in addition to Hoosier Democrats, who might be interested in having a Democrat get the senate appointment, even if it’s only for three to five months? The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), which doesn’t want to see a D seat turn R, even for a minute. If Mitch Daniels is re-elected, it’s his appointment. If JLT gets elected, the right is hers.

In addition to DSCC interest, Bayh will make sure every political action in Indiana works for Obama. The very second the Bayh announcement is made, the JLT headquarters will look like a scene from one of those hostage crises movies. You know the one where the feds come in and take over for the local sheriff. JLT’s entire campaign will be commandeered because, quite frankly, even though she’s “out talking” on a run-ragged schedule, nobody I’ve polled can tell you “her message.” This is why, if JLT wants to survive politically, she’ll turn over the megaphone when the DSCC (and Senator Bayh) says she will.

(The first order of business will be getting JLT to stop talking about her principle campaign idea to date – a gas tax suspension - which Obama called “a gimmick” when Hillary Clinton proposed it on the national level).

But this is actually good news for JLT. In exchange for putting her staff (and probably consultants) on a raft and sending them over the waterfall, metaphorically speaking, JLT will get a LOT of D.C. money from sources other than Emily’s List and the SEIU. You think JLT has labor problems? See how long those last once the DSCC’s top brass starts leaning on people.

In truth, Evan Bayh’s succession to VP candidate is a win-win for JLT and her staff. Sure, it will feel like a demotion for some staffers to be moved from “(current title)” to “deputy (current title).” But they shouldn’t be distressed. For playing along without ego, they may find JLT holding a gubernatorial victory and all the employment-related spoils of war at her disposal. How does “Special Assistant to the Governor” sound?


Monday, July 28, 2008

With Family Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

Kudos to Jen Wagner at http://www.hoosierpoliticalreport.com/ for catching that Sam Carson, cousin to Andre Carson, is running against Ed Treacy to fill the vacancy for Marion County Democratic Party Chair. Sam Carson has no political track record that anyone can find, so why he is doing this is a mystery. What we do know is that the Congressman is strongly supporting Treacy, which shows that Carson is politically astute.

Some will say, “Let Democracy work. Treacy will win easily with the Congressman’s support.” Unfortunately, it’s a sad reality that a single contest for county chair might not draw a quorum among precinct committee folks for the meeting, which is this Wednesday. If the county fails to fill the vacancy, by state party rules, the Indiana Democratic Party takes over and selects the next Marion County Chairman. That would be quite embarrassing for Marion County (though I suppose most Marion County Democrats have grown somewhat accustomed to this feeling over the past two years).

City-County Council legal counsel and Monroe Gray attorney, Aaron Haith, was also making phone calls to gauge support for his candidacy, but he smartly opted not to challenge Treacy. Though Haith is likeable and well-known for supervising GOTV efforts for the party, had he prevailed (he wouldn't have), he might as well have painted a bull’s eye on his chest for Republican County Chair Tom John. If Haith is interested in moving up the political hierarchy, he needs to wash the Gray out of his hair.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Idiocy in Words: Obama and the Rock Concert

First, let's be honest. Barack Obama gets a LOT of press coverage. Conversatives and McCain fans cite this as proof of Obama favoritism among the "Jewish, homosexual, environmentally-friendly, socialist, liberal media."

I'm not saying reporters don't like Obama, nor am I saying that some media outlets are incapable of "emphasis bias." But I think the real bias in the media is toward (a) novelty; (b) underdog status; and (c) conflict.

If you do or represent something different as a Republican, you'll get covered. This is why Mitt Romney's presidential campaign was well-covered. Mike Huckabee also got a lot of coverage. And this is why Obama is also being well-covered. He IS novel and he keeps BEING novel.

Obama spoke in Germany before 200,000. McCain spoke before who? A group of 20 Rotarians at a diner in New Hampshire?

BUT, say Obamassasins like Advance Indiana, this German crowd was enticed to the scene by a popular German rock band. See?!? Nobody wanted to see Obama. They just wanted a rock concert, just like when Obama was in Oregon, and just like in Indianapolis when Stevie Wonder performed.

Gary Welch of Advance Indiana is on a mission to destroy Obama. I get his desperation with this story. But have Limbaugh and the conservative bloggers suffered brain melt contemplating an Obama presidency because they are also talking about how the crowd was "recruited."

Um....if nobody wanted to hear Obama, how come 200,000 stayed AFTER the concert for a very lengthy address? NOBODY left. If the 24,000 that came to Indianapolis only wanted to hear Stevie Wonder, why did they stay in the rain for thirty minutes for Obama to erach the stage and then for an hour as he spoke?

Friends, Obama can be criticized for driving to the middle with revised positions or statements on FISA or Iraq . That's fair game. But when you're talking about something as idiotic as this.....wow. You must know that nothing else you're trying is working, or you are really desperate for material.

I think the main thing that bothers many ultra-conservatives about Obama is that people who support him REALLY like him. And that makes some ultra-conservatives feel bad about themselves. See, they hate Obama. And some ultra-conservatives can't figure out why you don't, too. They've done all the same polarizing and demonizing as in the past, and they're frustrated because it isn't working! This is not to say that everybody likes Obama. The national polls, in fact, show an even fight. But the ultra-conservatives will not be happy until every last American sees Obama as they do.

Normally, ultra-conservatives talk about how "the American people know better" than the government and how smart the average American is. But average Americans are only given these praises when they play pawns in the ultra-conservatives' game. When you don't, you become a bunch of Obamaniacs, or a bunch of idolizing idiots being brainwashed by the Obamassiah.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Mitch Daniels' Hypocrisy?


So the Indiana Republican Party issues a strong statement against Jill Long-Thompson last week because the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) has already given JLT $900,000, and it says it will "do whatever it takes" for her to win. That, my friends, is a HUGE chunk of cash from one interest group. Objectively, I can say that this attack works on about everybody who isn't from a labor union household.

But what does the Governor do the week thereafter? He accepts $750,000 from the Republican Governor's Association. Wow. Am I missing something, or is this is staggering hypocrisy?

At least with JLT, we KNOW where the money came from. If you are against collective bargaining for state employees, we can be pretty sure JLT is NOT your candidate. You KNOW what she's going to do, and you can vote accordingly.

Daniels always talks about how he reports his contributions on his website. He doesn't wait until the financing deadline! No. He wants you to know who's supporting him now. But here's my question. Where did the Republican Governor's Association get ITS money? From the RNC and AFLAC? From the RNC and Altria? WE DON'T KNOW! And, more importantly, HOW did the Republican Governor's Association get its money? What did it say to its donors to get national PACs to want to put money into little old Indiana?

Stay tuned...


Thursday, July 24, 2008

The White Guy Shares The Test Results And Some Thoughts on Identity Politics

The comments and phone calls I've received about Harvard's Implicit (IAT) test can be summarized as follows:

The test is rigged! It is designed to make me prefer white people (or European-Americans, as they are defined on the test).

Before I defend the test, let me offer a quick thought on the phrase "European-Americans." If a black person prefers to be called "African-American," I use the term. Sometimes I think it's silly because the particular person making the request has NO idea about ANY African culture, either past or present (which, by the way, varies widely from nation to African nation), nor any desire to learn about it. But that's not my call. Every person, out of respect, is entitled to "self-definition."

To that end, don't call me European-American.

My ancestors are German and Dutch, and what I know about those cultures can be boiled down to beer, the Bundestag, sauerkraut, Hitler, and wooden shoes. I have no desire to research this because, quite frankly, there are more interesting countries about which to learn. People tell me American culture was heavily influenced by the Germans and Dutch. If so, I can't tell you what part, except for the beer and sauerkraut, and knowing which part doesn't affect my day or self-worth. You see, I was born in America, and I am just that. An American. Not a European-American. Hyphenate if you choose, but don't force me into being a blend, too.

Also, here's a great way to avoid prejudice. Don't refer to my racial group as "whites" or "the whites," or "the white man," as I never refer to other racial, ethnic, or religious groups as "the blacks," "the Asians," or "the Arabs." No matter how people try to create racial monoliths, they don't exist. Any statement that begins with "the whites," "the white man," "blacks," "Arabs," or "the Jews" will be wrong, wrong, wrong. It is going to include a generalization that doesn't encapsulate every person in that group, and you will end up looking like a jackass.

But back to the test. If you didn't take it, it begins with the words "European-Americans" on one side and "African-Americans" on the other. You then see photos of both black and white people. You click "E" to put somebody in the left column or "I" to put them on the right. Then the test switches the sides, and you do it again. Then the test places the words "Bad" and "Good" at the top of the screen, and you get a series of adjectives, such as "awful," "glorious" or "friendly," and you again click the computer keys to put the adjective on the correct side. Again, the words at the top switch sides. Finally, you multi-task. You process photos and adjectives with both "European American" and "good" and "European-American" and "bad" on both sides.

The test measures your response time in microseconds, and after doing this battery, you are given a rating of whether you are neutral or prefer (slightly, moderately, or strongly) one group over the other. Over a run of hundreds of thousands of tests, the experiment revealed that 80% of test takers (and 50% of African-Americans, by the way) take longer to associate African-Americans with positive attributes than they do for white people.

Many of my readers have said it's a matter of "getting better as the test goes on." This is an intriguing thought because we see African-Americans paired with Good first, THEN with bad. But I'm left to ask, "How many trial runs do you have to do to 'get good' at pressing two buttons?" But more importantly, the study shows that repeat testers DIDN'T generally improve. Also, when experimenters "primed the pump" by showing photos of Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell, Michael Jordan, and some black track-and-field athletes holding the American flag during an Olympic ceremony beforehand, the test takers almost all did better on the test. If it were simple mechanics, how can you account for this result?

Everything relating to race makes people crazy, so if your results show a preference for European-Americans, calm down. It doesn't mean you secretly want to join the klan. It does, however, speak to the level of media fuel given to negative or positive perceptions of surrounding various racials groups, and further, it might also speak in troubling ways about the power of the subconscious in situations such as police action shootings where a deeply-ingrained bias means someone might not get the benefit of the doubt in a split-second decision.

But the testing is also hopeful because we know from the study that we can change those subconscious perceptions by simply feeding ourselves positive messages. In some cases, simply having human resource directors look at positive images of black people before they interview one ensures that any negative thoughts will be about the applicant and interview specifically, not about some subconscious, inarticulable group-based concern.

Mental note to self: send HR department director framed MLK photo for birthday.

The White Guy


Monday, July 21, 2008

Do You Care About Black People As Much As George Bush Does?

Every person, whether white or black, likes to think of her or himself as open-minded and free of prejudice. At least that’s what we tell ourselves and our family and friends. But how well does your subconscious mind mirror your stated beliefs when it comes to African-Americans? If you are African-American, how do you feel about your own race?

I invite you all to find out by participating in an intriguing experiment.

Go to www.implicit.harvard.edu

Click on “Demonstration”

Click on “Go to Demonstration Tests”

Click on “I Wish to Proceed” after ignoring Harvard’s boring legal disclaimer.

Scroll down the page mid-way to “Race IAT” and begin.

Before you get to the test, you have to complete an information questionnaire, which is not terribly taxing, so don’t use it as an excuse for not doing this. If you cop out, I'll yell at you: "You can't handle the truth!!!"

When a few days have passed so that I know enough of my readers have taken this test, I’ll offer some thoughts on your results. I’ll be like the Dr. Phil of the blogosphere, except I won’t annoy you all by telling you, “You gotta ohhhhnn it, m'kay?!?”


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Light-Hearted Moment at Sullivan Event

Peacocks use garish plumes to catch a mate. If you watch it on film, you laugh because it's so ridiculous and obvious. But humans aren't far off, though men generally use sports cars. The short of it is that making oneself attractive pays major dividends.

Research confirms that in job interviews, the more attractive a candidate is, the better off (s)he fares. Both male and female interviewers assume that good looking people have higher intelligence, among other positive social traits. Researchers call this “the halo effect,” and we know it applies to politics.

While somebody can certainly be odd-looking and get elected (have you SEEN some of the Indiana General Assembly?!?), it helps to be a handsome man or beautiful woman as a candidate. This is good news for Mary Ann Sullivan, the Democrat running against Jon Elrod in House District 97. Unless I am having auditory hallucinations, Ms. Sullivan got some "affirmation" during her press conference calling for increased funding for Amtrak.

Go see my amigo at www.blueindiana.net, and scroll to "Barnes, Sullivan call for increased Amtrak funding." Turn up your volume, advance to 1:01 on the Youtube clip and listen closely to the background noise. I seriously doubt that adulation is for John Barnes.

I just hope somebody from the Sullivan campaign found that guy and hit him up for a contribution.


Friday, July 18, 2008

O'Connor's Mayoral Mishaps

Say you are managing an incumbent mayor's campaign. You have a staggering financial advantage, and you're running against a guy who can't get a return phone call from his own party leaders. What does conventional wisdom tell you to do?

Ignore the man. Don't appear anywhere with him. Don't debate him. Don't say his name because it will give him free press he can't get on his own. Don't respond to anything he does. Don't even acknowledge his existence, if at all possible.

The problem with conventional wisdom is that it's worthless for incumbents in "tsunami years." Every so often, a wave of outrage revs its head, and voters descend upon their elected officials with vengeance. On the national scene, it happened after Watergate, with Reagan in 1980, and with Gingrich in 1994 (though it flipped back with Clinton in 1996).

In Indianapolis, 2007 was definitely a tsunami year. O'Connor should have thrown the text-book for re-election out the window early on. Anybody that drove the city could see it. Almost as a lark, I started trolling property tax protests, and I immediately saw that this was no fringe group, like the Freemen affiliates who are always trying to invalidate our elected officials based on their failure to sign oaths.

These protests had young and old, black and white, liberal and conservative, blue collar and white collar, gay and straight, and most importantly angry and more angry. After one rally, I remember driving back telling myself, "The Governor is toast!"

I said this because the Mayor of Indianapolis has no real control over property taxes. That's a Governor's fix to make. I know this because the Governor can't stop telling me how he "fixed" property taxes. As an aside, Quicken tells me I'm paying more in sales tax than I'm saving in property taxes, so I sure hope Governor Daniels doesn't fix anything else. If I asked him to fix the creaky knob on my bedroom door, I might come away with no door or bedroom furniture.

But I digress. Given the intensity of the property tax protests, a great commercial would have shown Mayor Peterson opening up his property tax bill, yelling an expletive, and telling everybody to grab their pitchforks because, "I'm a taxpayer just like you, and I'm not going to stand for this! TO THE STATEHOUSE!"

Instead, soooomebody signed off on an ad that had the Mayor saying how we would "work together" to solve the city's problems. In other words, he took ownership of a catastrophe...ON FILM. THEN THEY SHOWED IT TO PEOPLE! There was no frothing at the mouth Mayor. There was just nice guy Bart, the coalition builder. And in the back room, a decision was made to NOT say anything about the Governor for fear that he would get interested in the Indianapolis mayoral race and put money into it. This thinking, quite frankly, was perplexing, which is my polite way of saying "batshizzle insane."

Mitch Daniels hardly acknowledged Greg Ballard as a candidate until after his victory. Daniels had NO interest in putting money in the race because he did not believe, under any circumstances, it could be won (which is another way of saying Daniels read the tea leaves as poorly as did O'Connor).

Ballard then goes out and gets the most succinct and deadly yard sign in political history: "Had Enough?" Of what? It didn't matter. Whatever evil irked you at the moment is what you used to fill in the blank with your mind. Were you a police officer angry about consolidation? Ballard was talking to you. Were you angry at the way the Mayor was silent on Monroe Gray's behavior? Ballard was talking to you. Were you upset that you were shut out of a city-county council meeting packed with the Mayor's supporters? How about the trash that got left on the curb the week before? All of it was Ballard talking to you while not really saying anything concretely.

The entire Ballard campaign was "fresh-roasted coffee." Doesn't that sound delicious? Mmm hmmmm. But nobody knows how "fresh-roasted coffee" is made. We just envision in our minds what we THINK it means, and our imaginations are always more appetizing than reality.

I called a higher up in the Peterson camp (not O'Connor), and I told them two-and-a-half months out that they would lose. Boy, did that make me unpopular, and I got a hearty laugh when I said they needed to attack Ballard immediately.

You see, when you have a tsunami election, you can only survive by diverting the wave because it will crash down somewhere. And if you're running against a nobody, voters go into that booth looking at two options: you or not you. By not engaging Ballard and forcing him to expose himself as a guy who had no real plan early on, Peterson turned his campaign into a referendum election that he could not win. Peterson needed to legitimize Ballard by going at him and building up the strawman that he could then set fire to by exposing Ballard as being unready, a condition that doesn't seem to have improved six months into the job.

Instead, the Peterson camp did nothing but continued to run ads that they knew from their focus groups wouldn't work. Why any manager would sign off on spending money to continue to produce a broken product is beyond me. Only after all hope was lost, did Peterson go negative, and the late hour made him come across as supremely desperate.

Here's the interesting part. I had several friends who are Democrats who voted for Ballard. Then they heard him talk after his election, and they called me and said, "Ooops!" That was maddening. Had Peterson advanced the engagement between voter and Ballard, Peterson might have survived.

But why would O'Connor do something like that? The Mayor wasn't in trouble.


...Peterson and O'Connor's Monroe Gray Doctrine...

...the long-awaited race test.....

...how Pam Carter got it right in 1992



Melina Kennedy's Great News

Remember when I said Hayden Christensen was a disaster in the Star Wars prequels because he was miscast as Anakin Skywalker? This same guy in the right vehicle, a movie called Shattered Glass, was a complete genius.

(If you haven’t seen Shattered Glass, do it immediately. This is the story of Stephen Glass, a journalist who essentially made up his stories while working with the New Republic. Peter Saarsgard also gives the best performance of his career).

Anyway, being completely wrong in Role A doesn’t mean you can’t tear it up in Role B. And that’s the great news for Melina Kennedy.

If Kennedy wants to stay in politics, she can make big moves in both the legislative and executive branches (and probably the appellate judiciary as well). She’s intelligent, well-known, very respected in the party, capable of raising money, and “resume right.” She has the right mix of private legal and public service experience to do a great many things. They key is just to make sure that, on the next one, it’s the right fit. Unlike the last time.


Clash of the Titans Averted!

For those Republicans looking forward to a divisive "clash of the titans" between former Marion County Democratic Party chair Ed Treacy and UAW legend, Terry Thurman, your hopes have been dashed.

Though Thurman's feet have been touted to fill outgoing Democratic Party Chair Mike O'Connor's shoes (and though Thurman himself has expresseed interest in Democratic circles), Thurman has agreed for party unity (and for some as-of-yet undisclosed concessions) to step aside and support Treacy.

There is collective relief for many Democrats, who were skittish about a protracted in-party fight and who almost uniformly view Treacy as a superb tactician.

In fact, but for Treacy's involvement on behalf of his wife, Rebecca Pierson-Treacy (and the supposedly suspicious but not confirmably improper manner of her slating for Judge), you would be hard-pressed to find much criticism of Treacy.

Does Treacy have enemies? Sure, but you cannot tell people "no" as much as a county chair has to without alienating somebody. And both parties have their "colorful personalities" (a/k/a "the crazy people") who a chair has to continually foil in their electoral efforts without looking anti-democratic.

Whatever public faults Republicans voice about Treacy, their private gripes will surround him winning too many elections.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ipopa Ponders Police Paralyzing Parkways

When you’re on I-465 and there’s a slowdown in traffic, it’s 50/50 whether it’s caused by an accident/disabled vehicle or a member of the law enforcement fraternity going 60 in a 55. Just as with the rest of us, some police officers drive 75 in a 55 (like me), and some go close to the posted limit (probably because they’re paranoid some indignant soul will report them for going over the posted speed limit).

Whenever you encounter what I call “cop clusters,” you always see at least four cars in each lane behind the officer except for one guy/gal with the temerity to not only get next to the officer,
(s)he goes in front of the squad car. HOWEVER...this person always makes sure not to gain more than car length per every ten seconds.

This scenario plays out so frequently, I’m left to ask if there's some recognized speed over which I can exceed a police officer before he has to give me a ticket for just being too gutzy? Put another way, at what speed can I safely exceed his/hers and consider him/her a total (crotch-related anatomical part) for giving me a ticket?

Discuss amongst yerselves.


John Price & Mitch Daniels Share Interesting Ideas on Mathematics

If John Price had any credibility in Republican circles, I’m pretty sure it’s gone. Price was quoted as saying State Senator John Waterman’s effort to obtain approximately the 32,000 certified signatures needed to get him on the ballot as a third-party gubernatorial candidate to only reached half of that goal.


The actual number of signatures was 2,250, or less then ten percent of the total needed.

If Mitch Daniels had employed this type of mathematical skill as George Bush’s director for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), he might have given a ridiculously low cost estimate for the war in Iraq, and that misinformation might have helped convince Congress to vote for the war. Thank God he's not like....what? He said how much?!?!?!?! And it's cost HOW MUCH!?!?!?!?!

Never mind.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

O'Connor Has Left the Building!

In today’s Indianapolis Star, Matt Tully provides a balanced perspective on Mike O’Connor’s term as chair of the Marion County Democratic Party. Many want to hang O'Connor in effigy. In every venture, be it athletics, business, or politics, the “leader of the team” often gets too much criticism or credit for what is essentially a team game.

In the interest of full disclosure, Mike O’Connor is an affable fellow, who I’ve always liked personally. I have no interest in hearing people tear him for things he could not control. Once you’ve been a campaign manager, you know that the role does not convey the ability to make a candidate do something uncomfortable to him or her. But having said this, O’Connor was involved in several disastrous tactical decisions that spanned two campaigns.

First, he made a horrific call by signing off on the Melina Kennedy’s candidacy for Marion County prosecutor. As IPOPA stated previously, Kennedy was handicapped by a complete lack of prosecutorial experience.

Let’s be clear on something. The Marion County Prosecutor is mostly a manager. Unlike in smaller counties where the prosecutor actually tries cases, in Marion County, the prosecutor recruits talent, sets office policies, administers a budget, helps coordinate anti-crime policy for the city, and occasionally plays Jack McCoy on a lay-down trial so he can say, “I put (insert heartless killer’s name here) on death row” in a TV commercial in the next election cycle.

But the public can’t be sold on this idea; voters expect a trial lawyer. And without criminal law experience, Kennedy could not counter the preconceived notion, held still even by many women, that women are “soft on crime.”

Moreover, Republicans have an elephant as their mascot for a reason. They remember everything. In 1996, when Jeff Modisett was elected Attorney General over out-going Attorney General Steve Carter, we attacked Carter for never having prosecuted a case. “Not One.” That was the name of the ad put together by Christopher Klose, our campaign’s political consultant(and a guy O’Connor knew well from their mutual work with Joe Hogsett years earlier).

In candor, I can say I do not know an Attorney General who HAS personally prosecuted a case of any type, and yet, Carter’s lack of experience helped us defeat him. How surprising would it be that Republicans were lying in wait for Democrats to put up somebody without experience in a job where it would acyually matter. Not surprisingly, Brizzi’s attack ads basically mimicked “Not One.” We set the table for Republicans by selecting Kennedy as our candidate.

In addition, if you can get any Democrats to speak candidly, many will comment on Melina’s lack of “physical presence.” Ms. Kennedy came across as a confident speaker, but that confidence was somewhat belied by her physical bearing, which struck me as mousy at times. Also, the photographs on her billboard actually made her look somewhat sickly. I would have reworked those and had her work on posture and presence.

But the coup de grace that really doomed Kennedy was….say it together everyone – GANG AMNESTY!” I’ll never forget reading Kennedy’s plan a few days after it was released and getting to that dreaded proposal. I called a high-ranking Democrat in Mayor Peterson’s administration and said, “We just lost the prosecutor’s race.” I knew Republicans would find and exploit this proposal.

It could have been the single greatest law enforcement strategy in history, but it wouldn’t matter. “Amnesty” means ONLY forgiveness in the public mind. Mitch Daniels engineered taxpayer amnesty, and everybody loved him for it. It brought in tons of money, just like Kennedy’s plan might have arguably given law enforcement tons of leads. But Daniels wasn’t a woman running for prosecutor, and nobody finds people who skirt paying state taxes terrifying enough to make bad Sean Penn movies (Colors) about them.

I don’t understand how that proposal saw daylight. In every campaign, there has to be somebody (usually the manager) whose job is to be the “(excrement) catcher.” That person’s critical function is to make sure nothing idiotic leaves the building. If that person is doing his/her job, every statement and proposal is subjected to a mental review process during which “the catcher” attempts to figure out how the other side can turn the idea on its head. On gang amnesty, somebody fell down on the job, and when they did, Melina Kennedy couldn’t get up.

As Jon Easter properly noted in a comment on this blog, Brizzi and the Republican Party put heavy bank into this race and outspent Kennedy because it was (at least then) thought to be the setting sun for the R’s. Easter is right, but TV ads don’t move numbers without something compelling to say. We wrote their script.

Still to come…

…O’Connor’s Mayoral Mishaps

…How Pam Carter Got It Right in 1992

…The Great News for Melina Kennedy

…Who Looks Good as Your Next Prosecutor


…An intriguing experiment to help you determine whether you hate black people as much as George Bush

Stay tuned!!!


An Angry Horde Corrects Me On Gas Omissions

An extremely astute Republican elected official enjoyed my post regarding gas so much he hoped the DCCC would adopt it as strategy because it seemed to him I was suggesting we should encourage high gas prices for all the "change"-related benefits.

Several other comments took me to task for being “partisan” on the oil issue and faulted the Democrats for causing this crisis by not permitting drilling in ANWR back when Clinton was in office. Another person basically said my idea of opening up the strategic reserve was stupid because we only have two months worth of unrefined crude. Yet another was offended because I suggested people live far away from where they work by choice. My mom also called and said I was adopted.

Boy, have I learned not to be even remotely flippant about people's suffering. I feel so Phil Gramm.

To clarify for everyone, I DO NOT like high gas prices, nor am I encouraging their continuance.

Rather, I was simply commenting that American political figures do not act without a crisis. Nobody (my party, in particular) will touch social security in the way it needs to be reformed until it's border-line insolvent. Nobody touched property taxes until there was an Indianapolis electoral revolt. And nobody will create a national energy policy if gas goes back down. History is our lesson. We had a crisis under Carter, gas prices went down under Reagan, and we changed NOTHING for close to three decades.

It's absolutely true that had we been drilling in ANWR under Clinton, we would be in a better place than we are now. But that would have been the "quick fix" then, just like it is a quick fix now. That's what bothers me with this approach. Oil demand will continue to explode. What do we do in ten years when we're back at this same place?

But my main point was to take issue with what seems to be a conservative (not necessarily Republican) idea, which is that it's somehow wrong to ask Americans to change their lives for our common good.

This is an intriguing notion. Mitch Daniels gets on television, and tells you to get fit because Indiana is so crushingly obese (no pun intended). Nobody blinks.

In California and the Southwestern states, our elected officials (and in these states, they are mostly Republicans) go on television, tell everybody that water is scarce so don't water your lawns, don't take long showers, don't wash your car if you don't have to, and stop making lemonade and, again, nobody blinks.

But we can't get our President to go on television and say, "Try not to use so much oil" because somehow THAT is an intrusion into the American way of life?

Why do we have a different approach to these goods? Could it be that one (water) is "owned" mostly by municipal governments who don't donate massive profits to political candidates, whereas the other (oil) is owned by an industry that gives a boatload of money to political candidates, most of whom tend to be from the president's political party?

Republicans will get credit for reducing gas prices when drilling starts, even if it takes a decade to create useable oil because prices WILL go down. Oil companies aren't stupid. They know who butters their bread, so watch the prices tick down juuuuust enough to make you take notice and say, "Thank you, Republican Party." But remember to look at the balance sheets later when we see that the oil companies just let some of their staggering profits go in the short-run for a long-term strategy of electing a more oily Republican president. I'm okay with letting them have their day.

I just want you all to remember that when oil is $7/gallon five years from now because we did nothing serious to reduce consumption or encourage alternative fuels that I told you so.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Congressional Republicans Got You Gassed Up?

Diatribe time!

Congressional Republicans' new tactic for staving off electoral disaster in November is full of gas. In fact, it might be ONLY gas.

Republicans are banging Democrats for doing nothing but investigating price gouging and talking about a windfall profits tax when, low and behold, we can drill off-shore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) and apparently get gas down to $1.15 tomorrow!!!

I’ve written about this issue before, but now I’m furious because, this tactic is working, which means my fellow citizens are so very short-sided when they're desperate.

If we start drilling now, there will be NO results for YEARS, but it will allow Republicans to claim some kind of moral victory while giving the impression that the urgency is gone. We need the urgency of high gas prices to stir a REAL solution such as: (1) developing alternatives in solar and wind power; (2) developing alternatives in grain-based fuels; (3) improving fuel efficiency in our cars; (4) giving tax incentives for hybrids; (5) giving incentives for public transportation; and (6) encouraging people to live in the same freakin' county where they work, which might have the ancillary benefit of stopping suburban sprawl.

I’m not speaking about all Republicans, but for some, their arrogant addiction to excess, which is best illustrated in the oil discussion, is maddening. Some British-sounding bloke sitting in for Rush Limbaugh the other day was again attacking Obama for his comment that we all can’t drive SUVs and have our thermostats set at 72 degrees. Some conservatives have spun this as Obama trying to regulate everything you do. Nonsense. Obama was simply saying that, to lead globally on energy conservation, you have to, ya know, CONSERVE ENERGY! But this chap found that notion outrageous. He actually said when a man drives an SUV that is so huge, his neighbor thinks there is an eclipse when it passes, that's America. He went on to say that it's American when the man wants to run his AC on full-blast with his SUV windows down. (Interesting choice of male gender only, by the way).

And people wonder why America is hated across the globe. Of course, these same conservatives will yell at me for even CARING that we’re hated. In fact, if there is a bumper sticker that best typifies how some conservatives feel about the world citizenry (as well as a good number of their fellow Americans who don’t have the luxury of driving cars that get 2 miles per gallon) it’s this: “F--- ‘em!”

But let’s get past the bombast and ask this practical question. If we start drilling offshore and in the ANWR, how does that break our dependency from foreign oil? Exactly.

Yes, I know, my party is hardly above such tactics, but this one is particularly cynical and foolhardy because it won't even work. The increased industrialization of the world means demand will continue to rise at a rate that keeps the price today right where it is. This is a short-term-fix, except for the fix part.

If we REALLY want to save money RIGHT NOW, tell George Bush to release half the oil in the strategic reserve on bid to America's oil companies. That would give us an IMMEDIATE savings because that’s the only oil in the American terrority that is available RIGHT NOW. But will Republicans get that done? Of course not. Because, as intellectually-challenged as President Bush is, he HAS seen Mad Max. President Bush knows we can't be trusted to control ourselves, and only by hoarding this gas can he keep us all from wearing football shoulder pads, riding around in jeeps, and killing each other with crossbows.

But I’m not convinced that an investigation won't do what we want. Republicans hate government putting its big old nose under the books of oil companies, but if you look back to the Clinton health care debacle in 1994, you’ll remember that, as miserably-executed as that effort was, it led a bunch of terrified insurance companies and healthcare providers to reform. Without cost controls, these entities knew they were going to fall under the government yoke, and let me tell ya, that’s a terrifying prospect for any business.

Some businesses do outpace the government in achieving socially beneficial results. In fact, in MOST cases, the incentive was found by business, not government. But usually this is done by one maverick company in an industry that achieves a market gain which the others must follow for pragmatic, not moral, reasons. That’s the market. But I don't see any innovations for Big Oil. Do you?

Also, I keep coming back to record oil company profits. Someone explain this to me, please. Oil Company A makes 10 billion in year one. In year two, the price of crude oil goes up 2 billion, which makes the cost of that creating that gas go up 2 billion. But the oil company profits go up by 4 billion. How is this possible? If the company simply passes on the cost increases ONLY, wouldn’t the profits stay the same? But they don’t. Curiously, they continue to grow.

CNN argues that we should look on the positive side of oil industry profits. Big oil has been largely immune from layoffs, and the industry’s workforce has seen real wages gain. Of course, it has! But they get it by hosing the rest of us. (If I worked for an oil company, I'd be loving life! Can you imagine what your retirement looks like when it's funded by all oil stocks?!?)

A strong investigation into potential oil industry collusion will bring oil industry profit margins down to 8 percent, like the rest of the S&P. Seriously, how is it that 95% of gas stations in Indianapolis have the exact same daily price? Where is this alleged competition?

I’m sorry. I'm done. My head is about to explode. I feel like Lewis Black.

Don’t buy this “quick drill with no refill” hype from your Republican Congressional candidates. You want to do something meaningful? Read what T. Boone Pickens is saying. Sure, he wants to drill everywhere, too, and he's a NIMBY hypocrite, but his emphasis first on alternative fuels is a strategy you aren’t hearing from Republicans. And when a lifetime oil man says America is getting screwed by big oil, trust me, folks....he KNOWS what he's talking about.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Jeers! Have a Cold One from Begium and Other Random Cultural Thoughts

InBev, a Belgian beer brewer, is vying to buy Anheuser-Busch, controller of 48% of America’s beer market. The reported price will be $52 billion, or $70 per share.

And this is why I hate self-interested greed which is inherent in capitalism. Busch is an American institution, sort of like how the Indiana Toll Road was distinctly Hoosier.

I can't stop wondering what American stockholders and Indiana stakeholders WON’T sacrifice to generate a quick buck.

Random thought....voters claim they're upset when candidates "go negative" on each other, but candidates are simply applying what they pick up from Madison Avenue. I know it's different when we're talking about people because it seems too personal, but a LOT of products attack their competitors because differentiation and attacks capture market share.

Remember "the Pepsi Challenge?" That was just a way for Pepsi to remind everybody that Coke tastes like malted battery acid. When Subway says "eat fresh," it's putting its finger in the eye of every fast food restaurant in the country, and Quizno's boasts about its toasted subs, to put it in the eye of Subway, who doesn't do toasted all that well.

And yet, I still don't get why some American products are so prized they can generate "beef" between the owners, like they're rival East Coast/West Coast rap groups? I'm driving behind this Dodge pick-up truck yesterday, and the window has a decal stating: "Eating Chevys, and sh*tting out Fords." And who hasn't seen the decal of Calvin (from Bill Watterson's masterful cartoon, Calvin and Hobbs) either urinated on the Ford of Chevy logo?

How come only pick-up trucks inspire this level of malevolence in Americans toward rival products? How come you never see a decal with the Taco Bell chihauhau pissing on Ronald McDonald? Or a bumper sticker for 7-Up fans: "I'd have to be high to drink Coke"?


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Miscalculating Compatriots Condemn Melina Kennedy to Consolation Prize

Take a great acting talent with an appealing public persona. Have his management team convince him he’s right for a role that plays completely “against type,” and you might see Denzil Washington holding an Oscar for Training Day.

But what is 1000 times more likely is the sight of Meg Ryan playing a boxing coach in Against the Ropes, Tom Hanks making us forget he’s Tom Hanks in The DaVinci Code, or Hayden Christensen in ALL of the Star Wars prequels.

There’s a political counterpart to this phenomenon. It’s Melina Kennedy playing a candidate for Marion County Prosecutor, a roll for which she was horribly miscast.

Sure, any actor or political figure makes the ultimate decision to run, but the point of having a team of advisors is to make sure you have a sounding board to keep you from doing something silly or out of character.

And when a handful of Democratic political higher ups met in a conference room with a list of names on a board to handicap their potential prosecutor candidates, Melina’s name wasn’t on it. When Kennedy was finally proposed, everybody in that room, no matter how ingenious or astute they had been politically up to that point, caught a bad case of electoral tin ear.

They completely failed to consider IPOPA’s “opportunistic sexism” theory, which is hardly revolutionary but now confirmed (at least for me) by some intriguing psychology in Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell.

I’m sure there is a better phrase for the phenomenon, but "opportunistic sexism" (or "opportunistic racism" for racial minority candidates) means simply that while most Americans are not overtly sexist or racist, their subconscious is bombarded with imagery or data that creates perception streams. If the perception streams are negative (which is historically the case for women and minority candidates), images or ideas that play on the negativity resonate easily with voters. Thus, when given an opportunity to reach a subconsciously racist or sexist conclusion, voters will.

And therein lies the formula for political success for minority candidates in all elections with diverse voter pools. They have to “salmon slalom,” and make several strong pulls against the stream until the voter’s unconscious path is altered and actually starts to move the other direction. Then over time, as more women or minority candidates fulfill “untraditional” roles, the negative perception streams gradually slow and ultimately dry up. But political reality demands you look at the current as it exists now. That's how you achieve the victories that allow you to change the perceptions (though clearly a colossal screw-up might make it harder for the next candidate who tries to run against the perception stream).

Ask an objective political strategist about the historic view of women as it pertains to law enforcement, and (s)he’ll tell you that women are not perceived as “being tough on crime.” This is why Indiana does not have a single woman sheriff in its 92 counties. To my knowledge (and apparently to the knowledge of those who care about such things), Indiana has NEVER had a woman sheriff.

Look at the Sheriff’s Association of Indiana’s website, and you’ll see 91 white men and 41 moustaches (the one African-American, Frank Anderson, has a moustache). The facial hair quotient might be higher, but two sheriffs had no photos and I couldn't tell whether another five had only slight facial hair or five o'clock shadows.

Fortunately, ladies fair better in the prosecutor position. Elected county prosecutors Sonia Leerkamp (Hamilton), Patricia Baldwin (Hendricks), Karen Richards (Allen), ClaraMary Winebrenner (Dekalb), Stacy Mrak (Pulaski) and Amy Richison (Huntington) come to mind.

But one thing you’ll notice is that the ladies must come up through the ranks. Leerkamp worked extensively with Steve Nation and Steve Goldsmith in Marion County before she took center stage. Richards assembled a lengthy and impressive record as a sex crimes prosecutor. While it is conceivable that a man with a strong record as a trial lawyer might win without ever being a prosecutor, its less likely a woman could. To be accepted as prosecutors, women need to show their “toughness” by vocation because they can’t convey it in words.

Perhaps the inability to shake the anachronistic notion that “woman control the home sphere” accounts for these women almost all cutting their teeth prosecuting “family-related offenses,” such as child homicide, domestic violence, and sex crimes. Whatever its reasons, this kind of track record is what you seek for electoral viability in a woman prosecutor candidate.

But what does that room of Democratic heavyweights bring you? Melina Kennedy, a woman who never prosecuted a case.

This is the tip of the iceberg, folks. I am geared up on this subject. IPOPA’s finest might be coming, including…

…a further discussion of subconscious sexism/racism and a fascinating self-test to detect your own subconscious on sexism and racism

…key lessons from Pam Carter’s campaign for Attorney General in 1992

…how Melina Kennedy’s campaign made matters worse

…the great news for Melina Kennedy

…who looks good as your next Marion County prosecutor

The onslaught is coming!


George Bush: The Great Avenger?

Man, this is going to be painful. But I'm trying to give respect where it's due.

Few people remember that former Indiana Congressman John Hostettler (R), who was defeated last election cycle by Brad Ellsworth (D) in Indiana's 8th District, was one of six Republicans who voted in 2002 against the original authorization for the Iraq War. In a flag-waving district, that was a courageous stand on principle and a vote that many Democrats now wish they had made.

Also, you have to tip your hat, even if grudgingly, to somebody who has a chance to score easy political points but doesn't because of his philosophy. In 2004, Hostettler introduced the Marriage Protection Act, which defined marriage federally as between a man and woman. But when the constitutional amendment was proposed in 2006, Hostettler said no because he does not believe the constitution should be amended easily. That's a principled man.

Of course, it bears mentioning that being "principled" is no compliment if the principles are terrifying, such as a tunnel-vision effort to inject one's personal theology into the public sphere.

Hostettler's greatest hits?

- The original MPA sponsorship

- Repealing D.C.'s extension of health coverage to employees' domestic partners

- Defeating abortion under any circumstance. This single-mindedness prompted Hostettler to adopt the belief that abortions cause cancer, which he astonishingly chose to share with some cancer survivors who came to his D.C. Congressional office. (That's kind of like hosting a group of blind kids and telling them they shouldn't have masturbated so much).

- Sponsoring legislation to deny the ACLU attorney's fees awards when they succeed in enforcing the 1st Amendment

- An effort to make Alexander Hamilton roll over in his grave by stripping the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of its budget after it removed the 10 Comandments from a courthouse in Alabama. Hamilton, in Federalist 78 states: "The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited constitution."

- Trying to repeal the portion of the IRS code that says religious groups and churches CAN'T engage in political activity without losing their tax-exempt status

Apparently, not happy with this level of notoriety, Hostettler authored a book, Nothing for the Nation: Who Got What Out of Iraq, which is shocking.

I haven't read it, but Hostettler apparently argues that we went to war in Iraq for two reasons.

First, President George W. Bush wanted to avenge a 1993 assassination attempt on his father by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. (I first heard this contention from Chris Rock in his comedy special, Never Scared, and my reaction was, "DUH!")

Second, we charged to war because a cabal of influential Jewish-Americans wanted us to take Saddam out to secure Israel's safety. Because of historical persecution of Jews and its offshooting conspiracy theories about media control by the Jews, many discussions about Israel have become taboo. This is another area where people fear facts, as I stated in a prior post.

Do I think Jews led to the war in Iraq? Absolutely not. I vote for war profiteering and the allure of low hanging fruit. I honestly think Bush's thought was, "If my daddy could smoke them easily in 1991, why can't I do it in 2002?"

But I'm honest enough to say that our support of Israel puts us at odds with quite a few countries. This is a fact. You know how we know? Because all of these countries tell us explicitly they are mad about our support for Israel.

Why are we so afraid to say that? Here. It's easy. Our support of Israel makes us hated! Wheee! Look at me! Now you try. See how easy that is.

And here's the thing. SAYING that our support makes our lives tougher doesn't mean you don't get to ask questions like, "Shouldn't we support the only democracy in the Middle East, even if it's tough?" "Shouldn't we be loyal to them because they've been loyal to us?" Or "Even if we quit supporting Israel, won't these other countries still be angry at us for other reasons, meaning we'd could 'Et Tu Brutus' Israel for no real geopolitical gain?!?"

And agreeing that some Jews in America clearly influence our foreign policy in the Middle East doesn't keep you from asking whether the Congressional Black Caucus influences how we treat Africa, or whether the Kennedys and other Boston pols have influenced policy regarding Ireland. I even heard "a rumor" about Cuban-Americans influencing our policy on Cuba.

(Actually, what I heard from a colleague who served as a field operative of a now defunct presidential campaign, was that Florida's electoral votes are being held hostage by a rabid anti-Castro enclave who will only give us back the part of Florida they turned into their personal Cuba when America gives them the REAL Cuba back. And until then, we can expect an unrelenting wave of rhumba and samba dancing).

I say this somewhat facetiously, but if we are all Americans first, which is what we all claim, NOBODY, regardless of what country you came from, should advocate anything that does not clearly advantage America first. Being an America first means you have to write your grandmother in the home country and tell her she's hosed because we need to build some roads in Sheboygan, Wisconsin before we can send humanitarian relief, or we need cheap gas for our SUVs, and we don't want to upset the delicate diplomatic balance we've struck with an oil-producing nation-state.

Seriously, if you are going to wring your hands over "influences" in America, don't single out the Jews just because Spielberg has more money to throw around. What about John Zogby, the famed pollster and head of the Arab-American Institute?!?! Maybe he uses his polling data for nefarious, anti-Israeli purposes!?!)

Please. There are no "conspiracies" here. Many Jews strongly support Israel. They write letters, they vote, and they contribute to elected officials to achieve that goal. And so do a lot of other ethnic and religious groups, including Christians from the 8th District. This is part of the American experiment called democracy. If you don't like it, organize, write letters, and contribute in opposition to the position or person that irks you. It often works, which is why John Hostettler is a "former" member of Congress. But don't act like it's some "secret conspiracy" when you can find all the evidence on-line at the Federal Election Commission.

Oh, I almost forgot. The “shocking news” part of the Hostettler book is that I didn't know until I heard about this book that he's literate.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

McCain Not "Standing Up" for His Viagra Vote?

Holy cow! Watch this.

John McCain advisor and former Hewlitt-Packard CEO, Carli Fiorino, said it was unfair that some insurance companies would cover Viagra but not birth control for women. McCain, who voted against a bill to require companies to offer both (which seems like a very common sense gender equality issue), was asked about this on his Straight Talk bus.

After looking at this tape, I think he needs to rename it the "Bumbling Stumbling Wheel that Goes Round and Round."

Watching this tape is painful, but it reminds me of my favorite stories about Julia Carson involving a very similar issue.

At a debate at the Press Club against Republican Gary Hofmeister, Mary-Beth Schneider asked Julia Carson about whether she thought it was acceptable for Medicare to cover Viagra if it didn't cover birth control. Congresswoman Carson's answer was as follows:

"I don't know anything about that Viagra. You'd have to ask Mr. Hofmeister that question."

Hofmeister was visibly flushed as the crowd roared.

At the same debate, I promise it sounded like each time the Congresswoman said Hofmeister's name it morphed closer and closer to "house master," which would have served as a not-so-subtle reminder of the racial dynamic in that campaign.

(The progression, which I recall like it was yesterday, was "Hofmeister," "Haufmeister," "Hausmeister," "Hausmister," "Hausmaster," "Housemaster").


Affirmation for Two Political Theories Ipopa Tells Everybody Who Will Listen - Part One

I'm excited today. I have two political theories that I've subscribed to for years, and I now have psychological affirmation for both theories from Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating 2007 book, Blink.
Here's the first.

I tell everybody I will never run for office because I fail in the three H’s (height, hair, and hands).

Scanning history in the TV era, one quickly notices that only Eisenhower and Ford have been “bald” presidents. The latter was a five-star general war hero, and the former wasn’t elected to either the vice-presidency or the presidency, and by all accounts, was a bumbling idiot. (Of course, with our current president, it is critical to remember that “bumbling idiot” is a relative term).

Also, I noticed early on the prevalence of tall elected leaders. Mini-Mike Dukakis in the tank still somehow seemed punier than George Bush, Version 1.0, even though Bush’s “gentle speak” could make you feel like he was reading you a bedtime story, not delivering the State of the Union address.

Gladwell's book notes how tall people "make us swoon" because they fulfill what we think a leader SHOULD look like. He notes that while only 3.9% of Americans are 6' 2" or taller, a staggering 33% of Fortune 500 CEOs are. If you ever wondered how some idiot in your office got above you professionally, size him up. Literally. You might have your answer.

Finally, from Bill Clinton to Mike Phillips, the former Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, I’d always noticed that when I met somebody with large hands, it somehow inspired trust and made me like the person instantly. In retail politics, these folks have a HUGE natural advantage. Everybody who meets President Clinton says he’s amazingly “charming” or “charismatic.” But, curiously, you’ll notice that people even say this when they’ve spoken to him for five seconds. How can someone be charming with "Hello? How are you?" How does Clinton produce this response?

I say it’s fixated eye contact (he looks at your eyes and won’t divert them, even if he hears gunfire), and his large hands, an effect he sometimes amplifies by placing a second hand on top of yours in a cuplike fashion. I can’t account for it psychologically, but it has to be a Freud-like protective thing, reminding many of us of how our fathers held our hands when we were kids. When Bill Clinton shook your hand, you knew he’d take care of you. (He’d also likely take care of your wife in ways you weren’t too keen on, but the hands didn’t tell you that part).

This is not to say a bald hobbit could never get elected. But (s)he would suffer a substantial competitive disadvantage that could only be overcome by Frodo Baggins-type heroism or Ross Perot-type money. This is also not to say being tall and having hair thicker than a televangelist guarantees victory, as Mitt Romney will tell you.

But all other things being equal, boy, does it help. This isn't theory now. This is fact.

Stay tuned for part two..."How Melina Kennedy Got Lead Astray"....


Saturday, July 5, 2008

RIP Jesse Helms

Senator Jesse Helms, a five-time senator from North Carolina, who many view as a stalwart patriot who diligently fought communism, had a poetic 4th of July death. For his public service, I suppose we owe him our gratitude.

But for being so vilely racist, we owe him our scorn. Many rightfully wish he would have served the public less. I often wonder whether we would be still awaiting our first black president had Helms lost to African-American Mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gant, back in 1990. But in truth, if not Helms, someone else would have carried the baton for segregation and racially divisive thought in North Carolina.

With respect to Senator Helms, I say quite simply that we all fall short in God's eyes. But we serve a forgiving God. May He sort out the conflicts of service to some and hatred to some, see your real heart, and have mercy on your soul, as needed.


Indiana Chamber Says, "TO THE LIONS...uh...LAWYERS!"

On the same day I proclaim the genius of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, I read that it is suing the Christian Chamber of Commerce for trademark infringement. The Indiana Chamber claims that some legislators are confused (like that’s news) and mistakenly believe the two organizations are affiliated.

Anybody who knows the Indiana Chamber’s positions on all things wage-related knows that NOBODY would mistake the Indiana Chamber for being Christian. Jesus liked to help the poor. The Indiana Chamber makes babies cry.

The interesting part of this story is where the Indiana Chamber talks about how it didn’t sue the Indiana State Hispanic Chamber or the Indy Rainbow Chamber because those names are clearly different. Whaaa?!? So if the name was Indy Christian Chamber, there would be no lawsuit?!? If one word is so significant, why doesn’t the fact that “Indiana” does not appear in the name “Christian Chamber of Commerce” suffice?

Wait….is this an “attack on people of faith” I hear so much about?!?! It does make you wonder. Could the Christian Chamber of Commerce be receiving this treatment because, unlike the Indiana Chamber which seeks to maximize profits now, the Christian Chamber would rather “store riches in heaven” where they can’t rust?

My mind is percolating, and holy cow, ladies and gents, I just realized that the Christian Chamber is as astute politically as its secular humanist counterparts!

By ignoring the Indiana Chamber’s request to change its name to something similar but different, the Christian Chamber forced a lawsuit AND….press coverage. By virtue of this story, I now know a Christian Chamber of Commerce exists, and if I owned a business, I’d probably pick the Christian Chamber first. After all, what Christian wouldn’t support David versus Goliath?


Crafty Indiana Chamber Begins Parallel Gubernatorial Campaign

Kudos to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce for being some devious weasels. The Chamber announced that it’s issuing a series of “Letters to Our Leaders,” with the first coming out next Tuesday.

According to Cam Carter, the chamber’s VP for small business and economic development, the eight letters are actually issue statements. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, without having seen the format or content of the same, falls all over itself to say that the letters should “serve as a model for a variety of interest groups to encourage constructive discourse in the contest between Governor Mitch Daniels and Democratic challenger Jill Long-Thompson.”

Pay attention here, class. Ipopa is going to teach you about “controlling message.”

Suppose a candidate knows she can win an election talking about job loss, declining healthcare coverage, children dying in the public welfare system, and educational problems. Suppose further she can win by bashing the bejesus out of the current administration who has presided over this state of affairs.

That candidate will likely want to unveil her ideas one at a time and travel the state with each positive proposal while she (or a third-party) is clubbing the current administration as job closing after job closing is announced. This campaign is nice and orderly, and the media would likely receive each idea set forth as “fresh news” from the candidate.

But let’s say the Chamber of Commerce makes a huge push around the state to get newspapers aware that IT is going to issue its OWN policy statements over a period of weeks. When each of those statements come out, what will happen? The papers will want to know the candidates’ positions on each of issue. If JLT does not respond, it will look like she’s not ready or informed, or both. If she does respond fully with her own ideas, she cannibalizes her own future press coverage to be part of someone else’s story.

This is why the Chamber is ingenious. They have put themselves in a position to dictate the order in which events are rolled out, and they know it. If you do not believe this is a carefully orchestrated political strategy to assist Mitch Daniels (whose positions will essentially mirror those of the Chamber), ask yourself why all eight issues cannot come out at once, just like Richard Lugar's “Letters to the Next President.”

In addition, here's what gets Daniels defeated: bad news. How do you innoculate yourself from "bad news?" You make it somehow unseemly to even TALK about the bad news without a twenty-page policy proposal. Look at the last paragraph from the Journal-Gazette, a paper that is from JLT's home area:

The worst scenario for the campaign season would be one in which the rhetoric outweighs responsible discussion, in which sound bites and gratuitous attacks overwhelm the key issues affecting Hoosiers. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has done voters a favor by setting the bar high – others should follow its lead.

I'd say, "Mission Accomplished" to the Chamber on setting the "tone" of the campaign, and they haven't even released their first letter.

Oh, I forgot to add that Cameron Carter, the apparent architect of the plan, gave Mitch Daniels $2,500 on October 10, 2007. That donation is probably .025% of what Daniels will receive from Chamber member corporations and their executives.

As an ancillary benefit, the Chamber also neatly puts other Democratic affinity groups, such as organized labor, on the defensive by forcing them “to answer” as well. Yes, I know. You’re saying that if other groups can’t defend their beliefs and positions in writing, shame on them. But remember that apparently until now, the Chamber hadn’t had anything in writing to offer to this robust civil discourse that are trying to create either.

Yeah, yeah, I know. The AFL-CIO, Hoosier Environmental Council, or other Democratic affinity groups could have thought of this strategy last year and put Daniels on the defensive.



Clinton Campaign Kleptomania

So back during the primary Hillary Clinton falls in love with a lectern lent to her by the Portage Park Department. Her campaign asks if they can buy it, but because of state procurement and disposition of public property rules, this can't be done.

A campaign staffer asks, "Well, what what if it disappears?" Park personnel say, "We'd have to bill you." With a wink, wink, the podium mysteriously disappears. But the check for $300 never comes.

Does Clinton (or more properly, here campaign staff) think the Portgage Park Department will be so ecstatic about WHO has the lectern that they'll just be content to put a "historic" sign in the vacated space that reads, "Former Lectern Stolen by Senator Hillary Clinton Campaign?"

If this is how her campaign took care of the little details, I'm not surprised she's outside looking in. These stories are just ridiculously embarrassing for Senator Clinton.


The Return

I’m back with a vengeance on some thoughts on news from the past week….some whimsical, some serious. Like this little gem….

Dennis Haysbert believes his role as the black president on “24” got America “ready” for Barack Obama. (Somewhere in the darkness, Hillary Clinton curses the 2006 cancellation of Commander-in-Chief, a short-lived NBC series in which Gina Davis ascends to the presidency).

Haysbert (also known as the spokesman for All-State) states that people constantly tell him they want to vote for him. People, this is terrifying for democracy. Not because a bunch of idiots don’t know an actor from a politician (and look what that got us last time this mistake was made). No, no. Imagine how annoying listening to a State of the Union address will lbe when the Prez wraps up each issue plank in his State of the Union address by saying, “That’s my stand. Are you in good hands?”