Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Elrod Offers Healthcare Rebuttal

I previously posted that the Republican plan missed the boat on some key healthcare issues, and Jon Elrod offers the following thoughts in response on a point-by-point basis.

1. The (Obama) health care plan won’t add one dime to the budget or deficit.

No one believes this, not the CBO, nor any other objective individual. Covering the costs of health insurance for 64M people will require increased spending.

2. $500B of waste will be cut from Medicare.

Obama made a big fuss about trimming 100M from the entire federal government: it took 2 months. That is 0.02% of $500B. He is going to cut 5,000 times that amount from Medicare alone? Right.

3. The health care plan will reduce the cost of health insurance.

The bill puts a 35% tax on health insurers for plans that have too generous benefits. Those costs will be passed on through higher premiums (or coverage and co-pays will be shifted to make the plan less generous). The bill fines individuals who enroll in plans that are too frugal (i.e. less coverage), forcing them to buy more expensive health care plans (more coverage). Premiums will rise.


4. Your insurance will not change.

As just mentioned, premiums will go up for many and coverage will change for many. If the fines on businesses are cheaper than the qualified plan premiums, employers will drop health insurance benefits.

5. Health care must be fixed now, in one major overhaul.

Most of the provisions do not come into effect until 2013. This reminds me of that oh-so-urgent stimulus bill that was passed in days but only 25% of which is spent after 6 months. The cynic in me tends to think the date is politically motivated.

6. The co-ops will be funded by premiums.

The largest number of uninsured are the “working-poor” who do not qualify for Medicaid and do not have employer health insurance. These are the same people who will qualify for government-subsidies for premiums. So the government itself will pay the vast majority of the premiums. The other group that will flock to the co-ops will be the uninsurable: people with chronic, expensive, pre-existing conditions. Because this pool will attract the highest risk insureds, premiums will not be sufficient to fund the co-op. Like Fannie-Mae/Freddie Mac, they will be government subsidized boondoggles.

The plan is massive new spending and a major change in health care law. It may be good policy or bad policy. But don’t lie by claiming it’s revenue neutral and moderate incremental change.


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hogsett Steps Aside; IPOPA Pays Tribute

Terry Burns at Indianapolis Times broke the story that Indianapolis attorney and party heavyweight Joe Hogsett is stepping out of the Indianapolis mayor's race. This will be a huge momentum booster for Melina Kennedy, as many party activists with whom I've spoken were on the fence between the two. (Don't think this hasn't given the rest of the field notions of trying to coalesce all those who aren't sold on Kennedy yet, though).

But I'm saving analysis regarding the why and the political aftershocks for a later post. Now, I'll simply share two stories that show why Joe Hogsett has so many friends.

It's mid-1990, and I'm attending a fundraiser for Joe's Secretary of State campaign. By far, I'm the youngest guy in the room. I'm intimidated as hell and saying nothing because I'm standing in a circle of attorneys, many of whom I've read about in the paper. I'm not even out of college.

Joe is heading off to his next event, but before he leaves, he dips his head back into the circle and says, "Chris, I wanted to say bye before I left. You all need to watch out for this kid because when he gets out of law school, he's going to give you a run for your money." He then gives a group "goodbye" to everybody else. It changes the whole dynamic in that circle and now everybody is asking me questions.

Fast forward to October of 1992. I'm managing Pam Carter's campaign, and I'm at the state party HQ. Joe is running for U.S. Senate against Dan Coats, and he comes into the office.

"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be on the road," I ask.

"I'm here to boost the troops' morale," Joe says, as he pulls out a stack of miniature placards bearing one of those state-fair-type caricatures of him that somebody has sketched out. "Want me to autograph one for you?"

"Sure, Joe," I say distracted while reading something. He scribbles on it and hands it to me, and I put it in my coat pocket and go on to the next thing. That night I am emptying my pockets. I pull out the card and look at it. It says:

"Chris, thanks for driving me to the Carroll County 4-H fair."

I have no idea what Joe is talking about. I sit there perplexed for about ten minutes. Then it dawns on me. During the 1990 campaign, I drove him once to an event. I barely remembered that fact, let alone where we went, let alone that it was a 4-H fair. I thought to myself, either Joe Hogsett has freakish memory or his people do amazing staff work.

How can you not like a guy that on top of things?

Yes, Joe has his critics. He went too early and often trying to help the party build momentum, and he lost in tough years for Democrats. But he stepped in the breach and took over the Indiana Democratic Party after corruption rocked its helm, and he did it again when he ran for AG in 2004 at the last minute because we didn't have a candidate.

Nobody can deny his political skill in retail politics. He's one of our party's best.










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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Heavyweights At War: Reason #147 Why Indiana Won't Elect A Democrat Governor From Lake County Until 2036

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott is at war with Lake County Sheriff and fellow Democrat gubernatorial aspirant Roy Dominguez, whom McDermott publicly called "a weasel."

Here's what happened.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office arrested a strong McDermott ally, David Woerpel, plus his wife and two sons, after Indiana State Police discovered marijuana plants growing in his backyard. Woerpel is the Democratic precinct captain for Hammond's 5th District.

The Post story states that ISP went to the home and interviewed Woerpel's 25-year-old son who said his younger brother planted the marijuana and everybody in the house knew about them. Woerpel's wife was arrested at the Hammond Recycling Center where she works.

McDermott called Dominguez to accuse he and Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter of playing political tricks with the arrest. Dominguez promptly released the voice mail to the media.

How many more must be burned before "public" people learn the lessons? NO voice mail, text messages, e-mails, or correspondence, and definitely nowhere that you can be taped eating a cheeseburger drunk on the floor, m'kay? People are human, so we know you might think it. But if you don't won't it on a billboard, don't write it, say it, or do it.


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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Horrific Census Work Death: Would Murder Surprise Anyone?

As you probably know by now, a U.S. Census worker was found in Big Creek, Kentucky naked and gagged, hanging from a tree with his census badge taped to his body and the word "fed" written across his chest.

The part I like is how the local authorities say they haven't ruled out suicide by Bill Sparkman, the substitute teacher and Boy Scout leader trying to earn extra cash doing door-to-door questioning in an area known for anti-government sentiment.

The Associated Press story features an intriguing suggestion that Mr. Sparkman might have inadvertently come across a marijuana harvest, but it's not clear to me how anybody would have thought the jig was up because somebody came to the door unless they were growing pot in the living room, in which case, one wonders why they would have answered.

If this case is solved, we will learn that a bunch of anti-government crazies who were whipped into a lather by right-wing radio decided they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

We got your message, so you can stop now. You really, really hate America.


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kennedy Endorsement Raises Question: Personal Gratitude or Inside Information?

Yesterday, Laborers Local 120 endorsed Democrat Melina Kennedy's mayoral bid, citing her "experience as a proven job-creator."

Laborer's business manager David Frye also complimented Kennedy's "passion for working families" and her vision and leadership which he states will get "this city moving forward again."

What is notable about this public endorsement is that...well, it's public.

Folks around the two front-runners' camps (sorry to the others, but I'm talking about Melina and Joe Hogsett for the moment), both believe they will have Congressman Carson's endorsement, and they are not afraid to make the prediction. Maybe neither of them is saying it directly, but, boy, an awful lot of their emissaries are talking like they have "inside information."

If the Congressman is leaning, he's holding the cards close to the vest, which makes the Laborers the first "smart money" entity to go out on a wing.

Every union endorsement is a momentum generator, but how huge it will be remains to be seen. Local 120's website states it represents 2,000 workers, but this number includes "Central Indiana," not just Marion County. Also, going back to 2001, Local 120 has only donated $54,000 combined to all state representatives, senators, statewide candidates, party committees, and party caucuses, with the latter two getting the lion's share. Local 120 largest donations to any candidate during that time were checks totaling only $6,000 to Jim Schellinger in the 2007 and 2008 election cycles.

Of course, as with any organization that has larger bodies to which it belongs, if the Local 120 guys can convince the guys in Terre Haute who preside over the state Laborers PAC, or even the national in D.C. to get interested, Kennedy could see a good-sized faucet open (Laborers combined donations equal $734,000 in donations since 2001, though, again, most large donations have been to party and caucus committees).

But I wouldn't be too optimistic at this juncture. I cannot see any state or national union PAC wanting to throw in on a Democratic Party primary for Mayor of Indianapolis until it's closer to a fait accompli. Right now, most people are waiting for the first reporting period, which is going to shock some folks.

But I promise this. If Kennedy can string together more key labor endorsements from unions like SEIU (which was tight in the Obama camp Melina belonged to), AFSCME, the IBEW, or the UAW, people are going to definitely start thinking that the Congressman has let slip a preference. I just can't envision any politically-astute union standing in the way of the Congressman's wish, and those who don't know his preference, wouldn't likely move. Of course, endorsements can be "personal," and if the Laborers benefited from projects overseen by Kennedy, this may be as simple as well-earned gratitude, not an effort to challenge the Congressman's ultimate choice. But not knowing the political calculus will make people wonder.

This Democratic primary is equivalent it is to stock market trading, with one key exception - there's no prohibition against insider information in politics. Think of the Congressman as the upcoming press announcement on what entity will take over Indy Mayor, Inc. When the "institutional investors" like Laborers 120 start buying up shares in Kennedy Co., people on the street want to know what they know.














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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

R's Shoot Blanks on Key Health Care Components

Congressmen John Shadegg (R-Arizona) and Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) finally spoke up to offer a proposal for Republicans that was more fleshed out than "not what Obama wants," which has been the Republican plan so far. If you read their editorial, it sounds great because it's vague on key details and includes every marketing buzzword that their pollsters show sells well, such as "government takeover of health care." (If we had a dollar for every Republican who has mislabeled Obama's effort as such, we could give everybody $10,000 per year to pay for coverage).

The smartest political play someone can make to derail legislation is to cherry pick the most publicly supported components. For people like Shadegg and Hoekstra, this means having to say things like:

•Pre-existing Conditions. Americans agree that no one should go bankrupt because of a chronic disease or pre-existing conditions like multiple sclerosis or breast cancer.
Really? Precisely how long have Americans agreed? Because I recall Republicans having a President in office who wouldn't do anything real on the problem, or as stated by Shadegg and Hoekstra:

In 2006, the Republican Congress and President Bush passed legislation encouraging states to create "high-risk" pools where those with pre-existing conditions could receive coverage at roughly the same rates as healthy Americans. State-based high-risk pools spread the cost of care for those with chronic diseases among all insurers in the market. The additional cost of their care is subsidized by the government.

Unfortunately, some states have not created high-risk pools, and some need to be restructured to ensure timely access to care. Republicans have proposed fixing this problem by expanding and strengthening this safety net, and by creating reinsurance or risk-adjustment pools so that Americans with chronic medical conditions can get the care they need at an affordable cost.

I see. So the Republican Party's solution for handling pre-existing conditions is more of something that was so ineffective, almost nobody did it? How do you expand something that nobody even started? More encouragement? Come on, Rhode Island....you can do it! Keep trying! You're the little state that could!

This is the drivel you get when you are commanded by your party to never say the word "mandate." Sorry, but sometimes you have to tell people (or insurance companies specifically) to do or not do things; otherwise, they'll cook up ways to lose 18 billion in a year on credit default swaps. Any of you Republicans heard of AIG?

Also, can Republicans tell anybody how much will be needed to subsidize "high risk" insurance for everybody with chronic and/or pre-existing conditions? Where are you going to get that money?

By the way, did anybody notice the inconsistency in wanting to permit companies to sell insurance policies across state lines but ONLY having high-risk insurance pools available by state? If a bigger (also known as "national" market) would result in lower premiums, wouldn't we want a national high risk pool? Oh, wait! That would probably mean Obama would get credit for setting something up that none of our Republican Governors could get done, so that's a terrible idea.

While we're on the idea of national markets, I'm told there is this company called Walmart that uses bulk purchases and marketing power to negotiate insanely low rates for its customers. You may say, "Why would a company sell to Walmart for a low price?" Because with Walmart, the check is always good and the unit volume stays high and consistent. Also, in some areas, Walmart is the only game still in town. What an interesting philosophy.

If we apply what we learned from the Walmart example, what we need is one really huge company that can negotiate with private providers for all of our national health goods and services (pharmaceuticals, hospital stays, doctor's visits, diagnostic tests, etc.)? I heard of precisely such an enterprise. It's called USA, Incorporated. What it does is goes out and buys medical services for senior citizens who can always buy additional good and services on their own, if they so choose, or they can get insurance that makes those purchases for them.

This system works so swell that seemingly nobody in the Republican Party has called for this program to be dismantled. Nobody has said, "Oh my God! USA, Incorporated is a monopolist!" or "USA, Incorporated" is grossly inefficient. I wonder why.

Finally, where is the Republican prohibition against a cap on lifetime coverage? What good is coverage that runs out?

Nice try, Republican Party. Let me know when you have some real answers.


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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boehner Backs Obama, Carson Numbers; Dems Still Too Cute on Illegal Immigrants

Remember when conservative community activist and "gotcha" provocateur, Gary Mann, cornered Andre Carson and argued that fifteen million of the alleged 46 million uninsured are illegal immigrants? If that that were true, why does Republican House floor leader John Boehner's website say there are 43 million uninsured Americans?

The truth is that Mann confused his fifteens. According to the census, 46 million Americans are uninsured. But only 85 percent of those are native or natural-born citizens. In other words, not 15 million but 15% of that 46 million would not be eligible for health insurance coverage under a plan that didn't cover illegal immigrants. That gives you 39.1 uninsured citizens. However, newer numbers show about 9 million of the uninsured are illegal aliens.

Needless to say, the higher the number of uninsured of any stripe, the easier it is to sell reform. But by using the higher figure, the President has permitted conservatives to insinuate that he is "lying" about who gets covered under his bill.

I'm not sure they have to insinuate too hard on President Obama's endgame. In his interview with CBS, President Obama was pretty clear that his goal IS to offer coverage for the children of illegal immigrants now and to turn all illegal immigrants into legal immigrants as part of some type of comprehensive reform. But before anyone pulls out a "Joe Wilson was right!" bumper sticker, though, you're still wrong.

Saying you want to discuss an idea, such as covering children, doesn't mean it's in any version of a current bill. In fact, both the House and Senate versions of the Obama plan expressly say illegal immigrants won't be covered.

So why the fighting?

Republicans want express penalties for violating the express law. Now here's where Obama can get himself into trouble. Unless you know you don't intend to make the illegal immigrant prohibition real, why wouldn't you agree to whatever Republicans request?

Sorry, but if the President wants reform, he'll give the Republicans whatever it takes to ensure them illegal immigrants won't get covered and everybody who tries to do so, including his own administration, will be punished. If he doesn't do this, he just hands over a sure path for derailing reform that many American citizens need.

Coming next....John Boehner's website also lets you know Republicans aren't serious about pre-existing conditions.


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President Obama Calls Kanye West a Jackass

I already know people are going to get mad at me for posting on this because it's not REAL news, but a President has to care about what America cares about, and he can use his bully pulpit to reach every kid who might think what Kanye did was in any way justifiable.

The reporter got spanked for sending Obama's off-the-record comment via Twitter, but nobody from the White House is saying it isn't true, and I'm glad it go leaked.


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Monday, September 14, 2009

Kanye West is Music's Joe Wilson

Last night, Kanye West marched on stage at the MTV Music Awards and took the microphone out of the hand of a stunned Taylor Swift to argue that Beyonce Knowles, not Swift, should have won the award for best video.

As easy as it would be to limit this basket-case act to the unique blend of narcissism for which Kanye has become legion, it is emblematic of a growing American problem - disrespectful and ill-time expression of disagreement.

As we all know, Representative Joe Wilson called our president a liar during the State of the Union speech. In 2005, Democrats booed George Bush during his State of the Union. Deplorable all around.

I am not talking about limiting debate. Kanye, Wilson, and the 2005 House Dems who booed certainly could have found a microphone to state their views. But nobody gets license to step on every stage to do it.

I started thinking, "How did we get so polarized? How did we get so nasty?" So I am watching football yesterday, and I'm listening to 60,000 people boo the opposing team. People, what are we teaching our children? To think poorly of somebody who might be exceptional in his field and who might give untold hours and dollars to charity, simply because he got signed by a franchise in another city?" Am I the only one who doesn't boo an opposing team? Am I the only one who claps for an incredible play by the opposing team?

When disrespect is so ingrained in our culture, I am not surprised at all by West or Wilson. I'm surprised these incidents don't happen more frequently.

The Brits get away with calling each other phonies and jeering each other. But this is a unique British phenomenon, as the House of Commons is basically a Comedy Central Roast of the current prime minister. This is faux mockery.

American mockery is real, divisive, disrespectful, and occasionally cruel, and if we don't get a grip on how and when to disagree, we will sully our highest offices and ceremonies, and it will not be long before we become this, this, this, or this. (Okay, we have our own episode already, but it was Alabama).


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Friday, September 11, 2009

Treacy Steps Up on Gray Matter

With apologies to Chamillionaire, Monroe Gray is no longer "riding dirty," thanks to his payment of three year's worth of auto registration fees. The big kudos in this story, though, go to Marion County Democratic Party Chairman, Ed Treacy, who said the following regarding Gray's failure to register in the first place:

"I think once someone has had a problem in the past, it's incumbent on that person to probably make sure they have all the, the i's dotted and the t's crossed. (Gray) ought to be more introspective about in terms of not subjecting himself to further criticism."
Many people will say, "Are you crazy? This is nothing!" Ladies and gents, the hardest thing anyone can do is criticize a member of one's own party when that person has powerful friends. I thought this was major because it's the first public criticism of an elected Democrat by a party leader in Marion County that I can recall. (Like I said in my prior post, Mayor Peterson didn't do it). Also, politics is a field of closed door fire but public smoke. Might one hope that in the places where cameras and microphones don't go, somebody was getting their hindquarters chewed?

Does it go as far as I would have liked in terms of outcome? No. But you can't say it's not a pretty clear warning shot across the bow. Does it mention Doris Minton-McNeil? No. But you can't say it's not directed at her by implication. There is a simple rule in politics - when you know people are inspecting your house, keep it in order. All Treacy did was restate the rule for many people who should have already been living by it. But, in so doing, he said a lot.


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Where Do These Guys Get the Stones?

Today’s confirmation that chutzpah is bi-partisan…

Dispatches from the Culture Wars runs this quote from Mark Sanford in response to calls for his resignation:

"I feel absolutely committed to the cause, to what God wanted me to do with my life," he said in an interview. "I have got this blessing of being engaged in a fight for liberty, which is constantly being threatened."
Sorry, but God’s cause was probably also marital fidelity, and you dropped that “cause” like a hot rock. I understand that sometimes people stray, but San-Man, do yourself a favor and stop invoking God as the basis for your ridiculous quest to cling to power. This has nothing to do with God, and everything to do with you.

On the “Democrat Donkey or Clueless Jackass?” scale, Elliott Spitzer is tilting to the latter. Eighteen months after resigning his gubernatorial office, Spitzer is talking about running for state controller. Spitzer apparently has some polling that shows he’s more popular than current Governor David Patterson, which is astonishing because, while Patterson also admitted to being a philanderer, at least he has the charisma to get it for free.

Spitzer has been writing some inspiring pieces for Slate.com to distract people from the fact he had been paying for some inspiring pieces…of tail. Spitzer gained his bona fides as the highest law enforcement officer in the state, but he was busted for association with an extremely well-compensated hooker. How in the world does he think the funk from that scandal washes off in two years? Either Spitzer is delusional, or the New York state of mind says we don’t care where you dip your candle or at what cost as long as you can wax eloquent on Slate.com.


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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Democrats Won't Clear Up Gray Skies

I love my county party. Anybody who says otherwise should expect words. But I am looking for someone - anyone - who has the cajones to make it act right. I started this blog because I was tired of waking up embarrassed by the latest idiocy of a D elected local official. Two years and 328 blog posts later, and the hits keep coming...

WRTV-6 reports yesterday that Democratic City-County Councilor Monroe Gray hasn't registered his automobile in three years. This follows the past two years, during which he received a censure for failing to disclose conflicts of interest, shut down an investigation of his alleged ghost employment, and was hit with a slew of lawsuits filed against his construction company. Oh, he also said he didn't know anything about the 300 East project, even though his wife was a principal investor. There's nothing illegal about that, but, boy, it sure tarnished his credibility across the board.

The Gray news follows a police report last month that Democratic City-County Councilor Doris Minton-McNeil, who was recently acquitted on battery charges, had a neighbor complain on a 9-1-1 call that she was intoxicated and nearly hit somebody with her vehicle. I'm not one who sides with police automatically, and I thought from the outset they exaggerated the battery charge. (As an aside, I would have loved it if Judge Christ-Garcia would have entered findings because I'm almost certain the element the prosecution didn't prove was intent. I bet the contact with the officer was the kind that happens when somebody hammered is trying to navigate through a crowded bar on the way to the bathroom).

I also wouldn't automatically rule out a police vendetta. But now I'm supposed to believe police co-opted a neighbor on the scam? Seriously, what kind of adult beefs with a neighbor to the extent the neighbor calls 9-1-1? Are we running a city or auditioning for Jerry Springer?

Here's my question. When does Democratic Party Chair Ed Treacy, Congressman Carson, the other Democratic members of the city-county council, or anybody else who wants to lead this city from the Democratic aisle say, "Enough is enough!" When do we stop enabling?

The notion that significant party heavyweights have not already asked for these folks' resignations, even if behind closed doors, is inexplicable to me, but I cannot find any evidence anyone ever has. (If somebody out there knows otherwise, feel free to correct me).

Mayor Peterson came close. He was livid, and he wanted to distance himself from Monroe. But some in Mayor Peterson's circle told him he couldn't because he would alienate an African-American constituency he was going to need on election day. By the way, how funny is it that the advisors were white guys? Also, anybody know how that strategy worked out?

Anyway, I wanted to see if any of our would-be mayors (Jose Evans, Brian Williams, Kip Tew, Melina Kennedy, and Joe Hogsett) would close the deal on a wayward councilor, so I sent them all inquiries on their Facebook accounts and/or to their e-mails to see if they would ask for McNeil's resignation either publicly or behind-the-scenes. (I would have kept the responses confidential if they said "behind the scenes," of course.)

Two never responded, and three offered comments that required a bit of "reading the tea leaves." For example, while not answering the question directly, Brian Williams reminded me that when former Colts Mike Vanderjagt got liquored up and said some things he shouldn't have, Peyton Manning called him our "idiot kicker."

Williams' remark serves the point nicely. That's leadership folks. Peyton could have had a private conversation with Vanderjagt, but he wanted to remind the public that Vanderjagt's conduct wasn't Colts conduct. Who is the quarterback for our team who will make that point publicly?

What makes it hard for any of these five to step up in a visible way?

First, for a lot of influential Democrats, Monroe Gray is like family and his associations run deep. If you call for putting him out to pasture, you alienate a multitude of political and business folk for whom he's done favors (and as many have done favors for him). Of course, you would get the gratitude of a staggeringly higher number, but you'd never know this because nobody will tell you out loud for fear of retribution. Politics is peopled with the self-interested and terrified.

Ms. Minton-McNeil is equally perceived as "protected." She was widely-regarded as the Congressman's favored choice for filling his former council seat. Anybody want to cross the Congressman when he's swinging the big bat in the mayoral slating contest? Didn't think so.

I know both Gray and Minton-McNeil are party "friends," and I generally subscribe to the notion that if you don't stand with your friends, you stand alone. But I've also heard the saying "with friends like these...."

Some may say, "They haven't done anything illegal, or seriously illegal. Let the voters decide. If the voters want to keep them, who are we to interfere with democracy!?!"

First, I can't be content with my party using "Anything Not Illegal" as it's guidepost for acceptable conduct. Second, the "let the voters decide" approach is so staggeringly naive that no serious person could say it if (s)he cared about his or her party. I don't want to rehash my "brand" speech, but a stain on one on the Democratic ticket is a stain on all.

Don't believe me? Ask South Carolina Republicans how they're doing waiting for Mark Sanford's term to end. Do you think their fund-raising is up this year?

Of all the mayoral candidates, the one whose response gave me the most confidence that he would take action was Jose Evans. He seemed most invested in reforming the image of the party. This makes sense because as a member of the council, he's probably tired of being in the WRTV B-roll for every scandal, and he's probably tired of fielding questions about whether he stands by scandal-plagued colleague x or y. It has to be exhausting.

Also, Jose is the only one who can ask for Monroe Gray and Doris Minton-McNeil's to step down without looking like a racist, though I'm sure some wouldn't be above accusing him of being a white sock puppet were he to do so.

Why would a call for a step-down be viewed in racial terms? Because the replacements would be uncertain, and while you shouldn't expect anybody to say this out loud, a core group of the Democratic movers and shakers in the African-American community have done a sterling job hoisting an unspoken edict on the Marion County Democratic Party, and it is this: no depletion of African-American political power. Were I a historically disenfranchised minority, I'd see this as both understandable and shrewd bargaining.

But what I'm talking about doesn't require a depletion of African-American political strength. It just requires better African-American talent. Were I Ed Treacy, I'd go through every poll book in Gray and Minton-McNeil's districts, and I'd find African-American replacements who I'd then vet on every conceivable issue. Once I was convinced of the reasonable likelihood they wouldn't humiliate the party, I'd commit every resource available to ensuring their victory. I would do everything I could to convince every African-American elected officer in the county - be it a township trustee, judge, auditor, state representative or state senator - that none of this was racial, and all of it was practical and prudential. I might even spread contributions to those elected officials to emphasize the point.

In other words, I'd put my money and organizational heft where my mouth was, and if somebody of another race came out of the woodwork to challenge the natural order of things, I'd put him or her down. You have to give something to get something, and getting rid of this bad PR will pay for itself three times over.

I've now heard repeatedly about a meeting of influential Democrats during which a suggestion was made (and, no, I'm not going to say by whom) to have Democrat PR experts and attorneys on the ready in case someone got into trouble again.

Tell me, dear IPOPA reader, isn't your reaction to this suggestion precisely the same as every other human being's reaction...except for some of those in the room that day? Weren't you thinking, "Wouldn't it be easier just to NOT get in trouble?" If so, welcome to the surreal world that is not very often, but still far too many times, the mentality of some key personnel within the Marion County Democratic Party.


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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh, My Bad! Obama IS a Nazi!

Maybe I didn't notice this because I don’t pay attention to writing that is “out there." But the reason the conservatorati like town hall folk who refer to President Obama as Hitler is because that's a thought pattern that comes straight from the playbook of Jonah Goldberg, the editor of the National Review.

His book, Liberal Facism from Mussolini to the Politics of Change has the following Amazon description, which I had to reread four times because it was so preposterous by implication:

Fascists, brownshirts, jackbooted stormtroopers - such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. Calling someone a fascist is the fastest way to shut them up, defining their views as beyond the political pale. But who are the real fascists in our midst? Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism and Mussolini's Fascism. Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term National socialism). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Thank God Mr. Goldberg came along in time to put a stop to this! Had I known my vote in favor of a bond initiative to get air conditioners into IPS schools was going to lead to the future extermination of six million American Jews, I probably would have voted against it.

This is the worst kind of disingenuous hack/hucksterism and the notion that a publication as renowned as the National Review would actually have an editor who wrote this is astonishing. How can an educated man not recognize that correlation does not mean causation? Yet there it is by implication…if A existed before B, B must come from A, and, accordingly, everything despised by Goldberg and his ilk is a secret Nazi stratagem being orchestrated by Democrats. Isn't that the REAL message of this book? Watch out!

You know another thing the Nazis favored? Air. Oh my God! Everyone stop breathing before we all become Nazis!

I won’t assume this gentleman is Jewish because his name is Goldberg, but if he is, he ought to be ashamed.

A Republican colleague of mine suggested that Goldberg never meant to actually equate any Democrat to a Nazi, but rather, was just saying “fascist” as a political insult should not stick because some on the left are more closely aligned with historical fascist than those on the right.
I’m supposed to believe Goldberg devoted four hundred ninety-six pages for what could be distilled in the phrase, “I know you are, but what am I?”

Bovine feces. This man intended to whip up the conservatorati, a task at which he has succeeded spectacularly well, given that a Google search of “Nancy Pelosi” and “fascist” gets you 310,000 hits (had to stop after the first 240, but all of them accuse Pelosi of being a fascist). Clinton only had 288,000 hits, but almost all of them were more acidic references to her fascism, if that is possible.

In short, I couldn’t find a single reference to any leftwing figure calling somebody a fascist since Woodstock. Nonetheless, Goldberg created a straw man book, refuting an insult seldom if ever made, so that that he could get a good portion of America to equate their president to Hitler while acting like he was being just a detached historian. This book is blatant political propaganda masked poorly as intellectualism.

While I didn’t agree with him often, William Buckley at least had integrity. Mr. Goldberg, I assure you Mr. Buckley is pivoting in his grave and cursing you polysyllabically.

You are now precisely who I speak of when I talk about the decline in civility in political discourse.


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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is America Rockne or the World's In-Laws?

Jon,

I’m glad we selected this issue as our starter because it illustrates how rhetoric and overemphasis on symbolic politics can create divisions that might not really exist between Americans.

You and I agree that, like every other country, America has problems. We also agree that America is free, democratic, and prosperous, to the extent you can call a country wealthy when every man, woman, and child pro rata debt share is $40,000.

I suspect you would agree with me that even harsh critics of American policy would say America does a better job promoting freedom than the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Iran, and the like. (As a quick aside, I purposely say “critics of American policy” because that is decidedly different than being a critic of the American political system. Some Republicans blur this line so as to make an attack on, for example, George Bush’s ill-fated rush to war the same as an attack on democracy and freedom itself).

What we don’t agree on is whether recognizing we do well in certain areas gives us license to lecture the world. I operate under the warning, “Those in glass houses….” As one commentator noted, there are many gauges by which we can measure the “success” of a society. How do we keep a straight face when a country we are lecturing about the "benefits of freedom" asks us to remove the stone from our own eye given that our incarceration rate is so high, our educational achievement so low, and our homicide and infant mortality rates so high?

(By the way, how do we excel over our European allies like Great Britain in “freedom” or “democracy”? Surely, a figure-head Queen doesn’t disqualify GB from gold-circle status?)

Also, while America is admittedly judging people less by race now than we ever have, we certainly permitted mobs to lynch African-Americans, who we set up as second-class citizens. Even though the last desegregation code was abolished approximately forty years ago, it still took us all of that time for a black man to be a viable presidential contender. (In your own party, there are still misgivings about having a Mormon as your front-bearer).

My point is only that even for people who agree that we’re a leader, some of us might be uneasy talking about our "superiority" because, on some things, if we have it, it has only come recently across a lengthy historical continuum. To me, it's like a drug addict who has been clean for a few years going to an NA meeting and yelling, "In your face!" at all the people who are falling off the wagon.

Also, in my mind, any superiority is demolished by our inconsistent application of our "American ideals." We willingly trade with China because we need its market and bond-buying power. We do the same with Saudi Arabia because we need its oil. As a result, when we lecture some third-world military-state without strategic significance about its lack of democracy, don’t you think we sound suspect? We talk about freedom, but we never back up the talk if it affects our bottom line.

Also, this may surprise you, but I believe more fervently in the “greatness” of America’s system than any American Exceptionalist. I say this because it’s absolutely na├»ve, in my opinion, to believe we can give another country some “Democracy for Dummies” books and expect our system to blossom, in particular, when the country doesn’t have the massive landmass, rich soils, mineral wealth, and conveniently-located rivers, all of which every significant American historian attributes, in part, to the success of the “America experiment.”

Yes, we ultimately coalesced together as a pluralistic people, but had America been the size of Rhode Island, don't you suspect the original colonies that started out with de facto state-sponsored religions might have snuffed each other before the “American ideal” got off the ground? We were fortunate that everybody had the luxury of “spreading out” (mostly by wiping out native Americans).

I don’t believe saying America got some lucky breaks takes away from how well this system works for us. But bragging about how great we are to countries that will never attain what we have for reasons that are mostly accidents of geography is like telling a lactose intolerant friend how great milk tastes. It's kind of cruel.

My point is that if we want to feel omnipotent, by all means, let’s have the President give us Knute Rockne at every press conference. But keep the trash talk off the international playing field because when we have the bad days, our opponents will make us eat it for dinner.

Also, we shouldn't be all over the globe (troops in 130 countries) giving advice to our reluctant hosts and telling them how to make their houses look better. We're a world power, not the world's in-laws.


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Monday, September 7, 2009

Elrod's Retort: Even a Flawed America Still Leads the World in Pursuit of Noble Ideals

Well played, Chris.

I would first note that AE does not mean that America is always right or has always been right. AE is (or should be) based on the triumphs of America, its continuing trajectory toward the realization of its noble ideals; not that it has realized those ideals. I also truly believe that no country lives up to those ideals as faithfully as the United States.

Obama’s election shows how far this country has come. Of course there are still bigots in America upset about the election. Every country in the world has bigots. Could someone like Obama have been elected in the UK? Italy? Canada? Japan? Brazil? I honestly cannot think of another nation where a person of the non-majority race could reach the presidency or its equivalent.

Of course Americans still “marginalize” some groups, as do people in every other country in the world. That, by the way, is a conveniently vague term. Try being Christian in China. Try being an untouchable in India. Try being gay in Saudi Arabia. Try being a Muslim convert to Buddhism in Indonesia. Try being a woman wearing pants in the Sudan. Marginalization in those countries means lashings, mobs, honor killings, secret detentions, systematic state discrimination, etc. The Multiculturalist Moral Relativist (MMR) too often equates the glass ceilings and racial profiling in the US with the transparent oppression in other countries.

It is this mentality that allows the world’s worst human rights abusers to sit (and chair) the UN Human Rights Committee (China, Venezuela, Iran). This is how Yasser Arafat gets a Nobel. This is why a Spanish judge will indict George Bush for war crimes, while ignoring warlords in Darfur. MMR has real consequences. The number of free countries (open elections, representative government, free press) is declining.

I want to make clear that I am not suggesting that our president supports any of the above, much less that he has caused a global decline in freedom. The point of my post is to advocate that he return to the inspiring words of his inaugural speech.

People do vote with their feet. I couldn’t put it better myself. I remember all those news stories about a huge liberal emigration to Canada in ’04 after Bush’s reelection. It didn’t happen. And people from around the world still flock here. There must be something exceptional about this Union.

As for specific speeches where Obama apologized, see http://www.heritage.org/research/europe/wm2466.cfm. I’m not sure all of those speeches should be classified as apologies, but it is a good reference for Obama’s shift from Bush’s diplomacy.

If your political views are refined enough to know where you stand on card-check, cap and trade, the public health option, cash for clunkers, deficit spending, government bail-outs, etc., then you should have a pretty good idea whether you’ll vote R or D in 2012, even without a crystal ball.


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Sunday, September 6, 2009

IPOPA Answers Elrod: "America: Take It Or Leave It?"

What stops some people from embracing “American Exceptionalism” (AE) as you define it, Jon, is that it permits no qualification, but rather, stands as a brazen and arguably arrogant statement of across-the-board American superiority for all times.

Is Michael Jordan the best of all time? Sure. But only in basketball. Not in ensuring third-world children don’t work in sweat shops so multi-national companies can reap massive profits on more massively overpriced tennis shoes. Also, when he was with the Wizards, Jordan wasn’t even in the top ten in the league. Am I sacrilegious in stating this? Why can't we recognize the durability and resiliency of the American system without deeming it infallible?

When AE proponents dub their critics the “blame America first” crowd, they almost always contend “moral relativists” and “multiculturalists” always blame America. Ironically, though, the AE cohort never blames America. Sorry, but I bristle at anybody who force feeds me an all-or-nothing proposition and questions my patriotism when I don’t swallow it whole.

More problematic is the tricky task of separating the dancer from the dance, and a staggering number of AE fans excel in xenophobia, prejudice, tribalism, jingoism, and bigotry. This is why they hate to mention, let alone teach, the historical stains from these evils, such as slavery. We should call the AE crowd the “rug sweepers” because their modus operandi is to sweep every dark American episode under a rug. Sorry, but this isn’t Olympic scoring. You don’t get to throw out the worst decades.

Frankly, Jon, I’d jump on the AE bandwagon if only AE in practice remotely resembled your glorious depiction. Yes, we are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. But aren’t four out of five of those groups routinely marginalized by a majority of the Exceptionalists? Yes, we are shaped by every language and culture, but aren’t a disproportionate share of AE proponents hell-bent on making sure we have only one language and culture?

While it may be a matter of pride to you that Barack Obama can rise to be President, his heritage led to recrimination and fear (that still continues on conservative blogs). He did not rise because of these things; he rose despite them. Respectfully, if you cannot admit there is still a segment of America (even if small) that still fears a black man in the White House and Muslims in the U.S. (even the native-born variety), then, my friend, you wear the same AE goggles as your comrades who believe we are a flawless country populated by flawless people, except for all these damn moral relativists and multiculturalists!

The irony is that AE employs its own “moral relativity” when it runs from America’s dark secrets. Ask an Exceptionalist this question in the abstract:

Should we condemn the systematic genocide of a people?

They will say yes. But ask them to actually condemn Europe’s systematic genocide of native Americans, and they will tell you how great America is now and how we couldn’t have had it had we turned back to Europe, so the “greater good” was served by marching the Iroquois along the Trail of Tears. Isn’t that the true moral relativism? Who is the moral relativist – the man who says “America is bad because we should never torture, even if we jeopardize our safety by not doing it” or the man who says, “Yeah, America is so good we can torture, but only if that’s how we save our own necks?”

As you concluded your post by noting President Obama is being an apologist for America’s sins, let me offer that I see no fault in admitting mistakes as a diplomatic tool, provided it doesn’t impale leadership. In other words, when I see Obama abdicate America’s leadership role with a, “Golly gee, folks, I don’t know any better than all these people, so I’ll just sit this one out,” then I will worry. Until then, I will assume he has the good sense to realize that, while the top dog is always envied, what makes him tolerable is that he isn’t a hypocritical, arrogant, (and in Bush’s case, a poorly-educated) know-it-all.

To use a sports metaphor, Exceptionalists are the Terrell Owens archetype. Teammates, opponents, and even other teams’ fans all say he’s unbelievable. But few can stand him because he’s arrogant, he hogs the spotlight, and he never admits he made a mistake. In contrast, the anti-exceptionalists are the Marvin Harrison (in his prime) archetype. Teammates, opponents, and even other teams’ fans all say he’s unbelievable. But he garners more respect because he shuts up and lets the game speak for him. He never has to whip up a mob mentality with a “How ‘bout ‘dem Cowboys” speech like George Bush did talking about how amazing America is. You see, the true patriots know already. Unlike Owens (and Bush), the Harrison archetype is that of the quiet, graceful victor.

Did Harrison ever think his opponents would not tackle him hard because he wasn’t spiking balls in their face? No. But they weren’t as likely to cheap shot him.

A lot of AE rhetoric comes from the notion people who "blame America" hate America. If we employ the logic that people “vote with their feet,” though, it is silly to make such a claim. If non-AE folk really hated America, they’d be gone. I’d argue instead that they follow Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had it right when he said somebody who knowingly violates an unjust law and suffers imprisonment to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law. How better to show appreciation of American ideals than to say publicly that they are so noble and demanding that we haven't gotten them right yet, so we better keep trying?

I forgot to add, I appreciate that you disapprove of hyperbolic arguments, especially in an age when some people equate giving more Americans access to health care to the systemic extermination of six million Jews. By the way, you know what they call the people who don’t believe the holocaust happened in Germany? German Exceptionalists.


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Friday, September 4, 2009

Jon Elrod & American Exceptionalism's Decline Under President Obama

American Exceptionalism is the belief that the United States is unique in its place in history, and in many ways, superior to other nations and societies.


Moral Relativism and Multiculturalism form the belief that the United States is not unique nor superior, and that the US should be more like other countries. This belief system is hostile to the ideal of American Exceptionalism and generally focuses on the faults of the US rather than its virtues.


American Exceptionalism is abhorrent when it is based on xenophobia, prejudice, tribalism, jingoism, or bigotry. Suggesting America is superior simply because it is the place of one's birth is absurdly ignorant.


But American Exceptionalism is proper when it is founded on American civil liberties: free speech, free exercise of religion, rule of law, upward mobility, equality of gender, equality of race and creed, democratic representative government, free markets, etc.


Multiculturalism is proper when it is founded on dialogue, appreciation of history and culture, comparative studies, and general open-mindedness regarding other societies.


Moral Relativity and Multiculturalism become abhorrent when critical thought is abandoned. Too often this belief system refuses to make judgments. And when the judgments are reached, they tend to blame the US first, often through hyperbolic arguments.


The diplomacy of Barack Obama has intentionally stepped away from the American Exceptionalism of the Bush Administration. His administration has pursued what could be described as an international apology tour. It is based on the mistaken belief that those who hate America will change their minds once we admit they have reason to hate America. I hope our President soon returns to the nobler thoughts found in his Inaugural Speech:

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall heal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

These are inspiring words, spoken by someone who exemplifies American Exceptionalism. I did not and will not vote for our president, nor will I support most of his policies. But I take pride in this country, where a biracial son of a foreignor, with a Muslim name, could rise to lead our government. It speaks to how truly exceptional is this place called America.


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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Uh oh! IPOPA and Jon Elrod Get Experimental on You!

Let's be honest. American political discourse is more acidic than ever. The public sphere seldom showcases respectful disagreement based on honest differences of opinion. Instead, we are bombarded with increasingly divisive rhetoric undergirded by a "gotcha" mentality that preys on isolated words from opponents to morph them into caricatures of the dimwitted and "dangerous." Those who disagrees get accused of harboring sinister motives.

IPOPA thinks we deserve better. I'm not alone.

Several months ago, I began communicating with (more appropriately, arguing with) former Republican Indiana State House Representative Jon Elrod. I have come to appreciate Jon's keen intellect, expansive knowledge base, and idealism, and despite our inability to agree on seemingly anything, never have we exchanged cross words. I say this though Jon knows I worked for my current state representative (Mary Ann Sullivan) to defeat him, and I would do it again. How can he not take our arguments personally against this backdrop?

Because he joins me in realizing that all public policy decisions, even value-based ones, are laden with tradeoffs and arbitrary line-drawing that can strain philosophical purity and even intellectual honesty. In such an environment, how can we be mad at someone who draws a line five or even five hundred feet further left or right of us?

In an effort that will hopefully raise the bar on how we discuss the pressing issues of the day, IPOPA will be hosting periodic commentaries from Mr. Elrod and then responding to the same.

Will we always get it right? Probably not. Some zingers are just too "fish-in-a-barrel" to let pass. But if nothing else, I hope all IPOPA readers will admire that we felt it worth aspiring to something more high-minded.

Be sure to come by tomorrow for Jon's piece on the virtues of "American Exceptionalism" and how President Obama is parting ways with it. Thereafter, I will kindly alert Jon to some flaws and contradictions in his argument and give him the chance to return the favor.

I hope you find our exchanges thought-provoking.

Thanks for reading!

- IPOPA -


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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alarms on 9/11? Great Idea!

The Indianapolis/Marion County Emergency Management Agency will be running "unscheduled" tornado siren testing in September, and one of those days is September 11.

I think it's great that we now have the ability to run sirens in specific parts of Marion County instead of having to run them throughout the entire county, but I hope everybody gets the message about this testing. Otherwise, I promise you that somebody will be sitting at a Starbucks, hear an emergency alarm, see perfect weather outside, realize it's 9/11, and have a total freak out moment.


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