Monday, September 29, 2008

Zakaria: "Ditch Palin"

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

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

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

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

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

CNN: You don't think she is qualified?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Conservatives Admit Palin is Shaky, but Fox Hides the Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here's your phantom story:

Conservatives Begin Questioning Palin’s Heft by Associated Press Sunday, September 28, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, September 27, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope the boards are paying attention.


Friday, September 26, 2008

It's Official! I'm a Liberal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top Two Reasons Letterman Is Peeved at McCain

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The 2nd Gubernatorial Debate

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

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

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

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

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


Bailout Lotto!

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

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

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

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

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

How about a national lottery?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Race Costs Obama Six Percent

An absolutely fascinating poll using inquiries about white people's attitudes toward black people suggests that Senator Barack Obama's lead over Senator John McCain would go up by six percentage points if America could be instantly purged of its racial animus.

The poll, which was conducted on-line because it is believed people will be more truthful giving non-PC answers to a computer screen, found that forty percent of all Americans, including one-third of white Democrats, held unfavorable views toward black people generally.

It is critical to note several findings so the wrong conclusions are not reached from this poll.

First, Republicans harbor racial prejudice as well as Democrats, but their opposition to Senator Obama is overwhelmingly based on a reluctance to vote for ANY Democrat for president, regardless of race.

Second, more white people say positive things about black people than those white people who say negative things.

Third, many white people who say negative things about black people are still eager to vote for Obama, meaning that they can assess Obama as an individual, regardless of the group labels they give black people.

And, finally, race is NOT the biggest factor driving away white Democrats from Obama. Many do not believe he is capable of bringing about the change they want.

Having said all of that, this poll makes it pretty clear that a close election will be decided by race, just as race affected the Democratic primary outcomes. Among white Democrats, for example, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well.

In addition, a quarter of white Democrats agree with the statement, "If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites." Though, to my knowledge, Senator Obama has never embraced a contrary notion, those who agreed with that statement curiously were much less likely to back Obama than those who didn't.

Finally, despite our progress in race relations, over half of white people gave a more negative impression of black people than they did of their own kind.

In short, if Obama had begun in the U.S. Senate ten years before he actually did, right now he would be a sure thing. But this would only be because he could more easily overcome the votes of a sizeable segment of the white American population that harbors subconscious racist sentiments.

Were Obama a white man with the same resume with such an unpopular opposing party president? Yeah, he'd be crushing McCain.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Is IPOPA Hypocritical? A Response to Advance Indiana

One of many problems with politics these days is group-based generalizations. Everybody gets grouped into one thing, and all views, actions, and inactions are then attributed to a group regardless of the connection. This crystallized for me when Advance Indiana referred to the hypocrisy of Democrats over non-profit entities. Here’s the deal.

Sharon Pierce, the CEO of the Villages, Inc., and its auxiliary organization, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana (both of which go some good work), appeared last night during 60 Minutes in a campaign ad that speaks glowingly of Governor Daniels. The problem is that both of these organizations are 501(c)(3) non-profits, which means that they enjoy tax exempt status, but they must refrain from engaging in political advocacy.

At the outset, let me say that I am not a tax lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. But I’ve read the IRS provision restricting 501(c)(3)'s from engaging in politics, and I do not see how having the CEO of two specifically identified organizations gush about a candidate complies with the law.

So I wrote Ms. Pierce a letter today encouraging her to have Daniels pull the ad and to establish a policy to prohibit any officer or board member of either The Villages, Inc. or Prevent Child Abuse Indiana from appearing in future political ads with organizational attribution. Not only does such activity risk tax-exempt status, it risks ill-will among celebrity endorsers and politically active potential donors. In my letter, I noted that Colts coach, Tony Dungee, had been in a public service announcement for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana. I do not personally know Dungee’s politics, but I offered that he might be put in the awkward position of having to explain why he just did an ad for an organization that endorsed a campaign he might oppose. Moreover, any 501(c)(3) that plays politics risks alienating donors who might otherwise agree with the agency's mission but not its politics.

Anyway, within minutes of my letter being sent, Jim Shella blogged on it, which prompted Advance Indiana to note:

It’s funny that Marion County Democrats didn’t see anything wrong with Andre Carson’s campaign using Forest Manor Multi-Service Center to stage press conferences to promote his campaign at the center. And didn’t one or more not-for-profit employees appear in ads for Carson’s campaign?

First, notice how Advance Indiana says that “Marion County Democrats” didn’t see anything wrong. To have hypocrisy, you need person A (Chris Worden) calling into question a practice that person A (again, Chris Worden) has sanctioned in the past.

Respectfully, we cannot say what “Marion County Democrats” thought about the “Forest Manor situation” because we haven’t polled them to see if they even knew about it. But we can say what Chris Worden thought about it. He didn’t know about it at the time and still is not sure of the specifics.

If any individual, organization, or candidate can use the facility without cost, I’m not sure letting Carson do so constitutes advocacy. It seems more akin to an “open door” policy. If, however, there is normally a cost to use the center for a brief period, and the Congressman didn’t pay it, he should do so immediately. No 501(c)(3) organization should provide any service to a political campaign without charging the “market rate.” If I learn of a facility that does this, I’ll call them out on it as well as the candidate, be they Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian.

With respect to employees of Forest Manor appearing in a Carson ad, though, this is a trickier issue. I’m a firm proponent of individuals being able to support a candidate as individuals. If Ms. Pierce and her boards want to write checks to Governor Daniels, they can (and many have). But when it comes to political ads, the only way employees should appear is without organizational identification.

Accordingly, Forest Manor would have only acted improperly had it given its employees permission to appear in an Andre Carson ad specifically either with identification as Forest Manor employees or on regular work time. Absent that imprimatur, the employees appear only as individuals.

Admittedly, some leaders of organizations are so recognizable that even appearing without attribution will have the feel of an organizational endorsement. Quite frankly, this is something with which we’ll have to live because we honor the 1st Amendment. But the Daniels ad isn’t one of those situations.

To do right in this situation, all the Boards for The Villages and Prevent Child Abuse had to ask was this question:

“Is Ms. Pierce’s individual presence in the TV commercial made even remotely more advantageous for Governor Daniels by virtue of her identification as CEO of The Villages and Prevent Child Abuse Indiana?”

The answer is, “Of course, it was!” In fact, precisely what makes the ad powerful is that Ms. Pierce is speaking from organizational knowledge that she would not have but for her role as head of these not-for-profits. It seems impossible to assert that these organizations have not handed their PR heft, public good will, and organizational knowledge to Governor Daniels for his political benefit.

I am not interested in revoking the 501(c)(3) tax status of The Villages, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, or any similar organization. I just want them to stop playing politics. When these organizations receive dollars, be they from grants, donors, or fees for services, they grow in the public’s esteem by virtue of not paying taxes. The tax exemption frees dollars that are used to spread the organization’s mission and good name in the community. To then turn that name over for the benefit of a particular party or individual candidate is just inappropriate, in my opinion.

So now everybody is on notice. Play politics as a 501(c)(3) entity, get chastised by Chris Worden. (I'm sure you're all terrified). Now, where is the hypocrisy again?!?

As a final note, Jim Shella’s blog identified me as a “public defender.” That is not an adequate description, as it (ironically) might convey that I am speaking for an agency. It is correct that I am currently a contract public defender, but my words were not written as a full-time employee for the Marion County Public Defender Agency. I would never want anyone to think I’m speaking for that agency when I’m not. This was simply me, as an individual, exercising my 1st Amendment rights by writing a letter on an individual lawyer’s private stationery.


McCain's Faith at the Forefront

There are many things I could say about the back-to-back McCain/Obama 60 Minutes interviews last night (and I will), but one thing that struck me is John McCain's first-time public comment that he believes his faith kept him alive in Vietnam.

I have no doubt this is true. Faith is powerful. But when asked why he hadn't spoke on it before now, McCain said he was a private person. McCain's "testimony" would have been powerful, but as a private person myself, I respect McCain's right not to disclose. What bothers me is that after decades of being a private person, now that he needs to curry favor with evangelicals, he has decided to talk about it?

McCain did something laudable by suggesting that Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who served in the Clinton Administration, should head the SEC. But McCain gave it right back by changing stripes from the private man who goes to his room to pray to a man who would offer up his faith at the altar of political gain.


Oh, Indianapolis Star! You are SO silly! Editorial Sanctions Wyss Efforts

Today's Indianapolis Star supports State Senator Tom Wyss's effort (which I addressed last week) to require 50 hours of driver training and a cell phone ban for all drivers under age 18.

The Star's editorial has two fascinating statements. Here's the first:

As for cell phones, there's no question they are a dangerous distraction for drivers of any age. They are worse for new drivers, and banning everybody is politically impossible.

First, notice that The Star believes cell phones are dangerous for "new" drivers, but neither the phone ban nor the training hours are based on driving experience. A fifty-five-year-old woman who has never driven because her husband always did until he passed away can get licensed with no training and dial her friends, but a responsible 17-year-old can't, even on speaker.

If this law was designed to address "new" drivers (rather than being a politically-convenient, age-based generalization), the law would say that ANYBODY seeking a license must have driver training and cannot use a cell phone for a period of years after licensure.

There are young drivers who are more responsible than "seasoned" drivers, and I see this every day. In the past year alone, I have almost had six different drivers hit me, and they were ALL middle-aged adults on cell phones. (In fairness, I was on mine when I almost hit somebody three months ago).

But here's the second interesting Star quote:
More than 5,000 teens die on America's roads every year and 16-year-old drivers have 10 times the accident rate of those 30 to 59.

Where's the part about how 40% of those teen deaths are from alcohol-related crashes and that 36% of those fatalities are "roll overs." (What percent of teen accidents are even cell phone-related?!? We don't know! We might get more bang for our buck keeping our teens out of SUVs). Also, isn't it interesting that there's no reference to the accident rate of those from 18 to 29, or specifically the fact that the fatality rate is HIGHER for drivers between 21-24 than for 16-20?

You see, looking at those kind of facts would require us to grossly generalize against somebody of voting age. It might be "politically impossible" to ban everybody, but Senator Wyss won't even TRY to ban anybody who can vote.

Senator Wyss, I commend you for getting the .08 blood alcohol limit passed in Indiana, so as a courtesy, let me show you how you save lives on this one without requiring me to get all the eighteen-year-olds in the state to raise up against you for so clearly targeting them.

It's a two-part plan based on novel concepts known as "experience-based protection" and "individual responsibility."

1. Anybody who is being licensed or re-licensed after a "non-driving" period of four years or more must go through the supervised driver training.

2. Anybody who hasn't been licensed for at least three years cannot use a cell phone.

(I'll save for another day the fact that cell phone use, MINUS texting, is less dangerous than fast food restaurants that prompt people to drive with their elbows because they has supersized Cokes in their right hands, Quarter Pounders in their left hands, and french fries wedged between their left legs and their consoles).

3. Anybody, regardless of age, whose cell phone was in use immediately prior to or during an accident has a lifetime cell phone ban. The same is listed on the license with the other restrictions.

4. Anybody with three chargeable accidents in any three-year period has his/her license revoked until (s)he completes 50 hours of supervised training. I've been driving for over twenty years, and I've had two accidents chargeable to me in that time. If you cause three accidents in three years, you are a clearly an inattentive menace who needs to come off the road before you kill someone.

This simple four-point plan will save lives because it gets at the people who are REALLY the problem. But guess what? You won't do it.

It's easier to stick it to teenagers who cannot vote while the rest of us maintain our arrogance about how attentive we are as drivers, even though we just backed into the garage door or drove off from the gas station with the pump nozzle still in the car.

If you take alcohol-related accidents out of the mix, do you know who is involved in the most "attention deficit" related accidents? Old people. Not all of them, of course, because many are exceptional drivers. Just a disproportionate number that would seemingly put them under the public safety microscope for retraining at a particular age.

Let me know when Senator Wyss and The Indianapolis Star start messing with the AARP crowd. Then you'll know they're serious about public safety and not just grabbing the low-hanging fruit.


Friday, September 19, 2008

The Wyss(el) Screws Teenagers (Not Literally!)

I love it when state legislators stick it to teenagers because they aren't old enough to vote.

Republican State Senator Tom Wyss wants to pass a law that requires 50 hours of supervised driving (including ten at night) before someone can get his or her license. This is a good idea employed by 20 others states, and it's “age neutral.” If you are learning to drive for the first time at age 40, you have the same requirements as someone who is 16.

What bothers me is the provision that says drivers under 18 cannot use cell phones or any "hand-held devices" (which I assume includes iPods). Studies show pretty clearly that divided attention causes accidents, but I haven’t seen a single study showing that our ability to multi-task improves with age, have you?

As a perfect illustration of my point, look at this paragraph in the Indianapolis Star’s story about the hearing before the Study Committee supporting these changes:

The committee also heard from 24-year-old Kira Hudson, of Noblesville, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a single-car accident four years ago. Hudson said she was driving and talking on the cell phone when she swerved and hit a line of trees.

"I wasn't paying 100 percent attention," she said from her wheelchair. "Don't let my story happen to others."

Anybody notice anything? Specifically, the fact that Ms. Hudson was TWENTY when she had her accident. These legislators who are allegedly acting in the urgent interest of public safety COULD pass a law prohibiting ANYBODY from using cell phones, PDAs, or "hand-held devices" while in their cars.

But they set the age limit at UNDER 18. What a coincidence! Isn't that when teenagers get the right to vote?!? If you only put restrictions on people under 18 (a/k/a the "nonvoting class"), who can hurt you in November?

Put simply, I would be more moved by Senator Wyss’s public safety exhortations if they weren’t so covered in self-protective crap.

If I were about to turn 18, I know I'd cast my first vote....against Tom Wyss for targeting me.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Greg Zoeller Should Be Terrified of Linda Pence

I met Linda Pence two days ago. She is amazingly personable and incredibly sharp, and when I heard her pitch her candidacy, I became an instant believer. Ms. Pence's resume speaks for itself, and her tenacity is well-documented, even among conservative bloggers who try desperately to turn it into a negative to help their friends.

Let's be blunt. Most people who aren't lawyers hate lawyers until you need one, and then you want somebody who will crawl up and die on criminals, scam artists, and corporate wrongdoers of all stripes. Pence will be our pit bull.

Pence's proposal for independent investigation of deaths of children under the care of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) is critical, and one Governor Daniels fears greatly. (In fact, you should expect to see the Governor dump any cash he can spare into Greg Zoeller's race to protect himself from true oversight of all of his activities). And this is just the tip of the iceberg on her agenda.

Apparently, the conservatorati, too, know Pence can flip this office to the Democrat column, which is why they're pushing the most ludicrous charges and guilt-by-assocation innuendo to undermine Pence's candidacy.

Recently, Advance Indiana attempted to brand Linda Pence a hypocrite because she criticized Attorney General Steve Carter for hiring a Chicago law firm for a DISCOUNTED rate of $395 per hour, when, lo and behold, she just hired a media consultant from Chicago. Let me dissect this so you'll see how assinine this criticism is.

When Steve Carter hired the Chicago firm, he used TAXPAYER dollars, not campaign dollars. Steve Carter was essentially saying, "Neither I nor Greg Zoeller know how to work a major case, so we have to pay an insane hourly rate to someone who can."

Seeing the obvious implication, AI and other R blogs, such as Hoosier Access, have tried a second tact. From Hoosier Access:

"As Gary Welsh noted over at Advance Indiana, it’s pathetic and hypocritical of Linda Pence to criticize Steve Carter and Greg Zoeller for seeking outside counsel when she personally was very handsomely paid for being an outside counsel during the O’Bannon administration."

These bloggers are referring to Ms. Pence's work on the 1999 White River fish kill case. Ms. Pence served as outside counsel at the behest of the late, great Governor Frank O'Bannon. Ms. Pence recovered $14 million for the state, making her acquisition an extremely profitable one.

If there is any criticism to be had with that work, wouldn't it be directed toward the O'Bannon administration for not having someone on staff or at IDEM to handle this litigation? After all, I don't fault the Chicago firm for representing a client in need, Steve Carter. I fault Steve Carter for being a client in need.

Put simply, Hoosiers can pay expert attorneys hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, OR we can get own expert attorney in-house, in the form of Linda Pence, for the price of votes plus $79,400 per year.

The appeal of that simple statement is undeniable, which is why the Republican bloggers are using the new number one dirty word in their operative handbooks: "Chicago."

Anything that can connect a Democrat to anything in Chicago (or Lake County, for that matter), no matter how tangentially, soils them. I envision the day when an East Chicago pastor who takes daily polygraphs to prove he's corrupt-free runs for a statewide office, and the R's will point out that "Pastor So-and-So had lunch regularly with Bob Pastrick." And I'll say, "Yeah, and so did half of East Chicago."

At some point, don't we have to say please show me ANY evidence of wrong-doing (even if its uncharged) by the ACTUAL CANDIDATE instead of playing Six Degrees of Separation through discredited politicians?

But the most telling insight into this race comes from the fact that almost EVERY Republican blogger post has been anti-Pence, not pro-Zoeller.

That's because when you have nothing to showcase, all you can do is distract and attack.


In the Glow of an Angry Public - Immigration Part Deux

A uniformly angry public outcry over my immigration post let me know I did a crappy job explaining my position. Here's try two, which could make things worse, but I'd rather have a constructive dialogue, have readers tell me how I'm wrong, and grow from those comments, than be afraid to speak for fear of being stoned in the public square. Here we go:

1. Wow. Never talk about flags. It's too touchy, and your point will be misconstrued. (I should have remembered this from the heated argument I had with a family member over how counter-intuitive an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prohibit flag burning would be). My point on flags was a PR one. Had I been working with pro-amnesty groups as a political consultant, they would have been draped with American flags. It’s a heart-warming visual.

2. I don't have a problem with people flying other flags (except the Confederate) as long as the American flag is on the top of the pole. No other country, state, defeated secessionist faux country, or university flag (no matter how much you loooove Purdue) should be on top. But it's not like I'd pass a law to stop them. I just think that it's disrespectful.

3. I support one language for America. If you want to make it Spanish, cool. I started to learn Spanish myself, so I’ll hopefully be ready soon. But I do think a country that has ONE official language fares better, largely because we struggle to communicate with each other with ONE language. If you accept an "official" language, it seems easier to use the one that most Americans already know, no matter how imperfectly.

4. If you accept that immersion is best way to learn a language, we’ll get to one language quicker NOT giving information in multiple languages. The irony is that the larger the non-English speaking population in an area, the more likely government and business (including mass media) will provide product in other languages, thereby slowing the immersion process. If everything here was in Spanish, trust me, I’d learn it quicker.

5. I have no problem with people speaking other languages in America. I just do not believe government should make linguistic accommodations because the government imprimatur of having an official language will compel people to learn that chosen language quicker, both by practical necessity and civic persuasion. It is an irrefutable fact that the better a person speaks English in America, the more prosperous (s)he will be. Part of my issue with ESPN Desportes (and running replays in Spanish on Monday Night Football) is that it’s an effort to get us acclimated to Spanish so people won’t say things like, “I just do not believe government should have to make accommodations.” If someone can show me a study to convince me that being surrounded by your native language gets you to the new language you want to learn faster, then I obviously have to rethink my whole position on this. (Regardless, I still contend that it's hubris to go into another country and ask them to change government documents into a second language. I would never have the cajones to do it).

6. Wilson, you do great research. But who ULTIMATELY gave in? The Germans or the government? I haven’t seen any German publications at the BMV lately, have you?

7. It was suggested that Irish, Germans, and other European immigrants weren’t required to prove “fealty.” Sure, they were. Just like every other Latino who came here legally and became a citizen. They showed “fealty” by respecting America's immigration laws, even if they disagreed, and in addition, they all took the “citizenship oath,” which states:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

8. If you favor an open border policy, please work to get the immigration laws changed. Don't just sit there. I'm bothered terribly that the Bush Administration has ignored immigration laws completely. If you favor amnesty or open borders, you might not not care about this, but George Bush has fined nobody for hiring illegal immigrants. Compare him to Clinton, who at least imposed fines of $4 million dollars (still a pittance if you want to deter the practice, of course). Also, Congress appropriated money for more border agents who George Bush never hired.

I guess as a lawyer, I'm too "rule bound" and caught up in little things like respecting our government structure. I'm terrified by the increasing ease with which a President can ignore a law passed by Congress just because he doesn't like it. Isn't this what the Bush Administration has done on domestic surveillance? On torture? How can we be upset at the non-compliance on those laws, but say, "Oh, you can go ahead and ignore immigration laws. We don't like them."

9. The “greater good” argument is tricky in the immigration debate. If I live in Mexico, and I can get a better life in America, and I’ll do work nobody else will perform with no negative consequence to American citizens, doesn’t that serve the greater moral good?

That's a fair point, but there is a cost for America. It's not in government benefits, which is what most opponents of illegal immigration say. There's no argument that the healthcare cost alone in illegal immigrant-heavy states, such as California, is astronomical. But illegal immigrants more than pay for themselves in taxes paid and lower consumer prices.

The federal government actually receives an estimated seven billion annually in Social Security and Medicare taxes from illegal immigrants who pay in under false social security numbers, but who will never collect it. And because the federal government knows that the four states with the highest illegal immigration populations also have the most employers who submit incorrect and mismatched social security numbers, it KNOWS where this money is coming from and turns a lady justice blind eye.

The costs I'm talking about are job shifts and wage depression. Bear Stearns issued a 2005 study showing millions of US jobs shifting, "as employers have systematically replaced American workers with lower wage illegal aliens." In other words, it's at least arguable that SOME jobs are moving from citizens to non-citizens.

But let's say the Bear Stearns report was entirely made up by Lou Dobbs. People who are comfortable with illegal immigration generally say things like, "They do jobs no Americans want." There's some disingenuousness in this claim. I wouldn't cut grass for $6 an hour presently because I make more as a lawyer. But I would cut grass in a heartbeat if I got $200/hour. The willingness to do most jobs is almost entirely wage dependent, which is why America will never lack for strippers. So, sure, there ARE jobs that American citizens won't work...for minimum wage.

But IF nobody will work a low-wage job, and you DON’T increase the workforce from which to fill that position, what happens? WAGES GO UP. If we actually enforced laws against hiring illegal immigrants, now instead of paying them to clean its American stores, Walmart might have to pay a custodial staff $8 per hour, and I promise you, somebody will jump at those jobs. But say they don’t. Now Walmart has to go $10/hour or higher. Yes, that cuts into the profits of America's largest corporation (don't cry for them - they can afford it), so they will never ask for immigration laws to be enforced.

I don't know how else to say it. Our government is getting a cut for pimping out illegal immigrants for corporate interests, and many highly-educated, white collar Americans will let them do it because they want cheap labor themselves and because they want to pay two dollars for a four-pack of socks and have low produce prices.

Sorry, but there is a tinge of elitism among some illegal immigration supporters. Some of them, including posters on this blog, have said they support illegal immigration because immigrants work menial, labor-intensive jobs. Putting aside the condescension in the notion that cleaning and lawncare is all that illegals can do, it seems from their emphasis on the job type that these enlightened people would have a different position if illegal immigrants were doing computer programming, web design, internet media, and competing for THEIR jobs for dimes on the dollar. If you are a lawyer, accountant, doctor, professor, or other professional, you can rest easy knowing that illegals CAN'T do what you do, which is why support is easy. These same people will sell out American custodial workers, construction workers, food preparation workers, and lawncare company workers in a heartbeat. I expect that from leisure-class Republicans, just not from allegedly labor-friendly Democrats.

If Congress passed a $10 minimum wage and gave amnesty to every illegal alien in the country, I'd say great because the influx of cheap labor would be negated and wages wouldn't be depressed below what someone can live on in America. (Sorry, Wilson, but I'm just amplifying some sentiments I heard Congressman Carson say about illegal immigration. He KNOWS it affects the working class voters who are in his district).

9. Some people won’t care about the competition or the personal financial loss associated with illegal immigration. Those people are heroes. Show me an American citizen janitor in California who isn’t asking for better border enforcement, and I’ll show you a guy I admire. He is willing to make his own family suffer or go hungry so some other guy who isn’t even an American citizen can feed his family. By the way, let me know when you find that guy.

10. Isn’t there a moral laziness that comes from this argument: “Illegal immigrants want a better life, so we’ll turn a blind eye because they were ambitious enough to get here?” If our immigration policy goal is moral, shouldn’t who gets to come to America be based on actual need, not on who won the geography lottery? Instead of ignoring border enforcement and having 20,000 new illegal immigrants enter the country next month, why don’t we enforce our borders and get a governmental allocation to fly planes into Africa and bring back 20,000 people who are verifiably dying from starvation or who are about to be executed in Darfur? I’d be for that. But I bet I’d be standing with only a handful of people at that rally because there would be a true cost. Support amnesty if you like, but before you get “moral” about not enforcing immigration laws, just realize that your contention about “giving people an opportunity for a better life” is arguably a pseudo-moral path of exploitatively advantageous and cost-free convenience.

Yes, white collar folks (including me) reap the rewards of illegal immigration exploitation even if we don’t do the exploitation individually, just like white folks reaped the rewards of exploitation with slavery, even when they didn’t do it individually. Sorry that the truth hurts.

(If you are actively lobbying to get Darfurians here, seeking an increase in the minumum wage, and asking for immediate amnesty for all illegal immigrants so they can get the social security and medicare they are paying for, pat yourself on the back. You're putting your money where your mouth is, and this post doesn't apply to you). For the rest of you....yeah, not so much.

Comience el ataque!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The ACLU Takes, Gives Right Back

Man! The day after I'm expressing my disappointment over the ACLU for its position on the 2nd Amendment, its Indiana chapter has me singing its praises. Go Ken Falk!

The target of its ire? A bevy of local ordinances in the doughnut counties that prohibit citizens from posting candidate yard signs any more than 30 or 45 days before an election. Jon Murray with The Star has the details.

These laws are preposterous. First, most of the ordinances are "content-based." If you advocate for or against a candidate, you can't put your signs up earlier than the allowed time frame. BUT there are no time restrictions for realty signs, construction signs, garage sale signs, and even non-candidate political signs, such as pro-life or pro-choice messages. What are these councilors trying to protect us from? An eye overdose of red, white, and blue?

Putting aside the obvious unconstitutionality of these ordinances, the sign restrictions inherently favor incumbents, who have the advantage of getting their "names out" through the official actions of their offices.

For many local races, the yard signs ARE the campaign. While I personally doubt the efficacy of yard signs relative to other media (give me $1,000 worth of well-done direct mail over $1,000 worth of yard signs any day), you can't dispute the psychological effect from seeing tons of them. They can signify broad support and drive people who might otherwise be disinterested to investigate the named candidate further.

Moreover, the more "local" an election is, the more critical word-of-mouth is to the outcome. A yard sign can be a meaningful endorsement to one's neighbors. Sure, if the Republican precinct committeeperson has a sign supporting every candidate in his party, that just says, "I'm a staunch Republican." But a yard sign in a man or woman's lawn who has NEVER voted in a primary or put a sign out? That might make me take notice. That might make me ask them why they felt strong enough this time to put that sign in their yard.

My only disgreement with the ACLU of Indiana is that it filed its lawsuit in federal court. I suspect they did this to address multiple ordinances from multiple counties in one suit. However, a lawsuit in state court would have facilitated the ACLU raising one claim -- violation of the Indiana Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, which states:

No law shall be passed, restraining the free interchange of thought and opinion,
or restricting the right to speak, write, or print, freely, on any subject
whatever: but for the abuse of that right, every person shall be

I don't want to bore the non-lawyers with all the specifics, but Indiana's free speech guarantee, in my opinion, offers MORE protection than the 1st Amendment when political speech is at issue. If a particular type of expression is deemed "core" political speech, the State must then "demonstrate that its action has not materially burdened the claimant's opportunity to engage in political expression." The Indiana Supreme Court already said in Whitting v. State, 669 N.E.2d 1363, 1370 (Ind. 1996) that expressive activity is political if "its point is to comment on government action, whether applauding an old policy or proposing a new one, or opposing a candidate for office . . ." There's your yard sign, folks!

Randall Shepherd, the Chief Justice of our Indiana Supreme Court, loves to breath independent life into the Indiana Constitution, which, on many individuals rights, offers more protection than the federal constitution. It's a shame he won't get the chance here. I would have liked to see him take Article 9 out for a spin again.

Since the "core political speech" is a fait accompli, the various city councils would bear the burden of showing your opportunity to engage in political expression has not been materially burdened. NONE of these city councils could make this showing. The only alternative for someone who wants you to know he supports candidate X would be to print fliers at greater cost and try to hand them out as cars go whizzing by.

Separately, people usually engage in free speech for a purpose, which makes these date restrictions particularly problematic. What if the goal of my neighbors and I is to get enough people interested in our unusual endorsement that they register to vote for the first time to support our candidate? Well, in Indiana, the registration deadline is 29 days before the election, which means anybody who will have been persuaded to vote will have missed the window.

These ordinances are silliness from people who don't like looking at political signs, but if we restrict political speech for a cause so flimsy, Lord help us when we face REAL challenges, such as the evils of terrorism.


IPOPA's Random Political Thoughts That Might Surprise You - Part III

If the ACLU is devoted to expanding freedom, how in the hell can it be opposed to the D.C. v. Heller decision, which said D.C. cannot constitutionally enact a law banning firearms from the district?

Well, I actually know how because the ACLU says it on its web site. Ahem….

“The ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. While the decision is a significant and historic reinterpretation of the right to keep and bear arms, the decision leaves many important questions unanswered that will have to be resolved in future litigation, including what regulations are permissible, and which weapons are embraced by the Second Amendment right that the Court has now recognized.”

I see. So has the ACLU changed course?!? It doesn’t sound that way to me, nor to the 1123 people who submitted comments in response to the ACLU's position post. The negative to positive ratio was about 50-1, by the way. This is not surprising given that the ACLU has revealed itself as an organization playing favorites on which freedoms it supports by having whoever its legal counsel is at the moment determine which rights are “collective” and which are individual.

Putting aside that critically flawed "collective right" claim, the Supreme Court has now said gun ownership is an individual right. That IS what the Constitution says now. And now that the law is individual, mustn't the ACLU now oppose ALL restrictions on firearms in the same way it opposes all restrictions on freedom of speech and ALL efforts to interject religion into the public square? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, it must. But I fear it will adopt another ridiculously-nuanced position by relying on the phrase a "well-regulated militia." ('s a little secret for you. The phrase "well-regulated" doesn't modify the militia's weapons or ammunition, it modifies the militia itself).

So now we have to sit back and see if the ACLU will make a mockery of itself. It should be easy enough not avoid. All the ACLU board needs to do on this issue and any in the future is ask itself a very simple question:

“Does this law expand or constrict freedom?”

If the answer is “constrict,” the ACLU goes in and battles it out, even when the freedom is one valued mostly by Republicans and conservatives (i.e., the 2nd amendment, 5th amendment right against government takings). This is how the ACLU cleans its tarnished credibility. The ACLU, after all, worked to protect the rights of NAZIS, and it won’t help gun owners?

The personal irony is that if the ACLU does its job properly, it will end up opposing me on gun regulations I support such as background checks (even at gun shows), restrictions on certain ammunition (cop killer bullets), and limits on the number of guns a non-licensed firearms dealer can buy in a certain period of time (anti-street flooding regulations).

But at least those differences of opinion would be based on a principled stand by the ACLU, not by the "individual" opinions of a select group of ACLU higher ups.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

IPOPA's Random Political Thoughts That Might Surprise You - Part II

Monday Night Football broadcaster Tony Kornheiser has been called out for being insensitive. After ESPN showed a replay of a game clip in Spanish, Kornheiser said something akin to that he took Spanish in high school, and the comment either meant “the guy would not be touched” or “would you get my laundry tomorrow.” Kornheiser apologized, but the idea he would have to apologize for making a flip comment shows how hypersensitive we’ve become as a country. Because of that sensitivity, I fully expect somebody to call me racist for the following comment, but that won’t stop me.

I don’t care about ESPN Desportes, nor do I have any interest in seeing an NFL replay broadcast in Spanish. It is almost as if ESPN is trying to orchestrate a nationwide acceptance of Spanish through cross-linguistic promotion, and frankly, it irritates me.

While I’m ambivalent about a “path to citizenship” (which is basically backdoor amnesty), the one thing I believe without compromise is that if you come here, you learn English. We don’t make concessions or accommodations for you. Every time I see “entrada principal” next to “main entrance” on an IPS school, I cringe. Knowing a second language helps people, but that’s ONLY after you know the dominant language, which is English. (In fairness to illegal immigrants, many American citizens need to learn English. Sarah Palin and George Bush: “nuc-u-lar”?!?)

But seriously, think about how well received you would be in France if you said, “Hey, I’m coming to live in YOUR country, but I’m going to need you to give me English TV stations and all my government forms in English, m’kay?!? Even if the country were willing to do it, boy, it would still take unmitigated gall to even ask. Isn't this like going over to your neighbor's home uninvited and then asking them to change their wallpaper to your tastes?

People think opposition to illegal immigrants is just racism. There is undoubtedly that component for many. But for many, including me, it's all about linguistics and pressing cultural change, not race. I don't object to changing the skin tone of America if it STAYS American, and the main signifier of any culture is its language. The American language is English, folks.

Now, my party, by virtue of a brazen vote grabbing war with Republicans, tries to cozy up to American citizens who are Latino who have family members here illegally. That's just plain wrong, morally and politically. It minimizes that fact the much opposition to illegal immigrantion is based on the American notion that you don't reward people who ignore the rules and punish those who play by them.

What we need to do is allocate more money to VISA processing so people can get here faster, and for every illegal immigrant we deport, we need to bring one over who has been waiting. In other words, we keep the same skin tone of America, but we do it with a different kind of person. We should also increase the numerical quota for all countries while letting everybody know now, if you want to come to America, you better know English. If I were dictator of the universe, I would make an English test be part of the immigration process. If you can communicate in English better than others in your country, you move to the head of the line!

A lot of people might be more comfortable believing that immigrants to this country actually want to be American if they did not expect linguistic accommodations. You see, the notion of “wanting to be American” and adapting to America’s language and customs is decidedly different than wanting to come to America to exploit its favorable wages (and send then out of the U.S.) and its free health care with no intent of “melting” into the melting pot.

People will say, "These concerns are raised every time there is an immigrant wave." That's true. Every new influx at Ellis Island has caused consternation about the changes. But the difference between now and the early 1900s is that almost all of those immigrant wanted not just the American benefits, but also the labors needed to be American. That’s very different now, which is why until the Latino community got some PR people to trouble-shoot, you would see rallies of people seeking to stay in America carrying the Mexican flag.


IPOPA's Random Cultural Thoughts That Might Surprise You - Part I

I know I'm going to sound like a crotchety old man, but I have to say that after watching the Eagles and Cowboys play in Monday Night Football last night, some of “today’s kids” are misguided.

Philadelphia rookie receiver Deshean Jackson had a sure touchdown negated when he tossed the ball behind him in celebration before even crossing the goal line. Fortunately for the Eagles, they ultimately scored. But as Arash Markazi noted:

“The play might be nothing more than a side note to a classic Monday Night Football game, but I think it says a lot about the mindset of today’s player, where the need to celebrate is almost as great as the need to succeed.”

Incredibly, Jackson had a similar gaffe in a high school All-Star game in 2005. He was so interested in putting himself in the spotlight that instead of crossing the goal line and THEN celebrating, he tried to do a somersault into the end zone. The problem was that he ended up a yard shy. You’ve got to watch the video here from that game to appreciate how much of an idiot this guy is.


Jill Long-Thompson Campaign Saves Me a Post

On September 5, 2008, I did a post asking people to comment on Jill Long-Thompson's TV ads. I got eleven public comments and twenty-two private. They were ALL negative. I was going to go public and release the results, but on or about September 10, JLT changed its media consultant. (No word yet on who the new shop is or will be).

Different people have different philosophies about how many gross rating points (GRPs) you need to buy for an ad to "work," and most people say you need to see an ad seven times to have the message "sink in." I say "bovine feces."

If an ad is different enough...if it is creative enough...all it takes is one viewing. But when your political ad looks like every other political ad, it doesn't "break through the clutter." The reason Mitch Daniels' "Pirates of the Carribean" ad was so lauded was because of its difference. I've told anybody who would listen that there is enough "other side of the story" to that ad that it would be easy to demolish it with comparable one that shows Mitch's words dissolving with the negative statistics and results over the top. I even had a bunch of modified tag-lines that played on the movie theme, such as:

"Mitch Daniels - II - "Two Thumbs Down! A Sequel Hoosiers Can't Afford!"

Well, guess what? I wasn't alone in my thinking. Check out this ad, by a media-savvy labor union guy. I wouldn't have used all of the same talking points included is this ad, but had this been a JLT ad, it would have (a) been extremely memorable for JLT; and (b) would have actually drawn off of the popularity of Daniels' ad by drawing people to the TV who thought they were seeing HIS ad until it was too late.

Sigh. The sad part is that if anybody needs a huge bang for the buck, it's a candidate who trails in the money race. Each JLT ad needed to be three times as effective as each Daniels ad, but the consensus was that the ads run to date did not even keep pace. JLT has a LOT of ground to make up, but with strong performances at three upcoming debates, anything is possible. I learned that yesterday when the Colts trailed 15-0 in the late third quarter.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Governor Danielsalaam Craps Out on Lottery Ad

Many politicians stretch the truth for maximum emotional effect. But it's ridiculous to pull a Governor Danielsalaam* and intentionally mislead in an ad when you have a sizeable alleged lead over your opponent. (I say "alleged" because Jill Long-Thompson's campaign claims internal polling showing them close. However, since they won't release the numbers, I wouldn't bet JLT's farm on them).

Lesley Stedman covers this issue well, so give her a read. But the short story is that Governor Danielsalaam* released an ad stating that he would devote lottery proceeds to improving education. The proposal part is fine. But the Governor also says, "THEY told us the money would be used for education." The implication clearly is that Hoosiers were hoodwinked by SOMEBODY into accepting the lottery in exchange for improved education, but THEY siphoned off the money for something else.

I was at the formation of Indiana's lottery, as its third employee, and I know its legislative history. At no point did ANY the lottery legislation direct funds for education, as even lottery supporters felt it was an uncertain revenue stream. In addition, since then, no bill has been passed to direct lottery money to education.

So the Governor "lies" about where the money was allegedly supposed to go. I say "lies" because this is what I call it when you know something is not true and you say it anyway. And Daniels' campaign knows this is not true, which is why the Governor's press man, Cam Savage, dodges Stedman (see below).

Why lie?

Think about this. If you're in a "change" referendum year, you have to show you are superior to the past, and this is particularly tricky when you've been running the government for the past four years. The Governor is using the vaunted Republican playbook of "us versus them." The reason Savage won't say who "THEY" are when asked is because the "THEY" is a phantom.

You want to hear a flimsy excuse for misleading Hoosiers? The Governor was speaking about his understanding of Hoosiers' misunderstanding about where the money would go. Got it?!? No?!? Well, it's not easy with distortions, so let me try again. The Governor wasn't saying that "they" actually said the money would go to education. He was saying that Hoosiers think that "they" said it.

What a great model for political discourse!

If I were JLT, I'd put out an ad saying "THEY" said they would cap your gas taxes when the price got high, but you still keep paying more! Don't let THEM get away with failing to honor THEIR promise. If I'm elected Governor, I'll suspend state taxes on your gas my first day in office."

Who is THEY? As long as you get maximum emotional impact in your ad, who cares? Right, Governor Danielsalaam?!?!

(*-I have stated repeatedly that I will continue to refer to Mitchell Elias Daniels, Jr. as "Governor Danielsalaam" until Greg Garrison stops calling Obama "Barack HUSSEIN Obama." Garrison and his ilk clearly find Senator Obama "un-American" and seek to make negative associations based on his heritage and name. Our Governor if first generation Syrian. Our Governor is also a supporter of the Arab-American Institute, which has honored the Governor for his work in the Arab community. What bothers me about this is NOT that Governor Daniels is an Arab. That's a great thing for diversity in Indiana.

What bothers me about it is that none of the positive associations that could be created in having an Arab-American Hoosier governor are made for voters because Daniels is probably the pastiest Arab in history. Daniels could talk about his Arabic ancestry, but he seldom does so outside his Arabic constituency. Also, there is a strong undercurrent of anti-Muslim sentiment in America, and it's often (though certainly not always) driven by Republicans.

Governor Daniels invited my dear friend, Shariq Siddiqui, the executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, to his State of the State address in 2007. How many of Daniels' Republican Christian supporters know he's Arabic and has courted Muslim support? I'd say almost none, because if they had known, he either wouldn't be our Governor, or they would have had to shelf their anti-Muslim, anti-Arabic paranoia. That's my goal. To get it shelved.

For further details on the Daniels/Arabic connection, see this and this).


Friday, September 12, 2008

Trust is a funny thing...

The next time you hear a Republican blogger (or any Republican friend of family member) say they don't "trust" Obama and Biden because they don't tell the truth, they exaggerate, or they change their positions, do me a favor and send them this video.

We all would love our political figures to not be so "squishy," but let's face it, folks. Almost every political figure has massaged a story for maximum emotional effect, and that's what McCain did in this video. How can people jump on Biden without jumping on McCain?

Feel free to vote against Obama because you don't think universal healthcare, emissions standards, or repeal of tax breaks for the very wealthy and companies that send workers overseas are good ideas, but if you vote against him on "trust issues," you're engaging in some self-justifying rationalizations.


When Advance Indiana Isn't Talking Crazy, It's Making A Lot of Sense!

Advance Indiana may churn a lot of inflammatory and conspiratorial "news" items, and Lord knows we've gone at it, but when it comes to open and honest government, it's hard to knock Gary Welsh, AI's pen-to-paper man. He'll put a finger in the eyes of his party and the eyes of its key affinity groups when called for, and he does so today.

Advance Indiana today leads with the Indianapolis Star's story about Mike Ripley, a Republican representative who represents Wells, Adams, and Allen counties. Ripley, who has served since 1996, stepped down and guess what type of job he's taking? Everybody in unison: LOBBYING!

As the Star points out (kudos as well for staying on this story), Indiana is NOT one of the thirty states that has a waiting period before a legislator or high-ranking executive official can turn lobbyist.

I believe Indiana needs a law, and in fact, I think Indiana should set the bar. Most states have a two-year waiting period. I'd say four is right. Two election cycles would more likely change the personalities enough (and the Governor and his people) that the value of these former public servants as lobbyists would decrease. And, quite frankly, any the only members of the Indiana General Assembly or in the executive branch who could be upset about such a law are people who KNOW they will be cashing in on their connections in the future. I promise you that there are members in the General Assembly right now who are hanging on because they know that in addition to their ridiculously high pensions, they have the "lobbyist retirement plan" to fall back on.

I want to help create a network of politically active folks who will speak truth to power, even to those in our own party. I know I'll tell Senator Vi Simpson (who I think fondly of, and whom I've supported financially) that I don't care about her indignation at this bill. A revolving door draws the wrong kind of people into the General Assembly. I once asked a candidate for state representative who I knew pretty well to look me in the eye and swear to God his first job out the statehouse would not be lobbying. He wouldn't. That's when I knew he had no business being in the General Assembly.

Having said this, I support a legislator pay commission to make our state equal with others. We pay our folks $11,600 a year unless their committee chairs. This is ridiculously low, which guarantees that only rich people (or those taking a short-term loss for a long-term lobbying gain) will serve. This system is broken, and we need to fix it.

WHO'S WITH ME?!?!? (Crickets chirp....tumbleweeds blow through as everybody working in this system realizes that it's easier to NOT make waves with their own connections than to do what's right).


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Libertarians Have Sticking Power! Is Andy Horning in on Another Election?!?

In my 7th District pre-special election commentary, I offered the following thought:

"Libertarians might be thought of as a fringe party, but they know a good sound bite. I think Libertarian wit, along with knowing the formula for making a space-age super-adhesive, are the keys to the vitality of the Libertarian Party in Indianapolis. This is NO joke. Some aluminum lamp polls downtown still have bumper stickers for Libertarian Kurt St. Angelo from the 10th district race against Julia Carson in 1996."

I got additional evidence for my thesis today in the form of an "Andrew Horning for Congress" bumper sticker. Some guy who supported Horning when he ran for Congress in 2004 STILL cannot get that sticker off his car! Bwwwahh ha haaaa! (Libertarians, who receive the "secret formula after membership induction, all laugh in unison!)

Seeing the bumper sticker reminded me that this year's gubernatorial race is, indeed, a three-way contest, and that Mr. Horning is vying for the state's top executive office with Republican Mitch Danielsalaam and JLT.

I watched Mr. Horning in his gubernatorial debate in 2000, and he was, by far, the most engaging personality on the stage, and he was the only candidate with REAL ideas. But as P.J. O'Rourke noted in his book Parliament of Whores, "In the American political system, you're only allowed to have real ideas if it's absolutely guaranteed that you can't win an election."

We make sure Libertarians can't win in this country by employing (a) a lot of silly ballot access laws and (b) the concept of accountability, which Libertarians can never harness by virtue of not actually ever getting elected to anything. It's a vicious Catch-22, I know, which is why I think quality candidates like Horning should show us what Libertarians can do in lesser offices they want to abolish before they aspire to higher offices they want to abolish.

Seriously, I fully expect Mr. Horning to add pizzazz to this race, just as he does with his unconventional website. It's always an entertaining read.

If I offered my political advice to Andy Horning, though, the first thing I would say is to obtain some Just for Men before Keith Hernandez and Willis Reed show up at one of your events to yell at you:

"Your stash is trash! Your beard is weird!"

I did a double-take on Horning's photo because I could have sworn somebody Photoshop'd some gray speckles into his beard to cover his boyish face and give the appearance of a seasoned political veteran. It may be true that the government is best which governs least, but a laissez-faire approach to one's facial hair? That's living the Libertarian creed to excess.


The Sullied White House

A CNN poll today shows that American concerns about a new terrorist attack are at an all-time low. This is a great thing for Americans because worrying about physical security AND economic security is quite a psychic burden.

The thing I really appreciate is that the Republican Party has avoided stoking the fear of terrorism in a cynical effort to gain electoral advantage, as most polls in America shows Republicans have an edge in "combating terrorism." In other words, the more afraid YOU are of terrorists, the better THEY do.

Hold on a second. I just got an e-mail from the White House Press Office:

Patriot Day, 2008

- - - - - - -

By the President of the United States of America

a proclamation

September 11, 2001, was etched into America's memory when 19 terrorists attacked us with barbarity unequaled in our history. On Patriot Day, we cherish the memory of the thousands of innocent victims lost, extend our thoughts and prayers to their families, and honor the heroic men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives so others might survive.

Since 9/11, we have recognized the threat posed by terrorists to the safety of the American people and worked to protect our homeland by fighting terrorists abroad. We are confronting terrorism by advancing freedom, liberty, and prosperity as an alternative to the ideologies of hatred and repression. Our Nation pays tribute to our courageous men and women in uniform serving around the world and the devoted members of our law enforcement, public safety, and intelligence communities at home who work night and day to protect us from harm and preserve the freedom of this great Nation.

Seven years ago, ordinary citizens rose to the challenge, united in prayer, and responded with extraordinary acts of courage, with some giving their lives for the country they loved. On Patriot Day, we remember all those who were taken from us in an instant and seek their lasting memorial in a safer and more hopeful world. We must not allow our resolve to be weakened by the passage of time. We will meet the test that history has given us and continue to fight to rid the world of terrorism and promote liberty around the globe.

By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2008, as Patriot Day. I call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe Patriot Day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and remembrance services, to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on that day, and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Wow. Our nation wanted to recognize the victims of 9-11 and the people who tried to save them, and instead of leaving it at that honor, our President interjects our ongoing fight against terrorism to stoke the flames of fear. Instead of Heroes Day, he calls it "PATRIOT" Day. This is a carefully scripted word that subtly links our alleged need for ongoing military action in Iraq (and elsewhere) with that tragedy. It is undoubtedly true that if you don't have a plan to combat terrorists, they can hurt you. But don't trounce on the graves of the victims of 9-11 to make your political point, President Bush. This is not an expanded "honor the military and intelligence services day," Mr. President. Today is for the victims.

Mr. President, look again at how your proclamation ends. " honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."

If you weren't making a political statement, wouldn't you have JUST said that we want to honor those who died on September 11, 2001 without referring to the terrorism? Are these people special in your eyes ONLY because of how they died, Mr. President? Is that our national lesson? That the more horrific your death is at the hands of America's global enemies, the more worthy of honor you will be in the eyes of the White House? By this measure, people who died after Katrina had insignificant deaths because, Mr. President, your colossal ineptitude caused those deaths, not terrorists. Where will be the memorial for people whose deaths do not further your political agenda?

I've heard Rush Limbaugh repeatedly bash the attendees at the funeral of the late Senator Paul Wellstone for turning that funeral into a "political rally." I've heard the same criticism about the funeral of Congresswoman Julia Carson locally.

But, Mr. President, those funerals were for individuals. You, in contrast, single-handedly politicized our country's NATIONAL funeral. Thankfully, all of the ceremonies at the Pentagon and at Ground Zero today were ONLY about the victims, Mr. President. Apparently, tact and honor exists in places other than in your White House.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Contest for You! Who Tops McCain's Roll in the Pig Muck?

First, McCain's campaign says Senator Obama made a sexist attack against Sarah Palin ("lipstick on a pig") when it's clear from the video that Obama was talking about McCain himself.

Now this...

Senator McCain accuses Barack Obama of voting to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners "before they're even taught to read." GASP! How deplorable. Here's the problem. The bill in question allowed school teachers to teach "age appropriate" sex education information so that children could learn enough to protect themselves from sexual predators.

I've been in and around politics for a long time, and I've seen some pretty disgusting stuff, but man, this is the worst distortion of a position I think I've seen. Ever. There are people like me who hated the obvious racial overtones of the Willie Horton ad, but nobody could say it wasn't factually accurate, even if the implications were off. Horton was furloughed, and he DID kill somebody.

But here...the ad is just not true in fact or in its implication. McCain's campaign just lost ALL of its credibility about misleading ads. (Or should I say they gained tremendous credibility to speak on the subjct because they clearly know how to make them!?!?)

Here's Newsweek's Joe Klein ripping on the McCain ad:

I'm interested in compiling your top twelve picks for the vilest campaign distortions of all time. Post or drop me an e-mail at, and I'll post the "Dirty Dozen" soon. I've said before that my all-time negative "ad" was actually a yard sign. All it had was the candidate's name, and underneath that name it read: "No Morals!"