Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inaugural Inaugural Write-Up!

Because of a lengthy trial yesterday, I was unable to watch the Obama inauguration until last evening (Thank you, DVR!). I have not seen, heard, nor read a single thing about the event yet because I wanted to give my “gut” impressions. Here they are:

- DAMN! Barack Obama flubbed his oath. This will give Republicans fodder for the next four years. Also, some Freeman wackos plus Advance Indiana will probably say Obama is not president because he hasn’t REALLY taken the oath of office. President Obama looked at Chief Justice Roberts like, “Are you freaking kidding me?!?!?” I don’t blame him. Isn’t every significant oath given in rhythmic phrases of NO MORE than five words? To have and to hold? In sickness and in health? How are you going to hit a guy with more than that when you know he has to be nervous about becoming the most powerful man in the world? I have a sneaking feeling Justice Roberts is thinking today, “Ha ha! Got him!”

- When George Bush walked out, he looked as comfortable as a black man at a clan rally. His eyes kept darting back and forth like he was expecting someone to throw shoes at him or something. He might be suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from that well-heeled attack. Lord knows it’s the closest thing to combat he’s ever faced.

- Somebody needs to tell Michelle Obama not to wear that color of lip stick or lip gloss. It looked like her bottom lip was radioactive white during certain camera shots. (Oh, by the way, I’m still waiting for that top secret video where Michelle Obama says “whitey” that was much talked about on the internet. I guess Republicans are going to hold it until Obama runs for re-election?!?)

- People who can get past the fact the invocation was delivered by the “controversial” and “conservative” pastor Rick Warren will say he gave a phenomenal prayer. Of course, for some liberal activists, that’s almost like saying, “Hitler gave some great speeches if you can get past the whole holocaust thing.”

- Obama’s faith was on display throughout his speech. It was very scripture-based, which will make some people nervous. But he did something I hadn’t heard before from a U.S. president. He publicly acknowledged our nation also has “non-believers.” Conservative critics will attack him for it.

- I thought Obama’s speech was very moving, but not everyone agreed. I counted no fewer than eight people whose eyes were shut or whose heads were bobbing during the speech, and most of them were on the dais. Having people nodding off after an early morning that follows late-night festivities is nothing new, but this is where you can tell BET is not used to covering political events. Come on, BET! You NEVER show the sleeping people! Take a lesson from CNN. If CNN had shown all the people asleep at a McCain afternoon rally (say two hours after the MCL lunch rush), we would have seen entire rows in snoozeville. Even Michael Dukakis and the late, great Paul Tsongas never suffered the indignity of a public airing of people asleep during their events, but you KNOW there had to be thousands of potential targets from which to choose.

- I watched the movie Gladiator the other night, and the line that stuck with me is when Hinsou tells Crowe, “You have a great name. You must kill it before it kills you.” That’s what Obama is probably thinking. If he embraces his middle name of “Hussein,” he gives license to the conservatorati, like Greg Garrison, to say it with derisive emphasis (Barack HUUUUSEEEIIIIN Obama). But I cringed when I heard them announce “Barack H. Obama” as the President-Elect entered. Aside from mental comparisons to Hubert H. Humphrey, it was an obvious dodge of his own name, which everybody was going to hear anyway during the swearing in.

- Hillary Clinton seemed to have a forced smile to me during the entire proceeding. You know, the one where the mouth is turn up waayyy too high to be natural, so it suggests the person is really exerting effort? Inside her mind: “I should be taking that oath, damn it!” Bill Clinton kind of looked mad. Inside his mind: well, this one is actually anybody’s guess, but I’m going with, “Look at the diversity of hotties up in here.”

- It was, indeed, a broad swath of Americans, young and old, black, white, Asian, Arabic, and a whole lot of census-box-confounding “others.”

- While we all know Reverend Lowry was being ironical and tongue-in-cheek comedic at the end of his benediction when he said he hopes American can get to a place where “black doesn’t have to get back, yellow can be mellow, the redman can get ahead, man, and white can do right,” I promise there will be people who criticize that remark for (a) calling native Americans “red,” (b) calling Asians “yellow” (though when he said it, BET cameras caught some Asians who were laughing and applauding, and (c) for suggesting the white man needs to do more things right. I promise you Lowry will be painted by the same “white hater” brush that the conservatorati used on Reverend Wright.

- John Williams is a great composer (Close Encounters, Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Apollo 13, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, to name his signature works), but I wasn’t impressed with his original piece, which is saying something given that he had the world’s best violinist and cellist in the quartet. If every American got the joy out of their job that Yo Yo Ma gets out of playing his cello, we’d be absolutely destroying the industrialized world in productivity.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Hating is as American as Apple Pie...Which Curiously Leads Me To Sports!

Americans love to hate.

I've seen and heard more hateful talk in the last twenty-four hours than I have in quite some time, and it has all surrounded President-Elect Obama. No, no, no. Don't misunderstand me. There are millions who act like this Obama is going to give us all monthly checks for $10,000, clean our gutters, and create Peace in the Middle East. But those who hate him, REALLY hate him, and mostly, what they hate is that other people don't hate Obama as much as they do.

Rush Limbaugh is apoplectic that people are inspired. Limbaugh keeps referring to Obama as the Messiah, tongue-in-cheek, and he berates Obama fans for "worshipping a man who has accomplished nothing." That's a fair point, but to quote D.L. Hughley when he was asked whether America was ready for a black man to be president:

"Have you seen what we've had for the last eight years? How could we screw up after that?"

Yes, Barack Obama has no accomplishments BEFORE his first day, Mr. Limbaugh. So sue him.

I will never understand the anger that our new president generates. I asked myself recently, "Why are Americans so hateful in politics?"

But after the Colts lost their playoff game against San Diego, I started reading the comments on the Indianapolis Star on-line version. It was some of the nastiest stuff you would ever read, and unlike politics, this is over A GAME!

I am a true blue Colts fan, and I have been since the early 3-13 years. But if you rip on somebody else, even a Patriots fan, because they support a different team than you or "your" team beat "their team," you're kind of an idiot.

First, if "your" team wins, it most likely has nothing to do with you. You weren't on the field, you didn't diagram a single play, and playing fantasy football doesn't mean you made a psychic connection that influenced Bill Polian during last year's draft. In fact, even the people who have the highest priced season tickets for the Colts can only say they pay .001 percent of the Colts' salary cap. For that, you get bragging rights if the team wins? That's like the guy who owns 1,000 shares of Microsoft saying he's responsible for their success.

I think Seinfeld was right when he said that, because the players change now so frequently with free agency, we're essentially rooting for our city's clothes. We certainly can't claim some common geographic boundary with the players because most of them aren't from here.

So America...stop hating on each other. And quit taking credit vicariously for things you didn't really help achieve. You're kind of like the cornerback I saw tonight high fiving his teammate, even though he was nowhere near the receiver who just dropped the ball.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Justice Foreclosed?

Thin ice, meet Chris. Chris, thin ice.

When I started this blog, I said I would always speak my mind, regardless of the consequences, so here we go...

I listened with great interest to Chief Justice Randall Shepard's State of the Judiciary, and I was not surprised to hear that foreclosure lawsuits outpace divorce filings now. But I was a bit taken aback to hear the Chief Justice say that he wants the state's courts to team up with Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman's Foreclosure Prevention Network and that he wants to train judges, mediators, and pro bono lawyers on foreclosure law.

[In the interest of full disclosure, even though he is a Republican appointee, I consider the Chief Justice an extremely fine jurist with a novel goal of giving independent life to the Indiana Constitution, a superb administrator, and an amiable fellow (based on from my limited experience of a Christmas party this year, some bar dinners, and some random Inns of Court over the past five years)].

But am I the only one uncomfortable with our Chief Justice moving so openly in the political sphere, even if his objectives are reduced caseloads or streamlined courts?

When Justice Shepard was named to the Kernan-Shepard Commission, I recognized the Governor wanted someone with impeccable objectivity, which Justice Shepard has. But human nature being what it is, I wonder how easy it would be for him to rule against an idea that his Commission championed should a legal challenge arise.

The same thought hit me about the foreclosure prevention involvement. Were any of us running for political office, we would all tell Hoosiers, "Foreclosures are bad! We must stop them!" But this must not be a uniformly held view. Otherwise, why would there be so many foreclosure filings? I know that the clients for whom I have tried to negotiate deals to avoid foreclosure were almost all unsuccessful, regardless of how generous the proposed payment terms. Banks wanted the lawsuits, and now they are reaping the detriment of their own greed. So perhaps we should say, "Screw 'em. Let's get the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the General Assembly, the Courts, the police, the fire department, and anybody else we can think of prevent foreclosures!!!"

But from a purely philosophically point of view, if you know the Chief Justice wants to partner up with a foreclosure PREVENTION network, how confident would you be in getting a judgment in your case? As the goal of the PREVENTION network is to PREVENT foreclosures, how confident would you be that all the lawyers and mediators the Chief Justice speaks of training will not foil your efforts to actually foreclose?

This is not a thought I keep solely for our Chief Justice. I disapprove every time a Judge or Justice puts their words, or worse...their hands...into the public policy cooking pot. Judges should interpret and enforce laws, not try to lobby for their change or alter their implementation in a way that could benefit one party's interest over another.

Admittedly, we know judges' policy preferences will ultimately inform some of their decisions. But faith in the judicial system comes from the comforting (if arguably naive) belief that each judge starts each case with a blank slate. It's hard to maintain that belief with judges who pursue policy objectives.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Burris Redux

The other day, I bashed the presumptive junior senator from Illinois, Roland Burris, for caring about little but himself. My considerations were mostly political. I disapproved of the utter contempt Burris exhibited for the Senate Democratic Leadership, and, seemingly, his entire state, in accepting the appointment of such a discredited (and now impeached) Governor.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Ruth Marcus goes at Burris in the Washington Post, noting with warranted incredulity how Burris would not answer Mika Brzezinski's very simple question -- should Guv B resign? Read this exchange:

Burris: “Well, that is not really my purview to state. He stated he's not going to resign, so therefore my comment when everybody's calling for him to resign, he's not done that. And if he -- remember now, you're innocent until you're proven guilty in our society. And based on that, I think he's making his decision based on what leverage he think he may have. But him and his problems are in no way imputed to me.”

Realizing Burris had "Palined" his answer, Brzezinski restated: “But I am wondering what your opinion is in terms of what's best for voters, for constituents? Would it be better for the state if he resigns?"

Burris: “Well, in terms of all of the consternation, I am not -- as I said, that's his choice.”

The impeachment vote was 114-1, and Roland Burris DOESN'T KNOW what needs to happen here?!? We know many politicians are power hungry, but, excluding Governor B, I struggle to think of other circumstances where one man has let his quest for personal gain so overwhelm his sensibilities. Burris is playing right into Republicans hands. The only perceivable basis that Illinois voters can conjure for NOT asking for Blagojevich's ouster at this juncture is the very quid pro quo Burris denies.

In fact, Republicans are PRAYING that Burris gets seated. This is why a conservative group, Judicial Watch, actually filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Senate cannot deny Burris admission. They want to feast on wounded prey.

I also predicted that Senator Reid would face a race-based backlash churned up primarily by people like Rush Limbaugh. Lo and behold, three days ago, Limbaugh actually said the following:
"Isn't it apparent to everybody by now that Harry Reid and Dick Durbin don't want an African-American in the United States Senate?"

President-Elect Obama is smart to lay low, but if I were him, I'd be having my people work overtime to find me the highest-ranking or most-highly respect African-American in Illinois to take the job to both (a) restore the integrity of the appointment; and (b) to assuage the Congressional Black Caucus, who got completely played on this deal. By backing Burris, the caucus solidified the notion this is a racial thing, even though Harry Reid said he would not seat Governor B's appointment long before they knew who it was going to be.

But Burris set the racial stage. When he went to D.C., I said I thought his goal was to create a piece of "B roll" political theater for television of himself being blocked at the door in the hopes he could conjure up images of Governor Wallace blocking the door at the University of Mississippi. I didn't know at the time that Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush had already compared the Senate opposition to Burris to Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus's opposition to Little Rock having desegregated schools.

The racial flame is being fanned, and soon the senate liberals, who excel in guilt, will give in...and guarantee the Democratic Party loses the special election.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Information is Flowing...EXCEPT for Indiana Daycare System

Ever notice how many political battles are fought over who gets information?

Environmental Democrats want to ban a particular chemical whose toxicity is disputed. Those Dems know the best they can get is to have manufacturers notify neighbors of the chemicals they use, so they ask for that instead. And industry fights it!

Evangelical Republicans want to completely ban movies with gay cowboys. They know the best they can get is forcing the Motion Picture Association of America to offers a more extensive "rating system" overseen by "real parents" that permits them to determine if they want their kids to see movies rated "R" for "mild off-screen grunting and implied sodomy." So, they ask for that instead. And the MPAA fights it!

Okay, the latter is NOT part of the actual rating system, but you get the jist - truthful information can hurt an industry, which brings me to....

Indiana daycares.....

An incident occurs at my step-son's daycare, and I want to find out if something comparable has ever happened. Surely, such a highly-regulated entity as a daycare will have to provide this information, right? Sort of.

Go to the State of Indiana's daycare finder website, and you get a listing of all the "licensed" daycares in Indiana. If you pick a specific facility, you see three headings: "Inspection Information," "Complaint Information," and "Enforcement Information."

I click on the "inspection" tab and learn...OH NO! The daycare doesn't have a thermometer in the kitchen freezer!!! While a lot of these inspection inquiries, such as whether the green beans are cut into sizes "no larger than 1/2 an inch," can certainly speak to the overall management and a generalized concern for safety, this inspection info doesn't tell you whether a daycare has been repeatedly reported for mysterious child injuries. This must be under, "Complaint Information," I tell myself.

I click on that tab, and this is what I get:

*All complaints are investigated. Child care licensing and registration files are public record. Only validated complaints that are in violation for regulatory issues are posted to this site. "Undetermined" complaints and "not validated" complaints are maintained in the official licensed child care center, licensed child care home, or unlicensed registered child care ministry file. These files are located in the Division of Family Resources central office in Indianapolis.

If you read that again, the intriguing phrase is "in violation for regulatory issues." It means that if you have a "he said, she said," the general public will probably never learn about it no matter how often the same thing happens with the same employee. Unless you go to the central office in Indianapolis (sorry, residents of South Bend and Evansville!), you don't get to learn about the kids who say the daycare worker hit them, how or if a daycare even reported the allegation to authorities, how or if authorities investigated, and how the complaint was resolved, either by the daycare or the State. Did somebody get reprimanded? Fired? We don't know!

In short, you'll get nothing and like it.

Now, in fairness, I assumed I must be missing something, so I called the agency and was told that if I wanted specific information for the facility in question, I would have to call an individual contractor whose job was to investigate these allegations in that area. I was then given a cell phone number. I called it, and I did not get a return call.

This is the process by which you can learn whether your daycare is safe? Through a single individual contractor who you can reach only by cell who has the files somewhere NOT in the Indianapolis main office? It wasn't clear whether I would have to set up an appointment to look at her investigative files, or even if I COULD do so. The fact I had to make a call to find out WHO to call tells you this is information nobody wants "out there."

And this is what you do to curry favor with the daycare providers of Indiana. Keep the public blind. Thanks for the emphasis on child protection, Governor Daniels! (And if this was policy before you, shame on those Democrats for whom I worked as well).


Friday, January 9, 2009

When Will We Bailout of the Bailout?

Last evening, I listened to Neel Kashkar, the interim Assistant Treasury Secretary for Financial Stability, talk for an hour about the bank "bailout plan," and what I heard NOTHING concretely about loosening credit.

Mr. Kashkar kept talking about “confidence” in certain banks, such as "the Citi." Folks, this is talk for shareholders, not consumers. Nobody is running to the bank to withdraw their money. American consumers know there is no bank run. The notion we need to maintain “confidence” is a sham. What happened on the bailout is what we all expected. We gave money to banks, and they have kept it to pay off ongoing losses to hold stock prices. All of this talk about a bailout stimulating the economy was pure hokum crockery (bull feces in a bowl).

This is where I might differ from many of my Democratic colleagues, but I have difficulty supporting a bailout of any company or industry. It requires government to prioritize our industries, and given our current deficit, does anybody have confidence in our government's ability to make the right call on that one?

Other than the fact that Michigan has so many electoral votes and union members, what is so significant about auto versus other industries, such as pharmaceuticals and computer technology? If they start getting their butts kicked globally, will we be bailing them out next?

Why can't the arena football league get a bailout? You say, "Because it didn't employ as many people, and it's not essential to America." To which I say, yes, but a bailout of the arena football league probably wouldn't have cost as much as the auto and financial industry bailouts on a per job saved basis. AND if the Big Three went under, I can still get a car. In fact, what will happen is some entrepreneurs would start small companies that offer and market fuel-efficient American cars. This would be in stark contrast to an industry that basically ignored those technologies and advertising of its cars to get rich quick by offering and marketing zero percent financing on gas guzzling SUVs that people now regret owning. You want me to trust THAT to rebuild itself? Didn't we do this before, Lee Iacocca? How many times is enough?

So when Larry Flynt asks for a five billion dollar bailout for the porn industry, I say, "Why not?" Why should that industry be any different? If you count up people with webcams, it probably employs as many as the auto industry, and I've never heard ANYBODY say that Japanese porn is better than ours. U! S! A! U! S! A!


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Burris: Royal Mess

Roland Burris was elected the first African-American state attorney general in America, but since then, he has lost every office for which he’s run, and he showed absolute disdain for the U.S. Senate leadership, the Democratic Party, and the people of Illinois when he accepted Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment to fill President-Elect Barack Obama's senate seat.

Burris knew that the Senate said it would not seat any Guv B appointment, that Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (himself an African-American) said he would not certify any Guv B appointment, and that Illinois citizens overwhelmingly favor Guv B’s impeachment.

Why would Harry Reid care? He wants to keep Illinois in his column. Reid knows whoever gets the appointment now has a leg-up up for the special election nomination. And how easy is it going to be for Republicans to pick off a Governor B appointment? Unfortunately, this won’t be about truth; it will be about perception. A single anonymous donation to the Governor B legal defense fund will be spun by Republicans as a Burris supporter making good. This means the Democrats will have to mount a challenge to a “sitting” senator just to avoid that possibility.(I believe that Burris did not talk to Governor B. But SOMEBODY from the Burris camp did, I promise you). Also, I think Reid fears that at 71 years of age, Burris will not be able to sustain himself during what will be a grueling statewide race. A young, scandal-free Republican will eat Burris for lunch.

Here’s how you know I’m right in reading Reid’s motivations. He offered a compromise that in exchange for seating Burris, Burris agrees that he won’t run for the special election. This makes the age and “taint of office” problems disappear and Burris gets to play senator for a while.

Here’s the problem. Democrats won’t be able to hold the line. In fact, Diane Feinstein is now saying we have to seat him. (Of course, she is saying that. She wants to be Governor of California. She’s worried about her own appointments being undone). In addition, Reid’s own actions to protect Illinois will soon result in some disingenuous Astroturf/Rush Limbaugh-led whipsaw effect. IF they seat Burris, it will be, “Look, they seated the guy who bought the seat.” If they DON’T seat Burris, it will be, “Look, people of Illinois, Harry Reid doesn’t want you to have two senators” and “Harry Reid is a racist.”

Burris should have said, “Hell, no, I won’t go!” But Burris wanted it so badly, and he doubted Lt. Governor Patrick Quinn would appoint he lost his judgment.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Invisible Mayor

Michael Rubino is an exceptional writer, and anybody who cares about this city or politics has to read "The Invisible Mayor," his profile of Greg Ballard in Indianapolis Monthly.