Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And Speaking of Michele Bachmann...

Maybe it's because she's barely hitting double digits in polling, but I think Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) has achieved some type of Zen-like state. Maybe when you know there's nowhere to go but up, you can really speak and act freely on the GOP Presidential primary field.

Because I've been impressed with her campaign performance recently.

I thought she had an excellent debate performance a few nights ago. I know Republicans like to talk about Reagan's 11th Commandment, forgetting that Reagan ran against an incumbent Republican President in a primary and almost won, but she did something that few of the other candidates have been willing to do themselves: differentiate from the other attacks, and attack.

And she did both in the same night. Several times.

And I think that helps people take her seriously as a candidate.

I don't think it's because any of her policies have changed. But she is skipping the easy bullet points in the debates and going for the substance. She's giving interviews to media outlets that aren't necessarily considered "friendly grounds" to Republicans. and she is doing well. She's working these fairly large crowds on her Iowa bus tour from early in the morning until late at night.

Compare that to former Senator Rick Santorum who is still going for the easy applause lines in the debates. Who, from what I've heard, isn't all that much of a people person. Who, despite practically living in Iowa since 2010, is polling comparably with former Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman in the single digits.

Huntsman, by the way, isn't campaigning in Iowa at all and is exclusively focusing on New Hampshire.

I don't think this resurgence of Bachmann is going to get her the nomination. That is a steep hill to climb. But I do think she'll be able to bow out having run a good race, and I think that will at least put her on a Vice President list for the eventual nominee.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's Not Often I Defend Michele Bachmann, But... Part II

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was 100% right about Speaker Newt Gingrich's activities as a historian lobbyist during Thursday's Republican POTUS candidate debate. Bachmann correctly attacked him for cashing  big, fat checks from Freddie Mac, an institution that lives off of taxpayer money.

Gingrich has previously said that politicians who take money from Freddie Mac should be jailed, but he made an exception for himself because he wasn't an elected official.

 But Bachmann shot back, saying you don't have to be a registered lobbyist to peddle your influence.

This wasn't the only thing Bachmann knocked Gingrich over the head with. Bachmann attacked him for his support for government sponsored enterprises and for campaigning for pro-choice Republican congressional candidates. At one point, an irritated Gingrich viciously said to Bachmann "Ms. Bachmann doesn't have her facts straight."

The Friday morning punditry are even accusing Gingrich of sexism, saying that he wouldn't talk that way to any of the male candidates. And I agree. He has gentlemanly disagreed with everyone else in the debates, but has given snark responses in past debates to Bachmann.

I think Bachmann has gotten a raw deal, both from the Republican Party establishment and from the news media as part of these phony debates.

Don't mistake this as an endorsement of Bachmann. She's FAR out there on a number of issues that I passionately disagree with her.

But at least she's a serious candidate. Gingrich, someone who has been a part of the Washington establishment for 20+ years, is on a damn book tour.

Save The Star? What's There to Save?

Blogger and former Indianapolis Star journalist Ruth Holladay has extensively covered the Indianapolis News Guild's fight against cutbacks that have been mandated by Gannett, the Star's corporate owner. These cuts include a reduction in overall staff, pay cuts, pay freezes, and probably a whole lot of other things that makes it harder for the largest newspaper in the state to cover local and regional news.

And the guild's demands are not unreasonable. Despite it being a very tough time for the traditional print media, the Star is still overall profitable, and Gannett is taking in tons of cash. But they're largely doing it by cutting newspapers to the bone, outsourcing everything that isn't the kitchen sink, fluffing papers with wire stories and...well, that's about it.

So why am I reluctant to write about this? Why am I not out in the streets chaining myself to one of those new electronic parking meters that are on Pennsylvania right outside of the Star building?

Basically, what's the big fuss? This has been going on for years.

I'm often critical of The Indianapolis Star, what they do (and don't) report on, and what they editorialize for and their logic in their editorials. But I also know there are a lot of passionate employees who work at the Star, including their reporters and photographers. I know this because, if I make a factual mistake in critiquing the Star, I hear about it. Straight from them.

And when the Star wants to commit resources to covering a story, they can do an excellent job. They've been right up there with television media and blogs with coverage of the LiTEBOX and Duke Energy scandals.

But all too often, "coverage" of a story will be reduced to being trivialized in the Behind Closed Doors gossip column, such as was done with the coverage of Councilor Ryan Vaughn's conflict of interest in the parking meter scam sale. Or it'll be casually dismissed in a sentence within an editorial or a Tully column, as was done with criticisms of the water utility sale.

And this isn't something that developed over the last 6 months. This has been persistent over the last 2-3 years, at least.

So if I can be convinced that, if the Guild gains these concessions then the reporters will be able to pursue more stories, more aggressively, more often, rather than the sporadic appearance they are now, I'll be out there with a megaphone leading the charge. If that means whatever barriers are stopping reporters now will be lifted, then count me in as a supporter!

Until then, I'll just watch, observe, and hope for the best.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Can Ron Paul Win Iowa?

The latest numbers, with full metrics disclosed, have come out of Iowa in the upcoming Republican caucus contest to nominate a POTUS candidate.

And what's the headline Public Policy Polling leads with?

"Paul closes in on Gingrich".

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is the latest "Not Romney" front runner of the pack, but it appears his support is very soft. He's lost five points total, and his favorability numbers are down as well as support among those who describe themselves as members of the Tea Party movement.

Congressman Ron Paul, however, has not only gotten his 10-12% rabid and fired up, but built upon it. His favorability numbers are up, and Public Policy Polling notes he's doing well with young voters, first time voters, and non-Republicans. PPP notes this is a similar path that now President Barack Obama took when he won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

Paul's supporters are also more committed to him, with only 54% of Gingrich supporters saying they'll stand by their man.

So what can we expect from here on out?

Expect Paul's campaign and related political action committees, as well as former Governor Mitt Romney's POTUS campaign and PACs, to keep hammering Gingrich with negative ads. For three weeks. Watch Gingrich's numbers sink like a rock. Watch Paul activate his ground game in Iowa, which really was never abandoned since his 2008 run, and the other candidate's numbers will sink because none of them besides Romney have a ground game in Iowa.

Even though Romney is trying to win Iowa, I suspect there is one candidate that he wouldn't mind winning. He'd absolutely LOVE it if Ron Paul won Iowa. That would kill the campaigns of most of the has-beens in the GOP field. Texas Governor Rick Perry and Gingrich might be able to limp along to South Carolina and Florida, but being defeated by Paul would be a miserable way to start the primary season.

Meanwhile, Romney, like Paul, is looking at the primary fight further out than just the first handful of states, and both have the money and infrastructure to work it well into March.

As I've commented before, don't count Governor Perry out just yet. But if he wants a viable shot, he needs to not be beaten by Ron Paul.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Politco Discovers the Blatantly Obvious: Newt Gingrich Isn't Serious

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is the latest "Not Romney" to take the lead in national polls and most every state for the Republican POTUS nomination, including Iowa. But Gingrich is quite literally being attacked by all sides. Senator Tom Coburn and any Congressional Republican who could get in front of a camera have taken to the airwaves to talk about how they can't support a Gingrich campaign exactly because they know how horrible of a leader he is. Former Governor Mitt Romney, Congressman Ron Paul, and Governor Rick Perry are all running ads against Gingrich in Iowa, a key state that Gingrich needs to win to carry on to later primary states. Radio show host Michael Savage has offered Gingrich $1 million to drop out, saying that Gingrich will be seen as a "fat, old man" against a debate with President Barack Obama, and would lose against Obama.

So looking at Gingrich's actual campaign, the folks at Politico have wondered what anyone with a brain has known for some time. Newt Gingrich is not a serious candidate for the Republican POTUS nomination. He is on a tour to up his speaking fee, sell his books, and hock his movies.

His entire campaign staff in Iowa quit months ago, and upon that happening, he went on vacation. His campaign has no money. His schedule is erratic and he isn't spending time where he needs to. He has no ground game and isn't planning any media buys. He won't be campaigning aggressively in Iowa until December 27, 2011. His hand-written naming of potential delegates of New Hampshire falls short of the 40 really needed when even the low polling Jon Huntsman could name 40 people who supported him.

Nevermind some of his disastrous policies. At least the other guys and gals are seriously campaigning because a part of them wants to be the President of the United States.

But Gingrich doesn't. He wants to up his speaking fee and sell books. He wants to cash in on his public service, something he's been doing every day since he was forced to resign by his own Republican caucus in 1999. I think it's absolutely disgusting that someone can abuse campaigning for the highest elected office in the country in this way. He should refund every dollar to any conservative who thought he was seriously running, because he has deceived them and conservatives and Republicans deserve better.

Broad Ripple Parking Garage Becomes Hot Mess

Once upon a time, the Powers-That-Be had decided that Broad Ripple needed a parking garage. And if you had talked to anyone from Mayor Greg Ballard's office, outgoing Council President Ryan Vaughn (Broad Ripple lies in the council district he represents), or the Broad Ripple Village Association, they were all singing the praises of how amazing and awesome this garage would be. It'll bring a much needed police sub-station to the community, a little more retail, and almost 300 new parking spaces. Sure, we're kicking in $6.3 million dollars for a garage that we get no revenue from, no ownership of, or really no control at all. And sure, similarly  sized parking garages (that look nice, if I may say so myself) contain more spaces and cost less than this $15 million proposal. And yes, the contract between Keystone Group and the city has never been made public.

But hey! New parking spaces! Electric car charger! Safe bike parking!

Man, how times change.

Now the Broad Ripple Village Association's Land Use Committee is refusing to support the proposed parking garage because it's changed drastically compared to the plans they first saw and used to convince BRVA members of how awesome it is. Two businesses near the proposed site, including a veterinarian clinic, are remonstrating against the garage and the several zoning variances they're hoping to avoid.

The vet's specific complaint is that the bank drive-thru exits directly into a small alley, which the vet's employees use to walk dogs. It's a very small alley that I doubt sees a lot of traffic and a bank drive-thru would greatly increase that.

And before anyone mentions the current Chase drive-thru located in the same area, it's designed so any cars exit onto College rather than the alley.

Retail space has expanded from 14,000 square feet to 25,000, so maybe Broad Ripple will get a Wal-Greens after all! At the same time, they want to make spaces much smaller, and aren't even trying to hit the promised 350 spaces.

It also looks like the structure is going to expand and overflow from the property so that some of it will be above the sidewalk. This just sounds like it's going to be a big, huge structure that will be an eyesore for what is considered the "entrance" to Broad Ripple.

Also, it looks like the electric car charger and internal bike parking have been completely removed from the re-designs way back in October.

If we're absolutely determined to blow $6 million on this, how about we start from scratch and make sure it isn't a boondoggle?

For more information:
Indy Star article
Advance Indiana
Had Enough Indy? (which has links to several other relevant posts)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rick Perry's Iowa Ad: My Thoughts

Governor of Texas and Presidential candidate Rick Perry was one of the few serious contenders in the Republican presidential field who currently holds political office, and the only one who currently serves as governor of a state. The political pundits were spouting off about he was planning to campaign on the Texas miracle of job creation (of course, I'd say if you put a bunch of oil in my backyard I'd be able to create jobs too, but I digress). He seemed to be the candidate who could bridge the Republican Establishment and the Tea Party/grassroots in Republican politics. Of the three candidates the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama was watching before the primary really kicked off, one of them was Rick Perry.

Perry, whose high point in the polls as "Not Romney" essentially was the day before he officially entered the race, has been plagued by problems on the campaign trail. His overall debate performance has been horrible, his gaffes (especially for someone who has been in elected office for most of his adult life) numerous, and his ability to do "retail politics" almost non-existent. This is in stark contrast to what has reportedly been his history in Texas, where everyone and their mother SWEARS he's actually a really good campaigner.

So what does the "jobs" candidate put out in his first big ad push as some likely caucus attendees are starting to pay attention? Well it's about dem gays and school prayer!

Are these the issues Iowa Republicans really care about? Will this ad help motivate someone to go to a school gym or a church basement and attend a caucus for a couple of hours while they may still be nursing a New Years' hangover on January 3, 2012?

Well, maybe.

Iowa is one of the few states that has legalized same-sex marriage. In Varnum v. Brien, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that essentially the state has no business restricting marriage licenses to same-sex couples but recognizing and issuing them to opposite-sex couples. That 2009 decision was unanimous. In the following 2010 retention election, all three justices who were on the ballot were dismissed by voters due to active campaigning from religious organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage. Republicans in the state legislative branch have introduced constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage (and essentially overturn the court decision), but it has been blocked by Democrats who have, since 2009, controlled at least one house of the state legislature.

And if the GOP voters care about that, they may also have the misconception that prayer has been "banned" from schools.

I know every liberal pundit in the world has been going "lol most disliked YouTube video ever", but in the age of the Internet, we need to remember that these political ads are being made for the early states, not for the entire nation. Also, YouTube users are idiots.

And right now, this ad (I couldn't find the other where he's wearing the same jacket) "re-introduces" Rick Perry. It's folksy. It has some good background music. It's just him. If he can run this for a week, then put something with some bite in it before Christmas that REALLY lays it into Romney/Gingrich, then air something positive (maybe about his jobs or economic plan?) between Christmas and January 3, I think he has a shot of at least keeping his campaign alive long enough to go for a win in South Carolina. Especially if Newtmentum ends of self-destructing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sting Operations Nabs Former Politician?

Word on the street is that a sting operation nabbed a former high ranking political figure. He was allegedly caught soliciting a male prostitute in a downtown Indianapolis hotel. The sting took
place around 2pm today. As I get more details, I'll make a new post.

And usually December is a lull in juicy political gossip.

UPDATE: The only notable name that seems to appear in yesterday's sting operation is a Brian Hasler. There's a former Democratic state representative who also goes by that name who is now a lobbyist.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More on Redistricting: Don't Trust David Brooks

I've previously talked about the details of the actual effort of redistricting in terms of the actual process. Now I want to tell you why David Brooks, the man charged with proposing maps for precincts and Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council districts, is not trustworthy.

David Brooks was contracted by outgoing Council President Ryan Vaughn (R-District 3) to make maps for new precincts and new council districts to the tune of $225,000. This contract was not open for bid and was not approved by the full council or any other body. To the best of my knowledge, no one else was even consulted about the contract, including the rest of the Republican caucus and Mayor Greg Ballard (R).

According to the Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney is essentially an advocate for their client. They are supposed to represent their client's best interest. They aren't allowed to do anything illegal, but they are under no obligation to have your best interests at heart unless you're cutting the check.

Even if you're a member of the council, the body that has the authority to redistrict, he is under no obligation to give you good advice. He is only there to represent the interests of his client, Council President Vaughn.

I'd highly encourage members of the council, advocacy groups, and citizens to to take Brooks' opinions on redistricting with a grain of salt. He is hired to serve his client's interest, not yours.

Friday, December 2, 2011

First Thoughts on Council Redistricting

Though I've commented on other forums, I've been hesitant to comment on my own blog because I really wanted to fully educate myself on the issue of council redistricting and the adjustment of precincts. I mean yeah, they released these half-assed in the early afternoon two days before Thanksgiving, and four public meetings have been called sporadically and pretty much only posted about on a handful of websites.

But I digress.

Say what you will about Mayor Greg Ballard and his major initiative pushes such as the water company sale and the parking meter deal, but I think he had some pretty good marketing people. Even though I was harshly critical of both deals, I always had councilors and contacts on the 25th floor who would answer my questions and engage me in civil discussion. Both of those big pushes were stretched out over several months. Yes, it was mostly a dog-and-pony show in public forums, but at least they existed and it appeared at least some people appeared to be think they were genuinely working for the people.

In this case, this is a completely political move from this "non-political" mayor, Greg Ballard, and Council President Ryan Vaughn.

Let's first establish this. David Brooks, the attorney that Vaughn unilaterally hired to do the reprecincting and redistricting, is a blatant political figure. Brooks, a longtime figure of Marion County GOP politics, is the chairman for Center Township. Ironic, considering he lives in Hamilton County.

He also doesn't come off as very friendly, or someone who has spent a lot of time in public life. I don't know what area of law Brooks practices in, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's an area of law where he spends a lot of time pouring over thick legal books in some office. He got a bit testy tonight to some Democrats in the audience, as well as representatives of Common Cause Indiana and the League of Women Voters. Say what you will about the Ballard folks, but most of them have been able to keep their cool even when being questioned. They might DODGE the question, but they don't resort to sighing loudly or try to completely ignore the person asking the question.

Oh, did you want to see specific maps of the districts? With like, streets and stuff? Then come on up to this HUGE table with a bunch of folders...that's kind of confusing and intimidating. It might be a bit confusing, because it's based on the old precincts. Or it's based on the new precincts, but those aren't approved yet. Or something. I kind of got lost. Brooks also doesn't really know how to project his voice, so it was hard to make out what he was saying at times.

I asked a question both about the legality and the timing of this.

I quoted Indiana Code, which states (emphasis by me in bold):

So I asked him if it's legal. Brooks simply responded "Yes, it's legal" and then was silent for a few seconds and was looking for a sign that I was satisfied with that answer. I wasn't, and I don't think anyone else in the room was either. So he expanded on it saying that it can be done this year, but it also must be done next year. He theorized that it could be as simple as re-affirming what happened this year.

I also asked about the timing. Yes, I wanted to ask about the $225,000 payment he got, and how much work he actually did, and all that jazz, but I'd be hitting a stonewall. So I went for the quick argument. They introduce this thing at 1pm two days before Thanksgiving, schedule four meetings in various parts of town at the last minute, are introducing this Dec 5, and are expecting a vote Dec 19th from the full council. And at some point, a committee hearing is going to be held as well. Maybe that's a bit too close for the Holidays? Maybe some councilors will be out of town? Maybe some citizens who'd like to pay closer attention would be out of town?

Brooks suggests that the council could review this and take it under advisement, but that's simply not true. Dec 31, 2011, at 11:59pm, all legislation pending in the council dies as the clock hits midnight, including this redistricting if it doesn't pass.

One of the first questions Brooks was asked was why Irvington was broken up into three different council districts. After this was mentioned. Brooks had this stunned look on his face, as if he was just now learning about this information.

Oh, and this was preceded by a bunch of banter about keeping "communities of interest" together. Apparently, "communities of interest" is code for packing a bunch of Democratic leaning voters together in a handful of districts, but splitting up neighborhoods that, if done right, can lean Republican.

Also, why am I talking about Brooks so much? He isn't an elected official. He can't really address the legislative aspect of redistricting. But not a single elected Republican was there. Only one councilor, Brian Mahern, bothered to show up. Though honestly, a lot of the bickering between Mahern and Brooks lacked substance. One extended debate was about access to the redistricting software, and Brooks mentioned he only had a one-use license. Software licensing is really expensive, and purchasing a multi-use license for something you only use once every four years might not be the wisest fiscal move.

But Mahern does get credit for getting Brooks to admit that he met with absolutely no one while redoing the precincts and redistricting the districts.

Overall, this was a complete waste of time to attend. I'd encourage anyone who was planning on attending next Tuesday's event to just go to your favorite bar and have a few drinks. You won't have learned anything about how redistricting works, but hey, at least you'll be a bit drunk.

State House Republicans: Let's Drug Test Dem Poors

Two Indiana statehouse Republicans plan on introducing a bill in the upcoming three month 2012 legislative sessions on drug testing welfare recipients (or more specifically, those getting money benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Presumably, those who would test positive would be disqualified from these benefits.

Believe it or not, this has been done before in Florida. Governor Rick Scott, who owned an investment in a chain of urgent care clinics in Florida which he later sold under political pressure, pushed hard for this legislation to pass. Scott has claimed that "Studies show that people that are on welfare are higher users of drugs, than people not on welfare".

Funny, because only 2% of those tested in Florida failed, while another 2% didn't or refused to take the test. The article linked to above kind of goes back and forth on the OTHER argument, that if it actually saved any money by kicking these people off of TANF, but let's save that for the other time.

Let's go with the argument that dem poors do more drugs than us civilized folks.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Florida's overall rate of illicit drug use is 8%.

Last I checked, 2% is less than 8%.

So poor people aren't more likely to use drugs, and the financial savings on it are questionable at best. So why are we in Indiana considering this?

I think this will kind of turn into one of those pieces of legislation that isn't intended to pass and when Democrats vote against it, you'll see it on direct mail pieces in October 2012 saying "Liberal elitist Ed Delaney voted to GIVE A BLANK CHECK to HEROIN ADDICTS who want to RAPE AND EAT SMALL KITTENS!" Basically, they want to turn those damn poor people into the new Republican boogie man. The older one, gays and lesbians...I'm sorry, "protecting traditional marriage", has to wait to be played until at least 2013.

So with this being a time where the so-called middle class is decreasing, and more and more are relying on TANF and other forms of public assistance, is this really a wise move?

And what's the real point in all this? To kick people while they're down? To save a few thousand bucks, if that? What about the other leeches in government? Lobbyists, contractors (especially the lawyers who send invoices for hundreds of hours of work that aren't even audited and are essentially cut a blank check), the elected officials themselves? There's no shortage of juicy gossip of what goes on after hours in some of the hotels downtown while the legislature is in session.

So while I'm overall against drug testing in theory, let's put it into practice. Anyone, corporate welfare, political welfare, or regular welfare, give us a hair sample and piss in a cup.

Yeah right, who am I kidding. That'll never happen. That's way too logical and fair.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

ICVA Releases Horrible Super Bowl Ad "Promoting" Indy

You'll want five minutes of your life back after you see this.

The Indiana Convention and Visitors Association posted this clip on one of their YouTube channels. The word on the street is it was intended for a trade show of some sorts. But I don't think that makes me feel any better.

This clip basically epitomizes every single complaint I've ever heard about ICVA and Indianapolis Downtown Inc and all the other similar organizations all rolled into one. That they're frankly not only downtown focused, but primarily focused in the "Mile Square" and everything else is on their own.

The overall message I got from this ad was:

  • We have like, six hotels, total.
  • If you aren't staying at one of these downtown hotels, you're probably a loser.
  • Use the Skywalk so you don't have to see or watch or hear or feel anything unseemly, like snow or cold or salt on a sidewalk.
  • Don't ever go outside.
  • Eat at in-house restaurants.
  • We can't stress this enough, don't ever go outside.

One very reliable source, who generally holds ICVA's media work in high regard, is telling me that this little clip cost $35,000. ICVA released a statement saying

This clip seems to have gone "viral", with even many of my non-political Facebook and Twitter friends commenting on it. At the time I'm writing this, there are 146 "Dislikes" on YouTube compared to 62 "Likes".

Finally, ICVA uploaded this comment to their video:

To reiterate, this video was produced to pre-promote a trade show in Chicago for convention and meeting planners. The goal was to showcase our hotels and convention center and have some fun with the fact that we're hosting the Super Bowl. As a parody it was not intended to be taken too seriously and, by no means, was it meant to encapsulate all that Indianapolis has to offer. It didn't cost a dime and nobody was hurt in the filming of this video.

Make of it what you will, though I personally don't buy the whole "didn't cost a dime" line.

UPDATE: The video has since been yanked. You can read this blog entry from the ICVA blog and see their train of thought and how they're obviously lying through their teeth. I love how they keep repeating that it was for a trade-show and only intended to them, but then people point to their Twitter and Facebook feed where it was ALSO posted. One commenter even notes that the Facebook posting says, specifically, to "Share It".

On the one hand, if this is the worst screw up that happens during the Super Bowl, we're lucky. On the other hand, if these marketing geniuses don't know how to use the "Unlisted video" option on YouTube, or how to embed a low quality video in an e-mail, then I question if they can handle marketing Indianapolis during the Super Bowl.

The sports blog DeadSpin was particularly brutal.