Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Marshallgate: Marshall Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison after Guilty Plea

I'd be remiss if I didn't take a pause from my break in blogging to note that Mike Marshall, a Democratic Party operative from North Vernon about whom I blogged extensively back in 2011, plead guilty to vote fraud in January and today was sentenced to eighteen months in prison.

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer & Sun:

Michael R. Marshall, 60, of North Vernon, a veteran Democratic Party volunteer in Jennings County, was sentenced on Wednes­day to 18 months in prison, with nine months suspended, on three counts of voter fraud.

Marshall made an agreement last January to plead guilty, but sought to have the charges reduced from Class D felony to Class A misdemeanor counts at the sentencing hearing.

Jennings County Cir­cuit Court Judge Jon Web­ster levied the sentence following a two-hour hearing, discussing Marshall's executing three absentee ballot applications during the 2010 general election. Those three ballots were for Bernard Marshall, one of the defendant's sons; Robert Marshall, the defendant's brother; and J. Kevin Phelps, Mike Marshall's former roommate.

During the hearing, the crowded courtroom heard arguments from Marshall's attorneys, Larry Wilder of Jeffersonville and Jim Voyles of Indianapolis, and the special prosecutors, Aaron Negangard of Law­renceburg and Lynn Fled­derman of Batesville.

Negangard brought forth four witnesses for the state's case, including Anthony Scott of the Indiana State Police. Scott's involvement began with the request for investigation from the Jennings County Prosecutor's Office in January 2011, after the local Democratic Party placed an advertisement in the Plain Dealer. The ad pictured local resident John Cook was pictured holding a photograph of his son, Ben Cook, claiming that the Republican Party was attempting to disenfranchise his son as a voter in the 2010 election.

Several Jennings County elected officials took the stand with Clerk Mary Dorsett-Kilgore and Recor­der Lisa Jines-Plessinger, both Republi­cans, testifying for the prosecution.

"I believe the community deserves a sense of justice in this regard, and I believe he deserves to spend some time (in prison)," Dorsett-Kilgore said.

Jines-Plessinger had a similar sentiment, asking Webster, "As an elected official and a business owner, how can I look in the eyes of my constituents if justice isn't served?"

Jack Kelley, a Repub­lican who served on the 2010 Absentee Election Board in Jennings County, also testified at the hearing and spoke of the absentee ballot applications in question and their being challenged by him among the more than 240 applications he found to be questionable.

The article about Marshall's guilty plea a few months ago is available here; the guilty plea was apparently entered into in hopes of the court reducing the felony conviction to a misdemeanor.

The parade of Democrats rushing to Marshall's defense even as he heads off to prison is really something to behold:

Testifying on Marshall's behalf were Larry Franks, Leah Bowling and Karen Snyder, all longtime acquaintances.

Franks testified to the civic mindedness of his former boss. "Michael has helped so many people in this community. He is sorry for what he's done, and I don't believe that prison would be the right thing to do in this case."

"Mike is an honorable man, a man that cares about his community. We are all guilty of making mistakes, and I believe we all deserve a second chance," Bowling said.

Snyder, the county's Democratic Party chair, testified that Marshall's character and concern for his community were something that impressed her always.

Negangard argued, "I'm concerned that the Demo­cratic Party is using as their standard bearer someone who is now admitting to defying the law."

Understatement of the year from the special prosecutor. As always, it is Marshall's supposedly noble ends and intentions that justify his crooked means.

Snyder, the Democratic Party chair, was a member with Marshall of the so-called "Get Out the Vote committee" he led beginning in 2006. She's apparently quite close to him, and Marshall helped her with her transition to become Jennings County Democratic Party Chair, and "encouraged her to run."

Marshall's own statements about why he did what he did are also interesting:

In a statement to the judge, Marshall acknowledged the wrongfulness of his errors, stating, "I would never condone someone doing what I did, but I did it because of who I did it for."

The defendant was adamant that his actions were not done in malicet. [sic]

"I did it because I wanted to make sure they got to vote. The deadline was getting close, and I wanted to make sure they got to vote. I took my civic duty seriously, and I'm here today to admit that I made a mistake," Marshall said.

"I have learned my lesson. I promise the court I will not disappoint you ever again," he added.

Again with the protestations of the supposed nobility of his motives and the ends he sought. You'd think these people were all singing from a songbook that had a common author.

In fact, back in January Democratic Chair Snyder couldn't wait to have Marshall back up to his old tricks:

Jennings County Democratic Party Chair Karen Snyder said she stands behind Marshall and said his decision on the plea agreement was a very difficult one for him...

Snyder said she trusts Marshall and that the Democratic Party will be glad to get him back as a volunteer after he sat out the 2012 election because of the charges pending.

"I know Mike as well as most people and I trust him," she said. "Without question, we will welcome Mike back to work for the party."

The judge's sentencing ruling is worth noting, as well:

Before handing down the sentence, Webster noted the vitriol surrounding politics on both sides of the aisle, and the measures he took toward ensuring the court's integrity.

"When this case first came about, I knew there was a possibility for political overtones," the judge said. "That's why I appointed special prosecutors for this case from both (political) parties."

While the judge made note of Marshall's longtime community involvement and lack of criminal history, Webster showed concern for the impact the defendant's actions could have.

"Those who tinker with the election process are tinkering with the foundations of democracy," the judge remarked. "I worry that this will only serve to further voter apathy and voter cynicism. I don't want the citizens of Jennings County to question the appointment of elected officials and wonder if it was really their votes that put them there."

That final bit there really flies in the face of the parting arguments made by Marshall's Democratic defenders, particularly the Jennings County Democratic Chair.

After the sentencing, the disappointment of Marshall's many supporters was palpable.

"I'm just amazed that a man of his character is not being allowed to serve his sentence on house arrest rather than be incarcerated," Bowling said. "People are found guilty on drug charges all the time, but this man, who has served his community for all his life, is being treated like more of a danger than they are. I just don't believe it."

Snyder expressed similar sentiments.

"I am just really disappointed. There are no victims in this case," she said. "We have three people who wanted to vote, and Mike wanted to help them do that."

That's rich. The Democratic Party Chairwoman in Jennings County thinks that vote fraud is a victimless crime.

The victims of Mike Marshall are the voters and citizens of Jennings County that cast legitimate and legal votes, only to have their votes undermined and cheapened by Marshall's illegitimate and illegal votes.

That's not a victimless crime. That's a crime with thousands of victims, tens of thousands when you consider every elected office on the ballot whose election outcome was influenced by the actions of this man.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Quote for the Day

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause.

“Who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

- Teddy Roosevelt

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Photo of the Day: Biden vs Ryan

Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Or a thousand interruptions, smirks, laughs, sneers, or whatever.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Random Thought on Liberal Debate Excuses

It occurs to me that the altitude didn't harm Obama when he was speaking in front of those Styrofoam columns to accept the nomination in Mile High Stadium four years ago.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tweet of the Day

"Paul Ryan represents Obama's most horrifying nightmare: math."
- Iowahawk

Thoughts on Paul Ryan

"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."
- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838

Paul Ryan is an exceptionally smart and very capable guy. He is thoughtful and articulate. He will make an excellent vice president. You will not wince inwardly during his debate performances.

However, I am reminded of the above quote. Paul Ryan's budget proposal is strong medicine for a nation with a very serious problem. It is, in my opinion, perhaps the best solution currently being put forward to our nation's fiscal crisis.

However, Ryan's budget is easily demagogued. Democrats have already depicted Paul Ryan pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff in television ads. They have already depicted Mitt Romney as a murderer (in a blatant lie, no less). Worse is doubtless on its way.

If Americans are not ready to admit we have a fiscal problem, they are not going to be ready for Paul Ryan's solutions. And, like it or not, the Ryan budget is now an integral part of Mitt Romney's platform. If he loses, Ryan's budget loses.

As we say down here in southern Indiana, nobody pees on an electric fence twice. If Mitt Romney, with Paul Ryan on his ticket and Ryan's budget as a part of his campaign, goes down to defeat, nobody will want to propose or undertake solutions to these problems in the future.

In that sense, the citizens of the United States--should they vote for more of Obama over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan--will be voting for national suicide.

Are the people ready for tough medicine for a serious problem?

We're about to find out.

When Paul Ryan Met Barack Obama

Watch all six minutes of this. The look Obama gives Ryan at 5:26 or so is priceless.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Photo of the Day: John Gregg Steps Out in Style

Who wears wingtip dress shoes, gray pinstripe dress slacks, a pink dress shirt, and a tie to a parade? Why John Gregg, that's who.

Today, at the Harrison County Fair Parade:

Note also the bizarre giant cardboard cutouts of Shelli Yoder's head that her supporters were carrying in the parade.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Quote of the Day: Lincoln on Liberty

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny."
- Abraham Lincoln, April 18, 1864


Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock is a student of Abraham Lincoln but his use of a Lincoln quote during a speech in Texas last night is raising some eyebrows.

Mourdock is under fire from Democrat Joe Donnelly for his efforts to stop the Chrysler bankruptcy. His defense of those efforts led him to use part of a Lincoln quote that also includes a reference to slavery. (see full quote below)

He was speaking to a Freedomworks audience in Dallas telling the conservative political action committee that he fought the Chrysler bankruptcy to stop the bankruptcy court from taking the pensions of retired teachers and state troopers. "So that someone else can be given their assets," he said. "It is the same tyrannical principle as in 1858."

The 1858 reference is to a Lincoln quote, one that includes a reference to "one race of men enslaving another race." Today Mourdock said he wasn't comparing the actions of the Obama Administration to slavery. "No, that wasn't the issue at all," he said. "It was about governments actions and taking property."

This afternoon State Democratic Chairman Dan Parker issued a statement calling Mourdock's references to the Civil War era embarassing and inexcuseable. He said Mourdock should apologize.

Here's what Lincoln said in a debate with Stephen Douglas:

"That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle." --October 15, 1858 Debate at Alton

Abraham Lincoln clearly felt in 1858--and still in 1864--that the key principle in question throughout history (not merely during the period of and leading to our Civil War) is not slavery, but that of tyranny: the notion of one person (or group of people) doing as they pleased with the fruits of the labors of other people.

That notion applies down through the ages in countless forms of despotism that elevate some men above others.

It's going to take more than false outrage over Richard Mourdock quoting Abraham Lincoln to get Hoosiers to elect a big government, big spending liberal like Joe Donnelly.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Imaginary World of Joe Donnelly

Matt Tully's column this weekend is a love letter to Joe Donnelly, singing the praises of the liberal Congressman from northern Indiana whose voting record has been in lockstep with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi from the moment he took office.

This liberal voting record--a hard and objective, unchallenged fact--is something that is inconvenient to the narrative of Tully's paean to Joe Donnelly (really a sour grapes lament of the defeat of Dick Lugar), so Tully simply omits it.

In Tully's world, Donnelly is a soft cuddly moderate who loves bipartisanship, a guy who can get away with an outright lie of claiming he never voted for Nancy Pelosi for house speaker when in fact he voted for her twice.

Let's look at the column:

It's easy to be depressed about politics these days.

Super PACs shape campaigns from the shadows, and cable news entertainers influence politics from the edge of sanity. Big issues go unaddressed because of partisan gridlock; yet, somehow, politicians such as Indiana's U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock emerge with promises to bring even more gridlock and partisanship to Capitol Hill.

Mourdock bluntly said recently: "We need less bipartisanship in Congress." Among many other such statements, there was this one: "To me, the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else."

I could go on; Mourdock is the Energizer Bunny of juvenile political ideas. So it's been nice to see that his divisive brand of politics has caused him trouble recently and helped make Indiana's Senate race competitive.

I'm curious about what makes the Senate race any more competitive than the one in 2010, other than columnists like Matt Tully proclaiming it to be so.

Gone are the pre-primary days when the Republican state treasurer had only to appeal to a small slice of the voter pool -- a slice that loved his inflammatory rhetoric. The general election season has arrived, and Mourdock's opposition to working with anyone who doesn't share his far-right worldview is a tougher sell among the 91 percent of Hoosier adults who either didn't vote in the Republican primary or didn't vote for him in that primary.

Fair enough. Mourdock must now sell his worldview to the 60% of Hoosiers that had him lead the Republican ticket statewide in 2010 (and had him beat Joe Donnelly in Donnelly's own district). This is neither a tough sell nor a new one for Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock's fortunes are not helped by the fact that his Democratic opponent is a workmanlike Blue Dog moderate. Joe Donnelly, a former small-business owner and current third-term U.S. House member from Northern Indiana, delivers a message built around two core ideas: create more jobs and turn Washington, D.C. into less of a toxic swamp.

This is interesting, as Joe Donnelly is currently in Washington and has by his voting record contributed greatly to 1) things that destroy jobs rather than create them, and 2) continue to keep Washington a toxic swamp.

There is also nothing "workmanlike" about Joe Donnelly's background (he's an attorney and a Democratic party hack), just like there's nothing actually moderate about him when you examine his voting record.

"This is about making Hoosier lives better and our country stronger," Donnelly told me over coffee at the City Cafe Downtown last week. "(Mourdock) is going there as a partisan warrior. I'm going there as the hired help from Indiana to make our state stronger."

Again, with his votes for Wall Street bailouts, Obama's economy-strangling deficits, Obama's budget-busting failed stimulus plan, and Obama's government takeover of health care, there is no record of Joe Donnelly using his time in Congress to "make Hoosier lives better and our country stronger."

Does anyone seriously think that the life of the average Hoosier is better today than it was when Joe Donnelly went to Washington? Is our country stronger? Certainly not with Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Donnelly minding the store. Indiana is not any stronger, either.

Hired help, indeed. Most people would fire hired help with a record like Joe Donnelly's.

So far, Mourdock has been Donnelly's most valuable political asset, routinely saying things that his opponents couldn't make up. For example, he has said that if the Senate is not in Republican hands next year, his main goal as a taxpayer-salaried senator would be to travel the country campaigning to get more Republicans elected. He believes compromise can be achieved only if Democrats and moderate Republicans cave on every issue and embrace his positions. He has offered a laughable proposal to eliminate several federal agencies and departments without offering a sensible plan to replace the services they provide.

If you believe that more government and more debt and more spending is the answer, clearly you're going to be voting for Joe Donnelly. If you want less government and less debt and less spending, clearly you're going to be voting for Richard Mourdock.

As Mitch Daniels is fond of saying, "You'd be surprised how much government you'll never miss."

"What will happen if you act that way is people will ignore you," Donnelly said. "How can you be a serious part of any discussion if you've said from the beginning that the only plan you'll be a part of is your plan?"

Joe Donnelly hasn't exactly gotten a lot accomplished in Washington other than be a rubber stamp for a liberal agenda written out of Chicago by Obama and San Francisco by Nancy Pelosi.

In a state that leans to the right, those pulling for Donnelly point to his opposition to abortion, his support of gun rights and his call for less spending.

Oh, well that seals the deal, right? How encouraging.

Joe Donnelly has "called" for less spending.

His voting record, however, has been in lockstep for ever more spending.

Joe Donnelly says he is opposed to abortion.

His voting record, however, has been for policies like Federal funding of abortion and coercion of private Catholic hospitals to go against their pro-life beliefs by order of government decree.

Pay no attention to what he does in DC, folks. Only pay attention to the sweet lies he tells back here in Indiana.

That record could help sell his candidacy to independents and moderate Republicans. But what about Democrats? To that question, he said he would support President Obama "when he's right" but added that the problems facing the country aren't about partisan labels.

If his voting record is any indication, by Joe Donnelly's own words we can conclude that he believes Barack Obama is right with ballooning government spending, raising taxes, and Obamacare.

Remember, Joe Donnelly says he supports Barack Obama "when he's right."

His voting record shows that Joe Donnelly thinks Barack Obama is right a lot.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God Save Our American States

The Declaration of Independence

1337 words that changed the world.

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the Present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let the Facts be submitted to a candid World.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People; unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

He has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

He has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislature.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislaton:

For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond the Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule in these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Powers to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

He is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic Insurrections among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

Nor have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Signed by ORDER and



Happy Birthday, America!

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughts on the Obamacare Ruling

First of all, it must be said and often repeated that elections have consequences.

People voted for representatives who voted for the monstrous piece of legislation that was Obamacare and the administration that rammed it through. Congress has and has always had the power to levy taxes; I do not know why anyone should be surprised that 1) liberals voted to raise taxes and 2) tax increases are constitutional.

During the day, Drudge Chief Justice John Roberts' smiling picture as his headline with the caption "TAKE YOUR MEDICINE!" It is awful medicine indeed.

Second, it is not the court's role to strike laws because they were passed by politicians that lied to the people about what they were really doing. The recourse for dealing with lying politicians has always been at the ballot box.

I do think that the American people have never been lied to so brazenly about a domestic public policy initiative in recent times as they were about this. One need only spend a few moments with a search engine to turn up literally scores of video clips of Democrats asserting--in a bald-faced lie laid bare by Chief Justice Roberts' opinion--that this was not a tax increase.

Third, it is probably true that the ruling of the court will soften public opinion about the law somewhat in the short term (and look for the media to tout polls asserting as much). However, elite opinion has insisted for quite some time that the law was constitutional and this did not make it any more popular.

Affirmation of the law's constitutionality (convoluted as it was in Roberts' opinion) by five elites in black robes seems unlikely to change many opinions in the longer term. People didn't like Obamacare before, and they have never liked taxes. Will they now like something they didn't like upon the revelation that it also contains Supreme Court-approved tax increases? I agree with Stuart Rothenberg that such an outcome seems unlikely.

Fourth, I agree with Legal Insurrection and do not think that conservatives should grasp at straws hunting for smaller victories in the Roberts opinion. There were four votes to strike down the law--indeed, dissenting Justice Anthony Kennedy (supposedly the moderate swing justice of the court) was said to be visibly angry while Roberts read his opinion--and a Republican-appointed ostensibly constitutionalist and conservative justice failed to vote to do so for whatever reason (sincerity in the reasoning of his opinion, outside pressure, or a desire to husband the public image of the court, or whatever else).

This is an onerous piece of bad public policy that greatly expands the power of the state over the lives of the citizenry of this country, and the record of this country when it comes to the rollback of government power (to say nothing of entitlements) is not a good one. I have no hopes that the outcome of the election in November will see the law repealed root-and-branch as a 5-4 vote the other way clearly would have done.

Perhaps John Roberts is playing a longer game. Playing chess, as Erick Erickson calls it. But this assumes that the board will be such that he can advance a longer game. Should we get another liberal justice, that will never happen. The chance to stop this expansion of Federal power and end this assault on individual liberty was now, not ten years hence.

Which brings me to my fifth thought, which is that the court decision is a short-term victory for Republicans, as they will likely benefit from the wrath of the electorate over this in November. Democrats, after all, are dancing for joy just as many voters realize they've been had and are now subject to the largest tax increase in American history.

In the longer term, the court's decision is a great defeat for this country. It shrinks individual liberty, enshrines bad public policy, worsens the country's fiscal situation, and relegates vast sectors of the nation's economy to direct or indirect state control.

What is bad public policy when it was passed did not become better simply because five people in black robes decided to rule it constitutional.

Sixth, the fact that Obamacare is ultimately unworkable and will collapse under its own weight should not encourage anyone. History is replete with countries that have suffered great hardship because their leaders (elected or otherwise) failed to make blatantly obvious and common sense, but difficult, choices. Look at Europe right now.

Seventh and finally, if you want to feel encouraged (and I don't find it particularly encouraging, but you might), I invite you to read this piece by Sean Trende, which compares this ruling to the ruling in Marbury v. Madison, in which the chief justice outwitted a power grab by another president, trading a short-term defeat for a long-term victory.

And here's where I come back to my first point.

Elections matter.

Who we elect matters.

There's an election coming.

It's time to get to work.

Quote of the Day

From the dissent:

If Congress can reach out and command even those furthest removed from an interstate market to participate in the market, then the Commerce Clause becomes a font of unlimited power, or in Hamilton’s words, “the hideous monster whose devouring jaws . . . spare neither sex nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor profane.” The Federalist No. 33, p. 202 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961).

National Review: John Roberts' Folly

National Review's editorial today says a lot:

In today’s deeply disappointing decision on Obamacare, a majority of the Supreme Court actually got the Constitution mostly right. The Commerce Clause — the part of the Constitution that grants Congress the authority to regulate commerce among the states — does not authorize the federal government to force Americans to buy health insurance. The Court, by a 5–4 margin, refused to join all the august legal experts who insisted that of course it granted that authorization, that only yahoos and Republican partisans could possibly doubt it. It then pretended that this requirement is constitutional anyway, because it is merely an application of the taxing authority. Rarely has the maxim that the power to tax is the power to destroy been so apt, a portion of liberty being the direct object in this case.

What the Court has done is not so much to declare the mandate constitutional as to declare that it is not a mandate at all, any more than the mortgage-interest deduction in the tax code is a mandate to buy a house. Congress would almost surely have been within its constitutional powers to tax the uninsured more than the insured. Very few people doubt that it could, for example, create a tax credit for the purchase of insurance, which would have precisely that effect. But Obamacare, as written, does more than that. The law repeatedly speaks in terms of a “requirement” to buy insurance, it says that individuals “shall” buy it, and it levies a “penalty” on those who refuse. As the conservative dissent points out, these are the hallmarks of a “regulatory penalty, not a tax.”

The law as written also cuts off all federal Medicaid funds for states that decline to expand the program in the ways the lawmakers sought. A majority of the Court, including two of the liberals, found this cut-off unconstitutionally coercive on the states. The Court’s solution was not to invalidate the law or the Medicaid expansion, but to rule that only the extra federal funds devoted to the expansion could be cut off. As the dissenters rightly point out, this solution rewrites the law — and arbitrarily, since Congress could have avoided the constitutional problem in many other ways.

The dissent acknowledges that if an ambiguous law can be read in a way that renders it constitutional, it should be. It distinguishes, though, between construing a law charitably and rewriting it. The latter is what Chief Justice John Roberts has done. If Roberts believes that this tactic avoids damage to the Constitution because it does not stretch the Commerce Clause to justify a mandate, he is mistaken. The Constitution does not give the Court the power to rewrite statutes, and Roberts and his colleagues have therefore done violence to it. If the law has been rendered less constitutionally obnoxious, the Court has rendered itself more so. Chief Justice Roberts cannot justly take pride in this legacy.

The Court has failed to do its duty. Conservatives should not follow its example — which is what they would do if they now gave up the fight against Obamacare. The law, as rewritten by judges, remains incompatible with the country’s tradition of limited government, the future strength of our health-care system, and the nation’s solvency. We are not among those who are convinced that we will be stuck with it forever if the next election goes wrong: The law is also so poorly structured that we think it may well unravel even if put fully into effect. But we would prefer not to take the risk.

It now falls to the Republicans, and especially to Mitt Romney, to make the case for the repeal of the law and for its replacement by something better than either it or the health-care policies that preceded it. Instead of trusting experts to use the federal government’s purchasing power to drive efficiency throughout the health sector — the vain hope of Obamacare’s Medicare-cutting board — they should replace Medicare with a new system in which individuals have incentives to get value for their dollar. Instead of having Washington establish a cartel for the insurance industry, they should give individuals tax credits and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines. Instead of further centralizing the health-care system, in short, they should give individuals more control over their insurance.

Opponents should take heart: The law remains unpopular. Let the president and his partisans ring their bells today, and let us work to make sure that they are wringing their hands come November.

Bush's Fault

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's Ellspermann

The speculation of recent days was correct.

Mike Pence will announce his pick for Lieutenant Governor at the YMCA in Ferdinand, Indiana, in just a few minutes. It will be freshman State Representative Sue Ellspermann (Ferdinand is her hometown).

The event will be followed by a next governor and lieutenant governor of Indiana barnstorming more than half a dozen announcement events statewide over the following two days.

These are two faces you're likely to see a lot of over the next eight to sixteen years:

A good pick, all in all. Sue Ellspermann will bring decades of valuable private sector jobs and economic development experience to the ticket.

(This information was embargoed until 10 a.m. on Monday, May 21. This post was written in advance and queued up to go live at 10.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pence Lieutenant Governor Pick Monday

Speculation is buzzing about who Congressman Mike Pence will pick as his lieutenant governor. Much buzz has centered around District 74 State Representative Sue Ellspermann of Ferdinand, who was first elected in 2010 by defeating then House Majority Whip Russ Stilwell and has a background in academia and economic development.

The campaign's announcement roll-out schedule gives considerable credence to such speculation.

Emails sent out to Republicans in Vanderburgh and Warrick County invite them to an announcement at Tri-State Aero at the Evansville Regional Airport (map here)at noon on Monday.

So far, the campaign has given no information about any event elsewhere in the state that is scheduled earlier than the event in Evansville at noon on Monday. The event in Indianapolis is at three later that afternoon and is at the Express Scripts Distribution Facility at the former United Airlines maintenance complex on the back side of the Indianapolis International Airport (map here).

Though speculation in Indianapolis has centered on State Representative and Professor Sue Ellspermann, Evansville is also home to District 76 State Representative Wendy McNamara, who was likewise elected in 2010. McNamara, however, has a background in education, not in economic development. She faces a tough reelection fight against former State Representative Trent Van Haaften, who left open the seat she won in order to run for (and lose) the 8th District Congressional seat (itself left open by Brad Ellsworth's failed run for United States Senate). Her reelection bid may also be made more complicated from baggage gained during legislative sessions over the past two years.

Ellspermann's old district was heavy with union activity (Stilwell himself was a political director for the United Mine Workers). She voted (PDF warning) for right-to-work in the previous legislative session, as did McNamara. Ellspermann's new district is neither substantively more Republican or substantively less union (it gained, for example, heavily union and Democratic parts of Perry and Crawford Counties) post-redistricting.

Ellspermann faces a particularly challenging reelection campaign (largely by virtue of the nature of her district, not so much on the strength of her opponent, who is a retired school administrator whose website contains a map of the old district and not the new district; I wonder if he is even campaigning in the right places), and a move to lieutenant governor would either leave the seat open to a Republican candidate that does not have right-to-work baggage or at least free the House Republican Campaign Committee from having to invest a lot of money defending an incumbent in a very tough situation.

Sue Ellspermann's background in economic development would certainly be an asset to Pence's campaign. She doesn't have an extensive legislative resume, which could be seen either as an asset or a liability, depending on the role Pence intends for her to play in a future administration. She does not have the decade-plus of General Assembly experience Becky Skillman had when she became lieutenant governor, for example, so it is difficult to see her being a "legislative quarterback" for Pence's agenda in the same way that Skillman was for Daniels. Her focus, instead, would probably be entirely on economic development, which is probably a net positive overall given the nature of the economy and the early outlines being seen from Pence's campaign (and the campaign of his opponent).

And, of course, the selection of Ellspermann would be yet another blow to Democratic rhetoric about a Republican "war on women," particularly if--as is widely expected--Democratic nominee John Gregg picks a male mayor from northern Indiana as his lieutenant governor pick.

I am certain that there will be snark from some quarters about Republicans picking yet another blonde female state legislator from southern Indiana as their lieutenant governor nominee, but it cannot be said that Ellspermann--who holds a doctorate in industrial engineering, has decades of experience in economic development, and got elected in a very tough district against a very tough opponent--is not more than capable of performing the job.

There's another dimension to picking Ellspermann that also deserves mention. She is a graduate of the 2008-2009 class of the Lugar Series. Her selection could be seen as Pence, who assumed de facto leadership of the state Republican Party after the May primary, moving to heal some lingering wounds from the Senate contest between Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock. Lugar supporters might still smart at their man not being on the ballot, but they could support the entire ticket knowing his legacy lives on (among other ways) in the nomination and election of Sue Ellspermann if she is indeed Pence's LG pick.

I know Ellspermann endorsed Lugar in the Senate primary, but I haven't been able to find what statements, if any, she has made about Mourdock's win. I do know, however, that she campaigned alongside both Pence and Mourdock in Boonville at a political rally in late October of 2010 when she was running for state representative. It's hard to see her having problems campaigning alongside Mourdock now if she was willing to campaign alongside him then.

Of course, all of the above speculation (and that of a great many other people) could be entirely wrong. That would be provably true if Pence has another announcement scheduled somewhere else in Indiana earlier than noon on Monday. It seems highly unlikely that the announcement itself would be distant from the home of Pence's lieutenant governor pick. The geography of the announcement events is the biggest clue going forward in the next two days.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is Mourdock Tied with Donnelly?

That's what a new poll put out on Monday by Joe Donnelly's Senate campaign would like to have you believe.

The poll, taken at the height of the post-primary media gnashing of teeth and scornful lamentations over Lugar's defeat, shows Donnelly tied with Mourdock, 40% to 40%.

The poll reminds me a little bit of early polling in the spring of 2010 that showed Brad Ellsworth tied with Dan Coats. We all know how that race ended.

After Dick Lugar spent millions of dollars trying to convince everyone in Indiana that Richard Mourdock was somehow a tax-cheating crook that bayoneted babies, murdered puppies, and refused to help little old ladies cross the street, after the media spent a week crying over the defeat of the great statesman by this Tea Party conservative, the best Donnelly can get in polling is a tie.

And it's not even a realistic poll. Here's why:

Including independents who leaned toward either side, the poll included 43 percent Republican leaners and 39 percent Democratic leaners — a four-point GOP advantage.

According to CNN exit polls, Republicans had a five-point turnout edge in the 2008 presidential race in Indiana (41 percent to 36 percent) and an 11-point advantage in 2010 (42 percent to 31 percent).

So if you assume that the electorate in Indiana is going to be even more Democratic than it was in 2008--when Indiana voted for a Democrat for president for the first time in over four decades--then Joe Donnelly might be tied with Richard Mourdock right now in the Senate race.

But if you view things more realistically, namely that Indiana isn't likely to be remotely in Obama's column this time, then the poll falls apart.

The Democrats are desperate to make this race competitive, even if they have to make believe, twist numbers, close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears, and scream "we can't hear you." They need Joe Donnelly in that Senate seat, or any hope they have of keeping Harry Reid in charge of the Senate and passing Obama's liberal agenda is dead on arrival.

Their desperation is not without justification, either. In one week, Mourdock's money bomb has raised half as much money as Donnelly has in the bank after a year and a half of fundraising.

And if you need any other reasons why the Democrats are desperate (or why to support Mourdock, for that matter), well, pictures are worth a thousand words.

Baron Hill Laments Dick Lugar's Defeat

As if you needed more proof of why the outcome of the vote last Tuesday was a good thing, Baron Hill wants to remind the folks he used to lord over what a good guy Dick Lugar was.

After all, Dick Lugar never campaigned for Baron Hill's opponents (as fellow Senator Evan Bayh did, even though Lugar in 2006 was on the ballot and Bayh was not), so Baron has much to be grateful for. And when Baron's man Obama ran campaign commercials in Indiana featuring Lugar, Lugar greeted them with a silent smile.

Yes, Baron has a lot to like in Dick Lugar.

Not least, Baron praises Lugar for being bipartisan. This is a curious thing, since Baron--like Joe Donnelly--has no record of bipartisanship to speak of. You certainly don't find any trace of bipartisanship in the votes by Hill and Donnelly for Obama's deficit-exploding budgets, out-of-control spending measures, failed stimulus boondoggles, or government takeover of health care.

The defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar in Tuesday’s primary election epitomizes what is wrong with Congress.

Sen. Lugar, a moderate-to-conservative Republican, is a man of thoughtful ideas, words and actions, who has worked tirelessly to better our nation and the world for future generations. He is also a man who is willing to listen to other points of view, embrace bipartisanship and, yes, compromise because he rightly acknowledges that no one has a monopoly on what is right and wrong. I say that with the utmost respect, even though “compromise” has become a four-letter word to some, unfortunately.

We teach our children to imitate the values that Sen. Lugar embodies — be patient, not reactive; listen to others and treat them how you would want to be treated; and, work well with others.

Yet, on Tuesday, those who voted for Richard Mourdock backed a man who vocally and repeatedly made no bones about his complete unwillingness to work across the aisle. His words in fact were that there is “too much bipartisanship in Congress.”

I strongly disagree. His approach will only contribute to the congressional gridlock that people in this country so rightfully despise.

America is still the shining city upon a hill. We are a nation of hard-working, caring individuals who value liberty, free enterprise and social justice. How we achieve and preserve these values has always been the subject of spirited and welcome debate in this country. Yet if we elect people to office who have only rigid and monopolizing views on these values and are not willing to listen to others, respect their point of view, and compromise, these values cannot be advanced and our country will not be well-served.

Dick Lugar understands this. Dick Lugar was and is an effective legislator. And, that is why his defeat symbolizes what is and will be wrong with Congress. Voters chose a lecturer and ideologue over a legislator.

We have witnessed a disturbing trend in the last several years on both sides of the aisle in sending people to Congress with rigid ideas, unwilling to listen and who reject moderation. The first wave included Republicans, but Democrats too are trending the same way. Just recently, moderate, bipartisan Democrats in Pennsylvania were defeated in their primary elections.

People are fed up with Congress. They dislike the gridlock and partisanship that exists in this institution, but we are sending people there who will only make it worse. Dick Lugar’s defeat is the latest example.

If we, as Americans and as voters, keep nominating rigid, uncompromising, partisan people to any office in our country, the institution of our government will continue to break down and all of us will suffer.

The defeats of Lugar and Hill represent the voters of Indiana teaching different lessons. Namely, they don't like elected officials that tell them one thing in Indiana and vote a different way in Washington, and they like elected officials that listen to what they have to say. Baron Hill and Joe Donnelly did and have done neither. Lugar, whatever his other flaws, sinned only on the latter.

Compromise Is When Dems Get What They Want

At least, that's the sort of compromise liberals in the media speak of when they seek compromise from Republicans.

This point is well said by a recent letter in the Indianapolis Star:

After then-President George H.W. Bush famously stated “no new taxes,” he was persuaded to compromise with Democrats in Congress. He would agree to an increase in taxes if they would agree to spending cuts to help balance the lopsided budget.

The taxes were increased, the spending cuts never got a hearing, and the Democrats used the fact that Bush had said he would not raise taxes against him.

This is the state of compromise in our government today. Joe Donnelly is already saying that Richard Murdock’s biggest fault is his rejection of compromise. Tell me then, what compromises has Joe Donnelly agreed to and lived up to?

President Barack Obama was going to lead a government based on cooperation and compromise, yet he did not speak to Republican leadership for the entire two years during which he had control of both houses of Congress.

In our political world, it seems that only Republicans or conservatives are expected to compromise.

Conrad Seniour

Joe Donnelly has no record of compromise. His voting record is quite clear. It's unabashedly liberal, filled with party-line votes, and in full support of Obama's liberal agenda to bankrupt this country.

Why, Look Who Has a Long History of Youthful Misbehavior

Not Mitt Romney.

Joe Biden.

George Lucas Flips Bird to Liberal Yuppies

The creator of Star Wars wanted to expand his movie studio operations in California's Marin County. Locals opposed him on "environmental" grounds, despite numerous steps by Lucas to maintain the natural state of the land on his ranch (where the studio was to be located).

Lucas threw in the towel this week on the studio project. Instead, he intends to develop the land he owns into something for which it is already zoned: low-income housing.

So the Not-In-My-Back-Yard folks in Marin County won't have a movie studio as a neighbor. They're going to have a big trailer park instead.

Lucas' statement:

We realize our solution to creating open space by placing low-impact commercial facilities on farmland, while permanently preserving over 95% of the total acreage, has not been accepted by our neighbors. Nor are they or many of the public agencies interested in the $50-70M restoration of the stream. Maybe we’re ahead of our time.

We plan to sell the Grady property expecting that the land will revert back to its original use for residential housing. We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low income housing since it is scarce in Marin. If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land, then we are hoping that people who need it the most will benefit.

Hat tip: Power Line