Tuesday, January 29, 2008

House Republicans Use "Nuclear Option" to Get Marriage Amendment Vote

Last session, Speaker Pat "The Hair" Bauer tried to kill the marriage amendment by keeping it in a committee and preventing it from ever getting to the floor for an up-or-down vote.

Bauer knew that, if it ever made it to the floor, it would pass handily.

The committee was a convenient mechanism to keep the amendment off of the floor and allow the Democrats to avoid going on the record about the amendment (and avoid having it pass, since many Hoosier Democrats would overwhelmingly vote for it, as they did last time when it was put to a floor vote).

Now, however, House Republicans have exercised the "nuclear option" to go around The Hair and the committee where he consigned the marriage amendment to die.

By offering the marriage amendment as an amendment to a bill, in this case property tax reform, they will circumvent the committee graveyard and force the House to go on the record on the marriage amendment (and likely pass it).

Questions have been raised at Masson's Blog about whether such a move is germane, or relevant to the measure to which it is being attached.

The chair--the speaker--would make that determination (effectively forcing The Hair to go on record about it).

Moreover, the moment that the Speaker renders a determination that the amendment is not germane, that ruling can be appealed by a floor vote of the House.

It is my understanding that this would not be a voice vote and "selective hearing" would have nothing to do with its outcome.

In April of 2003, for example (and I don't have a citation yet; will hunt a few up later), the chair made a ruling about the germane-ness of an amendment, and was overruled by a vote of the House.

It seems unlikely to me that selective hearing would have allowed that to transpire; it seems clear that a recorded vote will be necessary.

A recorded vote will force the House Democrats, many of whom either support the marriage amendment or are afraid to oppose it, to go on the record of how they stand about it.

Even if they succeed in preventing it from being attached (something which I view to be unlikely; I think it will be attached and it will be passed), they will have gone on the record about it (and will give fuel to Eric Miller & Company for the general election).

Quote of the Day

“Do you think the people we serve are stupid or dumb?”
- State Representative Jeff Espich, during the debate on school construction referendums

Shameful and Craven Ignorance: Baron's Statement on the State of the Union

From the Indy Star:

Rep. Baron Hill, D-Seymour: "We have seen little, if any, political progress in Iraq. And, it begs one to ask the question the president averted, as to when the American occupation of Iraq will end. The American people deserve a clear-cut answer to this question."

Never has an elected official representing Indiana been so divorced from reality.

No political progress?

On January 12, the Iraqis passed an amendment to their de-Baathification law aimed at reconciling with Sunnis. Democrats, like Mr. Hill, frequently cited this as one of the most necessary things necessary for political progress in Iraq.

Given such a monumental achievement, unnoticed in America as it might be, it is impossible to say that there has been "little, if any, political progress in Iraq."

If this is not political progress, when it has already been defined as an objective by Democrats like Baron, then what is?

Maybe the report two weeks ago (while Baron was off on vacation) by the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations can be considered progress:

Iraq faces a period of economic growth and political progress, according to assessments by the International Monetary Fund and the UN.

The IMF sees 7% growth in 2008 and a similar rise next year, and says oil revenues from buoyant exports should be up by 200,000 barrels a day.

The UN envoy to Iraq welcomed dialogue between the Sunni and Shia communities and praised the government's work.

I suspect that if we had 7% growth here in the United States, it would be considered progress.

Unless, of course, it was under a Republican president; then we would certainly be living in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Back in December, it was noted that violence in Iraq is at its lowest level since the first year of the war (when, I might add, Baron was still in office and was very much still in support of what was then a quite popular war).

Iraqi forces have also formally taken control of their own security for half of their country.

Violence in Iraq is at its lowest levels since the first year of the American invasion, finally opening a window for reconciliation among rival sects, the second-ranking U.S. general said Sunday as Iraqi forces formally took control of security across half the country.

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the man responsible for the ground campaign in Iraq, said that the first six months of 2007 were probably the most violent period since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The past six months, however, had seen some of the lowest levels of violence since the conflict began, Odierno said, attributing the change to an increase in both American troops and better-trained Iraqi forces.

I am unsurprised that Baron is utterly unaware of this progress, and of the general consensus that has evolved--even in the partisan halls of Washington--about the success of General Petraeus and the surge he designed.

Baron Hill's behavior with regard to Iraq has been a shameful disgrace, from his politically-contrived vote for the war to his repudiation of that vote as soon as the war became unpopular.

From his wavering and often contradictory votes for or against war funding, to his assertion to lefty supporters that he would never vote for such funding ever again, he has never stood firm on anything.

Let's not forget his claim in the campaign that anyone wearing the American uniform "deserves all the support they can get" in his campaign ads last year, compared to his blatant insult of the members of the Hoosier National Guard bound for Iraq (to fight in a war he voted to start) when he decided to go on a taxpayer-funded vacation in the Pacific (including Vietnam) instead of bidding them farewell in Indianapolis with many other Indiana politicians of note, Republican and Democrat.

Ignorance on Iraq, for Baron, is merely par for the course.

He has never done right by the young men and women he voted to send to war, and he has never even paid much attention to what is going on in the war itself when progress is made.

Baron Hill just mindlessly panders to the anti-war crowd, and his treatment of them is itself no more sincere than his original assertions of support for the war or his claims in the last election that American soldiers "deserve all the support they can get."

Indy Star: Let the People Vote

From their op-ed page:

Our position: Senate should restore referendum provision of property tax legislation.

Can taxpayers be trusted to make wise choices about how school administrators spend their money? Is there a correlation between high-end school construction and high-quality education? Can a balance be found between adequately funding building projects and protecting middle- and low-income property owners from tax levels that jeopardize their ability to stay in their homes?

Those questions are at the heart of the General Assembly's debate over whether to allow taxpayers through referendums to decide the fate of proposed capital projects.

Until recently, school construction in Indiana cost considerably more per square foot than the national average. Indiana's projects also tended to be much larger in size than those elsewhere. Schools districts, under pressure from the state, have made admirable progress in both areas since 2005, although construction costs per square foot are still above the national average.

But the issue rose again last year when property taxes spiked by an average of 24 percent statewide. The cost of school debt makes up 11 cents of every property tax dollar in Indiana. State lawmakers are now debating whether to replace Indiana's peculiar remonstrance process with a more straightforward referendum system.

Opponents of referendums often point to Ohio as a cautionary example of what can happen when stingy taxpayers block needed projects. Yet, according to the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, Ohio voters approve the majority of proposed projects.

It's worth noting that Ohio fares better than Indiana in the percentage of schools meeting Annual Yearly Progress -- 62 percent to 52 percent. Ohio students also score higher in math and reading than their peers in Indiana on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Why scrap the remonstrance system? For starters, taxpayer review is not automatic now. It's up to opponents to file a remonstrance. They then must compete with the school district to collect residents' signatures. Individual opponents must organize themselves and devote their own time and energy in order to have a say on how their tax dollars are spent. The current system, in short, favors school districts over ordinary taxpayers.

Would adopting a referendum system mean that school construction would grind to a halt? Not at all. Other states have achieved a balance between public oversight and educational needs. But requiring referendums would create a more transparent process and force educators to frame compelling arguments for construction projects. If taxpayers decide they want to underwrite high school swimming pools and multimillion-dollar football stadiums, they still could. And, in fact, residents' buy-in to such projects would be stronger if approved through a public vote.

The Indiana House last week approved a limited referendum system as part of its property tax reform bill. The Senate should restore the bill's original language, calling for a public vote on all major capital projects.

It's fair and reasonable to allow taxpayers a direct say on whether their schools should take on debt.

We'll see if Senator Long will stand tall and strong on the referendum provision.

I hope he does.

Whether it be for repeal, reform, or referendum, there has been a unifying theme from the people of Indiana in their property tax outrage.

They want to be able to have a say. They want to be able to vote.

I say let them.

And not just on stadiums and indoor swimming pools, but also on things like administrative buildings and, let's say, any new school construction or renovation of existing structures (projects over a certain dollar value).

How about making the only exemption to the referendum for those projects whose plans and designs are pulled from a common pool of designs and such maintained by the state?

That would bring a swift end to architects looting our school corporations at the expense of the education of Hoosier children and to the detriment of the wallets of homeowners.


A friendly wave to the Indiana Daily Student bloggers over at The Sample Gates, who have me on their blog roll (and I have returned the favor).

Legislative Update

Hosted by Harrison County's two Democratic legislators, Richard Young and Paul Robertson.

From the Courier-Journal:

Harrison officials plan legislative update

CORYDON - State Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, and state Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, will have a legislative update for Harrison County residents from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Saturday at the Harrison County Justice Center.

The event is sponsored by the Harrison County Farm Bureau and the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce.

Awfully early for a Saturday morning.

Still, might be worth swinging by to have a look-hear-see.

Mud Bowl

He's No Gipper

But then, who is?

What choices Republicans have:

The wishy-washy blue state governor who ran for president because he couldn't get reelected.

The former Baptist minister with social conservative bona fides and populist--even liberal--views on many other issues.

The mayor who turned around the largest city in America, but whose personal life is a trail of wreckage.

The senator who made his political career by pissing off his fellow Republicans.

I am leaning toward the latter two, though it looks like only one of them will survive tonight.

Monday, January 28, 2008

If a Tree Falls in the Wood...

Or rather, if a plant closes in Bloomington, and Baron Hill says absolutely nothing about it, did it still close?

You bet it did:

GE announced Thursday its intent to close the Bloomington refrigerator plant by late 2009, informing nearly 900 employees who work there of the plant shutdown.

Plant manager Kent Suiters said the decision comes because rising material and labor costs aren’t meshing with what consumers are willing to spend on side-by-side refrigerators. The westside plant has manufactured those refrigerators since 1967.

“The market changes very quickly,” he said. “It’s just a bad market situation.”

He said the plant lost about $45 million last year, and the same amount or more is expected this year.

GE employs about 896 people in Bloomington: 837 hourly employees and 59 salaried employees.

Baron, of course, just didn't care.

Eleven days and counting after General Electric announced that it would close its plant in Bloomington and lay off 900 people, Baron Hill still hasn't said a word about it.

Not on his official website, and not on his campaign website.

The best that came out of the Baron camp was a sentence in the Bloomington newspaper quoting a lowly field rep promising to look into helping somehow.

Granted, Baron's been busy, what with him being on a taxpayer-funded vacation abroad and all.

I guess he could blame jet lag.

But the fact remains that, when 900 Hoosiers lost their jobs, Baron Hill was nowhere to be seen.

Heck, Mike Sodrel (who, we are constantly told, never updates his website) had a statement out about it right after it happened (and it was posted on his website to boot).

What's more, the folks that lost their jobs were in Bloomington.

No place in the 9th District has done more for Baron Hill than Bloomington (and less for Mike Sodrel), but it is particularly telling that Sodrel cared about the folks in Bloomington and Baron couldn't even be bothered.

Fifty Years of Lego Bricks

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Lego brick.

Fondly do I remember the days of rendering the floors of my parents' house into a veritable mine field of plastic-brick-building fun.

Hat tip to Google and their nifty image for pointing this out.

When Pigs Fly...

Baron Paul HillOops.

Looks like Baron didn't make it down to Georgia to see the troops after all.

From the politics blog over at the Courier-Journal:

Rep. Baron Hill, D-9th District, Indiana, has cancelled his plans to visit Hoosier troops today at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

According to the lawmaker's office, the trip was put off "due to mechanical difficulties with the plane."

Hill had been planning to see soldiers with Indiana's 76th Infantry Brigade Team, which has been training in Georgia in preparations for deployment to Iraq.

No apology for dodging them with a taxpayer-funded vacation, and still no visit.

The Patriot

Lazy Daze

Political Caricatures

Still waiting to see him draw the Democrats.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's About Time: Baron Visits Iraqi-Bound Troops He Dodged Earlier by Going on Vacation

Baron talks a good game on the military and on veterans, but time and again his actions speak louder than his words.

Like when he voted to tie the hands of General David Petraeus and tried to stop a strategy that everyone now recognizes has worked even better than hoped.

Or that time he told a supporter in Bloomington that he wasn't going to vote for any more funding for the Iraq War.

Or, most recently, when he decided to go off to on a taxpayer-funded vacation in the Pacific, to tropical Guam, sunny Australia, and oh-so-friendly Vietnam instead of honoring the soldiers of Indiana's largest National Guard deployment since WW2.

Baron was too good to join the Governor, Senator Lugar, the mayor of Indianapolis, and six of his fellow Hoosier members of Congress (including his fellow Democrats) to say goodbye.

Nope. He couldn't come.

Improving his sun tan in Guam and saying hello to the folks in Vietnam was too important to him, despite the National Guard deployment to Iraq having been set over six months ago.

Baron might recall the Iraq War.

He voted to start it, a vote he has since variously stood by and repudiated.

Baron will vote to send Hoosier soldiers to war, but he won't bother to see them off when they go.

Now, though, Baron seems to have realized that running off to Vietnam and to tropical Pacific island paradises for a taxpayer-funded vacation while troops are deploying is apt to get some attention.

So he's going to Fort Stewart in Georgia today to see a few of the brave Hoosier National Guard soldiers that are finishing their training before heading to Iraq.

From the politics blog at the Courier-Journal:

Rep. Baron Hill, D-9th District, Indiana, is scheduled tomorrow to visit soldiers from his state who will soon be headed to Iraq.

The lawmaker will be visiting with members of the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is training at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Hill will travel to Georgia from Washington, accompanied by Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard.

It's about time.

(Though I suspect that General Umbarger has better things to do with his time than escort Baron Hill to Georgia for a photo op just because Baron was too busy with his taxpayer-funded vacation to make it to the main event.)

And Baron Hill should say something to those soldiers and their families to apologize for not joining everyone else in bidding them farewell in Indianapolis two weeks ago.

Even then it will be too little, too late.

Actions speak louder than words, Baron.

They also speak louder than staged photo-ops.

Your actions were heard loud and clear.

Historic Firsts

Campaign Brawl

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Toupée of the Dark Side is Lifted, Begun the Property Tax Reform War Has

The Speaker in full 'Wrath of God' ModeOne of the few good quotes to come out of the rather sorry Star Wars prequels (and, big surprise, from Yoda).


The dual strategy of Speaker Pat "The Hair" Bauer to kill the Governor's property tax reform initiative has now been revealed.

In the House, as demonstrated by the vote yesterday, The Hair intends to gut important elements of the reform package (like referendums on capital expenditures and a graduated system of homestead deductions) by dealing it a death by a thousand amendments.

The Speaker's support for his own amendments, however, will likely be tempered by whatever Luke Kenley produces on the Senate side.

Senator Kenley and the Governor do not exactly see eye-to-eye on much of anything (they both often seem to think they are always the smartest people in any room), and they are likely to quarrel over any changes to the reform package coming out of the Senate.

To the extent that Mitch Daniels and Luke Kenley's egos compel them to be at odds over details of property tax reform on the Senate side, The Hair's "death by a thousand amendments" effort can basically fly under the radar until the very end, at five-till-midnight on the last day of the session, when the result of the Daniels-Kenley squabble must face the result of Bauer's amendments.

Both Kenley and Daniels will be playing a game of chicken with the Speaker to see who will blink first, with property tax reform hanging in the balance.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Unhappy Birthday

Monday, January 21, 2008

Baron's Puppets Attack Sodrel, Again

Poor Thomas Cook.

If only posting that photo of George W. Bush and Mike Sodrel over and over and over again was a viable campaign strategy for Baron Hill.

Unfortunately for Baron Hill and certain folks in Bloomington in the seats on the left that try to defend him, Baron hasn't exactly delivered on any of his campaign promises.

Ethics? That went out the window with all of those shady earmarks for clients of his former employer.

Retreat from Iraq? Baron's been voting to still fund the war, though he ran to Vietnam to hide from the send-off of Indiana's largest National Guard deployment since WW2.

Restraining Bush? Baron's voted to keep giving him wiretapping authority (a vote I actually agree with, so kudos to him there).

Hoosier values? Nothing quite like voting to use federal dollars to fund abortions overseas, continue Federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and so on and so forth.

PAY-GO? You pay, Baron goes. Goes on lavish taxpayer-funded trips to the Mediterranean and the Pacific, rather.

Taxes? For Mr. Hill, the only thing that is important is that he can vote to raise your taxes; this he has done repeatedly since returning to Congress.

Lower gas prices? The price of gasoline has more than doubled while Baron has been in office.

But none of that matters, fair Hoosiers and citizens of southern Indiana!

It doesn't matter, hear me!

Because Mike Sodrel is mean!

Mean, I say!

Mean as a, err, uh, mean as something!

He's mean!

And we have pictures of him standing next to George W. Bush, who as you know is the source of all evil in the entire universe!

Liberals Turn on Obama (and Baron, too)

The problem with having the tiger that is the modern American left by the tail is that it might turn and attack you:

Ok, Can We Now Agree to Ditch Obama?

Obama told the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board Monday that "Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it," Obama said.

"I think it's fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10 to 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom," Obama told the newspaper.

Ok, Barack. That's cool. Thanks for admitting that you really are a closet Republican. Now will you please get the HECK out of the Democratic Primaries and get yourself into the GOP primaries where you belong, and while you are at it, please take the Blue Dogs with you, like my own Rep. Baron Hill, and my Senator Evan Bayh?!!! I'd rather have a chance to elect some real Democrats than keep electing Republicans pretending to be Democrats.

Why not praise W while you are at it, Barack?

Fwiw, Hillary, like Edwards, didn't take that kind of **** from Obama lying down:

On Friday in Las Vegas, Clinton responded, "That's not the way I remember the last ten to fifteen years." She said she didn't consider it a better idea to privatize Social Security, eliminate the minimum wage, undercut health benefits, shut down the government or drive the country into debt. "I think we know what needs to be done in America. And I think we're ready to do it. I'm ready to lead on day one."

She says she's 'ready to lead on day one' more often than Giuliani says 911!

That's probably not the comparison to Barack Obama that Baron Hill wants people to read about.

But remember, Barack took good lessons from Baron.

Obama is now running on change, sort of like Baron ran on it last time.

Of course, Baron failed utterly to deliver and has given us more of the same in spades.

Barack Obama will probably be no different; the same tired old liberalism in new packaging.

Fun with News Aggregators, Part XV

Mike Sodrel speaks in Dearborn County at the Republican Club Breakfast:

Mr. Sodrel's presentation is summarized as follows:

Mr. Sodrel talked about the problems with his last campaign, especially from the control exerted by the Republican National Committee and all the negative campaign ads over which he had no control.

He talked about the pension system where widows of service men KIA lose their benefits if they remarry. And the reduction in pension benefits to congressmen after the actions of the Republican Party.

He also talked about the 'fair tax' and the impact that would have on this country, including shifting the taxes from the manufacturing level to the retail level which reduces the cost of manufacturing by about 22% and increases the tax on foreign imports by the same amount, tending to level the playing field. Right now US products cost higher than foreign products to compete in export and import. The fair tax would reduce the product cost for export to better compete and place the same tax on foreign products, at retail, to make them on a par with US products.

He favors the elimination of property tax. It would take the burden off retirees.

The fair tax eliminates income and similar taxes and places a federal sales tax on all consumption.

Retirees would get an increase in benefits to compensate for the sales tax. The fair tax would tax consumption so the more expensive the product, the more tax paid.

The fair tax would not tax investment, thereby presumably fostering more investment.

Picture of the Day

I know politicians need thick hides and many have hard heads, but geez.

It’s a break from property taxes... Above, Power Team member Michael Collins shields the head of State Rep. Kreg Battles of Vincennes as bodybuilder Power Team member Craig Lemley . The Power Team is a group of world-class athletes who travel as inspirational speakers. Battles took part in the demonstration at the church program while on weekend break from the state legislature’s work on property tax reform.

The "Real Conservative"?

Ronald Reagan himself wouldn't have met the criteria put forward by certain Republicans that are hunting for the "real conservative" in the GOP field.

And I'm not sure how many conservatives in Indiana would agree (I would) with Michael Medved classifying Mitch Daniels as one.

The truth is that some of the most outstanding conservatives in recent Senate history have come together with Senator Coburn to campaign for McCain – including Phil Gramm of Texas (co-chair of the national McCain campaign), John Kyl of Arizona, John Thune of South Dakota, Dan Coats of Indiana, Trent Lott of Mississippi, Slade Gorton of Washington, Warren Rudman of New Hampshire, and a dozen others.

Several of the most dynamic Republican and conservative governors of our time are working actively in the McCain campaign – including Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Jon Huntsman of Utah, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Frank Keating of Oklahoma, Tom Kean of New Jersey, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, and more.

In other words, conservatives who know him best attest to McCain’s consistency, his character, and his Reaganite world-view. Those associates, enthusiastically promoting McCain’s candidacy, count for more than strident and angry talkers who know McCain not at all.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Indianapolis Establishment Looks (Again) to Try to Oust Education Chief Suellen Reed

It is said that the floor of the Indiana State GOP convention is filled with political corpses of those that have tried (and failed) in convention floor fights against Dr. Suellen Reed, who has four times been nominated by Indiana Republicans to run for Superintendent of Public Instruction (and she won every time in November by huge margins).

Now, the establishment powers-that-be in Indianapolis have found a new candidate to latch onto in their crusade, a recently-hired school superintendent in Clark County by the name of Tony Bennett.

The Courier-Journal has the story:

INDIANAPOLIS – Less than a year into his job as superintendent of Greater Clark Schools, Tony Bennett plans to seek the Republican nomination for state superintendent of public instruction.

The position is now held by Republican Suellen Reed, who is in her fourth term.

"I have a high amount of respect for the 16 years of distinguished service Dr. Reed has given the state of Indiana," Bennett, 47, said yesterday. "Given the issues confronting Indiana, I think the Department of Education needs a fresh set of eyes and fresh leadership."

Reed has not said publicly whether she plans to seek a fifth term. Her office did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.

Bennett was hired as the district's superintendent last summer. He told the school board about his intention at a meeting Tuesday, board member Bill Halter said.

Bennett can continue in his current post while he campaigns.

Bennett said he decided to run for the state office because of encouragement from community and business leaders.

Encouragement from community and business leaders my rear.

Mr. Bennett looks to me to be an unwitting front-man for the latest in a long series of plots by Indianapolis insiders and establishment types to try and unseat Suellen Reed and replace her with someone that will dance to their tune.

Last time around, Mitch Daniels was willing to stand by Suellen Reed when a lot of the establishment folks that simply hate her were (yet again) plotting her convention downfall.

To their consternation and outrage, the then-candidate Daniels unexpectedly endorsed Reed, causing their plans to fall apart.

These days, Dr. Reed and the Governor aren't on such good terms, so another endorsement is probably not in the cards.

Last time around, her opponents reportedly spread word far and wide to hint to Dr. Reed that the party thought she had been in office too long and everyone thought she should step down.

The party rank-and-file didn't think that (they probably still don't), but the story was nevertheless peddled by her opponents in an effort to try and get her to either step aside or to build support against her.

It didn't exactly work.

She ran again, and she won again.

Not just on the convention floor, but also in November.

This time around, they are trying the same trick again (probably with similar results).

Anonymous tipsters have told me that Reed's opponents have retained a certain GOP political consultant from South Bend to canvas for support among Republican insiders across the state and to build a framework of endorsements around which to work toward unseating Suellen Reed in yet another convention floor fight, if a wave of endorsements can't be used to "psych" her into not running at all.

There is also a move afoot to abolish the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction entirely, and put it under the Governor (as if the Governor of the State of Indiana doesn't have enough to worry about and to oversee as it is).

This leads to a dual track approach by Dr. Reed's opponents.

If they cannot unseat her in a floor fight at the convention and install someone who they find more agreeable, then they will try to abolish the position entirely to get rid of her.

Lord knows she's a proven vote-getter and will probably never be defeated in a general election.

There is no good reason to unseat Suellen Reed; test scores in Indiana have been going up for a decade while she has been Superintendent of Public Instruction:

Statewide results showed a slight uptick across the board.

Overall, 64.7 percent of Hoosier students in Grades 3-10 passed both the math and language arts portions of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus. Higher percentages passed one or the other: 74 percent passed math, 71 percent language arts.

That continued a gradual, decade long increase in ISTEP results, according to the state, with percentages climbing from a low of 56.5 percent in 1997.

"The good news is . . . we have good news," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed.

It's sort of hard for me to buy that we need "fresh set of eyes and fresh leadership", as Bennett spins it, when the current set of eyes and the current leadership is doing such a good job and test scores have been steadily climbing for ten straight years.

Why should Indiana fire someone that has been doing a good job for sixteen years in favor of a basketball coach (and biology teacher; everybody knows where those priorities lie in hiring teachers in Indiana) who has been a school superintendent for less than a single year?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Marriage Amendment to Advance in Senate

Hoosierpundit sources report (and Jim Shella has just confirmed) that the marriage amendment will be moving forward in the Senate.

It seems that rumors of its demise in the upper house were, to quote Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Does Money Matter?

Mitch has this interesting ability to vastly out-fundraise his opponents.

From the Courier-Journal:

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' re-election campaign started the year with $6.7 million in the bank, more than double the combined amount raised by the two candidates for the Democratic nomination.

The fundraising totals reported yesterday show Daniels raised more than $5.8 million during 2007 after starting the year with $2.6 million.

Those totals are ahead of the pace for his last campaign, when he raised nearly $18 million to defeat Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan in 2004.

Democrat Jim Schellinger, president of an Indianapolis architecture firm, reported raising $2.4 million since he got into the race in March and having $1.8 million left to start the year.

The other Democratic candidate, former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, reported raising $635,000 during 2007 after entering the race in July, with about $435,000 remaining in the bank.

Daniels campaign manager Eric Holcomb said the fundraising success showed strong support for Daniels' re-election in November.

"With Governor Daniels' record of accomplishment, diverse coalition of supporters and strong fundraising success, we are well-positioned for the election in November," Holcomb said.

Mitch has raised three and a half times as much as Schellinger, and better than two and a half times as much as both Democrats put together (and Schellinger has spent as much or more than Long Thompson has raised).

Bart Peterson, of course, can tell you all about how to squander a huge fundraising advantage, but Peterson's situation was historic and thus likely to be unique.

Fundraising doesn't matter when the differences are only a few hundred thousand dollars (only, heh), but it does matter when it's in orders of magnitude like this.

That's what's so extraordinary about Greg Ballard beating Bart Peterson.

It's extraordinary because of how extremely rare it is for someone with any significant money advantage to lose, let alone that significant of one.

Lightning doesn't strike twice.

And that also goes for 5th District Republican primary challenger John McGoff, who recently cited his fundraising imbalance with incumbent Congressman Dan Burton as a reason Burton would be beaten, all while begging for people to give his largely quiet campaign money.

Quote of the Day

“Think about that. She's running against nobody and nobody gets 40% of the vote. The other 5% of the vote went to three other people. 27,924 votes went to the guy who believes in UFOs, the guy who dropped out and the guy who last held public office somewhere around 1855.”

- Karl Rove on Hillary Clinton in Michigan

Mitt Romney Interrupts McCain's Michigan Concession Speech to Gloat

What can I say?

Those rich perfect-haired flip-flopping country clubbers from New England sure have class:

Usually, on election nights, protocol dictates that losers get to give their concession speeches, and have their say, before the winners.

But on Tuesday night, soon after Senator John McCain took the stage here and began to give his concession speech here, Mitt Romney took the stage to give his victory speech in Michigan – drawing television coverage from his rival.

Some McCain aides were taken aback that their speech was pre-empted, and said that the McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, had called the Romney campaign and told them that Mr. McCain was about to speak. “Perhaps it was an accident,” said a senior McCain adviser, “but if it wasn’t, it was classless.”

I don't like John McCain much, but this sure says a lot about Governor Romney.

Mitt Romney's campaign has been far too well-orchestrated and smoothly run for me to be able to believe that this was a mere "accident."

Shella: "A Pretty Good Speech"

Rare praise from the doyen of Indiana political reporters:

Late last year I had a speaking engagement where a member of the audience, when invited to pose a question, felt the need to make a statement. He said, “I enjoy the fact that Mitch Daniels is a businessman and not a politician.”

I responded by pointing out that most of Daniels professional life has been spent in political pursuits. He has business experience and business success in his background but, I said, “I enjoy the fact that you think he’s a businessman. That points out just how good a politician he is.”

That’s a long set up to my point that last night’s State of the State was another good example of the governor’s political skills. All the buildup promised nothing but property tax talk and indeed property tax reform was the sole major initiative presented. Yet it was wrapped in a campaign speech that devoted more time to spelling out accomplishments than solving problems.

And, here’s the kicker, it was a pretty good speech.

He Had a Dream, But...

Splash Guards

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

State of the State Live Blog

Over at Hoosier Access.

EDIT: All in all, an impressive speech despite its brevity (that being, the Bard once said, the soul of wit).

There were several notable money quotes that made their way all the way down here to the southern end of the state and into the nightly newscasts (I planned ahead and got a couple of people to check the newscasts for me while I was driving home), particularly the mention of not making spring break plans unless the tickets are refundable. That seemed to have gone over exceedingly well with those I talked to that saw the sound bytes.

State of the State addresses are not really huge deals; they have limited impact in that they get relatively limited attention and the focus upon them in the news is swiftly superseded by the daily news of the session itself.

That being said, the brevity and focus of the speech was its strength (and the noting of past accomplishments, a tune not sung enough by the Daniels administration or its campaign).

And that same brevity probably goes a long way (along with several excellent pithy "money quote" sound bytes) to ensure that the speech was about as useful and potent as a State of the State address could be.

Not much else to say right now; tired from the drive home.

Becky Skillman Offering Olive Branch to Miller & Property Tax Abolitionists?

Saw this over at Abdul's Indiana Barrister:

Although lawmakers heard testimony last week on the elimination of property taxes, Skillman says the Governor is open to the idea if lawmakers can make the numbers work.

The Lt. Governor also says there would be no short-term harm done if the General Assembly were to pass SJR-8, a Constitutional amendment that would abolish property taxes in Indiana, because it would be four to five years before the measure would go into effect if it passed as second general Assembly and the voters approved it in a statewide referendum. Skillman says the measure could always be pulled back at a later date and she also reminded Hoosiers that SJR-8 would do nothing in the near term to reduce their property taxes.

A trial balloon for a short-term alliance between the proponents of property tax reform, and the opponents of property taxes?

Given that the solution advocated by abolitionists like Eric Miller will not be realized any time soon, and will require some measure of short-term reform and legislation anyway to ease the pain on homeowners, it's entirely possible that these two groups could find themselves in an interesting (and potentially uneasy) coalition in the upcoming session.

How good does Daniels look if the General Assembly ends having passed both a constitutional amendment abolishing property taxes and some sort of shorter term property tax reform plan along the lines of the one he advocated?

More importantly, what does that do to the raison d'être of a potential Eric Miller candidacy for Governor?

The plot thickens.

Victory Bloggers

Take a moment to go over and check out the Victory Bloggers section of the new (Indiana) House Republican Campaign Committee website.

Should be a useful and interesting source of information for the coming election year.

And no, I'm not just saying that because they're featuring a recent post by me about the voter ID law (but it helped).

Brian Howey Still Wants to Have Barack Obama's Babies


Nothing quite like a political reporter that is completely, utterly, and totally infatuated with a politician.

And a politician that's well outside of the sphere of what that reporter normally covers, to boot.

Watching U.S. Sen. Barack Obama give one of the most stirring and enriching speeches of my journalistic career fresh off his stunning 8 percent victory in the Iowa caucuses, I couldn't help but think of the parallels to the last president from Illinois.

Stirring? Enriching? Stunning? Aw, somebody's smitten and got a teenage crush.

Without Abraham Lincoln, there would be no Barack Obama.

Forgive me if I say that, without Abraham Lincoln, there wouldn't be a lot of politicians in America.

When a guy, you know, saves the Union, it sort of goes without saying that he makes a lot of stuff possible for the people that come after.

He became a great president. His Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural speech resounded in biblical tones and essentially completed the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

Yes, yes. But enough about Lincoln. I know he wants to talk about how great Obama is, and hopefully make the Democrat seem glorious merely by making the comparison to perhaps the greatest American that ever lived.

We heard Obama say, "We are choosing hope over fear, unity over division. This is a defining moment in history. We are one nation, one people and our time for change has come. People who love this country can change it."

Left unsaid in this is that Obama was the only major candidate that read his victory and concession speeches on the caucus and primary nights from a teleprompter.

It's hard to sound that good in impromptu, particularly when you are throwing out phrases that are so hackneyed and shopworn and--to be blunt--focus-grouped to death.

I'm just surprised that Mitt Romney's focus groups didn't get to such phrases before Obama's did.

In late summer, the New York Times declared Sen. Hillary Clinton's inevitability. But then we began to hear Obama's deep voice. He went from an unemotional academic to a political figure that began delivering the resonance and passion needed for a nation that has spent the last seven years fighting the War on Terror and negotiating color-coded terror threats.

A culture of fear is firmly gripping America. We've seen it as we've turned away foreign college students, foreign tourists and denigrated overseas investors. Our government has flipped 180 degrees since the mid-point between Lincoln and Obama when we had a president who said, "The only thing we have to fear is ... fear itself."

Herein lies the great appeal of the Obama and Huckabee candidacies, the siren songs sung by politicians who whisper and intone the things that a public, war-weary and tired, disenchanted and disgusted, most want to hear.

"It doesn't matter anymore."

None of it matters, they say. The great issues of our day don't matter. Knowing those issues, being capable of addressing them does not matter.

Hell, even acknowledging that they exist and that such issues are important does not matter.

All that matters are the empty words of the focus groups, the words fashioned by consultants paid to determine what, more than anything else, the American people want to hear at this very moment.

These are the words that make political reporters like Brian Howey swoon.

You know the words.

You've been hearing them all throughout the campaign.


As if merely declaring an opposition to the establishment, the present situation, and everything else is alone sufficient to give a focus-group-printed ticket to the White House.


This one worked well for the Democrats last time (remember the "Hope is on the Way" placards at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004? yeah), so they'll obviously do what Democrats do, and reuse such proven material.

Of course, these words should also sound familiar.

In 2004, they wore flannel, traveled Indiana in a RV, and were supported by an army of people in green t-shirts.

Come to think of it, Howey sort of swooned then, too.

Last February, I journeyed to Springfield, Ill., to listen as Obama ignited his campaign. The day before Obama would give his introductory speech, I toured the Lincoln home. The day after, I visited his tomb. In between, I would hear Obama intone, "Blah, blah, blah."

Again, so magnificent is the figure of Abraham Lincoln, so towering is his presence over the landscape of American history that even today, almost 143 years after his passing, he can be used as verbal book-ends by doe-eyed political reporters to make anyone look good, even "community organizers" for infamously corrupt Chicago political machines.

In Iowa, voters took the anti-Washington, pro-change route, just as they had in 1860. There stood Obama and former GOP Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as victorious change agents in the Great Midwest.

The less said in this column of those other people they picked in recent times (like Tom Harkin, Dick Gephardt, and Edmund Muskie), the better, I suppose.

This all comes as we've watched the cross currents of change and fear tug at the heart of our own state. Now there is a stir in the air, a gale from the West, and a message of hope. A whirlwind is upon us.

It wouldn't be a Howey column if it didn't end in some interesting and utterly irrelevant visual metaphor.

Low Blow, or Business as Usual?

Frugal Hoosiers doesn't like that the folks at Jon Elrod's campaign were not internet savvy enough to buy up all of the website address variants of his name and the office he is seeking.

Is that a low blow by everyone's favorite communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party, or is that business as usual?

To begin with, Elrod's people should have been significantly more on the ball on this from the beginning, as doing this sort of thing is a common (if rather dirty) trick in terms of politics on the internets in this day and age.

The revolution will not be televised, and it will not be conducted by the Marquess of Queensberry rules.

Quite frankly, I would have thought that a campaign involving someone as young and savvy as Jon Elrod would have thought of it.

In the end, though, it's not the address of the campaign's website that matters, or what someone did while sitting in a dark room on Broadway getting off while running up their credit card tab.

It's what is on the website that counts.

How much do you think that the Peterson people would have paid for BartLies.com, if they had known what a thorn in the side of their campaign the content posted there was going to be?

It wasn't the name of the website that did in Bart Peterson (or even just that website by itself), but it was the content of it that was politically significant.

How much will a Democrat owning a couple of Elrod for Congress web addresses matter (particularly when they are so much more complex and longer than the campaign's actual address)?

Probably not a lick.

Dungy to Decide Future by Monday

Hold on and pray.

From the Indy Star:

The fire to remain the Indianapolis Colts’ coach burns fiercely in Tony Dungy. But so does the desire to be the best father possible to his kids.

That’s the crux of a discussion Dungy will have with his wife, Lauren, over the next few days. If they determine Dungy can effectively juggle the two tasks, he will return for a seventh season in Indy. If not, he won’t.

The clock is ticking.

“We’ll probably do a lot of praying about what we want to do,” Dungy said this afternoon. “We’ll probably come to some decision this weekend and be ready to move forward on Monday one way or the other.

“It’s really just making sure that I’m doing the best job I can do as a dad, and I do think that is my No. 1 job. And if I’m doing that, can I still do enough to be a good coach for the Colts? If I think I can, I’ll be back.”

He was addressing the local media less than 24 hours after the Colts’ attempt to repeat as Super Bowl champions ended with a 28-24 loss to San Diego in an AFC divisional playoff game. As stinging as the setback was, Dungy said it will have little if any impact on his decision.

He also made it clear he isn’t dealing with coaching “burnout’’ after completing his 27th season in the NFL, the last 12 as a head coach. He spoke of his enjoyment working in concert with Colts owner Jim Irsay and president Bill Polian, and of coaching one of the NFL’s elite franchises.

The Colts will return virtually every front-line player from a team that earned its eighth playoff berth in the past nine seasons.

“I still enjoy it very much. I love coming to work,” Dungy said. “I’m not burned out at all. If there’s any place you want to work, it’s here.”

Indy, he added, will be his final coaching stop.

“I don’t see myself stepping away and coming back,” said Dungy, the winningest coach (80-28) in franchise history. “This is going to be my last job and this is where I want to work if I work.”

Dungy, 52, met with his players today as they prepared to head into the offseason a few weeks earlier than they had expected. He told them nothing had been decided about his future. Many approached him, expressing their wish for him to return, but wishing him the best regardless.

“You’d like to think that the guys would like you to stay … and I really do want to,” Dungy said. “So we’ll see. But the guys, yeah, they’ve expressed that.”

Compare Tony Dungy, who might quit coaching to be with his family, to Bobby Petrino (the former coach at the University of Louisville and then the Atlanta Falcons), who can always be relied upon to abandon his current job (even in the middle of a season or with a bowl game looming) for a higher paycheck someplace else.

We Colts fans have been very lucky to be graced by such a fine man as Tony Dungy.

I hope he says.

Straight Talk

Generation Gap

Monday, January 14, 2008

State of State to Focus on Property Taxes

Well, duh.

Anyhow, I'm hoping to be able (with Josh Gillespie of Hoosier Access) to be able to live-blog the State of the State address on Tuesday night, hopefully from the State House (logistics and the Internets willing).

From the Courier-Journal:

Indiana lawmakers say they're looking to Gov. Mitch Daniels to sell Hoosiers on his plan for property-tax relief when he addresses the General Assembly and the public Tuesday for his fourth State of the State address.

Daniels started the sales job back in October when he gave a brief speech -- broadcast on some television stations and on the Web -- laying out a plan to raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and cut property taxes by about one-third.

Since then, legislative committees have been dissecting the proposal, and several Senate committees have passed provisions similar to those that Daniels suggested.

A highlight will be Tuesday's speech, which Daniels already has said will focus on almost nothing but property taxes.

Sen. Johnny Nugent, R-Lawrenceburg, said the governor should focus on convincing the public that his plan will "do something substantial and meaningful and permanent to reform the property-tax mess all through this state."

Then a day after the speech, Daniels will testify at a Ways and Means Committee hearing -- his first appearance before a legislative committee in his three years in office -- to answer lawmakers' questions about his plan.

"I'm looking for every opportunity to not just advocate this plan but help explain it to folks who are still looking at the details," Daniels said Friday. "I hope (the speech) is well watched and widely reported. I'll give the best speech I can."


Couple of ads to the old blogroll today.

GOP Grunt - The blog of Indiana political consultant Chris Faulkner, headlining today with a great post about efforts by Hillary Clinton's people to disenfranchise Obama voters in New Hampshire (which sure would explain a lot).

We The People - A right-of-center blog from New Albany, which has to be added if only because it has this delightful picture of Baron Hill at the recent Bush visit to New Albany (note Mike Sodrel in the background on the left).

Good reads both.

Sodrel on 2008 GOP Presidential Hopefuls

Hat tip to an HP reader for pointing out this Howey article:

Former Rep. Mike Sodrel, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Baron Hill for the 9th CD seat he lost in 2006, holds a similar view. “Every candidate has a strong suit,” Sodrel said in an HPI interview. “But (voters are) not finding everything they want in one candidate.”

Like Pence, Sodrel has not made an endorsement. “I’m still doing a lot of soul searching,” he said.

Sodrel, who founded his own bus and trucking company in New Albany, cites Romney’s business background as a strength. “He understands a balance sheet and has read a profit and loss statement,” he said.

He also salutes Huckabee’s proposal to replace the income tax with a consumption tax because it eases cost pressures on manufacturers.

“I view that as much a jobs bill as a tax bill,” Sodrel said. “It makes our products more competitive in the world market.”

Sodrel is lukewarm about McCain and rules out Giuliani.

“Giuliani would not be helpful in this district,” Sodrel said, referring to the former mayor’s liberal social views.

Sodrel anticipates a challenge for both parties given the mood of the electorate.

“It’s pretty volatile,” he said. “People are unhappy about a lot of things.” He mentions immigration, the loss of jobs due to international competition and rising taxes. “I don’t think they’re happy with either party,” he said.

Indy Star Suffers from Computer Glitch

From their website:

Due to massive computer problems, several news stories planned for Sunday's newspaper did not appear this morning. The problems, related to computer storage issues, required us to reprint some stories from Saturday's newspaper, and leave out stories we had planned to publish.

We apologize for the problems which we believe are now fixed. Local news and sports stories we had planned for Sunday's paper will be published in Monday's Star.

They should probably just blame the scruffy guy in the Mac commercials.

I would.

After all, the problems surely were not with Windows machines, right?

Baron in Antarctica?

I'm not quite sure this was Baron's Congressional delegation, but the story has the right dates and it's an interesting story nevertheless.

Baron, you might recall, was wrapping up his New Years vacation to the tropical Pacific island of Guam, Vietnam (while dodging the send-off for the Hoosier National Guard troops bound for Iraq), and Australia with a swing through beautiful New Zealand.

Baron does, I might hasten to add, sit on the Science and Technology Committee, so it's entirely possible he was involved in this visit.

From Stuff.co.nz (a New Zealand news site):

A bad Santa in Antarctica had his festive cheer cut short when he was hauled before management over allegations of "inappropriate touching" during the American base's Christmas party.

Santa had been sitting on a decorated snowmobile at McMurdo Station, posing for photographs with revellers which included New Zealanders from the neighbouring Scott Base, when complaints were made.

The bad Santa episode was one of a spate of incidents just before a delegation of high-powered US dignitaries visited Antarctica.

The group included members of the US Congress who are influential in setting the United States Antarctic Programme (USAP) budget.

Besides Santa being hauled before the human resources staff at McMurdo, there was an emergency medical evacuation to Christchurch.

A Christmas punch-up between two workers at the South Pole left one man with a broken jaw and his attacker sacked and facing possible criminal charges.

Soon after, there was believed to be Antarctica's first car chase - on Ross Island, where the longest thoroughfare is the 3km shingle road between McMurdo Station and Scott Base - after a USAP worker suspected of drink-driving in a misappropriated four-wheel-drive van was chased down by the McMurdo fire engine.

She drove past Scott Base and crossed onto the Ross Ice Shelf on a road to the ice runway, where she was intercepted by another fire engine and taken back to a meeting with her supervisor and the McMurdo Station manager.

Within a week of the incidents, a troupe of 10 members of the US Congress passed through Christchurch to McMurdo and on to the South Pole as part of a delegation representing the House Science and Technology Committee.

I was going to post lots of photos of the polar wastes, but why bother?

I'll settle for this nice photo of penguins instead.

Fun with News Aggregators, Part XIV

Another advocate for the Candidate Clearwater Revival:

In 2006, Indiana politician Baron Hill regained the seat in the House of Representatives he had lost in 2004. In 2008, Congressman Hill deserves to lose that seat again - but this time to a Democrat.

There are many reasons Baron Hill makes a lousy Representative for the 9th congressional district in Indiana. He’s got a long history of favoring the interests of corporations over the interests of working Americans, and has supported some of the most destructive policies of the Bush White House.

In 2007, just after being re-elected, thanks to the work of a lot of Democrats, Baron Hill made one move that is particularly outrageous. He voted for the ironically-entitled Protect America Act, a law that gives the federal government the right to listen to our telephone calls, read our emails, and spy on our Internet activity without any search warrant.

When Baron Hill voted for this government spying program, he didn’t just betray the Democrats who worked to re-elect him in 2006. He betrayed the Constitution of the United States of America, which states clearly that there shall be no unreasonable search and seizure by the government, and that search warrants are always required for government searches. When Baron Hill voted for unsupervised government spying, he proved that he cannot be trusted with the power of his seat in Congress.

There is an alternative for the Democrats Indiana’s 9th district: Vote Gretchen Clearwater to replace Baron Hill as the Democratic nominee to Congress in 2008.

Concocting Additional Uninformed Criticism

Rallying the Base

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Indy Rumble: Carson vs. Elrod in the 7th

The Republicans will choose the guy (Jon Elrod) that has less political experience than Barack Obama, and the Democrats will choose someone (Andre Carson) who is only running because of his last name.

Kind of upside down, isn't it?

At any rate, Jon Elrod has negligible name recognition in recent polling, and is apparently already polling neck-and-neck with Andre Carson.

That's a state of affairs unlikely to improve for Carson, particularly if Elrod holds to his past record of hard campaigning and outside groups decide to make an issue of Carson's religion (and his endorsement by Louis Farrakhan).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Voter ID Law Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy has become par for the course when it comes to attacks on Indiana's voter ID law, as Abdul has noted by the refusal of Democrats to be concerned when one of their own disenfranchised 3,100 voters in last year's primary election in Indianapolis.

Advance Indiana has read the transcript of yesterday's oral arguments, and seems to think that the law's opponents fell flat in their arguments before the Supreme Court.

I think that the exceedingly skeptical questioning of Justice Anthony Kennedy (the deciding vote in almost all of the cases from the rather divided court) toward the law's opponents should give some indication of where the highest court in the land will eventually come down.

Most amusing of all, however, when it comes to hypocrisy over the voter ID law is this story, which has been cited variously at Instapundit (heh) and Daily Pundit (bwahahahaha!).

On the eve of a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Indiana Voter ID law has become a story with a twist: One of the individuals used by opponents to the law as an example of how the law hurts older Hoosiers is registered to vote in two states.

Faye Buis-Ewing, 72, who has been telling the media she is a 50-year resident of Indiana, at one point in the past few years also claimed two states as her primary residence and received a homestead exemption on her property taxes in both states.

Monday night from her Florida home, Ewing said she and her husband Kenneth “winter in Florida and summer in Indiana.” She admitted to registering to vote in both states, but stressed that she¹s never voted in Florida. She also has a Florida driver’s license, but when she tried to use it as her photo ID in the Indiana elections in November 2006, poll workers wouldn’t accept it.

Subsequently, Ewing became a sort-of poster child for the opposition when the Indiana League of Women Voters (ILWV) told media that the problems Ewing had voting that day shows why the high court should strike it down.

But Indiana Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita said Monday that Ewing’s tale illustrates exactly why Indiana needs the law. “This shows that the Indiana ID law worked here, which also calls into question why the critics are so vehemently against this law, especially with persons like this, who may not have a legal right to vote in this election,” Rokita said.

Mrs. Ewing, the article goes on to note, registered to vote in both states (and got a driver's license from Florida, no less) in order to be able to claim homestead exemptions on her property taxes in both Indiana and in Florida.

Oh, the irony.

Oh, the hypocrisy.

Par for the course from the Indiana Democratic Party and its allies, I suppose.

Plan for Planning the Plan to Prepare the Plan

Try saying that ten times fast.

Got to love Baron's press releases (sent out while he was on vacation in sunny Guam and dodging the National Guard in Vietnam, no less).

“I am very pleased with the Federal Highway Administration’s decision to approve the financial plan for the Ohio River Bridges Project. This marks a very important step forward in beginning construction on the project on time in 2009, and making real progress on an effort that will significantly impact the lives of residents in Southern Indiana and the Louisville metro area.

I began working on this project during my previous tenure in Congress, but returned to office last year even more determined to get this project moving. By working with my colleague Congressman John Yarmuth and Mayor Jerry Ambramson, we have formed an effective coalition of those committed to see that construction begins on time in 2009. I look forward to seeing even more progress made on a project that will enhance Southern Indiana dramatically.”

If Baron Hill genuinely thinks that John Yarmuth forms an effective coalition at anything other than left wing quackery, let alone when it comes to the Ohio River bridges (Yarmuth once sat as a trustee of an organization whose objective it was to kill the bridges project), then I have a bridge that I want to sell him.

Notice how convenient it is that Baron expects construction to start after the next election.

When it comes to the Ohio River bridges, construction is always expected to start after the next election.

State Senate Committee Approves Downsizing of Township Assessors

I bet elected officials never thought they'd be on the receiving end of that happy euphemism.

From the Courier-Journal:

Township assessors' positions in Indiana would be eliminated and all assessment duties shifted to the county level under controversial legislation that a Senate committee narrowly approved yesterday.

Senate Bill 16 -- backed by Gov. Mitch Daniels -- would also give state and local officials a way to force county assessors out of office if they're not doing their jobs.

"I don't believe there is rampant incompetency" among township assessors, said Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, who voted for the bill. "But I do think the system desperately needs transparency and uniformity. I hope this is one small step to overhaul the way we do the business of local government and fund local government."

By a 5-4 vote, the Local Government Committee sent the bill to the Senate. It is part of a package that Senate Republicans are pushing to try to lower property-tax bills and keep them from rising in the future.

Indiana now has a complicated property-assessment system that relies on township and county officials -- with some state oversight -- to determine the values on which tax bills are based.

The system includes 181 township assessors, who are located in more populated areas, and 827 township trustee/assessors, which have other duties as well. Some township trustee/assessors already leave assessing duties to the elected county assessor.

SB 16 would shift all assessment duties from both types of township officials to the county on July 1. Township assessors would be allowed to serve out their terms to help with the transition, but the positions would be eliminated after that.

Advocates say that because assessing property is somewhat subjective, reducing the number of assessing officials will lead to more consistency.

"It will make quality much easier to achieve," said Sen. Gary Dillon, R-Columbia City.

Cry Me a River

Cranky Old Man

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tully: Schellinger "In Disarray"

From the Indy Star:

Jim Schellinger may become the next governor of Indiana.

Who knows?

Perhaps he'll win the May 6 Democratic primary against Jill Long Thompson, the hard-charging former congresswoman. Perhaps his war chest will be so full he'll be able to buy his way to the nomination. Perhaps his messages -- which seem to be "I've got the cash" and "I'm not Mitch Daniels" -- will carry him to Election Day.

It's too soon to tell.

But one thing is clear: Schellinger, once the perceived sure thing for the Democratic nomination, a man with all the party and fundraising connections, has run one of the more uninspired campaigns in recent memory.

Ten months after the Indianapolis businessman entered the race, it's a good bet most Hoosiers haven't heard of him. Good luck finding a Schellinger policy proposal. Other than his fund8raising success and the fact that polls suggest any Democrat would be competitive against Daniels, Schellinger's campaign has been a lackluster one.

The problems are now being exposed by a campaign shake-up. In recent weeks, Schellinger has tossed or lost his campaign manager, field director, finance director and at least two policy consultants.

"The campaign continues to grow every day," Schellinger spokeswoman Candace Martin said via e-mail about the departures, "and we are preparing for the more engaged phase of the campaign."

Is the room spinning?

There is, of course, nothing wrong with making staff changes. Many candidates have lost elections because they refused to make needed changes. But the pace of departures at the Schellinger campaign has alarmed many Democrats. After all, you rarely see heavy turnover at healthy campaigns. And you rarely see a candidate without a campaign manager four months before a primary.

Schellinger dodged my requests for an interview. But Democratic operatives close to his campaign say it has been a disorganized one.

A small advisory team assembled by Schellinger has met only once. Staffers who were selected to play key roles are out. Former campaign manager Mike Edmondson had a falling out with the candidate, party and campaign insiders said, in part because of Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker's involvement, and because Schellinger never made clear who was in charge. That left the campaign without a clear direction.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Thompson has run a more spirited campaign than Schellinger's team expected. She recently snagged several key union endorsements and has polled well. Her aides dismiss Schellinger as "the insider candidate."

Monday, Schellinger announced he'd raised $2.4 million in 2007. His team has long argued he would crush Thompson financially and boost his name ID with heavy pre-primary advertising. Many supporters, even disillusioned ones, continue to believe that strategy will carry Schellinger to the nomination.

Perhaps they're right. Schellinger has indeed proved he can raise cash. But as a candidate, he hasn't proved much else.

Granted, Tully once termed the Ballard campaign to be "a joke", but Ballard didn't have a bunch of old hands running his operation like "The Shell" has had over the past year.

Wall Street Journal Profiles 9th District Race

An interesting read:

Round Four in Indiana's Ninth

Long-Running Rivalry
Dramatizes Bitter Fight
Over Seats in Congress

January 9, 2008; Page A6

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. -- While the national spotlight is now on the presidential nominating contests, a bitter fight looms for seats in Congress -- dramatized by a long-running political rivalry complete with expensive attack ads and alleged punches thrown.

Rep. Baron Hill and around 60 other Democrats are defending districts that went to President Bush in 2004, and former Rep. Mike Sodrel joins at least three other former Republican congressmen trying to reclaim seats they lost when Democrats won back Congress in the 2006 elections.

Mr. Sodrel declared his candidacy in October, kicking off their fourth consecutive contest in Indiana's ninth congressional district -- a seat they have both won and lost. About 80 pairs of House candidates have run against each other four or more times since the First Congress in 1788, according to a review of 30,000 elections by The Wall Street Journal. Few of those long-running rivalries have been this competitive: only half have flipped between candidates, largely before the age of expensive, drawn-out campaigns. The last time that happened was in 1950.

At a recent Rotary Club dinner here, the two rivals met for the first time since the challenger declared his candidacy. They exchanged a few words and shook hands. "The sitting congressman didn't know I'd be here, and I sure as hell didn't know he'd be here either," said Mr. Sodrel, using his favorite moniker for Mr. Hill.

"Last year, there was no shaking hands," said the club's president, Marcus Edwards, describing the handshake as a "tense moment."

Afterward, both men confirmed -- separately -- that they have never shared more than a brief conversation.

Mr. Sodrel, 62 years old, dropped out of college and turned his family's trucking firm into a trio of companies with 600 employees. He has closely allied himself with President Bush, and says he is running against the "creeping socialism" he sees infecting American values.

Mr. Hill, 54, is a conservative Democrat still remembered in his home town of Seymour as a high-school track and basketball star. He ran his family's insurance and real-estate business, entered state politics in the early 1980s and was elected to Congress in 1998. He beat Mr. Sodrel in 2002, lost to him in 2004, then regained the seat in 2006.

For Mr. Sodrel, a seminal moment came in 2002, moments after his first debate, in which he called Mr. Hill a "habitual politician." As the audience and the other candidates made their way out of the auditorium, Mr. Hill came up to him to shake hands. As they clasped, Mr. Sodrel says, Mr. Hill punched him. "He gave me two left hooks to the kidney," Mr. Sodrel says. "Then he got up nose-to-nose and through gritted teeth, he said, 'You're going to regret this.' " Mr. Sodrel says he has never spoken publicly about the incident before.

Mr. Hill denies it ever occurred. "That's where things, no pun intended, started to go downhill," says Mr. Sodrel.

The two have accused each other of lying about their biographies, congressional records and even their efforts to transfer government offices and case work after their defeats. Outside groups spent $5.5 million on attack ads in the district during the 2006 election cycle.

The ninth congressional district stretches along the Ohio River in "Hoosier Hill Country," with socially conservative voters whose ties to the Democratic Party have been eroding. "You used to see 'Impeach Earl Warren' signs there well into the '90s," said Lee Hamilton, the Democrat who represented the district for 34 years. Mr. Hamilton charmed the population of the largely rural and small-town area. "The congressman is looked upon as a local official," he said. "He's not a big muckety muck from Washington."

Kevin Larrison, a childhood friend of Mr. Hill who once ran for sheriff on the Republican ticket, said he has let both candidates hold events at his family's restaurant in Seymour. One time, both scheduled rallies on the same day -- much to Mr. Larrison's regret.

Source: Indiana Secretary of State"I thought they were going to have a riot," Mr. Larrison says. "I was like gosh, all these old folks -- I mean they didn't knock each other, but it was a lot of arguing."

In his campaign, Mr. Sodrel emphasizes free markets. "The government today has got their nose stuck in every facet of your life," he says. Mr. Sodrel once started a bus service called the Free Enterprise System and refused public subsidies, though he eventually sold it to the taxpayer-funded transit authority.

Evidence of Mr. Hill's competitive zeal is still on display in Seymour at the high school's athletic record board, where he is still listed as the top all-time scorer. As he watched a recent basketball game, Mr. Hill recounted his junior year when their team went undefeated until an upset in the postseason. "It was a big disappointment," he says, "makes me shudder every time I think about it."

As the crowd filed out and a custodian revved up a leaf blower to remove popcorn and discarded programs from the bleachers, Mary Dugan, 62, paused to talk about her politics, deeply shaped by her pro-life views and her work at the town's pregnancy-care center. Mrs. Dugan said she voted for Mr. Hill in 2002, switched to Mr. Sodrel in 2004 over concern about Mr. Hill's votes on abortion, and then switched back to Mr. Hill last year out of a familial allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Her explanation points to another close fight. "I felt like with Baron Hill, he didn't do a lot of the things he said he was going to," Mrs. Dugan said, "but then neither did the other guy, so now what am I going to do?

"My dad would roll over in his grave if he knew I'd switched back and forth so much, but you know I had to do it, Daddy. It's just not the same party anymore."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Wish You Were Here... (Since Taxpayers Paid for It Anyway) Baron Visits Australia

The Sydney Opera House
Yes, folks, Baron Hill has been a busy man.

While Congress has not been in session, the 9th District's Congressman has enjoyed a glorious vacation at taxpayer expense.

Hoosierpundit sources have confirmed that Baron took his wife Betty along.

This was no working trip, no working vacation, but instead a junket for two.

Diving the Great Barrier ReefAnd, get this, I have been informed by a staffer in contact with someone on the trip that Betty Hill, Baron's wife, has been seen during the trip sporting a Barack Obama for President t-shirt.

Don't tell Birch's boy.

Oh, how nice it must be to jet around the Pacific Ocean on the tab of the American taxpayer while your wife wears a political campaign t-shirt.

So not only is Baron on a holiday junket with his wife funded by taxpayer dollars, but she is basically involved in political activity while along for the ride.

Manly Beach in Australia
Baron's wife is using the trip as an excuse to voice support abroad for a candidate for president (nevermind Democrat or Republican; politics is supposed to stop at the water's edge, after all).

Her husband, of course, technically has yet to endorse any candidate.

Heck, he hasn't even said yet that he's running again himself.

Anyway, first came the sunny tropical Pacific island of Guam.

KangarooBaron, you might recall, decided that his vacation was more important than seeing off Indiana's National Guard deployment to Iraq, the largest such deployment since WW2.

Baron followed his trip to Guam, and his hiding from the troops he voted to send off to war (and now refuses to support), with a trip to Vietnam.

There's something just surreal about running away from soldiers you voted to send to Iraq by running off to Vietnam to hide, but I digress.

The next stop on Baron's trip, his taxpayer-funded vacation, was Australia.

From News.com.au:

KoalaPRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has taken a break from his summer holidays to meet two of the United States' most powerful parliamentary leaders today.

Mr Rudd met the 13-member US Congressional Leaders delegation at his Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, this evening.

There was expected to be a host of issues on the agenda during their meeting, including the US-Australian alliance and security issues such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The meeting will further emphasise the smooth transition in relations between Australia and the United States since the election of the Rudd Labor Government in November.

The bipartisan delegation, on a three-day trip to Australia, is made up of eight Democrats and five Republicans, and is led by US House of Representatives Majority Leader Congressman Steny Hoyer, from Maryland.

He is the second most senior Democrat in Congress after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The delegation, which has been to Vietnam and will also visit New Zealand, is made up of members of a number of powerful House committees, including agriculture and energy, armed services, ways and means, homeland security, judiciary and appropriations.

It will be the first opportunity for some of the most senior members of Congress - America's equivalent of Australia's federal parliament - to meet the new Rudd Government.

"They are coming to discuss trade, climate change, general relations between the US and Australia ... specifically here in Australia they wanted to meet the new Prime Minister," a US embassy spokeswoman said.

I like how the Australian Prime Minister will cut his vacation short to see a Congressional delegation, but Baron goes on vacation to visit Australia.

Can you say irony?

And they're going on from here to New Zealand!

Watson's Bay, Australia