Thursday, April 13, 2017

Democrats Can't Afford to Lose Donnelly in 2018

Joe Donnelly
Senator Luke Messer.

Senator Curtis Hill.

Senator Todd Rokita.

Chill down your spine, yet, Democrats?

I don't understand why some people on my side of the political aisle can't see why a conservative Democrat is better for Indiana than a conservative Republican. Furthermore, I can't see why some on my side of the aisle are ready to turn the table over just because they don't like the way Joe Donnelly sometimes sets out the place settings.

Much of the latest ire from some folks in my party against Donnelly comes from the decision to vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice.  I'm almost certain that once Chuck Shumer had his 41 votes to force Mitch McConnell into the nuclear option on Gorsuch that Democrats like Donnelly in tough reelection fights for 2018 were free to vote up on Gorsuch.  It takes a line of attack off the table.

You can be mad because you think Donnelly isn't liberal enough, and I have shared my frustrations about him here before.  The strategy of not voting for Donnelly or leaving your ballot blank simply is a full or half vote for one of the three Republicans I mentioned at the start of the post.  Granted, there could be someone else other than those candidates that break out on the Republican side, but I think that those three seem to be the most likely candidates.

Messer reportedly is placing himself in a better position for a run.  While Messer seems at first glance to have a good legislative head on his shoulders, he was "excited" for Donald Trump's agenda, and he was considered for a spot in the Trump cabinet.  Rokita allegedly wants to move down the hall to the Senate so he can take his great ideas like eliminating union representation and grievances for federal employees and taking food out of the bellies of some of our school children to the upper legislative body.  Curtis Hill is putting himself in front of every camera he can find even if he has to dress up like Elvis to do it.  He's raising his profile as Attorney General for some reason.

Any of the three would take Donnelly's Senate seat, Richard Lugar's old Senate seat, in an entirely different direction.

Here's my inconvenient truth.  In Donnelly's position, I would have done the exact same thing on Neil Gorsuch, but I get why some others wouldn't.  I'm just not ready to let a Republican from Indiana vote on another Supreme Court nominee...especially one that might replace a more liberal vote on the high court.

If you don't like Joe Donnelly, that's fine. Seek him out and talk to him.  He's plenty accessible. Also, realize that the most important vote he'll cast in the Senate for you is that vote for majority leader.  If he's not there and it's Rokita or Hill or Messer, will they have hardly ANY of your positions in mind when they vote to keep Mitch McConnell as majority leader?  

Dems can't mess around and lose Joe Donnelly's seat in 2018. We just can't afford to do it.  Hopefully, Democrats across the state will figure that out and solidfy that base vote.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holcomb Should Halt General Assembly Assault on Government Transparency

Governor Eric Holcomb
Governor Eric Holcomb has a chance to send a statement to the Indiana General Assembly on behalf of the Hoosier people, and, if they listen, he just might save them from themselves.

If you've been following this legislative session, the state's alcoholic beverage laws and how to pay for infrastructure repairs have dominated much of the talk, but, as the bills start to hit Governor Holcomb's desk, there's one piece of legislation that isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

The Indiana House and Senate passed House Bill 1523. The bill would give Indiana's many layers of government the freedom to charge taxpayers, the media, or anyone wanting public records up to $20 an hour if the search requires more than two hours of research.  That can get quite expensive, and it can create a chilling effect especially for those who can't afford it.

Reporter Kaitlin Lange of the Evansville Courier-Press reports that Holcomb has several options.  Like his predecessor, Mike Pence, he can veto the measure.  Pence vetoed a similar bill when he was Governor.  He can sign the bill, or he can allow the bill to pass into law without his signature.

The last option would be a cowardly way out, but it would give the Governor an out by saying that he didn't agree with the legislation and wouldn't sign it. By signing the bill, he would put himself in a position that could give Democrats an attack position in 2020 when and if he decides to run for reelection.

His best option would be to do what Pence did and veto the bill.  The General Assembly would need just a bare majority to overturn his veto, but Holcomb would be on the record as standing with the Hoosier people against this ridiculous bill that would be a strike against government transparency.

He certainly hasn't done everything I've wished him to do, but Holcomb has been a much-needed advocate for Hoosier common sense so far in the Governor's Office.  This bill seems like another opportunity for Holcomb to stand up and be counted and show his independence from the legislative branch.

Perhaps by telling the General Assembly to take a hike on this price hike, he'll wake them up a little.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

In Memoriam: Don Rickles (1926-2017)

Don Rickles
Growing up, I was a weird kid.

It's true.  I was just strange.

As I look back, I can't explain why I did some of the things I did as I grew up.  I just did them.

One thing I still have problems with is sleeping.  For my entire life, I've been a night owl.  I would often stay up until one or two a.m. watching television.  Late night television was my constant companion.

My parents allowed me to watch TV or listen to the radio because when they tried to make me stop, I would invent ways to bother them.  The kicker came one night when I claimed to have "thrown up" in bed.  Mom said she went in to my room, and there was a simple puddle of spit in the bed.  Eventually, we made a deal.  If I didn't bother them at night, they would let me watch TV silently in my room.

So, Johnny Carson became my best friend at night.  When I'd watch Johnny, I'd get through a couple of guests and find myself dozing off.  Before you knew it, the TV would still be on, and I'd be sound asleep.

Today, I lost another great friend.

Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles, passed at the age of 90.  I can remember being exposed to Rickles and his unique brand of humor through his many appearances on the Tonight Show. He and Carson had a rapport that few have been able to match in show business.  They knew each other so well that any appearance on the Tonight Show became a sort of dance of comedy between two kings of it.

Rickles, of course, had along career on his own spanning over 60 years in the business.  He outlived almost every one of his contemporaries in comedy and was a link between the past and the present in comedy.

He had a challenging brand of humor.  He claimed to never write jokes but would often play off the audience or the situation.  He was great at improvising and you can go back and watch some of his mastery of that stream of consciousness kind of humor on YouTube.  I've spent hours laughing at Don and his Tonight Show appearances as well as other appearances on other talk shows.

If you watch Rickles enough, you get a deep sense of the man he was.  A man with a sharp wit and cutting tongue, but a soft heart and bright smile.  Rickles almost always would thank the audience or the host from his heart at some point...before sticking in the knife with a good and winking one liner.  Rickles could be making fun of you, but he laughed with you and not at you.

I feel like I've lost a friend.  Goodbye Mr. Warmth, and thanks for the laughs.

Angie's List Helping to Enable O'Reilly's Bad Behavior

Bill O'Reilly
If he worked for anyplace other than Fox News, Bill O'Reilly would be out of a job today.  That's my opinion.

In fact, "Bill O" as Keith Olbermann used to call him on his old show Countdown should have been gone long ago from the airwaves on the Fox News Channel, but it's a true "good ole boys" kind of place over there which marginalizes women newscasters and celebrates misogynistic behavior.  A smug, arrogant serial harrasser like O'Reilly appears to be must be seen as an asset by the folks at Fox.

Our "locker room talk" President has come out and defended O'Reilly, and that shouldn't surprise anybody.  Donald Trump's presidential campaign was knocked off track for about a month by his own crude comments toward women recorded by Access Hollywood microphones.  Trump is an enabler because he knows that people like O'Reilly buy him cover.

The fact of the matter is that Fox News should do what the parent company finally did to the old head of the network.  When it became clear that Roger Ailes harrassed multiple women in a sexual manner, he was forced out.  The same should happen to O'Reilly.

Of course, that would leave the Fox News Channel without one of its marquee stars.  The O'Reilly Factor is still a ratings juggernaut that brings in revenue and viewers for Fox News.  That said, the advertisers are starting to pull back from O'Reilly in recent weeks.  We've seen several companies say they don't want to be in the Bill O'Reilly business.

Indianapolis-based Angie's List is sticking beside O'Reilly.  That's sad, and it shows a lack of vision, in my opinion, by the company. It's these advertisers who are sticking in with O'Reilly that are helping to enable his bad behavior.  Apparently, Angie's List doesn't feel that supporting O'Reilly's show with money will have an effect on how the company, which has received taxpayer dollars over the years, is perceived.  Well, I hope the City-County Council, Mayor Joe Hogsett and others are paying attention the next time Angie's List comes for a tax-money handout.  I don't want my money to go to a company that supports a guy like Bill O'Reilly.  It should be noted that Eli Lilly pulled its ads from O'Reilly's show, according to the Indianapolis Star.

O'Reilly probably will survive this latest scandal.  Rush Limbaugh emerged from his scandal after he said awful things about Sandra Fluke.  His show was notably weaker out the other side, but Limbaugh just re-upped for a chunk of cash with his distributor.  O'Reilly may survive, but he'll come out the other side weakened.

I guess as long as Fox News feels like it can pay out settlements to excuse O'Reilly's serial harrassing behavior then they'll tolerate his antics.  Since Fox News seems unwilling to take the steps to remove and replace Bill O'Reilly, it's up to advertisers and viewers to ultimately decide whether they'll be so supportive.

UPDATE:
Angie's List has pulled its ads from O'Reilly.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Donnelly Chooses to Confirm Gorsuch

Joe Donnelly
Senator Joe Donnelly announced on Sunday that he's supporting the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. It touched off a firestorm of praise and criticism from Indiana politicos.

Let's begin with the decision.  Donnelly, as a moderate, is often looked to in the Senate as a swing vote.  Sometimes he sides with Republicans.  Many times he sides with compromise.  That draws the ire of the progressive wing of Indiana Democrats who wish that he would fall more in line with liberal leanings.

That's just not Joe Donnelly.  It never has been, and it never will.  Joe Donnelly is going to make you mad if you're a progressive, and he's going to surprise you, too. In this case, he's casting his vote with lots in mind.

First of all, there's 2018 to worry about.  It will be a midterm election, and Donnelly is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senators.  The vote to confirm Gorsuch takes an entire attack angle off the table for the Indiana Republican Party.  The GOP can't beat him over the head with this vote like the NRA is trying to do with his gun control votes even though he voted for not only the Democratic gun control measures, but the Republican-supported ones too.

Secondly, there's a good chance that even with Donnelly's vote that Mitch McConnell won't have the 60 votes necessary for cloture and thus the Democrats will successfully have filibustered Gorsuch's confirmation.  The only way to confirm him is for McConnell to overturn the filibuster and use the so-called "nuclear option" and take a simple majority for Gorsuch to be confirmed.  Either way, it looks bad for the Republicans and McConnell.

Finally, Donnelly is standing up for the old rules of the Senate.  Before we reached this hyperpartisan era in politics, things used to be more collegial.  The President would nominate someone to a position that he believes is qualified.  It's up to the Senate to advise and consent to that nomination.  If someone is not qualified, the Senate is fully justified to vote down the nomination.  If, however, like Gorsuch, someone is qualified for the job, then the Senate votes to consent to the nomination even if there are philosophical differences.  This is how a judge like Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed, 96-3.

I know that many liberals get upset when I point out the alternative to Donnelly in 2018 likely will be a Republican who is diametrically opposed to many of the things liberals support.  That always must be remembered.  Donnelly's balancing precariously right now.  He's going to need every vote he can get.

That's the choice liberals will have to make: voting on principle vs. quite probably losing the Senate seat.  I'm just being real.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Different Kind of Bathroom Bill Advances in General Assembly

Just when you thought things couldn't get any weirder at the Statehouse, you find another bill that somehow wiggled through the cracks.  This bathroom bill definitely will make you shake your head.

A deep reading of a bill moving through the Indiana General Assembly unbelievably contains a major provision that will make it the law as of July 1 that you must buy something at a Hoosier business first to be able to use that establishment's restroom facilities.

House Bill 1212 sponsored by Representative Perry Ellsroth (R-Stone Head) would make it a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine or six months in jail to use the bathroom at any Indiana business without buying something first.

"I don't forsee people calling the police over this, but business owners are tired of seeing customers have to wait while people use the facilities in their businesses without purchasing anything.  This is espescially true in communities situated along interstates," said Ellsroth.

Ellsroth said his bill does not establish a limit on how much you have to spend, but he expects the bill to help the state make more in sales tax even if the bill is just a few cents.  "Every little bit helps,"

Enforcement will be an issue, but Ellsroth says that any business that allows someone to use its bathroom for free needs only to post a sign on the door saying that the restrooms are free for public use, "We thought that was a simple fix for those businesses that did not want to participate."

In 2015, Ellsroth raised eyebrows when he sponsored a bill to change Indiana's bird from the cardinal to the American bald eagle.  That measure failed when people realized that there is no Perry Ellsroth from Stone Head in the Indiana General Assembly and then realized it was April Fool's Day.  As always, I remind you to be on guard when reading things on the internet today.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Future Caucus Promotes Cooperation, Bi-Partisanship in State Government

A group of 14 Indiana lawmakers held a news conference yesterday in Indianapolis, and their message was extremely important.

Bi-partisanship, reaching across the aisle, and working together is something that should happen in government and that should start asap.  Indiana's "Future Caucus" is a group of 14 milennial Indiana lawmakers (seven from each party) dedicated to trying to find common ground and work together.

The news conference on the Statehouse lawn yesterday included ideological opposites Democrat Dan Forestal and Republican Timothy Wesco as well as other lawmakers.  If Wesco and Forestal can find common ground, there is hope for us all.

As representatives of the caucus and the Millenial Action Project said at the news conference, it's critical to show millenials that even opposites agree on many things.  It's also important to reach out and involve young people in the political process.

I know from talking to young people on a near daily basis that many want to be involved, but they have no idea what the "on ramp" is to get involved or don't understand why there is so much rancor an gridlock in politics.  Frankly, I have trouble sometimes with that.  I certainly wish things were much more collegial on both sides of the aisle.

I wish he future caucus the best as it hopefully grows from 14 to maybe 150 someday in Indiana.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Indiana Congressional Caucus Splits on Internet Privacy, Trump Tax Return Issues

All of the Republican members of the Indiana U.S. House delegation voted to rollback Obama-era privacy rules and to allow your internet service provider to sell your web search data to advertisers.

Democrats AndrĂ© Carson and Pete Visclosky voted to protect your privacy.  The Republican delegation of Jackie Walorski, Jim Banks, Todd Rokita, Susan Brooks, Luke Messer, Larry Bucschon, and Trey Hollingsworth voted in favor of violating your privacy and selling that data without your consent.

Sickening isn't it?

This came on a day when many of these same representatives (all but Messer who didn't vote) voted to keep President Trump's tax returns private even as questions about his ties to overseas governments continue to mount.  Carson and Visclosky voted to have the Trump tax returns released to Congress.

So, as you surf the net, you can thank your Republicans in the U.S. House for less privacy and for allowing your ISP to sell your data.