Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Colin Kaepernick Can Play on My Team

Colin Kaepernick may or may not be a San Francisco 49er by the time you read this.  There's some talk that he's not going to make the opening game roster.

On one hand, his numbers just haven't been that great, and the 49ers have settled on a new starting quarterback in Blaine Gabbert.  Kaepernick is expensive, and football folks are wondering if he has lost his ability to play after injuries have mounted.  It's a stunning fall for Kap who twice started in a Super Bowl.

It's also been a stunning fall for the San Francisco 49ers, a team that has fallen fast from the NFL elites.

Putting all of that aside, I'm sure that you might have heard about Colin Kaepernick's protest right now.

The quarterback refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner and the display of the American Flag prior to the 49ers-Packers preseason game in Santa Clara last week.

It was something that we have not seen in professional sports since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf decided to take a stand in the early 1990's.  Like Kaepernick, Abdul-Rauf cited the long history of the oppression of minorities by the United States as a justification for his action.  Unlike Kaepernick, the NBA stood against Abdul-Rauf and suspended him for a game.

Colin Kaepernick
Photo from the NFL
When he returned, Abdul-Rauf would stand for the National Anthem, but he would silently pray with his eyes closed.  Back then, I supported the NBA's action.  I was wrong.  I apologize to Abdul-Rauf.

Why was I wrong?

When you read the founding documents of this country, there's nothing in them that forces anyone to stand for a song or support a piece of cloth.  On the contrary, there's a whole amendment in the Bill of Rights that supports someone's right to, without the government's intervention, to stand or sit in protest.

Despite what you think about Kaepernick or Abdul-Rauf, they were both well within their rights to protest a cause that they firmly believe enough in to take the kind of hate they were about to receive.  Abdul-Rauf's home in Gulfport, Mississippi was burned to the ground after threats were made in 2001.  A quick search on Twitter of Kaepernick's name proves the very thing he's protesting.  As Motormouth Maybelle says in Hairspray, "brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid."

I believe that black lives matter, but I also believe in this imperfect thing we call our country.  I make the choice to stand and honor the flag and my country when I hear the Star Spangled Banner.  I make the choice to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  Those are my First Amendment choices, and they are no better than yours or Colin Kaepernick or Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's in the eyes of our Constitution.  I can agree with Kaepernick's cause but disagree with his methods and still defend his right to protest,  As WTHR's Bob Kravitz wrote in his column on this issue, "I don't agree with Kaepernick, but I can certainly understand his point of view to the extent it's possible for any white person to understand."

At the end of the day, who knows what's going to happen to Kaepernick's career.  If he does get released, I think you can predict that no team will go near him.  They'll justify it in football terms, and they will be right.  In a greater sense, the NFL doesn't like controversy.  That will be the REAL reason no one will really take a flier on Colin.

The irony of all of this is that the NFL has developed a real problem with minority ownership and minority team management in the league. After a promising few years where the Rooney Rule seemed to work, the NFL is slipping back in 2016.

For his part, even with all the backlash against him, Kaepernick has shown no desire to put the toothpaste back in the tube on this issue, and I respect him for that.  He knows this could cost him his career, and he's ready to go down with this fight.  In this day and age when we can barely get sports figures to say it gets dark at night, it's refreshing to see someone have the character to put it all on the line for what he believes in.

For that reason, regardless of whether or not I agree with his methods, Colin Kaepernick can play on my team any day.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pence Hate Misplaced on This One

Mike Pence
Mike Pence just is not liked by Democrats.

No shock, right?

I don't particularly like his politics, but I hope I've never given the impression here that I hate the man because that's not true.  I know Pence is a husband, a father, and a human being.  When he decided to run for office, it was probably for the right reasons...just on the wrong grounds.  In fact, he's so wrong on the issues that he would never be right as Vice President.

Earlier this week, I criticized Governor Pence for choosing to visit Baton Rouge instead of South Bend to attend to the needs of flood victims.  News reports say that Pence applied today for federal disaster relief for the flooding that happened on August 15.

On Wednesday, tornadoes devastated parts of Indiana.  An EF3 twister destroyed or damaged several businesses and scores of homes in Kokomo and another touched down in parts of Montgomery County.  As cleanup began, Pence visited Kokomo bringing the national media with him to shake hands, give hugs, survey the damage, and offer help.

At its core, this is what any governor should be expected to do.  It's what Pence didn't do in South Bend, but he made it right in Kokomo.  I would expect John Gregg to do the same thing after he's Governor of Indiana in January.

Unfortunately, many fellow Democrats and Pence opponents seem to forget that this really is the job of the Governor of Indiana.  The fact that he's dragging extra people with him is not necessarily a bad thing.  Those extra folks are the national media bringing attention to the devastation in Kokomo.

Regardless, I'm not going to rip Mike Pence for doing exactly what I criticized him for not doing earlier this week.  I have to be intellectually honest.

Also, I just want to take a moment and underline that even had Pence decided to not visit Kokomo, the city is unbelievable hands with the very capable Greg Goodnight at the helm.

If you want to help the disaster victims across Indiana, visit www.redcross.org.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Storms Spawn Rare August Tornado Outbreak

Every once in a while, we're reminded just exactly where we are in this world.

We're reminded that, if it wants to, that this world will step on us and wipe us off its shoe as it continues down the street.  We are just visiting on this planet, and Earth lets us know every once in a while.

Yesterday was one of those days.  Out of a forecast that included just a marginal risk of severe weather, a rare tornado outbreak took over the news cycle and didn't let up for about seven hours spreading true fear and wonder across parts of Indiana.

Striking as many schools let out, the storms forced delayed or aborted dismissals for schools as students crowded off buses and back into hallways sometimes more than once.  Reports of tornadoes on the ground in the City of Indianapolis sent chills down residents spines as they scurried for cover.

The true hard hit of the day went to Kokomo where an apparent devastating tornado directly hit Greg Goodnight's city.  When it was done, homes and businesses lay in rubble.  Then several more tornado threats raked the area all night across not only the Kokomo area but also from Lafayette to Peru to Muncie to Rushville to Richmond and other communities across our state.

In all, thanks to prevention and maybe simply luck, there were only minor injuries and no fatalities.  We thank our cliched lucky stars for that.

While many Hoosiers escaped unharmed, they are cleaning up now as their lives have been strewn across the Indiana landscape.  It's with them that our hearts and best thoughts should be.

As I've said before, to help victims of disaster, visit www.redcross.org.  My best wishes go out to everyone adversely affected by yesterday's storms.  We are reminded, again, by mother nature that we are pretty much just guests here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Early Preview of 2018's Senate Fight

After the craziness of the 2016 election is settled in November, 2017, a year with no elections will be a welcome respite from the wackiness.
Senator Joe Donnelly

Still, as soon as the ink is dry on the 2016 results, the 2018 election season will start, and it will be here before we know it.

On the top of the ticket will be Joe Donnelly’s fight to keep his United States Senate seat. One has to figure that he will be one of the Democrats they go after.

Truthfully, Donnelly hasn’t done much wrong or put a bad foot forward. He’s kept his nose down and has done his work. It’s exactly what you expect from a guy like Joe. There’s very little pretense with him, and he’s extremely approachable.

In 2018, the Republican frontrunner for the nomination will be anyone's guess.  It will just be a big and nasty battle.  We’ll get a pretty clear view of who thinks they can beat Donnelly early on. If certain people with big names stay out, then you’ll know that Donnelly is on solid ground.

My thought is that you'll see Susan Brooks, Todd Rokita, Todd Young (if he loses to Evan Bayh) and other Republicans in the 2018 race.  Lots at stake for Brooks and Rokita though.  As sitting representatives, they would have to give up their safe Republican seats.

It's going to be interesting to see how this develops over the next two years, and it's never too early to look ahead and speculate.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hogsett Putting Own Stamp on Mayor's Office

Joe Hogsett Participates in the Polar Pedal in January
Photo from Facebook
Let me first say that this blog post is long overdue.

While it's too early to say what kind of Mayor Joe Hogsett will ultimately be and will ultimately accomplish, eight months is enough time to realize that the days of Greg Ballard are long gone.  There's definitely a new Mayor in town.

Now, this isn't meant necessarily as a slight to Ballard.  Greg Ballard had his way of being Mayor of Indianapolis, and it was without question different from his predecessors.

In the history of UniGov, Ballard stands out. No man before Ballard had upset his way to winning the Mayor's Office.  Prior to Ballard, it had always been a neat and nice hand over of authority.  The incumbent had never lost to a challenger, and the political climate that carried Ballard to victory was entirely new.

It was in that atmosphere that Greg Ballard became Mayor of Indianapolis.  Once he got there, Ballard showed little resemblance to the man the voters thought they elected.  Promises of spending cuts, holding the line on taxes and fees and more police officers went by the wayside, and transparency went out the window.  

Despite a Public Safety Department that was supposedly engaged with public safety as "Job One" of his administration, Ballard saw any significant progress on crime largely eroded by the time he left, and then there's the city's financial woes.

Fiscally, Ballard left a city budget deep in debt with no means to fix itself because any assets had been sold to make a quick buck and to pay for pet projects like a World Sports Park few asked for and  a devotion to the sport of cricket.

It was a sticky wicket.

While there are still disappointing headlines of crime and far too many people using firearms to settle their differences, you get the feeling that Joe Hogsett is out here with us rather than on the 25th Floor looking down on us. That perception was something Greg Ballard, despite many successes and Mayors Nights Out, could never shake. It was the idea that he was aloof and not interested in working hard on the details. Sometimes you got the feeling you were talking to a man who would rather not be listening to you or someone who just refused to give you the opportunity to be heard.

That’s just not the feeling you get from “Mayor Joe”.

It’s been almost eight months since Hogsett took office, and the atmosphere of the City-County Building is much different.  In fact, what a difference there is at the City-County Building these days. If you don't believe me, just talk to any elected official.

Normally, you'd expect Democrats like me to be singing Hogsett's praises, but some of the best comments I've heard about Joe have come from members of either party when comparing the new Mayor of Indianapolis to the one that just left office.  

The days of the Mayor's Office being the guiding light of the city continue, but Hogsett’s door seems to be open.  The ideas can come from either side of the aisle. 

One City-County Councillor of the Republican persuasion told me that he/she has met with the Mayor more during the Hogsett Administration's eight months than during Ballard’s entire eight years in office.  A Democrat elected to a county-wide executive office said that Hogsett treats his/her office as an equal rather than an underling. “It was the first time we ever were asked about anything with the budget since I’ve been in office,” said the official.  Another Republican was impressed that Hogsett reached out first instead of it being the other way around.

This is from a guy that got over 60 percent of the vote.

The work of governing the city has long begun for Hogsett, and there are the occasional individuals with complaints.  Some neighborhood groups tell me feel ignored by the Hogsett Administration and that certain aspects of the transition could have gone better. It's criticism I know Hogsett will take to heart.

Mayor Joe has a tremendous number of accomplishments he can tout.  From improving transparency in government to backing out of bad deals to continuing the war on abandoned homes to lighting the streets with street lights to continuing to push education initiatives such as Pre-K education to just being there for those adversely affected when Carrier announced its plans to pull out of our city, Hogsett has done a tremendous job.

One of his toughest jobs has been to whip up a tasty and appetizing budget in an atmosphere that simply isn't conducive to that sort of feat.  The rubber has met the road now as the Mayor has begun the process of working with the City-County Council in implementing his first budget.

The budget, as written, would cut spending without significant staffing cuts or cuts to public safety. There are also no tax increases in the budget which, according to the Hogsett Administration, would cut the city’s structural budget deficit in half. In essence, the budget focuses on making city government leaner and meaner.  For his part, the Mayor calls it focusing on efficiencies in a budget that spends less money than it did previously.

There’s still a long way to go, and Indianapolis is a long way from perfect. Many challenges are left to climb and tackle, and Hogsett would be the first to admit it. Still, the early returns in his first 230 some days on the job show that Hogsett is as skilled as they come as Mayor and that Indianapolis made the correct choice in November.

Mayor Joe is off and running.  Try to keep up.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pence: "No Plans" to Visit Flood-Ravaged South Bend

Mike Pence
The flooding in Baton Rouge has become particularly horrific and, given the unrest that city has experienced in the past year, the pictures of people wading through water to save their neighbors have been particularly harrowing.

It's also become a political lightning rod.  Thanks to Donald Trump.

As far as anyone can tell, Trump took the initiative to head to Louisiana on his own along with Indiana Governor Mike Pence to hand out supplies and meet with victims of the flooding.  It's his right to do so.

Turns out Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards had specifically requested that President Barack Obama hold off before visiting the flooded state.  Hillary Clinton also honored the request.  When Trump barged in, it forced the entire situation into the political realm.  Some on the right were also attempting to draw parallels between Obama's response to the flooding and George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina flooding in New Orleans.  The two don't quite match up as FEMA and the feds have been responding to the Baton Rouge situation from the start.

Were the optics bad for President Obama?  You could argue that.  I tend not to parse the President's daily schedule or activities given the stress of the position.  It's one of the main reasons you really haven't seen much criticism of President Bush and his vacations over time.  As evidenced by the past, the President is in a situation to respond to any circumstance that arrives no matter where he or she may be.  If World War III breaks out while Obama is putting on the 17th hole, he is instantly able to connect with the government via one of those people in his entourage.

Here in good ole Indiana, we have an honest to goodness flooding situation to deal with as well.

The City of South Bend is certainly well-led by Pete Buttigieg, but the residents of South Bend won't be seeing their Governor like the people of Baton Rouge did.  Apparently, according to WRTV, Governor Pence has no plans to visit South Bend and tour the flooded areas.  Now, I'm sure he'll be signing a disaster declaration if he hasn't already, but I'm sure those folks would love to see their Governor to know their state government cares about them.  Baton Rouge has been hit harder, but South Bend is part of the state Pence calls home.

If you want to help victims of natural disasters, you can always contact he Red Cross.  Find out how you can help at the American Red Cross's website at www.redcross.org.

UPDATE
My friend Abdul-Hakim Shabazz pointed me to this Tweet exchange.  Take it for what it's worth.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Not Ready To Make Nice...

We all go through times when we feel like we should be quiet and back down.

Then, we get mad.



The Dixie Chicks always inspire me.  I'm definitely not ready to make nice.

In that vein, stay tuned to Indiana Talks because the JohnnyStir Show will return soon...better than ever.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Turvey in 6th District Race

Rich Turvey
I need to issue a rare apology to a candidate for office.

Rich Turvey, a veteran, father and pancreatic cancer survivor, is in the race for Congress as the Libertarian nominee in the 6th Congressional District running against Luke Messer and Barry Welch.

Turvey was nominated by the Libertarians at their convention earlier this year.  It certainly was never my intention to leave any candidate out, and I apologize to Mr. Turvey for omitting a mention of his candidacy in my blog post on Wednesday.

Good luck to Mr. Turvey in his run.