Saturday, November 22, 2014

Star Missing Larger Point in Cartoon Controversy?

When Gary Varvel drew and the Indianapolis Star posted a cartoon criticizing President Barack Obama's immigration executive order, it was less than surprising.

The content of the cartoon, however, was.

Varvel's cartoon shows an apparently multigenerational family gathered around a Thanksgiving table. In the window, a girl or young woman is crawling in as well as a man (originally with a mustache...then without one in later iterations). In the background, another woman is peeking into the window. In the bubble, the man standing at the table holding the turkey says, "Thanks to the President's immigration order, we'll be having some extra guests this Thanksgiving."

Many have called the cartoon racist, and it's hard to argue against it.  The family seemingly-gleefully coming through the window does appear to be depicted as different than the family sitting around the table.

At its worst, it's a racist cartoon.  At best, it's in poor taste and extremely shortsighted.  I'll let you make up your own mind.

The Star has since pulled the cartoon down and admitted that it "erred" in publishing the cartoon.  It did not, however, apologize to those offended by the cartoon.

Varvel attempted, by his cartoon, to reduce the very complicated issue of immigration in this country to simple fearmongering, in my opinion.  The problem is much different than depicted.

First of all, immigrants of all types are in this country undocumented.  They are from all corners of the globe and not just from across the Rio Grande.  In fact, one of the most vocal undocumented immigrant activists, Juan Antonio Vargas, is undocumented himself, and he's from the Philippines.

Secondly, these immigrants don't want to climb into our homes on Thanksgiving dinner.  They want the same things that our families want.  They want a safe, secure place to raise a family.  They want to be able to send their kids to good schools and off to college.  They want to work in safe environments and pay taxes (as much as we all do).  They want their own turkey dinner!  They don't want yours.  They want to live in this country just like their American counterparts and come out of the shadows.

Unfortunately, many people are not able to grasp that idea because they can't get past the initial fear or hatred they hold in their hearts for people who are different than they are.  It's the kind of hatred I've seen on Facebook and on other social media platforms as I've tried to make a reasonable argument about why I support President Obama's action. Unfortunately, the Indianapolis Star cannot correct the damage they did by feeding those fears and that hatred.  By and large, there's no longer a curiosity to understand the plights of others from many in our society.

It's why we can't have a reasonable discussion about immigration, health care, or any number of other hot button issues.  

That was the error the Star made in publishing the cartoon, and I don't know if they still get it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

News That I Missed: It Will Be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian for Four More Years

In case you missed it, like I did, Republicans, Democrats...you'll have the Libertarians to blame for at least four more years.

Punk Rock Libertarians reports that the Libertarian Party of Indiana has retained ballot access yet again and will remain a third choice for voters at the polls.  

Karl Tatgenhorst, who ran a very strong campaign for Secretary of State against Republican Connie Lawson and Democrat Beth White, earned 3.4 percent of the vote on Election Day.  Under Indiana Code, that's enough of a piece of the vote to stay on the ballot automatically without having to go through the extremely cumbersome process to get on the ballot in Indiana.

Back to the lede of this story, I don't believe those words for one second, but it seems like Libertarians often get blamed by partisans of both major parties for being the difference in close elections in Indiana.  This sells Libertarian candidates and their voters short.  They earn their votes just like Republicans and Democrats do, and, as they have since 1994, the L's will remain on Hoosier ballots.

I am late on reporting this.  Congratulations to my friends in the Libertarian Party.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Buttigieg To Seek Reelection

Mayor Pete Buttigieg
In 2006, I decided to go to the IDEA Convention in French Lick with my friend Christopher Jackson.

As we drove into French Lick, we noticed several homemade signs along the road which all said the same thing, "Meet Pete".  We chuckled and didn't think much more about it.

The viral campaign didn't end there.  Once we got to the French Lick Springs Hotel, the signs were everywhere.  "Meet Pete"..."Meet Pete"  So, Chris and I got the idea that we should find out who this Pete guy was.

It was Pete Buttigieg, and the campaign was perfect.  We met Pete, and we were instantly impressed.  His campaign for Treasurer of State that year didn't end up going well, but I am pleased that I have struck up a friendship with Pete because of it.

Four years ago, that young guy I met at French Lick with the homemade signs was in the middle of deciding to run for Mayor of South Bend.  He would, and he would be elected.  On Tuesday, I received word that Mayor Pete Buttigieg was going to run for reelection.

When Buttigieg was hired by the voters to run the City of South Bend, the city was in trouble.  Since then, the Mayor has added jobs, reduced unemployment, tackled vacant housing problems, and modernized the city's technology and the way residents relate to it.  He's done a great job as I knew he would.

The future is very bright in South Bend and for the Mayor.  He's just 32 and is likely to win reelection.  Inevitably, the question will someday be asked what's next.  I expect that he'll make that choice very carefully, and I think the voters will listen when he decides.

Right now, he's decided that his future is in South Bend city government, and that's good news for the great city on the St. Joseph's River.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Clark Out of Mayoral Race

Murray Clark
photo from faegrebd.com
Mark off Murray Clark.

Republican insider and former state lawmaker Murray Clark will not be a candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis in 2015. Clark told the Indianapolis Star that he was just not ready to return to public life. 

Clark was seen by many as a very reasonable choice to take on Joe Hogsett or Ed DeLaney in November of 2015. He’s more moderate politically than some Republicans, and that’s a big key to winning in Marion County and the City of Indianapolis. A far right candidate has not won a countywide election for anything in Marion County in at least 10 years.

Current Indy Mayor Greg Ballard won the first time around by portraying himself as an anti-tax crusader. He’s governed quite differently as some of his former supporters will attest. 

Marion County Republican Chair Kyle Walker told the Indianapolis Star that his party is talking with five individuals about running. It’s not clear who those people are or how they might go about taking on the Democrats.

I think much speculation will now center around State Senator James Merritt. Other names bandied about include Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, IMPD Chief Rick Hite, former City-County Councillor Ike Randolph, current City-County Councillors Mike McQuillen, Benjamin Hunter, and Jose Evans.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mitchell Takes Office Early as Treasurer

Kelly Mitchell
Indiana has a new Treasurer.

Kelly Mitchell, the Treasurer-Elect, took office today after taking the oath of office. Richard Mourdock resigned back in August. Mitchell defeated Democrat Mike Boland in the November General Election.

Mourdock resigned on the final day possible to receive his full retirement benefits from the state turning his back on his constituents. It was the final middle finger to the voters and the constituents that elected him by the controversial Mourdock.

Mitchell ran an excellent campaign to get the Republican nomination at the GOP’s convention this past summer allowing Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold and businessman Don Bates, Jr. to take each other out as she slid in as a reasonable alternative. She starts her own official term as auditor in January but will now serve out the rest of Mourdock’s unexpired term after being officially appointed by Governor Mike Pence.

She also starts with a clean slate and makes a clean break from those before her. It will be interesting to see where she takes the office and her public service from here.

Actual Fight to Undercut Ritz Begins

Glenda Ritz
Get ready education advocates in Indiana. There's a new fight about to come down the pike.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has made it a priority to overturn the 2012 General Election results by legislation and push to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction seat appointed rather than elected.  It's going to happen, and I predicted it back a year ago in 2013.  

Indiana voters put Tony Bennett out with yesterday's leftovers in 2012 because he was taking education in a direction they didn't want to go.  Glenda Ritz got more votes than Governor Mike Pence.  Now, for some reason, state lawmakers, including Brian Bosma, are issuing ultimatums to Ritz to fall in line or else.  

The or else is to do what the Indiana Chamber wants, and it's quite easy to do.  Funds can be easily moved from Ritz's Department of Education to the Center for Education and Career Innovation.  That guts Ritz's ability to do her job.  It's sad, and the news of it is coming as Indiana schools promote anti-bullying this week.  Turns out the true bullies are at the Statehouse.

Some will say I'm being partisan...quite the contrary.  When it comes to the idea of an appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction goes, I cannot support that no matter who is in office.  As I explained in my October 2013 blog post, I thought Joe Kernan and the Democrats were wrong when they tried to do this in 2004.  I voted for Suellen Reed then, and I will always vote to maintain an independent voice for our students in this state.  

Ironically, it's the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction that keeps the politics out of the office.  What's good for the Governor is not always good for the students of Indiana, and I would hate to see the SPI office become just another place some political crony campaign donor can buy via appointment.  Our students and our schools are too important for that.

I think the State Board of Education should also be elected just like the Superintendent of Public Instruction is.  

With one clear voice, people that care about education in Indiana must yell that this won't stand.  Tell Brian Bosma to get in line behind Glenda Ritz and those that truly care about our students more than ALEC does.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Memoriam: Abdul-Rahman "Peter" Kassig

Abdul-Rahman Kassig
Photo from SERAmedic.org
"Only the good die young."

It's an old saying we hear often, and it's a saying that Billy Joel made into a popular song.  In the case of Abdul-Rahman "Peter" Kassig, it's very true.

I'm sure that the Indianapolis native that was murdered by ISIS was not perfect...no one can be, but it's hard to have anything but appreciation for the way he lived his life.

In doing research for this piece, I found story after story about this young man that painted a picture of a good-hearted and caring individual that was very dedicated to making a difference in the world he lived.

Unlike so many that try to make that difference, Kassig was more hands on.  He took risks and ran towards the dangers to help those in most need around the world through an organization he founded called SERA.  If you go to SERA's website, it talks about the organization and there are pictures of Kassig there in action like the one above.

It still doesn't tell his full story, and I'll never be able to do that here.  I do know this.  That no matter where you are born, you can rise up to make a difference in this world, and the sum of your works can greatly exceed your chronological age.  As Kassig's mother, Paula, put it in their press conference earlier today, "In 26 years, he has witnessed and experienced firsthand more of the harsh realities of life than most of us can imagine, but rather than letting the darkness overwhelm him, he has chosen to believe in the good in himself and in others."

So, as a city, we put our arms around the Kassig family and try to help them continue to make sense of the senseless.  As a community, that's what we do.  It's what Abdul-Rahman would expect out of his hometown. 

Make a difference.

Polk Wisdom for 2016 Presidential Candidates

James K. Polk
11th President of the United States
I tend to get along with people of all political persuasions, and I even have friends that aren't political in the least.  Somehow they all put up with me, but that often means that my Facebook feed is a cacophony of political ideas and things.

One major topic is often the performance of the current Commander-in-Chief, Barack H. Obama.

Any objective review of the six years of Barack Obama will find much to be celebrated.  Sure, it hasn't been perfect, and there are some legitimate disappointments, but I think many Americans would say they're better off now than they were four years ago.

The votes on Election Day didn't bear that out, and it was a Republican wave at the ballot box.  Obama continues to take a lot of criticism and little praise.  He also saw his own party, in many cases, run away from him during that campaign instead of embracing the many successes of the past six years.  Finally, and arguably, this President and his family continues to be disrespected by more people than many of his predecessors.

I guess I'm guilty as much as the next person.  I haven't been touting the job President Obama has done since taking office in 2009, but I got to thinking yesterday about why anyone would still want to be President?

It's a thankless job, and you're expected to work each and every moment of each and every day to make lives better for Americans.  Successes are rarely noted, and failures are magnified.  Yet, a group of power hungry politicians line up every four years to be the next President of the United States.

James Knox Polk is a President many people don't remember unless you are a scholar of politics.  Elected in 1844, Polk was actually one of the most successful Presidents of the United States.  He pledged to serve only one term, and he did that (1845-1849).  His policies and military campaigns (including a successful war with Mexico) annexed Texas and expanded the borders of United States-controlled territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.  It was the realization of the Manifest Destiny.

Polk was a very consequential figure in American history, and he would need the American Express card today because no one knows him.  During his time in office, Polk worked almost all the time.  The rigors of his time in the office weakened him, and he came down with cholera in June of 1849.  He died on June 15 at the age of 53.  No other former president has died so young, and he had the shortest post-presidency of any U.S. President to survive his term.  That's what makes this quote so cautionary for those that would seek the office.

"With me it is exceptionally true that the Presidency is no bed of roses." 
--James Knox Polk

To the 2016 candidates, be careful that you know exactly what you seek when you decide to seek it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Walker Ripped for Attack on Hogsett by Tully, Blogosphere

Kyle Walker's Glamour Shot
Republicans are scared of Joe Hogsett.

All you have to do is look at the response from Kyle Walker, the Marion County Republican Party's Chair, unleashed a rip on Joe's electoral history.

"Joe Hogsett has been rejected by voters three times and next year will be the fourth; either in May or November. Hogsett's unwillingness to support pre-k for low-income families is one of the many reasons he is wrong for Indianapolis."

The Indy Star's Matt Tully called the attempt at a zinger, "silly partisanship" and Republican bloggers Paul Ogden and Gary Welsh both ripped Mr. Walker for his ridiculous statement.

This signals how the 2015 race will go.  It's going negative, and the Republicans don't even have a candidate yet.  Just remember who lobbed the first volley.

As far as Mr. Walker's claim goes, I've never heard Joe speak out one way or another on the Mayor's Pre-K plan.  I did hear a lot from him last night on improving our schools and the quality of life in Marion County.  I guess that Walker didn't hear that part of the speech.

On Hogsett's electoral record, Joe Hogsett lost to Dan Coats in 1992, Dave McIntosh in a Congressional race in the 1994, the year of the Republican revolution, and to Steve Carter in the 2004 election when he filled the Attorney General spot on the ballot to help complete the statewide ticket.  Carter was running for reelection.

He's running as a popular Democrat in a city that is approaching a 60 percent Democratic baseline.  This is like no race Joe Hogsett has run before.

Walker also leaves out that Hogsett defeated Bill Hudnut in 1990 for Secretary of State.  He overcame a 30-point polling deficit to defeat the wildly popular Mayor of Indianapolis.

As Welsh and others have said, if this is all Walker's got, say hello to Mayor Joe Hogsett.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Republicans Have Big 2015 Questions

It's going to be hard to top the start the Joe Hogsett campaign officially got off to on Wednesday night in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park, but the Republican Party will no doubt try once they figure out who might be a good candidate for Mayor.

The climb may be steeply uphill.

Hogsett has never played the role of a frontrunner in his electoral life, and he's not going to play the role of frontrunner now.  He's going to run this race like he's 10 points behind because that's what it's going to take to be successful.  It's going to be hard for any Republican to match his energy and enthusiasm in campaigning for the job.

Another issue is going to be fundraising.  I saw a few key Republicans at Hogsett's campaign launch.  These aren't your typical rank-and-file Republicans, either.  One R that I saw ran for office in a major race in 2012.  If Hogsett is going to pick off support from Republicans, that's going to make the climb even harder for a GOP candidate.

You see, the GOP candidate, whoever it will be, is going to have to keep everyone on board.  That's difficult.  If you're Murray Clark or Jim Merritt, for example, how are you going to answer the bell to the far right while trying to play more toward the middle where Mayor Greg Ballard drew lots of support.  If you're Rick Hite or Troy Riggs, how are you going to expand your horizons beyond public safety and show you're a credible candidate standing next to Hogsett?  For the City-County Councillors thinking about a run from the GOP side, it's all about name recognition and how to raise it.  Hard one to fight from the beginning.

In a way, Ballard's decision to walk away and not seek a third term opens up the Ballard moderates for...ready for this...Joe Hogsett.  Because he was a member of the Bayh Administration, Hogsett can show exactly how he was frugal with money when he was in office.  He also has the proof that he cut his budget every year when he was U.S. Attorney.  That plays well to the moderate crowd.

It's going to be tough to find a strategy for the Republicans that can work.  After all, we've already seen Hogsett praise Mayor Ballard publicly.  Certainly, he's going to find places that he disagrees, but he can also look at the Ballard record for aspects of agreement.

If a Republican is going to beat Joe Hogsett, it's going to have to be one that is well-financed and is politically savvy.  Maybe the GOP can cobble together the funds to give it a go, but it's going to take a surgical, disciplined, and likely very negative campaign to wound Hogsett's chances of becoming the next Mayor.

The GOP can't concede the Mayor's race, either.  They need their voters to come out and help their candidates for City-County Council.

Right now, the 2015 election in Marion County seems to be setting up for the Democrats like the 2014 election set up for Republicans nationally and statewide.

And, to be fair, I'm not discounting Ed DeLaney.  I know he's still in the race and is pursuing the nomination for Mayor of Indianapolis.  I think Ed as the nominee still spells a win for Democrats.  I, again, just think Ed is needed in the General Assembly, and I hope his path leads him to that same decision.