Archive for the 'Politics and other nightmares' Category

What budget crisis?

November 21, 2008

This is never, ever going to end, is it?

The Indiana House will once again invite clergy members and other guests to give opening prayers before legislative work begins, a tradition that had been halted temporarily because of a lawsuit challenging the practice.

A U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled last year that taxpayers who sued over the prayers did not have the legal standing. So on Tuesday, as lawmakers gathered for an organization day at the Statehouse before the January session begins, the House started its business with a prayer from the Rev. Matthew Barnes of Indianapolis.

[. . .]

The ACLU of Indiana, which represented the taxpayers in the previous lawsuit, says it could bring another lawsuit if sectarian prayers continue in the General Assembly.

I’ve heard all the arguments from both sides so often I can recite them in my sleep, and I’ve written about the issue until I’m sick to death of it. You can choose whichever side you think is the most right if you want to keep playing that game, but the fact is that whether prayers are said or not and what kind and who says them do not matter to Hoosiers’ real lives one whit. So whichever side just walks away and says, “We have more important things to do, so we’re not doing this anymore,” will win our undying gratitude.

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Novak’s whacks

November 20, 2008

A fascinating interview with Robert Novak, who has been the man so many have loved to hate for so long. A tease:

Reagan was a great leader. I think Kennedy was terribly overrated, but he was a good leader. I don’t think George Bush even comprehends the demands of leadership. I went to see him when he was governor of Texas. I should have gotten a warning at the time. He expressed such contempt for Washington. If I were smarter, I would have seen huge trouble ahead from somebody who has that many negative feelings about the job.

The only president in my time I give a passing grade to is Reagan. I thought Nixon was the worst — a vicious little man. He never should have been president. The one I have the hardest time giving a grade to is Clinton. Did he have talent? Absolutely — he was a very accomplished man. But what did he do? I don’t think he accomplished anything. I think he was very good on the Cold War. But he seemed to be a man with limited horizons and ambitions.

You might have some sympathy for him because he’s dying of a brain tumor, but he’d snarl at you for that, too. Gotta love this:  “I find that politicians as a class are up to no good. Sometimes they accidentally do the right thing.”

Us, too

November 20, 2008

On Monday, I did a post taking The Journal Gazette to task for not identifying those quoted in a story about illegal immigration:

I wonder if the JG would pull that “first names only” stunt if this were a bank robber or a burglar. As a matter of fact, would law enforcement let them get away with it, or would some reporter be hauled in front of a grand jury?

An alert reader (and, coincidentally, a JG employee) e-mailed to point out something I’d forgotten, a column by The News-Sentinel’s own Kevin Leininger from Aug. 4, 2007, about a man named Juan: “Juan is here illegally. That’s why he doesn’t want his last name used, even though he was willing to be photographed.” Now, it’s a lot more fun to bash The Journal Gazette, because — well, just because. But we deserve our lumps, too. By not naming illegal immigrants — by helping them stay “in the shadows” — newspapers contribute to the notion that immigrants who break the law by coming here are a separate class of lawbreakers whose only sin is that the rest of us are so heartless and xenophobic. Things are either illegal or they are not. Breaking the law either has consequences or it does not. Those who insist on blurring the lines because they have sympathy for the people in question help breed a disrespect for all laws and the very notion of law.

The bum’s rush

November 20, 2008

You’re doing a lousy job, so never mind waiting for the regular election. You’re outta here!

GARY — Local lawmakers are promising to push legislation empowering voters to remove officials from office in the middle of their terms.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said he’s responding to constituents, who want a way to force Gary Mayor Rudy Clay out of office.

On first hearing, the suggestion seems a reasonable way to make politicians pay attention, and there would be a feeling of power if we knew we could throw the bums out at a moment’s notice. But it also seems like a guarantee of chaotic government, rule of the slight of the moment. The normal election schedule seems like a good enough recall mechanism that probably shouldn’t be messed with.

Betrayed by reality

November 20, 2008

The “give peace a chance” crowd is getting a little nervous:

Reporting from Washington — Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama’s national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.

The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.

Actually, the fact that they’re worried is enough to give the rest of us a little hope — national security has always seemed to be Obama’s greatest area of weakness. The antiwar activists appear to think there are only two possible ways of conducting foreign policy — the “reason with our enemies until they love us” approach or the evil, war-mongering, imperialist course, and that initial support of the Iraq war puts one ipso facto on the imperialist side.

But a lot of people supported the war, based on their consideration of what they thought was the best evidence available. That doesn’t mean they didn’t change their minds when better evidence was found or that they will always consider war as the first or best option. Anyone chosen by Obama will get their direction from Obama, so we have to rely on his judgment more than anyone’s. I’m glad he doesn’t seem inclined to surround himself only with people who think force is never needed and that diplomacy can get us everything. It’s still a dangerous world, and we should hope America’s commander in chief operates from that knowledge.

Or maybe we should just believe that Ayman al-Zawahri was kidding around when he said that “America continues to be the same as ever, so we must continue to harm it, in order for it to come to its senses.” Maybe so, because what are all the stories putting in headlines and first pargraphs? Stuff like this:

Al-Qaida No. 2 hurls racial slur at Obama

In a propaganda salvo by al-Qaida aimed at undercutting the enthusiasm of Muslims worldwide about the U.S. presidential election, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy condemned President-elect Obama as a “house Negro” who would continue a campaign against Islam that al-Qaida’s leaders said was begun by President Bush.

Al-Qaida commandeered our own planes and flew them into our buildings, killing thousands, and has declared war on modernity and Western civilization. Hey, no big thing. But using a racial slur? Man, that really crosses the line — go arrest the bum and put him in a cell without cable TV.

Don’t need yer stinkin’ edjemuhcation

November 20, 2008

Even if they don’t go to jail over the truancy, these parents probably deserve a little time for sheer stupidity:

A rural Richmond couple is facing a possible jail term for refusing to obey state truancy laws.

The case involves the alleged failure of Eli and Stephanie Collins, 3398 N. Salisbury Road, No. 44, to make their child go to school.

[. . .]

The child enrolled Aug. 19 and was withdrawn Oct. 3. In that time the child was absent 12 days. Further investigation revealed that the child had 87½ days of absence during two years in the Richmond Community Schools system and was tardy 60 times, according to the affidavit of probable cause in the case.

During a four-year period, the child changed schools 15 times, the affidavit said.

Indiana’s laws on home schooling are so lax and forgiving that we might as well not have any. All this couple had to do was inform the superintendent that they were home schooling their child. Then they could have done whatever they wanted to, or nothing at all. It seems almost unfair to punish them.

We don’t need home-schooling laws as strict and unreasonable as those in a few states, but they could use some tightening. But most of the home schoolers I know — and they range from the political left to the right — are very conscientious about their children’s education. So maybe I’m advocating a solution in search of a problem.

Check it out

November 20, 2008

I can understand people having strong objections to consolidating school districts or combining city and county governments. There is a sense that government will get so big and complicated that the ordinary citizen’s concerns will get overlooked. But consolidating libraries at the county level — having a county library system with numerous branches instead of a county library and several city libraries — seems like a logical move to me. The last two places I lived — in LaPorte County and here — have consolidated their libraries, and as a result have better services, more materials and better value for the taxpayers. But many members of the Indiana library community don’t see it that way:

Since December 2007, when the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform issued a report on streamlining local government, many library leaders expressed wariness about the report’s call to reorganize library systems by county and to ensure that unserved residents get service. Many librarians suggest that giving up local control for a “one size fits all” strategy is wrong, with some of the most vociferous blogging at Save Our Small Public Libraries.

[. . .]

The Indiana Library Federation has expressed caution, stating that, it “supports legislation that will provide additional options for unserved areas to be afforded libraries.” However, it also “supports a thorough evaluation of the cost-savings of the recommendations and an approach that allows each library and or library district input into the determination as to what is the best approach for it and its patrons. The Federation encourages legislation that allows for local variations in public libraries.”

It’s natural for the librarians to want local control and the ability to respond to the specific needs and desires of their patrons. But everything I’ve seen in LaPorte and Allen counties indicates that those libraries’ patrons are being well taken care of, and I don’t know why it would be any different for other counties that might come under the commission’s recommendations.

Libraries are facing enormous challenges right now, and might find it harder and harder to justify continued taxpayer support. The Internet and the digital revolution have eaten away at many of the libraries’ core functions. People can do far better research themselves and in much quicker time than by relying on the library. Why check out a video and face the hassle of returning it when you can just download it? Libraries are going to have to rethink their basic missions — perhaps more strongly emphasizing the gathering-place function, for example. Consolidating at the county level might turn out to be part of the answer for them, not a threat to overcome.

BE GODS, By God!

November 19, 2008

UPDATE to “The God trap” post:

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles commissioner today backed off its denial of a woman’s request for a personalized license plate reading “BE GODS.”

The decision resulted from a lawsuit filed this week by Liz Ferris, who had that same plate on her car for eight or nine years but forgot to renew it on time for 2008. When she submitted a new personalized plate application, the BMV denied her request because of a recent policy change banning any references to religion or a deity on new personalized plates.

That policy took effect in November 2007, just after the renewal deadline passed for Ferris. Commissioner Ron Stiver said in a statement released today that the BMV would give Ferris a new plate bearing her old message — which she intended to mean “Be God’s” or “belong to God.”

[. . .]

But Stiver’s statement defended the policy, saying Ferris would get a pass under a grandfather rule that allows renewals of existing plates even if they run afoul of the policy change.

God has been grandfathered in! How patriarchal.

In style

November 19, 2008

If you read anything sillier about the Obama presidency, please let me know so we can keep a record:

Still, Bush and Clinton fit into the expectations of what earlier generations thought a president’s wife should look like. Obama has the opportunity to break the mold.

“Most previous first ladies have appeared to believe that displaying an interest in fashion and style undermines the importance of their role. They’ve subscribed to the old-fashioned view that a woman should de-sexualize herself or dress like a man if she wants to be regarded as intelligent and of good conscience,” says Mandi Norwood, the former editor in chief of Shop Etc. who is now writing a style guide directed to Obama for publisher Avon A.

“Mrs. Obama, however, has a much more modern view,” Norwood says. “She’s demonstrated that it’s smart to be stylish; that strong and positive statements can be made through the right choice of outfit.”

Heaven forbid that she makes the wrong choice of outfit and makes a weak and negative statement. Wonder what the girls will wear? Maybe Obama should wear a hat and undo what JFK did to the haberdashers. Geez.

Now you know

November 19, 2008

For you nitpickers who like to impress people with esoterica, Barack Obama is not actually the “president-elect.” He is the “president-designate.” He doesn’t officially become president-elect until Dec. 15 when the members of the Electoral College meet to cast their votes.

Help, help, Obama*

November 19, 2008

The line forms on the left:

America’s mayors are crying out for help from President-elect Barack Obama, seeking immediate relief from a national economic crisis that has slammed budgets in big cities, suburbs and small towns.

Responding to an informal survey by msnbc.com, many mayors called for a program in the style of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration to put people back to work and rebuild neglected roads, bridges and schools.

Sure, let’s bring back all those FDR programs. That’ll turn this recession into a depression the likes of which the country has never seen. Then we’ll need a real jobs program to turn things around, i.e. a war even bigger than World War II.

*(Sing it in your head to the tune of “Help, Help Me, Rhonda.”)

Catch me if you can

November 19, 2008

Joe Lieberman sort of gives the game away:

Lieberman claimed he was contrite Tuesday — sort of. The resolution that left him in charge of his committee also denounced some of his statements about Obama during the campaign. “Some of the things that people have said I said about Senator Obama are simply not true,” Lieberman told reporters, at the end of a news conference about his fate, where he stood behind Reid as the leader said he was in the clear. “There are other statements that I made that I wish I had made more clearly. And there are some that I made that I wish I had not made at all. And, obviously, in the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that. And now it’s time to move on.” In the real world, that kind of passive-aggressive semi-apology might not fly. But this is the Senate — where just about anything does. And so Joe Lieberman is back in everyone’s good graces.

Lieberman supported McCain and trashed Obama, campaigned for Republicans and was generally a very bad boy as far as Democrates were concerned, but his vote is really needed now, and, besides, he said things he didn’t really mean. And when he did mean them, he said them badly or wished he hadn’t said them at all.

Man, I like that. So let me just say that if there’s anything I’ve written that you’ve disagreed with, I didn’t really mean it. And if you decide to disagree with anything I write in the future without first giving me the chance to say I said it badly or wished I hadn’t said it, you’re just being mean-spirited.

I don’t really mean that, of course.

Oh, yes, I do.

The God trap

November 19, 2008

Boy, do I feel silly. Yesterday, I did a post about the suit against Indiana’s “In God We Trust” license plates being tossed. I said it didn’t seem like a big deal to me, and in the discussion thread I went back and forth with Doug and Alex, essentially putting myself out on a limb defending the state, a dangerous position to find oneself in. Now the state has gone and sawed that limb off:

For years, Liz Ferris saw her personalized license plate — BE GODS — as a quiet declaration of faith, a shorthand message urging people to “belong to God.”

But now the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles says there’s no place for God on personalized plates.

[. . .]

The BMV, which approved Ferris’ license plate eight or nine years ago, now is rejecting her message, saying that it violates a new policy that bars any reference to religion or a deity on personalized plates, a policy she says violates her First Amendment rights.

[. . .]

A BMV policy committee reviewing personalized license plate rules in December 2007 opted to make all religious and deity references off-limits, said Dennis Rosebrough, the agency’s spokesman.

“If you permit one,” he said, “you have to permit all. We believe the better judgment is to not have any references to deity.”

The committee aimed to streamline and clarify regulations. The BMV views such plates as a limited public forum and bars all references to religion, politics, gender and sexual orientation.

There isn’t a dime’s worth of difference in the sentiments “In God We Trust” and “BE GODS,” is there? So what the state is saying that it can sponsor a religious sentiment on the license plates, but an individual can’t express the same religious sentiment as a vanity plate. If the state were actually trying to show it wanted to put the state’s imprimatur on certain religious observances, it couldn’t do a better job than this. Maybe Doug is right that we need to go back to one boring plate that just identifies one’s vehicle. Anything more, and the state either has to let anything or start deciding who can put what on the plates. It takes the simple task of taxing people for the privilege of driving and turns it into a complicated bureaucratic mess that just invites lawsuites. Maybe we should all be libertarian on this one — simplify, simplify.

Flags of our hotheads

November 19, 2008

Remember Greg Townsend, the Decatur hothead who flew the American flag upside down outside his tire shop in protest of Barack Obama’s win? He has come to the attention of James Taranto, who compiles Best of the Web for The Wall Street Journal. Tranto is not persuaded by Townsend’s argument that he was flying a “distress signal” as described in statutes governing the flag:

This is an improper use of the flag. As one USA Flag Site contributor notes, Section 8(a) of the U.S. Flag Code states: “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

Even if one grants Townsend’s claim that legal abortion and the bailout pose a danger to life and property, they clearly do not represent an extreme danger but an ordinary one–one that predates (and in the case of abortion, predates by more than 35 years) the election of Barack Obama. Further, a lawful election is not an occasion for “dire distress,” and no one seeing Townsend’s upside-down flag is in a position to save the lives or property he believes are in jeopardy.

Greg Townsend is not signaling distress, merely expressing an opinion. The U.S. Constitution guarantees his right to do so, including by misusing the flag. If burning the flag is protected by the First Amendment, surely so is the lesser insult of displaying it improperly.

It is disrespectful of the flag, but so is using it in advertising and putting it on T-shirts, if to a lesser degree. It’s no more a constitutional crisis than putting “In God We Trust” on license plates. I wouldn’t patronize Townsend’s tire shop even if I lived in Decatur, and I doubt I would like talking to him. He claims to be a patriot and probably is, but he doesn’t really understand what patriotism means. That flag is the symbol of everything this country stands for, including the peaceful transfer of power he finds so distasteful this time around. Don’t mess with the flag.

A pointless exercise

November 18, 2008

Gary’s police department is having budget problems and can’t keep the same size force. So officers are turning on each other.

A group of city dwellers who filed a lawsuit demanding termination for all nonresidents will argue their case before Lake Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Arredondo next month.

“It is a fact that Gary City Ordinance 5881 … requires police officers to live within the corporate boundaries of the City of Gary or lose their employment,” a court document states.

I’m not sure why the case is still alive, exactly. That city ordinance is trumped by legislation from the General Assembly, which, in its infinite wisdom, carved out separate residency requirements for public safety employees. They are allowed to live either in the county of employment or any contiguous county. I don’t agree with that. Public employees are different from private-sector employees, and they all should be required to live in the same jurisdictions as the taxpayers who pay their salaries. And they should at least all be subject to the same rules, whether we like them or not. But the state did what it did, and a city can’t supersede its dictates.

God be with you

November 18, 2008

You may now keep God with you on your car trips, which, considering the skill and attentiveness level of Indiana drivers, is probably a good thing:

Hoosier drivers don’t have to pay extra to sport In God We Trust license plates, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel upheld the General Assembly’s 2006 decision to exempt the newly created plate from the $15 administrative fee Indiana charges on most specialty plates.

The suit was brought by an Allen County resident who had to pay extra fees for his Environmental Trust specialty plate and contended that “In God We Trust” is a “private religious message” that should also be subject to extra fees. That seems like a tricky argument to make, since the message is our national motto and can be found on the money we carry around every day (well, good days). If you haven’t been coerced out your Godless ways by now, the license plate probably won’t pull you in, either. Another hair the ACLU couldn’t split!

McBama

November 18, 2008

Those of us inclined to see ominous portents in vague phrasing are a little worried about the meeting between President-elect Obama and the vanquished McCain:

. . . the two men issued a joint statement saying that they agreed “that Americans of all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent challenges of our time.”

[. . .]

The president-elect and the Arizona senator hold relatively similar views on issues like climate change and ethics reform, where cooperation might be fruitful. More urgently, Mr. Obama may be hoping for help in pushing for a new economic stimulus package that faces stiff Republican resistance.

Maybe Mr. McCain has gotten over his need to be a maverick enough that he can be part of the loyal opposition that challenges Democratic assumptions and keeps the debates honest. Maybe I’ll win the lottery.

In the spirit

November 18, 2008

You think times are tough for City Hall in Fort Wayne? Just imagine how they felt in LaPorte, which is so economically stressed that the city decided it couldn’t hang Chrismas lights downtown this year. But then:

The mayor says local contractors Monday morning offered to fix the electrical receptacles for free and have been repairing the 30 to 40 that need to be repaired.

[. . .]

The mayor says these are difficult times and they’ve been operating without money for over a year. But fortunately in these difficult times people have come forward to help and get them back their Christmas lights.

“It’s fantastic. I think it was a shame, but I thank those who came to our defense. LaPorte is good at that,” said LaPorte resident Merle Prozil.

I know some will decry the privatization of another vital service that government should be providing. It’s surprising, now that I think about it, that nobody has yet sued a city government for paying for Christmas decorations.  Oh, wait. I’ll bet they’re really just “winter holiday” decorations. What was I thinking of?

Honk, honk!

November 17, 2008

You’ll be glad to know Indiana isn’t being left behind in the great cultural battle of the moment:

SOUTH BEND — Every time a car honked, they cheered. A group of about 20 people stood at the corner of Main Street and Jefferson Boulevard in downtown South Bend on Saturday, waving signs in support of same-sex marriage.

Wow, 20 people — that’s some rally. Honk if you love gays, then let’s go burn a Mormon church!

The number probably reflects an acknowledgement of reality by the gay and lesbian community — none of them are ever going to be married legally unless they leave the state to do it. The General Assembly will never act on same-sex marriage, unless it’s to introduce another bill to ban it in the state constitution. A judge isn’t likely to impose it, and if that ever did happen, the state Supreme Court would probably overturn it. Barring something startling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Indiana will be one of the last states in the union to abandon “marriage between one man and one woman.”

I’ve never understood the “take to the streets” mentality — the right to peaceably assemble has to be one of the most overrated rights in the Constitution. When I was a young’un, I was frequently asked to march in protest of the Vietnam War, and my reaction was, “Are you nuts?” Honk if you love peace, then let’s burn a draft card! The war wouldn’t end, and I’d be exhausted. I did sign a petition or two, though, if some enterprising blograker wants to dig them up and embarrass me.

Sundays with Barack

November 17, 2008

It’s said that all Ronald Reagan had to do was convince the American people he was someone who could be trusted with the power of the presidency. Once he did that in the debate with Jimmy Carter, the election was over. Barack Obama obviously overcame that hurdle, too, or he wouldn’t have won by nearly 7 percent. But his “ordinariness” especially came through during the “60 Minutes” interview. I saw last night what all those who voted for him saw. He came across as calm and reasonable and thoughtful, someone you wouldn’t be worried about taking that 3 a.m. phone call.

On policy, it was a mixed bag. The best thing was that he listed assembling a national security team as his top priority, recognizing that the period of transition is always when America is most vulnerable. The worst was that Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt are the presidents he said he is studying and most hopes to emulate. Lincoln and Roosevelt are two of the presidents who made the most profound changes in the way this country operates, especially in the scope and reach of the federal government, so it’s not really comforting that Obama says he is attracted by those two’s pragmatism and willingess to experiment. And Lincoln and Roosevelt were reacting to serious and immediate threats to the nation’s health and security. In the absence of such a grave threat (let’s keep our fingers crossed about the economic meltdown), we should all hope he proceeds with a little more caution.

But this is all second-guessing before the fact, isn’t it? We still really have no idea how Obama will govern, so we’ll just have to judge him as he acts. He will be only the 43rd person to serve as president — what a remarkably small number. The FBI has a bigger pool than that to come up with its serial-killer profiles.

No, not this time

November 17, 2008

Boy, couldn’t see this one coming, huh?

Bankruptcy. Red ink. Painful shakeout.

Those terms, normally associated with old-line manufacturing, now are popping up to describe what was seen just three years ago as a sure bet for Indiana: high-tech ethanol plants.

Ethanol producers across the Midwest are being squeezed by falling prices, tight credit, overbuilding and the volatile market for corn. As a result, many have seen their profits shrink and their stock prices fall. Several have slid into bankruptcy and have scrapped deals and projects.

Some of the problems with ethanol were foreseeable (we’re messing with the food supply to fix the fuel supply, after all) and some were not (the financial collapse is hurting everyone). But it was certainly a risk, one that would not even have been possible to take without government subsidies. Why am I scared about the auto bailout? Not because government screws up just about everything it touches. Because people who should know better just keep thinking maybe next time government will get it right. Like a bunch of damn Cubs fans.

Bad time to be solvent

November 17, 2008

Darn good question:

Should you keep paying your mortgage?

If you have significant equity in your home, absolutely.

If you don’t, it’s getting harder to answer that question, especially when our government keeps giving people who owe more than their homes are worth so many reasons not to pay.

I just made my last house payment in June. Talk about bad timing! And this just in:

A radical change in perspective could spare the nation a lot of grief down the road. Rather than subsidizing the auto makers directly (and almost certainly sucking Washington into their management), why not give Americans the financial incentive to accelerate purchases of cars and light trucks? The consumer-subsidy approach would be a less wasteful route to the desired end, as well as one that would leave a less toxic legacy of market intervention once the economy has recovered.

I just paid off my car, too, and it’s in good running condition! Man, can’t get a break at all. Maybe I should take out this huge home equity loan and use it to buy a fancy new car. What have I got to lose? Not the house or the car, certainly.

Mixed drinks

November 17, 2008

Support continues to grow, slowly but steadily, to allow grocery and liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sunday. The Indianapolis Star and WTHR (Channel 13) recently commissioned a poll on the subject:

The poll showed 46 percent of Hoosiers support changing that law, while 45 percent favor keeping it. Nine percent were undecided.

That shows a slight change from two years ago, when a poll conducted by The Star found that 50 percent of Hoosiers favored the Sunday ban and 43 percent opposed it.

I’m with those who think the Sunday ban is just a remnant of our old blue laws for which there is little justification today; Indiana is one of about 15 states still clinging to the ban. Some of the strongest opposition to lifting the ban comes from package store owners, who are glad they don’t have to open on Sundays now to stay competitive.

But a good political rule of thumb is that if people are evenly divided on an issue, it’s best to stay with the current law. At least there are known sets of protagonists whose arguments we already know. That rule should be thrown out if current law creates a real hardship for some people or violates some fundamental right, but that isn’t the case here.

On a first-name basis

November 17, 2008

The Journal Gazette does a typical “life is tough in the shadows when you fear being rounded up any minute” heart-tugger:

Pilar can turn on her radio or television and hear Spanish broadcasts. At most specialty grocery stores or Mexican taquería , she can pick up a local Spanish-language newspaper.

But for Pilar and her counterparts in northeast Indiana’s community of illegal Hispanic immigrants, nothing beats good, old-fashioned chisme  – gossip.

“Everyone gossips,” Pilar said in Spanish. (Because of her immigration status, The Journal Gazette is using only her first name.)

I wonder if the JG would pull that “first names only” stunt if this were a bank robber or a burglar. As a matter of fact, would law enforcement let them get away with it, or would some reporter be hauled in front of a grand jury? Says a lot about where we are on this issue, doesn’t it? It’s like the old littering laws, but on a much grander scale. The law is routinely ignored by everybody, but everybody knows it’s there and can be called upon on the whims of the powers that be. Really reinforces a respect for the law, doesn’t it?

¡Buen provecho!

November 14, 2008

Did you know that grocery carts have more bacteria than public phones and restrooms? If you use one without at least wiping off the handle with one on the sanitary wipes the stores are starting to provide, you’re taking your life in your hands. But at least, by God, we’re being protected from those dastardly food pushers who are trying to kill us with their evil outdoor grills (third item):

Local health officials are proposing a rule change that would allow restaurants to grill outside whenever they want as long as they prepare and sell the meat inside.

The current ordinance requires food establishments to obtain a separate “onsite cooking” permit that only allows grilling up to 10 days a month. The current rule also allows food to be prepared and stored outside as long as there is adequate cover as well as dish-washing and hand-washing stations.

Yeah, pepare and sell the meat inside. No germs there! How do we ever survive picnics without the help of “local health officials.”