Tuesday, December 22, 2009

new design collaboration: IRL

i'm proud to present my second design collaboration for threadless:

IRL - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

i knew this concept would require a fairly realistic illustration in order to be done right, so i looked for a collab partner on the threadless blogs and found marika, a talented young illustrator from finland. she did a great job bringing my idea to life, so i'm excited.

the one down side is that it will be up for voting over the christmas holiday, which means there's a chance it could be overlooked or lost. but judging from the comments so far, the voters seem to like it. so cast your vote now and keep the dream alive!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

the only possible explanation

shorter gary welsh: former-republican-cum-extreme-leftist sheila kennedy once treated me with respect, but now looks upon me with scorn. obviously, she has lost her mind. and if that doesn't convince you, her extreme anti-abortion, anti-sarah-palin views surely will!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

this land isn't your land

(click here for larger view)

i had this idea a month of two ago when i was too busy to work on it, then suddenly realized a few days ago that it would be great for the threadless loves travel II design challenge:

This Land Isn't Your Land - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

i have a feeling it won't score very well, but it was fun to put together, and now i have vectors of all these states that could come in handy someday.

newsworthiness is in the eye of the beholder

when the tim durham story first broke, i did some googling for background information on durham. one of the first links i found was this 2007 post on advance indiana:

Is Tim Durham's Sex Life Newsworthy?

in hindsight, perhaps this was a bit naive—durham's extravagant lifestyle can be seen as a red flag (one of many) that something wasn't quite right about his finances. but what a noble sentiment! who someone sleeps with and what they do in the bedroom is a totally private... wait, what's this?

Edwards Must Address Love Child Issue Former Aide Says

...and what's that over there?

Tiger Woods A Victim Of Domestic Abuse?

and don't even get me started on the larry sinclair garbage.

when a prominent republican fundraiser was in the news for sex-related hijinks, gary's response was to act all offended and stick up for the man. but when a democrat or other media figure's sex life is in the news, gary has no qualms about repeating every lascivious detail (even if those details are obviously false, as with the sinclair story).

what does tiger woods have to do with indiana politics, civil rights, or the law?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

it's only politicizing when the other guy does it

shorter paul k ogden: i've always known that global warming is a lie because scientists have politicized the issue in order to reach a preordained conclusion. here's a story that proves i was right all along!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

innocent until proven muslim

shorter gary welsh: when a muslim shoots people, it's terrorism. when a white christian tries to shoot someone, it's understandable.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

alternate south carolina license plates

now that the "believe" license plate has been ruled unconstitutional, south carolina's going to need some new license plate designs!

instead of this:

try one of these:

i want to believe plate


believe (cher)


these ideas are free for south carolina to use! though some licensing fees may be required. if you have an idea, leave a comment and share it!

south carolina's "i believe" plate unconstitutional

via thestate.com:

A federal judge has ruled unconstitutional a Christian "I Believe" vehicle license tag with the image of a cross authorized last year by the S.C. General Assembly.

"The 'I Believe' Act's primary effect is to promote a specific religion, Christianity," U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie wrote in a decision released Tuesday.

State laws promoting one religion over others have been illegal in the United States since the nation's founding, Currie wrote.

Currie also focused on the role played by Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who originally pushed for the Christian tag after a move to create a similar "I Believe" tag failed in Florida.

"Such a law amounts to state endorsement not only of religion in general, but of a specific sect in particular," Currie wrote.

"Whether motivated by sincerely held Christian beliefs or an effort to purchase political capital with religious coin, the result is the same," she wrote. "The statute is clearly unconstitutional and defense of its implementation has embroiled the state in unnecessary (and expensive) litigation."

The tag in question would have featured a large cross against a stained glass window and the words: "I Believe." No tags had been issued. A state Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman said the department will abide by the judge's decision.

open and shut, really. when you look at the plate's design, it's obviously intended to promote christianity and no other religion... which is blatantly unconstitutional. the only surprise is that anyone thought they could get away with it (unless they didn't, and the whole point was to energize the base when the inevitable happened).

the controversial "in god we trust" plate sold in indiana and elsewhere has so far escaped a similar fate, because while it is a state endorsement of theistic religion, it's not blatantly pro-christian at the expense of other religions.

Friday, November 06, 2009

politicizing the fort hood tragedy

by now, you've surely heard about yesterday's tragic shootings at fort hood, which left at least 13 dead and 30 wounded.

seasoned news watchers know to treat initial reports with skepticism during events like this, as confusion and misinformation abound, particularly in the first few hours. indeed, we were initially told that the alleged shooter, major nidal malik hasan, had been killed, but it turns out that he's alive... a pretty significant detail.

but right-wingers like gary welsh couldn't wait until all the information was in, instead seizing on the alleged shooter's muslim heritage to brand him a terrorist. never mind that hasan was a natural-born US citizen who was well-respected by the soldiers he treated for PTSD and other problems. never mind that the FBI has specifically ruled out terrorism as a motive. no, the fact that nasam was a muslim means he must be a terrorist.

of course, impugning people's integrity is what gary always does. it's his schtick. after state rep ed delaney was brutally attacked, gary suggested delaney was partly to blame in his own pistol-whipping. before that, he spent months telling us how proponents of the wishard referendum are horrible, deceitful people. (it was so bad that matt tully called him out on it, though not by name. in response, gary claimed that tully has no integrity.) before that, he was going on at length about how president obama is a deceitful noncitizen muslim who enjoys coked-up gay sex on the DL. before that, he vilified andré carson, and before that, bart peterson, julia carson, the clintons... the list goes on and on. (who can forget when gary accused steph mineart and others of being "extremists on the issue of fighting the war on terrorism"?)

so i'm not surprised that people like gary would rush to politicize this tragedy. that's what people like him do. but i am disgusted. and i'm even tempted to say it's the worst thing he's ever written... but when someone has a track record as egregious as gary, how can you pick?

Friday, October 30, 2009

what's a fair wage for a nonprofit CEO?

for some reason, i read (or i should say skim) paul ogden's blog. ogden is a local conservative attorney, and his blog reads a lot like advance indiana, only with less seething resentment and fewer amusing typos.

lately, ogden has been on a crusade against local nonprofits. one of his regular complaints is that they all pay their executives too much (he's posted about it six times in just the past two months). this is a puzzling attitude coming from a conservative, but he apparently believes that "nonprofit" means "everyone works for peanuts, if not free." of course, it doesn't work like that. as any conservative should know, if you want talent, you have to pay for it. $100,000 or more might sound like a lot... until you realize that most of them could earn way more in the private sector.

i mocked him for this last month, pointing him to a CEO compensation study by charity navigator that shows that most of the salaries he's so up-in-arms over are perfectly reasonable salaries for that sector. but though he did show up in the comments to call me a hypocrite, he clearly never read the report. so let's look at the report in more depth, shall we? let's start with the introduction:

Charity Navigator has completed its fifth annual CEO Compensation Study. This year's study examined the compensation practices at 5,448 mid to large sized U.S. based charities that depend on support from the public. Our analysis revealed that the top leaders of these charities earn an average salary of $158,0752 representing a pay raise of 6.1% over the previous year studied.

We know from the conversations taking place in the comment section of our charity ratings pages that many donors will be appalled by this figure. They believe that charity leaders should all but work for free. But these well-meaning donors fail to consider that these CEOs are running multi-million dollar operations that endeavor to change the world. Leading one of these charities requires an individual that possesses an understanding of the issues that are unique to the charity's mission as well as business and management expertise similar to that required of for-profit CEOs. Attracting and retaining that type of talent requires a certain level of compensation. While there are nonprofit salaries that we would all agree are out-of-line, it is important for donors to come to terms with charity executives earning a fair wage – which is roughly $160,000 according to our research.

yes, a six-figure salary is perfectly reasonable for someone with the skills to run a multi-million-dollar organization. of course, it depends on geographical location: the report finds that compensation in the midwest is below average ($148,781), and that average compensation here in indianapolis is $126,204.

compensation also varies depending on the nonprofit's charitable mission. CEOs in education and the arts tend to earn a lot more; executives for environmental, human services, or religious-based organizations tend to earn less. the size of the organization also matters, as you might imagine: CEOs at larger charities earn more.

  • Above Average Pay: Organizations with total expenses greater than $13.5 million ($286,760)
  • Below Average Pay: Charities with total expenses under $3.5 million ($90,747) as well as those between $3.5 and $13.5 million ($149,306)
[...] These figures demonstrate that as the size, and thus the complexities of running a nonprofit increase, so does the salary of the institution's top executive so much so that if we probe deeper into the top tier of charities (by size), we see even larger salaries. A look at organizations with total expenses between $50 and $100 million pay their CEOs on average $378,026 and organizations with total expenses of $100 million or more pay their CEOs on average $462,037.

to be sure, some nonprofit CEOs are overpaid, and the report gives a few examples. (the head of the university of delaware gets $2,377,100!) but the $80k earned by the director of the peace center, which ogden complained about today, is actually below the national average for a charity that size. and that's just one of the nonprofits paul has unfairly maligned.

running a large organization is is hard work, and to get people with the skills and knowledge to do the work properly, you have to pay them what they're worth. this isn't to say that there aren't some shady nonprofits out there—steve buyer's frontier foundation comes to mind—but you can't judge an organization merely on what it pays its executives. as the report says, "salaries really should be examined in the context of the charity's overall performance."

update: he's still at it, now maligning goodwill of central indiana. funny how an org whose mission involves giving people jobs would spend a lot of money on paying its employees, isn't it?

update: still writing nonsense about local charities. he writes "This morning I heard a radio broadcaster bragging about Irsay's charitable offer of donating $1 to United Way for ever person who attended the game last night. That amounts to a whole $67,476. Once the United Way's administrators take their cuts for their six figure salaries, there might be $476 left over to be distributed to actual charities." had he bothered to check, he'd see that only 5.8% of UWCI's budget goes to administrative expenses, whereas 85.7% goes to program expenses. of course, his argument isn't about facts.

Friday, October 09, 2009

why obama won the nobel

i must confess that my first reaction upon hearing that president obama won the nobel peace prize is that this is great news, if only because it will drive the obama-haters completely bonkers. (i suspect the main reason gary welsh doesn't have a seething rant up about this is because he's too enraged to form sentences.) but on reflection, the decision makes a lot of sense.

the US is the most powerful country in the world (militarily if not economically), and less than a year ago our president was a narcissistic warmonger who continuously thumbed his nose at the rest of the world because he believed he was personally chosen by god. president obama has made a point of turning things around, of re-engaging with the rest of the world. this, in and of itself, is no small accomplishment.

but, as obama himself noted in his remarks this morning, this nobel prize isn't so much about what he's accomplished, but about what he—and the world—hopes to accomplish. it's about hope—hope that, under obama's leadership, we can turn things around after eight long years in the wilderness. yes, the award is a repudiation of bush's policies, but it's more than that—it's the world's way of saying, "we're with you, obama! don't let us down!"

obama's challenge now is to live up to the honor, to prove that he deserves it. in his first months in office, he's made some strong steps in the right direction, but also some missteps. the challenges he faces are extremely difficult, but i hope he can live up to them over the next three-to-seven years.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

brownie peanut butter cups

brownie peanut butter cups

i discovered these beauties at the bake sale at the st joan of arc french market, and was struck not only by their deliciousness but also by their simplicity. i was immediately determined to re-create them at home. (the only reason it took three weeks to do so was because i had to buy a mini-muffin pan first.)

you will need:
1-2 mini-muffin baking pans (like this one)
mini-muffin papers (optional)
~48 miniature peanut butter cups
1 batch brownie batter

  1. make your favorite brownie batter. i like to use a variation of this recipe because it uses cocoa instead of baking chocolate (my variation only uses 3 eggs and 1 cup of flour, so they'll be chewy and moist rather than cakelike). but any recipe should work, as would a box brownie mix.

  2. put the muffin papers in the pan and drop a small amount of batter into each one—no more than 2/3 or so full.

  3. open the peanut butter cups and sink them into the batter. press them down so the batter comes at least most of the way to the top of the peanut butter cup.

  4. bake at the temperate directed, but take them out early because they will bake much faster than in a pan. i took mine out after 15 minutes (the brownies normally take 20-30) and even then my wife thought i should've taken them out earlier.

as i said before, i discovered these at a bake sale, so i don't know the name of the person who baked the ones that i bought, or where they got the idea. whoever you are, anonymous bake sale contributor, thank you! i suspect i'll be making these a lot in the future.

press WIN

i've mentioned before that i've been moving away from abstract art & illustration toward more representational works. my first representational collages were a series of landscapes. but the problem with those is that they're all 30"x20"—too large to scan.

so lately i've been working on collages that are a bit smaller. recently i made this boombox collage to slap on the cover of a demo cd i was putting together, and when people seemed to like it, i submitted it to threadless. the result was my highest-scoring threadless submission to date. so now i'm kicking it up another notch with this bad boy:

Press WIN

this is best viewed large so you can see the detail work on the keyboard.

this is up for voting now on threadless, so if you have a threadless login, please take a minute to vote (and if you don't have a login, please consider signing up for one and voting):

Press WIN - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

this is probably the best work i've submitted to threadless and i expect it to earn my highest score ever. as for whether that translates to the design getting printed, only time will tell.

Friday, September 18, 2009

there was a great gnashing of teeth

shorter voter ID proponents:

shorter gary welsh: the court of appeals decision was wrong because the judges are all democrats.

shorter governor mitch daniels: how dare these judges defy me? fie, fie upon them! they'll rue the day they ruled against me! behold, for my ad hominem attacks are mighty indeed!

shorter indy star editorial board: if the stupid court of appeals really wants to obey the state constitution, then fine, we'll make absentee voters show ID. but don't blame us when little old ladies get disenfranchised!

shorter frugal hoosiers: the US supreme court already upheld this law, so who cares if it violates the state constitution?

shorter attorney general greg zoeller: we're going to appeal this decision, but it doesn't really matter because we have no intention of obeying the court order, anyway.

note: there's one common element between all of these: not one of them even attempts to explain why the ruling was wrong on its merits. this is because the ruling is so simple and straightforward that they can't argue on its merits.

update: oops, i spoke too soon. here's gary's take, which boils down to saying that absentee voters were intentionally allowed to vote without showing ID so as not to disenfranchise senior citizens and the disabled. that's all well and good... but seniors and the disabled aren't the only people who vote absentee.

basically, the law creates two classes of voters—in-person and by-mail—and requires the former but not the latter to show ID. doing this violates the state constitution. gary's argument conveniently ignores this basic fact.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

voter ID law violates indiana constitution

so says the indiana court of appeals (pdf link):

here is perhaps the most important part of the decision:

The crux of the League's contention is that mail-in voters are not required by law to execute an affidavit regarding their identity, but in-person voters are required to produce a government issued photo identification card which contains an expiration date. The League directs our attention to our supreme court's decision in Horseman v. Keller, 841 N.E.2d 164 (Ind. 2006). In Horseman, the trial court declared Indiana Code section 3-12-1-13 unconstitutional because it did not allow mailed-in absentee ballots lacking two sets of clerks' initials to be counted in a recount although ballots cast in-person, but lacking two sets of clerks‟ initials, could be counted in the recount. Our supreme court declared to the contrary that the statute was constitutional, because inherent differences make mailed-in ballots more susceptible to improper influences or fraud, and, therefore, “it is reasonable that the legislature believed it in the interest of Indiana voters to more stringently govern absentee balloting.” Id. at 173.10 Because of this conclusion, the League contends that it is irrational for our legislature to require identification of in-person voters but not require an affidavit affirming the identity of mail-in voters. We agree.

If it is reasonable to "more stringently govern absentee balloting," then it follows that a statute that imposes a less stringent requirement for absentee voters than for those voting in person would not be reasonable. This is what the Voter I.D. law does.

apparently, the voter ID statute also stated that "residents of state licensed care facilities which also happen to be polling places" don't need to show ID. the court concluded that this is unfair and violates the Equal Priveleges and Communities clause.

We have no indication from our supreme court that the legal proposition requiring that the regulation of electors and elections be reasonable, uniform, and impartial has been subsumed by the two-prong Section 23 analysis, and, therefore, we must consider it to be a viable independent analysis from Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause in spite of the fact that both address uniformity. Indeed, Section 23 analysis requires only that those similarly situated be treated uniformly once a class is carved out by our legislature, but we find no such limitation in Morris, Simmons, or Blue. All qualified voters must be treated uniformly and impartially. We fail to see how the Voter I.D. Law's exception of those residing in state licensed care facilities, which happen to also be a polling place, 29 would be a uniform or impartial regulation. Furthermore, the Voter I.D. Law treats in-person voters disparate from mail-in voters, conferring partial treatment upon mail-in voters.

It seems that the inconsistent and impartial treatment favoring voters who reside at state care facilities which also happen to be polling places could be excised from the Voter I.D. Law without destroying the primary objectives of the Law. However, the same cannot be said for the inconsistent and partial treatment favoring absentee voters who choose to mail their votes without destroying the opportunity for mailing votes. There may be different ways in which the inconsistent and partial treatment of the Voter I.D. Law could be cured, but it is not our task to form suggestions for legislation. See State ex rel. Indiana State Bd. of Finance v. Marion County Superior, 272 Ind. 47, 52, 396 N.E.2d 340, 344 (1979) ("Our constitution is clear that the judicial department cannot exercise any of the functions of either the legislative department or executive . . . ."). Therefore, we must reverse and remand, with instructions to the trial court that it enter an order declaring the Voter I.D. Law void.

update: doug has more, as does indiana law blog.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

you don't get what you don't pay for

shorter paul k ogden: did you know that CEOs at nonprofits actually get paid? it's outrageous! you'd think that multi-million-dollar organizations like the united way of central indiana would have no trouble finding talented executives who are willing to work for free.

Monday, August 31, 2009

it is now illegal to stand on a street corner holding a sign in indianapolis

way to go, jerks.

star ed board begs for a bad bill

the city's latest panhandling proposal—or i should say, the city's proposed ban on holding signs at intersections—goes up for a vote tonight. the indy star ed board, unsurprisingly, is in favor. also unsurprisingly, their editorial in favor of the ban is weak and unconvincing, and either ignores or brushes aside the many arguments against the proposal.

to begin, they wave away accusations of classism by noting that the head of wheeler mission has spoken in favor of the proposal. this is rhetorically equivalent to i'm not racist: i have a black friend, except in this case the friend isn't even black, but just happens to work with black folks. sorry, but even if we assume that the (unnamed) mission head isn't motivated by classism, that doesn't automatically absolve councillor mcquillen or other supporters.

next, the editorial moves on to the "public safety" argument:

It's not only that aggressive panhandlers occasionally pose a threat to motorists. The ordinance also would stop a common but dangerous practice in which church groups, youth sports teams and others raise money by walking through traffic at busy intersections.

let's take this a sentence at a time, shall we? aggressive panhandlers "pose a threat"? how so, exactly? this is probably a veiled reference to the woman who claimed she was carjacked by a panhandler, but that's not really a panhandling problem—it's a carjacking problem. the proposal won't stop carjackings: it will only inspire carjackers to find some other scam. instead of holding signs, they'll pretend to have a flat tire, or something else.

furthermore, aggressive panhandling is already illegal under the previous panhandling bill that was passed last year! likewise, the "dangerous practice" of walking through traffic is also already illegal under a law that was passed years ago! why do we need a new law when the existing laws aren't being enforced?

what about concerns—discussed on this blog at great length—that the proposal unfairly restricts speech rights of many other groups in addition to panhandlers? those concerns are also brushed aside without a thought:

It's not that council member Michael McQuillen, the sponsor of the ordinance, has anything against Little League teams, any more than he's trying to hurt the homeless. It's simply that the middle of a public street or highway isn't the proper venue to raise money for charities, no matter how worthy the cause.

even if we accept this claim without debate, it still doesn't hold water. okay, fundraising "in the middle of the street" is bad. that covers the nonprofit volunteers who stand on the median accepting donations. but what about the live-sign holder standing on the corner, advertising $5 domino's pizzas? or the person in the statue of liberty costume advertising tax services? they're not walking in traffic or taking donations, but they too would be banned from holding signs near intersections. (some may even lose their jobs.) what about the abortion protesters who seem to peacefully assemble downtown every week or so? what about buskers and other street performers, who freely share their art in exchange for the occasional tip? what about kids holding a car wash for their church group? where are they supposed to advertise their service if not by the side of the street? all of these people would be affected by the ordinance. does any reasonable person believe that they're a public safety menace?

and we haven't even mentioned the problem of selective enforcement.

ultimately, the ed board (and other ordinance supporters) fail to ask themselves the most basic question that should be considered before passing a ban on behavior: do we really need a new law, or can we get the same result by simply enforcing the laws we already have?

the language of the bill is online here (pdf link). i can only hope that the council will come to their senses and vote against it... but with the council dominated by republicans, i don't have much faith in that happening.

Friday, August 28, 2009

gerry mann deletes blog... but it's still in the cache

local right-winger gerry mann got into a much-blogged-about exchange with rep andré carson recently. mann was soon revealed to be a blogger, who'd written, among other things, that obama is "not only a Marxist and a crook; he is also a raciest (sic)".

today, the blog is gone, as an embarrassed mann is apparently trying to erase his tracks. but google has a cache, which—for now at least—still has his writings available for view. for example, here's a screencap of his controversial post titled "what's obama's problem?" (click for a larger version):

pretty incendiary stuff.

p.s. while we're on the subject of blog deletions, i was curious to discover recently that hoosiersforfairtaxation has gone invite-only. this struck me as odd, considering how melyssa always loved to gloat about how much traffic she got. i can't say i'll miss it, though.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

panhandling issue too complicated for tully

in today's column, matt tully laments that the issues surrounding the city's latest proposed panhandling ordinance are "complicated", but fails to adequately explain just why this is so.

the column's most grievous flaw is that it fails to acknowledge the role of classism in the debate—and classism is at the very heart of the proposed ordinance. let there be no doubt: the whole point of the proposal is that panhandlers, who are poor and, more importantly, look poor, make a certain segment of the population uncomfortable. people like councilor mike mcquillen are so disgusted by these disheveled panhandlers that they're willing to strip away everyone's right to stand on a street corner holding a sign.

perhaps the reason tully doesn't acknowledge the role of classism in the debate is because of his own classism: he says that arguments for the ordinance are "compelling" and agrees with ICVA CEO don welsh that panhandlers have a "profound and negative impact on the image of Indianapolis." or perhaps he naively believes that the bill isn't classist because it "does not solely target panhandlers" and applies to "kids selling car washes, people holding political or going-out-of-business signs, and more". of course, the only reason it applies to those folks is because it has to in order to pass constitutional muster (and even then, it could still be struck down as unconstitutional once the inevitable lawsuits hit the courts). if this were truly about public safety and not about dirty panhandlers, we wouldn't still be calling it a panhandling ordinance.

no, the bill is clearly about panhandlers, and everyone else who'd be affected is just collateral damage. even tully can't be bothered to spend more than a sentence discussing the kids' car washes, church fundraisers, and live sign holders who'd be restricted from advertising their wares. of course, a complete listing of everyone who'd be unjustly branded a panhandler by this ordinance would be so long that it would take up tully's entire column, and new examples are coming to light all the time. (one of the column's commenters—insert standard disclaimer about the vileness of indy star comments section here—points out that buskers and street performers would also be affected, which hadn't occurred to me, but makes perfect sense.)

the column isn't a complete wash, though. it has a couple good passages... even if those passages are just quotes from other people:

Timothy Maguire, who serves as chairman of the Marion County Libertarian Party, walked to the podium. He pointed to an existing law that allows police to go after aggressive panhandlers.

"Why is it that whenever the laws on the books are not being enforced, the knee-jerk reaction is to create new laws that won't accomplish anything?" Maguire asked, adding: "Do you just need to admit that we don't like looking at panhandlers?"

quite. the law is clear that panhandlers aren't even supposed to speak to passersby unless spoken to first. but even standing there quietly is too much, apparently.

in the end, tully concludes that "[i]t's a reasonable issue" and "worth debating". but he never quite explains what's so reasonable about it. he never examines the arguments of the bill's sponsors; he only agrees with them, as if it's self-evident that those filthy panhandlers don't belong on our street corners, as if the mere act of holding a sign makes someone a menace to public safety.

the issues are complicated, all right. apparently, they're not only too complicated for republicans on the council, but they're too complicated for political columnists, as well.

last chance to talk chappaquiddick

shorter gary welsh: i'd like to take the opportunity of senator ted kennedy's death to ignore his five decades in politics and instead discuss an auto accident that happened 40 years ago.

Monday, August 24, 2009

first, they came for the hot-n-ready pizza guy

yesterday, i wondered whether the indianapolis city-county council is really so scared of panhandlers that it's ready to take away speech rights from church groups, pizza parlors, and community car washes. apparently, as far as the public safety committee is concerned, the answer is yes:

The vote was 5-1 in favor of the proposal, with Councilwoman Mary Moriarty Adams, a Democrat, voting against it.

The ordinance, sponsored by Republican Michael McQuillen, would make it a violation of city code to stand within 50 feet of a stoplight or a stop sign on a public right of way while soliciting, advertising, selling a product or talking to someone in a vehicle.

The measure would strengthen an existing panhandling ordinance that prohibits asking people for money orally or by street performance, though McQuillen pointed out the new ordinance also would apply to activities such as church fundraisers and teenagers' car washes. Violation of the ordinance would be punishable by a fine.

yes, the council has figured out that in order for their precious panhandling bill to be constitutional, it must apply to all commercial speech—from the black muslims selling incense to the firefighters collecting charitable donations to the kid in the cow costume in front of chick-fil-a. and as it turns out, five members of the public safety committee are cool with that.

as if i haven't been harping on about it ad nauseam, in my neighborhood, a lot of businesses these days have kids in front waving signs in a desperate plea for business. it's tacky, and a lousy after-school job to be sure, but a threat to public safety? not in my neighborhood, at least. i have to wonder whether the owners and managers of these businesses even know that this ordinance would affect them.

the bill is scheduled for a full council vote next monday. while i'd like to think it won't pass, i don't exactly have faith in the republican-led council to do the right thing—barring an outcry from local fast-food joints, tax preparers, and non-profit groups.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

signs, signs, everywhere signs

the lead item in today's behind closed doors column is about how mayor greg "end of country-club politics" ballard has received free memberships to all the city's snootiest country clubs. it's recommended reading, but i don't have much to add.

instead, i'd like to focus on the final item in the column:

A panhandling ordinance that's been hotly debated in city hall has gotten some help from its Facebook friends.

Councilman Mike McQuillen, a Republican who sponsored an ordinance to ban people from holding signs within 50 feet of traffic lights or stop signs, has started a Facebook group called "Indy, Stop the Panhandling!" As of Friday, the group had drawn about 280 members in support of the ordinance, which goes back to the council's public safety committee Monday for public input.

"These are people I've never heard of," McQuillen said of the members. "I thought a few of my friends would join."

now, those 280 fans seemingly include everyone in mcquillen's family, as well as a number of people who are active in local republican politics (ryan vaughn, theresa lubbers, lincoln plowman, mike jezierski, murray clark, ernie shearer, bart mcatee... and those are just some of the names i recognize off the top of my head), but let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that most of them are just normal facebookers.

The Facebook page also serves as a forum for discussion. People have posted comments offering support ("Go, Michael, go!"), while others have questioned the need for another law to address the problem.

now this part isn't so impressive. the group's wall currently has a whopping 15 comments. five of them are from mcquillen himself. another is from someone in florida, who states, "I wish someone would start this n key west". and two of them suggest we don't need another panhandling law. so calling the page "a forum for discussion" might be technically accurate, but let's not get carried away.

the star goes on to note that "[s]ome council members oppose the ordinance because they feel it's classist or inhibits free speech", and yes, the ordinance is both of those things. but arguably most important, the proposal's classism makes it unconstitutional.

the entire point of the proposal is to restrict free speech rights of a specific class of people—panhandlers. but first amendment law says you can't do that! prior restraints must be content-neutral and apply to everyone. so to pass constitutional muster, a law that makes it illegal to "hold or display any sign or placard intended to solicit food, work, or other assistance" would need to apply not only to panhandlers, but to the guy standing in front of little caesar's hawking hot-n-ready pizza, the person in the cow suit in front of chick-fil-a, the people advertising liquidation sales at whatever big-box store is closing down this month, the black muslims on 38th street selling incense, the folks collecting money for muscular dystrophy, and even the scantily-clad high-schoolers holding a car wash for their church.

mcquillen and other ordinance-supporters claim that the proposal is about public safety, but let's be honest. this proposal, like past panhandling proposals, is about the privileged feeling uncomfortable around those people. unfortunately for them, the first amendment says you can't pass a prior restraint that only applies to those people. are we really so frightened of panhandlers that we're willing to interfere with community car washes and hot-n-ready pizzas?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

give me liberty, even if it means more deaths

oh, the things i do for you, my audience. this week, i subjected myself to watching indiana week in review, and i did it all for you.

the quality of actual political debate on the show leaves something to be desired. for example, the IWIR panel discussed recent protests in richmond over changes in school dress codes... and did so without even mentioning what people were complaining about! (among the complaints you didn't hear about: that the dress code is far too restrictive, such showing collarbone will get your kid suspended; that the school district didn't work with local retailers to ensure that acceptable clothes were available; that many parents had already bought their kids school clothes before learning that said clothes were unacceptable; and so on.) how can you cover a protest without discussing the protesters' complaints? (the answer: poorly.)

but the reason i watched was for the coverage of the governor's recent statements on motorcycle helmet safety, which host jim shella told us were "misundersood".

so what was the alleged misunderstanding? apparently, some people interpreted mitch's comments as being against wearing helmets altogether, when he is only opposed to a mandatory helmet law. (mitch himself wears a helmet, and has been photographed wearing it many a time, so clearly he's not against wearing them, but anyway...)

i did learn one thing from IWIR: that mitch wrote a letter to the editor, which was published with no fanfare on wednesday. here is mitch's published letter, in its entirety:

As I expected when I saw it, a misstatement in The Star on Aug. 16 has caused confusion. When asked about a law to force people to wear motorcycle helmets, I said (tape available) that I always wear one and encourage everyone to do so. The headline writer wrote that I said bikers should "use their heads, not cover them." That is the reverse of my constant advice and example.

Another government mandate of behavior, especially where the data are very inconclusive that it would matter, is a totally different question from urging people to take a reasonable precaution. There are many dubious behaviors that we stop short of ordering people to change by force of law, and in a free country that's as it should be.

okay, fine, so mitch encourages people to wear helmets. good for him. but he is still blatantly lying when he says "the data is inconclusive" about mandatory helmet laws. the data is crystal clear: mandatory helmet laws save lives. here are some more statistics from an NHTSA fact sheet:
  • When Florida repealed its universal rider motorcycle helmet law in 2002, there were 40 percent more motorcyclists admitted to hospitals for treatment in the 30 months immediately following the helmet law change compared to the 30 months just before the law change (4,986 versus 3,567).
  • After the first year of the enactment of universal helmet use laws, the following reductions of motorcycle fatalities occurred: Oregon, 33 percent; Nebraska, 32 percent; Texas, 23 percent; Washington State, 15 percent; California, 37 percent; and Maryland, 20 percent.
  • Helmet use decreased following the changes in helmet laws in Arkansas and Texas. In the first full year following repeal of the law, fatalities in Arkansas increased by 21 percent, compared with the fatality rate in the last full year under the universal use law. In Texas, operator fatalities increased by 31 percent compared with the previous year when the universal helmet law was in place.
  • The 1998 universal helmet law repeal in Kentucky and the 1999 repeal in Louisiana produced similar effects to those experienced by Arkansas and Texas. Observed helmet use dropped from nearly full compliance under the universal law to about 50 percent without the law. Motorcyclist fatalities increased by over 50 percent in Kentucky and over 100 percent in Louisiana. Injuries also increased substantially in both States (48 percent in Louisiana and 34 percent in Kentucky). The rates of fatalities and injuries per registered motorcycle increased in both States following the helmet law repeals.

incidentally, indiana does have a law on the books requiring helmet use, but it only applies to riders under age 18. here's what NHTSA has to say about such laws:
  • Data on crashes in States where only minors are required to wear helmets show that fewer than 40 percent of the fatally-injured minors wear helmets even though the law requires them to do so. Helmet laws that govern only minors are difficult to enforce.
  • Helmet use laws governing all motorcycle riders (universal helmet laws) significantly increase helmet use and are easily enforced because of riders’ high visibility.
  • On September 11, 2007, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that States that do not have universal helmet use laws enact them, and that all States require motorcyclists to use FMVSS 218-compliant motorcycle helmets while riding (operating), or as a passenger on any motorcycle.

care to hazard a guess on whether anyone on the IWIR panel mentioned any of this?

if you guessed no, then congratulations! the entire discussion lasted at most 90 seconds. first, shella mentioned poor misunderstood mitch's letter to the editor, and that mitch is in favor of wearing helmets, but against a mandatory helmet law. shella went on to suggest that "you could never get a law passed" requiring motorcycle helmets in indiana. then democratic flack ann delaney wondered whether mitch is in favor of mandatory seat belt laws. finally, republican flack toby mcclamroch reiterated the correctness of mitch's position, stating that helmets are good because "motorcycles are dangerous." (really, toby? you don't say!) with that, the discussion—and the whole program—were over. the two journalists on the panel weren't given a chance to respond—not that i imagine they would've had much to say. it didn't seem like anyone on the show had bothered to do any research; no actual facts were discussed at any time during the 30-minute program, only conventional wisdom.

truly, a shameful effort all around. the governor lies, repeatedly, to the press about motorcycle helmet safety, and nobody in the local media—nobody at the indy star, and nobody on indiana week in review—makes even a token effort to confirm whether his statements are true.

how is the public supposed to know the truth when the media refuses to fact-check what politicans say, when people like mitch daniels are allowed to lie with impunity, knowing that nobody in the media will call them out on it? our political discourse is thoroughly broken.

Friday, August 21, 2009

please don't let me be misunderstood

typically, watching indiana week in review—a show in which two political hacks and three business-friendly journalists get all wonky about the week's news—isn't my idea of fun. but this week, i may need to tune in:

Topics to be discussed on Indiana Week in Review today:

Evan Bayh's voting record. Is there a shift to the right this year?

Cap and Trade opponents rally in Indianapolis

Baron Hill's Tele-town hall plans

André Carson's lack of town hall plans

Dress Code protest at Richmond High School

Mitch Daniels' misunderstood remarks about motorcycle helmet use

emphasis mine. note the framing here: poor misunderstood mitch! all he did was claim that helmets aren't that important for motorcycle safety! never mind that his remarks were plainly, demonstrably false—he's just misunderstood! and this is the frame being advanced not by IWR's resident republican hack, but by the show's host and moderator, jim shella!

to refresh your memory, since i haven't seen this discussed much outside of this blog or a brief mention by doghouse riley—here are the remarks in question:

Asked, though, if those fatalities might be lessened with a mandatory helmet law, Daniels said that "honestly, the data says that's not the key -- that really the key is practicing motorcycle safety and people on four wheels being a little more attentive. That's what will make the difference, just as seat belts have made a difference."

of course, the data says precisely the opposite. numerous studies have shown that:
  • motorcycle helmets save lives and help prevent serious injury
  • mandatory helmet laws encourage more people to wear helmets, thus
  • mandatory helmet laws save lives

in fact, studies have shown that wearing a helmet is the #1 most important factor in surviving motorcycle crashes. anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, plain and simple.

in my previous post on the subject, i wondered why the indy star let mitch get away with such blatant falsehoods. why didn't someone at the star spend five minutes on the NHTSA site, like i did, finding the actual data? after all, when someone tells me something i know is provably false, my reaction is to prove it false, not to simply repeat the false assertion without challenging it. they didn't even bother getting a quote from a motorcycle helmet proponent to counter mitch's claims, which is what usually passes for "balance" these days.

but shella is taking things one step further. if the governor says something that, on its face, seems to be false, shella assumes that the governor must have been misunderstood! because gosh and golly, it's not like a politician would ever lie about something like that.

there are so many ways shella could've phrase that line. here are some examples, any one of which would have been more accurate:
  • Mitch Daniels' recent remarks about motorcycle helmet use
  • Mitch Daniels' controversial remarks about motorcycle helmet use
  • Mitch Daniels' misunderstanding about motorcycle helmet use
  • Mitch Daniels' misinformed remarks about motorcycle helmet use
  • Mitch Daniels' blatant lies about motorcycle helmet use
  • Mitch Daniels' second-degree burns after his pants spontaneously combusted while lying about motorcycle helmet use

that shella instead chose "misunderstood" is telling: shella is more interested in covering for the governor than in getting to the truth about motorcycle helmet safety.

it should be interesting to see how they try to spin this one on IWR. i'm also curious to see whether anyone other than ann delaney (IWR's token democrat) bothers pointing out the truth. i'm not holding my breath on that one.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

motorcycle helmet safety: mitch vs the data

governor mitch daniels is quoted in today's behind closed doors column, and as is often the case, what he said turns out to be transparently false.

daniels, a motorcyclist himself, was asked about helmet safety:

Asked, though, if those fatalities might be lessened with a mandatory helmet law, Daniels said that "honestly, the data says that's not the key -- that really the key is practicing motorcycle safety and people on four wheels being a little more attentive. That's what will make the difference, just as seat belts have made a difference."

you'd think the comparison to seat belts—a safety device designed to protect riders in event of crash, and one which is required by indiana law—would work in favor of motorcycle helmets, but let's ignore the logic and look directly at the data.

for example, here's the abstract (pdf) of an NHTSA study titled Motorcycle Helmet Effectiveness Revisited:

This report looks at the measurement of how effective motorcycle helmets are in preventing fatalities in motorcycle crashes. Based on a comparison of crashes involving motorcycles with two occupants, at least one of whom was killed, the method uses data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to estimate helmet effectiveness. Technological changes over the past 15 years have led to improvements in helmet design and materials. Recalculating the effectiveness of helmets in preventing fatalities, using more recent data, shows that helmets have indeed improved in this respect. The effectiveness of helmets has increased from 29 percent in 1982 through 1987 to 37 percent over the years 1993 through 2002. The significance of this improvement is that over the same period, helmets have saved the lives of 7,808 riders. The potential number of lives saved over the period is even higher, at 11,915. Unfortunately, the declining rate of helmet use among motorcyclists has contributed to rising numbers of rider fatalities despite the improved life saving qualities of helmets.

here's more from a 2008 NHTSA fact sheet (pdf):

  • Head injury is a leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes.
    An unhelmeted motorcyclist is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than a helmeted motorcyclist when involved in a crash.
  • NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent.
  • A Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) study found that motorcycle helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries and that unhelmeted motorcyclists involved in crashes were three times more likely to suffer brain injuries than those wearing helmets.
  • A study conducted at the University of Southern California, which analyzed 3,600 traffic crash reports covering motorcycle crashes, concluded that wearing helmets was the single most important factor in surviving motorcycle crashes.

in other words, the data plainly shows that motorcyclists who are wearing a helmet are much more likely to survive a crash, and much less likely to be seriously injured. other studies show that people are more likely to wear helmets in states with mandatory helmet laws. more people wearing helmets means fewer fatalities and injuries.

so why is mitch daniels lying about the data? and why did the indy star not call him out on it? this information wasn't exactly difficult to find (though i admit the NHTSA site is slow as hell today). this isn't just some political lie, like when mitch says he didn't raise taxes even though he actually did. this is a life-or-death issue, and mitch's lies could convince impressionable hoosiers to endanger themselves by not wearing a helmet. so why does the star let him get away with it?

Monday, August 10, 2009

the freedom to ask for money

council-member kent smith to the indy star, re: the latest anti-panhandling bill:

"In no way are we looking to stop people from freedom of speech," Smith said. "We need to restrict that ability of people walking up to ask for money in an intersection."

apparently kent smith doesn't think asking for money is a form of speech.

if you're wondering, the bill was tabled and sent back so the public safety committee could work on that whole blatant unconstitutionality thing. here's hoping it won't come back, but i imagine it will.

also at tonight's meeting, the republican majority—who were swept into power in an anti-tax frenzy in 2007—swallowed their pride and obediently voted for a tax increase to fund the CIB. the democrats on the council were more than happy to sit back on this one and let the republicans, many of whom had signed no-tax-increase pledges, hang themselves on their own hypocrisy. one republican, christine scales, voted against. one democrat, jackie nytes, crossed over to ensure that the bill passed. &ara;

Sunday, August 09, 2009

intense, emotional and often irrational

in his column today, tully gets in a dig at gary welsh:

[I]t also was an example of the intense, emotional and often irrational reaction to all things Obama.

One local blogger, for instance, could fill a book (though not a very good one) with his many entries railing on the goofy presidential birth certificate issue. And my voice mail fills with messages you wouldn't want your mother to hear each time I dare write Obama's name.

let's see... "intense, emotional and often irrational". yeah, that description fits gary pretty accurately. but something else that's well-known about gary is that he can't stand criticism. even mild criticism drives him up the wall and causes him to lash out, often with comic effect. so as you might imagine, being criticized in the star has gary fuming. he whines:

I have performed countless hours of legal research in my spare time and devoted many posts over the past year trying to inform the readers of this blog what the real issue is about so people can understand what Tully wants to reduce to "goofy presidential birth certificate." People approach me on the street and e-mail me constantly thanking me for better informing me on this issue so they understand what's its all about. They are angry at guys like Tully in the mainstream media who only mention it in the most derisive way without putting context to it or making any effort to explain the issue.

ah, so gary is simply a hard-working blogger, working to inform people that if you read the constitution while wearing logic-impairing goggles, you can come to absurd conclusions. all he's doing is explaining the controversy! but of course, this description doesn't really match what gary has actually written.

in his most recent birther post, posted on friday—yes, he still posts birther stuff multiple times a week—gary warned of "the real danger that the United States will cease to exist as a constitutional republic".

the birther post before that, two days earler, is riddled with supposed "evidence" that obama's COLB is a forgery, and lavishes praise on pamela geller, a prominent proponent of the born-in-kenya theory.

three days before that he was gleefully quoting at length from an NRO article that referred to obama as a "marxist" and suggested, among other things, that obama is indeed a muslim, that he was to blame for genocide in kenya, and that "the real reason Obama doesn't want the original birth certificate released" is that it would show that his name isn't actually barack obama. (this, despite simultaneously acknowledging that the information on the COLB "is identical to that in the state's records, the so-called vault copy". gary isn't worried about consistency here.)

two days before that he was complaining that his oh-so-reasonable constitutional argument was being lumped together with those crazy birthers who say obama was born in kenya. (hey gary, maybe the reason you get lumped in with those people is that you continue to promote them on your blog?) in that post, he also claimed that "the reason someone like Matt Tully doesn't have the stomach to stick his neck out on an issue like this" is because tully doesn't want to accused of racial bigotry—as gary is regularly—and not because tully thinks the "issue" is laughable.

all that in just the past two weeks! believe me, i could keep going—gary welsh is totally obsessed with his irrational loathing of our first black president. and he eagerly latches on to every negative story about obama he hears—even the ones he claims not to believe, like the idea that obama was born in kenya. (i'm sure you all remember when gary was flogging the story about obama having coked-up limousine sex with a white felon named larry sinclair. he doesn't talk about that so much anymore; the birther stuff gets him more page views.)

gary tries to present himself as a lonely truth-teller, one of the few brave souls willing to admit that the emperor has no clothes. in reality, he's more like a paparazzo, pointing his camera up the emperor's robes in hopes of snapping a photo of imperial undies. but unlike paparazzi, who harass and annoy for a paycheck, gary does it out of pure spite, because like rush limbaugh, he wants obama to fail. and he rationalizes it all by formulating conspiracy theories about why the objects of his hate deserve it: obama is a deceiver, a non-citizen, on the DL, corrupt, secretly smoking cigarettes despite having said he quit.

it's a shame, really, because gary's a fairly intelligent guy and capable of doing good work. but he's also vain, paranoid, and incapable of admitting mistakes, and that tarnishes what could be a really good blog. the result is a blog that's half-rational and half-crackpot—and therefore impossible to take seriously.

gary complains about ad-hominem attacks being used against him, but people wouldn't use them so much if he didn't make it so easy. after all, this is the guy who believed that julia carson practiced voodoo. it's damn hard to take someone like that seriously.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

marsh bugged by viral coupon

marsh on facebook, july 28:

At Marsh, we want our loyal fans, customers and employees to be rewarded. You have all done a fantastic job at sharing our posts and telling your friends. Simply take advantage of this $10 Marsh Coupon at your local Marsh or O'Malia's location on your order of $10 or more (excluding tax). This coupon is limited to once per fan between now and August 8, 2009. Some exclusions apply. See coupon for further details. Don't be afraid to SHARE.. Marsh would love to see more shoppers become fans!!

marsh on facebook, july 30:

Marsh wants to thank all of our fans, friends and shoppers for making our first facebook coupon offer a huge success!! We will continue to offer more coupons and deals "just for fans" moving forward. If you weren't able to take advantage of the offer this time, just "BECOME A FAN" and look for your updates. Marsh, More Ways to Save Than Ever Before!

marsh on facebook, july 31:

Dear Marsh Fans and guests.. We recently offered a coupon for our facebook fans of Marsh. Unfortunately this offer has been widely distributed in an unauthorized manner throughout our marketing area. Due to the vast numbers of inappropriately transmitted and replicated copies of this offer, we will no longer be able to accept these coupons in our stores. Our sincerest apology for any inconvenience this has caused.

marsh on facebook, august 3:

We at Marsh recently stuck our toe in the water to try this whole social media thing. Unfortunately we ended up stubbing it. Our recent $10 coupon offer on Facebook has instead left us red in the face and many of our loyal customers angry. Rightfully so. For that we are truly sorry. Needless to say, we're learning. Imperative to say, we're sorry. - The Marsh Facebook Team

now, marsh intended this coupon only for their facebook fans, and that's fair. in fact it's generous—become a fan, get a $10 coupon. the problem is five little words: "Don't be afraid to SHARE.."

the lesson here is that you shouldn't put something on the internet and ask people to share it if you don't in fact want them to share it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

in defense of racist cops

shorter star ed board: let's not be too hard on bigoted cops. honestly, it's no big deal if a cop writes "jackie chan" instead of "john doe" on the arrest papers for a chinese refugee. these things happen, after all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

i am unaware of these internet traditions you're speaking of

shorter paul k. ogden: blue indiana has a post ridiculing me. when they laugh at you, that means they're scared!

Monday, July 27, 2009

this snowplow brought to you by morton iodized salt. morton: when it rains, it pours.


Would you be mind if KFC put advertising on the streets in your neighborhood if the fast-food chain had fixed all the potholes there and the city didn't have to raise your taxes to do it? How about being forced to stare at ads on the back of street sweepers and snowplows if advertisers had paid for those services?

personally, i wouldn't be mind. but i bet some people would be mind quite a bit!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

why is tully so eager to fire teachers?

indy star columnist matt tully has yet another column up today about how awesome it would be if IPS could fire teachers at whim, without being hampered by pesky union rules. this is at least the third column he's written on this topic in the past month, so clearly this idea is something he's excited about. it's a shame that all these columns are based on faulty assumptions.

tully seems envision a war in our classrooms, with one side consisting of legions of inept, bumbling geriatrics who have somehow managed to hang onto their teaching jobs despite being completely incompetent, and the other side made up of wunderkinds whose unerring brilliance makes them immediately and automatically better teachers than those who have, you know, decades of teaching experience.

tully's first column with this frame in june was based on interviews with superintendent white, so it's no mystery where he got these ideas from. but in his later columns, he no longer has the excuse that he's just lazily repeating what white wanted him to. tully owns this argument now, and in order to advance it, he's using disingenuous arguments.

the disingenuousness starts right in the lead:

From the union hall to the superintendent's office, there is one point on which just about everyone agrees: Indianapolis Public Schools administrators have done an awful job of ridding the district of poor-performing teachers.

really? so if i went to the union hall and asked around, everyone would agree that IPS hasn't fired enough (or the right) teachers? seriously?

at this point, you'd be excused if you put the column down and turned away, your suspension of disbelief shattered. but the real killer comes a few paragraphs later:

Let's be clear: Nobody is rooting for any teacher to be fired. I've spent quite a bit of time in classrooms this year and repeatedly find myself thinking how much we ask of the people charged with educating children. Few people reading this -- and definitely not the person writing this -- face more day-to-day challenges than the average public school teacher.

That said, there are some bad ones. They need to go.

shorter tully: nobody is rooting for teachers to be fired, but when are we going hurry up and fire some damn teachers already?

what editor allowed these two paragraphs to appear side by side? their extreme proximity only highlights the flimsiness of the excuse. tully is transparently and full-throatedly advocating for teachers to be fired. this is his third column fantasizing about teacher firings; his hard-on for teachers getting fired practically leaps off the page.

sure, he doesn't have any particular teacher in mind—i imagine that makes the idea more appealing to him, the thought that nobody he knows would be laid off, just those people, those unnamed mystery teachers who are out there somewhere messing it up for everyone. as captain jack said, it's easier if you don't know their names. but these are real people we're talking about, and the policies tully is advocating would result in them losing their livelihoods. let's not have any pretense here—tully is rooting for teachers to be fired.

it's clear why superintendent white wants to change collective bargaining rules: experienced teachers are more expensive. he wants to fire some and bring in younger, cheaper replacements. that's the way it is in every business, and that's precisely why the seniority rules are there in the first place! the question is: why does tully keep falling for it?

Friday, July 24, 2009

latest designs

i have two new designs up for voting on threadless. the first is actually my first collaboration, with fellow designer alex macduff, and is a must-see for ginsberg fans:

Howl - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

the other is my latest glitch illustration—probably my best glitch design yet:

Liar, Liar - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

also, since the folks on threadless don't know anything about databending or glitch art, i posted a process blog that explains how i created the illustration. it's probably nothing new for my regular readers, though.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

indiana's most famous birther?

while indiana's most outspoken birther is surely gary welsh—just yesterday he posted yet another rambling, delusional screed on the subject—abdul suggests that our state's most famous birther is in fact rep. dan burton.

from the washington independent:

"It's a good idea," said John Donnelly, a spokesman for Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who became one of the bill's co-sponsors this month. "If candidates provided that information to the Federal Election Commission you wouldn't have all this hullaballoo. You don't want to needlessly expose presidents to crazy conspiracy theories."

it's pretty hilarious to hear a spokesman for dan "head-shaped object" burton talking about "crazy conspiracy theories"—a topic that burton knows better than most.

of course, the statement is worded in such a way that it suggests burton isn't actually a birther. and it's possible that he's not, that he's simply sponsoring the bill because he knows the issue is popular with his base and he wants their support. (after all, he faces a contentious primary next year, and there's been a lot of chatter that this may finally be indiana's chance to get rid of him.) but honestly, does it really matter? effectively, it makes no difference whether burton actually believes this nonsense or whether he's only humoring the wackos in order to get votes. either way, the end result is the same.

i'd like to think that this could be the last straw for 5th-district voters—or at least part of that straw—and inspire them to finally vote him out of office. but if they weren't turned off by the whole shooting-a-watermelon-to-prove-the-clintons-are-murderers business or the loaded-gun-in-an-airport business, then i can't see this being much different.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

indystar.com: password required?

i got up this morning and checked my feeds, ready to read this morning's "behind closed doors" column, when i got a nasty surprise:

either somebody really screwed up, or somebody really screwed up. i'm now unable to view any news stories on the site without a username and password. even going to the front page of indystar.com brings up the login box, and as you can see, the website can't even pull its own headlines because of permission problems.

there are two possibilities here:
  1. gannett has decided to charge for the website.
  2. someone on the IT team made a massive error, rendering the entire site essentially unusable.
one can only hope that it's option 2, because i can't imagine many people wanting to pay to visit a news site where they can't even check the headlines for typos.

oh well. now we wait. hopefully the site will be fixed by end of day. if not, i guess i'll be getting my news elsewhere.

update: as of approximately 10:45 a.m., the problem appears to be fixed. the site was inaccessible for at least 2–3 hours.

2nd update: IndyStar.com access problems corrected

IndyStar.com is now fully restored after this morning’s two-hour outage caused by two brief power losses to some circuits feeding the servers, according to the company that maintains the Web site.

The wide-spread problem caused other Gannett Web sites, mainly in the eastern United States, to be inaccessible as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

extremely mild weather alert

i use a firefox plug-in called forecastfox to keep up with the weather. the plug-in places little icons in my browser's status bar indicating current weather conditions as well as a customizable forecast (i have mine set to show me four days' worth of weather along with the RealFeel™). i jokingly refer to these icons as "the runes", so when my wife asks about the weather, i'll respond, "the runes say it's going to rain." or whatever the runes say. this is especially fun when the runes indicate that it's currently raining but it clearly isn't, and so on.

one feature of forecastfox is a little stop sign icon that typically indicates severe weather—thunderstorms, tornado alerts, flash floods, icy conditions, plague, brimstone hail, whatever. so i was surprised when i clicked the red icon today and got the following warning from the NWS, which i'll repost verbatim (meaning, with original ALL CAPS formatting intact):

427 AM EDT SAT JUL 18 2009
427 AM EDT SAT JUL 18 2009






be careful! it's much more temperate than usual out there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

when speling isn't corect

dear star editorial staff: what's a cador?

perhaps one of the reasons the newpaper industry is dying is because they've fired so many staffers that they can't even catch typos in headlines anymore?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

how to disenfranchise voters in two easy steps

do you have too many undesirable types voting in your district? too many elderly, poor, or minorities? try this simple remedy!
  1. pass one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation.
  2. change the BMV rules to make it much harder to get or renew an ID.

voilà! now you can disenfranchise voters and blame it on identity thieves!

surprisingly, the indy star has an editorial this morning about the new BMV rules, and it doesn't even mention the danger of disenfranchisement—it just makes vague references to unspecified "rights" that shouldn't be trampled. did potential disenfranchisement not even occur to the ed board, or did they simply decide not to mention it?

Friday, July 10, 2009

friday cat bending

i still haven't quite solved the mystery of PNG databending. most of the time, the results are crap, but every once in a while you get an awesome effect i call PNG smearing. i don't know how to do it consistently, but if i put in a couple hours, i can get a few good ones:





Tuesday, July 07, 2009

when is a quitter not a quitter?

when she goes on CNN and declares that she's not!

"I am not a quitter. I am a fighter," Palin told CNN on Monday while on a family fishing trip, on the heels of her Friday bombshell announcement that she was resigning as Alaska's governor.

but seriously... by definition, sarah palin is a quitter. when the going got tough, she chose to quit. she didn't choose to fight on, as a "fighter" would have—she quit. which makes her a quitter. QED.

if you had a taste for puns, you could even call her barraquitter, and her constant twittering as qwittering (individual postings would be qweets). if photoshopping were more your style, you could create an unmotivational poster bearing her face and declaring that "winners quit and quitters win!"

if the word quitter has any meaning, then it applies to the sarah palins of the world. any definition that makes sense includes her. her own definition, apparently, is something quite different. take this quote from her resignation speech:

Life is too short to compromise time and resources... it may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: "Sit down and shut up", but that's the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out.

in her mind, the "quitter's way out" would be... not to quit. you have to wonder whether even she believes this nonsense.

Monday, July 06, 2009

that shoe is uncomfortable on the other foot

shorter gary welsh: i'm disgusted by all these bloggers spreading false, mendacious rumors about sarah palin! they should be spreading false, mendacious rumors about barack obama, instead, like i do.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

easy questions

regarding the state budget, which was finally passed last night, the indy star ed board asks, "why did it take so long?"

of course, one of the easiest and most obvious answers to this question is because the governor was more concerned about defeating the democratic budget proposal than about actually getting a budget passed.

after all, let's not forget why we went to special session in the first place. senate republicans and house democrats had reached a compromise on a budget back in april. governor daniels had even led republicans to believe that he'd support that agreement, but at the last minute he moved the goalposts and announced he wouldn't support the plan without more cuts. the plan subsequently fell apart.

if the governor hadn't pulled the old switcheroo back then, the budget would've passed and there would've been no special session. of course, that would've been bad for mitch, because almost none of his proposals had passed. the special session gave him a second chance and getting some of his policies passed—and in the end, it worked.

standing athwart history, screaming "democrats are the real racists!"

shorter paul k ogden: southern strategy? never heard of it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

shut it down! or, what a difference a month makes

mitch daniels on may 21 (courtesy shella's blog):

Mitch Daniels has obviously heard Democrats accuse him of a desire to shut down state government if a new budget isn't passed by June 30th.

The governor today called a shutdown "unacceptable" and "completely irresponsible."

"We will not shut down government, we will not shut down the flow of money to schools," he said. He did suggest that a continuing resolution that would keep the current budget in place is a possibility.

mitch daniels, today (again courtesy shella's blog):

Governor Mitch Daniels called reporters into his office on short notice to declare that steps are being taken to shut down state government at midnight Tuesday.

Daniels says that the prisons will operate and state police will stay on the road but most other functions of government will stop.

Unemployment and welfare checks will be issued.

of course, if mitch truly believed that a government shutdown was unacceptable, like he said it was last month, he would be doing everything in his power to prevent it from happening. instead, he's been touring the state to complain about the budget proposal that was passed by the house.

i guess we know where his priorities are. apparently he'd rather pass no budget and shut down state government than pass a budget that looks like the house's version.

friday cat bending

it's been a few weeks, so we're well overdue for some friday cat bending.

pasting together interleaved and non-interleaved raw files:



pasting together a glitched jpg with the original raw:


running different audio effects (distortion, reverse, inverse) on different channels:




latest design: i love to read

my latest design is up for voting at threadless:

I love to read - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

judging from the number of comments so far, i don't have high hopes for this one... i'm guessing that a fair proportion of threadless voters don't particularly love to read. but i'd love to be proven wrong!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

a novel argument about climate change

shorter paul k ogden: yes, okay, the climate is warming and humans are to blame. but why do people assume this is a bad thing? i mean, warming might make florida an unlivable hellhole, but on the other hand, it will make minnesota much more pleasant, so in the end it's a net positive, right?