Friday, April 30, 2010

is this the worst idea that democrats have ever had?

i applaud congressional democrats' initiative for wanting to "reform" the immigration "problem" this year, especially in light of the anti-immigrant bill that was just passed in arizona. but my god, if this is their idea of reform...

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.

It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

"The cardholder's identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer," states the Democratic legislative proposal.

they literally want to fingerprint every worker in america. this is like some insane caricature of a proposal, the stuff of conspiracy theories. i almost can't believe it's real. are they trying to drive voters away?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

cause & effect redux

i always knew indygo—indianapolis's public transit system—was bad. there are too few buses, the route map is a mess, buses come infrequently, and fares are relatively expensive. but i didn't know until a couple weeks ago that indygo is one of the worst in the country. (a recent analysis found our bus fleet tied for last place with eugene, oregon... a town 1/5 our size!)

so how do you become worse than the worst? it sounds like a zen koan, but we're going to find out the answer!

IndyGo is counting itself as the next victim of the state's property tax caps and dwindling funding.

On Tuesday, Indianapolis' municipal bus agency said it is considering cutting service and jobs to make up for a $3 million shortfall this year.

Those cuts could include eliminating some bus routes and curtailing door-to-door paratransit service for people with disabilities.

yes, the system that has too few routes already may be forced to cut more routes! this is thanks in large part to property tax caps, which were instituted a couple years back after proto-teabagger stormed the streets demanding them, despite the objections of those of us who knew the cuts would wreck local government budgets throughout the state.

but the caps aren't the only cause of indygo's woes. fundamentally, the city has never truly embraced indygo or given it the funding it needs. comparable cities tend to devote much more to transit, often with dedicated taxes. (st louis's transit budget is almost six times ours.) the system has been neglected for years; its failure goes back several administrations.

mayor ballard hopes to improve the city's transit system. i sincerely hope he can. (he surely can't make it much worse.) but i don't have much hope, considering the kinds of solutions he's come up with so far. after all, ballard was a leading proponent of the property tax caps that have gutted his budget. and his proposal to fix the city's water and sewers has extra crap tagged on that means rates won't be as low as they could be; in exchange he gets a one-time cash infusion that he can pretend he didn't raise taxes for. (never mind that it would have the city sell off the city's water system outright; even the governor's controversial "major moves" deal would give the state our toll road back after 75 years.)

the last time i rode an indianapolis bus was when i was too young to drive. this is because the system is such a pain to use—there are few places i could even reach by bus without going downtown first, and most buses only come once an hour at best. but i've ridden public transit in other cities, so i know it doesn't have to be like this.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

but it's so easy to get an ID!

whenever anyone complains that indiana's voter ID law is too strict, proponents get bent out of shape. "everything else in our society requires ID, so why not voting?" they say. "besides, it's not that hard to get ID."

meet brent jones, profiled in tully's latest column (which ran in sunday's paper but was embargoed online until today). when brent was a baby, his troubled mother would often leave him with a local child care center, sometimes for days at a time. eventually, she disappeared entirely. the people who ran the child care effectively adopted brent, but no paperwork. 17 years later, brent was preparing to graduate high school, but had no birth certificate, no legal record of his identity. as such, he was unable to get a license, a college scholarship, or full-time work. and of course, unable to vote in indiana.

"People don't understand how ridiculous this is," Brent said. "It's crazy. No matter how much you try to explain, people say, 'There has to be a way.' No. I've tried everything."

As frustrating as Brent's case is, Marion County juvenile court Judge Marilyn Moores said it isn't unique. She comes across a handful of such cases each year. As with Brent, the story often begins with a birth parent handing a child off to a friend without taking the legal steps required.

"All of the systems of government have to become more sensitive to this issue," she said. "You can't tell these children they don't exist as far as our system is concerned. You can't penalize the child for the sins of the parent."


Brent was allowed to enroll at the schools because students who are unable to prove their identity aren't turned away. Nonetheless, the system did fail him. Many school workers knew his story, but nobody made the effort to help resolve his lack of legal documentation.

getting ID might not be so hard for those of us priveleged enough to come from stable homes, who were fortunate enough not to have our paper records destroyed by fire or tornado. but not everyone is so fortunate. it's easy to pretend that people like brent don't exist, or that they don't matter, but these people are real. they exist, and they are marginalized by bureaucracy.

in the end, brent's story has a happy ending. tully and the star's research department scoured public databased and made a lot of phone calls, and eventually were able to locate brent's mother, who was fortunately still alive and doing well. but again, this is sheer luck. brent had the good fortune to meet a newspaper columnist who happened to be writing a series of columns about manual high school, where brent had happened to transfer recently. surely, not everyone who lacks a birth certificate will meet a matt tully, and even if they did, tully and the star surely don't have time to locate them all.

there are others out there like brent: legally ghosts, with no tangible identity. these are people who've been treated like numbers, and their numbers got skipped.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

more award-winning journalism from abdul

abdul hakim shabazz apparently won a journalism award last week... and immediately used the opportunity to take a cheap shot at his critics (then escalating a few days later after one of his critics fired back). if you burst out laughing at the idea of abdul's site being the "best journalism website" in indiana, then you're probably familiar with abdul's work: it's vapid, petty, and what passes for news analysis is usually poorly thought out if not downright disingenuous.

for example, let's take his latest post, about indiana ending its pursuit of "race to the top" funds.

you're probably heard of "he said, she said" journalism, where journalists print quotes from both sides of a dispute and make no attempt to ascertain which side is correct (if either). abdul practices a simpler form—you could call it "he said" journalism—in which he gets quotes from one person and repeats them as unmitigated truth.

behold: here is his post in its entirety:

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett told me this morning that the state is ending its pursuit for "Race to the Top" funds. "Race to the Top" is a federal program that provides up to $4 billion for states that implement reforms in their education system.

Bennett says there was not enough support from the Indiana Teachers Unions for the state to take a second shot at the funds. Lack of union support was the one of the original reasons Indiana lost out on the first round of "Race to the Top" funds.

Bennett told me this morning he made an offer to the Unions to meet him next Tuesday to work out a deal, however they turned him down.

Had Indiana been a "Race to the Top" participant, it would have received hundreds of millions of dollars for education. Bennett says, for him, Race to the Top was more about reforming schools than money.

However, I can't help but think of the irony in all this that the teachers unions whine and complain about more money for schools and as soon as they get an opportunity to get more money they turn it down. Hmmm, it must be that whole accountability thing again.

man, union people sure are a bunch of assholes! i sure am glad abdul made no attempt to get their side of the story, aren't you?

in contrast, here's a taste of how the indianapolis star covered this story last week:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said he is passionately making a case for reforms he considers crucial to improve the well-being of the state's children.

The presidents of the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indiana Federation of Teachers say Bennett is trying to steamroll teachers in the process and is using unfair tactics. Both have increased their own rhetoric against and criticism of the state.

The debate has come to a head over whether the unions will sign on to the state's second attempt to win stimulus funds.

Bennett has advocated tying job reviews for teachers to their students' test scores, and he has advanced policies that would allow teachers to be paid or dismissed based on job performance rather than years of experience.

wait, so the two sides had a disagreement over some kind of issue? well surely the unions are just being unreasonable...

Bennett held several meetings with union leaders but declined to allow them to see the proposal for the federal grant, saying that other states might steal the more innovative ideas. Both unions were then asked to write letters of support -- for a proposal they had not seen.

emphasis mine. the real story is that the unions were unwilling to sign onto bennett's plan sight unseen. so, rather than share his "innovative" ideas with the unions, bennett decided to not apply for the grant at all.

as doug pointed out last week, perhaps this dispute could've been resolved had the two sides been more willing to work together rather than fire off angry press releases. in the end, both sides lost this one. but surely nobody comes off looking more foolish than abdul, who published an embarrassingly one-sided post that was lacking some crucial details.

the question is: did abdul not know this information, or did he simply choose not to share it with his audience? either one is a glaring journalistic failure, but the former would be merely incompetent, whereas the latter would be downright mendacious. both possibilities are troubling—i'm just not sure which is worse.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

handicap rec 001 - act like you understand 12"

i just got my copies of this 12", the debut release from france's handicap records:

Handicap Rec 001 - Act Like You Understand
A1 - Doormouse - Final Eye of the European Breakcore Burnout
A2 - Handbag/Abba - Ruffest Gunark
A3 - stAllio! - Rockin the Pop Charts
A4 - Roundop Ready vs Rektal Distortion - Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas
B1 - Killjoy - Muffhawk Smack Down
B2 - Handbag/Abba - Overnight Celebrity
B3 - Valav - Xhailn

contact me if you're interested in a copy... i'm thinking around $7 each sounds about right.

handicap rec 001

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


as some of you have already heard, virago & i just bought a new house in the "south broad ripple" area. (close enough to broad ripple to call it sobro, but far enough south as to require the use of scare quotes.) we'd been living in apartments for the past couple years, so it's great to be back in a place that we own, that we can decorate and modify at will. not to mention, it's larger than our apartments and the mortgage is less than we were paying in rent.

the previous owners were rehabbers who bought the place for cheap and fixed it up. the outside is unassuming, but the interior is beautiful—if a bit amateurishly done. (the cable installer had to laugh at the unprofessional exterior cable hookup, and our frankenstein's monster of a furnace, with its labyrinthine ductwork and hobbled-together appearance, elicited a similar reaction from the HVAC guy.)

possibly the best part is the basement, which means we no longer need to live among piles of clutter—the clutter all goes in the basement, where we don't have to look at it! this also allows us to get better furniture. for example, virago wanted to get a better storage solution for our vinyl record collections, so we picked up some of these bad boys:

LP bins

it's like having a record store right in my own house!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

cause and effect

cause: indiana property taxes are capped, taking away a crucial source of revenue for local governments.

effect: painful local service cuts. the most recent example is the marion county public library:

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library could close as many as six branches this year.

Closing those branches and laying off workers would turn a budget deficit into a slight surplus, according to a report presented on Thursday to a committee of the library board.


The cuts would also cost 55 library workers their jobs, and remaining employees would see their work weeks cut to 37.5 hours.

Reduced property tax revenues, caused by changes in state tax law, will lead to $3.2 million in cuts. About 80 percent of the library's budget comes from property taxes.

glancing at a map of the proposed closures shows that they're nearly all in the inner city, in lower-income areas with a lot of minority residents:

View Marion County Library Closings in a larger map

the people in these areas are the ones who need libraries the most. many people depend on public libraries for internet access. closing these branches will make it even harder for these people to find jobs.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

abdul's most despicable ever?

right-wing blogger/radio host abdul hakim shabazz has a history of saying heartless and hateful things about the city's homeless, from his notorious comment (coincidentally from two years ago today) that "Someone whould get a giant broom and sweep them all away!" to his suggestion last month that the city should forceably commit the city's homeless to mental institutions against their consent.

i didn't think abdul could get any worse than that, but his post from this morning is so appalling that i'd think it an april fool's joke if i didn't know better.

the "shorter" version of his post is that the city should've somehow gotten rid of all the city's homeless and panhandlers before the ncaa final four. "I don’t care if they use spray or a hose," he writes, "but these guys need to go and go now."

abdul laments that he was recently asked for money more than once, and that "while walking over to meet my friends I had to deal with people sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against buildings and some even asleep on the street." then, astonishingly, he claims that he's not talking about the homeless, because "Ask any expert and they will tell you that homelessness and panhandling are two different things."

even ignoring the fact (which i've pointed out repeatedly) that studies show that the majority of panhandlers are indeed homeless, abdul apparently thinks that people who sleep on the street are panhandlers, but not homeless! imagine if all you had to do to panhandle sucessfully was take a nap next to your collection plate, maybe with a sign that says "sleepy, please give." the mind boggles at the very concept!

in the course of his dehumanization, abdul calls these people "dirty laundry", "trash", "nuisances", and "eye sores". and those are just the names he's willing to call them on his blog. i can only imagine the horrible things he says in private.

truly, i ask you, is there a more misguided, misinformed, and misanthropic blogger in all of indianapolis?