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Friday, November 28, 2008 
fair and balanced no more!
shorter gary welsh: fox news used to be the only truly "fair and balanced" news outlet, but now even they are in the tank for obama. unlike them, i'm not going to stop posting paranoid delusions just because the election's over.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 
it's time to play good idea, bad idea
good idea: scaling down your inauguration.

according to an associated press story (which i read courtesy of ibj, but which i won't link to because i'm still boycotting the AP), governor mitch daniels is going to have a seriously scaled-down inauguration this year. four years ago, he was inaugurated at the pepsi coliseum at the state fairgrounds. this year, he's just going to do it in front of his office.

why? because the economy is a mess. despite his campaign blather about indiana's "economic hot streak" and how indiana is an "island of growth", daniels knows the economy is in the tank and doesn't want to be seen as gauche or out of touch with the average hoosier's hardships. he's already been in office four years; he doesn't need another fancy inauguration party. score this as another PR success for governor daniels. i disagree with the man on most issues, but he's a savvy politician.

bad idea: taking your wife along on taxpayer-funded junkets.

Mayor Greg Ballard, his wife and several of his administration's economic advisers will travel at taxpayer expense to Japan and China for 10 days, starting this weekend, to drum up investment and trade opportunities for Indianapolis.

The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee is paying for the trip, using $30,000 it received in an economic development grant from the city.

i'm not going to criticize ballard for going to asia—it's allegedly a business trip, so that's fine. the "chinatown" jokes are so obvious that they make themselves, so i don't need to make one. but when bart peterson went on junkets like this, he got private funding. and he sure didn't take his wife along at taxpayer expense in the middle of a recession.

greg ballard is the man who wanted to eliminate the city's arts budget, and try to get the community to put up private funding instead... but he can't even get private funding for his own junkets!

but that's not even the most embarrassing part:

Ballard said he chose to bring his wife, Winnie, a native of the Philippines, because she is Asian and because "the husband-wife dynamic is the normal way to do business there."

Some Democratic City-County Council members said they were upset they hadn't been notified the mayor was going away. At least one questioned whether bringing his wife and a security officer made sense during tough economic times.

winnie ballard has no place going on that trip. she doesn't have a job in the administration, and as jen points out, the idea that it's the asian way to take your wife to business meetings is laughable. if she wants to tag along on the trip, fine, but make her pay her own way. don't make the taxpayers foot the bill.

ballard was supposed to be the pro-taxpayer mayor. at least that was the story he tried to tell us. and he keeps telling us how fiscally conservative he is compared to those evil, incompetent democrats who used to be in charge. but when it comes down to it, he has no trouble finding $30 grand in the budget so he and his wife can do some sightseeing and eat some fancy dinners on the taxpayer's dime.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 
bmv reverses license plate policy
good news! getting an "in god we trust" vanity license plate that reads MARS or BAAL just got a lot easier:

Indiana is ending a short-lived policy which had barred God from being used on personalized license plates.

this is great, if for no other reason than because the policy was an unconstitutional prior restraint.

Today, Stiver said the BMV is returning to the original policy, in which a committee of BMV employees decides whether to grant personalized license plates based solely on whether they are obscene or would violate community standards of decency. He called it a matter of using "common sense."

Letters will be sent to some 60 motorists who had requested plates with messages similar to Ferris's offering them the chance of obtaining them now.

Monday, November 24, 2008 
RIP MC breed
mc breed has passed away. the name might not sound familiar to you, but hip hop fans will surely recognize this dope beat (which i sampled on mash smarter not harder):

dear dr pepper
dear dr pepper: if you're going to do a dumb promotional gimmick where you offer everyone in the country a free product if they go to your website on a certain day and sign up for a coupon, make sure your damn site can handle the traffic! was essentially hosed all day yesterday. i first went to the site around noon but was never able to register for my free soda. this was a massive PR FAIL.

now dr pepper is saying they've extended their offer until 6pm today due to "consumer demand", which is a euphemism for "our website was broken all day."

Saturday, November 22, 2008 
in which god do you trust?
if you're in the market for a new indiana license plate, why not try to get one of the following vanity plates? they might try to turn you down, citing their new policy regarding references to deities, but i've included excuses you can use to try to convince them otherwise.

in god we trust:mars
excuse: "deity? no, i just love the planet mars!"
note: you can also try the greek name, ares, but they might assume you're talking about your zodiac sign.

in god we trust:loki
excuse: "i'm a really laid-back, low-key kind of person."
note: a particularly ironic god to place your trust in.

in god we trust:pan
excuse: "i work for le creuset. we make pots and pans."

in god we trust:thor
excuse: "he's the hero of my favorite comic book."

in god we trust:zeus
excuse: "it's a computer program and/or software company."

in god we trust:hera
excuse: "she's the cylon hybrid baby in battlestar galactica!"
note: for the ladies.

in god we trust:gaia
excuse: "i'm, like, super into the environment."

in god we trust:nike
excuse: honestly, you won't need one, because people will just assume it's a reference to athletic shoes.

in god we trust:baal
excuse: this is a tough one. if your bmv rep doesn't know their old testament, you might be able to tell them it's an acronym or something.

in god we trust:eros
excuse: you're on your own with this one. good luck getting this accepted.

Friday, November 21, 2008 
in god we trust, except when we don't
the indy star ed board chimes in regarding the "be gods" license plate fiasco:

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles rejected Ferris' application to reserve the plate this year under a new policy that bans any references to religion. While the agency, in the face of protests and litigation, backed off on her case and those of a few others who got in ahead of the change, the policy will stand.

That's a peculiar position for an agency that has issued about 2 million "In God We Trust" license plates to Hoosiers in recent years, a policy the state has successfully defended in court.

Despite that obvious inconsistency, Indiana officials now appear headed to court to defend their denial of individual expression of faith. The Alliance Defense Fund, a religious liberty advocacy organization representing Ferris, plans to continue with the lawsuit. The state should end the matter -- by dropping the policy.

this isn't exactly a new story—i've been writing about it since tuesday—but they make their editorial marginally relevant by adding in one new fact at the end: that the lawsuit against the bmv will continue, despite the agency's attempt to appease.

the policy deserves to be challenged, for it frankly makes no sense that the bmv will give you a license plate for free that says "in god we trust", but won't let you add your own god-themed message even if you pay them. so i'm pleasantly surprised that the lawsuit won't be dropped—but i won't be completely satisfied until either the IGWT plates go away or i'm allowed to get a NO GOD vanity plate (not that i'd actually get one; i just want the option), or an "in god we trust plate" where the number is NOT ME.

from there, the star's editorial makes a left turn to talk briefly about southport's charles lynch. for more background on that case, i give you doug masson:

First, we have a guy in Southport refusing to act in an orderly fashion at a City Council meeting as a way to protest the lack of prayer to open City Council meetings. By way of protest, he started praying out loud during a moment of silence; he was asked to be quiet; he started talking louder; he was asked to leave; he refused; he was escorted out; he grabbed a chair. He was arrested. Let's be clear, he was not arrested for praying. Had he prayed silently or been quiet when asked or left when asked, there would have been no arrest. It was his insistence on disrupting the meeting that led to his arrest.

lynch deliberately made an ass of himself in a decidedly unchristianlike manner, and was rightfully arrested for it. but don't expect the star ed board to chastise him for it: these are the same people who made no presidential endorsement this year because they just couldn't bring themselves to endorse a black democrat for president. here's what they had to say about lynch:

Lynch's behavior was clearly unacceptable -- according to a police report, he disrupted the meeting and then resisted an officer's efforts to remove him from the meeting room. But the fact that Southport officials have allowed this issue to fester for nearly a year and rise to such a level of contention indicates a failure of leadership on all sides.

yes, according to the star ed board, it's the fault of the southport city council that charles lynch decided to disrupt their meeting. after all, they're the ones who made him angry by eliminating ostentatious prayer from their meetings. and it was their failure of leadership that allowed the issue to fester by... well, i'm not sure what they were supposed to have done. (probably they shouldn't have gotten the rid of the prayer in the first place; nothing else would satisfy religion-on-my-sleeve types like lynch.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 
it's a miracle what bad press will do
from the indy star:

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

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

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

"After reviewing Ms. Ferris' request," Stiver said, "it is clear that she attempted to reserve her PLP prior to November 6. As such, I have over-ruled the existing determination and directed that Ms. Ferris receive her initially requested PLP."

the story of this lawsuit (and the bmv's hypocrisy regarding this issue) spread rapidly through state media, so i'm not surprised that stiver leapt at the opportunity to change the story. but his statement shows he doesn't get it.

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

"Simply stated, if the BMV approves such pro-deity plates as 'GOD CAN,' the agency has no grounds to reject such plates as 'GOD CANT,' 'GODLESS,' or other more extreme anti-deity plates that have been requested and that most Hoosiers would find offensive," Stiver said.

never mind his assertion that "most hoosiers" would find such plates "offensive". the true irony here is that this is the exact argument that i and many others have been making about the "in god we trust" plates: allowing millions of hoosiers to place a pro-god message on their license plates (at no extra cost, even), while simultaneously forbidding any opposing messages, amounts to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 
god on a plate
you may have heard that yesterday the indiana court of appeals ruled against the "in god we trust" license plate lawsuit. the court agreed with the state's argument that the plates are a "second standard" plate and thus don't require an additional fee like other specialty plates.

today, a sort-of-but-not-quite-related story:

A woman from eastern Indiana has sued the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles commissioner over the agency’s rejection of her request for a personalized license plate with the words "BE GODS."

Liz Ferris intends for the message to read "Be God's," a principle she borrowed from a contemporary Christian musician Rich Mullins and considers central to her life.

Ferris, 36, said she had that license plate on her car for eight or nine years before missing the renewal deadline in October 2007. In March, she paid a $48 fee and applied for the plate anew with the hope of putting it back on her Honda CRV in 2009.

of course, the hilarious part is that the missing apostrophe in the plate totally changes the plate's message from one of submission to a sort of atheistic self-empowerment: BE GODS. become your own god. that's a message i could agree with!

anyway, despite what you may think from my opposition to the IGWT plates, i would be happy to let her get a vanity plate that says whatever she wants... as long as she pays a fee like everyone else has to. in that respect, i don't see that as being any different than slapping a fish magnet on her car.

apparently the bmv disagrees, which is ironic. the bmv will give you a plate for free with the word "god" on it, but won't let you pay them to put the same word on there. how does that make sense?

Saturday, November 15, 2008 
selling yourself out for $12 a person
when i first starting hearing the hype about mayor ballard's new plan to reduce the county income tax, i was puzzled. sure, then-candidate ballard campaigned against 2007's COIT increase, but i've long maintained that now-mayor ballard knows the city needs that money way too much to undo it. so i was quite confused to hear about plans for a COIT decrease. was our mayor dumber than i'd given him credit for?

but then i heard the details of the plan and it all made sense:

Mayor Greg Ballard has introduced a proposal to lower the county income tax by three-hundredths of a percentage point, to 1.62 percent.

The adjustment would give a $6 million break to taxpayers. That works out to about $12 a year for the average $40,000-a-year wage-earner in Indianapolis.

that's right, the mayor wants to reduce the tax by three hundredths of a percent! the average taxpayer would see a whopping twelve dollars per year of savings.

to put it in perspective, reporter brendan o'shaunessey probably earned more money writing the story about the tax decrease in the star than he will get back. in fact, i would say that the copy editor who worked on the story probably earned more editing the piece than she'd get back from the tax plan—except this is the indy star we're talking about, and i'm not sure they even use copy editors anymore.

this tax decrease is literally not worth the paper it's written on. by that i mean that the cost of writing it, printing it, voting on it, etc will cost as much money as it will save!

what the hell is the point of a $12 tax decrease? it's like ballard was so dead-set on cutting this tax that he's determined to do it, no matter how paltry the reduction is. i'd rather the city kept my $12 and used it to make up for the budget cuts in arts, parks, or many other areas.

never mind that we're in the midst of a recession (if not a depression) and that city budgets are going to get progressively tighter over the next few years thanks to the property tax caps (which he begged for). ballard's going to have a hell of a time making budget cuts over the next few years to pay for everything (he's promised not to raise taxes); now he's making his job even harder by cutting taxes, even if by a miniscule amount. he's shooting himself in the foot, and for what? $12 a person!

i've heard of cheap political stunts, but $12 per taxpayer is about as cheap as you can get.

Friday, November 14, 2008 
higher-quality videos (hidden) on youtube
this is wild:

Back in march, it was discovered that when you view a video directly on Youtube, you could add a "&fmt=18" to the URL to enable a higher quality, higher resolution stream which is encoded with the H.264 codec.

To make this work in an embedded video, however, you need a slightly different hack. After pasting the embed code into a blog post, adjust the two video URLs (one in a param tag and one as the src parameter in the embed tag) by adding "&ap=%2526fmt%3D18" to the end.

check it out:

normal embed:

hi-def embed:

the bottom one definitely looks crisper to me. (the still frame is the same; you need to play the videos to see the difference.)

how long have these higher-res videos been hiding on youtube? why wouldn't youtube publicize their existence?

more on voter turnout
despite what some obama haters might tell you, voter turnout increased by several million this year. current estimates are that about 129 million ballots were cast, compared to 122.3 million in 2004. that's an increase of 6.7%, which raises the turnout rate to 62% (slightly under the record from 1964 of 64%).

Each analyst cited North Carolina as the state with the largest increase over 2004 in turnout, by about 9 percentage points. A traditionally Republican state won by Obama after his campaign waged vigorous registration and get-out-the-vote operations, the state was one of many with large African-American populations that saw rising turnout this year. Other states included Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, all of which were won by McCain; and Virginia, Florida, and the District of Columbia, all carried by Obama.

In Indiana and Nevada, both reliably GOP states for decades, Obama won with major efforts over the airwaves and on the ground, and turnout increased by several percentage points in both states over 2004 figures, according to both analyses.

Turnout was also up nearly three percentage points from four years ago in Missouri, a Republican-friendly battleground state where Obama made inroads. As of yesterday, McCain's lead was 4,990 votes out of 2.9 million cast in the state, according to an unofficial tally on the secretary of state's website. If Obama overtakes McCain in the final official count in Missouri, it would raise to 10 the number of states carried by Obama that went for President Bush in 2004.

While turnout jumped in several normally Republican states won by Obama, it dipped slightly in Colorado, both studies found.

States that experienced a large drop-off in turnout included McCain's home state of Arizona, which he won; heavily Republican Utah; and Ohio, another GOP-leaning state that fell into the Obama column.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 
another story that clearly must be true
i used to think of the national enquirer as a joke, a journalistic punchline. in fact, when i was in grammar school (before i grew to accept that i can't draw) i even drew a few covers of a parody called the national enquiree (tagline: "enquireeing minds want to know!" hey, in sixth grade, i thought it was clever.)

then came the john edwards affair story. i tried to ignore it as just trash journalism. when it came out that edwards was indeed having an affair, i made sure to point out that the enquirer story was at best half right—the dates were all wrong, and the bullshit about a "love child" turned out to be false.

but gary and melyssa set me straight. "the Enquirer often gets it right," melyssa told me. gary welsh went even further, writing:

As I've said before, you can knock the National Enquirer and other tabloids all you want, but when it comes to political scandals, they're usually dead on.

and then later gary wrote:

When the tabloids take away time from the Hollywood celebrities to take on politicians, it's usually because the mainstream media is covering up for the politician.

indeed. i stand corrected: the enquirer (and other tabloids) are a virtual bastion of quality journalism, at least in the very narrow field of who/what politicians are having sex with.

a few weeks later, the enquirer published another story about an affair, this time involving sarah palin. gary mysteriously ignored that story, despite his high esteem for the enquirer as an institution. but i'm sure that was just an oversight, that he just got caught up in the heat of the election and forgot to post about it.

but now the enquirer has yet another tale of marital infidelity:

The ENQUIRER's exclusive bombshell expose as Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy, is caught with another man!

Not only that but multiple witnesses have caught the pair lip locking on several other occasions.

"I couldn't believe I was watching Cindy McCain passionately kissing and hugging another man!"

That's the stunned reaction of an eyewitness who says he watched in shock - and snapped photos - as the former presidential candidate's wife romantically kissed a long-haired man who resembles "a washed-up '80s rock musician."

now, the old me would've laughed at this story and at its supposed photo evidence: a grainy snapshot of some woman with a blond ponytail smooching some shaggy-looking dude. but now i know better: the enquirer is usually dead on. john mccain is a cuckold—it's as good as proven.

i'm sure a post will show up at advance indiana any minute now blasting cindy for her infidelity.

Sunday, November 09, 2008 
rokita's provisional ballot
here's an amusing anecdote from the star's behind closed doors column:

Secretary of State Todd Rokita, who oversees Indiana elections, got a new perspective on vote challenges this past week.

Rokita, of course, is an outspoken defender of one of the strictest photo ID laws in the nation. In the weeks leading up to the election, he also recommended filing charges related to bad voter registrations delivered by ACORN, the community activist group.

Then, a funny thing happened to Rokita on the way to voting:

His own absentee ballot was challenged by precinct poll workers.

According to Marion County election officials, his messily inscribed signature upon checking in to vote -- he signed it "Todd Rokita" -- did not match his neat poll book signature of "Theodore Rokita."

So what did poll workers do?

Well, they placed his ballot in a pile of provisional ballots that do not get counted until the Election Board can review the challenges one at a time after Election Day. (The board decided Friday that Rokita's ballot will indeed count in the official final tally.)

Ed Treacy, the Marion County Democratic chairman, said he thought it was "hysterical" that Rokita's vote was challenged.

"This is a person who does everything he can to repress every vote he can," Treacy said. "Now maybe he'll be able to really appreciate the sanctity of the vote."

Jim Gavin, Rokita's spokesman, said Treacy's comment was "an unfortunate attack."

"It's uncalled-for so close to a historic, successful election that we expect to shatter previous turnout records," Gavin said.

that last quote is a bit awkward, and i'm unsure whether it's just sloppy editing or whether the words just stumbled out of gavin's mouth that clumsily. of course, the actual wording of the quote is unnecessary; all you really need to know is that treacy got in a zinger and gavin whined about it.

anyway, the lesson here is to always make sure your signature matches! pretty basic, really, but rokita probably never thought his provisional ballot policies would be enforced against someone like him.

Friday, November 07, 2008 
turning out for the tyrant
gary welsh tried to warn us that obama was a corrupt, coke-sniffing, noncitizen and terrorist pal, but we wouldn't listen. after obama won, gary went silent on the issue, looking for a fresh angle. now he's back on the case, telling us about "the great turnout myth of 2008":

In 2004, 122 million Americans voted in the presidential election. Estimates are that between 126.5 and 128.5 million Americans voted this year. Statistically, when looking at the total number of registered voters, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the 2004 and 2008 election turnout. The study finds that fewer Republicans and more Democrats voted this year. Wasn't that what this election was all about? Faking out the Republicans as much as possible to convince them it's a waste of time to come out and vote, while encouraging Democrats at every step to vote in massive numbers? If you're a student of history, you will discover that the same tactics successfully employed by David Axelrod and the Obama campaign in this year's presidential election are the same tactics deployed by every significant, charismatic tyrant who rose to power pretending to be something he was not and fooling a majority of the populace into so believing. Remember this: things are not as they appear when it comes to anything respecting Barack Obama. Buyer beware.

you got that? this year's supposedly high turnout was a myth! turnout wasn't really higher than it was in 2004—republicans all stayed home, only to be replaced by democrats in roughly equal numbers. obama's supposed appeal is just an illusion!

or at least, that's his conclusion looking at "the total number of registered voters". i'm sure that drilling down into the numbers a bit prove his results to be true, huh? as an example, let's look at hamilton county, indiana:

Thousands of Hamilton County residents waited hours in line Tuesday to vote, some fuming with impatience.

According to final statistics, nearly 75 percent of the county's 175,538 registered voters cast a ballot, with more than 98,000 voting on Election Day. About 25,000 people -- approximately 20 percent of voters -- voted early.

In the 2004 election, 106,083 votes were cast in Hamilton County, with nearly 95,000 coming on Election Day.

98,000 + 25,000 = roughly 123,000—compared to 106,000 in 2004. that's an increase of 16%—in hamilton county, considered to be one of the most conservative counties in the state, if not the entire country. i'd say that's more than a dime's worth of difference, but your mileage may vary.

indy parks no longer for sale?
remember mayor ballard's controversial plan to start selling off indy's parks? well, forget about it.

Noticeably absent from the plan is any indication that "pocket" parks would be eliminated. When it was disclosed over the summer that Mayor Greg Ballard was considering selling some of the small neighborhood parks, many residents expressed outrage.

"It was never seriously considered, and it is not in our plan," said Andre Denman, a planner for the department. "We need more park space not less."

never seriously considered, huh? that's funny, because back in august, it was reported that ballard had signed a sweetheart deal with venture real estate services to survey all our city parks and determine which would be the best ones to sell off. in that deal, venture agreed to do all the surveying and analysis for free (venture was going to make their money from the actual park sales).

so while i'm glad that our parks are now apparently off the table, the idea that selling them off was never seriously considered is a bit hard to swallow. to be sure, venture thought those parks would be sold, and is probably upset now that they're not going to see any money for the deal.

more likely, this was another horrible idea from mayor ballard, and just like some of his past ideas, he dropped it when he realized it was monumentally unpopular.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008 
is our long national nightmare finally over?
barack obama has been elected in a landslide. he might even win indiana. i've waited a long time for this moment.

i was convinced it would happen in 2004. bush was a disaster, and i thought enough people understood that to vote him out. but not quite. not too long afterward, it became obvious to all that republican policies had failed us, but then it was too late: we had to wait another four years to elect a democrat president. now our day has come.

today wasn't a perfect day. we should've won the indiana governor's race, for one thing. but it was a historic day, and the future looks brighter.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 
voter intimidation in warren township
for the most part, the election seems to be going smoothly so far here in indiana (or at least in marion county)—with one notable exception. from the indy star:

The removal of two Republican election workers from a Warren Township polling site - for using improper methods to challenge voters' rights to cast a ballot - has prompted local Republican Party leaders to issue a statement of regret.

The two officials - an official challenger and a clerk - were removed by unanimous vote of the Marion County Election Board.

The officials were reportedly challenging voters with information obtained through party affiliation reports, which is not one of the accepted challenges such as a person's address, age or lack of ID.

i'm not entirely clear on what that last part means. they were challenging voters simply for being registered democrats? or based on some other arbitrary information that they got from these reports?

also, this might not have been an isolated problem:
Election officials also heard reports from the Children's Museum polling site that similar challenges were being made. But when they approached the person doing that, he left the area.

i voted
and this was the first year i can remember when i actually got an "i voted" sticker! huzzah! my polling place in pike was bustling, but at 10:40 we didn't really have to wait in line.

it's almost hard to believe election day is finally here. this has been one hell of a long election year. and by the end i was just ready for it to be over so we could move forward. but that didn't stop me from volunteering for the obama campaign on saturday. virago & i did data entry for about 5 hours. at first it was a bit boring, since we only had one laptop (mine) for the two of us, but before long someone showed us a faster way that really let us zip along. we left when we ran out of canvassing data to enter, feeling good and with some obama buttons, stickers, and rally signs for our efforts. i wanted to go back and work more, but unfortunately didn't have the time.

if you haven't voted already, please be sure to do so.

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