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Sunday, December 30, 2007 
your regularly scheduled lolcolts


these are the final lolcolts of both the year 2007 as well as the 2007-2008 regular season. next week: playoff lolcolts... which will probably be indistinguishable from regular lolcolts.


miss ann for congress?
from the "is this for real?" file:

We hear rumblings that Melyssa Donaghy is considering running for the 7th District congressional seat as a Libertarian. Melyssa recently won the Sam Adams Alliance's "Sammie" award for her tireless efforts protest the ever-increasing property tax burden in Indiana. She also worked many long hours as part of the grassroots effort that successfully replaced the evil Bart Peterson with Greg Ballard. Perhaps it's time we sent a fighter to Congress, instead of a ?'er

what can i say? what can even be said? i don't even know what jokes to make—there are too many, and they're too easy! but my goodness... what an entertaining campaign that would be. just picture the flamewars!

Saturday, December 29, 2007 
greetings from pipe land (and political news bits)
happy holidays, everyone! i must apologize for my absence from the blog, but i've been vacationing with my old friend mario. we spent the last couple days in ice land, but thankfully we've now moved on to pipe land, as i got tired of my feet slipping everywhere i walked. while i've been out running around, virago has been diligently improving her cooking skills.

back home in indiana, mayor-elect ballard has finally gotten around to naming some appointments to his administration. his first appointee, olgen williams, has some financial problems and mysteriously doesn't pay property taxes. also, some people aren't happy about his troubled past. his other six appointees so far include various republican hacks—at least one of them doesn't live in marion county as required by statute. ballard will name his public safety director today at 2: if it's ike randolph, many a head will explode.

meanwhile, abdul has brushed off his best "nothing to see here" routine, doing his damnedest to minimize any criticism of ballard or his appointments. but nobody is listening to adbul, as his credibility in the blogosphere has been shattered now that everyone knows he was indyu. (sadly, varangianguard totally stole the official ballard apologist joke i was going to make, all because he was awake a mere four hours before i was.) abdul's definitely gone through a major attitude adjustment—he never used to miss a chance to criticize mayor peterson, and now he never skips an opportunity to defend mayor-elect ballard. maybe that has something to do with the fact that abdul is a GOP insider: he works for the law firm of local GOP chair tom john.

in other news: have you been waiting for the special election to replace the late julia carson in congress? if so, governor daniels wants to prolong your wait until primary day. ostensibly, he wants to wait in order to save taxpayer money, which i guess is a good reason, but it would leave those of us in the 7th district without congressional representation for another five months.

the principal of fishers high school got pulled over for a DUI, but after he blew a .18, failing the sobriety test, he wasn't arrested like you or i would be. instead, the cops politely drove him home. that's indiana's finest taxi service. but now that the story has hit the media, the hamilton county prosecutor says he might be charged after all. at any rate, principal syverson has surely lost the respect of his students.

the star did a couple stories about the local rollout of google street view. the second story begins with an anecdote about friend-of-the-blog steph mineart. of course, if you've been reading the way, then you knew about google street view a week before the star's readers did.

well, it's almost time for me to get back to killing koopas, but no worries: there'll still be lolcolts tomorrow, and i'll be back in plenty of time to play that show on jan 3 at locals only.

update: according to wish-tv, ballard is appointing former prosecutor scott newman as his public safety director. here's an old indy men's magazine interview with newman as he left that office in 2002.

gary notes that the new job opens up newman to a potential conflict of interest, as newman founded a DNA analysis firm in 2004 that could stand to benefit quite a bit from his new authority.

Sunday, December 23, 2007 
this week's lolcolts
luke wants your blood.

adam just wants you to get down.


Saturday, December 22, 2007 
note to indy star: hire more editors!
stop by the indy star's local news page today and you might be horrified to discover that the same young blonde girl is apparently involved in two robberies and a car crash, a murder, an insurance embezzlement scheme. but she's not all bad: she also enjoys quilting and helping germans. all that and she's only 7!

or, perhaps someone at the star screwed up when filing the girl's photo—which only belongs with the quilt story—and somehow it got attached to four other stories, confusing the folks on talkback. but then they're often confused.

i originally wasn't going to post about this when i first saw it at 8:30, as i had no right to be up so early on a saturday and figured it would be fixed soon. but now it's 12:30. this has been up for four hours now, or probably more. how long before someone at the star notices it and fixes it? this doesn't just affect the local news page: each one of these individual news stories features the girl smiling out at you, proudly displaying her signed quilt square, while you read about some dude who was found dead in his car.

at times like this, you can really feel just how understaffed the star is these days.

update: as of 9:30 p.m., the picture of the girl is finally gone. however, if you go to the individual pages for the stories, the picture box that would've contained the image is still there (shrunk to 1x1 pixels), and the "zoom" link is still there. if you click the "zoom" link, a picture window pops up, but it is effectively blank. in fact, even the story that should have her picture no longer has it.

Friday, December 21, 2007 
what is it with google street view and mcdonald's?

whoever drove the google street view van through indianapolis must've had some serious munchies. they stopped at or drove through the parking lots of at least 6-7 indianapolis mcdonald's locations.

here they are at the one in broad ripple.

there's no documentation of them stopping at the one in castleton, but they did turn off 82nd street onto the frontage road in front of the mickey d's for no apparent reason.

here they are at the one at 96th & meridian. they actually go all through the parking lot, which google refers to as "belle manor ln". you know a restaurant is important when its drive-thru gets a street name.

there's no evidence they stopped at the mcdonald's at 86th & michigan, but they definitely went to the one at 96th & michigan. (and why are there two mcdonald's on michigan within 10 blocks, anyway?)

here they are at the one at 38th & meridian.

here they are at the one at 52nd & keystone.

and here they are at the mcdonald's by 38th & keystone.

i'm not the first person to spot the street view van visiting the golden arches. so when i saw that the van had visited the mcdonald's in broad ripple, i didn't think much of it. but then i saw the same thing at the next 2 or 3 i tried! once i started getting systematic, i was able to find several locations where the van didn't stop (or at least the cameras didn't document it), but for awhile it seemed like they'd checked out every mcdonald's in town.

Thursday, December 20, 2007 
google street view comes to indy
i was looking up a place downtown where we have to go tomorrow when i noticed a new google street view option.

if you're not familiar with the service, google (and their subcontractors) drive around town in a van with a specialized camera on top that takes 360-degree panoramic photos. these are all stitched together with google maps so you can navigate around town at a "street-level" view. it's quite handy if you need to go somewhere you've never been, as you can plonk in the address and see exactly what the place looks like.

when google first rolled out the service in may/june, i spent a good day or two browsing around san francisco documenting glitches. but at that time, it wasn't available in indianapolis. maybe better geeks than i already knew it had been rolled out here, but i never heard anything about it.

so go to enter in your favorite address—be it your house, the home of the person you're stalking, your local pea-shake, whatever. if you see a blue outline around the street, click it and take a look around.

if you find anything interesting, feel free to leave a link in the comments. (look for "Link to this page" to find a direct link.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 
how to embarrass yourself (COIT edition)
matt tully watches some tv:

This Hollywood writers strike is really starting to put a hurt on my TV viewing. It got so bad Monday night that I turned on Channel 16, the local government access station, and watched a bit of reality TV.

The station was airing the final City-County Council meeting of the year, which also was the final meeting to be run by a Democratic majority for at least four years.

translation: he would've rather watched chuck, but since that wasn't on, he figured he'd do his job and cover some politics.

Sitting at home watching a plodding council meeting is not the most exciting way to spend an evening. But the meeting this week was instructive, as it explained perfectly why Democrats lost their majority in November's election.

The explanation came from the silly political games Democrats continued to play even in the final lame-duck meeting of the year. With a new Republican mayor and council on deck, Democrats, acting apparently out of spite, pushed an unenforceable resolution that took aim at the income tax increase Democrats themselves approved this summer.

The ploy clearly wasn't about listening. It was intended to embarrass Mayor-elect Greg Ballard and members of the incoming Republican council majority. What bugs Democrats is that the same Republicans who bashed the income tax increase will now benefit from the additional tax revenue it brings in.

Fair point. And nobody would argue against the idea of trying to reduce taxes.

But the resolution was vindictive politics -- meaningless and silly. In their final day in power, council Democrats wanted to embarrass those on the other side of the aisle by forcing them to embrace the tax increase.

It didn't work.

foolish democrats! your spiteful partisan gotcha games didn't work! hmm... i wonder what else is in today's paper. oh, what's this?

Mayor-elect Greg Ballard said Tuesday that he would not push to rescind a 65-percent increase in the county income tax that took effect in October.

However, he said cuts in city government or the $90 million public safety spending plan the income tax funded could allow parts of the tax to be reconsidered down the road.

The tax provoked heavy criticism this year, but Ballard noted he never said he would repeal it.

so it looks like democrats didn't need to play those gotcha games to force republicans to embrace the tax increase. mayor-elect ballard managed to do that all by himself. considering this, tully's column would've seemed a bit less silly if it had been published yesterday—you know, the day after the council meeting—but i guess those are the rigors of writing a thrice-weekly column while simultaneously neglecting to update your blog. (i kid... tully gets enough grief from all the talkback nuts who think he & editor ryerson are socialists.)

ballard campaigned relentlessly against the increase in the county income tax (COIT for you n00bs). that, along with property tax repeal, were the pillars of his campaign. here is the money quote from his campaign website:

"After looking at the Mayor's proposed income tax hike it is clear his plan would dig Indianapolis into a deeper hole," said Ballard. "There is no way the average citizen can afford this $90 million income tax increase on top of huge property tax bills."

got that? there's no way the average person can even afford to pay this tax! yet ballard doesn't want to repeal the tax. oh, greg. needless to say, some of his former supporters are growing increasingly disillusioned.

now, he could have said this: "hey, i might like to repeal it, but legally i can't do so until at least 2009, so maybe then." that way he could've passed the buck without alienating any supporters. instead, he insists "i never said i'd repeal it!" it would be funny if it weren't so depressing.

here's the context tully was missing. to be sure, democrats were playing political games when they tried to force the incoming council to embrace the COIT. but it was a game they'd already lost, because republicans had already totally played them on this issue.

republicans had been screaming themselves hoarse for more than a year about crime. the now-deleted indyu blog had a party whenever another murder was announced. on top of that, cops had been complaining since time immemorial about unresolved pension funding, an issue countless previous administrations had left to fester. but there was no money.

republicans knew that fixing these problems would require a tax increase. mayor peterson and the council knew such a tax increase would be unpopular, especially considering rising property taxes. they could have decided to wait until after they were re-elected to raise the tax; that would've been the politically "safe" option. but they didn't. they had—to use the vernacular—"the balls" to do what was necessary, even if it was unpopular.

did republicans thank them for having such balls, for fixing the problems republicans had been crying about for so long? no, they actually criticized the democrats for having said balls! "how dare you raise my taxes?!" they exclaimed.

it was a brilliant political move. the republicans effectively tricked democrats into raising taxes and then criticized them as out-of-touch tax-and-spenders when they did. the dems never knew what hit 'em until they discovered they'd been voted out of office.

ballard and the republican council candidates were never truly against the COIT increase. they knew as well as anyone that we needed that money for public safety. they only pretended to be against it so they could bash democrats. and it worked. now that they're in office, they don't need to pretend anymore.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 
abdul's affadavit
ruth holldaday keeps digging into the connections between gossip blog indyundercover and gossiper abdul hakim-shabazz.

as we knew already, the IMPD issued a search warrant for abdul after the indyu blog revealed the name of a confidential police informant... but was quickly revoked it before it could be served against him. though indyu has since been deleted, i reposted the post in question here in a redacted form.

ruth has tracked down a copy of the search warrant:

The affidavit continues, in Boomershine's words, "Following the leak of this information, REDACTED, who was eight months pregnant at the time and a former member of the 2-1 Fatal Gang, feared for her safety and had to relocate where she resided."

The string of arsons -- a terrifying time in Indy for the neighborhoods affected, firefighters and police -- were being investigated, according to the affidavit, by IMPD fire investigators Brian Durham and Sherron Franklin. Franklin is also a member of the City-County Council.

as gary points out, franklin is "a frequent critic of Sheriff Frank Anderson and Mayor Bart Peterson" and indyu promoted her re-election to the city-county council despite the fact that she's a democrat. is it possible she was involved in the leak?

An almost six-month investigation followed, in which police, possibly with the aid of federal officials, began peeling back the identity of IndyUndercover through various e-mail addresses and Internet providers: Yahoo, Google, EOS and finally Bright House.

The trail ultimately led to Abdul Shabazz, according to the affidavit, which also lists Shabazz' Downtown address and phone number. Boomershine identifies Shabazz in the warrant as the IndyUndercover blog's moderator.

Judge David Altice of Marion Superior Court Criminal Division signed the search warrant. Prior to that, throughout August, Grand Jury subpoenas were issued to Google, Yahoo, etc., in the painstaking search to trace the blog back and discover who was running/writing on it.

According to the affidavit, police were prepared to obtain evidence from 1: The residence of Shabazz and 2. His vehicle. They were specifically looking for "any and all computer hard drives, data storage devices" etc. as well as "any indication of criminal activity."

The warrant was signed at 2:21 p.m. Nov. 16.

By 4 p.m. or so, officers were outside Shabazz' Downtown apartment. But before they could serve the warrant, they received a phone call from someone high up in the city, and they were told to "stand down."

Shabazz himself later received a phone call from someone presumably high up in the city, warning him, "Dude, you don't know how close you came."

Based on how few people knew about this investigation, the warning call had to have come from the top, possibly in the office of Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.

we all know what happened then. abdul posted about the warrant on his blog, attempting to deflect attention away from himself by first suggesting he was caught up in an unfair and illegal witch hunt against indyu, and also suggesting that the police might be after him because he was investigating child molestation allegations against a prominent democrat. he almost certainly had to know this second part was false when he said it (and i have my suspicions about whether he was ever seriously investigating such a story).

his attempts at deflection might even have worked, but for the ultimate display of hubris that came next. because then, indyundercover, which had previously announced that it might shut down, suddenly surged back to life in abdul's defense. i know from experience that the temptation to respond to your secret identity online can be great, but it only serves to draw suspicion to yourself, so you shouldn't do it if you truly plan to keep your other identity secret. that post on indyu was a turning point in the narrative—after that, abdul could no longer deny his ties to the site.

he still won't come entirely clean, though. he still pretends that he wasn't behind the blog, though it's clear he was much more heavily involved than he's publicly acknowledged. and the more he tries to deflect attention away from him, the more he calls us bloggers "blog trolls" to "get a life", the more guilty he looks. if only he could've kept his mouth shut...

similarly, questions still surround ike randolph. last week, ike tried to put the rumors to rest by categorically denying that he was involved with indyu, but the story he told ruth was totally different from the one he'd told gary welsh. gary has much, much more about randolph's shadiness here.

Monday, December 17, 2007 
moving on up
when i was in the 8th grade i got a book titled future stuff. published in 1989, the book profiled various "future" products that companies were developing to be released in the then-still-upcoming '90s. each product writeup included an estimated year of release (none later than 1999) along with the likelihood of the product ever hitting the market.

some of the predictions came true in one form or another. others, like carbonated milk, have failed to catch on. (for more about the book, visit this site, where someone has diligently analyzed every prediction in the book.)

one of the products profiled in the book was high-definition television: HDTV. HDTV was predicted to come out in 1994. that didn't happen, and while some HD sets did enter the market in the late '90s, they were prohibitively expensive and more importantly there was no HD content to watch on them for many years.

so i've been understandably underwhelmed by all the HDTV hype, because i've been hearing it for almost 20 years now. for years i believed that HDTV would never amount to anything more than a fringe medium, like betamax, laserdisc, or dvd-audio. and i might've been right... if congress hadn't gotten involved and mandated that broadcasters switch to digital by 2009.

but now, the HDTV zeitgeist is finally here. virago & i had been planning to replace the small old tv in the living room with one that we can actually see from the couch, so my parents decided to give us a new tv for christmas—or more precisely, give us the money to buy one.

we got it on friday—a 26" lcd from sharp. that's not huge, but it's bigger than the sets we were using. (i still have a 13" SDTV here in the office/studio, but that size is fine in here because i only sit 2 feet from the screen.) we also grabbed an upscaling dvd recorder so our DVDs will look as good as possible on the new set—i'm not about to buy an HD-DVD or blu-ray drive in the middle of a format war. in a couple years, if either format has survived, maybe i'll take a look then, but for now i'm quite satisfied with DVD, thanks.

this new setup meant watching yesterday's colts game in HD for the first time. unfortunately, CBS's HD feed cut out several times during the colts' initial drive, forcing us to watch much of the first quarter in SD. luckily, this horrible interference didn't last too long. as you've no doubt heard, the difference between watching the game in SD and watching in HD was stark: the game looked great. of course, it helped that the colts won.

there is one problem, though: the writer's strike means that a lot less programming is being made. what will we watch on our shiny new screen? i guess we'll be watching a lot of movies.

Sunday, December 16, 2007 
my lolcolts: let me show you them
i is a ventriloquist

invisible arm wrestling


Saturday, December 15, 2007 
RIP julia carson
rep julia carson passed away this morning.

Congresswoman Julia Carson died this morning at the age of 69.

Carson's death comes just weeks after she announced she was dying of lung cancer and would not seek re-election to a seventh term in 2008.

Two days later, she said she would not seek re-election, saying her time away from Congress would be "a time to weep and a time to laugh," and she added, "a time to heal."

But Carson never healed and never returned to Congress.

"Who knows the future, who knows god's will," she said in the statement announcing her decision not to run again. "I want very much to return to Washington and continue representing the good people of Indianapolis with my vote. I can only request your prayers that I might gain the strength to continue my service."

Carson was first elected to Congress in 1996.

Previously, she served in the Indiana House of Representatives for two terms before being elected to the Indiana Senate, where she served until 1990. Carson then filled the post of Center Township trustee until she was elected in 1996.

A steadfast Democrat, Carson opposed President Bush's request for authority to wage war in 2002. In 1999, she won enactment of a measure that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights figure Rosa Parks.

In 1991 and 1974, she was named by The Star as Woman of the Year.

Friday, December 14, 2007 
DOJ civil rights head resigns
i haven't been blogging about national politics so much lately, because there are so many great national-themed blogs that i rarely feel like i have anything to add to the discussion. but this ties nicely into the conversation we've been having here at the way over the past couple days.

john tanner, head of the DOJ's civil rights division, resigned today, effective immediately. tpm muckraker has been covering tanner's career at the division for awhile, so i'll just quote from them, leaving in their links:

With Tanner, it had seemed like a matter of not if, but when. As we reported late last month, his travel habits had angered attorneys in the voting section, leading to an investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility.

And that was after his comments about the tendency of minorities to "die first" led Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and others to call for his resignation. When he went before the House Judiciary Committee in October, he was lambasted for his tendency of "basing your conclusions on stereotypes" (like, say, claiming that African-Americans have IDs more than whites because they're always going to cash-checking businesses).

But most of all, Tanner's reign is notable for his collusion with the political appointees who oversaw the section, an ongoing effort to reverse the Civil Rights Division's traditional role in protecting minority voters, particularly African-Americans, into one of aiding thinly disguised vote suppression measures (most infamously Georgia's voter ID law). It was an effort that some career DoJ attorneys later described as "institutional sabotage."

Thursday, December 13, 2007 
lake county voter fraud: the whole story
right-wingers are crowing about this news story out of lake county. it turns out that indiana attorney general steve carter has been winning a lot of voter fraud cases. out of 53 cases filed, he already has 38 convictions.

hoosier access declares that "it would appear that the state Democrats have no leg to stand on when it comes to crying about Indiana's Voter I.D. law and the 'lack of proof'". buzzcut proclaims that "Those of you downstate, take some time to learn the details of this case. This is exactly why we need the ID to vote law. It puts a stop to this kind of nonsense."

fair enough. let's learn the details of this case, shall we? oh, what's this here at the end of the story?

"You're talking about average people, men and women, and they were manipulated. And it was fear of losing their jobs or fear of their family members losing their jobs," Bernard Carter said. "These people didn't just wake up and say, 'I'm going to vote absentee in East Chicago.'"

vote absentee, you say? indiana's voter ID law doesn't apply to absentee ballots. so not only is this not evidence that the voter ID law prevents fraud—which it doesn't—but it actually demonstrates that prosecutors don't need the voter ID law to prosecute voter fraud, because steve carter is doing a pretty good job without it.

as i've said before, the main problem with indiana's voter ID law is that it's a fix for a nonexistent problem: fraud at the polling place. the vast majority of voter fraud that takes place these days is absentee voting fraud. absentee fraud is easy: get a bunch of ballots, fill them out, forge or otherwise acquire the proper signatures, and mail 'em in.

fraud at the polling place is much more difficult, despite what some of my commenters might think, which is why people don't really do it anymore. the days when you could vote, shave your beard into a moustache, vote again, then shave off the moustache and vote a third time are long gone. on those rare occasions when actual fraud at the polling place is found, it is typically done by mistake by people who don't know better.

every so often, the right will grab onto another story of voter fraud prosecutions and jump up and down hooting and hollering about how it proves them right; how democrats are stupid, naive, corrupt, or worse. yet, without fail, it always turns out that these stories involve absentee voter fraud, which is not covered by their beloved voter ID law.

so if indiana's voter ID law doesn't address the true source of voter fraud—absentee ballots—then what is the point?

update: while i was writing this post, thomas at blue indiana was writing something very similar. great minds, or something.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 
uncounted ballots
in his "news of interest" widget, doug links to this tpm muckraker piece about how the DoJ has filed an amicus brief with the US supreme court supporting indiana's draconian voter ID law. the supremes will hear arguments in january for the case.

the tpm muckraker post links to this post on the election law blog. but what really caught my eye was this post, also at election law blog, which links to this brief filed by the marion county election board.

in the brief, the election board claims that at least 32 voters were disenfranchised by the voter ID law in marion county last month:

Provisional ballots were not counted in the 2007 municipal election because of the Voter Identification Statute

In the 2007 municipal election, some votes of otherwise-eligible individuals were not counted because they did not comply with the Voter Identification Statute. The Election Board can verify that at least thirty-four persons arrived at the polls and presented themselves for voting without appropriate photo identification (others may have done so without making a record through the provisional balloting process). As required by statute, each of the thirty-four filled out and signed provisional ballot paperwork, then cast a provisional ballot that was not counted, but rather was sealed and sent to the Election Board for further review. Of the thirty-four provisional ballots cast, only two voters followed up by bringing their compliant identification to the County Clerk's Office so that their provisional ballots would be counted. The other thirty-two did not bring compliant identification to the Clerk's Office within the time period designated by statute, and their votes therefore were not counted. See Ind. Code § 3-11.7-5-2.5.

All thirty-four individuals appeared at the polling place for the precinct in which they were registered. All signatures appearing on their provisional ballot envelopes matched the poll book signatures.4 Two of those whose votes were not counted had voted in fifteen previous elections at their precincts. Six others had voted in fourteen elections at their precincts. Four others had voted in thirteen prior elections at their precincts. One had voted in twelve elections at her precinct, and another had voted in ten elections at her precinct. Only six had no history of voting in a Marion County election, and the remaining persons had voted a handful of times at the precinct where they were registered and appeared on November 6, 2007.

these 32 people showed up at the polls intending to vote, yet their votes were not counted because they could not meet the strict requirements of the voter ID law. of the 32, 26 were regular, long-term voters who had been voting in that location for years, but this year their votes were taken away from them. and that's just in marion county, in one election that had low turnout in many areas. how many more were disenfranchised statewide? and how many more will be disenfranchised if the law isn't overturned?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 
indyu: the missing post
i believe i've uncovered the missing indyu post and am reposting it below. of course, the entire indyundercover blog has been deleted, so in a sense all the posts are missing, but i'm talking about the post, the one that named a condfidential police informant, leading the police to seek out a search warrant against abdul hakim-shabazz (as originally reported by russ mcquaid).

in my previous post, i hinted that this was still in the google cache if you knew where to look, but that i wasn't going to link directly to it—in effect encouraging savvy readers to find it on their own. but on reflection, it occurred to me that the more responsible thing to do might be to repost it here, in a redacted form. so here it is. i've left in the name of the primary suspect, which was discussed in the media at the time, but have redacted the names of the informants as well as the name of the second suspect:

the original post contained an image, which wasn't archived by google so i don't have it.

this story is getting more interesting all the time, with ike randolph denying his role in indyu to ruth holladay, but telling her a totally different story than he told gary welsh. i can't imagine what relevations tomorrow might bring.

Monday, December 10, 2007 
indyundercover six feet under
the indyundercover blog is closing up shop. this is hardly a surprise, because as i said last month, the site's sole function seemed to be hatin' on bart peterson, so now that bart is on his way out, indyu has no purpose. indeed, when the blog actually admitted earlier this week that murders are down this year—and tried to credit mayor-elect ballard, who hasn't taken office yet—that was a sure sign that indyu was not long for this world.

but surely that can't be the whole story. so in "honor" of the blog that has spread more rumors than any other website in indiana—many of them false—let's look at some of the rumors surrounding indyu's demise.

one rumor going around is that indyu is shutting down because the person/people behind it are getting new cushy jobs in the ballard administration. this rumor resonates because two of the top suspects are on ballard's transition team—disgruntled cop robert turner and firefighter/outgoing councillor isaac "ike" randolph. randolph's name in particular has been tossed around as possibly behind indyu for more than a year, and last year someone forwarded gary welsh emails that were allegedly between randolph and local journalist abdul hakim-shabazz discussing what to post on the blog.

which brings us to abdul. abdul has been the top suspect for weeks, ever since an incident last month when abdul got word that a search warrant was about to be served against him. abdul quickly lawyered up and posted about it on his official blog, suggesting that the police were after him because he was investigating a story involving "alleged child sexual abuse by a very prominent and wealthy local Democrat". (more than three weeks later, abdul hasn't uttered another word about the democrat molester story, leading me to be skeptical about whether any such story ever existed.)

in that blog post, abdul confessed that he knew the "guys" behind indyu, including one particularly interesting tidbit: "I'll even admit it was my idea over lunch one day." things got even more suspicious when indyu, which had previously announced that it might shut down, posted in support of abdul, declaring that the blog was going to stick around because "someone has to keep our leadership honest!"

ruth holladay, who had long suspected that abdul was behind indyu, was reinvigorated by all this and became obsessed with unmasking joe friday, the blog's pseudonymous author. so after yesterday's announcement that the blog was being shut down, ruth called abdul for more information and got some intriguing answers:

In a phone conversation this morning, Abdul acknowledged he would occasionally "pass something along" to the blog, and vice versa, he says. "We had a mutual exchange of information."

But, he insisted, he was not IndyUndercover. "Here's the thing. That blog is not a person. Joe Friday is like Uncle Sam."

Abdul acknowledged, again, that he has a lot of cop friends and said what he's said before on his Indiana Barrister blog: that he advised a bunch of disgruntled officers over drinks a year and a half ago how they could start their own blog. "I thought the cops in this town were being treated crappy. My attitude was, 'Hey, if I can help, I will.'"

like i said in the comments, that nonsense about how "joe friday is like uncle sam" sounds like a classic non-denial denial to me. we heard almost identical crap from ernie shearer when he was outed as the indy chicken. what it means is that abdul is one of the people behind indyu, but he doesn't do it by himself. that allows him to make weasely statements that are misleading but technically accurate: thus "i am not joe friday" is technically true because joe friday is in fact abdul plus one or two other dudes.

then last night, fox 59's russ mcquaid unearthed more facts. (blue indiana has the youtube.) remember that search warrant that was supposedly issued against abdul? it turns out that it was issued because of an arson investigation which was damaged when the name of a confidential police informant was published on indyu. oops. but someone tipped off abdul about the warrant, effectively killing it: the subject of a warrant mustn't know that a warrant is coming because that gives them time to destroy evidence, et cetera. (notifying someone of a pending warrant is typically obstruction of justice, though mcquaid found someone who claimed that it wasn't in this case because the warrant was illegal.)

based on all this, i'm somewhat convinced that those emails that were forwarded to gary were real, and that indyundercover is abdul and ike randolph. i'm almost totally convinced about abdul; i'm just not positive that randolph was his partner. however, i don't expect either of them to confess anytime soon. already a dark cloud is surrounding abdul's reputation—i know i for one will be skeptical of everything he says until his role in indyu is made clear—and if he is one of the people behind indyu then that raises serious questions about his journalistic ethics. similarly, randolph has nothing to gain and everything to lose: rumor has it, he's being considered for a deputy mayor position in the ballard administration, which he surely won't get if he's outed as joe friday.

so i'm afraid the true identity of joe friday will remain a mystery, at least for the time being, and my suspicions will remain unproven. still, whether abdul was at the core of indyundercover as ruth & i suspect or whether he just played a minor ancillary role as he claims, he's now under a lot of scrutiny for committing a major journalistic faux pas: rather than reporting the story, he has become the story.

update: the entire indyundercover blog now appears to have been deleted. what are they hiding? of course, the site is still in the google cache, for the time being. in fact, the post that named the confidential police informant is still in the google cache if you know where to look, though i'm not going to link to it.

2nd update: ruth talks to ike randolph about those emails that were forwarded to gary welsh. randolph categorically denies being involved with indyu. but ruth is more convinced than ever that it was abdul's blog.

3rd update: from gary welsh:

When I read Randolph's exchange with Holladay, I was a bit taken back by it. As I stated earlier, Randolph told me he was in Mexico on vacation with his family at the time the e-mail in question had been sent and did not have access to his e-mail account. Now, he says he says he was at the firehouse when Shabazz contacted him about sending the e-mail and the word "indyundercover" was intentionally included in the e-mail's subject heading. Call me cynical, but someone isn't getting his story straight on this one.

uh-oh. i was already skeptical about ike's "bait" story, and now i'm pretty sure it was a lie. i must admit it was a sneaky way of trying to flip the allegations against him onto his political enemies, and it might have even worked if he hadn't told gary something else entirely.

incidentally, in his post, gary repeats the claim that "twice" he has been accused of being joe friday. this is not true; it only happened once, when jacob "the scribe" perry did it. despite what gary believes, steph mineart never said any such thing; he simply misinterpreted her post. this was repeatedly pointed out to him, but he has never acknowledged his mistake. i know this is a minor, irrelevant detail, so i didn't bother to point it out when the falsehood appeared in ruth's post, but i do want to set the record straight now that gary is still trying to push his mistaken version of events.

Sunday, December 09, 2007 


this week is another two-fer.


Friday, December 07, 2007 
but it's so expensive!
in today's star, we see that some indiana legislators are reluctant for the state to take on child welfare costs:

Lawmakers warned advocates for children Thursday that the state will have to find a way to control child welfare costs if those expenses are shifted from property taxpayers to the state.

"We can't take over the cost of this and then allow the judges to tell us how much money we're going to spend," state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said during debate on the issue Thursday in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and a bipartisan legislative commission have advocated moving child welfare -- about $490 million annually -- to the state to provide property tax relief.

The costs of providing assistance to abused, neglected or delinquent children have been rising an average of about 6.8 percent statewide annually for the past 12 years, well ahead of inflation. The costs vary widely by county.

Capping those costs is virtually impossible because of federal mandates to help children, advocates told lawmakers at Thursday's hearing, one of several being held this month to kick-start property tax reforms before the General Assembly goes into session Jan. 8.

Cathleen Graham, executive director of the Indiana Association of Residential Child Care Agencies, reminded legislators that child welfare is an entitlement program, meaning the law demands that services be provided.

so the legislators don't want to pay for child welfare because it's expensive, and there's no way to control costs because of federal and state mandates. i might be sympathetic to their complaint, except that the counties have been in that situation for years. the law requires that these costs be paid, and until now the state has forced counties to pay them, despite having no power to control the costs. that's a sucky situation for anyone to be in, but it's a bit less sucky for the state than for the counties.

it doesn't help that the front page of the paper has another story about tajanay bailey, a three-year-old girl who was failed by the system, allegedly abused to death by her parents. the juxtaposition just makes the legislators look like heartless bastards. this quote from senator meeks says it all: "I'm reluctant to do this. I want to take care of kids. But entitlement guarantees we have to take care of them regardless of what the cost is."

he wants to take care of kids, but not if it's going to cost a lot! unfortunately, child welfare isn't something you can half-ass. if you do, kids end up dead. so quit your bitching and figure out how to get it done!

update: i see that doug has more, only instead of linking to the star, he links to this AP article.

Thursday, December 06, 2007 
early to rise but not so wise
in a letter to the editor in today's star, former gop chair rex early continues to spread the myth that recent property tax increases were caused by excessive local spending:

Local spending in Indiana has increased from $2.1 billion in 1984 to $7.9 billion last year. These massive increases are neither fair, nor sustainable to the property taxpayers of Indiana.

That's why I support Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposal to cut property taxes for every Hoosier homeowner, capping them forever at a maximum of 1 percent of a home's value.

Make no mistake: This plan is a big change. It will provide real and permanent property tax relief that homeowners need and deserve.

First, it's appropriate that the state assume the costs of child welfare and the remaining school funding. We can pay for this with a one-cent increase in the state sales tax, gaming revenue already earmarked for property tax relief, and a portion of the state's surplus, which Daniels achieved by controlling state spending the last three years.

if only any of it were true.

the reason the state has a surplus is because the governor "controlled spending" by simply deciding to stop paying for stuff, and mandating that local governments should pay for it instead. so state spending went down, local spending went up (because the state mandated it), and then the governor's office began mocking local governments because their spending went up. that's like me pushing you down into the snow and then laughing at your lack of balance.

in fact, this is quite similar to how we got into the recent property tax mess in the first place. as doug has tried to explain time and time again:

[T]he spike can be mostly explained by:

1. Caps on the Property Tax Replacement Credit and Homestead Credit — These were State actions that were done to allow the State to balance its own budget; in effect, the State balanced its budget on the backs of local government.

2. Elimination of the inventory tax — An action by the State that shifted the tax burden from inventory tax payers to property tax payers.

3. Trending — Part of the State's implementation of a State court's 1998 decision that the State's method of taxation was unconstitutional.

The fact is that the General Assembly and the Governor (primarily through the Department of Local Government Finance) are heavily involved in micromanaging the taxing authority of local government and, consequently, bear most of the blame in the recent property tax increases.

so it's a double whammy. the state forces local governments to take on extra costs but doesn't give them the money to do so, forcing local governments to increase spending and (perhaps) raise taxes, then criticizes local governments for doing what it forced them to.

not to mention that it's unfair to compare numbers from 1984 with numbers from today. in '84, comic books cost $0.60 and vinyl records were $8.99. now comics are $3 a pop and new cds run $18 or more.

rex early is right about one thing, though. it is "appropriate that the state assume the costs of child welfare and the remaining school funding." indeed, increases in state-mandated child welfare costs were one of the causes of the recent tax spike in marion county. if the state's going to require it be done, it's only fair that the state pay for it.

today's star editorial is more reasoned. the editorial insists that "the General Assembly must deliver true reform", but warns them not to do anything too stupid:

Daniels wants to write the caps into the state constitution, a move that would hinder state and local governments' ability to make needed adjustments in the future.

Legislators should be cautious about imposing unequal caps, and doubly skeptical of a constitutional amendment. Yet, as Daniels understands, any reform package that doesn't impose at least semi-permanent caps on property taxes falls short of providing a lasting solution.

as i said before, i don't see any real benefit of an amendment. yes, that makes it harder for future legislatures to screw up any "fixes", but it also makes it harder for them to unscrew any future problems. unless the point of the amendment is to intentionally suffocate local governments then i just don't get it.

finally, since i've gone on this long about property taxes, i might as well touch on the latest related blog scuffle. it seems the "fair tax" folks have been feeling snubbed by mayor-elect ballard since his election and have been venting their alienation over at their blog. new blog the accidental mayor picked up on the venting and quoted one post at length—though it didn't quote my favorite part of the post, which is this:

During his speech last night, Mayor elect Greg Ballard stated he did not run a negative campaign. That is 100% true. However, an effective week-by-week negative campaign was indeed organized, financed, and run. The dirty work of the negative campaign against Bart Peterson was done by rogue groups of activists, bloggers, you tube documenters, and street soldiers who took the personal hits and ridicule to do it for him. This was a critical strategy to prevent our pristine mayor's hands from being soiled with the dirty business of negative campaigning.

but anyway, gary welsh then latched onto the AM post and used it as an excuse to "out" jen wagner as the blogger behind AM and then call her a jealous, petty, greedy bitch (i'm paraphrasing).

as i noted weeks ago, the resemblance between AM and jen's TDW is so strong that AM is practically a carbon copy, so the only question regarding its authorship was whether jen was involved or whether someone else was merely copying her style and format. still, it struck me as odd that gary would out her like that. after all, gary was outraged last year when he thought that steph mineart had accused him of being behind the indyundercover blog (never mind that she said nothing of the sort). then earlier this year, when "the scribe" actually did accuse gary of being indyu, gary threatened to sue. and when someone sent gary evidence (supposedly unverifiable) that abdul hakim-shabazz and ike henderson were the ones behind indyu, gary asked them if it was true and then sat on the allegation when they denied it.

considering all that history, i was a bit surprised that gary would accuse jen of being AM without even confirming it with her. so i sent her an email, suggesting that if she wanted to deny the allegation, she should do it soon. in her reply, she confessed:

I have to sheepishly and belatedly admit that I am, indeed, Accidental Mayor. I've told folks in the media that I'm doing it, but I guess I just never posted anything about it when I added the link to my blogroll.

I made the decision shortly after the election that I needed to get the local stuff off TDW, since my focus there has always been on the Guv's Office and statewide politics. I heard Shella describe Ballard as the "accidental mayor" on election night, so I ran with it.

so there you have it. she clearly wasn't trying to hide her identity because she made no effort to change her author voice and the blog's format is identical to TDW, right down to the redundant quotation marks inside block quotes. (i've never understood those, and can't find any justification for them in the AP stylebook... they're definitely against chicago style.) but it would've been nice if she had officially announced that it was her blog when she started it, as she did with her other new blog, the media-focused bury the lede. apparently she forgot.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 
lobbying lessons
while he was campaigning, candidate greg ballard made some very specific promises about property taxes. from his campaign site:

As Mayor, I will:

1. Lobby the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment eliminating property taxes in Indiana. I believe that with the current makeup of the legislature, 35-40% of legislators approve of such a measure.

2. Failing a state constitutional amendment, I will find an acceptable mix of taxes within Marion County to greatly reduce the influence of property taxes in Indianapolis. This will help bring the middle class back to Indianapolis, increasing the overall tax base and reducing the tax burden on the poor.

so... the legislature is in session and talking about property taxes, and greg ballard is there:

Indianapolis Mayor-Elect Greg Ballard listened to the early part of the debate from the House balcony, noting that his mere presence sends a message.

"I think we are seeing the fact that I got elected talking about this quite a bit, has already weighed in on this debate quite a bit so I hope that they hear that," Ballard said.

of course, lobbying the legislature takes a bit more than just showing up.

more than one of today's legislature stories read like that: the legislature met. ballard was there. he's interested in property taxes. only jim shella got the important detail:

Ballard won't testify, but says he will plan to make his feelings known in individual meetings with lawmakers.

that sounds like lobbying to me. so there you have it. looks like ballard is indeed lobbying the legislature for repeal. i guess i was wrong about that one. then again, part 1 was the easy part of that campaign promise. part 2 will be considerably more difficult.

still, the important issue is what should be done about property taxes. as i've said before, repeal is unworkable and unrealistic. property taxes bring in more than $6 million/year, and to make up for that lost revenue, other taxes would have to be raised to unacceptable levels. also, i share doug's reluctance about amending the constitution. ballard (and gary) think a constitutional amendment of some form or another is the bare minimum. i don't get that. i understand why someone would want to support tax caps or even repeal, but why the insistence on an amendment? with all the volatility in the mortgage market today, we don't know what things are going to be like a few years from now, let alone 10, 20, 50 years down the line. even if the governor's plan is perfect for 2007, that doesn't mean it'll still be good in 2107. maybe it's comforting to think that the permanence of an amendment means that the property tax issue will then be "fixed permanently", but i just don't see the real-world benefit of an amendment.

bits & pieces
i'm in between freelance assignments, which is like being on vacation, so i have no excuse not to blog regularly. so here are some bits & pieces that on their own might not be enough for a full entry.

via abdul, we see that rishawn biddle apparently really dislikes julia carson. i'm having a hard time locating a single positive statement about julia in his "special report" over at the american spectator. (rishawn does point out that julia was "one of the first members of Congress to vocally oppose the War in Iraq", which i suspect he thought was a compliment, but the spectator's audience will not take it as such.) but on the other hand, it doesn't contain any racial slurs either, like the last time he wrote about julia, so that's a step up.

now that i'm no longer a homeowner, i'm virtually guaranteed to get screwed by any property tax relief plan. not totally reamed like lake county, but screwed nonetheless, because even if my landlord's taxes go way down, they're certainly not going to decrease my rent. that's okay; unlike some, i'm not going to oppose any change just because it won't help me personally. then again, i'm not going to assume any change is good, either. i'm not sold on the governor's plan—in particular i'm averse to amending the constitution—but something similar to his plan could work.

speaking of bits 'n pieces, milkshake masters steak 'n shake have been particularly hard-hit by the economic troubles that have been affecting the restaurant industry, as more people decide to eat at home or just grab something cheap. some locations are even considering the ultimate SNS blasphemy: reducing hours. i was particularly concerned on sunday night, when i drove to our local steak n shake to takhomasak for dinner, and the place appeared to be closed. as a result, i was forced to go to five guys instead (the food at five guys is great, but they don't have shakes). however, i've since confirmed that our local SNS (by the pyramids) is still open 24 hours, so sunday night must've been a fluke.

still, even with the restaurant industry's recent woes, the producers of fox's kitchen nightmares aren't getting a lot of applications from local restaurants to be featured on the show. on the show—my girlfriend's favorite; she's almost obsessed—star chef gordon ramsay tries to help a struggling restaurant turn its business around in one week. in the american version of the show, producers even spend a good chunk of change redesigning the restaurant interior, replacing busted kitchen equipment, and so on. if the show were to come to indianapolis, virago & i would definitely want to attend the reopening (hint to show producers), not so much to be on tv as to taste gordon's menu. though being on the show would be cool, too.

Sunday, December 02, 2007 
lolcolts for you!

too obscure? don't get the joke? okay then, here's another:


i've started putting my lolcolts on flickr; you can view the whole set there. or you can click the "lolcolts" label below to be shown all the lolcolts posts from this blog.


Saturday, December 01, 2007 
moving forward
yesterday was a momentous occasion for me: i sold my house! and if you've been paying attention at all to the real estate climate, you know that's no minor accomplishment these days. the market nationally is in real trouble, and add marion county's property tax situation on top of that, and the result is that not a lot of houses are selling.

i used to live in a great house in meridian-kessler, just a couple blocks from miss ann's house, but after a few years everyone's personal situations changed and we all moved out. we put that bad boy on the market in march, where it sat for months. finally, one of our neighbors took a shine to it. at first she wasn't willing to offer enough—we weren't looking to make a huge profit, but we weren't going to lose money on the deal, either—but eventually she came around, and we closed on the deal yesterday.

it was a great place to live, but once we'd moved out, that house became an albatross around my neck. i was still paying hundreds a month on mortgage and utilities while it sat there unused, and as a freelancer, i don't have the steadiest revenue stream. as a result i was unable to really help virago out with rent and bills here at our pike-township apartment. this double-budgeting caused stress aplenty, but no longer.

yesterday was also a notable anniversary: one month with no nicotine. i had my last cigarette in august, and my last piece of nicotine gum on the day before halloween. while i haven't totally adjusted to the world of nonsmoking, on most days i don't even think about cigarettes, and even when i'm around them i don't crave them. i'm past that. but don't worry: i promised myself (as i promise you) that i wouldn't become one of those militant ex-smoker assholes. smoking is rather gross and annoying, but those militant ex-smokers are far more obnoxious.

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