8 posts

The Breathtaking Cowardice of Indiana Governor Mike Pence

I am a Hoosier. I was born in Indianapolis, I did my undergrad at Indiana University, and I’ve lived in the state of Indiana for most of my 31 years on this planet. When the news first started trickling out about SB101, Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I was dismayed that such blatantly discriminatory legislation would be considered, much less had a chance in passing. Then it was passed, and I felt genuinely ashamed of the state from whence I came. Then I watched Indiana Governor Mike Pence struggle through a softball interview with George Stephanopoulos, and I realized I could stay silent no longer. Continue reading

Indiana’s Little 500: The World’s Greatest College Weekend

“I’ve attended Super Bowls, World Series’, and the Monaco Grand Prix, but the coolest event I ever attended was the Little 500.” – Lance Armstrong –

The official description of the Little 500 is that it is an intramural relay-style bicycle race held annually at Indiana University, in which riders compete in teams of four and ride for 200 laps, or approximately 50 miles. Continue reading

Indiana Wants Creation Taught In Schools

Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse does not believe in Evolution. Unlike most of us, who just influence those in our direct company, Senator Kruse has a larger mouthpiece.  He wrote a bill about it.  Senate Bill 89, in its original text,  calls for the teaching of “Creation Science” alongside Evolution. The version of the bill that passed “Provides that the governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life. Requires the curriculum for the course to include theories from multiple religions.” I’m guessing they amended the bill because the 1987 Supreme Court case Edwards v Aguillard ruled that the teaching of “Creation Science” was favorable toward one religion. Those of you who got through the first two paragraphs of the Constitution know that’s a no-no. Continue reading

Your Thoughts Wanted: Sen. Evan Bayh, Glenn Beck and FOX News

Yesterday it was announced that former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) was joining Fox News as a “political commentator and analyst.”  My initial reaction to this news was to frown and shake my head.  I am, to say the least, not a fan of Fox News.  For the record, I am also not a fan of MSNBC.  But, I’ll get to that in a moment.  I don’t watch Fox News, so this isn’t a criticism of their news coverage or political commentary.  My objection to Fox can really be summed up in two words: Glenn Beck. My problems with this hatemonger are manifold, but I’ll just mention one.  As a Jew, and, ahem, specifically a Reform Jew, I strongly object to Mr. Beck being given a national, mainstream platform to spew his barely cloaked Elders of Zion Jewish world control conspiracy theories.

Because “ratings matters,” I would prefer that my fellow Americans choose to express their disapproval of Mr. Beck by not watching Fox News so long as he is on the network.  By joining Fox, Sen. Bayh, a centrist well-spoken and intelligent man, is not helping in this cause.   This is particularly disappointing to me given the Senator’s involvement in No Labels, an organization founded by a bipartisan group of current and former elected officials, including Independent Mayor Bloomberg, former Republican Congressman Scarborough and former Sen. Bayh, who are “frustrated and concerned about the tone of politics” and believe “hyper-partisanship is destroying our politics and paralyzing our ability to govern.”  Hmmm.

In thinking about this yesterday, I tried to understand how sharing a network with Mr. Beck furthers the goals of No Labels.  When the Bayh news broke, my Facebook page exploded with comments- many echoing this sentiment.  However, there were opposing views. Here is a comment from a friend and political activist:  But even No Labels has to have a conduit for promoting its message. Mass media is media for the masses, and influencing those masses is how we change the system.”

Ok.  This is a valid point and it got me thinking.  Now, let me move at this point, to why I dislike MSNBC, because it’s relevant here.  First, I find MSNBC and Fox much too partisan and slanted in their reporting to be a news source for my tastes.  I hate surprises.  I’d prefer to have all the facts, mitigating and otherwise, on an issue before I start forwarding around while jumping on my high horse about it.  But, the bigger issue I have with MSNBC is their role in mainstreaming and rehabilitating the noxious racist, Pat Buchanan.

For those used to seeing Pat joshing around with our favorite liberal lesbian, Rachel Maddow, here’s just a sampling of Mr. Buchanan’s less adorable beliefs in his own words:

After Sen. Carol Moseley Braun blocked a federal patent for a Confederate flag insignia, Buchanan wrote that she was “putting on an act” by associating the Confederacy with slavery: “The War Between the States was about independence, about self-determination, about the right of a people to break free of a government to which they could no longer give allegiance.”

On race relations in the late 1940s and early 1950s: “There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The ‘negroes’ of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds and churches; and we had ours.

But, as I thought about my friend’s comment, it occurred to me that Mr. Buchanan does not say these things on MSNBC and doesn’t seem to say them much anymore at all.  Hmmm again.  So, now I’m asking myself: should Mr. Buchanan be shunned for his past horrid behavior or is it better that because of his appearances on MSNBC he seems to actually have moderated his statements, if not his beliefs?  Is it better that, even if he secretly still believes them, he doesn’t say them anymore?

All of which brings me back to Senator Bayh, Glenn Beck and Fox News.  So, now I’m conflicted and not sure where I stand.  Is it possible that, simply by having individuals of Mr. Bayh’s caliber, Fox News may move away from commentators like Glenn Beck?  Is it possible that Sen. Bayh’s participation may temper Mr. Beck’s more unacceptable statements, at least on his Fox News show?  Is it better to take a principled stand against Beck and Fox News or to engage to try to change them?

Hmmm for a third time.  What do you think?

Read More:

Evan Bayh joining Fox News

Glenn Beck’s “monstrous” Soros accusations rile Holocaust survivors, Jewish groups

Southern Poverty Law Center Report, The Second Wave: Return of the Militias, documenting Fox News and Glenn Beck’s race-based conspiracy theories

No Labels

Pat Buchanan in his own words

Senator Bayh on the issues


Exclusive: Interview with Boycotting Indiana Rep. Terri Austin

Today, Crasstalk is thrilled to present a conversation with Indiana Democratic Representative Terri Austin (IN-37).  Rep. Austin was one of two Democratic legislators who remained at the Statehouse to object to any legislative business occurring without a quorum.  A leading voice in education, mass transit and transportation, Rep. Austin has spent the last two weeks traveling back and forth from the Indiana Statehouse to Urbana, Illinois, where the remaining Democratic caucus members have been since the standoff began.

As they enter their third week of boycotting the Indiana House of Representatives, Indiana Democratic legislators are facing enormous pressure from all sides.  On one side, there are calls for them to come to the Legislature and go back to work.  On the other, countless Hoosier workers and teachers who have rallied day after day, numbering in the thousands each time, to show their support for the Democrats’ stand.  What is happening in Indiana is different than what is occurring in Ohio and Wisconsin. However, there are also common themes threaded through each states’ stand off.  For many, the events in Indiana and across the country represent no less than a battle for the future of the American working class.  Are unions a thing of the past?  Do public employees deserve collective bargaining?  These are just a few of the questions raised by this situation.

Indiana Democrats released the following statement about the boycott.

On Tuesday, February 22, 2011, House Democrats used their constitutional obligation to prevent quorum on the House floor to stop a radical agenda that was a direct attack on working Hoosiers and our public schools. We left for Illinois to give the thousands of Hoosier workers, teachers, and families a real voice at the State House. Our decision was to send a message to Republicans that we were serious about our concerns. Some say we should come back and do our job. We believe that fighting on behalf of thousands of Hoosier students, workers, and families is our job. To sit in the chamber and simply vote no was not enough.

Source: Indiana State Legislature

Before focusing on the substance of why Democratic legislators left the state, I want to ask you about the tactic of walking out or boycotting the legislature.  Some have suggested that this is not an appropriate way for a minority party to block legislation.  How do you respond to this criticism?

Rep. Austin:

I have great respect for our legislative institution and its rules.  The tactic of quorum-busting—causing a quorum to be prevented from meeting—has been used in legislative bodies by minorities seeking to block the adoption of some measure they oppose. Quorum-busting has been used for centuries. For instance, during his time in the state legislature, Abraham Lincoln, leapt out of a first story window (the doors of the Capitol had been locked to prevent legislators from fleeing) in a failed attempt to prevent a quorum from being present.
To remain out of the House chamber should be used rarely and done only after careful consideration.  We know that Speaker Bosma and other House Republicans understand this, because when in the minority, they used this Constitutionally-granted ability in 2001 and 2004.

Both Republican and Democratic members have participated in walkouts that have stopped legislative action.  However, in the recent past, members have not left the state.  Why did the Democrats feel they needed to leave the state?

Rep. Austin:

The decision to leave the state was made after careful deliberation.  There was significant concern that the Speaker of the House or the Governor would use the powers of arrest to compel attendance.  The only way to ensure that this would not happen was to relocate to a region where the powers of arrest were not recognized.  It also gave us uninterrupted time to review, discuss and debate the various pieces of legislation we were concerned about and to develop proposed amendments to the bills.  We believe that the legislature works best when a spirit of bipartisanship and compromise is present.

Indiana House members initially left the state to stop Right to Work legislation from passing.  Why is the Democratic Caucus opposed to RtW?

Rep. Austin:

The decision to break a quorum was not just about Right To Work.  Over the last couple of weeks the barrage of controversial and critical bills, put on the calendar at the last minute, hampered the ability of legislators and the public to understand the details of these bills much less consider their long-term consequences.   Let me give you an example of what I mean.

The RTW bill was scheduled on the very last morning for committee hearings.  The hearing was held in less than ideal conditions.  There were hundreds of people who traveled to the statehouse to testify regarding the bill.  Many could not even hear the testimony because the hearing room only held about 50 people.  Others were forced to stand outside in the hallway or throughout the building.  92 people who signed up to testify were not given an opportunity to testify.

It is important to note that there was conflicting testimony on the positive impact of RtW legislation in other states.  Dr. Gordon Lafer, an Associate Professor at the University of Oregon indicated that all of the most recent scientific studies show that RTW has zero impact on job growth.  In fact, only one state, Oklahoma, has adopted Right To Work over the past 25 years.  One problem with basing public policy decisions on what happened in 1970 and 1980 is that we live in a fundamentally different economy today.

Something this important should not be determined in a 90 minute committee hearing where Hoosiers were denied an opportunity to hear the testimony or offer their thoughts and opinions as citizens.

I think you can see from this example and news reports of the session that legislators and the public were not fully educated on several bills that were moving like a runaway freight train.  Although the “Right to Work” (RTW) bill has been depicted as the primary reason for the “time out”, it was a whole list of concerns.  This time out has given the public and legislators the time to learn about the content of these bills.  As can be noted by the thousands of citizens who have demonstrated at the statehouse and rallied in their communities, the public is becoming more aware of these issues, and they are speaking up.  The focus of this time-out should not be the absence of the House members but the potentially damaging impact of these bills.

Almost immediately after the Democrats left, Republican leaders pledged not to advance the RTW legislation. But, the Democrats did not come back. Why?

Indiana State Democrats



Rep. Austin:

As explained above, there were other pieces of legislation that would have had a drastic impact on Hoosier families and children attending public schools.  Democrats’ decision to remain out of the statehouse allows time for the bills to be fully examined, amendments developed, the public to be informed and their voices to be heard.  The Democrats have consistently expressed a desire to work in a spirit of compromise and negotiation.  Efforts to do just that have been rebuked and refused by the House leadership.  Republicans have said there is no negotiating, their agenda will pass.  Their rhetoric and unwillingness to compromise have forced us to fight from Illinois – our only means left to defend the jobs of working people in Indiana and the education of Hoosier children.

This session began with a great hope of working with our colleagues across the aisle to develop a plan for job creation, move our public schools to the front of the class and draft a fiscally responsible state budget.  Speaker Bosma started this session saying it was a “new day” in the House chamber, and he was going to seek a new level of bi-partisanship.   Unfortunately, we’ve seen the complete opposite.  This session has seen only 29 percent of the votes be cast in a bipartisan manner.  Normally, 80-90 percent of the votes in a session are bipartisan.

Please understand that House Democrats did not cross our arms and say “no” to everything that was proposed by our Republican colleagues.  Even if we disagreed on a bill, positive and compromising alternatives were offered to improve and/or moderate the consequences if we felt they were harmful to our districts and our constituents.   Most times those ideas, offered in good faith, were summarily dismissed   Our kids’ education and our families’ wages shouldn’t be the victim of partisanship.  Hoosier families deserve better than that.

Source: Indiana House Democrats Fighting for Families

Do Democrats have a list of specific bills that they want to negotiate on before agreeing to come back?  If so, can you briefly explain what they are?

Rep. Austin:

There is no list of “demands” as has been suggested.  However, several bills impacting public education and the future of the middle class in Indiana are of great concern.  HB 1003 creates a voucher program that sends public tax dollars to private schools for a select number of children.  HB 1479 allows for the immediate state takeover of 212 schools and gives the State Board of Education the authority to appoint a for-profit management company to run the school.  Other legislation impacts individuals’ rights to voluntarily have association dues or fees paid from their paycheck.  Others greatly restrict employees’ ability to work with management regarding areas of mutual concern.  Many of the bills will drive down Hoosier wages and benefits.  Hoosiers already earn only 85 cents on the dollar as compared to the U.S. average.  The Republican proposals have been proven in other states to lower wages by $5,500 a year on average.

These are just some of the bills that many legislators feel will be harmful to their communities.

Are the Democrats asking for specific legislative changes to be agreed to before you will come back or are you asking for an opportunity through open debate and proposed amendments to change them once you do come back?

Rep. Austin:

The Democrats are willing to work with everyone in a spirit of compromise.  Negotiations are never successful when one party or the other draws a line in the sand.  It is important to keep the lines of communication open and for both parties to come to the table with respect and a willingness to listen.

The Crasstalk community includes people from all 50 states.  It seems that the same legislation Indiana Democrats are objecting to is also being proposed in other states, notably Wisconsin and Ohio.  Are Democratic legislators talking across states and coming up with a larger strategy to counteract what seems to be a nationwide Republican effort?

Rep. Austin:

I am not aware that talks with other Democratic legislators are going on to develop a strategy.  I do know that the communications that have taken place are more about supporting each other’s efforts and comparing different pieces of legislation across state lines.

Are you personally concerned about any political fallout from the Democrats’ boycott? Why or why not?

Source: Indiana House Democrats Fighting for Families

Rep. Austin:

At some point, you have to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the consequences.  I was elected by the people of the district to try and make their lives better and to be their voice in state government.  Many of the pieces of legislation would not have a positive impact on the families and children that I represent.  I believe that Hoosier families are worth fighting for.

Last question. Many people who will read this are not Hoosiers and may have never been to Indiana. As an elected representative of Hoosier residents, what is the one thing you would most like them to know about Indiana?

Rep. Austin:

It’s a wonderful place to grow up and to work.  Yes, we face some challenges but also we have many positives that make us attractive to young people, families and entrepreneurs.  I had the opportunity to travel to Taiwan and Japan several years ago as a part of a state delegation.  When we met with business leaders who talked about why they brought their companies to Indiana, they indicated two things that set us apart: our Hoosier work ethic and the excellent education their children received.  Unfortunately, some leaders forget to tell people the things they are doing well before they tell them why we need to do things differently.

For More Information

Indiana House Democrats Fighting for Hoosier Families Facebook page.

The Hoosier Stand.

Just SIT (Support Indiana Teachers) Facebook page.



Found Footage Friday – The Movie that Scared a Generation (in one small Indiana town)

Hello and welcome to the first Found Footage Friday, where I present all sorts of video footage you may find surprising and entertaining. I’m going to start with something very close to home.

I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana in the 1980s. Home of Indiana University and its esteemed folklore department and a small but thriving public access cable channel. I don’t know if it was a student’s folklore project or something the department decided to do, but if you say “Haunted Indiana” to any Bloomington child of the ’80s, they will tell you how it totally scared the hell out of them when they were kids. We now look back on it with great fondness and, thanks to the internet, it is something I can share with all of you.

It’s a collection of short horror stories based on Indiana folklore, shot on a budget of two buttons and a shoelace with a soundtrack stolen from Hitchcock’s Psycho and narrated by local TV personality Mike White. Here it is in all its glory. There is not much for me to tell you about it, just watch it (it’s less than an hour long) and discover the frightening horror that is Haunted Indiana-

Haunted Indiana Part 1 – Intro

Haunted Indiana Part 2 – Haunted Woods

Haunted Indiana Part 3 – The Cable Line Monster

Haunted Indiana Part 4 – The Campers

Haunted Indiana Part 5 – Burnt (a.k.a. the boring one before the really scary one)

Haunted Indiana part 6 – Monster in the Bedroom

That last one gave hundreds of children nightmares about never waking up the next morning. I hope you enjoyed the movie that was the stuff of nightmares for one midwestern town with a population (at the time) of less than 50,000 people. The world may never known the horror of Haunted Indiana, but now you do. Welcome to our nightmare.