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Clay’s Coup D’etat

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Indianapolis City-City County Stephen Clay wants to be Council President, and even though Maggie Lewis has that job, Clay is working to take it from her.

After numerous background discussions with both Republicans and Democrats over at the City-County building, we’ve been able to piece together what exactly is going on.

Clay has consistently coveted Lewis’ job, there have been several failed attempts in the past but he could not muster enough support among his fellow Democrats.  Now, sources tell us, he is trying to garner Republican support to do it.

There is a precedent for this.  Back in 2005, then Councilor Steve Talley got the Republican minority to vote for him and ousted then-President Rosell Boyd.

Indy Politics is told Clay has repeatedly attempted to undermine Lewis’ leadership, even going so far as to challenge her appointments to Boards and Commissions.

Clay’s supporters in the past have included Monroe Gray, Duke Oliver, Joe Simpson and LaKeisha Jackson.  He would only need the votes of eight Republicans to become President.

Republicans tell Indy Politics that he has not formally reached out to anyone in their caucus, yet.   If Clay became President he would make committee assignments and he reportedly wants to remove Leroy Robinson as the chairman of Public Safety and Vop Osili as the head of Metropolitan and Economic Development.

It is unlikely Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a fellow Democrat, would get in the middle of this fight, as the Mayor has adopted a “hands-off” approach to internal caucus matters since taking office.

The Council will elect its leadership in January.

Looking for “Lugar Republicans”

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Since we are now six months away from the May primary and a year away from the general election, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the U.S. Senate race.  I’ve spent the past few weeks talking to various sources around the state to get a feel for where things stand in the U.S. Senate race, and the one constant theme that keeps coming back is that Joe Donnelly might be a lot tougher to beat than initially thought.

First, there were the polls.   A poll published in recent editions of the Cheat Sheet showed Donnelly tied (40-40) with a generic Republican and 60 percent of Republicans polled were undecided, 22 percent supported Todd Rokita, 15 percent backed Luke Messer, and Mike Braun got three percent of the vote.

That 60 percent undecided number is consistent with what was released by both the Rokita and Messer camps earlier this year.  A Rokita poll released this summer gave him an eight-point lead over Messer (28-20) with Republican primary voters; however, 55 percent were undecided.  A survey put out by the Messer campaign showed the race virtually tied (23-23), but 45 percent were undecided.

And Morning Consult has been keeping track of Joe Donnelly’s approval ratings all year.  To date he’s been averaging just above 48 percent, 48.6 percent to be precise.  His disapproval rating has been at 25 percent.  And those who either don’t know or have no opinion come in at 26 percent.

Second, there’s the money.  You already know that Donnelly has about as much money in the bank as Luke Messer and Todd Rokita combined. He has $4.6 million in the bank, while Messer and Rokita have about $2.4 million each.    And don’t forget, State Rep. Mike Braun in one quarter raised $1 million ($800,000 of his own) and a new Super PAC (Our Indiana Voice) is also going to help him raise money.  So it doesn’t look like money isn’t going to be an issue for anybody in this race.

So what’s left to look at, I submit to you, the “Lugar Republicans”.

You remember them, the members of the GOP who went and voted for Donnelly in 2012 over Richard Mourdock, mainly due to his comments regarding rape and if a woman became pregnant, it was God’s intent for it to happen.  I think they will be crucial in not only the general election but also the primary.  And in a universe where 60 percent of Republicans are undecided, these guys are going to be a significant voting bloc.

We’ve been speaking to a number of them, and they are far from overwhelmed with the current crop of candidates.  At best, the “social club” wing of the group tends to favor Messer.  They are intrigued by Braun but have a lot of questions about him.  They are not Rokita fans.  And a good chunk of them don’t think Donnelly is beatable.   A current theme from speaking with all of them is that a lot of them don’t want to be bothered with any political talk until next year, which feeds into the poll that shows that 60 percent of Republicans are undecided.

And as far as candidates reaching out, from what we’ve been able to gather, it looks like the Rokita folks are going for the hardcore Trump supporters, although a spokesman tells me they will be able  “energize and unite all factions of the party to defeat Joe Donnelly.”   Meanwhile, sources close to team Messer tell me he is focusing on “growing his base” and bringing on board those moderate and establishment Republicans and build that “broader primary coalition.”

Both are going to have to do something.  This summer Donnelly marched in parades in the Republican strongholds of  Hamilton and Johnson counties.    And please note,  a check of 2016 election results shows Donald Trump underperforming than all the other candidates.   He got 87,300 votes while the average vote for the three County Commissioners was 97,000 votes.    And I was even informed that a wealthy group of Hancock County farmers held a fundraiser for Donnelly because he liked his position on agriculture.

Regardless, one longtime Lugar friend and supporter told us this, “Lugar Republicans (and the majority of Hoosiers) are ultimately for good governance.   By simply pledging to vote more frequently with the Trump Administration, it’s unclear how the current slate of Republican candidates for U.S. Senate will better address the problems of the nation than Senator Donnelly is already doing.”


Aaron Bailey Did Not Have to Die

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

This may sound strange,  but I agree with many Aaron Bailey supporters that he did not have to die at the hands to two IMPD officers.

I say that because after reading St. Joseph County special prosecutor Kenneth Cotter’s report, I am convinced that the person most responsible for Aaron Bailey’s death is Aaron Bailey.    Could the IMPD officers have done something differently?  Maybe.  But ultimately, had Bailey complied with the officers’ lawful commands, or made several other choices that night he would likely still be alive today, or at least not been shot several times.   Allow me to explain.

First of all, ask anyone in law enforcement, and they will tell you, there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop.   When the officer walks up and approaches a vehicle, there is a chance he or she won’t come back.   And at 1:30 in the morning near 16th and Tremont I will also argue those chances increase quite a bit.

Secondly,  Officer Carlton Howard noticed Baily’s vehicle at a gas station at the pump with all four doors open and no occupants.  He didn’t investigate at the time, but about 10 minutes later he saw the same vehicle getting ready to exit the parking lot, and while it ample room to pull in front of him and leave, they waited until he drove past.    Carlton allowed the vehicle to pass, and later the car changed lanes without signaling.  He ran a license plate check and saw that Bailey’s license was suspended.  Thus the traffic stop begins.

So what do we have so far?  Suspicious activity at 1:30 in the morning by two individuals.

He asked Bailey for his license, who said he didn’t have one, so the officer asked for his ID.  The officer did tell Bailey it was “no big deal” that he didn’t have his license,  this was confirmed,  according to the special prosecutor’s report, by Shamika Ward, the passenger.  Also during this time, Bailey was described as getting more nervous and agitated during the traffic stop, to the point where Ward told him to calm down.

When Officer Howard ran a check on both Bailey and Ward, he saw that Bailey had a number of criminal arrests and convictions and he was a suspect in multiple robberies.  Ward was being monitored for a homicide, and any officer who came in contact with her was to detain her and notify the detective.

So what do we have so far?  Suspicious activity at 1:30 in the morning by two individuals, one of whom is connected to a homicide.

The second police officer (Dinnsen) arrives on the scene, and when Howard asks Bailey to get out of the car (twice) Bailey rolls up his window and takes off, and the pursuit begins.

So what do we have now?  Suspicious activity at 1:30 in the morning by two individuals, one of whom is connected to a homicide, and they take off during the traffic stop. 

The high-speed chase ensues, dispatch is notified, Bailey eventually crashes into a tree.

Howard and Dinnsen pull up to crash, get out of his car, draws their weapons, notice the airbags have been deployed. Howard says Bailey had his back to him and he could not see his hands.  They kept telling Bailey to show him his hands.  Ward raised her hands; Bailey kept rummaging near the center console.   They continued to order  Bailey to show his hands, Bailey began to turn around, and the officers discharged their weapons.

So what do we have now?  Suspicious activity at 1:30 in the morning by two individuals, one of whom is connected to a homicide, and they take off during the traffic stop.  They crash.  The officers repeatedly ordered him to show his hands.   Ward does.  Bailey doesn’t.  He appears to be rummaging for a weapon, starts to turn around and the officer’s fire at him.

But that’s not all.  Most interesting, to me, is the statement of Shamika Ward, the passenger.   She told the special prosecutor that she and Bailey had consumed half a pint of Vodka before going out that evening.  And they were going to make some money by taking bar soap, cutting it up and placing it in baggies to try to sell it as cocaine. (Note:  This is a very quick way to get shot by someone other than law enforcement.)

Ward also said that Bailey didn’t want to pull over as the officer initiated the traffic stop.  But she convinced him thinking they were getting pulled over because the batter in his GPS home detention tracker went out and he would be in violation of his probation.

So what do we have now?  We have Bailey whose initial evening plans were to sell fake drugs, driving on a suspended license while on probation with a broken GPS tracker at 1:30 in the morning with a person who wanted for questioning in connection with a homicide.  

Once Bailey fled during the traffic stop, Ward begged him to stop.  But he didn’t, and they later crashed into a tree.  She said she was stunned and could not see or hear, later she realized they were being shot at by police.  She says she remembers hearing three shots and Bailey telling her she had been shot.  Ward says she remembers the officers saying get your hands up.  She also told the special prosecutor that Bailey did not open the console, but it opened upon impact with the airbag deployment.

So what do we have now?  We have Bailey whose initial evening plans were to sell fake drugs, driving on a suspended license while on probation with a broken GPS tracker at 1:30 in the morning with a person who wanted for questioning in connection with a homicide.  They take off during the traffic stop.  They crash.  The officers repeatedly ordered him to show his hands.   Ward does.  Bailey doesn’t.  He appears to be rummaging for a weapon, starts to turn around and the officers fired at him.

Based on these facts, the person most responsible for Aaron Bailey’s death is Aaron Bailey.   He would not have had to die at the hands of IMPD officers had he not been out in violation of his probation, not made the choice to cut up bar soap and pass it off as drugs to sell, not fled during the traffic stop and complied with the officers when they immediately told him to show his hands.

We can argue about whether IMPD should have had to two relatively new officers on patrol at that time of day, that’s a fair question.  And we can look at the protocols for discharging a weapon to make sure they are appropriate. But when you look at it in the aggregate, based on these facts, it is extremely unlikely Aaron Bailey would have died had he made different choices, and unless new facts say otherwise he had several opportunities to do so.

A Few More Facts About Police Action Shootings

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

My good friend Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has come under fire for a recent op-ed he wrote regarding the NFL players who have taken a knee during the National Anthem at NFL games to protest police action shootings and social injustice.

Hill said while he respects the players’ right to take a knee, he also thinks they should step up and protest “black on black” violence, which far outnumbers blacks killed by police.  Hill has been catching a lot of flack for his statement, which does not surprise me because he is correct.

Looking at the data, I am more likely to be killed by a 22-year old black male, rather than a police officer with 22 years on the force.

So in all the chatter about police action shootings, which by the way, Indianapolis has only had one this year as of this summer, I decided to take a look at the data so far this year from across the country.  With what we’ve seen in the news so far this year, you would think it was open season on unarmed black men by law enforcement.  However, the information I found looking at the Post’s database, tended to paint a different picture.  

Here’s what I found, overall…

  • There have been nearly 800 police action shootings that resulted in fatalities, 14 of which occurred in the state of Indiana.
  • Mental illness played a role in 25 percent of the incidents.
  • 173 of the fatalities were fleeing the scene.
  • 758 of the fatalities were male.
  • 23 percent (184) were African-American, only 13  were unarmed.
  • In 659 instances a weapon (gun. Knife, car) was involved.
  • There were no body cams in 715 cases.

When it comes to Indiana, specifically, here’s a breakdown of those 10 police action shootings which resulted in fatalities…

  • All 14 fatalities were male.
  • Nine were white, four were African-American, one was Hispanic.
  • Four were between ages 18-29.  Five were between 30 and 44.  Five were more than 45 years old.
  • Three had mental illness issues.
  • Eight used a gun as a weapon, four used a vehicle, one was unarmed, one had a weapon that was labeled unknown.
  • Out of the nine that fled the scene, seven used a car.
  • There were no body cams in any of the incidents.
  • Only one of the police action shootings occurred in Indianapolis.

I also did a check of shootings in the last couple of years.  There were 963 nationwide in 2016, Indiana had 14.  There were 991 nationwide in 2015, 19 of which occurred in Indiana.  And once again, anyone looking for open season on African-Americans will be disappointed.  

In 2015, 26 percent of the fatalities were black nationwide.  That number dropped down to 24 percent in 2016.  And as far as being black and unarmed goes,  there were only 38 shootings of unarmed black men reported in 2015 and 17 shootings of unarmed black men in 2016.  And only seven were fleeing the scene.

And in Indiana, there were 14 police action shootings in 2016 that resulted in fatalities, four were African-American and only one was unarmed.  In 2015,  there were 19 police action shootings that resulted in death.  Six of them were African-American and none were reported unarmed.

Now take all that data and juxtapose it to what we’ve been seeing in Indianapolis so far this year.  By my last count, we were at 117 criminal homicides which puts us on track to tie last year’s record numbers.   And blacks, which tend to make up about 27 percent of the city’s population continue to be between 70-80 percent of the murder victims and nine out 10 times it was another person of color who sent them on to the next world.    And what’s really disturbing about these numbers, in particular, is that in the past 70-80 percent of the victims and suspects had prior criminal records so I could use my “self-cleaning oven” line and say most of this was just a bad guy shooting a bad guy.  Not so much this year.  This year those numbers range from 50-60 percent, which means there is something even deeper going on.  And the fact that you have parents telling their kids not to cooperate with law enforcement after these murders are taking place probably doesn’t help much either.

So what’s the moral of the story?  One black guy shot by police in Indy and everyone gets worked up, 93 blacks killed by other blacks and not a knee to be found in sight.



My Cold Beer Conspiracy

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Growing up as a kid on the south side of Chicago, you got a pretty good education when it came to the street hustle, notably if you ever played the old shell game.  That’s the game where you place a ball under one of three cups, move the cups around, and someone tries to guess where the ball is.  Usually there is money involved, and usually, you place a bet and usually, you lose.    You lose because while you’re trying to follow the ball, the guy running the game figures out a way to draw your attention to one cup, while the ball is really under another cup.   The debate over Sunday retail alcohol sales and cold beer are a lot like that shell game.

Confused?  You won’t be after this.

I draw parallels between the Legislative debate regarding Sunday sales and cold beer sales at grocery and convenience stores to the shell game because that’s basically what the liquor stores have been doing lately.  You might have noticed the liquor store lobby has “reaffirmed” its support for Sunday retail sales.  They have put out news releases, and association president John Sinder even wrote an op-ed in the state’s largest newspaper.  The liquor tout how they have always been in support of Sunday retail alcohol sales and have called the ban “antiquated and forces small business package liquor stores to close one day per week.”   

Did I just wake up in a parallel universe where Hillary Clinton is President, and Harvey Weinstein is a champion of women’s rights?  Because I could argue that’s the only backdrop where the liquor industry would be sincere about its support for Sunday retail sales unless there is something else going on.  Which I submit to you, there is.

This is where the shell game comes in, so ponder this for a moment.

The liquor store folks have always maintained that they need special treatment because they operate under a different set of rules than the big box, grocery and convenience stores.  They say they are restricted by what they can sell, their employees have to be trained, and the big one; their permit licenses are much more expensive.  You always hear the story about the “mom and pop” liquor store that spent $200,000 for its license.  Which by the way is not true, that was a corporation that bought the license in an Indianapolis suburb. And most liquor license purchases are private transactions and the state doesn’t get a dime.   But I digress.

So with all those hoops, the liquor stores have to jump through, why would anyone spend that much money to operate a business that can’t open on Sunday and is restricted by what it can sell and who can work there?    I have two words for you, “cold beer”.

Cold beer is the only thing the liquor stores can sell that everyone else can’t, Rickers notwithstanding.   And that is what they are scared to death of losing.   If the liquor stores lose their monopoly on retail cold beer sales, it is game over.  And this is why they have suddenly become a lot more vocal about supporting Sunday alcohol sales.

Now doesn’t that shell game analogy starting to make a lot more sense?

By “coming out” in support of Sunday retail sales, the liquor store folks think that will be enough to stave off any talk of allowing their competitors to sell cold beer.   They want you to focus on Sunday sales, which garners a lot more public support than cold beer sales.  You will think they are reasonable, you will be able to buy alcohol when you do your Sunday grocery shopping, and all will be right with the world.

Don’t fall for the hustle folks.   I have covered this issue for more than a decade and at no point in time have the liquor store folks come out in full support of  Sunday retail alcohol sales.  And in the few instances they did, it had some many strings attached it looked like a giant puppet show.

The only reason they are conceding Sunday retail sales because they know it’s coming and they want to keep their cold beer monopoly.

Like my buddies used to say when it came to the old shell game, keep your eye on the ball because I can assure you the guy trying to hustle you is.

Unnecessary Roughness

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

As you know, I am one the last people who should ever talk about anything sports related, unless it has something to do with Indiana government and politics, and then it’s game on (pardon the expression).

I bring this up because the recent kneeling during the National Anthem controversy has the potential to go to a very short-sighted and dangerous level here in Indiana.  Because of the players taking a knee, some state and county lawmakers want to repeal the tax that helps pay for Lucas Oil Stadium.  They don’t think the taxpayers should help pay for people who, in their opinion, disrespect America and the troops.

Here’s the problem with that we are told   These folks forget the taxes that pay for Lucas Oil also pay for the Convention Center; it is a dedicated revenue stream.   According to the most recent Capital Improvement Board annual report, that amount totals more than $62 million, $26 million comes from the Marion County food and beverage tax and another $5 million from the regional food and beverage tax.

If that goes away, then the state would have to foot the bill from the general revenue fund so instead and Marion and the donut counties footing the bill, Hoosiers in Ft. Wayne, Richmond, Bloomington, New Albany, Evansville, Terre Haute, Covington, Gary, Anderson, Kokomo, Marion, Muncie, South Bend and Rochester, just to name a few, will have to pick up the tab and the state will have to take money from other sources to pay the bonds.  

By the way, if you really want to throw Indiana’s Triple A credit rating in the tank, start messing around with the stadium/convention center’s  financing structure.  If you don’t believe us, we take you back to the days of RFRA when it looked like Indiana was going to lose a lot of tourism business.  That freaked out the bond houses that floated the loans for the stadium/convention center debt because if tourism dropped then the state and city were going to have a hard time paying off the debt and that was going to cause nothing but financial headaches.

And for the folks who live in the donut counties, it’s important to remember their local governments keep half (if my memory serves me correctly) of the food and beverage tax that’s levied.   That tax has been around for nearly a decade and is used to pay for local services, so unless they’re ready to blow giant holes in their budgets, they may want to think about finding another way to protest the NFL.  I suggest taking a knee or maybe turning off the TV on Sunday and spending time with your families.  

Just a thought.


Welcome to the Age of Selective Outrage

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Confederate flags. Football players who kneel during the National Anthem.  A powerful, wealthy man is accused of mistreating women.  (I’ll let you fill in the blank).

No matter what it is these days, it seems that we aren’t happy unless we have something to get worked up about.  Don’t get me wrong; there are injustices in this world that are worth drawing attention to so they can be addressed.   But what makes me shake my head is how inconsistent, so many people are with their self-righteous indignation.

During the Presidential campaign and allegations arose about Donald Trump’s mistreatment of women, the left called for his head on a platter, and the right accused his alleged victims of being everything from golddiggers to political pawns.  Fast forward to Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and you could have sworn all both sides did was put down their protest signs, walk across the street and pick up the signs the other side had and started protesting.

And what makes matters even worse is social media which allows us to magnify out outrage.  Someone who really should be outside having a life is sitting on the computer looking for the scandal of the millennia.  And they usually find it in the form of an incident where some college professor said something idiotic in a classroom in Wyoming and not Western Civilization is about to come to an end.  Or some clerk in a store in Nova Scotia does a racially insensitive thing on the job, and now once again the “patterns of systemic racism, oppression and white privilege are on display.”

Seriously, people.  A lot you need to have a drink, a cigar and relax.  And if you don’t drink or smoke have sex and calm down.

I know this sounds odd coming from me, of all people. Who has spent most of adult life in business that relies, in part, on people doing stupid things and folks getting worked up about it.  But if you’re going to get worked over things that you have no control over and don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, at least be consistent about it.

If you’re going to get mad at NFL players who kneel, because you think they are disrespecting America,  then do the same for the people who march in the streets waving the battle flag of losers and traitors.   If you’re going to call Donald Trump a pig for what you believe is mistreatment of women, then be sure to make room in the sty for Harvey Weinstein.  In other words, if you’re going to get mad about what one group is doing then be mad when other groups you side with politically do the same thing.

And you know what the result of all that anger will be?  You will age quicker and die sooner.  And then you won’t be mad anymore.


My Opinion on Opioids

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

A few years ago my wife was involved in a major car accident and she was prescribed opioids to help her deal with the pain.  Luckily, after years of being married to me, she knew how to deal with pain and instead sought alternative remedies because she did not want to take the risk of developing an addiction.

I bring this up because the city of Indianapolis is taking the nation’s opioid manufacturers and distributors to court and frankly, I don’t blame them.

Citing statistics showing that 345 Marion County residents died last year (more than traffic accidents) due to opioid addiction, not the mention the increased costs on public safety, the court system and social services, the city decided it was time to hold these guys accountable.    And before you think this is just an Indianapolis issue, the Indy Star recently reported the number of people addicted to opioids has increased by 500 percent since 1999.

Indianapolis is not alone in pursuing litigation.  The Washington Post reported this past summer that 25 states, city and counties are taking the opioid manufacturers, distributors and large drugstore chains to court arguing they were negligent in how they allowed their products to be consumed.  And they are having some big wins.

In January, the McKesson Corporation, one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals, paid a $150 million civil penalty for violations of the Controlled Substances Act. McKesson was failing to report “suspicious orders” for oxycodone and hydrocodone, such as orders that were suspicious in frequency, size, or other patterns.

That same month, Costco Wholesale reached an $11.75 million settlement to resolve allegations that its pharmacies violated the Controlled Substances Act when they improperly filled prescriptions for controlled substances.

In April,  Mallinckrodt Plc, a manufacturer of oxycodone, agreed to pay $35 million to resolve U.S. investigations into its monitoring and reporting of suspicious orders of controlled substances.

The list goes on and on.   So far this year, drug companies and distributors have shelled out at least $220 million in settlements regarding opioids.  You only settle as a defendant when it’s cheaper than going to court.

Now some have questioned the motives behind the city’s litigation.  It’s been accused of simply trying to get “free money”.  Others have said the true culprits in all this are the people addicted to opioids and if they can sue, why shouldn’t the obese person be able to sue the fast food restaurant or the alcoholic be able to sue the liquor industry.   And then there’s the other school of thought that said these drugs were approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so the drug companies and distributors can’t be held liable.

I remember the same arguments being made as a young staffer working for the Illinois Attorney General during the mid-1990s in the days of the tobacco industry lawsuits.   The same people said there was no way that tobacco companies could be on the hook for someone who made the decision to smoke.   Nearly $206 billion later, these folks would be proven wrong.

So how could the drug companies and distributors be on the hook?  Well in one instance in Colorado, the Justice Department reported McKesson had processed more than 1.6 million orders for controlled substances from June 2008 through May 2013, but reported just 16 orders as suspicious, all connected to one instance related to a recently terminated customer.

In West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported one drug company and other wholesalers in a six-year period sent 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia, which amount to 433 pills for each state resident.  During that same time, there were 1,728 fatal overdoses from the addictive painkillers; ponder that for a moment.

Like I said earlier, the list goes on and on.  And if you’re still not convinced the city is doing the right thing by going after the drug companies and distributors then you must also be in favor of repealing laws that hold bars accountable if they over-serve someone and that person gets behind the wheel and kills your loved one.

I didn’t think so.


Why I Stand

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

by Curtis Hill

One might argue that our nation’s flag is but a mere symbol. True as that may be, symbols play an important role in the life of a nation.

Growing up, I was taught that whenever we heard the anthem playing and saw Old Glory waving, we would immediately show our respect.

I would stand.

I stand because the Stars and Stripes represent the strikingly simple principles of freedom outlined in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Our nation, still the freest nation on earth, is founded on the sacred belief that all people are created equal and granted by God certain unalienable rights.

Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

Our magnificent Declaration foreshadowed the genius that would later permeate the Constitution. Consider Jefferson’s prophetic words recognizing “that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” We are the product of an experiment in self-governing freedom.

And so I stand.

I fully understand our nation’s history has been far from perfect.

Race in America has been the persistent stumbling-block of our experiment in freedom. Birthing a new nation “conceived in liberty” while still enslaving, dehumanizing and denigrating an entire race of fellow humans was a corrupting contradiction for which our Founders provided no adequate explanation nor remedy.

Black Americans have endured a legacy of slavery, segregation and racial discrimination that still today leaves a stubborn stain of inequity, injury and injustice. Yet, the very republic that permitted these evils also, through it all, sustained a founding vision of equality that has provided a beacon of hope for that more perfect union.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “All we say to America is, be true to what you said on paper.”

He saw, as we see, that so many times we have failed to achieve our noblest aspirations. Although we may fall short, we can look to our history and see the great promise of freedom, as symbolized by our flag. And so we continue to strive to be true to what was “on paper.”

I stand because America stands for the right of all her people to live free in pursuit of our happiness.

I stand because despite our many differences and debates we are ultimately that one nation under God.

As I stand for my country, I do so with pride that I live in a nation of such great hope and promise. And I am energized by those who stand with me — united in our expression of love for freedom and respect for our nation.

I stand to honor all those who have sacrificed – who have fought and died — defending our flag and our way of life.

But I also stand to protect the freedom of those who choose not to stand – perhaps even of those who might choose, instead, to kneel.

Expressing respect for our nation, like praying, is something we all should do as we are blessed by the benefits of freedom every day. And yet mandating such expressions as somehow compulsory would violate the very freedoms we stand to protect. In our free society, we all have a choice.

I choose to stand.

Curtis Hill is Indiana’s 43rd Attorney General.

Dream A Little DREAMER of Me

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I’ve never really had an issue with illegal immigration. If someone is willing to risk life and limb, to run, jump and swim to America for a better life, that’s someone with a work ethic I want living here, as opposed to my fellow American who is too lazy or stupid to get a job in a universe of less than 4 percent unemployment. And unlike the lazy, natural born citizen who is only here by circumstance, the illegal/undocumented alien is here by choice.

Now that I’ve made several of your heads explode let’s have a rational conversation about immigration and what to do about “dreamers,” those immigrants brought here illegally by their parents and who are being the good citizens we want them to be. First, the Trump administration is correct when it says Congress should make it so those kids can stay and codify it the statute. And for those of you think “Dreamers” are all gang members and criminals, you’d be wrong, as usual. In fact, there to qualify for the “DREAMER” program there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through.

According to the federal immigration folks, to be a DREAMER, you had to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. You must have entered the United States prior to your 16th birthday; resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, and currently be present in the U.S.  You also had to have been in the United States on June 15, 2012, and must be physically in the U.S. at the time of filing for your request for deferred action. You entered the United States without border inspection before June 15, 2012, or your immigration status expired before June 15, 2012.

You also must be currently in school, have graduated, or obtained an equivalent certificate of completion from high school, successfully obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or must have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States. And you must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and must not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

And for the record, DREAMERS are not a drain on the economy. A recent survey of recipients showed 93 percent of DREAMERS over that age of 25 are employed; 8 percent own their own businesses. Their average earnings are more than $36,000 annually.

So why anyone who would not want these kids in our country is beyond me. And let’s take it a step further. The hardcore immigration crowd insists that building a wall must be any part of any immigration legislation. Well, here’s a newsflash – actually, illegal immigration to this country is down dramatically. The Trump administration is correct when it says illegal border crossings have plummeted since the Don took office. While it is not the 80 percent that Trump claims, the number is closer to 52 percent.

By the way, a close look at the numbers also shows there are more people here illegally because they have overstayed their visas rather than crossed over the Rio Grande. The Center for Migration Studies found that since 2007, more undocumented aliens came to the United States on a visa and then overstayed versus those who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. As a matter of fact, over the last 10 years, visa overstays have surpassed illegal border crossings by 600,000. And most of the overstays were from Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq. So, if we’re going to build a wall, we might want to start near Kabul or Baghdad.

My main point is this. The DREAMERS are not a problem and tying their ability to stay here and be productive citizens to a silly wall (that you can climb over or tunnel under) is not the answer. We need an immigration plan that was made for the 21st Century, and we need to do a better job of tracking people we allow here legally and then forget where they are.  This might be too much to ask for, but I can always DREAM, right?