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Love, Laugh, Litigate

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Be honest, whether you like the First Church of Cannabis  (TFCC) or not, you know you were just waiting to see or hear reports of someone lighting up and getting arrested and then mayhem ensuing.    I was.

No such luck.

I attended the inaugural service of the  TFCC and sans the marijuana, it was just like any other church service.  Granted there were a few dozen IMPD officers and detectives out and about.  And to be honest, I hadn’t seen that many cops in one place since the second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo; the surveillance camera that was installed across the street seemed a bit much as well.

Inside the Church they played music, took offerings, her testimony, had a sermon and went long.  Outside there was a TV screen, food trucks and a Kool Aid stand.  And at the end of the service they engaged in lighting cigars and tobacco in place of the original sacrament.   For the most part, they were just like any other church, albeit a bit unorthodox.  And by doing so, they gave Bill Levin more evidence that his church is legitimate which gives them more ammunition when the court challenges begin.

You see a lot of people thought the only way Levin would be able to challenge the state in order to use marijuana as part of his sacrament would have been to light up and then subsequently get locked up.  Nope.

To challenge government action you need “standing”. There are three basic elements, injury/threat of injury, causation and redress. The injury element can be met via arrest or threat of arrest and prosecution. If Bill Levin went the criminal route and lost, a lot of people now have criminal records; high reward, yes, but also high risk. By going the civil route, there is little risk and high reward. So from a legal, tactical standard, this is brilliant. The law regarding marijuana is challenged and no one goes to jail in the process.

And that’s where this is headed next, court.  Remember, Bill Levin is a lot of things and today’s service proved once again, stupid is not one of them.

By the way, his attorney has already sent the city of Indianapolis notice that they intend to file suit for defamation for allegedly labeling Levin a “Jim Jones” type character.

How Do You Spell Irony? R-F-R-A!

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

From all accounts, Saturday’s Indy Pride parade was a roaring success and supporters have the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)  to thank  for it.

That’s right, RFRA was at the core of your success.

Think about it, because of the RFRA controversy more than 100,000 people showed up to express their support for equality and the LGBT community.  Contrast that to years ago as my occasional political sparring partner Sheila Kennedy noted where the parade consisted of six floats and a few hundred people.

This year, there were easily more than 100 parade participants, and some names I would have only expected to see in the 500 Festival Parade.

And what got a lot of them there?  I am willing to bet my box of Davidoff cigars it was RFRA, plain and simple.

They didn’t like it.  They thought it was unnecessary.  They thought it was bad for Indiana, and that translated into the biggest crowd Indy Pride has ever seen.

And by the way, from all accounts, the people you would expect to see there holding the signs telling everyone they have a first class ticket on the “Hell Express”, were much fewer and far between than previous years.

Like I said, I continue to be amazed at the irony of all this.  And to think, the people to thank the most for this, are the ones who had the most issues with the LGBT community.

And by the way, if you folks at Indy Pride don’t mind a suggestion, may I recommend Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana as your Grand Marshall for next year. Because if anyone is responsible for where Indiana is today on LGBT issues, it’s him.

The Ritz Rollout

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

If her campaign rollout last week was any indication, Glenda Ritz has a lot of work to do if she wants to be Governor of Indiana.

Leading up to the announcement, Ritz and her team played coy about what they were doing, until they made the amateur mistake of releasing their letter of support for Indy Pride on “Glenda for Governor” letterhead the day before the announcement.

Then came the actual announcement itself.  For all the talk about angry masses with  torches and pitchforks who were ready to storm the Capitol and kick Mike Pence out of office, that’s all it was, talk.  At her announcement in Indianapolis there were about 100 people.  And that’s including the media and staff that worked at Ben Davis High School.

At her subsequent stops in Ft. Wayne, Evansville, South Bend, New Albany and Hammond she was lucky to get above 50 people.  South Bend was the most interesting seeing how about 40 people showed up for her announcement but more than 200 showed up earlier this year at a rally against SB 1, which changed the organizational make up of the State Board of Education.

And if that wasn’t bad enough,  I also made it point to speak to several Democrats outside of Central Indiana to get their feel for a Glenda candidacy.  They all thought it would be the worst disaster since #JustIN.   One even pointed out how two of the main images on her webpage (a young white male wearing a Ritz t-shirt and black woman holding a Ritz sign) were Photoshopped, and quite poorly.  No offense, but if you’re a Democrat and can’t find a young white guy or black woman to pose for your campaign photos, you have problems.

Now of course, some campaigns get off to shaky starts and eventually find their footing.  However, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and believe you me, Team Ritz sure did.

They Doth Protest Way Too Much

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

When Indiana social conservative activists Monica Boyer and Micah Clark went nuts over a simple welcome letter by Governor Mike Pence to Indy Pride, I knew we had gone down the rabbit hole and fell straight through the looking glass.

The letter Pence sent was pretty standard stuff, granted in the post-RFRA world everything takes on extra meaning.  However if you were Clark or Boyer you could have swore the Governor was welcoming the Manson family reunion to town.

You can read Pence’s actual letter here.

You can read Clark’s “response” here.

And if you’re up for some insanity, you can read Boyer’s blog post here.

What Boyer and Clark forget is that if they want to blame someone for the situation Indiana is in, they should get a mirror.  They were the one who pushed HJR-3 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  “Traditional” marriage and religious freedom were never under attack in Indiana.  So there was no need for HJR-3 or RFRA.

However, these guys for either personal or financial reasons decided to go down this road and here we are.

So for all the moaning, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth if Clark and Boyer want to get mad at someone.  Don’t point a finger at Indy Pride or Governor Mike Pence, they should get a mirror.  Of course, in Boyer’s case I can see why she wouldn’t want to do that.

The Origin of Abdul

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

This weekend will mark a historic milestone in human achievement and accomplishment, it’s my birthday.  However, instead of engaging in the usual shameless self-promotion that marks the Abdul existence the other 364 days of the year, I decided to give you a gift.  That gift is an explanation of how I became me.  No I don’t mean the rocketship that landed in Kansas, or the cosmic rays, the gamma bomb explosion or the radioactive spider.  I am talking about my political bent.    You have to admit, it’s not every day you come across a guy named Abdul-Hakim Shabazz with a conservative-libertarian political bent.

In fact, in my younger days you would have probably mistaken me for Bobby Seale or Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. provided they had a jheri curl and wore a Members Only jacket. I freely admit I was a lot more liberal in my teenager years. I wasn’t quite ready to lead the Black Liberation Army, but we were moving up the ranks rather quickly.

So what happened?

In the late 1980s, my Dad’s government obligations had us relocate to Europe. We lived in West Germany and I attended college in Munich. While there, I did a lot of traveling, particularly behind the old Iron Curtain. Most revealing for me was a trip to Prague in what used to be Czechoslovakia. We were taking a tour of the city when I saw hundreds of people in a line outside of store. I asked the tour guide what they were in line for? I thought they were there for concert tickets, but it wasn’t, it was shoes. He told me people stand in line for hours for shoes and are lucky to find two the same size. To add insult to injury, this was during the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution so there were giant banners of Lenin all over the place.

That image was fresh in my mind when I came back to the United States to finish my education. I was attending Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Ill., right outside Chicago. I had discovered talk radio and was listening to WVON-AM, the urban talk station out of the city on which I heard a steady stream of people complaining about how miserable their lives were and how white folks wouldn’t give them anything. After seeing real poverty abroad, I couldn’t believe how people here whined that they weren’t getting enough food stamps and government assistance. I found it annoying and insulting but that’s not what pushed me over the edge.

What sealed the deal for me was my attempt to join a “black” campus organization. My Dad had encouraged me to join one of those groups, so I decided to follow his advice and re-establish my “roots.” The first meeting was like something out a bad Spike Lee film. Here I am in a room full of young students, who for most were the first generation of their family to go to college, so they are under tremendous pressure. And the fact they are city/urban kids going to school in predominantly rural environment didn’t help. So what message do they get from the cast extras from a “Different World” who were running the meeting? Instead of one of encouragement and support they get the “You know these white people don’t want you here. They just want your money and then they will kick you out. The only people that really care about you are us. Any questions?”

That is when I politely stood up and said, “You Negroes cannot be serious!” And left. I could not believe the idiocy I was hearing. Instead of encouragement and support, these guys were perpetuating the victim mentality. These kids needed hope and reassurance, not fear mongering.

I switched my major from engineering and computer science to broadcasting, excited that way I could bring a different message of self-empowerment and assurance to folks who truly needed it. There was no need to wait on anyone to do something for you when you are perfectly capable of doing it yourself. And to top it off, there was nothing more fun than writing a television commentary or newspaper column to tell the poverty pimps and enablers that they were full of you know what.

The same thing was true for graduate school, law school and most of my professional commentator life. I have been preaching the message of self-reliance, individual liberty and personal responsibility. And embedded in that is an empathy for individuals who are truly in need that we as a society should do all we can to help lift them up so they can stand on their own two feet.

Yes, I get a lot of grief for having my opinions, but I came by them honestly and I don’t apologize for them. I truly believe the best political philosophy is one that believes the answers to society’s problems lie in the individual who doesn’t sit around waiting for others or the government to do something for them and then complaining when it doesn’t happen.

I’ve thought this way for 20 years and I honestly think if more people did, this world would be much better off, or at least mine would.

Just Say Joe

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Well, it’s not every day I get asked to leave a political event where the public is invited, but Sunday was one of those days.  The Joe Hogsett Mayoral campaign held a “jobs fair” at Marian University.  The point of it was for Joe to go into more details about his plans to put a few thousand teens to work next year should he become Mayor.

As you all know I am all for putting people to work, because when a person has a job,  he or she is a lot less likely to break into my place and take my stuff.

So there I was at the Physical Ed Center at Marian University, when I got a call from Hogsett’s campaign spokesman telling me the event was not open to media. I thought that was odd, especially since the campaign was asking parents to sign waivers so their kids’ images could be used in “promotional literature”.  So I asked the spokesman instead of being there as media, what if I stayed as someone who was interested in getting information on job opportunities for his nephew who happens to be one of those unemployed young black men that everyone talks about these days.  No such luck.

So instead being my usual annoying self I decided to leave. I would have loved to stayed and heard how many businesses Joe has lined up for his summer jobs plan, what makes his plan different from the one that the Ten Point Coalition announced last week that already has a funding component to it to help find jobs for youth in the city’s six highest crime neighborhoods or for that matter what’s different than what Greg Ballard’s administration is currently doing with its 40 different partners that employed about 40,000 youth last year. But like I said, no such luck.

Oh well, that’s life in the big city, some days you get your job done other days you just have to wait until you get to your numerous media platforms to share your thoughts.

 

 

God and Cable

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Whenever someone asks me to describe my attitude towards religion I always say it’s like cable TV. I tell them God is like cable and religion is the cable company.   I really do like cable, it gives me lots of choices, stimulates me to occasionally think outside the box, makes me laugh, cry and I’m really grateful for it.  I find the cable company annoying.  It’s always looking to raise my rates, limit my choices, is always telling me how it’s better than the other cable companies and then gets an attitude problem if I try to switch providers.

An interesting analogy, don’t you think?  Especially when it comes from a guy named Abdul-Hakim who smokes Davidoff Cigars, drinks Macallan Scotch and loves bacon, just call me a walking paradox with a big smile and healthy perspective on life.

I bring this up because of a recent study by the Pew Research Center showing the fastest growing faith in America is “none of the above”.

According to the survey, the number of people who believe in God, but don’t really associate with any faith grew from 16.1 percent of the population to 22.8 percent.  That puts them second in line as the largest “denomination” in the country after Evangelical Protestants.

Welcome to the club, my brothers and sisters.  And by the way, most of the “nones” the study found are Generation X and Millennials.

There are numerous reasons why individuals will choose God over religion; the desire to find one’s own path, a general skepticism of organized religions, or the inability to see religion as relevant in their life.

For me personally, I have always objected to someone telling me that to talk to my Creator I need a middleman.  I consider myself a pretty smart individual and can figure it out on my own.  And what I’ve figured over 40-something years is that God wants you to say please, thank you and don’t be a jerk.  How hard is that?

I also find it pretty objectionable when someone tells me that the only way to get to a pleasant afterlife is to follow their tenants.   No offense, but I’ve always found that to be a bit contradictory.  Here’s why.  If we assume, and rightly so, that God is all powerful, nothing is beyond his/her capability and he really likes us, why would he give us only one way to hang out with him in the next world?   It seems to me an individual of capable of not only creating this vast universe, but virtually infinite forms of life, thought, people, plants, animals, etc. would have some flexibility on how you get to meet up when it’s all said and done.

Now this doesn’t mean you will get to be his “right hand man” but it never made sense to me that there’s only one way to get to heaven; unless of course in order for you to stay in business you need to tell people that not only is your product better than everyone else’s, the only way to find true happiness and peace is to buy it and anything else is not only sub-par, but will make your afterlife miserable.

Now you see why I like cable, but have never been big fans of the cable company.  Now where’s my remote control?

Tea Party Takes It on the Chin

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

You might not be aware of this, but the folks who call themselves the “Tea Party” took it on the chin in last Tuesday’s primary.

There was a major fight taking place at the ground zero of Indiana Republican politics; Hamilton County.   It was a fight between the Hamilton County GOP and the “Constitutional Patriots” and the Constitutional Patriots lost, several times.

In every major mayor’s race (Carmel, Westfield and Noblesville) the Constitutional Patriot party-backed candidate lost.   Not only that, but the Patriots lost in almost every council race where they endorsed a candidate and where they did have a “win” it was in name only because those candidates already had ties to the establishment GOP.

I spoke with Hamilton County GOP chairman Pete Emigh about these guys and to paraphrase him he said, “they are sick and tired of the tea party crap and it’s time to put this insanity to out to pasture once and for all so they can save their Republican Party from the crazies.”

And it wasn’t just Hamilton County where the Tea Party was beaten.  In Richmond, Indiana not only did the Tea Party-backed candidate lose in the mayoral primary, but former State Treasurer candidate Don Bates, Jr. resurfaced to complain about “outside forces” that engaged in “threatening tactics, intimidation, lies and distortions, and character assassinations.”   We call it campaigning in the big city.

And even in the quaint hamlet of Nappanee the Tea Party candidate for mayor got beat so badly in the primary, someone had to call 9-1-1.

Now does this mean the tea party in Indiana is dead, not necessarily.   Next year is the 2016 election and I am sure they will be out in force to try and influence the U.S. Senate race as well as whatever other primaries they can get their hands on.

They remind me the “Hydra” organization in the Avengers’ movies; cut off one of its heads and two grow back in its place.  These are the first shots in what is about to be a major civil war within the GOP.

 

Voter, Heal Thyself

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Whenever I get into discussions about low voter turnout and the solutions to the “problem”, I always fall back on the title of this blog post.

I recently sat on a panel with former Marion County Clerk Beth White and IUPUI Professor Sheila Kennedy for the Indy Chamber about voter participation and why it was so low.

(You can actually listen to that spirited discussion here).

During the discussion I decided to engage in what most people think is political heresy, I said I don’t think low voter participation is a bad thing, especially if people aren’t going to get informed about the candidates and the issues.

As I have stated before on numerous platforms, a bunch of people coming together to make an uninformed decision doesn’t make it a good decision, it makes it a stupid decision.  I prefer people stay away from the voting booth if they have no idea what they’re doing.

However, if we must have more voter engagement, I think there are a few things we can do.

First, we should strive for a more informed voter.  This is why I thought legislation this past session which would have compelled high school students to take a civics test prior to graduation was a good idea.

Secondly, and most importantly, I think getting rid of gerrymandering will make for more competitive races and bring out more voters.

And third, no offense to my friends in politics, I think a better crop of candidates overall is more likely to attract more voters,  If you can find people who are smart, charismatic and passionate, you are likely to get more people to show up at the polls.

But fundamentally, it’s the voter’s responsibility to take civic engagement seriously enough to not only show up, but know exactly what they’re showing up over.  Honest people of good intentions  can debate what that level of knowledge should be, but just walking in and marking a ballot and leaving with no clue as to what you are voting for or about is much worse than staying home and doing nothing.

And if you don’t believe me, take a look around you the next time you go to the polling place.

Three Cheers for “Balti-Mom”

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I’ve been preoccupied this week with Statehouse matters so I haven’t had the chance to really chime on the situation in Baltimore.  Allow me to correct that now with a shout out and “you go girl” to Toya Graham, the Baltimore mother who has been seen around the world smacking her idiot son upside the head and pulling him out of the protests.

Graham has been hailed in many corners for taking action and criticized by others.   Since I am in the cheering section, allow me to address the criticism.  Some critics have said that if Graham had been a better parent, her son would not have been out there.  Not really, I have four brothers and come from a responsible, middle class two-parent household, but I still had one brother who had a penchant for finding trouble and my parents usually had to go out and find him.

Secondly, Graham has been criticized for smacking her son, with child psychologists saying she should not have used violence to get her point across and she was sending the wrong message. I am sure they will remember that if those same experts ever find their child in the middle of a protest, dressed in a hoodie to conceal his identity as he goes down to start destroying other people’s personal property and put his own life and safety at risk.

Thirdly, Graham has been attacked for saying the reason she was upset and lashed out was that she did not want her son to be another Freddie Gray.  Well, seeing how several police officers have been charged with murder and manslaughter in Gray’s death, excuse me for not getting upset over that point.

So let’s recap shall we.  A mom who told her hard-headed son to stay away from a bad situation that could put his life in danger finds out he disobeyed so she goes and gets him, smacks him upside the head and embarrasses him on national TV.  Drive 700 miles west and go back about 30 years and that would have been my mother doing the exact same thing under those circumstances.

You go girl!