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Spare Me the “Safe Space”

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I am a firm believer that the movie “Blazing Saddles” should be shown at every college freshman orientation across the country.

Not so that every student can learn the words to “Camptown Lady” or be able to answer the age old question of “where the white women at”, but learn two of life’s most important lessons, learn to have a sense of humor and nobody is safe; and that’s how it should be.

I bring this up due to some recent news out of my hometown at the University of Chicago.  The school sent its incoming freshmen a letter saying it will not sacrifice political and intellectual dialogue to spare students from political discomfort.

The U of C is informing incoming freshmen if they enrolled at the institution expecting to have a “safe space” where they can retreat from ideas that might upset their world point of view then they might want to enroll somewhere else.  The school is also telling freshmen that they can forget about what are known as “trigger warnings” which is basically putting labels on speech warning students the following content might upset their delicate sensibilities.   Safe spaces and trigger warnings have been popping up across college campuses like mushrooms and luckily schools like the U of C, and Purdue for that matter, have said enough is enough.

And they are absolutely correct.   As part of the learning process a college campus should be a place for the free exchange and rigorous debate about the big issues of the day.  It should not be a place where you go to get your worldview reaffirmed.  Creating safe spaces and trigger warnings don’t help students in the long run.  If anything it will have the opposite effect when they go into the real world which does not have a warning label attached to it.

Academia should encourage students to seek out and engage those who have different opinions and beliefs.   Not only will that encourage more dialogue and open discussion, but it will also help in that area known as “critical thinking”.   And as I have told my college students over the past 13 years, if they don’t study and learn other points of view, they are putting themselves at a major disadvantage down the road.

Also by embracing differing points of view, you learn not to take yourself and opinions so seriously that you can never be challenged.  That is just a house of cards that’s waiting to collapse on itself when real life kicks in.

This is why I started this column by saying every college should include students watching “Blazing Saddles”.  If there was ever a film that goes for the jugular when it comes to safe spaces and trigger warnings, while teaching you to laugh at yourself,  that would be it.    And while we’re at it, they may also want to throw in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” where the moral of the story is no matter how bad things get, always look on the bright side of life.

 

Let’s Talk About Textbooks

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz wants to give all parents in public school a $1,000 tax credit to help public school parents cover the costs of textbooks and other education related expenses.

Election year pandering notwithstanding, I agree with Ritz from this perspective, no parent in a public school who is already paying taxes should have to pay for textbooks which are essential to part of an education.

However, the bigger issue should be why do textbooks cost so much in the first place?

A study by the American Enterprise Institute showed that over the past 20 years while televisions and cell phone have only dropped in price, TV’s (-96%) wireless service (-45%), the costs of textbooks have gone up an average of 207%.  By the way, college tuition was right behind it at 197%.

There are a number of reasons for this price gouging.  They include…

  • With taxpayers footing the bill, there’s no real incentive for publishers to try to sell things on the cheap nor schools to try to buy on the cheap, or at least be fiscally responsible.
  • There’s no money in used books for publishers so they crank out new editions as often as possible.
  • Publishers will include special access codes and CDs which make the books more scarce to find online.

I could go on but you get the point.

At the college level, we have all sorts of tricks to use to beat the publishers at their games of taking us to the cleaners.  High school and elementary school parents in Indiana unfortunately don’t have those options.

But at least this way, parents have a little more information they can use.  And knowing is half the battle.

 

 

Joe’s Budget Blueprint

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is touting a proposed budget his administration says spends less than the last year’s and cuts the structural deficit in half.

For months, the administration has been saying the city has a $55 million structural deficit.

Hogsett officials say they managed to cut that deficit in half by holding the line on spending and implementing a smart hiring program where the city would only fill necessary vacancies and making adjustments to the pension benefits for new hires.

Despite that, the city still has a structural deficit of about $24 million.

The $1.09 billion plan has increases in public safety and criminal justice.  It also includes spending $50 million annually for the next four years on city roads and streets.    The city will also fund existing commitments for new police, fire and solid waste vehicles.

The Mayor made his  formal budget introduction at tonight’s City-County Council meeting.

You can hear his comments in the Leon-Tailored Audio clip as well as those from Council President Maggie Lewis and Republican Leader Mike McQuillen.

Click Here for a General Overview of the Mayor’s Budget

100 Days and Counting…

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

As of today, we are less than 100 days out until Election Day.  So I figured what better time to sit down and do a little political pontificating and handicap the big political races here in Indiana. Now granted, the caveat in all this is the old adage that a day in politics is a lifetime and anything can happen and it usually does; and that has never been more true than in this election cycle.   So all my predictions I am making today are based on my knowledge and experience as of today.  Ask me these same questions tomorrow (or 30 minutes from now) and you might get a different answer.  So with that said, let’s begin, shall we…

Presidential Race

  • While I think Donald Trump wins Indiana, I think Hillary Clinton wins the White House. I base this on a number of assumptions.  First of all a compilation of polling data and voting trends of all 50 states gives Clinton a 73 percent of winning the White House while Donald Trump is at 23 percent.  Now with that said Trump’s saving graces are the working class, older, white voters who feel left behind in the economy and they may not tell pollsters that the plan to vote for Trump (i.e. The Bradley Effect).  However, if Trump was hoping to appeal to moderates, independents and getting back disenfranchised Republicans, then he might want to reconsider the strategy of attacking Gold Star   And just for the record, between Trump’s personality and Clinton’s trust issues, I would not be shocked to see Libertarian Gary Johnson crack double digits.

U.S. Senate

  • After the Governor’s race, this is a classic example of how crazy this political year has been. I originally categorized the race as solid Republican when the match up was Todd Young and Baron Hill.   Now that Hill is out and Evan Bayh is in, it has gone to toss up status.  A number of my pundit colleagues have labelled it as Leans Democrat, but I base my prediction on two factors, while Bayh does have the name, and more importantly the cash, 2016 is not 2004, the last time he ran.  Indiana is more Republican and voters are more cynical and having spent the last six years in Washington getting rich playing lobbyist may not fly too well with some folks.  However, having $9 million in the bank goes a long way to mitigating those attacks.

Governor’s Race

  • If you’ve tried to follow the Governor’s race, you will probably need to see a chiropractor to deal with the whiplash. First it was the departure of Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann followed by the replacement of Eric Holcomb, followed by Mike Pence being tapped to run for Vice-President, followed by Holcomb (and Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita) filing to replace him and then State Auditor Suzanne Crouch being picked as Holcomb’s running mate.  My neck still hurts.  So with that said, how do we call this race?  Well, we put it in the “leans Republican” category.  In all the earlier polling we always saw a major drop off between Pence and the Republican Presidential nominee.   He was also having major issues with Republicans in the donut counties.  Despite that, he was still 3-5 points ahead of John Gregg.  Take Pence out and put Holcomb in and a lot of that eventually goes away, but it will take time and with less than 100 days to go, the Holcomb-Crouch team doesn’t have a lot of it.  Luckily for them, most people who live in the real world don’t start paying attention to this stuff until next month.  And I don’t worry about the money issue, trust me Holcomb will have access to the Pence’s $7.5 million war chest, it just won’t be a direct cash transaction.  Also, Holcomb is tapping a lot of Mitch Daniels’ 2008 re-election team to run his campaign.

The Other Statewides

  • I put the races for Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) in the “toss up” category and Attorney General in the “leans Republican” category. For the SPI race, Glenda Ritz has her army of teachers and union folks, however she doesn’t have the angry suburban Soccer Moms that helped her in 2012, nor does she have Pence on the ballot in 2016.   She does have an 8-1 advantage in money over Republican Jennifer McCormick, but so did Tony Bennett four years ago.   For the Attorney General’s race, much of that is simply based on the fact Indiana is a Republican leaning state and Republican Curtis Hill is a much better campaigner than Democrat Judge Lorenzo Arrendondo.

Now like I said, these “predictions” are based on today, and we have less than 100 days to go before the election so anything is possible.  However, I feel pretty good about them.  Of course, you can always check in with me tomorrow, or a couple hours from now, and I may have a different answer for you.

 

Rokita v. Gregg

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

In an effort to convince members of the Republican State Central Committee to pick him as their party’s nominee to replace Mike Pence on the ballot for Governor, Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita is releasing a poll showing him beating Democrat John Gregg by double digits.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of 600 likely voters shows Rokita entering the race with a 45-43 lead over Gregg.  However the Rokita campaign says after learning about both their records, the former Secretary of State increases his lead to 54-41.

The poll shows the two are competitive when it comes to name ID in the Indianapolis market, Gregg is at 74 percent, Rokita is at 71 percent.

Rokita also says voters give him high marks for his support of education and redistricting reform.

The Rokita team also says he wins with Independents (49-43), women (52-42) and seniors (58-38).

Rokita is competing with Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb and Congresswoman Susan Brooks.   The state central committee will decide Tuesday who to put on the ballot.

You can view a copy of the poll memo here.

It was conducted this past weekend and has a margin of error of four percent.

Saturday Night, Special

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

For the last eight years it’s been a tradition of mine to work as a bouncer at Nicky Blaine’s on the second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration.

I did it back I 2006 when the owner, as well as other downtown businesses, would tell me stories of teenagers running the streets and getting out of control .  Things got really bad back in 2010 when Shamus Patton decided to shoot several people.

My, how times have changed.

Thanks to the collective work of IMPD, Indiana Black Expo, the Ten-Point Coalition, parents stepping up and young people getting the message, downtown was the best it had ever been.

The crowds were not only bigger than before, but a lot more diverse as well as a lot more families.

And what made it even better was not only was the police presence a lot smaller, but there were numerous times while talking to officers, random people would come up and thank them for what they were doing and told them to stay safe.   And that says quite a bit in the wake of a lot of what we’ve seen in the news today regarding tensions between law enforcement and certain segments of the community.

The only “issue” I saw was a group called Indy 10, a poor man’s version of the Black Lives Matter Movement was mad at police for having crowd barricades nearby in case they needed to move a lot of people.

But otherwise it went very well.  In fact for the past 2-3 years, that second Saturday night has been clam, peaceful and quite enjoyable.   So if I might make a recommendation, if you get a chance, come on down.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Luckily, I wasn’t.

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Back on June 15, 2015, just hours before he filed for re-election, Indiana Democrats called on voters to “Fire Mike Pence”.

They argued Pence hurt the state with support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  They also said Indiana was falling behind when it comes to jobs and wages.

I remember the rhetoric quite well.  Now all I can think of is what grandmother Shabazz used to tell her favorite grandson, “be careful what you wish for.”

Democrats in general, John Gregg and Glenda Ritz specifically, have basically built their entire re-election campaigns around Pence and his personality.

What has helped them get traction have been those “Lugar-Daniels-Ballard Republicans” who had soured on Pence because of his prior controversies.  None of those folks are/have/ever will be Democrats,  they just didn’t like Mike.

Well guess what, he’s gone now.  He’s running for Vice-President.

So all take all the lines about how Pence hates the LGBT community, teachers, labor and puppy dogs  and throw them in the trash with the rest of the “Fire Mike Pence” signs.

And if you think any of that stuff is going to work on Eric Holcomb, Susan Brooks or Todd Rokita, then you’ve been spending too much time at the First Church of Cannabis.

If you recall the Bellwether poll, released just before Pence filed for re-election, on the generic ballot Republicans beat Democrats for the Presidency by 12 points, but Pence was basically tied with Ritz and Gregg as possible candidates.    A subsequent poll done a year later showed similar results and further cemented the belief that Pence’s troubles were his alone and weren’t translating to the rest of the ticket.

So now that Pence is gone,  Democrats will have to come up with a new playbook.  Luckily for them Gregg has money in the bank and Evan Bayh in the U.S. Senate race.  Those are the two things that will keep them somewhat competitive, especially since they don’t have Pence to kick around anymore.

Or if I may use the full line Grandma Shabazz used to say, “be careful what you wish for, because not only might you get, but God may give it to you in the way you neither expected nor liked.”

Why Pence is Winning the “Veepstakes”

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Mark April 29 on your calendar because if Mike Pence becomes Donald Trump’s  Vice-Presidential running mate that was the day it all began.

Why April 29?  Wasn’t that the day Pence endorsed Ted Cruz for President?

Yup.

Okay Abdul, you’re confusing me.  Why would the day Pence endorsed  Cruz for President be the day that started the ball in motion for Trump to pick him as a running mate?

Well as you recall, Pence got a lot of flack for his endorsement because he said nice things about Trump while endorsing Cruz.  Remember how he gave Trump praise for his “knowledge of the Constitution”,  “willingness to take on leadership” and giving a “voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C.” ?

It may have seemed odd at the time, but that is what got Pence on Team Trump’s radar screen.

They were so impressed with how gracious he was with Trump, even though he endorsed Cruz, that they thought he might be worth a look.   After that, all the other factors came into play; the fact he was a Governor, had Congressional experience, appealed to the 35-percent of Republicans who supported Cruz in the primary, his low key approach provides balance to Trump’s more bombastic personality, etc., etc.

Also more importantly, Pence has appeal to Trump’s prior and current campaign managers who were not big fans of each other, but they could both agree on him as a good pick for V.P.

I know this sounds bizarre that the endorsement of one candidate can lead to a good chance of being picked as the running mate for another candidate, but as you look at how the 2016 election cycle has gone so far, why should this surprise any of us?

 

John Gregg, Family Receive $200,000 in Taxpayer Funded Health Care

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Although he left the Indiana House of Representatives in 2002, Hoosier taxpayers have helped foot the bill for former Speaker and Democratic candidate for Governor John Gregg and his family’s health care  to the tune of $200,000 and taxpayers are expected to pay an additional $36,000 this year.

According to House records,  Gregg, his ex-wife, current wife and dependent sons were all beneficiaries of the program.

The lifetime health benefit was created in mid-2002, however House Speaker Brian Bosma ended it administratively in 2006 and the program was statutorily repealed in 2007.

Records kept by House staff show Gregg is still receiving the coverage.  Coverage for his former spouse ended in June 5, 2006.  Coverage for his current wife began on March 30, 2013 and coverage for his two sons ended on December 31 of 2015.

Those same records also show the House of Representatives has paid $202,863.63 in benefits for Gregg and his family through the end of 2015 and is expected to pay another $36,251.01 in 2016.

According to House records less than two dozen lawmakers have taken advantage of the lifetime heath care program.

I did reach out to the Gregg campaign for a response, however they did not respond.

They did respond to an inquiry by Niki Kelly, Statehouse reporter for the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette who had also been working on the story.

You can read the campaign’s response here.

Innovate or Die

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Thirty years ago my Dad and I went out and bought our family’s first VCR.  Well, he bought it.  I picked it out.  When we got home my Mom was not happy that we, make that he, went out and spent a couple hundred bucks on “some toy for us to play with”.  However when we told he what it did, and how she would never miss another one of her TV shows, she was in a much better mood and I lived to write this.

I bring this up because this story to me seems very symbolic of the changing nature of technology and its impact our economy.  And while a lot of us are willing to adapt, too many of us are not and run the risk of getting left behind.

In today’s Indianapolis Star there is a story about the tug of war between Airbnb, the online home sharing service and the hospitality industry.   Airbnb allows homeowners to rent out their places for people looking for a place to stay for a few days and there’s no room at the inn.  The hospitality industry is screaming about fairness and regulation.  Typical.

I find it amusing how when technology and innovation arrive on the scene, the old economy goes into a tailspin.  While the big fight between Uber, Lyft and the taxi industry may come to mind, I can take you back a lot further.  There was a time when the film industry was ready to go to war over the VCR because it thought no one would go to the movies anymore and just stay home and watch them on tape.  I am not making this up.

Instead of fighting ideas and innovation the old economy should embrace it, and if they’re smart, co-op it.  Think of the industries that have been slow to change and see if they are still thriving or for that matter still around.   (When was the last time you went to Blockbuster Video?)   Heck,  the print media was slow to embrace the Internet and now you can see what’s happening there.

This is Darwinism in its purest form folks, innovate or die.  How hard is that to figure out?