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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?

Here’s How You Deal with Hate

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

anti-muslim rally

Let’s establish this right now.  Nazis are not cool.  The KKK is not okay.  And there is nothing supreme about white supremacists.   I can’t say that any more clearly.  And if your response to the incident in Charlottesville is “but what about” save us both the trouble and stop reading right now.

Yes, I am a big believer in the first amendment and your right to protest and speak your mind.  However that ends when you decide to plow your car into a group of people who disagree with you, and one of them is killed.  

Now, with that said, after some careful review, I’ve found that the best way to deal with these people is the free market.  In fact, it already is.

Bloomberg is reporting today that the nation’s credit card companies are severing ties with groups they believe are reporting violence.  So if you want to buy sheets and gasoline for the next cross burning, you’re going to have to pay cash or use something other than VISA, Mastercard or Discover.

Pay Pal, which I use to process my subscriptions to my political newsletter, the Cheat Sheet, says hate groups need to take their business elsewhere.   

Go Fund Me decided that if someone wants to raise a defense for suspected Charlottesville killer James Fields, they need to find someone else to support their campaign.

Facebook and Reddit have told hate groups to take a hike.

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking, “Abdul don’t these groups have free speech and aren’t you advocating censorship?”  Yes, these groups do have freedom of expression.  And no, this is not censorship in the way you probably think it is.  The First Amendment protects you from the government, not the private sector.

Yes, you have the right the speak, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to be heard and a have a right to a platform to spout off.  And once again, here is where the free market and private sector come in.  If Facebook and Amazon won’t help you get your message out, there other websites and companies that will be more than happy to provide you with some assistance.   I’d provide a link, but since I don’t think the K in KKK stands for “kool”,  you’ll have to go look that up yourself.  That’s how you deal with hate.

 

Politics & Politeness

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Abdul & MikeThe other day I had the honor of helping emcee the 10-Point Coalition’s annual luncheon.  It’s an event raise money for programs that tackle issues like urban youth violence and empowering minority communities to help make them self-sufficient.   The keynote Speaker was Vice-President and former Governor Mike Pence.   I covered Pence as a Congressman and later as Governor. And I follow his movements pretty closely as V.P.   

When we saw each other, we had a good chat for a couple of minutes and then took a couple of pictures (including his signature selfie).  I posted a couple of them on social media, and you could have sworn I took a photo with the devil.  Of course, there are some hardcore social conservatives who probably say the same thing about me.   The Vice-President was a called a bigot, racist and just about everything but a child of God.

As I read through the thread, all I could do was shake my head and feel sorry for people.   It’s one thing to dislike a person, it’s another thing to spend that kind of time, energy and effort into hating someone you don’t know; and then go through all the trouble to post your hatred on social media.   

And what’s interesting is the hate wasn’t just directed at Pence.   You would be amazed at how many haters and detractors went after the 10-Point Coalition because they are working with the administration to work on problems of youth violence and urban crime.  I frankly think these guys would rather see more dead black children than 10-Point be successful working with a Republican administration.  

Maybe I’m getting older, but I don’t see how getting worked up over people you don’t know, and situations you have no control over can be healthy, physically, mentally or otherwise.  To disagree with someone’s policies is fine. You can express it and offer alternatives.  But to get personal, it doesn’t solve anything and kind of makes you come across as a feminine hygiene product.

To paraphrase an old saying, if you can’t post anything nice, or at least thoughtful, don’t post anything at all.

 

The Revolution Has Been Gentrified

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Normally when I write my annual post about the Second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo, it’s about the interaction between law enforcement and the youth in downtown Indy.  Not this year.  As in the past four years, the kids and cops were fine.  There were a couple of minor issues, but no more or less on a Saturday night in downtown Indianapolis.  No, this year the fun was earlier in the day at the Black activist Don’t Sleep rally at the Statehouse.

You know you have gone through the looking glass when you go to a Black Lives Matters rally, and it looks more like a Phillip Phillips (the guy who sings “Home”  and “Gone, Gone, Gone) concert in Fountain Square.

In other words, there were a lot more white people “caring” about Black Lives than Black people.  And there’s a certain amount of irony in that.

Let’s face it, the whole point of Saturday’s rally was to protest the police action shooting of Aaron Bailey by two IMPD officers.  Heck, even the leader of the group, Dominic Dorsey said the officers should have been charged with murder.  If Dorsey and his crowd were hoping to ignite a “black consciousness” they failed miserably.

The rhetoric was typical.  Although I will say putting IMPD and State Police Officers in the same sentence as the slave patrols of the 1800s was a new twist, but otherwise, it was pretty standard stuff.

If they wanted a bigger crowd, they should have bought a booth at Indiana Black Expo down the street at the convention center because that’s where most of the Black people were, indoors and with air conditioning.  They were either checking out the state’s colleges and universities that were there, participating in the health fair, enjoying the rap concert or talking to the hundreds of vendors that were there.

Nope, instead the Don’t Sleep crowd drew the hipsters and people most likely to serve you a tall latte, with skim (or almond milk), and no sweetener.  FYI, there was no food truck with kale sliders (gluten free) and arugula juice.

There’s just a certain amount of irony that just makes you want to chuckle if weren’t so serious.   Albeit it  I did get a little nervous when the white people in the crowd did the raised fist black power salute.  I thought someone was going to start speaking German, but my fears were unfounded.

Maybe these guys will draw bigger, “less diverse” crowds when all the facts come out.  I’m just saying.  But until then, the revolution has culturally appropriated by progressive white privilege.  And when that white privilege drove home, it probably didn’t even have to worry about getting pulled over in a traffic stop.

A Few More Facts About Police Action Shootings

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Last year I did a deep dive into the data regarding police action/officer related shootings as they were very prominent in the headlines.

It looks like this will be an annual event.  

Part of my motivation is today’s rally at the statehouse where, if their past statements are any indication, the 21st century equivalent of a lynch mob is going to call for criminal prosecution of the officers involved in the Aaron Bailey shooting a couple of weeks ago.

The Mayor, trying to placate this crowd, has offered proposals for diversity training and a review of the use of force by IMPD.  It would have been nice to have all the facts first regarding the Bailey incident, but we are where we are.  

So in all the chatter about police action shootings, which by the way, Indianapolis has only had one this year, I decided to take a look at the data so far this year from across the country.  Here’s what I found according to the Washington Post database.

  • There have been 523 police action shootings that resulted in fatalities, ten of which occurred in the state of Indiana.
  • Mental illness played a role in 25 percent of the incidents.
  • 173 were fleeing the scene.
  • 501 of the fatalities were male.
  • 23 percent (120) were African-American, only eight were unarmed.
  • In 427 instances a weapon (gun. Knife, car) was involved.
  • There were no body cams in 469 cases.

There’s a lot more information that you can explore yourself.  Just click here.  There is also data from 2016 and 2015.

I just thought as we go forward with this afternoon’s histrionic gathering, a few facts couldn’t hurt, however, my spider-sense tells me this likely fall on several deaf ears and blind eyes.

 

Let’s Talk Taxes & Fees

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

When I drove to Chicago over the long holiday weekend with my brother, we were worried about how much the increase in the state gas tax was going to cost us. He drove, and I paid for gas, so I  carefully monitored how much gas we put in the car for the trip.   His car usually gets about 30 mpg on the Interstate, and a round trip to Chicago usually runs him about 11 gallons.  So it turns out that dime increase in gas tax costs me a whole whopping $1.10.  Clutch the pearls!!!!

My average cigar costs me $15 and a gin martini, with two olives, $10.   So if I give up two martinis and a cigar I can afford to make the trip to Chicago at least 30 times.  Yes, I’m being facetious.  But I bring that up because of all the gloom and doom coming from the rabid, almost jihadist, anti-tax crowd.

During the entire debate over road funding, these people whined, moaned and gnashed their teeth over the possibility of having to pay for the roads that they use. And it’s not the just roads these people complained about.  By now, you’ve heard the story of Republicans raising 45 taxes and fees in the last session.  Did any of these people bother to look at what exactly those taxes and fees were?  I did.  And guess what, it’s unlikely most of the people complaining about the fee increases will ever pay any of them.

For example, do you own a billboard?  If not you don’t have to worry about paying the transfer ($40), modification ($100) or permit replacement fee $25), much less pay the penalty for failing timely identify the owner of a billboard promptly when it’s sold. ($400)

Unless you’re a teacher, you can breathe easier about not having to pay the $10 fee increase ($30-$40) every five years to cover the cost of your background check.

If you’re going on the Maury Povich Show to find out who your baby’s daddy is, you might have reason to protest the DNA sample processing fee which went from $2 to $3, but somehow I think you have bigger things to worry about right now.

And of course, there’s the most egregious “fee” of them all.  It’s the one that went from $500 to $10,000.  Brace yourself.  It’s the fee increasing the penalty for operating a pyramid scheme in the state of Indiana.

I don’t know about you, but I am just outraged at this government run amok.  What kind of fascist dictatorship do we live in when the government charges you a fee for the service that you are using instead of having it subsidized by the taxpayers for the general fund.  This is a crime against humanity.

It’s almost enough to make me want to get together with other like-minded people, drive down to the Statehouse with our torches and pitchforks and storm the place.  Unfortunately, since no one wants to pay the 10-cent increase in the gas tax, we’ll have to figure out some other way to get there.