Indiana: Like the South but Colder

The Indiana Office of Tourism Development announced its new tourism slogan for Indiana, “Honest to Goodness Indiana” to almost universal derision. It’s worse than the target of mockery from the 80s, “Wander Indiana.” (Hopefully we won’t be reverting to license plates with that wonderful pea green color scheme.) In his recent column, Matt Tully gets in on the fun.

Honest to Goodness Indiana? That’s our new slogan? Yep, that’s the slogan our state’s honchos actually think will convince people to take a Hoosier vacation. I assume it comes with a time machine so the state also can hire Opie Taylor and Gomer Pyle as its spokesmen. As one politico wrote on Twitter: What? Was “Golly gee whiz” taken?

No question that this one is awful. Not only is it pablum, it’s not very flattering pablum. And that’s my conclusion after taking a moment to intentionally remove my hipster-like impulse to reflexively sneer at the pretense of wholesomeness.

The sloganeers had a tough job. What makes Indiana unique in a positive way that might make other people want to come here? Tough call. But it’s not “honest to goodness.” I wonder if the sloganners bought into the rhetoric about how the coasts are unlivable, Sodom & Gomorrah hellholes because of the amoral liberals. “Sure they have money and they act like they’re enjoying themselves, but I’ll bet they’d spend some money on a return to a simpler time.”

So, I think they got it wrong on a reason out of staters might want to travel to spend money here. But they also got it wrong on what makes us unique. Cultural homogenization in the U.S. has made it tougher to identify things that make one state much different from another. Blame it on the highways, blame it on mass media, but the fact is that geographic distance doesn’t create a lot in the way of distinction among the people of the various states these days. We don’t even have the Daylight Saving Time thing or the high school basketball thing any more.

Physical geographic features are something you can’t homogenize, but we don’t have a lot to brag about. We’re mostly flat, our weather ranges from hot & humid to the deep freeze winter we’ve had this year. There are no mountains and there aren’t many significant water features. And, such natural spots as we have, we’re so reflexively anti-environment that people mostly wouldn’t want to come visit, let alone eat anything out of the waters there.

It’s easy to say what’s wrong with Indiana. Tough to say what’s right. I love my state, but if I’m being honest, a lot of that is probably because I was born here. If I was born elsewhere, I can’t say I’d gravitate to Indiana. We’re mostly a solid, friendly, dependable people. But wholesome? Not really any more than others, our self-pretensions to the contrary notwithstanding.

And, unfortunately, our lack of distinction is likely to grow if we’re not designing and building with care those parts of the state
we don’t find attractive and preserving with care those parts of the state we do find attractive. As it is now, we barely bother ourselves to maintain what has been built, let alone improve it.

If we keep our taxes low and our maintenance deferred, the only outside attention we’ll attract are those moneyed interests that see an opportunity to extract wealth from the state. Certainly not interests that want to live here or visit here and add to our wealth.

HB 1283 – Challenge Your Teacher on Evolution

Rep. Thompson has introduced HB 1283 which is part of the ongoing effort to promote the teaching of creationism as science in public schools and to undermine the legitimacy of evolution. But, since that’s unconstitutional, it’s not an effort to promote the teaching of creationism as science in public schools and to undermine the legitimacy of evolution. [*wink*]

Let’s dissect this thing a little bit.

First, it’s placed in the “mandatory curriculum” chapter of the Indiana Code. Next, it contains a “findings of the General Assembly” section. This is always a red flag to me. When drafting bills, the Legislative Services Agency will never put one of these into the code on their own initiative. A law should tell you what to do or not do on its own. The reasons why are mostly just academic to the functioning of a legal code. Someone asked pretty directly for the findings to be included.

Next it says that school administrators “shall endeavor” to “create an environment” that “encourages” students to “explore” questions and respond “appropriately” and “respectfully” to different conclusions and theories concerning subjects set forth in subsection (a)(2). (emphasis added by me). I suppose “theories” is the tell here. Otherwise, conclusions” would be sufficient as it encompasses theories along with other non-theory conclusions.

And what are the subjects set forth in (a)(2)? (a)(2) reads:

some subjects, including, but not limited to, science, history, and health, have produced differing conclusions and theories on some topics;

The whole thing is just so wishy washy. But why not further elaborate on “some subjects” – religion and politics are notable for producing different conclusions and theories on some topics. But, why even “some topics”? I would contend that all topics have been the subject of differing conclusions.

Facts are unknowable. The scientific method is a poor substitute for anecdotes and strongly held beliefs. Why try? Class dismissed.

Your Character is Revealed by Your Choice in Enemies

I probably shouldn’t contribute to the attention, but I guess I will. Local bloggers have put up posts talking about an Indianapolis Tea Party group’s list of “10 most liberal political writers.” See: Abdul 1, Abdul 2, Paul Ogden, Sheila Kennedy.

The number one criteria on the list for being “liberal”: Anti-tea party! This speaks volumes. Whatever the stated positions may be, the driving force behind tea partyism has long seemed to be an emotional tribalism. If you’re not one of us, you’re one of them. The “us” is somewhat variable but seems to be Real Americans: overwhelmingly white and Christian; largely rural or suburban. Their purported criteria:

Anti-tea party, world government; weak local government; centralized state government; weak states’ rights; high progressive tax rates; pro Common Core; anti school vouchers; free universal health care; pro gun control; full rights to gay marriage; abortion without restriction; centralized economy; tax on hydrocarbon fuels; open international borders; lower national defense spending; and European Socialism.

The results:

1 Mathew Tully
2 Jim Shella
3 Sheila Suess Kennedy
4 Dan Carpenter
5 Tom Lobianco
6 Mary Milz
7 Mickey Mauer
8 Steve Hammer
9 Ken Bode
10 Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I never knew that those folks were pro-world government! And not just any socialism, European socialism. That’s the worst kind!

Colbert mocks Mourdock’s healthcare reform “pre-sponses”

Stephen Colbert has some fun with Richard Mourdock, GOP Senate candidate and “dark lord of the withered heath” because of his “choose your own adventure” pre-sponses to the health care reform lawsuit.

He mocks the brick wall and poor sound quality and then takes him to task for not covering enough of the possibilities – Mourdock apparently only prepared for upheld, struck down, split decision, and no decision. He did not prepare for healthcare struck down, another recount, and George Bush is once again President. Nor did he prepare for Justice Scalia announcing that all along, he’s just been 4 racoons in a black garbage bag. And, nothing at all about Justice Alito announcing that he’s stepping down from the bench to become the bass player for Iron Maiden.

Senator Canute, I presume

You don’t tell me, science, I tell you! (h/t Sheila Kennedy)

Modern day North Carolina (pdf):

The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to 11 develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission. These 12 rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time 13 period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate 14 future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

In other words, only one state agency is allowed to perform calculations concerning sea level rise and, it is required to do so in a way that artificially limits the data set for making projections and the projections are required to be done in a manner that is scientifically unsound. This will allow and encourage the people of North Carolina to ignore unpleasant realities.

Tenth century Denmark:

“Bring [my throne] closer to the sea,” Canute called. “Put it right here, right at the water’s edge.” He sat down and surveyed the ocean before him. “I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?”

His officers were puzzled, but they did not dare say no. “Give the order, O great king, and it will obey,” one of then assured him.

“Very well. Sea,” cried Canute, “I command you to come no further! Waves, stop your rolling!. Surf, stop your pounding! Do not dare touch my feet!”

He waited a moment, quietly, and a tiny wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet.

“How dare you!” Canute shouted. “Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!”

And in answer another wave swept forward and curled around the king’s feet. The tide came in, just as it always did. The water rose higher and higher. It came up around the king’s chair, and wet not only his feet, but also his robe. His officers stood before him, alarmed, and wondering whether he was not mad.

“Well, my friends,” Canute said, “it seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps you have learned something today. Perhaps now you will remember there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is he who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for him.”

Now, I suppose proponents of burying one’s head in the sand to ignore the rising tides might think Canute’s message a good one – only God can do anything about the tide, it’s arrogant of humans to think they can influence it. That kind of fatalistic, buck-passing, responsibility avoidance does humanity, posterity, and the earth a great disservice. But at least Canute was prepared to acknowledge that the damn tide was coming in; whatever his courtiers might be saying. These folks in North Carolina want to avoid even that so they can continue to roll in coastal development money.

Legislatively cooking the scientific books is just wrong on so many levels. Might as well just abandon the pretense of scientific observation altogether.

The One True Basketball Tournament

Maureen Hayden, writing for CNHI, has an article on the IHSAA conducting hearings on a return to the unified high school basketball tournament instead of the multiple class abomination it adopted in 1998. Attendance is in the toilet, but that’s not why the IHSAA is holding hearings. Rather, it got enough static from Indiana legislators that it’s holding hearings — probably just hoping to show enough effort to get the folks at the State House to leave them alone.

Small schools appear to like the class system – especially small schools that have been winning under the system. My guess is that, taken on a one-school, one-vote basis (as opposed to a one-student, one-vote basis), the preference is for class basketball. It’s easier for small schools to win when they only play each other.

And, possibly it’s easier for me to win cases if I only had to compete against other three-lawyer firms. But, as it turns out, the real world doesn’t work that way. I guess we could just give everyone a trophy and skip the basketball.

(This is just a preview of my greatest hits when, one day, I reach my aspiration of becoming Grumpy Old Man Masson; sitting on the front porch holding forth on the Good Old Days, drinking from a jug with a thumb hook and scaring the neighborhood kids.)

HB 1283 – Includes “State Rifle”

Just caught wind of HB 1283 from Sheila Kennedy.

She cites news reports of the wide vote margin on the bill and wonders about the priorities of the General Assembly. I don’t know what news reports she saw, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave an incomplete account of the bill – focusing primarily or exclusively on the “state rifle” issue.

Looks like this bill was initially concerned with libraries and historic records, making changes to the membership of the library and historical board and revising some of the board’s duties and procedures.

It also changed the historical bureau’s duties with respect to commemorative medallions, specifies certain historical markers as property of the state, added “electronic media” to the definition of public record in the public records law, required the public records commission to coordinate the use of scanning equipment in state government, requires a county commission on public records to implement local government retention schedules, removed the policy that public libraries provide free library services for all individuals, Repealed the law allowing certain township trustees to pay the cost of a library card for certain residents, and made changes to the Class 1 and 2 library law.

Apparently the gun thing didn’t get added until the Senate Committee on Local Government took a look at it. They added a chapter that read:

Sec. 1. The “Grouseland Rifle” made by Colonel John Small of Vincennes, Indiana, between 1803 and 1812 is designated the official rifle of the state of Indiana.
Sec. 2. Any:
(1) duplication or reproduction; or
(2) sale of any duplication or reproduction;
of the “Grouseland Rifle” must be authorized by the Grouseland Foundation of Vincennes, Indiana.

A little historical background: Grouseland was apparently a territorial governor’s mansion in Vincennes, completed in 1804 and named by William Henry Harrison.

According to a Lewis and Clark site:

John Small, who had settled in Vincennes about 1780, had served with William Clark’s older brother, the famous George Rogers Clark, which established his connection with the Clark family. In addition to being a gunsmith, Small was the first sheriff of Vincennes. He served in the first Indiana Territory Legislature, and was a Colonel in the Indiana Militia. He died in 1823.

The site speculates that the Small rifle was with William Clark on his expedition with Meriwether Lewis.

Anyway, while this sort of nonsense isn’t exactly the “emergency” stuff of a short session, I can’t get too indignant about it. If we’re going to have a “state rifle,” this seems like a good one. But I have to wonder how long until we descend into, say, a state paperclip or a state shaving cream.

Indiana could use a Magna Carta Bill

I haven’t checked for new bills in a few hours, so maybe it has been introduced, but someone who wants to return Indiana to the good old days, could model their legislation after New Hampshire’s HB 1580-2012

[All] bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.

A widow could have the right to remain in their husbands’ house for forty days after his death and even to remarry if she got permission of a lord whose lands she held.

At her husband’s death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. She may remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his death, and within this period her dower shall be assigned to her. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of.

Underage heirs could have the right to interest-free loans from Jews.

If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands.

The right to standard measures for wine, ale, corn, dyed cloth, russett, and haberject. (But, only if those measurements are made in the London quarter or ells within the selvedges.)

There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russett, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly.

The right to be free of arrest or imprisonment on murder charges founded on a complaint by a woman that you killed someone other than her husband.

No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband.

We commonly credit the Magna Carta as a foundational source of rights; but mainly because it was the legal documentary beginning of the notion that the King couldn’t arbitrarily exercise his will. The notion that the scope of liberties end with that document is anachronistic and borders on the despotic.

But Everyone Else Was Doing It!

As a parent, I expect to deal with the “but everyone else was doing it” defense. As a citizen of Indiana, I’m not sure that’s what I expect out of my Secretary of State.

Charlie White’s accusations against Evan Bayh remind me a little bit of the old joke where the motorist gets pulled over and protests to the officer, “I wasn’t speeding. But, I passed a few guys who were.” If I’m reading the news reports correctly, White is essentially saying, “these charges against me are bullshit, but Evan Bayh should be prosecuted for the same thing.”

This is probably one of those deals where you need to pick one strategy or another. Either say that the charges are frivolous or that everyone similarly situated should go down with you. Saying that frivolous charges should be made against everyone just doesn’t work so well.

Civic Education and Media Failure

This AP article appearing in the Christian Science Monitor is an example of a missed opportunity for civic education.

While on Fox and Friends for some reason, Hank Williams Jr. made a comparison related to President Obama involving Hitler. The details of the comparison itself aren’t really that important. Pro tip for anyone near a microphone of some kind: unless your comparison involves a war of aggression, genocide, or other extremely literal comparison of Hitler, just look elsewhere for your metaphors. What if maybe your comparison is apt in some way? Doesn’t matter. Pick someone else in human history for your comparison. (Someone on the Internet suggested, “comparing Obama to Hitler is as ridiculous as comparing Hank Williams Jr. to his much, much more talented father.”)

But, that’s not what this post is about. As a consequence of his choice to use Hitler metaphors on television, ESPN decided to end its business relationship with Hank Jr. They no longer want to use him or his singing to introduce the Monday Night Football broadcast. Hank Jr. responded by saying that ESPN is violating his free speech rights.

“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision,” Williams said in a statement to The Associated Press. “By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”

This, in and of itself, isn’t a huge deal. Lots of people who wrap themselves in the flag don’t actually know much about the country’s founding document. (See, e.g., The Onion: “Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be”)

The problem is that the First Amendment precludes government regulation of speech. It does not, contrary to what Hank Jr. seems to assert, guarantee the right to be lucratively compensated by a private entity for appearing on the entity’s television show regardless of what one says in other places.

The second problem is that it would have taken the AP very little space to point out that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution has no bearing on this situation. It would have been a factual observation, requiring no independent opinion, that the AP could have included without using a lot of space. It would have made Hank Jr. look foolish, of course. But that ought not be he AP’s concern. Another option for the AP would have been to not report on Hank Jr.’s mutterings about the Constitution at all.