Friday, July 02, 2004


To the below Civics Lesson post, I must sadly offer that Elizabeth Fazioli is not eligible to run for office at this time. I look forward to her running in the future!
Woody Done Proud

For years, the Hamilton County Democrats have been AWOL. In fact, they haven't challenged most seats here for about 30 years. As Chair of the Libertarian Party of Hamilton County, I saw this as a huge opening for us. A growing community needs some sort of opposition voice, even if we sound very similar to the entrenched Republicans on taxes and property rights issues. My mantra with our members is the Woody Allen Rule: "90% of success is just showing up".

So, we made it a point to fill our ballot to the extent we could with qualified candidates. This is an objective no matter what, since we are a political party. If a political party fails to put candidates on the ballot, it is truly irrelevant. The Democrats have been irrelevant in Hamilton County for about 30 years. We have not made our approach a secret, and we have not hidden the fact that we aim to become the county's #2 party. The Dems were allowing this to happen.

Until yesterday. This changed when they filed a full slate of candidates, challenging every race in the county. Noblesville Ledger story.

We have candidates in place to challenge several offices. The paperwork will be filed this morning. I was holding it until near the deadline because I was hoping that the Democrats would continue their generation-long trend of not running locally. Alas.

I have no doubt that the activity of local Libertarians led to this hasty mass filing. It certainly was not a reaction to the dominance of the Republican Party here. If that were the case, the last 30 years are extremely mysterious.

It's a function of strategy. 2004 is the big election year in Indiana, where the Presidency and the Governor's Office are decided, so voter turnout will be high. Democrats will turn out November 2, even here in Hamilton County. When they do, they will vote for John Kerry and Joe Kernan, and then, had the Dems not filed, their voters would have had three choices in the local races: vote for the Republican, the Libertarian, or nobody. Noting the extreme negativity of the campaigning of national Democrats, I believed that there was going to be a significant portion of Democratic voters willing to vote for Libertarians purely because they aren't Republicans, the party of George W. Bush. We might not have won many or any of the races, but we'd sure pull percentages in the 30s and 40s.

New Democratic Chair Jan Ellis must have recognized this, so they loaded up. Congrats to her on following Woody's sage advice, just as we are. Kudos also for getting the press and leave us with the, 'but us too!' coverage. Well done.

Above, I called the filing hasty. This is because I have noted that the Dems filed a candidate for Surveyor. We did not file a candidate in this race because we have only one person who has any qualifications to run for it- me- and I don't meet residency requirements for this ballot. The Surveyor's Office is enormously technical, and probably shouldn't be an elected office. Frankly, it would be a nightmare if a non-technical person won this race, even if it were a Libertarian. It's not an office that interests me a whole lot because the headaches are unreal. Hats off to long-standing Surveyor Kent Ward for his ability and his fortitude. At any rate, I know that the Democratic candidate is not a professional Land Surveyor, and a little research will tell whether or not he is a Professional Engineer. Short of those qualifications, the best manager could still screw this job up royally.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Nader Confirmed Off Ballot in Indiana
aka Civics Lesson 2

No surprise here. Last week, the Nader team figured to be about 21,000 signatures short of the needed 30,000. Dallas Stoner (no, really) confirmed this to the Indy Star.

Interestingly, Stoner claimed the police to be a large factor in their failure, accusing officers of hassling them as they tried to collect signatures on public sidewalks. Stoner was on the Broad Ripple sidewalk as Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik was in the Rock Lobster, while some of Badnarik's underage supporters were out on the same sidewalk as they were barred from entry (see item below).

It was reported to me today that Stoner and other Naderites found themselves amongst the Libertarian crowd and began to talk politics. The conversation ended up with Stoner putting his name on the LPIN's email list.

The Naderites often cite their fear of corporate power as a compelling interest while happily neglecting the threat of governmental power. No corporate power is keeping Nader off the ballot. Government power is doing that. Remember that the government that is big enough to smash the corporate goliath is also able to erect barriers designed to keep a gadfly off the ballot. One Naderite learned that lesson completely last night.
Civics Lesson

With my 12-year-old son living in Spain for most of the year, I like to give him as great a taste of America as I can when he is here with me.

As hands-on civics lessons go, it's hard to top going to meet a candidate for President of the United States. LP candidate Michael Badnarik was touring Indiana in support of his own campaign, and in support of his mother's. Elaine Badnarik is running for Indiana Lt. Governor, and had her candidacy announced earlier in the day. The LP's reception was held at the Rock Lobster, a restaurant and bar on Broad Ripple Avenue.

When Alex and I entered, we were stopped at the door and told that minors were not permitted inside. I had the feeling that state law would not prohibit us from entering, so I pressed the issue. The doorman checked with someone inside and confirmed that they wished us not to enter.

Fortunately, State Chair Mark Rutherford witnessed this and went inside to bring Mr. Badnarik out to us. He came out and shook our hands and then chatted with us about the increasing party unity and the successes of the Indiana party. He encouraged Alex to talk about things that matter to him with those around him. Michael's father brought "Badnarik for President" pins for everyone outside to wear.

The crowd outside grew, with US Senate candidate Al Barger, Marion County Treasurer Charlie Kennedy, intern Josh Hanson, and several others hanging around. The Libertarians stood out like a sore thumb: Dreadlocks, long hair, shaved heads, those with pierced everything... these were the people walking by. The Libertarians were wearing suits and ties. It was surreal.

Josh Hanson was outside because he is under 21. We were soon joined by Elizabeth Fazioli, who is running for County Commissioner in Hamilton County. Despite the possibility that she could be one of the highest ranking officials in the region come November, she too could not enter because she is also only 20.

This was fascinating, because Alex can enter bars in Spain at any time. He was aware of the cultural difference immediately. Eating in a Spanish restaurant more or less means eating in a bar. Rock Lobster is a restaurant and a bar. A friend explained that the bars were under pressure from local authorities over underage drinking. I pointed out that the owner of the bar has the right to have his own rules of order, and if they wanted us out, we'd comply without a fuss.

So there we were, standing outside a bar with a candidate for President of the United States. There's one for the 'what did you do over the summer' spiel at school!

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Loss of Good Radio

I lived in the Cleveland area for most of my life before coming to central Indiana, and was blessed with really interesting radio. There has always been more local programming in Cleveland than in most markets, and having five college stations in the region helped. Local programming makes a station kick. I will concede that syndicated shows get guaranteed ratings and demographics, are cheap and easy, and that live local shows are a risk, are expensive, and a hell of a lot of work. However, local programming is vital. Hot button issues get drilled by local hosts, leading to better informed voters and more responsive elected officials.

When I arrived in Indy, I found that the radio offerings were extremely bland. The vast majority was beamed in by satellite, offering no real local relevance. I tried listening to WIBC-AM because they were the closest thing to local talk, but I tired of the station quickly because the format was too tight. No call would last more than two minutes. No caller would get to hang in to debate for too long, especially if they were getting one over on the host. I would tune in to WXNT-AM because they had Neal Boortz. Sure, it was another syndicated show, but Boortz is a libertarian. I had always wanted to catch his show, since it did not air in Cleveland.

So, it was a delight to tune in early on morning and find WXNT-AM's Morning Line with "Trapper" John Morris and Jim Burrows. Trapper ran the show and would get the last word. This set up a fascinating dynamic because WXNT's syndicated fare- Boortz, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham- was largely right-of-center, conservative, Republican, etc. Trapper wouldn't describe himself as a liberal, but he was generally very much to the left of the station's syndicated hosts, Burrows, and the callers. The discussion was very lively, with often pointed banter coming from either direction, but always with Trapper getting the last word. Where the hosts could agree was in the area of popular culture, with a fun homage to all things 1980s, to movies, and to stand-up comedy.

With this balance, the show was able to attract a wide range of phone interview guests and no shortage of listeners who called in. Regulars began to congregate at promotional events, such as their Town Hall Tuesday series of live broadcasts and breakfasts at Dodd's Town House restaurant on Meridian St.

One irksome thing about WXNT's lineup was that in the months where most of the country goes to daylight savings time, the station found itself with a schedule shift. All syndicated shows would start an hour earlier than in winter months. Sean Hannity's show was carried live, and would move from 3-6pm to 2-5pm in DST months. What to do with the 5-6pm hour? The station would repeat the first hour of Hannity.

It drove me nuts. When I left Cleveland, I was hosting a weekly one-hour libertarian news and comment program on WCSB-FM. All I could think of was filling that slot myself. Even if the listeners and callers disagreed completely, a local topics show would be far superior to a re-run from just three hours before.

Fortunately, the station put Greg Browning into this time. He had been doing a show on Sunday nights, and fairly agitating his listeners by making Mayor Bart Peterson his personal whipping boy. The show was well suited for the early evening. The tempo could often drag, but that was okay in that time slot. Uptempo is perfect for monring shows, and the Morning Line was the station's uptempo act.

As Browning hit his stride, the station hit its' peak, in my opinion. The Morning Line was in top form, with great interplay between the hosts and callers, the news staff, the weather and traffic reporters, and the guests. The syndicated lineup was entertaining enough- Hannity takes more opposition callers than any other conservative, and Ingraham's show is great fun because of her use of sound bites. The only bump would come when a show was pre-empted by Butler basketball or Indianapolis Indians baseball.

Then came the dreaded change in management. This almost always results in a major shake-up, regardless of what is working at a station. The WXNT situation, unfortunately, was no different. The Morning Line was abruptly cancelled, with Greg Browning moving to the AM drive. No surprise, Browning was replaced by the syndicated Michael Savage.

This was a horrible turn. The Morning Line was a perfect morning show. Browning, bless his feisty heart, is terribly out of place in the AM drive. Savage is easily the most repulsive conservative talker in the country. While I often disagree with Limbaugh, Hannity, and Ingraham, I usually have the sense that although they are entertainers, the policies they promote are done so in the best interests of the country. There is no such sense with Savage, but rather, a sense of pure nasty spite and hatred. His attack on a gay caller to the cable TV talk show he was fired from is case in point.

I try to listen to Browning in the morning, but give up after a few minutes because it's just too painful to hear him struggle with the format. I never tune in to Savage. Central Indiana lost a great forum with the cancellation of the Morning Line. I suspect that Browning will sink before given the chance to learn to swim in the morning waters, taking away the station's other top forum. I am extremely hopeful that Trapper and Jim will land a spot together on a station in a morning gig, but I'll be glad to hear either one of them on their own show.