Northwest Indiana and Beyond

Blogging about Northwest Indiana and south suburban Illinois

Daniels lending a hand to GOP in Ohio

From CNN’s Political Ticker:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the subject of much 2012 chatter among Republican insiders in recent months, will travel to neighboring Ohio on Thursday to join gubernatorial candidate John Kasich for an interactive webcast focusing on the “the need to attract businesses and make Ohio competitive again.”

“Governor Daniels is an innovative leader and, as a result, Indiana has weathered and recovered from the recession in a manner that is the envy of its neighbors, particularly Ohio,” said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols.


Where to ease up on the gas

In case you’re wondering how far down you can push that accelerator pedal, the National Motorists Association has released a new, unscientific study of which states issue the most speeding tickets.

You’ll be glad (or maybe not) to know that Indiana ranks 20th, according to the study. Illinois ranks 22nd.

How was the study conducted? The news release speaks for itself:

The rankings below were generated by analyzing ticket-related search queries such as “speeding ticket” and “traffic tickets” over time using Google’s Insights for Search — a public tool that shows search trends across the United States.

It’s a study mostly for entertainment purposes, given that the hard data is so dodgy,  but it isn’t a bad warning for drivers whose feet seem to be made of lead.

Leaving on vacation soon? Want the full list? Here you go:

Here is the full list of states:
(ranked from most likely to ticket drivers to least likely)

1) Florida
2 tie) Georgia
2 tie) Nevada
4) Texas
5) Alabama
6) Missouri
7) New York
8) North Carolina
9) District of Columbia
10) New Jersey
11) Louisiana
12) Arizona
13) Mississippi
14) California
15) Maryland
16) Iowa
17) Washington
18) Oklahoma
19) South Carolina
20) Indiana
21) Tennessee
22) Illinois
23) Ohio
24) Kansas
25) Michigan
26) Colorado
27) Delaware
28 tie) Minnesota
28 tie) Virginia
30) Massachusetts
31) Pennsylvania
32) Connecticut
33) Arkansas
34) Wisconsin
35) Vermont
36) Kentucky
37) New Hampshire
38) Hawaii
39) Rhode Island
40) Utah
41) Oregon
42) New Mexico
43) Nebraska
44) Idaho
45) West Virginia
46) Maine
47) Alaska
48) South Dakota
49) North Dakota
50) Wyoming
51) Montana

Wonder who would put out a study like this? That answer’s even easier — an organization that helps drivers fight traffic tickets.


Check, 1, 2, 3

The speakers work just great.

Organizers began running sound check on the large, booming speakers set up on the black-cloaked stage at the end of Jackson Street.

Performances are scheduled throughout the day, including of “We Are the World” nearer to the 5 p.m. candlelight vigil honoring the King of Pop.

Also expected to perform is Keith Jackson, Michael’s first cousin, and his band, Triple Dose.
– Christine Kraly


Energy heating up … literally

As it hit noon, the barometer climbed, as did the number of fans clamoring to the Jackson family house in Gary.

Workers just set up a tent in the street near to the house, where Mayor Rudy Clay is taking refuge from the hot sun.

Small children who live near the house are walking around offering up bottles of water for $1.

Katherine Jackson has yet to emerge from the family home, as the time nears the 2 p.m. unveiling of the monument dedicated to Michael Jackson.

Several security personnel have lingered in and around the house since the family matriarch’s arrival around 9 a.m.

–  Christine Kraly


A blessed house

Ron Jackson, first cousin to Michael Jackson, has for weeks been laboring with his brother and other helpers, to beautify 2300 Jackson St.

What was once barren yard is now lush, green lawn.

What was once dusty and debris cluttered, is now full of flowers, and carefully cemented driveway.

Tired at the end of what’s been a busy week of back-breaking work, Ron Jackson loaded remaining patches of grass into a truck, and made final improvements to the famed house.

It all paid off when his aunt arrived this morning.

“She gave me her blessing,” he said with a smile.

– Christine Kraly


Family matriarch home again

Katherine Jackson arrived at the Jackson family home here about 9:30 a.m., entering the newly paved and landscaped entrance of her home.

The dozens of fans collected at the front of the house cheered and waved to the Jackson matriarch, who kindly waved back, said Ma’Eva Adams of Trinity Faith-Based University, which has a vendor tent pitched across the street.

It’s unclear if Katherine Jackson will remain in the home until the 2 p.m. unveiling of a monument to her son, or if she will leave and return closer to the afternoon.

– Christine Kraly


Jackson memorial parking

When traveling to the festivities today, beware:

The streets immediately adjacent to the Jackson family home at 2300 Jackson St. are blocked off, including Jackson Street from 25th Avenue north.

Parking is available at Roosevelt H.S., in the lot west of the home, for $10.

– Christine Kraly


Jackson fever begins

Several television news crews are already parked as close to Gary’s 2300 Jackson St. as possible, ready to capture all of the Jackson fever this morning, the year anniversary of the King of Pop’s death.

Among the fans already interviewed by many media before 9 a.m. was a man named Joe “Michael Jackson’s #1 Fan” Gasmann, of Chicago.

Clad in red leather-like suit with black trim, a la the Thriller video, Gasmann clutched a silver sequin glove around a sign claiming his top fan status.

When asked his favorite Jackson song, the No. 1 fan said he did not know any of the names.

“I like them all,” he said.

– Christine Kraly


Battle lines being drawn on “truce” comment

There’s interesting reaction in the conservative blogosphere to an assertion that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels makes in a profile in the latest Weekly Standard that the next president should call a “truce” on so-called social issues.

Ramesh Ponnuru weighs in at National Review Online:

I also can’t help but think of Phil Gramm’s presidential campaign in 1996. Like Daniels, Gramm was an enthusiastic budget-cutter. Concern about big government was running strong in the years just prior to that election. Gramm had a solid social-conservative record, but consciously chose not to campaign on it; he famously flew out to Colorado Springs to tell James Dobson, “I’m not a preacher.” That approach helped to doom Gramm’s campaign.

Meanwhile former Arkansas governor and possible presidential contender Mike Huckabee calls the truce “heartbreaking,” taking a hard line against Daniels without naming him.

Apparently, a 2012 Republican presidential prospect in an interview with a reporter has made the suggestion that the next President should call for a “truce” on social issues like abortion and traditional marriage to focus on fiscal problems.

In other words, stop fighting to end abortion and don’t make protecting traditional marriage a priority.

Let me be clear though, the issue of life and traditional marriage are not bargaining chips nor are they political issues. They are moral issues. I didn’t get involved in politics just to lower taxes and cut spending though I believe in both and have done it as a Governor. But I want to stay true to the basic premises of our civilization.

Huckabee then goes on to ask readers to send a strong signal by donating to his PAC.

On Friday, Daniels said the idea of a truce was only a suggestion, and reflected how urgently he feels about other problems such as the national debt and security.


Calling Auntie Em

Photo submitted by a reader taken between 6 and 7 p.m. Sunday near the Panera Bread on Indianapolis Boulevard, south of 45th Avenue.

As scary as this funnel cloud looks, the reader says it didn’t touch ground, despite appearances.


Memorial Day at Memorial Opera House

Valparaiso’s Memorial Day ceremonies at the Memorial Opera House in downtown Valparaiso had a Civil War theme, which makes sense when you consider the building was intended to be a memorial to the soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War.

This one-minute video (click link above) includes still images from the event. The last photo, of some of Porter County’s Civil War veterans, includes a photo (bottom of image) of Capt. Robert Morrow Fryar, my son’s great-great-great-grandfather. Here are Nicky’s remarks:

Captain Robert Morrow Fryar was my great-great-great-grandfather. Perhaps you saw his photo in the lobby of this very building. If not, turn left at the drinking fountain after the concert so you can see his picture. He’s very scary-looking.

Twice his clothing was shot through in the war, and once he was shot at twice, point blank, by an enemy soldier whose rifle misfired both times. He was taken prisoner once but promptly released.

The following are excerpts from a letter he wrote to his sister on July 31st, 1863, from Camp Morton:

My Dear Sister,

Many times have we been separated from each other, but never under such circumstances as the present, and dark and gloomy as the prospects of ever meeting again has sometimes appeared to me, yet Providence in his goodness has decreed that we should meet again.

Yes, when our long and wearisome marches through clouds of limestone dust and under a hot burning sun through countries that could not afford us water fit for hogs and but a very limited supply of that sort. I have seen men with iron-like constitutions and by appearance calculated to stand any kind of fatigue and hardship, I say have seen such men as these reel and stumble. There were 18 such circumstances occurred under my own observation.

And one sent into eternity by the hand of an officer, for the small offense of breaking ranks to procure a drink of water. I have been eyewitness to these and many more.

When close by my side, my comrades have fallen pierced through with the messenger of death hurled at us in showers by our enemy.

Oh Ellen, how many times, in my wanders and in suffering all kinds of privations, have I wished I was just a dog that somebody might pick me up and speak kindly to me and feed me the crumbs that would fall from their table.

Kind words are seldom ever bestowed on the poor soldier in sickness, just the same as in health. I came to be a soldier and to share a soldier’s treatment, but when I left my home, I left all those that could or would sympathize with me in my troubles.

I will bring this to a close. Hoping it may find you all in better health than it leaves me in at present. I have been unfit for duty for 3 or 4 days, but I feel as though I will live to take you all by surprise again when I go home. Please do not read this to any out of family. They would say I am getting tired of soldiering (which would be no falsehood).

Your brother, Robert Fryar.”

The concert included other speakers as well, as the video shows, plus a patriotic sing-along. Those who attended were encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to support the Christian Food Pantry, a multi-church ministry in downtown Valparaiso.

I’m told that after the concert in the packed house, crowds flocked to see the photo of Capt. Robert Fryar.

Captain Robert Morrow Fryar was my great-great-great-grandfather. Perhaps you saw his photo in the lobby of this very building. If not, turn left at the drinking fountain after the concert so you can see his picture. He’s very scary-looking.

Twice his clothing was shot through in the war, and once he was shot at twice, point blank, by an enemy soldier whose rifle misfired both times. He was taken prisoner once but promptly released.

The following are excerpts from a letter he wrote to his sister on July 31st, 1863, from Camp Morton:

My Dear Sister,

Many times have we been separated from each other, but never under such circumstances as the present, and dark and gloomy as the prospects of ever meeting again has sometimes appeared to me, yet Providence in his goodness has decreed that we should meet again.

Yes, when our long and wearisome marches through clouds of limestone dust and under a hot burning sun through countries that could not afford us water fit for hogs and but a very limited supply of that sort. I have seen men with iron-like constitutions and by appearance calculated to stand any kind of fatigue and hardship, I say have seen such men as these reel and stumble. There were 18 such circumstances occurred under my own observation.

And one sent into eternity by the hand of an officer, for the small offense of breaking ranks to procure a drink of water. I have been eyewitness to these and many more.

When close by my side, my comrades have fallen pierced through with the messenger of death hurled at us in showers by our enemy.

Oh Ellen, how many times, in my wanders and in suffering all kinds of privations, have I wished I was just a dog that somebody might pick me up and speak kindly to me and feed me the crumbs that would fall from their table.

Kind words are seldom ever bestowed on the poor soldier in sickness, just the same as in health. I came to be a soldier and to share a soldier’s treatment, but when I left my home, I left all those that could or would sympathize with me in my troubles.

I will bring this to a close. Hoping it may find you all in better health than it leaves me in at present. I have been unfit for duty for 3 or 4 days, but I feel as though I will live to take you all by surprise again when I go home. Please do not read this to any out of family. They would say I am getting tired of soldiering (which would be no falsehood).

Your brother, Robert Fryar.”


A Marine’s Memorial Day message

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The colorguard stands at parade rest during the Memorial Day ceremony May 31 at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) held a ceremony to remember all war dead, to include the 15 Marines and one Sailor who have died since thetransfer of authority.

The following was submitted today by Sgt. Heidi E. Agostini. It is a valuable and heartfelt reminder of what this day is all about.

Date written: May 31, 2010

Written by: Sgt. Heidi E. Agostini

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan— This is my second deployment, my first to Afghanistan. I’m stationed at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, Afghanistan, with I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. I’ve been a Marine for almost eight years. I was born in Munster, raised in Hammond and I’m a 1999 graduate of Bishop Noll Institute. My husband, Staff Sgt. Luis Agostini is out here as well but on a different camp. We’re combat correspondents, responsible for telling the Marine Corps story.

My unit held a Memorial Day ceremony here today to honor America’s fallen heroes. As I photographed the ceremony I was amazed to see the Afghan National Army leadership honoring America’s fallen as well. The ceremony was complete with the playing of “TAPS”, a 21-gun salute and color guard. In the middle of the parade deck were two rifle memorials. A rifle memorial is a memorial the military uses to pay final respects to a fallen service member. It’s comprised of a pair of boots, an inverted rifle with dog tags hanging off it, and a Kevlar placed on top of the rifle. It’s a sight all too familiar to me. I’m tired of this war.

Memorial Day is a holiday whose true meaning unfortunately has been lost over the years. I read the news this morning, thinking I would run into a few stories regarding Afghanistan troops and Memorial Day in Afghanistan. I ran into a few, but the majority of stories and articles I encountered told me that “Shrek 2” beat out “Sex in the City 2” in the movie theaters this Memorial Day holiday and what beaches would be the best to visit today. Are you serious? And if one more person wishes me a “Happy Memorial Day” on my Facebook page I’ll probably lose my mind. Is it really a day to be “happy?” Do you even know what this day is about?

A few weeks ago I attended my first dignified transfer ceremony. There were about 200 Marines in formation, ready to send off a fallen Marine back to the United States for burial. I heard we had lost that Marine in a roadside bomb. I’ve been hearing that a lot about our fatalities. I stood at the position of attention and saluted as the flag-draped casket passed me, and onto the plane. As I mentioned before, this is my second deployment. Death – I’m used to it. Although it pains me every time a Marine dies, I maintain bearing. I think I’m desensitized to it after losing so many friends and seeing death with my own eyes. I saw another casket roll by. I was confused because I heard there was only one fallen Angel. As I stood there saluting the second casket I started to think to myself. What if that was one of my Marines? I love all five of them to the end of the world and back. I felt a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. What would I tell their parents? What if that was my husband in the casket? We haven’t even been married one whole year. He’s my best friend. I’d probably crawl in the casket with him. There are a lot of “what ifs.” So why a second casket if there was only one fallen angel? One for the Marine, the other for his body parts.

Whether you agree with the war or not, at least agree that these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines sacrificed their life for you. So instead of hitting up your favorite stores for those fabulous Memorial Day sales, or going to the theater to catch Shrek 2, at least take a moment to learn about a fallen angel.

I’ll tell you a tale of a Marine in 2006 who was in a 7-ton truck on a Fallujah, Iraq road. When a taxi cab ventured too close to the 7-ton truck in front of his, this Marine took the appropriate action to prevent the taxi cab from ramming into the truck in front. But before he could fire off a warning round with his gun, the cab exploded, fatally injuring the Marine whose body was exposed to the blast impact.

I was in the 7-ton truck the cab was aiming for. And I don’t talk about that incident with anyone except my husband. I had to photograph that Marine’s memorial. And I remember how much I cried because it was so hard for me to see through my camera lens. I took a photo of that iconic rifle memorial, and had the photo tattooed onto my back. A ribbon is tattooed around the photo that reads, “For my tomorrow, he gave his today.”

It’s a heart-breaking reminder. But every Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Christmas, Easter, New Years, Birthday, promotion, reenlistment and every time something great happens in my life, I think of him and my mood turns into sadness and I fall into a deep depression. And the only way out of it, is to be in the company of Marines, in the company of heroes.

At the end of the movie, “Saving Private Ryan” Tom Hanks grabs a hold of Private Ryan and with his dying breath he tells him “Earn this.”

Every time you hear of a fallen service member, say that to yourself. “Earn this.” He or she died for you.


Remembered on Capitol Hill

Lance Cpl. Joshua Birchfield of Westville, who was killed in Afghanistan Feb. 19, was one of three servicemen eulogized Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly. All three servicemen were from the 2nd Congressional District, which Donnelly represents.

Of Birchfield, Donnelly said, “He joined the Marines after seeing a TV news segment focused on the hardship that military families endure when they are separated, especially during the holidays.”

This first Memorial Day without Joshua is of course going to be very hard on the family.

This weekend, Westville’s baseball field will be renamed in Birchfield’s honor. Donnelly said in the video that he plans to attend that ceremony.

“He will be remembered as a selfless and compassionate man.”


House of ill repute? For many in class of 1994, yes

The Washington Post’s Dana Millbank has a fascinating column (registration required) today that puts the Rep. Mark Souder sex scandal into context.

Souder was one of the House Republicans Class of ‘94, swept into office in reaction to the Bill Clinton sex scandal. So what has become of those Republican House members?

Millbank reports:

In his downfall, Souder appears likely to join classmates Mark Foley (lewd text messages to House pages), Mark Sanford (hiking the proverbial Appalachian Trail with his Argentine mistress) and John Ensign (whose parents paid the family of his ex-mistress $96,000) in the sex-scandal hall of fame. Another of their classmates, Bob Ney, did prison time for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

As Eric Massa, John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer can attest, scandal can visit any party or any political body. But the House Republicans of ‘94 stand out: No fewer than 15 of the 73 elected in the landslide that year have entertained the nation with flaps that include messy divorces and a suspicious car accident.

Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, writes a column that runs in The Times on Sundays. In today’s weekly briefing on Indiana politics (subscription required), Howey writes:

“Souder certainly had an air of moral judgment. But on this most momentous case of his career — whether to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying abut oral six with White House intern Monica Lewinsky — the Fort Wayne Republican was maddeningly ponderous for his supporters and even his family. He would be one of the few Republicans to vote against Articles I, II and IV on the Clinton impeachment. He did vote for Article III — the obstruction of justice charge.”

Howey also reports:

“Souder took a pounding from the Weekly Standard, his staff, his family and then-4th CD Republican Chairman Don Clark, who ironically was convicted of crimes for coercing sex from poor relief recipients while serving as a township trustee.”

That, at least, offers reassurance that it’s not just the House GOP Class of 1994 that is scandal-plagued. Or is that reassurance?


Make that “do as I … d’oh!”

The link to the video of Rep. Mark Souder discussing abstinence education — see Robert’s post earlier today — no longer works on YouTube. That site reports that it was removed by the user.

So who was the user? None other than “repmarksouder.” Yes, that’s right. His office apparently got wise to the hypocrisy of that video and its popularity among blogophiles and yanked the video.

And don’t look for any mention of Souder’s affair with a staffer in his official biography. That’s maintained by his staff, too.

If you want to see his resignation being announced, however, that’s on YouTube. It was posted by a different user.

UPDATE: Huffington Post saved a copy of the abstinence education video. Click here to view it.


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