Monday, June 29, 2015

Levin Blinks: Won't Light Up At First Cannabis Church's Inaugural Service

The Grand Poobah of the First Cannabis Church won't risk arrest at his inaugural church service this Wednesday by lighting up and smoking marijuana as he earlier assured his followers and media folks would occur. Bill Levin now says his church will file a civil lawsuit against the state after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act takes effect on Wednesday. The Indianapolis Star quoted the attention-seeking Levin from a post he made on Facebook:
"Right now, we do not want to address this in criminal court, because it's not a strong hand," Levin said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star. "If we address this in civil court, we have a stronger hand."
"Due to the threat of police action against our religion I feel it is important to CELEBRATE LIFE'S GREAT ADVENTURE in our first service WITHOUT THE USE OF CANNABIS," Levin wrote on his Facebook page. "The Police dept has waged a display of shameless misconceptions and voluntary ignorance. We will do our first service without the use of any cannabis. CANNABIS WILL BE PROHIBITED ON THE FIRST SERVICE.
"We will not be dragged into criminal court for their advantage. We will meet them in a civil court where the laws are clear about religious persecution. We do not start fights. We Finish Them!
"One Love!"
Ignorance is bliss. Whether Levin's church could assert in a court of law a religious right to use marijuana as part of its religious ritual has absolutely nothing to do with the enactment of Indiana's RFRA law, which does little more than codify into state law a federal RFRA law that's been on the books for two decades and the associated case law interpreting that statute. RFRA re-affirms free exercise rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. Mainstream news media reports and radical leftist organizations unfairly characterized the law as a license to discriminate against gays in an effort to demonize the long-accepted American tradition of religious freedom.

Prosecutor Files More Charges Against Driver Of Car Involved In Police Action Shooting

Matthew Cole, the 41-year old man driving a car in which a passenger was shot and killed by an IMPD officer last week following a brief police chase, is now facing more serious charges according to Marion Co. criminal court records. Police initially charged Cole with resisting law enforcement and operating a vehicle without a driver's license. He now faces felony charges for possession of an altered gun and two felony charges for possession of less than 5 grams of meth and possession of narcotic drug possession less than 5 grams as an enhancement crime. He also faces three misdemeanor charges for possession of a handgun without a license and an infraction for possession of paraphernalia.

A 34-year old Huntington man, Joshua Dyer, was shot and killed by an IMPD officer following a brief chase after a police officer attempted to question Cole, whose car was reportedly parked illegally in Washington Park. Cole drove away rather than answer the officer's questions. After a short pursuit, Cole's car proceeded down an alley in a residential neighborhood. The car came to a stop after Cole's car plowed through two backyard fences. Cole initially exited his vehicle, facing three officers with their weapons drawn. He reportedly got back in the vehicle and put it in reverse, moving towards the officers, at which time one of the officers fired shots into the car, killing Dyer instantly. The police officer involved in the shooting has not been identified.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fifteen Things You Might Not Know About Bill Levin

Bill Levin, founder of The First Church of Cannabis.
Bill Levin (Indianapolis Star Photo)
The Indianapolis Star has a big spread this weekend on Bill Levin, the Grand Poobah of the First Church of Cannabis. Because Gannett likes list, I'm providing a list of 15 take-aways from the lengthy story authored by Mark Alesia and Tim Evans. They didn't leave too many stones unturned. It's too bad these folks can't devote more time to doing investigating reporting on the rampant corruption in local government instead of promoting this clown and his faux church, but it's the Gannett way and it's not likely to change. The newspaper scarcely covers a mayoral candidate or other candidate for public office with this kind of in-depth coverage.
  • He was born into an upper-middle class Jewish family in 1955 (age 59)
  • His family owned a successful toy distribution business where he occasionally worked in his younger years.
  • He smoked pot for the first time in his early teens after it was offered to him by an older guy. He was the kid in the neighborhood who turned the other kids onto pot. 
  • He rebelled against his parent's country club lifestyle (they were members of Broadmoor Country Club), and they sent him away to boarding schools in Maine and Ohio.
  • He's been an "inveterate huckster" most of his life: "I can look at something and have it marketed before the person finishes the first sentence."
  • He spent most of his younger adult years working as a punk band promoter.
  • He's had minor brushes with the law, including charges for public intoxication and growing marijuana.
  • In the 1980s, he briefly made a living selling a high-caffeine soft drink, Jolt. 
  • He ran a party bus in Broad Ripple for about 10 years.
  • He started a group to legalize marijuana in the 1990s.
  • He fled the country and lived in Thailand for several years because he said his life "was falling apart."
  • He filed for bankruptcy in 2005, claiming he had no income in 2003 or 2004.
  • He's been married a couple of times and has two grown daughters to his first wife, Julie Lahr, who sees his role as the Grand Poobah of the First Cannabis Church as just the latest of his exploits and attempts at reinventing himself.
  • Levin has twice run for public office unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for city-county council and state representative in 2011 and 2014, respectively.
  • Levin says he's not in it for the money: "I want to see the church grow and expand," Levin said. "Again, I don't need s---. What the f--- do I need? I got a 36-year-old girlfriend. I'm 59 years old. I'm happier than f---. ... I see it as a huge growth of a loving religion. I'm not looking at it as a cash cow. I'm looking at it as helping others to develop freedom of religion."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sun-Times Continues To Report On Extravagant Salaries Paid To Chicago Tourism Officials While Indy Media Is Mum On Visit Indy's Outrageous Executive Salaries

Choose Chicago WATCHDOGS-CST-062815-4

Advance Indiana has told you about the outrageous salaries that are being paid to Visit Indy's executives. The Chicago Sun-Times has been on the tail of Visit Indy's counterpart in Chicago since our ridiculously overpaid former CEO Donald Welsh left Indianapolis to become the head of Choose Chicago in 2013. The Sun-Times Watchdogs learn that a hefty six-figure payout was made when Choose Chicago gave the boot to its former CEO, Warren Wilkinson, to make room for Welsh, who is now one of the highest paid public officials in Chicago earning well over $580,000 a year two years ago.

Choose Chicago has an annual budget of $32 million, 87% of which it receives from taxpayer dollars, but the nonprofit has refused to release details of how it spends its money to the Sun-Times Watchdogs. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has upheld Choose Chicago's claim of secrecy regarding its massive annual budget. Welsh was hired in at $375,000 a year before his salary was pushed up more than $200,000 a year. A spokesperson for Choose Chicago defended Welsh's high pay, saying it was "commensurate with that of industry leaders in similar positions." Through other public records sources, the Sun-Times has been able to uncover large, six-figure consulting payments made to lobbyists and other politically-connected individuals. Choose Chicago's board is made up exclusively of political insiders like Chicago Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts, Gibson's restaurant owner John Colleti, the head of Chicago's chamber of commerce, Obama's former social secretary, Desiree Rogers and a cousin of former Mayor Richard Daley.

Visit Indy's has an annual budget of more than $13.6 million, which is funded mostly by government grants paid for with your tax dollars, according to its most recently-available tax return for 2013. Membership dues paid by hotels, restaurants and other businesses which directly benefit from the money Visit Indy spends promoting tourism and convention-related business pay just over $730,000 a year, or only about 5% of the revenues the nonprofit generates annually. Nearly 50% of its annual budget is used to pay salaries and payroll-related expenses for its officers and employees. It spends close to $1 million a year for its employees to travel and to attend other conventions and meetings.

In 2013, Visit Indy's CEO Leonard Hoops was paid a base salary of $475,984, plus more than $65,000 in additional compensation, providing him an annual compensation package worth more than $540,000 a year. Executive Vice President James Wallis had an annual compensation package worth more than $284,000. Other high-paid executives included: Janet Arnold ($197,696); Chris Gahl ($177,501); Mary Huggard ($157,472); Susan Townsend ($195,003); Matthew Carter ($206,392); and Dustin Arnheim ($168,124). Visit Indy's board is made up of the usual suspects of downtown elites, including the following in addition to the aforementioned executives:

  • Michael Browning
  • Ellen Saul
  • Derrick Burks
  • Jeff Belskus
  • Chris Cotterill
  • James Isch
  • Thomas Jernstedt
  • Jerry Semler
  • Dave Sibley
  • Keira Amstutz
  • Tanya Bell
  • Karen Crotchfelt
  • Michael Crowther
  • Traci Dolan
  • James Dora, Jr.
  • Robert Duncan
  • Pat Early
  • Greg Fennig
  • Rick Fuson
  • Dr. James Gladden
  • Kirk Hendrix
  • Cynthia Hoye
  • Craig Huse
  • Ann Lathrop
  • Ryan Vaughn
  • Michael Huber
  • Phillip Terry 
  • Janet Arnold
  • Pete Ward
  • Melissa Barnes
  • Barney Levengood
  • Maggie Lewis
  • Mike McQuillen
  • William McGowen
  • James Morris
  • Sherry Siewert
  • Allison Melangton
  • Dave Lawrence
  • Steve Stitle
Board members often work for organizations that receive Indy Visit dollars. Ellen Saul's consulting firm received over $30,000. The Pacers organization where James Morris is an executive received over $21,000. Exact Target, which employed Traci Dolan, received over $13,000. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Jeff Belskus worked received nearly $16,000. The presence of the Indianapolis Star's Karen Crotchfelt on Visit Indy's board helps explain why the Star, unlike its counterpart in Chicago, works to keep the inner-workings of Visit Indy under wraps. Back in the day when the Pulliams owned The Star, the newspaper took the nonprofit to court to force them to open up their records.

Visit Indy has also set up an affiliated nonprofit, Tourism Tomorrow, Inc., which has annual revenues of more than $755,000, more than 20% of which is spent on salaries and related expenses. It has a much smaller, more exclusive board made up of the following: Michael Browning; John Krauss; Robert Reynolds, Milt Thompson; Caterina Blitzer; Martha Lamkin; Brian Payne; Adam Thies; and Molly Chavers. Several Visit Indy executives, including Hoops, Wallis and Carter also serve on Tourism Tomorrow's board. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lead Attorney In Utah's Sister Wives Case Finds Solace In Today's Gay Marriage Ruling

Chief Justice John Roberts' warning in his dissenting opinion that today's Supreme Court decision mandating all states recognize and issue gay marriage licenses as a fundamental constitutional right is opening the door to similar recognition for plural marriages, and that point has resonated with a prominent constitutional lawyer advancing the rights of such persons to be free from criminal sanction. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley is the attorney in the so-called "Sisters Wives" case out of Utah in which he is seeking to strike down Utah's law making plural cohabitation arrangements unlawful.

In a sense, Turley observes that the case is closely analogous to the Lawrence v. Kansas case in which the Supreme Court paved the way for today's historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Lawrence case struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional because of their use to punish the sexual activities of gays. Here's the passage in Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in which Turley finds solace for his "Sisters Wives" case:
One immediate question invited by the majority’s position is whether States may retain the definition of marriage as a union of two people. Cf. Brown v. Buhman, 947 F. Supp. 2d 1170 (Utah 2013), appeal pending, No. 14- 4117 (CA10). Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.
Turley's case is currently pending before a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Denver. He says he now fully expects to amplify today's decision in his upcoming argument. Although most people think of Mormons when they think of plural marriages, the largest religious group that practices plural marriage is the Islamic faith, which is rapidly growing in numbers in this country. It seems only a matter of time before persons who practice faiths recognizing plural marriages begin advocating the legal recognition of them. Will the ACLU stand behind them the way they have gays in their successful quest to achieve the constitutional right to marry?

Citizens Energy Seeking 20% Water Rate Increase

It's the gift that keeps on giving. Members of Indianapolis' downtown mafia made hundreds of millions of dollars through a series of flips in the ownership of the Indianapolis Water Company before it wound up under the control of Citizens Energy. Each sale of ownership was quickly followed by a series of double-digit rate increases. The overpaid, top-heavy management at Citizens Energy is back seeking yet another 20% rate increase next year. They always couch their rate increases in the least-offending way. It's only $6 a month they say. Add that to the $30 a month average bill, and it's a 20% increase. The utility obtained approval to raise rates by 9% last year after originally seeking a 15% rate increase. The utility also got approval to raise waste water rates by 26%.

Rates have more than doubled over the past decade. Mayor Greg Ballard's latest sale of the water company to Citizen's Energy is largely to blame. The water company was already saddled with more than a billion dollars in debt, and our doofus mayor convinced the City-County Council that it was a good idea to tack a half billion dollars in additional debt on to the purchase of the water company so he could blow the money lining the pockets of his campaign contributors. The deal was nothing more than a series of bribes, payoffs and kickbacks to a group of elite insiders who get rich at our expense. They believe the public is too distracted by their unhealthy attention to sports and pop culture to comprehend what's happening to them, and they're right.

Hite And Curry Warn First Church Of Cannabis Worshipers Of Potential Arrests: Hite Likens To Jim Jones' Cult

UPDATED: IMPD Chief Rick Hite and Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry held a press conference this morning to warn those who intend to use the excuse of attending the first service of the First Church of Cannabis as a cause for lighting up and smoking marijuana that they need to be prepared to face arrest. "Anyone who is present in that sort of setting is subject to be prosecuted for visiting a common nuisance," Curry said.

Bill Levin, the church's founder, leader and self-identified Jew, has long advocated the legalization of marijuana, which he claims is beneficial to the human body. Levin has attempted to make a mockery of religion following the passage of Indiana's RFRA law, which in practical terms, is no different than the federal law passed by Congress two decades ago and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Levin is pretending the founding of his church making the worship of cannabis a central tenet was made possible by the law's passage, a total fabrication openly perpetuated by the mainstream media. Levin, who refers to his members as Cannaterians, says his church seeks "love, understanding and health." He plans his first church service on July 1, the day Indiana's RFRA law takes effect.

"The RFRA act does not create any sort of immunity from prosecution because it’s under the alleged guise of religious practice," Curry said. Chief Hite went further in his condemnation of Levin's church, comparing it to the infamous Indiana cult leader, Jim Jones. "As Jim Jones once did within our state; he led a group of people into a place of no return. We don’t want that to happen again in our state," Hite said. "We want to send a message: This is not the way to challenge a law. You certainly can’t expect the police to stand by and not do something about it." Ironically, Levin's Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation donated an old synagogue near the city's downtown that cult leader Jim Jones once used for his People's Temple church services before relocating it to California. Jones was actually an agent of the CIA contracted to perform a Nazi-like human mind control experiment that ended with the execution of more than 900 innocent men, women and children, including dozens from the state of Indiana.

Something the media has paid little notice to is the fact that many employers in Indiana, including some of its largest employers, have a zero tolerance drug use policy that extends to the use of marijuana, even if used in states like Colorado where it's legal. Levin set up a GoFundMe site to fund his church, which identifies hundreds of contributors by name. Members of Levin's church could be unwittingly opening themselves up to a random drug test that could result in the termination of their employment, something Levin is probably not a whole lot concerned about as he basks in the incredible fifteen minutes of fame he's earning at the expense of people who hold sincere religious beliefs.

UPDATE: Levin reacted angrily to Chief Hite's comments comparing his church to Jim Jones' People's Temple cult. He wrote the following on Facebook:
I would think that if a person in position of power who is supposed to serve and protect... injecting insults and slander to our church and myself would be frowned upon by many... I would hope that the Mayor of Indianapolis, would ask for his resignation. This kind of brutal ignorance and bigotry needs to be nipped in the bud asap. If he made those comments about any other religion, there would be riots in the streets. I am ashamed of him representing our fair city.

Supreme Court Says Gay Marriage Is A Fundamental Right

UPDATED: With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 opinion swept away centuries-old state laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy extended the reach of equal protection and due process guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution to impose upon all states in the union the requirement of recognizing same-sex marriages. This ruling mandates that states both issue licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages granted by other states and jurisdictions. The right to marry a person of the same-sex is deemed a fundamental right under the constitution by virtue of today's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The dissenting opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts criticized the majority opinion, saying whether same-sex marriage is a good idea or not should be of no concern to the Supreme Court because it is not a legislature. While he agreed that there were strong public policy reasons for advocating for legislative recognition of same-sex marriages, the constitutional recognition of it as a fundamental right was not compelling. "The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage," Roberts wrote. "And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational." "In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition."

Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas both wrote separate dissenting opinions. Justice Scalia characterized today's majority opinion, which he refers to as a "decree," as representing "a threat to American democracy." "So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage, " Scalia writes. "It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me." "Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court." "This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves."

Gov. Mike Pence issued the following statement in response to today's decision:

“Like many Hoosiers, I believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman, and I am disappointed that the Supreme Court failed to recognize the historic role of the states in setting marriage policy in this country. Nevertheless, our Administration will continue to uphold the rule of law and abide by the ruling of the Court in this case. Under our system of government, our citizens are free to disagree with decisions of the Supreme Court, but we are not free to disobey them. As we move forward as a state and a nation, Hoosiers may be assured that our Administration will respect the law and the dignity and worth of every Hoosier and every Hoosier family.”

Woman Dies After Falling Off A Motorcycle Driven By Off-Duty IMPD Officer

WTHR Photo
A one-vehicle accident involving an off-duty IMPD officer has claimed the life of a woman. The off-duty police officer was reportedly navigating a curve near the intersection of West and Washington Streets at 2:30 a.m. earlier this morning when the woman passenger fell off the motorcycle and hit a utility pole. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver, whose name was not released, was described as a 10-year veteran detective of the police department. He apparently misjudged a curb as he was navigating the turn and struck it, causing the woman to be thrown from the bike. The motorcycle traveled nearly another block before coming to a stop. The officer attempted unsuccessfully to render aid to the accident victim. Police say alcohol or speed was not a suspected factor in the crash. The officer was being treated for minor injuries.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Supreme Court Upholds ACA Insurance Premium Subsidies

If the Supreme Court had ruled today the way the state of Indiana had urged it to hold in a case challenging the availability of health insurance premium subsidies to residents in states like Indiana which chose not to implement a state health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act, at least 180,000 Hoosiers would have lost their health insurance coverage. Those Hoosiers can breathe easier today because the Supreme Court in a 6-3 opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that Congress could not have intended to limit health insurance premium subsidies only to persons in states where state health exchanges had been implemented. The full opinion in King v. Burrell can be viewed here.