Charlie LeDuff: Detroit, An American Autopsy

Ray talks to Fox 2 Detroit’s Charlie LeDuff on his book about his hometown:

This is one reason Charlie LeDuff is my favorite TV news person:

There are countless other examples. Charlie is also dead serious about his hometown of Detroit, as well as his belief that what’s happening in Detroit could happen anywhere else. His book is riveting, funny, sad, yet ends with a glimmer of hope, however faint that glimmer might be.  Sure, the stories on Kwame Kilpatrick and Monica Conyers are hilarious, but the stories of firefighters with holes in their gear or the firefighter who died because his gear was worn out and should have been replaced should piss us off.

I very much enjoyed this interview, and I hope you do, too.  And buy the book.

Pink Martini & The Von Trapps

Ray talks to Thomas Lauderdale, founder of Pink Martini:

Two months ago, I had heard of the Pink Panty Pulldown, though admittedly not at all since my college days, but I had not heard of Pink Martini.

pink martini

Pink Martini is a band.  A damn good one, too.  I wish I could tell you what kind of band they are, but categorizing them would be a disservice.  They play old school bachelor pad songs.  They play ballads that will make you bawl your eyes out.  They interpolate classical pieces within standards.  I’m sure they’d do a heck of a pro wrestler entrance theme if I asked nicely. Pink Martini also has adapted their unique style to that of another outstanding group, and together they are releasing (next week) a bad arse album.  They and that other group, our old pals The Von Trapps, are playing the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre Saturday night (March 1).

The Von Trapps are the only reason I know jack about Pink Martini.  To recap, here is my interview with them when they spent much of December in Indy as part of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Yuletide Celebration:

Ray with The Von Trapps, December, 2013:

The Von Trapps dropped the 411 that they were releasing an album with Pink Martini.  I assumed that meant they were celebrating a new album in a more grown up fashion now that they were of age, well three of them anyway.  Then, I figured out they were talking about a band.  I looked up Pink Martini.  Holy cow, are they good.

Thomas Lauderdale is a HOOOOOSIER (you have to say it like former state school superintendent Tony Bennett).
Say HOOOOSIER with Tony:

Thomas left Indiana when he was 12, became a classically trained pianist and founded Pink Martini roughly 20 years ago.  Thomas is a heck of an interview, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  And what in the blue heck are you waiting for, go see them Saturday night.  We’re getting a foot of dang snow on Sunday, so you might as well get your rear end out while you can!

Happy Birthday Sweet ‘N Sour

Alex Whybrow would have been 33 today. Wrestling fans knew him as Larry Sweeney – he once told Colt Cabana he chose the last name Sweeney because it rhymed with wienie, and he wanted to give the fans a potential chant.  Funny how things work out; most fans loved Larry, even when he was a heel.

Sadly, I didn’t know Larry existed until after he took his own life. One day on Twitter last year, I saw a bunch of folks Tweeting the hashtag #12LargeBrother. I did a Google search and discovered this remarkable guy who, as it turned out, had some demons that he couldn’t conquer.

I have to believe that, with so many Ring of Honor and independent talents working in the WWE and TNA now, if Larry had been able to hang on just a little longer, someone would have found a role for him.  Sure, he might have been smaller than many wrestlers, but he would have made a wonderful WWE manager.  He had a gift, and I so wish we were watching that gift develop on live TV every week rather than remembering what was via YouTube.

Happy Birthday, Larry.  In that better place where you now reside, I hope you see how much you and your work were appreciated and loved.

Gay Marriage Ban Off The Ballot This Year. Or Is It?

My interview w/Chris Plante of the National Organization for Marriage:


UPDATE #2 (2/21/2014)

If Chris Plante from NOM spoke to “state lawmakers”, my guess is that he did not speak to House Speaker Brian Bosma.  The Speaker said yesterday that there is no way to get any part of HJR-3 on the 2014 ballot.  The story from my colleague, Eric Berman:

House Speaker Brian Bosma is throwing cold water on a conservative group’s bid to force a gay-marriage amendment onto this year’s ballot.

The Washington-based National Organization for Marriage is floating the possibility of a lawsuit arguing that the first sentence of the amendment has passed the required two legislatures, even though the version which passed the House and Senate in 2011 included a second sentence banning civil unions.

Bosma confirms he met briefly with the group this week, but says the notion of a lawsuit didn’t even come up. He joins Senate President Pro Tem David Long in saying he considers the law clear that amendments must pass two separate legislatures in the same form. That would mean a referendum can’t occur until 2016.

And Bosma notes opponents who successfully deleted the civil-union clause also added a preamble explicitly declaring the amendment had to pass the General Assembly a second time to go to the voters.

Long has said he expects the Senate to hold hearings on the amendment next year. Bosma’s not discussing what the House will do — he says he’s focused on the three weeks remaining in this year’s session.


My colleague, Eric Berman, spoke to Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, the coalition fighting HJR-3.  She basically said NOM had no clue.  Here is my WIBC story:

The coalition opposed to the proposed gay marriage ban in Indiana doesn’t buy another group’s claim that it’s possible to get the constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot.

The regional director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) says it is “exploring all it’s options” in trying to get the amendment known as HJR-3 before voters this year. Under state law, the amendment has to be passed in another legislative session because a sentence that would ban same-sex civil unions was removed from the resolution that passed in 2011. “They talked a lot about how this shouldn’t be in the hands of activist judges and how this should be decided by the people, and frankly it was decided by the people,” said Megan Robertson with Freedom Indiana. “The legislature voted, they decided there were some changes that needed to be made in the language and that it wouldn’t go to the ballot this year.”

Chris Plante with NOM claims there is precedent for the legislature holding referendums on constitutional amendments if the first part – the main idea – of those referendums are passed twice. Robertson isn’t swayed. “They’ve said they’ve talked to the Speaker – I can’t verify that, but my guess is that they haven’t talked to (Senate President Pro Tem David) Long, who has said several times this can’t go to the ballot.”

As of now, the earliest HJR-3 could appear on the ballot is 2016.


The above photo was taken from NOM’s Facebook page, and their regional director, Chris Plante, believes a vote can still happen in 2014.  That’s despite what pretty much everyone else at the Indiana Statehouse believes to be true, that 2016 is the earliest a referendum can take place.  My WIBC story on the matter:

One of the outside groups who pressed the General Assembly to approve a ban on gay marriage will try to find a way to get the proposed constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot, even though that isn’t supposed to be possible.

“The Legislature has affirmed marriage as the union one man and one woman, both in statute and in passing the first sentence of HJR-3 two successive legislative sessions.  We believe that language should go to the ballot this year,” said Chris Plante, regional director for the National Organization for Marriage, based in Washington.

State law says that proposed amendments to the Constitution have to be approved twice with no change in language in order to go before voters.  The marriage amendment approved by the General Assembly this year did not include a sentence that also banned same-sex civil unions, unlike the version passed in 2011.  But Plante says he believes there is a precedent in Indiana “where a proposed amendment was passed by one session and then amended in a second session, yet the first clause of that amendment was put on the ballot that year.”  Plante could not specify when that had taken place in the past.

Plante’s claim runs counter to that from other groups who supported HJR-3 and opposed removing the amendment’s civil unions ban.  “Hoosier voters will not be able to vote to protect marriage this November.  This is indeed a disappointing setback,” read a statement from the Indiana Family Institute after HJR-3 in its new form was approved by the State Senate this week.  Also, the first section of the amendment says that is has been “referred to the next General Assembly for reconsideration and agreement.”

Plante joined others, among them Republican Senator Mike Delph, in denouncing GOP legislative leaders for their handling of the marriage amendment this session.  “The choice of the House leadership and Senate leadership to allow HJR-3 to be amended and therefore potentially delay the question going before the people is a betrayal and a broken promise,” Plante said.  When asked if he worried that some would see his as an outside group trying to influence Indiana events, Plante said he was standing up for what most people in the state believe.  “80-percent of the voters in Indiana think that it should be on the ballot.  60-percent say they would approve an amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman.”  Plante is referring to a poll commissioned by House Republicans last month.  A previous survey from Ball State University showed that 60-percent of respondents opposed the amendment, with 48-percent saying they favored the legalization of same-sex marriage.

No lawsuits have been filed as of yet.  Plante says he has spoken with some state lawmakers about pursuing this year’s ballot and says they are “considering all their options” as of now.

Can college athletes form a union?

Listen to Ray’s interview with Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, Professor of Labor and Employment Law at IU’s Maurer School of Law:

Great talk with the William and Margaret Carr Professor of Labor and Employment Law at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University (deep breath!).  Frankly, he doesn’t know exactly what is going to happen, because there isn’t much case law for anyone to use as a precedent.

An expert on labor law says because of a lack of precedent, there’s no way to know whether federal regulators will allow college athletes to organize a union.

The National Labor Relations Board is holding hearings on whether the National College Players Association can organize.  The effort is being backed by the United Steelworkers and is led by former Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter.  While union representation ostensibly would establish an employer-employee relationship between athletes and colleges, Colter’s criticism has mostly been aimed at the NCAA, which he referred to as “a dictatorship.”

Whether college athletes could be considered employees is a primary question.  Teaching assistants and residential assistants are not employees, with courts ruling that those jobs are part of the education experience.  “It’s not clear, however, that being a student athlete is part of your educational program in the same way,” said Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, Professor of Labor and Employment Law at I-U’s Maurer School of Law.

Athletes who are recruited to play sports believe they should be considered employees because they receive scholarship money, and they have to adhere to strict schedules, unlike most ordinary students.  “We don’t have a lot of case law.  They are permitted to work.  They are directed, and they do receive some kind of compensation for it.  So under a very broad definition of employee, they might be employees, but that isn’t how we traditionally think about them,” Dau-Schmidt said.

There also could be different rules for private universities like Northwestern and public schools like IU and Purdue. Private schools, Dau-Schmidt said, would be governed by federal labor law.  State-supported universities would be governed by state law, and in Indiana, most public employees are not allowed to collectively bargain.  “They would be back under the old common law, which was if they bargained with an agency that had authority to set their terms and conditions of employment, then that contract would be enforceable, even though collective bargaining wasn’t authorized.”

“Honest To Goodness Indiana?” Young people don’t think so


Listen: My WIBC report on my visit to a UIndy marketing class to get their take on the new state tourism slogan

Dear Indiana Office of Tourism Development,

Don’t misunderstand.  I am not trying to play dog-pile on the wabbit.  However, you can’t ignore the criticism of the “Honest To Goodness Indiana” slogan you chose.  I had a hypothesis; that you didn’t talk to very many young people as part of your research (Tongue in cheek addendum: Statehouse interns don’t count.  They like politics – virtually every other young person does not, therefore the interns are outside the norm).

So, at a cost of $0 as opposed to $100,000 that you spent on the research to come up with your slogan, I thought I’d spend time with some college students to see what they could come up in 30-45 minutes, as opposed to the several months it took to generate “Honest To Goodness.”

I owe everything in this report to the Consumer Behavior class of Dr. Deirdre Pettinga, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Indianapolis.  She allowed me to take up the entirety of one of her classes to put this piece together.  The students were outstanding, as you will hear, and please do not be offended by their repeated “old people” references.  Besides, that was one of the biggest criticisms I heard from many people just after the slogan was released.

To be sure, any slogan you chose would be criticized by someone, somewhere, and only time will tell whether your slogan decision will reap long term benefits.

One thing I did learn.  If you wish to have young people get your news, the way to do that is NOT to scheduled a big honkin’ press event or send out press releases to traditional media.  Not a single student in a marketing class at one of the area’s prominent universities could tell me what the new slogan was.  This was TWO DAYS after you announced it.  Young people don’t watch TV news, listen to radio news or read newspapers.  Frankly, about 90-percent of the time, neither do I – and I am 42 years old and working in the dang industry.

Frank Ferrante: An Evening With Groucho, at The Center For The Performing Arts


Listen to Ray’s interview with Frank Ferrante, star of An Evening With Groucho:

Doggone it, I love me some Groucho.  Don’t scoff at Frank Ferrante if you haven’t seen his show on public TV or on YouTube.  He loves Groucho and the Marx Brothers and has spent years perfecting this show.

The thing about Groucho is that 80 or more years later, the movies are still funny.  The same comedy routines we have seen over and over again are still hilarious.  The ridiculous greasepaint moustache is still so ridiculous that anyone could put one on today, decades after Groucho passed away, and most anyone would know it’s Groucho.  Shoot, I just bought a Groucho glasses and moustache combo not long ago from Veach’s toy store in Richmond, Indiana – a bad arse place, if you haven’t been there.

There are three performances of An Evening With Groucho at the Studio Theatre at the Center For The Performing Arts in Carmel this weekend.

Mike Delph On Marriage, Senate Republicans, and Twitter


UPDATE: The Senate passed HJR-3, but with no ban on civil unions – Delph did not offer his amendment after a meeting of the Republican caucus. The resolution passed 32-to-17, with Delph keeping his promise to vote no.  Four other Republicans voted no.  Senator Richard Young was the only Democrat in either the House or Senate to vote yes.  Since this version differs from the one passed in 2011, it will not be on the ballot this November. isn’t feeling well right now, probably tired of all the bleepin’ snow.  Or our website is taking President’s Day off.  So, I will post this here.  This is my story of Mike Delph’s press conference from this morning, plus the audio of it unedited, at least until another reporter’s microphone fell from the podium and accidentally shut my recorder off.

Listen to the first few seconds of Delph, and you will understand why the mic fell off the podium – hint, see many of us holding our mics instead of them being placed on the podium.  Me holding my mic also explains the picture I took with my iPhone above, in which it appears Senator Delph is about to regenerate – I have it on good authority that some of the female members of the press corps were hoping for Matt Smith.

Listen to Mike Delph’s press conference from the Statehouse:

Later in the press conference, you will hear Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute.

A final note; I did not record the end of the press conference where some reporters decided it would be a grand idea to ask Senator Delph about his relationship with his gay brother.  This isn’t the Oprah Winfrey Show, and that is not relevant to the story.  However, I do take issue with the Senator’s response to a question from Dan Carden of the Times of Northwest Indiana.  Dan asked Senator Delph whether he had been drinking alcohol or using drugs at the time of his Tweets.  Delph first said that the question was “asinine” and that he would not dignify it with a response, with audible gasps and groans from some of Delph’s supporters who were standing behind me and Dan.  After the press conference, Delph told Dan face-to-face that he had not been drinking or using drugs, with others continuing to criticize Dan for asking the question.   Given the extraordinary length of time the Senator devoted to Tweets last week, Dan’s question was fair and would have been asked of any politician in a similar situation.

My story:

Republican Senator Mike Delph hasn’t given up on reinserting a ban on civil unions to the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, nor will he apologize for anything he said on Twitter last week.

Delph, with Indiana Family Institute president Curt Smith by his side, said he would ask to amend the bill known as HJR-3 with a sentence that would outlaw institutions that are similar to marriage for same sex couples before the Senate takes a final vote.  If a majority of senators oppose it, Delph said he would not vote for HJR-3. “Passing this amendment in its watered down form with minimal legal protection is a political vote, and I think we are better than that and we should be honest and candid with the public,” Delph said.

The senator spent roughly the first ten minutes of a Statehouse press conference providing an brief history of bringing issues favorable to Christians back to state government, such as Christian prayer to open sessions of the state Senate.  Delph says passing the marriage amendment with the civil unions ban, as it passed in 2011, should have been easy with Republican super majorities in both the House and Senate and with “the most marriage-amendment friendly governor we could have.”  But the House removed the 2nd sentence of HJR-3, and Delph accused other Republicans of intentional moves to see that the civil unions ban was taken out.  “I believe the outcome for the marriage amendment was determined long ago by leadership, especially in the Senate.  By in so doing, these leaders have turned their backs in the name of political correctness and inclusion on the core conservative base of the Republican Party.”

Delph also had no qualms about sending out roughly 200 Tweets in less than a day after his efforts to reinsert the civil union ban failed last week.  “There were no secrets.  It’s all out there for the public to consume, digest and, yes, in some cases regurgitate. For some reason, we fear rigorous and in depth public debate.  I embrace it.  I relish it.”

Louis Erwin, USS Indianapolis survivor, plans on being around for the new movie about the attack

LISTEN: Louis Erwin, a survivor of the attack on the USS Indianapolis:

When I first met Louis Erwin, it was almost like old home day.  Erwin, 88, is a native of East Ridge, Tennessee, right next door to the place of my birth, Chattanooga.  Erwin is also one of 38 remaining survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis by a Japanese torpedo in the closing months of World War II; he was one of only 15 or so attending the latest reunion of the survivors at the Indiana War Memorial earlier this year.

I called Mr. Erwin when I heard that a new movie is being made about the Indianapolis and the ordeal of the 317 men who survived the sinking – and the almost 1,200 who didn’t (300 who went down with the ship, 880 who died while stranded in the water).  I cherish every conversation with one of our World War II veterans.  Our accomplishments seem so small compared to what they did seven decades ago.


Rev. Charles Harrison wonders if anyone cares about black-on-black crime in Indy

LISTEN: Rev. Charles Harrison w/Ten Point Coalition of Indy:

This week, we found out that the murder rate in Indianapolis is now higher than that of Chicago.  Many of those murders are committed by young black men against other young black men.   Rev. Charles Harrison (pictured at the podium) with the Ten Point Coalition of Indy thinks that a lot of people in power don’t care, be they politicians from either party or other African-American leaders.

Rev. Harrison was, as always, candid when I spoke to him at length for the first time at Barnes United Methodist Church, where he is pastor.