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Thursday, March 23, 2017
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:35 PM
LOGANSPORT - It is more than slightly ironic that the Indiana State Board of Education is hiring its own consultant to do what it could be doing collaboratively with its state school superintendent – improve education.

It would be nice if board members and a state school superintendent from different parties could be on the same page when it comes to the importance of education in this state, but state education reform has become so politicized that politics takes priority. The irony of the current Tony Bennett controversy involving a grade change for Christel House, the charter school funded by one of Bennett’s biggest campaign contributors, represents one of the worst kinds of academic fraud there is. Forget the NCAA hammering some college for giving a football player a D- in a math class he should have failed. What Bennett and his staff did for Christel House pales in comparison. He violated a public trust for the sake of a private school run by a campaign contributor.

Think about this for a minute: If the Indiana State Board of Education had really been holding Bennett accountable like it is holding Glenda Ritz accountable now, the Christel House controversy may never have happened in the first place. But the board didn’t.
  • MUNCIE – President Trump sits in the White House today because, in part, Democrats ceded rural Indiana and rural America. The Hoosier State is barely functioning in a two-party system. I asked Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody for a list of county chairs elected on March 3. According to a party spread sheet, Daviess, Gibson, Martin and Henry counties listed no chair. Mine down a bit further and you see Donald Trump won Daviess County with 79.6 percent of the vote, 71.6 percent in Gibson, 69.2 percent in Henry and 76.9 percent in Martin. This is all relevant because during the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump vowed repeatedly and vociferously to repeal and replace Obamacare. In January, Trump promised “terrific” coverage “for everybody.” The new Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price vowed that “nobody will be worse off financially” with the plan proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and is being pushed by Vice President Mike Pence.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - Historic preservation never interested me. Public television’s Antique Roadshow is a farce about the monetization of memory. Junk shops, occupying valuable downtown space throughout Indiana, only trumpet our economic and social decay. Nostalgia, to me, is a disease of the mind. I delight in seeing the past transformed into a promising future. Reuse of a beautiful building, restoration of landmarks pointing to tomorrow is inspiring. Today, communities are falling all over themselves to attract imaginary young adults. It’s like seeking a new factory instead of working to retain and develop existing businesses. Indiana’s many small towns and older urban neighborhoods deteriorate when businesses and families leave. Disinvestment, the neglect of maintenance and rotting of physical assets, creates open wounds and ugly scabs. Instead of wondering how to attract unknown businesses or workers, we might try improving the assets we have.
  • SOUTH BEND - Jason Critchlow was re-elected without opposition as St. Joseph County Democratic chair. So, why would he want four more years in a job without a salary, where expectations are seemly unrealistically high and where losing candidates often blame the chairman, while winners say they did it all by themselves with their own political skill and personal charm?  Critchlow is coming back for more, even after St. Joseph County, that supposed bastion of Democratic strength, gave the party’s presidential nominee a margin of a mere 288 votes out of nearly 112,000 cast in 2016. He says it’s because of a passionate belief that politics is important. The election of Donald Trump proved that, he says, and gives him more incentive now, not less. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Critchlow says of determination he sees in party ranks and with new volunteers, packed in “elbow to elbow” in meetings at the small Democratic headquarters in downtown South Bend.
        
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We really are living in two different countries, if you watch the cable television shows every night. The good thing is most people have better things to do.  When I got home Wednesday night, Fox News showed the headline, “FBI on Hunt for CIA Mole after Secrets Are Leaked.”  At the same time, CNN’s headline read, “Pence Dodges Questions on Trump’s Wiretapping Claims.”  The contrast in stories tells the story right there.  A few minutes later, Fox ran a report of an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times with over 20 arrests since 1990, who was intoxicated and smashed the car in which he was fleeing another accident. He also crashed into the car driven by Sandra Duran, a California woman who was a mother, daughter and sister, killing her instantly.  This five-minute story could never paint the true tragedy so many family and friends must now live with forever.  Flip the channel and you would have found CNN covering the “A Day Without a Woman” event, like there is now a national holiday to bash the president. I couldn’t even bring myself to switch over to MSNBC.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – People from the beginning of recorded time have noted that human intercourse, sex, can feel really good. It usually doesn’t cost anything, and people have been doing it for years, in fact, this is how we have populated the planet. It is going to continue to happen, even when circumstances are less than ideal. Yet our attitudes toward it can be very impractical and public policy can actually bring harm. In Indiana, sexual education can only be taught in public school through the lens of abstinence. Abstinence only for disease prevention. Abstinence only for pregnancy prevention.  While well-intentioned, this strategy leaves out a great deal of necessary information, like how to protect yourself from or get help after violent encounters in an age-appropriate way. These good intentions, intentions presumed to cut back on promiscuity, lead to all kinds of problems.  
        
  • FORT WAYNE – As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised change, just as his predecessor Barack Obama had done. People generally want someone to blame for their problems, and we all choose different targets. I, for example, prefer to blame liberals. “Draining the swamp” in a non-Washington context has historically meant the draining of swamps to control mosquito populations to combat malaria. Ronald Reagan is often credited with using the term in the political way to refer to the concentration of power in Washington, thus combining the historical swampy conditions of the governmental area of original Washington and likening the overuse of power to malaria. But he was not the first to do so.  Winfield Gaylord, a Milwaukee socialist politician, wrote in 1903: “Socialists are not satisfied with killing a few of the mosquitoes which come from the capitalist swamp, they want to drain the swamp.”  Fellow socialist, journalist and politician Victor Berger of Milwaukee wrote in his Berger’s Broadsides (1912): “We should have to drain the swamp – change the capitalist system – if we want to get rid of those mosquitoes.” Hoosier socialist Eugene Debs credits Berger, the first Socialist member of Congress, with recruiting him to socialism.  Neither Reagan nor our current president meant draining the nation of capitalism. The problem with such aggressive attacks on the “establishment” is that the slope to the “swamp” becoming the institutions of our nation – a republic, capitalism – is very slippery.
  • MERRILLVILLE – Lake County Sheriff John Buncich and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. don’t especially like each other. That’s not about to change any time soon. That disdain was emphasized in the days leading up to last Saturday’s election of a new Democratic county chairman. The two candidates for the job were Hammond’s Mike Repay, a county commissioner, and Schererville attorney Jim Wieser. Wieser and Repay campaigned for more than two months to win the favor of 523 precinct committeemen and their vice committeemen. But the campaign came down to the final three days. On Thursday, Buncich, the outgoing chairman, sent a letter to the committeemen and their vices. In the letter, Buncich essentially said he had been the only effective county chairman in recent years and said the party should elect Wieser as his replacement. The only problem is that Buncich replaced McDermott as chairman, and the Hammond mayor took that as an insult. The timing couldn’t have been better for McDermott, who has a show on local radio every Friday morning. McDermott used his time on the radio that morning to slam Buncich. And the Hammond mayor also lashed out at Wieser for accepting the support of Buncich, who is under federal indictment.
  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised a half million dollars in six weeks for his campaign for chair of the Democratic Party. He received widespread favorable news coverage. Then he dropped out before the first ballot. Here are some questions about that, with what Buttigieg and others say about his bid to lead the party. Q. Why did he drop out? A. “If either of the others (frontrunners Tom Perez and Keith Ellison) was going to come in shy of 200 (votes) on the first ballot, then even with a very modest total, there would be a path for us,” said Buttigieg. “When we saw that wasn’t going to happen, I certainly didn’t want to prolong it, create multiple rounds for my own benefit.” Q. Was he offered a deal? A. “Early on, people would kind of sniff around about what I really wanted, some kind of deal that would convince me to step out,” Buttigieg said. “But I think over time we made clear that I was simply in this because I thought it was the right thing for the party. So, there was no deal at the end. I didn’t do this because I needed a job at the DNC. I have a perfectly good and compelling day job right here in South Bend.”
  • KOKOMO – Please forgive me for being Mr. Obvious here, but Indiana’s highways didn’t just begin to crumble last year and our bridges didn’t just start falling down at the same time. The deterioration of infrastructure begins the day a new highway is completed or a new bridge erected. Anyone driving around the Hoosier State over the past 10 years knows that roads and bridges have been getting progressively more in need of repair.  Why then, in the name of Harold Handley’s ghost, did we just notice last year that we had a problem? Well, sure, there was the impending collapse of the bridge on I-69 at Lafayette to focus attention on the issue, but surely someone in the Indiana Legislature had to notice the potential problem before then.  
       
  • BLOOMINGTON – Many sources of information today cater to a narrow political view, making no pretense of objectivity. Their goal is to incite, not inform. What’s needed is a common base of knowledge we can use to forge agreement. The job of being a citizen, and being a member of Congress, has gotten much harder of late. As sources of information proliferate and “news” not actually grounded in fact grows common on social media, Americans have to work to sort reality from fiction and insight from disinformation. This is a challenge for our representative democracy. And we’ve only begun to grapple with it. Why should too much information be a problem? Let’s start with what I consider to be the most important skill in a representative democracy – not just in government, but within private organizations as well – building consensus. Without forging agreement among people who see the world differently, it’s difficult to move governments and organizations forward.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – When I first came to Indiana, nearly a half century ago, I found a study in the IU library declaring South Bend as the best place to live in the Midwest. It wasn’t surprising, since the author was a professor at a campus in South Bend. That’s what it is about rankings. Pick your criteria carefully and you can make Hell the most desirable location for permanent residency. Last week, several Hoosier newspapers carried a story from U.S. News & World Report ranking Indiana’s government first among the 50 states. Actually, it wasn’t government, it was state government finance, but that could not stop some headline writers. The governor was pleased by this national recognition and promised to keep up the good work. We could not expect him to say otherwise.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Obviously, I was very proud of our president while watching him deliver a great speech Tuesday night. I won’t overstate it because I wasn’t surprised, and by now almost everyone either watched it themselves and were impressed or have heard or read all of the positive reviews.  Of course there were the haters. That’s not surprising as the liberals and most of the media had their opposition planned out before the speech began. They were led by the former Democrat governor of Kentucky and the 10 remaining Kentuckians who don’t support President Trump. What was the Democrat party thinking?  I wasn’t surprised by the president’s performance and message because at every turn during the last two years, he has risen to the occasion and he has shared the same type of positive message. That’s why he was the last one standing after the primaries. It is why he came back with two strong winning debate performances against Clinton after most thought he lost the first debate (I didn’t). And it is why he fought so hard during the last stretch of the campaign to be in states you wouldn’t expect. He has always risen to the occasion, and he did again Tuesday night. 
  • SOUTH BEND – The media told you that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. They lied. So dishonest. Terrible. The alternative fact is that the Cleveland Indians won. The Cubs were disqualified for using an illegal immigrant who paid bribes to get to this once-great country to pitch. Cheating. So unfair. But did the failing New York Times tell you that the Cubs were forced to forfeit? No. So biased. Did you hear on any of those TV networks that nobody listens to anymore that the Cubs still haven’t won the World Series since 1908? No. So untruthful. Did you read in this failing South Bend Tribune that the Cubs really aren’t defending champs? No. So slanted. Did Tribune columnist Bill Moor apologize for all his blabbering about “Cubs win!” and flying a “W” flag? No. So disgraceful.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – How alike the nation is Indiana? One way to judge would be to visit representative Hoosier homes and compare what we find there with what we see in typical American homes. Without the resources to visit all those homes, let’s use some 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The first thing we see is the average Hoosier’s personal income is $6,172 (13 percent) lower than that of the average American. This means we have less to spend than those elsewhere in the nation. And so we do. The average Hoosier spent $4,098 less in 2015 on consumer goods and services than did the average American. Right there we see why a town of 50,000 persons somewhere else in the nation will attract more retailers with higher quality (priced) goods than a town of equal size in Indiana. There will be more diversity of services elsewhere than in Indiana for the same reason. For Indiana to be more attractive to retailers and to service providers we need more people with more income to spend.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Public confidence in government can be regained only through exemplary performance. With so much turmoil in Washington and around the country these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the crises of the moment. These are, indeed, worth our attention, but so are longer-running developments that threaten the health of our representative democracy. I want to lay them out in one place, so that the most serious problems confronting our system don’t slip from our attention. First, it has become very hard to make our system work. Our country is so large, so complex – and, at the moment, so polarized and divided – that it’s tough to make progress on the challenges that beset us.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – In politics, first and last impressions are impactful. Through that prism we view the four-year term of Gov. Mike Pence. The final impressions of Gov. Pence will enter the playbook for future governors. Following the 2016 General Assembly session, Pence essentially checked out as a full-time governor. There were no media avails following sine die. A heroin epidemic raged across the state with hundreds of overdoses and Pence was silent. More than 1,000 East Chicago Hoosiers were uprooted from their homes due to a lead contamination crisis, and the Pence administration mustered $100,000, but no visit or empathy. The I-69 Section 5 road project stalled between Bloomington and Martinsville, and Pence was silent. His governorship stands out as the only one to attain office with less than 50% of the vote in more than half a century. Pence became one of the most polarizing governors in modern times. His favorables in the WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana poll were upside down. In the last head-to-head with Democrat John Gregg in April 2016, Pence had a 4 percent lead, but his fav/unfavs stood at 44/41 percent. Those kind of numbers for incumbents usually define a looming defeat. Little wonder that he pursued the vice presidential nomination with great zeal. The Pence legacy will be bookended by two key cornerstones: The economy thrived during his tenure, with the state reaching record employment while the jobless rate declined by more than 4%. But Donald Trump exploited an economic angst that seemed to collide with Pence’s metrics. His own reelection prospects were compromised by social issues he didn’t seek, but couldn’t resist signing.
  • KOKOMO – Some good news for my liberal and Democrat friends suffering from DTIBS (Donald Trump Irritable Bowel Syndrome.) Someday, maybe just someday, your grandchildren and great grandchildren will take a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the newly constructed President Donald Trump Monument. While I was in our nation’s capital for the inauguration, I began the process of scouting locations for the Trump Monument. There’s a yuuuuuuge green space between the Roosevelt Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial that would be a perfect location for a bigly monument to the accomplishments of Donald J. Trump. When I say bigly, I mean bigly. I’m talking at least two tons of monumental bronze hair! For those of you who have spent the time since Nov. 8 wailing, moaning and living in a perpetual purple haze of melancholy funk, I say, “Take heart. If historians can make Franklin Delano Roosevelt worthy of his own memorial, there may be an equal opportunity for President Donald J. Trump.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Taking up from where I left off three weeks ago, the numbers have increased as far as protests, protestors and now rowdy town hall meetings. Also increasing are vandalism, violence, insults, and threats. I watched a news story the other night of a crowd of adults in Chicago encouraging kids to beat the crap out of a piñata in the image of our president and rip its limbs off, after knocking it to the ground.  Bizarre, disgusting and unbelievable!  To the far left, this hatred looks like a “movement” that is getting stronger. I believe that we are actually witnessing the beginning of the end of the Democrat Party on the national level as we have known it.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – Democrats may not like what I am about to say, but we need to hear it.  Clearly women have woken up and donned their pussy hats, protesting, meeting, marching and learning how to more effectively influence good public policy in our state. Invigorated participation in politics is a very good thing, particularly here in Indiana where we have such traditionally low voter turnout.  That said, although the Democrat Party is supposed to be the party of inclusion, I have to express sincere appreciation for our Indiana Republicans in this regard. They just get it better than we do. Even though most members of my party (and others) may hold issue with the opposition’s approach to a number of issues that resonate mostly with females, we all have to admire the opportunity that the Indiana Republican Party has afforded women in our state.  This does not happen by accident.  Yes, women Democrats may have invigorated interest and participation, but we have no organized program to help women learn how to channel their interest and energy in this regard as effectively as possible.
  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg doesn’t have the votes to be selected Democratic national chairman. But right now it appears that nobody does. The two chairmanship contenders regarded as frontrunners are in a way still fighting the fight from the Democratic presidential primaries of 2016. They are Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who was a zealot for Bernie Sanders, and Tom Perez, labor secretary in the Obama administration, who is favored by long-time supporters of Hillary Clinton. According to the New York Times analysis of the contest after the final regional faceoff of the contenders in Baltimore last weekend, neither of the frontrunners “has secured the support of anywhere close to a majority” of the 447 Democratic National Committee members who will pick a winner in Atlanta later this week. For an upset win in a crowded field of 10 candidates for chairman, Buttigieg needs to be a widespread second choice, or to come up through the middle, a compromise choice between the Sanders and Clinton primary combatants.
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  • Sen. Lanane warns of HIP 2.0 trigger and the Obamacare repeal
    “HIP 2.0 is a critical piece of public health policy for the state, and it is being put at risk under the Republican healthcare plan due to a ‘trigger’ in our state law. We are here today to urge our Republican colleagues in the Statehouse to remove this trigger, and work to safeguard Hoosiers’ health care coverage should the AHCA become law. HIP 2.0 health coverage is put at risk due to Indiana law automatically triggering a repeal of HIP 2.0 should federal funding be reduced. Without the enhanced federal matching funds for HIP 2.0, Indiana would have to allocate an extra $500 million per year in state funding to maintain the current program.” - Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, on the Obamacare repeal and a potential reduction of Medicaid funding that is part of the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0. Some 430,000 Hoosiers get health coverage through HIP 2.0.
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  • Trump and truth
    The Obamacare repeal is teetering in the House. Why? Remember the old story of the boy who cried wolf? President Trump’s penchant for lies is beginning to take such a toll that NBC reporter Kasie Hunt said this morning that some members wonder if he’ll even be around in a year. So when Trump threatened retribution against recalcitrant House members on Tuesday, its impact was dubious. The Wall Street Journal editorialized today: “If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago.” The other emerging dynamic is that the Pence/Marc Short legislative team hasn’t done the legwork on the RyanCare bill. It could all come down to Vice President Pence, HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to round up about eight votes and keep Republicans like Rep. Hollingsworth in the fold. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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