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Sunday, June 25, 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.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – Freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young articulated this month what should be a no-brainer: The looming health care reform legislation should be a bipartisan effort. Young wrote to the 48 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, “If we are going to achieve lasting results, we need to reach bipartisan conclusions. I firmly believe the best solution possible can be reached by working together. As this debate advances, give me a call; I would be happy to grab a cup of coffee and hear your thoughts and ideas.” He found partial agreement with Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who said on the Senate floor Monday, “Indiana and our country would be better off if we could work together to produce bipartisan legislation rather than a partisan bill drafted in secret and voted on without input or a single Senate hearing." Where Donnelly parts with Young is his belief that President Trump and congressional Republicans purposely blew up Obamacare instead of working over the past seven years to evolve the law.
  • FORT WAYNE - Another special congressional election. Another Republican victory. More pained analysis from liberal commentators and Democrat analysts. What in the world is wrong with the stupid voters: don’t they understand that President Trump and the congressional Republicans are about to destroy the entire world?  If not by next week, at least don’t bank on being able to celebrate Labor Day. The initial “lessons learned” analysis of Karen Handel’s 5.2% victory by the national figures who don’t wish the Republicans well is very encouraging to conservatives and Republicans. The lessons the liberal Democrats have learned is, apparently, nothing whatsoever. 1) They wanted to reduce expectations, to stop taking victory laps before the people voted. But in the 6th CD of Georgia that was difficult. Money wasn’t the question. It was the most expensive congressional race in American history. Familiarity and name identification for the Democrat candidate was not the problem. So much for the money excuse. 2) Turnout wasn’t the problem. Special elections usually are low turnout affairs. Not this one. Furthermore, early voting occurred in extraordinary numbers. The Democrats were disappointed with the narrow margin among early voters for their candidate. They were supposed to have a huge enthusiasm edge. Whoops.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – So what happens if and when Indiana loses another congressional seat? It is not impossible.  In fact, it’s probably going to happen, so get ready. That said, if I had a nickel for everybody who wants to talk to me about chessboarding out Indiana politics over the coming eight years, I’d be replacing some of my tired old campaign shoes with Louboutins. Well, maybe. I would at least flirt with some. Still, what people don’t seem to be considering yet is that Hoosier opportunities to serve in our U.S. Congress may very well be shrinking, and pretty soon as our population continues to decline relative to other states. It is not a stretch to consider that by 2022, Indiana could be sending one fewer congressional delegate to Washington. Recent history tells a similar story, and it is worth refreshing our memory. Indiana’s 11th Congressional District was eliminated as a result of the 1980 census.
  • WASHINGTON – It is said that no politician travels to Iowa to give a speech unless they plan to run for president. So the announcement this week that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to be a headline speaker at a Des Moines political event in September begs the question: What is Pete up to? He will be speaking along with Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who is by all accounts mulling a presidential run. Undoubtedly, Buttigieg is a rising star in the Democratic Party. He earned rave reviews for his recent dark horse campaign for Democratic National Committee Chair.  Though he didn’t win sufficient commitments from the delegates to seriously compete for the post, his message of reforming the party by going outside-the-Beltway resonated. Nearly all of the former DNC Chairs, including Howard Dean and Ed Rendell, endorsed him. He clearly elevated his national stature, one that was already climbing. The Democratic Party is in desperate need of the kind of change that Buttigieg advocates and offers. The party’s 2016 presidential candidate lost to possibly the least prepared candidate in American history. Republicans control both Houses of Congress and two-thirds of the governor’s offices. Republicans have veto proof majority’s in nearly half of the state legislatures in the county. As Bernie Sanders points out in an opinion editorial this week in The New York Times, “If these results are not a clear manifestation of a failed political strategy, I don’t know what is.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS –  Where to start? I do think it’s great that the congressional baseball game will go on. It is for charity after all, and we can’t let fear or hate shut down our way of life, as everyone says when tragedy or terrorism occurs. Maybe they have already thought about this, but it might be a good idea to do away with the Republican vs. Democrat theme this year and split the two teams up if possible.  Remember when you’d pick teams in the backyard and captains would each pick one player at a time until the weakest players were left as the last picks? You never wanted to be that last pick. Of course, I never was. I just remember how it was for the others.  But those last picks will play harder to prove they don’t stink. It might be fun and at least different. At any rate, having Ds and Rs play on the same team against other Ds and Rs might bring a truer show of unity. Nothing better to bring folks that don’t know each other well enough together than making them teammates – except maybe being in a war together.  Unfortunately, too much of real life is turning, or could at any time, turn into a war zone.
        
  • INDIANAPOLIS – No topic generates more email for me than the persistent belief of readers that wages in Indiana are low because the cost of living is low. I argue that income determines local housing prices and hence the costs of living, given that housing represents 15.6% of consumer spending, exceeded only by health care’s 16.8%. How low is the cost of living in Indiana? If the nation’s cost of living is considered as 100.0, Indiana comes in at 91.4, tied with Louisiana for 36th place among the states and the District of Columbia. That’s just 8.6% below the national average. (These are U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data for 2014, the latest available.) The highest costs of living are found in the District of Columbia (118.1), followed by Hawaii, New York and New Jersey. The lowest costs are “enjoyed” by residents of Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. What is the biggest difference between D.C. and Mississippi? Why is there a spread between them of 31.4 points on this scale of prices? The answer is simple: It’s the price of housing. In D.C., housing services (rented and owner-occupied) come in at 162.5, followed by Hawaii and California. Indiana ranks 39th in housing costs at 75.4 and Mississippi is 50th at 63.2, with Arkansas lowest at 62.5.
  • KOKOMO – It was spring, 1975, on the Ball State University campus.  The grass was green, the sky bright blue and the sun provided the necessary relief from the cold, dreary winter to morph college coeds from their cocoons of jeans and sweatshirts to the butterfly stage of halter tops and Daisy Duke cutoffs. It was a great day to be a red-blooded male college senior!  What better way to soak up the sun and the best views on campus than to attend an Earth Day rally on the Quad? I’ll never forget seeing one of my economics professors standing on a makeshift stage, haranguing the crowd about the dangers presented by the “settled on” science of global cooling and its future devastating economic impact. The culprit, as pointed out by Dr. Forgettable, was the continued use and reliance upon fossil fuels. Because of the United States’ massive consumption of fossil fuels to heat our homes, run our vehicles and power our industrial might, the world faced a bleak future of a new ice age, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, food shortages and global conflict.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Attending five Donald Trump campaign rallies in Indiana last year was to witness a fledgling political figure connect with Hoosiers just as Barack Obama had done eight years prior, or as Ronald Reagan did in 1976 and 1980, and Robert F. Kennedy did in 1968. All of these figures drew huge, enthusiastic crowds while igniting American dreams. Trump rallies were streams of consciousness in which he articulated the desires, grievances and hopes for the part of our state bearing witness to the withering of Main Street while Hillary Clinton earned $400,000 paychecks for Wall Street speeches. Just as President George W. Bush defeated John Kerry here in 2004 57-37%, Trump gathered and surfed a 19% plurality here that became the foundation to the greatest upset in presidential history. And with this victory, Trump established the premise for great hopes. He would go to Washington, attack and shatter the congressional inertia, drain the swamp, bring broader and cheaper health coverage to the masses, build great projects unlike we’ve seen since the space program and the interstate highway system, protect the borders, reform the tax code for the first time in a generation, and charge up a second century of American dominance. If you were to script the opening six months to a presidency, you couldn’t have found a more deflating scenario than what we’ve just witnessed. Care Act that passed by one vote in the House and faces an arduous path in the Senate.
  • BLOOMINGTON – The decision to send troops overseas requires clear eyes, hard questions and specific answers. The Trump Administration, like its predecessors, has shown an apparent appetite for the use of force overseas. The “mother of all bombs” dropped on Syrian troops, saber-rattling toward North Korea, deployments of U.S. forces in 10 or more countries — all of this suggests a growing comfort with the idea of putting our troops in dangerous places. Politicians on Capitol Hill have noticed this. In particular, senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican, and Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, have introduced legislation to authorize the use of military force against ISIS and other terror groups. This is an effort to assert congressional authority and extend Capitol Hill’s oversight over the use of force by the White House, something Congress has long neglected. “It’s our constitutional duty in Congress to authorize military action,” Kaine said at the end of May. All I can say is, Amen! American soldiers are involved in combat situations in countries all over the globe.
  • MERRILLVILLE – A nationwide study by a major moving company has found that more people are moving out of Indiana than moving in. United Van Lines reported that 54% of state-to-state moves last year were out of Indiana, while 46% were to the Hoosier state. Strikingly, 66.3% moving out of Indiana did so because of jobs. Such statistics seemingly call into question claims by former Gov. Mike Pence that Indiana has positioned itself to be one of the most business friendly states in the country. Among those laws is the anti-union statute known as the right-to-work law. The state also has done away with the prevailing wage law that also is anti-union. And, Indiana has passed a series of laws making it virtually impossible for teachers to negotiate wages or working conditions.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – It’s easy to emphasize the pleasant present and forget a troublesome past. With a low unemployment rate and some good economic initiatives, parts of Indiana are doing well today. However, elsewhere in our state, a weak past led to neglect of essential work to maintain resources. It’s not different from an ordinary household. When you’ve had sustained unemployment or low wages, you don’t repair things around the house as needed or replace worn tires on the car; you just don’t have the money. You don’t save as much for retirement or other future needs. Catching up after down times is hard to do. Today we’ll look at just three aspects of metropolitan economic growth from 2005 to 2015: 1) the value of the output in the area as measured by Gross Domestic Value (GDP), 2) the number of wage and salary jobs, and 3) the average compensation of employees (wages, salaries, and employer paid benefits).
                
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - Several years ago I asked a farmer friend of mine in Decatur County if he was seeing the impacts of climate change. “More severe weather events,” he responded. Last month I visited friends at their Colorado cabin about 10,500 feet elevation between Keystone and A-Basin and queried whether they’ve noticed change. “We can grow stuff up here these day,” he said. “We used to never be able to grow anything.” David George Haskell, a professor of biology at the University of the South, notes, “In the latter half of the 20th century, the spring emergence of leaves, frogs, birds and flowers advanced in the Northern Hemisphere by 2.8 days per decade. I’m nearly 50, so springtime has moved, on average, a full two weeks since I was born.” On Thursday, President Trump and Vice President Pence announced in the Rose Garden to announce that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accords, signed by more than 175 nations. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said. “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.” The president cast his decision as a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” arguing that the climate pact as negotiated under President Barack Obama was grossly unfair to the U.S. workers."

  • WASHINGTON – The 2018 midterm elections are still a year and a half away, but Republicans in Washington are beginning to panic about their prospects. With questions about Russian interference and possible collusion connected to the 2016 Trump campaign on the rise, and the president’s approval ratings sinking, some political forecasters predict a big Democratic year. President Trump’s Russia imbroglio alone might be enough to deliver Democrats big gains. The almost mind-blowing cascade of revelations has some rattled Republicans already distancing themselves from the new president. The president’s firing of FBI Director James Coming opened a floodgate of administration leaks that threaten to overwhelm his presidency. The naming of special prosecutor Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe may portent its eventual unraveling.
        
  • KOKOMO – Working up my best Andy Rooney imitation I ask, “Ever wonder why there are no Van Valkenburgs in Peru, Indiana, and there’s a plethora of them in Huntsville, Alabama?  It all comes down to an offhanded remark, a letter, a screwup by the United States Post Office, a misunderstanding, nasty politics and a vengeful Indiana governor. As episodes of history go, this tale seems insignificant in the long march of time. It does illustrate that many little events over time add up to big history. So as you go about your day, remember that every little thing said, every email sent, and every social media item posted just may alter the course of history. Our story begins in June, 1861, in the beginning months of the Civil War. Governors throughout the Union were scrambling to fill regiments to comply with President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers. Indiana’s response was overwhelming, and the 6,000 men called for from the Hoosier State flocked to Indianapolis to enlist, along with several thousand superfluous volunteers who all vied to enlist for 90 days or the end of the Rebellion, whichever came first.
        
  • INDIANAPOLIS - O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive! That was Scottish novelist Walter Scott with his 1808 poem “Marmion,” not to be mistaken for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz who, on the morning of the 2016 Indiana presidential primary, fumed at an Evansville press conference, “I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump: This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth, and in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.” Now, why would Sen. Cruz say such a thing about the future president of the United States? Because earlier that morning on Fox News, citing a discredited National Enquirer report, candidate Trump had linked the senator’s father, Rev. Rafael, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I’ll let Trump tell it: “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said on Fox News early election morning. “What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”

  • FORT WAYNE – In 1998, our accompanying Navy doctor and I skipped out on our CODEL’s evening dinner and bowling alley excursion in St. Petersburg, Russia, so we could explore the area around our hotel. We had spent several days in Moscow in scheduled meetings with the Russian Duma, as well as other government leaders there. We ventured out a hotel side entrance and quickly realized that it wasn’t like the reasonably well-lit thoroughfare. There were lots of crowded homes, with men sitting or standing on the stoops underneath an occasional dim streetlight. Furthermore, it was snowing. Meeting with the family of a local Duma member, Galina Starovoitova, who had been gunned down on her doorstep because of her government criticisms just weeks before, had enhanced our self-preservation concerns. We agreed to a hasty retreat. It seemed far too much like a scene out of “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  In fact, looking at a map the next day, we were but a few steps from Dostoyevsky’s former house. Which explains why it felt like a scene out of his book. Over the years not only did I return to Russia, but had several delegations of Russian leaders visit northeastern Indiana and had meetings with various Russian groups in Washington. While Russian history, like the novels produced by its legendary writers, is dense and complicated, it nevertheless is fascinating. However, like other hopeful glimpses of freedom in nations with totalitarian histories, one can easily mistake temporary openings for substantive change.
  • MERRILLVILLE – The Mike Pence tax and the Eric Holcomb tax are colliding on the streets of Valparaiso. And the same is likely to happen in some other Northwest Indiana communities. A year ago, then-Gov. Mike Pence approved a wheel tax package that promised state matching funds for local road repairs if towns and cities raised their share of the money. And, in Valparaiso, the local source of the money is a $25-per-car wheel tax. The maximum the state will kick in is $2.7 million annually. That was then and this is now. Valparaiso Councilwoman Debra Porter, D-at large, has suggested that the city eliminate the tax, given what the Legislature approved this year. Initially, the Valparaiso council approved the wheel tax with the caveat that it would be eliminated if the county imposed its own wheel tax. Although the county did nothing, Porter said the state road funding plan approved this year has changed the situation. Ironically, the new state plan was sponsored by Rep. Ed Soliday, a Valparaiso Republican.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Politics can be messy, but not because it’s tainted or morally bankrupt. It’s messy because it often reflects deep-seated disagreements that are hard to resolve, with merit on both sides. I’ve had a number of conversations recently that convince me our country is divided into two political camps separated by a deep and uncomfortably wide gap. No, I’m not talking about liberals and conservatives, or pro- and anti-Trump voters. I’m talking about people who believe in politics and our political system, and people who don’t. I’ve found this latter view expressed most frequently among young people. In lecture halls and in informal conversations, I’ve spent some uncomfortable hours serving as a human pincushion for their pointed barbs about the system they’ve grown up in. Many are uninterested in politics. They do not see politics as a worthy pursuit or even as an honorable vocation. They doubt our political institutions can be made to work, are suspicious of elected officials in general, and don’t believe that our democratic institutions are capable either of solving the problems faced by the country or of helping them as individuals.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - In the eyes of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the emerging scandal of Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the sprawling investigations peeling off in its wake are as much of a wakeup call as, perhaps, the Russian Revolution that transpired a century ago. “If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it,” Clapper testified before Congress on May 8. In President Trump’s view, the probes are “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” Trump’s outrage at the Russia probe, which challenges the legitimacy of his stunning upset last November, prompted him to impulsively fire FBI Director James Comey last week. Trump told NBC: "When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won'."

  • INDIANAPOLIS – What a huge week for the State GOP and especially for original Trump supporters in Indiana. Having a Trump in the state six months to the night of being first on the board to elect Donald J. Trump president, and one year to the week of winning the critical Indiana primary, was a big-league way to cap off a great year. The 20-point general election victory followed but also overshadows Indiana’s primary win when candidate Trump won all nine congressional districts, thus collecting all 57 Indiana delegates and knocking out his last two opponents. Remember the surprise withdrawal by Sen. Ted Cruz that night followed by Gov. Kasich the next day? Back then, Donald Trump Jr. was in the state in April, stumping for his Dad. Having him back was a cool reminder of how important Indiana was for the Trump nomination. That May 3 primary win, at a time when pundits could only focus on what would keep Donald Trump from the nomination, propelled him on a clear path to well over the 1,237 delegates needed without having to worry about any further competition. Don Jr. acknowledged it in his speech before over 1,000 loyalists, saying that it all started in Indiana.
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  • Sen. Young 'officially undecided' on GOP Senate health bill
    “I am officially undecided. I’m still reviewing the package. I’ve been in contact with the governor. We’re having conversations with with him and his folks. I’ve been in contact with our insurance commissioners, state actuaries. We’re trying to get a sense now that text is available. We’re in touch with health care providers, patient groups. I’m just trying to make the most informed decision I can. I know this: Doing nothing is not an option. We’ve got 70 million Americans who live in geography where there is no choice.” - U.S. Sen. Todd Young after Howey Politics Indiana asked if he was a certain yes vote on the Senate Republican health care bill. HPI asked, is there any scenario where you would vote against it? Young responded, “Yes. Absolutely. After studying it if I don’t think it’s right for Hoosiers, then yes, certainly. I’m very open minded." Read the entire HPI Interview with Sen. Young in the next weekly edition on Tuesday.
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  • President Trump and bovine scatalogy
    Here in Indiana, when someone talks big, says unreliable things they can’t back up, Hoosiers call that person, pardon our language, a “bullshitter.” Or as Sheriff Joe Squadrito might put it, a purveyor of “bovine scatalogy.” Well, with President Trump’s claim that he has no audio files of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey made via Twitter on Thursday, when last month he suggested he did, our assessment is that our president is a BSer. And because he has told hundreds of lies since taking the oath of office, do we believe him this time? This is a dangerous dynamic, because at some point in his presidency, Donald Trump is going to face a crisis where he is going to have to level with the American people and we are going to have to decide whether he is being truthful. What we have in President Trump is someone who is a serial liar and his chaotic administration runs on fantasy, half truths and alternative facts. We want to believe our presidents, but this one is in a realm all his own. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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