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Friday, May 27, 2022
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Friday, May 27, 2022 10:59 AM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – Merriam-Webster defines "atrocity" as "a shockingly bad or atrocious act, object, or situation." In a different era, the word "atrocity" was used mostly in wartime situations, be it Babyn Yar in Kyiv, the Katyn Forest massacre in Poland, the Andersonville Prison during the American Civil War, or My Lai in Vietnam.

But since 1999 following the first modern mass school shooting at Columbine HS, I've been using words like "atrocity" and "massacre" to describe everyday American places: Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the Pulse night club in Orlando, the FedEx facility here in Indy, Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, and now Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

America, obviously, has a gun problem, as well as a mental health dilemma. School massacres have gone from about 25 annually in 2000 to 236 in 2021 and more than 135 so far this year.

Since the pandemic hit in 2020, Americans have bought 40 million guns. Pew Research reports that the U.S. murder rate rose 30% between 2019 and 2020 – the largest single-year increase in more than a century, according to data published this month by the CDC. There were 7.8 homicides for every 100,000 people in the United States in 2020, up from six homicides per 100,000 people the year before. According to the FBI, there were 21,570 murders last year, up 29% from 16,669 in 2019 and the highest annual total since 1995.

A majority of the of these school rampages were done with AR-15, a gun designed for military combat. The 18-year-old Uvalde terrorist legally purchased two AR-15s, though he wasn't old enough to buy a beer.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board observed: The recent proliferation of mass shootings suggests a deeper malady than gun laws can fix. Firearm laws were few and weak before the 1970s. Yet only in recent decades have young men entered schools and supermarkets for the purpose of killing the innocent. That a teenager could look at a nine-year-old, aim a gun, and pull the trigger signals some larger social and cultural breakdown.

The leading cause of death among American children is now guns, according to Axios. Indiana ranks 7th in the U.S. with 8.7 deaths per 100,000. Nearly two-thirds of the 4,368 U.S. youths up to age 19 who were killed by guns in 2020 were homicide victims (car crashes killed less than 4,000).

How should we respond?

A recent CBS News poll found 54% of Americans want laws covering the sale of guns; 30% believe gun laws should be kept as they are, and 16% want them to be less strict. A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted entirely after the Uvalde massacre found 88% support requiring background checks for all gun sales (22% of guns are acquired without one); 75% back a national database; 67% favor banning assault rifles; 84% back blocking gun sales to those documented to be mentally ill.

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  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – Whenever I explain why Indiana needs more kids to attend college, I get some version of the comment, “a young person doesn’t need college to do well; we need more people in the trades.” While it is true for a few talented individuals, that is not true for a city or state. Economists call this the ‘fallacy of composition,’ which I can explain with a few facts. In a typical year, more than 85,000 Hoosiers turn 18 years old. Of these, fewer than 75,000 finish high school, and of these fewer than 42,000 head to college. Ultimately, about 60% of those will complete their degree. That means the state’s pipeline of college-educated workers is today about 27,000 per year. However, the net loss from brain drain is about 10% and growing. That means Indiana can expect only about 25,000 college graduates per year to finish college and live in Indiana. This is an economic development disaster. To see how this hobbles Indiana, we should consider how national labor markets value education. Nationwide, about eight in 10 of all net new jobs go to four-year college graduates. The remaining two in 10 jobs go to those who hold either an associate degree or have been to some college. This means that if Indiana were growing like the national economy, all the new job growth would go to those who’d been to college. 
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – If an 80-1 longshot can win the Kentucky Derby, can Democrat Tom McDermott win the U.S Senate race in Indiana? Upsets do happen, in politics as well as in sports. But chances of McDermott defeating Republican Sen. Todd Young this fall in Indiana, where no Democrat has won a statewide race in a decade, appear worse than those faced by the Derby winner. Rich Strike at least began the race from the same starting line. McDermott starts from way back, in name recognition, funding and organization. And he’s running on an unfavorable bright red track in a red state carried twice in landslides by Donald Trump. Still, McDermott could be a winner in losing, just as an underdog sports team wins respect and encourages its fans about the future by competing impressively even though a championship is out of reach. That’s the realistic hope of Hoosier Democrats. Also, of course, you never say never, no matter the odds.
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – Recently, a couple of reporters at The New York Times published an intriguing story about conversations between House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and other members of his leadership team. It was shortly after the events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol, and they were talking about what to do about then-President Trump.  His conduct, McCarthy said, had been “atrocious and totally wrong.” Moreover, wrote Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin in their article, McCarthy “faulted the president for ‘inciting people’ to attack the Capitol, saying that Mr. Trump’s remarks at a rally on the National Mall that day were ‘not right by any shape or any form.’” He added, “I’ve had it with this guy.” Burns and Martin have since published a series of articles on the subject, including McCarthy’s fears that some of his more extreme colleagues could themselves incite more violence. Not surprisingly, there have been plenty of denials, but the two reporters have countered with one key point: They have the audio recordings.
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – We are deluged with “news” that the American labor market is a shambles. Business owners say, “We can’t get people to work, even with higher wages and improved benefit packages.” Well maybe, just maybe, workers have had it with low wages and inadequate respect, and the worm has turned. Maybe, COVID didn’t make people lust for the days of old when workers were commodities instead of individuals. Or, perhaps, the whole labor shortage is that mountain made from a convenient mole hill. “People today just aren’t willing to work!” Strange, but the size of the national labor force (those employed or seeking employment) was down in 2021 by just 1.4% from its pre-COVID 2019 peak. Of course, it’s more impressive if we say the labor force is down by 2.3 million persons and then fail to mention the base we’re talking about is in excess of 163 million persons.
  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – When the Indiana General Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday for "Technical Corrections Day" it will almost certainly override Gov. Eric Holcomb's veto of HEA1041, the transgender sports bill. But the subplot will be the looming U.S. Supreme Court decision of the Dobbs case, which is expected to repeal Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion, Republican Lt. Gov. Robert Orr had been a contributor to Planned Parenthood. When a young Republican named Mike Pence first ran for Congress in 1988, the abortion issue wasn’t a campaign hallmark. As the nation grappled with the fallout of Roe, it was Northeastern Catholics who mounted the initial vanguard against legalized abortion. After the 1994 Republican Revolution, the pro-life bulwark shifted to the South and Midwest, helping to create the red center of the nation, while the coasts (along with Illinois and Colorado) became blue. In the 1990s in the Indiana General Assembly, Republican House Speaker Paul Mannweiler and Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton were pro-choice, while Democrat House Speaker John Gregg was pro-life. How far will super majority Republicans go? Will they ditch the carve outs that would allow abortion in the case of rape, incest or the endangerment of the life of the mother? Here’s a clue: In an op-ed published in the Richmond Palladium-Item, State Sen. Jeff Raatz said he will support "any" bill that restricts abortion. 

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  • Horse Race: GOP Secretary of state race volatile; Sullivan, Morales trade shots
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS –  Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan is a conservative Republican who has spent her entire career checking off all the right political boxes as she made her way from Evansville, to the General Assembly and then the southeastern corner second floor Statehouse office. On June 18, she hopes to secure her own nomination for a full term in a convention field that includes perennial candidate Diego Morales and Knox County Clerk Dave Shelton. Her biggest liability? It may be the fact that she was appointed to the office by Gov. Eric Holcomb. Yes, the same Gov. Holcomb who won reelection with a record 1.7 million votes in 2020; who secured 56.5% of the vote, just a shade under what his mentor, Gov. Mitch Daniels, did in 2008 at 57.8% (and just 1.56 million votes). The same governor who inspired the challenges to 25 House Republicans by the Liberty Defense PAC that claimed just one victory over an incumbent not facing another incumbent.

  • Holcomb's transgender bill veto easily overridden by General Assembly super majorities
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana General Assembly overrode Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of HEA1041 which bans transgender athletes from playing female sports. The House voted 67-28 while the Senate voted 32-15. The ACLU filed a suit against the new law set to take effect on July 1 on Tuesday. “I want to thank the overwhelming support from Hoosiers across the state on this important matter. HEA1041, the purpose of this bill is to maintain fair competition in girls sports now and in the future,” said State Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, who authored the bill and defended it on the House floor Tuesday. 

  • Atomic: Correcting 'technical corrections'; A 'cruel summer' & monster hurricanes aim at pump; Foreign formula to Indiana; Gov to Davos; Oxford honors Dr. Ruckelshaus
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Kokomo

    1. Correcting the 'technical corrections': Tuesday is "Technical Correction Day" in the General Assembly. That the super majority GOP will override Gov. Eric Holcomb's veto of HEA1041 - the female transgender athletics bill - is a fait accompli. There will be rampant talk of how to proceed once the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. There will be talk about the skyrocketing property tax assessments. And there will be speculation how suspending the state's 74.4 cent a gallon gas, which was being propagated by the paltry Democrat caucuses but has now spread into the GOP, with State Rep. Jim Lucas being asked by WIBC if a suspension is possible. "Absolutely, and that’s one of the things we’re working on," Lucas said. Dan Carden of the NWI Times: As recently as June 30, 2017, the state's gasoline tax rate was just 18 cents per gallon, according to the Department of Revenue. That year, the Republican-controlled General Assembly, led by State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, hiked the gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon, and authorized annual 1 cent inflation adjustments through 2024, to fund a massive road construction program. But the biggest news could come with Republicans seeking to adjust "technical corrections." There is lot of hallway buzz about a “substantive” change in the “technical corrections" bill. David Bottorff of the Indiana Association of Counties considers it "substantive" because it doesn’t correct a code cite or address a code conflict. It basically undoes a provision of a bill that was passed in waning hours. Advocates for the change in the tech corrections bill say that the final bill that was passed didn’t reflect “intent.” The PD of the bill draft is on the Indiana General Assembly website, listed on the Legislative Council meeting scheduled for May 24. The bill summary on this contested provision says, “Provides that a statute added by HEA 1260-2022 applies to property tax assessment appeals filed after March 20, 2022." Stay tuned.
  • Atomic! The new (& obsolete) USS Indianapolis; Braun votes against Ukraine aid; The Hoosier condition; Sec. Pete on traffic fatality 'crisis'
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The obsolete new USS Indianapolis: The last two survivors (out of 317) of the 1945 USS Indianapolis (CA-35) sinking - Harold Bray and Cleatus Lebow - are gathering today in Fredericksburg, TX, joining family and friends of the crew. This comes as the current USS Indianapolis (LCS17), which was commissioned at Burns Harbor in 2019, is due to be scrapped by the U.S. Navy. The fourth USS Indianapolis is a Freedom-class littoral ship designed to be highly maneuverable for missions such as mine-clearing and anti-submarine warfare. But Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday told the House Armed Services Committee last week that the USS Indianapolis and eight other new anti-submarine ships could not perform their primary mission. "I refuse to put an additional dollar against a system that would not be able to track a high-end submarine in today's environment," Gilday said. As China builds its naval forces, the new ship has already been declared obsolete. Gilday added that the main reason for the early retirement was that the anti-submarine warfare system on the ships "did not work out technically,” CNN reported. The decommissioning of the ships would save the Navy approximately $391 million, according to the service's proposed FY23 budget. As painful as it is to say, this will become  the Pentagon’s 21st Century version of the $700 hammer and the $2,500 toilet seat.

  • HPI Analysis: The evolution of the U.S. and Indiana abortion debate in post-Roe world
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – When the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion, Lt. Gov. Robert Orr had been a contributor to Planned Parenthood. When a young Republican named Mike Pence first ran for Congress in 1988, the abortion issue wasn’t a campaign hallmark. As the nation grappled with the fallout of Roe, it was Northeastern Catholics who mounted the initial vanguard against legalized abortion. After the 1994 Republican Revolution, the pro-life bulwark shifted to the South and Midwest, helping to create the red center of the nation, while the coasts (along with Illinois and Colorado) became blue. In the 1990s in the Indiana General Assembly, Republican House Speaker Paul Mannweiler and Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton were pro-choice, while Democrat House Speaker John Gregg was pro-life.
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  • NRA donations to Sens. Braun and Young
    "Horrified by the senseless murder of 14 children and a teacher in Texas. My heart is with the parents and the community bearing this unimaginable anguish. We have to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, which is why I support Indiana’s red flag law, which works well when it is utilized." U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, tweeting after 19 students and two teachers were murdered in their Uvalde, Tex., school on Tuesday. According to Brady United, Braun has received $1.249 million from the NRA, while U.S. Sen. Todd Young has received $2.89 million from the NRA.
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