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Sunday, April 11, 2021
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Saturday, April 10, 2021 10:37 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – If there was a silver lining after a horrible year of pandemic, it was that the Hoosier Hoops Holyland and its ancient cathedral (Hinkle Fieldhouse, among other venues) would become the Center of the Basketball Universe during March Madness. The pandemic has been a cruel arbiter. When it surfaced in March 2020, games were literally ended at halftime, Butler’s Bulldogs had been ranked No.5 in the nation just a month before, and Indiana Coach Archie Miller was looking at his first tournament in three years at the helm. There would be no crowned champion.

By the time the Pandemic March Madness unfolded last month, ominous trends began to emerge. Purdue was the lone state team to make the field. Archie Miller had been fired. Brad Stevens wasn’t interested in a move to Bloomington, even though his eighth year at the helm of the Boston Celtics was underwhelming, fueling speculation of dismissal. The pandemic field was not only missing IU, but Duke and Kentucky as well. Kansas and North Carolina missed the Sweet 16.

For the next two weeks, it appeared the basketball gods were punking us. Purdue continued its March Madness futility, losing to tough North Texas State, ruining about 90% of brackets in the state. Half the IU team had entered the transfer portal. The powerful Big Ten’s nine entries quickly faded despite early round games at familiar Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena. And when the Final Four was forged, who showed up? Houston Coach Kelvin Sampson, who had been the poster boy of IU’s post-1987 futility.

The notion that the Cheatin’ Sampson might cut down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium was of peculiar karma for the Hoosier nation.

But then the clouds parted, a shaft of sunlight appeared, and angels began singing. Gene Keady showed up for a reunion at Bob Knight’s new Bloomington digs. Mike Woodson was lured away from the New York Knicks to take the helm at IU, pleasing The General. After two decades since Knight was fired by Myles Brand during his “zero tolerance” era, IU decided to arm its stalled franchise with someone from the Knight coaching tree.
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  • By CRAIG DUNN
    KOKOMO – I’ve never had a job where my decision has meant the difference between life and death. Shucks, during my 38-year career as a financial consultant, the two biggest challenges that I’ve had are recommending an investment before some world event made the markets drop, or not recommending the next greatest technological thingamabob before it became larger than the GDP of France.  I admire those who have those necessary jobs that require them to make life and death decisions on a daily basis. Our service men and women, law enforcement officers, first responders and medical personnel all deserve our gratitude. Most of us understand and accept the pressure-packed nature of these jobs and know that these folks are doing their best to serve the American people. We generally laud these vital workers and honor the work that they do. However, there are a few jobs where no matter what decision you make, someone is going to criticize, vilify and condemn your efforts and decisions.  Governor of Indiana happens to be just one of those jobs.
  • By PETE SEAT
    INDIANAPOLIS – When two men wearing black hoodies rushed the stage during Ann Coulter’s question-and-answer session on the University of Arizona campus, the instinct of this theater arts major was to think they were technicians coming to fix a bad microphone. But my Spidey-sense was off – way off.  I had shared with the police officers we hired to secure the event that message board chatter (this was in the stone ages of 2004) indicated a disruption of some kind was planned. Being naïve and unschooled in how vile the campus left already was in those days, I thought the worst we would witness was indecipherable shouting or sloppily hand-written posterboard signs. Coulter’s assailants, however, had another idea in mind. Concealed in laptop cases they held parallel to the ground, their weapons of choice were pies that they hurriedly hurled at Coulter’s head. Thanks to a combination of poor aim and Coulter’s Matrix-like agility, the pies only grazed her hair. 
  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – The chances are that folks learn most of what they know about economics in their late teens or 20s, in a high school or college class. It is also often the case that the person teaching that class learned most of their economics 30 or 40 years before that. So, it may easily come to pass that an adult nearing age 60 is attached to economic ideas that are really 75 years old. I am not the first to observe this. John Maynard Keynes noted that “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.” Of course, there are abundant lessons to be had in the economic ideas of old. A person today could get on quite well in most professions knowing nothing more than economists knew about the world in 1946. Indeed, Keynes died in April of that year, and his influence lingers still today. But, as a profession, economists have come to learn more about the world in the past 75 years than in the 75 centuries before it. Some of those things have usefulness today. 
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – I’ve been asked (by two readers) to write about two questions. This flood of interest is overwhelming. Thus, with much humility, I offer the following opinions: On teachers’ pay: Michael Hicks at Ball State has offered two columns on the subject. He makes the statistical argument well about Indiana’s delinquency regarding the pay of teachers. Our compensation for teachers is below the market rate. This likely, but not necessarily, gives us teachers who are below standard quality. Are the teachers’ union and the local school boards ready to dismiss or retrain teachers who do not perform up to the standards to which we aspire? Perhaps we don’t need higher pay for teachers. Rather, do we need pay for more teachers with the skills necessary to meet the challenges of today’s students? Both more pay and more teachers suggest higher taxes, even for businesses.
  • BY: MARK SOUDER
    FORT WAYNE – Every politician – at least those who win elections – understands the power and importance of media in all of its forms. People who try to influence politicians tend to understand it somewhat but often tend to think that money, personal relationships and other methods are dominant. Then they often wonder why their ideas do not prevail. There is an adage that I have believed all my life, in business and politics: Information is power. So where does one get information? If you are trying to influence people to buy what you are selling, whether it is a person, a piece of furniture or an idea, you need to understand where they are getting their information. It is obvious that primary sources of information evolve with technology changes. Political information in America evolved from newsprint to radio to television to today’s news niche chaos. America is a nation of information junkies which new technology has advanced, not reduced. 
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  • Atomic! Super majority pull back; Braun & vaccine; Elusive herd immunity; Biden targets ghost guns
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Super majority pull back: Super majorities are an unnatural element to legislatures. Indiana is now in its fifth post-election cycle with super majorities in the House and Senate, and we’ve been seeing some extreme legislation, like abolishing the need for handgun permits and removing all wetlands regulations, sail through the chambers. This has thrust Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston into a crucial gatekeeper role. Bray derailed the handgun permit bill after the Indiana State Police and Fraternal Order of Police opposed the measure. “These groups have said that, due to a variety of reasons including the current state of technology and federal laws governing the use of and access to information, creation of such a database is not possible at this time,” Bray said. “Law enforcement believes being able to access this information in the middle of the night during a traffic stop is important and thus, so do I.” The Senate budget scales back the voucher expansion, and didn’t include a cigarette tax hike. The House killed a bill depriving IndyGo of funding. Associated Press: A legislative committee has overhauled a contentious proposal to require Indiana voters to submit identification numbers with mail-in ballot applications. Changes to the bill approved Thursday by the House elections committee will only require submission of a voter’s Indiana driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number with online mail ballot applications (AP). The panel deleted provisions that Republicans had pushed through the Senate making voters put such numbers on paper applications. Now we'll be watching Gov. Eric Holcomb to see if he applies the brakes to legislation that would allow local health officials to be overruled during future pandemics, including the suspension of religious gatherings during a pandemic.
  • HPI Analysis: Indiana's 'purple' CD: 5th CD or could new maps turn the 1st?
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s “purple” 5th CD has already made it to the crosshairs of the 2022 election cycle, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announcing it was “in play.” But there’s a huge catch: No one has any idea where the 5th CD lines will be drawn, let alone the partisan makeup of the district. And we won’t know until late this summer. That is going to carve months out of the candidate decision process and their ability to raise funds. In 2020, the DCCC made the 5th CD a priority, only to watch Democrat Christina Hale lose to Republican State Sen. Victoria Spartz 50-46%, or by 16,986 votes. Libertarian Ken Tucker drew 4% or 16,788 votes. Hale hasn’t ruled out a rematch, but told Howey Politics Indiana on Tuesday that she won’t make a decision until the new maps are drawn up and signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb. She wondered if she would be drawn out of the 5th CD and placed into the neighboring 7th CD. HPI analysis of current maps and results from the 2020 election cycle brings us to this conclusion: The 5th CD may not be the “purple” district that will command attention next year. If the maps are drawn in a politically calculated fashion, the real battleground may be freshman U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan’s 1st CD.
  • Horse Race: If Trump had embraced masks, he might still be president
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Donald Trump became a “political genius” when he shocked everybody (including himself) by winning the 2016 presidential election. Filmmaker Michael Moore figured it out before anyone else when he observed the Trump campaign’s wide use of baseball hats, and national political analysts who made fun of the billionaire’s campaign finance reports showing a prioritization of the MAGA caps above just about anything else. “I am an angry white guy over the age of 35. And I have just a high-school education, so I grew up with it, I lived with it, I still live with it,” Moore said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” after the 2016 election. “I looked at that and I thought, ‘Wow, there’s the bubble right there. They don’t understand.’’ Now there is growing data from the 2020 election that suggests that had President Trump embraced the simple use of face masks during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, he might still be in the White House today.
  • Atomic! Indy hoops curse continues; Gov's V.E.T.O.; Wesco's duplicity; McConnell's warning to corporations
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Lucas Oil Stadium undefeated curse continues: 
    The Lucas Oil Stadium's curse on the undefeated continues here in the Center of the Basketball Universe. Coach Scott Drew's Baylor defeated unbeaten Gonzaga 86-70 Monday night to grab its first NCAA men's title and it kept intact Indiana University's 45-year claim on being the last undefeated champion. In 1991, UNLV came to the Indianapolis Final Four (then played in the RCA Dome) and lost for the first time. In 2012 it was the NFL's New England Patriots that were denied a perfect season at the hands of QB Eli Manning and the New York Giants at LOS. And in 2015, undefeated Kentucky was upset by Wisconsin in the NCAA semi-finals. AP: Gonzaga is now the third team to suffer its only loss in the title game and the first since Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in 1979. The other was Ohio State in 1961; Bob Knight played on that team long before coaching the Hoosiers to their crowning achievement 15 years later.
  • HPI Analysis: How a '100%' Hoosier Republican helped LBJ sign civil rights, voting acts
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Late last October during a pandemic, I joined a diverse group of about 5,000 north Indianapolis voters at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on a Saturday morning. It took five and a half hours for us to vote. While there was some grumbling, the prevailing sentiment was how the powers that be need to make it easier to vote. In this lull between election cycles, the Republican and Democrat battlefront now lies with the divisive issues of immigration and voting rights. National Republicans effectively became the “Party of Trump” in 2020. The GOP didn’t pass a party platform before watching President Trump become the first since Herbert Hoover to preside over the loss of both chambers of Congress and the White House within a single term. The Trump presidential era has been characterized as xenophobic in its use of racial “dog whistles” as the former president concentrated on adding white, male voters instead of expanding its reach to minorities, as advocated by then RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s 2013 “autopsy” report of the 2012 election. It recommended the GOP reach out to a diverse electorate, something the 2020 Trump campaign was able to do, picking up a modest uptick Latino male support in anti-Castro South Florida and in Texas, though that demographic is hardly a monolithic entity.
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  • Holcomb vetoes emergency powers bill
    “I firmly believe a central part of this bill is unconstitutional. The legislation impermissibly attempts to give the General Assembly the ability to call itself into a special session, thereby usurping a power given exclusively to the governor. Avoidable legal challenges during a state of emergency will only serve to be disruptive to our state.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, vetoing a bill that would have allowed the Indiana General Assembly to call itself into special session during a public emergency. The bill had passed by wide margins in the Republica super majority-controlled House and Senate earlier this week.  Legislators are expected to override Holcomb's veto with simple majorities in the House and Senate, before Indiana courts rule on the constitutionality of the bill.
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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