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Monday, August 19, 2019
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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.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These were the epic words of the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus”  adorning the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. These words cut to the crux of the American experiment and spoke to our epic, melting-pot heritage. Ken Cuccinelli is acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and he made an astounding assertion on Tuesday. As the Trump administration seeks to dramatically limit legal immigration to America, Cuccinelli tweaked the Lazarus poem after a question from the press. “Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’s words etched on the Statue of Liberty, ‘Give me your tired, give me your poor,’ are also a part of the American ethos?” NPR’s Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli during a “Morning Edition”  interview. Cuccinelli responded, “They certainly are: ‘Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.’ That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge was passed – very interesting timing.” Thus we see the aberration of a basic American ethos, replaced by President Trump and top aide Stephen Miller’s attempt to stir ethnic, racial, urban and rural divides in the country they govern.
  • SOUTH BEND  –  Bullets don’t care. Nor do military-style weapons from which they fly. Assault rifles don’t care whether they are used to kill little kids in a school, teens in their high school, worshipers in synagogues and churches, shoppers at that El Paso Walmart or people enjoying a weekend in Dayton’s entertainment district. The shooters care. They want to bring death, grief, terror. They plan for this, hope for this, seek recognition for this. How many elected officials – those who could act to restrict use of uncaring assault weapons spewing uncaring bullets – care enough to act? Care at all? The answer to that is what happened in El Paso and Dayton. We become numb to news of mass shootings. There have been more mass shootings than days of the year so far in 2019. As of Aug. 5, the 217th day of the year, there were 255 mass shootings, incidents with at least four people shot. The Dayton carnage was especially shocking for me. Nine were killed, dozens injured in 32 seconds of rapid fire of uncaring bullets from an uncaring military-style weapon used by a shooter seeking mayhem and martyrdom. This occurred in Dayton’s Oregon District, the city’s entertainment district, with fine restaurants, trendy bars, interesting shops and historic structures. Just the night before in that popular area, my son, Steve, executive producer in TV news there, my daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and my granddaughter, Claire, walked by Ned Peppers, the bar the shooter tried to enter to kill so many more. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS — We’ve all heard the Social Security Trust Fund will no longer be able to finance Social Security payments in full after 20xx. We say “xx” because the date keeps changing. When folks think about Social Security, what mostly comes to mind is the Old Age Insurance aspect of the program. But there’s also a vital role played by Survivors’ Insurance for spouses and children and important Disability Insurance for those unable to work.  Why is this safety net, this trust fund, running out of money? For several reasons: We are living longer than expected. People are retiring too early. Congress gave an increase in benefits that was too generous. Too many people are claiming disability benefits for which they do not qualify. There are more disabled people than we ever anticipated.
  • MUNCIE — Over the past week, I attended a Muncie City Council meeting on very contentious issues and travelled to Wisconsin to speak to a group of economic developers about the Foxconn debacle. Both events have eerily similar aspects that should anger and frustrate voters.  In 2017, Wisconsin hastily put together the world’s largest tax incentive package to lure some 13,000 jobs to the state. This deal would have cost each Wisconsin family about $1,700 over the life of the project. This is more than $170,000 per job. The deal happened at break-neck speed, behind closed doors, and without benefit of any serious economic analysis. From beginning to end, this arrangement illustrated raw contempt for open government and the interests of citizens.  Once the dust settled, along came several economic and fiscal studies. All present some version of the same story; the Foxconn deal will never provide taxpayers a positive return, and as initially structured will damage the economy. This damning assessment is equally true in the matters before the Muncie City Council meeting I attended. 
  • BLOOMINGTON  –  I’ve been struck recently by news coverage of climate change and humans’ degradation of the planet. Two opposing themes keep appearing. One is the sense that, as individuals, there’s little we can do; the forces are too large. The other – and I think many Americans would agree with this – is that as citizens of the planet we have a responsibility to protect it and to pass it on in good shape to those who follow us. So how do we reconcile those warring impulses – not just on the environment, but on many global and international issues? How, in other words, do we engage with the world? Because make no mistake, as Americans we are global citizens. It’s not just that the world has deep-seated, unavoidable problems that, if ignored, will bite us where we live. It’s that we inhabit a preeminent world power that bears a responsibility to lead. 
  • EVANSVILLE  — Another mass shooting or two and we have another wave of everyone arguing about the 2nd Amendment. Unfortunately, most arguing the point either don’t understand the matter at hand or they are situational opportunists serving a preexisting agenda. But another interesting debate seems to be bubbling to the forefront: What to do about the subculture breeding mass shootings. It is obvious by now there is a self-perpetuating shooter subculture with an ideological infrastructure. How do you take it down? Many have already begun a movement to strike at this subculture’s sources of alienation and radicalization.  One proposal has been to take down 8chan. Not just 8chan, of course. There are plenty of other fora for the dissemination and activation of mass-shooter ideology. And there is an even wider ecosystem of fora plausibly adjacent to them. You can end up scooping up Gab, parts of Reddit, some of Twitter, some of YouTube, and so on.  Once you do that, you’ve achieved the critical, and perhaps even decisive, step of disconnecting alienated and potentially violent young single males from their single most important source of motivation and validation, one another. The problem of course is that all this quite plausibly violates the 1st Amendment, the foundation of our freedoms.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — Parenting is full of memorable experiences: Your child’s first step, your child’s first words, the first time your child says, “I love you.” These are the moments that make all the hardships worth it, the things you dream about when you decide to become a parent. But another glorious parenting experience, one that you won’t see in any Hallmark-type show but one that many parents know too well, is the day you make your last childcare payment.  For many families in Indiana, childcare rivals housing for the top budget drainer. According to the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee dashboard, the parents of a preschooler in Indiana can expect to pay over $8,000 per year for high-quality childcare. Parents of infants pay even more, close to $12,000!  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers affordable childcare to be care that consumes no more than 7% of a household’s income. By that definition, the parents of an infant in Indiana would need to bring in $171,429 to “afford” high-quality care. Few households in Indiana meet that bar (around 8%, if we want to be more precise), especially early in their working lives, when, of course, they are more likely to have young children. 

    NASHVILLE, Ind. – It has been fascinating to watch Mike and Karen Pence orchestrate his ascension onto the national stage. It has been a meticulous crusade of control. As a congressman and governor of Indiana, Mike Pence rarely strayed from a tight set of talking points. His inner circle is constricted, calculating and guarded. 
    On Aug. 1, my Howey Politics Indiana  analysis was that it's a “reckless” course for the Pences, with my penultimate paragraph reading: “This is flint and spark in extreme drought conditions. President Trump is not uniting Americans, he is exploiting the urban/rural divide along racial lines that are pulled taut these days. An errant spark goaded by the right quote at the wrong time could have devastating consequences.” This was published two days before the mass shooting atrocities in El Paso and Dayton, claiming another 30 lives and injuring dozens more. The El Paso shooter – who I will not lend the sought-after infamy by mentioning his name – published a manifesto on 8chan just moments before opening fire. It was teeming with white nationalist diatribes against “race-mixing” along with the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The Dayton shooter appears to have sought association with Antifa, the leftist bookend to white supremacy. Isolate the fringe 1% of the American bell curve and you’ll find the warrens for these two latest cowardly shooters. The problem for Trump and, by association, Pence was the former’s own rhetoric warning of “invasions,” and amplified on Facebook by the Trump campaign and the Prosper Group based in Indianapolis.
  • SOUTH BEND  – The next round of Democratic debating will be different. The number of presidential candidates participating will be trimmed from the 20 competing in the first two rounds. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg already makes the cut and will be on stage again in the Sept. 12-13 debating in Houston. Questions? Q. Who won in the Wednesday night debate in Detroit? A. Donald Trump. Q. How did Mayor Pete do in the Tuesday night debate? A. Quite well. He wasn’t the winner. Elizabeth Warren came off the best. But Buttigieg stayed above the level of personal attacks against other Democratic candidates that made the Wednesday brawlers look petty. And he actually directed his criticism at Trump policies, not at Democratic policies of the past.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis is preparing to celebrate its 200th birthday or anniversary. But Indianapolis isn’t that village invented by the General Assembly on the banks of the White River. Fifty years ago, Indianapolis took an important step forward by establishing Unigov. It was an imperfect consolidation of governmental units which has remained virtually unchanged for half a century. Today’s real Indianapolis is a composite of nine counties with a host of cities and towns, most of them remnants of pastoral villages, each battling to be “something.” Today, the mayor of Indianapolis speaks of regionalism. His is a genteel appeal to overturn inequities, either created or endorsed by the Indiana General Assembly, that home of irrational and irresponsible 18th-century sentimentality.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — You can see it with your own eyes. You can feel it in the depths of your stomach. You can hear it with your own ears. It is happening right now and it is getting worse. You don’t need a newspaper or television reporter to tell you.  Indianapolis is in a state of decline. My experience with Indianapolis, as an outside observer, began when I was a little boy. My father was an auto body repairman and he had to make a weekly trip to Indianapolis to buy parts. Frequently, I tagged along with the promise of White Castles or the peanut vending machine at a parts supplier enticing me. While dad and I certainly got to drive down Meridian Street, we also traveled to many of the business areas of Indianapolis purchasing fenders, moldings, headlamps and the like. We got a pretty good look at the big city. The Indianapolis of the early 1960s was a sleepy big city that was clearly experiencing urban decay. The affluent were abandoning the city for the suburbs and the people, buildings and city that were left behind had all seen better times.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – Perhaps on Tuesday, Aug. 20, we’ll find private citizen Dan Coats at Wrigley Field, taking in the Cubs-Giants game. Or, perhaps, he’ll wait for that day game on Aug. 23 against the Washington Nationals. We can hope that this Cubs fan, Hoosier patriot, who never lost an election, who was willing to walk away from the money-grubbing political swamp at least twice, will treat himself to a beer, a brat and sing “Take me out to the ballgame” soon.Dan Coats deserves it. But the trade-off for the rest of us is that of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” or the warning from David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” remake: “Be afraid, be very afraid." When Dan Coats leaves as director of national intelligence on Aug. 15, the last of the “grown-ups” from Donald Trump’s White House will be gone. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster had been the “guard rails” for the unpredictable Trump, who presides over an administration filled by “acting” secretaries and directors. These actors now toil with a side-glance for every presidential whim. Screw up and, well, “You’re fired.” Supposedly taking Coats’ place will be U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, a former small town mayor and district attorney who claims to have prosecuted terrorism cases, though there is no evidence that he did. He is a political defender of Trump, who has auditioned on Fox News, which is now the proving ground for economic advisors, United Nations ambassadors, and White House and Foggy Bottom communicators.

  • MUNCIE  – The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meets this week to consider whether to ease the money supply. The most obvious mechanism for doing this is by reducing the interest rates they charge member banks. This change will filter quickly to bank loans on cars, on homes and eventually on credit cards. More money leads to lower borrowing rates for consumers and businesses. The timing of the Fed’s action is subject to real criticism, and two members of the committee have spoken publicly against a rate increase. At the same time, a Fed nominee has argued in favor of a large cut. Both of these actions are unusual. Fed members usually do not air their disagreements in this way, and Fed nominees are usually tight-lipped about policy choices before the Fed. We live in interesting times. The global economy is clearly slowing. China is likely in a recession, though its publicly available data is hard to believe. There was even evidence last week of a liquidity crisis emerging between their banks. China is hardly a democracy that must suffer the ignominy of publicly available economic data, so it is hard to be sure what is happening.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - “You know you’re making something out of nothing,” Faye de la Forêt admonished me. She was back on the deck railing, but no longer the rustic forest nymph. No, in her sequined green tunic, she had acquired airs. “It’s not nothing,” I responded. “The Reynolds tractor Xmas light show, along I-69 in Fishers, is moving to Conner Prairie. I’m allowed to complain, not about a private company making a big donation to a not-for-profit history museum, but about the privatization of what used to be a public event.” “Wrong again,” she smiled her voluptuous smile. “That brilliant annual display was a hazard to traffic. Now it will not be a danger to the public, but it will have an admission charge.”
  • KOKOMO – The Trump reelection strategy is playing out quite nicely at this point. The little fish in the Democrat Party and the big fish in the national media have all taken the bait, hook, line and sinker. While I personally find much of the president’s antics and histrionics objectionable, if you are a student of politics, you must admire the audacity in carrying out the slash-and-burn strategy of divide and conquer that Mr. Trump is using to be reelected. With an economy humming along on all eight cylinders, the only way any Democratic opponent is going to make any headway against the president is by having a serious discussion on a wide range of substantive issues ranging from our national debt to income inequality to healthcare. President Trump has effectively been able to reduce 18 Democratic candidates, the rudderless Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Democrats in the Senate to a state of sniveling blather that oscillates between wild promises of a bag of free goodies to impeachment for the offense of non-collusion collusion.
  • EVANSVILLE –  Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen, the first physician to head the abortion provider in 50 years, was removed by the organization’s board after serving in the role for less than a year. Dr. Wen encouraged her team to emphasize her medical credentials, kicking off her presidency with a campaign called “This Is Healthcare,” highlighting Planned Parenthood’s role outside of politics and drawing a contrast with her predecessor, Cecile Richards. “I believe that the best way to protect abortion care is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a healthcare one,” Wen wrote in a statement about her sudden termination. Reports from within the organization suggest that Dr. Wen’s management style unsettled some, including a deep mistrust of staff, but a markedly different vision appears to have been a driving force behind her termination. Planned Parenthood’s public messaging frequently butts heads with the contention that it is anything but a healthcare provider. There are the well-worn lines that abortions are only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does, the assertion that their healthcare services are robust and vital, and on and on. Against the accusation that they are fundamentally an ideological machine relentlessly dedicated to the positive promotion — not just the availability — of abortion, they push back hard. It seems Dr. Wen took that messaging seriously and tried to manage the organization accordingly. The organization rebelled.
  • NEW ALBANY – This is turning out to be a disheartening summer when it comes to race relations in our country. The reelection campaign of President Trump and Vice President Pence appears to be  conducting the most overtly racist strategy since Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s independent bid in 1968. Trump is taunting four minority freshman Democrats - Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib – with tweets of “go back” to your crime-riddled countries. The problem is three of them were born in the United States and the fourth is a naturalized American. The common denominator is skin color. Trump launched a screed at a rally Greenville, N.C., Wednesday night with Pence in tow, only to have the crowd chant “send her home.” Trump said Thursday, “I was not happy with it — I disagreed with it,” but video showed him savoring the chant. When congressional Republicans pressed Pence on Thursday with their dismay with the rally, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Pence seemed to share their concerns. “He said, ‘at first I couldn't even tell what it was.’" And that is BS. It was clear what people were chanting. You can disagree with these freshmen on politics and policy, but telling elected members of Congress to leave the country is a new low. This is David Duke meeting Joe McCarthy.
  • SOUTH BEND – They took the bait. Just as President Trump knew they would. Just as he made it almost impossible for them not to snap back, snap at the bait. Just as he planned. So, there they were on television, all four of them, the ultra-progressive Democratic congresswomen who stir controversy in their own party caucus. There they were with saturation coverage for days, appearing as the face of the Democratic Party. And right after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had somewhat successfully pushed them farther from the spotlight, portraying them as rogue rather than representative of the Democratic House caucus. Pelosi did so out of concern that their strident calls for impeachment and insistence on pushing for what now is politically impossible could endanger chances of Democrats retaining control of the House. Trump baited a Twitter trap, insulting the four congresswomen of color and telling them to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested” countries “from which they came.”
  • BLOOMINGTON  – A few years ago, I was at a polling place here in Indiana where a long line of people stood waiting to vote. A woman recognized me and called me over. “Why is it,” she asked, “that you politicians make it so hard and inconvenient to vote?” I thought of this the other day when I read the news reports about presidents Trump and Putin meeting and jestingly accusing one another of election meddling. The background, of course, is the pressing issue of Russian interference in US elections. American voters take elections seriously enough to stand in line – for hours, sometimes – to cast a ballot. And here were the two presidents making light of attempts to subvert the voices of ordinary people. I’d expect nothing less from Putin, but from an American president? The sad truth is, Russian meddling isn’t our only election problem. We’ve got an archaic registration process, restrictive voting practices, voting systems bedeviled by outdated technology, inadequate budgets for the voting infrastructure, and an entire nation’s worth of overloaded local elections staff. There are robust efforts afoot, by many people and groups, to suppress, not encourage, votes; much effort in this country goes into keeping some groups of people from having a say in the conduct of their government. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — In this space we’ve discussed the plight of Indiana’s many smaller towns edging toward extinction as viable economic communities. This has even become a topic for political lip-service with emphasis on individual places rather than a systemic approach to a statewide problem. The stagnation and decline of once thriving mid-sized Hoosier cities cause hands to be wrung and construction projects to be initiated that have little chance to make substantive change possible. Terre Haute’s numbers are virtually unchanged in this decade. Evansville and Richmond had population declines of 2% and 4% respectively. Lake County saw 12 of its 17 municipalities lose population from 2010 to 2018. How has the state responded? Federal funds for the most part will be used to build a questionable nine-mile mega-million-dollar extension of a commuter rail line. The South Shore serves downtown Chicago, but job growth in the southern portions of the Chicago metro area may be far more important. No public transit from Indiana serves those jobs.
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  • Gov. Holcomb on Eva Kor: 'We lost a giant'
    “We lost a giant. A 4-foot-11 giant.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb in a Sunday memorial service in Indianapolis honoring the late Eva Mozes Kor, who died in Poland in July near the Auschwitz concentration camp where she was imprisoned during World War II. Kor immigrated to Terre Haute and founded the CANDLES Holocaust Museum.
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  • A son's eulogy to Father

    We gather here today to celebrate the life of Jack Eugene Howey. It was the proverbial life well lived for 93 years. As I stand here, I remember Dad’s advice to the various Methodist pastors he worked with over the years: A sermon should never last longer than 13.5 minutes, so I am on the clock.

    These past 10 months have been tough on our family as we watched a great man recede and his memories launch out into an endless expanse of time.

    Our family rallied around not only him, but also our Mother. The two of them shared an extraordinary 68 years together that began in the offices of the Indiana Daily Student at IU. They would have three children, six grandchildren. They would be among the first Western journalists to cross from Israel to Jordan on the Allenby Bridge just months after the Six Day War. They would witness topless mermaids cavorting in a huge jar at a Beirut casino, and go to a party with Abe Rosenthal and Punch Sulzberger of the New York Times in a penthouse overlooking Central Park where they hung out with Theodore White and Walter Cronkite. They would be in the room when President Nixon told a startled nation he was not a crook.

    Together they attended scores of concerts, Little League games, and Bridge games. Ever since that day at Lake Yellowwood when Dad said he was seeking a wife and gave her 10 minutes to decide, they were a fabulous partnership. Dad embraced his fatherhood, sending “Secret Friend” letters to us on our birthdays, going on Scout trips, excursions to the beach and other family vacations. And, of course, there were the annual pilgrimages to Chicago White Sox games. They ran a household where kids in the neighborhood could come and go.
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