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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 – On Tuesday night, President Trump, after an 8½ hour flight from Hawaii which closed out 12 days of travel and work and many meetings in five different countries crossing 20,295 miles, concluded a highly successful Asian trip. He started by paying respect to American service members at Pearl Harbor and ended after strengthening military and trade alliances across the Indo-Pacific region.  The president met with leaders of several different nations, he attended three important trade summits, gave flawless speeches in each country and became the first foreign leader to be honored with an official dinner in the Forbidden City since the founding of modern China. Perhaps most importantly, he reinforced a brilliant strategy in dealing with the nuclear threat of North Korea. He pulled our partners further along with sanctions, showed the world our military might and encouraged diplomacy, as it was announced immediately after the trip that China was sending a high-level special envoy to North Korea.
  • SOUTH BEND – Republican strategists plotting to defeat Sen. Joe Donnelly have attacked the incumbent Democrat as standing in the way of President Trump’s agenda. Q. Will that strategy change after the results of the election Tuesday, especially with the anti-Trump flavor of the big Democratic wins in Virginia? A. No. At least not yet. Q. But will the Republican nominee who runs against Donnelly really want to be viewed as foursquare for Trump’s agenda? A. Right now, the two Republican congressmen regarded as top contenders for the party’s nomination, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, battle for support of the Trump base, so sizeable in the presidential vote in Indiana, with both claiming to give that foursquare support. Each tries in an already nasty battle to find some inkling of disloyalty to Trump by the nomination opponent.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Once upon a time, if you asked the average Hoosier, s/he would have told you, farming was the backbone of Indiana’s economy. But eventually reality did make an impression. Today, it is common to acknowledge manufacturing as our dominant economic activity. Of course, that may be changing, but let’s not go there. Instead, let’s look more closely at manufacturing’s transformation from 2005 to 2015 (the most recent data available from the Annual Survey of Manufacturers). Nationally, during that turbulent decade, two million (15.2%) of manufacturing jobs disappeared. Indiana’s loss was over 61,000 (11.5%). Production workers in manufacturing accounted for 75% of those job losses in Indiana compared to 71% nationally. Those declines were proportionate to the 2005 levels of production jobs in manufacturing. Despite these job losses, total payrolls in manufacturing rose nationally by 9.8%; yet the total wages of production workers fell by 16.3%. In the Hoosier state, manufacturing payrolls advanced by 7.1% with a corresponding 11.6% decline in the wages of production workers.
  • FORT WAYNE – In the late ’60s and early ‘70s, I was a counter-culture college student, battling the leftist lemmings who condemned America and trashed our flag. The Evil Empires were Red China and Bolshevik Russia. In 1970 the movie “Patton” was released, one of my favorite movies. My Young Americans for Freedom friends and I would stand up and cheer to the irritation of everyone else present when Gen. Patton delivered these memorable lines, “Well, the war shouldn’t be over. We should stop pussyfooting about the goddamn Russians! We’re gonna have to fight them sooner or later anyway. Why not do it now, when we got the army here to do it with?  Instead of disarming these German troops, we oughta get them to help us fight the damn Bolsheviks!” His military and political superiors were even less supportive than the irritated movie theater crowds were when we stood up and cheered. So, when I walked around Red Square in 1998, it was with severely mixed feelings. As a kid I had watched on our family’s black and white TV set as Soviet military forces paraded down Red Square, aware that in our basement we had an area with a survival kit to hopefully survive a nuclear hit from the Evil Empire. By the 1990s, major changes had begun occurring in Russia. 
  • NASHVILLE, Ind.  – A century ago, momentous events and lives were launched. There was a coup d’etat in Petrograd, often described as the “Russian Revolution,” but in reality was a violent Bolshevik power grab that created a 100 million human death toll over the next eight decades. In May of that year, John F. Kennedy was born and would go on to launch the New Frontier. And in Ann Arbor on Nov. 17, 1917, Robert Dunkerson Orr took his first breaths. His family was on vacation when he entered the world, and he would be raised in Evansville and find his early and late careers playing out on the world stage, buffeted by the two other events and lives. Gov. Orr, as he would become in 1981, was the first governor I covered as a journalist. His life traversed times of great upheaval, with him and first wife Josie serving in the U.S. Army and Women’s Air Force Service Pilots during World War II. His public service career ended in Singapore where he served as the U.S. ambassador for three years. On Nov. 4, nearly 100 former staffers of Gov. Orr gathered to remember his remarkable life. It didn’t have quite the movie characteristics of Gov. Edgar Whitcomb, who escaped from the Japanese at Corregidor during the early months of World War II and would later come close to circumnavigating the globe by sea after retiring from public life. But Orr through business, policy and politics helped create the Indiana we know today.
  • Craig Dunn: A tale of two Hoosier veterans Allen and Martz
    KOKOMO – Lance Cpl. Denzil Allen stared out into the endless blue water that was the Pacific Ocean as his troopship rode the waves on the way to Vietnam. It was February, 1968, and Allen’s ship was detoured from landing exercises on Okinawa to a prospective hot LZ in Vietnam during the height of the Tet Offensive. Cpl. Allen had already done one tour in Vietnam and had been enjoying the promised two-year respite that his battalion expected following their first tour. He had recently been promoted to lance corporal and had been given the somewhat cushy job of driving the company commander, Capt. James Panther, around Honolulu.  Allen had dropped out of Lebanon High School and enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 16. He seemed to be a happy and well-adjusted young Marine who had found the friends and acceptance that was lacking in his high school days. His first tour in Vietnam had been uneventful. He did his duty and filled his letters home to his mother with talk about the beautiful scenery of Vietnam and the nice people, particularly the children.

  • SOUTH BEND – “I’ll never speak to you again,” said Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, in an angry call to Robert Costa following Costa’s story in the Washington Post about Trump’s refusal to give a definitive answer on the birther issue. Speak, however, he would. Often. During the campaign and after. Even calling from the Oval Office to give Costa an exclusive about the decision to give up on a Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare: “Hello, Bob. So, we just pulled it.” Costa, who spoke informally Thursday with University of Notre Dame journalism students over lunch and in a question-and-answer session, is regarded as the national political reporter who best knows President Trump. Costa, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate, is a national political reporter for the Post, an analyst for NBC and MSNBC and moderator of “Washington Week” on PBS. How did he get to know Trump so well, sometimes the only reporter flying on Trump’s campaign plane? It wasn’t with puff pieces. Costa told of one time when he spent the day with Trump during the campaign, finally getting the promised exclusive interview on the plane.
  • MERRILLVILLE – School referendums to increase property taxes in Hobart and Hammond were approvedTuesday. But I have to wonder what the outcome would have been if more than 14% of the registered voters had turned out. There was nothing else on the ballot to lure voters to the polls. You have to think that those who voted were either adamantly for or against the extra money for the school systems. The state law requiring the referendums for extra school funding is full of holes. As Hammond Supt. Walter Watkins pointed out, schools have suffered from a loss of funding from the state-mandated tax caps, increased costs for health care and ongoing increases in energy and fuel costs. 
  • BLOOMINGTON – It’s built into the idea of representative democracy that making change is difficult, which is why many people get discouraged. But few things can exceed the satisfaction of helping shape the direction and success of your community or nation. One of the gifts of living in a representative democracy is that voting is only one of the rights it confers. For ordinary people who want to make change, who in some way want to alter their neighborhood or town or state or even the nation, the promise exists that by their own efforts they can do so. This is a precious gift. But it is not an easy one to enjoy. Even in a democracy, bringing about significant change requires hard work, a level of intensity and commitment beyond the ordinary responsibilities of citizenship. 
  • NASHVILLE, Ind.  – Lordy, they’re going fast, fast, fast on Grandma Barnes Road. No, not the Dodge Chargers, the Harley Softtail Breakouts or the F-150 Platinums. The Breaking news: You can find the fastest Internet speeds in America on Grandma Barnes Road deep in the hollers of Brown County. This was no accident and, in fact, purposely was almost a decade in the making. And it happened because of a unique collaboration between activist citizens, locally elected officials, the Brown County School Corporation and the highway department, state legislators, two gubernatorial administrations and a small company that is investing here and in places like Harrison and Washington counties. Or as Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch told the dozens of people gathered on a rainy Friday afternoon to celebrate the expansion of high speed Internet to close to 400 homes, “Government we like to have, but it is always the hard-working men and women who are taking the risks and the sacrifices to move your communities forward and move our state forward.” Brown County’s Vision 2020 plan of 2009 identified high speed internet needed for education, economic development and public safety. A task force was formed in 2011 to attempt to achieve that goal, with limited success. Two years ago, Nashville Town Manager Scott Rudd tried again, creating the new Brown County Broadband Task Force that includes this writer.
  • WEST LAFAYETTE – An unsettling number popped up on my computer screen last week. The index of leading economic indicators for Indiana decreased in August. It was the first decline since April 2009, during the Great Recession. The leading index is “leading” because it is made up of economic measurements that change before the general economy. If a recession is coming, the leading indicators drop first. If a recession is about to end, and a recovery will begin, the leading indicators start moving up first. For example, the number of new people applying for unemployment insurance is a leading indicator. When someone gets laid off, one of the first things they’ll do is apply for benefits. No economic survey is needed to measure that change. The unemployment offices report the data weekly, so if business activity is declining, the benefit application data will show it first. The state leading indicators are compiled by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. Click on “Research and Data” and then “Regional Economy.” The leading index dropped by 0.6% in August. That means the Indiana economy is expected to decline by that much over the next six months, through February 2018.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor of South Bend never has provided a national political base – until now. Now, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is featured more often in major national publications and on national TV than any member of Congress from Indiana or, for that matter, more than most members of Congress anywhere. Almost always it’s with portrayal of South Bend’s mayor as an emerging Democratic Party leader, maybe a future presidential candidate, even though he lost in his first venture into national politics earlier this year as a candidate for Democratic national chairman. In losing, he won more national attention. So, what is his goal? Locally, he says, it’s completing his parks investment program, a new part of “the South Bend story” he tells about in the national interviews. Nationally, it’s funding a political action committee. A PAC? Isn’t that something for big-money special interests, not exactly fitting the image of Buttigieg in those stories in Time, the New York Times and the Washington Post and in appearances with Charlie Rose and Seth Meyers? “I’m very skeptical of the creation of super PACs as a policy,” Buttigieg says. “But if they are going to exist, if the big special interests get to have them, then I think someone speaking up for ordinary people ought to have one, too.”
  • MERRILLVILLE – When Richard Gordon Hatcher was elected mayor 50 years ago, Gary was one of the most segregated cities in the nation. Blacks were confined to Midtown, but they weren’t bothered by the housing restrictions, said State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary. Brown said blacks accepted the segregation because jobs were plentiful and the pay was good. Brown came to Gary from Philadelphia in the early 1960s and took a job as a teacher. He quickly became part of Hatcher’s campaign team. The Hatcher years will be featured during a celebration Saturday at West Side High School. Among those expected are close friends, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Minister Louis Farrakhan. The Hatcher years were tumultuous. Many embraced Hatcher for being the one of the first blacks, along with Carl Stokes of Cleveland, elected mayor of a major U.S. city.
  • KOKOMO – You may like Donald Trump. You may hate Donald Trump. You may think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread or the devil incarnate. Think what you will, there is something that all of us can agree on. Donald Trump has certainly not been a boring president. Folks who don’t live in a history book might be inclined to think that Donald Trump is the most controversial and disruptive president that our nation has ever seen. While Trump has created his share of chaos and angst in the halls of political power, he can’t hold a candle to President Andrew Jackson. It is revealing that Donald Trump added a portrait of Jackson to the Oval Office shortly after his inauguration. If Andrew Jackson is President Trump’s role model, then he couldn’t have picked a better example of a president who didn’t give two hoots about what his party or the press thought of him. Jackson came to Washington to drain the swamp as he saw it and, “whoa Nellie,” did he ever do it. As we consider Andrew Jackson, it might serve us well to remember that Hurricane Jackson blew into Washington in an era where only newspapers existed for dissemination of news and commentary. As we reflect on Jackson, try and imagine his presidency as viewed through the lens of television journalism, the internet, Facebook posts, Tweets and the New York Times.

  • ANN ARBOR, Mich. – As the Republican deficit hawks molt into deficit doves, the GOP canaries – President George W. Bush and Sens. John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake – have chirped out their warnings. It comes on the heels of President Trump’s bizarre criticism of one of the nation’s newest Gold Star mothers. It comes as a third U.S. Navy carrier strike force heads toward to Korean peninsula, with the USS Nimitz joining the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Theodore Roosevelt. A week ago Bush43 said, "We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism; forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them."

  • FORT WAYNE – Did you hear about the Trump staffer who was fired yesterday after being heard humming Tim McGraw’s hit song, “Always stay humble and kind?” Fake news. It is safe to say that when the president of the United States becomes Don Rickles with hair and no smile, the king of the insult, anyone singing that song at the White House would be doing so ironically. The critics of the president are, if anything, worse. What is extraordinary is how bottom-dwelling nasty liberals have become, justified with an air of superiority and a condescending tone to those who don’t laugh at their meanness. The vice president of the United States cannot attend the most popular play in America without being lectured by the cast. He cannot leave a football game, which he attended to honor Peyton Manning, not observe players disrespecting the nation, without getting torn apart by liberals trying to prove they can be the meanest king of the mountain.
  • SOUTH BEND – Many Democrats, smug in belief that they know what’s right for the nation, are sure that voters throughout the nation know they’re right and that President Donald Trump is what his own secretary of state called him. So, they are convinced that 2018 will bring big Democratic election gains – control of the House and maybe even of the Senate, where the seats up for election make it tough, though still possible. Don’t the shifting demographics of the country, and seeming determination of Trump to insult and alienate so many of the growing segments of the population, make big Democratic wins inevitable and threaten the future of the Republican Party? Well . . .A year ago today, many Democrats, smug in belief that they knew what was right for the nation, were sure that voters throughout the nation knew they were right and that Trump, with the Harvey Weinstein image of that time, would never be president.
  • MERRILLVILLE – Hoosiers used to elect local school board members to make the tough decisions about education. That’s not the case any longer. The Legislature mandated several years ago that any major increases in the amount of money schools can raise must be approved by the voters through a referendum. Such will be the case Nov. 7 on increased funding proposals for the Hobart and Hammond school corporations. Again, I don’t fully understand why. It seems that the school districts elected board members to make the decisions about levels of funding for the hiring of teachers and staff, the repair and replacement of school buildings and the purchase of equipment. There is one major fault with that system, and Lake County has seen it happen in recent years. The more affluent communities approve referendums to raise more money for schools. And, the poorer communities reject referendums to raise more money for the operation of the schools. Specifically, the voters in Gary and East Chicago, the two poorest municipalities in the county, have rejected school referendums in recent years. That’s somewhat understandable in that those taxpayers can least afford to spend more money on schools – or anything else for that matter. The irony of referendums dying in Gary and East Chicago is that those two districts needed more money for schools than others did.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – One of the most popular numbers used to describe (and often judge) a community is educational attainment. The Census Bureau provides such data for the nation, states, counties, townships, cities and towns. With technological progress, we can expect to learn how many years of schooling or what degrees are held by the angels atop that famous pin. But years of schooling, certificates, and degrees are not precise measures of what a person knows, of his/her actual educational attainment. Nor do those metrics indicate what a person can do. They are, like Little League statues, participation awards. Yet, until something better comes along, that’s what politicians, business savants, even economists look for as an indicator of promise, capability, and innovative capacity. “Something better has come along,” a commanding voice says. I look around, but there is no one about. “Who said that?” I ask. “What is better than educational attainment?”
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre where 58 people were killed and about 550 people were injured, I surveyed all the “thoughts and prayers” reaction from our public servants and waited to write an analysis. Why? Because the “thoughts and prayers” reaction seemed so thoroughly trite and hollow. Since the Columbine High School massacre, as a journalist I’ve written columns with the predictable gamut of emotions: Sorrow, outrage, denial, guilt, acceptance. But even the personal wrath and this question – “What happened to the Constitution’s preamble that strives for ‘domestic tranquility’” – now seems platitudinous. As in waning empires, the dangerous reaction is one of resignation and that’s where we seem to be today. There were predictable quotes, like this one from 28-year-old Russell Bleck, who observed, “People would run one way and then you’d hit a dead end; it was just a kill box. You were kind of getting led down like cattle would to a slaughterhouse. I saw bodies everywhere. The guy was just spraying the crowd.”

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  • Rokita revives residency issue against Messer
    "What's best for our family is living right here amongst our constituents, amongst our neighbors in Brownsburg, Indiana. You only have to look to [Richard] Lugar [and] Evan Bayh to see how the Indiana electorate treats someone who doesn't really live in this state and has lost touch." - U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita to WIBC’s Tony Katz, in reference to his criticism of U.S. Senate primary opponent Luke Messer, who moved his family to Washington while he serves in Congress. Messer told Katz, "The Hoosiers I talk to put their family first and they respect that a member of Congress would put their family first too.“ Sens. Lugar and Bayh lost Senate bids in 2012 and 2016 with residency one of the issues that came up during the campaign.
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  • The slitherly slope and redemption
    Here are some thoughts on the “Pervnado” that is sweeping Hollywood, Capitol Hill, newsrooms and statehouses, though things at the Indiana Statehouse have been quiet.

    Does it make a difference when a decades-old allegation comes up that the perpetrator apologizes? Particularly if there’s no specific evidence? We’ve watched Kevin Spacey, Sen. Al Franken and comedian Louis C.K. seek some measure of atonement for their inappropriate behavior, while Republican Alabama U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore, who has been accused of pedophilia, has not and remains defiant? Ditto for comedian Bill Cosby.

    As any crisis communicator will tell you, coming clean and being contrite is the better long term strategy even if one takes big losses in the short-term. And Americans have a penchant for redemption, as past controversial figures ranging from Muhammad Ali, Jane Fonda, Kobe Bryant to Barney Frank and even Presidents Clinton and Nixon eventually were restored some degree of trust and popularity.

    Is it inconsistent for U.S. Rep. Luke Messer to call for the resignation of Sen. Franken for one ribald photo and an inappropriate and slithery pass a radio personality Leanne Tweeden, while President Trump escapes a similar assessment despite a dozen or so similar complaints and the Billy Bush “Access Hollywood” tape?

    Just asking, as we watch many powerful figures tumble down the slithery slope.  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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