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Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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  • INDIANAPOLIS – Bad things happen when underage kids drink to excess without supervision. Perhaps you’ve seen it yourself or parented a teen who learned the hard way that gathering your friends to slam dad’s vodka when he’s on vacation is a good way to get expelled. Or for today’s youth, your phone confiscated. A few years ago, I collaborated with Sen. Jim Merritt to amend the Lifeline Law to include assault. This law is in place for exactly these kinds of parties, where teenagers drink and possibly take drugs to excess, and injuries result. No one wants to call the police, and young people have died from a variety of injuries over the years, from fisticuffs at beach parties on the shores of Lake Michigan to falling down the stairs in Central Indiana.  Sometimes assaults of a sexual nature happen at these parties as well. Republicans and Democrats all voted unanimously to pass a law that now essentially says, “Hey kids! If you drink underage and are assaulted at a party, and afraid to report the crime as your friends may get in trouble for drinking, don’t worry! If you report or call an ambulance, you are all are indemnified from the drinking offenses.” Now, your parent or guardian very well may punish you, but you cannot be punished by the government for underage drinking in this instance.  
  • INDIANAPOLIS – The United States can withstand almost any mean-spirited or just plain bad domestic policy in the near term, but foreign policy is another matter entirely. It is no understatement to claim that stakes are extraordinarily high. Hoosier steelworkers get it. Hoosier farmers get it.  Hoosier moms get it, and Hoosier teenagers get it too.  Whether people care about trade, their paycheck, military conflict, or other violence in the broader world, tension is again ratcheting up all over. While we may not agree who they are, we likely will agree that we are living in a world suddenly full of James Bond villains.  What our president says truly matters; there are no throw-away comments by the leader of the free world. The world is always listening – friends, enemies and frenemies too, whether for reasons of economic competition or balance of power.  The past week was remarkable for many reasons that directly relate to our standing in the world, but one comment continues to trouble me. It reveals that we are not attending to either history or the parameters of our present strategic alliances.  President Trump declared that he found that the European Union “is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union but they’re a foe.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS –  So the politics of it all really don’t matter so much. The important thing is that we are beginning to see that generation of kids we worry about step up and get involved in productive, if controversial, civic conversation. You know the kids I mean, the ones who grew up in an online world that may not understand what a desktop mouse is, but they sure do know how to screenshot their favorite selfie of themselves wearing SnapChat pirate face.  Those same kids you saw in restaurants a few years ago, sitting at the end of the table with their cousins and siblings, all agog in their parents’ tablets and phones, faces aglow with screen light and deep distraction.  It’s funny, just a few years ago the standard protocol for parents to keep tabs on their kids’ online lives was to keep their PC in the family room, common space where they could walk by and take note of what’s up in their kids’ virtual worlds.  
  • INDIANAPOLIS –  Government will be healthier and more effective when it better reflects our population. Today we have a paltry number of women serving in Indiana government, but the issues facing them in their daily lives cut deeply. I have noted many times that far too many Indiana families today struggle for economic stability, yet as our families have been working so hard over the past 30 years for less: Indiana has become more obese and less healthy; Indiana has become a net exporter of degreed talent; Indiana’s educational achievements relative to other states (like SAT performance) has declined; Indiana has more people incarcerated than ever before; Indiana has more people addicted to drugs than ever before; more of Indiana’s women and children are victims of sexual and domestic violence; women have increasingly less access to ob/gyn doctors and medical care, yet more and more people suffer from STDs and suffer through pregnancies without adequate medical care; women make only 74 cents to every dollar earned by a man for the same job. Women just get it. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Gorgeous women trying to make it big in Hollywood. The casting couch. Men abusing their power and position. The fact that so many assaults have happened to women (and some men) that are familiar to us through their fame and celebrity leaves many nonplussed. Others have been compelled to tell their personal stories of assault and victimization. In Indiana, no one should be surprised. Here, even our littlest kids face sexual assault and rape every day, and we are not doing nearly enough to help. In fact, the problem is getting worse and worse. We must stop describing these problems and get to work on preventing them. If you need convincing, just count up the cases of sexually-transmitted diseases of all kinds in kids aged zero to five being treated at urgent care clinics and emergency rooms across our state. Children may not know how to report these crimes, yet sometimes they bear the evidence in horrible and life-altering ways. Here in Indiana, we should know better. These kids aren’t famous. They are our neighbors and relatives, friends of our own children; people we talk to every day, and wave to at the bus stop. One in six girls in Indiana is raped or sexually assaulted by the time they leave high school here. One in five faces assault on our college campuses.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Several years ago I was attending a meeting of Asia-Pacific community leaders in Melaka, Malaysia. People had gathered there from all over the region, including South Korea and Guam, but also Taiwan, and even Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Australia, Tahiti and a number of other countries. Together, we witnessed the reporting on the tsunami that hit Japan, including the terrifying images of coastal cities completely devastated, homes, personal property and loved ones sucked out to sea, never to be heard from again. And if that was not enough, the struggle of the nuclear meltdown of Fukushima, all while our friends and colleagues from Japan could only watch the reports with us, unable to communicate with family back home. The kinship that these people from all over the region felt for one another was palpable and as heartwarming as it could be under the circumstances and uncertainty. People understood that they all faced that common enemy, Mother Nature, and that she could wreak havoc any place, any time, and that many of these nations were particularly vulnerable. Today, there may be a run on Ambien in the Pacific Rim. This escalation of rhetoric and posturing regarding North Korean aggression is unprecedented, and our regional military exposure is more vulnerable than in the past 30 or more years. President Trump’s toughguy talk to Pyonyang sounds awfully similar to his colleague from the Philippines, President Dutarte, and what the Asia Times describes as his “shock and awe diplomacy.”
  • 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.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Democratic Party hasn’t felt like much of a party lately.  More like a support group meeting, or an amateur cage match.  We have a lingering case of loseritis, and it has negatively impacted our collective self-esteem. We need to remember that we are the party of fun, of cool, a party of people who are motivated about the well-being of others. How many of us have moved on from rolling our eyes to smashing our screens when we receive those doom and gloom overly urgent political fundraising emails? It is time to reconnect to our identity, and the promise we can bring to Hoosiers around the state.  We are the party that appreciates everybody, no matter your gender, color, religion, sexual orientation, whatever.  People, we like all of you!  And we think it is important to stand up to bullies who don’t.  We also get things done. In fact, Democratic leadership is thriving in our cities and towns around Indiana.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – People from the beginning of recorded time have noted that human intercourse, sex, can feel really good. It usually doesn’t cost anything, and people have been doing it for years, in fact, this is how we have populated the planet. It is going to continue to happen, even when circumstances are less than ideal. Yet our attitudes toward it can be very impractical and public policy can actually bring harm. In Indiana, sexual education can only be taught in public school through the lens of abstinence. Abstinence only for disease prevention. Abstinence only for pregnancy prevention.  While well-intentioned, this strategy leaves out a great deal of necessary information, like how to protect yourself from or get help after violent encounters in an age-appropriate way. These good intentions, intentions presumed to cut back on promiscuity, lead to all kinds of problems.  
        
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Democrats may not like what I am about to say, but we need to hear it.  Clearly women have woken up and donned their pussy hats, protesting, meeting, marching and learning how to more effectively influence good public policy in our state. Invigorated participation in politics is a very good thing, particularly here in Indiana where we have such traditionally low voter turnout.  That said, although the Democrat Party is supposed to be the party of inclusion, I have to express sincere appreciation for our Indiana Republicans in this regard. They just get it better than we do. Even though most members of my party (and others) may hold issue with the opposition’s approach to a number of issues that resonate mostly with females, we all have to admire the opportunity that the Indiana Republican Party has afforded women in our state.  This does not happen by accident.  Yes, women Democrats may have invigorated interest and participation, but we have no organized program to help women learn how to channel their interest and energy in this regard as effectively as possible.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – There has been a great deal of controversy and legislation to address voter fraud here in Indiana and now nationally in the recent and very recent past. In fact, since 2005, Indiana has had one of the most stringent voter ID laws in the country. Long before the issue of fraud was raised in the recent national election, here Indiana we’ve attempted to legislate even more prescriptive law, even though as U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the Supreme Court’s majority that held up the law’s constitutionality in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, said that “the record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.” OK. We all get that the American political landscape since then has changed significantly, and we struggle to understand how and why.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – I just have to thank Donald Trump from the bottom of my heart. When winning presidential candidates talk about “bleeding from the whatever,” and grabbing p*****s, women sit up and take notice. They listen, too, when that same candidate’s empowered daughter talks about increasing access for parents to quality daycare options.  Understandably pundits and the public continue to gape, agog and astounded by this past election, glued to the continuous news cycle that is our incoming president.   For me, I am grateful for one very important thing. Donald Trump accomplished what our first female candidate for president from a major party could not. He inspired women from both sides of the aisle to engage in the political process.  During the election cycle, I regret that we invested so much attention in the fact of Hillary Clinton’s gender rather than to issues that truly resonate with women.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Let’s get excited about our upcoming 201st year of Indiana statehood. We are a good place to do business because of the comparatively lower costs to employee our people and power our factories. We are leaders in the ever increasingly important areas of agriculture and life sciences. Our institutions of higher education and medicine are some of the world’s best. And the elections are over! What a relief for all of us. It is time now to set aside the inclination toward competition. It is time to work together, all of us, to resolve those lingering issues that negate our advantages and keep all of our people from sharing in our successes: Addiction. Low Wages. Hunger. Sexual violence. Illiteracy.  Poor health. Civil rights. The reality is this:  Too many of our citizens live lives with problems not a lot different than people in developing and yes, even war-torn, nations. We like to think of ourselves as living in a happy and wholesome place, and Indiana certainly has the potential for greatness. But we won’t achieve greatness unless we tackle our very complicated and serious challenges. Consider that Indiana is one of the most obese states in the nation. We have had a surging suicide rate. Nearly 10 percent of the babies born here are born opiate-addicted. Our infant mortality rate is shameful; among African-Americans, it is the worst in the nation. By so many measures, the fabric of family has frayed for too many in Indiana.

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  • Lugar, Bayh warn Senate about emerging scandals
    "As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security. We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability. It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate. We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld. Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest." - 44 former U.S. Senators, including Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh from Indiana, writing a Washington Post op-ed article warning current senators about the emerging scandals involving President Trump.
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  • Weird scenes inside the White House
    The Nick Ayres saga fallout continues to be just ... weird. Vanity Fair's  Gabriel Sherman reports that last Friday, President Trump met with Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence, and out-going Chief of Staff John Kelly to finalize the CoS transition. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday. But Kelly was pressing for top aide Zachary Fuentes to get the job, Trump got pissed and leaked the story on Saturday. Ayres began getting calls from the press about his net worth estimated to be between $12 million and $54 million.

    Ayres then insisted he only wanted the job for several months. Sherman: “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said. By Sunday, Ayres not only bolted the Trump gig, but the Pence job, too, deciding to head back to Georgia. So by year's end, Trump and Pence will both be on their third chief in less than two years.

    This all comes amid rampant speculation that with scandal, House Democrat investigations and a tariff-bruised economy all looming over the horizon, who would want to work for a guy like Trump, where loyalty is a one-way street, allies get thrown under the bus, and careers can be tainted forever after folks wallow in Watergate or get the Kremlin Kramps. Trump and Pence had lunch on Monday. Wonder what was on the menu? Crow, perhaps?
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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