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Monday, October 21, 2019
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  • EVANSVILLE – Everyone has their 9/11 remembrances and that is fine. Understand just how rapidly it is receding into the unremembered past: The number of Americans with no real memory of it approaches one-third, and the number of Americans with no adult memory of it creeps toward half. With the forgetting comes the loss of emotive content. It is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the falling away of emotion means we lose the felt sense of the only silver lining of the whole blood-soaked affair, the flowering of patriotism in the immediate thereafter. Those of us who lived through the bright autumn of 2001 witnessed the last mass expression of a common American patriotism of the 21st Century. No moment like it has come since, and it is unlikely to reappear. If in this vein we are the people we were two decades ago, the evidence has yet to present itself. That said, we should not over-valorize the people we were two decades past, either. The best of us rushed into burning towers in September or descended upon Afghanistan in October. The rest of us watched in stupefaction or satisfaction, or perhaps both. That goes even for direct witnesses of the great massacre, including me. We spectated. It was not two years later that the phrase emerged, not from Afghanistan but Iraq, that in the post-9/11 era only the American military was at war; the American people were at the mall. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • EVANSVILLE - Think about democratic and liberal society in America as it was in the distant past, nearly obscured in the mists of time, for example 1980. Or 1970. Or 1940. Or 1900. An imperfect construct, of course, but for the majority characterized by a voluntary principle: Nearly all social interaction was undertaken within the bounds of mutual benefit and mutual agreeability. You interacted with family; you exchanged goods and services; you joined benevolent societies; you worshiped in community; you attended political clubs. The entire web of liberal interaction as described by de Tocqueville was vibrant and pervasive. The important point is this: You interacted with others on a generally positive basis. Underlying every association was some agreement or shared experience, and so we generally believed most of society agreed on most of the important things. As a consequence, we were more optimistic and pacific, and therefore in turn generous.

    In antagonistic or hostile interactions, there were mutually agreed rules and resolutions to them: the political process, the judicial process, or old-fashioned geographic separation. One might not always win, but one generally felt that things were fair. As important, one believed there were defined ends and terminations to those conflicts.??There are two significant differences between then and now. The first is that more and more factions within society seek to definitively impose themselves upon the others. There are structural reasons for this — the administrative state, the supremacy of the judiciary, the collapse of federalism — and they are well known. Few genuinely wish to contend with the structural issues since those that control the relevant structures benefit from them so much.? The other significant difference is the rise of social media, which is vastly more destructive and poisonous to a democratic and liberal society than is commonly understood. Continual and unhindered sentiment-sharing reverses the normal process for human relations.
  • EVANSVILLE – If you wondered what it felt like at the exhaustive conclusion of a First World War offensive, having moved just six inches closer to Berlin at the cost of four months and tens of thousands dead, Tuesday’s election results probably felt somewhat like that. The key differences are of course that no one is dead, we live in relative comfort, the war actually did end, and you will never make it to Berlin. Following the highly anticipated 2018 midterms, neither Republicans nor Democrats perceive much incentive to adjust their approach, victory and defeat having been almost perfectly apportioned to validate the most powerful forces within any institution, those militating toward the status quo. On the one hand, Hoosier Republicans managed to hold onto their congressional seats and kept their super majorities in the state legislature, despite some of the strongest challenges from Democrats in years. Meanwhile the national GOP took small gains in favorable Senate races (including Indiana with Senator-elect Mike Braun) and fended off high-profile governor challenges.
  • EVANSVILLE – Following a quick and tense announcement Monday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill signaled he would not be leaving office without a fight. Nearly all of the statewide elected officials have called for his resignation, along with numerous other high ranking Republicans such as Gov. Eric Holcomb, Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long. Assuming that Hill does not leave on his own, he may only be removed through one of two methods. First, he could be impeached by the House of Representatives and then convicted by the Indiana Senate, with a two-thirds vote required in each body.  Alternatively, Hill could be removed by a joint resolution of the General Assembly, which would also require a two-thirds vote in each body (Ind. Const., Art. 6, Sec. 7). Substantively, the Indiana Constitution specifies that removal can be sought by the Indiana legislature “for crime, incapacity, or negligence.” The phrase does not have a settled or clear meaning. The constitutional drafters were searching for a flexible standard that allows removal in a variety of situations. But they also wanted a standard that required some specific, demonstrable offenses for removal of state officers.
  • EVANSVILLE  – As 1,500 delegates and their friends descend on Evansville for this year’s Indiana Republican Convention, it will mark only the second time in modern history that the GOP convention will take place outside of Indianapolis. Here’s what you need to know about the state’s third largest city. Just as Indianapolis emerged in the 1980s from its negative reputation as “India-no-place” or “Naptown,” Evansville is now undergoing its own resurgence. The downtown alone has over $500 million in renovations simultaneously occurring, an unprecedented amount of investment. Simply put, Evansville’s downtown is poised for booming growth with renovations and new construction happening nearly everywhere you look. Some of this progress will present an unattractive annoyance – construction barrels, cleared lots and closed streets are common sights – but it all points to a promising renaissance. Tropicana Evansville, the state’s first land-based casino, opened 75,000 square feet of gaming fun in renovated space. Two new downtown hotels under construction will soon join the recently completed DoubleTree convention hotel, which rests next to the new Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, a collaboration for medical education by the University of Evansville, University of Southern Indiana and Indiana University.
  • EVANSVILLE – The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) debate revolves in part around a Constitutional question: Does the president unilaterally set immigration policy, or do such laws require congressional authorization? When President Obama lacked the votes to get DACA through Congress, he simply implemented it via executive order. In truth, DACA was headed toward a legal challenge that likely would have overturned the rule as unconstitutional. Congress needed to take it up one way or the other anyway. But this administration’s motives to end DACA, or at least sow confusion among those benefiting from it, most certainly find their roots in more than just constitutional concerns. The #MAGA crowd feels their American identity and financial well-being stretched and insecure. Immigrants make an easy culprit. We’ve witnessed similar tension at other points in our country’s history – the Civil War, waves of immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and the cultural revolution of the 1960s – but throughout those conflicts the question was whether white Christians would make more room for other groups at a table they still dominated. In those older conflicts new groups gained acceptance in exchange for cultural assimilation.
  • EVANSVILLE – As GOP attempts at federal healthcare reform continue to flounder, John Boehner added fuel to the fire last month with remarkably prescient prophecy about the chances of his former Republican colleagues successfully passing some sort of repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. “Now, they’re never – they’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare. . . in the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever one time agreed on what a healthcare proposal should look like. Not once,” he said. Plenty of evidence backs Boehner up. Other than vague, occasional references to the free market, Republicans lack a comprehensive ideological approach to healthcare policy. That’s a sad reality for an industry representing one-sixth of the national economy. It’s time for Congress to embrace a new prescription for our national healthcare headache: Unleash the states. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb wants more flexibility at the state level and “greater control of federal health care dollars being spent in Indiana.” Holcomb often defends Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 and avoids offering too many specifics, but many believe he favors more free market reforms like reconnecting healthcare buyers with sellers and reducing perverse incentives.
  • EVANSVILLE – Each year the Indiana legislature prides itself on reducing the size and scope of government, yet each session, including this one, that same legislature grabs more power from the hands of local municipalities. The message from Indianapolis is clear: The Statehouse knows best and mayors and town councils can’t be trusted to do what’s in their communities’ best interests. It is time we fundamentally change our approach. Indiana’s Home Rule Act first passed in 1980 and generally grants municipalities the power to govern themselves as they see fit. The idea, modeled off the national principle of federalism, gives more choice, options, flexibility, and freedom to local leaders. Now those ideals are under greater attack than at any time since Hoosier home rule began. In recent years the Indiana legislature handcuffed municipalities from setting a local minimum wage or from regulating housing, agricultural operations, worker schedules, or plastic bags. A move to preempt local rules for services like Airbnb failed to get out of the Indiana House, but it was a rare setback for the never-ending march to scale back home rule. This year legislators successfully banned local zoning rules for certain utility poles and undermined so-called “good neighbor ordinances.”
        
  • EVANSVILLE – I remember the moment when Mike Pence’s challenge crystallized for me. In 2012, as he campaigned to succeed Mitch Daniels as governor, Pence traveled the state setting up listening sessions with small business owners, and his campaign team asked me to set one up in Evansville. He opened the discussion with an admission that Daniels already addressed most of the low-hanging fruit to improve Indiana’s business environment, but he asked what he could do to further improve state government. As folks around the table offered comments, everyone had plenty of constructive (and harsh) criticism for the national government, but they each struggled to identify concerns with Indiana. In short, thanks to the preceding eight years of Mitch Daniels’ leadership, Indiana was working well – really well, in fact – and Pence would have to work hard to get out from beneath his shadow. Pence’s place in history as governor, literally and figuratively, will forever be viewed next to Mitch Daniels.
  • EVANSVILLE – We have reached a great fork in the road in the history of the Republican Party. The party’s bombastic leader and president has a passionate grip on many voters, giving them control of all branches of government. The coattails of success extend beyond Washington and in Indiana helped keep Republican control of every office and body of state government as well as an overwhelming majority of the state’s municipalities. Faced with such success, many of our Republican friends decided to strike a deal with the devil and urge loyalty and unity with Trump. In their minds, a little immaturity on Twitter is a fair price to pay to finally rein in Democratic policies and get things done. Besides, they say, Donald Trump the candidate or Donald Trump the showman is different from the sane man who will actually govern. Nearly two weeks into the Trump presidency, we now know they are wrong. The unprecedented beginning for the administration included purposefully picked battles with the intelligence community, immigrants, and foreign allies; illegal executive orders; elevation of political advisers over military and foreign policy experts; gaslighting and lies; and a general chaotic and bumbling approach to executive organization. This presidency is everything we feared and it will only get much worse.
  • EVANSVILLE – The 2016 election was a resounding success for Indiana Republicans. Outgoing governor Mike Pence is the new vice president, Eric Holcomb will be the next governor, and Republicans won all other statewide races, including state education  superintendent. Like the federal government, the Indiana Statehouse is firmly controlled by Republicans. For the party brass and thousands of Republican political and policy advisors, the incentive will be to celebrate the victories, congratulate themselves on strategy, and rest on the laurels of a fresh victory. Undoubtedly, the Trump/Pence wave carried the day and is driving the Republican Party. So why should they ever again listen to Never Trump Republicans they might view as losers? That line of thinking would be a strategic blunder. Trump’s victory appears to be based more on a rejection of Clintonism and liberalism than an embrace of Trump’s ideology. Mitt Romney got 60.9 million votes and lost, while early returns show Donald Trump has 59.1 million votes and is winning. Trump also received less than McCain’s popular vote total in 2008 and came up short of Obama’s winning 2012 vote totals in all of the battleground critical swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio. Indiana Republicans didn’t ride a wave of Trump support. Instead, they rode a wave of anti-Clintonism thanks to Democrats staying at home.
  • EVANSVILLE – Most Hoosiers know little or nothing of Republican lieutenant governor candidate Suzanne Crouch. She hasn’t spent decades on the talk radio circuit like Mike Pence, she doesn’t have a family pedigree like Evan Bayh, and she hasn’t spent a lifetime building a statewide political network like Eric Holcomb. But she is good at one thing in particular: Governing. Policy wonks have long admired Crouch. She served for many years as vice chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, quietly toiling away at the nittygritty work of budgets and appropriations. As a state representative Crouch also advocated for legislation creating a new Transparency Portal which offers data and links for anyone to review state spending, revenues, salaries, contracts, and performance and accountability measures. In 2013, after the resignation of Dwayne Sawyer, Crouch was appointed state auditor and immediately set to work improving the transparency portal. Its success exploded and a number of government watchdog groups ranked Indiana’s portal as one of the best in the nation.
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  • Adm. McRaven: The Republic is under attack from the President
    “The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within. These men and women, of all political persuasions, have seen the assaults on our institutions: on the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press. They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own. They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, ‘I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!’ If we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states? If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up? President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong." - Admiral William H. McRaven, former commander of the United States Special Operations Command, in a New York Times op-ed titled "Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President: If President Trump doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office." 
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  • Gen. Votel on what Kurd fighters did for the U.S.
    “Over four years, the SDF freed tens of thousands of square miles and millions of people from the grip of ISIS. Throughout the fight, it sustained nearly 11,000 casualties. By comparison, six U.S. service members, as well as two civilians, have been killed in the anti-ISIS campaign.” - U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who served as commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, on the role the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up mostly of Kurdish fighters. The United States has abandoned the SDF, which is now under an ethnic cleansing assault from Turkey after President Trump gave the green light for the incursion on Sunday.
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