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Saturday, April 10, 2021
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  • ANDERSON – The whole thing started with a report circulating on conservative media that a Virginia public school district had banned students from reading books by famed children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel. Things got so crazy that Loudon County Public Schools felt obligated to post a denial online. “Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms,” the announcement read. The rumor had been that the school board demanded all mention of the author be eliminated from the annual Read Across America Day held on Geisel’s birthday, March 2. What the school board actually did was to suggest that its schools “not connect Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’s birthday exclusively.” The rationale was simple. “Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” the school district said in its statement.
  • ANDERSON – There’s a meme floating around on social media concerning last month’s attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Democrats say the storming of the Capitol is outrageous, but did you know the Senate was bombed by communists in 1983?” it asks. “A woman involved in the attack was convicted and sentenced to 58 years in prison. She was pardoned by Bill Clinton and now sits on the board of Black Lives Matter Inc.” The person who shared that meme added a note. “Inconvenient history,” she said. Someone else posted a link to an article from History.com recounting a number of attacks on the Capitol. The first came while the building was still under construction during the War of 1812. A year into the fighting, American troops had set fire to a capitol in colonial Canada, and the British retaliated in 1814 by setting fire to some buildings in Washington, D.C., including the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
  • ANDERSON – President Donald J. Trump described the 46-minute speech as perhaps the most important he had ever delivered. In it, he claimed that the election had been stolen, and he called on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. “Hopefully, they will do what’s right for our country because our country can’t live with this kind of an election,” he said. By Thursday, the Facebook video had drawn roughly 630,000 reactions and more than 180,000 comments. It had been shared tens of thousands of times. And it was absolutely without basis. Facebook said as much in a disclaimer attributed to the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Both voting by mail and voting in person have a long history of trustworthiness in the U.S.,” the disclaimer read. “Voter fraud is extremely rare across voting methods.” And yet the president keeps lying. “Millions of ballots were cast illegally in the swing states alone,” he said. The president’s main argument seems to be that a guy who received 74 million votes could not possibly have lost the election. Never mind that President-elect Joe Biden received 7 million more.
  • ANDERSON – Joe Biden campaigned as the candidate who could bring America together, and it’s looking more and more as if he’ll get a chance to try. Not that the current occupant of the White House will make it easy. President Donald J. Trump is on record saying the Democrats are trying to steal the election, and there’s every indication he won’t leave without a fight. The odds seem good, though, that Biden will take the oath of office in January as the 46th president of the United States. I had hoped for a different outcome. I wanted to see the landslide many of the pollsters had been projecting. Instead, Biden will be faced with the challenge of leading a polarized nation, a nation the columnist George Will describes as “evenly divided by mutual incomprehension.” Biden won the votes of a record number of Americans, but his opponent had the support of nearly as many.
  • ANDERSON – Speaking at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, President Donald J. Trump suggested we’d all be bored if Joe Biden won the election. “If you want depression, doom and despair, vote for Sleepy Joe,” he said. “And boredom.” I don’t know about the depression, doom and despair, but I’d suggest this country could use a little bit of boredom right about now. Imagine not having to worry what crazy conspiracy theory would turn up next on the president’s Twitter feed. Wouldn’t that be a nice change? I’m guessing it wouldn’t trouble us at all if our president never again sent out a message suggesting that his predecessors in the White House might have had Seal Team 6 killed to cover up the fact that Osama bin Laden was still alive. If Joe Biden were elected, we might never again have to witness our president cozying up to wingnuts and conspiracy theorists. We could stop trying to understand his affinity for white nationalists and racists. So when the president promises boredom if his opponent wins the election, well, that sounds pretty good.
  • ANDERSON – I didn’t even notice the fly. In the middle of a debate between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a fly took up residence on the vice president’s head, and social media exploded. I don’t know why, but while almost everyone else seemed focused on that fly, I was thinking about who won the debate. As soon as moderator Susan Page closed the discussion, I flipped over to Fox News to learn that nearly all of the panelists thought Pence had dominated the evening. You have to admit the vice president was focused. Regardless of any shots his opponent might take, he stayed relentlessly on message. Nothing could shake him. “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. But Pence was unmoved. He suggested that by criticizing the administration’s handling of the pandemic, Harris was actually minimizing the sacrifices of average citizens.
  • ANDERSON – On Thursday, researchers at Cornell University released a study identifying the largest driver of misinformation about the coronavirus as the president of the United States. Before the sun came up the next day, that same president had tested positive for the virus. In the wake of the news about his diagnosis, the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said his boss was experiencing mild symptoms. “The great thing about this president is not only is he staying committed to working on behalf of the America people,” Meadows said. “We have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job, and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.” Medical experts note that the president is in a high risk group because of his age and his weight. And it’s almost anyone’s guess how the virus will progress. The president might recover quickly, the experts say, or he might develop more serious symptoms weeks down the road. This is no laughing matter, and no one should wish the president ill. Still, you have to at least shake your head at the timing. One day, the president is called out for his lies. The next day, he tests positive for the virus he’s been lying about.
  • ANDERSON –  Speaking about the prospects for replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the nation’s highest court, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered a prediction. “There will no longer be 96-0 Antonin Scalia confirmations or unanimous Sandra Day O’Connor confirmations,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Those days of politics, unfortunately in my view, … are gone now.” Let’s hope he’s wrong. There is every likelihood the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate will confirm President Donald J. Trump’s selection to succeed Justice Ginsburg. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised as much. And the opposition, of course, is already plotting revenge. There’s talk that if Democrats win back the Senate and the White House, they should pack the court by adding more members. That’s a bad idea.
  • ANDERSON –  Could the president’s ignorance of science be his undoing? It will be if Scientific American has anything to say about it. For the first time in its 175-year history, the magazine is taking sides in a presidential election. “This year, we are compelled to do so,” the editors wrote. “We do not do this lightly.” President Donald J. Trump, they argued, has badly damaged the nation and its people through his rejection of science. “The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, …” the editors wrote. “He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.”
  • ANDERSON – A lot of people will vote to give Donald J. Trump another term as president. It won’t matter what some anonymous sources might claim he said about our nation’s veterans or about the men and women who gave their lives for our country. Heck, it wouldn’t matter even if the president’s supporters could hear the words come out of his own mouth. It didn’t matter when they heard him say what he said about John McCain. It didn’t matter when they heard him bragging about sexual assault in that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape or when they saw him with their own eyes poking fun at a handicapped reporter. It won’t even matter now that they can hear him, on tape, confirming that he knew what he was telling us about COVID-19 was a lie, that he knew this virus was five times more dangerous than the common flu even as he assured the American people they had nothing to worry about.
  • ANDERSON — The war between our president and his favorite social media platform escalated in the wee hours of Friday morning. Just before 1 a.m., the president sent out a tweet about the rioting in Minneapolis. He called the demonstrators “thugs” and promised to take action to halt the violence. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted. “Thank you!” Less than two-and-a-half hours later, Twitter took action. “This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence … and the risk it could inspire similar actions today,” the company said. Hours later, the official White House Twitter account posted the same message, and Twitter again took action. “As is standard with this notice, engagements with the Tweet will be limited,” the company said. “People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but will not be able to Like, Reply or Retweet it.” The president is no stranger to outrageous messages on Twitter. Take his latest attack on Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” 
  • ANDERSON — No one is happy about this. Least of all newspapers. With businesses closed, advertising revenues have plummeted, and many newspapers have been forced to make some difficult choices. Some have closed. So, no, newspapers are not peddling stories of gloom and doom just to make a buck. No one really wants to read stories of misery and death. No one wants to write them. Not a single person delights in the news that millions of Americans have lost their jobs. No one cheers when another business files for bankruptcy protection or shuts its doors. No one celebrates as fellow citizens struggle to put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads. COVID-19 has slashed a wound in our economy that might take years to heal. Some of the jobs the virus has taken will never come back. Lots of us are getting grumpy about being stuck at home. Working in your pajamas might have some appeal for a little while, but the attraction begins to fade after weeks on end. And those Zoom meetings have helped businesses and families stay connected, but will anyone really be disappointed when we can go back to meeting face to face?
  • ANDERSON –  As the clock wound down on 2019, two things happened related to the state of journalism in this country. NBC’s Chuck Todd devoted an entire edition of “Meet the Press” to the topic of disinformation in the age of Donald J. Trump, and the Newseum closed its doors for what might have been the last time. Situated just down the street from the White House, the 11-year-old museum featured a gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs and a display dedicated to journalists who had been killed while doing their jobs. It included the bent and twisted World Trade Center antenna set against a backdrop of newspaper front pages reporting on the terrorist attack that brought down the New York City landmark. The Newseum was, in short, a monument to journalism and the 1st Amendment. In explaining its decision to close the museum, the Freedom Forum said it could no longer sustain the expense. Perhaps the facility had been overly ambitious. Too big, too expensive. 
  • ANDERSON  — House Speaker Brian Bosma says his goal is simply to ensure a smooth transition. The plan is that his hand-picked successor, State Rep. Todd Huston, will spend much of the coming session as something of an understudy, learning the tricks of the trade during Bosma’s farewell tour.
     “Most of it you see, and most of the members see, is out here at the podium,” Bosma said. “The vast majority of the job is conducted elsewhere, behind the scenes trying to bring policies to a close and people together to move Indiana in the right direction.” The 62-year-old Bosma is Indiana’s longest-serving House speaker. He first  held the reins from 2004 to 2006, before giving them up when Democrats won control of the House of Representatives. He won the job back when Republicans regained power in 2010. The party’s leaders seem to be on board with Bosma’s succession plan. Take this statement from the party chairman, Kyle Hupfer. “During his service in the House, Todd has demonstrated the dedicated, thoughtful and principled leadership needed to serve as speaker,” Hupfer said in a prepared statement. “Brian Bosma leaves behind a historic legacy of accomplishment that will continue with Todd Huston now at the helm.” Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a statement saying that Huston had already proven himself to be a strong leader. “Having a year to learn from Speaker Bosma will prove invaluable,” the governor said.
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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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