Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando = Indiana

An openletter to the editors at NUVO

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 4:02 PM

  • Mark A. Lee
[Editor's Note: The following is an open letter submitted to NUVO by Dana Black, candidate for the Indiana House in the 88th District. She faces incumbent Brian Bosma, Speaker of the Indiana House, in the General election in November.] 

By Dana Black

Your hate for who I am led you to believe you had the right to deny me life. This is not an uncommon theme in America; in fact it is as American as apple pie. The events of Orlando's Pulse club, although the extreme, is being echoed in may state houses around the country. Other than the massacre at Wounded Knee, this is the greatest mass shooting in the history of our country.

Your disapproval of my existence makes you believe you can deny me my civil rights, deny me life. Just recently, State Rep. Brian Bosma released a statement suggesting they will study adding the LGBT community to protected class status in our civil rights statutes. And this weekend, Indy Pride Weekend, the Indiana Republicans at their convention and are discussing whether they should change their marriage language from only one man and one woman. The idea alone suggests their idea of a family is the only type of family, and all other demographic configurations are not worthy of their support or protection.

See, here is the thing, you don't have to like me or what I stand for or how I live my life, but you don't have the right to deny me life. You don't have the right to suggest that I am somehow less than you because I don't believe the way you do. Please understand when you make these assertions; you can't control how they are received. Omar Mateen thought as you do, and there are many others who think the exact same thing and will use your words to justify their actions against the LGBT community.
I went to bed Saturday night elated that I spent the day celebrating openness and moving forward with my wife, my granddaughter and closest of friends I call family. I woke up this morning to read and see a tragedy that stopped my heart. Republican leaders in Indiana, you have the opportunity to do what is right and protect the citizens of our great state. You have the opportunity to stop any potential violence against my community by proclaiming that all Hoosiers have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness regardless of whom they love. Will you take the necessary steps or will you continue to be a huge part of the problem? It really is up to you.

Indiana voters, you have a choice in 2016 to elect an individual who believes every citizen of this state has a right to his or her life.
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The Pulse nightclub massacre and the value of safe spaces

This was not a random act of terrorism. It was precise and calculated.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 1:05 PM

The Indianapolis Men's Chorus sings at a Indy Pride-coordinated vigil last night at Old National Centre. - MARK A. LEE
  • Mark A. Lee
  • The Indianapolis Men's Chorus sings at a Indy Pride-coordinated vigil last night at Old National Centre.
Sunday morning I woke up and walked down the stairs of my girlfriend's house, burnt and exhausted from Indy Pride. I sat in the living room with her and two of my best friends. All four of us are gay; and I consider them to be family. With them it’s a vacuum of protection, an ease and sense of home, where who we are and who we love is not taboo.

We, of course, spoke about the attacks at Pulse in Orlando — a violent violation of another safe space.

Late Saturday night, a man named Omar Mateen walked into a club with a pistol and an assault riffle, opening up fire on the 300-plus people inside, killing 50 and injuring dozens more. These people were there to celebrate, to have a brief moment in their week where how you dress and how you identify isn't seen as “other.” They were there to find a place where there was no world outside, where if only for a night they weren't seen as different, just as a person.

That is the value of a safe space.

The concept is hard to explain to someone who doesn't need one. If you have never been harassed for looking too masculine or too feminine, if you have never bitten your tongue in public because who knows what unfriendly ears are nearby, if you have never gotten a call from a friend after they were beaten or raped because of their sexuality, you cannot grasp how much these places mean to us. Places like Pulse are points of rejuvenation and solidarity.

Protection is needed and a safe space provides that — until they are breached.
They’re invaded every time someone hateful walks in, every time a member of our community is killed somewhere in the world for who they are and every time one of the 40 pieces of anti-trans legislation in this country are heard in a committee hearing.

But those spaces are made a little stronger with each blow. We are reminded that there are miles to go before safe spaces are no longer needed — when anywhere you go can be a place of protection because your family is right around you.

It’s so easy to walk around gathering up pieces of hate after an attack like this, to try and light a fire against an entire group or mindset. But that is not the answer.

This was not a random act of terrorism. It was precise and calculated, and is a reflection of the way that queer and trans people of color are put at risk every day. Saturday night was direct violence targeting a Latin night at the club. It was a massacre based on race, gender, sexuality and nationality, aimed at the most vulnerable around us.

This was an attack on America, but mostly it was an attack that was derived from a systematic oppression that must be addressed. It was driven by a misguided man who did not hear the parts of his faith that call for love and charity. His own father was heartbroken to hear what had happened.

Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando
Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando

Indy Pride's Vigil for Orlando

Hundreds of members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters and allies gathered Sunday night in the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre to memorialize the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

By Mark Lee.

Click to View 28 slides

Extremists exist in every religion, but they are and always will be a minority. There is a disposition amongst the dominant discourse for equality, and the sanctity of safe spaces is where that conversation can flourish.

I beg my colleagues in media to not diminish stories about hate crimes, and I beg everyone reading this to be aware of those around you and how you can protect them in small ways.

And to the beautiful souls who were taken that night:

I don't know you, but every ounce of my being wants to fight for you, to protect you. I will never share a drink with you, but know that I love you, truly, deeply, love you. And you will not be forgotten.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Men behave badly as a ceiling shatters

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 1:49 PM

History has a cruel sense of humor.

Perhaps that’s why the news that, for the first time, a woman will be the nominee for a major American political party was overshadowed by two men behaving less than gallantly.

Hillary Clinton’s wins in the presidential primaries in California and New Jersey merely confirmed what has been the reality for some time.

She will be the Democratic Party’s candidate for president.

Her victory has been a woman’s triumph – one born of resilience and quiet resolve. Her unflinching determination to keep moving forward, regardless of the obstacles before her, has been a marvel.

Clinton has been in public life for more than 40 years. For much of that time, she has been a lightning rod, catching and grounding the bolts of political and cultural electricity accompanying the emergence of women as significant players in public policy debates and more equal partners in American life.

She has been called everything but a child of God. She’s had her private life made public in the most embarrassing and humiliating ways. She’s been assaulted for being too pushy in public life and too deferential to her husband in private.

Through it all, though, she’s soldiered on – and now she stands as perhaps the frontrunner to become the next leader of the free world.

A survivor.

A victor.

Even at what should have been a moment of triumph for her, she found herself having to fight for the spotlight with two men.

The first was her borderline delusional Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

Sanders said in his concession speech after his thumping in the California primary that his math skills are pretty good, but there’s not much evidence of that.

The argument Sanders and his surrogates have been advancing for weeks now is that Clinton is winning only because of super delegates and other manifestations of a rigged system. That argument neatly overlooks the fact that Clinton has amassed several million more popular votes than he has in the marathon nominating process – that, in fact, she has collected more votes than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, on the hustings right now.

The super delegates have made her win more decisive than it otherwise might have been, but she was winning – and was going to win – without them.

Sanders’ other contention has been that his campaign has been about inclusion, about making sure that all Americans have a voice in the process.

Yet when one of America’s greatest historic barriers to full participation fell as Clinton captured the votes necessary to claim the nomination, Sanders and his team didn’t stop to take note of the milestone.

No, they tried to deny the moment even had taken place.

About the best that could be said of Sanders’ conduct is that it was better than presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s, but that’s a bit like saying a cold is better than the plague.

Trump has spent recent days fulminating about the supposed unfairness shown by an Indiana-born judge presiding over litigation involving Trump University.

(An aside: Has anyone else ever noticed how often self-proclaimed tough guys like Trump whine about how “mean” people are to them? In their world, when the going gets tough, the tough apparently start crying.)

Trump has demanded the judge recuse himself because he is of Hispanic descent and that creates a conflict of interest.

Forget for the moment Trump’s tacit admission here that any American of Hispanic descent would be crazy to vote for him and instead focus on the narrowness of his vision.

He is the leader of a great party and under consideration to be the world’s most powerful leader and he meets those responsibilities by striving to rip apart the country on ethnic, racial and gender lines just to avoid some personal embarrassment.

Perhaps that’s to be expected. This is, after all, the same guy who complained Clinton was playing the “woman card” after he demeaned women in public statements and then touted his endorsement by a convicted rapist, Mike Tyson.

The fact that Hillary Clinton shattered the next-to-highest glass ceiling in America while two guys did their best to remind everyone that the story really should be all about them somehow is fitting.

History has a cruel sense of humor.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Muhammad Ali's magic tricks

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 12:40 PM

  • wikimedia commons

Many years ago, the newspaper I worked for sent me in search of Muhammad Ali.

Ali lived in those days in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a quiet, almost sleepy little town of fewer than 2,000 people about 25 miles north of South Bend, Indiana. The question the paper wanted me to answer was why perhaps the most famous person on the planet had chosen to live in such a secluded spot.

The townspeople in Berrien Springs told me charming stories about the former heavyweight champ. The best ones came from children.

They were too young, even then, to remember the days when Ali roamed and ruled both the ring and the world's stage. They saw him not as a celebrity, but as a kind of silly old uncle, the kind who came to their school to do magic tricks and make them laugh.

When Ali, body shaking, lit the torch at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the folks in Berrien Springs didn't see the Greatest up there. They saw their neighbor. They wept the tears of friends.

A few years later, I met Ali.

It was in Washington, D.C. The American Civil Liberties Union honored him with an award.

His wife Lonnie delivered his acceptance as he stood behind her on the stage. She made a little joke about him. He pointed his finger toward his skull and twirled it – "she's coo coo" – while she rolled her eyes.

It was a well-practiced, but still charming, routine.

They left the stage after that and the crowd surged around him, the man's magnetism moving in waves through the big room. He was just a few years older than I am now, but he looked and moved like an old, old man, the Parkinson's disease that afflicted him keeping his limbs and nerves in constant agitation.

The people in the room didn't care. He was Ali, the man and fighter who "shook up the world."

As I stood before him, I couldn't help but wonder, not for the first or the last time, what it must be like to live with that kind of fame, to have one's character and contradictions both reduced and expanded into caricature.

Because Ali was such a larger-than-life presence, it could be easy to forget the human being within the myth.

The crying little boy who first wanted to learn to fight to get even with the person who stole his bicycle and the brash young man who boasted he was "too pretty" to beat. The eloquent advocate for strong families and the serial womanizer. The warrior for racial equality and justice who disparaged rival and friend Joe Frazier in the most racially charged terms. The gliding, graceful young champion, a man whose movements were as smooth as polished ice, and the trembling, prematurely old man who stood before me.

They all lived in the same skin and skull.

They all were Ali.

Muhammad Ali died Friday. He was 74.

He lived within the enveloping and perhaps smothering bubble of fame as celebrity, icon and brand name for the last 50-some years of his life.

In these hours following Ali's death, I find myself thinking about his time in Berrien Springs and the question the paper wanted me to answer: Why did such a famous man choose such an out-of-the-way place to live for so many years?

The answer, I think, was that the people there saw him as part of the landscape, another face in the town.

He could pass the time in the local stores without having to be the Champ. He could visit the local schools and be goofy with the children, doing silly little magic tricks even the youngest kids could see through.

In fact, it was a kind of magic trick that brought him to Berrien Springs. He'd lived with captivating and crushing fame for so long, through both triumph and decline, that being able to slip out from under the yoke, even for an instant, must have felt as liberating as a blessing.

That's why Muhammad Ali lived there.

It was a town where he could be a human being, not a celebrity.

It was a place where the most famous man on the planet could disappear.

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#NUVOpop: Merry Men!

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 10:48 AM

6/8 Merry Men! from Bridget Wilson on Vimeo.

DC Rebirth continues this week. In case, there is any confusion, each character is getting a Rebirth one-shot, which sets up their storyline following Rebirth. So, for example, Batman Rebirth set the stage for Detective Comics #934 (which is out this week) and Batman #1 (which is out next week). It's strange, but don't worry. We'll get through it together.

It doesn't hurt that the stories are just so good you just forget about all the confusion.

Civil War 2 tie-ins are pouring in as well. This week, we have New Avengers #12 which pits A.I.M. against S.H.I.E.L.D.! Civil War 2: Amazing Spider-Man and Civil War 2: Gods of War both begin this week as well.

As always, there are plenty of other delightful stories starting this week that have nothing to do with the big two comic companies. There's a new version of a classic story out this week. We also have the off-its-rocker comedic horror comic, Grizzly Shark, returning with its third issue! 

Merry Men #1
(W) Robert Rodi (A) Jackie Lewis

Merry Men is a new take on the classic story of Robin Hood. Reading "between the lines" of what Robin Hood might have actually been about, Robert Rodi takes us on a fascinating journey. In this tale, Robin Hood is the former lover of King Richard. Robin lives with his band of "merry men", far away from Prince John who has outlawed homosexuality. Robin Hood hasn't used his bow in ages, but when a mysterious stranger asks for his help in removing the Sheriff of Nottingham from a town, he's more than happy to assist.

Grizzly Shark #3 Grizzly Shark VS. Sea Bear
(W/A) Ryan Ottley

Ryan Ottley's outrageous horror/comedy is coming to an end with it's third issue. The woods have been haunted by the terror known as Grizzly Shark! A single drop of blood is enough for it to find you. Our heroes are in grave danger. They've survived thus far, but what happens when Sea Bear joins the fray?

Action Comics #957
(W) Dan Jurgens (A) Patrick Zircher

The adventures of Superman continue in Action Comics #957. The new Superman has arrived in Metropolis only to find that Lex Luthor has declared himself the savior of the city? Just as the two are close to exchanging more than just words, the new Clark Kent arrives on the scene! 

DC Rebirth: Flash #1
(W) Joshua Williamson (A) Carmine Di

If you haven't read DC Rebirth yet, I HIGHLY suggest that you do before reading this issue. Trust me. It's important. Flash's story is set up in this issue as we get ready for the return of the first Wally West! With Flash's former memories almost restored and Wally revealing more information on the mysterious figure behind the changes to the DC universe, Flash finds himself in quite a predicament. 
Civil War 2: Amazing Spider-Man #1
(W) Christos N. Gage (A) Travel Foreman

Spider-Man once again finds himself in the middle of two feuding superheroes! He just can't catch a break. The new Inhuman that has the ability to see the future needs training to use his powers properly because with great power comes great responsibility. Can Spider-Man show him the way or will his Parker "luck" get in the way?

And by "luck", I mean bad luck because Spidey has the worst luck ever.

Next week is another amazing week for comics as well. We have more Rebirth, more Civil War 2 tie ins and a TON of new releases. Next week is also Pop Con if you're in Indianapolis and it looks very promising.

Here is the full release list for this week, and I will see you next week to talk about more comics! 
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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

#NUVOpop: Last Week's Issues

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 3:37 PM

6/1 Civil War from Bridget Wilson on Vimeo.

Hello, everyone! I apologize for the delay. It's been a hectic week. So, this week there will be two videos. One to catch you up on what you might have missed last week and one to keep you current on this week. 

It was a big week for both Marvel and DC. DC's Rebirth is in full swing. Batman, Superman, Green Arrow and Green Lantern all started last Wednesday. It's an emotional time for all involved. New romances will start, new heroes will rise and old enemies will surface.
On the Marvel side of the spectrum, Civil War 2 began. Written by super star Mark Millar, the first Civil War was a game changer. The Marvel heroic universe had never been split like that before. It was Captain America versus Ironman with Spider-Man stuck in between two father figures. The Marvel Universe was forever changed by what followed. Now, a second Civil War threatens to shake up the universe once more.


Civil War 2
(W) Brian Michael Bendis (A) David Marquez 

The most insane Marvel event of the year is here! The Marvel universe will be split down the middle once again. A new Inhuman has emerged with the power to profile the future. Will this new Inhuman be used to protect the future or change the future? The lines have been drawn. Team Captain Marvel! Team Ironman! The fate of the universe hangs in the balance (again)! 

DC Rebirth Superman
(W) Peter J. Tomasi (A) Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza 

So, the "Rebirth" issues for the individual characters set the stage for what will happen in the main storylines. Think of them, like a prequel. In the Superman Rebirth issue, we are introduced to the "new" Superman which is actually an "old" Superman from another world. He's coming to grips with the fact that this Earth's Superman (the "New 52" Superman) is indeed dead and someone will have to be this world's Superman. Will it be him? Yes, yes, most definitely it will be him.

PLUS, we're getting a new Superboy. 

DC Rebirth Green Arrow
(W) Ben Percy (A) Otto Schmidt

Green Arrow gets introduced to the one and only Black Canary in this issue! Oliver Queen's life was forever changed when he got stranded on a desert island for five years. He was once a drunken playboy who didn't care about anyone. Now, he is the defender of Seattle and a self proclaimed "social justice warrior". When Black Canary arrives in the city, she criticizes Oliver, saying that he's not doing enough for the city he claims to love. 
TMNT Rocksteady and Bebop Destroy Everything 
(W) Ben Bates, Dustin Weaver (A) Ben Bates 

So you guys remember TMNT #50 where Bebop and Rocksteady got their asses handed to them on a silver platter? No? Well better go out to a comic shop and check it out cause everyone's favorite mutant warthog and rhino duo are back to mess things up. See, they've found a time travel scepter and now they're going to go back in time and just go wild.

(W) Frank Barbiere (A) Garry Brown

I suppose we'll continue with a time travelling theme, because last week, it was basically all about time travel and mayhem. Revisionist follows a man who is a time travelling assassin. He goes around and fixes fractured timelines, that sort of thing. When his father comes back into the picture, he has to trust that he's not gonna mess things up for him again. 

And those are the most interesting comics that came out last week. Overall, it was a pretty amazing week full of Rebirth and Civil War and some really awesome stories from comic publishing companies that weren't DC or Marvel.
This week is shaping up to be an amazing week for comics as well. So I'll see you in about a day and we can talk about all the great things that are happening in comics this week. 
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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Common sense reforms for child nutrition

Congressman Rokita responds to criticism of proposed legislation

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 2:10 PM


By U.S. Representative Todd Rokita (R-Ind.)

When it comes to helping students succeed, there are few things more basic than making sure they eat well at school. Ultimately, this is supposed to be the job of every parent. However, when it’s somehow determined that a family is too poor to do so, churches, non-profit groups, and taxpayers step in. As Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, my committee has the responsibility to review federal government student meal assistance programs, whether paid for by taxpayers or our national debt.

Despite being seriously mischaracterized by ideologues whose ultimate goal is universal government feeding, the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” is a major step forward in making sure an appropriate safety net exists and that nutrition standards are revised so that school food is more edible.

These same ideologues, and others, have been complaining for some time now that school breakfast reimbursement rates have not been increased since the 1980’s, and that summer meal programs need improvements to better serve dependent students. However, their only answer for paying for these wants was to put it on the backs of some of the same kids in the form of future debt.

Instead, I led with a plan that solves these issues – all without making one kid ineligible who is currently eligible for free or reduced meals, and without costing taxpayers or adding to our debt by one dime. And unlike our Democratic President’s recent bathroom edicts for schools, no money will be cut off for our poorest schools.

The current rules for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) are perverse, as they incentivize schools to be paid for giving out meals to all students, even to those whose families can or already do pay for their kids’ lunches. Under current law, a school can be reimbursed by taxpayers for offering meal assistance to every student even if just a mere 40% are eligible. This means that schools can have taxpayers pay for every meal in a school even when a majority of students are not determined to need assistance. By increasing that requirement to 60%, we at least make sure that a small majority of students actually qualify for the taxpayer-subsidized meal, before taxpayers have to pay for all students to receive them. This is hardly an unreasonable or unfair threshold, and is consistent with other policies affecting the school lunch program. We then use the savings from the CEP reforms and give the money right back to the schools in the form of the increased breakfast reimbursement and improved summer meal access.

Ensuring that students in actual need have these well-funded protections in place is how ‘we the people’ should judge our success, not by how much money a school can make off of the entire school population or how much more dependent on government we can make individuals and families. As such, we should not judge our success by how many citizens the government feeds. That is simply a measurement of the breakdown of the family – the most important building block of a free society.

My goal will always be to help families rise out of needing government assistance. It’s not surprising that those opposed to the bill have to resort to scare tactics, claiming that we are “taking food from the mouths of Indiana’s children” in order to justify increasing government dependency. Our proposal responsibly continues to offer a safety net for children in actual need and returns power to local leaders and parents. Unfortunately, those attacking this bill don’t approve when we can do all of this without spending more of your money or making free people more dependent on government overseers.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A fascist fight for our soul

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 10:59 AM


This is a message to supporters of Donald Trump. I don't mean the ones who supported him months ago. Those supporters really wouldn't get this.

I am specifically talking about the supporters who once could not fathom Trump as the Republican nominee, but now are "falling in line" and "getting with the program." I am speaking directly to you. This will make perfect sense to all of you. I envision you regretfully nodding while you read this, wishing you had not become the very thing that makes today's topic even possible.

The topic is fascism in America.

Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution wrote a disturbing column titled "This is How Fascism Comes to America," published May 18 in The Washington Post. It struck a chord. It was being shared, tweeted and cited by Republicans, particularly those who see Trump for what he will truly always be.

Search for the column and read it. Twice.

My summary of it is that the presumptive GOP nominee has no allegiance to the party or its platform, and since the party didn't embrace him when he thought he needed them, he never will. That's one problem. But here is another one. Kagan writes: "His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger."

Most Americans will agree that the primary force behind Trump's campaign is the angry voter. Adding that element to his complete lack of ideology, and we now have the two main ingredients for a fascist regime in this country. Kagan is not the originator of this theory, and Trump is not the original subject of it.

The word "fascism" derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. We all know that fascism is bad, but if asked to explain what it means, most of us can't. There are reasons for that, starting with its near eradication from the planet with the end of World War II.

Umberto Eco wrote in his famous 1995 essay, "Ur Fascism" ("Eternal Fascism"): "Italian fascism was certainly a dictatorship, but it was not totally totalitarian, not because of its mildness but rather because of the philosophical weakness of its ideology. Contrary to common opinion, fascism in Italy had no special philosophy." Eco was an Italian novelist, philosopher and semiotician. Semiotics is the study of meaning-making, and is closely related to linguistics.

In his essay, Eco listed 14 traits that a fascist exhibits. In an eerie way, this list accurately describes Donald Trump. The inspiration of the essay was based on the dictator that defined the governing style from Eco's homeland and early childhood, Benito Mussolini.

And we all know how Mussolini's reign ended. Well, maybe all of us don't know, but I am betting most of the Republicans who vowed to oppose Donald Trump with all of their might earlier this year do.

Ironically, the fundamental difference between Mussolini and the more infamous Adolph Hitler is that even Hitler had a policy platform.

Like Mussolini, Donald Trump has no platform.

The strength of a fascist regime comes from the middle class, its support of the leader and then its blind reliance on that leader for illogical solutions to obvious problems. And for the first time in modern times, there are large numbers of Americans willingly signing up for that program. The worst part about it is that the people I am writing to this week are Americans who know better.

Is it really more important to these Republicans to be victorious for their party regardless of the peril that victory might bring to our nation? This peril was clearly recognized here by them just a short time ago. The candidate has not changed one iota since the nomination deck was cleared a few weeks ago, but somehow otherwise smart people have decided that they can now magically tolerate him.

Kagan's timely and contextual column is spot on. I am glad he published it and even happier so many people around the country are reading it. Eco warned us in a far more comprehensive manner more than 20 years ago of the same thing.

I have written before that there are worse things in the world than losing an election. Losing a nation's soul is certainly one of them.

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Hoosier children need school lunch

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 10:49 AM


There has been much recent media attention paid to the National School Lunch Program. President Truman signed the program into law in 1946. The program subsidizes paid, free and reduced cost meals in public and private schools across the country.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is the part of the program receiving the most attention and has been misconstrued. Congress included CEP in the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization package with bipartisan support. CEP allows school districts that are located in high poverty areas to offer free meals to all students without requiring individual eligibility determinations. This provision, strongly supported by school administrators, reduces administrative effort and cost. As a result, CEP improves student achievement and behavior — things that we can all agree are important to ensuring our students' success.  

The media and members of Congress have described incorrectly the participation threshold for CEP. For the first time in the 2015-16 school year, schools and districts were eligible if 40 percent of students were "directly certified." This means students were automatically enrolled for free meals because the student's household was already certified for SNAP, Head Start, TANF, or the student was homeless or in foster care.

This does not mean that a school with "only" 40 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunch can participate in CEP, as has been reported.

Income eligibility for free and reduced lunch is broader than is eligibility for SNAP, Head Start and TANF. Thus, at schools with 40 to 60 percent of directly certified students, there is a much larger percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Also, data shows that many eligible students are missed when schools must individually certify students.

In the Lafayette School Corporation, where five schools meet the 40 percent threshold for students directly certified for free lunch, the actual rate of free and reduced lunch eligibility ranges from 65 to 82 percent.

Last week the House Committee on Education & Workforce passed a new reauthorization package that not only significantly restricts CEP participation but would also severely limit the ability of school staff to reach out to families who may be eligible for free and reduced price lunches, and it would increase the amount of verification paperwork (and associated administrative costs) schools will need to perform. These new provisions (introduced by U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind)) will prevent eligible, hungry Hoosier children from accessing school meals. Is this really what we want for our kids?

By eliminating the administrative costs associated with determining individual student's eligibility, managing payments, and monitoring lunch accounts, it is simply more cost effective to serve all students. Under this bill, many schools with a high rate of children living in poverty would be ineligible to participate in CEP.

Child hunger is a serious problem in Indiana and should be given serious regard. Schools are places that our children go to be nourished — intellectually, emotionally and physically. School meals are a vital part of that equation.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Running, and maybe winning, ugly

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 2:13 PM

John Gregg and Mike Pence during a debate in 2012. - THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM
  • John Gregg and Mike Pence during a debate in 2012.
Now the fun begins.

With Democrat John Gregg’s selection of Indiana Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, as his running mate, the rosters are set for this fall’s gubernatorial campaign. Gregg and Hale will be suiting up for the Democrats against the Republican incumbents, Gov. Mike Pence and Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb.

In person, Gregg, Pence, Hale and Holcomb are among the nicest people in the state. They are, without fail, genial and courteous. It is always easy to be in their company.

That is not, however, the way most Hoosiers will think of them by the time Nov. 8 rolls around. Between now and then, both sides will wage campaigns that are likely to be among the most negative in the state’s history.

Ever since announcing that he wanted a rematch with Pence, the man who beat him in the 2012 gubernatorial contest, Gregg has wasted few opportunities to depict the governor as a needlessly divisive figure, a leader more eager to pursue his right-wing social agenda than he is to promote the broader public interest.

Pence and his surrogates haven’t been exactly passive themselves. Several times a day, every pundit or reporter in the state receives emails from the state GOP or the Pence campaign attacking Gregg as a flip-flopper with a spine as stiff as meringue.

Keep in mind, all of this is occurring before the lieutenant governor candidates even have fully engaged – and it’s always the folks in the second spot on the ticket who serve as the attack dogs.

There’s a reason for this negativity.

Neither ticket can win without it.

Gregg’s challenge is that he’s running as a Democrat in a state that still is heavily Republican. He can’t attract enough votes to take the governor’s office unless he makes the case that Pence doesn’t deserve to be returned to office. His hope is to claim independents and shear away moderate Republicans – particularly moderate GOP women voters – from the governor’s column.

That is, in large part, why he chose Hale as his running mate. She has a record both of working on issues important to women and of reaching to Republicans to work on those issues. We can expect her to emphasize the governor’s lack of empathy for women in regard to reproductive rights, workplace equality and other matters.

Pence’s problem is that he didn’t gain a majority four years ago – he won with a plurality – and he’s used his four years to reinforce all the doubts independent and moderate Republican voters had about him. He and his surrogates tout, with drumbeat regularity, the state’s success in securing new jobs, but knowing observers see through the smoke.

Poverty rates in the state are exploding even as the jobs numbers increase. Many of the jobs coming into Indiana only serve to make Hoosiers work harder and harder to fall further and further behind.

Pence’s replacement of his 2012 running mate, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, with Holcomb was aimed, in part, at reassuring the business community and other establishment Republicans that he’s attuned to their interests.

There is, I know, an argument advanced by Pence partisans that the governor’s political problem is not that dire. They point to the fact that he captured more votes in the May 3 primary than Gregg did as evidence that he isn’t that damaged.

By that reasoning, of course, Democrat Jill Long Thompson should have won the 2008 race. In similar circumstances, she captured 200,000 more votes in the primary than Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, did.

Admittedly, I’m getting older, but my recollection is that Daniels served a second term as governor.

The reality is Pence is going to be hard-pressed to make a case for himself, so he has little choice but to discredit John Gregg as an acceptable alternative. The governor’s argument will be that he is the lesser of two evils.

Gregg’s case has to be that Pence’s tenure has been so disastrous that many Republicans should consider doing something desperate – like vote for a Democrat.

Both sides want to win.

And both sides are willing to win ugly.

Let the fun begin.
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A bathroom conversation with Woody Burton

A letter to the editors at NUVO

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 10:07 AM


To the Editor:

On May 26, I was in the Greenwood Park Mall and saw my state representative, Woody Burton (R-Whiteland). He was having a conversation with several people. They were talking about the transgender bathroom bill.

Someone said, "If you're concerned with bathrooms, why don't you make more of the bathrooms in Indiana accessible for special needs people? Many times I cannot physically get my child into the bathroom."

Woody hemmed and hawed, and I said, "I would like you to stop distracting Hoosiers with this bathroom bill, and start dealing with the actual problems in our state: education, infrastructure, roads, libraries, and parks." I said, "You keep cutting funding to education. Teachers are treated with disrespect. People want solutions to real problems, not all this talk about who is peeing in what bathroom."

Woody said, "We already spend 64 percent of our budget on the schools!"

I said, "Well, it is not enough. Maybe it's time to raise taxes so we have enough to cover the needs of the state."

Woody said, "Raise taxes! I get it! You are a Bernie supporter!"

I said, "No, I do not support Bernie. I am voting for Hillary."

Woody's friend said, "I think I am going to go into a women's bathroom and say I decided I am a female! That's what the law says I can do! Do you want men to go into the bathroom with our little girls?"

I said, "Sir, are you really going to go into a women's restroom? Because I seriously doubt that is the case. And if you are worried about young children, politicians have molested more kids than transgendered people ever have. If you want to monitor someone, monitor the politicians!"

Woody got ready to leave. As he and his friend walked away, he said, "Say hi to Bernie for me!"

I said, "I already told you I do not support Bernie. I am your constituent and you are not listening."

This conversation typifies the misinformation and ignorance that surrounds the "bathroom bill." I am depressed that some Hoosiers are so willing to discriminate, while being gullible when politicians cut the programs that serve the common good, privatize everything in sight, and refuse to talk about any of the real issues in our state.

Annette Magjuka
Greenwood, IN 
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Todd Rokita, national lunchroom monitor

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 1:55 PM


The plan U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, (R-Indiana), has devised to cut back free and subsidized meals for poor school children reminds me of an old and cruel joke.

The joke goes like this.

A scientist who wanted to prove a point started experimenting with a frog. The scientist cut off one of the frog's legs and yelled, "Jump!"

The frog jumped.

The scientist made a note.

The scientist lopped off another leg and yelled again. Once more, the frog jumped.

The scientist made another note.

Another leg came off. Somehow the frog jumped. Another note.

The scientist took off the last leg and yelled, "Jump!" The frog just sat there.

The scientist wrote down his conclusion:

"The frog no longer can hear."

RELATED: No Free Lunch in Indiana

Rokita's plan to cut back on meals for poor kids springs from two impulses.

The first is a desire to attack the federal government's debt. Rokita says his approach could produce $300 million in savings.

The second comes from the ongoing campaign to "reform" education – largely by playing financial games with the ways we fund schools by redirecting taxpayer dollars to private or religious schools.

We'll deal with this second impulse first.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about our education wars is that most of the research now indicates how truly pointless they are.

While we argue and argue and argue about vouchers and charters and other questions that increasingly matter only to rabid partisans, entrenched ideologues and the increasing number of self-proclaimed education experts who live on fat tax-funded contracts, the research shows us something else.

The ways we can make the greatest gains in educational performance – and, down the line, in increased productivity – among our young people involve two things.

The first is starting the educational process earlier when young brains are ready to soak up knowledge at a phenomenal rate. The opportunity costs for not aggressively funding and establishing strong preschool programs are staggering.

The second is that we need to limit as much as we can the adverse childhood experiences – abuse, neglect, divorce of parents, poverty and, yes, hunger – that delay intellectual, emotional and psychological development. The costs of not dealing with those issues also are crushing, both in terms of lost productivity and human tragedy.

But both of these solutions would call for a greater, rather than a smaller, public investment in education.

That brings us to the concern about the debt, about which Rokita and other conservatives do a great deal of public hand-wringing.

The federal debt stands at roughly $19 trillion now. Between $13 trillion and $14 trillion of that debt wouldn't exist if Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush had balanced budgets when they were in office.

They didn't because doing so would have required them either to raise taxes, particularly on the wealthy, or cut back on military spending and adventurism. Either option would have required asking some sacrifice or self-discipline from the well-heeled. That was not appealing.

Conservatives, it seems, do believe in free lunches – just not for poor kids.

The issue with the debt is less the size of it than what we get in return for spending the borrowed funds. Some of the greatest periods of economic growth – the period after World War II, for example – have occurred when the ratio of our federal debt to our gross domestic growth was at its greatest.

The reason is that we spent a great deal of that money educating people through the GI Bill and creating a federal transportation system that made growth possible. We reap the benefits of that public investment to this day.

Perhaps it is because he understood this fundamental truth that an obscure Republican by the name of Abraham Lincoln began his political career by calling for massive government investment in improvements that would make it easier for what he called the common people to build better lives for themselves.

Perhaps that is also why the bipartisan National Governors Association, the School Nutrition Association and just about everyone who is not a Republican member of Congress has come out in opposition to Rokita's bill.

It didn't matter.

The bill moved out of committee on a partisan vote.

It appears that it's not just frogs with no legs who have trouble hearing.

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