Thursday, December 8, 2016

Make the House the people's house again

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 8:29 AM


In the waning days of the presidential campaign, when he thought he was likely to lose, President-elect Donald Trump routinely complained that the system was "rigged."

He was right — but it's rigged to benefit him and the Americans he represents.

Angry Hillary Clinton supporters and other activists have focused their ire on the Electoral College. They point to the fact that Clinton won more than 2 million more popular votes than Trump did and they say that the Electoral College perverts the will of the people.

They want to see it abolished — or reformed so that the winner of the popular vote always wins the election.

There's another way to solve this problem they ought to consider, because the problem is larger than the presidency.

The Electoral College's total of 535 votes reflects the membership of the two branches of Congress, the 100 U.S. senators and the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Originally, the different sizes of the memberships of the Senate and the House were supposed to reflect the two chambers' different purposes. The fact that every state, however small or large, had the same number of senators — two — was supposed to reflect the fact that each state had the same standing within the federal government.

The House, on the other hand, was supposed to reflect the voice of the people. That's why it was called "the people's house." And its membership was supposed to grow as the population of the United States grew.

That's the way it worked until the 1920s.

Then, amid rising concerns in rural states about waves of immigration from Europe filling cities, Congress decided to change its system of apportionment. It capped the membership of the House of Representatives at 435.

And, except for temporary expansions when Alaska and Hawaii became states, that's the way it's stayed since 1929.

The effect has been to give voters in less-populated and rural states an increasingly disproportionate voice not just in terms of who occupies the Oval Office or who sits in the U.S. Senate, but who rules the House of Representatives.

The people's house.

In 1929, the year the cap was installed, America had a population of slightly more than 90 million people. Most Americans then lived in the country or in small towns.

Now, we are a nation of slightly more than 325 million, and roughly 63 percent of us live in urban areas.

That change isn't reflected in our system of selecting the president, U.S. senators or members of the House of Representatives.

The fact that our government isn't set up to represent the will of the majority any longer has had unfortunate effects.

The first is that it has undermined confidence in the idea that all Americans have the same voice in their country's affairs. The brutal fact is that a Wyoming resident's vote is worth more — much more — proportionately than that of a resident of California, Texas, New York or Florida.

This leads to the second problem.

Because small states and a minority of Americans have more weight within the system than they should, time and again we see concerns that matter to a majority of Americans — gun violence, affordable health care, income inequality — shoved aside or ignored.

We are supposed to be a nation in which the will of the majority prevails while the rights of the minority are protected.

Now, though, we live in a country in which we live, in the words of a friend of mine, under the tyranny of the minority while the will of the majority is ignored.

The solution to this is go back to the old system and have the membership of the House of Representatives keep pace with population growth — to make it the people's house once more. The Senate could remain as the bulwark of small states' interests and prerogatives.

And have the Electoral College continue to reflect the membership of the two chambers of Congress.

Some will argue that increasing the House's membership would make things more unwieldy and add to the federal government's dysfunction.

Maybe, but it's also possible that a reconstituted House would see its mission as implementing the people's will rather than thwarting it.

That would be a welcome change.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How to fix our cities and towns

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 11:09 AM

A vacant store building at the corner of First Street and U.S. Route 421 in the small town of Rosston, Indiana. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • wikimedia commons
  • A vacant store building at the corner of First Street and U.S. Route 421 in the small town of Rosston, Indiana.

A reader from southwest Indiana challenges me to offer solutions for the problems of smaller towns posed in last week’s column. Indiana’s current efforts are focused on improving the towns. I think we need to work on improving the skills of Hoosiers.

Our Stellar Cities and Regional Cities programs involve generous competitive grants that result in some good projects, but are misguided. They tend to focus on amenities and faddish efforts to “attract talent.” These are well-meaning projects, useful to some extent in bringing people together, but basically, in my view, leading to dead ends.

The governments of Indiana are supposed to serve the people of Indiana. Our efforts to rescue our failing cities and towns should focus on the people of Indiana. Our investments should be made in closing the gaps that keep Hoosiers from participating in the modern world.

What should we do? Here’s a starting list:

First, require every person who gets an Indiana driver’s license to demonstrate a proficiency in reading and communicating in English in both verbal and written form. If they cannot pass the test, a six month license is issued and they enroll in classes conducted at local high schools to bring them up to the standard. Failure to attend and progress ends up with no renewal of the license.

We cannot talk about STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) without basic literacy and communication skills. How do you get through an initial job interview for the average job if your reading skills are subpar and if you cannot communicate effectively?

Second, let’s help people and firms redirect themselves to alternative opportunities. Farmers have learned to diversify their crops as market price change. Many people and firms are too proud to admit the course they chose in the past is no longer serving them well.

It is not easy for workers to retrain or for firms to serve new markets with new products. New networks have to be built. But it has been done and we can learn from those who have done it.

Third, our communities require leadership, a resource that must be identified, cultivated, and harvested. What’s missing in so many Indiana places is a bench of rookies and seasoned veterans who can take responsibility for community advancement.

We still expect the mayor and the local banker to sit down and design our future over a beer. There is a shortage of mayors with those skills and the local banker has become a branch manager. Many existing “leadership” programs are a farce. Serious attention to leadership recruitment is necessary.

Where communities are small, it is difficult to do these things without help from the central government operating out of Indianapolis. Whether the universities or the bureaucracy should provide that help requires careful examination.

Indiana needs to invest in people, specifically “the three Rs”: Reading and communications, Redirection of careers, and Recruitment of committed leadership.
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Carrier stays, Trump delivers

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 1:05 PM

  • Lora Olive
Give the man his due.

President-elect Donald Trump did what he said he was going to do — save jobs.

The news Tuesday that Trump had brokered a deal with Carrier Corp. to keep the company from moving over 1,000 Hoosier jobs to Mexico is a good thing. It means, at the very least, that for a lot of Hoosier families the holidays just became a lot brighter.

Because Trump is such a divisive figure, even news that he’s found a way to keep jobs in Indiana has provoked controversy. Critics say he bribed Carrier to stay by offering the company tax breaks and other incentives — thus shifting some of the costs of maintaining those jobs from the company to taxpayers.

It’s a valid concern, but raising it illustrates one reason Trump — and not Hillary Clinton — is picking out furniture for the Oval Office right now.

Trump’s critics in the Democratic and, yes, even the Republican Party see him as little more than a snake-oil salesman and a boor. They say he tells the truth only by accident. They argue that many of his statements about and actions toward women are despicable. And they contend that if he isn’t a racist or xenophobe himself, he certainly seems entirely comfortable keeping company with people who are.

How, then, did he win enough votes in enough of the right places to capture the presidency?

Well, there really are only two possible answers to that question.

The first is that Trump did, in fact, con many Americans — that they weren’t paying attention and didn’t know the sort of man they were electing. Such an answer means that more than 50 million Americans of voting age are little more than idiots.

The other possible answer is that they knew Trump has trouble telling the truth, is a misogynist and might even be a racist — and they were so desperate they voted for him anyway.

The truth is that the desperation that led to Donald Trump’s elevation to the White House has been building for a long time. White working-class and rural Americans have been crying for help for years as their livelihoods have disappeared and their ways of life have been under assault.

Democrats have met these cries for help with pledges to invest in retraining and other forms of education to help displaced workers transition to new occupations. And Republicans have pushed forth ideas to foster entrepreneurial enterprises aimed at creating small business growth that will produce new jobs.

Both of these approaches are valid ones over the long haul — and probably should be tried in tandem rather than in the either/or fashion in which they’re typically advanced.

But neither plan does much to help the unemployed husband who can’t pay the family mortgage, the wife who can’t find the cash to meet medical expenses, the father who can’t afford to send his daughter to college or the mother who can’t feed her children good food.

Those folks don’t need help some day.

They need jobs now.

Give Donald Trump credit. He heard their cries when others didn’t.

And he brought jobs back to this state and this country.

Trump’s critics can keep pointing out that he is a scalawag whose conduct veers from uncouth to reprehensible. They’ll be right on the facts, but, so long as they keep making Trump’s unsuitability and not Americans’ needs their focus, they’ll keep losing the argument.

The only way to beat Donald Trump is to come up with better solutions to problems than he does.

That will mean putting together programs that create jobs and help people in need not in the next decade or in the next year or even in the next month — but … now.


Donald Trump understood that. He realized that people who are frightened and desperate don’t need 15-point plans or lectures or even long-term solutions.

They need help.

They need hope.

They need jobs.

And that’s what he gave them.

Give the man his due.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The LGBTQ future under President Trump

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 9:59 AM

  • Thinkstock

Since Donald Trump was announced as President-elect, many of my friends and family have been panicking. Over the past eight years under President Obama, the LGBT community has made amazing strides — abolishing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," lifting the ban on HIV-positive individuals entering the US, condemning conversion therapy, appointing a trans person into the Obama administration and, of course, legalizing same-sex marriage. Although we're far from where we'd like to be in terms of equality, things are looking pretty good.

Many of us awoke on Wednesday, November 9 wondering if all our work was for nothing. What lies ahead of us once Trump changes the address on his calling cards to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Will the rights we fought so hard for be eroded by a newly appointed executive branch?

As one of the couples making history at the Indiana Statehouse when Hoosier marriage was triumphantly legalized, my wife and I aren't overly concerned about the legitimacy of our marriage being overturned. It is, however, certainly a possibility.

In regard to job equality, our President-elect, who doesn't shy away from strong reactions, has said he doesn't think someone's sexuality "should be a reason" for them to be fired. He doesn't think?

Our concerns were even more solidified when Trump said he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would legalize anti-LGBT discrimination. Employers, landlords, healthcare providers and business owners could refuse to show equality to LGBT individuals as long as they're motivated by their religious beliefs. President Obama's executive order prohibiting this same discrimination would be effectively overturned.

My biggest worry, however, is for transgender rights. Trump has flipped like a pancake on this issue. He first supported Obama's efforts to allow students to choose their bathroom, then supported the law in North Carolina that pushed individuals to use the restroom that coincides with their birth certificate. Lately he's saying he wants each individual state to decide.

But it goes beyond bathrooms. I worry that Title IX's prohibition against sex-based discrimination will not include gender identity. This could make school a dangerous place for trans students.

And, no one knows better about the danger of our Vice President-elect than an LGBT Hoosier. Mike Pence has a long history of LGBT discrimination, starting with publicly opposing Obama's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation, then moving into requesting public funding of conversion therapy. And who can forget his support of the bakery refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding? This knowledge wasn't lost on Trump, and his choice of Mike Pence as his running mate is beyond disturbing. The fact that Pence is leading Trump's transition team is troublesome to all of us.

I would hope all Americans, not just the LGBT community, are concerned about an overall feeling that our country has given the thumbs-up to a person who hated and name-called and bullied his way into the White House. That suddenly it's alright to discriminate against, poke fun at and dislike someone just because they're different than you are.

Sometimes it's the unknowns that are the scariest, and a country under President Trump is filled with them. But there's still hope. We need to point our efforts toward winning the midterm elections and placing moderate legislators in office in 2018. This alone could help us control LGBT legislation. We know that time is on our side and that we must prioritize continuing education around LGBT issues. Eventually, the American public will demand equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Advice for our next governor

Eye on the Pie

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 8:59 AM

Governor-elect Eric Holcomb - THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM
  • Governor-elect Eric Holcomb
He didn’t ask, but I have some advice for our in-coming governor, Eric Holcomb. I’ve had advice for all our governors since 1970, but none has been taken. Nonetheless, we press on.

What do so many Hoosiers like? Our convenient smaller towns. What do folks beyond our borders think of, if they think of Indiana? The 500, corn, Larry Bird, and small town life.

What are we trying to attract? Imaginary people: millennials who have a perverse passion for trolley cars and the skills to earn $90,000 a year, the first year out of college.

These people, we think, want to live downtown, in quaint, restored old buildings, riding bicycles to work, buying groceries from small neighborhood shopkeepers, but having elevators so they don’t have to lug baby and carriage upstairs, in the unlikely event they ever have a baby.

Yet, what do we have in abundance? Our convenient smaller towns losing, or struggling to gain, population. Do we promote those places? No. We have no specific program to encourage businesses and their workers to locate in Logansport, Peru, or Wabash.

Economic development goals at the IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Corporation) are satisfied if firms pick Fishers, which is already overburdened with people and the problems of rapid growth. Policies that utilize the resources already invested in our many troubled cities and towns are not in the tool box of the IEDC.

The General Assembly, more properly known as the Private Assembly, gives no assistance to the 111 Hoosier cities and towns that have lost a combined population of 113,000 persons in the past 15 years. Hoosiers may think we’re doing fine, but when compared to the average growth of the U.S. in that period, Indiana comes up nearly 325,000 persons short.

Our state has good places the size of Evansville, South Bend, and Muncie on down to Hartford City, Portland, and Sullivan. These places could offer a quality of life deemed acceptable by our elite state economic developers if a program of incentives removed the blemishes caused by stagnation and decline.

Just visit from Michigan City on to Gary, East Chicago, and Hammond with your eyes open to the opportunities rather than the blight. The existing infrastructure in Marion, Connersville and Richmond is too important to continue deteriorating while new infrastructure is built to solve the congestion caused by past policies favoring Carmel, Noblesville, and Westfield.

A new administration can change the heading of this ship of state listing in dangerous shallows. Instead of having a thriving state from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River and from Ohio to Illinois, we continue to be the butt of jokes, dominated by a single second class (not world class) metropolitan area.

It’s time to prove that we are A State that Works, a state of diverse living opportunities, friendly to people as well as to business.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

America's healthcare pits healthy vs. sick

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 10:02 AM


My Facebook newsfeed is a microcosm of the great divide separating Americans who live in relative comfort from those who live paycheck-to-paycheck. On one side is a friend with a serious pre-existing condition. She couldn't afford to purchase health insurance prior to the Affordable Care Act and relied on employer-based coverage that couldn't turn her away. The ACA enabled her to go out on her own and unleash her entrepreneurial talents.

On the other side is another friend. She's a nurse, but has been a stay-at-home mom since her youngest was born three years ago. Her husband is self-employed and the premium for their family of four is $1,300/month. It has increased since the implementation of the ACA, which has a lot of people legitimately complaining that it's made their insurance less affordable. How did this happen?

Eighty-five percent of the population is insured through an employer or government-sponsored plan that is not allowed to deny them care based on a pre-existing condition; generally, most consumers don't know the real premium cost for these plans because they're subsidized, and the insured is only responsible for a portion of it.

The first goal of the ACA was to reform the non-group insurance market, which serves about 7 percent of the population. Because these plans were not subsidized, they kept costs low for their healthy consumers by excluding individuals with pre-existing conditions or rescinding plans for people when they got sick. The system prior to the ACA served the healthy, like my nurse friend and her family, at the expense of those with pre-existing conditions, like my other friend and her son.

The ACA told insurers they couldn't do that anymore. Everyone in the non-group market had to be guaranteed coverage at the same rate, adjusted only for factors like age, geographic area and tobacco use. The purchasing mandate promised insurers healthy enrollees to help spread the increased costs associated with delivering care to those with pre-existing conditions. The subsidies were provided to make the insurance affordable for low-income earners, essentially mimicking the existing markets where employer and government-sponsored administrators subsidize the costs.

In the context of my friend with a pre-existing condition, the ACA did exactly what it was supposed to do. With subsidy assistance, she was able to secure an affordable plan for her and her son that she was priced out of before. However, the ACA was not designed to help my other friend, whose healthy family could already afford insurance in the non-group market. Their previous rates — artificially lowered as a result of denying care to sick people — increased in response to covering them. Adding insult to injury, they weren't eligible for any subsidy to help with the increase.

Self-employed individuals who provide value to the market shouldn't be punished by our accidental health care system that favors employers over entrepreneurs. The Band-Aid fix to this problem is to provide this group with subsidies so they're not pulling back on their savings or other spending to have the security of health insurance. That's what Hillary Clinton proposed, which will likely never come to fruition.

It doesn't solve the longer-term problem that America has a ridiculously overpriced and mismanaged health care system, but few in Congress are willing to take on the lobbies necessary to implement the wide-sweeping changes required to control costs. The ACA is the best market-based solution our representative democracy can muster if the goal is to ensure everyone has access to affordable health care.

Paul Ryan doesn't believe health care is a right and has no problem booting those who can't afford insurance off the rolls if it allows him to achieve his primary policy goal of gutting entitlement programs. But I'm not sure average voters agree with that philosophy. Fundamentally, I think most Americans agree that someone shouldn't die or go bankrupt because they are excluded from obtaining insurance. Sadly, we're on a fast and furious track back to treating health care as a privilege enjoyed only by the healthy and wealthy.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

In defense of the Electoral College

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 8:37 AM

Based on the current electoral system, Mr. Trump won 57 percent of the electoral votes with 47 percent of the popular tally. Together Clinton and Trump had 95 percent of the popular vote and all the electoral votes, but the ballots of 6.5 million Americans counted for nothing.

In last week’s column, I suggested states, including Indiana, change how Electors for the Electoral College (EC) are selected. Nonetheless, several readers pictured me as an unearthed fossil because I think the EC has its virtues.

What are those virtues? The EC is based on the principle of democracy. At the same time, the EC respects the equality of the states. Further, it respects the ties we have to place, to residency, and to the land.

The EC generates controversy. There have been more than 700 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution advocating changes. But none is needed.

The current allocation of Electors is simple. Two are assigned to each state in recognition of the sovereignty of each state. Under this provision, Indiana is equal to each of the other states.

In addition, each state is assigned as many electors as it has representatives in the House of Congress. This means that 435 Electors are proportioned according to the population of each state as determined by a census every ten years. Every resident, regardless of age, legal status, or physical condition is equal.

(The District of Columbia was assigned three Electors by the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution.)

The moderate change proposed here determines how many Electors a candidate wins in each state by the popular vote in that state. According to the Constitution, this change requires simply a vote of the state legislature.

This is very different from proposals to determine the Presidency by the national popular vote. Then you could vote for President anywhere and it would not matter, residency, place is inconsequential.

When we decide the Presidency by a national popular vote, we say only those who vote count. Children and those who cannot or chose not to vote don’t count. Place and the land itself is not represented.

In the EC nearly one-fifth of the votes (102 of 538) recognize the sovereignty of the states, the importance of place. This attachment to land, to a place and its people has been strong in American life. States may once have been only groups of settlements with both natural and artificial boundaries, but the Constitution recognizes them as sovereign.

Today, those attachments to place, people and the land remains strong. Call it patriotism, but we are ready to defend our homes, our places, and our institutions.

If we abandon the EC to the call for popular sovereignty, we deny the special nature of place. We yield the last vestige of land’s uniqueness to the migratory whims of transient mankind. The environmental movement is negated. Consumerism, a variant of popular sovereignty, becomes triumphant and our descendants bemoan the loss of diversity and distinction.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

The White House whine cellar

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 11:17 AM

  • Wikimedia Commons / AgnosticPreachersKid

Some years ago, an editor asked several people, me among them, to write for a newspaper’s blog.

The editor assured us they would monitor the comments section on the blog so that no one said anything disrespectful or hurtful about us.

I laughed and told him not to worry on my account.

Given that I’d spent my career as a newspaper columnist, an American Civil Liberties Union executive director and a radio talk-show host, just as a matter of intellectual curiosity I wanted to see if someone could think of something to call me I hadn’t heard before.

Besides, I added, the public arena is a place where the hits are real. They sometimes hurt. Anyone who doesn’t understand or accept that shouldn’t step onto the field.

I thought about that when I learned of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s experience with the Broadway show, “Hamilton.” Pence saw the production Nov. 18 and was greeted by both cheers and boos from the audience as he walked in.

During the curtain call, with the diverse cast backing him, the actor who plays Aaron Burr, Brandon Dixon, thanked the vice president-elect for attending and said on behalf of the performers he hoped that both Pence and President-elect Donald Trump would be protective of the diversity the show represents and that makes America great. Dixon used Pence’s title – vice president-elect – and spoke respectfully throughout his brief remarks, which lasted just a bit longer than a minute.

Trump reacted with anger.

He tweeted: “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed at the theater last night by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And then: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that in just a few weeks Donald Trump will place his hand on the Bible, raise his right hand and take an oath of office to, among other things, protect Americans’ rights to speak their minds, assemble peaceably and petition government for a redress of grievances. Let’s also overlook the fact that, should he refuse to defend these constitutional rights, Trump could be subject to impeachment proceedings and removal from office.

Let’s also, for the time being, ignore the reality that what the cast of “Hamilton” did was a long way from shouting “You lie!” at the president of the United States during the State of the Union or, to put things in a more Trump-specific context, from waging a years-long campaign questioning not just Barack Obama’s legitimacy as president but as a citizen of the United States.

Instead, let’s focus on something else.

Soon, Donald J. Trump is going to become commander-in-chief of the greatest military force in history and leader of the free world.

At what point is he going to put on his big-boy pants and realize that hearing criticism is part of the job?

It is an article of faith on the left that Trump is little more than a bully. And there is ample evidence that Trump likes to try to bully and intimidate people who disagree with him.

But he’s also something else.

A whiner.

Our next president has skin so thin it and he shouldn’t be exposed to real air and sunlight. Whenever someone – anyone – says something, however inconsequential, about him he doesn’t like, he reacts like a sleep-deprived baby who’s just lost his favorite toy.

The true power of the presidency involves setting the nation’s agenda. Successful presidents focus on big goals – and they stay focused through criticism, hardship and unremitting opposition. They certainly don’t allow themselves to be distracted by something like a curtain call request at a Broadway show.

Donald Trump chose to run for president. He chose to step into the world’s biggest arena, a place where the hits come hard and often.

If he continues to whine every time someone casts a harsh look his way – continues to let everyone know he can be knocked off mission by criticism – he’s going to fail himself, the people who voted for him and, most important, this country.

The presidency of the United States is a tough job.

No crybabies need apply.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trump won. Now, he must lead

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 3:17 PM

  • Ted Somerville

The Bible says it best, in Galatians 6:7 (KJV):

"For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

The election of Republican Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States has yielded little but fury. Demonstrators upset about this elevation to the world's most powerful office have taken to the streets in cities across America to protest. Some of Trump's more unsavory supporters have seen his triumph as license to come out of the shadows with racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements and graffiti.

Trump's surrogates and apologists have responded the tumult by calling for calm.

They say the supporters of defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should accept the election's results and move on. They say this even though Republicans in general and their candidate in particular resolutely and notoriously refused to accept not just Barack Obama's two elections to the presidency but also his legitimacy as an American.

These surrogates also say it is Clinton's and Obama's responsibility "to set the tone" for the country.

They're wrong about that.

Hillary Clinton may have claimed more popular votes than Trump did, but she didn't win the election. Barack Obama wasn't even on the ballot.

Neither one of them was elected to be the next leader of the free world.

Donald Trump was.

It's his job to set the tone.

It's his responsibility to lead now.

In the days leading up to and after the election, many of Trump's spokespeople lamented how "offensive" Clinton's comment was in labeling half of the Republican's supporters as being part of a "basket of deplorables." They said it was wrong to demean other Americans in this way.

It's a fair criticism.

It's worth noting, though, that Clinton never said she wanted to arrest those people. She never said she wanted to ban them from the country. She never said she wanted to build a wall to keep them out. And she never said she wanted to punch them in the face for showing up at her rallies.

But President-elect Trump did.

Trump has said that he wants to bring our profoundly fractured country together.

If he means it, he could start by accepting the responsibility of his office.

He could set an example.

He could reassure the more than 50 percent of the American electorate that didn't vote for him that he will be their president, too.

He could say that some of the things he said in the heat of the campaign were wrong. He could apologize for his more offensive comments.

Most important, he could reassure everyone in this country that no one who has not violated the law or threatened this nation, regardless of where they were born or how they pray, need fear either prosecution or persecution.

In other words, he could lead.

Thus far, though, it seems he has chosen to go in a different direction. Instead of signaling that he has heard the fears and concerns of his fellow citizens, Trump tweeted:

"Now professional protestors, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"

Perhaps, but his response misses the point.

The moment Donald Trump was elected president, this story stopped being about him.

Now, it's about the country.

It's about us as a nation.

He, as president-elect, can understand and accept that.

Or he can continue to demonize people who disagree with him. He can continue to blame others for not offering the leadership that it is his responsibility to provide. He can continue to divide the nation rather than unite it.

That approach has carried him to the White House.

But it won't make him a successful president.

Anger will only produce more anger. Division will only produce more division. Fury and intolerance will only be met with more fury and intolerance.

The Bible speaks to that, too — in Hosea:

"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Silent minority needs to be heard

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 8:49 AM

Suddenly, on November 9, the majority in the United States woke up to find it has been silent too long. In fact, it realized, it might not be a majority at all.

The combined Republican and Libertarian vote was 50.59 percent. From what I know, many of the Libertarian votes were from Republicans who were embarrassed to be known as Republicans this year. The 48.76 percent who voted Democratic or Green believed strongly in their causes and could not understand how others could believe otherwise. But they were not the majority.

Now, instead of taking to the streets, this silent minority needs to be heard. Now, if it wishes to be successful in the political arena, it must recognize the urgency of political action. This means ending the corruption of gerrymandering by political parties and restructuring the Electoral College.

Gerrymandering is the practice of state legislators drawing district lines to protect their seats and their party in the General Assembly. Here in Indiana, through a study committee report, we have made a good start toward taking extreme partisanship out of the process. But that effort must continue and be intensified next year.

What’s wrong with the Electoral College is what ails so many citizens. As it stands today, the candidate who gets the most votes in a state also gets ALL of the electoral votes of that state. If you live in a Red state, there is little reason to vote if you are of a different color. The same applies to voting in a Blue state.

The Electoral College is part of the U.S. Constitution. But it can be changed by action of legislatures in the individual states without a Constitutional amendment. Maine and Nebraska have done that. Let’s see if Indiana can do likewise.

The sensible change is to assign Indiana’s 11 electoral votes according to the popular vote. Trump won 57.2 percent of the popular vote and would get 6.3 electoral votes. Clinton, with 37.9 percent of the popular votes gets 4.2 electoral votes and the remaining 0.5 electoral votes goes to Johnson, the Libertarian.

“What?” you say. “How do you divide the electors into parts?” That’s no problem. There is no need for electors as such, there need be only certification of electoral votes which can be carried to Washington by couriers we call electors.

This system has been proposed for years. It puts priority on the popular vote while maintaining the virtues of Electoral College (to be discussed in a later column).

Can the silent minority stop being alternately depressed and outraged about losing an election? Can they stop holding pity parties and recognize an end to gerrymandering and restructuring the Electoral College are the imperatives of our times.

Donald Trump will be our new President. He wants to “Drain the Swamp.” Let’s help him by putting an end to gerrymandering and reforming the Electoral College ….. starting here in Indiana.
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Boom baby: Mass transit means life in Indy just got better

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 11:15 AM

  • Photo by Stephanie Tarrant
Like many of you, Tuesday’s election results brought me a great deal of distress over the past few days.

In the midst of all this, however, there is one thing that passed that I’m absolutely ecstatic about.

This election cycle, Marion County citizens were given a chance to vote on a proposed economic development income tax that would improve Indianapolis’ mass transit system by leaps and bounds. And by saying yes to the question, IndyGo’s current bus system will undergo an overhaul unlike any its ever seen before. With the future funds raised from this tax, riders can expect an increase in service frequency and extended operations hours as well as three new rapid transit lines.

If that doesn’t make your inner Slick Leonard “Boom Baby!” voice ring out, I don’t know what will, IndyGo riders.


For me, this long-awaited move to fund the betterment of mass transit in our city is especially exciting, being that I rely on IndyGo so heavily to get around town. At the age of 5, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which damaged my optic nerve. Thanks to the magnificent doctors at Riley Children’s Hospital — huge high-five if you’re reading this Dr. Boaz — I did not lose all of my vision. But I have been visually impaired since that age, meaning I cannot drive or ride a bike.

With both of these transportation options out of the question, I have mostly relied on mass transportation, rides from gracious friends and family, and my own two feet to get me from one place to the other throughout the course of my life. I've lived in Fountain Square for the three years now, so this hasn’t been so bad, since Downtown Indianapolis and its surrounding areas are easily walkable. But sometimes, I have certainly become aggravated with the amount of time I waste on simply transportation alone. And, I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

For those who don’t use public transportation often, I can layout an example that is very relevant to this here article.

Say I need to travel up to NUVO’s office near 38th and Meridian to meet with the magazine’s all-star editor, Katherine Coplen. (Editor's note: Katherine promises she did not make Seth write that.) In order to do that, I would first walk from my house to a bus stop on Prospect Street, taking the No. 14 bus from Fountain Square to the Downtown Transit Center.

From there, I would then wait to catch a bus that heads north on Meridian, eventually getting off and walking the remaining half of a block to NUVO’s office. Total transportation time via IndyGo? About one hour.

Total time it’d take to just drive? About 15 minutes.

I hope you can see how big of a deal it is that IndyGo will finally be able to make much-needed improvements and expansions on its current system using the funds from this tax. Like me, so many people in this city simply rely on IndyGo to get from Point A to Point B. With these changes, my hope is that our transit system will rival that of other comparable cities. I hope it will better serve those who need it, like myself, as well as those who would like to use it more often — like you, perhaps. By doing this, I think we will reap several positive effects, ranging from better quality of life to a decrease in environmental pollution.

Take a minute and smile. Because we got this one right, I’m telling you.

Seth Johnson is the blog editor for Musical Family Tree and a longtime NUVO contributor.
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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trumpism puts us back to the '50s

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 1:54 PM


Yes, I took time to grieve, reflect, dust off negativity, get back to work.

New work alongside the old work—not just more of doing the same “right things” — a lot more reaching out is required.

Reaching out not only to the people who are targeted for hatred and disrespect. Reaching out with compassion and assistance to those who, in a very short time, will find their ‘hero ‘is not interested in them as human beings — just their vote as pawns in a Ponzi scheme where he gets all and they get none.

Trumpism wants a roll-back to the 1950s. Let’s honestly look at what Mr. Trump and followers made America so great in the 1950s.

Yes, post-WWII America experienced economic growth with increased manufacturing pushed by construction of homes — homes that in large part included a garage where people could pull into, shut the door and close themselves off from neighborly interaction. The 1950s started the shift into the "bowling alone" mentality and when having a front porch to "sit awhile and share" became arcane.

Consumerism — acquiring stuff to show off status became more important than sharing. The 1950s grew us into social conservatism — a movement away from embracing each other toward insulating ourselves from anyone ‘different’.

The now-beloved musical South Pacific premiered in 1949. The song “You Have to be carefully taught to hate all the people your relatives hate,” created a storm of protests from the people who followed the then demagogue, Senator Joseph McCarthy. His spewing of fear-mongering, witch-hunting, “lock them up” was meant to quash anyone who thought it was OK to love your neighbor as yourself even if that neighbor had "slant eyes" or un-white skin or a physical or mental challenge.

McCarthyism fostered rampant fear of "the other" and yes, the FBI rushed in to ruin the lives of anyone who stood up for the true tenets of freedom and justice for all.

These self-same "conservatives of our way of life" [that is, white male supremacy] stirred up a backlash against the Supreme Court rulings that opened the right for all us to have opportunities for equal and fair education. Hatred and fear of the other became linked with a particular segment’s need to control the Supreme Court that has continued to infiltrate voting mandates ever since.

The 1950s initiated banning books that might suggest loving the other. Tom Sawyer became a pariah — Mark Twain’s characterization of a child who questions authority had to be quashed. That never has stopped being a mandate for conservatism.

The 1950s was Phyllis Schalfly’s moment of fame. This woman of means who hired less economically heeled people to do her chores, told us women in the WWII workforce were un-womanly. Bake cookies, coif your hair, wear high heels and an apron when you tidy up with your newly acquired vacuum cleaner. It was the beginning of an era of "don’t aspire, you’re a girl."

In 1952 a military general became U.S. president. He pushed through the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 as a Cold War initiative. At the time, it might have seemed like a good way to quickly move military transports to keep us safe from perceived threats but look at what it did to devastate our inner cities as a place to live. "Just passing through" was a signal moment toward "white flight" and the asphalting of farm land. President Eisenhower also led us into the global crisis that has haunted us ever since. Intent upon weakening the leadership of European nations, Eisenhower’s presidency thrust us into the no-win relationship with Midwestern politics.

The Korean War, 1950-53, was a beginning of a no-ending into believing we are great only if we are in charge. Yet with the advent of the Korean War the people who serve in our military fell into a non-hero category. We looked the other way when they came home. Their places had been taken while they were away. Out of sight, out of mind.

True, coal mining always has been a political and social issue. It’s dangerous work, and the result of its use as power is to harm the air we breathe. Yes, in the U.S. production reached peak in the 1950s. The reality is oil and associated products have been an alternative since the 1860s and by the 1960s, coal no longer had a dominant position. Reality is not a strong suit for people who don’t want to consider an alternative way of making a living.

For too long, pockets of populations could not fathom the concept of meaningful work over "having a job." They could not grasp the concept of life predicted on meaningful work so when a job is over, you find a way to take your skills toward another level, another pursuit. You don’t need to go into fetal position and dirty up the landscape as a way of life.

Yes, good things happened in the 1950s — organized crime was confronted, Rosa Parks took her seat at the front of the bus, Martin Luther King Jr. centered a movement for civil rights. Scientific and technological strides gave us the first polio vaccine, the first successful organ transplants. Crick and Watson discovered the helical structure of DNA the same year the Miller-Urey experiments helped us understand how we came to be at the dawning of who we are. It didn’t settle the debate between Creationism and Darwinism, it didn’t keep some people from disdaining science yet it opened some minds to science as way to learn and know and make considered judgements.

Nevertheless, tongue-in-cheek I am wondering if we’d all be better off if Fortran had not been developed by IBM into the forerunner to what now seems like the bane of thoughtful consideration — the computer has spirited us into Twitters and tweets as instant rallying to epithets and the quest for mean-spirited power.

How do I feel about a new day that is supposed to put us down the time machine into the 1950s? I feel committed to know historical context, place it within the realities of the present and work toward a future that in deed and in thought finds a way for each of us to feel valued, respected and useful wherever we live, whatever skills we have, whatever passions motivate us.

I am glad to be alive at a time when so much depends upon me to get up every morning to help make each day special for someone/something/everyone/everything within my smallish circle — people. place, flora, fauna, sky, earth, water, breath.

Alongside the passion that always has fueled the work I do, today pushed me into a renewed vigor to take a leadership role in civic enterprise, to stand with the majority of my fellow Americans who, in the words of author, film maker, activist Michael Moore reminds us:

“The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don't. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he's president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we'll continue to have presidents we didn't elect and didn't want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there's climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don't want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the "liberal" position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen.”

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