INDIANAPOLIS — The Times, Munster. Nov. 26, 2013.
White House is opaque about transparency
The Obama administration promised a new era of transparency, but that shouldn't be translated as an invisibility cloak over the president.
President Barack Obama's administration has made it a practice to block news media photographers from many events, circulating photos from a White House photographer instead. That's not good enough.
A variety of news organizations — including the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors, the White House Correspondents Association, Lee Enterprises (parent company of The Times) and many others — sent White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a letter Friday that serves as a formal complaint.
The public's trust in government is built on allowing the public — via news photographers, in this instance — to witness the government at work. And let's face it, trust in the federal government is far below where it should be.
In the past, news photographers showed presidents creating history — moments like President John F. Kennedy in the days leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Jimmy Carter joining hands with Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel at the signing of the Camp David Accords and President Ronald Reagan walking out of the White House for the final time.
But the Obama administration is routinely denying the right to news photographers to photograph or videotape the president performing official duties.
This isn't a matter of national security. We're talking about events that are obviously public. Yet the White House calls the events private and sends its own photographs to the media and, via social media, to the public.
In essence, propaganda is being distributed while the news media are being shut out.
Obama promised a new era of transparency. It's a new era, all right, but not of transparency.
This administration needs to fulfill its pledge of transparency and give news photographers access to White House events, just as was the case in previous administrations.
South Bend Tribune. Nov. 26, 2013.
Let's make Indiana day cares better, safer
Recent statements from legislators provide hope for some long-needed tougher standards for Indiana day cares.
At least two proposed bills for the upcoming session would close loopholes that give unlicensed and church day cares a pass on many safety regulations that apply to licensed ones.
Currently, ministry day cares have to meet only minimum standards, despite the fact that they receive federal dollars.
State Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, who chairs the Committee on Child Care, says he plans to introduce a bill that requires providers receiving Child Care and Development Fund money to be trained in child abuse detection and prevention. Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, and state Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, say they will introduce bills that require all day cares receiving government money to meet certain staff-to-child rations and group sizes based on the age of the children. This critical requirement already applies to licensed day care facilities.
In the past, such efforts at stricter regulations for church day cares have stalled. That's thanks in large part to opposition from Advance America, founded by lobbyist Eric Miller. Miller and his supporters say regulating church day cares is a threat to the First Amendment, and would interfere with church autonomy.
But any entity that receives federal dollars -- including private Catholic universities such as Notre Dame -- accepts certain requirements that come with the funds. Church day cares should be no different.
More significantly, common-sense regulations that make Hoosier children safer ought not be a goal too controversial to achieve. We'll be watching, pulling for this long-overdue legislation to succeed.
Evansville Courier & Press. Nov. 25, 2013.
Real conspiracy surrounding JFK was poor health
The presidency of John F. Kennedy, and especially its abrupt and brutal ending, seems an inexhaustible source of conspiracy theories — the grassy knoll, the mobsters, the Cuban assassins, a second shooter, a cabal of right-wing Texas oilmen, and whatever Oliver Stone was thinking.
As soon as one theory is debunked, another comes along to restart the conspiracy machine.
However, one conspiracy is real: John Kennedy was a very sick man, at times a physical and psychological cripple, and Kennedy and his aides conspired mightily to cover up his ailments on the not unreasonable grounds that had they been known, Richard Nixon would probably have won the election.
Kennedy ingested a veritable pharmacy of medicines, as many as eight at once, to keep going — codeine, Demerol and methadone for pain; hydrocortisone and testosterone to make up for an adrenal insufficiency caused by Addison's disease; antidiarrheal drugs; steroids for strength and colitis; procaine injections for back spasms; medicine to lower his abnormally high cholesterol levels; antibiotics for periodic infections; Ritalin and Librium for anxiety; barbiturates for sleep; and antihistamines for allergies.
And these are only from the few medical records that have been released and the relative handful of doctors and historians who have been allowed to examine them. His medical records are closely guarded by a three-member panel of Kennedy loyalists, and the panel members have been very sparing of access.
Misrepresenting, concealing and downright lying about a president's health problems is almost as old as the White House itself.
The severity of Woodrow Wilson's stroke in his second term was known only to a few close advisers; in the pre-TV days, many Americans were unaware that Franklin Roosevelt could not walk; Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson similarly suffered from heart attacks downplayed by their staffs; and it was only years later that the public found out how close Ronald Reagan came to dying from a would-be assassin's bullet.
In a remarkable display of stoicism, determination and self-control, Kennedy performed his public duties unflinchingly even though as one internal medicine specialist observed, "The most remarkable thing was the extent to which Kennedy was in pain every day of his presidency." The leader of an administration that promoted a bustling can-do style and whose watchword was "vigor" could not put a sock or shoe on his left foot unaided.
And that was the Kennedy conspiracy.
Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Nov. 22, 2013.
Bigots, sinners and HJR-6
"We can't call people bigots or sinners." — Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma.
As opening salvos go on the touchiest of subjects before the 2014 General Assembly, Bosma found a way to accurately frame the debate brewing over House Joint Resolution 6. That's the proposed amendment that would put the state's same-sex marriage ban into the Indiana Constitution.
Civility will be put to the test.
How Bosma and Indiana Senate President David Long plan to navigate the minefield ahead is yet to be seen. Bosma did more than hint during last week's annual organization day that he'd prefer to deal with the issue in the coming session to "bring this 12-year discussion to a conclusion in one direction or another."
Bosma fairly represented the issue when he said that same-sex marriage wasn't the most important issue facing the legislature. But it will dominate if and when the General Assembly starts the discussion. (The General Assembly is on the clock in the 2014 session to either pass the proposed amendment and send it to the voters in next November's elections or to reject it.)
Complicating things was the seemingly growing concern among lawmakers who are prone to favor the double codification of the same-sex marriage ban, but who have trouble with a second clause in HJR-6 that could prohibit civil unions or other similar partnerships that come just short of marriage.
Last week, there was even talk about tweaking that part of the proposed amendment and sending the revised version to the voters. The presumption has been that if the legislature changes the language of the proposed measure, the amendment process starts from scratch. That would push a statewide referendum back at least two years.
Will lawmakers try that route anyway? That's a dicey proposal — one that could just dig up more dust and legal challenges.
Our stance has been that the proposed amendment doesn't make sense for Indiana. It's automatically divisive. It paints the state in a negative light. And it causes more problems than it ever could claim to solve.
For the General Assembly, the measure is sure to draw huge crowds — at least as big as those for the recent fights over right-to-work legislation — and keep the legislature from work it should be doing. We'll go back to a line Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, shared with the J&C a few weeks ago: "It will take a lot of time. It will take a lot of energy. It will take a lot of emotion. And it will take a lot away from other subjects. ... I wish it would go away."
Bosma, Long and the rest of the General Assembly can do more than wish. They can make this go away. And they should.