Incumbent trivializing of the 2018 election

An Opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – The campaign lacked substantive issues, despite a national agenda begging for debate and action. Polls showed the Republican candidate was not very popular.

 His supporters decided to go negative with an attack ad featuring a convicted felon. The GOP candidate, joined by media, focused the negative ad around public safety and criminal justice.

Mugshot of convicted felon Willie Horton, drawn from 1988 campaign attack ad.

And, not so subtly, around race. The televised ad showed the convicted felon, a minority, in a mugshot. News media played the attack ad as a central issue in the campaign.

The year was 1988. The Republican candidate was George H.W. Bush.  The felon was William R. “Willie” Horton.

Among Americans of a certain age, “Willie Horton” ranks among the most hate- and fear-mongering political ads in modern American history.

The 1988 election was widely criticized as trivial. In addition to Willie Horton, the campaign focused on the Pledge of Allegiance. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was collapsing and the Cold War was ending.

In reaction, some reformers in the press proposed a new kind of journalism – public journalism. As it was practiced in subsequent elections, public journalism wrestled the agenda away from politicians and vested it with citizens, aided by the press,

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trick or treating the property tax

An Opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – ‘Tis the season — Halloween’s coincidence with midterm elections. Trick or treat?

This week, consider Donald Trump, who managed to freak out members of his own party with his Tuesday remarks about birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment constitutional guarantee that he proposed to revoke with a stroke of the presidential pen.

Trick!

Last week, Trump’s off-the-cuff treat was a pocketbook issue — to enact a 10 percent tax cut aimed at middle-class citizens and to manage it before next week’s midterm elections. More freak-out: Elementary civics says under the Constitution, Congress controls the purse strings, so tax cuts require congressional action. But Congress is not in session and won’t reconvene until after the Nov. 6 election.

Trick!

 

SUCH TRICK-OR-TREATING has crept into Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial campaign between Republican legislator Scott Wagner and Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf. In a new campaign ad, Wagner promised, “[W]hen I’m governor, I’ll eliminate the school taxes on your home.”

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A vigil in Indiana for Pittsburgh

Indiana County Courthouse, Oct. 28, 2018. Photos by Anthony Frazier. Click to enlarge.

INDIANA — On Sunday morning, the word spread on social media: “Vigil for the tragedy in Pittsburgh at 7 pm on the Courthouse steps. Spread the word.”

The call echoed in communities around the country.

In Indiana, Pa., hundreds heeded it. In a cold rain, they lit and re-lit candles, sang hymns and recited prayers led by attorney Jay Rubin, other members of Beth Israel Synagogue, members of other local faith communities and neighbors drawn to a show of solidarity against hate.

 

One link between Indiana and Pittsburgh is Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s perennial hosting of Holocaust survivor Moshe Baran, author of an anti-hate blog Language Can Kill: Messages of Genocide, sponsored by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.

Last night in Indiana, Christ Episcopal Church minister William Geiger opened the 20-minute event, connected the communities’ links and closed with thanks for all who attended.

Photos by Anthony Frazier. Story by David Loomis.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IUP’s ‘year of free speech’

Indiana University of Pennsylvania button distributed during “free speech week.”

An Opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – At a rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday night, President Trump addressed the bi-coastal bomb-scare that blanketed news media that day. He mouthed words about unity. Then the divider-in-chief returned to blaming “mainstream media” and “fake news” for the nation’s divisions.

This is an extreme example of “shooting the messenger,” in which the metaphorical shooter of the bearer of bad news is himself the prime suspect as the source of the bad news. The more apt metaphor is shooting himself in the foot.

Do we need another reminder that this president has – let’s be civil here — a credibility problem? The news media, mainstream or otherwise, promptly and accurately reported that the bomb targets were the same Democratic leaders Trump routinely slimes in his stump speeches.

Sure enough, police arrested a Florida man on Friday and seized a white van described as a “Trump shrine” covered with political bumper stickers. Oops.

 

THE BLOW-BACK COINCIDED with National Free Speech Week,  a First Amendment celebration sponsored by a non-profit national newspaper lobby. Indiana University of Pennsylvania adopted the week and super-sized it into a year-long series of events.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘The vision thing’ and climate change

The Keystone coal-fired power plant in Shelocta, PA.

An Opinion

 By David Loomis

INDIANA — Tonight, candidates seeking to represent Indiana County (and the rest of the sprawling 15th Congressional District) in Washington may appear on the same stage in Centre County. This could be a rare moment in the election campaign.

Joint appearances between novice Democrat Susan Boser, an IUP sociology professor, and incumbent Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson have been limited to one Chamber of Commerce midday event  at Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer last month, according to a Boser aide in an Oct. 21 email.

For Thompson, avoidance may be a smart political move. In 2016, he won re-election to a fifth term in a district where Donald Trump thumped Hillary Clinton by about 30 points. In February, when the gerrymandered district was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, voters in the redrawn district had supported Trump by an even larger margin – more than 40 points.

Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District.

 Most forecasters call the seat safe Republican this year. Why would the incumbent risk that by inviting public criticism?

Boser has run a largely positive campaign, emphasizing such positions as high-speed internet as a key to economic development in a largely rural district. In an election in which President Trump has invited voters to make it a referendum on his him, Boser has not taken the bait.

Thompson, on the other hand, has embraced Trump, if not in the campaign, then in Congress. The incumbent has supported the president’s position on issues 98.9 percent of the time.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A focus on fascism

Meme circulated on social media shortly after Charlottesville, Va., violence in 2017.

An Opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA — Is it just me? Or is a focus on fascism pervasive in media at this moment?

Maybe it’s me. After absorbing the 2016 presidential election, especially the part about Russian interference and Trump’s collusion, I read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” journalist William L. Shirer’s exhaustive 1,100-page account of Nazi Germany based on his personal contemporaneous reporting and his exclusive deep dive into the German archives after World War II.

Does Shirer’s Reich history teach us anything? Yes: It had “few, if any, parallels in history,” he concluded, Germans largely supported Hitler’s rise, and defeated Germans displayed “little bitterness” toward Hitler six months after their destruction.

Or maybe it’s current media. News reports and film dramatizations have brought close-ups of fascism here and now.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Dueling’ downtown festivals: The rest of the story

Logo for Northern Appalachian Folk Festival created by James P. “Jim” Dougherty.

An Opinion

By Tony DeLoreto

INDIANA – A recent account of last month’s sixth annual Northern Appalachian Folk Festival only scratched the surface of the reported dueling between festival organizers.

The two organizations have a common origin in former Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor James P. “Jim” Dougherty. But now they compete in conflict.

They are:

— the Northern Appalachian Folk Festival Inc. (NAFF Inc.),  a non-profit group founded by professor Dougherty and me, and

— the Northern Appalachian Folk Festival (NAFF), sponsored by Downtown Indiana Inc., a lobby group for the borough’s central business district.

The organizational names and goals may seem identical. But appearances can deceive. What is clear behind the scenes is a willful failure to communicate by Downtown Indiana Inc.’s board president.

The communication breakdown surrounding this year’s festival fits a pattern of failure by the business group’s current leadership, and it reflects a troubling lack of vision for the future of the downtown business district.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Indiana County’s new eye in the sky

Pennsylvania state police helicopter above Philadelphia Street, Indiana borough, Friday, Oct. 6. Photos by David Loomis.

By David Loomis

INDIANA – On Saturday, a state police helicopter drew donuts in the night sky atop a shaft of searchlight over downtown during IUP Homecoming 2018 weekend. The roar of the low-flying chopper was inescapable, its beam accentuating a loud Big Brother vibe and sending residents to social media to “comment.”

Now, a silent partner has joined the legions of state and local police and public-safety assets, armaments, animals and apparatus, all routinely deployed for what university officials call “unsanctioned celebratory events” linked to annual Homecoming and IUPatty’s parties.

It was an unmanned aircraft system, a.k.a. an unmanned aerial vehicle.

A drone.

It was on display earlier Saturday in the borough police parking lot. The Indiana County Emergency Management Agency demonstrated it from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Five emergency-management drone pilots and three managers offered authorities and guests computer-screen aerial views of the entire Homecoming parade route from 7th to 13th streets.

Quietly.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mary Cease and Indiana County’s Catch 22

Mary Cease. Photo by Steve Mellon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

An Opinion

 By David Loomis

INDIANA — No wonder Mary Cease, of Clymer, wants to flee Indiana County. Its housing authority has repeatedly denied federal assistance to the medical-marijuana patient in a classic case of Catch 22.

In Joseph Heller’s 1961 World War II novel, a Catch 22 is an utterly absurd no-win situation typifying bureaucratic logic in a military context – a SNAFU.

The case of Ms. Cease, 66, a former member of the U.S. military, is set in a civilian context. She has a cannabis prescription authorized by state law in 2016. She got the prescription to get off opioid medications prescribed for chronic back pain and post-traumatic stress.

Nearly every other authority in Indiana County has endorsed such personal substance transitions. In 2017 the president of biomedical company Agrimed lobbied local officials for their blessing of a medical-marijuana dispensary he sought to establish here.

Why Indiana County? Because of its high rate of opioid deaths, he said. Medical marijuana is just what doctors – and legislators — ordered to fight epidemic opioid addiction, he asserted.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beer cups, Indiana borough and the experience economy

An Opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – For its preview of the sixth annual Northern Appalachian Folk Festival earlier this month, The Indiana Gazette went with a conflict angle in the headline: “Dueling folk festivals scheduled this weekend for downtown,” it read.

The “duel” was between two local volunteer and non-profit groups that teamed on earlier festivals but split after last year’s NAFF. In the breach were financial and creative differences, duplicate claims to the name, fears of public confusion, possible litigation, etc.

Logo for Northern Appalachian Folk Festival Inc., sponsored by Jim Dougherty.

The epilog: Except for wet weather on Saturday, Sept. 8, peace and harmony reigned, according to organizers of the twinned events.

“Most people didn’t know the difference,” said Jim Dougherty, a former Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor who launched his brainchild in 2013.

Ditto for an organizer of the other festival, sponsored by Downtown Indiana Inc., the borough’s business-district interest group.

“It’s a small town,” Linda G. Mitchell, executive director of Downtown Indiana Inc., said during a Sept. 17 phone interview. “We all have to get along.”

Logo for Northern Appalachian Folk Festival sponsored by Downtown Indiana Inc.

Both organizers said their events tallied in the black, and they pledged a reprise for next year’s seventh edition.

 

MAYBE BALANCED BUDGETS make good bedfellows. But on one element, organizers have no dispute:

The borough’s open-container ordinance is a success in its first season.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment