Editorial roundup – December 14

Experience Indiana in its 200th year

KPC News Service

Indiana’s year-long celebration of its 200 years of history has started.

Friday marked the state’s 199th birthday and the start of its 200th year of existence.

We hope Hoosiers will take advantage of the coming year to learn more about our state and explore its historic and natural treasures.

Indiana gives us plenty of reason to be proud of our past, present and future, from the Michigan border to the Ohio River.

Our state offers a wide variety of geography, starting in the northeast corner with our sparkling lakes. Southern Indiana invites exploration of its scenic hills, typified by Brown County. In between lies the start of the nation’s breadbasket with central and western Indiana’s rich farming country. Our northwest corner features sandy beaches along Lake Michigan.

Our state park system provides dozens of opportunity to visit lakes, streams and even caves. The Bicentennial Nature Trust project is working to set aside even more natural sites.

Indiana can be proud of its role as a place that makes quality products, from steel and automobiles to precision creations that replace parts of our human bodies.

Hoosiers play a major role in feeding America and the rest of the world with the produce of our farms. Our fields also provide fuel for vehicles with ethanol derived from corn.

Indiana educates the nation and world through outstanding public and private universities.

We entertain America with sporting events based in Indianapolis, which has transformed itself from a sleepy afterthought of a city into the lively home of Super Bowls and college sports championships.

In the year ahead, take a vacation to Indiana to celebrate our bicentennial. Visit that place you’ve always been curious about, but never took the time to see. It might be the covered bridges in Parke County or the Falls of the Ohio in the outdoor world, or the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Listen to the music of Hoosier composers Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter or jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.

Read a book by an outstanding Hoosier author such as Kurt Vonnegut or Lew Wallace, creator of “Ben Hur.” Admire the war dispatches from legendary Indiana journalist Ernie Pyle. Check out a biography of a great Hoosier such as John Wooden or Abraham Lincoln.

In this 200th year of our state’s history, immerse yourself in the experience of Indiana. When you’re finished, you’ll be even more proud to call yourself a Hoosier.

Most important IU contract extension is outside of athletics

(Bloomington) Herald-TimesIndiana University football fans are waiting on news of a contract extension for head coach Kevin Wilson. That news is surely coming after the coach led the university to six victories and a bowl game in the fifth year of his seven-year contract. For recruiting purposes, a football coach needs to have more security than two years left on his original contract.Bigger news out of the university was the one-year extension of IU president Michael McRobbie’s contract through June 30, 2021. The head coach of the university system has achieved a record of successes — victories if you’d prefer — and IU now can look forward to stable leadership beyond the end of the decade.

McRobbie’s contract was set to expire during the university’s bicentennial year of 2020. The extension allows for IU to celebrate the entire bicentennial year under McRobbie and not be distracted for an intense search for its next leader.

There should be plenty to celebrate. McRobbie outlined a Bicentennial Strategic Plan at his State of the University address in 2014. The ambitious plan includes visionary strategies for academics, research and service, the three legs on which a successful research university stands.

The extension will allow McRobbie to see his plan through.

McRobbie’s first eight-plus years at IU have been marked by academic transformation, research achievement and wise capital investment. The trustees have acknowledged that with the extension, which is well deserved.

As Donald Trump peddles hateful ‘shutdown,’ House deals with travel security

Chicago Tribune (TNS)Donald Trump’s response to the terrorist threat, “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” is like a lot of his campaign rhetoric: a visceral, offensive, absurdly simplistic, headline-grabbing take on a real issue.The idea of a ban on travel by Muslims to the U.S. goes an ugly step further. Blocking people from entering the country based on their religious beliefs is a repugnant rejection of American principles of a free and open society.

Not to mention unconstitutional. Maybe that’s why Trump started on some clarifications. U.S. citizens who are abroad? OK, they can come back. Muslim heads of state? Yes, they can visit. International athletes? Come and play.

It’s still tempting to chalk it all up to spiteful, hateful nonsense. Except the guy keeps leading in those polls of Republican primary voters.

At least it was good to see Republicans and Democrats race each other to excoriate Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan neatly summed it up: “This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for. And more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”

So there’s Trump’s dark fantasy. And then there’s reality.

Members of the U.S. House ignored the noise and voted overwhelmingly on legislation to tighten immigration rules. The vote was bipartisan; the measure is logical and constitutional.

The bill, which was taken up after last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, gained more urgency with the murder of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. It addresses the U.S. visa waiver program. Under that program, citizens of 38 countries, mostly in Europe, can enter the U.S. for business or tourism without a visa. The bill would require a visa for people who have been in Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan since March 1, 2011.

Travelers to those countries, all of which have been linked to terrorist activity, would have to apply for a visa. That would require an in-person interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Tightening up that screening process would address one threat raised by the Paris assault. Some of the people who carried out that attack held European passports and could have come to the U.S. with little scrutiny.

The House bill will also remove from the visa waiver program the citizens of countries that don’t cooperate with the U.S. in sharing information about terrorism. It will require travelers in the waiver program to have passports with chips that contain biometric data.

This isn’t foolproof protection. Nothing will be. But it does address one potential vulnerability. Officials hope reconciled legislation can be attached to a spending bill that needs to pass to keep the government operating.

End EPA’s biofuel mandates

Los Angeles Times (TNS)The Environmental Protection Agency announced an increase in the amount of corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels that oil companies must add to the nation’s gasoline supply. While the new standard of 18 billion gallons in 2016 — most of it ethanol brewed from corn — is lower than what Congress mandated, it is still far too high for the environment, and for the economy. In fact, the entire mandate program was and is a bad idea.While we support clean energy and efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions, converting corn to ethanol to burn in cars doesn’t do much to get us there. In fact, recent research suggests ethanol-blended fuel could be worse for the environment than gasoline alone once you tally up the effects of producing and using it. In a report last year, the Environmental Working Group described the purported benefits of adding ethanol to gasoline as a “broken promise.” Meanwhile, diverting tons of corn to fuel production has affected the price of many agricultural products, costing consumers billions of dollars.

Congress created the renewable fuel standard in 2005 in part to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Lawmakers expanded the program two years later, directing the EPA is to increase the standard annually until it reaches 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2022. But lagging production and anemic development of other biofuels has forced the EPA to set lower standards than the congressional targets. For instance, the 18-billion-gallon mandate for 2016 is far below the 22.25-billion-gallon goal for the year.

Many conservatives dislike the mandate as a mix of corporate welfare and unwarranted government meddling in the marketplace. Oil companies don’t like it since it means less oil sold. Environmentalists have soured on corn-bred ethanol, and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year questioned how much value biofuels offer as a mitigator to carbon emissions. On the other side, the Obama administration embraces the mandate as part of its environmental, energy and agricultural policies. Corn growers and the biofuels industry, which have invested heavily, would take a hit if the mandates went away.

But go away they must. We opposed the renewable fuel standards when they were adopted, and the evidence of corn-based ethanol’s shortcomings since then has only firmed our position. Congress should move to end it.