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Friday, March 6, 2015

College crybabies need to grow up or go home

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Theoretically, college should be a time for learning new things, examine your ideas, and generally expanding your knowledge. Today, college is increasingly becoming a place where pathetic crybabies need to be "protected" from ideas, opinions and even academic coursework that might offend their delicate sensibilities. This does not bode well for the future of America and our ability to deal with adult problems in an adult manner.

The problem here is that modern colleges and universities have embraced Political Correctness for decades. As much as it gets mocked, PC has roots in a good idea - do not unnecessarily offend people. Don't use racial slurs, do not call people names, do not discriminate against people for their faith, sex, national origin, and so forth. But modern colleges have gone far beyond basic common courtesy into the realm of the absurd, to the point that students are being deprived of important educational information.

Many professors are pressured to put "trigger warnings" on the material presented to students in case someone might be "offended." Some law professors are even avoiding teaching about rape law, because some delicate sensibilities might be "offended" by the mere mention of the topic. So students are being deprived of basic instruction in an important area of criminal justice law because some students are crybabies and cannot handle even the discussion of the topic.

This is to say nothing of the absurd "need" for students to have a "safe place" when someone dares discuss a sensitive topic in a lecture or to present opposing views on a sensitive topic. Perhaps next, Take Back the Night rallies and marches should be banned from campus because the discussion of rape - even in the context of empowering and supporting victims of rape and domestic violence - might be too traumatic for some so-called "students."

This is ridiculous and it needs to stop. So-called "students" should be told if they cannot handle sensitive topics like adults without having an emotional breakdown, they are not ready for college and should drop out and grow up. Serious issues need to be handled by serious people, and the leaders of tomorrow will need to be prepared to take on difficult issues without the need to run to a "safe space." If these crybabies get elected to Congress, will they need a "safe space" if a committee hearing presents ideas or information they never learned to handle?

This starts at birth. Parents need to teach their children to be mature, and that they need to deal with ideas, information and opinions without becoming emotionally distraught - even when they disagree or are offended by what is presented to them. Part of being a functioning member of society is the ability to deal with things we find objectionable.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bite mark matching is a hoax

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Note: I sent this letter to my local legislators representing Monroe County.

It is encouraging to see Indiana make progressive steps in changing the way we deal with crime, especially regarding drug treatment of criminals. There are more steps that can be taken to prevent abuse of power, safeguard civil liberties and protect due process. This is why I am writing you today.

One of the worst problems in our criminal justice system is that too many prosecutors are focused on "winning" convictions instead of getting justice, resulting in innocent people getting convicted. This is a quadruple injustice. First, and most obviously, for the person wrongly convicted. Second, for the crime victim who will not see the real perpetrator punished. Third, for the real perpetrator who gets away with his crime while an innocent takes his place. Fourth and finally, for a society that deserves a fair justice system and needs to be protected from violent predators.

One of the highly questionable means of collecting "evidence" in criminal cases is bite mark matching, popularized after the Ted Bundy case. Men who have been convicted of crimes based on bite mark "evidence" have later been exonerated by DNA testing, and the "science" behind this scheme is highly questionable at best - and outright fraud at worst. For more, I invite you to read the following four articles from the Washington Post's website:

Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV

Given the serious problems with bite mark matching, and the stubborn determination to rely on even discredited "experts" in bite mark matching, I would encourage the Indiana state legislature to look into this issue and restrict the use of this technique in Indiana criminal trials. Given the serious problems with bite mark matching, it could be argued that bite mark matching should be banned outright to ensure fair trials and that the guilty do not escape accountability for their crimes. Thank you for your time.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Making private disputes a federal crime is a silly overreaction

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Back in 2008, a woman created a fake MySpace profile to torment her teenage daughter's rival, and the tormented girl ultimately committed suicide. it was a terrible story that illustrated the depths of human depravity, but the federal government's extreme overreaction was (or should have been) a concern to virtually every internet user.

The MySpace case was the overreaction of one rogue federal prosecutor, who sought to punish a woman with prison time for what was basically a Terms of Service violation. Tormenting a teenager might be sick and depraved, but no one who knows the tiniest bit about computers would agree with the federal government's absurd contention that she was guilty of computer hacking.

Now, thanks to a really dumb proposal, a TOS violation could now be written into law as a federal crime. Breaking your employer's policies on recreational use of the Internet could also place you on the wrong side of the law. This proposal could literally create hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of criminals out of thin air.

The goal - to crack down on legitimate hackers - is a good one. A particularly destructive hacker can cause serious economic disruption and personal harm, even exposing his victims to violence or threats of violence. But the solution is not to smash a spider with a sledgehammer. Overly broad laws will inevitably be abused and cause harm to innocents. This needs to be scrapped and rewritten in a much more narrow way.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Harsh Reality vs. Rule of Law

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:00 AM

The teaser text for this editorial on the New York Times opinion page reads as follows: "The court can't ignore the harsh consequences of gutting Obamacare."

And this is what is wrong with many people's view of the Supreme Court. It is not a super-legislature. The job of the court - the only job of the court - is to interpret the law and the Constitution. The policy consequences of the court's decision on the cases before it should not even be considered by the nine justices. If they do make policy a major component of their decision (as some of them openly have done) they should be impeached.


A conversation with Bashir Assad

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

The BBC reports that Syria is still dropping barrel bombs despite a U.N. Security Council resolution telling them to stop. Next, Hans Blix will be meeting with Bashir Assad, where the following conversation will take place:

  • Hans Blix: "Stop using barrel bombs, or else."
  • Bashir Assad: "Or else WHAT?"
  • Hans Blix: "Or else we will be very, very angry with you. And we will send you a letter telling you how angry we are."

I am sure the Assad regime will be too terrified to drop any more barrel bombs after that exchange.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Human rights in prison

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:00 AM

From today's New York Times:

"A Brutal Beating Wakes Attica’s Ghosts."


Answer the question, Governor Walker!

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Over the last few weeks, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been asked a few questions that he did not answer, though he did provide answers later. He was asked about whether he believes in evolution, whether he believes President Obama is a Christian and whether he believes Obama is patriotic.

Walker later explained his non-answers by saying that the questions, especially regarding Obama's faith or patriotism, are "gotcha" questions that are meant to stir controversy but are ultimately irrelevant. Had he simply answered the questions instead of saying he does not know or that he is going to punt, that would have been acceptable. Calling out the media for asking "gotcha" questions and refusing to answer based on that would count as a legitimate answer. Punting or saying "I don't know" to avoid answering the question is not a legitimate response.

None of this is all that difficult. Newt Gingrich gained supporters in 2012 by calling out the media for asking inflammatory "questions" and Walker had to know he would be getting these same types of "questions" as he makes a run for the White House in 2016. Instead of "punting" or dodging, engage the question directly - either by calling out the reporter asking an inflammatory "question" or by actually answering it.

Ultimately, no one cares if Scott Walker believes in evolution, and no one cares what Scott Walker thinks about inflammatory comments by Rudy Giuliani. These kinds of "gotcha" questions are simply childish, designed to stir up controversy (and therefore ratings) rather than actually informing people about a potential candidate for President. But Walker does himself no favors when he ducks and weaves to avoid answering a question. Instead, he makes himself look like he is not ready for prime time.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hebrews 12:5-8

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

A bigger issue than net neutrality

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

There is a bigger issue in the FCC vote on Thursday than net neutrality.

Since this is basically a new law, it should have been passed by Congress, not an administrative agency.

Once again, this shows how lawless our government has become, with the bureaucracy usurping powers that rightly belong to the legislative branch.

And that lawlessness is bipartisan.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Evolution and Republican politics

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Despite the fact that just over 40% of Americans believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, belief in evolution is being used as a wedge issue against and litmus test for potential Republican candidates for President in 2016.

The theory is that if you believe in the Biblical account of a literal six-day creation, you are an ignorant, stupid, uneducated inbred hick. You probably live in Appalachia and are married to your first cousin. Most of the people mocking creationists will not admit they think this way, other than the "uneducated" part but the subtext is clearly there. Anyone who admits being a young-earth creationist - even the 27% who have a college degree - are clearly several steps below the rest of society.

But here is the dirty little secret - no one cares if a Republican candidate for President is a young-earth creationist. The people who do care and will vote based on that would never vote for a Republican candidate anyway. People are much more concerned about a candidate's relevant experience, his record in office, his policy proposals and political platform, and how his policies will impact them, their wallets, and the issues they care deeply about. Whether a Republican candidate is a creationist or not is irrelevant to these other factors.

While elitists love to puff up their chests and look down their noses at creationists, belief in the Biblical account of creation is not nearly as much of a political disadvantage as they think it is. In fact, the vindictiveness, snark and ridicule might actually benefit the candidate being attacked as average voters think they are also being mocked and insulted by the elite. Just as Mitt Romney's remark about the 47 percent harmed him in the 2012 election, deriding anyone who believes that what Genesis says is literally true can backfire badly.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

A shocking and revolutionary idea for Facebook

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:30 PM

Here is a revolutionary idea. If you see a post on Facebook that makes you worry about your friend (assuming this person is a real-life friend) you could PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL HIM OR HER instead of reporting it to Facebook and hoping they will handle it.


In defense of exclusive primaries

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Primaries are a good thing, and should remain under the control of the political parties. While Indiana technically has a "closed" primary, the enforcement is nonexistent, allowing people to cross back and forth or (worse) monkeywrench the other party's primary. Now comes a Herald-Times editorial arguing for an open primary system - one that would defeat the entire purpose of primary elections.

As a Republican, I have no business deciding who the Democratic nominee for Mayor will be. I am not going to be voting for the Democratic candidate, and that decision is best made by Democratic voters. Note that I said Democratic "voters" instead of Democratic party activists. After all, party activists are a small subset of the primary voters who choose the nominees. This is why the Herald-Times' argument for allowing voters to participate "whether they are active in a party or not" is a classic Straw Man logical fallacy.

(See previous articles from April 27, 2011 and April 21, 2011.)

I am not sure why the H-T is complaining that the primary system somehow violates people's privacy. There are many good reasons why someone's election participation is public record. One reason is it protects against voter fraud: It is important to have the voter list be verifiable. Everyone can look up who voted in a primary or general election. Even if someone votes in a primary, it does not mean that person will vote for all - or even any - of that party's general election nominees. When someone votes - though not for whom they voted - should always be public record.

The primary election already results in the top vote-getter for each party making it to the November general election, though there are two separate pools of voters instead of only one. That means the nomination is already decided by the voters. This is why, nationwide, there have been many candidates who have been chosen by voters when the political parties would have chosen someone else. One big example is Barack Obama, who most likely would not have been the Democratic nominee for President in 2008 if that was decided only at a convention instead of primary votes.

Some have argued for nominating conventions instead of taxpayer-funded primary elections. The problem with this is it does not give the voters a choice of who will represent them on the ballot. The other problem is that party insiders may choose a poor candidate, while winning a primary election at least demonstrates that candidate has the support of the party's voters. There have been a number of elections where the nominees would have been very different if chosen by the party establishment instead of the voters. And while not having taxpayers fund a primary sounds good on paper, it is never going to happen. You will never see that choice taken away from voters.

The primary system is a good one. All it asks is that the voters who pick the party's nominees pick one party or the other. Having an open primary where all voters can choose both parties' nominees is an invitation for mischief and severely dilutes what it means to be a Republican or a Democrat. Strong political parties, and clear differences between the parties, is good for democracy. It should remain that way, and separate primaries ensure that. If anything, Indiana's closed primary system should be more restrictive, not less.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just say "no" to mandatory HPV vaccinations!

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

A couple weeks ago, I argued that the Measles vaccine (and vaccines for other highly contagious communicable diseases) should be mandatory in order to protect public health. This is a case where the rights of the public to not be infected should supersede individual choice, under the principle that "your right to swing your fist ends when you touch my nose." But one proposal that should be rejected is the idea of mandatory vaccinations of all children for the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This was proposed by the Indiana state legislature.

(See previous articles from September 20, 2011 and December 31, 2005 and February 28, 2007.)

The big difference is that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, and therefore an infected person cannot pass it to someone else unless there is sexual contact between the two. Someone who has HPV cannot infect anyone else unless that person is sexually intimate with the infected person. Whether we want to admit it or not, the HPV vaccine does send a dangerous message that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is less dangerous, and there are many consequences of sexual immorality that go beyond sexually transmitted diseases.

Since HPV is spread in a very specific way, it should be up to the parents to decide whether or not their children (usually daughters) will get the vaccine. I do not have a problem with the vaccine itself or with parents choosing it, and if I had a daughter I would probably encourage her to get the vaccine as an extra safeguard. The potentially dangerous moral message can be overcome by instruction in morality. Plus, it is possible that even a faithful married person can contract HPV from a spouse who was infected before the marriage happened or is unfaithful.

But making the HPV vaccine mandatory is a step too far. It does not protect public health, and instead intrudes on a private medical decision that is properly made by families and their doctors. It also intrudes on parents' God-given authority over their children's welfare. I fully support giving information on the vaccine and full information on its effectiveness. But this is not a decision that should be made by the government.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pavilion Properties' unprofessional, childish and offensive ads

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Does Pavilion Properties really think that a video of a naked man, with his genitals (barely) covered, is the best way to attract new tenants to rent an apartment or house managed by them? If I was in the market for a rental home, an advertisement like that would not only do nothing to help sell Pavilion as a landlord, it would actively push me toward other property management companies.

Perhaps Pavilion thinks that the ad is edgy or clever. It is not. It is offensive, childish, and incredibly unprofessional. It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the rental properties Pavilion is marketing to students, or anyone else who reads the Indiana Daily Student website. As an IU alumnus and Bloomington resident, I check the IDS daily to see what is going on with the alma mater as well as the IDS' coverage of local news. I do not appreciate being accosted with this offensive video while I am trying to stay informed.

The IDS designed the ad for Pavilion, and I think Pavilion got a bad deal. Think about this for a minute: You work for one of the best college newspapers in the nation, a newspaper that often has better coverage of local events and issues than even Bloomington's local newspaper. This is despite having a disadvantage in institutional knowledge of the area and contacts with local people. If you want to go into a career designing online advertisements, or working in the news media generally, do you think this helps or hurts your career prospects?

The naked video advertisement, unfortunately, highlights a disturbing tendency of the Indiana Daily Student - being crude the sake of being crude. From publishing obscene words to inappropriate images and video, some folks at the IDS seem to have never moved beyond junior high school in terms of maturity. Readers of the IDS website, and people who are looking for a rental home, should expect more maturity and seriousness from a top college newspaper and an otherwise respectable property management firm.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Like it or not, Marie Harf has a point

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

One of the things I dislike about social media (and especially Twitter) is how things tend to be dumbed down and stripped of context, for the sole purpose of creating a silly meme that misses the entire point of what it is (poorly) mocking. One example of this is the case of Marie Harf, who has practically been painted as a sympathizer of the Islamic State for a comment she made on Hardball. First, let's take a look at what she said:

"We're killing a lot of them, and we're going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians — they're in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it's a lack of opportunity for jobs."


"We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people."

You will notice that nowhere does she say that we should not kill ISIS terrorists. She said we and our allies will continue to kill them. What she is doing is pointing out that we need a holistic approach to dealing with Islamic terrorism. I fail to see why this is controversial, or why what she said is "stupid."

It is well known that in times of desperation, it is easier for demagogues to whip up popular support and make a grab for power. One example of this is the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany. There were a number of factors that contributed to Hitler's rise to power, but one of the big ones was the severe economic depression and hyperinflation in postwar Germany. Hitler offered a way out of the depression and a scapegoat for it.

Yes, of course some Muslim terrorists were wealthy before they became terrorists. Yes, of course some of the people fighting for ISIS are just plain evil sadists. But people who lack economic opportunity, people who are dealing with a corrupt and oppressive government, and people who do not see a lot of hope for improving their lives are vulnerable to the pull of persuasive demagogues to fight for them, especially if they are fighting for some sort of "greater cause."

Harf was right to argue that we need a more holistic strategy. It is a longstanding theory in political science that democracies do not fight each other. (This is not entirely true, as a quick Google search will show.) One big reason we rebuilt Germany and Japan with democratic traditions was to turn them into allies instead of enemies. Building bridges with the Muslim world and fostering economic opportunity is a similar (though obviously not identical) strategy - using our soft power as a way to blunt extremism.

There are many legitimate objections to President Obama's strategy in dealing with the Islamic State. The silly #JobsForISIS meme is not one of them. It makes conservatives look simple-minded and does a disservice to legitimate discourse about public policy. Serious issues (especially life-or-death issues like the War on Terror) need serious people and serious ideas. Mocking a legitimate and historically proven strategy is not serious by any means.