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Monday, December 22, 2014

The murder of two NYPD officers, rhetoric and police safety

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

The assassination of two New York City police officers over the weekend was a shocking incident, and shows the dangers police officers can face. It is important to keep perspective, though, and the response to these murders provides a lesson in how elected officials should and should not behave when a horrific crime like this happens.

First, the response from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office was despicable and shameful. I became filled with rage when I read the following in this article on the assassinations:

Rawlings-Blake’s deputy chief of staff, Kevin Harris, said the mayor knows there are a few bad apples that have "done some things that do not honor the uniform," and they need to deal with that.

"But the way in which they do that is not to target law enforcement," Harris told Curtis.

This is shameful. Police misconduct is an important issue, but the time to address it is not in the aftermath of a terrorist assassination of two police officers. Harris should be fired from his job for his despicable choice of words and choice to use this atrocity to take a shot at the police. As the chief of staff, Harris should know better, and how damaging his words would be to the working relationship between his boss and the Baltimore police. Rawlings-Blake needs to apologize to the New York Police Department and the families of the murdered officers.

Where we should be careful in condemning words, though, is blaming "anti-police rhetoric" for the murders of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The only person responsible for the murders is the terrorist Ismaaiyl Brinsley. There has been some reprehensible and irresponsible rhetoric on both sides of this debate, but trying to blame rhetoric for a terrorist act is an unworthy debater's ploy meant to shut down legitimate (if uncomfortable) arguments.

Finally, murders of police are terrible, but we need to avoid overstating the problem. Police officers are safer today than they have been in fifty years. Police fatalities are way down in pure numbers, and when you consider that there are a lot more cops today than 50 years ago they are even safer as a matter of percentages.

From the Washington Post:

According to FBI statistics, 27 police officers were feloniously killed in 2013, the lowest raw number in more than 50 years. (The previous low was 41 in 2008.) If we go by officer homicides as a percentage of active-duty police, it was probably the safest year in a century.

It has not been just a good year. It has been a good couple decades. Police fatalities have been dropping for 20 years to the point that it is safer to be a cop today than it has been since the 1960's - maybe even since World War I. Overstating the danger to police is dangerous, because it encourages and provides political cover for police militarization and aggressive use of force. We should respect the danger and unique challenges police officers face, but that should be grounded in reality and attached to the duty of law enforcement to serve the public and safeguard civil liberties.

0 Comments

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Prayers to the NYPD

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 10:00 AM

Prayers to the NYPD and their families this Sunday morning after the assassination of two officers.

0 Comments

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Get over yourself, Mrs. Obama.

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 8:00 PM

RE: Michelle Obama's Tales of Racialized Victimhood, by Michelle Malkin.

This woman really needs to get over herself. Taller people get asked to help shorter people all the time. I've offered to get stuff down for shorter people, and never felt "oppressed." I've also offered to lift heavy items for elderly people. It is common courtesy.

Good grief. Grow up and get over yourself, Mrs. Obama.

0 Comments

Friday, December 19, 2014

About those "We Can't Breathe" shirts in NBA games

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Bob Kravitz does not agree with NBA players wearing "I can't breathe" shirts, and he has a point. Like it or not, the NBA needs to address this (even if privately and/or informally) because of the precedent being set.

While NBA players are (obviously) playing a game, an NBA game is a workplace. Even though I think the NYPD was completely out of line in the way it dealt with Eric Garner. I would not wear a political shirt to work, unless I was working for a candidate. (And then, I would only wear a shirt supporting that candidate.) A political shirt can be a distraction for both co-workers and customers, and can create needless tension in the workplace.

And yes, I know the NBA is not a traditional workplace.

Kravitz asks what will happen if a player decides to wear a shirt taking a position on an issue like abortion or some other hot button issue. What happens if a player wants to wear a shirt with the text "Jesus Saves" or "Allahu Akbar" during warm-ups? What if an atheist player responds with his own shirt?

At what point does the National Basketball Association draw the line? What messages will and will not be permitted? What are the standards for determining what will and will not be permitted in terms of messages not explicitly approved for employees to wear at work? How will this be negotiated with the players' union?

NBA players (and all professional athletes) live their lives in public, today more than ever before due to direct interaction with fans on social media. The NBA should allow wide latitude for players to make statements on political, social and cultural issues when they are off the floor. But on the court, the NBA should enforce a standard of professionalism and tell players to exercise their free speech rights on their own time.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

School discipline, race and fairness

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

The New York Times raises a familiar complaint about racial disparities in school discipline. We have heard for years that black males are disciplined more than teen males of other races, but this article focuses on black teen girls facing more punishments. But is it a racial issue or a behavioral issue? Are government schools really mistreating students because of their skin color?

The bottom line question is this: Are black students simply misbehaving more often than white students?

The statistics on discipline by race, on the surface, do indicate that blacks are being treated differently than white students. The problem is that statistics do not tell the whole story. If black students commit X percent of disciplinary infractions then one would expect black students to get that same X percent of the punishments. One cannot only rely on statistics to determine if the system is unfair. The only real way to determine fairness is to examine, school by school, who is committing the offenses and whether the punishments for those offenses is equal or close to it.

Even the anecdote the Times opens with does not necessarily indicate racial injustice. What it indicates is greed. The student who could pay restitution was punished much less severely than the student who could not pay restitution. If both girls had been white, or both had been black, would the outcome have been identical? Are there other past disciplinary cases where the student whose family could not pay restitution was punished more harshly?

We do know that children and teens who grow up without a father are statistically more likely to have behavioral problems, in school and out of it. We also know that out-of-wedlock births are epidemic among blacks. The dissolution of the black family cannot be ignored in the discussion of disciplinary problems in school and the racial statistics on school discipline. It is counterproductive and myopic to not take a complete view of the problem.

Discipline statistics are a good starting point, not an ending point. Much more investigation is needed to determine what is causing the disparity and what, if anything, to do about it. Unless, of course, the goal is to simply inflame racial tensions, get more subscriptions and get more people clicking on ads.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Due process, campus rape and false allegations

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

The scandal surrounding the account in Rolling Stone of an alleged rape on the University of Virginia campus serves as a reminder that, while we must protect victims of rape and punish perpetrators, we must also carefully safeguard due process and the principle of innocent until proven guilty. The two are not mutually exclusive.

We often hear that we should "believe victims." There are two problems with this. First, it assumes there is a victim when there may not be a victim at all. Second, believing the alleged victim requires you to believe that there is a guilty perpetrator. It is logically impossible to have one without the other. One can respect and care for an alleged victim, and seek to have justice done, without automatically believing her.

What actually happened to the alleged victim in the Rolling Stone story? It is extremely unlikely that her account of the alleged rape - that she was thrown through a glass table and then gang-raped on the broken glass, only to have her "friends" discourage her from reporting the crime - is completely true. She may have been sexually assaulted and then exaggerated the details. She may have made the whole thing up.

But a story like this does not help anyone - not rape victims, not victims' advocates, not the justice system, not men falsely accused of rape, and certainly not a magazine that has seen its credibility obliterated by journalism so shoddy and unethical that even someone with no journalistic training knows it is wrong.

The fact of the matter is that false allegations do happen, and the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Instead of covering up rape and failing to protect victims, colleges and universities are now running roughshod over due process in order to appease politically correct feminists. Neither extreme is helpful or proper. Balancing the rights of the accused and respect for the accusers will always be difficult, but it is critical to keep that balance.

Finally, as I said on Twitter back in October, college men can greatly reduce or eliminate their chances of being falsely accused of rape by not having drunken one-night-stands. Showing respect for women first and foremost will protect not only the men, but will honor the women as well. We should be teaching this to our young men.

Previous articles

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Verse of the day

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

"Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him." -- Proverbs 29:20

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Eric Garner is not Michael Brown

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Eric Garner and Michael Brown are two large, unarmed black men killed by police officers. That is where the similarity between the two men and their cases ends, and it is dishonest and irresponsible to equate the two. It is an insult to Garner's memory and to Garner's family to equate his case with Brown's case.

First, the Brown case. We know that the story told by Brown's friend - that Brown was executed on the street for jaywalking - was an outright fantasy. We know there was a fight between Brown and Darren Wilson, and if Wilson's account is true he had maybe a second or two before a charging Brown was on top of him. I find Wilson's story credible but we will probably never know the full extent of what happened on that August day in Ferguson. It did not help that the Ferguson police department has bungled this case from day one.

With Garner, there are no such doubts. We know exactly what happened. Brown may have been violent, and may have attacked Wilson. Garner did not strike, assault or threaten anyone. He did not commit a strong arm robbery. Garner was accosted for selling single cigarettes without collecting the taxes that city government demands. Much like the Mafia, New York City demands a piece of that action. This was turf protection, nothing more.

This could have been resolved without the use of force. Simply telling Mr. Garner to move along and perhaps citing him for the infraction of selling cigarettes without paying off city government would have been a proportionate response. It was not a proportionate response for several police officers to violently tackle him and put him in a submission hold. Had the police not needlessly escalated the confrontation, Garner would still be alive. Irritated, but alive.

It strains credibility to equate the death of a man who was completely nonviolent and was guilty of nothing more that failing to collect taxes for New York City with the death of a man who had a fight with a police officer. There is a reason that there is a deep divide over the result of the Brown case and wide agreement over the Garner case. The two cases are completely separate and should be treated that way. To do otherwise is an insult to Eric Garner and his family.

2 Comments

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's that time again

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

It's casserole and potluck time again!

Here is a great recipe if you're looking for an easy crockpot side.

0 Comments

Friday, December 12, 2014

Roger Goodell is a liar and a hypocrite

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

A federal judge's ruling that the NFL was wrong to indefinitely suspend Ray Rice was a victory for due process, employee protections and common sense.

Last February, when a terrible video surfaced of NFL player Ray Rice dragging his limp, unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator, we all knew exactly what happened. Rice hit his girlfriend (now his wife) and knocked her out. NFL commissioner (and shameless liar and hypocrite) Roger Goodell suspended Rice for a couple games for the incident, provoking criticism from a number of people. That incident might have flown under the radar, until the video of Rice actually punching his girlfriend was leaked to the news media and posted online.

That is when the feces hit the air circulator.

Goodell, who knew exactly what happened months earlier, was faced with a public relations nightmare and tried to mollify critics by punishing Rice a second time for the same incident. Rice appealed, and a federal judge ruled Thanksgiving week that the punishment was arbitrary and that no new information had come out to justify the suspension. Put simply, Goodell's punishment of Rice had literally nothing to do with the facts of the case and everything to do with quieting the political storm the NFL was facing.

Had Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely months earlier (and the Baltimore Raisins joined in by voiding his contract) that would have been acceptable. In fact, I would have supported that decision. The NFL and the Raisins demonstrated that they did not take domestic violence seriously. But the decision was what it was, and the NFL (or the Raisins, for that matter) should not be allowed to have a do-over because they made a mess of the case the first time around.

The damage has already been done. It is difficult for an athlete to sit out an entire season and return in top form. Rice will not be as effective if he is picked up for a playoff run, and may have difficulty getting back to form next year. This is why I hope Rice wins his lawsuit for lost wages, for at least twice what was left on his contract. That would send an appropriate message to the NFL, both for the dishonest and shamefully hypocritical way this case was handled and to get it right the first time if and when this happens again.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Republicans need to fill the 2015 ballot

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

When Mark Kruzan announced on November 18 that he would not seek a fourth term as mayor of Bloomington, he threw the race wide open - at least for who the Democratic nominee will be. Kruzan was likely to coast to re-election, if he had a Republican opponent at all. But despite the long odds, Republicans need to fill the ticket.

First, Republicans need to field an absolute minimum of five candidates for City Council. Only four Republicans ran in 2007 - contesting districts 2, 5 and 6 with one at-large candidate. The best Republicans could possibly hope for in that case is a 5-4 Democratic majority. It was even worse in 2011, when with only three Republican candidates (two at-large plus District 1) the best possible outcome was a 6-3 Democratic majority.

If the Republicans do not even field enough candidates to claim a majority, why even bother at all? What possible motivation do Republican voters have to turn out at the polls when even an unprecedented (and highly improbable) Republican landslide will put Republicans in a 3-6 minority?

But the primary race that Republicans need to contest is the mayor's office. Yes, this is a heavily Democratic city and there has not been a Republican Mayor since 1971 - two years before I was born. But the party has an obligation to at least give the voters an option to choose someone else. Perhaps if the GOP does not field a candidate for Mayor, the Libertarian Party will field a candidate for Mayor.

Even if someone only files paperwork to run as a write-in candidate and does nothing else, that office must be contested. The voters deserve an opportunity to choose, no matter how lopsided the odds might be. As the second major party, Republicans have a moral obligation to provide that choice.

If Republicans are to be taken seriously as an opposition party within the city, they cannot continue to leave so many races uncontested. If Republicans do not even bother trying to win, the party (at least in the city) will be seen as a joke. That perception will be accurate. The Monroe County Republican Party did an excellent job filling the ballot in the 2014 county elections, even if the election results were depressing.

That should continue in the 2015 city elections. At a minimum, Republicans should do whatever is necessary to at least field nine city council candidates - but the eventual Democratic nominee for mayor should not coast in with 100% of the vote. The people of Bloomington deserve better, and they deserve a choice.

0 Comments

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Facebook, free speech, threats and criminal law

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

A little advice can go a long way to keeping yourself out of trouble: Never say anything online (via social media or anywhere else) that you would be horrified to see on the front page of the newspaper or as the lead story on the nightly news. If rapper Anthony Elonis, facing charges for allegedly threatening his former wife on Facebook, had taken that advice he would not be in legal hot water.

Elonis says he was blowing off steam and his writing was therapeutic - that he never intended to harm or terrorize his wife. Maybe that is true, and maybe it is not. But taking Elonis at his word, it was still a foolish thing to do. He unnecessarily put himself at legal risk, and he already lost his job over a similar ill-tempered post on Facebook. If there was no intent to harm or threaten, it would be tragic to see him to go prison for simply ranting.

The reality is that context matters. An acrimonious break-up provides a worrisome context, one that should at least be examined in order to assure everyone is safe. Intervening before a crime happens helps the victim, obviously, but also prevents a potentially violent person from throwing his life away.

This is not an excuse for a hysterical and absurd over-reaction to a harmless posting, of course.

More than at any other time in history, we live our lives in the public eye. While an offhand remark or an angry rant had the potential to get someone in trouble in 1985, the potential for trouble is much higher when you can instantly broadcast that rant to several hundred people (or several thousand people) in an instant. It is a good bet that a significant number of those people will interpret it in a way the person ranting never intended.

The ultimate lesson: Think before you post and do not post while angry.

0 Comments

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Re-alignment of NBA divisions?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Tom Ziller has an interesting proposal to eliminate conferences and have five divisions. He proposes this to make the travel schedule easier and help balance the difficulty in each team's schedule.

But my question is this: Why have divisions at all? It seems to me that divisions outlived their usefulness many years ago. Division championships mean less today than they ever have, and the automatic playoff seedings for division winners was abandoned when it was found to make no sense. This would have been unthinakble twenty-five years ago but makes sense in today's NBA.

Eliminating conferences would be a radical step, and I like the idea of revamping the NBA schedule based on geographical location. Playing more games with teams geographically close by would help build rivalries (something that is sorely lacking in today's NBA) and generate more fan interest. The farther away a team is, the fewer games they play against that team. Teams would play every other team at least twice, but the schedule would be weighted to playing teams that are geographically closer.

If we are going to take a serious look at competitive balance and evening the schedule, though, the best solution (in my opinion) is contraction. That would improve the quality of the game and give more resources to the teams at the bottom of the standings, because players with teams eliminated by contraction would be available to other teams. Good teams could also get better, and players that really could not have made an NBA roster twenty years ago would not be playing. But as much as I would love to see fewer teams, that is little more than fantasy.

Unfortunately, that will never happen.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

A window into the mind of an obsessive nitpicker

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Here is a window into the kinds of things that go through my mind when I am watching television or a movie. I was watching an episode of "Superman: The Animated Series" with my toddler, depicting a crane breaking and falling off a roof in Metropolis toward the crowded street below. The crane was weak and simply broke in two. Naturally, Superman flew in to save the day and prevented anyone from getting hurt.

But why was the crane weak? You do not see this happen in Gotham City, just the much more wealthy Metropolis. Has OSHA not been doing the proper workplace safety inspections to ensure that the crane was properly maintained and constructed? If Superman had been off-world, a bunch of people would have died. What about the building inspectors who work for city government in Metropolis?

It seems to me that the first person who would be going to OSHA (or the building inspectors) and telling them to do their job would be Superman, as properly maintained and secured construction equipment that did not break and fall to the ground would make his life easier.

Are there no consequences for not obeying safety procedures? Imagine how a personal injury attorney would do in a class-action lawsuit against the company with the failing crane, and against OSHA for not enforcing workplace safety rules, if this happened while Superman was fighting Darkseid or Mongul in some other part of the galaxy or even in a parallel universe. It would have been a massacre.

So, yes. I nitpick stuff way too much. Maybe I should just shut up and watch the cartoon.

2 Comments

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The never-ending Creationism vs. Evolution debate

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 11:30 AM

Bloomington Herald-Times, December 4, 2014 (Comments)

To the Editor:

It has been interesting to read all of the creationism vs. evolution letters over the last couple months, but it is also interesting how some Christian beliefs get a pass while others do not. The central belief in the Christian faith is that God sent His Son to die a horrible, agonizing death on behalf of mankind, because of man's sin against God.

From a human perspective, this is far more insane than the idea that an almighty God created the earth from nothing in six days. Yet people who express this "insane" viewpoint - from Barack Obama and Bill Clinton on down - get a pass that young-earth creationists do not get. Why is that?

Furthermore, politicians who hold to this "insane" belief about the death of Christ for man's sins will rush to assure us they "believe in science" when it comes to evolution. But what they are really saying is "I am not one of those inbred hillbillies in Appalachia who has no education."

The Biblical account of creation is so hated, despised and ridiculed in today's society that I believe it is a confessional issue for Christians. You either believe the Bible or you do not.

1 Comments