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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mitch Daniels, Howard Zinn and "censorship" in education

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

As liberals in academia are up in arms about e-mails sent by former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels regarding a controversial history textbook by Leftist activist Howard Zinn, we all need to chill out and contemplate a couple realities. First, education necessarily involves "censorship." Second, state government has a legitimate role to play in selection of materials for teacher training as well as what is taught in K-12 schools in the state.

The first claim might be a little shocking, but is self-evident. There is simply not enough time in the day, or in thirteen years in Indiana's government school system, to teach everything there is to know. Therefore, decisions must be made as to what materials are appropriate, what textbooks should be used in each course (which necessarily requires exclusion of textbooks not used) and what areas of study are most important to teach Hoosier children.

If one history textbook (or a textbook on any other course) is deemed to be less valuable from a scholarly standpoint than another one, is it "censorship" for schools to use the better textbook and not teach from the lesser one? Technically, the answer is "yes," but it is necessary. At some point a decision has to be made on what to use.

Indiana is an interesting state in that we have an elected Superintendent of Public Instruction as well as a State Board of Education appointed by the governor. Education always features prominently in both elections for governor and the policy agenda of the governor. Because the governor has a prominent role in education of Hoosier students, it is logical that he would be motivated to ensure that the best materials are available in the schools and that sub-par materials in classrooms are replaced by superior ones.

This is not to get into the value of Zinn's history textbook. I have not read it, I have no plans to read it, and I do not have an opinion on it. That subject can be explored and debated by others. My main point with this post is that selection of materials is entirely appropriate, and the governor (who is responsible for making the state's schools as good as possible) has a role in making sure that students are getting the best education from the best sources possible.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The legislature should tighten the Open Door Law

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 6:00 AM (#)

My latest post at Hoosier Access:

What good is it to have a “public meeting” when the meeting is held at a time when most of the public cannot attend? Legislative bodies that make decisions on what you can do with your property and fiscal bodies that decide how government will spend the money it forcibly confiscates from you too often meet during the work day, when most people cannot attend those meetings.

Read more at Hoosier Access.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Will the next Fed chair have the correct genitalia?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:30 PM (#)

If the most qualified person to lead the Federal Reserve is a woman, so be it. But the nomination for next Fed chairman should not be decided on whether that candidate has the correct genitalia. That is just absurd.

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Weiner sexting scandal II - character matters!

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Despite what Huma Abedin says, her marriage is the public's business, because her husband is seeking one of the most powerful and high-profile elected positions in the nation. It is very simple: character matters.

Two years ago, Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress after it was revealed that he was sending pictures of himself (including pictures of his genitals) to women who were not his wife. Weiner admitted at the time that more pictures might be coming out. What he didn't say is that more pictures might be coming out because he was going to continue exchanging pictures and sexually explicit messages for the next couple years.

In a press conference addressing Weiner's continued lapses into online depravity, Abedin said:

Anthony has made some horrible mistakes both before he resigned from Congress and after. But I do very strongly believe that is between us and our marriage.

First, Weiner did not make "mistakes," horrible or otherwise. Spilling your coffee is a mistake. Exchanging photographs and explicit text messages with other women is committing adultery. (Jesus said that Himself in Matthew 5:27-28.) If Weiner's wife cannot trust him to be faithful to her while she is pregnant with his child and after he confessed his depravity to a world that assumed this behavior was going to stop, how can the voters of New York City trust him to use his power responsibly?

The message this sends is disturbing. Rachel Maddow (who I rarely agree with) made the following observation on her July 24 television program about Weiner and two other politicians currently mired in scandal:

Every moment they stay in office will slightly recalibrate for us as a nation the depths of shame that we are supposed to accept from people in positions of public leadership. Every moment they stay will further reduce the value and the prestige of public office as a career in the United States of America.

Maddow is right. She was also right when she followed up by asking what the next generation of political leaders would look like, if they are inspired by creeps like Weiner. This is not the kind of example we should be setting for young people who will be the future leaders of their communities, states and nation.

There has never been a person in the history of the world who has not done something he is ashamed of at one point or another. (See Romans 3:10-12.) The fact that Weiner was caught committing adultery in 2011 is not automatically a disqualification to him serving as mayor of New York City. The fact that he continued his depraved behavior after he got caught, and likely would have kept doing it had he not been caught a second time, should be a disqualification.

I am tempted to say that the people of New York City deserve better than Anthony Weiner, but if he is elected as mayor this fall, they clearly do not. They will have the government they deserve.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Allow the states to handle education policy

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

When the House of Representatives voted to significantly alter the No Child Left Behind Act last week, it was both refreshing and instructive. It was refreshing to see Republicans repudiate the Bush Administration's significant expansion of the federal government's role in K-12 education, and it was instructive to see how Democrats reacted to it.

Just six short years after the Republicans took over Congress and started a serious discussion about moving federal power back to the states, a Republican President was significantly expanding the role of the federal government, and NCLB is just one example of that. The Tea Party movement was as much a response to the leftward drift of the GOP as it was to Barack Obama's wild-eyed spending. It is encouraging to see Republicans move back toward a more limited-government stance.

Congressman George Miller (D-CA) said the effort to move standards back to the states moved the country "back to a time when students were left out of the system." This reaction is interesting. Does Miller think that the 50 state legislatures are incompetent to set educational standards for K-12 schools in their states? Does Miller think the 50 state legislatures will not act in the best interest of students in their states? Does Miller have no confidence in state departments of education, not to mention local school boards?

Miller's comment betrays an unfortunate worldview - that all solutions must come from Washington, D.C. So many times when we have a problem, we do not look to local or state government to solve it. Instead, we look to our masters in Washington. The men who founded this country would be appalled at such an attitude. The founders were skeptical of an all-powerful central government, and with good reason. It is a scary attitude.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The U.S. Senate, the filibuster, and cabinet nominees

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid angered Republicans when he threatened to limit the filibuster in the Senate, but he actually raised a good point and the filibuster deserves to be discussed.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul engaged in a "talking" filibuster earlier this year, but those are actually very rare in the Senate. In fact, the filibuster is not what many people think it to be. Many of us think of someone standing up and speaking for several hours at a time to block a piece of legislation or a nomination he strongly opposes. Generally, the way the rules work is that any senator can say he is conducting a "filibuster" but not stand up and actually speak.

So here is the first reform I would make: Filibusters must be real filibusters. The work of the Senate grinds to a halt while Senators stand up and speak for as long as they can about the item up for a vote. If no one stands up to actually filibuster by talking, then the "filibuster" is declared null and void.

As to the President's nominees, generally the opposition party should defer to the President's judgment on who he wants in his Cabinet. Unless a nominee is obviously incompetent or corrupt, the President should be allowed to pick his team. The Senate should generally approve nominees who only serve as long as the President is in office and will be gone when the President's term is over - though appointments that go into the next term are another matter.

The President certainly should expect a simple majority vote on the vast majority of his nominees.

I do not think abolishing the filibuster on the President's nominees for executive branch positions is the right answer, because there may be a case where someone truly does need to be stopped - such as when someone is obviously incompetent or corrupt, as I pointed out earlier. But, again, those filibusters should be real filibusters.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An utterly absurd view of the Zimmerman trial

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

The following quote from a "jury consultant" in USA Today illustrates how completely absurd the George Zimmerman trial became, and how absurd it continues to be.

I would have done almost a memorial about Trayvon Martin. I would have shown these are the things he's not going to be able to do: He'll never have a family or he'll never see his graduation.

See, this is the problem with the whole situation. The Zimmerman trial was treated as a political contest or controversy, not as a matter of following the law or determining the facts. The lost potential of Martin may have been relevant in the sentencing phase of the trial had Zimmerman been guilty, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the facts of the case or the application of the law to those facts.

The primary question was one of fact. Did Zimmerman reasonably fear for his life? It has been established (and prosecution "star witness" Rachel Jeantel admitted) that Martin was on top of Zimmerman and had the upper hand in the fight. We can debate whether Zimmerman should have had a "duty" to retreat, but when he was lying on his back with Martin punching him and slamming his head into the concrete, Zimmerman did not have the ability to retreat.

The jury, thankfully, did not make a decision based on politics. The jury did not make a decision based on who they liked more. They made a decision based on the facts and the application of the law to those facts. That so-called "experts" are treating this as a political matter rather than as a legal matter demonstrates how our criminal justice system has been completely corrupted. When cases are decided based on political considerations instead of facts, no one has any hope of a fair trial.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Can we use a little common sense, please?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Should an admittedly crude and offensive "joke" on Facebook with no actual intent to commit a violent crime send someone to jail for ten years? I would hope that the answer is "no" but that may well happen to a 19-year-old gamer in Texas. Justin Carter was discussing a video game online when someone else called him crazy. He said, sarcastically, that he was crazy and was planning to shoot up a school.

(For more, see here and here and here and here.)

I realize that we live in a post-Sandy Hook era and that we need to take remarks about gun rampages seriously. "Jokes" that would not have brought forth a criminal investigation fifteen or twenty years ago need to be looked at. Law enforcement was absolutely right to investigate Carter's offensive "joke" when they were tipped off about it to make sure he was not actually planning to maim or murder innocent people - especially children. But once it became clear that Carter was not seriously threatening to maim and murder, the charges of making a "terroristic threat" and the potential prison time should have been dropped.

Keeping Carter in jail, and threatening him with ten years behind bars is beyond silly at this point. It makes the criminal justice system look like it is populated entirely by hysterical drama queens. Carter has been attacked by other inmates in jail and is being kept in solitary confinement for his own safety - but solitary confinement is taking a toll on his mental health. That alone is more than enough punishment for his crude and offensive Facebook post, to say nothing of spending ten years in prison.

This serves as a reminder to all of us to think about what we say online, whether in a "private" conversation or in a public forum. Not because of threats that we may see criminal charges for our speech, but out of a basic respect for others and respect for civility. I certainly need to remember that lesson, more often than I would like to admit.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Indianapolis "pastor" smears the name of Jesus Christ

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

The following was submitted to the Indianapolis Star as a letter to the editor.

To the Editor:

It is shocking to see a pastor invoke the name of Jesus Christ while brazenly violating the clear commandment of Scripture in Exodus 20:16 not to bear false witness against his neighbor, as Jeffrey Johnson of the Eastern Star Church did in his July 18 letter to the Indianapolis Star. Johnson claims Trayvon Martin was shot to death "simply for walking home from the store." A minister of the Word and Sacrament should know better than this.

Johnson knows that Martin was not shot for simply walking home. It has been well-documented by this point that there was a physical altercation between him and George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic. An eyewitness said that he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman in a MMA-style "ground and pound" position. An expert witness testified that the forensic evidence at the scene is consistent with Zimmerman shooting Martin while Martin was on top of him.

Zimmerman may have acted foolishly, and he may have been overzealous in his role as a volunteer for the neighborhood watch. Those actions, while they may be worthy of condemnation, are not a crime. The legal question that the jury was asked to answer was whether there was reasonable doubt in the prosecution's accusation that Zimmerman committed murder. Did Zimmerman legitimately fear for his life as Martin allegedly slammed his head into the concrete?

It is shameful to see a pastor leave out these critical facts in pursuit of a political agenda. Johnson has smeared the name of Jesus Christ, who he claims as his Lord and Savior. But if Jesus is Johnson's Lord, then Johnson should obey His commandment in Exodus 20:16. If Johnson loves Jesus, then he should keep Jesus' commandments. (See John 14:15.) Johnson should publicly apologize and repent for sinning so egregiously in his letter.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Obama's selective concern about dead teenagers

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

If President Obama is worried about teenage boys being violently killed, he should answer why he sent a Predator drone to kill a 16 year old boy who was eating at an outdoor restaurant, bothering no one. Why did the Hypocrite-in-Chief kill Abdulrahman Al Awlaki?

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

He was not an innocent victim.

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

From the "She the People" blog at the Washington Post, on remarks made by Eric Holder about the Trayvon Martin case:

Is he inferring that Martin could have survived if only he'd stopped, put his hands up and called, "Good evening, sir; how can I help you?"

This is absurd. How about not attacking Zimmerman and punching him while he is down? How about not slamming Zimmerman's head into the concrete sidewalk?

Trayvon Martin was never an innocent victim.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Force-feeding of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Sometimes you are condemned if you do and condemned if you don't, and that is what we're facing in dealing with the hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay. This is not an easy problem to solve, but there needs to be a more serious examination of the moral and ethical issues involved.

A little backstory: Guantanamo detainees are on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. To keep them alive, they are force-fed liquid nutrition. A prisoner is strapped down, a tube is inserted into his nose, and food is pumped into his stomach. It can be an extremely painful process, especially if done by a guard who is not fully trained.

It is true that we're not dealing with nice people here. As Michelle Malkin points out, "detainees have violently attacked them with everything from makeshift weapons and radios to disgusting cocktails of blood, vomit, feces, urine, and sperm." We should be careful about the mainstream media's narrative that the U.S. is a bad guy here, persecuting innocent people who are nonviolently resisting. But that does not erase the human rights issues involved here.

The problem here is we are placed in a difficult situation. These men are in our nation's care, and we have a responsibility to preserve their lives if possible. Allowing them to starve themselves to death is not an attractive option and opens up serious issues about our treatment of prisoners, not to mention our civil magistrate's obligation before God to preserve the lives of men made in His image.

But is it really preferable to force-feed the prisoners via a terribly painful process? We had an extended debate over waterboarding prisoners a few years ago, leading to President Obama ending the practice as he took office. The force-feeding process is arguably more inhumane than waterboarding, but until the last few weeks there has been little debate about it in Congress and little public pressure on Obama.

So what is the answer? In my opinion, the best option is to offer the men food and water. Instead of strapping them into a chair and force-feeding them, put them in a room with food and give them the option to eat. I suspect as the hunger gets worse, many (if not most) of them will break and eat voluntarily. Those that refuse are starving by their own choice, but not subjected to an inhumane and painful force-feeding process.

But that is only an option for the current problem. The main problem is you have prisoners who are being held indefinitely but not charged with a crime. Some have even been cleared for release. The hunger strike is only a symptom of a bigger problem. We need to find a permanent solution for what to do with the prisoners. Release the ones who can be released, and the rest should be put on trial.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

A shocking crime in Frankfort

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

The tale of a gang rape in Frankfort, Indiana is tragic for many reasons, but the thing that saddens me the most is that the crime could have been prevented had the victim's father loved her enough to be a father. The portion of the Indianapolis Star's article that stuck out to me was this:

The father said he tried to stop her, but she refused. He said he didn't want to call the police because she might be arrested. And he didn't want to risk his own arrest by detaining her.

The victim, a high school senior, was stoned on prescription medicine from the same family as the "date rape" drug Rohypnol when she left the house. In that state, she was vulnerable to hurting herself or being victimized, which a medical examination determined is exactly what happened.

This is where a father needs to love his daughter enough to say "no." If that means turning her over to the civil magistrate, then that is what needs to be done. It would have been far better for her to be arrested (and likely taken to the hospital) than for her to be gang raped. If her father restrained her, given her condition, would he really have been arrested? She was a high school student. I doubt a reasonable police officer would have arrested him.

There is a reason that God commands us to discipline our children. He knows that children are born into sin and need to be taught and corrected by their fathers and mothers. Sometimes, the only loving thing to do is to say "no." The loving thing for this girl's father to do would have been to physically stop her from leaving in an impaired state, even if he needed to turn her over to the civil magistrate to do it. The saddest thing about this story is that a horrific crime would never have happen if only a father had loved his daughter.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Impeachment of Obama may be necessary...

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

My latest post at Hoosier Access:

To file an unconstitutional and illegal civil rights case, the Justice Department must demonstrate that Zimmerman attacked Martin while he was somewhere he was legally allowed to be, and that Zimmerman did so because of "racist" motivations. They would have to explain why a "racist" would mentor black youth or why he would angrily object to the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a police officer.

Read more at Hoosier Access.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Using government as a Mafia thug

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

When government acts as an enforcer for organized crime, how can any of us consider ourselves safe? How can we trust that our constitutional rights will not be violated? Simple - we cannot.

Forbes.com brought the issue up again late last month, reminding readers of the horrific Kelo vs. City of New London case, where Supreme Court "justices" urinated and defecated all over the Constitution. Since Kelo, a number of states have passed laws (and even amendments to their constitutions) defending private property rights against corrupt government officials who steal property and give it to private developers.

To conservatives who foolishly think Donald Trump is on our side, I would remind you that not only did he support the Kelo decision, he has personally used government as a hired thug to steal people's private property. True conservatives do not want this man anywhere near the White House or in any position of authority in government. He has done enough damage to our liberty already.

But abuse of eminent domain is still rampant. One such case is the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, which used government as a hired thug to steal over 50 properties to build an arena for Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. It was a disgusting and despicable abuse of power.

Forbes is promoting the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which would make states and local governments that use eminent domain for private developers ineligible for federal economic development grants for two years. That would be a good start, but it not nearly good enough. If we are serious about protecting the Constitution, Congress needs to pass legislation making the use of eminent domain for "economic development" illegal, with strong criminal penalties (including prison time) for violating it.

Eminent domain is a necessary evil for legitimate public works projects. No one likes to see people lose their home or business to a public works project, even if they are fairly compensated for the loss. But building a prison or an interstate highway, or widening a city street is a far cry from government taking private property by force to give it to private developers so they can line their pockets. This needs to be stopped - no exceptions and no compromise.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Zimmerman's acquittal is a win for America's justice system

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

I breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday night when the news came down that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the charge of second-degree murder and a manslaughter charge added at the last minute by politically-motivated prosecutors desperate to get some sort of "compromise" verdict. This whole episode was a shameful chapter in the history of the American criminal justice system.

Trayvon Martin's death was unfortunate, and as a father myself I can understand the pain his parents feel at the violent loss of their son. However, no one forced Martin to punch Zimmerman in the face. No one forced Martin to get on top of him and pummel him in what one eyewitness described as a "ground and pound" position. No one forced Martin to slam Zimmerman's head into the concrete - a dangerous and potentially life-threatening move.

Punches can kill or cause serious bodily injuries, and slamming someone's head into the concrete makes the situation even more dangerous. For an example, look up the story of Kermit Washington and Rudy Tomjanovich, and the severe damage a single punch did during an NBA game.

Zimmerman screamed for help, and then, fearing for his life, shot Martin at point-blank range. Forensic evidence backs up Zimmerman's story that Martin was on top of him when Zimmerman shot him in the chest. Zimmerman fully cooperated with the police, was obviously upset that Martin had died and was relieved when informed that there may be video of the confrontation. None of these reactions are what one would expect from a murderous vigilante.

This is a sad case and no one is perfectly innocent here. Zimmerman should not have followed Martin, and indications are that he was overzealous in his duties as a neighborhood watch volunteer. He should have let the police handle the situation and follow what Zimmerman believed to be a suspicious character walking in the rain - but the accusations that he is "racist" have been completely and thoroughly discredited.

Martin's death was a sad outcome of an unfortunate and avoidable confrontation, but it was not an illegal act by Zimmerman. This case should never have been prosecuted, and the fact that it was shows how much politics has influenced a case that should have been decided only on the facts and the application of the law to those facts, and the facts indicated from the very beginning that Martin's death was a legitimate act of self-defense.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Censorship by mob rule on HeraldTimesOnline.com

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Are there real, concrete and understandable guidelines for comments on HeraldTimesOnline.com? This does not appear to be the case. Instead, the principle guiding comment moderation on HTO is that comments that are unpopular with the majority of posters will be deleted regardless of whether they abide by the stated comment guidelines and Terms Of Service agreement. This is censorship by mob rule - a terrible policy.

When I had a post deleted on HeraldTimesOnline.com last week, I inquired as to how my post violated comment guidelines or violated the Terms Of Service agreement. I was told that the deletion was "an example of crowd moderation." I requested my post be restored if it did not violate the TOS, and I re-posted it when it was not restored. It was deleted a second time, and deleted a third time as Leftists spammed the report button.

I asked several times how my post violated the comment guidelines or the TOS, but not one single person on HTO staff has informed me exactly what about my comment violated comment guidelines or the Terms Of Service agreement. What I have been told is that my comment has been deleted because of a "feature" (more like a glitch) in the content management system that allows censorship by mob rule. This is a terrible policy and it has been abused by trolls all week to censor my posts with a heckler's veto.

This also raises another important question, regarding Rule 5 of the comment guidelines:

Our system accepts abuse reports from users that could trigger removal of comments and loss of commenting privileges of those whose comments are reported most frequently. We also reserve the right to revoke the privilege to comment from any account that requires frequent moderation and does not comply with the spirit of civility.

The emphasis above is mine.

If other posters on HTO are abusing the "crowd moderation" feature, spamming the report button to get my posts deleted, am I in danger of being banned from comments because my account "requires frequent moderation" or because my posts are reported frequently? If so, I hope HTO administrators can see how it is grossly unfair it would be for me to be banned because Leftist trolls are spamming the report button.

The reason no one at HTO will answer my question about what rule I broke is because they know that no matter how they answer, they will admit they are wrong. If they say I broke the rules (likely because of a word Leftists object to) they will expose themselves as hypocrites for not deleting all of the other posts in that thread that use the same word. If they say that my post did not break any rules, they will admit crowd moderation has failed.

The silence speaks louder than any words possibly could.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Thoughts on the relaunched HeraldTimesOnline.com

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

The Herald-Times unveiled its new website on July 1, part of a move by Schurz Communications to move all of their websites to the content management system (CMS) software developed by TownNews.com. A lot of users are very unhappy with this change, especially as it affects the comments.

For the most part, the functionality for reading the news is unchanged. You have to be logged in to read articles, and the vast majority of HTO content is behind a paywall. The major annoyance is needing to log in every time you close your browser. The old HTO allowed you to stay logged in for two weeks, so this is annoying. The other inconvenience is that only one device can be logged in at a time.

This is a limitation of the software, rather than an intentional decision by HTO management, but it is a terrible limitation. It is not uncommon for a family to have a couple desktops, a tablet and a couple smartphones. Now, if you are logged in and someone else logs in on a different device, you get kicked off. This would have been fine in 1997, when it was common for a family to have a single desktop that connected to the Internet via dial-up. In 2013, it is ridiculous.

Another minor annoyance is that every HTO archive story back to 1988 now has a different URL. That is not surprising, nor is it a major problem, but it is unfortunate that HTO could not keep the old addresses intact.

The biggest change, by far, is the comments. All of the old comments have been wiped out and the functionality of comments in the new CMS is drastically different than before. A few changes:

  • HTO commenters can have only one "handle" per subscription, as opposed to two. So a couple where both husband and wife comment on stories are stuck with one username.
  • All of the comments are on a single page, as opposed to ten comments per page on the old system. For stories with a lot of comments, this can get annoying and difficult to follow.
  • The comments take a little longer to load.
  • In the previous system, comments would appear as soon as the commenter hit "submit" Now it can take several minutes for comments to appear after they are submitted.
  • Comments are threaded, so it is possible to reply directly under a comment.
  • It is no longer possible to read comments (the most popular section of HTO) without being logged in.
  • On a user's recent comments, there are no hyperlinks to the stories where they commented.
  • It is now possible to directly link to a specific comment.

There was some discussion over whether the H-T should preserve the old comments. While this would have been nice, I do not believe the H-T had an "obligation" to do this. While I realize some people put a lot of time and thought into some of their comments (some comments in a LTTE thread were longer than the LTTE itself) it is generally understood that your content on another website is subject to that website and not permanent. If you wrote an especially long comment and you want to preserve it, save it in a text file.

What is unfortunate is that the Herald-Times already had a really well-designed website, developed in-house by HTO staff. The comment system, the ease of reading and finding news articles, the ability to save articles and the extensive archives were all user-friendly. Say what you will about the content, but the Herald-Times' website was a step above most other newspaper sites, including major papers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and (closer to home) the Indianapolis Star.

It is unfortunate that Schurz Communications has mandated the Herald-Times adopt a content management system that is vastly inferior to what the H-T web staff built in-house.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

The reason we have civil liberties and due process...

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Published in the Herald-Times, July 10, 2013.

To The Editor:

It is a common theme in Herald-Times comments that someone who has "lawyered up" must have something to hide, or must be guilty of a crime. Do the people saying these things (usually anonymously) realize that we have due process and civil liberties for a reason?

Consider the Central Park Five, minority youths who were convicted in the shockingly brutal beating of a jogger. They did not commit the crime, but spent years in prison anyway. This was a double injustice because innocent people were punished while the guilty man was not.

Consider the case of Christopher Clugston, who spent 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The injustice of his prison sentence was made exponentially worse when he was gang-raped and infected with AIDS.

Consider the case of the Duke "University" lacrosse team. They were the victims of a witch hunt by disgraced, disbarred ex-prosecutor Mike Nifong, who withheld DNA evidence that proved they did not "rape" Crystal Mangum. In fact, no "rape" took place, as Mangum fabricated the incident.

If those men were poor and black, they would likely be in prison today. Thankfully, they had the financial resources to fight a corrupt system.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The "old west" fireworks laws in Indiana need reform

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

My latest post at Hoosier Access:

The right of one person to set off fireworks should end when it endangers the lives or property of someone else. Specifically, allowing people to shoot explosives high into the air in a residential neighborhood is an invitation to disaster. All it would take is one rocket that does not explode in the air as it is supposed to and instead explodes after it lands on someone's roof to cause immense property damage and potentially cause serious injuries or even fatalities.

Read more at Hoosier Access.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Arrested for buying water - with overwhelming force.

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Last week, a 20-year-old woman was leaving a store in Virginia after buying some flavored water, and was met by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents, who suspected she had purchased beer. What happened next should be a concern to all Americans and a call to action to protect our endangered civil liberties.

She was approached by a group of plainclothes agents, one of whom drew a gun. Another jumped on the hood of her car. In fear for her safety, she attempted to flee, and in the process "grazed" an agent. She was charged with several felonies, but the case will not be prosecuted.

Let's set aside the fact that she had purchased flavored water when she was approached by armed agents of the state. Let's for a moment assume they were right, and she had beer. What would have been wrong with having a couple uniformed officers approach her and deal with the matter? Why was it necessary to ambush her in the parking lot, making her fear for her safety to the point where she fled for her life? These stormtrooper tactics are completely unacceptable in a free society. Is this the USA or the USSR?

This kind of nonsense could have easily ended in tragedy. What if this show of force was used against someone who carried a handgun, and felt the need to use it to defend herself? She would have been gunned down by law enforcement, having committed no crime and perhaps never knowing why she was killed. It is lucky for all involved that she only attempted to escape, and no one was hurt or killed.

Last Thursday was the Fourth of July. If we truly want to honor this nation's founding and the liberties she was created to protect, then we need to stand against this kind of abuse of power. The state should terminate the employment of all of the officers involved in this fiasco, as well as their supervisor.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

What if Barack Obama actually was born in Kenya?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Right off the bat: I do not believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya. I believe he was born in Hawaii. However, for the sake of argument, let's assume that his birth certificate is a fake and that he was actually born in Kenya. Article II of the U.S. Constitution requires that someone be a natural born citizen in order to be President, but the Constitution does not define who is a natural born citizen. For that, we look to the Naturalization Act of 1795:

The children of citizens of the United States, born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, shall be considered as citizens of the United States.

There was some discussion in 2008 over whether John McCain was a natural born citizen, but no on really took that seriously. He was born outside of the U.S. but he was born to American citizens. His eligibility was clear.

So why is it that there has been so much controversy, for five years now, about whether Barack Obama actually is a natural born citizen and is eligible to be President? It is clear that Obama is a natural born citizen, whether he was born in Hawaii or Kenya. What is all the fuss about? To some extent, this controversy is of Obama's own making. Had he released his birth certificate in 2007 instead of 2011, much of this controversy could have been avoided.

I do not believe it is realistic that Obama's former employers would not have discovered the issue when he filled out an I-9 form, or that his other interactions with government (including something as simple as getting a driver's license) would not have raised a red flag regarding his citizenship. It was never likely that Obama was hiding something regarding his birth certificate, especially with the amount of documentation required to function in today's society. This is especially true for a high-profile elected official and candidate like Obama.

Folks, Barack Obama is the President. He is an absolutely terrible President who is known to side with our enemies against our freedom, but he is fully eligible to be President, even if he was born in Kenya. Let's put this fight about his birth certificate behind us and concentrate on opposing Obama's dangerous anti-American agenda.

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Thoughts on the ObamaCare birth control mandate

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

If we're all about not restricting "health care choices" then why not mandate that insurance pay for cosmetic surgery, or bariatric surgery in people who are simply overweight rather than morbidly obese? Why not mandate insurance pay for sex reassignment surgery?

For that matter, why not mandate that health insurance pay for someone to own a pet, given studies that pets reduce stress levels in owners?

Or, let the employer offer what he wants to offer and let people choose the policy they want via the labor market, without government forcing anything on anyone.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

A murdered baby every 95 seconds...

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Planned Parenthood aborts a baby every 95 seconds.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Read this Psalm and do not be discouraged

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

As our nation moves farther away from God and His Word, it is easy for Christians to be discouraged. Do not be discouraged. The wickedness of our age is but a temporary thing that our sovereign God allows. Be assured that our Father in Heaven will be victorious in the end. Take comfort in the promises of His Word.

Psalm 2

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us."

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.

"Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion."

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Secession Day!

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

On this day in 1776, our nation's founding fathers pledges their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the cause of liberty. The world's most powerful empire had become destructive to their liberty, so they decided secession was the only viable option to preserve that liberty for themselves and their posterity. Secession would not be easy, and a long, difficult, and bloody war followed. We owe this nation's founding fathers a great debt of gratitude, and we should be thankful that the thirteen colonies seceded from England.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

DOMA, free association and religious liberty

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 7:30 AM (#)

My latest post on Hoosier Access:

That is just an ice cube's portion of the iceberg that is coming as homosexual "marriage" becomes recognized in more states, and eventually federally. Homosexual "marriage" advocates claim there is no threat to religious liberty, primarily because churches will allegedly not be forced to "marry" couples of the same sex. But in order for religious liberty to be real, we cannot confine it only to houses of worship. People of faith must be permitted to exercise their faith in other aspects of their lives beyond what is done on Sunday morning.

Read more at Hoosier Access.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mike Pence and deleted Facebook comments - who cares?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

We saw a tempest in a teapot last week when Mike Pence's staff deleted comments on the governor's official Facebook page. All I can think is this: Are people really this immature? Who cares?

Obviously, Pence has the right to remove comments that contain name calling, obscenity and personal attacks, or are potentially libelous. In fact, Facebook pages must abide by Facebook's community standards, so the page owner has an obligation to police comments on his/her page. That said, comments that are civil and merely express disagreement with the governor's political position should not be removed.

But really, is this a national scandal? No. Is it a statewide scandal? No. The governor's staff got a little too aggressive in removing comments on his Facebook fan page. That's all. The situation has been corrected and Pence has said that civil comments that simply disagree with his position will not be removed. No one's civil rights were violated.

Let me bottom line this for you: You do not have the right to comment on anyone else's Facebook page, blog, forum, newspaper comment section or any other website. The administrator is the dictator of the site and maintains absolute authority over content posted there. This is the way of the Web, so get used to it. Government officials should be more open to dissent on their official pages in the interest of serving the public, but it is still their page, not yours.

Some of the hysterical reactions to the deletions are simply laughable. The "Pencership" website claims that the governor thinks he can "censor the web" - despite the fact that no one's personal Facebook profile, Twitter page, blog etc. was affected. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union suggested that the deletions are "unconstitutional." Seriously?

Bottom line: It's Facebook. No one cares that your comment was deleted. Stop acting like a drama queen.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Thoughts on the pending relaunch of HeraldTimesOnline.com

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Later today, the Herald-Times website is scheduled to launch an updated version, with some significant changes that were described last week. It should be easier to navigate and find content, but the thing that is drawing the most attention is the changes to the comments.

Before I get into the changes, here are a couple I think would be beneficial: First, making comments searchable, both by content and username, would be a great addition. Second, a "preview" option would be very useful, so people can ensure they have their HTML tags entered correctly. (Assuming HTML will still be allowed, and it will not be PHP code or something.) Hopefully, the HTO archives links (for the news articles) will not change.

As for the announced changes, all existing comments are going to be deleted. Removing all of the old comments is silly if it is an intentional policy, as comments are the most popular destination on HTO and there is a half-dozen years of history on comments. If it is a technical issue, that may not be avoidable. The advantage is that some of the sewer filth that was never deleted but should have been will now be erased with everything else.

The biggest change is the possible implementation of "community monitoring." Herald-Times editor Bob Zaltsberg said that crowd moderation "could lead to removal of comments if enough readers object to them." That benefits and drawbacks. One benefit is that it could reduce the workload on HTO moderators by allowing crowd-moderation of especially egregious comments.

The problem is that this is something that can easily be abused and because of that I do not think it is going to work if implemented. A coordinated spam-flagging of comments could get comments removed that do not violate HTO policy, and if the H-T keeps the "three strikes and you're out" policy (posters who have three posts deleted in 14 days are automatically suspended) that could also result in people being wrongfully suspended from comments despite not violating HTO policy.

The most obvious problem is that those who post conservative opinions on social issues (specifically abortion and sexual morality) could be spam-flagged and deleted simply for their opinions being unpopular with most HTO users. Some of my comments have gotten high negative scores, from -50 to -75 or more but were not deleted (despite being reported by whiny trolls) because they did not violate HTO policy about name calling, harassment and so forth . That is something the Herald-Times needs to think about, because crowd moderation could easily ruin HTO comments.

Crowd moderation is a bad idea, especially given the potential for abuse. If it is implemented, only comments removed by HTO moderators should count toward the "three strikes" policy, and there should be an option to restore comments that are wrongfully deleted. Once restored, those comments should be immune from further deletions. It is going to be very interesting to see how the website looks when it launches today and how it will affect comments. It is unfortunate that the Herald-Times will not be using this as an opportunity to require that everyone posts using his or her real name.

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