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Monday, March 31, 2014

"Positive" rights and "negative" rights

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

If you have to use force on someone else in order for you to have something, you do not have a "right" to that object or service. This was plainly obvious for most of our history, but many people (including many in positions of authority on our government) have lost sight of this principle.

In order for my to have the right to free speech or freedom of religion, no one has to give up anything. You may disagree with or even be offended by what I say, but you do not have to help disseminate my speech. I can have the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to due process or the right to be secure from unreasonable searches without taking anything away from anyone else. President Obama calls these "negative" liberties because they prohibit government from doing things to the people under its authority.

Obviously, there are limits to these "negative" liberties. You may not stand outside the mayor's bedroom window at 3:00 am and scream into a megaphone, regardless of the Constitution's protection of the right to petition government for redress of grievances. I do not need to list all of the exceptions, but the exceptions are just that - exceptions. Those exceptions are both rare and limited in scope, and limiting our rights requires a compelling interest by society. We should not sacrifice the normal on the alter of the abnormal.

Today, we see a "right" to something that is not and cannot be a "right" in the classic sense of the term. In order for someone to have a "right" to health care, government must forcibly confiscate wealth from others under threat of violence. In order to provide someone a "right" to health care, the private property rights of others must be abridged. We as a society may decide that government welfare programs are good public policy, but we should not confuse forced redistribution of wealth with the beneficiaries having a "right" to that wealth.

And this brings us to the debate over whether or not employers should be forced to provide chemical birth control to their employees - the essence of the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court. Over and over again, Leftists have bemoaned the danger of employers "forcing their religious beliefs on their employees." According to this backward definition, if someone does not give you money for what you want, or buy it themselves and give it to you directly, they are violating your "rights" or they are "forcing" their religion on you. It shows how far we have fallen as a culture when that argument is not immediately rejected as absurd.

In a free society, we should be free to make choices (within reason) without being forced to operate the way government demands. If an employer does not want to provide birth control because the owner's faith teaches birth control is wrong, the employee is free to purchase it herself or to seek other employment that provides the benefits she wants. Government should stay out of it and not mandate birth control coverage. Remember that a government that can mandate birth control coverage by a private employer can also prohibit it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Random observation

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

Coffee cans are so much easier to open now than they were 20 years ago. Just pull off the top, and no can opener is needed. I remember when I was a freshman in college and I purchased a can of coffee. I realized I should have also purchased a can opener, because I didn't have one. I did, however, have a claw hammer...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Real violence and fantasy violence

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 9:00 PM (#)

I find it very amusing that the state senator arrested for gun running in California was very vocal about video game violence. That takes some extra audacity - denounce fake "violence" involving pixels and polygons while trafficking illegal weapons that actually kill real people.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Corrupt prosecutors in Durham, North Carolina

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

A must-read blog post on WashingtonPost.com has the following quote:

In an alternate universe, the mixed-up politics of the Duke lacrosse case — with progressive groups and personalities largely lining up with the prosecutor, and conservative groups and personalities largely lining up with the defense — might have presented a unique opportunity. Once it was clear that the players were innocent, and that Nifong had lied and withheld evidence, conservatives could perhaps have had their eyes opened to the inadequacies of the criminal justice system, and been brought on board to move for reform.

Read more at the Washington Post website.

It was the fraudulent "rape" scandal in Durham that opened my eyes to government abuse of power, and the fact that men and women in law enforcement are no less vulnerable corruption than anyone else in a position of authority. Sadly, most conservatives have not come to the same conclusion I have. This is strange, considering how many conservatives have a healthy distrust of government. I had hoped the more libertarian-leaning Tea Party movement would bring more awareness of this kind of dangerous corruption, but sadly that has not panned out either.

In fact, if you look at the Bill of Rights, it is clear how much the founding fathers were worried about government abuse of power in the area of law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and requires a specific warrant, the Fifth Amendment requires due process for people charged with a crime, the Sixth Amendment requires a speedy trial and protects the right to gather evidence, and the Eighth Amendment bans excessive bail, excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishments.

The fact that the founders thought it was important enough to place these protections in the Constitution should tell us something. Conservatives often talk about returning to the core values in our founding documents but that principle does not transfer to criminal prosecutions nearly as much as it should. Instead, we sneer at people "lawyering up" and bemoan the cost of due process and civil liberties protections for people accused of crimes. But as I pointed out in a letter to the editor last summer, if the Duke lacrosse players "were poor and black, they would likely be in prison today. Thankfully, they had the financial resources to fight a corrupt system."

If you do not believe that, look at the Central Park Five.

I think a lot of the modern political disrespect of civil liberties dates to the unrest of the 1960's. People were seeing riots in the streets, and crime was rising. Richard Nixon declared a "War on Drugs" that has been ramped up ever since, with military-grade firepower (including tanks) that is more appropriate for a literal war than for law enforcement. Republicans hammered Democrats as being soft on crime (a criticism that was sometimes deserved) to great political benefit and Democrats were determined to prove they were every bit as tough on crime as Republicans.

The problem with these policies is that "tough on crime" has translated to being tough on civil liberties, and we as a society often shrug at misconduct or outright corruption in law enforcement. When case after case after case is exposed of innocent people who are framed for crimes they did not commit because corrupt prosecutors hid evidence or lied to the jury, we dismiss it as an "isolated incident."

But if anyone should be worried about corruption in law enforcement and threats to our civil liberties, it should be conservative Christians and philosophical libertarians within the Republican Party. Christians should remember the warning in Jeremiah 17:9 that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" and philosophical libertarians and Tea Party conservatives need to recognize that law enforcement is composed of fallen men and women who are every bit as prone to corruption as someone who works for the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency or a local planning and zoning department.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dan Coats, Ukraine and vacationing in Siberia

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

My latest editorial at Hoosier Access:

In one sense, Putin is a cartoon character, with his many shirtless pictures and his campaign to encourage attractive women to take their clothes off in support of his presidency. But he’s also a former KGB apparatchik who said the collapse of the genocidal Soviet Union was a great historical tragedy. He has shown his militaristic ambitions in his invasion of Georgia a few years ago.

Read more at Hoosier Access.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A completely backwards orientation on student safety

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

A story in the Herald-Times last week is a perfect example of how far we have fallen as a society and how little regard we have for our responsibilities as private citizens and parents. From the March 20 article, "Schools seek parents' help in keeping children safe online," carefully consider the following quote:

While MCCSC strives to educate its students about using technology safely and responsibly, they can only keep an eye on kids when they're in school. The Monroe County Community School Corp. is asking for parents' help in keeping youngsters safe when they leave school grounds.

"What worries us is that students don't have protection outside our walls," said Jason Taylor, MCCSC's director of e-learning strategies.

The disturbing mentality here is that the government school system is the primary caretaker for these children and teens, and they are taking steps to ensure those children and teens are kept safe when they are away from school. It should be exactly the opposite - parents should be the primary caretaker, ceding care of their offspring to the school for seven hours a day so they can be educated.

There are good people within the government school system who do their best for students, but nothing can replace parents. The primary responsibility for a child's physical needs, safety and, yes, their education resides with the parents - not the state. The concern should be going in the opposite direction - parents should be keeping their children safe at home, and asking about what the schools are doing when they are under the school's authority.

The school should not be seeking parents' help regarding online safety - the parents should be seeking help from the school. But as we have ceded more and more of our lives - and even our children's lives - to the authority of the state, no one bats an eye at the thought of the government school system asking parents to help protect children and teens when they are under the parents' care. It is absolutely absurd.

There is nothing inherently wrong with what MCCSC is doing here - efforts to keep children and teens safe online are admirable. The problem is that our society has degraded to the point where a statement like the one made by Mr. Taylor would not be met with shock, shame and humiliation.

What we need is for parents to take responsibility for their children and for churches and extended families to demand parents take responsibility. Government schools are a temporary and part-time caretaker at best, and government schools are not designed or equipped for child-rearing. That can only be done by strong, intact families.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just one line

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

I do not believe in man-made climate change.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Fourteenth Amendment "right" to abortion?

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

I sometimes wonder if there is hidden text in the Constitution of these United States that is written in invisible ink, or if there were portions of the Constitution that have never been made available to anyone other than the judicial branch.

That would be a charitable interpretation of a recent decision declaring that restrictions on abortion in Arkansas "impermissibly infringes a woman's Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability." The uncharitable interpretation would be that the judge was abusing her authority to legislate from the bench.

So let's examine the text of the Fourteenth Amendment. The relevant portion of the text establishes:

  • All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
  • No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;
  • nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
  • nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You will notice that nowhere in the four provisions quoted above is the "right" to have a child killed in the womb established. The "due process" clause has nothing to do with abortion; it merely requires that a process be followed before the state can act against someone. If anything, the equal protection clause would make legalized abortion unconstitutional by denying unborn persons equal protection under murder laws.

Politically and legally, the Arkansas ban was a risk because it went farther than the bans on abortion at twenty weeks that have been very controversial - though they should not have been controversial at all. I doubt that pro-life legislators in Arkansas had any real expectation that the ban would not be struck down, but that it would instead be another opportunity to legally chip away at Roe v. Wade.

But what it does do is allow us to re-examine the flawed legal argument used to throw out bans on abortion in all fifty states. Much like professional wrestling matches, the outcome of Roe v. Wade was predetermined. The justices twisted and shaped the text of the Constitution to make it fit the result they wanted, instead of allowing the text of the Constitution to determine the legality of state bans and restrictions on abortion. Furthermore, because of the court's absurd obsession with "precedent," the decision was allowed to stand when an intellectually honest reading of the Constitution would see it overturned.

The problem, ultimately, is that the Supreme Court has been packed with "justices" who are rebels against the rule of law. This is why every major decision these days is seen through a political lens instead of a legal lens, establishing this nation as a judicial oligarchy instead of a constitutional republic. That is a much bigger problem for our country in the long run than one terrible decision from forty-one years ago.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The McDonald's "hot coffee" lawsuit

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

Note: I originally wrote this in September of 2009.

Back in 1992, a 79-year-old woman placed a cup of McDonald's coffee in her lap, and was burned when she placed the cup in her lap and removed the lid to put cream and sugar in the coffee. Yes, we have all heard a million times about how someone should have more "common sense" than to put a cup of hot coffee between their legs after getting it from the drive through. The prevailing wisdom about this is that McDonald's was sued for a customer's lack of "common sense" and the lawsuit has been used as an example of the "need" for tort reform.

The issue that isn't often discussed is whether the product itself was defective in a way that caused unreasonable danger to consumers. Specifically, the court found that McDonald's coffee was significantly hotter than the industry standard, and was therefore more dangerous than coffee served elsewhere. Coffee is generally served at about 140 degrees, but McDonald's served their coffee at 180 degrees. McDonald's had received and ignored complaints about the temperature of their coffee, deciding instead to maintain this temperature. Because McDonald's knew their coffee was dangerously hot, the plaintiff was entitled to some damages for the injuries she suffered from the burns.

The burns themselves were serious. She required skin grafts and was in recovery from her injuries for a long time. All of this was complicated by the fact that she was an elderly woman, which means her body is less able to heal from an injury like this than a 20-year-old's body would. The bottom line here is that if a company makes a product that is dangerous beyond industry standards, that company should be held liable for damages in court. Just as few people would argue that the infamous Ford Pinto was not a defective product, coffee served at 40 degrees above industry standard should be viewed the same way.

For more information, see here and here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

And now for something completely random...

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

My beard gets more grey every time I grow it out, and my balding spot is getting bigger.

Welcome to being in my 40's, I guess.

Also, this video is absolutely adorable.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seventeen years ago today...

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

On this day in 1997, I went into Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne for surgery, capping off my most memorable Spring Break ever. I had cancer, and it needed to be removed. The cancer had not spread, so removing the tumor got all of it. Seventeen years later, I am still cancer-free.

"Jake's Law" and the expanding nanny state

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

Should we pass more laws restricting everyone's liberty, expand the reach of government into our lives and provide government a new revenue stream because we are angry about one admittedly horrific incident where a criminal was not appropriately punished? I would hope not.

In an interview with The Atlantic back in 2009, Washington Post blogger Radley Balko said this:

If you're naming a piece of crime legislation after a crime victim, it's probably a bad law. It means you're legislating out of anger, or in reaction to public anger over a specific incident. That's generally not how good policy is made.

That is what is happening here. The outrage over what happened to Jake Owen is justified - the man who smashed into the car transporting Jake was roaring at 62 miles per hour and the driver never touched the brakes. He was distracted by a cell phone. But should everyone in Maryland be legally prohibited from using a cell phone while driving, when hundreds of thousands of people do it safely every day?


Reckless driving is already illegal. The fact that Devin McKeiver was fined a pathetic $1000 indicates that the penalties under the reckless driving law are too low and need to be increased. Targeting cell phone use addresses only one of many ways a driver can be distracted. Sometimes this can have hilarious results. See the relevant section from the Indiana Code prohibiting texting and driving:

IC 9-21-8-59
Use of telecommunications device while operating a moving motor vehicle
Sec. 59. (a) A person may not use a telecommunications device to:
(1) type a text message or an electronic mail message;
(2) transmit a text message or an electronic mail message; or
(3) read a text message or an electronic mail message;
while operating a moving motor vehicle unless the device is used in conjunction with hands free or voice operated technology, or unless the device is used to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency.

So there you have it. Under this law, it is illegal to send a text message or an e-mail while driving, but it is not illegal to play a video game. Once again, the problem is not texting in and of itself, but distracted driving generally. We are missing the forest for the trees when we pass these bans.

If we're serious about saving lives on the road, we need to stop scapegoating specific things that can be lethal distractions. Instead, we need to make sure people know they have a moral and legal obligation to keep their attention on the road. Any time any behavior causes a distraction that leads to an accident, the offender should be prosecuted. If there is a fatality, the punishment should be harsh and unforgiving - but we should not scapegoat something (such as talking on a cell phone) that can be done safely.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Supervising teens and local government schemes

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

Check out my latest post on Hoosier Access, addressing the corruption scandal in Bloomington city government and parental supervision of teenagers. Bonus: Do we need city planning?

Check out the latest in the Open Item series on Hoosier Access.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hopkins social services funding schedule 2014

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

City government has released the schedule for the Jack Hopkins social services funding program. The application deadline for organizations that want a grant is March 31. The schedule is as follows:

  • Invited Agencies Present Applications -- Thursday, May 08, 2014, 5:30pm, Council Chambers
  • Committee recommends allocation of funds -- Thursday, May 22, 2014, 5:30pm, Council Chambers
  • City Council Acts on the recommendations -- Wednesday, June 18 2014, 7:30pm, Council Chambers

Planned Parenthood has applied for a handout from the Hopkins fund almost every year since 1999. The two exceptions were 2000 (when they got a handout from the Community Development Block grants instead) and 2009. I've been lobbying against funding Planned Parenthood for fifteen years, with no success other than when the funding request was surprisingly denied in 2012.

I am sure they will apply again this year. Hopefully they will not get funding, but I am not expecting the Democrats to do the right thing. This is and has always been nothing more than a political endorsement.

Previous editorials:

Yet another shameful handout to Planned Parenthood -- November 14, 2013

Social Services funding schedule for 2013 -- October 15, 2013

The City Council's shameful subsidy of Planned Parenthood -- June 21, 2013

Planned Parenthood presents their request for a handout -- May 22, 2013

Planned Parenthood's tiresome demands for welfare -- May 17, 2013

No corporate welfare for the merchants of death -- May 7, 2013

Deny funding to Planned Parenthood -- December 17, 2012

Planned Parenthood gets corporate welfare again -- June 17, 2011

No corporate welfare for the merchants of death -- June 15, 2011

No handouts for Planned Parenthood -- May 18, 2011

No corporate welfare for the merchants of death -- May 10, 2011

The corrupt social services funding process -- March 7, 2011

More shameful corporate welfare to Planned Parenthood -- November 29, 2010

Monroe County Council funds felonies with tax dollars -- October 20, 2010

No corporate welfare for the merchants of death -- September 27, 2010

The hypocrisy of funding Planned Parenthood -- July 6, 2010

Bloomington Democrats subsidize sexual abuse -- June 22, 2010

No corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood -- June 2, 2010

Follow-up on corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood -- May 5, 2010

No corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood -- April 29, 2010

No corporate welfare for the merchants of death -- April 26, 2010

Monroe County Council funds Planned Parenthood -- December 9, 2009

Bloomington should stop subsidizing Planned Parenthood -- December 8, 2008

Planned Parenthood seeks corporate welfare from county government -- November 29, 2008

More on corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood -- July 24, 2008

Sturbaum should have recused himself from Planned Parenthood vote -- July 10, 2008

Billion-dollar corporation gets corporate welfare from Bloomington City Council -- June 20, 2008

Deny Planned Parenthood's funding request -- May 14, 2008

Time to end the city's subsidies to Planned Parenthood -- May 05, 2008

Planned Parenthood’s request for corporate welfare -- June 18, 2007

Planned Parenthood’s latest request for corporate welfare -- May 01, 2007

Another option offered to Planned Parenthood funding -- June 12, 2007

City Council should not fund Planned Parenthood -- May 15, 2007

Funding social service agencies -- March 1, 2007

City Council funds Planned Parenthood -- June 22, 2006

No corproate welfare for the merchants of death, Part VIII -- June 19, 2006

Reject Planned Parenthood's funding request -- June 01, 2006

City Council gives $1500 to Planned Parenthood -- June 16, 2005

Countdown to the showdown -- May 26, 2005

Deny the subsidy to Planned Parenthood -- May 20, 2005

Against city funding for Planned Parenthood -- July 08, 2004

City Council gives $$ to Planned Parenthood -- June 19, 2004

Sturbaum should recuse himself -- May 23, 2004

Planned Parenthood's grant request represents cynical politics -- May 13, 2004

Don't give tax money to Planned Parenthood -- May 08, 2004

Stop divisive subsidy -- May 07, 2004

Don't give tax money to Planned Parenthood -- April 30, 2004

No tax money for Planned Parenthood -- June 19, 2003

No corporate welfare for the merchants of death -- May 28, 2003

City Council gives money to Planned Parenthood -- June 30, 2002

There is no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize abortionists -- June 18, 2002

Funding for Planned Parenthood opposed -- June 18, 2002

Say no to grant for Planned Parenthood -- May 14, 2002

Don't give tax money to abortionists -- May 05, 2002

'IDS' errs in not covering Planned Parenthood issue -- July 9, 2001

Don't subsidize abortionists -- June 1, 1999

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More on religious freedom

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

Here is a great column on National Review:

In the dispute over the Arizona law, people who profess themselves to be dead set against using government to impose morality have cheered on exactly that. They see it as the only way to keep religious-conservative florists, bakers, and other businessmen from imposing their moral views on their customers.

Read more at NationalReview.com.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Modesty, shame, and the proper role of sex

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

A columnist for the Indiana Daily Student declares that her "generation is OK with sex." This is an absurd statement. The fact of the matter is that there has never been a generation that was not OK with sex. If there was, the human race would have died out and no one would be here to debate the role of sexuality. The question is not whether we should be OK with sex, but what role it should play in our lives and the proper context for it.

The very first commandment that God gave to man, recorded in Genesis 1:28, is to have sex. What we have wrestled with since creation is how we deal with sex, and in what context sex should take place.

So the issue with the porn star student at Duke University is not whether we are OK with sex, but whether we are OK with sex in public. Specifically, should we be OK with what should be a private, personal and intimate matter being paraded in the public square though the Internet.

The problem here is not with sex, but that we have degraded and devalued it by saturating our culture with images of sex everywhere and all the time. The reason we should feel shame is not because people are having sex - again, it was created by God - but that we have taken what should happen in private and made a public spectacle out of it. The problem is that we have taken a gift that God has given to us and warped it to the point that it is unrecognizable.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sacrificing free speech to avoid hurt feelings

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:00 AM (#)

My latest editorial at Hoosier Access

The "ban bossy" campaign is absurd on its face, but what is more worrying is the increasing trend to suppress speech in the name of protecting someone's fragile feelings. Are Americans really so willing to take word after word out of our vocabulary because of the alleged harm it does to people and groups? How much are we willing to censor in order to not hurt people's feelings?

Read more at Hoosier Access.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Take the politicians off welfare

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

Bloomington Herald-Times, March 12, 2014

To the Editor:

The Herald-Times' March 5 editorial raises a good point about the inappropriate use of public resources to promote the campaign of an elected official, but that is only a starting point. We should also be concerned about the "informational" mailers sent by our legislative leaders to constituents. The postage and printing of these "informational" mailers are paid for by our tax dollars.

Let's be honest here. These "informational" mailers are little more than taxpayer-funded campaign mailings, representing both an unfair advantage for incumbents over challengers and an improper use of state resources for partisan purposes.

Yes, the mailings may contain valuable information for constituents, and they can help keep us informed about what our government is doing. But is it necessary to include the legislator's name in huge font along with a full-color photograph?

I even got a mailing from my legislator wishing me a "merry Christmas," not even disguised as an "informational" mailing. This would be fine if it was from his campaign account, but using tax money for this is just wrong.

Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of sending these taxpayer-funded campaign mailings. If politicians will not voluntarily take their campaigns off welfare, voters should demand it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

An absurd and misogynistic ruling

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

"Upskirting" is illegal under existing law, and the Massachusetts state supreme court got it dreadfully wrong when they vacated the conviction of a sexual deviant who was victimizing women on the subway. Pundits like Danny Cevallos can try to justify this misogynistic nonsense, but the text of the law could have been easily applied. The court had to split hairs in order to allow a sexual deviant to go unpunished for his crimes.

Let's review the text of the law:

Whoever willfully photographs, videotapes or electronically surveils another person who is nude or partially nude, with the intent to secretly conduct or hide such activity, when the other person in such place and circumstance would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in not being so photographed, videotaped or electronically surveilled, and without that person’s knowledge and consent, shall be punished...

Cevallos notes that the points of contention are whether the victims were "nude or partially nude" and whether they had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Both of those points could easily have been decided in favor of the prosecution. "Partially nude" could have easily been interpreted to include photographing under a woman's skirt.

Furthermore, while no one has a reasonable expectation of 100% complete privacy in a public place, there are common-sense limits. Just because there are security cameras does not mean that law enforcement or a private citizen can look through someone's purse or wallet. Being photographed or recorded does not mean that photographing or recording under a woman's skirt is permissible. It is an absurd over-application of what is "reasonable" in public.

The problem when judges make absurd rulings that fly in the face of common sense is that those rulings can have unintended but easily foreseen consequences. In this case, one of the consequences can be vigilantism, leading to the maiming or even death of people taking these photos or videos. I do not condone vigilantism, because God gave the sword to the civil magistrate, not private citizens. But when the civil magistrate refuses to protect victims of crime, private citizens will inevitably take it on themselves. Women who are victimized by these crimes have fathers, brothers, sons and husbands, after all.

In a perfect world, these "judges" would be impeached, removed from office, and stripped of their law licenses. Since we do not live in a perfect world, there will sadly be no professional consequences for this egregious and inexcusable breach of public trust.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kruzan has some serious questions to answer

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:25 PM (#)

Mayor Kruzan has some serious questions to answer about his management of city government. For someone to abscond with $800,000 indicates a serious and troubling lack of internal controls. The bigger concern is not having a corrupt employee, but having a system of checks and balances that is weak enough that someone can pull this off without immediately getting caught.

Wake up!

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

Hilarious: How to wake up someone with a laser pointer and a dog.

"Animal Room" is the worst movie ever made

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

Some time ago, I watched the 1995 abomination "Animal Room" via Netflix. This movie was completely nonsensical, did not have a single likable character (including the allegedly sympathetic protagonist) and had perhaps the worst and most unsatisfying ending of any movie I have ever seen. I do not recall ever being more offended by a movie, including political propaganda films like "Avatar" or anti-Christian propaganda like "The Mist."

We start out with our "protagonist" (Arnold Mosk) being set upon and beaten by a group of thugs. He is rescued by a childhood friend, and Mosk's reaction to his friend's repeated attempts to reconnect and rebuild their friendship establishes Mosk as a completely unlikable character. Mosk shows no concern for anyone but himself, berating his one and only friend (Gary) because the two had drifted apart in high school. Never mind his one friend literally took a beating for him at the opening of the movie and was doing his best to be a true friend.

Then we move on to the premise of the movie, which is stupid and nonsensical. The troublesome students (consisting of the gang of thugs that set upon Mosk at the start of this wretched movie) are locked in the "animal room" basement to study by themselves. In a teachers' meeting, some are concerned about the safety issues presented by this arrangement. One of the other teachers replies that he would rather have their blood on his hands than his blood on theirs.

The entire premise is laughable. Something like this could work in a post-apocalyptic setting, but if this were done in the real world there would be lawsuits and maybe even criminal prosecutions. There is no way this would be allowed. If the gang of thugs is truly that dangerous, they would be expelled. The target of their terror (Mosk) certainly would not be locked up with them, especially since Mosk is not dangerous. He is a stoner, not a thug.

The most offensive part of the movie is after the thugs gang up on Mosk in the school bathroom. The gang leader and Mosk are in the principal's office, and the thoroughly corrupt principal warns them to stay away from each other. This is absurd. Mosk is not actively seeking conflict - he is being ganged up on and beaten. Treating the victim and the gang leader as the same established the principal as an evil character. In the real world, the principal would be fired from his job and maybe even criminally prosecuted for negligence.

The ending was completely unsatisfying and made the entire movie a complete waste of time. Mosk has intentionally got himself shot by bringing a gun to school, and his only friend is seeking payback against the gang leader. Generally, the antagonist in a movie is punished in some way. Even though Mosk is a completely unlikable, unsympathetic jerk, the gang leader deserves something. Gary has the gang leader dead to rights, and does not kill him. The gang leader was a truly evil character who needed to die, and by not having him at least get maimed the movie's ending is depressing.

There is no point in even grading this movie, but the grade is an obvious F. Grade it however you want - zero stars, zero out of ten, or a failing grade, but this pile of cinematic trash does not deserve even one more person watching it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Public vs. private - words mean things!

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

"My decision to do porn to pay for college was a private one I made" - Porn performer "Belle Knox"

You know, I see absurd, nonsensical things on a daily basis. That statement quoted above is in the running for the most absurd and nonsensical thing I have ever seen. This woman made a "private decision" to have sex with strangers on camera and then have tens of thousands of people pay to watch her have sex with strangers.

Put aside the morality of porn for a minute - how it degrades women, cheapens sexuality and destroys families. That is not the point I am making in reacting to this statement. The point I am making is that this decision cannot be described as "private" in any way that is tied to reason, logic or facts. It is nonsensical, stupid and absurd.

Think about this another way, in a morally neutral context. Instead of "acting" in pornographic films, imagine "Belle Knox" was writing a column for the Los Angeles Times about cooking. She instructed her readers about how to find the the best ingredients to make the best meals, for a reasonable price. She figures no one at Duke will see it, because it's in a newspaper on the other side of the continent.

That plan does not work out because someone recognizes her and she becomes a minor celebrity. Fellow students ask her for advice on making specific meals or how to improve recipes they already know. "Knox" then whines publicly because writing a newspaper column to pay for her college education was supposed to be a "private" decision.

It is absolutely absurd.

We live in an exhibitionist culture, where many people over-share details about their lives. It is an amusing irony that some of those people who over-share also complain about their "privacy" being violated if what they post online winds up seeping into other areas of their lives. I always say that if you would be horrified to see something on the front page of the newspaper, you should not post it on the Internet, no matter how much you have your privacy settings locked down in your social network profiles.

But the fact of the matter is that words mean things, and the word private has a specific meaning. It is reasonable to expect that a conversation with our spouse in our home will not be publicly broadcast. But when you do and say things in public and attach your face to those things - whether it be hardcore pornography or writing a newspaper column about cooking - you cannot expect those things to remain "private" and contained to those areas. You certainly do not have any standing to whine about someone "outing" your public actions or words.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Super NES memories...

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

Back in the day, when I was playing Desert Strike for Super NES, one of the missions featured some United Nations weapons inspectors.

So in addition to taking out the Iraqis, I launched a Hellfire missile directly at the United Nations van and inspectors... I figured I was supposed to defeat the enemies of America.

Apparently the mission was to rescue United Nations guys, not incinerate them.

Oh. Oops. My bad. Time to start the mission over.

It's a joke. Chill out.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Chain restaurants in downtown Bloomington

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

Mayor Kruzan has said that his proposal to make chain restaurants a "conditional use" that would need to be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is not a "ban" on chains. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck... you know how it goes. The purpose of this proposal is clearly to make it more difficult for chains to locate in downtown Bloomington. Given that there are already several chains downtown - Starbucks, Jimmy Johns, Subway and Chipotle - the BZA could conclude that any additional chains would upset the "balance" needed downtown.

After a few people argued in the public comments that the market should determine what restaurants should go downtown, Steve Volan childishly brought up the argument that no one should object to a chemical weapons incineration facility downtown. This is downright silly. It is several leaps from arguing that the market should decide which restaurants should be permitted to locate downtown to arguing for no restrictions on land use at all. Volan is far too intelligent to be making these arguments.

Obviously, there should be reasonable restrictions on land use, to protect the property rights and property values of neighbors. I do not know of anyone who is arguing for absolutely no land use restrictions. Going to an absurd extreme does not establish the case for making chain restaurants a "conditional use" downtown.

The other problem is that the Indiana state constitution makes it illegal for government to "grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens." A restaurant owner with a single location would not be subject to the same restriction as someone attempting to open a Jimmy John's or a Burger King - or another Kilroy's location, for that matter. The pseudo-ban would almost certainly be subject to a court challenge, and the city could very well lose.

It is true that downtown Bloomington has a unique character, and we do not necessarily want it to lose that character, but this clearly discriminatory pseudo-ban is not the way to go about protecting the downtown. The city council should reject Kruzan's proposal.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Conditional use for chain restaurants?

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

Following is the audio of my speech to the Bloomington City Council on March 5, 2014.

I was speaking against a proposal to make chain restaurants a conditional use that must be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The human rights crisis in American prisons

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

To follow up on my post from yesterday, here is a post I wrote about prison rape in 2009.

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, seeking to put policy in place that would protect the basic human rights of prisoners that are too often violated in U.S. prisons. It is estimated that over 60,000 prisoners are raped annually in U.S. prisons. Many of these rapes are brutal gang rapes, often accompanied by vicious beatings. Some prisoners are murdered in the course of the assaults and others commit suicide to escape a life of sexual slavery and brutality. Too often, prison officials look the other way.

Too often, this is something that is glossed over, the subject of jokes rather than the subject of serious attention. Soft drink company 7-UP provoked outrage with a commercial making light of prison rape, and such "jokes" are far from rare. Furthermore, it is difficult to have sympathy for the worst criminals in prison. After all, many reason, who cares if someone like notorious serial killer Ted Bundy is abused by other inmates? Of course, many of the inmates subjected to abuse aren't mass murderers or serial rapists, but people who have committed far less serious crimes.

This is not just a concern for prisoners. One of the "findings of fact" in the law President Bush signed was that prison rape "increases the risks of recidivism, civil strife, and violent crime" by victims. This is common sense. When someone has been brutalized for years, he is much more likely to be looking to hurt others the way he has been hurt. This makes everyone less safe. If we are serious about reducing violent crime and protecting society, one of the most effective steps we can take is preventing serious violations of human rights behind bars.

Of course, society has a moral obligation to work towards eliminating prison rape to the greatest extent possible. We lock people up to protect society, but those prisoners still have basic human rights that deserve protection. This is why government is forbidden by the Constitution to use "cruel and unusual" punishments. Many people recoiled in horror at the abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but American citizens are subjected to much more severe abuse on a regular basis in our own prisons. A society that looks the other way when prisoners are repeatedly gang raped and dismisses brutality as a "lovers' quarrel" (as was the case with one Texas inmate who asked for protection, was ignored by prison staff, and was then subjected to a rape and beating that left him with severe injuries) should not be surprised when prisoners of war are abused.

Obviously, more needs to be done. There needs to be a zero-tolerance policy for prisoners who abuse other prisoners, and there must be severe consequences (including harsh criminal penalties) for prison guards and wardens who do not take requests for protection seriously. Even in a recession when revenues are down, government must invest in the technology, training and facility improvements that are needed to protect basic human rights of prisoners. If that means we need to cut spending elsewhere, then so be it. We have ignored this basic moral obligation for too long.

More information:

Friday, March 7, 2014

The human rights crisis in American prisons

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

Ten years ago, the nation was shocked by the abuses of prisoners of war at the Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq. American soldiers had abused and sexually humiliated prisoners of war, and even women were participating in the sexual degradation of these men. We should not have been surprised at all. Instead, we should have expected this to happen. After all, a nation that cannot respect the human rights of its own prisoners in domestic prisons should not be expected to treat prisoners of war humanely.

When I read this story in the New York Times, I was violently angry after only two paragraphs. I wanted to see all of the rapist prison guards executed and I wanted all of the others who knew about but did not stop the rapes to spend the rest of their lives in prison. I have cooled off since then, but I still believe the death penalty is warranted for prison guards who rape inmates, and that prison officials who know about but do not stop this sexual abuse should also be harshly punished.

Unfortunately, violence is going to happen in our prisons. When you house a large majority of violent criminals in a confined space for an extended length of time, some violence - including rape - is sadly inevitable. We do not do nearly enough to stop it, and more needs to be done to protect the human rights of both men and women in our prison system, but it is impossible to completely eliminate all of the violence.

Rape and sexual abuse of inmates by guards, however, should never happen. Even one instance of that is a complete and total failure of the system. These prisoners (who were made in the image of Almighty God) are society's responsibility. They deserve to be punished, which is why they are in prison. They do not deserve to be raped, sexually abused or subject to sexual blackmail by the very prison guards who are there to protect them and maintain order in the prison.

This cannot be allowed to stand, in any state in the nation. This is nothing short of a crisis that requires immediate reform to protect the basic human rights of these women who are being raped, sexually abused and sexually blackmailed. Some reforms are obvious - install more surveillance cameras and make it clear that male guards are never to be alone with female inmates. Thoroughly screen the applicants who want to be guards and immediately terminate the employment of any guard caught in consensual or non-consensual sexual activity with a prisoner - and aggressively prosecute the guards in the criminal justice system.

This should never have happened in the first place, and it needs to stop right now.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reconsidering "one and done" in the NBA

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

Should the NBA raise the minimum age for playing in the league, or should the age limit stay where it is or even be abolished? You can count Kevin McHale among those advocating for a higher minimum age, but you can count me among those who think the age limit should be abolished entirely.

Starting with the 2006 NBA draft, players must be one year removed from high school and at least 19 years old to qualify for the draft. This was implemented after a number of players jumped directly from high school to the NBA, and while some were wildly successful (LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant) others have not done so well. But is the rule really necessary? I do not think so.

Part of the problem for the college game is that "one and done" has not only damaged the quality of the game by having fewer talented upperclassmen available, it has also damaged the credibility of the college game by turning the NCAA into a glorified minor league for pro basketball. College basketball is no longer for student athletes - it is for players like Greg Oden and Anthony Davis to work without pay for a year until they can enter the NBA.

It makes little sense to force players to risk injury in college for a token season of college basketball so they can drop out of school after their freshman year. Some of those players would have been ready straight out of high school, and some would not. But the answer to the players who are not emotionally ready and do not have NBA-level skills is not an arbitrary age limit - the answer is for NBA general managers to stop making foolish draft choices.

The maturity argument is silly. We have been sending 18 year old men to fight, kill and die in wars for the entire history of this nation. If someone is old enough to fight, kill and die in war, he is old enough to handle the lavish (if stressful and demanding) lifestyle of a modern NBA player. Again, the problem is that general managers are making foolish draft choices, not the arbitrary age limit. Raising the age limit will not turn a bad general manager into a good one.

In fact, I have not seen a single argument for raising the age limit that would not also be addressed by smarter draft choices and more effective mentoring of young and talented but raw basketball talent. It's safe to say that this experiment has failed and has distorted the market. It should be abolished.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Religious freedom is hanging by a thread

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

E.J. Dionne boasts of American voters' respect for religious freedom, in that while 55% to 59% of people say that private business should not be legally permitted to refuse to provide services to same-sex weddings, 61% said that a clergy member or church should have the right to refuse to officiate the ceremony.

First of all, the fact that only 6 in 10 voters would agree that the government should not be allowed to force a church or clergy member to officiate a homosexual wedding should indicate how our religious freedom hangs by a tiny and fraying thread. If we lived in a nation that truly respected religious freedom, that number would be at least 85%. A shift in public opinion of only 12 percentage points would leave that group as a plurality at best.

Dionne knows that public opinion can shift quickly and dramatically - look at how rapidly homosexual marriage is gaining support among the American people, when such a rapid and dramatic shift that would have been unthinkable just ten years ago. For Dionne to tout the truly pathetic and dangerously low margin of 61% as some sort of a grantee of religious freedom is either dishonest or incredibly naïve - and it is almost certainly the former.

The entire point of the limitations on government in our Bill of Rights is that it does not matter what a majority of the voters think. Rights are not subject to majority rule, and government may not abridge our rights just because it is politically popular.

This is why we need to stand firm on freedom of association and not compromise on religious freedom and freedom of association. It is a very short leap from having government force a Christian business owner to participate in a homosexual wedding to having government force churches and/or clergy to officiate a same-sex wedding. It is obvious that the homosexual lobby - the goal of which has always been mandatory, state-enforced acceptance, not tolerance - is in the process of incrementally breaking down the barriers that our Constitution places between government and religious freedom.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Homosexual marriage and polygamy

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

A letter to the editor was published on March 3 responding to my guest editorial, asking this question:

How do people like Scott, including legislators, come off as thinking they have the right to deny others, some of whom fought and died for this country, their human-given right to marry? Why can't the concept of marriage evolve beyond one penis and one vagina?

If that is the argument for homosexual marriage, then why should that not apply to polygamy? After all, there are polygamists who have served their country in the military, and even fought in war. Why can marriage not evolve beyond one man and one woman to include a larger group of people?

One can certainly find more historical support for polygamy than one can find for same-sex marriage. Even many of God's people in the Bible practiced polygamy - including King David, a man after God's own heart. If one wants to argue from Scripture, it makes more sense that polygamy be recognized than homosexual marriage. After all, polygamy does not fundamentally alter the nature of marriage the way homosexual marriage does.

Allow me to be clear: I am not advocating that government recognize polygamy. Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a creation ordinance, as seen in Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:6-9 and Ephesians 5:25-31.

I am making the point that there is no logical basis on which to disallow polygamy if we are going to allow homosexual marriage. If the argument is that we have no right to discriminate against people based on who they choose to love, then there is no reason that should be limited to monogamous unions.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Religious freedom vs. mandatory acceptance

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

It is clear that homosexual "rights" and religious liberty are no longer on a collision course - the two are clashing right now and religious liberty is losing. The homosexual rights lobby's goal has always been mandatory acceptance, not tolerance, and they are speeding toward that goal at a frightening pace.

The most recent battle is over whether Christian business owners should have freedom of association, and religious liberty suffered a loss when Jan Brewer vetoed a religious liberty measure in Arizona. But before we examine freedom of association more broadly we need to look at facts and reality.

First, let's cool down the rhetoric and the hysterical shrieking about "Jim Crow" and examine the real issue here: Mandatory, state-enforced acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual "marriage." The cases of the florist and the baker who have been punished by government for refusing to serve a homosexual "wedding" are well-documented by now, and illustrate that this is about mandatory acceptance.

Nether business refuses all service to homosexuals. The baker would not have refused to provide a birthday cake, or a cake celebrating a homosexual employee's anniversary of service with his employer. What they did not want to do is provide flowers and a cake to celebrate a homosexual "wedding," because of their Christian beliefs that homosexuality is a sin before God. In their view, providing a wedding cake would be an endorsement of that sin.

The homosexual couple could have simply gone to another baker, and spent their money elsewhere. They did not. They went to the state and demanded the baker be punished by the civil magistrate. They did not demand tolerance from the baker (because they already had that) they demanded acceptance and forced labor to endorse their union. That is profoundly un-American and impossible to reconcile with religious liberty.

So this was not about refusing to serve homosexuals generally, or putting out an sign that says "no homosexuals served here." This was about a very narrow situation where the baker could not in good conscience provide a cake to endorse a union he believed was sinful. To the homosexual lobby, that is something that should not be legal, and should be punished by the state.

To the issue more generally: There was a discussion on Herald-Times Online recently about what exceptions should be made to nondiscrimination laws - for example, should a Jewish baker be forced by government to decorate a cake with a swastika? Should a black baker be forced by government to decorate a cake with a burning cross?

The entire orientation of those questions is wrong. The question should not be where we carve out exceptions for personal choice, but where the interests of society are so strong that the civil magistrate should intrude on freedom of choice. The orientation should always be to allow private citizens to do business the way they see fit, and in a way that conforms to their moral or religious beliefs.

If a white racist doesn't want to serve blacks, he should be free to make that choice. If a Black Panther doesn't want to serve "whitey," he should be free to make that choice. If a Muslim doesn't want to serve Jews, he should be free to make that choice. If an atheist doesn't want to serve Christians, he should be free to make that choice.

What we should do is allow any business serve anyone, or refuse service to anyone, and leave the government out of it. It should not be the role of government to force private business to serve anyone they do not want to serve. If a business refuses money from a specific class of people (for whatever reason) they are the ones getting hurt by driving away customers and getting bad publicity for that choice.

That is not Jim Crow. What we had in the South was government-mandated segregation, which is immoral and was rightly made illegal. That was also a violation of freedom of association as well as religious freedom. Allowing private individuals to make private decisions is not a return to the days of state-mandated segregation or discrimination. It is instead exactly the opposite.

But even if this were to be official policy (which it is not and will not be) does anyone really believe we are going to see large-scale discrimination against minorities? Does anyone think that a business can get away with that in 2014? Come on, folks, let's be real here. The hysterical screeching about "Jim Crow" was never based in reality. It was always pure fear mongering designed to frighten low-information voters and smear the opponents of the homosexual lobby. This is about a very narrow set of circumstances, but the Left cannot abide that because they demand 100% total acceptance.

The one exception I would make is life-saving or otherwise necessary medical care. Doctors, licensed by the state, should not be able to discriminate in who they serve. Because of the nature of medical care, society does have an interest in not allowing discrimination here. Note this is not the same as refusing to perform certain objectionable procedures (such as abortion) on anyone, regardless of who they are. But that is another issue for another day.

But in all other areas, we should respect freedom of association and religious liberty, allowing the market to rule. Keep the government out of it and respect private choices, whether you personally approve of those choices or not.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I believe in young earth creationism

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

I believe in young earth creationism. Here are four posts on the issue:

I am not ashamed of my faith.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The freedom not to associate

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

Freedom of association necessarily includes the freedom not to associate.

That is not Jim Crow, so please stop making this nonfactual comparison. Government-mandated segregation and discrimination is and should be illegal.

But a private business owner should not be forced to serve anyone he does not want to serve, for any reason or no reason at all.

For crying out loud, read Facebook's Terms of Service Agreement. If you post certain things, you can have your account deleted. That means Facebook refuses to serve you, and they are well within their legal rights to do that.

Most stores have a sign that says "no shirt, no shoes, no service." That's discrimination. It is also their legal right.

If you believe in freedom of choice, that means you need to allow for choices you don't personally like. Even if you believe it is "discrimination."

Otherwise, you don't believe in freedom of choice.