E-mail Scott
Scott's Links
About the Author
Opinion Archives
Social Media:
Google Plus
Monthly Archives:

January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017

Powered by Blogger
Subscribe via RSS

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Three quick notes

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

A question: What if people left parties the same way they leave Facebook?

The Obama administration's rule on relief agencies providing access to abortion is causing quite a bit of concern. But the reality is this: With government money comes government strings. Always assume those strings will become a noose used to strangle your liberty. Getting entangled with government is a bad idea.

I posted the text of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Facebook.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Does administrative experience matter?

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

We have heard a lot of criticism these last seven years in relation to Obama that he lacks administrative experience, and now we are hearing the same about Ted Cruz. Unless someone has been the governor of a state (especially a large state) then he is not seem to have the administrative experience necessary to be the chief executive. But the big question is, does the President need that experience?

The federal government takes in and spends over three trillion dollars every year. The federal government's workforce is absolutely massive, spread across various agencies and bureaucracies. The President, even if he spent every waking moment doing nothing but managing, could not hope to even begin to oversee the federal government. This is why the President appoints heads of various agencies, who then have managers and supervisors under them. This leaves the President free to focus on more of a big picture agenda instead of the minutia of the federal juggernaut.

A bigger question, and the one we should be asking, is whether a candidate for President has good judgment, good character, and a good ideological focus. (The last of which is obviously different for each voter.) Can the President pick good people to run the various federal agencies, and are those people capable of managing the managers under them? Is the President a good judge of character, so he is not picking bad actors to run federal agencies? Is the President himself a trustworthy person?

The focus on administrative experience has never made sense to me. I am much more interested in the President's character, discernment and judgment, as well as his policy agenda than in a skill set he will never actually use in office. For an office like mayor or county auditor, administrative experience matters and should be at the top of the list of qualifications voters consider. For the President of these United States, the concern is misplaced and can distract from what really matters.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Blab it and grab it

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

A quick thought on the health and wealth "gospel" - John the Baptist was not beheaded because he lacked the faith necessary for the victorious Christian life. He was beheaded because of his faith in and obedience to God. John the Baptist was beheaded BECAUSE he was living the victorious Christian life.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A quick note

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

The idea that there is a new "heroin epidemic" is a hoax.

It is pure fear-mongering. Do not believe it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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

Here are my thoughts on the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

No, Bloomington cannot decriminalize marijuana

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

Democratic candidate for mayor John Linnemeier made headlines earlier this week when he proposed that the city decriminalize marijuana. The problem with this is that city government has no authority to decriminalize marijuana or any other illegal drug. That is a state law, not a local law.

While I agree with Linnemeier on the issue itself, he did himself no favors with this proposal, which made him look like he does not understand the powers and responsibilities of local and state government in Indiana. If you want to be Mayor,you need to demonstrate that you know what city government does and does not have the authority to do. Proposing that the city do something the city cannot do indicates that you are "not ready for prime time."

What the city does have the authority to do is change the enforcement priorities for the police department. The Republican candidate for mayor in 2003 expressed concern over police "harassing" students when they are walking home from a bar. (Which is what we want them to do, instead of driving.) Linnemeier could use his authority as mayor to instruct police to place less emphasis on marijuana infractions. State police, of course, can continue to enforce the law. The Indiana University Police Department can do the same.

I mocked the Libertarian Party for being "the party of dope" a few years ago, and I also have to question the priorities of a candidate for Mayor who makes marijuana decriminalization a top issue - especially when he does not have the authority to decriminalize anything. If Linnemeier wants to change marijuana policy in the state, he should run for state legislator or governor. Perhaps Linnemeier and Brent Steele can join forces to make this a bipartisan effort.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


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

So I am driving on the west side the other day, in the left lane on West Third Street. The passenger in the car ahead of me chunks a Polar Pop cup out the window into the street, in traffic.


You can't find a trash can?


Come on, people. There is no reason to behave like that. Even if your parents didn't teach you basic manners, you are old enough to know better. Grow up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Free speech in the U.S. Senate

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

For all of the sound and fury about Republicans in the U.S. Senate allegedly sending a letter to the leadership of Iran, there is something that has been missed, and that is a critical fact. Those Republicans in the U.S. Senate never sent a letter to Iran. Yes. That is right. The Republicans never sent a letter to Iran. This is a rather important detail.

What the Republicans actually did is compose an "open letter" to be posted online and published in newspapers. In essence, they were exercising their free speech rights under the First Amendment. They wrote an editorial. If what the Republican senators did was "treasonous" then all of the editorials, speeches and statements by Democrats in opposition to President Bush's policy in Iraq and Afghanistan were and are also treasonous. All of those things could be seen by hostile regimes or terrorist groups, after all.

Now, politically, what the Republicans did was not very bright. By writing their editorial in the second person and calling it an open letter, they managed to draw more attention to their argument but also gave Democrats the opportunity to completely ignore the content of the editorial and toss out accusations, red herrings and straw men. They did not think this through. Someone should have raised a red flag about how this could be spun. Between all of the Senators and their staffs, someone should have thought about this. Perhaps someone did, and was ignored.

But the fact is that the Republicans did not do anything abnormal, or anything that Senators of both parties have not done for centuries. For all of the discussion about politics stopping at the water's edge, there has always been public debate about our foreign policy, and what that policy should and should not be. This debate has been carried on in editorial pages, floor speeches, press releases and letters to the editor, all the way down to water cooler discussions. Democrats, who once claimed that dissent is patriotic, are playing a very dangerous game that could easily turn against them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Another outrage from the ABC

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

Re-posting from Facebook:

Massive budget cuts are needed. That is the best way to terrorize these thugs.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A bigger question and a more serious problem

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

The theft of $430,000 by an employee of the parks department in the city of Bloomington is certainly troubling, and it is important that this person should be punished to the fullest extent of the law if she is convicted by a jury of her peers. But that is not the real scandal here.

Why were there not sufficient financial controls in place to prevent the theft of several hundred thousand dollars? That is the real question here, and that's the real scandal. Why were there not several sets of eyes on the parks department finances to ensure that all of the money is accounted for and is going to the right place? How was this person able to get away with stealing for four years before she was caught?

We know from Romans 3:10-18 that human beings are inherently corrupt, so the fact that people will steal money or property is not a surprise. No matter how exemplary someone's history or character might be, there will always be temptation to steal, especially when one is responsible for large sums of money. That is why any organization should have procedures in place to verify where money is and how it is spent.

Even worse, this story follows the arrest and criminal prosecution of another Bloomington city government employee in another department who stole over $800,000 from the city over several years. With over $1,200,000 in taxpayers' money stolen by just two city employees, the people of Bloomington should be very worried over what are obviously very sloppy accounting practices in city government.

This year is an election year, with four candidates (three Democrats and a Republican) seeking their respective parties' nomination for Mayor. All four of them should commit to full and complete financial transparency, instead of the shamefully secretive nature of the Kruzan administration following the first scandal. All four should commit to a top-to-bottom review of the city's financial procedures to ensure that crimes like this do not happen again. The taxpayers deserve no less.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pit Bulls

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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

18 years ago today...

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

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer 18 years ago today. Here is a link to a guest column I had published several years ago about the warning signs of TC.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Using private e-mail for Monroe County government business

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

We have heard a lot about Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail account for official government business and the debate over that practice. But we should also be aware of what local government is doing. At least two elected officials in local government - Monroe County Commissioners Pat Stoffers and Julie Thomas - openly use private e-mail accounts for official business. I posted a screenshot on Facebook last week of the commissioners' contact information, with the e-mail addresses they use.

To be fair, this is not a perfect analogy to the Clinton e-mail controversy, because both commissioners are open and public about using private e-mail for official government business. It is also not a secret that at least two members of the Monroe County Council have their county e-mail forwarded to their private e-mail accounts as well, though those addresses are not on the county council's website.

It is not uncommon for government officials to have personal e-mail accounts, obviously. It is not uncommon for a personal e-mail address to be occasionally used for official business, in government or any line of work. This is not a problem, provided the official e-mail account is copied on that correspondence so an official record is kept. The concern comes in when a private e-mail account are the primary means of communication for two of the three county commissioners and at least two members of the county council. This raises transparency and oversight issues, because these e-mail addresses are not controlled by county technical services.

This policy should be reversed, at both the county and state level. First, county government should reverse the policy of allowing elected officials to use private e-mail accounts, and have all county e-mails stored on county servers. Second, the state legislature should act to prohibit any local elected official from using a personal e-mail account for official government business if an official government e-mail address is available. The taxpayers of Indiana deserve to know that all official business is recorded for the public to see.

No matter how trustworthy or committed to transparency government officials may be, "trust us" should never be the policy for retaining official government records.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Historical Fact

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

The Biblical flood described in Genesis 7-8, a supernatural worldwide disaster that obliterated all life on the planet, is not just a story or a parable. It is a historical fact.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Republican state legislature's giveaway to doctors

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

Pseudoephedrine is a safe and effective over-the-counter drug, approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help sick people manage their symptoms in order to be more productive and less miserable. Some in the Indiana state legislature are determined to make this drug prescription-only, and this session saw a move in that direction with legislation to mandate drug felons get a prescription for pseudoephedrine while leaving the rest of us alone.

The problem is, people who have committed drug crimes get sick too. Even after they have served their time and even if they are now productive members of society, these people will now be forced to go to the doctor to get a prescription for a nasal decongestant. They will be forced to take time off work, assuming someone with a felony conviction will be able to find a job in the first place. They will have to pay extra out-of-pocket costs to a general practitioner or urgent care clinic, and will place more cost on insurance companies. If they are on Medicaid, we will all be paying for this.

This is a giveaway to the medical industry. The Republican supermajority in the state legislature has just mandated more business for the state's doctors and urgent care clinics, business that the people who simply need an over-the-counter remedy for cold symptoms would not otherwise give to those doctors. This unnecessary legislation is corporate welfare that will not do anything to eliminate the problem of methamphetamine use in the state of Indiana.

It is also easy to do an end run around the Republican mandate. Here is the obvious solution for drug felons who are sick and need relief: Hand some cash to a friend and send him to the pharmacy to buy the medicine over the counter, avoiding the roadblock the Republican legislature has placed between you and your cold medicine. It is also worth pointing out that even if we magically eliminated every home meth lab in the state, we would only reduce meth use by twenty percent. This is because (as I have pointed out before) eighty percent of the methamphetamine in Indiana comes from Mexico.

Make no mistake about it: This is a classic example of the "slippery slope." Legislators who love the nanny state but know it is not politically feasible to mandate a prescription for everyone in the state have passed this as a step in that direction. We know they will not give up that cause because they have tried it before. When this initiative inevitably fails (and it will fail) nanny state apologists will say that we did not go far enough and we now need to do more to fight meth use. A better option would be for the Republican supermajority to stop meddling in the health care decisions of people who simple want some relief during cold and flu season.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mindless savages

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

What prompts teenage girls to become mindless savages?

This was a horrific assault - an ambush of a girl expecting a one-on-one fight.

These young women should never see the outside of a prison ever again.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Justice denied by technicalities

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

It is a common meme in pop culture (especially movies and TV shows) that an obviously guilty criminal is freed because of "technicalities" that prevent him from going to jail. It is becoming increasingly apparent what actually happens is the innocent are kept behind bars because of technicalities, as judges deny the opportunity to review evidence that could prove that the person behind bars did not commit the crime.

For example, see this horrifying blog post by Radley Balko:

To win a new trial after conviction, an inmate must show that he or she has discovered new evidence, that the new evidence was not discoverable at the time of trial and that if the evidence had been available, the jury would probably have acquitted. The inmate must also file his or her petition within a year of when the new evidence was discovered or should have been discovered.

Kunco's petition hinged on the NAS report and its findings on bite mark evidence. In denying Kunco's petition for a new trial, Judge Rita Donovan Hathaway acknowledged that there are problems with bite mark analysis, but she found that the NAS report wasn't new evidence. Rather, it was based on older research for which Kunco had already missed his deadline to file.

If flawed science put an innocent man behind bars, and a so-called "judge" more interested in technicalities than justice kept him there, this is a quadruple injustice. It is unjust for the innocent person kept behind bars, it is unjust for the victim who will not see the real criminal punished, it is unjust for society that will not be protected from the real criminal, and it is unjust for the real criminal who will get away with his crime.

I sent an email to the legislators representing Monroe County urging them to consider limiting the use of bite mark "evidence" in criminal trials, but that is not enough. Preventing future injustices is important, but that is only a small part of ensuring the innocent are protected and the guilty are punished. The rules regarding examination of evidence need to be changed so that inmates have an opportunity to challenge flawed evidence or discredited forensic techniques, without a time limit.

Some states ahve already done this, and Indiana should follow in that path.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

When innocence is not enough to get you out of prison

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 11:30 AM (#)

This is horrifying:

If you are a wrongfully convicted man or woman in this country, it is extremely difficult—if not outright impossible—to win your case by advancing the simple argument that you are innocent. Sounds crazy, right? But it's true. The Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to hold that the federal Constitution allows for so-called freestanding claims of innocence, that is, the right to be let out of prison simply because you didn't do it, without any other "technical" violation to back up your argument. In the United States, the inmate who raises a compelling case of innocence after a constitutionally proper trial may well be doomed.

Source: Slate.com, March 11, 2015.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi day

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

Not only is today Pi Day, but it is the first time in a hundred years that all the numbers in the date are Pi. 3/14/15 or 3.1415.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Todd Akin for U.S. Senate again? Not a good idea.

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

Last month, Politico.com reported that Todd Akin was considering running for U.S. Senate again. Akin had failed to unseat an incumbent senator in 2012 despite a favorable political atmosphere, in large part to a rather dim-witted comment about "legitimate rape." (Akin later said he would not be running.)

I am sympathetic to Akin. One stupid comment should not define you for the rest of your life. We have all said stupid or ignorant things from time to time, and (unlike Akin) we have not seen our comments turn into a national news story for months. Democrats are still going back to Akin's comment, nearly three years later.

But fairly or not, the reality is that Akin is too damaged to be a serious contender, especially to unseat an incumbent Republican who won the general election with a comfortable margin in 2010. Akin would not win the primary, and even if by some chance he won he would be damaged goods heading into the general election.

Akin made the right decision. Sometimes, it is necessary to put one's personal ambitions (and ego) aside and do what is best for the conservative movement. A primary challenge to Roy Blunt would only divide the party heading into the general election, leaving the Democrats with a stronger chance to take the seat.

Akin should take the opportunity to reform his image and show himself to be knowledgeable about public policy. (Not to mention basic human anatomy.) Perhaps there will be another opportunity for him to run for office in the future, but 2016 is likely too soon. One does not need to be a candidate for office, of course, to contribute to conservative causes and to help advance a conservative legislative agenda.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What are the rules on HTO?

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

What are the rules for conduct on HeraldTimesOnline? Are there any rules at all, or is it governed only by the whims of the moderators? The Herald-Times needs to clarify what exactly is and is not allowed in story comments, because the rules (or at least the enforcement of those rules) are a jumbled mess - and have been for years.

The following paragraph is the "comment guidelines" posted under each article:

We do not permit obscene, libelous, harassing, racist, hateful, offensive or violent language or images. Further, we will not allow personal attacks on news sources, other commenters or our staff. Our moderators will determine what constitutes civil criticism and what is a personal attack.

I've had a number of comments deleted on HTO, and while many of my comments should not have been deleted under HTO's published guidelines, in all honesty the majority of those deletions were deserved. Therefore, I have resolved to be a better commenter, and have been careful to stay within the established comment guidelines. Those guidelines are vague but not unreasonably so. The only word I would object to is "offensive" because virtually anything can be offensive. The problem is not the guidelines themselves, but the enforcement of those guidelines.

The old comment software sent a notification any time a comment was removed. That feedback was very useful in determining what the moderators will and will not allow, but that option that does not exist with the new (vastly inferior) software. Because of this, there is no way to know when a comment was deleted unless one is carefully following the thread. Sometimes, a comment can be deleted several days after it is posted and the discussion has long since ended. So as part of trying to be a better commenter, I asked when was the last time I had a comment deleted.

As I pointed out in my letter to the editor that was rejected, I posted a comment back in December that homosexuality is a sin and rebellion against God. That comment was inexplicably removed, despite the fact that dozens (if not hundreds) of similar comments remain, and the fact that the Herald-Times has chosen to publish a number of letters to the editor and guest columns saying the same thing - usually in a much more harsh tone than my comment.

The H-T editor explained that he would not run LTTE about the operation of HTO, despite the fact that letters have been printed about that topic in the past. It is obvious why my LTTE was rejected: The Herald-Times knows that under their policy, and the past enforcement of the policy, there was no justification for deleting my comment. Publishing my letter would have been a public embarrassment to them as my letter exposed that the moderators are deleting comments they disagree with instead of enforcing their rules consistently.

In fact, I had multiple comments deleted on the old HTO comment systems for quoting the text of articles published in the print edition or using language that was specifically approved by the Herald-Times' editor.

Obviously, HeraldTimesOnline.com is the Herald-Times' private property and they can do with it as they choose. The H-T can publish (or not publish) anything they choose, and they can allow (or not allow) any comments they wish. But if the Herald-Times wants to pretend there are fair, understandable and consistent comment guidelines for paying customers, they need to make those comment guidelines clear and enforce them consistently.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Two random thoughts

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

Re-posting from Twitter: If you were to somehow magically eliminate every methamphetamine lab in Indiana, you will only eradicate 20% of the meth market. This is because 80% of the meth in Indiana comes from Mexico.

Also, re-posting from Facebook: In order to believe something this stupid, you need to be maleducated at a university.

More transparency needed on civil asset forfeiture

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

Bloomington Herald-Times, March 10, 2015 (Comments)

To the Editor:

Civil asset forfeiture has (thankfully) come under increased scrutiny in recent months.

People who have not even been charged with a crime - much less actually convicted of one - can have their money and property seized by law enforcement, usually in the name of the "war on drugs." It can be an arduous and expensive process even for an innocent person to get his money and property back.

The Obama administration has made an encouraging step in limiting civil asset forfeiture, though it was limited in scope and leaves too much of this policy untouched even at the federal level - not to mention local and state uses of this tool.

Several weeks ago, I submitted a series of questions to the Bloomington Police Department regarding civil asset forfeiture. One of the questions was how much money and property is seized on an annual basis, but the BPD said such records are protected as "investigatory records."

One does not need to reveal details of specific investigations to provide a total of all money and property confiscated. I call on both city and county government to be more transparent regarding forfeiture, and for the state legislature to mandate more transparency.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

15,108 days and counting...

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

I thought about going to the gym yesterday, but decided not to.

This preserves my streak of 15,108 consecutive days of not going to the gym to work out.

James 4:13-15

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

Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Has Christian doctrine been banned from HTO comments?

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

Note: This was submitted to the Bloomington Herald-Times but the editor refused to publish it.

Comment moderation standards on HeraldTimesOnline.com are very inconsistently applied, sometimes resulting in some very strange moderation decisions.

On December 20, I said in the comments for a letter to the editor (http://ow.ly/JwwO0) that homosexuality is a sin and rebellion against God. This statement is boringly normal across church history with plenty of evidence in both the Old and New Testaments to back it up.

I did not personally attack any individual. My comment was extremely tame in comparison to letters to the editor and guest columns I have had approved by the editor and published in the print edition, and much tamer than other letters published on that same issue, especially this one: http://ow.ly/Jwz7Z

Nonetheless, my comment was deleted.

Is Christian doctrine on sexual morality now banned from being discussed on HTO comments? If I said that greed, adultery or theft is "a sin and rebellion against God," would that comment also be deleted? What is the line for what sort of disagreement is permitted by the HTO moderators?

This was a very bad decision and underscores the frustration many people have with HTO moderation, especially given some personal attacks that remain. I respectfully request that my comment be restored.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Encouraging developments on criminal justice reform

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

The legislative update hosted by the League of Women Voters on March 7 featured some encouraging bipartisan agreement on criminal justice reform. Hopefully, we will see some more movement on reform, recognizing that we need to retool the way we deal with crime and criminals.

HB 1006 passed the Indiana House (which, like the Indiana Senate, has a Republican supermajority) by a vote of 97-0. Rep. Matt Pierce explained this would reduce the burden on Indiana's prisons by increasing the focus on mental health and substance abuse treatment at the local level. This is a step in the right direction. Locking people up without dealing with the underlying issues does not solve the problems these people are causing. In addition to ensuring people get the help they need, it will also be less expensive in the long run.

That was not the only good news. In response to my question about strictly limiting asset forfeiture, all four legislators in attendance (Republicans Peggy Mayfield and Bob Heaton, as well as Democrats Pierce and Mark Stoops) agreed that law enforcement should be more limited in what they can take, especially for people who have not even been charged with a crime.

Originally conceived as a way to take the profits of drug kingpins, asset forfeiture has greatly expanded far beyond its intended purpose and is frequently abused - not to punish criminals but to satisfy government greed. I am not opposed to asset forfeiture itself, provided that due process is followed. It is one more way to punish criminals, and in some cases a financial penalty is more appropriate than prison time. The problem is when government confiscates people's property without following due process. This is also known as theft.

I do not know of legislation before the state legislature that would fix this problem and protect due process and civil liberties. Now is the time to start lobbying legislators to prohibit confiscation of private property unless someone has been convicted of a crime - and to make that prohibition retroactive.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Automobile confiscation is bad policy

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

Note: Since I moved the blog between a couple different hosting options, not all of the archives are on ConservaTibbs.com. Therefore, I will occasionally re-post things I wrote before 2010.

This editorial was originally posted on March 3, 1999.

New York City has recently instituted a law that allows the NYC police department to confiscate the vehicles of drunk drivers on the spot. The law outrages civil libertarians, because it violates a person's Fifth Amendment right not to be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

In principle, the idea of taking away the automobile of a drunk driver is good policy. Driving an automobile is a privilege, not a right, and when someone endangers the lives and property of other people by driving under the influence of a controlled substance that privilege should be taken away. When a drunk driver is behind the wheel, an automobile becomes a deadly weapon, and government has every right to confiscate that weapon after due process has taken its course. But what is objectionable about this law is not the confiscation itself, but the fact that the confiscation happens without a trial.

Advocates of the new seizure law have used statistics that first time offenders kill most people killed by drunk drivers. On CNBC's "Hardball" New York Mayor Rudy Guliani said that this figure is close to 80%. But even assuming this is true, is it ample justification for violation of someone's Fifth Amendment rights?

Conservatives have used some strange logic in defending this law. On CNN's "Crossfire", Republican strategist Ralph Reed defended the law by stating that if liberals are willing to violate law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights with new gun control laws, they should support confiscation of automobiles. In addition to being a red herring, Reed's argument lacks consistent logic. Instead of defending the law itself, Reed seems to be saying that if you support one law that violates a person's Constitutional rights, you should support another. The logic in this argument escapes me. A better argument would be that if you oppose one law that violates a person's constitutional rights, you should oppose all laws that violate a person's Constitutional rights. By supporting the automobile confiscation law, Reed is every bit as inconsistent as the gun control advocates he criticized on "Crossfire".

Proponents of this law, including Reed, have used the argument that drunk drivers are killing "our children". But this appeal to emotion is not a good way to support this law. Liberals are constantly invoking "the children" as a means of supporting policies that take away freedom, from gun control laws to opposition to tax cuts. Instead of surrendering to the "our children" demagoguery by using it themselves, conservatives should take a stand for freedom, explaining why their ideas are good public policy without resorting to emotionalism.

Another problem with this law is that it is a subtle tax increase. It is one thing to revoke someone's driver's license for driving under the influence. But taking away someone's property without due process is wrong. This NYC law allows the government to confiscate the wealth of citizens, providing the ability to sell the confiscated vehicles to fill the city's coffers. As someone noted at a debate forum that I visit, this would fall hardest on the poor and the middle class, who can hardly afford to spend thousands of dollars on another automobile if one is confiscated by government.

Being tough on crime is a good thing. However, in our desire to be tough on crime, we must not sacrifice the bill of rights. We all desire security from crime, but freedom is more important. A wise person once said that those who would give up freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security.

Friday, March 6, 2015

College crybabies need to grow up or go home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bite mark matching is a hoax

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

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

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

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

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

Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Making private disputes a federal crime is a silly overreaction

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Harsh Reality vs. Rule of Law

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

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

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

A conversation with Bashir Assad

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

Human rights in prison

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

From today's New York Times:

"A Brutal Beating Wakes Attica’s Ghosts."

Answer the question, Governor Walker!

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hebrews 12:5-8

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

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

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