Note: I originally posted this on December 22, 2008. I'm re-posting it now to preempt some of the stupid "war on Christmas" nonsense we hear every year.
I have gotten a few e-mails from a socially conservative issue advocacy group on a topic I see every year at this time. The so-called "War on Christmas" continues as Home Depot and Costco allegedly avoid any mention of Christmas on their web sites or in their stores. The emails (which often have factual errors) urge readers to contact both stores and make sure they recognize Christmas.
I am so sick of this bickering every holiday season. There are a lot of childish people on both sides of the "War on Christmas" who need to have a glass of warm milk and take a nap.
Who cares if a company does not mention Christmas in advertisements or on their web site? How does that harm anyone? How does that infringe on anyone's right to celebrate Christmas as they see fit? How and why would this interfere with anyone's enjoyment of the Christmas season? Complaining about retail chains that are "anti-Christmas" makes the complainers look like a bunch of busybody religious fanatics. Shop or don't shop as you see fit, but keep your mouth shut about it and stop embarrassing yourself.
Yes, some people actively oppose Christmas, but the actions of a few bitter people do not constitute a "war on Christmas" any more than the lack of the word "Christmas" on a retail chain's web site. The demands to include a "flying spaghetti monster" display with a manger scene or a sign generally criticizing religion as fantasy are childish actions that do not require full mobilization of an issue advocacy group's email list. I do not care of there are no manger scenes on government property. I would rather avoid unnecessarily offending people.
People, it is Christmas time. Stop looking for battles to fight and focus on what should be the happiest time of the year. Enjoy your friends and family. Easily offended crybabies need to recognize that they live in a culture that, while certainly not Christian, is heavily influenced by Christianity. The Christmas "warriors" on the other side need to approach the issue with love, mercy and grace and understand that there will always be people who are offended by the name of the Lord. Those people need prayer and the Gospel, not an obscene gesture.
Note: I originally posted this on December 13, 2006. I'm re-posting it now to preempt some of the stupid "war on Christmas" nonsense we hear every year.
The Herald-Times sent the following question to their "instant message" panel yesterday:
Does it matter whether people wish you "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays?"
I responded, but will expand on my response here. It seems like we hear about this "war on Christmas" every year, and I'm frankly sick of the whining and crying on both sides.
First of all, people who get offended by the phrase "Merry Christmas" need to grow up. If the greeting is made as a genuine expression of goodwill, then treat it as such. If you do not worship Jesus Christ, then think of it as "have a nice day". Most of the time, "Merry Christmas" is not intended to disparage your faith or lack thereof. It is not intended to restrict your right to worship (or not worship) as you see fit. If you are truly offended by the phrase "Merry Christmas", ask yourself why you are offended.
Second, the phrase "Merry Christmas" should not be accompanied by an extended middle finger. If the phrase truly offends someone, do not ram it down his or her throat. No matter how childish the offended person may be, the attitude of "I'm going to say 'Merry Christmas' whether people want to hear it or not" that we hear from some quarters is just as childish as getting offended by it in the first place.
Some pundits have complained about retail chains that instruct employees to say "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" instead of Merry Christmas. This too is overblown. A retail chain makes a decision for business reasons, not because they wish to eradicate a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In addition, no one's rights are being violated here. If you work in a retail store, you do as you are told in how to greet customers. You are to respect the authority places over you, and if you do not like the policy you are free to seek employment elsewhere.
I have to ask the question to people determined to defend against this "War on Christmas": What would Jesus do? Would Jesus Christ want us to respect someone's wishes and greet him the way he wants to be greeted, or would Jesus want us to use "Merry Christmas" as another way to say "f*** you"? I somehow doubt that God wants us to use the joyous occasion of the birth of our Savior to "stick it" to someone else.
People, it is Christmas time. Stop looking for battles to fight and focus on what should be the happiest time of the year. Easily offended crybabies need to recognize that they live in a culture that, while certainly not Christian, is heavily influenced by Christianity. The Christmas "warriors" on the other side need to approach the issue with love, mercy and grace and understand that there will always be people who are offended by the name of the Lord. Those people need prayer and the Gospel, not an obscene gesture.
I am legitimately depressed that Donald Trump could be the Republican nominee for President. This isn't a flash in the pan or an infatuation - his support is real.
Perhaps Trump is what this nation deserves, though. A nation that would vote for him certainly deserves him.
A large portion of the Republican Party has left me behind - abandoning serious conservatism for loudmouthed celebrities. And not just any celebrity - a fundamentally un-serious fraudulent "conservative" with a long history of supporting gun control and abortion rights and who also enthusiastically supports having government steal people's homes and give them to private developers.
His popularity stems from not-so-subtle racism and xenophobia in addition to his bellicose, rude, arrogant personality. He plays to fear, hate and bigotry. I don't want anything to do with that mentality.
♣ - I saw a clip of Ronda Rousey's fight on Facebook, and seeing the brutality and bloody aftermath that fight made me VERY uncomfortable with women in mixed martial arts. The kick to the head was one thing, but watching a 28 year old woman get pounded on the ground while she's prone and unable to defend herself was very disturbing.
♣ - Is it time for us to consider Bashir Assad an ally is the fight against the Islamic State? Is Bashir Assad our best bet to eliminate ISIS? Idiots in both parties have enabled ISIS by weakening Assad, and it was only a couple years ago that some were advocating the incredibly stupid policy of arming ISIS so they could fight Assad. The Washington establishment clearly has not thought this though and removing Assad will probably only make things worse - something I could have told you three years ago.
♣ - It is completely absurd to force a teenager to register as a sex offender for having nude pictures of himself or herself. Obviously sexting should be discouraged, but let's not go completely overboard an ruin teenagers' lives! The fact that a "sex offender" would be both perpetrator and victim should be a sign as to how absurd this is.
♣ - One of the most frustrating things about driving on an interstate is when someone passes me and then slows down to slower than I was going when you passed me. If you want to go that speed, why did you not stay back there in the first place? That is just plain rude.
♣ - Here are some sobering numbers: There were 10,202 children murdered by abortion on Monroe County between 2001 and 2013. I doubt the vast majority of people have any idea that an average of fifteen babies are killed every week right here in Monroe County. It is time for the Christians in our community to wake up to the bloodshed and brutality that surrounds us, and stand up and say "no more."
♣ - Here is some free advice for candidates for office in 2016: Never put anything on a yard sign you can't read at 30 to 50 miles per hour. You have one second to deliver your message. Make the most of your signs.
♣ - When I read this article, I was reminded of the inmate at the Monroe County Jail who died after being shocked by a Taser. Police departments nationwide need to adopt better policies on the use of Tasers.
As we remembered and thanked all veterans a week ago, it was striking to think about the differences between veterans and the coddled, wimpy so-called "college students" who demand "safe spaces" to protect them from ideas they disagree with. While pathetic so-called "students" need a "safe space" young men of generations past left their safe spaces to run into the most dangerous place imaginable - the middle of a war zone. Veterans were too worried about surviving a hail of bullets and defeating the enemy to be "offended" by ideas they dislike.
To be fair to today's so-called "students," this politically correct insanity is nothing new. It is just more visible today than it was twenty years ago. Twelve years ago, so-called "students" at Indiana University were trying to get a professor fired for saying things on his personal blog the "students" found offensive, and other so-called "students" were trying to get the university to discipline a conservative group for protesting affirmative action. Fourteen years ago, so-called "students" demanded "diversity training" for Indiana Daily Student staff after the IDS agreed to run an advertisement from David Horowitz. There are many examples stretching back many years, just here in Bloomington.
The reason I am calling the politically correct crybabies "so-called 'students'" instead of just "students" is they are not "students" at all. Real students are dedicated to learning about facts, concepts, and even new ideas. The entire point of being a student is to learn. If you need to retreat to a "safe space" because someone is saying something you disagree with instead of learning about that idea, then you are not a student. Period.
As an example of how silly things are, consider a so-called "controversy" about an extremely deferential, tolerant and respectful e-mail sent by a Yale professor's wife. The hysterical reaction of so-called "students" to this e-mail has been the subject of nationwide scorn, mocking ridicule and derision. I shared a couplearticles about it on Twitter.
Do I even need to call this nonsense out as "ridiculous?" I see things that I disagree with all the time, both in pop culture and in the media. I see people mocking my faith, my Savior and me personally. I do not retreat to a "safe space" or demand that the Diversity Police censor those things - and I would not have thought to do that when I was twenty years old. I knew when I arrived in Bloomington to go to college that I was going to be in a minority and that I would disagree with a lot of what I saw and heard. I dealt with it and got my degree. It is called being an adult.
But what worries me the most is that the crybabies at Yale and elsewhere represent the future leaders of these United States of America. How are these so-called "students" going to handle it when they get into the real world and they do not have the Diversity Police to silence the opposition or provide a "safe space" when they encounter a new idea? If (God forbid!) some of them wind up shaping U.S. foreign policy, how will they handle disagreement? Will they cry and hide if a KGB thug like Vladimir Putin mocks them? Will they demand the United Nations do something about it?
It is true that political correctness and censorship is not new, but the hysteria seems worse than it has been in the past. I truly fear for the future of our nation when these crybabies start taking the levers of power. I just pray to God that these pathetic wimps manage to grow up before that happens.
The Herald-Times claims that their mission is to "strive for accuracy" but they frequently fail to live up to this standard. One recent example is their highly dishonest statement that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed last year "would mean people did not have to do business with gays and lesbians if they didn't want to, based on religious grounds."
This is what I like to call a "factually correct lie." It is factually correct that RFRA (before it was gutted) would have allowed Hoosiers to refuse to do business with homosexuals, but this was never intended to be a blanket allowance for discrimination. Instead, RFRA was a response to violations of religious freedom and would have had a very narrow impact: Florists, bakers and others would not be forced to participate in a homosexual wedding.
No one, including the strongest supporters of RFRA, ever wanted to see blanket discrimination against anyone. No one wanted to make it more difficult for homosexuals to buy groceries or gasoline, find a place to live, or find a bank to store their money. What RFRA supporters wanted to do was provide a narrow and limited set of protections to people who feared they would be forced to violate their consciences if government forced them to participate in a homosexual wedding.
Furthermore, the law did not explicitly allow discrimination of any kind. What the law actually did was direct the courts to apply strict scrutiny in a conflict over religious freedom. The law only allowed a law that applied generally to restrict religious freedom if there was a compelling state interest and there was no other way to meet those goals. The law could have easily been interpreted by the courts that businesses may not refuse service to homosexuals seeking to purchase groceries or gasoline but would allow a baker to refuse to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding.
Claiming that RFRA was intended to allow blanket discrimination is not just an exaggeration - it is a lie. Shame on the Herald-Times for lying to its readers in pursuit of a political agenda.
I have been falsely accused of being a single-issue candidate during my run for city council, focused only on the city's annual handout to Planned Parenthood. It is true that I made a lot of noise about corporate welfare to Planned Parenthood, and I did spend more time on that issue than I thought I would when I filed my paperwork to run for city council. However, I was far from a single issue candidate.
Following are some of the issues I addressed during the campaign:
I have been following city government for twenty years, attending city council meetings as far back as 1996. I have spent many hours in city council meetings, and spent many more reading about and studying city issues - and I have a paper trail to prove it. Saying I am only a single-issue candidate is not just ignorant, especially when someone who also closely follows local politics is saying that. It is dishonest.
I do not apologize for the time I spent and the statements I have made strenously objecting to the city council's annual handout to the local abortion mill. That needed to be done and I am glad I was one of the ones who has done it - even when i was the only person attending a meeting to say "no" to the corporate welfare. But dismissing me as a single issue candidate after all of the other things I have addressed is nothing more than a lie.
The Democrats will have a 9-0 majority on the city council again in January, with a Democratic mayor to go along with it. Of course, I was a candidate for city council at-large, getting 3.3% of all votes cast as a write-in candidate.
First, I found it interesting that Republican at-large candidate Jennifer Mickel got 500 more votes than Republican mayoral candidate John Turnbull, who was much more visible and spent a lot more money than Mickel did. A lot of Republicans had grumbled about Turnbull, thinking he was either a Democratic plant (he was not) or that he was not conservative enough. That discontent showed in the election results as a lot of folks skipped over Turnbull but voted for Mickel. I think Turnbull made an error focusing on being the "CEO" of the city without a clear policy agenda. John Hamilton gave his voters a reason to turn out and be excited, while Turnbull did not.
While I did not get as many votes as I hoped, 3.3% is not bad for someone who was not on the ballot. People had to remember my name and remember to write in my name, and that is a difficult obstacle. Nonetheless, I accomplished my two goals for the election: I gave the voters a choice in the election that they would not have had otherwise and I presented an alternative vision for the future of city government.
I presented a large number of policy proposals and influenced the debate over the public policy quite a bit, even as a write-in candidate. I brought up some issues that would not have been discussed at all if I was not running, including civil asset forfeiture, police militarization and government meeting times. I showed I could do this despite a limited time commitment and spending less than $20 on my campaign.
Who knows? Maybe I will run as a Republican in 2019. But that is three years away, and that is a very long time.
I am sure I am going to hear a lot about the fact that I only got 3.3% of all voters to write my name in for city council. But before we get into that, we should take a look at previous election results where I actually was on the ballot:
2004 primary election: 942 votes 15%, delegate to state convention (One seat elected countywide in a three way race.)
2006 primary election: 526 votes Bloomington Township Board. (That is 63.68% of the people who voted in the township trustee race)
2006 general election: 1985 votes, Bloomington Township Board. (That is 28% of the people who voted in the township trustee race)
2008 primary election: 490 votes, delegate to state convention.
2010 primary election: 1230 votes, delegate to state convention.
2012 primary election: 665 votes, delegate to state convention.
When all is said and done, 3.3% of all ballots cast is not bad for someone whose name was not on the ballot - especially since I spent less than $20 on my self-funded campaign. By running as a write-in I created extra work for voters who had to remember my name and write my name in. If I had it to do over again I would have filed to run in the Republican Party caucus, where I would have been nominated. Had I been on the ballot, I would have probably ran even with Republican at-large candidate Jennifer Mickel.
I am planning on running for both delegate to the 2016 state party convention and precinct committeeman in 2016, where I expect I will do a whole lot better than getting 3.3% of the vote since I will actually be on the ballot. More thoughts on the 2015 city election will be coming on Wednesday.
I want to express my sincere appreciation for everyone who supported me and voted for me. I cannot name everyone, but you know who you are. Thank you so much.
While I did not get as many votes as I would have liked, 3.3% of voters wrote in a name that was not on the ballot. Thank you.
I raised many issues throughout the campaign. One issue the next mayor and council should address is transparency. First, no government meeting should take place before 5:30 p.m. while most people are at work. While city government is far better than county government in this regard, this needs to change.
Second, the mayor should be completely open with how much money and property is confiscated annually via civil asset forfeiture, and the city council should demand it. We also need a full review to ensure no one who has not been convicted of a crime loses his money or property permanently.
Finally, the idea that financial records that were public record suddenly became "investigatory records" in 2014 is absurd. The nature of the records did not change because someone was suspected of theft. John Hamilton should reject Mark Kruzan's policy of secrecy.
During my campaign for city council, I said boards and commissions should meet in the evening so working people can attend those meetings. But would moving those meetings to the evenings cause city government to spend more on overtime for city employees? That very objection was brought up after my guest editorial on this issue was published in 2012, and I answered it then.
This is a fairly easy answer. Flex time and compensatory time can be used (for non-exempt employees) to avoid paying overtime. Furthermore, not all people on boards and commissions are paid and some employees who attend meetings may be classified as "exempt" and are therefore not eligible for overtime or compensatory time. Even when overtime must be paid, open government is worth a little extra cost.
Furthermore, non-exempt employees have to take time out of their work day to attend a meeting in the first place. So if someone spends 90 minutes in a meeting that takes place between 8 and 5, that is time not available for doing other things. So if the meeting takes place after 6 p.m. the employee can, for example, leave at 3:30 on a Friday or use that time in some other way. We should not forget that at least some employees attending evening meetings are going to be exempt employees. The head of the Planning Department, for example, is probably an exempt employee. How do the Plan Commission and City Council handle employees who need to stay over right now for their evening meetings?
Finally, we must not forget a basic principle here: This issue is not and should not be about city government employees. It is about the public - the voters, citizens, residents and taxpayers. City government exists to serve the public, and that means city government's boards and commissions need to be fully open to the public in everything they do. Transparency should be one of city government's highest objectives!
Let me defend, expand and explain this premise: All taxes are forced confiscation of wealth, backed up by armed agents of the state. This is a plain and simple reality. If you do not believe it, stop paying your property taxes. Eventually, the sheriff will kick you out of your property and that property will be sold in a tax sale. If you are self-employed and pay your own income taxes, stop paying them and the IRS will also come get you.
This does not mean I am an anarchist. Far from it. Civil government is a gift to us from God, for the protection of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked. We see this in Romans 13. For government to perform the functions needed for a civil society to exist - infrastructure, law enforcement, civil and criminal courts, fire protection and so forth - taxation is necessary. Therefore, taxation is a legitimate function of government and is part of the contract we have established as a society to maintain order.
So yes, I understand basic political theory. I have never said that I reject the premise. Not one single time. I understand the civil contract between the government and the citizens, among citizens themselves, and between units of government that have their own spheres of authority. I understand the theory that government operates by the consent of the governed. (How close that is to reality today is open for debate, and is not the point.) I do not believe and have never said that taxation itself is theft. Taxation can be theft in certain circumstances, but it is not automatically theft.
But we should not kid ourselves here: All taxes are mandatory. Most people do pay their taxes voluntarily and some are happy to pay them. But never forget that voluntary, peaceful compliance with forced confiscation of wealth does not mean it is not forced confiscation of wealth backed up by armed agents of the state. Even notorious gangster Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion.
Because we have formed a government to maintain a civil society and do the things collectively that individuals or private groups cannot or will not do, forced confiscation of wealth (taxation) itself is a necessary and morally neutral thing. But because of the immense power of the state, the power of the state must be measured and limited.
This is why buying a fire truck or building a road or a jail (for example) are legitimate uses of the authority to tax. It is wrong to force all citizens with strong religious and moral objections to the practice of abortion to donate to an abortion mill, even if those funds do not directly go to abortion services. This is not a legitimate or appropriate use of that state power, legal though it may be. And I would have said the same thing fifteen years ago if the city council was donating to the Boy Scouts over the objections of taxpayers unhappy with the group's policy on homosexual scout leaders.
8,452 voters went to the polls for the November 3 city election.
Mayor, City of Bloomington John Hamilton (Democrat) 6243
John Turnbull (Republican) 1822
Clerk, City of Bloomington Nicole Bolden (Democrat) 6322
City Council, Member At-Large, City of Bloomington Tim Mayer (Democrat) 6131
Andy Ruff (Democrat) 5738
Susan Sandberg (Democrat) 6135
Jennifer Mickel (Republican) 2352
Scott Tibbs (write-in candidate) 281
City Council, District 1, City of Bloomington Chris Sturbaum (Democrat) 727
Dave Nakarado (Libertarian) 354
City Council, District 2, City of Bloomington Dorothy Granger (Democrat) 551
City Council, District 3, City of Bloomington Allison M. Chopra (Democrat) 1110
Nelson Shaffer (Republican) 429
City Council, District 4, City of Bloomington Dave Rollo (Democrat) 1882
City Council, District 5, City of Bloomington Isabel Piedmont-Smith (Democrat) 1626
City Council, District 6, City of Bloomington Stephen Volan (Democrat) 225
Note: I sent this press release to the local media last week as part of my campaign for city council.
Whoever wins the November 3 election, it is my sincere hope that Bloomington's next mayor rejects the inappropriate secrecy of the Kruzan administration and is completely open with the public about the city's finances.
The revelation in 2014 that a city employee had allegedly stolen several hundred thousand dollars is troubling and raises concerns about the city's financial processes and why the fraudulent invoices were not caught. What is much more worrisome, however, is the secrecy of the Kruzan administration after the fact. Kruzan was determined to hide the city's financial records from the public, defending the secrecy by claiming public information had suddenly become "investigatory records."
I asked the following questions at the time, and they are worth considering again. What if the Herald-Times or even an enterprising blogger had requested and gotten the records three months before the scandal broke? What if the newspaper (or that blogger) had scanned and saved the documents to PDF and posted them online? Would those records have been seized by law enforcement? Would the Kruzan administration's legal department file a lawsuit force the newspaper or that blogger to take down the records in order to "protect" the investigation?
It is completely absurd that financial records that were open to the public before the scandal broke were suddenly not open to the public afterwards. The nature of financial records did not change just because alleged corruption was found in city government. If anything, the alleged theft should have made the Kruzan administration more open, not less. I call on both John Hamilton and John Turnbull to commit to being completely open about city finances in the final days of this campaign.
Note: I issued this press release last week as part of my campaign for city council.
One of the things I hope to accomplish, both as a candidate and if I am fortunate enough to be elected to the city council, is to focus attention on meeting times of city boards and commissions and encourage city government to hold those meetings at times when working people can attend. In fact, I mentioned this issue in my press release announcing my candidacy back in June and wrote about it a week later.
The Herald-Times ran several stories back in 2012 about meeting times in county government, especially focusing on the county commissioners, and endorsed my call in a guest editorial for more accessible meeting times. City government is much better than county government in this regard, but there are improvements to be made. According to the city's website, the following city boards and commissions meet during the 8 to 5 work day:
Board of Park Commissioners -- 4:00 p.m
Commission on Aging -- 4:30 p.m.
Utilities Service Board -- 5:00 p.m.
MPO Technical Advisory Committee -- 10:00 a.m.
MPO Policy Committee -- 1:30 p.m.
Bloomington Housing Authority Board -- 8:00 a.m.
Economic Development Commission -- 12:00 p.m.
Council for Community Accessibility -- 4:00 p.m.
Housing Trust Fund Board of Directors -- 3:30 p.m.
Bloomington Historic Preservation Commission -- Variable, often before 5:00 p.m.
It is a basic principle of open government that meetings need to be open to the public. In order for those meetings to be truly open, they need to take place at a time when most people can attend. Therefore, these meetings need to be moved to at least 5:30 p.m. and ideally to 6:00 p.m. or later. I urge the city council to fully commit to open government and transparency by making these meetings take place after the end of the normal work day.
Note: I issued this press release last week as part of my campaign for city council.
The west side needs more attention from the city of Bloomington, especially in matters of infrastructure and public safety. This is why I am supporting Libertarian candidate Dave Nakarado's advocacy for the west side.
If you look at a map of Bloomington, you will notice three islands on the west side that are not part of the city but are completely surrounded by the city. You can see a map at http://on.fb.me/203KBxF. At least one of these areas is criminally under-served in the winter after heavy snowfalls. The streets around the areas are plowed, but the streets in those unincorporated islands are either not plowed at all or given very little attention. I know this because I drive through that area on a daily basis.
This needs to change. First and most importantly, not sufficiently plowing these areas is a public safety hazard for the residents of those neighborhoods and for those who travel through the neighborhoods. The fact that Bloomington city leaders saw fit to annex the areas all around the islands but not the islands themselves is an indication of the lack of consideration our city government has for the west side generally.
With the impending construction of Interstate 69, the west side runs a risk of being even more cut off from the rest of Bloomington than it already is. Third Street backs up badly, creating a safety hazard if emergency vehicles such as police cars, ambulances and especially fire trucks need to get through the gridlocked traffic. Third Street itself is fine as an arterial from the west side into the city, but the lack of other reliable means of transportation places too much of a burden on West Third. The city council needs to look at how we can reduce the burden on West Third by improving the west side's traffic infrastructure.